Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Clear and Certain Plan

Later this month, I plan on announcing my publishing plans for 2014. I don't normally do that, but then I don't normally have the time to dedicate to writing from the offset.

Last January was an anomaly. I was lucky to get home early almost every night while on teaching placement. This gave me time to make tea in the comfort of my own home, work at my own desk and at my own pace, and free myself from the distractions that arise from the wonderful people I call my friends. (I would want to talk to them all the time - it's just easier to blame them for being so distracting than it is to accept that it's actually just my own fault. This doesn't count as a confession because it's in brackets. Obviously.)

With all of that in mind, I was able to write a book in the evenings, after I had my lessons planned for the next day. That book would become Planning Before Writing. I did not know when I started writing it that I would be able to publish it in March.

This December, I've already begun planning my publishing schedule. There are a couple of things I need to work on doing, still, and a couple of books that - when I announce the schedule - will be untitled, but overall I have a plan of what I'll be doing next year. This is unheard of for me.

What's changed? I'm not in college. I don't have exams to dread in May. I don't have essays due in throughout the year. I don't have teaching placement in January. Unless things change drastically for me, I'm looking at working only three and a half days a week on average - two in the bookshop, the remainder of the time minding my niece.

Effectively, my time is freed up completely at the time of the year when I'm most able to focus: January. It's been a need to develop that for the past few years, and last year I had the added bonus of creating a New Year's Resolution that would keep me writing consistently for a long time.

But let's just be clear on something: I didn't stick to it this year. There are days that I didn't write anything. By the time I'd written a poem every day for two months and blogged every day for that amount of time, too, I just ran out of things to say. Okay, not entirely true. I actually just hit a slump one week, and it took a while to get the ball rolling again. I'm still not entirely sure what happened, there.

What's different this time around is that I'm not just planning on writing every day. I'm not giving myself a big list of options to work from. I'm focusing entirely on one project at a time. It'll make more sense, soon, but effectively I'm giving myself assignments like I'd have in college, and using my time to create whatever book or article it is that I'm supposed to do.

This is my self-made work. It's all things I'm passionate about, things I've been wanting to do for a long time, now, and just never got around to doing. I'm approaching 2014 with a clear plan in mind, and I'm going to make sure that I actually stick to it. It's not just a hobby any more. This is work. This is business.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What 'Work' Means

When applying for a job, the typical CV includes a number of details that effectively break down as a simple introduction to who you are and how you see yourself. Let's look at my CV briefly, leaving out the details like where I live, and the specifics of where I work. Safety first online.

Hi there. My name is Paul Carroll, I'm twenty two, and I'm a recent college graduate. I have six and a half years' experience as a bookseller, I write books and plays, I consider myself quite empathetic towards others, and I took part in Drama while in college. I'm technically a qualified teacher, a detail I include to indicate that I have developed skills in communication, organisation and working with large groups of people in sometimes stressful situations.

Looking at that, it's not a bad introduction. However, if I had this in in the form of a CV, what it looks like is:

Hi there. My name is Paul Carroll, I'm twenty two, and I'm a recent college graduate. I have six and a half years' experience as a bookseller, in a shop where my time is valued at minimum wage. I write books and plays, but I haven't ventured into the world of traditional publishing. As the current understanding of what it means to be published is still changing, you might think I'm either afraid of failure, or that I am a failure. I consider myself quite empathetic towards others, which is my way of saying I'm sensitive to others and their needs; while this is useful when working with the public, as a personality trait it's underestimated. I took part in Drama while in college, something I can point out to show that I had a balanced work-and-social life, but that might also suggest I could bring the theatrics with me. That is not always the case. I'm technically a qualified teacher, a detail I include to indicate that I have developed skills in communication, organisation and working with large groups of people in sometimes stressful situations. My lack of a teaching position might indicate that I never bothered, or no school would hire me. The former makes it look like I changed my mind, which makes me look fickle.

With the added cynicism, my CV doesn't look too great. It indicates that I am undervalued but not willing to take drastic measures to change that. It suggests I chose self-publication for reasons other than the challenge of doing it all myself. It doesn't say much about what it really means to pay attention to how others are feeling, or how Drama helps to develop a sense of belonging to a group about which I was passionate. Furthermore, it doesn't say much about how I feel about the teaching world right now, or my position in it.

On the latter, I'll be brief. Teaching in Ireland is tricky at the moment. There are union problems. There's a new Junior Cycle programme on its way in. At least, that was the plan. These are all adding to the workload and food for thought for teachers, who must still prepare lessons for pupils, grade work, prepare exams, and - when industrial action isn't taking place - arrange meetings and out-of-school trips. It's all quite headache inducing at the moment, and I'm barely four years older than the sixth year students.

I'm not on a sub list for teaching at the moment as a result of a combination of the above paragraph and, more significantly with regards timing and scheduling my life, the time I spend working in the bookshop and minding my niece. The sub list is not a guarantee for work. Few people on it will work every week, fewer of them every day of every week, and fewer still will be lucky enough to find sub work as maternity leave cover. I'm not currently in a position to drop everything with an hour's notice Monday to Friday. Social obligations are less of an issue - friends would understand. It's the days I could be working in the bookshop, or the days I'm minding my niece, that would cause problems.

So, that's that. That's why I'm not currently working as a teacher.

However, even that represents only a limited understanding of what it means to be a teacher. Looking at my CV again, we can see a few key points jumping out: I'm a writer, with speaking practice, trained as a teacher. Those three points actually go together remarkably well.

You see, my college experience has helped shape me into someone who is quite capable of doing something I wouldn't have thought possible fifteen years ago - when I didn't know what it meant to be a published writer, when writing books wasn't even an option because I had never found a book for my age that told a story I really loved. (That came later.) What's changed is that I'm in a position to make my own work as a teacher.

Classrooms are important for group teaching. That said, they're only vital when the group is consistently larger than a dozen - at least on the class list. Nowadays, technology allows for group discussions through video conferencing (and conversing) software. Google Hangouts make talking to a group of people an easy to manage environment. But even with that in mind, the Internet and the advent of digital publishing and the decreased requirement for a "gatekeeper" allows for someone like me to redefine what 'work' means.

I've spoken about this already, but this is what I'm planning in 2014. I'll be back to working barely any hours in the week, still on minimum wage. I'll have plenty of time to myself during the week, time which I can use to revalue myself publicly. Lets face it, I have nothing to lose in trying to work on things I'm actually passionate about - not magazines and newspapers and stationery, not someone's problem with a book they received, or the finer details that arise from working under a brand name, but in a different company altogether.

Work shouldn't have to be about doing things at a pay-rate that belittles the trouble you go to for people, or the effort you put in to make sure everything runs smoothly. Work shouldn't have to involve doing something that doesn't make you happy.

Yes, I'm grateful to have a job. But it's not good work. Retail, especially at Christmas, is difficult. I'm at the end of six days working full time, leaving me exhausted and exasperated, and the closest thing I get to a Christmas bonus is €20 under my name for a Christmas party that hasn't even been arranged yet. This is after restocking and re-merchandising the shop for six days in a row. This is after customer complaints over transactions I wasn't involved in - too often not even from my shop. This is after customers failing to observe the store's opening hours. This is after recommending and/or locating books at least a dozen times a day - most likely more than that. That, for minimum wage.

I'd like to clarify: I understand the company's financial situation. I understand the rush at Christmas. This isn't about the job itself. It's about how much value is placed on the work I do, from where I'm sitting. I know that come January, things will go back to what could loosely be described as normal. I know I'll be back to working just weekends, despite having proved myself as being able to handle more than just the few hours I receive with the responsibility that's placed on me.

