Sunday, July 31, 2011

Website in the Making

For the past couple of weeks, I've been annoying people on Twitter and Google+ (still amazing) about what they like to see on writers' websites. When most of the people who read my posts didn't answer, I decided to follow Rebecca Woodhead's advice in Writing Magazine and draw up a rough plan for a website. Her article also demonstrated the use of some of's features to make a website look great and professional.

While the site is still under construction, you can see it by clicking here. I've spent the day working out how to build the website and still hide it from view, and the result is what you see. I've already posted two articles on the site for the grand launch, but they won't be viewable to the public until that time. I've got a bunch of ideas I need to work on before I can do that, of course, but I've got most of the tools I need to do that already. There are some things, like the banner, that need more work than the rest, but overall I'm looking at maybe six weeks before I launch (yes, conveniently right before I go back to college... I wonder why that is. *cough* bragging rights *cough*)

I can't reveal the exact contents of my website just yet (don't want anybody stealing my good ideas!) but I can say that it won't just be about me. The content will all be mine, yes, but it won't be just about me. I think that's bound to make it more interesting to people who haven't heard of me (subtract about 1500 from the population of the Earth). I'm hoping this website will be set apart from others I've seen; yes it will look quite a bit like many websites and blogs, given that it's hosted on and using one of their templates, but it will have the small touches that I hope will be unique to my site. I've been thinking about them for some time, and to date only one person knows about my big secret to go on the blog.

What I'm still looking for is suggestions about what to include. What makes a personal website personal but doesn't make it a blog? I'll still be here, writing away on Blogger (even have a fancy button to send people here!). The website is going to be for news and announcements and the more professional side of my writing life. While that feels extremely weird to put into words, it's exactly what I want, and I'm getting excited for the launch already.

But before I launch, I need to set up a couple of things - only one person knows the specifics of one of them - and I need to get a proper banner designed and ready to upload. I also have one final goal: have something in each of the categories on the blog. I don't want it to be bare when I launch. There'll be things for people to read, to comment on, to (hopefully) enjoy, and they can't just be trickling online slowly while the headings go to waste. Everything needs to be online and ready to go for when I make the switch from one menu (the one that currently only says "coming soon") to the finished site, complete with all sorts of posts divided by category to make it so much easier to follow.

Also, if you're wondering about the "g" stuck write in the middle of the website's address, it's for my middle name. Or I can say it's a special effect. Or that Google has stamped its identity into my existence. You pick one. Mainly I just want suggestions about what people would like to see on the website.

Excess Writing

I'm sure many of my readers know, because I've spoken about it before, about NaNoWriMo and the new summer programme, Camp NaNoWriMo. If not, here's the gist of it: you have one month to write 50,000 words. In regular NaNo land, that's 30 days and an average target of 1667 words. In the Camp version, you get 31 days with an average of 1613 words to write each day. Sounds simple enough, if you're used to writing a lot.

Now pretend you didn't write for most of the month. Say, for twenty days of the month.

Okay, have you done that? That was me. I started on July 3rd. I then proceeded to only write on the 4th, 5th, 6th, 12th, 23rd, 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th of the month. Last night, I finished.

Happy dance time? I think so.

The book is far from finished, of course. I'm not going to pretend that I wrote the whole novel in the month. But I managed to do what I thought would be impossible and I'm happy with the results. I met a lot of great writers when talking about the book on Twitter and I got to develop the idea I'd had brewing in my head for nearly two years, now.

I wouldn't have done it if the plans I'd had for the weekend didn't fall through. Unless I'd kept writing early on, this book never would have reached the fifty thousand word mark this month. I should have been in Mitchelstown in Cork at a music festival, but the person I was supposed to go with wasn't able to follow up on our decision to go. I'll admit, I wasn't entirely happy about that given that I had gotten the weekend off work, but I did what I could and made the best out of a bad situation. Only that I had the time off work and I wasn't at the festival, I wouldn't have finished Camp NaNoWriMo.

I could bore you with the details of how I did it - statistics and whatnot from the month - but the main key to my "success" was tea. Lots and lots of tea.

I imagined I'd have more to say on the matter today, but I think the last four days have taken their toll on me. I wrote over 25,000 words between Wednesday and Saturday, which just about knocks any previous writing sprints on the head. The closest I got to that before was writing a novella in a few days last summer, but that book was about 5,000 words shorter than what I wrote the past few days.

I don't think I'll be doing that again soon, to be honest. Next up for me is to finish the novel, then to finish edits of Meet Sam and then to write a play to hopefully be put on in college (a man can dream!). I'm also planning on launching a website too, soon. It'll be filled with some sample writing, tips about writing (it'll be low-key, easy to read stuff that I learned over the years, and not a comprehensive guide on how to write a bestselling novel - I don't have that sort of expertise) and the obvious writer's bio that is necessary for a personal website. Don't laugh. (Okay laugh, but at least laugh to my face so I know who's not getting a Christmas card!)

