R… r… r… research.

Just a quick one this week, and a new style of topic to keep you updated with.

This trimester I am teaching a module entitled “Research Practice and Society”

Why do we research? For fiction that is quite easy to answer – if I am writing in the real world, even historical fiction I must know how things are, how they work, the realities. Even in Science Fiction I need to know the physical realities so that I don’t break them and bring the reader out of the story – but in other contexts it’s more difficult. I often tell my students that it is the best way to learn something, and I honestly believe it. And, what else is academia for, but to learn?

Anyway, during the course of the module I will be asking my students to write blog posts based on discussions and research they have conducted. When they do that, I plan to do a similar blog post so that we can compare. This week I asked them to plot out a timeline out their module, including deadlines and how they would break down the work. I tried to do something similar, but as I don’t have any real deadlines I failed. Hence this blog post, which is more of an introduction to the concept.

We’ll see how it goes next week.


Book of the Week

I finished the book I was reading last week the day after I published the blog post about it, and I have to be honest, the end didn’t really redeem it.

This week I am reading another Arthur C. Clarke award nominee (I’m actually working through last years nominees and winner), The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor.

It’s an interesting concept and quite a short novel, and there are bits that I have enjoyed. However, for the most part the prose doesn’t really interest me, and in some parts I would dare say that it becomes quite annoying. The main character is an accelerated human, who is only a matter of years old, and I suspect that the prose is written to reflect this, but it often comes across as naive and basic. This is especially frustrating when the main character has supposedly read thousands upon thousands of books in her short life, but seems amazed by the smallest detail. She also seems to fixate on food, which isn’t particularly interesting as far as the story goes.

I often find first person writing a struggle to get into. I often feel more distanced from the character, rather than finding myself in this story, and this is one of those examples. I have sixty pages left, and it is enjoyable enough that I will finish it, but I am not wowed by it.

If I were to be pedantic I would describe it as more of a fantasy novel than a science fiction novel, as none of the fantastical things that happen within its pages are explained, nor related to science. (I’m fairly sure the characters even break Newtonian Physics, but we’ll let that slide)

Anyways, I’m sure as in all things other people will enjoy the novel in their own way.

Thanks for reading!

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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!

 

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.

Good People

I was thinking this morning; I need to write a blog today, but I have nothing profound to talk about. Today is one of my days off, or at least mornings off and as part of my writing efforts I am trying to write a blog every one of these days off. This is why I’ve been missing since, Saturday I think it was (awesome gig by the way, my zombie Starfleet Ensign uniform looked…well, alright I suppose) because every day since then I have been working in the morning and by the time I’m finished or have the afternoon off, I really have not energy to sit here and write. I know, I know, I’m going to have to work on that if I want to become a writer and write regularly. But at the moment I’m building up gradually. If I can write one of these every morning that I have spare, then eventually that will become norm and I will be able to build everything else on these foundations.

So here I am, without anything interesting to say (I know what you’re thinking keep reading, it get’s better!) wondering what the hell I am going to write a blog about, then someone says this:

“Why is it always good people that bad things happen to?”

And this got me thinking. It’s something I’ve heard thrown around a few times recently, and something I’ve been thinking myself while feeling deeply sorry for myself. Why is it always the good people that bad things happen to? You go through life trying your hardest to be fair and understanding and treat people well. I was brought up to ‘treat people how you expect to be treated’. Then something will come along and really kick you in the teeth and make you think ‘why do I bother?’ and ‘maybe I should just give up, be horrible like everyone else and then maybe things won’t happen to me as much’.

Sure, I’m not saying I’m perfect. Nobody is. We all make mistakes, especially when we’re kids or teenagers because we don’t really understand how the world works yet. But I like to think I’m a pretty decent and nice person always willing to help others. I’m very lucky in many ways, don’t get me wrong. But I also suffer from something called ME, which during my teenage years made life pretty difficult. I was essentially bed ridden and couldn’t do a lot of things teenagers normally do. Which as I was very sporty and active beforehand was pretty devastating. I don’t talk about it much, because it’s one of those illnesses that people don’t really understand and I don’t like people to think I’m milking it for one reason or another. I try and get on with my life. The only time I do bring it out is when people call me lazy. This is one thing I am most definitely not, and I can take a joke, but I absolutely loathe being called lazy, because I would like to do everything that’s possibly with my time on this planet, but I simply cannot and it irks me. I’ve also been through some shit over the last year that I will not and cannot talk about.

I went slightly off topic there, please excuse my rant. Why does bad stuff happen to good people? Is it because when bad stuff happens we realise that most of us are essentially good people? Or is it the people that we go day to day thinking, they’re a good person. Then BAM something bad happens to them. Is there something more to it? Are the fates just cruel bastards? Sometimes I think they are. There definitely seems to be some correlation. The really good people seem to get all the shit in life, excuse my French, and those that just breeze through doing whatever the hell they like seem to get by scot free. It’s not fair I tell you! And I’ve had enough!

Still, as I said the other day. It’s difficult, but you can’t let things in life effect how you are as a person, unless it’s for the better. Oh, it’s so damn difficult…

Also, why do serious illnesses seem to happen to really intelligent people (not including myself here…I am incredibly blonde and simple at times…). Why do they always seem to be the ones that lose it? Is it because their brains are so powerful that eventually they overload and just explode? I was absolutely devastated when I heard that Sir Terry Pratchett had Alzheimer’s. He is an incredible man, complete genius and also one of the small list of authors that really made me love reading and stories. I couldn’t imagine a world where he was not exploring the Discworld universe and making us all laugh. He deserves better in life than to have his memories slowly fade away. I hope, as sad as it is, for his sake that it doesn’t come to that.

Also glad to I could recommend his work to people before he sadly stops producing more so that they have a chance to experience it too while he is still with us.

Well I think that’s enough profoundness for one day. Albeit it slightly ranty, I hope you have found it interesting.

I’m not sure if I will be posting samples of my stories any more. I think that I would like to have something finished before I show it to you guys, just in case it turns out that I wasn’t happy with what I had written in the end. Once it’s up it’s up and I can’t get rid of it, it’s been said, it’s happened, there it is. So I will be more careful.

In other news the 20th was H.P. Lovecraft’s birthday. So I started work on a Lovecraftian story that I have been planning for ages. It’s set on the Isle of the Dead, otherwise known as Portland Island in Dorset. There is a reason for this setting, but I’ll keep you guessing for now. More on that soon.

Once again, thanks for reading.