Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review - One Red Paperclip

One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of a Simple Office SupplyIt's not often that I read non-fiction for pleasure; sometimes I want to learn things, yes, but I don't specifically pick up a book and think it'll be full of laughs and giggles and actually be enjoyable to read. However, in saying that, it also took me several years to acquire a copy of Kyle MacDonald's One Red Paperclip. I'd seen the book way back when I started working in the bookshop I'm still in - four years ago! I didn't buy it then, and it disappeared from our shelves shortly thereafter, never to be seen again. That was until, after much searching in bookshops in Dublin - even in the second hand sections, I was that desperate - I was handed a copy by my brother. I suppose that's how many good stories start, isn't it? One person gives another something they were looking for. Such as... One fish pen?*

So, was it worth the wait?
Well, you see all that stuff I don't go to non-fiction for: the laughs, the giggles, the enjoyable read? That's what I got from this book, and more. I was taken away into this wonderfully strange land called Canadia**, where this unemployed guy began trading until he got a house. I knew the ending, mostly. Everyone knows the ending (mostly everyone, and mostly the ending). But the journey? Well, it's like they say: it's not the destination that counts, it's how you get there! After years of trying to find this book in a shop so I could buy it and read it, I can proudly report it was a search much justified! The book was funny, engaging and it gave me that feel-good sensation you get when a friend achieves something after so much hard work. That's really what it felt like, like you could get so close to the author that you wanted him to succeed! (And, you know, he did... that's kind of why the book got published.)

How does it compare to other books?
Well, I'm no expert on travel books or autobiographies or anything like that, but in terms of telling a good story, it was right on par with the best of the best, even if the writing came across as more personal than professional. But that's the point, right? It's not a case of One corporation's journey to world domination but One ordinary man's journey towards a house, with lots of interesting and wonderful people to meet along the way who (mostly) live ordinary lives and see the fun in being part of his journey. MacDonald makes that point a lot, actually - it's not about the trade, it's about the person behind the trade! All the best stories let you get emotionally attached to the characters, and while this may have been a true story, I definitely wanted him to do well, to get through all the little struggles, and even though I knew he would succeed, I was still leaping for joy (okay, not literally) when he actually got through each trade. Not the most professionally written book, no, but definitely one of the easiest to relate to and to cheer for!

What was your favourite part of the story?
I think it had to have been when people really started to notice what was happening, when the news stations thought, There's a good story! It definitely made me realise how big this all was. It was so big, in fact, that when I mentioned the book to my mum, she knew what I was talking about! That barely ever happens! I can't remember the last time I started a conversation with my mum about something obscure and my mum actually knew what I was talking.***

Who would you recommend this book to?
You know how I usually say "everyone"? Yeah, that. Okay, not if you're going to say that it's not that interesting a story. There are some people who just don't do autobiographies. But if you're not one of those people, try this book! I mean it. It's all totally worth it and you'll feel so much better for having read it! I know I did!

What's next, then?
For Kyle, lots of stuff. He still keeps the blog alive. You can see what he's up to there. For me, I have a review next week of something entirely different to anything I've ever reviewed, ever. That'll be fun! I also have to keep on reading at least one of the four or five books I've started that are on my list... I have two weeks to finish at least one of them!

Until then, thanks for reading! I hope you'll take the time and money to read the story of One Red Paperclip. It's so worth it.

* The first trade item.
** American - America. Canadian - Canadia. Simples.
*** We have completely different tastes in pretty much everything. Fact.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Mind Boggles

Before I begin, can we just confirm that we've established I'm insane? Okay? Good.

So, I was lying on my bed yesterday - as you do - and a weird thought came into my head. Why do I feel like I had a neglected childhood? I know I didn't! So, obvious conclusion must be that I had a past life as an orphan living in a horrible home where the walls were growing new things and the food was barely edible. That would explain my discomfort with mould and my unwillingness to try new foods. New foods might be barely edible. Like grey gloopy soup.

Of course, as I thought about this orphaned past life of mine, I began to feel quite sorry for the me that was dead. What had happened to my parents? How old was I in my memory of mouldy walls and gloopy grey food? Why was someone allowed to keep orphans essentially locked up in a building where the walls might eat them, given time?

Then, of course, the author in me decided it was going to go crazy, and I've come up with an idea for what I think will be a series of short stories that can be read individually without any prior knowledge of the others, except for the last one. I incorporated ideas I'd gotten through the day yesterday (as I wandered almost aimlessly throughout town waiting for the time when I would meet up with a friend for delicious noms and catch up on all sorts of stuff). So, now I have a series of stories going through my head, no time to write them, and only the main character's name to go by - it's in the title of the series. I will not be revealing it.