Having a job and being valued for your work are two different things. I know what it would take when I control my work to indicate that I am valued. I know the difference between the job I have in the bookshop and the work I'm putting into place for next year. I know what work means to me, and what I ought to be valued at, and I know how it looks from the outside. All I have to do now is make sure it's clear from the point of view of others when I'm working and when I'm not. (Here's a hint: if I'm typing a lot on my laptop, writing a lot on notepad, or looking intently at a screen - sometimes with a tablet and a pen in my hand - then I'm probably working. Even if you hear music blaring at the same time. It's called a 'working environment'.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Last Minute Gift Ideas

With Christmas just around the corner, it's possible you're still struggling to find a present for someone. Every shop is recommending their products, every newspaper seems to have their own ideas of what people want for Christmas - usually watches, or a gadget, or perfume - and still, somehow, nobody knows what to buy. This is especially true when you fall into one of two categories: you have a limited budget, or you don't know what someone actually needs. (We're going to assume, in this, that you're not just getting someone a random piece of equipment they would never think of getting for themselves, like a pen that lights up when you start writing, or a pair of slippers you put in the microwave before wearing.)

Let's start with a simple one: a voucher. Personally, I hate giving someone a voucher for Christmas. I feel like when I give someone a voucher, it says I don't know them well enough to buy them a present. Except, that's not necessarily the case. Your voucher doesn't have to be a shopping voucher. Consider getting someone an experience for Christmas; you can buy someone a voucher for paint-balling, or go-karting, or a restaurant voucher. You can give someone a day out in a spa, or a night out enjoying a good meal.

Similarly, you might try a concert ticket. Think within your budget, and within the tastes of the other person. Don't assume that everyone shares your love of death metal, and don't assume you have to be the one to go with them to the concert. Sometimes that's implied (especially if it's for your significant other), but it's not always necessary. (Just make sure you give the recipient more than one ticket if you're not getting one for yourself, or have someone lined up to go with them.)

Alternatively, you can make your own presents. This works well when everyone is on a limited budget. You'd be surprised how far money can stretch when all the production is done by you. Some ideas for your consideration:

- A frame, made from a cereal box. Decorating it even with paint, or with glued-on sea shells or pasta pieces, can make it unique. Don't forget to put a photo in it.

- A scrapbook of memories. This works well for friends or romantic partners, but family can also enjoy it. Select photographs of the recipient that capture happy moments from their lives - even just over the past few months - and create captions for them. Fill the entire scrapbook. Use wrapping paper to redesign the cover, and think about using cheap packets of stickers to spruce it up a bit.

- A calender. You can get one made professionally using your own photographs, or you can print it yourself from home. If you present the entire year on one page, consider a strong piece of backing board. Most art shops should sell it. It will make the finished piece last longer.

- Knit an item of clothing. Give it a personal touch like Mrs Weasley, or just aim for comfort and style.

Of course, your present might not be a physical item. In the digital age, you can give someone a present that they'll never lay their hands on. In my ebook Writing Gifts, on a Shoestring, I consider a few different ways to use your writing as a present. Here are some more ideas on using the Internet as part as your presentation, including different ways to get creative.

- Write a song, and record it. Use the best microphone or camera you have access to. You can post it on YouTube - publicly or privately - and send the link when you're ready. (This helps you maintain the quality of the video, so you don't have to reduce it to attach to an email.) You can also write a poem or story and read it for someone, or just send it to them in an email.

- If you're abroad for the holidays, grab a camera and go for a walk. Record everything you can see - all the scenery, all the people - and record a message for your loved ones to go with it. Put in on YouTube, as recommended above, and send on the link later.

- Arrange a time to eat together online. Share a meal from across the world, even if it means one person eating breakfast while the other sits down for dinner. The important thing is that you're doing it together. Skype and Google Hangouts are ideal for this sort of thing, the latter especially so if you know a lot of people in a lot of different places and you all want to spend some time together.

The other, more obvious routes you could head down include DVDs, books (including ebooks) and clothing. There's a lot that goes into choosing any of these, which is why I try to avoid them unless I know it's going to be appreciated. The simple way to make sure you're getting someone something they want is to ask. Beyond that, just listen more closely. It would surprise you how liberal people are about talking about what they want, especially when the holiday season is coming. (The surprise is on them if you find out before the holidays even become an issue!)

Of course, if you know a writer or musician, a good way to support them around the holiday season is to consider buying their books or tracks, for yourself or for others. Not only are you helping out a friend or loved one, you're also getting someone else something out of it. (As a writer, I feel it makes some sense to mention this at some point in this point. As someone who knows a lot of other writers, and quite a few musicians, I have a social obligation to emphasis how much work goes into a single book, or an album, and independent artists are always in need of support.)

Do you have any other gift ideas you'd like to share with people? Comment below so others can see them, and help make the holiday season a little bit less stressful.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Daily Content and a Publishing Schedule

While reading The Millionaire Messenger (and yes, eventually I will stop mentioning that book), it occurred to me that if I really want to sell books, I need to do more than just write books, or writing articles or stories when I wanted to sell a book. Having brought up the book so much, and thought about it a lot, I got the idea to publish The Winter Folk over the period of December.

It was a no-end-in-sight plan. Not that it had no end, but that I wasn't doing it for a particular reason other than: (1) I wanted to do something nice in the run up to Christmas and (2) ParagraVerse has been awfully lonely, lately. So, I wrote it as twelve-part poem, to help make it last longer while my work schedule picked up.

As it happens, the poem created its own end.

In the writing of it, I began to think about how interesting I might find the story to write. In particular, I wanted to write the story of the Ice Queen. The world has seen Jack Frost. The world knows all about Santa Claus. But the Ice Queen... well, any time there's a queen or a witch who dresses in white and surrounds herself in ice or snow, she seems to be a villain.

Not for me, not this time.

So, that's what I'm writing now. The Ice Queen. It's a short story. I'm hoping to publish it for Kindle later this month. I'll need to design a cover, soon. And write the two flash stories I want to publish this month on ParagraVerse, too. All of this, out of a little wish to write a poem and make it last.

I hadn't even been set on writing this, until yesterday. And even then, I only thought about it. It wasn't until I actually sat down to plan a schedule that I also decided to plan the book. The schedule was for daily content online this month. I know I missed December 1st, but from then on out I've got things in mind. The Winter Folk helps by taking up half the days between now and Christmas. Thankfully, the poem also sparked a book which sparked a couple of other pieces that need to go online.

Somehow, the poem created a published schedule around itself.

It wasn't the practice I had in mind, but that's fine. At least I know in January, when I get to work on a campaign towards launching another book, I'll have an idea of how best to follow through on my ideas. Scheduling is definitely of benefit to me. It's basically the only way I'm managing this right now.

Anyway, my original plan for daily content, now fully completed, is seeing the following going online:

- 8 blog posts,
- 9 videos,
- 2 flash stories,
- 2 poems - one in 12 parts, and
- 1 ebook.

How much of this is written or prepared? Less than half. How much will be prepared in advance and pre-scheduled? More than half. And how much of it is going to be fun to put together?

I'm going to go with just about all of it.

What this all boils down to is releasing a lot of content that I find interesting, setting new challenges for myself on a regular basis, writing about what I know and, with the exception of the ebook, making it all free for anyone to look at. I think it's a fair deal, getting all of that for nothing and having no obligation to buy the story in the end. And if you enjoy yourself along the way, all the better. That is the point of this sort of stuff, after all, to provide some entertainment.

If all goes well, I'll keep up this sort of thing in 2014, and not just because I'll be releasing new books in the future. This is the essence of The Millionaire Messenger, I think, or part of it at least. The best way to reach an audience is to give people something for nothing, and tell them that there's also something they can buy if they want. The point, though, is that the "messenger" is passionate about what they're talking about.

I think in this case, that goes without saying.

(P.S. If you want to keep up with everything I post this month, Twitter is probably your best bet. You can find me @writeranonymous.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Small-Scale Practice

One of my aims for next year is to post something online regularly. I don't just mean a tweet or a Facebook status. I mean a video, or a poem (or a piece of poem), a short story, a blog post, an article, an interview - something that adds some sort of value. If I could, I'd do it every day. And so, that's what I'm trying to do from this week on.

