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Best Of 2015 - TOP TEN TV

Time for a blog post I look forward to writing every year - the Top Ten TV shows of 2015. This is the fourth time I've done this, so I decided to put the previous three years into a spreadsheet to see if I could spot any trends. Did I succeed? Stay tuned to find out. And if you want to read them yourself for trends, here is 2014 and this is 2013 and (over on The Digital Fix) lastly is 2012.

Caveats? Well, this is my opinion, based entirely on the effect a show had on me rather than any scale of objective critical quality, as shown in last year's placement of True Detective. (Never even got round to watching season two.) And unlike my other recent top tens, this is going to be entirely shows that aired this year, since I watch enough TV to make that possible.

Lastly, this was fucking hard. Loads of great TV this year and a lot I thought was obvious top ten material ended up being edged out.

Right, let's get on with it.

#10 - The Walking Dead

When putting together this list, I wondered how dominated by comic book adaptations it would end up, and we're certainly starting off there - albeit a long-running horror show rather than superheroes. The Walking Dead's quality has been up and down faster than the sad lives of its characters over the years, but since around season four, it seems to have found a level and stuck to it.

It's not going any higher than this, as it still sometimes produces rambling episodes where characters talk in boring abstracts about the state of everything, but most of this year's stuff has been good and exciting, some cool playing around with time and space in the start of season six, and I think it deserves the recognition. Well done, zombies.

Stats Corner: this is the first time The Walking Dead has appeared on this list since the first one in 2012 - took a while  to conclude the run of good stuff wasn't a fluke. Did namecheck it in the honourable mentions last year though.

#9 - FlArrow (aka Flash & Arrow)

First (but not last) superhero show of the day! And there's two of them - in order to reduce comics domination, I'm cheating by combining Flash and Arrow into one FlArrow entry. But I've always watched these shows in order as a single entity, and the increased cross-continuity between them lately as they set up their next spin off (Legends of Tomorrow, coming in January) only makes that leap easier.

This year saw some fun back-and-forth. Flash launched with a bright, endearing first season that made the concurrent Arrow storylines look a little stodgy, only for the balance to flip back in the latter half of the year. I think current Flash is having a difficult-second-album stumble, just as Arrow recaptures some form.

They're not perfect, but might be the best effort yet to capture the mainstream superhero comics experience on television, complete with pointless crossovers and increasingly meaningless "death". Interested to see where they go, hope the third show won't prove to be one too many.

Stats Corner: again, only a quick honourable mention last time. First superhero show(s) ever to appear on these charts.

#8 - Game of Thrones

A drop for Game of Thrones after riding much higher in previous charts - what happened here? Honestly, I intended to put it somewhere in the top five, but other stuff kept getting ahead of it.

This particular year of Thrones included a lot of memorable storylines, as well as long-awaited hard advancement as Tyrion and Daenerys met up, Arya became proper scary, Cersei finally saw consequences to her actions and Sansa... well, Sansa just kept suffering, you can't have everything. And Jaime and Bronn went on pointless holiday.

It was well-acted, steady drama, most scenes were watchable. With the notable exception of that lame Jaime/Bronn storyline, it was still among the better things on TV. It just no longer quite felt like one of the very best, to me.

Stats Corner: From #3 to #4 to #8. Sad times. Then again, it didn't appear at all in 2012 for some reason, so it's still up on that.

#7 - Daredevil

And back to the superheroes. Daredevil (or Marvel's Daredevil if you're #brand #conscious) is the first of Marvel and Netflix's street-level superhero series, showing they can do something other than the broad Whedon-esque banter-action tone adopted for most of the movies and TV stuff beforehand.

For this first effort, it's a fairly straight one-man gritty urban vigilante show, starring Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer with enhanced senses who fights crime by night. And has no superpowers to directly help him in fights, so he gets beaten up. A lot. Seriously, his superhero alias could  easiy be Bloody Pulp.

It's straight-faced noir, a little slow-paced, sometimes gets lost in rambling subplots, arguably doesn't fully kick off until the main baddie appears a few episodes in. But still, as someone who's been reading mature-reader-superhero-comics for most of his adult life, Daredevil was hard to turn down. Great acting and atmosphere, good show, bravo, well done. Would have been higher on this list if it hadn't been outshone by its follow-up series, which we'll get to later.

Stats Corner: Not applicable, really. First ever Marvel show on these lists.

#6 - Orphan Black

You may be pleased to hear we're now leaving comic-land for a while, with Orphan Black. BBC America's clone-tastic sci-fi didn't feature in last year's Top Ten because season two.... I don't know, it didn't resonate as much with me? Felt like it lacked a clear plot, instead just played in the sandbox without much direction. Lots of exciting/heartwarming moments, but also a bit of meander.

This season really worked for me, though. The newfound male Castor clones put the story back into gear, there was a threat and a goal alongside enjoyable depictions of the many clones interacting, with the usual great acting by Tatiana Maslany behind it.

