Cinema, it’s the experience.

At long last, Flesh of Cretacia my first, real book is out. As is The Stromark Massacre, my first Flesh Tearers audio drama, and ‘Torturer’s Thirst’ a new Flesh Tearers short story. In light of all this, I felt I should probably write a blog about them. You know, talk about the writing process and extol the virtues of the novella etc. Proper writer-ey promotional stuff. Instead though, after spending several evenings at my local cinema, I decided to write a letter to Cineworld. Check it out:

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Dear Cineworld Directors*,

I love films. In particular, I love watching films at the cinema. The screen is massive, the sound is loud and the seats have handy little holders for your drinks and snacks**. Once, I bought a projector and tried to emulate the experience in my living room, but the stains on the walls ruined the picture, and Jeff (the burly guy from next door) took away my speakers. But I digress.

Not Jeff.

I don’t have a picture of Jeff. But here’s one of someone Jeff looks like.

I love visiting the cinema so much that the advert that begins, ‘Imagine’, you know, the one with the dust on the theatre chairs that warns us about piracy and the closure of cinemas? Well, honestly, I well up. It makes me so terribly sad to think of a world without cinemas. I really can’t think of anything worse. Nothing.

Rather than stand idly by and let such a catastrophe unfold unchallenged, I’ve decided to write you this letter in the hope of warding off some of the many threats to cinema’s survival.

I frequent your Nottingham branch about twice a week. Sometimes three depending on what’s on. Like last week when I saw Taken 2, Here Comes the Boom, and Sky Fall. But mostly twice. Unless I’ve seen everything or there’s nothing showing that doesn’t have Jennifer Aniston in it. Generally though, I go twice a week.

Last week, during one of my three visits, I went to buy some some popcorn only to be told that you’d ‘run out’. No popcorn? I thought, bemused. But it’s the cinema. There must surely be popcorn. Apparently not. Now, while I applaud your diversification into sweets and ice creams (it certainly saves me sneaking those things in), I think perhaps you’ve given your Concession Experts a little too much to handle. Perhaps limit the number of lines you have on sale to 10. That way your Concession Experts can use their fingers to keep track of the stock ordering. If you really must have more, then I’d suggest removing the Concession Expert’s footwear. Toes make excellent secondary counting aids.

Also last week, I approached a Concession Facilitator in order to purchase some ice cream. He greeted me with the usual friendly stare I’ve come to expect from such focused individuals and asked, ‘Anything else?’ Thirsty and aware that ice cream contains a decent amount of sodium, I answered, ‘Yes. Water, please’. All fairly standard stuff I’ll grant you. Except rather than fetch me the water, he said, ‘It’s two-pounds sixty for water. Is that okay?’

Huh, I thought.

All these years, all these trips to the cinema and I’d never realised the concession stand operated on a barter system. Excited by this new development, I replied, ‘No. How about one-fifty?’ (I was prepared to pay two-pounds but thought I might as well go in low). Clearly a pro, he kept schtum, so I raised my offer to two-pounds. This time he replied, ‘Do you want the water or not?’ Confused by his sudden hard-line approach, and running late for the film, I decided against purchasing the water. I was later to learn that he had no real intention of negotiating about the price of the water. As a suggestion, I think it would probably be for the best if you told your Concession Facilitators not to apologise for the prices. That way they could concentrate on what they do best, offering great customer service, which is after-all why the water costs so much, right?

Speaking of customer service, I think the sense of fun you’ve instilled in the Ticket Checkers is fantastic. This week I watched one of them skipping over a yo-yo. Do you really pay them for that? If so, you must have applicants queuing round the block. Does he get more than the guy who was stood reading a book instead of checking tickets? I do hope so. Though, if it is queue entertainers you’re looking for I’d take a leaf out of Disney’s book and stick your staff in loveable costumes. Perhaps one like this:

Just don't make him angry.

That’d be way more entertaining.

On a final note, I particularly enjoy spending time with your Ticket Keepers while they run through the three separate transactions needed to grant me access to a 3D film. First, they swipe my Cineworld card, handing me a receipt and a ticket. Next up, they charge me the 3D surplus and present me with another receipt. Finally, they charge me for a set of 3D glasses, which come with a complimentary receipt***. Now while I understand touch screens are a lot of fun (I have an iPad. It’s ace), there must be some other way of providing job satisfaction for your staff. Besides, I’m not actually sure your Ticket Keepers understand it’s supposed to be fun. I’ve encountered several of them propping themselves up by their elbows while they try to coax their tongue into forming vowels. Perhaps giving them longer breaks or some Gummy Bears would better motivate them.

