To blog, or not to blog?

Yes, it seems I’m officially out of clever titles. I may have even used this one before, but any excuse to poorly paraphrase Shakespeare is okay in my book! (The academic in me really wanted to put a citation then.)

I’m annoyed with myself because I haven’t posted a blog in a few weeks. I promised myself that I would do a regular blog and try to build up my readership – you guys. But I’ve been busy – sure that’s everyone’s excuse. Trying to keep up with a part-time academic job, and a full-time PhD isn’t easy, but I should be able to find time to write a little blog, right? I’d hope so, and I’m definitely going to try harder, even if it’s just a book of the week post so you can hear what I’m reading at the moment.

The other reason I haven’t blogged is because I haven’t asked my students to in a few weeks. They’ve been too busy with assessments and it wouldn’t have been fair to make them do a blog too. They’re too busy…

I want to ask you a few questions. I will do some proper research on this, but I want a few opinions first to get a rough idea. (Feel free to comment below)

How important is a regular blog post, or is it better to wait for good content/ideas? Is it good to write a regular post so that people know when to expect it?  When should that be?

I’m trying to work out how to manage this blog, and I want to know how people interact with blogs. Such as how long a decent post should be?

I’ve made a short survey that you can fill out to help me with this, if you have time: Blogging Survey


I’m also looking at increasing my freelance workload. (After complaining about being busy? I know…)

So if you’re a student and you want sometime to check through your work for you and check the content (no promises about grading!) or just to edit/proofread, or if you’re an aspiring author and you want some critique on your writing/some help, then please get in touch. We can work out what you need and sort out an appropriate way of payment.

If this sounds like you, then please send me an email and we can sort something out!


Book of the Week

Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky

So, I’ve finally got to last year’s Arthur C. Clarke award winning novel. I was going to wait a bit to read this as I’ve got a few things on my reading list that I really want to read, but then I got a few recommendations for this in a matter of days.

I’m now 150 pages in (which may sound like a lot, but it’s only a quarter of its 600 pages), and I’m really enjoying it. It’s nice to pick up a sci fi book that feels fresh and pulls you along for the ride. Adrian is typically a fantasy writer and this is his first science fiction book. It reads like a fantasy writer writing sci fi, but that’s not a criticism. The world building is so strong and so believable that it can only be written by someone who has written fantasy. A common pitfall, and one that I am guilty of, with sci fi is to assume that you can make everything up. But you must absolutely understand how your world works, in as much detail as possible.

Adrian provides that detail, but unlike a lot of sci fi authors he doesn’t hit you over the head with it with long exposition, but rather intertwines it expertly into the narrative.

The other thing that I really like, and it was so subtle it took me about 80 pages to notice, is that both the civilisations represented in the novel are represented by a different tense. The humans are a typical third person past tense, which feels natural. Then the aliens (no spoilers!) have a third person present tense narrative. A subtle difference when kept to different chapters, but a striking one when you realise what it means.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this technique pans out, and how it helps the story.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading, and please get in contact/leave a comment below!

My Year in Books 2015 (Part 1)

Last year I signed off the year with a list of books that I read in 2014. This year it’s already March and I haven’t got round to doing the same thing yet – okay, nearly the end of March. Well, I’ve been busy since early December putting together the application for my PhD, so as you can imagine I’ve been pretty occupied. All being well, it should now be off to the application panel for approval – fingers crossed.

So, I’ve found a bit of free time to make a post. I’m a bit sad that this is the first one of the year, but I hope to make some more this year. Anything you’d like me to write a post about, tell me in the comments section below. I’m open to suggestions.

I’m still working towards the draft of my World War One novel. It’s so close to being finished now that it’s frustrating, but there were parts of the story that I really wanted to make sure were told, so I had to extend the word count a bit and juggle some things around. It’s going quite well now and I aim to have it finished by the end of the month. (Oh crap, that’s next Thursday!)

On to my 2015 in the form of books then. This time I wanted to add the star rating for each book that I gave it on Goodreads, and perhaps write a little bit about each book. so, bear with me:


Serenity Graphic Novels #1-3 (****)

I started the year with these three graphic novels about everyone’s favourite Whedon show that got cancelled. If, like me, you love the show, then I thoroughly recommend reading them. Joss used them to continue the story in the way he would have like to have done, had they not been cancelled.

Robert Jordan – Lord of Chaos (Wheel of Time #6) (***)

One of the longest series in fantasy seemed to get even longer with this book. I marked improvement on the last book, which was, the only way I can describe it from memory is ‘dull’. But there still seems to be something missing. I’m not normally one to complain about the journey – too many people want to jump to the end as if they don’t enjoy reading (see the Horus Heresy series) – but these books reveal so very little about the characters. Everyone just constantly seems grumpy with everyone else, particularly the women, and we don’t really see much of a character arc. One day I will read the next book and hope it does more for me.