I'm still mulling over some stuff to make it stand out as a website. Given that it'll be hosted on, there's only so much I can do in terms of design. If anyone has any recommendations, I'd love to hear them! I'll gladly read every suggestion, and consider the ones I deem most suitable for my particular set of skills. (Name that movie!)

PS Sorry about the very poor quality writing in this post... in my head it was much grander.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review - Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little LifeA while ago, there was a film called Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. It starred Michael Cera, it was hilarious and it made me want to read the graphic novels that it was based on. I didn't know then that I would enjoy them so much, or that the six graphic novels were made into one film - that was kind of a bummer, because I really wanted to up my dosage of Pilgrim. Still, I've only read one of the graphic novels, so I have five more to keep me amused. As always, start with volume one: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life.

It's in these pages that we first encounter Scott, his Rating (note: I will probably end up giving everyone I know a Rating if I get really, really bored) of Awesome and the two girls he dates: Knives Chou and Ramona Flowers. And, you know, the League of Evil Exes. They're sort of the bad guys. Basically, if he doesn't defeat Ramona's seven evil exes, he can't date her. And by defeat, I mean in a battle to the death. And they're weeeiiird.

What did you think of the graphic novel?
I don't think the word hilarious even does it justice. I would have to give it a rating of Awesome for being so funny, easy to read and bringing me back to the days when I would play computer games all day (wait... I still do that...). Also, seeing as Scott lives with his gay friend who owns everything of value in their apartment, it makes me feel better about my current living situation (the smallest room in the house, living with my parents... my windows froze over on the inside on Christmas morning!)

Also, the series is set in the magical land of Canadia. Love it!

How do the characters compare to others you've encountered?
Scott is unlike anyone I've ever read about. He's hopeless at relationships, mostly clueless, but he plays bass and can kick just about anyone's butt. Ramona reminds me of Margo Roth Spiegelman, except she's somehow cooler. Also, she skates through an interspace highway. That's awesome.

How does the book compare to everything else...ever?
Considering its size, it packs a mighty punch. Yes, there are mighty works of literature that speak a whole lot more about wider subjects, but nothing quite tells a love story in video game format via graphic novel like the Scott Pilgrim books. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen a book like these ones. And I work in a bookshop.

What did you think of the film adaptation?
Based on my reading of volume one, I can say easily that the film sticks fairly closely to the books. Most of the same lines are used, the actors cast look remarkably like the drawings and they deliver the comedy and the heart of the graphic novels perfectly! As far as adaptations go, it was one of the best I've ever seen (and I've done modules in college where we look at the original text and compare it to the adaptation!). As a film by itself, it was still brilliant. Neither of my brothers read the graphic novels and they still loved the film. It has its own unique, quirky charm that you just don't get in most films. And I go to the cinema almost every week, so I'm fairly sure of myself when I make that claim!

Who would you recommend this too?
People who like graphic novels are obviously the first people I would suggest this to if they haven't already read it. Aside from that, teenagers and young adults who like a good laugh when they're reading will enjoy this if they can get over the fact that it's a comic. Anyone who enjoyed the film is bound to like the book, too. It's an easy read, not too long and given they're only published in paperback, it's fairly cheap, too!

What's next?
Well, I have to write twenty three thousand words over the next four days, so I won't have a new review until next week. I do have books lined up to review, though, so there shouldn't be many/any delays in getting it online. If you're wondering what the writing is all about, it's Camp NaNoWriMo. I stopped writing for a while, so now I have to play catch up to finish the challenge. I'll be writing this book at a fast pace until it's finished, too, so people who are used to seeing me online a lot may not have the pleasure of my company. Or the displeasure... let's be fair, not everyone likes me (of those, most just don't know me very well). So, until next time (hopefully my victory blog post on Sunday!), happy reading!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review - Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes

13 Little Blue EnvelopesRemember Maureen Johnson? She's that author I quoted in my last review who said hilarious things. Up until recently, I referred to her as 'my favourite author whose books I hadn't read.' Not anymore. I took a risk (admittedly, a very low risk...) at buying one of her books, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, at the end of May, and I read it very recently. What can I say? I was missing out.