Orphan Black seems like a show that risks falling into gibberish conspiracy land with every season, but this was another year they avoided that pitfall and made an exciting story too. Cool.

Stats Corner: Debuted on #7 in 2013 before taking last year off, so this is its highest placing yet.

#5 - Last Week Tonight

As with Game of Thrones, spent a while trying to place Last Week Tonight. However, unlike its HBO stablemate, the problem was that the first positions didn't feel high enough. John Oliver's late-night news-satire show kept its momentum going this year, making even the driest issue seem funny and important.

I can't mention Last Week Tonight in 2015 without linking to Oliver's barnstorming report on televangelism, one of the best things I saw this year and probably pushing the show a place or two up the chart by itself. Yes, it's twenty minutes long, but they're such good minutes.

It's sunk a bit from last year, because it's mostly just consolidated existing success and perhaps run a little low on major internationally relevant topics to cover, but it's no less slick and hilarious and I couldn't put it much lower when I look forward to it so much every week.

Stats Corner: One of the first non-fictional shows to appear (last year, alongside Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle which hasn't yet returned), Last Week Tonight hit #3 in 2014.

#4 - Doctor Who

This is the highest placing Doctor Who has ever managed in this chart. I like this show a lot, but try to sneak some objectivity in too and there's no way I could pretend all of the last three years deserved to be top five. This time, though, with their ninth series, they cracked it.

This was Peter Capaldi's second year as the Doctor and whereas last year tried to work the abrasive grimness a bit too hard, series nine was dark without being aggressive, keeping the fun alive along with the angst. Not every episode was a winner (come on, this is Doctor Who), but there are only two or three that weren't either good or great, and that's a feat they rarely manage. And the solo-Capaldi episode Heaven Sent is one of the best they've done in years, a stone-cold Moffat time-bending classic up there with Blink and Day of the Doctor.

The Christmas special was also a highlight of its type, managing a hard handbrake turn from fun caper to heartbreak with skill. So yeah, I've got no problem sticking it up at #4. This has been an impressively polarising run, with reactions going all the way from "Stunning return to form!" to "More utter garbage!" but I'm on the good side. Which is fine by me, reckon I enjoy that more.

Stats Corner: Who is the only show to appear in all four of these charts, stats fans, and its prior positions were #6, #8 and #7. So yeah, big jump this year. Hope they keep it up.

#3 - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

From one somewhat polarising show to another - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was a comedy created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Apparently rejected by the US networks before Netflix picked it up and you can kinda see why - this sits in a weird void - not enough clearly signposted jokes to be a sitcom, probably too flat-out silly to be a "comedy-drama".

But in the new world of streaming TV, it's gone straight to the viewers and they seem to have embraced it. The breezy charm alongside surprisingly edgy humour (mostly about race and abuse survival, but they hit a range of topics) is a difficult needle to thread and the fact that it mostly works is amazing.A lot of that is thanks to the acting of Ellie Kemper, who somehow makes Kimmy's fish-out-of-water forever-happy nature likable rather than insufferable.

There are weak spots (some of the subplots starring Titus are a bit uninspiring), but the finale brought it all together brilliantly. I find it very hard to not like this show, and it's great to know there's a second season coming.

Stats Corner: Nothing, really. Yes, Netflix shows are quite well represented on this list.

#2 - Hannibal

For the third year, Hannibal scores highly on this list, but fails to make #1. And this was the final season, so its day will never come. Bummer.

There's been the usual hopeful gurble about a continuation in some form, but it fell quiet quickly and lead writer Bryan Fuller has moved on to an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, so that might be it. Still, at least they went out on an uncompromising rush of ideas, heading to Europe for some weird experimental storytelling in the first half of the season, then going back into serial killer busting territory for the tail end, adapting the Red Dragon story with Richard Armitage as the titular bastard.

I considered giving the top spot to Hannibal just because it won't get another chance, but the experimental weird shit at the start got in the way of the storytelling a little. I always applaud trying oddness in mainstream TV, but still, gotta maintain critical standards. Nonetheless, the final half of the season got the balance right again, and the final episode felt like a good and proper ending, so here it sits at #2. Goodbye, Hannibal. I was a big fan(nibal).

Stats Corner: #2 in 2013, 2014 and now 2015. Consistent.

#1 - Jessica Jones

Yeah, maybe you thought we were done with the comics adaptations but here they are again, swiping the #1 spot at the last minute. The second series in the Marvel/Netflix street-superheroes project after the afore-mentioned Daredevil, Jessica Jones is more of a super-powered noir. Krysten Ritter stars as Jones, a PI struggling with her traumatic past. Said past was inflicted on her by mind-controlling superprick Killgrave (a very creepy David Tennant) and, of course, it's only a matter of time before she has to confront him again,

Featuring noir tropes, dark humour, often-unsympathetic main characters, an interesting and diverse cast, urban fantastical stuff, a willingness to go full grim when need be, a nuanced handling of difficult topics, glossy-yet-grimy production and a few fun nods to comics continuity, I thought Jessica Jones mostly nailed it.

