Friday, December 30, 2011

My Top 13 Books of 2011

Stealing an idea from Pinkies Blog I have My Top 13 Books of 2011. Most were published before 2011, but having only read them this year, my experiences with them can be considered fairly new. Why thirteen and not ten? Take a look at book one on the list (which is, otherwise, in no particular order.)


Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson. She was one of those authors I was following on Twitter before ever having read her work. Funny, insightful and responding to tweets from her fans, I had to give her a read. And I loved it. This is one for the YA fans, full of adventure, a bit of romance, an awkward teenager (weren't we all one?) and lots of travelling.


Will Grayson Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan. I'll admit, I was a little bit worried about this one, given I had never read anything by the latter, but that didn't stop me giving it a read and falling in love with it. I love the ideas around friendship, the acceptance of people who are different, the excitement of the idea of the Tiny Cooper's musical and the sense that I wanted things to go well for everyone, if Will Grayson would just stop being an idiot. Again, one of the YA fans.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky. Can I pronounce his surname? No, but I can try! Did I love the book? Indeed I did. I was in dire need of something that might remind me of John Green's books, remembering his other three books too well, still, to read them again. So I Amazoned them, found what other people were buying, and found this one. It's a little bit weird, and the character can be a little bit annoying, but then I realised something: I can also be a little bit annoying. (Understatement?) A good book, though not as similar to John Green's books as I thought it might be.


All My Friends Are Superheroes, by Andrew Kaufman. I think I found this book in the same way as Chbosky's novel, though I can't be sure. It's a short book about a man who has a lot of friends, all of whom are - you guessed it - superheroes. Except, you know, they're not. Not really. You'll understand when you read the book, and I highly suggest you pick it up ASAP.

Everyman
, by Philip Roth. A lecturer of mine, and head of the English Department in my college, recommend Roth to me as an author, just generally. I had seen his latest novel, Nemesis, in the shop where I work, but as much as I loved the look and the idea of the big yellow hardback, I was not willing to spend the money I didn't have on it. So I went looking for another book, and found this. A fairly short read, kind of depressing, but highly enjoyable.

Raggy Maggie
, by Barry Hutchison. While he released a couple of books this year (one of which I still haven't even bought! Shame!), this one still stands out for me as his book of the year. Yes, it came out in 2010. No, I didn't get it until February. It was freaky in all the right places, and really made me look at toys in a different light! A fantastic children's horror that will scare the adults in the house! Don't miss out on the fun!


The Warlock, by Michael Scott. Definitely one of the best books in the series. With everything coming to a finish, I was drawn in to the building climax. I love his system of magic, his mix of myth and history, the realism of the settings (since he describes real-world settings as exact as he can). I just really love this series! Plus, I got to interview him about it later and find out his little secrets!

Sh*t My Dad Says
, by Justin Halpern. I'm not one for biographies, really, but I saw this book and had to give it a shot. Easily one of the funniest books I've ever read, without losing the warmth and comfort of the father-son relationship that becomes more evident as the book goes on. You really get a sense of what his dad is like from his little quips about everything in life. I read it in one sitting, which I'd previously only done with Harry Potter books when I was obsessed with them!

Plague
, by Michael Grant. With this series getting creepier by the instalment, the FAYZ is falling apart. Well, not literally. But you get the point. Dystopia is just about all it's cracked up to be, when hunger, power-outages and bad politicians are the least of your problems! This is a series to watch, as society is pulled apart piece by piece.

One Red Paperclip
, by Kyle MacDonald. Again, a biography. I saw this one when it first came into my shop, way back when, and did't buy it. It went off the radar, I could never find it, and then my brother got it for me online. It's a fantastic little book, full of enthusiasm and excitement, adventure and Canada. God I love Canada! This one's worth checking out just to see how someone goes from a paperclip to a house in a year!

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Yep, a graphic novel! I loved the film, and then I found the book, so I had to get it. Had to. Literally. I couldn't stop myself picking it up and paying for it. Some dark, nerdy force had taken over and made me buy this book, then made me laugh with all the humour of the film in book form, with hilarious looking characters and a whole load of crazy. And chords to the songs. Oh yes. It's that cool. Definitely read it and watch the film. It will change your life.*

The Great Gatsby
, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This was on my reading list in first year in college (and I'm old now - third year!) but I couldn't get into it. Then John Green (yes, that guy who wrote the book mentioned above) encouraged all of Nerdfighteria to read it. And I did. And I loved it. And I John agreed with the points I made about the American Dream in the comments section of the video on YouTube. And I am aware that there are far too many conjunctions in this paragraph. But that's enthusiasm for you. Loved this book, and even though the ending can be a little bit odd, it's worth the read (even if you just want to read about the worst case of drunk driving in literature.)


Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Unlike Pinkie, I have no problems mentioning a book I read for college. It was on our Gothic module, and while it took me a long time to read (because of the plethora of assignments popping up throughout the year... and a trip to France) I loved every bit of it. I made a point of reading it every morning with a cup of tea on the bench outside the college as a way of starting the day, until it got too cold and wet to continue doing that. Once you get used to the way it's written (there's a narrated story, within a narrated story, within a letter), it's a very enjoyable book, and it's no wonder it's lasted this long. What surprised me most was the way in which Hollywood has distorted the idea of Frankenstein over the years, making him out to be a blood thirsty monster from the off-set. To really understand the monster, and to get an insight on humanity that's as true now as it was when Shelley wrote the novel, you have to read this book.

Next year, I'll have lots of books to read that I've been really looking forward to. Expect a lot of excitement online when John Green's latest book, The Fault in Our Stars arrives at my house, as well as a look at Michael Scott's adult horror, Barry Hutchison's Doc Mortis, Herman Melville's Moby Dick and Maureen John's The Name of the Star, just to name a few. 2012 is going to be a big year!


*May not actually change your life.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 Calender Portfolio

My parents broke one tradition this Christmas: they didn't get us a calender. Every year for as long as I can remember, we have received some form of calender from our parents; usually this means we get a Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy or Doctor Who calender. This year: nadda.

So, I'm compensating for the lack of on-the-wall calender by doing something different with 2012: I'm making a portfolio. I will be purchasing a large a4 binder (one of the thick ones that hold more pages than you usually need to include...) and putting in it the basic calender pages. That file is almost ready: I just need to choose 12 awesome pictures to put on it, to make it special for myself.

But it doesn't end there. Every time I get an assignment, or assign something to myself, the brief will be printed and added to the Calender Portfolio. Why do I call it that? Because everything I write or do in the year will end up in this folder. Every short story, every poem, every essay, possibly even the first chapters of every novel I work on. The full scripts for the play and mini-series I will be writing will find their way into the portfolio, mixed in with photographs from nights out with friends.

Why all of this? Because I want to be able to say to myself that I did something worthwhile in 2012. I want to be able to show that something significant happened at some stage, because I will probably forget what happened when. Events have a way of blurring from one year to another, particularly if they happen in the winter months (since the academic year isn't over). I want to record my work, just for myself.

Also, I'm insanely weird.

I like a good project, and anyone who wants to join me in this is more than welcome. I have the file saved in .doc format. I have a contact page on my website. If you want to avoid the trouble of putting together the calender file yourself, just ask me for it. Simple as that.

Whatever happens, I know that if I stick with this I'll have something to show for myself at the end of the year. Or rather, something to show to myself. I have an awful habit of not giving myself enough credit for what I do during the year, because of the lack of things to show for it all creatively (since I always forget about assignments in college...)

I'll be back with more on this in January, when I can see if it's actually going anywhere. Sure, I know I'll be busy then!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

In 2012...

Look after yourself. You deserve more than heart ache and struggles. You deserve to smile more than "once in a while". You're better than that.

Love yourself. (But not too much: that's a sin, so they say.) Remember, though, that other people love you, too. Even if they don't say it.

Look after others. It's hard, I know. They might not want to let you. You might not realise who needs you. You might feel overwhelmed by them. None of that matters.

Be happy. Not just for yourself ("Your health is your wealth") but for other people. Smile. It's infectious.

Talk to people. Talk to friends about everything happening in your life, the good and the bad. Talk about nothing in particular. Talk to strangers. But:

Listen. Everyone has something to say. Keep talking and they won't get a chance.

And always remember what's important to you. When you say "I love you", mean it. When you care about someone or something, show it. When you believe in something, do something about it.

Never forget that you matter.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Life and the World to Come

Way back in July, I made a few decisions that would, inevitably, change the way I lived my life. Almost five months have passed since I made the choice to do a massive writing challenge to finish Bliss's Camp NaNo 50K. That, in itself, wasn't massively life-changing, except that it made me realise how much I could do if I stopped messing about, and if I put aside whatever was happening in my life that might distract me from my work.

