Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A New Year Beckons

Another year is coming to a close and a new one rises from the ashes. Or some other poetic way to say:

Happy New Year!

I'm looking forward to 2014, mainly so I don't dwell too much on the last year. Despite best intentions I don't feel I achieved much and just kind of coasted through, making me more determined to make 2014 the year I do "stuff". I don't yet know what that "stuff" will be, but I'm betting it will be fantastic. I love "stuff".

Number one on my to-do list is to once again attempt the dreaded LIFE PLAN (read that in deep booming tones of Christopher Lee for full effect). I've dabbled with LIFE PLANS before but I always chicken out and create a year plan or a three year plan, like some bloody politician. This time though I'm going to sit down and have a serious conversation with myself, one that hopefully won't turn into those talks you have with career advisers in school:

"So what do you want to do with your life?"
"...No idea. Something that isn't boring."
"Okay... well what do you like?"
"Films, books, games, stories, art... you know, fun stuff."
"Well you can't make a career out of any of that - how about *insert the last thing you ever wanted to do*? It's rewarding and offers some great opportunities!"

The second point on my to-do list is to post on this blog more, which will no doubt be featured in the LIFE PLAN under the writing header. I also want to fit more drawing, learning new things and travelling, as well as improving my fitness and all that other stuff that's really rewarding but is a real butt-ache to actually do.

So here's to 2014: may it bring fortune and glory to you all. And to finish off, here are some trailers of films I'm looking forward to in the coming year. Happy Hogmany!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Videogames and Me

Lots of people like to give games a bad rep. They're blamed for mass shootings, knife crime, animal cruelty and even turning someone into a sex addict. Despite the fact that no one has ever been able to identify a definitive causal relationship between games and violent behaviour, the stereotype continues. Combine this with the general representation of games and gamers to be less than positive and you can imagine how frustrating it gets to be a gamer after a while. It was refreshing to see a TV programme on Channel 4 this weekend called "Video Games Changed the World", which went through 25 of the key games through history, along with profiling issues and topics they and other games have raised through the years. So rare is a positive portrayal of games and gamers I could even ignore Charlie Brooker's more annoying moments. I don't think my hobby gets enough positivity around it, and you hardly ever hear about how games help people, or the good they can do. So here's my attempt to rectify that balance a little with a personal story of how games have helped me and continue to help me on a daily basis.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Work/Life Balance - Why Do I Have to Choose?

After two weeks of holiday I am prepping for the return to work. I'm stretching the ol' plate juggling muscles, warming up the analytical bit of the brain and creaking my patience meter back up to full. The time off has done me good; I was ready to explode before it, a big brain-splosion that would have covered everything and everyone in grey, sticky matter. I also go back knowing I have another week of holiday due before the end of the year, so will hopefully avoid any meltdowns before the festive season.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Copyright; A Case For Sherlock Holmes

I somehow missed this but apparently a lady by the name of Andrea Plunket wants to stop any more episodes of the BBC's Sherlock from being made. She plans to take the BBC to court with the claim that she owns the copyright to the last ten Sherlock Holmes stories and that the BBC has not asked for her permission to use them. This interested me because I thought that (a) the stores are in the public domain, (b) if anyone does own anything to do with them it would surely be Conan Doyle Estate Ltd and (b) who the hell is this Plunket?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Writing Trials: How Long Is a Piece Of String?

I've been wondering lately how authors know how long the thing they are about to write will be. Or even if they try to. How do they set out to write a short story, or a novelette, or a full-blown novel?

This came up because of the story I'm plodding along with which has not turned out how I expected . It seemed to be a 5000 - 8000 word story in the initial idea stages, even when I started plotting it out. Now? It's looking more like a 20,000 word story, or even longer. I'm about three scenes in and I'm already at 6000 words with about ten more scenes to go. Assuming I don't come up with any more whizzy dizzy ideas for it...

