Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year and New Beginnings

New Year has always been a bit depressing for me in the past. As I've mentioned elsewhere in these ramblings I've always ended up being disappointed with where I am, compared to where I wish to be. Well, this year has proven to be a bit different. I look back at the goals I made for myself, on this very blog, and I am content with my progress;

Goal 1 - to submit three short stories to competitions.

Done, sort of, if we include Flash Fiction (which I do). I may not have won anything yet but I can see how my writing has improved from this time last year. For the moment that is more than enough of a reward.

Goal 2 - to finish the novel.

Sort of done. The first draft is complete and though it's a mess it has given me the building blocks for draft 2, which is already looking much better.

Goal 3 - To move out of the homestead.

A very big "done" next to this one, and it was the best thing I did all year (apart from finishing the first draft obviously). I am in my own version of domestic bliss with my boyfriend - even if it has meant I'm washing a lot more socks than I used to.

So what will 2012 bring? Maybe the Mayan's will suddenly turn up in a spaceship and say "Psych! We totally made up that whole end of time nonsense." Or maybe the Olympics will turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to London, and not the nightmare all us native Londoner's are imagining. Personally I hope it will be another year of progress and achievement, and in that spirit here are my three aims for 2012:

  • Get the novel draft 2 complete and edited.
  • Beg/convince/bribe beta readers to read it and give me feedback.
  • Get three short stories completed and submitted to magazines or any publication that pays.
We'll see where I am in a years time. I can say though just writing down goals has been a huge help, giving me a real sense of direction and points to focus on.

All I have left to say is; have a wonderful, drunken, fun, joyous New Year's Eve, and may your 2012 be bright and beautiful. See you next year peeps.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Solstice - My Top Films of 2011

As Christmas approaches my days at work seem to be getting busier and my internal battery is starting to run out of juice. Unfortunately I don't get any time off apart from the national holidays, but that's more than can be said of those poor souls working in shops.

I'll likely be off the grid after tomorrow so I want to take the chance to wish you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy Solstice, and a Happy Hanukkah. I hope you get to snuggle up with loved ones, tolerate the crazy family members without knives being drawn, and get totally stuffed on food and drink. I'm planning on getting in touch with my Pagan ancestry by totally overindulging in both this season (the food and drink that is, not the knives and snuggles. Depends how the holiday weekend goes.)

I'm also hoping to catch up on some films over the festive season, to recharge my power supply, and thinking about this made me realise that I haven't done any film posts in an epoch. So here I will bring you my top films of 2011, based on those I've managed to see so far, plus a list of films I still really want to see (I was going to do a top Christmas films list, but as I did that last year - and it would be exactly the same list - I decided against it).

Friday, 16 December 2011

A Contentious Voice Silenced Forever

Today I heard the news that Christopher Hitchens had died. I have to say it surprised me; I knew his cancer was progressing but weirdly I hadn't thought about how ill he was, likely due to how busy he's been this last year. I have a lot of mixed feelings about the man, and even more about his opinions, but it saddened me nonetheless. His writing style has always impressed me, and I can't help but admire someone who can infuriate me so much and yet force me to reconsider my own point of view in light of their arguments. But the biggest reason it hit me is he is one of only a handful of writers I found in my teen years who were expressing an atheist perspective without fear.

A quick background; I am an atheist and know now that I always was. But there was a stage in my teens when the notion scared the shit out of me. I couldn't accept that there was "nothing" out there, or any purpose to life/the universe/everything, but I also couldn't accept that there was a sentient being in charge or some mystical energy binding us together. I was a bit spiritually lost, to put it simply. My parents are atheists too but I wanted to work out  my position on my own, lest I be accused of just copying them. I read a lot about magic, vampirism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Paganism, Gnosticism, Druidism - anything I could get my hands on. But none of it helped, as I never thought any of them were coming close to "reality" (as I perceived it). None of them felt right. Then I came across atheist writings and among them was Christopher Hitchens. It was a revelation. I realised I wasn't alone, nor the first to question the reality of religion and the nature of faith. They were asking the same questions I was asking. They (and all the science related stuff I read and watched) led me to have an epiphany that there didn't have to be a point to the universe, there didn't have to be a reason for my existence, per se. I could instead create my own purpose, my own reason for living. For me, that was an incredibly freeing moment and I've never looked back.

I was already an atheist, but those writers allowed me to articulate why. Hitchens was one of a small group willing to be unpopular, prepared to say things no one wanted to hear. I turned away from him and Dawkins over the years, as I have no bug bear with those who have faith, and I found their constant attacks on those with faith tiresome and their attitudes were far too morally superior for my tastes. However I appreciate and admire them for showing me that there was another way, as well as showing me that it is possible to agree and disagree (vehemently!) with someone's opinions at the same time.