In that same week, I made the decision to set up a website - which I worked on from then until the middle of September, when I launched the site. That involved a lot of planning, of course, and a lot of mulling over what would eventually end up on my site on Day 1. Over the next month and a half, I edited Stepping Forward, fixing up a novella I was already pretty happy with to give away for free.

That's been the first big change in my life: I now have a book out in the public domain.

The website has, since, been host to a number of articles, poems and short stories. While these haven't exactly changed my life, they have gotten me thinking about the different ways I live my life, and the way in which I write. I also decided to use the website to play host to a couple of projects in the New Year, one of which is an X-Men story I've been planning for some time. (I've checked, and given the fact that Marvel pick up writers and stories from self-published works - and that's the only way they will now consider someone new - I am perfectly within my rights to release this story as I see fit.) That one doesn't have any immediate effects on my life, though it will at least encourage me to stick to creative deadlines.

The other project is an adaptations ezine, which will help me (a) hone my critical writing and (b) review books, films and the adaptation process. Again, no immediate effect, but it will involve, once again, sticking to deadlines.

Aside from my website, I also decided to apply for a writing position at The Phantom Zone. While the rush of college work has stopped me writing for the site in some time, I still have this job. More than that, I still have my first ever writing job. It was something for me to be proud of.

In the two months that followed, I wrote and edited a play, The Rest is Silence. This is where things took another big turn: as a result of this play, I'm going to have something performed on-stage. More than that, it will, hopefully, raise some money for a worthwhile cause.

At the same time, I've set up an ezine in college, which has gotten someone else writing. He's a good friend of mine, and he's decided to put his quirkiness to good use. The immediate benefit for me? I can have a good laugh reading his blog when I'm stressed; he has all of these really funny observations and stories that aren't as noticeable in a group of ten (yes, there are ten of us... we're a bit of a mob.) It's also fun to be able to talk about writing with someone who's only just started to think of it as having potential to be more than a hobby.

The driving force behind a lot of this work was an old friend of mine. Whether I was trying to make him proud or merely using that as an excuse to make myself do something with my life, I mustered up the courage to finally put my name out there. As I said in my dedication in Stepping Forward, he taught me there's more to life than just existing. No matter what happens between us, I will always remember that I was too scared to do any of this on my own. Having a reason to get going has made the past few months some of the best of my life.

That's the immediate effect of knowing him; after so many years writing, and so many years living the same mundane life, I ceased to just exist. As a result of that friendship, I started to live.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stepping Forward and Smashing Words

It's the release day for Stepping Forward (as if you didn't know, with the amount of times I've mentioned it), and I can officially report back that I love the e-publishing site I'm working with. Smashwords.com is definitely a recommended site: easy to use, brilliant guide and, best of all, human workers.

For their Premium Catalog (is that how Americans spell "catalogue"?), an author needs to have everything perfect. Everything. A computer could do a quick scan of a document to make sure it's correct, but there's only one way to guarantee it: there's a whole team of people hired to check that the books sent for inclusion in the catalog are formatted correctly.

A fun fact from Smashwords... they have 80,000 books on the site and around 60,000 of them are in the Premium Catalog. 60,000! That's how many books people have had to look through since they set up for business in March 2009. Yes, 2009. They're fairly young and they've already had 60,000 books put through for examination.

Wow. Just wow.

And the best part of all of this? They write a little note saying what needs to be changed and end it with "thanks". Thanks! Not "thank you" or some robotic, impersonal way of expressing gratitude, but a very simple and human "thanks". Love it!

Yes, this whole post about how much I love the service at Smashwords. I suppose it helps to mention where you can get the book! It can be downloaded for free here:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/114692

Even better, it can be read on your computer or on your e-reader (I believe there are file formats suitable for all the major ones!). I hope you like the book, and I look forward to hearing what you think of it!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free Book Out Tomorrow!

We're literally hours away from Stepping Forward going live on the Internet. Hours. I plan on staying up to sort out getting it available as early as possible on December 15th (local time, of course...). The best part, of course, is that the book is free to download. This has a number of advantages:

  1. It means that you, the reader, do not have to pay to read a longer work of fiction that I have written.
  2. It means that there is literally no point in anyone pirating this e-book: all someone has to do is go to the Smashwords page and download themselves in whatever format they want.
  3. And yes, I did say in whatever format. This is keeping in mind the available formats from Smashwords, but what it boils down to is that most, if not all, e-readers will be able to support the file.
One thing people haven't asked me is why I'm releasing the book for free. For a start, it helps me get my name out there. I plan on editing Meet Sam a lot over the next few weeks to get it ready for submission to a publisher, and this will be something I hope people can enjoy in the meantime.

There's also the fact that I've wanted to give a Christmas present out for a very long time: this is that present. Free for me and free for you. Simple.

I enjoyed writing the book, and the few people who have read it have enjoyed it, so with any luck it will appeal to the wider audience of the whole of the Internet. (I jest, of course...).

And why Smashwords? Aside from hearing a lot of good things about them, I wanted to get the book away from the little corner on the Internet I call my website. While I love my website, and while I loved the idea of having the free chapters there to download, it wasn't practical. While the server would have been able to deal with the traffic, I had no way of knowing how many people were actually downloading the book. Smashwords should fix that problem, while also putting the book in the market.

Mostly, though, I just want to have fun with this, and I want to have a book available for people to read. So many people in college have heard me say I'm a writer and aside from the website, there's nothing there for them to really base that on.

I do have a request, however: I want people to read this book. I want honest feedback on the book. What did people like? What did they not like? Would they recommend it to a friend? Is there a glaringly obvious typing error I missed in my edits? (That one's a joke... I've done everything I can to make this as perfect as possible in terms of spelling and grammar!) Mostly, I want to know if people enjoyed the book. Reading should be fun.

Remember, though, that this isn't the last book I'll be releasing. I have a project in mind that I have told people on various social networking sites, and I aim to publish things to do with that in the same way, while aiming towards the traditional publishing route with other books. I don't believe authors should restrict themselves to one or the other, especially not today.

Readers who still buy paper books should be given the option to read something extra by an author if they really want to. At the same time, readers who have only read the e-books might be encouraged to go for a paper book if they liked the author enough. This isn't just me I'm talking about. This is how I believe the publishing industry might survive in an age when e-books are getting stronger. Readers need more options, but not authors shouldn't be restricted to one market or the other in order to give a reader these options.

With that said, this is my first step into the publishing world. This is the first, but not the last, free book I publish. I can't say for sure what's coming next or when, but I will do my utmost best to ensure that there will always be new material out there by myself for people to read. This is a lot for myself as it is for people who genuinely love to read, and given the economic climate, I'd like to offer something for free to make sure that, so long as people have Internet access, people always have options of books to read.

So, quick recap, back to where this started: Stepping Forward is out tomorrow, December 15th 2011, for free. The first step of the longest journey of my life begins then.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Must Be Christmas Soon

It's that time again: we've had out Christmas party at college, we're off for a month... and we've all got to get lessons prepared for January. God I love December.

But seriously, I've been trying to find ways to make it neither boring nor stressful. I'll settle for it not being boring. With a Gothic Journal due in tomorrow, along with revised plans for lessons, I've got my work cut out for me. However, we've got some plans in place to make sure we don't completely ruin Christmas with work. Basically, dinner plans in Westmeath. Nom nom nom? You betcha!

But that's not all. Oh no, not at all. This coming Thursday, December 15th, will see the release of my novella Stepping Forward. I wrote it last summer in a mad rush, and I'm delighted with the result. I'm still thinking of what to do to celebrate. A free copy of the book to the first X people won't really help: it's going to be free to everyone as an ebook!

It's a fun book, mostly. I mean, it has a lot of elements that might completely confuse some people if they're not used to me, but I hope that doesn't happen. It's a learning experience, anyway. I've never seen a book like this in the shop (you know, that book shop I work in...) so it's either because no one wrote one like it, no one known well enough wrote one, or publishers deemed the idea and format too bad to even consider. We'll see.

I've also got an interview lined up because of the book. That's fun! I mean, I've answered the questions already, but it's not online yet. It was only a short little piece, but it's a fun bit of publicity. I'll be sure to link it just about everywhere I visit on a regular basis (i.e. Facebook, Twitter and Google+), so you can't miss it!

And yes, while I am aware that the holidays will be hectic, I'm really loving the idea of getting a book out. I won't have to worry about costs or anything like that, or about selling enough copies to make end's meet. This is published for fun and to get something out there. I want to share my work, and I really believe in the book.

Now, I need plenty of rest before the madness of tomorrow! God I love college work...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Scheming, the Boring Kind

They don't tell you, before you sign up for teacher training, that the workload is both too high for a social life, and too boring to make you want to stay in college. Over the past few days, I've had to produce four detailed lesson plans and five schemes of work. This isn't the fun kind of scheming like EDGI. This is more like doing a whole lot of work that you then have to get even more specific about later, that doesn't really make much sense by itself.