This has told me one thing: I am rubbish at working out how long a story is likely to be before I start writing it. This shouldn't really be a problem, as a story needs to be what it will be and I fully embrace that. But I want to write more short stories (5000 - 8000 words), so I can send them out and get feedback (read: rejection slips) before I finally manage to sell one or two to short story markets. This is very difficult to do when you continually end up writing longer pieces. Not to mention frustrating.

I've found the planning tools in Scrivener has helped me see when a story is likely to be on the longer side, but it doesn't really cover the fact that I come up with most of my good ideas during the writing process itself. I pull a scene here, add another there and before you know it: *POOF* I have a novel on my screen. I've seen a lot of advice on various blogs and sites saying that new authors should write some short stories, and to keep novel length on the shorter side for the first go. But none that I've found have explained how you can predict how long your story is going to be or techniques to try to limit yourself to working on shorter stories.

I suspect I'm thinking the wrong way about this; if a story needs to be 5000, 10,000 or 50,000 words than it needs to be that length. The one thing I can say I have learned is not to give up - I've left the detritus of a couple of tales lying in my files because they were taking too long to finish and I ended up lost in a quagmire. But this story I'm working on now; nuh uh. Not giving up. I'm enjoying it too much and despite the surprise over the word count I still know where it's going and can't wait to get there.

Maybe that's all the trick is; keep writing, don't give up and eventually you'll have a whole bunch of stories of varying length to send out into the big ugly. Something is better than nothing after all.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Book Review: The Many Coloured Land

The Many-Coloured Land (Saga of Pliocene Exile, #1)The Many-Coloured Land by Julian May
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Julian May's works were introduced to me by my science fiction/fantasy loving mum when I was 14-years-old, after I'd grown bored of "kids books" and had already worked my way through her Tanith Lee collection and a scattering of Stephen Donaldson/Sherri Tepper/Anne McCaffrey books. The Many Coloured Land was the first of May's works I was given and I quickly devoured the whole series it belonged to, as well as the subsequent quadrilogy. Once I finished them, I immediately started the whole series again from the beginning - with a new perspective on the story and my mind blown that a writer could weave such a detailed and clever tale. Now sixteen years on I was given my very own copies from the republished versions and plunged myself into a book that has been such a huge influence on me (more detail on that later). I wondered though: would they be as powerful, magical and immersive this time around?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Pacific Rim Surprised Me

I watched Pacific Rim a few weeks ago and it's still lurking around in my head like a shadowy figure under a street lamp. It probably doesn't help that my tumblr feed is full of fan art, reviews and general ravings about the movie. The most surprising part of all this is; I was not expecting much at all from the film itself. Even after leaving the cinema I thought "hey, that was a cool aliens being clobbered by machines movie". But I was wrong folks. It's much more than that.

Keeping spoilers to a minimum, the premise of Pacific Rim is that a dimensional vortex has opened deep under the ocean, and humongous creatures are coming through, wreaking havoc and generally going all godzilla as soon as they come across a city. After much destruction and the realisation that these beasts are not going to stop appearing, humanity unites and creates the Jaegar programme, building equally humongous humanoid mecha's, which require two humans to mentally merge and control from within. So far so almost every anime series ever. But again, it is so much more:

- Affirmative message: so, so, so many films go for the dark, tortured soul tale. The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, even Spider-man. Don't get me wrong, I love a dark tortured tale as much as the next homosapien, but there are times when it all gets a bit... dull. Pacific Rim is a wonderful antidote to this; its message is one of hope, or human decency and loyalty, of victory in the face of terrible odds.