Of course, this all seems a bit all over the place until I tell you that the stories are past-lives in themselves. Hence the connection between orphaned me with the mouldy bedroom walls and the main character of my story. I do intend to write these stories - maybe throughout my college year - and have friends read them, but for now they remain a maddening idea of fantastical proportions. I have no idea how many stories there will be, who any of the other characters will be, or what sort of adventures my protagonist will get dragged in to in his various lives. I only know why it's all significant, and maybe, just maybe, this will turn from a series of short stories into a collected series of short stories that functions as an erratic novel.

So, I can add this to the list of books I have to write... fantastic.

Thankfully, with this series of stories, I don't have to worry about one thing: time travel. As my character's past lives are all important for the series, having himself travel back into them would create certain paradoxes. It would drive him insane. Because he cannot, ever, be allowed to see himself. The memory of it would rip his mind apart. (And that's why people who remember their past lives in fiction or - ha - in reality, should not be allowed to time travel. Nevermind the space-time continuum, they wouldn't survive the ordeal of viewing themselves! Most people wouldn't, anyway!)

Okay, enough teasers for a series that hasn't even been started. Tomorrow I'll have a new review. And next Wednesday, too. I come prepared this time. I've read ahead. Which is just as well, because I am currently reading several books, all of which are too long to finish soon while also writing. So many stories going through my head at the moment... YOU ARE TEARING ME APART LISA!*

*This is a thing we've picked up in college. To understand it, see this video.

P.S. if any of my friends/relations would like to design cover art** for any of my books/stories, please get in touch via Facebook/Twitter/email/age-old-device-called-a-phone. I have a mixture of commercial fiction (i.e. nothing too strange), science fiction and fantasy... and at some stage horror. I'll obviously let you read the story first... (Rude not to...)

** or photography, if it's not just a plain ol' photograph I could have taken myself...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pottermore Announcement

What is Pottermore? From what I can establish, it's an official Harry Potter online experience. It's a glorified forum, maybe. It's a way to get more involved in a series of books that have taken the world by storm, been adapted for cinema, had games made from them, Lego, and turned a whole generation of children to reading. There's been music about Harry Potter, and a musical. There have been parodies. There has been fanfiction jumping up all over the place about Harry Potter since the books began.

And none of that tells us what we can do in Pottermore when the site launches to the public in October. Only minutes ago, JK Rowling made the announcement of Pottermore, saying a select few who "follow the owl" will be able to begin the experience early. No one knows how many will get in, how to get in, or what to do once they get there. No one even knows why they want to get into the site, except they're curious and it's Harry Potter.

Rowling's announcement had many excited. Some so excited they stayed up all night for the announcement - that's the American readers. And still no one knows what to do.

To be honest, the message released today was a let down. A nice "thank you", but a let down nonetheless. Will I be checking out Pottermore? I don't know. I will be in college. I will be writing. I don't know if I will care enough to spend my days talking about books I had finished reading when I was sixteen. By the time I get around to checking it out, the whole place will have become established, and maybe the people on-board will have formed exclusive groups. This is what happens on the Internet. The original readers of Harry Potter aren't children anymore. They're adults, and they've lost the innocence that once made Harry Potter so great, even if that innocence was itself limited.

Follow the owl? It brought me to the same site I had gone through to find the announcement. I suppose that's the magic of JK Rowling, isn't it? Tell the world to go somewhere to see a message that sends them right back where they started. More importantly, tell the world to read her books all over again. This assumes most of her readers haven't grown up. This assumes that people have time. This may assume incorrectly that people want to get involved as much as they hope.

But maybe I'm cynical. Maybe this will be a great website when it's started up. Maybe people will really have a great time, and maybe they'll be extra encouraged to pursue their own dreams. Maybe that will be the magic of

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review - The Guide to Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller!It's not often that I review a non-fiction book on my blog, and even rarer that the book be about the writing craft. But I figured, what good is a list of books about writing without a review of books about writing every now and then. I read The Guide to Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy a few weeks ago, after a compulsive buy of it. I swear, neither the dragon breathing fire nor the buxom girl on the front cover had anything to do with the purchase. I was looking for education. Of a sort.

So, was the book of any use?
Well, I'm yet to apply it directly to anything, but in terms of specifying certain aspects of the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy, it certainly helped. It goes through everything in terms of world building, character building and telling a story using these elements. It helped me pick up on some key features of stories I was planning and expand on them, and pointed out the major flaws with the very first book I ever wrote, in that the fantasy worlds weren't all that great (nevermind the quality of the writing... we'll leave that one sulking in the shadows).