Consider this a warning for those thinking of being teacher: the paperwork is really boring. Really, really boring. I mean, I think my lessons will actually be fairly enjoyable. Some of them, anyway. Others are the stuff I need to pretend is interesting to stop pupils falling sleep.

But I look at the schemes and I think to myself, I would not like to sit through a lesson like this. Because if all you do is look at the four lines about a lesson on a scheme, you don't get a good idea of what it will be like.

It's like planning a novel, only less creative. When I plan a novel, I get to think about all think fun things that will happen, all the meaningful things, all the in-between parts that have to carry some significance... when I think of schemes, I have to think of the content and how best to teach it so that pupils will remember, only I can't be very specific about it because of character limits.

What this boils down to is making something far too vague to really work with in a month's time. This means that when I do my lesson plans, I'll have to rethink every lesson all over again. That would be more difficult, but at least more fun. I would get to think of the different ways to show the same info so that the listeners and the observers both learned, and give tasks that would allow the active learners to still be included. And none of that is possible when doing so many schemes of work in one go, because with all the other work we're expected to do, we literally do not have the time to get all of this done.

This is the flaw with my college's Education department. They gave us a lot of work to do over a three week period, ignoring the fact that some modules required us to have work during this three weeks, too. I had to make a video for last Monday, and while it only took a couple of hours, it meant I wasn't able to work on my lesson for Tuesday. I have to do a project for Monday, which has been messed up by having to do nine assignments for the Education department. I will have gotten everything out of the way by Wednesday with the Education department... only to have a massive journal due in on Friday. Worth 50% of a module.

So, if I die and/or remove someone's limbs over the next week, you know why. It'll be boredom, stress or both. Best leave me to my shame corner in college and approach slowly with tea and chocolate if you really want to talk to me.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An Open Letter to the Faithful and Faithless

To all those who believe in God, and those without a faith at all,

Today, I read something online that gave me chills; you might have seen it too, if you were looking. A woman, a  paralysed cyclist, revealed she can now walk after thirteen years. One of her team mates used the word "miracle", and the Internet exploded into a two-sided debate. On one side, the Christians who believed her recovery - previously thought impossible until an accident in a race - to be a miracle and proclaimed that. On the other side, the atheists who provided the majority of the comments. Many claimed the woman's paralyses had been fake, many more began to throw insults at Christians in general - not just those who were commenting, but any person who believes in God.

Let's get some facts straight here: I am Irish, I am Catholic, I believe in God, and I accept the Bible as true. I also love science, accept the truth of evolution and I attempt to understand the gist of quantum theory in as much as it is possible without studying it in any detail. This is not a contradiction of terms.

The atheists who commented, not all atheists, are small minded bullies. They do not justify their words with scientific proof; they only wish to insults anyone with an ounce of faith in their life. One commenter said, and I paraphrase here, that anyone with a brain knows there is no God. Another said to let go of the "sky daddy" and "come back to reality." Another referred to people with faith as cretins.

Is this how society functions today? Is this really how discussions takes place and people communicate? It is not. This is the form of insult that exists only on the Internet, behind anonymous comments. These people do not pay the consequences of insulting someone. They may not even realise how much they might have insulted someone by what they said. Perhaps they did, and they are all the worse for it. Whether they believe in God or not, there are certain standards of ethics we all must adhere to, certain social standards that ought to be followed, if only to make sure we don't cause yet more harm to ourselves and this planet.

There have been religious wars before. This is a fact, we must accept it. But we live in a rational age. Christians Churches are coming together in dialogue, they reach out to people of other faiths - not to convert, but to talk - and they have put aside their differences for the good of their own beliefs and the strength of their own faiths. So why do the atheists in question and those like them start an online war of their own? Are we the fools for talking about faith, for using the language of the article? Are we the ones launching an attack? We're not out to convert, but to express our faith.

I will accept, maybe there were some who commented replying in as equally an insulting manner from a Christian perspective. This is also wrong. This is how people get hurt, and were this to happen on a larger scale the world would face a crisis.

Here are the facts about people: we are free to make our own choices; we are free to voice our own opinions; we are free to have a religion and equally free not to have a religion; our choices and our opinions, our faith or lack thereof, make us neither greater nor worse than those around us. We respect the pope because of his position and insight into religious affairs, just as we respected Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie because of their contributions to computers and technology.

Mindless insults pass back and forth, but the majority of the insults come from those who think that by not believing in God they have a right to insult anyone who does. While I hate to disappoint however many of you there might be, let me make this clear: you have no right to insinuate you are smarter than anyone else because of your own beliefs.

We'll make certain things clear, shall we? Evolution: it happened, it is still happening. Charles Darwin wrote about it. It didn't make him an atheist. What made him an atheist, what began to sway his belief in God, was the death of his daughter. Read Origin of Species before you make any remarks about my faith or the faith of other Christians, and pay particular attention to the closing paragraph. They are not the words of a man who does not believe God exists.

The creation accounts in Genesis: they are true. Does this contradict evolution? Absolutely not. The Bible is not a scientific document. While the Church at one stage may have insisted on the literal interpretation of the Bible, this isn't where she stands now. Of all the genres contained in the Bible, science is not one of them. We respect that, we acknowledge that, we move on.

The truth of Genesis lies in its meaning, not what the facts that might be interpreted out of it - the Earth was not made in 7 days and Adam and Eve were not created as described. The truth of Genesis's creation stories is that God created the world, that God gave us life and that God's creation is good. This does not mean we did not evolve.

We are smart enough to understand our origins. While some people refuse to accept science, this is not true of a majority of people in the world who believe a God exists. No one has the right to insult us on the grounds of that belief, not when we accept the same science as you do.

As to the specifics of what has been said? Let it first be said that God is not the "sky daddy". My image of God, the image of God accepted by the Church, is not that of an old man with a long white beard sitting in the clouds. That image of God creates God in our image, when we believe we were created in His. We will forget that image.

Think instead of the symbol of Christianity. Even the atheists among us know this one: the cross. Who died on the cross? Jesus Christ. Whether you believe he was the Son of God or not, he existed. There are historical documents aside from the Bible that show this.

From a Christian perspective, Christ is God. The Holy Trinity helps us to understand this; it's a message of love, and while it can get complicated, I shall sum it up as I was told. The Trinity consists of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; one to love, one to be loved and one that is love itself. This is why we ought not to fight back on the same grounds as the atheists who insult us.

This Trinity shows Christians that Jesus was God on Earth. He died for us on the cross. This is where the question of "Where was God when...?" is answered, and why the omnipotent God, the all knowing God and the good God exists as we believe: He is there with all those who suffer. It is not for God to rid the world of suffering, not now.

I will accept, this is not a proof for God; I merely stand by the belief in God and rebuke the arguments against Him. No one has the right to say God does not exist simply because they do not believe in Him or because science has shown us so much of the universe. No one.

The reason we have no proof for God is because He is a mystery. For the very same reason, we enter dialogue with the other religions of this world: to understand our own faith better. Just because we believe Jesus is the full being of truth does not mean we understand that truth. The Holy Spirit is not under our control, and so people can understand the world in ways we did not think of before. An openness to new discovery is precisely why the Church hasn't been abandoned by everyone, why I haven't turned my back on what I believe. There is meaning to be found where I have not looked.

It is not in the insults of the arrogant and the attention seeking, the conformist cowards who bully others from the safety of their own homes. Bullying is not okay. Religious persecution is not okay. If you nobody accepted these ideals then the Jewish people would have been eradicated during World War Two and thousands of children would be left to fend for themselves in schools across the world, picked on for being different to the bullies.

It is not okay to pick on people. It is not okay to call them cretins, to mock their beliefs or to belittle them. You don't have to accept what they say as being true. No one will make you. You need only accept that they think about things differently than you do, and let it rest. Or, do what someone with brains would do who still wants to respond: discuss their statement, don't just dismiss them as a person.

The woman who can walk? Her injuries are healed. Is this a miracle? I don't know. I would like to think it is, but that doesn't mean God has chosen to grace her with something other people don't deserve. This simply means she was given something back she once had. We are not to question why, as Christians. We cannot understand God. 

And if you don't accept it was a miracle, we will go for the scientific answer: her second injury may have undone some of the previous damage to her spine. While I wish her all the best in life, two spinal injuries, even if they appear to be healed, will come back to affect her in years to come. For now, though, her spine has twisted back in just the right way that she has feeling in her legs again.

Let us not make a mockery out of this blessing, religious or otherwise. Let us not dismiss how great this must be for her by darkening the situation with arguments that may well insult her too.

