Friday, 31 December 2010

Roll on 2011!

As if by magic, or some sort of time machine, we are already facing 2011; and I for one am looking forward to it. I have not had a good 2010, what with stress, illness and a death in the family, it hasn't been a great time. But that's the thing about life - you never know what it's going to throw at you. So I welcome 2011, as an end to what has gone before and a chance for a new beginning. And if I've leaned anything it's to not wait around for the good things to come but to get out there and make them happen. So in that vein here are my aims for the new year (not resolutions - no one sticks to them and I'm no different):
  • Submit at least three short stories to writing competitions (one in line already!)
  • Finish the novel - this terrifies me but I am determined to not do a Tolkien and take years to write the tome.
  • Move out - still at home with the parents but this is the year I plan to get out there and pay bills, rent, and food all by myself... Why do I want to do this again?
Let me wish all of you a great New Year, and may it be the year you go and do the things you love, learn something new everyday and be around the ones you love. Happy New Year!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post to wish all readers a very merry Christmas, or whatever religious or non-religious celebrations you may be having at this time of year. I am at this moment watching "Family Guy: Something, Something, Dark Side". It's oddly putting me in the Christmas mood. So I started to think of what my top five Christmas movies are - and a Wonderful Life does not feature. It ain't that kinda list...

1. Gremlins - nothing like little gargoyle creatures to make you feel all warm and Christmasy inside. And death by microwave. Yo ho ho.
2. Scrooged - The best version of Christmas Carol. Well, apart from A Muppet Christmas Carol. Speaking of...
3. Muppets Christmas Carol - see above.
4. Nightmare before Christmas - Tim Burton, music, a skeleton and a kidnapped Santa. What more could you want!
5. Die Hard - Don't look at me like that. It's a Christmas Movie. With explosions and shooting. And Alan Rickman. Brilliant.

So between Doctor Who and... whatever else they put on that may be good (but likely won't be) I will be trying to watch the above at some point. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

#What's this? What's this? There's colour everywhere...#

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

So Much To Do, So Little Time

As this is supposed to be a blog from a would be writer I thought it was about time I added something about the things I'm working on. So I'm now going to keep a progress bar going on the right hand column so it's clear where I am and what I'm up to. And to also chart how little progress I'm making... Unfortunately with Christmas, and all the incumbent parties, dinners and shopping it entails I've had little time to work on much. But areas of note are:

- Working on a short story for a writing competition being held by the publishers of the Writers and Artists Yearbook (a valuable resource for any would be writer). If you're tempted the link is here, I welcome the competition! The theme is "Compulsion".

- The other ongoing project is the novel. At least I think it's a novel - it certainly seems to be getting longer the more I work on it. I'm aiming for around 200,000 words for the first draft so that the second draft can be shorter but still be a good sized story. But unfortunately I keep coming up with ideas that I need to feed into the narrative, forcing me to rewrite what I've already done... I'm also facing the dilemma that I may need to cut a whole chapter as I've realised the story works better if the reader is kept in some mystery about another key character - is he good, is he bad, is he really trying to help or has he ulterior motives? These are questions you don't ask when a whole chapter is from his perspective, unless I cut three quarters of it. Annoying too as I really like that chapter. Oh well, who ever said writing a novel was easy.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Christmas Chaos

Christmas is always portrayed as a happy, bright and cheer filled time of year. In reality it's stressful, busy and seems to bring the worst out in people. If it's not Daily Mail journalists (among others) wrongly accusing a man of rape who was only facing charges of having sex without a condom (I kid not - Sweden, you have some crazy laws), it's shoppers preparing to decapitate each other if it means they get the last "Dave the Funky Monkey". Ah, goodwill to all men and all that.

My personal experiences of Christmas has so far involved recovering from a hideous bronchitis infection (still coughing three weeks on), trying to not get too drunk at the work Christmas party and wondering when I will get the chance to do the rest of my present shopping when the whole of London has come to stand still because of snow. But there are reasons to be cheerful - with the aforementioned snow it will give people a chance to stay home and enjoy the holiday season with the family, rather than trying to while the hours away in the shops, and for all the kids on holiday right now it must be fabulous to be outside and making snow men. I was also made very happy by the newly announced Mass Effect 3 trailer, which I've watched more times than is probably healthy. What can I say, I'm excited. If you want to see it yourself here it is:

Friday, 10 December 2010

A Sad Day for UK Students

As most people in the UK probably did I watched the mess that was the "student protest" yesterday with a feeling of pride, for the fact that young people are finally standing up for what they believe in, and tremendous sadness and frustration, due to the unnecessary violence. A peaceful protest was hijacked by a mob of anarchists and losers, with too many students and other young people quickly joining in. And as ever the media are not interested in painting a balanced picture of what went on and instead resort to sensationalist headlines and images, practically ignoring the genuine students and protesters that were there for real reasons and not just to cause trouble. It has also meant they are not talking about the shameful actions of the Liberal Democrats who voted in favour of the rise in tuition fees, despite their election promises. They're also not talking about what this means for the future of the government coalition, as they only barely won this vote, and does not bode well for when even harder decisions have to be made in the near future.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Book Review: Under the Dome

Under the Dome – Stephen King – 2010 – 896 pages

First off you should know that Under the Dome is one of Stephen King’s longest novels, at a daunting 336,114 words in total. This review is from the Kindle version, as I couldn’t find any shelves in my home willing to creak under the great weight of this tome – but don’t let the length put you off. This is potentially one of Stephen King’s best, both in its ambition and its depth. For anyone who enjoyed The Stand or The Dark Tower series this is another epic tale of good against evil, set in a small town in the good old U.S. of A. It is also an exploration of cruelty, and seems to be a commentary on democracy and corruption in modern America, and how willing groups of people are to give up their rights when fear takes hold.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010)

Ending one of the most popular franchises in recent years was never going to be easy. Regardless of the flaws the earlier films have had, Harry Potter has always been a highly popular and very successful series of films, and above all fun, particularly for those who have read the books. So, just as J.K. Rowling no doubt struggled to do her heroes justice as she completed her saga, the makers of the films have been faced with tough choices. The first of these was to split the final tome into two films, rather than one, and how to remain faithful to the text while maintaining the pace. They haven’t been entirely successful in this but have still managed to produce an excellent addition to the series, and a compelling introduction to the final film next year.

There’s not much of a recap before being thrown into the thick of things at the beginning of the Deathly Hallows, so it may be best to watch The Half-Blood Prince before starting this one. To summarise, this is not a good time to be a wizard or a muggle, with the rise of Voldemort and his Death Eaters practically complete and now in open warfare with the Ministry of Magic. But these are wizards and witches not used to battle and it isn’t long before the spread of Voldemort’s army seems unstoppable. Our three heroes are members of a small group who know what’s at risk and so go in hiding to ensure that the dark lord can’t get his claws into Harry Potter. But Harry isn’t happy about sitting by doing nothing (was he ever?) and so sets out to find the remaining Horcruxes, the pieces of Voldemort’s soul spread out into everyday objects, to kill his nemesis once and for all. But Voldemort has plans of his own, and it involves making himself indestructible by gathering the Deathly Hallows together…

Monday, 29 November 2010

Leslie Nielsen 1926 – 2010

I was sad to hear about the passing of Leslie Nielsen, an actor who has been in a number of films I loved as a child and still love to this day. Though known and loved mainly for his comedic roles Nielsen started out as a serious actor, and I remember him well from Forbidden Planet (1956) and hadn’t realised until now that he was also the captain in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). He also popped up in a large number of TV shows (he was one of those actors you would go “hey, isn’t that that guy? You know, the guy who was in that other thing we watched? You know... that guy!”) 

In 1980 he starred in Airplane! as Dr. Rumack, and immortalised himself with his dead pan delivery and brilliant comedy timing. I remember loving this film as a kid, and I still laugh like a loon with Nielsen’s lines, with one in particular being a line I consider one of the greatest in cinema history (more to come on that later). Naked Gun followed and was an excellent TV show, though it made a less impressive trilogy of films. Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) was a little strained but still has its moments of comedy gold, and looking at his IMDB list I see a huge amount of shows and films I had never consciously connected with Leslie Nielsen but watched regularly. Like I said, he was one of those guys.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Movie Reboots and Remakes - Why?

Today the news was announced that Warner Brothers Studio plans to remake (or rather re-imagine) the movie starring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry, a film that even the kindest of us Buffy fans have to say wasn't great. A lot of studio and producer interference saw Joss Whedon's script being hacked to bits and the 1992 film was the messy result. Five years on Joss had another stab at it, as it were, this time for television and created a cult classic that ran for seven seasons.

Now those studio heads want to have another go themselves, this time without Joss. At all. One of the film's producer's Charles Roven has stated that "There is an active fan base eagerly awaiting this character's return to the big screen." Yes Mr Roven, there is indeed a fan base that want a return of Joss Whedon's Buffy, but not yours or anyone else's. I don't normally say a film is going to suck before it's even be made but I struggle to see how this is going to work. I'm a believer in giving a film a chance and see what the makers will come up with. Buffy without Joss Whedon though... I just don't see it. It won't have the humour, the dialogue, the tongue in cheek references, or the emotional depth that the series had. And, if rumours are true, it won't have any of the characters we came to know and love, not even the rest of the scooby gang. The word most uttered in the office today among us Buffy fans was: why?