What did you think of the book's style?
The book is many things, and complicated is not one of them. All the details, of which there are many, are given in a friendly manner from a guy who really knows what he's talking about. He's also funny as hell. I literally laughed out loud at some of his examples. This is a rare thing to do when reading a book about writing. Non-fiction is not usually laugh-out-loud funny. His wit and humour certainly help to make the book a more enjoyable read. It's very straightforward, follows a pattern and with that handy contents page at the front, you can locate exactly what you need when you need a refresher - I advise actually reading the whole thing, first.

Who would the book be of benefit to?
Okay, obviously writers. That one goes without saying. It has some stuff that would be helpful to writers as a whole, but this book is mainly specific to the genres in its title. If you plan on writing anything in the genre, you ought to read this book. The insider information is truly remarkable, and while it won't help you with the business of writing - for that, see books such as The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook or Writers' Market. This book covers a whole range of things you need to know, and even if you're focusing on short stories rather than novels, it helps to get some tips. You're not just writing a story, you're making a world. Or changing one, at the very least.

What makes this book different from other books?
Nothing I've read to date has been specific to a genre in fiction. Nothing. All the writing books assume you're doing one thing and one thing only: writing. Many branch off into Drama, Plays, Articles, Novels, etc. You'll find them everywhere. Getting a genre specific book means you can hone your skills. Most general books about writing don't get genre specific. You need to get genre specific, especially if you feel like you could do with a bit of an education.

So, what's next?
Very simply: I keep on reading, and I keep on writing. I'm almost finished another non-fiction book - a travel/biography book. That'll be my next review. And for writers reading this... well, all I'll say is, when you've read this book, you then have only one thing to do: write. There's nothing that will hone your writing skills better than actually writing. Books can teach you things about the genre, sentence structure, grammar, etc, but nothing can teach you your writing voice. You'll find that by writing. That's my advice for the day. Write and write some more, maybe take a break to go to the bathroom, get a drink and, if you really feel like it, take a sleep, then write more. After all that, maybe then you'll have made a dent into your 100K word high fantasy novel set in a realm where the world is made of sandpaper.*

Good luck and happy reading!

*If anyone ever writes a book where the world is made of sandpaper, I will read it. Definitely. Without a doubt. When I get time. If I'm not dead.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This time last year

When I compare this summer to last summer, one thing is definitely clear: I am less crazy. Or more crazy and it just doesn't get to me as much. Definitely less bored, though.

This time last year, I was at my wit's end. It had nothing to do with my results going up online (or somebody telling me every minute that they were up, when they weren't!). It had nothing to do with anything, really, which was precisely the problem. I had nothing to do. At all.

This year... well, I've been writing Dignity, for a start, after several failed attempts to get anywhere in this story. The first attempt was terrible. Got barely anything done. The second attempt at it, I made my plan for the story (the plan in my head) slightly longer. The third time, even longer and I completely changed the perspective of where the reader was seeing all of the action from. This time around, I've gone back even further and I'm incorporating a lot more material from the alleged "real life" that has been led and doing something quite strange with it... I'm giving it a plot. Life doesn't have a plot. The things we do each day aren't a plot. If you wrote a novel detailing even three months of a character's life and having every day being interesting and worth reading, it'd be the most unrealistic three months ever. Or the most adventurous.

(Little secret, though: even grand road trips across America can be boring to do, because from the stories I've heard of them, most of the time there's nothing to do. That's why America has so many tourist attractions along the highway.)

Okay, so with Dignity well under way, it's even not enough to keep me interested all the time. Thankfully, I've been given a day extra work each week. Rather than just work the weekends, I work a mid-week day, too! It's very handy for making the weeks seem less boring. When you have breaks in the week of two days each, it feels like school used to before I started working, only with twice the weekends - school, weekend, school, weekend - only in this case instead of school it's working in a bookshop, and instead of a weekend it's Mondays and Tuesdays, and Thursdays and Fridays. The extra work is also great for having that little bit more money.

To fill the days I'm off, I've done a number of things. One of these was a road trip across the country, looping down south briefly before taking the N7 back to Maynooth, and a train home. This day was occupied with chats with the driver, the radio, rain in every county we drove through, rail-way superstitions, music from 1994 and the accompanying dance moves, a new love of The Saw Doctors, Supermacs in Galway (because we're fairly sure it's illegal to not have a Supermacs when you go to Galway) and a double-rainbow on the drive home. Other less adventurous things that have filled the days between shifts at work have been: trips to the cinema, a trip to Balbriggan to see a friend off to Switzerland for the summer, trips to the comic book shops and bookstores in Dublin and a gig, at which I saw The Shoos play, got their autographs and a photograph with them.