Monday saw the first part of a poem go online. Entitled The Winter Folk, it's my run up to Christmas poem. You can read the first part here: http://paragraverse.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/the-winter-folk-part-1/

Tuesday featured a video, uploaded to my YouTube channel. I'm normally adverse to posting my videos on my Facebook page, so if you're reading this you're seeing something I wouldn't have otherwise shared with you.

Wednesday saw part two of The Winter Folk go online, and automatically so. I made the decision from day one that I wouldn't have to worry about when I posted the poem. ParagraVerse would sort it all out for me. I just needed to share the link later in the day. Thankfully, the site has a few subscribers already, so they'll receive it without my having to do anything.

And today, I have a blog post. Friday will see part three of The Winter Folk. Saturday, who knows. It depends on how my time gets divided between now and then. The important thing is, I'm keeping up with my schedule of posting online.

Obviously, it won't be this easy when I'm doing it all the time. I won't always have a twelve-mini-part poem to post online, because it won't always be the run up to Christmas. I can, however, begin sticking to a posting schedule that isn't too difficult to main, by writing regularly. If I wanted to, I could make a proper schedule for when things roll out properly. I already know that I'd like articles up on Saturdays, poems on Tuesdays, and short stories on Fridays. But that doesn't say much about the rest of the week.

Essentially, though, keeping up posting online is relatively easy when you take a page out of Alex Day's book: create a lot of content in one day, and schedule it for release over a number of days and weeks without your having to be there. That's the kind of intention I have, simply because I find that the reason I don't do something is because I couldn't get to my laptop to type it up.

However, I can share from my tablet or my phone. I don't need to worry about typing something like a blog post or an article on them when they're already written and just going live at a particular time. I can still be there to respond to people's comments, or tweet about something else entirely, without having to concern myself with the practicalities of how and when I'll be able to write something on a given day. When I have Drama or work, that challenge becomes ever more difficult to address, and the end result is that I avoid posting anything online at all.

So, I'm starting small. I have The Winter Folk on schedule to publish, and this very blog post will be set up to post, even though I'll probably be at my laptop when it goes live anyway. Why? Because it means I don't have to stop doing what I was doing to write (or even just publish) a blog post that I could have easily written before and just didn't because it wasn't the right day. I plan on writing for an hour or so every day, no matter what, but I already know when that'll become impractical. On days like that, at least I won't have to concern myself with whether or not I'm producing enough regularly. Scheduling might be the key to keeping up regular posting. We'll see how it works out this month - my busiest in the bookshop - before rolling it out officially in January.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Way Things'll Be

As of tonight, I have no more drama rehearsals until February. The cast will be off to teaching placement in the new year, with another play to put on stage in two weeks, leaving me to tend to my time in my own ways. Thankfully, I'm quite good at doing things that take quite a bit of time!

My overall intention is to kick-start 2014 with a few different things on my website, including a series of articles, and a video series. Both will require some work, and will have their own little hiding place online for me to work with. Overall, there are ten articles to write and ten videos to make, but I can see that growing over time. The latter is a documentary of a project I'm hoping to undertake with some friends - they just don't know the gory details yet!

Essentially, though, it'll keep me busy at work creating these different things, and setting up all the different pieces needed to get it all started. I'm working from a guideline in The Millionaire Messenger by Brendon Burchard, and while I don't have such high aspirations of making such an inordinate amount of money, I'm definitely feeling the creative push in the right direction, that coincides nicely with things I've wanted to do for a while and just...didn't.

So, convenient that!

Of course, the articles and the videos are just one piece of the little puzzle. I've a lot of writing to do over the coming weeks, to fit around my hours in work. That's a good thing, though. I find that when I have something to do and somewhere to go, I start to value the time I have not in work that little bit more. I'm hoping to write a chapter or two of my current work in progress before work tomorrow, and hopefully one tonight. However, my main hope was to write something for tonight. I couldn't leave my blog to try fend for itself for another week.

This is all part of my commitment to something bigger, to keeping my creative works more consistent. It's helped, actually, having Burchard's book to work from. The "expert signposts" he includes in each chapter are helping me put to words the different things I need to learn or do or focus upon, and while it does mean I end up writing dozens of pages about different things, it's resulting in the helpful creation of resources to use in the future.

So, I'm basically positioning myself as an "expert", as he would put it, as a Messenger. We'll see how I actually work it all out in the different ways he suggests, but for the time being I'm writing books to work with all of this. I'm also working out a better publishing schedule for myself. It's the one thing I can say about books like this (though I haven't seen many books like this one): even if you don't achieve the same results you see printed in the book, there are results to be gained from doing the work.

And, if you can believe it, it's fun.

I'm genuinely enjoying doing this. I feel focused, I have ideas to work with, I'm getting things done, and I essentially had written permission to do something I enjoy for a living. (Well, we'll see if I "do it for a living", when things start playing out.) But for now, this is the way things'll be, while the drama rehearsals are on hold and I suddenly find myself with two more evenings a week than before, and for a long period of time. This is the sort of change I needed a long time ago, and I don't think it's too late to get started. I don't think it's ever too late to start doing something you love.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Learning From Home

With my graduation drawing that little bit closer, I'm beginning to notice how little I learn these days when compared to life in formal education. And you know what? It sucks. I hate not learning something new every day.

I've remedied this, slightly, by beginning to read the business and marketing books I've got on my shelves. I think I would have hated studying them in college and having to write about what other people did in those fields, and studying general principles of them - as opposed to having a look at literature as a whole, and studying religion both in depth and as a basic concept, and studying child psychology and education - but they're two of my favourite things to read about at home.

The books vary depending on my mood, but most recently I read through two of the books in the Teach Yourself (In a Week) series. One of them I read in a day - something like three chapters before work and four afterwards - instead of spreading it out over the week. More recently, though, I'm reading Brendon Burchard's The Millionaire Messenger.

Now, I'm under no misconceptions that I might become a millionaire in a short period of time. It's not a get-rich-quick book. What it is is a book that's getting me thinking, specifically about my strengths and experience, and in a positive light. I'm on a few chapters in and it's already had me pick up a pen and paper and jot down (in key words) everything I know about a topic, and begin writing a book because of that list. Best of all, though, is that I'm only getting started on the book.

One of things that's been missing since I finished up in college was a sense of direction. With modules, there's always something to aim towards, some assignment that needs doing, or an exam to...anticipate. While I'm glad to be free from the strict and horrible deadlines and stress that arise from such things - especially exams - I do miss having the defined course in front of me, and miss learning what someone else sees as being important.

Hence the learning from home, and reading through entire books on a wide range of topics under particular subjects. Basically, I have a need to learn something that hasn't gone away since my final exams. I'm glad for that, and even happier to have actually gotten back into the habit of reading regularly.

It's not just the business books, mind you. I mean, I'm not testing myself on any of this, but part of what made my course fun was having fiction thrown into the mix. So, I've been reading fiction. My home reading is non-fiction, but my lunches in work and every bus journey I take are devoted to reading. I'm half-way through book 4 in the Mortal Instruments series already, having also read a number of other books too, since September.

If I'm remembering my reading list correctly, since reading City of Bones, I've also read Everyday, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and Numbers, with City of Ashes and City of Glass following them up. Before those, I read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Severed Heads, Broken Hearts, and volume one of Morning Glories.

While it's not a huge amount, it's more than I had time to read in the same amount of time while I was still a student. My hope is to finish up the Mortal Instruments books soon, then give something else a try. If I have a lot of hours in December for the run up to Christmas, I know I'll have plenty of lunch breaks to fill with books.

What I'd love is to actually get myself into a routine of reading a book per week of fiction and of non-fiction, while also writing. However, the way things are working out of late, I haven't had much of a chance to set up a weekly routine. It had been my hope at the end of the summer to have a full schedule lined up for myself, but work hours haven't been regular enough for that. (And, I'll admit, I've been lazy at times.)