What did you think of the book?
First of all: I loved the concept of the story. I don't have a mad aunt who sends me all around the world with very little instructions to guide me along the way, and rules that stop me bringing guide books, money or anything else that might be useful going across continents and oceans. Second of all: I loved the characters. Ginny was a great protagonist. She was friendly, she was funny and best of all: she was ridiculously bad at being a popular girl stereotype and everyone still liked her. I loved the ensemble of new and weird people entering her life, the mad little ideas her aunt had, the opportunistic letters and the feeling of everything needing to work out for Ginny, from a reader's perspective.

How does it compare to other books you've read?
If I am being perfectly honest - which I aim to be in my reviews - the only other books close to this one that I've read are those by John Green (er...all of his novels that hit the shelves) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Johnson wrote a book that was much more light-hearted than Green does. This isn't to say either one of them is better than the other; rather, the happy feelings you get from Johnson's book are marred by much less sadness (especially when you compare it to Looking For Alaska, which made me an awful lot more.) Yes, you read that bracket right: more.

More? What do you mean more?
Let's be clear: a book that is only filled with happiness, with laughter, with strange people, can be good, but not great. To be great, the book has to inspire a lot more emotions from the spectrum. I laughed a lot while reading this book, but it does have its sad moments. On top of that, you really want Ginny to succeed in whatever she thinks her quest is. Oddly, you don't necessarily want her to ever go home, even when she first arrives scared and lonely in London. This would ruin the story, but aside from that you just want her to keep following through with the quest her aunt sent her on.

What was your favourite quirky moment?
My experience of Maureen Johnson is that she's a little bit quirky. If you saw her commentary on the Royal Wedding, or if you looked at my last review, or if you follow her on Twitter, you'll know this is definitely an understatement. So, I'll attempt to keep this spoiler free, but I definitely have to say that the play she made up for the book is definitely one of my favourite quirky moments in the book. Maybe not the best play in the world, but definitely good for what it is.

Who would you recommend this book to?
If you like young adult literature, the works of John Green and/or travel fiction, this is a good for you. It's funny, heart-warming and that little bit of delightful that every reader needs every once in a while. The characters are likeable, weird and interesting, the plot equally so. I couldn't put it down.

What next?
Well, I have another Maureen Johnson book to read, but not quite yet. Next week we've got another triple-set of reviews (compensating for the lack of reviews this summer) and I've got to write a helluva lot of fiction. Also, I think I want to travel everywhere now. Thanks Maureen, my bank account and job will love you for this... I may have to postpone it for a little while. And I don't think I'll be following Ginny's aunt's rules - I need money and guidebooks and stuff when I'm going anywhere. (Seriously, I once got lost on the way home, but that's a tale for another day...)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review - Writing A Children's Book

Writing a Children's Book (How to)I picked up this book, Writing A Children's Book by Pamela Cleaver, way back when I started working in the bookshop. We’d ordered it in especially for our Reference section, and I just bought it straight out. I didn’t read it. The sticker on the back says it came into three and a half years ago. So, bear that in mind, then also bear in mind that the original publication of this book was in 2001. This is an old book (as far as books go, yes, this is old). This book will be filled with inconsistencies in how we do things these days. It uses words like Postcard instead of Email. And it has a couple of errors in it that some wonderfully helpful YA authors helped me deal with. The corrections are at the bottom of the review, so you don’t get caught out.

What did you think of the book?
Okay, two things: it was easy to read (I got through it in a day... a day I was also in work for six hours with only a half hour break for eating!) and it did contain lots of helpful advice on writing fiction for children. It went through the basics of what different stories there were to be told (genres, etc) and it warned against a number of different things when submitting (like looking at the current market and thinking it has to be the same... or avoiding the market completely and thinking you’re revolutionising it; My book is so much better than every other book on the shelves at the minute, even the stuff you commissioned. That’s a big NO. If you take anything from this book it’s that you should read more. I advise checking out my reviews, which split Kids books up into categories – you might not have heard of some of them.) In saying both of those things, I will also advise you to check out the corrections department at the end of this review to make sure you don’t do the very, very stupid things Cleaver advises. 2001 or not, she was just wrong, and it almost spoiled the book. Twice.

Have you found the book useful?
Like all books I read about writing, it has given me an idea. Or three. So, yes, I found it useful. I have yet to actually write anything on these ideas (I’m still waiting for a way to start them to work its way to the front of my brain, which is currently on backlog with various other types of fiction), but the book has given me a way of sorting through the ideas easily enough. And, in researching the faults in the book (one in particular), I have a better idea of how to plan these books properly. The tips Cleaver gives are actually quite useful, and not just for children’s books (just especially for them.)
Who would you recommend this book to?
The obvious target market is the large group of people who think they want to write for children because it’s clearly so easy. Let’s smash that illusion right now, shall we? It’s not easy. It’s damn-well difficult. Picture books, despite their size are hard to write. YA books, despite being closely related to the more advanced books in the adult section (i.e. general fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy and occasionally Crime Fiction), are even harder to write than their adult counterparts, because they have to limit themselves to the maturity of the audience and, if they’re really daring, try to teach the reader something without being preachy (think John Green and every one of this books!) and entertain without being too creepy (think Twilight, minus Stephenie Meyer making a guest appearance as Bella Swan and the 120 year old stalker looking at the minor...)

