Tips on Writing Memoirs

June 9, 2013
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Last year I published my memoirs of the days when I tested video games for a living. You can get it on Kindle, or you can get a physical copy, or you can just read a few excerpts on its own blog.

Naturally, this has made me an authority on the subject of writing such accounts amongst my friends. One of whom has a particularly interesting tale to tell. Nearly three years ago, while pushing his bike along a country road, he was hit by a driver, who essentially left him for dead. The fact that my friend didn’t bleed out at the scene is remarkable, the fact that surgeons were able to reconstruct his leg is equally remarkable – they had to take a muscle from his back to graft into the calf because he’d lost so much muscle mass there and it’s taken nearly three years for full rehab.

In many ways it’s a dreadful story, and much more worthy of telling than my frivolous accounts of toilets being turned into wishing wells and programmers being abducted from train stations.

So last night I got an email off my friend asking for advice on how to start writing a book of his experience. I gave him the following, hopefully you will find it useful too:

  • I write in a pretty much “all over the place” kind of way, writing whatever part I fancy writing at the time. Then I stitch it together and start filling in the gaps.
  • Don’t be frightened to wander off topic or out of chronology – I think folk want to know about you as a kid, if you have a story from your childhood that connects in with the main story arc.
  • Public transport is a great place for writing – I write a lot of stuff long hand on the bus, in fact I write a lot of stuff long hand full stop. It is a pain to type up but you can do the typing when you feel you should be working on your book but can’t be bothered to think.
  • If you’re writing a bit and you get bored of writing it then just plough through and get it down on paper – don’t worry about it being detailed enough, or expressive enough, just get that part of the story written. Half the time you go back and find you wrote it pretty well in the first place, and with the basics down you’ll find you have a good platform for quick progress. At the very least you discover how you don’t want to write it, but that’s rare.
  • Don’t worry about writing a long book – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a million times brilliant and it’s a skinny little thang. If your story takes up 400 pages then that’s cool too – just don’t think of it in metrics. Pizza Whores gained about 20,000 words in the final edit. I have no idea where they all came from. That’s about a third of the book.
  • Find some good autobiographical books to read at the same time you’re writing. I read Moon Dust but Andrew Smith and For Richer For Poorer by Victoria Coren while writing Pizza Whores. I read Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart years ago and it left an impression on me – I went back and read the opening chapter while I was writing PW and found it still insanely awesome and inspiring.
  • Remember, writing is one of the few things you can do as well drunk as you can sober!

Posted in Writing

Dear Heineken Take Your Vile Drink Elsewhere…

March 15, 2013
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I don’t like Heineken, I think it’s a rubbish beer.

That in itself isn’t a problem, but I have to take a stand against this foul flavoured booze because their reach is becoming invasive.

The problem began for me in 2011 at the Rugby World Cup. Somehow Heineken managed to wed itself to the event, becoming the official beer of athletes. Having an official beer of a major sporting is even even worse than Coke’s connection with nearly everything else. Really Coke, you have what to do with Olympians exactly?

In Wellington we had a great harbourside place called the Fan Zone, which had a big screen showing world cup games and a bar serving booze. Outside we could sit, watching rugby and sipping ale. But, of course, there was only one ale, Heineken, because they’d wrapped it all up in their greenbacks. I chose not to drink, because what the hell is the point of putting on weight and working your liver for something that doesn’t taste good?

Then along comes 2012 and the first James Bond film in four years, Skyfall, a film I’d been waiting for for years. Amid such a joyous event there was a red starred fly in my amber ointment – a James Bond themed advert for Heineken. Really, James Bond would touch Heineken, would he? Which brand manager thought that? Obviously one who doesn’t give a damn about James Bond. A bottle of the beer even turned up in Daniel Craig’s hand in the movie, but only when he was moping and being decidedly sulky and un-heroic, so there was some justice.

So Heineken dogs me, helping to cast a shadow over things I like. And now, well tonight, I’m scrolling through Facebook and BAM! there’s a sponsored Heineken post! Aaarrgh! I would rather pay a subscription fee to Facebook than see this loathsome edifice of mass produced beer trash anywhere near anything me or my friends blab about.

And what next for Heineken? I dread to think, and I daren’t even joke, for fear they may discover what else I like and then ejaculate their bloody fizz shit all over it. 


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Print your kids picture… In 3D!

March 14, 2013
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Ever thought how great it would be to turn a kid’s picture into a 3D object? You have? Well you’re smarter than me, because it’s never occurred to me how utterly brilliant it would be to be able to do that.

Yet you’re one step behind  Bernat Cuni, and his company Crayon Creatures, which actually offers this service!