Honour of the Space Marines – Anthology (****)

A nice little collection of Space Marine stories from each chapter.

Andy Weir – The Martian (*****)

I absolutely loved this book! If you haven’t read it yet, then what are you doing? Stop reading this rubbish and get on with it. I thought at first that the epistolary style would be a bit grating for an entire novel, but it really works. Andy Weir’s writing is vey natural, engaging and funny. I’m yet to watch the film, but I hear that’s good too.

Isaac Asimov – The Caves of Steel (****)

What’s there to say about Asimov? I find you either get him or you don’t. I was researching some Sci Fi crime and this fit the bill. An enjoyable read.

Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles (****)

See above. A little too abstract for my taste, but still a good read.

Steve Parker – Deathwatch (****)

Also for research, but the less said about that the better. It was good to see a full story about the Deathwatch Space Marines. Steve is a solid writer, and I never find anything much if at all to be critical about his work.

Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere (*****)

Yes, I’d never read it before. Oh, Neil… the only word I can truly use to describe your work is ‘fantastic’. Hearing him read at the opening of the Liverpool University lectures added to my love of this man’s work. I cannot recommend it enough, but you knew all about it already didn’t you?

That’ll do for now. This has made me want to go off and read.

I will endeavour to post part 2 tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

 

15 Things to Tell a Writer

Okay, so it has been a while since I have added anything to my blog post.

I have been busy working on my first novel, which is also my portfolio for my masters degree. I thought I would have a break and update my blog. This blog post has been sat in my drafts folder for a while, so I guess point number 1 should really be ‘finish things.’

The last session we had on the masters was a visit from the lovley Jenn Ashworth. One of the things she talked about is her ’15 things to tell a novelist’, which I found quite interesting. Some of the points were things I probably take for granted, but it was nice to see them written down and they are often things that as a writer you forget.

It was mentioned that we could write our own list of 15 things, and I thought that it might be a nice idea. There are some things that I have come across and/or struggled with in my writing that it may help other writers to see. I’ve not called this a 15 things for novelist as I also write short stories and I think the disciplines apply to all types of story whether prose or otherwise. This list is in no way a rulebook, but merely some thoughts that might help you to either produce more, or better work.

Here is the list, in no particular order.

1. Plan your Work. 

There are two main writer paradigms, the ‘planners’ and the ‘seats-of-pantsers’, and either method is fine, but I think in any story there will come a point where the writer needs to know where they are going. This could be a fully outlined synopsis, or chapter breakdown, or by simply researching and knowing your world well enough to wing it. Synopsis have definitely helped me when I’ve got stuck with a story, even if they are the devil to write.

2. Know your Characters

I think that in order to qualify the names you have written in your work as characters then they need to have a backstory. You need to know as much about them as possible. That way when you write them, you will a) know where they are going, and b) give your readers something to care about. It doesn’t need to be a character-driven story, but the reader wants someone they can invest in.

3. Don’t be a Slave to your World-Building

Along the same lines as character backstory, world-building is important. In some genres more than others. But if you do create your own world, as much as you should know everything about it, it is there to serve the story, not the other way around. Don’t let what you want the world to be hold you back in writing the story you want to write. The latter is always more important.

4. Don’t Edit as you go Along

One of the biggest ‘mistakes’ a new writer can make is to try editing as they go along. I even tell this to my academic writing students. Get to the required word count (or end of scene/chapter is probably fine) and then go back and edit it. Otherwise you will spend hours berating yourself over one sentence and never getting anything finished. You may have one perfect sentence, but a sentence does not a story make.

5. Always Show your Writing to Someone Else

One of the main things we learnt on the masters was to be less precious about our work. We were all writing for it to be read, but even then it was a struggle to give it to someone else. One of the most valuable parts of the masters was the workshops we regularly engaged in, and we still meet as much as possible to carry them on outside the course. A reader can tell you things about your work that you take for granted, or simply miss. It may require having a thick skin, but it will definitely improve your work.

6. Set Yourself Targets

Writing regularly is an absolute must if you are serious about writing. Of all the advice I got from published writers when I was starting out that was what they all said, without exception. Obviously, the day job and other commitments can get in the way and things like family always come first. However, if you can set yourself targets then this can ease the pressure. I have a daily word count that I need to meet, which varies depending on the project. Others I know have a monthly word count, or simply set themselves a deadline for having something finished. This allows you to add an element of professionalism even before you have been published, or have a book deal. It will be important then.

7. Allow Yourself to Write Crap

I guess this sits with my ‘not editing as you write’ point, but one of the most difficult things to do as a writer is not worry about the writing. I honestly believe the best way is to turn your internal editor off and get the words down on the page. An analogy that I always use with my writing students is ‘a sculptor cannot sculpt without stone to chip away at, and a writer can not make good work without the words in place.’ I once went to a seminar on ‘Fear and Writing’ with the excellent Kim Newman and the one thing she said that has stuck with me is ‘Give yourself permission to write shit. The first draft is always shit, but you can improve it.’ Excellent advice.

