Some advice from Hercules Poirot…

I’m posting this for two reasons:

  1. To remind the world that I do audio stuff: recording, editing, mixing and so on…
  2. Because it’s cool.

I recently recorded an 90 minute interview with the actor David Suchet, of Poirot fame, for a project with one of my long-standing audio customers, York Courses. It was recorded at his London home.

At the end I slipped in a question of my own, aimed primarily at the Film & TV students I teach at York St John University but also for anyone who works (or wants to work) in the “creative industries”.

What one bit of advice would David have for them?

Who let the cat out?

You know Schrodinger’s cat, right? Sure you do. Everyone knows Schrodinger’s cat. It’s the thought experiment proposed by Erwin Schrodinger in 1935 to illustrate certain aspects of quantum mechanics. ‘Course it is.

There’s a cat (obvs.). It’s in a sealed box. There’s a lump of radioactive “stuff” (look, I never said I was a scientist), a Geiger counter and some deadly poison. There’s a 50/50 chance that the radioactive stuff will set off the Geiger counter which in turn will release the poison and kill Tiddles.

So is the cat alive or dead? According to Schrodinger it’s both alive and dead, at least while the box remains sealed. That’s because the quantum universe is full of infinite possibilities.

It’s only when you open the box and see for yourself that the various possibles collapse into one, actual reality. Or something. I failed A level physics so what the fuck do I know?

Anyway, I’ve started to see a practical example of this. It’s whenever I think there’s a possibility, however slim, of getting a publishing deal with my writing. I hold my breath, willing the cat to be alive. I try not to think about it too much, holding onto the thought that all the while I don’t know, there is a version of reality where it really does happen. Where the thing I so desperately want (probably more than is healthy) comes to pass.

I try in vain not to talk about it. Because talking about it only increases the chance of the Geiger counter going off. And then – pooof – the cat will be on its way to pussy heaven (if there is such a place) and I’ll be back where I started. One of millions of would-be writers. With a dead cat on his hands.

And right now, that’s where I am. There’s someone at a publishing company who has a submission of Featherfall. Possibly on their desk. Or in their bag. The possibilities are all there. They could be thinking, “This is amazing stuff. The world needs this man’s writing. I will not rest until he is signed up.” They could. Because the box is still sealed and the cat is still in there, licking its own privy parts contentedly.

But sooner or later it has to be opened. And then I’ll know.The cat will be out of the box. Bag. Whatever. I never said it was a good analogy.




Do you know Jack?

Jack of All Trades…

Yeah, we all know what comes next. It’s a way of describing someone who isn’t really good at any one thing. A bit flaky perhaps. Dipping in and out of various jobs maybe. Not like someone with a proper job. Like A Doctor or A Lawyer or A Civil Engineer. You wouldn’t find a doctor mixing it up with a bit of plastering. Or a barrister leaving chambers early to finish off that big topiary job at number 11.

I’ve had this issue (one of many) for a few years. I started my working life as a radio journalist. I did a post graduate course in the very subject. But only because the magazine one was full. Then after ten years of radio I started my own business and ended up working in the games industry, making funny noises.

Now I’m doing a bit of everything. I’m back in radio, writing for a couple of magazines and working on my books.

But there’s been this nagging doubt for year and years. People aren’t supposed to do that. When people ask me what I do for a living I end up saying, “A bit of this and that,” which makes me sound like Private Walker from Dad’s Army. I think they expect me to open my jacket and try to sell them a Relox watch or something. And every time I’m asked for Profession on forms I give a different answer. One minute it’s journalist or writer, the next it’s sound designer.

And when I’m in one place I feel like I don’t belong. At least, not 100%. In amongst a bunch of game developers I always felt a bit of a fake. Talking to an editor, I get a guilty feeling. I’m a fraud you see. Not 100% any one thing.

It’s just that it doesn’t seem right to have different strings to one’s bow.


I’m reading a book by Marianne Cantwell about being a Free Range Human. I normally stay clear of anything remotely self-help orientated, along with books I consider (in my ignorance mostly) to be a bit “pointy-headed”*.

But my wife bought it for me and she’s a very wise woman. And she’s from Yorkshire.

A few chapters in, Marianne uses a term I’d never heard before. But it’s one that suddenly crystalised everything. Brought my doubts into focus. Then delivered them a knock-out blow.

Portfolio Career.

Having a range of skills, talents and experiences. Being able to turn our hand to different tasks based on different abilities. So what if I write and also work in audio? As it happens, I sometimes write about sound so these things don’t exist in totally different worlds. It’s more like a Venn diagram.

I’m not a Jack of All Trades, I’ve got a Portfolio Career.

Ooh, get me.


*A term we used to use at Newsbeat, to describe the Radio 4 people down the corridor. Its origins are quite rude. It does not apply to Marianne’s brilliant book.


This is not really about cheese…

I was going to scribble something about jobs and careers and stuff today, as part of my attempt to not-ignore my blog. But something else has fired me up.