Between these miscellaneous adventures in Dublin and around the country and writing Dignity and working in the bookshop, I've been reading a bit. I've read children's books, books about writing, adult fiction (not erotica... I just mean the books that aren't children's books but are fiction) and comics (hence the trips to the comic book shops!) Of the comics I've been reading... well, they've all been X-Men. Because I'm that cool.

Last year... last year had some adventures of its own, the best being a 21st party, but it also had lots of boredom and a bit (understatement) of moaning down the phone at the same person who drove me around the country (and repeatedly called it a boring day). It was a truly unremarkable summer last year. I making up for it this year by writing the book I've been trying to write for over a year (and writing an ending to Meet Sam that I'm actually happy with!) and arranging different odds and sorts to occupy my time between working on the book and working with books (and people... there are people in the shop, too.)

Maybe, just maybe, this won't be as much a bad summer as last year. Maybe.

PS my favourite line I've written so far today:

The context: the main character is essentially referencing himself in the narration in third person, though he's not the narrator... that description makes it sounds weird... okay, it actually is weird, but the description is worse... I'll just give you the line.

"He was too good to be arrogant."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Interview with The Moceans


Last Tuesday, I ventured out to Swords to meet up with Indie Rock band, The Moceans. We sat in Cafe Libro while I hosted the band’s very first interview. In true fashion, Eoin Walshe and Rob Brennan began to make jokes to lighten the mood. While they may have been kidding around a bit, from the sounds of their EP, Warmth of the Shade, they’re very serious about they’re work.


Eoin Walshe and Rob Brennan
Me: First thing’s first: who are The Moceans?

Eoin: I’m Eoin, one half of The Moceans, some would say the better half, others would say the better half.

Rob: I’m Rob, lead singer of The Moceans. I’m actually learning guitar at the moment, so hopefully I’ll be able to touch up on that and add something more to the band, but for the moment I’m just the singer. I can talk a bit better than Eoin.

Me: *laughing* But he does everything else.

Rob: Well, we work well as a team, I think Paul, you know, when it comes to song writing and everything.

Eoin: Eoin’s the lead guitarist and singer in The Moceans, lead song writer as well. Next question.

Me: Eoin’s talking about himself in the third person here! *laughs* What brought you together as a band?

Rob: First day of college, I knew his face, ‘cause Eoin was in my primary school. I did know him before. Not as friends, more as enemies – the different classes, and the stupid childish rivalries between classes. I was in a different secondary school. And it was just, “You’re Eoin, aren’t you?”, “Yep”, “I’m Rob.” And the rest is history.

Me: What was the first time playing on stage together like? And where was it?

Rob: Well it wasn’t on stage, it was in the oratory in college. We were asked to organise a prayer service, and I obviously couldn’t play guitar, I was singing.

Me: Well, first time on stage.

Eoin: Eh, Pint Pub on Eden Quay. It was open about a week. We thought it was going to be the biggest gig ever, and about five people from the college football team showed up, and my girlfriend and a friend of Rob’s that’s a girl. That was it.

Me: Do you ever argue about the songs you play?

Eoin: Yeah, all the time.

Rob: *joking* Eoin comes up with the real kind of poppy songs, like Busted and the likes, and I’m more Oasis.

Eoin: What?!

Rob:  You kind of have to draw a line. Year Three Thousand was one that we did, but that’s it.

Eoin: This is quickly becoming one of the most inaccurate interviews of all time.

Me: Who are your biggest influences in terms of what you play? And who do you compare yourselves to most?

Eoin: Well, I’d be very well influenced by Oasis and the Verve

Rob: *whispers* Busted.

Eoin: And, eh, Busted...

Rob: My favourite band growing up was Red Hot Chilli Peppers, so I was very into them and I’ve kind of moved on to Oasis and a little bit back. My dad was a great fan of Queen, so I started listening to them, and like that, real 70s-80s rather than the 90s.

Me: So it was older music rather than the modern stuff.

Eoin: Queen and Bon Jovi would be big influences of mine as well, yeah.

Rob: Yeah, Oasis, Queen, Bon Jovi – they’d be the three big ones.

Me: In terms of what you play, who would you compare yourselves to?

Rob: I think the songs are different in ways; The Cycle is very Oasis-y, you know a laid back kind of song, Only You Know has a bit of a Verve sound to it.

Eoin: Yeah, we’ve been compared to Brit Pop sounding. No one in particular.