Buffy is not pleased with the new script. Not at all

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Film Review: Venus Wars (1989)

Based on the manga by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Venus Wars is based on the premise that Humans have built cities on Venus after a comet collides with the planet, dispersing the atmosphere and making it inhabitable. But the people of Venus are split into two nation states, the southern continent of Aphrodia and the northern continent of Ishtar. When Ishtar attacks and occupies Io, the capital city of Aphrodia, a group of bikers, along with a reporter visiting the planet, get caught up in the unrest afterwards and must find a way to survive and fight back.

Our main protagonist is Hiro Seno (the hero, get it?), a driver in a brutal sport involving a one wheeled motorbike, and a cynic when it come to anything involving the government. He’s seen for himself the lies they tell and soon realises that though Ishtar has invaded, it’s the native Aphrodians that he needs to be careful of, particularly the police. Eventually he and his friends decide to strike back by taking out one of the opposing army’s tanks, and in the process get enlisted into the resistance.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Don't Plan Too Much

The desire to be a writer is a strange one. On the one hand you want to write, and you want to write well, to tell stories and entertain others with your yarns. On the other, you're terrified of creating a load of rubbish and discovering that the thing you love doing is just not something you're good at. And, if you're not careful, those little nagging voices of doubt can stop you pushing yourself to finish what you start, or make you try far too hard in your desperation to get it right. And sometimes trying too hard is just as bad as not trying enough.

I have recently started up (or should I say, picked up where I left off) an old first draft I had given up for dead. Anyone who has tried writing a novel or something that may turn out to be a novel or short story, will know that if you leave that first draft unfinished for too long it starts to rot and putrify, until you end up picking it up by the fingertips and thinking "how long has that been in there?!". Yes, my draft was dead and wasting away. And the worst thing? I was the one that killed it. By planning too much.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Book Review: Let The Right One In

Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)    
by John Ajvide Lindqvist – 2001 - 513 pages
Remember the ‘80s? Not like this you don’t. Lindqvist has resurrected the growingly popular decade in this Scandinavian take on the vampire story. It’s oddly appropriate for this tale to take part in a time when, to many, society began to break down and change for the worst. These themes are demonstrated thoroughly in Let the Right One In, featuring all the vices that afflict urban areas and beyond. But, first and foremost, it takes a hard look at loneliness in all its forms, particularly the kind experienced by those on the cusp between childhood and teenage years. Not to mention the kind a vampire trapped in a 12-year-old’s body experiences after 200 years on earth.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Student Uprising! Well, not exactly...

Today the National Union of Students conducted a protest march through the centre of London, with the expected number of 24,000 protesters increasing to over 50,000 through the day, if reports are accurate. For the first time in years the student body of Britain have got together to express their disgust at the government’s plans to increase the maximum tuition fees to £9000 a year. But what’s this? There was a riot? By one hundred or less “students”, causing personal and property damage? Or well then, who cares about their reasons for protest, as the whole thing has been “hijacked” by those committing “despicable” violence – says the NUS president Aaron Porter.

As usual the media has generally decided to focus on the actions of a tiny proportion of people who chose to destroy property, and in the process hurt some officers and other protesters. It makes for a more exciting story in our 24 hour news society after all. Assuming that it was 100 that acted violently and there were a total of 50,000 people marching, that’s 0.2% of the protesters. So the news reports have focused on just 0.2% of those there. And Mr. Porter is apologising and condemning 0.2% of those that took part. Seriously guys, you need to get a new president. What a wimp.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The First Step is Always the Hardest

See if this rings a bell. For ages you think "I wish I could do that", "one day I'll do that" or "if only I had the time and money I could be a journalist/politician/astronaut"... Or, perhaps the most challenging of all, "a writer".

But what is "a writer"? Type this into any search engine and you will be confronted with a cacophony of different opinions and statements. Is it only those fortunate enough to make a living from the craft, or does it include anyone who has ever been published, regardless of how long ago? Or is it just having the desire to put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) even if you've never been published officially? Or is the rather well known writer Stephen King right when he says, to paraphrase, "A writer is someone that writes". Period.

This blog is my attempt to follow Mr. King's advice, as I like his opinion the best - it's certainly the most achievable. I will write. And maybe at some point I will "be a writer". Or at the very least can satisfactorily pretend to be writer while I wait for the penny to drop among my peers. And I'll only have myself to blame if the specter of laziness overcomes my good intentions. And television. Television is always to blame.