As well as that, though, anyone who wants to write any sort of fiction can benefit from this. Nowadays, many adults are reading books from the children’s section without realising it such as Twilight, The Hunger Games and His Dark Materials, to name but a few. Getting to grips with how stories are aimed at different ages and interests can help with developing ideas for different markets in the adult world.

Now, what were those dreaded corrections?
Cleaver makes two big mistakes that I saw: one on the word count of teen fiction, and one on submitting to publishers/agents. Nevermind the outdated use of the word ‘postcard’, we’re talking stuff that will really change the way you use this book. And this is bad change, we’re talking about.

My problem, in tweet form: What's the average length of a YA book? - a book I'm reading says 35000 words.
Ken Armstrong's response: It's a piece of string question - 35k sounds awful short to me. Would guess 50-60k min. I know nothing obv. You could flog that length as a novella perhaps
Barry Hutchison’s response: As long as it needs to be. Fiends are all about 45k. Horseman is 60k. Think Dept 19 is 120k+. Depends on the story.
John Green’s response: I'd say 60-100 thousand. (Alaska is 228 pages--very short--and it's 65,000 I think.)
Maureen Johnson’s (hilarious) response: YOUR BOOK IS WRONG!

So, that was kind of vital. Hutchison’s books are aimed at slightly younger readers, hence the lower word count on the Invisible Fiends books when compared to John Green’s book (Looking For Alaska). If someone followed Cleaver’s advise, the result would be a book that is far too short for publication. Do not follow her advice. Mine is clearly better (and that is to listen to Hutchison, Green and Johnson, even if the latter isn’t so much helpful as comical – that’s helpful in its own way!)

But Cleaver wasn’t done ruining your career. So, without further introduction:

My problem, in tweet form: On submitting the MSS: book suggest putting the copyright notice at the end. Thoughts?
Barry Hutchison’s response: I've never done that. The fact you wrote it means you have copyright and pub knows that.
Brendan McLoughlin’s* response: I think if u [sic] submit to agents, they'll be able to make the copywrite [sic] decisions
Maureen Johnson’s (hilarious) response: Okay, what is this crazy book?

*Brendan went on to make the point of this all being pretentious, particularly for unknown authors such as myself and him. The last thing we need is to insult the publishers we're submitting to.

Again, follow my advice: leave out that nasty copyright symbol (©). Publishers are not thieves nor are they stupid. If you really feel that insecure about your work, you shouldn’t be submitting it anywhere. Get over your insecurities about someone stealing your work by doing the smart thing: print a copy for yourself and put it in an envelope. Go to the post office, a very old form of email for those of you who find the concept alien in its entirety, and send that envelope with your complete book (and your name, details, etc...) to yourself or a trusted friend. Hold on, we’re not done. When it arrives, DO NOT OPEN IT. Look at the top of the envelope. There is a postage date. This is government approved. This is guaranteed, 100%, proof that this envelope was in existence at this date. When you submit, no one can steal your work, because if they do they’ll have a nasty law suit on their hands for breaching copyright – you have a date to prove when you had it, they don’t. No matter how big they are, you win.

A word on that, before you go mad: ideas can’t be copyrighted, and someone may have had an idea very similar to yours that was accepted when yours wasn’t. This does not mean the publisher stole your work. Do not sue everyone who publishes something similar to what you wrote. Do the mature and smart thing: write a book that is even more unique and amazing than your other book, and keep writing to get both published.

A further note on copyright: once you write it, it’s yours. The copyright symbol (©) is just clarification of the year of copyright. The envelope in the post is just your proof that you are the author. They do not seal the deal. They are essentially irrelevant, until someone challenges the authorship of the book. (This also applies to music, paintings, and pretty much everything that people create, though products require patents to prevent theft – I am not a patent expert, ask me no questions on it.)

So, what next?
Again, lots of reviews to come from me. And lots of writing. I have to catch up on Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s not a children’s book, though. I couldn’t figure out how to start Brilliant Idea 1 or Brilliant Idea 2. I’ll figure them out while I’m writing my fantastic Science Fiction novel. (They say self-praise is no praise. That’s stupid. It’s just not worth anything to anyone else, which is why modesty is preferable.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review - The Age of Apocalypse (X-Men)

X-Men: Age of Apocalypse PreludeOne thing quite a few people know about me is that I have a lot of interest in comics. Truth be told, I know more about them than I have right to: I never really read them. I decided to change that, and ignoring my reading list altogether I read The Age of Apocalypse epic in the X-Men series of comics from Marvel, including the Prelude. Originally I had planned to review each of the four volumes in turn, until I realised that they were almost impossible to distinguish between.