Me: According to each other, what are your best and worst traits when it comes to The Moceans.

Rob: *joking* Mood swings, they’re the worst.

Me: So Eoin has mood swings.

Rob: Yeah. I suppose his best qualities would be his ability on guitar, ability with the aul voice and he’s a genuinely nice guy. Can’t fault him really. Just the mood swings. It happens.  And I’d be like, “We’re playing this song” and it doesn’t go down too well. Just little disagreements.

Eoin: *joking* Eh... Rob’s worst aspect would have to be mood swings.

Me: So you’re both quite moody.

Eoin: We’d be quite moody, quite hormonal. Quite manstrual. Ah no, he’s a great singer, I suppose. It has to be said. His song writing’s come up tenfold since my tutoring, coming along good. I’m proud of him in a lot of ways like that, you know? And his guitar’s getting better!

Me: That’s good to hear! So, it’s still early days for The Moceans – your EP has just been recorded. What would your ideal gig be like?

Rob: Hundreds of people.

Eoin: Thousands.

Rob: Billions of people! *laughing* But seriously, you have to start small, work hard – we’re all about hard work. We knew it wouldn’t just be a matter of recording a CD and that’s it. We’re putting together packets at the moment to send to record labels. We’ve to get professional photos done, we’ve a few interviews with papers this week and we’ve to record a professional video for one of the songs, Only You Know.

Eoin: Just on that gig one: it doesn’t matter whether it’s The Ambassador or Slane or Croke Park, just to have a group of people knowing the words and singing it back would be great, a dream come true.

Me: If you could play with any other artist, who would it be and why? We’ll assume they’re still playing.

Rob: It’s a pity Oasis aren’t still playing...

Eoin: Bono? Maybe Shakira. I think that might work well. I think we’d work well musically.

Rob: Well, Oasis broke up, Queen... Freddie Mercury is dead.

Me: Yeah, that’s definitely a downside!

Rob: A modern day band... I mean, we went to see The Script. Maybe the Script. That might work. For me that’d be good.

Eoin: I wouldn’t want to play with bands, I don’t think that’d work. But when it comes to idols, Brian May from Queen – he’s still playing. I’d play with him.

Me: Where do you see yourselves in five years time?

Rob: The big time. Eh, we’ll be teachers hopefully, both of us.

Me: Eoin doesn’t look like he agrees!

Eoin: No, I see ourselves sitting in Hughes and Hughes, five years down the line. Perhaps, they’ll open up maybe in somewhere like South America, sitting opposite Paul Carroll, we’ve all come so far, we’ve a tour and you come over, guest interview. It’d be savage.

Me: What about more short-term plans? You’ve just done your EP; when will it be released and how can people get their hands on it?

Eoin: Well, at the moment, the short term – the very short term – with the EP is, it’s basically just through gigs and through our Facebook and Myspace if people mail us with interest we can arrange more informally how to send it out to them, or meet up. We’re looking to set up a PayPal account, we’ll be able to post out CDs, and in the next few weeks hopefully sort out the iTunes situation.

Rob: Which may be the best solution.

Eoin: But for the time being, come along to a gig.

Me: Which actually leads me on to my next question, will you be playing during the summer?

Rob: Yes, we play local on Monday night at Gibney’s, it’s acoustic sessions, Friday in Oscar Taylor’s, that’s also an acoustic session.

Me: They’re both in Malahide, are they?

Rob: Yeah. We have one on the 25th of June in the Pint Pub on Eden Quay, and there’s a couple of other bands playing. Slow Motion Getaway are playing that one as well, I think. That should be a good one. Beyond that, we’ll be sending the EP - obviously to the labels -and to hotels and pubs to try get some gigs.

Eoin:  I mean, the main plan is to have an official EP launch, but we’re trying to spend the next month building up a fan base to make sure there’s people actually at the EP launch, try make it as successful as possible. We haven’t been gigging much because of college exams, so we’re going to get the ball rolling again.

Me: Cool. What makes you different from other bands?

Eoin: *joking* Talent.

Rob: I’d say, in terms of our sound...

Eoin: Honesty would be key. There’s a lot of honesty in them.

Rob: I think people could relate to our songs.

Eoin: In a lot of ways there’s stripped back. We’re not too concerned with gimmicks, with lyrics or with the music itself.

Me: And for new listeners, hopefully there’ll be some, what one of your songs would you recommend to give people an idea of what you sound like?

Rob: Only You Know.

Eoin: Yeah, there’s a video for that on YouTube. There’ll be a proper video for that as well, soon, and it’s the number one track on the EP as well. And it’s on Myspace and Facebook. It’s our first single. It’s our “Hello” from The Moceans to the world. “Hello, how are you?” actually!

