Monday, November 28, 2011

If you don't know me by now...

Over recent weeks, I seem to have been acquiring new followers, largely as a result of joining new writers' groups. Most of you are people I've never met, and who don't know me from Adam. (Here's a clue. I'm the bald one with the hat, he's the one with the hair and the figleaf. No, that doesn't really help, does it?)


Left: Adam. Right, me. I have better taste in clothes than he does. And more facial hair. 
(Painting, Albrecht  Durer. Photo, Orlando Sentinel)

A sampling of my Facebook postings and blogs would give you a random assortment of seemingly unrelated things, few of which have anything to do with why you probably befriended me in the first place. I could segregate my online life and compartmentalize all the bits of me, then you'd only see the facet of me you first met, but I'm just not that organized. And anyway, I find it interesting to see the other sides of people.  For example, there's Jim, who I first encountered as an artist in the 70s, and whose work adorned my bedroom walls as a teenager. Now we occasionally converse about classical and electronic music, spaceflight, and crazed aeronautical designs that never happened. I like that.

So by way of introduction to my new friends, here's me.

Photo: Anna Young Kelland
My professional life takes me in a lot of interesting and varied directions. I'm involved with filmmaking, books, comics, art, photography and dance, and before that I worked in games and software. Mostly I write - anything from books to blogs - but I also make animated films, create graphics, produce live events, publish e-books, and do bits and pieces of promotion. On any given day, I can be doing several of those things, and am quite likely to post about any or all of them.

Here's a sample of the projects I'm working on this week:

  • Making Better Movies: a four-volume series of self-published books about filmmaking, of which three have been released so far. The fourth will be out by Christmas.
  • Moviestorm News: handling the day to day social media marketing for Moviestorm, an animation software company I co-founded some years ago.
  • Pinups and Pasties: a monthly burlesque show and art event my wife Anna and I put on at a local nightclub. I stage manage them, and am responsible for sorting out the music. Our next show is this Wednesday. 
  • Photo: Jack Toepke
    Dancer: Ivy Les Vixens
  • A Comic Shop: creating advertising materials for the comic shop where Anna works.
  • Jack and Holly: US promotion for a British childrens' DVD series.
  • Book reviews: I've just written reviews for two short stories and a screenplay by an Australian writer, Stefano Boscutti, and I have a couple more stacked up.
  • E-book conversions: creating Kindle and ePub books for self-published authors and small publishers.
  • E-book publishing: we recently published a couple of mystery novels through the Hukilau imprint, and I'm reading a couple of new submissions to see if we want to take them on.
  • Fiction: In my few spare hours, I'm trying to finish off one pseudonymous adult short story and revise a young adult fantasy novel I wrote over 20 years ago. 
Then there are my somewhat eclectic hobbies and interests. I love to read books and comics, watch a lot of movies, listen to a wide variety of music, and cook food from around the world. I'm fascinated by science and technology, particularly how inventions affect the world. (Think of me as the sort of person who reads all the articles in New Scientist that don't require a specialist degree.) I love ancient history and archaeology, especially anything which involves finding vanished civilizations, or which shows that they weren't as primitive as we thought. I absolutely adore old-time views of the future, whether it be Victorian science (and its modern offspring, steampunk), 1920s and 1930s utopian propaganda, or 1950s sci-fi. 

Photo: Jim Carchidi
And lastly, I like to stay informed of current news and events, and I like talking about them with other well-informed people.

As a Brit now resident in the USA, and a trained social anthropologist, I spend a lot of time being acutely aware of what's different between the two countries. (Not better, just different.) As a business owner, taxpayer, home-owner and parent, I'm very concerned with the political situation and the economy and how things are going to go. 

So, whether you've befriended me through a shared interest in machinima, writing, or belly dance, welcome.  Maybe we'll also find a shared interest in curry and mezze, flying cars and crazy custom bikes, Scandinavian folk-metal, local blues bands and movie soundtracks,  prehistoric stone circles and lost cities, obscure comics from today and yesteryear, why 3D printing is amazing and 3D movies suck, the odd things I found by trawling the depths of Netflix, Project Gutenberg and Pandora, and the killer headache I had over the weekend.

