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Promotional Activities
Being a self-published AUTHOR is pretty much the same as being a DIY ROCKSTAR, especially in terms of PROMOTION. All right, you don't get to do quite as many ACTUAL GIGS, but you do have to spend quite a lot of time trying to find ways to tell people your output EXISTS.

As previously stated, I'm quite enjoying this particular aspect at the moment as BOOKS have loads of new and exciting Promotional Methods to try. Yesterday I did a PROPER ADVERT in Bargain Booksy and today I've got a GIVEAWAY starting over on Goodreads. If you're a member of Goodreads this is a pretty good thing to enter.. All you need to do is click the "Enter Giveaway" button and you get entered in the draw. A few weeks later it picks out the winners, and you get posted an actual real-live paperback copy of the book. It's ALL WINZ, and it's RIGHT HERE!

ALongside that I've been trying to think of Unusual Places that might be interested somehow, such as the old Peterborough Evening Telegraph - I won a competition with them 32 years ago! Again, it's good fun WRACKING the BRANE to try and think of reasons people might feasibly be persuaded to give me a plug!

The next thing after all THAT is a VIDEO what me and John Dredge are going to make, hopefully early next week, as most of the "How To Promote Your Book" articles say that that's a good idea, then after that... I'm not sure, to be honest. Everything ELSE seems to involve the book being FREE, which I can't do again until at least November, so if anyone has any OTHER suggestions (NB CLEAN/LEGAL suggestions) do let me know in the comments!

posted 15/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Ten Years Of Totally Acoustic
Oh what a glorious day it was on Saturday, for LO! it was the Totally Acoustic ALL-DAYER!

In the days leading up to the event I had been viewing it with some considerable trepidation. Would anyone come? Would too many come? Would my recorder cope with seven acts? Would my body cope with the BEER?!? However, when I get up on Saturday morning i realised that I was going to be spending the day in my favourite pub, surrounded by PALS, and found myself DEAD EXCITED!

My DELIGHT was increased when I rolled up at the pub and saw that they had prepared us a SPECIAL BEER for the day, THUS:

CJ at the pub had said he'd get in whatever BEERS we liked for the day, and we'd provided a LIST, but this was entirely unexpected. The King & Queen is GRATE!

I went upstairs to get the room set up and then enjoyed my usual WORRYING while I waited for people to arrive. The worrying was even greater than usual on this occasion, as I HAD to start on time at 2:30pm as I was DETERMINED to keep it all to time, not least because I wanted to be able to watch Mo Farah's last race at 8:20pm!

My worries were all for nought, as a steady stream of people arrived and the room was JUST RIGHT at start time when the first act (ME) came on and did THIS:

  • Mental Judo
  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • We Did It Anyway

  • I had a LOVELY time - it's a GRATE room to do a gig in, the audience were LOVELY, and I had a BAR to lean against whilst doing CHAT. I just about managed to keep to time too, which was good!

    The rest of the day rolled by at EXTREME SPEED. As I say, I'd been worrying about how I'd last through a whole DAY of ROCK, but it ZOOMED past. Eventually I realised that this was because I had picked some of my FAVOURITE people to play so of COURSE it was all going to go quickly! This did put me at something of a disadvantage for introducing the ACTS, however, as I found myself saying pretty much the SAME THING every time i.e. that they were each one of my FAVOURITES and were ACE. I find myself in a similar situation writing this here blog too - Mr Matt Tiller came on after me and was HILARIOUS, all-round LEGEND Mr Peter Buckley Hill was BRILL (doing his first gig without a gall bladder too!) and the Ms Jenny Lockyer closed the first half with a TOUR DE FORCE of HITS.

    See what I mean? Anyway, Mr Pete Green had suggested that we have a BREAK halfway through, as he's had some success with that at his OWN all-dayers, so at this point myself and The Acts On My Bill took full advantage of this by popping round the corner for some late lunch in Leon. I can confirm that having a break is a BRILLIANT idea, and enabled us to head back for MORE fun, with everyone enjoying a bit of SECOND WIND.

    The second half was much the same as the first in terms of everyone being ACE. We began with the PATRON SAINT of Totally Acoustic, the aforesaid Pete Green, whose ELEVENTH appearance was if anything even MORE ace than the preceding ten, then the always MARVELLOUS Mr Gavin Osborn ROCKED the house, as he always does. We CLIMAXED with Mr Keith Top Of The Pops, accompanied by His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band, BATTLING through what turned out to be a KIDNEY infection to bring THE ROCK.

    It was FANTASTIC, and when it was all over I felt a bit SAD there there wasn't more. Still, we had achieved my Organisational Objective of running PRECISELY to time throughout, which meant those of us who wished to could go downstairs and SHOUT at the TELLY for a bit while MO got his silver. With that done all that remained was to sit around for another pint and some further CHAT before heading home, where I arrived JUST in time to see the men's relay team win GOLD!

    It was a LOVELY day and I'm EXTREMELY grateful to everyone who came, everyone who played, and everyone at the PUB too. We're on HIATUS for a while now - there'll be at least FOUR more podcasts though, one for each half of this show and then two ROUND-UPs of extra tracks from this series. After that I'm not sure when we'll be back, but with GOOD TIMES like THIS available, I know we WILL!

    posted 14/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Get My Team GB T-Shirt Out Of The Cupboard
    The past few weeks in The Olympics Where I Live have been DEAD exciting, as we've had the World Para-Athletics and currently the IAAF World Championships going on at the stadium. It's been GRATE watching it all on the telly most nights then looking out of the window and seeing the corner of the Actual Stadium where it's happening. There always seems to be HELICOPTERS around too, and it was Inexplicably Exciting last night to HEAR one going by and then to SEE it pass over the top of the stadium on telly. It's HERE!

    It also means there's LOADS of people around going to and from the events, and this was EXTREMELY noticeable on my way into work this morning, as I forged my way through HUGE crowds of EXCITED people coming out of the station. Loads of conversations in all sorts of different languages were going on around me, and it was lovely to see how many people had come dressed up in national colours. I'm not sure what's going on today, but there's definitely at least ONE Swedish athlete involved!

    My favourite things is when someone's dug out their 2012 t-shirt to wear. There were LOADS of these - clearly people have been storing them away in the back of the cupboard to SAVOUR the memory, only bringing them out again for something special like this. It never ceases to amaze me how BLOODY WONDERFUL the Olympics and Paralympics were when they were here, it feels semi-MYTHICAL that there was that time when it seemed like a good idea to be PROUD of being British, to all be HAPPY and - strangest of all - to TALK TO STRANGERS on the Tube. Surely that must be a false memory, mustn't it?

    I guess that's why everyone's so KEEN on these Championships being here, and especially on getting the Para-Athletics in 2019. We want to have that OLYMPIC GLEE back again. I am VERY MUCH in favour of this sort of thing. After all, we loved the Olympics so much in our house that we went and LIVED there!

    posted 11/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Interim Sales Report
    As previously reported, the initial LAUNCH of Storm House was a WHIRLWIND of excitement, as it ZOOMED up the bestseller lists and HUNDREDS of new people decided to download it. It was a LOT of fun!

    Things quietened down SIGNIFICANTLY last Tuesday when the FREE window closed and it went back to costing £1.99 to download (or £8.00 for those who prefer an Actual Paperback), but that was fine. I knew that it would happen and, although I missed looking at the SALES inching up every time I looked, I was happy for things to proceed at a more STATELY pace. The PLAN had always been to use the five days of FREE availability to get it out initially to new readers, and that had succeeded ADMIRABLY. Now it was time to move on to other, less FRENETCI, methods of promotion.

    THUS I spent quite a bit of time devising an old fashioned PRESS RELEASE, heavily relying on th help of my in-house media team (AKA The Text Of My Release). We came up with something PRETTY GOOD I reckon, and I sent it out at the start of the week to some of my usual mailing lists. Most of these are INDIE types, so I'm not expecting a HUGE level of response, but you never know. I also put out tentative feelers to science fiction magazines and blogs, to see if they'd be interested in reviewing the book. Again, this isn't HUGELY likely to pay off, as there are RATHER a lot of people hawking debut science ficiton novels around, but, again, you never know!