Generally speaking, though, I think I'm getting on to a good start in terms of reading, and my new writing project could set me on the path to writing more regularly as well. I've done just enough work on it that abandoning it now is just wasteful, so that's a relief. That said, I'm only 12% into it. Tomorrow night might see me add another chunk to it, but it won't be much. Still, early starts and (almost) daily contributions to the book will see it finished in no one. Just like Planning Before Writing before it, this book can be done in bits and pieces, steadily over a period of time, without me worrying about losing my place.

And here's my question for you: are you reading anything interesting at the moment? Any Young Adult or Business recommendations you can make?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

From November and Beyond!

Traditionally, I've attempted some form of writing challenge in November, ever since my first attempt at NaNoWriMo when I was in 6th Year in school. Since then, I think I've only really managed to complete it a couple of times, and I usually feel crap about not doing it. (Silly, I know, but that's how it is.)

This year, I'm not signing up. November, while having less working hours in story for me, is still going to be busy. I've been hired to direct a play at my old college, I may end up with random working hours in the middle of the week, and I have my graduation to attend. To keep myself from going entirely mad with deadlines and the likes, I'm setting myself other writing targets. Instead of word counts, I'm aiming to complete certain projects.

First up, I need to complete The Blood of Leap. Ideally I can work on it a lot over the coming days, to finish up early next week. When I have a cover designed for the book, I can then decide on a release date to finally release the third book in the Modern Irish Myth series.

When the book is written, I'll be moving on to another series entirely. I'm hoping - and this might be more difficult than I'm currently letting myself believe - to release twelve books next year. That's one a month in 2014, all in one series. I need to get the first book written in November, and have some work done on the second, so that I can make an announcement officially in late November/early December.

The intention is to fill the year with writing in a way I haven't done before. Part of me wants to attempt a year-long blog tour, but that's just insanity with everything else I'll have to do. However, I will be putting it out there to write guest posts on blogs (and take part in interviews), as well as interviewing other writers about what they're up to. I think it'll be fun, and it'll help keep me busy.

If things go to plan, 2014 will be a big year for me. Getting settled after finishing my exams took a lot of time. It might sound silly, but it's not easy replacing a schedule when it's all you've had for your life. While things were certainly more hectic of late with a few extra hours per week in shop, November is seeing a significant dip in the amount of time I'll be working. I'm looking forward to filling up the "days off" with writing. The value of that time is becoming more and more evident, and it's something I didn't get an opportunity to figure out during the summer months, when I wasn't receiving many more hours at all.

Things are changing in my life, and I'd like to think it's for the better. I'd like to say that I'm getting a grip on the vacuum of days without timetables.

Tomorrow morning is the first morning I'll have a chance to do something in November that might actually go somewhere. I'll be tackling the last chapter I was working on in The Blood of Leap. Saturday will then see me going for the next chapter, with a morning and an evening to myself. Sunday's the same, though with an hour less in the morning to do something. Monday is almost a write-off, unless I can squeeze an hour in before bed. Tuesday sees me with potential plans in the afternoon, but the entire day to myself otherwise. That'll be fun.

That's the gist of how my days will be playing out. I have two days in the bookshop most weeks, a couple of days babysitting (that's a thing I've been doing for a while), a couple of evenings directing, and a cinema visit every week. Otherwise, days off and time to myself, and I intend on making the most out of it all. With little control on when I have days off, they're becoming a valuable commodity. This morning, for instance, has been spent (a) catching up on sleep and (b) reading, because I don't get much time for either a lot of the time.

I'm guilty of announcing great intentions for change in my life and then not following through, but this time, I don't think I could be more enthusiastic about what I have in store for 2014. I'm reading books on marketing and PR, I'm planning a whole-website re-jigger, all with one series in mind.

It begins with November, and it continues until there's nothing left to write. That could take a while. While I plan on publishing 12 books next year in this series (as well as more books in the Modern Irish Myth series), the series won't necessarily be finished with by December next year. At the very least, the characters won't be finished with by then. One of them actually has a whole other series of books to his name in my head (books that need planning properly before I announce anything about them to anyone in any real detail), while the initial 12 have stories to follow them that I haven't fully planning, but haven't entirely abandoned. There's so much to happen in the coming months, and I want it all to start properly tomorrow morning.

The last time something felt as right as this series was when I was writing the press release for the week of writing and publishing that would lead to Balor Reborn. It felt real, and it felt like it was supposed to happen. This new series isn't like Balor Reborn, though. It's not fantasy based. The books are grounded in reality, the ups and downs, falling in love and falling out of it, and the painful experiences of life that people sometimes refuse to talk about. The books are about life, set in Ireland, with all the comedy and tragedy that life entails.

So, while I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year, November is still going to be significant. November is going to be the big month for me, the one that tells me whether or not I'll be able to follow through on my mad ambitions to publish these books. November is the month that needs to matter enough to dedicate time to writing, because it's the first month since days off became valuable, and the last month this year I'll have enough of them to make a difference.

What about you? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dear Exhaustion

I have good news, and bad news. I'll start with the bad news: I don't yet have the books I'd hoped to work on edited. I was hoping that, with what little time I had off this week, I might be able to turn some attention to them. Alas, no. You see, between the early starts, the distinct lack of any days off, and the beating of the rain on the roof - and poor me in the attic - I lost a lot of sleep that would have otherwise contributed to my editing energy.

The good news, though, is that while I don't yet have the books edited, I have an idea of what I might do with the series. I think it'll look like a December announcement as to whether or not I'll be going ahead with my book-a-month publication on the series, but for now I have things I can do, a publishing schedule vaguely drawn up, and some ideas related to cover design and overall plot.

So, it's a start.

I think the main reason I want to publish this series is because it's something I can control that I really enjoy. Recently, I had been thinking of some film ideas. You know what they say, everyone has an idea for a movie. I had three. A Slenderman movie, a Krampus movie, and an adaptation of Frankenstein.


Turns out Marble Hornets has been optioned for a film release on the big screen with the director of Sinister (I think... maybe it was Paranormal Activity or Insidious - whatever, one of the big horror directors I would have liked to work with on my Slenderman movie in my wild dreams) connected to it. So, there goes that idea. The Krampus movie, I'm not even sure what's happening with it. One release date on it, a lot of uncertainty about it... I don't know, I could still do it. I have an idea, and an idea is a very good place to start. As for Frankenstein...

Two movies. Yes, two. One, I, Frankenstein, sees Adam in a kind of action role, with two immortal races battling it out. I think one of them are gargoyles. I'm not sure. It's not a typical Frankenstein adaptation, and it's technically mis-titled if you ask me (or anyone who's read the book and knows that you shouldn't call Adam - AKA Frankenstein's monster - by his creator's name. But then, I'm against the idea that Adam should be considered the monster in the first place!) The other one, though, simply titled Frankenstein, stars James McAvoy as Victor Von Frankenstein, and Daniel Radcliffe as Igor, and is therefore a take on the classic films. Not the book.

I don't know what it is about the book, or whether Hollywood just loves the idea of having an Igor, but I haven't heard of an adaptation that follows the same plot as Shelley wrote. Instead there are all of these different paths followed, and the odd decision made to make Victor Frankenstein a Von Frankenstein instead.

Hashtag weird, am I right?*

So, in my heightened state of exhaustion, I managed to see three ideas I had for films get washed away by others who came before me. In a sort of response, I decided to take a couple of completed first drafts and a lot of ideas for follow-ups and connected books, and release them en masse to the world in 2014. I'm aiming for an air of tragi-comedy, dealing with some wit and buffoonery and general craic, while addressing some of the darker elements of ordinary life.

At the very least, it'll keep me busy. And so long as the rain keeps at an acceptable volume, I can write these books in peace without worry of exhaustion creeping in.

