Life Under Glass – Shopping Arcades in Paris and Cardiff


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Header image: Cardiff's High Street Arcade by Walt Jabsco

I’ve written before about the British refusal to adapt daily life to our famously capricious weather patterns, but it seems this might just be a modern failing. Check out the concept rendering for almost any new building and you’re practically guaranteed to see it bathed in stark sunlight under ocean-blue skies, while a scattering of slim and happy citizens stroll, in shirt sleeves, from one piece of open air street furniture to another. I’m beginning to suspect that all architects work out of one huge office in California.

Luckily, the Georgians were more practical in their outlook. Despite their cast iron constitutions, it seems they had no desire to trudge up and down in the pouring rain when they didn’t have to, and so they invented the shopping arcade.

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New Toys on the Block – the rise of Doctor Who merch

Things may have been quiet here at Bell, Book & Blog lately but I haven’t been sitting idle. As proof, I offer you this guest post I wrote for Doctor Who Thing (‘The world’s ONLY Doctor Who related website!’) on the advent of the Timelord’s Lego incarnation. Check it out and feel free to leave a comment. And I’ll be back to a more regular blogging schedule very soon!

Doctor Who Thing

dapol 7Guest Post by Peter Bell , you can find more of his writing at

In my day, Doctor Who merchandise was a blissfully simple affair. We had the odd T-shirt (to be worn under the officially licenced 7th Doctor replica tanktop), the disappointing Dalek Attack computer game for the Amiga, and, most prominently of all, we had the Dapol figures.

Ah, Dapol! The name still evokes flutters of excitement in the hearts of a whole generation of fans. Not because the toys were especially good, of course. In fact they were often downright shoddy; the Daleks had paintwork you could rub off with your fingers, K9 was grey, the TARDIS console had the wrong number of sides and the whole lot was forged from plastic that possessed all the durability of bone china. But for nearly two decades, theirs was the only game in town. (And oh, how I still cherish my 25th…

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SCARdiff 2014 – Cardiff’s Horror Expo


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SCARDiff 2014 logo

Pitching a novel is hard. Pitching it live, in front of an audience, is even harder. I know this because I did it last Sunday.

I was one of seven aspiring authors attending SCARdiff, Cardiff’s finest (and only) horror expo, which filled the suitably imposing chambers of the city’s Masonic Hall with an array of cosplayers, artists, tattooists, models, film makers and one very large Burmese python.

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Doctor Who: Time Heist – Behind the Scenes


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Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. Copyright: Adrian Rogers/BBC There are many perks to living in Cardiff. It’s a small but varied place – a former coal port turned European capital that was recently declared the UK’s most livable city. We even had Barrack Obama in town this month.

But as fun as it is to play host to world leaders, I’m far more excited by the frequent visits of a certain Time Lord…

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Diana Wynne Jones – “the best writer of magic there is”


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I know I’m a day late to the party, but yesterday (16th August 2014) would have been the 80th birthday of one of my favourite writers – Diana Wynne Jones. Google marked the occasion with this rather charming Doodle, and various media outlets devoted a few column inches to her works and legacy, invariably discussing her supposed influence on the Harry Potter series (as though that’s the only thing that really counted).

By way of my own little tip-of-the-hat, let me point you to this episode of Impossible Podcasts, in which I lead a group of fantasy fans in a debate about why Wynne Jones still isn’t more widely known, how much of her troubled childhood can be found in her stories, what Studio Ghibli got right (and wrong) about Howl’s Moving Castle and, yes, the whole Harry Potter question. It’s a lengthy but spirited discussion, and still one of the podcasts I’m most proud of.

You’ll find the original post at the Impossible Podcasts website, here. Alternatively, click the player below.

Or right click here to download a copy.

Which reminds me; Bell, Book & Podcast may have lain dormant this past year but a new episode is tentatively in the works. It all depends on matching schedules but rest assured it will appear at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Until then, happy listening.

Studio Ghbli's depiction of Howl's Moving Castle

Writing in Circles


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Writer's notepad and penI’ve never been a member of a proper writing group, so it was a bit of a shock to be asked to judge this year’s Hilda McKenzie award – the annual short story contest run by the Cardiff Writers’ Circle.

I was tangentially aware of the group, largely thanks to a friend who had judged the contest a few years earlier, but I really had no idea what to expect when the bundle of nine stories arrived on my doorstep. They covered a whole swathe of genres, from romance to comedy, fantasy, historical drama and globe trotting thriller. They were great fun to read – a marvellous pot pourri of fiction that would never be gathered together under normal circumstances – but I couldn’t avoid feeling anxious. One of these had to win. Worse still, I’d been asked to prepare a critique of each story to discuss with the Circle on the night of the award ceremony.

Offering feedback on another person’s writing is a sensitive process at the best of times – every sentence is fermenting in their hopes, fears and painstaking efforts. It’s a little like remodelling a nitro glycerine factory; the work might well be necessary but you live in constant fear of calamitous consequences.

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The Writer’s Blog Tour




Well this is embarrassing. When I took a little break from the blog last year, I expected to be away for a few weeks while the high tides of family and work life reached their peak. But things remained busy and my little break quickly turned into a sabbatical. Before I knew it, the frenzy of Christmas was upon us and the sabbatical had become a hiatus.

‘No problem,’ I thought. ‘I’ll start posting again in the new year. It’ll be my first resolution!’ And then my laptop died. And its replacement was faulty. And the replacement’s replacement was faulty. And, and, and…

And I’m sorry it’s been such a long time coming but here I am, at last.