They’re broken down into individual stories, following the likes of Cyclops, Havock and Sinister, Magneto and Rouge, Gambit and the Xternals, and a whole cast of characters taken from the comics and thrown into a new story. Everything changes in these comics, the logic behind it all explained in the Prelude. Introduce time travel and things are bound to change. And in the words of my fellow comic book nerd from college, ‘This is their masterpiece.’

X-Men: The Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic, Book 1How did you find reading comics to reading regular fiction?
It was...different. Essentially, the storytelling falls into two categories: the dialogue and the pictures. It’s literally a case of showing and not telling (except when dialogue and narration has to fill in the gaps for readers). One of the hardest things is getting used to looking at everything on the page in different orders – some scenes spread over two pages, the images being that big, so the whole layout of the comic changes.

As well as that, there’s the issue with reading dialogue and following what’s actually going on. It took me a while to get used to reading what was being said in the right order. This is no fault of the people who wrote the comics, of course; I’m just not that used to reading them. For me, the writing goes right across the page, no pictures.

X-Men: The Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic, Book 2What did you think of the story?
As I’ve said, this is their masterpiece. Each of the books (Prelude, and Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4) fills us in on the little details: what caused the Age of Apocalypse to come about, how the X-Men planned to stop it, once and for all, what Apocalypse was doing to the world, what was happening to the universe and how they ultimately hoped to stop that, too. I won’t drop spoilers. For fans of X-Men, this is the must-read series of comics. They break open the whole world of X-Men and answer the question: What would happen if Charles Xavier never formed the X-Men?

This really is the ultimate ‘What if...’ story, and it certainly let down a lot less people than House of M and its particular affect on the Marvel universe...

What was your favourite arc, and what was your least favourite?
My favourite would have to have been that which followed Rouge. She was always one of my favourite characters (I know, the outsider being my favourite character... har har har). Again, no spoilers, but there’s a whole new set of stories being told in this group (which still keeps the old favourites around, too, like Storm).

My least favourite... Wolverine. My experience with Wolverine – known in these comics as Weapon X, I might point out – is that he’s the angry, distant type. He fights and he’s looking for answers and God help anyone who tries to get in his way. Well, with certain changes that still follow his character’s general story, he’s a bit annoying in how much he gets down in himself. And he’s missing a hand. That may have attributed to it all (because, you know, his hand is supposed to grow back..?).

X-Men: The Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic, Book 4Whose story were you happiest with?
This one is difficult... Cyclops has an interesting story, but he still maintains a lot of his usual morals and all that stuff that eventually wears him out. Beast is even more...delightful, we’ll say. I think they did a great job with him in these comics, taking him to an extreme they couldn’t have gotten away with in a different reality. Best of all, though, was Nate Grey. I stumbled across Nate in my extensive reading about X-Men a few years ago and never really understood where he came into the story. Well, AoA answers the very important question of his origins, and goes into some detail on his powers, his life and his personality. And he’s one of the coolest looking characters that isn’t grossly mutated beyond recognition as a human. (The white flick in his hair and the glowing eye certainly did the trick!)

X-Men: The Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic, Book 3Saddest part of the whole series?
This one would call for a spoiler. No spoilers. Just wait until you get to Volume 4 and you’ll see it all happening. You just have to wonder what made them do it. Then you realise it’s genius, if a little too tragic. You’ll see!

Who would you recommend this series to?
A few groups... firstly, if you like X-Men but haven’t read this series yet: this is for you. Do I have to say it again: It’s their masterpiece! Secondly, to people who generally like comics and haven’t read this series, even if you’re not especially a fan of X-Men. Thirdly, if you like a good story and think you can manage the images (and, can I just say, the artwork is brilliant, so it’s totally worth it), then you should give this series a try.

What’s next?
Well, I can’t possibly answer that for Marvel... they have the most convoluted plots in the world that I will forever be out of my comfort zone with them. I can only hope to catch up on some of the amazing stories they tell. As for me, I’ve got reviews coming up of a children’s book, a graphic novel, a Young Adult novel and a book about writing for children, none of which were on my list. (I think the list is cursed, because I chose too many big books and started reading too many of them at once...)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Internet Connection is Back!

I don't know if I should feel guilty about not posting reviews or not over the past couple of weeks, but I am here to tell you that this little problem I had is now over! I have two shiny reviews to post, probably on Tuesday and Wednesday next week (and I'll probably write a third review to fill in Thursday as well).