Crayon Creatures

I wonder what doodle I can transform into reality…

Yes, take one of your children’s pictures and instead of sticking it to the fridge (where did folk stick pictures before fridges were invented?) send it along to these guys. What you get back is a 3D printed “sandstone” ornament back.

They only started the company at the start of the year, so if you get one now you’ll be absolutely on the cutting edge of proud parentdom.


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RIP Patrick Moore

December 11, 2012
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For a long time in the UK Patrick Moore was the face of astronomy. His monthly show “The Sky At Night” was something I always promised myself I would watch, but often missed. He also hosted a special show leading up to the Giotto probe flying through the tail of Haley’s Comet, which I was allowed to stay up pretty late to watch.

However, one of the Rocks finds a silver lining to this loss of an astronomical titan…


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The Hobbit Premiere

November 29, 2012
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It’s Hobbit week in Wellington! The action began at weekend with an outdoor artisan market for the five days up to yesterday’s much anticipated premier. The market featured folk that actually worked on the film, including our friend Gen Packer.

Due to dropping my car off at the garage I found myself walking through Wellington town centre shortly after 8am. I decided I’d go and take a look at the Embassy Cinema, where the Hobbit was to be premiered later in the day. I already planned on going down later but I figured now was as good a time as any to take a look at the huge Gandalf and hobbit hole that had been attached to the building. Even to an old cynic like me, this facade was bloody good.

Not surprisingly there were already some elves, wizards and at least one king hanging around the railings. Indeed, the best spots right up near the cinema were already filling up.

Funny how it’s always the beautiful people that people choose to be, no goblins, no Gollum, not unlike the fact that few people have past lives where they cleaned toilets.

I’d heard that the red carpet was to run the full length of Courtney Place, which must be about a third of a mile long. But it’s one thing to be told something, quite another to see it. I wonder if it’s the same carpet they used for Return of the King?

The main events were planned to begin at 4pm, but wafting in at five to four and expecting to get a chance to see anything felt like taking wishful thinking all the way to Middle Earth itself. So we headed down for 2pm, and braced ourselves to stand up for six hours straight.

With such a long red carpet there was plenty of railing spots to go around, but even arriving two hours prior there were no spots left. So we settled for what appeared to be a nice place with relatively short people in front of us.

We were pretty close to the front, just mere feet from the railing, with two loose lines of folk in front of us. If it had been a gig this would have been a prime slot for an opening riff surge to the front, but it was a lot more civilised than that.

Then the quality of our spot was somewhat disrupted by a television crew from the Brunch show, who wafted in and surged to the front. Along came Samantha Hannah and charmed her way to the railing – displacing some long waiters in the process. I’m not sure if any of those squeezed out actually appreciated that they were giving up their spot for the duration. However, perhaps the crew would draw the stars to us.

At 4pm we got some music, in the form of Neil Finn, who I couldn’t really see, except on a video screen, but at least I can say I’ve sort of seen him in his homeland now. I wonder if he ever plays Te Awamutu, his hometown.

Once Neil was finished, we could see on the same faraway video screen and hear on a speaker system that seemed able to broadcast the sounds of words without any of the information, various stars that were being interviewed at the beginning of the red carpet. James Nesbitt, Peter Jackson, Andy Serkis all did some chatter which we could hear but not well enough to know what was actually being said.

We anticipated their release from the press coral with bated breath. Someone should do a film where all the stars are bulls, and have the red carpet premier at Pamplona. The stars would chase the fans down the red carpet. That would be unusual. As would be the ritualistic killing of all the film’s stars in an unfair fight. Still, that’s entertainment.

We waited for some time. We got a supply of people who we didn’t recognise but had probably worked very hard to be on that carpet and then everyone got really excited. There was a countdown and I wondered what the hell was going on. I followed the line of sight of someone more clued up than I and looked behind me and up. There, flying overhead was the Hobbit liveried Boeing 777.

This was pretty awesome and made up for a disappointment of the day before, when it had landed at Wellington airport to disgorge the cast. Not only did I miss it coming in, I missed it going out again, which was pretty shocking when all I had to do was look out the window. I blame Air New Zealand, who only seemed to Twitter and Facebook about each event after it happened. Bastards.

Then was some more hanging about and craning of necks, then they came. And frankly, it was a little like the running of the bulls. James Nesbitt was the first to come down the carpet and he passed us at such a pace that I thought, and still think, that he must have been legging it for the loo. I don’t know what he was like elsewhere but along out stretch he looked pretty grumpy, providing further fuel for the potty run hypothesis. Whatever was wrong, it didn’t last, because he was chatting outside the cinema over an hour later.