    This bit of the PUBLICITY CAMPAIGN has felt quite nice and cosy. I've done this almost ANNUALLY for every album or show that I've done, so the mailing is dead easy to do and CRAFTING a press release is a familiar, and very satisfying, process. However, now the first stage of THAT is all finished it's time to get on with some NEW methods, including some ACTUAL ADVERTS, working out how to LEVERAGE Goodreads and Listopia (whatever that is), and attempting to squeeze myself into some BLOGS. It's actually rather good fun - like I say, I've done LOTS of the normal publicity over the years, but this is all new and exciting and - IMPORTANTLY - feels like it could actually WORK!

    Best of all, all this FUN has encouraged me to get ON with it and start the SECOND 'Storm House' book, which is probably going to be called "The Utopians" and STARTS almost precisely where the first book ENDS. So far I'm just on the second draft of the PLOT, so there's TONNES to go yet, but I'm really REALLY enjoying it. WRITING! It's GRATE!

    posted 10/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Sculpture In The City
    At the end of the working day yesterday I received a telephone call from The Birds On My Wire, asking if I wanted to go with her on an evening stroll around Sculpture In The City, a trail of sculptures scattered around The City. I did, so I did!

    It was really REALLY good fun. We met at Monument tube station and then navigated our way around the 16-18 (depending on how you counted them) sculptures. The map provided on the website LOOKED very nice, but didn't include tube stations, or most of the street names, or indicators of WHICH streets the artworks were usually on, so it was a bit of a CHALLENGE to find them all. This, however, actually made it more fun, like URBAN ADVENTURING. I do like a MAP and I flipping LOVE finding my way around the nooks and crannies of London, it was ACE!

    I don't know The City very well, so was pleased to find myself agreeing with The Roads On My Route that it is a KRAZY and FUN bit of town, where austere bank buildings from out of Dickens rub shoulders with the ruins of medieval churches and ENORMOUS towering new buildings. It's like one of those stories where TIME goes ASKEW and bits of the present, past and future all end up tumbled together. The GHERKIN stood in the middle of it all, as FRIENDLY and GORGEOUS up close as it is from a distance, with others (like "The Scalpel" - what a daft name for a building) significantly LESS so. The surprise was The Walkie Talkie though. As the aforesaid Bricks In My Wall said, it looks DREADFUL from a distance, but up close it's rather LOVELY!

    The ART was, as usual, a mixed bunch. Some of it did more for one of us than the other, though I think we BOTH liked "Black Shed Expanded" (a shed!), "The Black Horse" (a horse!), "'Envelope of Pulsation (For Leo)" (a chunk of granite), "Reminiscence" (a cross between a ruined wall, some rolled laundry, and a pile of tofu), and "Falling Into Virtual Reality" (er... a sort of wireframe umbrella in a ceiling with figures falling into each other). Some of them might have been more impressive if they'd been switched on (e.g. a NEON sculpture that, when we saw it, was just some curly tubes high up on a wall, so it took us AGES to find) and others just seemed a bit pointless, but HEY! that is ART!

    As with MOST of these sort of things there were minor annoyances, like the map not really being much use and the DESCRIPTIONS being GHASTLY (I am sure they must TEACH "Frustrating, Pompous And Tedious Use Of Pointlessly Long Words" as approx 30% of a Fine Arts Degree), but overall it was BLOODY GRATE. We got to see some really good lumps of SCULPTURE and also had a WHALE of a time exploring a bit of That London that I didn't know very well. I would HIGHLY recommend it - but make sure you take your "A to Z"!

    posted 9/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Day Trip To Dover
    On Sunday myself and The Top Of My Cliffs went out on a day trip to Dover. Southeastern Rail are currently doing an offer where you can get a day return ticket for a tenner, so she has been taking full advantage of this with various trips to Seaside Locations via the High Speed line that goes from Stratford International i.e. at the end of our road, and she had enjoyed DOVER so much she had decided to take me along for a look too.

    Our original plan had been to go on Saturday but the weather forecast looked rotten, so we went on Sunday instead and CRIKEY this was a good idea, for LO! Saturday was typical School Summer Holiday weather (GREY) whereas Sunday was GLORIOUS. I got sunburnt! In England!

    Upon arrival we stomped into town and went for a look at the Bronze Age Boat in Dover Museum. We'd seen something similar a few months ago when we went to Flag Fen so I was expecting something similar to that, and thus was ASTOUNDED when I entered the gallery to find a PROPER ENORMOUS BOAT sitting there. At Flag Fen you had to peer through a window to look at a TANK which, apparently, had a log boat in it somewhere, but here the boat was right there in the gallery, behind perspex but fully visible in all its glory. And COR what glory it was - it was deeply MOVING seeing something SO old (3,500 years old in fact) that had clearly been put together by human hands. Seeing where it had been carved out, hammered and tied together, it was MIND-BLOWING, to feel suddenly connected to people who had lived so very very long ago but were clearly so similar to us now. The other displays around it were brill too - I have, for instance, seen a LOT of Bronze Age Axe Heads on display over the years, but I never realised how they fitted onto the axe shafts before, or how the shafts were made. Children of KENT: you are BLESSED to have such things to be inevitably forced to see on school trips!

    No less impressive were the White Cliffs of Dover, which we walked to next and then UP. The paths along the clifftop were full of people from all over the WORLD, out on this lovely sunny day to see a) A Part Of British Culture b) some LOVELY countryside. It was beautiful up there, and the fact that over the edge you could see the FERRY port added to the whole feeling of DELIGHT. All day long, as we walked to the lighthouse and back, you could see ferries coming and going, and you could also see FRANCE off in the distance. Flipping FRANCE! We both got text messages from our respective phone service providers saying "Welcome To France" while we were up there, THAT's how close we were!

    Our walk took us to South Foreland Lighthouse where we stopped to have the picnic lunch which The Hummus On My Pitta had SOURCED. As we sat on the grass a Spitfire flew past. We, and all the other picnickers, looked up and smiled - yes, of course, we're on The White Cliffs Of Dover, why wouldn't we see a Spitfire? It was only when it had gone that I realised that this WASN'T necessarily something you'd see every day, so was very pleased when it flew back again so we could appreciate it properly!

    It was a GRATE day out, also containing TEA and CAKE in the Visitor Centre (provided by the aforesaid Jam In My Victoria Sponge, who was TREATING me the whole day!), PONIES on the clifftop, a paddle in the sea and TRAIN BEERS on the way home. Best of all, it took less than an HOUR to get back home and when we arrived at the station it was only 5 minutes from our house! What more could you ask for? HOORAH for the seaside!

    posted 8/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Sheffield Almanac
    Now that Storm House is officially OUT (and very much available to purchase!) I found myself in a very unusual situation on Saturday: Pretty Much On Top Of Everything. There's still the Totally Acoustic all-dayer to do and the London Premiere of Still Valid later this month, but otherwise most things are either DONE, UNDERWAY or AGES off.

    With unexpected FREE TIME I thus set about finding something to DO. I've got LOADS of books piled up in a queue for reading, so I thought that I might as well treat myself to a BATH and a READ. Top of the pile of books was Sheffield Almanac by Mr Pete Green, so I picked that up and headed for the TUB.

    I must admit that I've had a copy of this hanging around for several weeks. When Pete released it I naturally JUMPED to get a copy, but didn't get around to reading it for various reasons. Firstly, I do most of my reading on the TUBE these days, and a slender volume of POETRY (for LO! that is what it is) didn't seem appropriate for the rough and tumble of public transport. Also, to be honest, it's POETRY, which tends to feel like HOMEWORK (before you read it, anyway), and also I always worry about reading stuff my CHUMS have written. Logically this is DAFT - all my chums are CERTIFIED GENIUSES and their works are MIGHTY - but I always start reading/listening/watching with trepidation, ANXIOUS lest I have to dodge around the edges of saying I didn't like it.

    I need not have worried in this case because "Sheffield Almanac" was ASTOUNDING. I guess I should have known it would be - I've seen and THOROUGHLY enjoyed Pete doing poetry at gigs - but this was really something else altogether. It was MOVING, FUNNY, full of THORTS and really pretty bloody GRATE. As I say, I went in afeared that I would have to GRIND through Proper Poetry, but it was a breeze of a read which moved me to actual real-life TEARS at various points, and also made me say "HA!" out loud several times.

    My favourite thing about it was that it did that thing that RADIO is meant to do but generally doesn't i.e. created PICTURES in your MIND. I could see Pete driving a car, standing at Pedestrian crossings, or plodding up HILLS with a VIVIDITY that amazed me. I also loved the way he doesn't shy away from LIFE ASSESSING, and the bit where he thought back on his own life after seeing fresh new students arriving in September SPOKE to me especially!