*I should probably not do that, right?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Grandiose Ideas

I have a habit of getting an idea in my head, thinking it's entirely possible to do, despite the following facts about my life:

1) I can be called in to work with a day's notice, and because I need to save money, I will agree to go in.
2) I can have anywhere between two and five days' work per week.
3) I have family obligations.
4) I promised myself I would maintain a semblance of a social life.
5) I plan to do too many things at once.

All five are true. It doesn't take much effort to remember them. And yet, recently I've had a few ideas that aren't practical in the slightest, for the above reasons. They include:

1) Writing and posting a 'horror' poem every day in October onto ParagraVerse.
2) Writing and publishing twelve related books in 2014 (two of which are already written, and they aren't the Modern Irish Myth books).
3) Writing (and releasing weekly) a multi-plot story (as in, multiple variations of events) that essentially triples with each addition of a story (meaning by week 4 I would need to release 27 variations of the same chapter).
4) Writing and editing an unplanned book in a month, at a length of 75,000 words.

How many of those things are actually possible? Technically, all of them, but not if I have work and/or family obligations more than three times per week. So, basically, I made the decision, repeatedly, to do the impossible. I actually began the 75K book, before realising how impractical it was to attempt it when I fell behind by 4000 words after three days.

But this keeps happening. I mean, in theory I could do these things. I could still do the 12-books-in-a-year thing, but it would require a lot of work, and a lot of planning (starting now) and they would all be novellas. It's still something I might do, but I need to see how well the two books I'm editing at the moment turn out in the end. If they're no good and require a lot more work after these edits, then I can't write another couple of books before January.

The problem with these big ideas is that I don't actually have many days off, lately. As it is, I won't have a full day to myself until Monday next week. Sure, I'll have half-days and evenings, but that's it. I'll get to go into town to buy my comic books, and I'll get to go out for dinner and go to the cinema, but I'm not going to get do these things whenever I want in any given day. And I certainly don't have a lazy-day ahead of me any time soon.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I like the way things are right now. I just have to keep reminding myself not to start getting my heart set on these massive long-term projects that require me to have more time available than I currently do.

Over the next week, I'll have my editing and planning hats on interchangeably, and by my next day off I'll know what sort of state I'll be in to do my massive 12-book-publication year. At the very least, I'll write some fun stories.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Planning Before Living

As my teaching placement in January came to a finish, it began to feel extremely real that I was leaving college. It was a nervous and exciting time, but it raised a question: what do I do now? I knew there was one thing I definitely wanted to do: I wanted to get a Masters degree.

Two problems then arose:
- What do I want to study in? (And where?)
- How can I afford it?

The second problem was much more easy to address: I can't. Working weekends only, it is literally impossible for me to save up the average full sum required to sit a Masters course in Ireland. For the whole summer, that's all I was able to manage in work - not because I wasn't willing to work, but because the hours weren't there.

Now, I'm in a position to receive a few more hours per week. My boss is currently out of commission, and so we can't mention anything further to him, but my colleagues and I have been talking, and it makes sense to us that I work four days per week - not just a few hours on a Saturday, and a full-day on Sunday. Even if I managed to work just four days in the week, I've worked it out that I can still save up for a course to begin in September 2014.

That's without giving up on comic books, the cinema, magazines or other various expenses that pop up, too, which effectively means that I'm in a position, all things going according to plan (and a plan that makes sense to six people, myself included), to begin a Masters this time next year.

But that still leaves the other problem: what course would I actually do?

Part of me is considering Chaplaincy. Another part of me is considering Creative Writing. There's even a part of me that would love to go on to study Counselling. Each have their own pros and cons to consider, and I'm sure when I seriously start looking into courses things will only get more complicated. Now that I actually feel like I'm in a position to actually afford it, I can actually consider things beyond just what I'd like to do in some hypothetical universe.

Here was me thinking that I was done with college. Ha!

Life requires a lot of planning like this, though, I've come to realise. I know that while taking an extra year of study, I may have to face reduced working hours. It's also a massive chunk of money I can't put aside for saving, or use to travel (like I've wanted to for years, now!). I'm still planning to go away next year for a few days, but I do have to seriously consider the costs of everything before I go ahead with it. That's not just about the travelling; I mean everything that isn't already on my list of expenses.

As well as planning my expenses and income, I've also been looking at a few different things, from video schedules to writing plans, and considering the best course of action to take on a number of different projects. From one that currently looks like an interactive fantasy story, to a web series on YouTube, to a content-filled blog, I've got a lot of work ahead of me for so many different projects. I don't think I'll run out of work to do over the next few months, at least!

It seems like a lot to plan, but it also seems strangely necessary. Not because I might go against my plans, but because I'm not sure I could keep myself focused on one specific exciting thing for long enough to get truly involved in it. I know that once I get it into my system to write a particular thing, or record videos every x days, like I did with my daily-blogging and daily poetry exercises, it'll just be part of my life.

And isn't that the point? To read, to write, to create, to earn, to study. Isn't that the point of all this planning, that it just becomes life?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Now and Then

About a year ago, I began my final year in college. Now, I have friends doing the same thing. While their first day provided them with opportunities to catch up, to cheer, to drink tea in each other's company and to plan a year's worth of events in the Clubs and Socs calendar, I slept in.

What a weird parallel.

It's truly sunk in, now, that college is over for me. Rather than getting to see my friends five days of the week, I have to get one of them to let me into the building the next time I'm in the area. I can't just wander on in myself at any time of the day.

Work, while sometimes-exhausting, is finally providing me with the opportunity to work more hours, though, which is nice. So, rather than spend my days at home pretending I have the motivation to write all day every day, I get to earn money selling books and magazines and newspapers and stationary to people during the day, and moonlight novelling when I get home. What a life it is.

That sentiment was almost entirely true, too. In reality, I haven't been writing too much lately. Tonight's the first time in a while that I wrote some fiction. Okay 'some' is an understatement. I set out to write 2500 words, and I did. I have a target for myself, to write and edit a novel (of 75,000 words) in a month. It's not impossible, but it will be difficult.

Let's break down my week: I usually work at least two days. Sometimes up to four. These days, if they're early starts, leave me with an evening to write. An evening allows me about two to three hours to write.

When I'm not working, I have one day that's almost completely written off for family stuff. (I'm going to try test that theory this week, but that's probably going to be the case.) That leaves two days to do something. What I'd like to do is actually get out of the house at least once per week that isn't just for the cinema, so we'll see how that plays out. That leaves one day to write.

If I worked all day, I could - in theory - crank out five thousand words in a day without feeling like I've lost a whole day. I'd still have time to eat and to watch some television.

The latter is the problem: it's too easy to watch something just for the sake of it. What's worse is that I've been doing it instead of reading, when reading is exactly what I set out to do. I think in those cases I need to use my iPod instead, since it's the background noise I want from the television.

Going by this half-assed template for a week, I still have enough time to write the book. The editing is the more difficult part to include in the plan, because it could take a long time. I have a deadline, damn it!

As well as this Book-in-a-Month business, I'm also hoping to read a book a week. That's not too difficult in theory, so long as I stay away from repeats on television. I'll still watch new shows - like the season finale of Supernatural, and Agents of SHIELD when it begins - but I'll probably stay away from something I've already seen if it can be helped. Plus, I've got breaks in work to read during. A full day in work gives me an hour lunch and a half-hour break to read (and drink tea), and that's how I've been getting through a couple of books lately, but I need to give reading some more time during the day.

Let's put all of this into context with last year. I was writing my Research Paper last year. When I finished that, I immediately set about writing a short, quick and hopefully humorous play for Drama Soc. I had a couple of days to crank out a twenty minute script.

Funnily enough, I kind of plan on doing the same thing once I've done the book in a month. I've got it in my head again to write a play, and to actually send it in to theatre companies for production. Wouldn't that be wonderful, to have a play on stage? Anyway, it's an idea. It's an idea without an idea for a play, but it's there, and it'll grow and by the time the book is finished I might have an idea of what to write about.

