Live Out Loud – A thank you to Augustines

‘Live out loud and do what you gotta do, ain’t no one keeping score, this is your life’

Augustines have always had the right words at the right time. They have been my go-to band for nearly six years now. If in doubt, Augustines will sort you out. It’s a really special thing when you find a band like that. I suppose it’s also quite easy to get complacent and take it for granted. You find a band like Augustines, so vital and honest and full of life, and you see a gig and realise you are in the presence of the greatest live band of their generation, and not just that but everyone else there in that venue are all in on it too, and have the same elated looks on their faces, then why wouldn’t you think that these three guys would carry on forever? I don’t know much about the music industry – though in hindsight I’m seeing some uncomfortable parallels with the publishing world, so maybe I should have known – but when, last month, they announced they were calling it a day and embarking on their last tour, I was totally floored. It wasn’t just a naivety about the industry; it was also, on a personal level, a moment that made me question what the hell I was doing in my own career.

12717896_569476829889866_8121104816261347966_nI wrote a bit in my latest novel, Cold Calling, about the band, mentioning the first tour I saw them on. I’d been thinking a lot about that time. That wonderful feeling you get when you find a band that you know you’re invested in completely. It was no surprise, I suppose, because their music soundtracked the writing of the book, their lyrics even appeared at the start. Yeah, Augustines had been on my mind a lot.

 

Augustines started around the time of my first novel, and as such I have always associated them with that part of my career. They have just always been there, making everything okay. Indeed it was through that first book that I got to meet Todd Howe – probably the band’s biggest champion – and then subsequently, through Todd’s recommendation, I found Bill, Eric and Rob. I saw them first in London, supporting The Boxer Rebellion, in, I think, March 2011. So in awe of what we saw then, my brother and I accosted Billy in the bar after and just hugged him. He didn’t seem to mind, or at least was polite enough not to say. It was just an instinctive thing. Had to do it. (It should also be noted that Augustines are probably the most huggable band around too.) From that gig on we were in. Totally signed up to planet Augustines.

When I interviewed Billy just after that first gig, he sent me a short tweet and told me he wouldn’t quit if I didn’t. A little thing, and I’m sure he has said the same to many other people struggling to follow their dream – follow your heart, live your life, do your thing your own beautiful way, that has been a message Augustines have sung from the start. But that short tweet was a big thing for me. When you consider the almighty shit that they have had to put up with, the heartache, and the knock-backs that dogged their early years, and the strength they have needed to keep going, that they were doing their own beautiful thing, and not just that, they were doing it with great big smiles on their faces and one huge joyous heart, then it really put my own pathetic little setbacks into perspective. It inspired me no end. It was never just the music, it wasn’t just the poetic, soul grabbing lyrics, it was also those three men on stage. Possibly the nicest band you could meet. A band that truly gave themselves to everything they did. No half measures, they left it all out there on the stage or in the recording studio. Some bands seem to copy and paste what they do, drift along with not much to say, but saying it anyway. There is an artifice to a lot of people. A fragility. People are scared to say anything, looking for a role to fit – rinse, recycle and repeat, never getting out of second gear. Never Augustines. They landed in fifth gear, fully formed, and never settled for anything less. That level of commitment does gain a lot of love, and I hope, I think, their fans have given it back to them too. Family is a big thing in the Augustines world, and that is how it feels following them, and meeting other fans – it feels like we are all a part of the Augustines family. Sometimes you don’t get to see family as much as you’d like, but they’re still there. They will always be there.

It’s always a struggle to create art, and live. People will always appreciate artists, maybe be envious of them, or aspire to be like them, and maybe it’s the struggle that sorts out the committed from the dreamers, maybe it needs to be there. It’s never been easy to create things – music, poetry, books, films – but I think that we live in a world now where the value of such things has been skewed. People equate creating art to fame. It’s easy to be famous; maybe that’s what has devalued the currency of art. Or maybe it’s the currency itself. It’s a hard thing to constantly keep pushing that piano up the hill when all you want to do is be allowed to sit and play it. It’s hard to do that when you’re twenty, let alone when you’re forty. Particularly if, like me, you can’t actually play the piano.

I took some time after Cold Calling, to think about whether I wanted to keep doing it. Was the shit, the disappointment, that continued pushing of the piano, really worth it? Truth is, it probably isn’t, but it’s also true that sometimes you don’t have much choice in the matter. You do these things because you have to, you don’t stop because someone tells you you should, or people litter obstacles in your way. You take a slip road, you go under or over or around, it doesn’t matter, the destination is still the same. I’m sure that is what Bill, Eric and Rob will do. It is the end of a chapter, not the story.