    I also liked the RHYMING SCHEME he used, and the way you don't notice it's happening until there's a REASON for it, and the way that made me LARF out loud sometimes. AND I liked the way it got ON with it - it took me half an hour to read the LOT, and it felt like every line was PACKED OUT with meaning and ideas. With rhyming poetry it is EASY to get distracted and wander off topic in search of a Clever Bit or Good Rhyme, but Pete seemed to achieve that while still moving the whole poem forward.

    What I'm saying, basically, is that it was DEAD GOOD and I would wholeheartedly recommend getting a copy! Go on, it's only a fiver!

    posted 7/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Have A Drink With Us
    Last week at Indietracks The Validators were issued a CHALLENGE: to perform a version of the song Drink doch eine met by Black Fooss at a gig we're doing next year. What do you mean, you've never heard of it?!? Let's rectify that right now!

    When the challenge was first issued, by Mr Marcel Plaum and his associates, I was AFEARED because it had been issued via SHEET MUSIC. However, a bit of googling showed me that the song uses EXACTLY the chords that I always use (apart from having a B minor in the middle eight... because it doesn't have a middle eight) which was something of a relief. I also found a couple of translations of the lyrics, but I didn't really like them - they seemed very LITERAL, rather than like actual song lyrics, so I thought I'd have a go at doing a version MYSELF.

    I do have FORM for this sort of thing, as I'd not only done a German to English translation of 'Arbeit' by Manfred Maurenbrecher (as Work (Arbeit)) a few years ago but ALSO an American to English translation of 'Glory Days' by Bruce Springsteen. That version of 'Glory Days' had to be SUPPRESSED because of fears of LEGAL ACTION by the so-called 'Boss' (a revised version with 'correct' lyrics was issued on WIAIWYA's Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool album) but I had very much enjoyed the task in both cases. It makes songwriting a LOT easier when somebody else has worked out the structure and everything, and all you have to do is rearrange the words a bit so they rhyme!

    It was only after about half an hour of trying to find a rhyme for "Have a drink with us" that I realised I didn't even need to necessarily do THAT, as the original song doesn't rhyme AT ALL. It blew my tiny mind when I realised this and I had to listen to the song a couple more times to be sure. It FEELS as if it rhymes, but then it totally doesn't! I tried leaving MY version of the lyrics un-rhymed but didn't really like it, and anyway I DID find a rhyme ("Don't get yourself het up") which FITTED, so I kept it!

    Once I'd finished I found myself RATHER excited - it's a bloody BRILLIANT song which I had already spent the day singing in my head, and now that I had an English translation I wanted to share it, so recorded a quick demo and sent it to The Validators. In all the excitement I suggested that we could even record it for this year's addition to Christmas Selection Box, not realising that only myself and Mr FA Machine had already heard it, and had been talking about it on the emails. The others had not been so privileged, so may not be quite so keen, but one way or another I hope to UNLEASH this version on an unsuspecting world somehow someday. It's a GRATE song with a BEAUTIFUL sentiment, it can't just be contained in Cologne!

    posted 4/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Indietracks 2017
    Saturday was that most WONDERFUL day in the Indiepop year - INDIETRACKS DAY!!

    All right, for most people it was Day TWO of THREE of Indietracks, but I long ago realised that ONE day of a festival is pretty much enough for me, no matter HOW delightful it is, and for the past several years I have used this methodology to THOROUGHLY enjoy myself without fear of waking up at 6am in a soaking tent the next day and then having to POWER THROUGH a whole HUNGOVER rest of weekend!

    So it was that Mr S Hewitt and I met with with Mr T "The Tiger" MacClure at Tiger Towers just after noon and drove to the site, full of EXCITEMENT for the day to come. This turned to MILD PANIC in the case of Tom when he realised he'd forgotten his Special Earplugs so, once he'd dropped us off, he went all the way back to Leicester to get them. It meant that he DIDN'T spend the rest of the day worrying about his hearing, so it was entirely worth it!

    My first port of call at Indietracks is ALWAYS to visit the Merch Tent to give Mr J Jervis a hug, and this time I managed to combine this pleasure with BUSINESS, for LO! I was booked to do a READING of Storm House as part of the Merch Tent PROGRAMME. As the time for the reading grew closer I became more and more AFEARED. How was I going to do this? Would people be able to hear? Had I chosen the right bit to read?!? My NERVES continued once Jerv introduced me, as I stood in front of a group of very patient people and SHOUTED the start of the book at them for about 60 seconds. I realised that this was never going to work, as it was far too noisy in the tent and SHOUTING was not really going to work for CHARACTERISATION (i.e. funny voices), so I grabbed a chair and sat down, which seem to sort everything out a LOT - I was closer to the people sitting on the floor, and the people standing up formed a sound barrier at the back, so I was able to relax into it a bit. It seemed to go OK but it was TERRIFYING, and I think I definitely need to give a bit of thought to what section to read next time I do it (in Sheffield in October). I read the START of the book this time, and had to keep stopping to say "It's not just about filing and sneezing, honest!"

    The rest of The Validators arrived just in time for the start of THE READING, and after it was done we treated ourselves to some BEER. The next couple of hours - and indeed much of the day later - featured us EITHER wandering around individually, HUGGING people and not seeing bands OR sitting EN MASSE in The Train Bar. The Train Bar is the BEST bar - comfy seats and no queues!

    Soon it was time for us to go and get our gear and then get set up for our FULL BAND SHOW over in the BIG SHED. I was quite calm before it started, as we had a TYPED OUT SETLIST which was guaranteed to last exactly the right length of time. It even had notes about when I should introduce the band etc, so I wouldn't worry about it during the songs and get distracted. Unfortunately I couldn't FIND the printed setlists so ended up running to The Merch Tent to see if I'd left it there then running all the way bag to discover they were inside ANOTHER bag, with some flyers. PHEW!

    Mr Matthew Schwartz came and took our picture, which looked GRATE, and then we took to the stage with Frankie's SONIC MONTAGE, which seemed to work out OK, and waved to the - CRIKEY - VAST crowd of people who'd come to see us! It was fantastic looking at out such a THRONG, with friendly faces and NEW faces too GRINNING back at us. Here's what we ended up doing:
  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • The 1980s How It Was
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Mental Judo
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed
  • I must say, PRACTICING a setlist doesn't half make it easier to play without mistakes! The whole thing went like a DREAM, I genuinely could have stayed there playing for HOURS, the only trouble was it went WAY too fast. So fast in fact that we had to cut our last song - I couldn't understand how we could have run out of time, but eventually we realised that we'd timed and practiced a 45 minute set... and our timeslot was only 40 minutes! It was a shame, as we were going to finish with We Did It Anyway, and I had a GRATE SPEECH to deliver beforehand, but we had just done at least THREE big hits, so I think we did OK!

    It was a wonderful experience - I always enjoy it when we play to big audiences, I don't know why we don't do it more often - and the BEST thing was afterwards when, over the course of the evening, VARIOUS people, some of whom I didn't even know, came over to say they'd really enjoyed it. A surprising number of people said they'd CRIED during the set, which I THINK is a compliment, but the best bit was later when we got a round of applause from the other customers as we re-entered the Train Bar. That was flipping lovely!

    With the show complete we stood around backstage feeling VERY happy. We did some SELFIES, which involved all other Validators trying to get away from my VERY SWEATY embrace. I didn't mind - it meant I got to stand RIGHT at the front! We also signed some AUTOGRAPHS for some small girls who, I think, were trying to get them from everybody, and then we STOMPED over to the Merch Tent where I solved the Sweaty Issue by buying myself an Indietracks T-Shirt. I'd forgotten my usual clean post-gig t-shirt, I must be getting out of practice!

    Last time we were in the Merch Tent we were MOBBED by people, but this time it all went a bit more gently. Partly, I think, this was because the Hayman Kupa band were on after us, and I imagine there's some OVERLAP between our audiences, and partly it was because we had SATIATED the market. Several people came over and looked SAD because they'd already GOT everything!

    Once that was all done much of the rest of the day was spent back in the Train Bar, although we did manage to see a CAN CRUSH. This is the MOST EXCITING bit at Indietracks - all it is is a steam roller (or similar) driving over and crushing some cans, but it all get VERY VERY exciting. When we saw it one can escaped the crushing, so a CHILD was sent out to STAMP on it. The cheer he received was bigger than for any of the bands!