I know Mr. Hitchens isn't aware of this, or looking down from on high (unless he got a VERY big surprise) but nonetheless: RIP.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Hauntings and Parties

Christmas madness has officially begun and I'm already exhausted just thinking about all the things I need to do before the big day; presents to buy, cards to get, wrapping to be done, food to buy, parties and dinners to attend, and public transport to contend with. I don't know why all that stresses me out, as there are countless people in this world who would be more than happy to swap with me, and yet I feel my brain about to pop if I think about it all too much. A part of it is that when December starts rolling by I can't help assessing my life and thinking about 'where I am' versus 'where I want to be'. Inevitably there's a gaping chasm between the two, and the December depression begins. So instead I focus on action and what I have coming up and then I wonder when I'll find time to work on the life goals, and the whole sorry cycle starts again. As much as I love Christmas, I can't wait for January.

The last week has been easing me into the month of activity; the flat is now decorated (sorta) and the tree is up and pretty, if I do say so myself. Last Friday I went to see The Woman in Black at Fortune theatre in London and was totally blown away. The original book relies on the fact that the main character, Arthur Kipps, is reciting his experiences in a novel he's written for his family. The play has him do this through the form of a screenplay, which he has taken to an actor to be taught how to perform it for his family. It's a little change but one that has incredible consequences as the story unfolds. I highly recommend it and it was perfect for my taste in spooky stories around Christmas time. Maybe it's the pagan ancestry in me but I love ghost stories at this time of year. And yes, I've already read Christmas Carol this festive season, and will be watching both Scrooged and the Muppet Christmas Carol at some point too. Christmas wouldn't be the same without them.

The other notable event was the second 30th birthday party in my circle of close friends, and it was a blast. It amazes me to think that (a) we're all turning 30 within the next 10 months, and (b) we've all been and stayed friends since high school (and, in some cases, even longer than that). The road of life may have taken us all in surprising directions but we've somehow all managed to stay in touch and to stay good friends throughout the intervening years. Here's hoping it will continue for the next thirty, and beyond. I can't even imagine where we'll all be in the future. No doubt I'll still be doing my yearly assessments of my "progress" - and though it can get me down I'm not sure what I'd do with myself if I ever think "Oh, I actually am exactly where I want to be." Now that's a scary thought...

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

How To Destroy Your Writing Career - The Writer Responds

Some weeks ago I posted about Quentin Rowan and the plagiarism scandal he was caught up in. Well, he has responded in the last couple of weeks, the most interesting (and exhaustive) being on the blog of the man who revealed his deception. It makes for fascinating reading, if you're interested in the mind of someone who does an act that seems totally nonsensical to everyone else. 

To give him credit he doesn't try to deny it, or make out that it was okay. But he does try to excuse it (I think) by suggesting it was some kind of compulsion, or addiction if you will, that drove him to take more and more risks instead of stopping and writing something from scratch. Some may find his arguments convincing, but I think there's a lot of self-justification going on in his replies. Like the rioters who here in the UK have recently voiced their "reasons" for looting, burning and generally acting like arseholes, I suspect that Rowan's reasons have more in common with his own vision of what happened, rather than reality. It's a very human response to not take the full blame for our actions and instead try to explain them in a rational way, that paints us in a more positive light. I was particularly struck with his admission that he didn't copy and paste - he actually typed out by hand the lines from other people's books! He certainly has the patience of a writer; it's just a pity he had to write other people's words and pretend they were his own.

What really came through to me though was a sad picture of a wannabe writer who lost his way. He chose the easy way, because of a lack of belief in himself, as well as a desire to succeed quickly. He didn't want to work at his craft, largely due to fear; fear of not being good enough straightaway, fear of working hard and still not succeeding, fear of discovering he just wasn't cut out for writing.

There are a lot of lessons for all us wannabe's in Rowan's experience: do not doubt your voice, do not damn your work as pointless or mediocre when you only just started. Writing is a skill that can be worked on and improved - and most of all, don't be afraid of trying and failing. 

I believe the path to success is full of potholes and we have to fall into them, climb out and fall in many more before we get to Camelot. And you know what? It's half the fun of this crazy thing called writing. I hope Mr. Rowan can one day see that and experience it for himself.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Bullshit Bulldozer Bonus - A Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge

The flash fiction challenges over at Terribleminds continue, with the latest being to write a story under 1000 words where the title uses alliteration. Oh, and no vampires allowed. Head on over if you want to have a go, it's open until December 10th, and top prize is a copy of Mr. Wendig's very own Double Dead novel.

Please to enjoy. (Warning; features profanity. In case the title wasn't a clue)