8. Draft and Redraft

Never hand in your first draft for anything. For most editors – and I find the same in an academic setting – a first draft is very obvious. Often you need the first draft to get the story on the page and then use it to figure out your POV, key themes and subplots, to name a few. At the very least you should read it through once and make any obvious edits. I’m not talking spelling and grammar mistakes, everyone makes typos, but glaring story problems, etc.

9. Read Aloud

When I’m reading through a draft I find it immensely useful to read the work aloud to myself. I can’t remember who first told my this tip, but it has been useful to get things like dialogue right. Feel free to put on accents, but simply reading the words aloud helps you to see if the dialogue is wooden or unnatural. I also find that if you stumble over a sentence, or have to read it twice then that highlights that there is something wrong with that sentence and it needs a fix. This obviously can be difficult if you live with other people, but if you are serious about writing then I am sure they will understand. I often have conversations with myself to test dialogue. I’m not mad, honest…

10. Know your POV

One of the most distracting things for a reader is when they don’t know who is telling them the story, or is the prose is confused. This can often be caused by the writer not really knowing what POV (point of view if you don’t know the term) they are trying to employ. Third person past tense is very common these days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write it in another style. Just make sure you know how you are trying to write it and stick to the same narrator and tense. That way the reader can get inside the characters head, or follow the story in the way you intended. It can also help you avoid story mistakes.

11. Think about the Function of each Scene/Chapter

Yes, fiction should be fun to read and that is the most important part. But to have a truly effective and fun story the reader needs to know why they are reading. We could talk about character development, arcs and such things, but it can be simpler than that. What is this scene doing? Is it designed to show us the character’s motivation? Is it simply setting out the world? Thinking about it lets you know what you need to include and what is unnecessary information. It will make the writing stronger and more focussed, not to mention fun.

12. Keep Reading

Never stop reading. Well, okay you can go have a wash, books get wet in the shower, yes, but you should always have a book on the go. A writer can learn so much from their peers. If you want to write Science Fiction see what other writers are doing and how they tackle issues. If you want to write historical fiction see how other writers get across the setting and dialogue. See what works and what doesn’t work. Even if you are reading ‘just for fun’, you are always learning. It can be worth trying to pinpoint why you really enjoyed a book, or what it was that meant you put that book down after fifty pages.

13. Don’t take all Feedback as Gospel

At the beginning I stated that these are in no way, shape, or form a list of rules. Find what works for you. If you show your work to others don’t always make the changes that they suggest. Learn to way the good and bad suggestions and edits. The more people you show it to the easier this will be, but there will always be subjective stuff that others don’t like. Be true to the story you are trying to tell, but take on board suggestions and see if you can compromise. If a few people are giving you the same feedback, then maybe you really should delete that needless sex scene…maybe.

14. Research is Key

You might think that certain genres of fiction require more research than others, but that’s not really the case. Readers of science fiction are just as particular as historians, or readers of historical fiction. If you have sound in space then someone is likely to put down your book and go read something else. Research is absolutely key, and it helps you to build a true world, whether it is fantastical or not. It helps make the characters more than just pronouns you have moved around on a page, but actual characters.

15. Always Backup

Almost two years ago I had my Macbook stolen at work. On this laptop was over 15,000 words of un-backed up writing. You can imagine how devastated I was. Sufficed to say, I am yet to return to those stories because I can’t bring myself to realise the loss. The most annoying things is that even then I used a word processor called ‘Scrivener’, that can automatically backup to dropbox. Only, I had not ‘got round’ to setting it up yet. Now I have and every single word I type on my laptop, or my iPad is automatically saved there, as well as a cloud storage device I have at home. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

(I almost lost this blog post because my internet connection keeps dropping on my Mac and I hadn’t realised when I clicked ‘publish’.)

Well I hope some of these rules help you, feel free to comment with your own suggestions, or maybe make your own list. I would love to read it!

Thanks for reading.

Fear of Failure

Fear is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when you want to do something. You may disagree, but it’s true, whether it’s conscious or subconscious. (It took me a few minutes to come up with that opening line for fear or getting it wrong).

As I sat here this morning, wanting to write and finding myself constantly distracted I came back to this idea. Every time we try to do something hard, or challenging, we as humans often try and find something else to do in its stead. Take for example, this very blog post. I really should be writing my novel, but instead I thought I would share my infinite wisdom with you, whether you like it or not.

We often don’t attempt things because we are scared of failing at them. Throughout our education, we’re warned off by failure, rather than encouraged by success. As such, there seems to be a general consensus that “If you don’t try, you can’t fail.” Which does seem somewhat backward, but it’s definitely out there. I often don’t blog because I’m scared that people might disagree with what I have to say, or probably more accurately, that no one will read it. Low blog stats or the most depressing thing for a writer. (Okay, maybe not the most depressing! But it still sucks.)