- Subverting the male gaze: The amount of female ass and side boob I have had to witness in one visual medium or another... It can get to the point of not even noticing it anymore because it's so common. Pacific Rim is the first film I can remember in a long time that not only doesn't have this trope in clear evidence but actually turns it on its head; instead of the camera admiring the form of women it's the male protagonist who is admired/objectified by the female protagonist in a brief moment that is only noticeable because of how unusual it it.*

- No love story: The male and female protagonists go through a lot together, they fight together and they both lose a lot before they can even think of victory. Though Mako has a moment in which she clearly approves of her colleague's body, there is no suggestion that she's in love with him and at no point do they fall into each other's arms and do the dirty. Instead there is a deep friendship between them, an understanding that is made all the more meaningful with the absence of a romantic sub-plot.

- An original story: With a huge swathe of remakes and sequels flooding the cineplex Pacific Rim was a welcome change. Guillermo del Toro was inspired by Japanese kaiju films like Godzilla and ramped it up x1000 for his take on robots vs aliens. But he didn't forget the characters, making their personal struggles as big a part of the story as the smashy, crashy moments.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a deep and meaningful film - it is still essentially a larger than life action/sci-fi movie that includes a lot of punching. But it has something films of that type normally lack: a heart. Highly recommended.

*I am not saying here that the male gaze shots are wrong - only that there's too many of them in too many films. I don't want it to go too far the other way, where every film has a male character being represented purely by their abs and buttocks, but it's nice to have a balance. Pacific Rim is the first film I recall in recent times that seems to be reaching for that balance.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Real Iron Throne In All Its Glory

Oh. My. Daenerys.

I recently finished the most recent Song of Ice and Fire book, "A Dance with Dragons Part 2: After the Feast", so I'm in a bit of Game of Thrones withdrawal. What better time for George R.R. Martin to post on his "Not a Blog" what the Iron Throne actually looks like in his head. And it's absolutely brilliant/terrifying/stupendous;

For the full story head on over to his site and stare in wonder at its magnificence. I wonder if I could fit a replica in my flat?

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sunday and Superman

Another Sunday is coming to an end, with another work day looming on the horizon. To make the most of the sunshine I went dress shopping and to the cinema - I am as pale as a ghost with anaemia so hiding in shopping centres and cinemas is the best plan for me. The dress shopping was completely unsuccessful for a few key reasons;

1. I hate dresses
2. I hate clothes shopping
3. 99% of dresses are horrible
4. The 1% that aren't are out of my price range

The only reason I need to find a dress is for a friend's wedding in... 3 weeks. Shit. I may have to resort to going into central London, which is a special kind of hell us locals like to leave to the tourists. Sigh....

In better news I did get to see the new Superman film, Man of Steel. It was okay but suffered from the first 30 minutes on Krypton being far more interesting and compelling than the rest of the movie. I would love for a prequel to happen, and apparently Russell Crowe agrees. Henry Hotstuff was suitably hunky in the lead role, though as always I found it difficult to relate to Clark Kent/Kal-El. It's the same problem I've always had with Superman in any format; he's just too powerful. My preference in comics has always been non-superhero stories, as a normal person struggling against insurmountable odds - with a real chance of failure - is far more engrossing for me. Look up Habiba if you want to know what I mean (and if you're not a prude or overly, religiously sensitive).

The day was rounded off nicely with the Wimbledon final. I have to say I used to hate watching tennis, except for when I wanted a snooze, but I am a total convert. All I needed was someone to root for and fellow Scot Andy Murray is my tennis-man. It makes watching his matches excruciatingly painful but finally - finally - there was a pay-off for the years of pain. I think my nerves were shattered by the time it ended, though not as much as when he was playing the James Bond villain the other day.

Well done Andy, you are a national hero - I look forward to your inevitable knighthood, and your straight-faced jokes, that many mistake for you being grumpy. Those of us with Scottish men in the family know what you're doing.