Best wishes,

-Andy Smillie

*I assume a film company calls all of its management ‘Directors’ although perhaps you’re ‘Producers’. If so, I apologise.

**Though if you are looking for improvements, some form of fold out tray would be useful. It’s rare to find another patron who’ll let you balance your nachos with extra cheese and hot coffee on their lap.

***I’m no Eco Warrior. If you want to waste a bunch of paper, who am I to argue? But if you must fill my pockets with something, I’d rather it were Gummy Bears. Just saying.

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I’ll let you know if Cineworld reply. In the meantime, go buy my book.

Don’t get stabbed.

Its been ages since I blogged. Mostly because I’ve had a book to finish but also because I like napping, and there’s rarely time to write and blog before the urge to nap gets the better of me. The book’s now finished. As are a bunch of other writing projects, but I’ll talk about those next week. Deadlines and sleeping patterns allowing, of course.

Yesterday, I took my Krav Maga Practitioner Level One test. I passed, which is to say I didn’t get stabbed, and will shortly be the proud owner of a certificate to that effect. I didn’t however, receive a belt, coloured or otherwise.  Interestingly though, my trousers are managing to stay up just fine.

I’ve trained in a lot of different martial arts over the last twelve years or so – kickboxing, boxing, tae kwon-do, escrima, muay thai, jkd, and silat. I even took a judo class, once. I’ve fought semi-contact bouts and full contact ones too. I’ve fought against groups of attackers in the training hall and on the street. But it wasn’t until I started Krav Maga that I realised I knew only the basics when it came to effectively dealing with violence.

If you’re interested, you can read all about Krav Maga and its history here. But in summary, it’s a pragmatic and practical combative system that requires neither the agility of a prima ballerina nor the endurance of a marathon runner.  Training covers three areas – technique, organic ways to attack and defend; tactics, everything from avoiding fights to ensuring you walk away from them; and mindset, because it’s not easy bashing someone’s face in, even if your trousers are tied securely with a belt that’s ninja-black.

Krav Maga isn’t really concerned where one foot should go and at what angle, and there’s no pressure point wizardry or complex kata. Krav Maga’s effective because it’s simple – hit your attacker’s head until his brain turns off. You can hit it with whatever you like and in any way you can, as long as you hit it. The throat, genitalia and eyes are also acceptable targets. The mantra, ‘My go, my go, my go’ (The attacker doesn’t get a go) is one the Krav Maga practitioner lives by. The other is – don’t get stabbed.

Krav Maga was designed to work in the real world.  Here in Nottingham, knife crime is rife. So in training, we spend a large portion of time dealing with knife threats and attacks. Seems obvious, right? Yet in every other martial art I’ve studied, the knife is introduced much later on, if at all. The same goes for multiple attackers. Most street fights involve more than one assailant (usually three or four), but in general, martial arts don’t expose you to multiple attackers until after a year or so of training. In Krav Maga you learn to deal with multiple attackers from your first lesson. Now, I’m not saying that turning up to a single Krav Maga class will unleash the hidden warrior within. Neither will it enable you to whip up a spandex costume, and patrol the night giving crime a good shoeing. But you will leave understanding how to apply this principle:

Hit first and hit often.

Also this one – don’t get stabbed.

I’ve only just stepped onto the first rung of Krav, and I’ve a long, long way to go before I’d consider myself proficient. Watching Dave and the other instructors, the guys who really know their stuff, switch from Captain Friendly to Brutal Death-Machine, to dispatch multiple, armed, motivated assailants, has made me realise that pitting any other martial art against Krav Maga would be like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

And, as I mentioned earlier, Krav Maga practitioners are more than adept at dealing with knives.

In the absence of actual danger – please turn off your phone.

‘Do you mind tucking your jacket under your chair?’ the air hostess asked.

I looked at her, confused.

‘Your coat, do you mind putting it under your seat for takeoff?’

I looked at my hoodie and then back at her.

Surely she didn’t mean that the several grams my hoodie weighed was enough to make it a dangerous object, a lethal projectile destined to shoot forward through the cabin and bludgeon my fellow passengers into unconsciousness.

She held my gaze.