    We all went to see The Wedding Present, with some band members spending the whole time down the front, and others of us sheltering beneath umbrellas at a picnic table, then we started to go our seperate ways. Emma and The Pattison Girls went home, Frankie went to get his bus, and Tim, Tom and I went for some more beers. Eventually we found our way to the DISCO in the Tram Shed. Ian How Does It Feel did a GRATE job on the DECKS, culminating in "Lazy Line Painter Jane". My EXTREME PLEASURE to be out dancing to it was only compounded when I looked up to see, running through the dry ice, STEVE dashing forward. It was like that episode of SPACED!

    And so ended our day at Indietracks. It was bloody brilliant - HUGE thanks to everyone who came to see us, and especially to the organising team who did an AMAAAAAZING job yet again. See you next year!

    posted 2/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Topping The Charts
    Friday was Launch Day for Storm House, and it was all EXTREMELY exciting. Not only did I have the knowledge that people could actually now READ the book at last, I could also see people downloading it via the magic of Amazon's Kindle reporting system. It draws you a graph - a flipping GRAPH - that shows you how many people have downloaded your book and it updates LIVE! I could have happily watched it all day, and nearly did!!

    I was so enjoying the graph so much that I didn't think to check the actual Amazon Page, so it was only when Mr W Pilkington tweeted about it that I realised the book was at NUMBER ONE in the Amazon Charts! Specifically it was at Number One in Children's Action & Adventure Literature and Science Fiction Adventure, and - AMAZINGLY - Number four in Science Fiction itself!

    This pretty much BLEW MY TINY MIND, yet MORE was to come. The idea to launch the book for free like this came from reading several 'How To Promote Your eBook' guides which said that this was a good way to get new readers interested. If you can get a boost into the CHARTS then much more people will see it and download it to see what the fuss is all about. I must admit I was a bit dubious, but BLOW ME it turns out it actually works! On Monday a tweet by Mr A Cartmel (my MENTOR when I wrote 'Storm House' as a screenplay) got a whole bunch of NEW people to download it, plus (I think) people coming home from Indietracks (where I'd given out a load of flyers) downloaded it too, which meant that it went back to the top of the charts, at which point things went a little bit crazy. Over the course of the day I got literally HUNDREDS of downloads and it ended up at number one for Science Fiction as well! Every time I looked at the GRAPH (and I looked at it A LOT) there'd be more downloads, so I can only guess that this was the legendary People Browsing The Top 100 Free Books that I had been told about, seeing it and giving it a go. It's all been VERY exciting!

    So what I want to say here is thanks VERY much to everyone who leapt aboard to download it over the weekend, as that was what got it out to THE WORLD. I never expected it to do this well so quickly, if at ALL! If you've not joined in yet there's still time to jump on the THRILL RIDE - you can still download it for FREE from Amazon today (Tuesday), and then after that it'll still be very much available for just a couple of quid. There's also the GORGEOUS Paperback version too, which costs a bit more but is worth it because it is AN ACTUAL BOOK you can HOLD and show off with on public transport!

    Whichever way you read it, thanks very much and I hope you like it!

    posted 1/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Take Me Home Croydon Road
    On Thursday I returned once more to Croydon, this time to perform Still Valid with Mr S Hewitt at The Croydon Comedy Festival. Originally this was meant to be a solo gig, but when our ORIGINAL date for 'Still Valid' had to be cancelled back in June (when I was POORLY) I asked Mr T Eveleigh if it would be OK for me and Steve to do the show on THIS date instead. He said "Yes" and thank goodness he did, because otherwise we would have missed a LOVELY evening.

    For LO! It was a CRACKING bill, also featuring not only Ms J Lockyer but also Mr G Osborn with Tim as compere. It was ESPECIALLY ACE for me because The Gags In My Routine had traveled down from Distant Stratford to see the show - quite apart from it just being nice to have her around, it was good because she's never been to a Croydon show before and so never seen Tim in action. We particularly enjoyed his bit about CRAZY GOLF!

    Gav went on first and let slip one of a TRADE SECRET of GIGS. Tim had said earlier that he'd been relieved when he'd arrived to find the seats set out in THEATRICAL style (i.e. in rows) rather than CABARET (with tables), as that meant some tickets had been sold. The RULE is that if you've not sold many tickets you set the room out cabaret style to make it look less empty - all gig promoters know, or soon learn this, but I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to tell people... er... like I just have.

    Anyway, Gav did a FAB set including a couple of NEW songs, my favourite of which was a story about meeting the band Madness at a service station. He's told me the TRUE STORY of this before, so it was a bit odd to hear it turned into a song. This is the sort of thing I do ALL THE TIME, so I guess it was a dose of my own medicine!

    Jenny was next and she was ALSO GRATE. There had been some confusion amongst some of my associates beforehand, as they had expected her to do some songs from her new show, but as there are NO SONGS (It's Theatre!) she did other stuff instead including some more ACE new tracks.

    And then it was the turn of me and Steve to take the stage, which we did at SOME LENGTH. The show is usually about 45 minutes long but this time it was more like 55 as we were having SUCH FUN. There was larking about, extra jokes, and general GOOD TIMES. I feel like we've really relaxed into this show now... just in time to have only one more to go, at The Camden Fringe!

    With all that done we agreed we would all meet again in a couple of weeks at the Totally Acoustic All-Dayer. The good times just keep on coming!

    posted 31/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Storm House Release Day
    At long last, all the waiting (for me) is over and it is RELEASE DAY for Storm House!

    This is my novel - my DEBUT NOVEL in fact - about a team of Museum Workers who secretly act as the UK's only defence against MONSTERS and WEIRDNESS. It's got lots of action, several Actual Jokes, has been spellchecked and is Quite Short, which frankly is everything I ever look for in a novel!

    Regular visitors to this blog with recall that this is also the book that got me a Literary Agent a few months ago and then, not long after, DIDN'T get me a Literary Agent. Once I'd (mostly) finishing MOPING AROUND about that I decided to go back to my usual settings and release it myself, which has turned out to be a) a lot more fun and b) surprisingly easy in The Modern Age. You can thus now buy it via Amazon as either a download or an Actual Paperback Book!

    The download version is currently FREE - I'm allowed to sell it for NOWT for 5 days every few months, it seems, so from today (Friday) until Tuesday you should be able to download it for NOTHING. The thinking here is that the more people download it now while it's free then the more likely the Amazon Algorithm is to recommend it to other people later who will hopefully pay for it and, who knows, maybe even tell MORE people. It's a CUNNING PLAN which will - almost definitely - lead to it becoming a MEGA FRANCHISE that makes The Marvel Cinematic Universe look like an advert for Jay Cloths.

    The paperback version ISN'T free, but COR it doesn't half look nice. I ordered a couple of copies a few days ago to check they were all right, and they arrived yesterday. I was expecting them to look a bit PRETEND, like someone had just made them at home or something, but they looked DEAD PROPER!

    As I say, I'm doing all this myself so would be EXTREMELY grateful to anyone who could take the time to download it this weekend. Then, if you have the time to read it, I'd be even MORE grateful if you could leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Do be honest if you do that - I can take it, honest, and would like to know what people think! Also, as ever, any mentions via interwebs, tweets, facebooks or just Real Life Interactions would be GRATE. I'm immensely proud of this book, and I'd like to get as many people as possible to read it!

    posted 28/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Dredgeland Podcast Spectacular
    Last night The Flats In My Block and I headed to London's newly regenerated Kings Cross area of London, where we spent some happy moments having a nosey at the posh new flats (and agreeing that they weren't as nice as where we live) before heading over the road to The Star Of Kings, where we were due to watch The Dredgeland Podcast Spectacular.

    As soon as we entered I felt like I should be 3 pints drunker, 2 hours later and 1 curry heavier, for LO! it was just like going to see a show in Edinburgh, with the CAST greeting audience members as they walked into a dark basement for an hour of LARFS. The stage was set up sort of like a radio station, with Mr J Dredge and Mr A Harland sat facing us at a table with microphones etc. This was for two reasons: 1) it was in association with Hove FM 93.5 and 2) it was being recorded for a podcast. I must admit to having a small STAKE in some of the ACTION, as John and I had done some EDITS on a few sketches during our regular LUNCHES, so my opinion may not be entirely unbiased, but I thought it was GRATE. The hour WHIPPED by in a whirlwind of LARFS, some scripted but lots mostly on the HOOF, with my favourite bit being the evolution of a thrilling new catchphrase for the 21st Century - "That's the end of that bit", "Thank God For That!"