Hope you all had a good weekend, wherever you are in this beautiful world.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

How Not To Do A Sci-Fi Story; After Earth Review

Something a bit different to my usual film reviews; I've decided to do an examination of things you should not to do when you're creating a science-fiction story, through the focus of the film "After Earth". As you may have guessed I wasn't impressed; though it had a few moments that were visually stunning or interesting, overall the film falls completely flat, thanks in large part to the humongous problems with the science bit of the science-fiction setting. If you have nothing better to watch it's a reasonably diverting 100 minutes, but it isn't worth the price of a cinema ticket.

I will be talking about major plot points in the below, so if you do want to see the film I suggest you stop reading here. *Spoilers ahead*

Saturday, 1 June 2013

My Scottish Adventure - Part 2

I have returned from my travels safe and almost well; one chest infection that I took with me is still bothering me but I have drugs now so will be fine. The second part of my Scotland Adventure took me to Stonehaven and while there I went walking about to see Dunnottar Castle (probably not the wisest thing to do with a chest infection, but I swear the sea air helped). The pictures below will do far more to convey the beauty and splendour of the place than any words. The place took my breath away with how majestic the scenery is. I had to stop every few minutes while walking along the coastal path to take a picture, as every step revealed a new perspective that was even more stunning than the last.

Monday, 27 May 2013

My Scottish Adventure - Part 1

This is a day of firsts. It will be the first time that I've written a blog post from my phone and it will be the first time I've gone on holiday by myself. It may only be to a harbour town in Scotland and only for a few days, but I think it still counts. Here's hoping I can format this post right on my smaller screen...
I've been up here a few days now to offer moral support to friends running the Edinburgh Marathon and had forgotten how stunning this city is. Of course the unusually sunny days have helped, though even on this colder grey day it's still beautiful. My friends have also been astounding, both managing to not just finish their first full marathon but to go out afterwards for dinner and drinks. I'd be a useless pile of limbs, gibbering and shivering, if I'd just run 26+ miles! So bravo ladies - you are an inspiration.
At this very moment I'm sitting in a generic coffee shop, that doesn't pay a lot of tax, waiting for my train to Stonehaven on the east coast of Scotland. I decided to go there after reading about it in a book (as good a reason as any) called Sophia's Secret by Susanna Kearsley and discovering that the ancient castle Dunnottar is still standing. Look the place up on Google and you'll see why I just had to see it.
With a tummy filled with haggis I should br on my way in an hour on the next leg of the journey. I'm hoping for dry weather so I can draw and paint in the open air, maybe with a wee bottle of whiskey in my bag to keep me warm. And Evernote is being used extensively for writing ideas and snippets. Fingers crossed for a creative few days to come.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Xbox Reveal Reaction

Finally adding something new to this ol' blog - my personal reactions to the Xbox One reveal. Watched the live event via the BF's Xbox360 and our core reaction was much the same; "Ooh, the machine looks nice but where are the games?" From the look of the #XboxReveal on Twitter we weren't the only ones. Digital Spy have the full video if you missed it and want to see what's I'm rabbiting on about.

I've been through a fair number of console reveals by now (hand me my cane you whipper snapper), and I don't know if it's the age or rose-tinted specs talking, but I remember console reveals being more exciting back in the PS2 days. Or maybe I was just more easily impressed with FMV than I am now. After the "meh" PS4 reveal I hoped we'd see more from team Microsoft, and they kind of delivered. Sort of. At least we now know what the new Xbox One will look like which is more than can be said of the PS4. I also really like the name of the new Xbox, odd as that sounds. It's nice and simple. I imagine it took ages to come up with though. No seriously, I've been in meetings like that; it probably went back and forth constantly before they decided on the obvious.

Once again there was one core feature that wasn't talked about or shown much, the single thing you'd expect a game console reveal to cover: GAMES! Unless you were a sports game fan (of which there are many, I know) there wasn't a whole lot to get excited about. High points for me were:

  • Halo TV show - yay!
  • Two women presenting - yay! (seriously the way the industry's been going, it's a welcome surprise)
  • The instant way it flipped from TV, to movie, to internet browser, to game, and back to TV again. Very cool.
  • The pad looks great (i.e. it looks almost identical to the 360 pad)
  • ...The home page looked nice?
  • Ummmm....