Me: Do you have any more remarks? Anything else you’d like to add?

Eoin: On a serious note, we actually do have self-belief, and we’re just trying to get people to actually listen to the music, because we believe if people listen to it they will like it. It’s just that initial stage of getting it into people’s hands. So hopefully that’ll go well.


The Moceans can be found at the following sites. Be sure to Subscribe, Follow, Like and Friend them!

Thanks again to the lads for taking the time out for the interview. Keep an eye on this spot for a review of The Moceans’ first EP, Warmth of the Shade.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo (and why you don't have to wait)

There's been a lot of discussion lately about Camp NaNoWriMo - a summer camp version of National Novel Writing Month (which I failed spectacularly at last November due to a lot of college work and various other things flying around in my head...). The details are still sketchy, but from what I can gather, here's what we've got so far:
  • There will be a new site for the camp experience.
  • The challenge isn't set in stone to 50,000 in 30 days, like NaNoWriMo normally is; the exact words I've read are, "It's not limited to months with 30 days, I'll tell you that much." I gather from that that rather than the event being a month long challenge, it's a summer challenge. You stick around for as long as you want. You don't just pop along for a month and then go away until November (or do two months in a row...). But like I said, it's not set in stone.
  • There is no free printed copy of your book when you "win"; the sponsors have to offer that, and so far they haven't.
So, that's what we know about Camp NaNoWriMo. That's not why I'm writing, today, though. No, I'm writing to discourage people from waiting for the event to start before they write. They can squeeze 50,000 words out in a month, right? So why not keep writing throughout the year? Why do people need the site to keep writing?

They like the community experience, right?

They like the way the website keeps track of their novel as they go along?

So why not just do that themselves? There are these new things called Blogger, Wordpress, Twitter and Facebook that allow people to tell their friends how they're doing. People want a community? There are loads there. There are writing forums dedicated to regular people writing whatever they want. I ran one for two years. Last summer I wrote about 60,000 words. I didn't need NaNoWriMo to get me to do that. I just wrote, and I posted stuff on Facebook to say how I was doing.

This summer? Well, I'm not waiting for Camp NaNoWriMo. I've already started to write a book, and I'm enjoying it. If I finish it in time to "go to Camp", then I will. But I won't organise when I write around a single time of the year. And do you know why? Because I like writing. I like to do whenever I feel like it, and not just as part of some challenge. My first and third novels that I completed were done outside of NaNoWriMo. My novellas were written last summer. My current book is being written despite Camp NaNoWriMo on the horizon.

And you know what? I'm not the only one who writes like this. I'm not the only person who writes because they enjoy to write, and who does it whenever they get the time, not when a website tells me to. One of my college friends texted me the other day to say she'd stayed up all night writing half her book. Darren Shan, popular children's author, writes a minimum of ten pages a day. Most authors on the bookshelves all around the world wrote their books when they wanted to, when they had the time, and not when a website told them to write. If everyone waited to write then, then there wouldn't be so many books in the world.

I'm not downplaying the importance of NaNoWriMo, of course. I'll still enter, if I find my time not-so-consumed this year. I'll do my best to write a book in a month, like everyone else. And that'll be for the fun, for the competition. But that doesn't mean I'll stop writing once NaNoWriMo is done, never to write for the next eleven months until it starts again. No, when I stop writing after NaNoWriMo, it'll be because I'm preparing stuff for teaching practice and putting the finishing touches on my final assignments for the semester. But once I'm free of all that work, I'll be writing away again. It's my hobby, all year 'round. And, you know, hopefully it'll be my job. Most people don't just work for a single month, then edit a few months later, then call it a day. Most writers can't afford to do that. They have to write continuously just to buy food to put on their tables.

Write for fun, all the time. Sell for money whenever you can. Don't get trapped in a cycle of writing and editing whenever a website tells you to. But, if you must, take advantage of the encouragement to get the writing done. It's still a worthwhile task, so long as it's not your only one.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review - The Crowmaster

The Crowmaster. Barry Hutchison (Invisible Fiends)The Crowmaster is the third book in Barry Hutchison's Invisible Fiends series. If you haven't heard of it, you're missing out. We're talking invisible friends, we're talking coming back to murder their children, we're talking all sorts of craziness you'd only find in the find of Hutchison! The previous two books, Mr Mumbles and Raggy Maggie were great for setting the scene of this latest instalment. In short: Kyle is going a bit mad. You would, too, if you were a twelve year old being hunted by murderous things that shouldn't exist!