    NB it was even MORE hilarious when shouted by the whole audience! There was also a QUIZ section which I ended up being on a team for, and which we won a PRIZE for. I thus ended up coming home with not one but TWO Dredgeland Sponsored Bananas, which I can report are tasty as well as cost effective!

    At the end of the show Andy said he'd like it to go up to the Edinburgh Fringe sometime, and I must say I agreed. It was a rather wonderful and SILLY way to spend an hour, and the more there is of THAT sort of thing the better!

    posted 27/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Spider-Man Film
    Last night I went to see "Spider-man: Homecoming." My short review is this: IT WAS GRATE!

    I went to see it at the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road where I have seen approx 70% of ALL Superhero films over the last decade or so. It's a GRATE place to go and see Superhero films because it is near my work, never hugely busy, and usually populated by COMICS FANS - these latter tend to be sat on their own like what I am, probably because they too have just come from work, and sit quietly, only occasionally grunting approval in unison when a particularly juicy EASTER EGG appears.

    The cinema has been refurbished since I was last there, and also re-staffed with, as far as I could see, MORE and HAPPIER people. It was an entirely pleasant experience, which is not always the case at The Pictures!

    The film itself was, as mentioned above, GRATE. I do like the Marvel films as they tend to GET what makes comics enjoyable i.e. they do tackle Proper Issues and Big Themes but also do it with a sense of humour, proper characters, STORIES, and also lots of things exploding. This film had ALL of those, and also, crucially, got ON with it. I quite liked the Andrew Garefield Spider-man films, but they weren't half slow going, whereas this one RATTLES along without pausing for Moody Smouldering or Looking Gloomy In The Rain (which tends to make up approx 95% of the screen time for the boring DC films).

    Thinking about it afterwards I realised that it was basically a mixing together of BOTH the Peter Parker and Miles Morales Ultimate Spider-man series, notably with Ganke from the Miles Morales stories moved over WHOLESALE with only a name change. I think the way they just didn't do the origin AT ALL was a good idea, and I loved the way they linked it into the Avengers stories without getting TOO distracted by it all.

    Basically I really really liked it - Spider-man is, let's be honest, pretty much the BEST of the big superheroes, and it's LOVELY that Sony have seen sense and let Actual Proper Marvel have a go at it. MORE please!

    posted 25/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Polls Have Closed
    The past few days have seen excitement levels even higher than usual in The Validators' Group Emails, for LO! we have been doing something we all thoroughly enjoy: VOTING!

    Usually we are able to make decisions about ROCK BUSINESS through discussion and negotiation, but sometimes, in order to MOVE FORWARD, there comes a time for a VOTE. As one of our members is a former member of The Electoral Reform Society (hem hem I was a crazy teenager at the time) we tend to utilise EXCITING METHODOLOGIES, and the voting requirements here certainly required them.

    We had been discussing our walk-on and walk-off music for Indietracks. The last time we played there we came on to "Back For Good" and then went off to "Still The One", both suggested by The Songs In My Setlist. That had worked so well that we ALL had ideas for this year (NB it's the only time we get to HAVE walk-on and walk-off music!) and there were some many THORTS flying around that we couldn't come to a final decision, hence the need for a vote.

    We had a list of SEVERAL songs for each EVENT, and so the voting methodology was THUS: Everyone emailed me with two lists of songs which they had placed in their order of preference. I then awarded 10 points for a first choice, 9 for a second and so on for all those that had been listed. These were TOTALISED to find the eventual winner.

    As votes started to come in (there are only five of us, but still) it all got QUITE EXCITING. For the walk-on music a clear winner very quickly emerged - just before voting commenced Mr FA Machine had submitted a BESPOKE SONIC MONTAGE what he had created - but the walk-off was MUCH closer, and was up for grabs RIGHT until the last moment.

    A winner was found however, and just before midnight on Saturday the polls closed and I was able to inform the group of our democratically agreed choices. I'll keep the details of the WINNERS quiet until the day itself, but here's the slightly redacted results otherwise:

    50Sonic Montage - Frankie Machine
    32Brooklyn 99 Theme
    23Formed A Band - Art Brut
    20Rockin' All Over The World - Status Quo
    16Come Back - Wah
    15Saturday Night - Whigfield
    15Jump - Van Halen
    12Let's get Back Together - Standard Fare
    7Like To Get To Know You Well - Howard Jones

    25Golden Girls theme tune (Thank You For Being A Friend)
    20To The End Of The Line - Travelling Wilburys
    19Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley
    19If You Leave - OMD
    16I Want You Back - Jackson 5
    15Don't Stop Me Now - Queen
    14I'll Be Back - The Beatles
    9Untitled - Interpol
    8Come Back - Wah (again)

    As you can see, it was a THRILL RIDE from start to finish and, even though I myself didn't vote for the eventual winner, I think we came out with the right choice in the end. As I have said approx 300,000,000 times, one day The Validators will turn their attention away from ROCK and onto Other Matters That Require Sorting Out, and on that day LET THE WORLD QUAKE!!

    posted 24/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Night At The Para Athletics
    Last night The Starting Blocks Of My Race and I went to The Olympic Stadium (THAT IS WOT IT'S CALLED) to see The Para Athletics and it was BLOODY BRILLIANT.

    We've been watching it on telly all week and it's been VERY exciting to think that it was all going on over there at the stadium, as seen out of our living room window (because we live in The Olympic Park you see, sorry, that may not have been clear because I Do Not Like To Go On About It). The Days Of My Week had already been last Friday, and reported that it was GRATE, but I was still not quite prepared for how AMAZING it would be.

    The AMAZINGNESS began when we walked into the stadium itself and down to our seats which, it turned out, were not only RIGHT down the front, but also next to the finishing line! This meant that ALL NIGHT LONG we got to see the start of lots of races right up close and also ALL THE FINISHES! It was incredible! ALSO all the athletes came running past us waving flags when they won (the best was the shot putter Niko Kappel who looked like he was going to EXPLODE with DELIGHT) AND all the TV crews were filming nearby AND loads of athletes came and sat in our section to cheer on teammates. Georgie Hermitage's family were sat right near us, and she came and sat with them after getting her win, and we waved (A LOT) at Hannah Cockcroft and Whizbee the mascot!

    Before going I was sort of expecting it to go on a bit, and had been advised to bring a BOOK for LULLS, but the entire three hour session FLEW by, with races and track events going on all over the place. They were doing the F11 Long Jump for a lot of the evening, which is basically the long jump WHILE WEARING A BLINDFOLD! It looked absolutely TERRIFYING, and the whole stadium had to be quiet while they did it so the athletes could hear their coaches telling them when to jump. It made the T11 400m (also visually impaired - what, have you not been memorising all the categories too?) look like a BREEZE!

    It was utterly fantastic and we all entered a state of JOYFUL DELIRIUM which culminated in EVERYBODY singing along to "Sweet Caroline" and DABBING with gusto. We staggered out with huge GRINS on our faces - there's still tickets available, so if you're anywhere near I would THOROUGHLY recommend going. I think we will be!

    posted 21/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Tour Of Reading
    Wednesday evening found myself and Mr S Hewitt getting one over on THE MAN, this time in his guise as TRAIN TICKET PRICES. We were heading for Reading and all the tickets for direct, fast trains were over 30 quid. You could get a cheaper one for about half the price BUT it took over twice as long... except for a couple of exceptions that only took 10 minutes more than the fast trains, but were at the lower price. HA! We felt QUITE the insider rebels when we spotted and USED this information - who says PUNK ROCK is dead?

    We were in Reading to perform Still Valid at The Reading Fringe. Our venue, The Milk Bar, was very close to the station and, once we'd arrived, it took about 2 minutes to say hello to the organisers and have a quick look round. As a result of this efficienty we ended up having plenty of time to Explore Reading. By "explore Reading" I mean, of course, "Go to some pubs", so we popped into The Ale House (exactly what you'd expect from the name, including beer mats on the ceiling and walls, and as Steve said "more ponytails than women"), The Monk's Retreat (basically a Weatherspoons but not actually a Weatherspoons) and The Bugle. This last one was a GLORIOUSLY old-fashioned pub that was old-fashioned in that it was like old pubs ACTUALLY WERE, rather than what marketeers would like us to think i.e. it was, to quote TripAdvisor, "a bit rough" with people swearing loudly and happily at each other across the bar, beermats that had seen better days, and regulars mumbling to themselves in corners. To PARAPHRASE the philosopher D Emery, it was awful but I liked it.