Yeah. So not a lot wowed me. Sure Call of Duty looks nice and the dog was well rendered but there was no real in-game footage so I can't tell just how good the graphics are really. I'm sure they're amazing, I'd just like to see them in actual motion, rather than in super-duper worked on movie sequences.

Of course the real news that was important to gamers only got leaked unofficially afterwords and it's not good news:

  • Mandatory game installation from discs - and that a second user of the same disc would have the "option" to pay a fee to install the game on their separate machine so they too can "play it without the disc". I can't tell if there's an option here to just play from the disc, without installing, but it doesn't sound like it. The editor of Official Xbox Magazine has since said that when you install the game on a second machine it uninstalls it from the first... which means my BF will never let me play his games until he's completely finished it. Or maybe not at all if it affects the save data... I know I wouldn't if it were my games!*
  • No backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 disc or online arcade games - bummer, but not entirely surprising. At least the top of the new Xbox is flat, so I can put by Xbox 360 on top of it. Silver linings!

Overall I'm not totally convinced by the Xbox One. Oh, have no doubt - I will get one. I'm a gamer, it's what we do; we bitch and complain about the many ways in which the latest console sucks and then we go out and buy it anyway. It's a like a form of madness that's really expensive and leaves you feeling a bit disappointed but excited all at once. I'll just keep my little fingers crossed that the game line-up is more than just racing/American football/basketball/football games, and we get to see more of them in action at E3. A girl can dream.

*For those of you wondering, we tend to play very different types of games to each other, but I like trying out the ones he has months/years after he's played them. He rarely wants to play my strategy or RPG games for some strange reason...

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Book Review: World War Z

There's something strangely compulsive about zombie stories. Whether it's a Romero style satire or period pieces featuring women in bonnets kung fu fighting the walking dead, there always seems to be something new to add to the genre. The downside is that all too often creators can end up playing it safe and giving us nothing much in the way of originality. Thankfully World War Z is an exception and while the story may reflect a well known narrative that anyone familiar with the genre will instantly recognise, it tells the story on a much larger scale and in a very different way.

World War Z is an account of events in the past. The undead are still walking around but the tide has turned and humanity appears to have been victorious, albeit at a terrible, high price. The book is made up of different people's accounts from all around the world sharing their experiences of the war, from its mysterious start and right through the darkest days. Some are told in monologues, others in Q & A style interviews. From soldiers, to criminals, to ordinary folk caught in the crossfire, all have a story to tell and with it advice on how to survive a zombie apocalypse. In fact this is the single most useful book for governments if they want to get a Zombie Plan in place. For example; all that military might makes not an ounce of difference. Tanks, bombs, drones - none of that is going to help if the dead rise from the grave. It will be down to peeps on the ground with a good aim and a reliable gun, plus those brave enough to use axes, scythes and samurai swords in close combat.

Politics plays a surprising part in things too. The political atmosphere that permeates the world before the zombies arrive is one that will be familiar to everyone. There are surprising alliances, revolutions, and saviours here, giving the book a fascinating real world feel (though North Korea probably won't like the implications). It's this "realness" that gives World War Z that little something to mark it out from the rest of the zombie genre, and keeps you reading through the snippets of events it takes you through. In many ways it feels like a short story collection  all around the theme of "what would happen if zombies really did try to take over the earth and eat us?" The only downside to this is that there is no strong central character to root for, no one humanising soul to support through the nightmare. This creates a certain distance to the plot-driven story, which some might find uninteresting without that single emotional string you normally get in more character driven stories.