Let us not argue over who is right or wrong when there is literally no way of knowing, and let us keep the insults out of the equation. No one deserves the abuse that has been shared today and repeatedly in the past. There is more to this faith than certain atheists give it credit for, just as there are more to atheists than the ignorant fools who insults on dismissing other people openly. I know people, not just friends, who don't believe in God, and the key to us getting along is that we never insist the other person is wrong or stupid. Let us at least do that.

Yours,
Paul,
A believer in God and science.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Middle Class Poverty

First thing's first: when I refer to "poverty" in this post, I'm really just talking about not having any money in my bank account. I know there are people in much worse situations. This is relative poverty. With that said...

I've been tracking my poverty since the Christmas hours in work were given out. It's fair to say I'm going to be poor with the presents I have to get and the various social gatherings I'm expected at (one a week for three weeks in a row). While I'm not complaining that I have plans (for once), I'd like to at least be able to say I have money afterwards. I don't think it's going to be a possibility.

It's one of those times when I really wish I had more hours in work. While I like working only weekends, the 1-5 shifts I get on Saturdays (yes, a whole four hours...) really don't do it when it comes to saving money. I have the same sort of expenses every week. I have to spend around ten euro a week just getting to college - not a massive amount in and of itself, but it adds up every week. On top of that, I have my own particular buying habits... I've been buying comics a lot, lately, but I'm cutting down on the number I get now. Aside from not really enjoying some of the stories, I can't afford fifteen euro a week every week.

Anyway, in order to actually track how little money I would have, I've had to write how much I'll be getting each week and write in the costs for the days involved. It will work a lot better if I can plan it more expansively, but I don't really know how much certain things will cost. The way things have worked out, I've had to spread out the buying of presents over a number of weeks. I literally cannot afford to buy them all in one go, like some people. It also doesn't help that I don't know what I'm getting some people yet, either.

I write about this, of course, because it's an insight into what I can only determine as being a first world problem. I very much doubt that people in poorer countries worry about the extras at this time of the year. For them, it's more about survival.

For me, survival means having the money to go out with friends, to get something for my parents and brothers at Christmas, to maintain the same sort of life I led before the holiday season came in. I'm glad we don't exchange presents in college, or I'd be in trouble. (Read as: they wouldn't get anything...)

Every year I tell myself it will be different, but then something new and shiny comes along and steals my money. Though, in my defence, the main thing that cost me a lot of money this year was my trip to Taizé, which I had to go on for college. (I didn't have to do the module, but in choosing it I had to pay up.) I paid for this trip myself (what was left of the cost, after the college subsidy) and that pretty much drained my bank account. Suffice to say it hasn't yet forgiven me.

There are things I could do to try get more money, obviously, but they're mainly based on chance and a lot of hard work. I could have tried to get some freelance writing work, but that goes on the assumption that (a) I get the job, (b) that I'm good enough, (c) that I had an idea in the first place and (d) that I wouldn't be overwhelmed with college work at any particular time. I could have set up ad-based material on my website but that wouldn't pay off quickly, and it would have required a lot of work in itself.

Long story short, I'm going to be repeatedly poor until my pay-days over the next month, I might have been able to do something about it, and this is very much a first world problem related to a middle-class student with a weekend job, living at home. Also, poverty sucks.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

After a few days...

So, I started NaNoWriMo. It was originally my intent to pull out of the competition, but Bliss got the better of me. I'm now over 7000 words into the novel (added onto what I wrote during the summer - only a slight cheat in picking the same novel!) and, thankfully, less than 13K behind what I should be on. I have time to write this weekend, since I don't have anything I need to do any of my college work, and I have a rough plan. More importantly, I know where the novel is going outside of this rough plan, which has been ignored for the most part up to this point anyway.

The novel has taken on greater depths since I started writing it. For a start, the characters are a little more believable, there are more of them (the original plan called for four characters; I now have seven main characters) and they have more interesting stories behind them. Braddock is trying not to follow in his father's footsteps, while also trying to make himself known in the scientific world; Lyo is trying to start a family after leaving her own behind to marry Braddock; Alastair is trying to prove himself as a scientist in a city that praises Braddock's family; Michelle is trying to continue the research of her late parents into solar and nuclear energy; Andy is trying to prove himself to his community; Bliss is trying to find her place in whatever world she ends up in; and the Mother Muse is trying to give the world her greatest gifts, through a warped sense of delivery.

Add to that the ecological and ethical issues that various characters face, the struggle of faith in the world, and the impending desecration of a world without love, and you've got Bliss. I was proud of my ability to actually plot the novel, initially; the first plan was based on the singles of Muse played in order. That has, obviously, changed, since most of the elements of that plan no longer make sense: Lyo wasn't part of it then, and she's important now. That's what I'm more proud of: actually altering my novel to write something worth reading, something more creative than the novelization of twenty four singles.

I have a lot of work ahead of me, though. As much as I love the novel, it will require a lot of perseverance to actually write 50K in 20 days. 30 is difficult enough! However, I think I've already beaten my fail of a 2010 attempt, so that's a plus.

Building on my Camp NaNoWriMo experience is definitely the only way I'm going to get this done. I have to take advantage of the fact that I get into college about two hours before lectures, bring my laptop in every day with my charger and my plan that I will ignore, and block out all sound with music for at least an hour. Every day I have Drama or a workshop, I have to stay behind in college, anyway. At lunch time, I will go to the library and get my assignments done. There are only three for the main modules left, so that won't be too bad.

The real problem is this teaching programme we have to do in college. That'll take up a lot of time, I think. Especially since I can't find anything about the assignment we're expected to do. No deadline date, no details on what we're actually supposed to do, nothing.

Can I scream? I think I'm going to scream. Or drink tea.

Anyway, back to the novel. After a few days, I'm well under way to getting this done. If I'd started at the right time, I wouldn't be in any trouble. With So much to write before I'm even caught up, I have to write an average of 2250 words per day to finish on time. Otherwise, at the rate NaNoWriMo think I'm writing (as in, if I'm writing from day 1), I'll finish in January.

That feature is always fun for me. The more I write, the closer than date gets. It makes it look like I'm doing a lot more work when an hour of writing knocks off a month of time it should take for me to finish.

Anyway, my plan is to just keep on writing. I want to finish, mostly because I wanted to finish the book before Christmas anyway, and partially because I want to get the five free copies CreateSpace are offering to winners. I love incentive, I really do.

I'll still be writing my pep talks - Week 3 is the week people hate their novels and feel like giving up - but I'll have to focus a lot more time on writing fiction. If I can catch up, I'll also have to write a short story for something in college. There's a day of NaNo gone out the window! I might write it on my way to Croagh Patrick on Wednesday.

Only a few hours before I can get back to writing Bliss. It's going to seem like such a long time...

PS You can track my progress here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Workload Overload

Nobody ever said college would be so much work. I have to write two essays for Thursday. That's not really too bad. I mean, I've done the research for one (and the other is about a film), but I have to do other projects for college. Still, not too bad. Except we're going to get more work.

No, the real problem is that I want to do NaNoWriMo. Really want to.

This is a problem because, to start, I have to wait until my essays are out of the way. So, Thursday night, or on Friday. That gives me twenty days. Nineteen if you take away the day I'm going to Croagh Patrick next week. I'll have a teaching programme coming up soon, too. That'll delay me a lot. And I have to write a short story for a book in college, while also running the magazine.

But I really, really want to give it a shot.

Am I crazy? I mean, I'll be pushed to the limit every day. I'll have to write every single morning in college and every single night, and I'll need to get about a 1500 words done per session. That's possible, but exhausting. This is also probably the last time I'll get to do NaNoWriMo until I graduate, unless I can get most of my thesis work out of way early next year.

Ha!

I'll probably still give it a shot. I've wanted to finish the book, and I wanted to do NaNoWriMo before I realised I wouldn't be around for five days. I just don't want to let that get in the way. With Drama, I'm going to be stuck in the college for a couple of hours each audition day before auditions even begin, so I'll need to do something to fill the time, and working all the time on college work will just drive me insane.

So, all of this is why I am going to be facing a workload overload. I don't know whether this will cause me any serious problems. I know I can stop writing if I have to, because the college work comes first, but I don't think anything is guaranteed when it comes to NaNo.

Madness it is then. I'm going to do it, until I finish or I reach the point where it really is too much work to attempt anymore.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Experience of Taizé

I won't be writing a whole four-day journal of my trip to Taizé, but I can at the very least give you a brief overview of it. It started in the airport, with thirteen of us meeting at half four in the morning on Wednesday. Tired, groggy and a little bit cranky but excited, we made our way through Terminal 2 towards tea and breakfast. Shortly thereafter, we were on a plane to Geneva.