Huh. It seemed that was exactly what she thought.

Having spent several dumbfounded moments considering her request, I decided that, I did in fact mind putting my hoodie on the floor under my seat. There was no way I was soiling my clothing for such a stupid request.

I picked up the offending hoodie and tucked it behind me. The air hostess seemed happy with this. She’d obviously reasoned that my weight, a little more than said hoodie, was enough to fix it firmly in place and thus remove the threat.

But before I could devolve into an vengeful internal monologue where I cursed her, her kin and all of her descendants, while objectively examining just how ridiculous the whole exchange had been, I heard another hostess say:

‘We’re not trained to identify which Kindles have wifi and which don’t.’

This time, it was a middle-age women sat across the aisle to my left, who was the focus of Air Hostess Idiocy.

No laptop and electrical devices can be used during takeoff. Bad things may happen. Nonsense. If that were really the case then terrorists wouldn’t need bombs or shoes with secret compartments in their soles that even James Bond would be jealous of. No, all your average Western World Hating Nutter would need is a mobile phone and a few pence of credit to text his pals and confirm a job well done. I mean, armed with an iPad I expect your average passenger could take control of the plane and all others within 500 miles*. There’s probably even an app for that…

No, not yet. Still.

In protest of the Electrical Device Embargo, I put on my headphones. Sure, they were little more than expensive earmuffs but when a hostess cited the aforementioned embargo and asked me to take them off, I got to enjoy waving the loose connector at her while practicing my Evil Genius Grin.

Childish, yes. More stupid than the rules surrounding takeoff and the omnipotent fasten seatbelt light – no, not even close.

Guaranteed to stay in the air even near your laptop. Though perhaps not if it rains.

This guy had better hope his phone doesn’t ring.

*If this were true, Die Hard 2 would have been a much duller film.

Something borrowed…

After scolding myself for once again failing to post regularly, I was almost certainly going to write a new blog entry. However, as it turns out, the folks over at blacklibrary.com have beaten me to it. On Friday, they posted this blog about my new Flesh Tearer’s eShort. Take a look:

BENEATH THE FLESH

 

Andy Smillie’s Beneath the Flesh hits the virtual shelves today. We managed to grab a moment with Andy (which is harder than it sounds when his day is filled with working, writing, and pumping enough iron to make a Space Marine jealous) and asked him a few questions:

What do you enjoy about writing for Black Library?
It’s great fun. I grew up playing games of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, so getting to write about the stuff I used to game with is like a dream come true, a real privilege. What can I say? It’s awesome.

Beneath the Flesh is a story about the Flesh Tearers, arguably the most bloodthirsty of the Blood Angels’ successor Chapters. What made you want to write about them?
Blood Angels were the first army I collected for Warhammer 40,000, and the old Angels of Death Codex remains one of my favourites. So I guess the sons of Sanguinius have always held a special place for me. Then when I started looking into the different Chapters in more detail and really thinking about who they were, the Flesh Tearers struck me as having a lot of depth.

At first glance, you could accuse the Flesh Tearers of being rather one-dimensional. But there’s a lot more to them than that, and their story is a tragic one. They’re addicts, possessed of an unquenchable rage that drives them to horrendous acts of violence and ultimately, death. They’re a Chapter on the very brink of extinction. Yet through force of will, and in the face of persecution, they’ve managed to remain loyal to the Emperor.

Besides, they fight with massive chain weapons and their Chapter Master is prone to head-butting folk. Brilliant.

 This story is longer than your previous works. What challenges did that pose?
The longer format gave me more room to push the story a bit further. I was able to include an ensemble cast and even begin to form a mini-verse around them that I can develop later on.

You mentioned developing a universe to revisit; does that mean that we’ll be seeing some more Flesh Tearers stories from you in the future?
In a word, yes. I can’t really say anymore at the moment, but there is a lot of exciting, rage-fuelled stuff on the horizon, some of which I think you’ll see at the Black Library Weekender later this year.

Thanks for that Andy

 

You’ll find the original post here:

http://www.blacklibrary.com/Blog/Beneath-the-Flesh.html

 

 

My first cover.

Check this out:

It’s the cover image for my long-short story ‘Beneath the Flesh’, which is out in January (I think). Rachel Doherty designed the image, and I think she’s done a great job, deploying her wicked-mad photoshop skills to really capture the dark menace of Sanguinius’ angriest sons. Thanks Rach. The only slight fly in the ointment is I’ve yet to finish said story… So, I’ll leave you enjoying Rachel’s handy-work while I get back to writing.