So what have I actually been doing for the past seven months? I’m happy to report that I’ve spent a lot of the time writing which is, after all, what I still hope to do for a living one day. And what better way to tell you about it than via the Writer’s Blog Tour; a chain interview of four questions, passed from writer to writer on a weekly basis. Mark H. Williams, author of Sleepless Knights, has passed the torch to me this week. You can read his own answers at his blog.

What am I working on?

Almost all my efforts are going into my novel, An Unwanted Miracle. It’s a mystery-cum-thriller with a dark vein of supernatural horror running through it and I’m about four weeks from finishing the final draft. I’m really enjoying it but I’ve been working on it for a little over four years now, so it’ll be a huge relief to finally wrap it up and start on something fresh. With that in mind, I’m also finalising outlines for two other novels, as well as a couple of novellas. My hope is that, by the time An Unwanted Miracle finds an agent or publisher (fingers crossed!) I’ll have at least one other book ready to go.

How does my work differ from that of others in my genre?

I don’t think a writer is ever really qualified to answer this sort of question – it’s up to the readers to judge. That said, An Unwanted Miracle features corpses being raised from the dead, but I made a conscious decision right from the start to move it away from the popular modern zombie/vampire trope. I’ve gone right back to the pre-Romero roots of the zombie genre, coupling ancient African folklore with contemporary Western fears of solitude, intolerance, the surveillance state and institutional corruption. Hopefully that gives it an original twist!

Why do I write what I do?

Simple; because I want to read these stories but no one else has written them yet. I suspect that’s true of many writers – when you’ve read enough books, you start to anticipate the stories you want. When you find that they’re not out there yet, you’ve got no choice by to sit down and make them happen.

How does my writing process work?

When I figure that out, I’ll tell you. Seriously, my ‘process’ has been virtually non-existent thus far and could best be summed up as ‘throw everything at the story and see what sticks’. That’s definitely been the case with An Unwanted Miracle. I started with a clear idea of the tone, the central character and a few key scenes I wanted to include. I just made the rest up as I went along and have been restructuring and refining the story draft by draft ever since. It’s thrown up a lot of happy surprises but it’s a hopelessly inefficient way of writing a novel. Hence the extensive outlines for the next few things I’ll be working on.

In addition to that, I’ve recently started using the Magic Spreadsheet – a Google Doc that allows you to set yourself a daily word quota and displays your word count for other users to see. It sounds really simple but it’s made a huge difference to my writing. I’ve written 50,000 words in three months! That’s about half as much as I’d need to produce if I were a full time professional writer, but it’s already twice as much as I wrote in the whole of 2013.


Part of the idea of the Writer’s Blog Tour is that I now pass the baton on to others, so they can post their answers at their own blogs next Monday (12th May). I’ll be handing over to the ebullient Claire Fayers 0 author of comic YA fantasy swashbuckler The Voyage of the Onion, which was one of the winners of this year’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators ‘Undiscovered Voices’ competition. You can find her blog here. And I’m willing to share the love even further; if you’re writing something at the moment, in any format or genre, drop me a note in the comments section or send me an e-mail at bellbookandcandleblog_at_gmail_dot_com. I’ll add a note to the foot of this post linking to your blog.

As for me, well, I’m still not entirely up to speed and my blogging schedule is likely to be patchy over the next few months. But Bell, Book & Candle is definitely back in business!

The Life Inbetween


If you’re a regular reader, you can’t have failed to notice the lack of posts these past few weeks. I’m sorry for the radio silence but, as you probably know, this is a blog about reading, writing and the life inbetween. Well, those bits inbetween have been forcing out the other two for the past six weeks in the form of work, travel and family commitments. Things look set to remain busy for the next couple of weeks but should settle down after that, at which point I hope to return to a regular blogging and podcasting schedule.

Thanks for bearing with me until then and do please keep leaving comments and sending feedback – I’m still reading them and will respond.

Mundane Adventures #13: S.H.I.E.L.D-ed from Death


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Apologies for the late arrival of this weekend’s guest post. I guess I wasn’t quite as well caught up as I thought! But read on for a really interesting piece from Kieran Mathers about a pernicious trope of modern storytelling…

Marvel's Agent Coulson is back from the dead

I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy fiction recently. This is, in part, to build the style of The Darkness Embraces (still no news from Hydra, I might add) and also just to build my range. The more you read, the better you become as a writer.

I’ve noticed a fashion developing, first in fantasy fiction but now spreading out into the wider literary world. You can see it on TV and movies as well and this fashion really annoys me.

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Disney’s ‘Cultural Chernobyl’ and Me: Redux


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I’m sorry for the lack of posts this past week – real life has overtaken me but things should now be back on track. Today, I’ve decided to take the unusual step of rewriting one of my existing posts. You may have already read my existing take on the state of Disneyland Paris, but it was never quite the post I set out to write. So I started from the same point and took it in a completely different direction. (And, with the exception of the Discovery Arcade picture, all photos in today’s post were taken by your’s truly). If you like what you read, I’ll be covering some of the same ground in an interview for the Dedicated to DLP podcast next week.

Minnie Mouse balloons at Disneyland Paris

This year marks two minor anniversaries for me. It’s 20 years since I first visited Disneyland Paris (or Euro Disneyland as it was then) and 10 years since I last started working there.

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