Refreshing and entertaining, this is a book for anyone with a thing about zombie stories, especially for those tired of the same old group of kids/adults hiding out in a mall that has a staggering capacity to maintain power throughout the crisis. The upcoming film will no doubt change a lot, and introduce a much more focused point of view of things, but the trailer already shows they're sticking to the scale of the book; this is a worldwide tale, and can't be told in just one location. It is worth trying to read the book though, even if you delay it until after seeing the film (just in case) as there are plenty of surprises, action and heartfelt moments in World War Z for even the most hardened zombie fan. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Obligatory "Thatcher's Death Brings Out The Worst In People" Post

It's been a while since I've posted anything so if this is what it takes to spur the horse than so be it. Social media has been awash with vile, self-congratulatory, shallow and occasionally funny but mostly sexist things in response the death of Mrs. T - from both sides of the political spectrum. Out of the bat I'll say I'm far from a fan of hers - not just because of the impact her government's policies had on my own family, but because I deeply disagree with her politics generally. I personally wouldn't go so far as to call her "Evil" (though some she championed certainly were) but selfish, greed obsessed, narrow sighted and superior? Yeah, I can go with that for a start.

But does that make me glad she died? No. I am remarkably ambivalent about her being dead. Dancing in the streets or feeling jubilant over the death of an old, senile woman who once held great power seems like a total waste of energy to me, not to mention crass. We also shouldn't feel "happy" about her death because her spirit, her attitudes and her politics are still here, and still causing misery. Every time you see a headline about "Scrounger" families living off the state, but nothing about the estimated £5 billion in tax avoidance from businesses and individuals, you have to accept that she won. She got her way, and worst of all we all fell in line.

There's a brilliant bit in the Guardian today about George "Gideon" Osbourne's own constituency, and I highly recommend you read it. In essence it shows how one area can be a microcosm of the whole country and, worse still, that no one is all that upset about how unfair it all is. They want their kids to have the best chance in life, so stay in an area they struggle to afford to send them to the best schools. And there's nothing wrong with that per se; except the chances any of their kids will get to the top is nearly nil. Oh, they may get up the ladder a bit, but all the way to fortune and glory? No way, no how, and no matter how smart or dedicated they may be.

Maybe I'm just a cynic; you may think that there is social mobility in British society. I just can't see it when I look at who runs the country, or even the people who run the biggest businesses in Britain, whether they're home-grown or foreign companies. And maybe that's been the biggest success of Thatcher and every Prime Minister since who have gleefully followed in her wake; the cynicism in the system that surrounds us and our willingness to accept it as the price for "prosperity".

So RIP Maggie - your legacy will live on, for better or worse, for many, many years to come.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Raindance Before the Snowfall

Britain has been hit by cold weather again, which despite the country being in the Northern hemisphere, always seems to surprise and upset those of us who live here. I'm tired of it already and it's only been a couple of days - I'm purposely listening to music whenever I'm outside just to keep the inside of my ears warm.

Just as the weather was turning I actually managed to have a productive weekend. Rather than sit about watching multiple episodes of Castle and/or Battlestar Galactica I fuelled the ol' creative juices and went to a one day Screenwriting course run by the friendly folks of Raindance Film Festival. I got the deal via Groupon, so it was extra good to have only paid £30 or so for it, instead of the usual £100+, and it was worth every penny. I learned loads about the screenwriting process and writing in general so if anyone reading this is thinking about doing it my honest opinion is: fantastic for newbies, or for those who have a script and want to learn more about the pitching process. If you can afford the usual price (i.e. it doesn't make your sphincter clench at the thought of spending that much money on a one day course) then go for it. If your budget is a little more like mine, than look out for deals on Groupon - they do them on a pretty regular basis. It's presented by the founder of Raindance, Elliot Grove, and he's very easy to listen to.