Yes, we had to go to Switzerland to get to Taizé. This confused us for a while - not as much as getting lost in the airport confused two of us when we got there, mind you - but it soon became clear that the two hour bus journey to Taizé was still an acceptable mode of transport. By the end of the trip, it was a blessing - the Germans have to, today, take a bus home; it will take them about sixteen hours.

We stopped for lunch along the way, which really helped, considering we were too late for lunch in Taizé. If you don't know, by the way, it's a tiny little village in central France where about 100 Brothers live in simplicity, visited by thousands of people every week for prayer and work. There were only about 500 people there when we arrived, since the busiest period of the year had passed.

Our rooms held six people each: six students per room and the lecturer in a room with other people. It was literally a case of there being enough room for a single square shelf, three bunk-beds and space to walk to each bed in relative comfort. Of course, knowing we would need pillows would have helped. Pillows, knives, forks, wellies... okay, the list goes on a bit.

The daily routine was actually okay. I expected a lot worse, to be honest. We had prayer three times a day, which consisted of singing a lot of songs, mostly in languages we didn't understand, and a reading by a Brother. Following morning and afternoon prayer, there were meals. Supper was before evening prayer, but after a workshop.

Between ten and twelve, we worked. For some, it was easy - very quickly cleaning the bathrooms or making signs - and for others it was a little more strenuous - raking up ten bags' worth of leaves or putting tent floors into storage, piled ten foot high and weighing more than we would have liked. But it was fine. Except for the rain and the German splashing us with muddy water.

At three, there was a Bible study meeting. It wasn't fun, to be honest. We've already studied the Gospel of Matthew in college, and we arrived half-way through the week, so we were in a group by ourselves. Still, it was fine. We survived it.

When we weren't praying or at work or at a workshop or Bible group, we were free to do as we wished. This consisted of going to see Brother Roger's grave (the founder of Taizé, killed in August 2005 during evening prayer), visiting the Source (a very lovely lake), going to the Crypte (where there was an altar for mass), going to the two shops (one where we could buy hot drinks and chocolate, one where we could buy books and postcards and, in one case, a dozen pieces of pottery) or just resting in the dormitories. There was also a lot of music played by The Moceans, who found a lot of excited German and Swedish teenagers to adopt as fans.

Work and the hot drink shop gave us a chance to talk to new people. I got to meet a lovely American girl, Cristina, who's travelling around Europe at the moment. We're meeting up when she gets to Dublin, for milkshakes, or possibly something a little warmer. Dublin's a little colder than Taizé... There was also a friendly Canadian called Tom, who I didn't get to say goodbye to. Thankfully Cristina agreed to give him one of my business cards, so maybe we can keep in touch when he gets back home (he's going to be in France for another four weeks, though!).

Then there was the Germans. They were only outnumbered by the Swedes in Taizé, but they were a lot easier to talk to (mainly because they had befriended Cristina already and had become fans of The Moceans). So, we got to talk to a lot of them. I don't know half their names, but there's always the chance I might get an email from them, or they might add me on Facebook. I'd like that. Aside from the sign made for the band, the Germans also supplied another great memory: Haribo. They love them. Michael, Laura and Dorithia were hilarious when they got to eat them. They also sang at (yes, at) Cristina and I in German. That was hilarious! I love the Germans!


So, yes, it was a fun trip. We're all exhausted, and we had a highly emotional Friday evening prayer, but we got home safely. Now we just have to write a whole project about it. That'll be fun, too, right?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Guest Post: A Paranormal Pit-Stop Interview with Barbara Dole Pt 1


A good friend of mine, from the magical land of Canadia, has written a book, The Watchtower. She's self-publishing this paranormal mystery, which means I won't have to wait for it to come over to this side of the lake to get my hands on it! Thankfully, I'm not Barbara Dole. In what is sure to be a fantastic book from Darke Conteur, some people aren't just people. This interview will give you a taste of that, I'm sure. Details on part two can be found below.

Story Blurb:
His first day of work wasn't what Martin Cunningham expected. A sultry boss, a classy receptionist, the drama-queen foreigner, and a painfully shy techie who prefers hiding to human interaction, was the oddest group of characters he'd ever met. When an assassination attempt is made against his new boss, Martin comes face to face with the stuff of nightmares.

Now he and his new co-workers must race to prevent another attack, but where do they start? There's very little to go on, and the only solid piece of evidence escaped through the u-bend in the toilet. By the end of the day, Martin becomes one of the privileged few who really understands what lies in the shadows, and what it means to work in THE WATCHTOWER.

Take it away...


Thanks for the intro, Paul!

Welcome Humans, to another addition of The Paranormal Pit Stop. Your one-stop E-zine on the Ethereal-net for everything in the paranormal world. This week, we're privileged to have the other woman in the line-up at Terin Global. Psychic, and personal secretary to Jezryall--Barbara Dole.

Paranormal Pit-Stop: Hello Barbara, so nice of you to join us!
Barbara: Thanks, I think.

P.P.S.: So tell our human friends a little about you?
Barbara: Well, I was born in Nice, but my parents came to Toronto shortly after I was born. We lived in Mississauga for a few years before moving into right into the city.

P.P.S.:  Living right in downtown Toronto is expensive, but you're family has money, don't they?
Barbara: My father had the money, not me. He reminded me of that every time I asked him for something. Even if it was something for school.  

P.P.S.: Is that why you ran away at eighteen?
Barbara: I didn't really run away. I was an adult. I had every right to leave home, but yeah, that was a big part of it.

P.P.S.: When did you first realize you could receive information by touching things?
Barbara: I'm not really sure. Seems like I've been able to do it all my life. I'd touch people and learn who they were, what they were like. Do that a few times and you learn how to act like them. I used to do it all the time when I was a teenager. It was fun pretending to be someone I wasn't. Then I realized I could travel through their life. See places they'd visited and things they'd done. Now that was cool.        

P.P.S.: Is that when you decided to become a criminal?
Barbara: I didn't do it on purpose. Wasn't like I made a conscience effort or anything. I kinda fell into it.

P.P.S.: You kinda fell into scamming rich, old men?
Barb: I wasn't scamming them and I didn't force them to give me anything. They're the ones who offered to give me stuff. I never asked them too.

P.P.S.: Too bad the cops didn't see it that way. What were they going to put you away for? Ten years? Good thing you were able to cut a deal as a witness in the de Jont murder trial?
Barbara: I thought it was a good idea. If I testified against Louis de Jont, they would reduce my charges to timed served and put me on parole. The cops were desperate. They needed me as much as I needed them. I tell you, I was never so scared in all my life. He kept staring at me the whole time I testified.

P.P.S.: It was your run-in with him that changed your career path?
Barbara:  Yes. He thought I was a rich debutant and was going to kill me for my money. At least I think it was for my money. When I touched him, I traveled down his time-line. All I saw was blood and death. I never felt so much anger or hatred.
  
P.P.S.: You saw the killings through his eyes. What was it like watching those people die?
Barbara: Horrifying. I can still see their faces when I close my eyes, but the worst was that I could feel what he felt too. He enjoyed killing them. Fed off the power it gave him. He knew he held their life in his hands, and he took pride in torturing them.

P.P.S.: Did you know he escaped?
Barbara: What? Are you serious? When? Why didn't you tell me sooner? I gotta get out of here…

Well, that's all the time we have for this week's interview. We would like to thank our host Paul Carroll for allow us to post this interview on the human internet.

If you'd like to learn more about Jezryall and her staff, you can find more information at the links provided below.

More Character Interviews:
Novel Information:

Join us next time when we invade the blog of foodie Marlene Dotterer, with the second half our two-part interview with sexy Barb Dole.  So, until next time, this is The Paranormal Pit-Stop saying; just because it's dead, doesn't mean it's not alive!


Bio:
Darke Conteur is an author at the mercy of her muse. Writing in several genres, she prefers to write in paranormal and science fiction, and has stories published in Brave Blue Mice, Bewildering Stories, and The Absent Willow Review. When not busy writing, she looks after one wannabe rock-star, one husband, two cats, and one ghost dog. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Inspiration and November

This seems the sort of post that belongs on my website, but this is more subjective mumblings as opposed to an objective advice article. I had lectures, this week, on Keats - you know, the great Romantic poet who died young, that guy. There was nothing especially inspirational in terms of stories in the poems that we looked at, not for me, anyway, at that particular moment in time.

The inspiration came from the lecture's choice of words. I won't reveal them. See, he used an expression to describe what Keats might have been writing about, and the four words he used have inadvertently given me an idea for a novel. The idea sort of clicked straight away, but I have a rule: leave it a day.

So, yesterday morning I thought about it properly again. I looked at those four words, which I wrote down separate to my notes, and the whole thing came flooding back in more detail. My head works weirdly that way, and I took advantage of it. Over a cup of tea and listening to The Saw Doctors on the bench just outside my college in the smoking area, I started to plan the book.