In fact this is something which fires me up quite often and which I am trying to train myself to ignore – seeing something on social media that just lights a flame inside me. And not in a good way.

Imagine you like cheese. You’ve liked cheese for quite a while but not to the exclusion of other foods, dairy or otherwise. Some of your other friends and family members like cheese too but others don’t and that’s not a problem. In fact some of those you love and cherish the most have very different views about cheese to your own. But at the end of the day, it’s just cheese and your friendship is far more important.

But then someone you follow on Twitter, though not a friend in real life, retweets something that winds you up. It’s a Tweet from someone really famous and really jolly clever. In fact most of the time they trade in being really jolly clever indeed. And they appear to be randomly taking the piss out of cheese.

It’s hard not to take it a little bit personally. I mean you actually enjoy this person’s work, up to a point, but you also happen to be a cheese liker. The two things are not mutually exclusive. But here they are making no distinction between a good old-fashioned Cheddar and some really strong, sweaty Brie. All cheese is bad cheese, it seems, and all cheese likers are hate filled lunatics. To say otherwise is ridiculous.

Loads of their devoted Twitter followers have now responded, like kids in the playground gathering round someone getting a kicking from the hardest lad in class.



The thing is, the cheese they detest is not actually the cheese that you like. The cheese you like is perfectly accommodating of others and keeps itself to itself. And you’re no fan of really strong, overly ripe Camembert either. It’s just not your thing.

But this celebrity cheese-hater sees all cheese through the prism of their own thoughts and values. There is no difference. All cheese is wrong and a danger to health.

Hang on though, didn’t they have a well known cheese-lover on that BBC programme of theirs? The cheese-devotee everyone loves? The one that used to be in that band? You don’t remember them abusing him over his passion for curdled milk. So maybe they’re just playing a game. Only you don’t know the rules.

And no, of course it’s not about cheese.

Knuckling down

One of the (very, very many) things that make me grind my teeth about social media is when I read those “I am writing. 2000 words done” tweets. As if your success as a writer is measured entirely in word counts. My immediate response (actually, my second response – the first is “Go f*** yourself”) is to think, “But what if every one of those 2000 words is utter shit?”

Of course, what I’m simply covering up with my anger is my own lack of self-discipline. There are plenty of moments in my day when I could do something useful like writing. Take this poor neglected blog. Well, it’s not really a blog at all is it? I call it News, rather grandly, but it’s like that old Carlsberg advert from the eighties, where they portrayed the fictional Customer Complaints Department – a cobweb strewn annex at the end of a dead corridor.

This is like that. There’s tumbleweed in here. And an old copy of Razzle.

Instead of writing I find odd things to buy on Amazon, like fancy coffee filter papers. Or I get distracted by my four year old. Right now, for example, I am sitting at my laptop while trying to blow up a green balloon for him to play with. It’s hanging out of my mouth as I type these very words. Hemingway never did that.

So at least the bell-ends on Twitter who rant about how many words they’re writing are actually doing something. And the first rule for good writing has to be – just write. You can always edit later.

Talking of which, I’m currently editing Featherfall with the help of my friend Matt Lee, who assisted me with Chosen and The Veil. This time he’s gone to town, sending me Word docs with different coloured highlights in, denoting which bits he thinks need attention. He’s a hard task master but it will be worth it in the end, I hope.

I’m wandering. This is meant to be a call to arms. Get writing Ibbotson. Ignore your blog no longer. Just don’t be an arse and post your word count on Twitter.

Friday Coffee

I’m sitting in one of my two favourite coffee places, the Perky Peacock in the funny little round tower next to Lendal Bridge, and my drink tastes even better than normal

My friend Nicola, the owner and boss [and incidentally the 12th best barista in the UK] has a stack of copies of Chosen for sale. For each one she shifts, she gives me a free coffee. Which is why today’s coffee tastes so good – it comes from someone buying a copy of my book. My words and silly ideas paid for this brew.



Oh, and my other favourite coffee place in the Perky Peacock on Gillygate [there are two of them]

The Veil – in paperback?

Okay, so hands up who’d fancy a hard copy of The Veil in paperback? Not everyone’s into ebooks and that Kindle malarkey and there’s a lot to be said for an actual, y’know, book.

I’m considering self-publishing The Veil in paperback format but would love to know if there’s an audience for it. Would you like a paperback version, sold direct from this site (or from me, if you meet me in the street)?

If the idea appeals, drop me a line!



The Veil – Kindle Freebie

Oh you lucky people. I’m giving The Veil away for free (in Kindle format) for a very limited time only, starting on the 21st of May. Spring, nay scramble over to the Kindle site to grab a copy and amaze your friends.

Hang on, this self-deprecation lark isn’t going to get me very far. If you fancy reading a great urban fantasy with a touch of ghost story thrown in for good measure, then now is your chance to grab a copy for nothing.

The Veil: Hell is What Haunts Us.

 The Veil