    Our tour complete we returned to The Milk Bar where we found a gentleman gloriously attired in a Keith Top Of The Pops t-shirt, who would make up just over 10 percent of our audience. Steve, our nine audience members, and myself were all ready to get going at 8:50pm but we politely waited until the alloted hour to start the show, and once we did it all went pretty well. The first ten minutes were strangely similar to when we did the Leicester Comedy Festival, in that it felt like nobody AT ALL was laughing, but once we all got settled in the LARFS became audible. They were a lovely audience, and we were VERY excited to get to 100% PER CENT AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION for the "Air Punching" section of (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock. It was BEAUTIFUL!

    Job done we finished our drinks, consulted our timetables, and headed off back to That London. The next show is in CROYDON (where I appear to do ALL my gigs these days) at The Spreadeagle. You can book tickets in advance if you fancy coming to that one. It should be a good old do, not only are Jenny Lockyer and Gavin Osborn playing, but on the evidence of last night it would seem that Steve and I have a SHOW to show you!

    posted 20/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Cockcroft And Kitson
    While I was busy ROCKING CROYDON on Friday night, The Trams On My Track was at the OLYMPIC STADIUM (I know we're supposed to called it "The London Stadium", but that's not its real name and everybody knows it) to see The Para Athletics. She had a GRATE time and so on Saturday afternoon we wandered over to The Hero Village to see the MEDALS ceremony. The organisers had - quite sensibly, I thought - decided NOT to have the ceremonies during the event itself, but the next day so that other people could go along and be part of it.

    It was all very exciting. Next to us was an Indian Delegation who WHOOPED like mad when their guy got his gold medal, then stood RAMROD straight when they played the national anthem, and then later still got all excited again when their winner came over to chat. We cheered and clapped a LOT, none more so than at the end when ACTUAL HANNAH COCKCROFT came out to get her medal. It was DEAD exciting!

    I was out and about again on Sunday, heading to Chalk Farm to meet Mr S Hewitt to go and see Mr Daniel Kitson at THE ROUNDHOUSE. It was a lovely warm day, which made having a pint of cold lager in a pub garden nearby MUCH NEEDED, though also slightly alarming when Steve told me the show was TWO HOURS long without BREAKS!

    Once we got into the roundhouse I was further alarmed by signs saying you wouldn't be let back into the main area if you DID leave for a wee, and it seemed that this was the HOT TOPIC amongst the audience. A LOT of us went for nervous wees pre-gig!

    It was dead nice inside the Roundhouse. The show was happening In The Round, with the stairs tiered all round in a circle like a CIRCUS. There was a HAZE over everything, which I think might have been an air conditioning thing - we went on a PLANE a while ago that had a MIST coming out of the roof, and they told us then that that's what it was!

    I've never seen Mr Kitson do a GIG before - I've met him a couple of times as he's chums with Mr G Osborn, and he's always seemed DELIGHTFUL, but it was still a bit surprising finding him taking to the stage and being IN CONTROL of the whole thing like he was. It was dead impressive, but I did have to stop myself waving and going "Coo-ee!"

    The show itself was BLOODY GRATE I must say. I kind of see what all the FUSS is about now! He had a very clever system of LIGHTS which signified different sections of story, narrators and Types Of Narration, and he also occasionally sent his voice to different speakers around the room. It was technically very impressive, but the main thing was the stories he was telling and how FUNNY they were. The two hours pretty much FLEW by, although a break halfway through would have been much appreciated by quite a large proportion of the audience, and there was a MAD DASH for the loo as soon as he went off!

    Apart from that though, it was dead good. I wander what ELSE everybody else has been right about all along?

    posted 18/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Tram Trip To Wandle Park
    On Friday night I headed out to distant Croydon, a place I have been to MANY times before, to do something for the first time: ride on one of the Croydon Trams! These majestic transports have whizzed past me every time I've been to Croydon, but I'd never had cause to actually BOARD one before. This evening, however, I was playing a gig in Wandle Park and had been told that the TRAM was the best way to get there.

    A tram rolled up just as I excited East Croyon Station and I HOPPED aboard. It was a DELIGHT, and I exited at my destination full of the joys of TRAVEL. I quickly found the bandstand, where things were being set up under the direction of Ms J Lockyer, who was hosting the evening, with fellow ACT My Favourite Andy nearby. This was part of a regular series of gigs put on by Mr T Eveleigh aka The Croydon Comedy Festival - Tim is pretty much the only person who still books me for solo gigs, which is why I'm in Croydon as often as I am!

    To use the LOO you had to find the PARKIE and get him to unlock it for you. I noticed one of the Andys following said Parkie so hobbled off after him. My back was playing up (AGANE) so I didn't quite catch them, and when I arrived at the loos they both seemed to have DISAPPEARED. There were several LOCKED doors, but no indication which to use. I thought I'd just wait until Andy emerged, which meant hanging around the back of the Public Toilets near a small group of young men wearing CAPS and smoking VERY FRAGRANT CIGARRETTES. I was VERY relieved when Andy emerged and I was able to hop inside!

    There was a little while until showtime so I asked directions and headed off to the nearest off-licence. As I say, I've been to Croydon many times and always found it dead nice. It has a reputation as being a bit grotty, but i have always found it CHARMING ... so I was a bit surprised to find myself in pretty much exactly the sort of Croydon that everyone thinks is ALL of it. I was once again very relieved to get back to the bandstand!

    I thought the show itself would basically be My Favourite Andy playing to ME, and then vica versa, but as it went along quite a few people appeared. My Favourite Andy went first and were ACE - they've played Totally Acoustic before, so I knew they would be, like a South London Simon & Garfunkel. Then it was my turn and I did THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Mental Judo
  • In The North Stand
  • I Want To Find Out How It Ends
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It all went pretty well - singing inside the bandstand meant there was NATURAL REVERB which sounded lovely, and as I looked around the park I could see dots of people scattered hither and thither watching. It was, in fact, a LOVELY gig, only added to by the traditional Very Stoned Person Asking For Requests. This used to happen to me all the time when I played in Lewisham, so when a gentleman staggered over to ask for "Country Road" I knew how to deal with it i.e. NOT to ask if by any chance he knew how to play it (NB they always do) but instead to carry on with the gig!

    Afterwards most of the performers and also the audience wandered over and CRAMMED themselves onto a VERY busy tram to head home again. I'm back in Croydon with Steve in a couple of weeks to do Still Valid, maybe we'll get the tram then too!

    posted 17/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Crisis On Infinite Earths
    Last week I went to the UAL library to get some BOOKS. Nothing strange about that, you might think, but this time I was getting some GRAPHIC NOVELS. Again, bearing in mind that I'm doing a PhD about COMICS this might appear fairly straightforward, but actually I had until that point taken NO graphic novels/collected comics out of the library. I've got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited so don't usually need Actual Physical Printed Comics, but this time I was after (YIKES) non-Marvel product - at the conference in Dundee someone had recommended "Hellboy" for representations of Eastern Europe in US mainstream comics, and several people had mentioned Alison Bechdel's "Fun House" which I hadn't read and thought I ought.

    I got both these books out but have as yet read NEITHER of them as something MUCH more exciting caught my eye - the collected edition of DC Comics' "Crisis On Infinite Earths"! I have mentioned this myself in VARIOUS presentations as one of the possible endpoints for The Bronze Age so thought I should have another look at it, as I've not read it for at LEAST fifteen years, since I sold my original comics collection. Also, it looked really cool and I fancied something a bit FUN.

    I have been TRYING for the past year to read "Secret Wars", which is the Marvel Comics equivalent of the above, but have been constantly thwarted by the fact that it is BLOODY AWFUL, so I was half-expecting Crisis to be much the same. Imagine my surprise, then, when it turned out to be GRATE! It's exciting, intriguing, full of ideas, MOVING, and also looks GRATE! It does share some of the same problems as "Secret Wars" does, but I think those are problems shared by MOST comics from back then. The most obvious thing is that all the characters keep introducing themselves ALL THE TIME and addressing everybody by their full titles e.g. "Hey Captain Comet, how are you getting on in your battle with The Monitor's Shadow Demons?" "All right thank you, Shade The Changing Man - I knew being a mutant born 10,000 years before his time would come in handy!" NB this is not me joking, this is how they talk.