This is one of those books that would be categorised incorrectly if it was in a bookshop. It's a paranormal. It has some romantic elements. It would be classified as a paranormal romance, but it's not. Paranormal romance implies that the romance is paranormal, when the book has wholly independent paranormal and romantic elements. There are no vampires, werewolves or any other Gothic clichés that have been overdone in the last six years in the world of teenage fiction.

I am tempted to write the book for NaNoWriMo, but it occurs to me that actually taking part in NaNoWriMo will be impossible with college this year. While I do have a lovely break from college at the very start of November, I will be in France with no Internet connection, laptop, or privacy. This is part of my course.

When I get back, I will need to have two essays written by the following Thursday. Towards the end of the month, I will need to have written a journal of at least ten pages on Gothic films and books. Before the end of the semester, I will need to create two podcast-type documents - one audio, one video - for another module, while also getting a project about France done. This project will need to include more information than I currently have on a number of religious figures and movements.

I will also be taking part in an intensive, involuntary teaching programme. I will need lessons plans and I will need to teach. To add to this, I will need to get schemes of work done for my teaching in January. I'll also have to visit the school, and though it's local, this will take up a whole day in itself.

I have no problem doing this work. I accept that it is part of my college course. My problem is that I don't also have the time to write a novel, especially not if I'm losing several days at the start of the month. I have to run my college's magazine, The Scribbler, while also writing a short story for my website and another for the book I'm putting together in college. In short, I will be busy with these minor extra curricular activities.

And guess what? That's not it. While running The Scribbler and while writing two short stories, on top of all of the work I have to do, I will also be part of the play the Drama Soc are putting on. I don't yet know how much time that will take up. I also have two more poetry writing workshops to attend during the month of November. That's more time gone.

The simple fact of the matter is that, because of the sheer volume of work I have to do, I will not be able to partake in NaNoWriMo this year. I will still be writing various things, like essays and short stories and articles for my website, but I will not be able to focus on writing 1667 words a day, particularly not when I will be losing so many days. I won't even get into the climb of Croagh Patrick (again) in November.

What I will be doing is writing about NaNoWriMo. I plan on adding a "pep talk" to my website for each week in the month. I may write about characters and plots and settings and making things believable, and how to avoid stressing out, how to stop your family from annoying you and how to live with a writer (for the families that are cursed with one of us!). I just can't focus on a novel with all the work I have to do that is suddenly three times as much work as we'll have had to do since third year started.

I don't regret this decision. Yes, it means I won't reach my own personal deadlines, but I can still work on things, like editing Meet Sam, during the month, especially if I'm going to be stuck on a plane and on buses for three of the thirty days in the month, between France and the mountain out west. I would like to actually get that done properly, so I could finally move on with the damn thing. I'll probably need to print out a few different parts of the book, get a blank page or two and draft the additional details and scenes that will not only bulk up the book, but also make it better - there's so much depth not yet explored in it that a lecturer of mine was kind enough to mention when she read it, and I think the book will benefit greatly from this stuff.

I just need to actually get myself to do it. On that note... *reminds self to copy the post-it notes onto less sticky paper* It's something I can work on in France and on the bus to and from Croagh Patrick and in the mornings over a cup of tea. This novel is important to me, having evolved from an idea adapted from a film and a vision of this city I live in to something more and greater than that. It's a novel that doesn't draw on the lives of those around me. It's a novel I can be proud of, having written it in the November before my Leaving Cert exams. Even since then, it's stuck with me. I can't just abandon it now.

Is it foolish to imagine a dedication for the book already? Possibly. That's another little secret of mine, that tiny little message to go in the front of the book that not everyone takes notice of. I guess, of all the people I can think of dedicating my début novel to, this one just feels more right. Suppose I just have to make sure that happens by finishing and then submitting the book, eh?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Drama all over again!

So, Drama starts back nice and proper tomorrow with auditions for the play. I've got to find my acting mode first (switch off one type of crazy for another, essentially), and then try get the director's drunken words out of my head.

There's something oddly dis-settling by "I am going to mould you" that I can't quite place my finger on...

The play won't be my own (I wouldn't act in that anyway), but The Rest is Silence has been read. If we have enough actors and money, both might go ahead. This is one of those times when "We'll see" isn't a straight no. I really would love for my play to go on this year (or at all!), but obviously there are certain constraints. I can't steal the cast for the play that's already been decided on and told about to the rest of the college!

I'm taking a bigger interest in the Drama Society this year, though. I didn't plan to - I was going to limit myself to writing one play and acting in another - but duty calls: I'm standing in as PRO (Public Relations Officer) until such time that the appointed PRO shows up or gives up. This means I have all the fun of doing a poster to advertise auditions tomorrow and Wednesday. Fun!

I think the real fun will be in performing monologues. I picked one from Doctor Who, The Big Bang Two. I didn't think I'd get the chance to do something like that, but there is a very definite monologue there.

SPOILER


You know, when he's going to disappear...

END OF SPOILER


Also, you know, seeing the director again will be fun. I should probably tell my parents I won't be home until late, though. I suppose they need to know that for dinners and all that jazz. Going home then going back just won't do it, not when the bus takes half an hour to get anywhere in rush hour traffic and there's a fifteen minute walk home from the stop! So, it'll be a bit of a long day for me. Lectures start at ten (but I'll be in earlier!) and end at half four, but the auditions don't start until seven.

Fun...

Still, I'll bring Frankenstein and everything will be dandy! But I will be hungry. That's the real trouble. I don't exactly have the money to buy extra snackage while I'm staying in college (thank you trip to France...).

This is going to be my life, isn't it? All work and no play. No hang on... it's the other way around, isn't it?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Neglect

Dear Blog,

I'm sorry I neglected you of late. Things have been busy and strange in varying proportions lately, and finding the time to come and write something has been at the bottom of my list. But then I decided, even though I have a dozen other things to do (okay, four, three of being read a book), I'm writing now. Are you happy?

So, the website is going well. I thought it wasn't getting as much traffic as I'd wanted it to, until I accidentally clicked "Old version" on Google Analytics, and it showed me a pageview total. So I added that to the New Version and now I'm happier with the amount of traffic I got. It's certainly a lot better than just visits. I do feel like a bit of an idiot for not noticing this sooner, of course.

College... well, college is college. I've got this trip to France coming up in a month, but I don't know for the life of me how much it will cost. I'm guessing my bank account will hate me for it, though. It won't talk to me for weeks, I'm sure. In the meantime, I've got to read lots of books. Those three I mentioned earlier? Well, one is God is Love Alone. The guy who wrote it set up the community in France we're visiting. The other two are novels on our Gothic module, but we get to pick which two we write about.

But I did set up a Writers' Soc. I think I mentioned that before. The problem, initially, was that no one really contributed to the meeting much. So Pinkie and I - that's her blogger name, not some kinky and/or strange nickname I'm giving her - set out a full plan of deadlines and whatnot. We have another meeting on Monday, when we can tell people writing for the new magazine - The Scribbler - when the first deadline is. That'll be fun!

Everything is pretty much going well. The Rest is Silence is almost completed fully, and I have a deadline to hand it in by, so that will get me working better than usual. The only real problem I have in life is with one friend who doesn't really see me or anybody else as a friend. That sucks, right? I mean, that's downplaying it an awful lot, but it sucks. I wish I could make this friend see some sense, but that's not really possible when I'm not allowed say anything. It makes me feel like I did a couple of Mondays ago... when I threw up on the bus.

I won't tell that fascinating story again.

So, there you have it. Mostly life is good, and aside from the sucky situation with the friend who doesn't see me as a friend being the saddest thing ever, I'm happy. The first years are now finally around long enough that they're not just miscellaneous faces sardined into the building. Some of them stick out from the crowd now. Some of them are curious people I feel I should be talking to more but won't, because that's the sort of person I am (shy and timid, not stuck up and pretentious). I had that same experience last year, and when I started in college, and I think the only way to let those sorts of people into my life is to either (a) join a club or society they're in or (b) just let it happen. That's pretty much how I spoke to every single friend I have now.

Now, blog, if you'll excuse me, I have to pretend I have plans for the night.

Neglectfully yours,
Paul.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

At Least an Hour?

So, I'm writing a play? Did I mention that enough? Did I mention it's called The Rest is Silence? What, several times? Well, I finished writing the first draft of it on Thursday. I've been typing it all up, since. With one scene left to type, I have discovered that it's a lot shorter than I had envisaged it being.

One word: frick.

It needs to fit the standard length of a play, which equates to at least an hour. The Rest is Silence is nowhere near that long, I don't think. I mean, I still have to do a reading of the play to see how long - in terms of time, not pages - it is, but it's still too long. I need to flesh it out a bit.