Like a lot of these one-story-stripped-over-13-episodes series, there's a bit of sag in the middle. They could've done a bit more with her detective agency to fill that space, bring in some non-Killgrave cases for some worldbuilding.

Hopefully that'll happen in season two - admittedly, they haven't confirmed that's happening yet. That's kinda worrying considering Daredevil had a second run confirmed within two weeks of the first being released. But considering the huge amount of good reviews out there, it seems inevitable. Hopefully they're waiting for the holidays to finish.

So yeah, best show of the year is a comic adaptation. Who'd have thought it? Very excited for at least two more series from this initiative in the next year (Luke Cage and Daredevil s2).

Notable Omission

Since I've been talking about continuity from previous lists a lot, I'll cop to this - last year's #1, Orange Is The New Black, isn't here because I didn't get round to watching the 2015 season yet. Sorry. Do feel a bit bad about this, probably more so than is necessary.. I blame the lengthy period of no internet inflicted on me while moving house.

Honourable Mentions

As I said at the start, it's been a tricky year to narrow down due to the sheer bloody volume of good TV - and that's without even watching last year's #1. So this section could get long if I let it, but I've tried to restrict myself to a few highlights.

First and foremost, yes, Agent Carter. This came painfully close to getting #10, I'm still a little in two minds about it, but I think I enjoyed The Walking Dead slightly more. Still, a great solid action series, pushed even higher by the greatness of Hayley Atwell as Carter herself. Oh, and its sister show Agents of SHIELD had a decent year too.

I also enjoyed Better Call Saul, the lawyer-focused Breaking Bad spin-off. It never felt essential and iconic in the same way the original did, more like a fun appendix for existing fans to savour, but it's a very well made one. I'm there for season two.

Lastly, I'm going to throw Once Upon A Time a prize. Yes, there've been times when I've wondered why I even still watch it, but this year's episodes - especially the opening half of season five - have been great. The writers finally located an area of the mythology they haven't yet drilled to death, and explored it in interesting, dramatic ways. Woo.

I'll make myself stop here - although the BBC adaptation of my #1 book Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell is also well worth your time. But yes, must stop typing, still have to proofread this and ram in some pictures, all before going out tonight. And this is probably the last blog post of 2015, unless I have some huge productivity spurt, so Happy New Year! Hope it goes well for you.

Best of 2015 - TOP TEN COMICS

Day two in the Nick Lists His 2015 Favourites house, and we've made the logical jump from books to comics. Once again, I've read enough of these to produce a nice structured top ten list - just spent half an hour agonising over it in Notepad.

While putting this list together, I glanced at my 2013 comics post and its 2014 follow-up and was saddened how much of the stuff I said I "must read next" hasn't yet been looked at. I gotta stop buying new stuff in Comixology sales and jumping straight into it.

But in terms of what I actually did read in 2015, here's the list. The divisions between items in this list are kinda arbitrary in some cases - for example, first item is a crossover spread across multiple comics series...

10) X-Men: Age of Apocalypse by many, many people

Once again, I've relied on Marvel's Unlimited app to supply me with their comics, and my big old-stuff reading project this year ended up being this 90s mega-X-crossover. Has serious shoulderpads/pouchs/tits/arse/grimdark issues, as with many comics of this period, but it's still one of the highlights of its type. I wrote a longer blog about AoA here if you're so inclined.

9) Avengers/New Avengers/Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman and various artists

Sticking in the Marvel megacrossover subgenre for one more entry, this is Jonathan Hickman's ludicrously ambitious multi-year epic, split across two Avengers titles and culminating in the still-ongoing Secret Wars mini. It's a bit rambly and dry, not what everyone wants from Marvel action stories, but the scale and twists are great when they work. Especially from the Infinity arc onwards, I thought this did cool stuff.

8) Spectre by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake

Moving house in summer, I had no internet access at home, so was forced to stop reading Marvel. For whatever reason, I settled on this five-year series from the late 90s about DC's WRATH OF GOD character - writer Ostrander uses him to tackle serious questions of theology and crime/punishment, and Mandrake brings twisted horror images to back him up. It's aged badly in places, but still, an impressive example of creators using a franchise character to do thoughtful, stylish stuff.

7) X-Force by Si Spurrier, Rock-He Kim and others

Si Spurrier popped up in the 2013 and 2014 top-tens as a writer of note, and here he is again, this time taking on the X-Men black ops team concept. And I don't just mean that as a flowery way of saying he worked on the book, he really does take on the concept. Sometimes aggressively. Starts slow but ends up one of this year's most interesting Marvel books, for me.