I don’t suffer from writer’s block, I suffer from fear. When I sit down to write, what stops me isn’t not knowing what to write (though my brain often tries to convince me that’s true.) I always outline my stories and know where they are going. It’s to do with the fact that I’m worried that it will be crap.

This all reminds me of a panel I went to at a convention, entitled “Fear and Writing” (Or something along those lines). It was hosted by Emma Newman (@emapocalyptic), who I believe was a teacher. One sentence she said then has stuck with me ever since: “Give yourself permission to write shit.” Which is probably one of the most important pieces of advice a writer can receive.

It’s okay to write crap, you can improve it. You can’t improve what isn’t there, no matter how awesome it might be in your head.

There are two types of writers “pantsers” (see: flying by the seat of your pants) or outliners. Both work fine if you can convince yourself to write and just write, then come back and edit it later, polishing it until it is as good as it deserves to be.

I do know of writers who “close edit” while they write, which is fine. It works for them, and they have learnt how to work that way in what I can only assume is a pretty exhausting and time consuming manner.

However if you find yourself sitting in front of a blank screen, convinced that you don’t know where the story goes. “Give yourself permission to write shit”. I dare say once you’ve got that first draft it will be better than you expected. Besides, you can always get out that red pen and start turning it into the masterpiece you envisaged.

I’ll leave you with an analogy. I always like to use sculpture as a defining point of art: A sculptor can chip away at stone and make a fantastic piece of art, but he can’t sculpt if he doesn’t have any stone.

Now I really should get back to writing that novel, huh?

Thanks for reading!

2012, Twenty-Twelve, Two Thousand Twelve.

I don’t normally do an end of year report, or I have never done one before. But they seem to be the trend of today. It’s early in the morning and I have already come across several people’s thoughts of the year.So, this year, I’ve decided to do one. Last year (2011) was an incredibly emotional year, the Christmas/New Year period was too raw and too many things had changed for me to pluck up the courage to talk about it all. It’s still a sore issue and this year has been equally emotional, but I have a long last found my voice.

2012 has been a year of huge ups and downs. One of the great things about this year is, as I say, I have found my voice. I have finally moved along the road of my great ambition to write. This blog is a part of that, and while I don’t post often I still manage to keep it alive. Meeting some other writers in November, as well as getting advice from the professionals has been brilliant. I have written a lot more this year than I ever have before. I’m very close to finishing one story (that I intend to finish today – it really must be done in 2012 or it’s taken far too long) and with some luck and hard work I may feature in an independent anthology next year. I’m really looking forward to writing that story but there is a way to go before that happens yet. I will try to keep everyone posted.

But despite that, there have been some huge downs this year for me. I’ve been to some very dark places (which I guess has influenced my need to write as well as what I write) because of personal things that have happen. I don’t want to go in to too much detail, and I don’t ever want to place blame. 2011 was a horrible year emotionally and that continued into 2012, where things have not go much better. I’m incredibly happy that I am able to be friends with my ex-girlfriend, and happy that she has moved on. But the fallout from everything that happened, 18 months later, still hurts. Lost friends and broken bridges break my heart. No matter how much I try to do the right thing, someone always ends up getting hurt, and for that I’m sorry, I never want to bring hurt to anyone. There are some people I would like to say sorry to, but have no means. As I say, I don’t want to go in to detail, it’s probably not fair. But if you ask, I will probably wax lyrical.

I know some people will probably say “Oh but you’ve had a great year, what are you moaning about?!”. But to them I say, some things in life are more important than possessions or achievements.

This year, my band played the Download Festival. Yes, it was fucking amazing, yes I’m incredibly lucky to have done it! But you know what the worst thing about it is? It was so incredible, so unexpected that it still feels like a dream. I still don’t believe I actually played, despite being there and seeing photographic evidence. And the further it gets away the more it seems like an illusion, like some fabrication of my fragile mind. Also, Download was a pretty sad time for me (again? yes I know, I moan a lot!) Seeing Metallica for the first time in years without certain company was incredibly heart-wrenching, so much so that I could barely talk to those I was with and had to go to the bar to excuse myself.

I guess I do look forward to 2013. There should be some good things happening, with some luck. But I also dread it. I dread hearing something that I knows is incredibly possible, that may well break me and I hate not knowing. I also hate not knowing if long lost friends are okay and I know that will continue in to 2013. But we will see, tomorrow is a day like any other but it is also the start of a new year and who knows what it will hold?

I suppose I should finish this with an album and film of the year. My album of this year is Dead End Kings by Katatonia and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone. ‘The Longest Year’ from their previous album is still my favourite song and therefore favourite song of this year. It has helped me when I’ve felt down and one of the things I intend to do next year is get the lyrics tattooed on the inside of my left arm (Nothing Else Matters lyrics on the inside of my right arm). I just need to pluck up the courage first! My favourite film by far is the Dark Knight Rises. I absolutely loved the end to a fantastic trilogy of films. The jury is still out on the Hobbit.