The reason I was gone from the reviewing world is that our Internet provider here at home - i.e. the only place I have Internet access that isn't in work (where I definitely should not be posting reviews to books) - failed to let us do anything. Over the past couple of weeks our connection has been done almost every hour. We've had little bursts of activity every now and then, but never on Wednesdays when I was going to post reviews. It was very annoying. I was up until midnight last night hoping the signal would come back. It did not.

We have since received a new modem - it arrived this morning - and I have done some fiddling about, so we have now have Internet access. I just had to sacrifice the house phone. We don't have another cable available to plug the modem into the wall. Also, our desktop no longer has Internet access. I know how to fix this problem (fairly sure of it, anyway) so I'll use all those skills in computers they teach us in coll... no hang on, not in my college. God can fix anything but the incompetence of technicians, and DSL cables.

The truly annoying thing is that we had someone out in the house to look at it all, who then recommended a new modem. If my guess is right, we didn't even need a new modem. It was the wires hooking it up to the wall that are the problem. Our set-up - the one that doesn't work, but not the one I'm using right now - sends the wire from the computer upstairs, through the landing, into my room, into a little box. This box then has another cable that goes through my floor, down into the hallway by the door and into the phone box.

That didn't work.

One of the two wires or that little box on my floor doesn't work. One of those three things (at least one...) has stopped working. That is a plain and simple fact. The connection should work from the computer like it used to, but it doesn't. So I have to be right. I may be socially awkward and a little bit weird (and I sometimes under-estimate how weird I am...), but I know logic when it comes zipping through my brain. The current set-up works. The old one used to. The only difference is the wires used.

I win at Internet.

(That was an example of me being weird, wasn't it? It's for things like that that I wonder why I have any readers... or friends. I think it's so people can feeler cooler by comparison. That must be it. It makes perfect sense, because it's entirely true. Everyone is cooler by comparison to me. Enjoy being cool. By the way, I don't believe in cool, unless we're talking about a scientific measurement of heat. Why am I studying Religion?)

Anywho, long story short, I fixed our Internet connection, I will be posting reviews next week, and I am better at fixing the problems in this house than the people who will most certainly charge us for not fixing anything. And me? I'll have to clean up after dinner by way of payment.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

System Failure

The past few days have been...boring.

Yes, this is another one of those woe-is-me-rants that I'm so annoying for. Well, not really. Okay, did you ever just want to talk to somebody and you can't because they've disappeared off the face of the earth? That's kind of what happened. That's made the week a lot less fun.

Also, my Internet connection keeps cutting out. We lost it four times since Monday, which kind of put a dampener on writing up a review on Wednesday. We've been trying to get it sorted. Every time the provider gets involved, things tend to get worse. Also, they're only giving us 1.8 MB broadband, when we're paying for 8. They really should have realised that a few years ago when they started receiving money from us. Now they're overcharging us and providing crappy tech support.

The biggest problem with the week is that I stopped writing. Just suddenly. No reason at all. I think I'll go on a mad one tomorrow and write a few thousand words (I am so very exciting all of the time...) Bliss, my Camp NaNo novel, is currently standing at 16000 words, while Dignity has a few thousand more (though less typed...) I want to get Bliss done quickly so I can get back to Dignity. Just needed to write something a little less...real? A Sci-Fi pretty much filled the bill, anyway.

Related to that first thing I mentioned... did you ever almost do something you might regret then have to force yourself not to be an idiot? Just me then. No matter how many times people call me smart, intelligent or any variation of the word, inevitably I will disagree with them because of one point: socially, I'm a bit of an idiot. If the various problem I've caused myself over the years aren't evidence enough of that, I almost used a loophole to get around a rule set for me on a list of things I am most certainly never allowed to do. A loophole. A God-damned loophole. They're great for some things, but not for this. So I went against the loophole, and that means I'm still stuck here wondering what on earth has made someone disappear.

Basically, it's all become a bit aggravating; the boredom of the summer is settling in as the list of things worth doing dwindles down into nothing (hence wanting to talk to the one person who has vanished). I'm still not at the stage where I'm so bored I want to go back to lectures, but I'm getting there. I think once I can get out of this slump (bad mood and exhaustion) I can get back on track to writing and to not having to resort to a blog to vent frustrations over little things in life. (I'm not frustrated at any of my friends, because I know they have lives; I'm frustrated with our Internet provider and with myself for being Sleepy and Grumpy and possibly two or three of the other dwarfs... Dopey?)