Following that, it's just a case of trying to get my creative juices going. If I do a repeat of what I did today, it'll mean beginning to write the play after only five minutes of planning. Seriously - that's all the planning that's going into this novel. I've been mulling it over in my head for a long time, after an idea from a few years go became this one. I'll probably have to plan it a little more formally soon, to get some idea of where it's going, but for now I've got this book that's planned on a single A4 sheet of paper, in barely-legible hand-writing, as a mind-map. Sometimes I write out a thorough plan - especially for something that's to be written in such a short period of time - but for this I want to see what happens when I just let go.

That, I think, has been a problem. Trying to control too much, and then not doing anything. So, I'm letting go. I'm writing with a half-plan, I'm reading a variety of different books, and I'm going to allow myself to relax about life a little bit, while I'm still allowed. I couldn't do it last year, but things are different now. I'm different.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Wee Holiday

I don't dare to look at the date on the last published post on this blog: I gave myself a wee holiday from the Internet, and forgot to come back. So, here I am, in the cyber flesh, somewhat overworked as the change-over in work continues to baffle me with builders and deliveries and my transfiguration from man to newspaper ink as we put the little pieces of the Sunday Times together.

Evidently, I don't holiday well. Holidaying should imply rest, or at least doing something that isn't work, for a period of time. Instead, I was just away from my laptop, barely tweeting, not telling Facebook the ins-and-outs of my life, not blogging or vlogging or Google Plussing. I haven't done much by way of social media interaction since sometime in August, and I suppose I should apologise for that. Except apologies are over-rated when they don't have an explanation behind them, so here's how things happened.

The week following my last blog post - if I'm remembering when that was, exactly - was all a massive setting-up process for a weekend of Shenanigans and Buffoonery at my house. We had a Family Thing. That's about as much detail as you'll get on that. Needless to say, though, that the prep-work and everything else involved and the fact that I had all of this going on and a complete lack of willingness to talk about it online pretty much left me with nothing to blog about without pulling a random topic out of my...notebook. Let's say notebook. It's more family friendly.

Following the Weekend of Madness, which included some time off work, I ended up with a lot of hours in the bookshop as we went through with a major aspect of our change-over. I was also walking to and from work every day, which meant that from around eight until seven I was out of the house or getting in/out of my uniform. Somehow, I managed to maintain a weak semblance of a social life while doing all of this, going to the cinema a couple of times and having dinner out (the joys of KFC...which I can't see myself wanting to eat for a long, long time now) and actually talking to people.

At one point, I had some fun putting together a list of things I'm actually good at. I have a little portfolio in my room, now, which I want to keep adding to. It felt good to put it together, to make things seem a little bit less crap and a little bit more...possible? I suppose that's how it feels. Like things are possible. The big bad scary world of post-college life is a little less terrifying with a good idea of what I'm actually capable of now sitting in my bedroom.

During my time away from the Internet, I also managed to get myself back reading. I've even made the executive decision to make videos about the books I'm reading, since I don't make videos often enough.

And, of course, I've picked up The Sims 3 again. Something about living vicariously through digital minions is oddly fulfilling. At the moment, I'm playing using a married couple of a fairy and a wizard, just for the fun of it. It does mean that they share different beds (she sleeps in a fairy house outside...) but they're also capable of running a house rather efficiently. She can use her fairy magic to repair broken objects without fear of death, and he can magically upgrade objects without...well, fear of death, again. I lost a Sim in an earlier game to an electric shock. Thankfully, it's just a game...

While I've been contemplating many ideas for stories in my time away from the Internet, I've been keeping the writing to a minimum. It hasn't exactly been fun, not writing, but from this blog post on I'm getting things going again. I'm back from my wee little holiday, and it's time to get to business.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Today something occurred to me while watching Buffy: I can adapt a short story I wrote a few years ago into a full-length novel. That might need some explaining. For instance, how does Buffy the Vampire Slayer come into it at all?

Rewind back to 2007/2008. A Buffy re-run came on television while I was trying to come up with an idea for a short story for The Literary Den Book of New Fiction 2008. Willow was talking to the First, before knowing what it was, and once of the First's lines triggered the story in my head. Just like that, I had my idea for a short story.

I loved that story. I really did. It's not perfect, but I think I can work with a larger (much larger) word count now, with some added disturbances and oddities and madness to throw into the mix to create a much darker and held-together story. I can also give it a much better title than What's in the Box? I'll be honest, when I was 16/17, that sort of title seemed cool to me.

How things change, right?

Anyway, I think that's something I can consider for the next while, turning that idea for a short story into a darker tale, and a longer tale, and really create the story I'd wanted to tell then in greater detail and with greater skill. I've grown as an author since then. I've grown as a person, too, and a lot has happened since then, and I think I can create a much better story now than I could when I was a teenager.

That's significant for me, because when I was fifteen I was convinced that my very first novel was going to be a bestseller. Without the editing. Without realising that different publishers looked for different things. Without realising that the book wasn't written very well. And I don't like it's title anymore.

That's obviously another book I can work on, though neither of these are near the top of the To Be Written pile. I have other books to work on, first, and other things that need doing. I think the whole "sorting out my life" thing has to happen sooner rather than later. (Okay, that makes it sound like I did something to screw up... I just finished college and did quite well with my exams and research paper and teaching placement... I didn't exactly screw up in that department.)

Basically, I need some stability in my life before I try to write a dozen books at once. And even then that's not a good idea. But sure, at least I have things to work with, and a game plan. First, I adapt to life as I know it. Then, I adapt my stories.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Brief Note on Saying Goodbye

Tonight I said goodbye to three of my best friends. Over the next couple of weeks, they're leaving the country, each for least one year. I've had friends leave before, but not three at once.

I could say it's easier having given them going-away presents and getting to see them one last time before graduation. I could say it, but I don't know if I believe it. It's certainly more real, now, since we've given them our gifts, but I don't think anything could make it easier.

Over the past four years, a bunch of us from various parts of the country have grown close. We've faced essays, exams, Friday morning lectures, Teaching Placement, weird masses, explicit films and bad hangovers together. We've celebrated birthdays and Christmases and completing exams. Now, though we face departure and new currencies and strange cultures and different timezones, we can still celebrate new beginnings. New jobs at home and abroad, new challenges academic, social and professional, new lives to be explored and survived and celebrated.

Life won't be the same with them gone, but even goodbye and good luck doesn't mean The End. We might not see each other often, any of us, but I don't believe this can ever keep us apart.

We're friends despite national borders and county lines, no matter how long it takes to get us all in the same room again.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Working 9-5

I've made a decision. From Monday onwards, I'm going to work 9-5. While I have a make a quick trip into the city centre on Monday, too, I'm going to make sure that I get in early enough to get what I need to do done quickly. No browsing, no staying around for lunch.

The reason I want to do this is so: (1) it sets up boundaries for me for when I work, (2) it'll encourage me to do something all the time and (3) it means I know when I can muck about, and when I can't. Since I can't afford a social life next week, it's the perfect time to test my self-imposed life of working 9-5.

I imagine it'll be a case of me being bored out of my mind by Tuesday, but sure what can you do?

Actually, that's probably not entirely true. I'm in the middle of making a wee project a reality. I've got my Options sheet (all typed up and pretty) to give me work. I know how to get myself to do things. I plan on spending a wee bit of time drawing up a list of things I can write about, and a list of other tasks I can do, and I imagine it'll keep me busy for the week.

I may even set myself deadlines for things. Imagine that, me with deadlines and working creative-filled shifts.

I jest, a bit, but I'm actually serious about this. I think I can manage working 9-5. I'll be sure to tweet, too, to make it look like I'm a one-man business. Businesses tweet all the time, right? (That's a rhetorical question. I know they do. The pile of free books I received through Twitter competitions is proof of that. Paulie loves free books.)