Let me give you a sample of the lyrics from three select songs off their new album (but all the songs and lyrics are on the album are beautiful):

The Parting

“In the weak light

I saw you becoming the lie.

Taking it all for granted, like freedom.

It’s something you’ll never have.”

Ambitions

“At night walking on the tracks
Change my perspective
Idle hands with wounds and cracks
Stale
Ineffective
But past the veil
The memories of things
Still so in love with you

So dense this strife
Kicked the life
I feel this weight upon my heart

Indecision
Sow the seed
Aspiration is never within reach
At night there is no other view
Sing a song for the ones who never made it”

Dead Letters

“Dim my lights
Time is frail
You shut my mind
But oh well
Trapped and choked
Erased my trail
Split the chest
My heart couldn’t feel more pale
Only once
Could I see clear

Vexation
Internal void
My dreams are getting darker and darker
And darker”

The following are the lyrics I’m thinking about getting tattooed:

“In the nights of old I always wished
In the longest year that had me down
And I would freeze if you ever asked me
That was my way”

Or at least the first two lines.

Well thank you for reading and I hope I haven’t depressed you too much.

Happy New Year and good luck for 2013!

Thoughts

I don’t really know what to write, though I felt like writing a blog. There are so many thoughts and frustrations running around in my head at this present moment in time that I can’t quite put them down to paper.

Firstly, birthdays suck. It’s true that they really do get worse as you get older. I don’t know what I was expecting, that something might give me some brief moment of happiness like ‘hey this isn’t just like any other day’. Today, has been pretty boring and average  and now it’s getting dark. A lot of people reading this will think I’m just moaning. You’re probably right. I’m lucky in a lot of ways, yes I know that. I have a home, plenty of things and a job. But there are more important things in life than things. Yeah I know that’s a bit of an oxymoron, but you know what I mean.

I guess I’m mainly pissed off because I thought today would be a nice day, a bit different to a regular day of being at home being down. I even got up early for some reason. Since then I’ve been sat in my living room, the heating on, which is giving me a headache, watching episodes of Big Bang Theory in an effort to make me laugh. My mum came up to spend it with me, but she has spent most of the day in bed. I know it’s not her fault, and really I can’t blame her for being ill. It just sucks. And now I’m mostly pissed off with myself, for caring too much about things and letting stupid little things get me down. Life just feels pretty futile sometimes. I watch people go by without a care in the world, getting on with their lives and all I can ever do is think.

God I sound like an arse. I really don’t know if I should post this. But I felt like doing some writing and this is what came to mind. Or what was on my mine, or whatever. I suppose this is what a blog is for? to update people and get things of your shoulders.

There is one birthday message that is missing. Stupidly it would have made my day. But I suppose it was too much to expect. I hate burnt bridges, I can never hold grudges with people and I can never understand how other people seem so capable of it. The last two years have been pretty crap for that. I fucked up and ruined my relationship, once again by trying to do the right thing, and a really good friendship and I’ve been lonely ever since. Something about this will always seem like this isn’t how it was meant to be. Like I stepped over to some alternate mirror universe where everything is just wrong. Or maybe I just have the inuring ability to ruin everything? Nothing ever does seem to go quite to plan. Ooops I’m moaning again.

I don’t really know where to go from here except to keep surviving and trying to put on a brave face on things. So I’m going to go for a walk, I need to get out of the house and hopefully cure this headache.

Thanks to those of you who did wish me a happy birthday.

Here’s to a better Christmas. Thanks for reading and sorry for sounding like a moaning idiot.

Truth’s Herald

I haven’t written one of these blogs in a while. For a start I’ve been very busy again, things haven’t calmed down since I moved house and we started a new intake of students at work. But I’m sat here on a train being rushed from London – my home town – to Liverpool – my home – at speed. I love this journey, I love sitting here watching the the green fields race past. There is something that is so relaxing about it, so peaceful. It’s also, as I’ve mentioned before, a great setting for me to get ideas for my writing. So far since we set off at 11:15 this morning I have already written an entire new scene for the short story I am currently working on called ‘Herald of Truth‘.

I’m sat here writing this on my iPad, which is a brilliant tool for writing. It’s so much easier to sit here and flick through apps and add notes to each. Much easier than carrying round and having to get out a heavy laptop and wait for it to load. I found myself regularly using the notes app on my phone to write down ideas I had just had, but this is more conclusive and concise. I fully intend to use it more, it started off as a fairly gimmicky entertainment device but let’s see how it works for my writing. I still find it easier to compile my documents in word or pages. I’m also getting used to using a touch screen keyboard, so far it’s a very different experience, so bear with me while I weed out the spelling mistakes!