6) Batgirl of Burnside by Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr

Already a cult hit without any help from me, this reimagining of Batgirl from troubled veteran vigilante to young, dynamic burst of energy is just fun. Is this how the kids really talk? I have no idea, but it's incredibly likable, the art is beyond charming and, crucially, the lead character is always trying but allowed to screw up.

5) The Wicked And The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

A big hit from last year and still delivering great stuff with second arc Fandemonium. Big fan of Gillen/McKelvie's willingness to experiment and go in brave directions with their characters. It's a nice reminder that you can be populist without taking the easy route - if anything, it just makes you more popular. Not yet caught up on the latest arc, but excited to check that out, as well as their Phonogram continuation.

4) The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and others

Kinda veering off the current-comics track now. I've been slowly catching up on a few classic books over the last couple of years, and in 2015, I took the plunge and re-read Sandman for the first time as self-aware adult. I... quite liked it, yeah. Interesting to see Gaiman working in a slightly more raw style, before he really developed a signature approach. The slow dreamy pacing is well realised (although when a story/arc isn't working for you, it drags), and the art is lovely. Probably a good thing to have properly read.

3) Cindy & Biscuit by Dan White

As you may have spotted from the rest of this list, I don't often venture beyond the Marvel/DC/Image Big Three bubble, so full-on indie books are a rarity. But I listen to the SILENCE! podcast and picked this book up at Thought Bubble as it's by one of the presenters. And yeah, it's a great girl-and-her-dog-versus-monsters story. Charming with a dark smile (not grim-and-gritty, just... not too saccharine), this works for me. Available from the creator's website if it takes your fancy.

2) The Invisibles by Grant Morrison and various artists

Another one from the classic-catch-up-project, this is Grant Morrison's weird scifi project, in which an anarchist cell try to defend us from the weird monsters that lurk behind the Establishment. I haven't read the last two volumes, so it may fall apart, but from the place I'm currently at, this is hugely fun, fast-paced, brainbending stuff that really could only work in comics. I couldn't always tell you exactly what's going on, but I remain entertained.

1) Hitman by Garth Ennis and John McCrea

And at the top, another comic from a couple of decades ago. Hitman is a DC comic from the late-90s/early-00s in which a superpowered paid killer tries to make his way in their shared universe. It's Garth Ennis at his most OTT comedy-drama with perfectly matched art by McCrea and it's one of my favourite things I've ever read. A longer blog about it here if you want.

Potentially controversial to say I prefer Hitman (a superhero-violence-semi-comedy) to Sandman and Invisibles (two titans of the Serious Adult Comics field), but... the others are probably better technical works, but I've always been a huge Garth Ennis fan and I think it might be one of his best. Certainly the best thing by him I've read in a while.

And that, folks, was the comics of 2015. For next year, I might try and actually read some current comics again. Putting together this list, I can't help but notice I've fallen massively behind in all the Image books I was following, for example.

Best of 2015 - TOP TEN BOOKS

It's the end of the year, I'm running out of reading/viewing/listening time, should get my best-of-year posts filed away before 2015 dies and I miss the zeitgeist.

So, let's see what I can fit in before I need to cut this shit out and wrap some presents. To give these posts more structure (and recreate the glee I feel when writing my Top Ten TV post), I'm gonna mess with the format a little, possibly do a top ten for the categories I feel can sustain it, and post them as I've done them. First up: THE BOOKS.

As of this writing, I'm one book away from hitting my 50-books Goodreads challenge target, but I have a novella lined up that will hopefully take me over the top. Or I could just start counting my comic reading on Goodreads, which would win it instantly.

But what were the best of the proses?

10) Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill - and immediately we slip out of current releases, but this creeped the shit out of me. I don't read many ghost stories, so may have been an easy mark for it, but nonetheless, an easy and scary read.

9) Half The World by Joe Abercrombie - last year, I mentioned Half A King, this year it was the sequel, and as you'd expect from Abercrombie, top-notch wry action. Must read the end of the trilogy soon.

8) Rickshaw by David McGrath - full disclosure: I know the author from my MA course, but nonetheless, this is an exhilarating, visceral London dark comedy-drama about a rickshaw driver losing his grip and you should try it.

7) Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson - you're more likely to know Wilson for her (excellent) Ms. Marvel comic, but she also wrote this modern urban fantasy which really hit my imagination.

6) Dual - A Love Story by James Priest - I mostly know Priest for his comics (as Christopher Priest), but his recent self-published novels have very much captured the smart, funny, pragmatic tone that drew me to his other work, and Dual is the strongest of the two complete ones I read this year. His sci-fi series 1999 might be even better, but I haven't finished that yet.

5) Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch - this is me cheating, as I read all five of these books in 2015 and didn't want them to dominate the chart. They're great, though - a witty, well-thought-out, relatable take on magic, which has found entirely deserved success.

4) Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace - a unique, imaginative culinary urban fantasy novella that kept me hooked from start to finish. Already pre-ordered the sequel.

3) The Death House by Sarah Pinborough - a strange, spacey, atmospheric one-off book about a group of teenagers in a grim facility in the middle of nowhere. Hard to describe but good, read it.

2) The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey - a zombie book better than most, through sheer strength of character writing. Technically came out last year. Amazing stuff.

1) Jonathan Strange & Mister Norrell by Susanna Clarke -  technically came out a while back, but a lovely, charming, painfully British fantasy book which packs enough plot for a trilogy into a single (admittedly very long) book, full of memorable characters and funny jokes. Also footnotes almost as long as the ones in that Stewart Lee book. (There is also a very well-done BBC TV adaptation if you can't face the brick-sized novel, but I'd recommend reading it if you can.)

And that, readers, was the books of the written word of the year 2015. Comics hopefully with you in the next few days.

Hitman by Garth Ennis/John McCrea - A comic about men, violence, superheroes and undead seals

I'm a big Garth Ennis fan - his Preacher series was important to me in my teens, his Punisher Max run one of the best things I read in my twenties and I've never read a comic by him that isn't full of strong storytelling. Even when he might not be working on a classic concept, the man knows his way around a comic book page.

I've recently been filling some gaps in my cultural intake, including a few major Ennis works that I never got round to. First up, almost exactly a year ago, was his Hellblazer run with Steve Dillon and others. Today, I'm moving on to Hitman, a five year series with artist John McCrea about Tommy Monaghan, a super-powered gun-for-hire running around the DC Comics superhero universe. It wasn't easily available for a while, but DC have put it back into print in seven collected books, not to mention slapped the whole thing up on Comixology.

So, I read the entire sixty-issue series (plus the extra bits and bobs reprinted in the collections) over the course of about a month. Normally it'd take me longer to read a run of this length, but as I said earlier, Ennis is just that good, and so is McCrea. The stories slip down.


When writing the above intro, I almost didn't mention the super-powers aspect of Hitman because it often barely seems to matter. The focus is always on the character of Tommy Monaghan and his friends, a crew of fellow hitmen who all hang around in the bar, take jobs and then go back to saidbar to bitch about them. They rip the piss out of each other but always have each other's backs when it comes down to it. It's sweet, in an incredibly violent kinda way.

Zombie sealife - no, it wasn't a joke

And because this is set in the DC universe, where every fantasy or sci-fi genre convention has been introduced somehow, Ennis can throw almost anything at Monaghan and friends, and they just nod wearily and do darkly comic ultraviolence to it. Demons and vampires? Dinosaurs? Zombie sealife? Batman? They're all in here somewhere, having their arseholes filled with grenades. Well, not Batman, he just gets puked on.

But as I say, these clearly aren't the parts that really interest Ennis. The stories where Monaghan and crew mutilate genre standards are usually the fun comic relief storylines between the main ones, which deal with the mob, the military and the real-life consequences of living a life full of ridiculous violence. Especially towards the end, as the constant waves of death start to finally penetrate the main cast, it gets downright sad.

And his super-powers, well, Ennis doesn't seem that bothered. Monaghan can do x-ray vision and telepathy, but their only purpose is to maybe explain why the hero is a little better at surviving gunfights than most. It was the same in Preacher, to be honest - Jesse Custer could compel anyone to do anything via the Word Of God, but tended to just punch them instead.

If you enjoy a charismatic likable-but-doomed anti-hero story, then Hitman is definitely worth a shot. He and his friends are a great ensemble, the jokes are funny, the gunfights and action are beautifully executed by McCrea. Some mainstream artists struggle to make complex fights clear without the shortcut of bright costumes or obvious energy blasts, but McCrea renders the environments clearly and communicates every important move. It really is like a good action movie.

In fact, McCrea nails it when the superheroes show up and when Tommy and friends are hanging around drinking in the bar and when Tommy gets zapped into the future and when the dinosaurs show up and every other thing he's called to draw. The consistency and clarity is a joy to behold.

Ennis says in the text piece that ends the series that he feels like he could've done more Hitman, and I loved the book, so obviously part of me thinks that's a shame. On the other hand, I can also respect the clear beginning, middle and end here. And if the ending isn't the one Ennis was planning, he does a damn good job still making it feel entirely inevitable and necessary.


That was some heartfelt verbal masturbation I just wrote. A real embarrassing outpouring of positivity. Tommy and the guys would hate it. In the name of not seeming like a fanboy, I'll talk a bit about some weaknesses.

The award-winning Superman issue

Yes, if you've read many Garth Ennis comics in the past, you'll notice some recurrence of pet themes. There's male friendship, the consequences of violence, flashback stories about soldiers, a quick trip to Ireland and the need to poke fun at superhero comics (although also an excellent Superman issue where Ennis plays them entirely straight). And yes, he has tackled these things a lot, but as someone who has read a lot of his work: this is one of his best renditions. These elements always feel in service of the story.