So, what did you think of the book?
All in all, a great read. The ideas behind it - the crows, the fat-man, the Crowmaster - are all great for a series that has already seen a man who can't talk (but who really packs a punch!) and a girl with a murderous doll, killer teddy bears and a sense of humour to die for. (Pun intended!) What really made this book for me was the expansion on the growing mystery - some insight into a recurring character, some explanation into what's going on and why - and the play on a certain movie.

How did it compare to the other books in the series?
For me, it was less scary. But it was funnier. It was more amusing. Rather than have a creepy little girl or a violently huge man, we had something that was, in its design, scary - a scarecrow. But the Crowmaster is more than that. He's also in charge of an army of crows. Very, very violent crows. So while I wasn't struggling to sleep because of every little noise I heard, I was overly aware of every bird I passed by. Especially the ones that looked at me. And that was only after the first sighting of the crows, before they became entirely messed up!

Who's been your favourite villain so far?
Hmm... that's a tough one. It's a toss up between Raggy Maggie and Caddie, and the Crowmaster. (Sorry Mr Mumbles! Please don't kill me!) The duo from book two had a lot of interesting quirks and a whole load element of the absurd about them. An extremely violent little girl who had toys that hurt you using your own imagination in some cases - like the tea from the tea party! - was just so damn freaky! On the other hand, the Crowmaster was a smart guy. He figured out some little things all by himself. He was also the least human villain so far, which certainly made him a little bit weirder... In the end, I think I have to go with Caddie and her doll. The fear factor certainly plays a big part in that battle.

So what's next?
Well, Barry Hutchison has another book in the series out this August - Doc Mortis. It's said to be his scariest book to  date. I canny wait! He also has a couple of books out in Spring 2012 - The Beast, the fifth book in the Invisible Fiends series, and The Thirteenth Horseman, a standalone novel. About the apocalypse. That's a parody. I mean, I was going to do it myself, but I suppose I can wait a few years to try get my as-yet unwritten book published. In the meantime, one of my favourite authors beat me to it. I can't wait for it!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Last summer I introduced Miley Cyrus to a concept of good will and charity: EDGI, Evil Deeds for Good Intentions. EDGI requires a few key components.
  • Lots of scheming
  • A little bit of money
  • A third party, kept entirely in ignorance
Sneaking around behind someone's back, the concept of EDGI is to do something for them that they don't expect. I find it best to give someone either something they've wanted for a while, or something they would never expect, or something homemade. If you opt not to give a present but to still do something for someone, you still need that little bit of money to help buy things, unless you're really good at recycling.

Some examples of how to apply EDGI:
  • A surprise party, even when it's not the person's birthday
  • A scrapbook  - as Miley and I made last summer
  • A going-away present that someone doesn't suspect - yeah, we did that one... but she refused to cry for us!
Why bother? Well, for a start the scheming is fun. Going around behind someone's back, having all these little secrets from them, and doing it only for good reasons, to give something to them, gives a wonderful feeling of having been both evil (evil is fun, but frowned upon) and a good friend. EDGI helps to show someone how much they mean to you, make someone feel better about themselves, and, in cases of extreme boredom, gives you something to do.

It's all quite simple, really. Just look out for little things that people mention and you can really make their day out of the blue. I snook about last summer through Dublin to deliver a present to a friend - a Not-Birthday present* - only to later find myself in Offaly doing something else, both aimed at the one person, having gotten things like a scrap book, photos and stickers together to spend a couple of hours making something that weeks later would be the best way we could say how much this one person meant to both of us.

A bit sappy, I know. It's great.

It's just a suggestion, of course, to go through with EDGI. I'd love to hear you're little stories of mischief and good deeds for friends. And, you know, to steal your ideas to apply on my own friends!

* A Not-Birthday is a celebration of someone, but not of their birthday. It's best reserved for people who dislike their birthday intently, and not for just anybody, because that may lead to them becoming selfish and demanding and thinking you're a little bit creepy. Just saying.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Puppy Sized Elephant

What you see there is the pixelated contents of my Asian Elephant Adoption Pack from Dublin Zoo. I ordered at the start of my exams and have been waiting to get a chance to "show it off", as it were, on my blog. It came with an adoption cert, info on Asian Elephants, a badge that says I've adopted an elephant, and a soft toy elephant.

Three words on that last one: It's so fluffy!

In honour of our Philosophy of Religion exam, which we had the day I first brought the elephant into college - the day after I received it in the post - we named him Darwin. He's just about the cutest thing ever!