The main reason I haven’t posted a blog in a long time is because I haven’t known what to say. I feel completely burnt out at the moment, still very depressed and down. Work as I’ve said before has been very busy at the moment. We had a new intake in October, which means a host of new students starting their course. I think all in all we have about 80 new students. If you bear in mind that our previous overall student base was around 60 students on all courses, we have over double our students on one new course. While this is a good thing, it has meant a lot of extra work for everyone. I’ve had to teach a lot of things I haven’t taught before. While I enjoy it, I need to make sure I prepare for each lecture properly. Which has worn me out…

I’m also exhausted because a lot of events I booked a while ago – to try and occupy my mind – have come around all at once. As you’ve already read, I’m currently sat on a train from London after seeing Devin Townsend last night. I really feel that I should have stayed at home. In fact I had a really strong urge to stay home, which I can’t quite explain. It might have just been my tiredness or it could have been something else, I’m not quite sure yet.

One of the events I went to was last week, which was Destination Star Trek London. Now I’m a huge Star Trek fan, so I had been looking forward to it for a long time. At first I did have a great time. It was incredible to see all the five captains together on stage interacting. It was also incredible to meet Bill Shatner and Sir Patrick Stewart. But once the parties started, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. It brought back memories of previous cons I had been to and enjoyed. So it also brought a lot of stuff up from the last 18 months or so and I got incredibly down and unhappy that night. I should probably hide my phone when I get drunk and depressed…

The day afterwards I was pretty annoyed with myself, so I decided to give myself a self-imposed ban from Facebook, Twitter et al. I thought about deactivating Facebook again but I didn’t want to be accused of attention-seeking.

I also started to write a blog about the last 18 months of my life. About all the things that made me so depressed and desperately down. Why I often feel broken, with little to no motivation for life. But it was too hard to write, the things I wanted to put to paper hurt too much. There are a lot of things I’m sorry about and things that I don’t think are right. But some of the things I wanted to write could potentially hurt a few people and the last thing I ever want to do is hurt people. Even this short paragraph was difficult to write. I don’t think in my frame of mind I can accurately say what I want to say. So I will keep my silence and pray that one day things will sort themselves out. I always do…

My self-imposed silence on social sites lasted pretty well until last night and I wasn’t particularly drunk. Just morose. I had this unbelievable urge to be home that I can’t explain. I hold a lot of belief in instinct and fate etc. Although, those beliefs have been shaken a lot this last year.

Anyway, I decided to write this blog for myself, just to get some things out of my head while I was sat here on this train. I will hopefully be back soon. Thank you for reading…

Ideas & Mathew Street

So I had another incident with the vending machine. This time of a completely different design. While I was having my morning issue with the vending machine not dispensing my crisps properly I glanced to the ever-shiny chocolate section. There I saw a Twirl and thought, oh that will be nice after lunch. If I’m still hungry afterwards I’ll come back and get one. Imagine my disappointment when returning to the vending machine after a rather unfulfilled lunch that there were no longer any Twirls left in the machine. Now, I’m assuming there must have only been one left and one of the three students that came in to work that day had decided on the very same thing that I had. The kitkat I had was just not the same.

Today’s blog is as usual in two parts. Firstly I want to have a little talk about where I get my story ideas from and what drives me to write. Secondly about something that is happening in the city I live in at the moment.

Now something that really interests me is where do writers get their ideas from? When ever I come across a blog or article by a professional author this is something I seek out. Now with the plan of trying to recreate these ways to my own benefit but more of an interest in what drives them and if I have a similar way. I know of only one author at the moment that gets his ideas the same way I do.

Most of my ideas tend to come to me in the evenings. Which I suppose in a way is not unusual. I tend to be quite introspective in the evenings, usually in bed where I think about everything and the world. I like to come up with scenarios on how I would solve something or change things so this is usually where ideas drop in to my head. Which can be quite annoying as I’m already in bed. If I’m still fairly awake I’ll try to get up and at the very least make a few bullet points in my notepad. On the other hand, if I’m nodding off I’ll try and force my mind in to remembering it by constantly going over it until I fall asleep. Which can make for some pretty odd dreams! Then in the morning I’ll think about it on the way to work. Usually with a clearer mind where I can actually work out the idea properly. I also tent to do a lot more reading in the evenings which I guess puts me in the story/scenario frame of mind.

Last night I finally came up with that idea for a Dark Angel story that I mentioned in a previous blog. I was actually sat on the toilet before bed and I thought…’what would it be like to be inducted in to the Deathwing?’ and there you go I had a story idea which I had to go and write down. Don’t worry, I cleaned my hands first!

The other major time I come up with ideas is on the train. This is also the way the author I mentioned (Dan Abnett) gets a lot of his ideas. I travel a lot between here and my home town of London as well as Weymouth where my parents live, so I spend a lot of time on the train. (Alas, I don’t drive but I love train travel anyway – I suggest driving would not have the same effect or be as safe ideas wise!) I used to try and read on the train but always got distracted. Now, instead, when I get on the train I put my notepad and pen out in front of me and spend the journey watching the world go by, day-dreaming. Often in these day dreams I come up with ideas and jot them down. Interestingly this is actually where I write more scenes and dialogues. In bed it tends to be the outlines and on the train the actual content. I wonder if any one else finds a similar phenomenon?