Like many 90s-and-earlier comics, it occasionally hits some bum notes when re-read with 2015 cultural sensibilities, but (perhaps due to the PG-13-level content rating), it rarely goes hardcore awful for laughs like Preacher sometimes did. There aren't many women in the supporting cast beyond Monaghan's one love interest - as I say, Ennis clearly wanted to ruminate on male comradeship here. Although to give the book some credit in this paragraph, the all-male crew of hitmen are not too uniformly white.

In short, yes, I loved this series, it was right up my grimly comic, urban-fantastic, Ennis-liking alley. Hitman was kinda ahead of its time - a talented writer/artist team telling their own stories against the backdrop of an established superhero universe, just a few years before the balance in mainstream comics shifted from following franchises/characters to individual creators. If it existed nowadays, it could well be a cult hit. Now that it's finally back available, worth giving it a shot.

NickNoWriQuart - Failure Broadcast

After a few weeks of admin-linking to work elsewhere, a full on-this-website blog post this time - although not a super-long one as I'm going to talk about something I failed to achieve and I don't think dwelling on it for thousands of words is super healthy.

Between that paragraph and the title, regular readers may guess where I'm going - my one-thousand-words-a-day-for-three-months word count challenge did not reach its final goal. To be precise, it wound down a week or so back at around 66k, but due to real-life busywork, writing blogs for other sites and the huge amount of comic-based TV I'm trying to follow, I haven't got round to posting about it for a while.

Still, after going to the trouble of announcing the challenge was happening, I shouldn't gloss over my non-success. Pretty annoying that I chugged along fine for two months on my own and then died off just as everyone else joined in for NaNoWriMo, I must say.

Anyway. Where did it all go wrong?

Plan Vs Reality Vs Words Vs Plan

A lot of my problems can be summed up with this post I wrote in June, which is nice as it saves me typing all that out now. Turns out, planning a new novel in a whole new world is harder work than planning another nice comfy Hobson & Choi book.

My plan didn't entirely fall apart, which is nice - my words were going in the direction I planned, but the way they got there and the circumstances under which the story took place changed so much that I couldn't really keep going. Or rather, I could, but I'd be writing stuff I knew I'd end up deleting and much as I sometimes enjoy the NaNoWriMo forge-ahead-no-matter-what approach, I also don't like knowing beyond all doubt that I'm wasting my own time.

Plus, in terms of progress along my book plan, I'd written sixty-six thousand words to cover plot that should've taken about forty thousand max. So, even if I did my planned ninety-one thousand by the end of this month, I'd never have a full first draft as I barely covered half the story. Not to mention, I don't see much point in writing a new major part if I know huge chunks of the foundations will be removed, but haven't yet decided which ones.

So I've started bashing together a better, more coherent draft of the early chapters, re-using existing material for most of it, but stitched together differently. We'll see. As with all these word count challenges, best to focus on the fact I achieved something. Even if a huge chunk of my 66k gets cut, it all went toward figuring out the world.

...Vs Reality Vs Plans Vs Leeds...

Also unhelpful, I admit, that just as I started wobbling on how to progress the novel, I became incredibly busy all the time so momentum died. I was in the day job a lot, many birthday parties came along, I went to Leeds for Thought Bubble - which was fun, by the way. Saw loads of comics, feel like I want to write some more of them soon.

No idea how that fits in with the novel writing, no. Will try and keep bolting together my better draft.

To be honest, it is with some confusion that I stagger towards the end of 2016. At least I know to start editing H&C4 in early January, that's a pleasing constant. Everything else is in a state of weird flux.

And that's a current writing update, for anyone interested. If you're doing NaNoWriMo, good luck to you - you've just passed halfway, that's gotta feel good. And if you've attempted and failed NaNo, ah well. Stick with me and focus on the fact you wrote something. There could be gold in there somewhere.

ADMIN FOR THE ADMIN GOD - Video reading! Guest blog! Thought Bubble!

Hello! Yes, it's been a few weeks since the last brief admin post and now here's another one. Sorry. Got at least one thing to blog about, but I have to get a train to Leeds in about an hour for reasons you'll discover shortly, so it'll have to wait.

But! I have managed to write a guest blog post for someone else entirely (because I secretly hate you etc), so at least there's something to read. This is on the excellent If These Books Could Talk blog and is me musing about prose serialisation (yes, my pet topic), complete with recent examples and the inevitable bodily fluids joke at the end. It's a good post, check it out.

Outside the written world, I also did a reading at the lovely Big Green Bookshop (where you can now buy all three Hobson & Choi books in print!) as part of the Novel London series. If you couldn't make the reading due to only hearing about it now, that's okay, as Novel London filmed it and the result is now up on YouTube and also embedded below. Note the delicately beautiful product placement of H&C3 in the background.