If I didn't have work tomorrow, and if my body didn't outright refuse to stay in bed, I would just sleep all day. Nothing beats Sunday morning in bed when you're tired, except maybe sleeping in your own bed after being away for a few days. Or sleeping on the ground.* I'm completely drained, I'm going to the cinema tonight and I'm fairly certain that I won't last another week of losing sleep (because of the heat and the constant muttering in my head wondering why I can't seem to make plans with the people I've seen the least all summer).

Hopefully my Internet connection won't die (again) before Wednesday so I can put up a review. And mayb,e just maybe, my slump will be gone by then.

* Yes, I have slept on the ground before. We did it in Connemara (Galway) during Transition Year. It wasn't entirely uncomfortable, though the sunrise was less of a rising sun than the sky gradually turning more bright blue, because of the altitude and the trees. Yes, we slept among trees. We were warned about badgers. That scared a couple of people. We were told to carry sticks to break if a badger bit us - they don't let go until they break a bone, apparently. Fun...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Two Years Ago

When I was eighteen, I made a decision that would change my life. Most Irish teenagers make a similar choice at this time of their lives, sixth year in secondary school, Leaving Cert leering its ugly head on the horizon and one form to fill in that would decide everything we did for the next fifty-odd years of ours lives: the CEO form.

I still remember it all, the going to different colleges for different open days. Except, for me the choice was never one that included leaving home. I wanted to go to college in Dublin. I wanted to stay close to what friends I had; at that age, I was even more socially awkward than I am now and I mostly got close to a limited number of friends in school, most of whom I still talk to on a regular basis. And of course, I didn't want to have to wake up unnaturally early to attend lectures. This also cut out Maynooth.

I went to two Open Days, looking at English courses, Journalism, Marketing, Business; really, my options were limited to my specific tastes and the subjects I was studying. Mostly. I didn't want to go into further study in design. I didn't want to study Science.

When it came to filling in the form, then, it was all to do with one of the above-mentioned courses (with the addition of Philosophy and Psychology each combined with English at Trinity College, both of which I had my reservations about because (1) I wasn't sure I was cut out for the courses and (2) I wasn't sure I would get the points.) My top three included the college where my friends from then are now all studying (the aforementioned friends I still talk to) and the college I am attending now.

Form filled in, I "only" had to sit the exams and get the points. No biggie, right? I'd be in college with my friends in no time at all. Except, when I tried to picture myself in college, the green grass I sat on wasn't in that college, and it wasn't with those friends. I never suspected I would stop talking to them, it just didn't feel like I would be spending the next four years of my academic life with them. In my mind it was a scene out of a brochure: me, a guy and a girl sitting on the grass at the college I'm now attending (my classmates will know that there are only two areas of grass in the college I have ever acquainted myself with, neither of them being the football pitch - it was the larger of the two, opposite the library.) The sun was shining, the atmosphere felt good, and I knew deep in my heart that this was what I wanted, that this would be a reality, if not so literally.

Two years ago, when I was eighteen years old, I knew that when I was studying to become a teacher I would meet two people who I would definitely be happy to spend the rest of my life talking to. (Turns out it's more than two; go figure.) Two years ago I knew I would find my best friends in a college I had yet to earn the points to get in to, had yet to receive my place on my course of choice and had yet to actually see. I just knew.

I've never told anyone that before. In my head it was going to be a dramatic speech made if times ever got hard. Literally a few hours ago I was going over it all in my head. I knew who I was talking to and I knew why it was important. Times have been hard, on and off, over the past few years of my life. I've been bullied, I've been drawn completely within myself, I've felt completely cut off from the world (last summer was horrible for that one!) and every time of late, the people in my brochure photo of an idea of college were there to help me through it. Two years ago, I knew about the cups of tea and the long talks on the phone and the hardships of starting over, and the joys that would follow, and all the happy times I would have that let me know that no matter how hard it all got, things would get better.

I don't get to see my friends so much during these months when college is out, but I always know these great and wonderful truths that life is always so much better when I can be with them. And when I can't, I fantasise, make a cup of tea and look back at all the photos taken that serve as story I've been waiting to happen to me my entire life.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Life of Its Own

Earlier this evening I allowed my brain to decide what I was going to write, rather than writing what I had been writing all summer. It chose to write Bliss. I've had the idea for Bliss for about two years now, and when I started writing it today, it decided it was going to be a bit different than I'd planned.

See, originally it was going to be just a simple story of cross-dimensionality, neuro-transmission, androids and love - sometimes all at the same time - and now its taken on new characteristics. Without meaning to, I introduced an eco-system of poisonous cloud and venomous journalists, made a society of long-living archetypes of perfect humans, and gave my protagonist a wife who is more than just a bossy bitch as I'd originally planned. Now she's a hot blonde model. Who cares about stuff. Who thinks. She's actually amazing. For now.