What drove me to adopt an animal? I don't know. I just noticed you could - over a year ago, now - and knew it was something I would go on to do, and soon. I couldn't decide for a long while. Settled on the elephant, because... well, elephants are cool. There's also the whole thing of the Puppy Sized Elephant. It's like a regular elephant, only it has the evolutionary advantage of being adorable. And now there's one in my house. It's so fluffy I'm going to die! (name that movie!)

I would encourage you to adopt an animal yourself, if not from Dublin Zoo, then from your own country's zoo. It doesn't cost that much, and you're helping to make up for the mistakes of those before us. Through deforestation, hunting and arrogant stupidity, we have systematically placed the existence of several species of animal into the red zone - if we don't do something to help save their lives, we'll have wiped out yet more species of animals. (Thankfully, only one person ever managed to wipe out an entire species by himself: a species of flightless bird he accidentally left his dog loose on while he reported their sighting... before anyone else could see them alive, the dog had killed them all.)

Click here to be directed to Dublin Zoo's animal adoption centre. Alternatively, you can buy one of the adoption boxes, like I did, by clicking this link. You can also browse through other zoo-related material on the site, and there's even cameras set up in the elephant and penguin enclosures to see the animals. I advise waiting for the penguins' feeding time, for that one! (That's at 2.30pm daily - we're on BST here!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review - Into Battle

Into Battle (The Seventh Tower, Book 5)With the summer well under way for me, I dived into my reading list (and a few others not on the list!) and started with Garth Nix's Into Battle, book five of the Seventh Tower series. It's been a while since I read any of those books, so it took me some time to catch up on what was happening - there were lots of 'Huh?'s and 'What in the heck?'s, but I finally realised what was happening, and no - I hadn't skipped a book. Thank God for that.

The book follows Tal and Milla on their journeys to do what's right - you know, save the world. Really, it doesn't get more right than that. These books feature rich histories, cultures and class systems the likes of which I didn't expect to see in a series for younger children when I first started reading them, and they're made all the better for it!

What did you think of the book?
Overall, a great story. I keep having to remind myself that the writing is simpler than that used in his other books - without being too simple to not enjoy the book. It was a fun tale to follow, and when you get into it, you really want the characters to succeed. I love the expanding folklore in the books, showing us more and more of Aenir and filling us in on the little tricks that can be done with Sunstones.

Is it better than the other books?
Honestly? I can't remember. It didn't disappoint, though. It contained the same type of story, and given that the events of each book follow each other it made it fun to read. The pace is sustained throughout, and despite the seriousness of the events, the book was still really fun to read! It's not something can be done easily, to tackle a tough topic in a light-hearted way without taking away from it. Top-notch stuff!

Who would you recommend it to?
Garth Nix is a fantastic author in that his books appeal to both boys and girls. This one is aimed at pre-teens, but that shouldn't turn others off. If anything, the ranking systems will be better appreciated by older readers. It's a fantasy book, so if that turns you off, don't read the book. Plain and simple. If you're looking for something fun, this is the book for you.

What next?
Well, the final book in the series, The Violet Keystone, is already out, but I won't be reading that for a while. I have a few more books to read before then, and a few more already read that I'll be reviewing soon. In order to catch up on my reading, because I've been reading things not on the list, I'll be posting out of my usual reviewing period. Whether this becomes my common practice for the summer is yet to be decided - it depends on how quickly I read some books - but for the time being I'll be picking up the pace. Besides, I have to make up for no review last week!

As always, comments are appreciated. If you'd like to see what's on my list, what I'm reading now, and maybe make a suggestion, head over to my Summer Reading List. Recommendations can be left here, or you can follow the instructions on how to get in touch on that page.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Poetry Against Cancer News!

Hello, hello and hello. It's been a while since I blogged - been busy, I'll explain at another point. I come to you today with news of my publication, Poetry Against Cancer. The book, which has been out for over a year now, is an anthology of poems from around the world, on sale to raise money for St John's Ward in Our Lady's Children's Hospital, in Crumlin, Dublin.

A while back,, the POD publisher we're using, emailed to say that books were going to be available through the iBookstore. I can now proudly announce that, as of today - this is when I'm finding out, mind you, not the hard-core facts - the book is now on sale there! I have, as a result of this addition, and in honour of it being so long since we published the book, lowered the price for the ebook. What was once €4, is now a handsome €2.99. This still leaves us with a high enough revenue to make money while also making it that little bit cheaper for you to buy!

The paperback book is still available from The ebook is now available from both Lulu and Apple. If you're buying the ebook from Lulu, I advise using the ebook link, at least for the time being while Lulu updates the price.

That's about it, I reckon. I hope you'll all consider getting a copy of this book. Until next time!