Thanks to Safeena of Novel London for setting all that up, and if you get the chance to read at or attend a future event, give it a go. It's fun.

Last of all, I am off to Leeds shortly to both visit my godchild (also called Nick, it's weird) and attend one day (Saturday) of the Thought Bubble convention, which I hear on Twitter and many podcasts is one of the best comicon type events in the UK. Excited for that. Do say hello if you'll also be there, I am wandering around by myself so may look scared. I also have a copy or two of The Gathering: Noir anthology featuring my published corporate noir story, so that's exciting.

That is it! I hope to manage a more meaningful blog post next week. Or at least before the end of November.

Hobson & Choi quiz! Poem! Guest posts a go-go!


After producing a slightly loose post last week, I was perhaps considering writing a real one this time, but I became unexpectedly busy and the remaining time had to be given over to the important tasks of actually writing and watching TV shows based on comics.

But as luck would have it, I've written some proper structured Hobson & Choi related bits for other blogs that have gone up this week, so at least I can link to those.

They're a little more esoteric than some of the guest posts I've done in my time, as there's only so much I can say about my Amazing Writing Process.

Firstly, there's the "Which Hobson & Choi Character Are You?" quiz, which is perhaps the most important personality test of our generation. Yes, even though it contains an arguable factual error re: whether Breaking Bad is a "current" TV show. Ahem.

Thanks to the always-excellent Chelley of Tales of Yesterday for hosting that one, including doing all the actual set-up for the quiz - I just sent over a set of questions and answers. Much obliged.

Second, and even more in-jokey than the first one, it's Gentrificapocalypse Now, a poem by Sad Receptionist. This is an actual creative work by a character from the H&C books, who you can follow on Twitter if you want. His backstory is (partially) unveiled in the second book, but the actual Twitter account is just stupid rhyming jokes really. More details in the actual blog post, kindly hosted by Andrew of The Pewter Wolf.

And that is it for now. Next week, if I'm not unexpectedly busy, maybe a real blog post here?

Writing challenge update! Guest post! GollanczFest! ADMINARAMA!

This is going to be another post which mish-mashes together some smaller points rather than having an amazing structure of its own, I'm afraid, as I've been writing a lot of guest-posts for other people's blogs, so haven't got a huge amount of fuel left in the Blog-Engine (or spare time left in the day) to produce a properly-structured masterpiece for my own.

However, I want to do some kind of update on my ongoing thousand-words-a-day writing challenge and I've got a few other bits and bobs too, so here's another disjointed general summary!


The big news (for me anyway) is that I've made it over the halfway mark of the daily writing challenge I outlined on this blog a month ago. My day job got quite busy for a while and then I had to publish the third Hobson & Choi book and write all those guest posts and I really thought one of those things would smash it to bits, but no, I'm still on track. In fact, I'm a few days over quota, as I'm busy most of the weekend - for reasons I'll outline a little further down - and wanted to make sure I didn't drop the challenge.

So, the good news is that I've done nearly 50k and, if this were NaNoWriMo rather than NickNoWriQuart, would have won by now. But NickNoWriQuart is both more hardcore (longer total!) and less (smaller daily wordcount!) than NaNo.

The bad news is, as with nearly all my first drafts, decent-sized chunks of the plan haven't really survived contact with reality and various changes became necessary as I went along. This is something I've blogged about a fair bit - here I am talking about making less mistakes and here I am talking about plans going awry - and yet still it happens.

But I've got my notes, the broad plot remains in place, so I'm going to try and swoop onwards for now. Mostly because I think it would be useful to have taken a swing at the ending - more infuriating to go back now and make a huge amount of substantial change, then discover this new version doesn't work for my ending and have to change everything again.

So, in short, everything continues as normal. I still want a full first draft by the end of November (or possibly the end of the year if I need to write a final couple of chapters in Dec) and I'll do another update at some point.

Guest Post - Five High Street Institutions I Could Turn Evil in Future H&C Books

If you want something that more closely resembles a structured blog post, I've written this one for Jim over at YA Yeah Yeah in which I talk about five fixtures of the British high street that I could theoretically turn all crimey for a future Hobson & Choi novel.

Do give it a look for some fun. Even if you've no interest in hearing about my writing process (in which case the previous section of this post must've just killed you), this really is all silly jokes.

Oh, and as this is the only H&C-relevant section of this post - yes, the book 3 launch went fine, thanks for asking. Sold a decent amount of book three, gave away a huge amount of the newly-free-on-ebook book one. Coming up next: some promotion, including a few more guest posts (I'll try and list them here in some kind of link compilation) and maybe even some Multimedia Content. We'll see if that works out.

GollanczFest - Will it be GollanczBest?