    They are also CONSTANTLY describing things that are happening to them ("Oh no, this building! It is falling down and I am trapped in it!") and explain everything to THEMSELVES in thought bubbles. I know that much of this is a hangover from newsstand distribution (any comic could be someone's first, so all characters must be named) but the description of events gets a bit tiring. "I know the building is falling down, Kid Flash, I can see it doing so there in the picture!"

    With all that said it is still a RIGHT riveting read, and a LOT happens. Flipping heck, when you're used to today's decompressed comics (and compared to Crisis, ALL comics are decompressed) with splash pages galore, duplicated images and a four panels per page norm, it comes as a bit of a shock to find page after page with TWENTY tiny little panels, all PACKED with dialogue, corner boxes, thought bubbles and CONSTANT ACTION. Each issue takes FOREVER to read through, and you certainly feel you've got your money's worth when you've done so!

    Two things REALLY surprised me about it, that I don't remember from previous readings. Firstly, it's rather MOVING, especially when (SPOILERS) Supergirl dies. I got quite worked up at that bit, and there's a real heartfelt sadness to lots of sections. We think we're all modern and characterful with today's comics, but the Bronze Age stuff can still pack a punch!

    Secondly, it didn't work out AT ALL like I thought it did. I'd forgotten all about the various twists and turns, the different ways that the Multiverse got moved around, and also that, really, it is "Crisis On Five Earths" rather than infinite ones. MOST OF ALL though I was astonished to get to the end and find that, according to this series at least, loads of the superheroes remembered exactly what happened, with most of the leftover Earth-2 types just getting conveniently killed in a final battle. Eh? Wot? I distinctly remember John Byrne's "Man Of Steel" being a complete reboot going RIGHT back to the start in a modern setting, what happened there then?

    Alas I may have to force myself NOT to find out - I've got the flipping Marvel Multiverse to worry about, I don't need to get involved with another one!

    posted 13/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Lit Just Got Real
    You find me today giggling coquettishly with excitement, like a medieval monarch with a new serfdom to dominate, for LO! there has been progress on THE NOVEL.

    For the past couple of weeks I have been talking to the BRILLIANT comics artist Rachael Smith, who has been designing a COVER for me. I first saw her stuff when she did the poster for All In The Same Boat with Lost City Writers, which was ACE, so I was VERY pleased when she agreed to do the cover for 'Storm House'. It has been a LOT of fun working with her - I say "working" but, as with when Mr John Allison did the artwork for Dinosaur Planet, it was mostly a case of me trying not to AUDIBLY SQUEAL when she emailed me drafts and occasionally asking for something to be a slightly different colour. The finished work is GORGEOUS, I'll show you it soon I promise!

    Once the image was sorted I added the LOGO and suddenly it looked like an Actual Real Book. It was really strange - out of nowhere, after more than a year of working on it, there it was, MY NOVEL! I sat and just STARED at it for ages, ASTONISHED that it could actually have happened.

    Yesterday I started the process of uploading it to the Kindle Select Program, which is where it'll be hosted. When you upload it they have a VIRTUAL KINDLE which you can read it on and, again, I was AMAZED by the FACT that it looked JUST like a real book! The cover, the acknowledgements and even the CONTENTS PAGE looked like an Actual Book On The Kindle. It seems weird to be saying it because OF COURSE it does, but it suddenly struck me that this was a proper actual thing I was doing. I realise now that this is EXACTLY the same sensation I had 300 million years ago when The Masters Of Nothing recorded a cassette one afternoon and I made sleeve for it using a piece of lined paper and some coloured pencils. It felt REAL, the same as it did years later with Say It With Words or the Hey Hey 16K DVD, and it was EXTREMELY exciting!

    Things are PROCESSING as we speak, but I think we're all on track for the OFFICIAL LAUNCH over Indietracks weekend. Last night I met with The Author Charles Flowers to get some HOT TIPS on publicising it (also, beer) and I have many IDEAS. The initial plan is to make the book available for FREE for a few days so that hopefully I can get it off to a good start with the mighty Amazon Algorithm, and I shall be using every opportunity to remind you about THAT when we get nearer to the time. For now though: ZOINKS! It looks REAL!!

    posted 12/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Validators Practice 2017
    Myself and The Validators consider ourselves a rigorously professional, finely honed squad of committed musicians, and thus we make sure that we have a practice EVERY SINGLE YEAR, whether we need to or not. This year's practice was booked for Saturday lunchtime in Leicester, which meant that I had to drag my hungover self there from Northampton via THREE (3) trains. Three trains, it is KRAZY! When I lived in Leicester I NEVER went to Northampton, despite it being REALLY close, because it is hideously difficult to get there. Three trains!

    I had arranged to meet Mr FA Machine at the station but was delighted to find that the whole Family Machine had come, and the four of us thus relocated to THE SPOONS for a much-need pint of precisely the dog wot had bit me (CARLSBERG) and some GRUB. I am not super keen on Weatherspoons at the best of times, but it provided some much-needed succour on Saturday morning! It was lovely to see The Machines, and I was DELIGHTED to later discover that, when I went to the loo, a puzzled young Evan Machine had asked his father why nobody in the pub was pointing at me, as I am in a band and therefore FAMOUS.

    I'm with Evan on this one - it's WEIRD!

    Our dining complete Frankie and I hopped into a taxi and ZOOMED over to Quad Studios. Tim had recommended it from when he'd had Prolapse practices, and coo er gosh but it is DEAD POSH. It looks like just another Studio Inside An Old Factory from the outside, but inside it is all airy spaces, decent equipment and CLEANLINESS. It was SO clean that it felt like practicing in a CONFERENCE CENTRE or something, inside the practice room there was a SKYLIGHT and it didn't even STINK!!

    Once we'd all recovered from the shock and got ourselves set up we settled down to the serious business of practicing. A few weeks ago we'd had a lengthy email discussion and agreed a MENU of songs which we all agreed, ratified, and then (as usual) CHANGED the day before we met up. The final menu was a good mix of HITS and a few we hadn't played for YEARS or, indeed, have NEVER played live. We worked through most of them (we don't really NEED to play Easily Impressed any more times, it's not going to get any better!) and then had another LENGTHY discussion about the best ORDER to play them in. There's a couple of songs that sound, SHALL WE SAY, hewn from the same cloth (despite being written nearly twenty years apart!) so WORK had to be undertaken to make sure they were kept a safe distance apart, and then of course we needed to apply the usual setlist rules e.g. two BANGERS to start with, "quiet" ones not too close together, and HITS ALL THE WAY for the final third.

    When all that was finally agreed we pick up our instruments and performed the WHOLE SETLIST in order! We are like THE ROLLING STONES or something! We timed it all to make sure that it fitted into our timeslot, which was a good idea as, though we DID do the lot in under 45 minutes it did not leave much spare for Accidents or indeed REMARKS, so we agreed to DROP a song. I'd rather run slightly quick and be able to introduce the band (and impart various other WISDOMS, of course) than have to cut the final song because the soundman's giving us EVILS!

    With our work complete we packed up, said our farewells, and then Frankie and I headed back into Leicester City Centre. It has changed A LOT in recent years. Whole chunks of town seem to have been knocked down and replaced by Student Flats, and everywhere still standing has been turned into a BAR.

    Talking of which, I completed my tour of Pub Chains I Don't Usually Approve Of by visiting Brewdog where we met the rest of the Machines, I was interrogated about Marvel Comics by a small child (this happens a LOT) and then said hello to Charlie from The Retro Spankees, who happened to be there. Clearly it was Meet The Retro Spankees In Different Midlands Towns weekend!

    Soon it was time to head back home, safe in the knowledge that we had successfully completed our Continuing Professional Development In ROCK for another year. You've got to keep yourself up to date haven't you?

    posted 11/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    In Town On A Friday Night
    Friday night found me meeting up with both Mr S and Mrs M Hewitt at Euston Station, ready for a trip up to Northampton to perform Still Valid. I am CLEARLY out of practice at this gigging lark, as I was foolishly lurking around in the station waiting for them, when OF COURSE we always meet in the Euston Tap. I missed a pint!