10847650_416026528568231_1549714607997026554_oI’m very lucky to be an associate producer on Todd’s forthcoming documentary about them – Rise, and believe me, it is going to be a wondrous experience, and a beautiful celebration. So I get to play a tiny little part in their legacy and that makes me very proud.

I’m incredibly honored also that Billy let me use some Chapel Song lyrics in Cold Calling. I will never tire of seeing them there, nor of people telling me that either the lyrics or the brief bit in the novel about them, has made them go and check them out. Following the band from pub, to club, to the Roundhouse has also given me a lot of wonderful memories. You can’t really miss something that will always be there, and there are three records, three masterpieces, that will always be cherished. It helps to make you realise that it is more important to be happy you found them, than to be upset that they have gone. That’s a pretty good way to look at most things in life.

That I was in that period of indecision and doubt about my writing when Augustines made their announcement, I found it really hit home. I continue to question what I’m doing, or rather why I’m doing it, but I suspect I always will.

Being at Augustines final London show earlier this month was joyous, it was uplifting, it was heartfelt; everything an Augustines show always was. And then, towards the end, as Ballard of a Patient Man ended, and before Are We Alive began, Billy took to the mic and said ‘‘If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that you’ve got to live out loud and do what you gotta do, ain’t no one keeping score, this is your life’

Damn right. See, Augustines always have the right words.

(Photos & Video via Todd Howe)

 


Introducing the new novel – Cold Calling

Cold CallingMy latest novel, Cold Calling’ is published on 28th March 2016 in paperback and as an eBook.

A big change of genre for me, the story is one that I have worked on, in different mediums, for a number of years. Originally an un-filmed screenplay, sections of the story were subsequently reworked into the short play that debuted on the Salisbury Fringe in 2014. After the positive reaction to the play I felt it was possible that the story, with some restructuring, could work as a full novel.

A comedy, in essence, Cold Calling centres on a relationship between cold caller, Ray, and coffee shop owner, Anya, played out entirely over the phone. I wanted to take the traditional notion of a ‘boy-meets-girl’ story, and wonder what would happen if the boy never actually met the girl. Take out any physical attraction from the relationship, and the potential complications or misjudgements that brings, and focus on a different, deeper connection. But then, can there be anything real in a phone conversation?

Hope you enjoy it!

All the buying links are here

 


Announcing new book – Cold Calling

Mardell_ColdCalling_v5

Delighted to announce that my new novel is set to be published early next year. It is called ‘Cold Calling’ and its plot may be familiar to a few of you. The story is one that I have been working on for some time. Originally a film script, I re-worked a few parts of it for a short play that premiered last year during Salisbury Fringe. Very much a character piece, it was a great experiment, drawing out my two leads, seeing how people took to them, and condensing part of their story to fit a brief 10 minute play. Thankfully, the response was good, and it was also invaluable in helping shape the story further. There was more I wanted to do with those characters, and stories I wanted to tell in that world.

It seems I’m a sucker for acid-tongued, sarky, gobby folk.

Because, there are lot of those in it. Surprisingly. It is, despite all that, a romantic comedy. Technically. Sort of. The powers that be like to be able to shoehorn your book into a genre, so I suppose it is closest to to that. Albeit the romance is fairly sugar-free. And the comedy, not always family-friendly. It is a love story, but one about the love between friends, and all the glorious imperfections that come with it.

 

Synopsis –

It was just a phone call. Just meaningless words between two strangers. It didn’t mean anything…

Still reeling from the break up with the love of his life, insurance firm cold caller, Ray English, has become a bit of a screw up. To put it mildly. Cynical, and withdrawn, Ray is aimlessly drifting through life in London alongside his long-suffering best mate, Danny. Asked to reform their college band for a friend’s wedding, Ray is soon forced to face up to his old life, and the hometown he had tried so hard to turn his back on.

Anya Belmont is a woman with a secret, and a history that continues to shape her life. A coffee shop owner in Salisbury, Anya is successful, yet bored; married, yet lonely, and is also trying to avert a looming mid-life crisis, whilst struggling in vain to control her best friend, Eva Cunningham, a slightly unstable, child-hating children’s author.

Fate, coincidence, or just bad timing, Ray and Anya’s lives begin to change when Ray cold calls Anya and the two strike up a seemingly innocuous phone conversation. Against their better judgement, that conversation is soon the start of a phone relationship that grows in frequency and intimacy as the weeks and months pass, and a curious, almost dependent friendship is born. But can there be anything ‘real’ in a simple phone call?