Apart from learning that I know more about screenwriting (and indeed storytelling in general) than I thought I did, here are some of the highlights of the day, without ruining the point of going along for yourself:

Sunday, 3 March 2013

What Disney's Paperman Taught Me About Story

The Oscars have been and gone, with plenty of worthy winners and notable moments. Jennifer Lawrence has earned a place in many people's hearts after her little trip on the way to the podium (though for me her reaction to meeting Jack Nicholson was the highlight of the night). But rather than run through the films that got nominated and those that won, I want to cover just one: Disney's Paperman, which won the best animated short award.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Improving your writing by reading

A strange thing happens when I'm reading fiction now. I used to become absorbed in the story, part of the characters and world, but now I seem to read them in the same way I imagine a god of Olympus would watch humanity; sometimes joining in but also looking down from above and seeing the bigger picture. This particularly happens when there's a problem with what I'm reading. It's normal for that to cause a jolt that bumps you out of the fictional world, but I used to ignore it and keep going. Now I stop, and reread the section until I can work out what went wrong. A recent book I read had me doing this a lot; Darkness Falling by Peter Crowther.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Spring Cleaning

You may have noticed some changes round here. This is the first iteration of updates to this ol' blog, with the eventual aim to pull it all back to the basics, while keeping the content front and centre. I also want to get more of the feel of the kind of stories I seem to end up writing: a bit dark, with a touch of creepiness thrown in.  I've been meaning to do this for a while but kept putting it off, as it can end up taking a lot longer than planned. So instead I'm doing this in sprints.*

The next stage will see links to my new tumblr page added somewhere, and maybe some more jiggery pokery with the layout. In the meantime you can check my very small tumblr feed over at Stained Fingers - my attempt to catalogue non-writing, art-related endeavours, and the kinds of pictures/images that inspire me every day. There will be some writery stuff popping up there, but those will also be mentioned here. But the art stuff will stay solely on that tumblr, hopefully resulting in a more streamlined, focused blog and tumblr feed.

So this post isn't entirely about me, here's a very cool and very true film about storytelling, but is just as relevant to any of the creative arts. Enjoy!

*Working in an online only business is clearly rubbing off on me...

Friday, 25 January 2013

Burns' Night and A' That

In all honesty I've never celebrated Burns' Night - despite counting myself a member of the fine Scottish folk. I blame my parents - they moved away from Ayrshire, Scotland in the '70s and settled south of the border in London, and neither of them can stand the Burns Night stuff. It's often been described to me as "a night when fat, psuedo-Scots cover themselves in tartan and recite the same boring ol' shite." Actually they say a lot more than that - the tartan thing in particular pisses them off, what with it being a tourist thing, rather than something that all Scots historically wore. My folks are big on the whole "historical accuracy" thing. Especially where Scotland's concerned.*

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Stories Make Me Feel Better

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have noticed I've been quiet this week, and the few tweets I did were along the lines of "Stress! Too much to do, might break everything, end of the world. Argh". Well, I'm relieved to report that I didn't end up destroying myself or the online tools my department use with the changes I've been project managing*, so I'm feeling a lot more chipper than I was on Monday. To celebrate, I thought I'd write some flash fiction, and who better to provide inspiration than Chuck Wendig and his Flash Fiction challenge.

The challenge this week is to choose one option from his selection of "Sub-genre", Conflict" and "Must Feature". I used a random number generator and the gods of tale-telling have been super kind:

1. Weird West
5. Enemy at the Gates
6. Someone gone or going mad

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year and New Challenges

First off, let's get the necessaries out of the way: Happy New Year! Hope you had a good celebration, or at least a good sleep with cool dreams, featuring unicorns and dragons.

My last post was a while ago and the main reason for that has been that I just haven't wanted to write. I've been deep in my own head these past few weeks, working out what's important to me and what's not, career-wise, and what I can do about it. But with the dawn of a new year I will hopefully find new inspiration (as well as old - see below) and get back on the writing horse.

My working life hasn't so much resembled a clear path but rather a shambolic, drunken wander through the woods, with a bag over my head and only my sense of smell to point the way. Which inevitably means I've always known what I don't want to do and not so much what I do.