Thankfully, I have a couple of things to help me do that: my first NaNoWriMo experience, and the original not-written-down plan for The Rest is Silence, when it was just 'that play I'm going to write soon'.

The first NaNoWriMo experience was for Meet Sam. My initial plan left a sizeable gap in the timeline of the book, and it was something I was okay with leaving. Until it came to writing and I was way behind the desired word count for where I was in the book. So I had to fill in that timeline with some more events, though the actual plot of the novel never actually changed.

The original plan of the play had a couple of things that didn't make it into the written plan. Of course, mostly I had just forgotten. But I still remember what I planned with them. I'll have to call on them and write these scenes as soon as possible. I think that means more disappearing tomorrow morning! I have a habit of doing that.

The problem is that I need to listen to the play once or twice, after recording it, to make sure that (a) it sounds right and (b) it looks right in my mind's eye when I look at the stage with the dialogue being spoken. I'm a very visual writer, in that sense. If I can see somewhere I'm going to write about, I will. With the college plays, that just means locking myself up in a particular lecture room when no-one's there, because the plays go on there.

If I can finish writing the additional scenes tomorrow and finish typing it all up shortly thereafter, then I'll be fine. Ish. I'll also have to record myself reading the play tomorrow night to have any hope of finishing up on time. Then I'll have to do the play-back sessions, most likely long after lectures on Tuesday. Wednesday, I have plans. Tuesday morning, I have plans. But I need it all done to print off on Thursday morning and hand to the head of the Drama Soc and say: 'Here it is, it's done, please show the director!' At which point I will run away as far as possible, until I collapse from exhaustion.

But that's college for you.

In other news, I found out about a new museum I can include in the Writers' Soc plans. The Little Museum of Dublin was discussed on Twitter, earlier; it contains artefacts (can't say that word without thinking Warehouse 13...) from 20th century Dublin, tying in perfectly with my plans to try and see The James Joyce Museum. Which reminds me... I need to arrange a Writers' Soc meeting soon, don't I?

Third year is tiring and we've barely even started!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Clubs and Socs 2011

Today, the first years got their first taste at Clubs and Societies at my college, though there was a lot less space than usual. They recently renovated the canteen to separate it from the entrance, but that's given us a lot less room to put up tables and whatnot. We made do with what we had, and though it was a little squashed, we got by with it.

While the first years got to have a look at a lot of the older societies, like the soccer team, the GAA team, the Trad Soc (I think it was there again, this year!) and the History Soc, I was one of the people to set up a new society: a Writers' Soc. The apostrophe is intentional: this isn't just a society of writers, it's the society owned by writers. On the list of new societies this year, I was joined by: the Dancing Society, the Running Club, and the Tea Society. Yes, tea. They want to get people together to drink tea. Plain and simple.

I was in a tiny little table in the corner of the room with the Drama Soc representative (Pinkie). We competed over sign-ups, even though we're both on the Drama Soc and we're both running the Writers' Soc. We started a trend of people putting posters up behind us on the glass, while I shouted things like "We're cooler than we look!" See, I can act.

The fun part was when one of the new first years came up and said "I was hoping one of these would be set up", and proceeded to sign-up for the Writers' Soc. Fantastic.

Of course, a lot of people were curious about the Writers' Soc. We're new, it's understandable. We didn't even have anything to show them to say how frickin' awesome we really were, except for our plans for the society. I say we... I mean me. Like I said: competing with Pinkie. Everyone got the same answer:

  • We're going to put together a book of short stories and poetry by the students of the college
  • We're going to (hopefully) organise workshops for students
  • We're going on museum* visits
  • We're going to run a competition or two
  • We're going to set up an online magazine
The latter will be free. Entirely. The only thing it will require, aside from articles, is the time involved to run it and write it. I'll be setting it up on Wordpress, which will also help to show people how easy it is to do something like that themselves. I was considering an ad-based magazine, but that would be too tricky and it would mean adding to our already tight budget.

On that note, I spent last night and today emailing printers and museums for prices. I found a couple of printers in Ireland that I liked, but so far the cost of them is too high. The museums are also cheaper than I first anticipated, so that will be of a huge help to us in our budget. While I have no doubt that the Student Union will support a new society with absolutely nothing to show for itself, there's also a sense of having to be realistic about this: the soccer team need new jerseys (and have needed them for years), the Gaelic players keep stealing the jerseys they use, the History Soc wants to organise a potentially expensive trip and there are two other new societies this year that may or may not require a lot of money. Drama always needs enough for costumes, ISDA membership and stage requirements, and transport (of the set, cast and crew). The budget for everyone will be tight.

Hopefully, we're not asking for too much. I'd like to have a college-specific workshop, rather than go for free open-to-the-public workshops. I will need to inquire about what happens if our book actually makes a profit when it's printed, of course. Will we get to use that money ourselves for the society? Will it help us next year when we look for (at least) the same amount of funding? I would like to think so. Thankfully, the enthusiasm of the writers who really wanted to join the society seems to be a display of real interest in making it all work.

* Okay, time for a silly little mistake I made. You'll notice it's beside the word 'museum'. Somehow, I managed to spell it wrong on my little sheet to say what we're doing in the society. A lecturer pointed it out. I can spell museum. I always spell it correctly when I type. But I hand-wrote it, and suddenly my inner-editor went into NaNoWriMo mode and I didn't seem to care enough (at eleven at night) about correct spelling. So I messed it up (just the 'e' and 'u' the wrong way around). All I can say is... oops.

I'm really looking forward to getting this society going properly. Once I have the budget submitted, I'll be calling a get-together type meeting to see what people want to do, where their interests lie, and generally get to know them. My experience is that writers are awesome people, and that's not meant to be self-flattering. Every writer I've met has been interesting, relatively easy to get along with and they tend not to shy away from my somewhat confusing eccentricities. Would it be too weird to wear my Pizza John Green or NERD t-shirts to the first meeting?

One thing I can mention, of course, is that I have a lot of experience in this field. While I may not have a novel published, I have written a lot. I also set up an online writers' group when I was sixteen, which later produced a book of short stories for charity. I edited a poetry book for charity. I've been keeping a blog for over three years and I just launched a website. This is pretty much the type of things the society needs to launch properly: a neurotic, writing-obsessed oddball like myself. Yes, I realise that may sound like a weird way to describe myself, but you know what: I embrace this weirdness. Hopefully it'll help a few people follow their writing dreams!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

One Week In

So, I'm a week into the website, and a week into college. Well, third year of college. That makes me feel older. A lot older. The past two years have gone by so quickly, and so much has changed since then. But that's a story for another day.

So, the website hasn't had much added to it since the novella excerpt, the short story, the poems, the articles and the Doctor Haik-Who. I've added two more haiku and one more poem, but right now the list of new material on the site is lacking. This will change, over time. There will most definitely be more short stories over the next few months. For the time being, I'm trying to get a couple of them submitted to different publications. Others will find their way directly online. That's just the way it is.

Quick question though: what genre of story would people like to read?

  1. Fantasy? (Including Urban Fantasy)
  2. Science Fiction? (Including Speculative Fiction and Superhero Fiction)
  3. Horror? (Including Dark Comedy - something that should both make you laugh and disturb you a little)
  4. General fiction? (Like the story already on the website, Dear World)
Cast your vote for the genre of your choice and I'll write the story. Voting closes September 29th. I have a few ideas, so I'll just go with whatever people want to read with this one. (Vote in the comments below, please. You don't need a Blogger account to do so.)

Poems and articles will find their way to the website more easily. Some articles will require a lot more effort than others, so they will take a little bit longer to write, but they will make it there!

As for college... When did it get so tiring? This further emphasises the pain of feeling older. In first year, I was able to sit through lectures quite easily. Now I'm struggling to stay awake. While I have all 10am starts (much better than a 9am start!), I'm also in quite late. The earliest I'm off, aside from Fridays, is 4.30pm. But then other days I have lectures until 6pm. We haven't even started with clubs and societies yet!

I think my main issue is my sleeping pattern. I'm staying up too late, even if I still go to bed relatively early. My other issue is laziness. Fact.

It's been a good first week, back, though. While I haven't been able to talk to some people as much as I'd wanted to, I've survived our first assignment (that felt like homework...) and I'm very happy with the optional modules that I got. I'll be off to France for a few days later in the year for one of them! How cool is that?

Of course, everything will get even busier once the second week starts, but with the way everything is timetabled, it'll be Christmas before we know it! Which is frickin' scary, on account of Teaching Practice in January. Before I know it, then, it'll be my birthday and I'll definitely be old! (Or, eh, old enough to legally drink in the US...)

A good first week overall, for the website and college. I'm hoping more people will find their way to the website, soon, though. I think it's getting lonely. For now, cast your vote for the story and if you have time, download the sample chapters of Stepping Forward! I'm looking for reviews! There may even be a competition in that, sometime soon!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Website is a Go!