As circumstances bring these two lonely souls to the same town at the same time, both are forced to question the truth of what they have started, and the realisation that if they are to move on in their lives, they will have to start by looking back and facing the ghosts of their past…

 

A big thank you to the ever-brilliant David Baker for once again producing a cover for me. We went ultra-minimal this time.

 

‘Cold Calling’ is due to be published in March 2016


Bleeker Hill & Darkshines Seven ebook re-release

Bleeker HillDarkshines Seven Part 3: Storm Tail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very pleased that both Bleeker Hill and Darkshines Seven are to be re-released as eBooks through Matador. This means that rather than being available just for the Kindle and solely on Amazon as they both are now, they will be available on all other devices and other distributors too. The one downside to this however is that it means, due to both originally being exclusive to Amazon, all reviews attached to the eBook versions will be removed. Which is essentially all of them (another sign that people are buying eBooks and not paperbacks – but let’s not have that argument) So it would be a great help if those who have already posted reviews would re-post them when the new listing is live. I shall no doubt make grovelling pleas on social media as well when they are live. Impossible to overstate how important reviews are to authors.

The other difference will be that Darkshines Seven will be released as one story rather than a trilogy. It will also be marketed as a direct sequel to Bleeker Hill. Because it really is. Editing the three stories into one volume it became clear that so much in Darkshines – small nuances, in-jokes, and events – stems from knowledge of Bleeker Hill, and whilst having previously read Bleeker Hill shouldn’t be necessary to enjoy Darkshines Seven, it just felt right to go down this route with it. I also didn’t want to look like I was duping any new readers. Also, doing it this way it leaves the door open to make Bleeker Hill a trilogy…

Both new eBooks should be live next month.

 

 


Big Vultures and Cold Callers

Well, despite my decision to lay off the novels for a while, I seem to have written a new one. Not quite sure how that happened. I didn’t mean to. I suppose it comes back to that old writer adage of ‘write the book you need to write’ at least that seems the only logical explanation. Despite it being an idea I have had roughed out for years, I didn’t intend to write it yet but the damn thing demanded it. I have already tested out some of the novel with the short play ‘Cold Calling’ that I had performed on the Salisbury Fringe. It was always a story I loved, had characters that I wanted to write for, and ideas I wanted to explore, but I never really had a home for it. The positive response to the play made me revisit the previous draft and work on it again.

Tyler Coombes & Kerry Stockwell in 'Cold Calling'

Tyler Coombes & Kerry Stockwell in ‘Cold Calling’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For anyone that has seen the play and also read my previous novels, you will know that it is a pretty big departure for my writing; a romantic comedy, albeit one laced with biting cynicism. I’m incredibly proud of the novel, and hope that the rocky road to publication doesn’t knock the joy from it. More updates on the novel when I have them.

Augustines performing at The Roundhouse December 2014. Incredible gig!

Augustines performing at The Roundhouse December 2014. Incredible gig!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In other news, the boys at Big Vulture are hard at work compiling together hours of concert footage and interviews for ‘Rise: The Story of Augustines’ the documentary film I am involved with. From talking to Todd, the director, I think the end result is going to be something quite incredible, certainly not your usual music documentary – Augustines aren’t your usual sort of band anyway – and having seen a little bit of footage, I have to say I was slightly in awe of it. Really can’t wait to see the end result and watch the film unleashed on the world. For more film updates you can follow Big Vulture here


Darkshines Seven trilogy now complete

Darkshines Seven Part 3: Storm Tail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final part of my Darkshines Seven series ‘Storm Tail’ has now been published, and all three novellas are available exclusively on the Kindle. A big thanks to all those of you that have already read them and left reviews, it’s been great to hear that so many have taken to Mia and Blarney (especially Blarney, it seems, which I’m very pleased about!) Writing Urban Fantasy has been a fun departure from my usual genres, and I hope that sometime there will be more stories for Mia and her cohorts. In the meantime, if you haven’t yet taken the trip beyond Bleeker Hill, to City 17, Darkshines asylum and Storm Tail cove, I hope you do. So do The Party, and you wouldn’t want to disappoint them…


Filming begins – Rise: The Story of Augustines

Rise: The Story of Augustines, filming at the Berlin wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filming has now begun on ‘Rise: The Story of Augustines’ the wonderful documentary film being made by Big Vulture on which I’m an associate producer. Speaking to the director and listening to their plans, I think this is going to be an incredible film, and I’m delighted to be involved with these very talented people. Filming is underway across Europe during the last leg of the band’s tour, and then will continue in America from January.

The film will be released next year.