Paper armour – far more useful than a chocolate teapot.

With The Final Crusade of Vran Hychax campaign weekend fast approaching, I spent this weekend getting my Grey Knights painted and ready for action. Initially, I’d allocated all of three hours for the task – spray silver, wash, paint weapons, relax with mug of tea. That was of course before I found the damn Knights to be covered in all manner of extra details.  They’re festooned in purity seals and books, which, as you can see from the chap below*, require considerably more effort to paint.

Now, the purity seals are fairly self explanatory – they ward off daemons, psychic attacks and protect the Grey Knights from, you know, harm. Books, on the other hand, seem a little out of place. The Emperor’s champions are unlikely to stop and leaf through a quick chapter mid banishing. Perhaps they use them as notebooks, somewhere to chalk up their kills and record their exploits. Maybe the books contain a list of witty one-liners the Grey Knights can shout as they slay baddies. But what I think is really going on, is that they’ve watched way too many films where the hero inexplicably avoids death because the single round his arch nemesis fires at him, is stopped by a pesky book that’s nestled in his breast pocket or some other serendipitous location. The Grey Knights obviously plaster books all over themselves just in case their tactical dreadnought armour fails. Perhaps that’s why they get an invulnerable save.

Well, if it’s good enough for the Knights, then who am I to argue. In fact, a quick google for ‘books to block bullets’ revealed there are recommended volumes. This handy set even comes with a gun so you can be equally awesome on the offensive.

You’ll notice the book is rather thick, with a raft of pages and a sturdy leather cover. Kindles on the other hand are, as Amazon are found of telling us, super light and very thin.  Not what you’d want from a bullet-stopping totem. So the question is, with the humble book being pushed aside by eReaders, will more heroes bite the bullet? Yes. I believe they will**.

That said, books do have their limitations. Should your nemesis fire a plethora of bullets at you, say from a machine gun, then you’ve had it. Unless of course, someone’s helpfully stapled the entire library of Alexandria to you. Otherwise, you’ll need some magical powers or some wicked-mad hacking skills, like the smug guy in the shades below.

If you don’t find yourself possessed of pure awesome, then don’t worry. I have it on good authority that all you really need to do to ward of potentially lethal projectiles, is a knock out a load of crunches.

Just don’t tell the MoD or they’ll round off the cuts by swapping out flack jackets for early morning fitness routines.

*Note, model shown is not representative of my meagre efforts.

**There’s a very bad, Bond style plot in there somewhere. Dr e, working from his secret base in the Amazon… etc

Breakfast & Bournemouth

This week has flown by in a valium induced haze as I struggled to recover from the horror of last Monday. Around 7pm, as the moon settled overhead, a pack of ravenous children broke into my garden. Dressed in bits of old tat, they pounded on my door and demanded treats.

Just as I was fetching the hose (if water slays witches, then it’s bound to deal with children dressed as witches, right?) a ‘kind’ soul decided to hand over my Thornton’s chocolates. The caramels, the fudges, even the pralines!

A week on and my nerves have about settled. Though my eye continues to twitch at the mention of costumes. That is to say, I’ve done nothing of note this week other than journey to Thornton’s for more chocolate.

Luckily, I found some pictures I took while on the road with fellow author Nick Kyme.

A Starbucks Breakfast

I’ve spent a lot of time with Nick. Travelled with him to a lot of seminars, signings and talks. He’s always asked a multitude of questions – What are you working on next? Who inspires you? Will you sign my chest? But there’s one question he’s never been asked, one question I know Nick fans everywhere are dying to know the answer to – ‘What do two traveling authors have for breakfast?’ Why everything on Starbucks’ menu, of course. Now you know.

Next stop Bournemouth, where the car parks are particularly dangerous. The local council are doing their bit though, and have hired a crack team of lifeguards to make sure that should someone beat your ass to the curb, you wont be left to drown in a puddle.

Times are hard, alarm systems costly, attack dogs unreliable. Not to worry. Just smash up some glass bottles, perhaps the one you’ve used to assault that-bloke-you-didn’t-like-the-look-of-in-a-nearby-car-park, and then glue the resultant shards to the top of your wall. Home secured.

Home security just doesn't get cheaper.