My website is launched! It can be found here: http://paulcarrollwriter.com

It's been a relatively long road. Well, six weeks. I decided, at the very end of July after finished Camp NaNoWriMo, to set up a website. The idea was simple: I would write articles on the website, I would post short stories and poems, and that would be that. I would run it through Wordpress.com.

That's how it started. I set up a Wordpress.com account, and I got things on the roll. Then I thought, I could run other things through this! And that's what I will be doing. I have ideas in place, some of which will appear sooner than others, that will be ad supported. I'm not a fan of ads on my own personal space, which is what this blog and the main part of the website will be, but when it comes to these other ideas, ads will be fine.

But that's way into the future (in one case, but not necessarily another). For now, I've got a set list of features on the website.

It functions like a blog, categorised and organised neatly so that it represents the two sides to how I work: with my head and with my heart. The "head" work is the articles under Writing Advice. The advice ranges from (very) basic legal advice to the basics of writing that I picked up over the years to a guide to what I call 50K in 30 Days, which is essentially NaNoWriMo. I've done it enough to know how to do it properly, and my "win" this summer in the Camp version was the final piece of encouragement I needed to try help people do it too. First drafts are important.

The "heart" work, then, is the Writing Samples section. This includes short stories, poems and Doctor Haik-Who. The last one is for a bit of fun and variety. I have specific niche talents and especially nerdy hobbies, and if I hide that fact from the world I'd be lying through my teeth (or fingers...).

Two ideas I have for expanding on what I offer the world - the ad based things I mentioned - also play on the "head" and "heart" of my writing. One will be an article site, the other a fiction based site, both attached directly to my website. For now, they will remain hidden (though I think some people can already guess the fiction based site!).

Combining the "head" and the "heart" is the Free Downloads section. I'll be adding downloadable pieces to the website through this section. Already there are opening chapters from a novella I wrote in Summer 2010, called Stepping Forward. I won't even attempt to explain it to you. The .PDF file features the opening five chapters, which should give you a pretty good idea of what the book is about, without giving away too much! It's short, of course, being a novella, but it's a fun book as far as I'm concerned! It didn't bore me in the editing process, anyway, and I normally can't stand to look back on things I've written!

There will be other things added to this section of the website, which you can find out about through my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages (links in the sidebar!), as well by checking out the News section, part of About. This About section has an author bio (er... my bio), the News section and a Writing Progress section. That last one is just a short page on what I'm working on. It's generally for larger projects than, say, my latest article for The Phantom Zone.

Aside from that, though, the website is like any other, right? I mean, the Free Downloads section isn't on every website, but it's not unique. I wanted this to be a new type of experience. Yes, there are plenty of ways to get in touch with me that make me a little more accessible than some authors, but I wanted to personalise my website more. So I set up a Skype account.

Yes, Skype.

In the sidebar of my website, you'll see three buttons. The first is to add me to your contacts list. I will generally accept all requests. The second button is to see my status - you'll know when I'm online just by looking at my website. The third button is to call me. It's as simple as that.

This enables people to meet the author! I'm not published, but I've seen lots of people who aren't published and who have websites and one thing you can't do is meet them unless you know them. I've spoken to dozens of authors online, but rarely face-to-face! I want to give people that option. My face is already on the website, so I don't have to worry about that aspect of it. And I only have to appear online when I'm free to talk. It's as simple as that.

One last thing about the downloads, though. They're free, but they're password protected. The passwords will be available on the website. The point isn't to stop people accessing the writing, but to stop spambots accessing it easily. I figured this was the best way to do it. Sorry for the inconvenience, but hopefully you think it's worth it!

So there it is, my website is launched and ready to go. I hope you enjoy it, and feedback is appreciated!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Once More With Feeling

The past couple of days have been... well, different. Finally getting a chance to talk to somebody (albeit only through Facebook mail), we came to a conclusion that for the time being we need space. There's too many things that need to settle before we can really talk properly, again, but it didn't feel like I'd lost a friend. I don't think I did, anyway. We've done this before, but this time it's really necessary. Yes, I was upset when it happened, but once I calmed down... well, I've been happy. It feels right, this space between us - we set it up, it didn't just happen badly and for no reason. Things didn't end.

To keep myself busy, last night, I started to edit a novella I wrote last summer called Stepping Forward. I'd planned to edit the first three chapters, but I discovered that when the time came to do it they were much shorter than I anticipated! So I just kept on working. And working. And working. And I finished editing the book.

I'd been fairly happy with the first draft, when I wrote it, and the one person that actually read it (the friend mentioned above) liked it, so when I finally tidied it up I was delighted! It's been over a year since I wrote it, first, and in the space of a single night I got the finished book together! I will probably be doing a cover for it at some stage, as I'm wont to do, but for now I'm calling that book finished!

This morning, I then wrote a scene of The Rest is Silence. I have a lot of work to do on that play, but my ideas for it are exciting. This morning's scene was probably one of the more challenging ones... though there are still some major things to happen that will require a lot of emotional energy from the actors! I hope they get what the play's about!

To bring the day to a close, I made a banner for my website. As I write this, there's a badly-done version sitting on the website. The lovely Lisa Sills is redoing it for me, and the results so far are great! I can't wait until I have something to show the world as being my official banner for my website. Sure, I didn't do the finished piece, but the idea behind its design was mine! People have given it some good feedback, so clearly I did something right.

Between now and Sunday, I have to finish up with everything on the site - that means hosting, a domain name, the finished banner and getting it all set up properly. It's going to be an exciting few days. The plan is to release the website on Sunday, when people will have access to everything I've been working on the past month and a half. This is my gateway into the world wide web, going beyond what I've ever set up. All the little bits and pieces of my life are coming together on this site.

Feedback on everything will be greatly appreciated! Until then... my thanks go out to:


  • Rebecca Woodhead, for her advice in everything I've done of late. This is both advice she's given me personally and things she's written about in Writing Magazine. I couldn't have done this without her.
  • Lisa Sills, for her help in the banner and her continued support in this project.
  • The aforementioned friend, for everything before this website. I couldn't have put together so much if there wasn't someone out there who made me feel like it was worth it. No one else continually gave me the encouragement to write and to be myself like he did, without greed, malice or spite. The very last thing he said to me was the final bit of encouragement I needed.
  • The friends who continually make me happy; the smartest girl in college who I can tell pretty much anything, the comic book girl who gets my little eccentricities, the Ninjas who make me laugh even when being in a bad mood is easier and the long-time friends I kept from secondary school who never fail to offer new and interesting insights into the world, none of whom have even begun to bore me after all these years!
This website is everything I could want it to be; parts of it were put together with my head, and parts of it were put together with my heart. Sometimes I fail to use either one of them, but not in this case. This feels like something has finally been done correctly.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Near Death Experience

Yesterday was worrying. For the fish in the work. Yes, the fish. They almost died. Like, actually almost died. The pump stopped working. No more air was going into the tank. Sometimes people forget that fish need to breathe oxygen. And when the pump stops sending it into the water, that spells trouble.

First thing to do? Check the fusebox. The electrician's-brother in me did that first. The switch was down, and it wasn't staying up. (No innuendos, please.)

Next step? Check to see what's wrong. The fuse might have blown, or something else stopped working. It wasn't the lights, anyway. They would have just gone off. So we got an extension lead from the centre security guards, plugged the pump in and... nothing.

That gave us a new problem. It wasn't just a fusebox problem. It was a pump problem. An expensive pump. The natural reaction was to call the local (very local) pet shop for help, but they could only help us with the fish. So a fish-tank company were called. They arrived right before closing time, meaning someone had to stay behind (thankfully it wasn't me, because I wasn't in the shop at that stage!)

The new pump was installed, with the little note that if we'd waited a single day... well, the fish would have asphyxiated. You know what that means, right? We saved their lives! Super booksellers to the rescue! And we had our pet shop, security and pump-installer friends to help us! Hip-hip hurray!

The madness of the fish's near death experience was surrounded on all sides by screaming children, pouting adults and books being put in the wrong place... none of which were connected to the fish, of course, but they didn't help. It was an eventful weekend, to say the least! But it wasn't all bad. The fish were alive and well when we got into the shop (and when we left!), various assorted problems were sorted out and now my co-worker gets to enjoy a trip to Japan. I got almost everything ready for my website, so it won't be long before I'm ready to launch it! I'm hoping for a September 11th launch (I may have already said that a dozen times...).

In the meantime, I've secured my wordpress.com username for my X-Men story. I figured it was best to do that now, rather than wait and risk it being taken. Now I just need to actually write the story. I still think it's going to be amazing. Probably less disturbing than the fish almost dying, too. At least I'm in control of who lives and dies!