Please let me know if you have any thoughts on generating ideas as I’m interested to hear how other people do it.

Now on to Mathew Street Festival, a festival that happens every year on bank holiday weekend here in Liverpool. Now outside of this wordy text-box I am actually a keen advocate of live music. I teach sound engineering and I play in not one but two live bands. I honestly think festivals are a good thing, they bring music to people and supposedly help the economy. I also love events; being a Londoner I love to see people out and about, doing. But I can’t help but feel a certain disdain for Mathew Street.

The amount of pure scum that come from all over the North West for Mathew Street is astounding. It actually makes me sad for the future of the human race. Where all these ‘people’ come from I really don’t know. If Ofsted want to see the pure abject failure of the education system in this country then I can do nothing more than suggest that they come to Liverpool on bank holiday weekend.

When walking to the train station last night for my weekly pub quiz, minding my own business (I even had earphones in). Two tracksuit-clad, fosters-can wielding, young guys deliberately crossed over  a busy road in order to tell me that I had, I quote ‘a fat fanny’. Now I’m not sure if they were commenting on the size of my backside or were just so drunk that they were sorely mistaken as to my sexuality. To be perfectly honest, compared to a lot of the other people ‘attending’ the festival these two ‘lads’ were relatively restrained. I’ve heard stories of young women (12-13 years) using profanity I would not even use and mouthing off about how much the ‘needed a fag’. This couple with the fact that these people bring small children in the the environment sickens me and makes me sad. I currently live right in the city centre so last night I could see a lot of this first hand from my living room window. Now I like a drink like the next person, but it looked like some sadistic scene from a film where everyone had lost their senses. It’s what I imagine the fall of the Roman Empire to be like, but with not nearly as much class.

It’s not about the music, as far as I can tell it never has been. Sadly a lot of music festivals are going this way now-a-days. I have been to festivals and met people there that have not seen a single band and spent most of their time with their beloved MDMA. The fact that the local council relax the street drinking laws just means that teenagers grab a couple of crates of Fosters and head in to the centre to become as close to paralytic as possible. What the council should do to encourage a nicer environment, short of sterilising them would be to not allow people to bring their own alcohol in. In stead, encourage local pubs and venues to make their drinks cost effective and issue special mathew street cups or something similar that people may walk around in. They could also introduce the token system that some festivals have to make sure that ID is necessary.

Well that’s my brief thoughts on the Mathew Street festival piss-up. I’m sure you guys have some thoughts on it too.

As ever I will be interested to read your comments and thank you for reading.

Vending Banter

So yesterdays post wasn’t quite as popular as the day before. Fine, I will try and write off the top of my head and see what I come up with again. Nah, not really. I wasn’t planning to do a blog today as I’m in work, but it’s a fairly quiet morning so I thought I would spend a few minutes writing.

My first question is, why are vending machines so rubbish? I mean why, they’re basic machinery. They should be able to fulfil their task with relative ease. So why is it whenever I want something, they just refuse to vend? Do they hate me? I come in to work this morning, admittedly very tired and so I thought I would get myself a pick up. The first machine gets my crisps stuck before they even come off the ring. So I’m left lifting the front of the machine in order to encourage them to fall. I’m fully aware that this could kill me, but those crisps or so tantalisingly close! What a way to go…The second machine then decides, ‘oh, I’m going to make a load of noise and pretend to dispense this guy’s Pepsi. But then I’ll just go back to slip and enjoy his lovely shiny £1 coin’. Bastard, that coin was mine! So what do I do? Oh yes, I feed it another pound because, damn it, I really need that Pepsi! Amateur mistake I hear you say. I know, that’s what I was thinking too. But low and behold, it worked! I got not only one Pepsi, but when that fell out it came with the one I originally paid for. Excellent, now I have a spare for lunch. Okay, vending machines aren’t that bad, but why don’t they work properly…

My second point is just a little mention of Jerry Nelson, the puppeteer famous for The Count and Gobo Fraggle. Now I love the Count, and if you find me drunk at a party you will often find me saying ‘ah, ah, ah’ when someone mentions a number. So I’d just like to say this is yet more sad news for the entertainment community and count in peace sir, we will miss you.

Speaking of drunk, I was at a gig last night. Why do I feel so out of place at gigs when I’m not playing? I don’t think I know what to do with myself unless I’m running around trying to sort out equipment. So I just stand there looking awkward sipping my drink with increasing frequency. I also have the post-drink guilts today. Mainly because I’m a bit of a lightweight, and when I have a drink I come out of my shelf a bit. They day afterwards I always think ‘did I really say that? That was a bit rude, I hope they didn’t mind’ and so on. I don’t try and be a rude person, and alcohol doesn’t turn me in to one of those people. I just join in the banter more, but I often wonder if that’s how banter works or if I’ve somehow missed the point and just offend people instead.