I'm thinking, aside from one little thing that I've been working on that only my brothers know about, I'll work on getting some flash fiction written, and sending off a bunch of poetry, and finishing The Blood of Leap and designing a cover for it, and addressing a novel I've been meaning to work on for a while.

You know, nothing too stressful.

The way I see it, I can sit at home playing games online and watching seven series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or I can work from home and actually, maybe, make something of myself in a nerdy writer type of way, and still have time in the evenings to do other things that tickle my fancy. What a way to make a living, right?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tiny Umbrella

I was in town today (or, as people who don't live in Dublin call it, the city centre), and it started to rain. This tends to happen during the summer in Ireland. We're perpetually cursed to suffer bad weather at any point in the year, despite any preconceptions you might have about the seasons.

So, since it was raining and I didn't have my large umbrella with me, I resorted to the emergency tiny umbrella I'd bought a couple of weeks ago and decided to leave in my bag from then on. The problem is, it's not exactly big enough for two people. Heck, it's barely big enough for one person. I still ended up getting wet when I was the only one under the umbrella.

But that wasn't the only problem. See, when I have my large umbrella, it's a little bit easier to raise it above other umbrellas, the ones that people walking towards me are holding. I can still be covered, but I also don't get snagged on people's umbrella's. With the tiny umbrella, (and I'm really getting sick of typing that word) I can't raise it. It's barely a foot and a half in length, which brings it about to the height of other people's umbrella's even when I stretch up. It's also more likely to break if it gets caught in the wind. It was cheap. And I can't just lower it down under other umbrella's, because my head tends to be occupying that space.

Long story short, I end up clash brollies with strangers in Dublin.

Thankfully it wasn't raining too heavily today. I was able to get home and not soak the house on my way up the stairs to change out of my wet clothes. But since it was a rain day, I was perfectly justified in sitting about drinking tea for a while. It's the one advantage of unseasonably bad weather all year round: it's almost always acceptable to drink tea the moment you get home. Not that the sun stops me.

Aside from the rain, though, I had a fairly good day. And that was also aside from the fact that I was out buying going-away presents for friends. Still, I figure it's easier to deal with them leaving if I can convince myself they're getting something nice to take with them.

After all the rain and the shopping and the tea, I got on with another batch of Things. Again, only a couple of people know what I'm actually talking about, but it's getting there, and it's fun. I have some more work to do on it, but it's nearing the point where I get to make it public and fun and exciting.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


You might recall my trouble sleeping the other night. I had some things on my mind. Part of it was to do with work (and my still only working weekends on minimum wage after six years in the place), and part of it was to do with September and its great big Nothingness. There's also a change in the house around then, and that's just one more thing to consider.

So, I re-wrote out my 'solutions' list, neatly, and put it away safely. I've addressed something new and exciting that came up today. And to further address the worries that September brings, I brainstormed my options.

Setting an online timer, I had three minutes to write down as many different things I could do that would affect both my work and September problems at the same time. While there's no direct need to leave the bookshop for most of the options, because most of them aren't instant-return, and don't require complete availability on my part, I did include that.

Don't get me wrong: I don't want to leave the bookshop. I just want to be able to do something more than weekends at such a low wage, and not feel like I need them more than they need me. In six years, the management haven't exactly made me feel as if I'm an essential and valued part of the team, which really sucks. It could just be me, now, at this point in my life, blowing it all out of proportion, but I don't think so. I don't even have keys to the shop, despite it being mentioned two or three times over the past couple of years that I should probably be given a set (which would make arranging hours easier, since I could open and close the shop if need be.)

So, with those niggling doubts over my value to the shop, I have my list. I need to type it up and make it official, but my options are now there in front of me.

I'll break it down for you. A lot of it involves writing in one way or another. One option is crafty. A couple are business-y. One's even a learning thing, just so I'm doing something in September (I was thinking one of those free online courses...in something.)

The value in this exercise is that, while life seems to be at an impasse, I can still make choices to change things. One thing's for certain though: I'll have to start setting an alarm and working every day at regular hours. My motivation has gone way down without structure to the day. Now I have lots of different options I can choose from. I know I'll probably get started on a couple of them sooner rather than later, too, because I can. They don't require me to do much aside from getting myself out of this chair. (Though, inevitably I'll have to return to the chair for the computer parts of these things.)

What I'm saying is, while the post-college blues might be setting in, I have a way out. I have many ways out, in fact, and I think it's about time I followed through on them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Subscribers, wha'?

On Friday, I launched ParagraVerse, my new prose and poetry blog. With that, came Bed, my horror flash fiction story. Today, the first Tuesday since the launch day, I put up the first poem to the site: The Stars Went Out and Left Us Behind.

What I have noticed in each case is that (a) I have gotten a few 'likes' from other Wordpress users, (b) I have gotten at least one comment per post and (c) at least one person has subscribed each time. And just for the record, these aren't bragging rights.

In fact, the only reason I'm highlighting this is because people ask me (rather often, in fact) which blogging platform they should use. While Blogger is fully Google-integrated, it's labels don't do much for helping other Blogger users find your posts. I've also found that it's a slightly longer process to subscribe to someone's blog via Blogger.

Wordpress, on the other hand, while not totally Google-integrated, allows for other Wordpress users to find blog posts more easily. (This is true of Wordpress.com, not of using the .org self-hosting option.) What this means, of course, is that more people you don't know can find your post more easily just by searching a tag, or by seeing your post pop up in the Freshly Pressed section of Wordpress.com. Subscribing is also a much quicker process.

Let's make it clear: I didn't set up ParagraVerse for subscribers. I set it up to share prose and poetry. However, subscribers are a sign to me that people are interested in reading what I've written. I don't, and won't, display my subscriber numbers (unless running a competition when I reach X amount of subscribers - then I'd need to display it to prove it) because the subscribers are, to me, the people who want to read my work, not the number I can show people who come to the site.

The advantage of having subscribers, of course, is that the task of sending your work to people is done for you by their action of subscribing. While I will always post a link on the various social media sites I use to new poems and stories, not everyone who reads them is necessarily following me on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

And, while I'm talking about it, I'd like to openly thank everyone who has thus far (a) subscribed, (b) commented on, (c) liked and/or (d) read Bed or The Stars Went Out and Left Us Behind. It means a lot to me to receive such positive feedback after so little work has gone up. I hope you'll stick with me as I add to the collection of stories and poems over the coming months.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Creative Block?

Okay, that title might be pushing it. I don't quite have a block on my creativity as much as a severe case of The Lazies. I'm still getting ideas and planning stories, but I'm not doing anything with them.

And that, as you can guess, is a problem.

So, I'm going to spend a wee bit of time in the morning trying to get my creative gears going. I may end up doing some crafty stuff, like drawing or Celtic designs, but I'd like to get some poetry written and a flash story written, too. Basically, anything to get myself doing something with my time.

It's been too easy to play Pokémon Yellow all day, and follow it up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's my childhood all over again, except I can do it all day long.

(As it happens, I did something earlier, but it will remain, for a wee while, a secret. It's not done yet, so I don't really want to show it around. I'm calling it a prototype.)

We watched a movie today, though. Myself, my brother and my dad all sat down and watched Jack the Giant Slayer. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Funny, adventurous, and with clever twists on the story we all know. If you haven't seen it, I would definitely recommend it. It's especially good as a family movie (and I don't just mean families with young children!)

Anyway, I'm going to keep this short. There's tea to be had, stuff to be read, and if the television is free, Buffy to watch. Tomorrow, I'm going to beat The Lazies to death. Creative block my arse.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Did you know that I liked tea? You know, aside from that blog post in which I showed Instagrammed pictures of cups of tea, and all those times I've mentioned tea here and on Twitter and Facebook and Google+, did you know that I liked tea?

It's an essential part of my day. I think I'd go mad without my tea. I almost did when I was in Taizé a couple of years ago. I survived on hot chocolate and water, and meals that I could only questionably be called food. (Or food that could only questionably be called a meal... a bowl of cold cocoa, two sticks of dark chocolate and an almost-stale loaf of bread smaller than my fist don't really constitute a healthy breakfast.)