    We were soon back in the swing, however, doing LINEZ on the train then checking into Our Usual Suites at The Ibis... although this Ibis has had a refurb since last time we were there, which seems to have, somehow, made the rooms LARGER. Or maybe we were just on a different floor, who can say?

    Our venue for the evening was a new one for us, and it was a bit FANCY. It featured the words "pop-up" and "street food" in its description, had paint brushes instead of door handles in the loo, and of course had various Grumpy Middle-Aged People complaining about it all. It's not my cup of tea but it IS nice to know that THE KIDZ TODAY have created an environment seemingly DESIGNED to annoy the older generation. It is how it should be!

    My favourite bit of Hipster was when I asked for a PINT of San Miguel. "We don't serve San Miguel in pints" said the young man behind the bar, as if I had just asked for a tonne of lemurs. This seemed odd - I know STRONG beers get served in smaller measures, but surely that didn't apply to San Miguel? "Why's that?" I asked. "We don't have any pint glasses."

    Despite, or possibly BECAUSE, of this fun the actual evening was lovely, booked for us by Ms T Payne, and the street food was flipping GORGEOUS. They also had a VIDEO playing downstairs, showing Vic and Bob's The Weekenders. I'd never seen it before and very much enjoyed it, though it did slightly WARP my perceptions for the next half hour or so, as I kept expecting things to comply to Vic and Bob logic!

    We were supported by Winston Echo, who was GRATE and did all the HITS - if feels like ages since I have heard "Winchester Cathedral Choir"! Then it was our turn, and it all went pretty well. There were laughs where we hoped for laughs, lots of opportunities to MESS AROUND, and I even got to put my foot up on a Raised Stage Edge during (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock, which felt a) appropriate b) ROCK!

    Afterwards we stood around for various CHATS, which included me getting a little over-excited when Mr D Middleditch revealed he was a Forest Green Rovers fan. I really want to try their half-time food! After that we headed out for another drink, and had a stroll through Northampton Town Centre which reminded many of us EXACTLY why we tend not to go out in TOWN of a weekend evening. We ended up in The Black Prince, which was rather nice, for a LENGTHY discussion of diverse topics, which reminded me why I used to LIKE going out in town at weekends!

    It was thus Quite Late when I rolled into the Ibis, my alarm set for further ROCK the following day!

    posted 10/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Grand Finale
    The first Thursday of the month has, since time immemorial (well, about two years ago), been Totally Acoustic night. However, the show that occurred last night will be the last of these for a while. We've got the ALL-STAR ALL-DAYER next month (details HERE) but after that I'll be putting Totally Acoustic on a temporary hiatus so I can get some PhD and OTHER stuff done!

    With all that in mind I could not have WISHED for a better FINALE for this batch of shows. I arrived at the King & Queen at 5:30pm to find Mr S Hewitt already in place, sat looking at his phone with half a pint in front of him AS IS TRADITIONAL. We discussed some of his recent globetrotting and then headed upstairs. We had arrived an hour earlier than usual so that we could have a quick practice for Still Valid, which we'll be performing TONIGHT in Northampton. We WHIPPED through, having a delightful time and even doing some extra jokes for the entirely fictional audience!

    Towards the end we were joined by Mr D Green and Mr K Top Of The Pops, two GIANTS of Totally Acoustic. They were harbingers for an ARRAY of Superstar Performers and Beloved Regulars - there were so many FACES, it was like THE AVENGERS or something! For instance, I enjoyed a delightful chat with Mr J Jervis, who suggested that I could do a READING from MY NOVEL in the Merch Tent at Indietracks! Part of me thought "But that's a crazy idea!" although to be honest it wasn't a very BIG part - I'm going to see if there's a bit that would SUIT public reading, but I do rather like the idea. I shall pretend to be DICKENS!

    When Steve and I were setting the room up I had noticed Steve putting out LOADS of chairs, including several Theatre Style rows behind the normal tables. I thought this was a bit unnecessary but I turned out to be entirely WRONG, as we got a HUGE audience - probably the biggest EVER!

    This was no doubt due to the stellar line-up we had, kicking off (after me and a ROUSING version of the theme tune) with Deerful. As I said in my introduction, LOADS of people have recommended BOOKING her, and ALL of them have added "I'm not sure how she'd do Totally Acoustic though." Turns out she would do it MARVELLOUSLY, sitting on the floor with three gadgets and a tiny amplifier, all battery powered to conform to THE RULES. It was a small cramped room full of hot people sitting in SILENCE, ENTRANCED by the amazing music she seemed to be making from almost nothing. I liked it a LOT!

    Next up were The Indelicates, at least 50% of whom were sporting some MAGNIFICENT silver trousers. They were mostly performing songs from their new album, and thus there were many Metaphors For Brexit. It was DEAD theatrical, especially when they did a song about SPIRITUALISTS. Suddenly people in the AUDIENCE started singing back to Simon as he interacted with them, it was a) STARTLING b) AMAZING. That one is DEFINITELY going on the podcast!

    And then finally we had the fantastic Emma Kupa, playing totally solo this time. She RANGED across her output, including HITS, tracks from the forthcoming CONCEPT ALBUM (I *knew* concept albums would get cool again one day!) and best of all some NEW songs which sounded BRILLIANT. She is, as I have said many times before, one of the BEST peoples to come out of the Indiepop scene and I cannot WAIT to get a listen to the new records, once Jerv gets them made!

    With the whole show finished it simply remained to dole out the IMPRESSIVE whip round (also the biggest ever!) amongst the acts and then head out into the Summer Night with The Cash In My Bucket, feeling very happy that this particular run had ended on such an enormous HIGH.

    As I say, next month is the all-dayer with Pete Green, Gavin Osborn, Jenny Lockyer, Matt Tiller, Peter Buckley-Hill and Keith Top Of The Pops plus maybe more. CJ at The King & Queen is even ordering us in some specially chosen SESSION BEERS, it's going to be GRATE!

    posted 7/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Storm House Incoming
    Regular readers of this THRILLING BLOG will know that earlier this year I got myself an AGENT for my NOVEL 'Storm House' and then, a few weeks after that, I LOST the aforesaid agent for the aforesaid novel. The whole thing was a RIGHT pain in the arse and a source of MUCH disappointment which, I must admit, did rather knock the wind out of my sails.

    However, after a suitable interval of MOPING I picked myself up and sent it out to a bunch of other agents. In the couple of months since then I have received precisely ZERO response so recently decided to say "SOD IT" to the whole business and just do it myself. It would have been nice, I guess, to get a Professional on my side, but a LARGE part of me was actually quite relieved . I'd tried doing it the conventional way via GATEKEEPERS and now I was free to follow my natural inclinations and go INDIE. It's what I've done in ROCK for DECADES, so I might as well do the same in LITERATURE!

    I've been doing some reading up on how to DIY Publish via Amazon Kindle and apparently you need to give the book a big BOOST when it first comes out to send it flying up the bestseller rankings, which means that the ALGORITHM will then push it at lots of other people. With this in mind I have decided to a) make it FREE for the first few days and b) release it over the weekend of July 29/30th when I'll be at Indietracks and thus have access to literally SEVERAL people who I can try and persuade to buy it. I'm going to do FLYERS and everything!

    The FREE period will also cover the following Monday, which is newsletter day, so hopefully I can LEVERAGE my MAILING LIST for OPTIMUM LAUNCH VELOCITY. As you can probably tell I have got myself Quite Excited about it all, and that's before I even start to think about the fact that I'll FINALLY be able to get people to actually READ it too! ! I'm also rather enjoying the process of FORMATTING it, as I have not only taught myself how to do automatic tables of contents in Word (ROCK!), but have ALSO been able to commission some COVER ART. I shall save further details on that until it's all done, but so far it is looking GRATE!

    The main message for now is to say GIRD THYSELVES, for LO! not only will I be going on about this quite a bit over the next few weeks, I shall also be asking for some ASSISTANCE. Mainly this will involve asking everyone I know to DOWNLOAD the book when it's free (I don't think you even have to have a Kindle, you can get it for reading in one of their "readers"). If anyone then wants to actually READ it that would be lovely too - I can't promise it's the BEST self-published science fiction action-adventure story with JOKES in, but I CAN promise that it is a) SHORT b) SPELL-CHECKED and c) HOPEFULLY AMUSING!

    More - much MUCH more - on all this as we approach release day, but in the meantime, stand by for EXCITEMENT!

    posted 5/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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