If so, then this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.*

Photo: Jack Toepke
*And yes, I know it's a misquote

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Dear America,

Thanks for having me. I really do appreciate it.

Thanks for all the people who've made me feel welcome. Not just my tribe, but the regular people I meet every day, and the ones I've met online. I've felt more at home here than anywhere else I've ever been.

Thanks for the sunshine. It really, really cheers me up. (The young ladies in insufficient clothing bring a smile to my face too.)

Thanks for the Jungle House, the porch, and the hot tub.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to see space shuttles, up close, and from my own back yard. That's been awesome.

Thanks for all the cheeseburgers. And the Cuban sandwiches. And the chorizo chimichangas at Pancho's. And all the culinary delights I can't get in England.

And thanks most of all for Anna. Because she's made me happier than I've ever been.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My worst birthday ever

I don't remember exactly when this was. Five or six years ago, I guess. It might even have been my 40th birthday. I've done my best to forget.

My birthday started in a horrible, uncomfortable Central London hotel after a lousy night's sleep. The tiny, overpriced room was stupidly hot, the bed was lumpy, and the walls were so thin I could hear my neighbours' televisions as if they were in my own room. The guy next to me on one side was watching cable porn at 5am, and on the other side, they'd decided they needed to watch a war movie before breakfast. And for this luxury, I was paying well over £100. Not a great start to the day, but never mind. I was determined to have a good time.

The plan was that I would be speaking at a conference in the morning, then heading 150 miles home by train to have a birthday dinner with my family after being away for two weeks, and then we'd all go to the local carnival. Carnival's always a fun night out.  Didn't quite work out that way.

I got to the conference in good time for my technical rehearsal at 8am, only to discover that they'd moved my slot to mid-afternoon, and there was no need for me to have stayed in the damn hotel anyway. Still, I figured I could do my bit, get a later train, and just about make it in time for dinner. Well, if they'd been on time, it might have worked. The entire conference was chaos, and they were running late right from the get-go. I don't even remember my panel, though I think it went well. When I got to Paddington station, I literally ran from the Tube for my train, and missed it by about 30 seconds. There was no way I was going to make it home for dinner now.

At least I'd make it to the carnival, though. Stay positive, Matt.

Since I had an hour to kill, I figured I might as well get something to eat. That's when I discovered there was a "problem" with my credit card, and they wouldn't accept it. Turned out the bank's automated systems had decided that the hotel bill was an "unexpected expense" and had blocked my card for my own protection. And since it was after 5pm, there were no humans available, and they couldn't deal with it until the next day. Thanks, Lloyds.  So, no money. No food.  The day gets better.

Finally, I got on a crowded train at 6.30. I should have been home three hours earlier. Twenty minutes into the journey, the heating broke down. This was November in England, remember, and nights are cold. That was okay when the train was full, but once it started to empty out, it began to get really chilly.

Never mind, I could endure it. Just a short while longer, and I could enjoy my long-awaited evening with my family.

And then, ten miles from home, the train broke down. No power. We sat in the cold, dark carriage, with no idea what was going on, until a repair train came and towed us back to the previous station. We got onto a replacement train, and I finally reached my station at about 10pm.

Even though this is starting to sound like a rejected script for a John Candy movie, the day wasn't finished with me yet. You see, when the carnival's in town, our tiny little town would get thousands of visitors. Everywhere you can possibly squeeze a vehicle is taken. Half the roads into and around town are blocked off, and the rest are full of traffic. My usual ten-minute drive home turned into well over half an hour, and I ended up having to park nearly a mile from my house. Of course, I wasn't dressed for a cold English night, and I recall the walk as an endless, freezing trek, losing the feeling in my fingers and face.

I eventually arrived back, tired, cold, hungry and dispirited, to a cold, dark, empty house, and a note that said, "Sorry, didn't get you any cards or presents, and there's no food in the house because we didn't get round to shopping. You'll have to go out and get yourself something."

And that, as they say, was that. My worst birthday ever.

* * *

This year, I spent most of my birthday lying on the sofa, suffering from a stomach bug. It wasn't a great day, but it's far from the worst birthday I've ever had. I had loads of Facebook & Skype wishes, I talked to friends and relatives from round the world, and I was surrounded by a family who love me. That's what matters.