The reason I'm writing this, of course, is as a warning for people who think they decide what goes into the book in the end. No, as writers we're just the people who have developed typing skills and whose brains act as the hyper-dimensional gateway for ideas to make it from the Realm of Forms into the world we live in. Essentially, I'm my book's bitch, if you want to get ghetto about it all.

But it's not just the book that takes control of the final product, and that's where this gets serious. When entering the world of publishing, first time novelists will be astonished to find out that someone wants them to change their book. Yes, it's true. There are these people called Editors who, if they existed alongside God, would have made sure things ran smoothly before we were release into the world.

Using the all powerful Red Pen, the Editors are what get a book from the submitted draft to the book on the shelves, and its entirely out of the hands of the writer. Well, they still have to do all the work the Editors suggest - and they're quite pushy, so really it's an order, not a suggestion - but they don't get to put their foot down. If they do, they generally do it without a publishing contract. C'est la vie.

Anyway, midnight is staring at me. It's giving me a threatening look, like it knows I should really be in bed by then if I want to do anything productive tomorrow. With 3440 words written on Bliss - just tonight - I think I should be able to manage Camp NaNoWriMo. I hope this book doesn't decide to take control and shut down...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ideas Worth Keeping

I've read a lot about writing - a lot - and one thing that comes up every time is what to do with ideas when you get them. I have seen two different suggestions, and I don't agree with either one as being the best reaction to my brain churning out ideas that may or may not be of any use.

I couldn't tell you the specific books that take each side of the argument, but the two suggestions are this:
  • Write down your idea the moment you get it in a little notebook so you don't forget it
  • Do the exact opposite, because if you forget it it wasn't a good enough idea in the first place
The problem with the first is the very reason the second is a good suggestion: you could write down any old idea and assume it's going to be a good one. You won't know the difference when it comes to looking back over your notebook between the good ideas and the bad ideas. Of course, the problem with the second suggestion is that you may actually forget a good idea! Not everyone has a perfect memory. I generally consider myself to have a good memory, but I don't remember everything that happens all the time. Life has a habit of making thoughts become a blur.

My suggestion, while maybe not the best one, incorporates both: keep a notebook, but don't write everything down immediately. I have a small hardback notebook that I bought it in work; it fits in my pocket in work, which is perfect when I'm doing menial jobs like packing books away, if I get an idea or see or hear something that may be of use, and fits in any bag I might have with me wherever I go. But I don't just write down anything. I usually wait a day, unless it's something to add to an existing idea, or specific words I want to use, or details for somewhere to submit. If, the next morning, I can remember the idea I had the day before, I will write it down in my notebook.

This is useful for ensuring the bad ideas don't stick around - if you forget them overnight, they weren't that great - and for keeping the good ones - that really shouldn't be forgotten so quickly. Any and all opinions on this method of idea-keeping are appreciated.

Which of the two suggestions do you follow, or are you a half-way kind of person like me?

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Year in Blog Stats

One year ago, Blogger introduced stats. These allowed for people to track how many pageviews we received, where they came from, what they viewed, stuff like that. I thought it'd be fun to share stuff like that, so here's the run-down:
  • I posted 151 posts since July 1st 2010 (not including this one)
  • I received over thirteen thousand pageviews (I'm still shocked that anyone bothered to read anything I wrote)
  • I took a two week "holiday" in August, another break at the end of September into the middle of October, then a two month break in December until February
  • I posted 37 reviews of books and CDs
  • I discovered several new authors
  • I caused a stir with tantrums, and NaNoWriMo
  • I was linked to a lot by two popular blogs
That's just some of it. If it wasn't midnight I'd go through more of it. However, IRL I've gone through my second year in college, continued to make amazing friends and realised how great the friends I had really were. I wrote a lot of fiction, read a lot of books and I think once or twice (or five or six or seven times) I lost my mind. (I think I found it again, somewhere.)

So, I can face another year like that, I guess. I'm still reading away, and Lord knows I have a lot of stuff to read for college next year, I have a head full of crazy ideas (really, really crazy) and I know that time and time again my friends will show me that they're even better than I first thought. Also, something really mad: I'm going to turn 21 within the next year.

Permission to feel old?

Granted. It's weird to think that this blog will be three years old in August, too. Everything's getting older, everything change, and I'm sure I'm not the same person now than I was back then. I've done Big Important Exams, met Really Cool People, changed my outlook on life and I've written more than I thought I ever would.

Do I have plans for the year ahead? Nothing's set in stone, a lot of stuff actually depends on chance. Except for the fact that I'll be reading and writing a lot. That's a guarantee.