Both Jackson and Serkis must have been in the same speed walking team, as they yomped past apace. My two key targets were Hugo Weaving, who I’ve liked ever since I was a kid and he played Douglas Jardine in the Australian mini series “Bodyline”. Given that it was an Australian production I don’t think I was meant to like this rendition of the English cricket captain, but it made me very proud. My other prize was Cate Blanchett. Having seen Nesbitt, Jackson and Serkis going for gold I quipped that Cate would likely pass us on a motorbike.

Well she might as well have done, she flew past, gracefully, but at speed nonetheless. Hugo Weaving, on the other hand, was lured our way by the camera crew and then had a conversation right near us. All things considered, you’d have thought I would get a better photo than I did.

Did I mention we had a guy dressed head to toe in green (with no eye slits) in front of us?

When we thought all the stars had passed we walked up towards the cinema, where we could see on the big screen that many of the stars were still there, being interviewed. This included all the speed freaks. But the crowd was too deep to see anything.

Knackered from standing in the sun for so long we left to get some food and review my snapping efforts. Despite the fact that I was sure I’d failed to take advantage of Martin Freeman’s proximity, it turned out that I utterly stole his soul, which made me actually skip with joy.

But the biggest surprise, and one that I still don’t understand, is that I did mange to bottle lightning and grab a photo of Cate Blanchett.

This was pure luck though, next time I’m going to make my own luck and take a bolas.






Posted in Diary

My Memoirs 1995 – 2000

September 16, 2012
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Before I became a game designer I was a game tester. Yes, I got to play games all day, for a living. From 1995 to 2000 I did this job and, really, whatever you think the job was like, it wasn’t.

To help fill this void of knowledge I’ve decided to write my memoirs of those days, which seems like a stupid term, but I can’t think of a better one.

Go to my new Pizza Whores blog to start reading the sordid details.


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August 30, 2012
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Some craft projects are both devastatingly simple and exquisitely effective, such as this, the Crayonosaurus!


Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts…


Find out more, like how to make it, at Craftster!


Of Space and Muppets

August 26, 2012

When I first stumbled across The Muppet Show the part I liked best, and missed most when it wasn’t featured in an episode, was Pigs In Space. I was born with the “I want to be an astronaut gene” and was happy to suck up anything space related, like a little black hole with a discriminating streak. And what could be better than the anarchic fun of the Muppets, plus space! Bliss.

Space plus Muppets = Perfection…

This week has also seen a fusion of the two subjects, but this time on a sad note.

Earlier in the week Jerry Nelson, who played Dr Julius Strangepork in Pigs In Space, passed away. Nelson performed a wide variety of other Muppets, but the one most will remember was Count Von Count. Through his work on Sesame Street he leaves behind a legacy of that most special of things, teaching that doesn’t feel like learning. There is no greater gift that a person can bestow upon society.

Now Neil Armstrong, a man almost too humble to take his place in history, has left us. He’ll obviously be remembered forever as the first man on the moon, but his legacy is not as some showman who chose to market himself on an accolade he knew took the support of thousands of others to achieve. His greatest gift was that he put the Eagle down safe and sound, and through his actions he inspired a vast army kids to take up science and engineering as careers.

Thank you gentlemen, you helped change everything.

5-ah ah ah-4-ah ah ah-3-ah ah ah-2-ah ah ah-1-ah ah ah-Bon Voyage.

We Are The Champions!

August 23, 2012
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The Olympics came, we saw, and it conquered!

Everyone thought the opening ceremony was excellent. The games themselves were superb in every respect. The closing ceremony was a little bit on the patchy side, and after the holographic Tupac at Coachella, the video screens with Freddie Mercury on weren’t what I hoped for (but then I did hope for a 90 foot animatronic Freddie holding Roger Taylor and Brian May in one hand during a performance of We Are The Champions and then eating them at the end of the set) but it went out with a bang, thanks to The Who, who were utterly perfect.

Given my love of the Olympics, it’s weird that I didn’t say anything about them here. However, I was pretty active on other blogs.

The Mars Rocks! are great fans of all big events, except for the ones they don’t like, and they enjoyed the Olympics to the exclusion of everything else, even invasion of their planet.

On a professional level, I was intrigued by the rules used to make fencing better in the face of humans that will do all they can to win, regardless of whether they make their sport look bad.

I also endeavoured to bring the Olympic spirit into the home, but in a less sweaty, space consuming way, with a series of Games Made Form Everyday Things.

I’m now counting the days to the Winter Olympics, which I love even more than the Summer Olympics.

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Curiosity Down!

August 7, 2012
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NASA has managed to land its latest (and greatest) rover on the red planet! You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate how hard this kind of venture is – I believe Mars mission currently have a success rate of only 50%.

Of course, even successful missions pose a problem if you’re an actual Martian.

Mars Rocks! cartoon about the Curiosity rover

See more Mars Rocks! cartoons here…

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