This weekend, I am going to GollanczFest in London, in which a bunch of sci-fi/fantasy authors (who happen to all be published by Gollancz) will be talking in general about their work on Saturday and in a more advice-to-writers way on Sunday. I hope it'll be interesting, there are some great authors in attendance (including Joe Abercrombie, Ben Aaronovitch, Paul Cornell, loads of others) and after the excellent fun of Nine Worlds in August, I'm up for more of this kinda thing.

Linking back up to the first part, GollanczFest is why I've written a short way ahead on the NickNoWriQuart challenge. It may also be the topic of its own blog next week, if I can think of much to say beyond "Yeah, it was good." If you want that level of analysis, follow me on Twitter and it's a safe bet you'll get some over the weekend.

Okay, that turned out a decent length (if still quite bitty) post in the end. Cool cool.

Trapped In The Bargain Basement - Hobson & Choi Case Three - OUT NOW

One of those blog posts that kinda writes itself - Trapped In The Bargain Basement, the third book in my mismatched-detective-duo London crime series Hobson & Choi comes out today! It should be out now!

In this third book, the team look into the dark heart of a massive towering shopping centre. But how is it evil? And why? And whose fault is it, and can it be proven? All these answers plus romantic subplot complications in this third volume!

I'll be honest, it's a very plot-heavy series, so I'd recommend starting from the first book (The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf) if you've not read any before. Helpfully, said debut book is currently free and you can get that from the links on the main Hobson & Choi page.

However, I do think Case Three could be one of the best yet and you don't have to just take my word for it. The first review went up yesterday on fellow indie author Virginia McClain's blog, which you can see here accompanied by a nice guest post by me about how to turn your serial into a novel.

Here's a nice pertinent quote from Virginia's review: "This third installment of the Hobson & Choi mysteries delivers just as much fun and whimsy as the first two books, but with the delightful addition of more wolfhound. My favorite thing about all three books is the characters and their engagement with each other.... Whoever's perspective we're following, there's a good chance that we are going to be forced to take a good look at our own privilege, even if we aren't forced to stare at it too long, and can safely return to pinning things on the 'bad guys' a few pages later. It's this odd but compelling mixture of dark humor and introspection that keeps me returning to Bryan's books."

(It's weird being referred to by my surname again, by the way. Reminds me of being back at all-boys grammar school.)

So there we go. Trapped In The Bargain Basement is out now in both print and digital and below should be a rank of buttons to help you buy it. Enjoy!

Buy from Amazon UKBuy from Amazon USBuy from Kobo
Buy from Barnes & NobleBuy from NookBuy from Google Play
Buy from Apple iBooksBuy from Smashwords

Buy from Amazon UKBuy from Amazon USBuy from Createspace

Belated Veronica Mars Review Il - Third Season and a Movie

A month or so back, I blogged about finally watching the first two seasons of teen-detective drama Veronica Mars and said that I'd be back once I'd seen the final season and film continuation to let you know the whole enterprise stood up.

Well, I'm a man of my word and thought this would be a nice break from the current run of self-promotion on this blog (If you like Veronica Mars, why not try my teen-girl-featuring fun-yet-grim crime books!) so here is the follow-up post. The first two seasons of Veronica Mars were excellent, the first one especially is regarded as some kind of modern classic, how can they top that in the next-one-and-movie? Be warned, we're going straight into plot-review territory this time, so I will put this behind a read-more cut to protect you from spoilers.

The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf - FREE AT LAST (on digital)

The first Hobson & Choi book, The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf, has been around since early 2013 in various forms: on Jukepop Serials, podcasted, in the self-published book and recently in serialised form on Wattpad.

Well, as the H&C Empire begins gearing up for its third installment (and I've already written the first draft of Case Four), I'd like everyone to at least give my grim-yet-fun urban crime book series a shot so I can have some chance of buying that heavily armoured central London fortress.

For that exact reason, the very first H&C case is now free on all major ebook platforms that I could upload and set it as free on.
So if you've been meaning to try the series but held back by money, it now costs nothing. How long this price will last, I don't know - I am a man, not a publishing machine - but at least the rest of 2015, I think.

I considered announcing this on Tuesday with the cover reveal, but because I didn't get it set up in time wanted to maximise the impact of the strategic announcement on the internet content media #landscape, here's the freebie news a few days later.

If you've already read the first H&C story arc in one format or another, consider grabbing the freebie anyway for Book-One-only bonus short story The Left Hand Is Always Right, which I enjoyed writing muchly.

Anyway, that's enough text considering all I'm announcing is The Free Thing Is Free. Below are the buy-buttons, begin yoinking from your ebook retailer of choice. And if you enjoy it, you can move quickly on to Case Two and (soon) Three, feeling good about your real contribution towards my fortress.

Buy from Amazon UKBuy from Amazon USBuy from Kobo
Buy from Barnes & NobleBuy from NookBuy from Google Play
Buy from Apple iBooksBuy from Smashwords