Yesterday going through my notepad I discovered a kind of children’s story I had started writing. The thought actually made me smile. It came from an idea I had when I was sat on a train and said to myself ‘I want to live inside a book…’ From that I thought, well what would happen if someone got stuck in a story and what would happen to them? It’s probably been done before, but I thought that line of thought lend itself to a children’s story and the kind of odd characters you could come across from page to page. Maybe one day I will actually write it. It has a starting point but that’s about it.

Games Workshop today have released the advance orders for their new 40k boxed set, which I have to say looks amazing. I’ve always been a fan of the Dark Angels, they were the first army I ever collected and I love the look of them. The background story is also something that drew my to them. It’s so, for want of a better word, dark. Despite what they are based on (look up the poem Dark Angel by Lionel Johnson if you have never read it, you’re in for a shock!) But interestingly in all my scribblings I have never once written a story even containing a Dark Angels character. Maybe it’s because I don’t think I could do them justice. I don’t know. But their story is so dark and shrouded in mystery that I would have to be absolutely sure I had the right story for them. I’m sure at some point I will write a Dark Angels character. One day.

I will try and have a finished story up for you guys to read soon. I’m sure you’re pretty sick of my musings. But once again thanks for reading. I appreciate any comments or if you want to chat about anything I’ve talked about feel free to say hi! Cheers.

Dreams of Denial

Greetings. I have so much stuff to sort out and do today, so I’m writing a blog. Yeah that’s right, priorities. I like to think of procrastination as an art form. Gently nurtured to the point of being too late, then you get on with things and put the things you really want to do aside for a while. But I warned you, don’t call me lazy!

First off, I would like to apologise for yesterdays blog. It was, by my own admission, a.bit.shit. It’ll teach me to plan what I’m going to write a bit more, which as an aspiring writer is probably a good thing. Although that said, it did quickly become my most read blog ever. Seriously, do you guys hate Thursday’s that much? So maybe I should write more ‘shit’? Well here goes…! (Lets see if we can beat yesterdays views!)

One of the things I need to do today is set up a calendar. I’ve got lots of events coming up that I really can’t remember the dates for and I need to easily be able to see what’s happening to avoid clashes. I really have an awful memory when it comes to these things. Secondly I need to carry on sorting my flat and throwing away the crap I no longer need. If I’m moving soon I want to move in to the new place with only what I actually want in there.

But then, I’ve just discovered a link to play Command & Conquer: Red Alert for free online. Bye bye precious time, it was nice having you…

As today’s title suggests the blog is actually about dreams. The title just came to me, don’t expect any further explanation, your brain may explode. Now I’m going to try not to get too ranty again, but dreams are pretty weird. Does anyone know a good way to interpret them or anyone that does? Are there any good resources out there? Google search has left me even more confused than I was before.

You see I want to know more about dreams and the subconscious. I want to understand some dreams that I’ve had over the last say, 6 months and some dreams that I’ve been told about that relate to me. But I don’t really know where to start. Dreams are pretty weird, right? The main one I’ve always had is being chased by zombies. I’m always running away, trying to find my loved ones so we can escape. The zombies always catch up to the point of almost killing us, then I get away again. Now I’m not amazingly bothered by this dream, I think it’s quite broad and it happens say once a month. I did have one amazingly vivid version of it no so long ago, that when I woke up in the middle of the night I looked through the blind to see what was going on outside. To me, that’s pretty funny now.

As a teenager I always had a recurring dream that I would walk in to a room and everyone would either turn their backs on my or just hate me. It happened one day at school and I’m not ashamed to say I ran from there balling my eyes out and went home. It turned out my friends were just playing a prank on me. I’ve always feared being hated by people and being alone.

But over the last few months there have been some more vivid dreams. Ones where people where there and then when I wake up I feel a great sense of loss. As well as some other personal stuff that will remain private until I can interpret it! It’s one thing talking about dreams, but then putting them on a public blog…I don’t think so!

I find it odd that dreams are so vivid sometimes. It leads me to think that maybe there is some kind of ethereal connection between our subconsciousnesses. Can we share dreams? Or at least can we communicate our thoughts and feelings to someone else through our dreams and theirs. I guess it’s something we will never know. To be fair it’s an odd thought, but it can be a good thing and a bad thing. I like the idea that I could potentially share thoughts with people that I am no longer in touch with, but also at the time it could be incredibly invasive. Inception style. I don’t want anyone going in to my dreams and planting ideas. There is enough going on in my subconscious as it is!

I keep spelling subconscious wrong and it’s irritating me! Anyway, a blog does not a writer make and I have plenty to do. Do I use ‘anyway’ too much…?

Anyway thanks for reading and as always I welcome your thoughts and comments.