The two things I craved most upon returning from Taizé were a cup of tea and a home-cooked meal. (That was both real food, and a meal-sized portion.)

However, tea isn't just necessary for my survival. I write with a cup of tea. In the summer of 2010, when I was writing some novellas, my busiest writing day consisted of a cup of tea for every 1200 words or so. It was a 10,000 word day, so you can imagine I drank a lot of tea.

And, of course, upon completing the writing of a book, the first thing I do is make myself a cup of tea. It's a no-distractions cup of tea, too. I don't bring my tablet with me. I don't carry a notebook. I just sit there and enjoy my tea, and maybe text a couple of people to let them know that I've written another book. Tea isn't just for survival. Tea isn't just for working. Tea is for celebration.

Tea is also a comfort for when life gets too hard, and a drink for watching quirky comedies, or for reading books. Tea is a drink for company, for family and friends.

I couldn't tell you how many cups of tea I have in a day. Once I get started, it usually gets quite difficult to stop. I'll finish one cup and begin making the next. In work, sometimes, I'll have tea left over from my break and it'll do me for while behind the counter. (This is really only when there are only two of us in, and I can't leave the register until the other person is back. Otherwise I wouldn't leave any tea in the cup - I wouldn't have a guarantee that I could finish it if I had to do something else.)

Basically, tea is a fundamental part of my daily life. I drink it when I wake up, when I'm writing, when I'm watching television or a movie, with my lunch, after dinner, when I'm reading, when I'm scheming, and often a cup or two before bed. I drink it all the time, and I'm not sure what I would do if I wasn't drinking it all the time. Tea is a necessity in my life.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Can't Sleep, Clown Will Eat Me!

Last night I had some trouble sleeping. I had an awful lot of my mind, including the sudden realisation that some friends who are leaving the country are doing so very soon. I kind of figured this sort of stuff would creep up on me, before pouncing suddenly.

When I woke up after a less than satisfactory sleep, I knew what I had to do: I made a list.

I wrote down each of the things that had been bothering me the night before, and beside each one I wrote down what, if anything, I could do about. I kept it simple, to a few words so it would be easy to follow, and once it became clear that for some things the solution was simple and for others there was nothing I could do to change what was going to happen, it all became a bit easier.

Part of the problem, I reckon, was that I thought about it all in one go without having time to process it properly. That's not an ideal situation for anyone to be in. Once one little bit of worry gets in, it's like a dam breaking. Suddenly every little niggling doubt about the future came down upon me.

Thankfully I know how to cope with all of this going on. The real trouble was in my head, and once I was able to get out of it - which meant not sleeping for a while - I was able to get some rest.

(As for the title of this post... it's a quote from The Simpsons, when a young Bart is terrified of the clown bed Homer made him. The same sort of fear and worry kept me awake last night, though my focus wasn't on my bed. After yesterday's story, that's probably hard to believe...)

Anyway, today, after coping with last night's worries, and after a shift in work, I did what every sane person who couldn't sleep well the night before does: I went to see a horror film. Specifically, The Conjuring. It's probably the creepiest film of the past few years, though Sinister still holds the title belt for scariest. There were less jumpy frights in The Conjuring and more spooky atmosphere building.

All in all, I'd recommend it.

I'm a big fan of horror films, though I don't get to watch as many as I'd like to. This is by and large down to the fact that when it's dark enough to make an atmosphere out of a horror film, I'm in my room writing a blog post at the last minute, but also because I don't have a huge collection of horror.

Anyway, it's getting late, I feel a hankering for a cup of tea, and I need to post this before midnight. Hopefully tonight I'll have less worries on my mind!

Friday, August 9, 2013

I Launched a Thing!

Today was the official launch of my new prose and poetry blog: ParagraVerse! It's a weird name, I know, but it's oddly difficult to find a name on Wordpress that isn't taken already. It's annoying when the ones you want are used up by dead blogs, but not to worry. At least I have one no one can complain about not getting, that's a little bit odd (like me) but still vaguely describes what the blog is about: paragraphs and verses, the stuff of prose and poetry.

I launched with a new FridayFlash story, entitled Bed. When I told my brother about it, he said I should write Goosebumps. I took it as a compliment. I was especially delighted to see (a) that someone tweeted about it and called it creepy, and (b) that people had subscribed to the site after just one story. I have a few others in mind, which I'll be writing over the next few days and posting every Friday for a while.

I'll also be including poetry into the mix, with video readings of them. I'll have videos for the flash stories, too, in the future, but I found myself oddly pushed for time today when I was launching, and ill-clothed for the recording. I'll add to the site early next week when I'm wearing a t-shirt that wasn't stuffed into a drawer.

Anyway, you can check out ParagraVerse here: http://paragraverse.wordpress.com

I need to plan a few poems to add to the site over the coming weeks. There'll be a mix of things, anyway. I might go through with an idea I've had for a themed set of poems, just to start, and have that little collection go up for a while. It's only four or five poems, but that's enough to get me started.

In the meantime, I can focus on getting lots of other material written to diversify the selection of prose and poetry available for reading. I'm incredibly excited about this new blog. I think it could be a lot of fun, and it lets me write across a range of different genres, rather than focusing entirely on the Modern Irish Myth stories. While I enjoy writing them, I would eventually run out of myths to use. At least this way I can work off a number of different ideas for short stories I've had, which makes releasing something new every week that little bit easier!

It feels good to have finally launched a new long-term site!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Getting Ready for Launch Day!

Tomorrow, I'm launching my new blog. I have a list of things I need to do before then, including writing the first story for it, but I have a feeling it'll be a fun one to keep up to date. I have a list of story ideas, and I'll be adding to that particular brand of story-ideas as time goes on.

If you remember a poll I did on my website a while back, you might know what sort of stories are in the works. If not, and you're not bothered looking, well...you can wait to find out tomorrow.

Thankfully, most of the prep-work is very basic code and re-organising in Wordpress. It's the same sort of stuff I've done with blogs in the past, and with my website and the Modern Irish Myth site, so it won't take long to actually get it done. And once it's out of the way, I'll have a brand new site up and running.

Literally, it's a case of: adding a subscriber widget, setting up a navigation menu, writing an About page, and grabbing links to social media sites and the like. It's all simple jobs, and it'll have the site up and running and easy to use.

Once I get it started and have a few stories written to keep it going for a few weeks consistently, I can get to work on a couple of other major projects that have been calling for my attention for a while now. With the Big Break coming to an end, I figure it's about time I actually started following through on my plans.

Of course, I won't be giving up things like reading comic books, and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD, or re-discovering my joy of Pokémon Yellow. That would be ridiculous. But I'll be assigning more time in the day to do "work". (Which, to be honest, is just what I'll have to call it to get people to leave me alone while I do it!)

I have high hopes for the next few months. These are the ones that'll matter, I reckon. These are the ones that will define how I spend my days while not in full-time employment.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Break is Almost Over

Every year for as long as I can remember, I've been in a cycle: in May/June, we were let off school, and in September (and sometimes August...eugh!) we were sent back in. For the months in between, we did whatever we wanted, within reason.

If I hadn't just finished up college, I would be repeating that cycle again this year. That said, summer break is still almost over, and it's time to really get back to work. I might not have assignments or lectures or someone looking at everything I do with a critical eye, but I do have some things that need doing.

See, I decided a long time ago that I wanted to write for a living. If I could find the letter to prove it to my mother, I've wanted this since I was eleven. At least, that's how long it's been in writing. We were asked to write a letter to ourselves ten years from now. I should have opened it last October but I'm not entirely sure where it is. I'm not even sure I could read it, what with the way my handwriting was back then. I still remember what it said, though: I'd wanted to be studying Journalism at DCU. It was the only college I knew the name of, and it was the only thing I could imagine doing.

Somewhere along the line, I came to fancy the idea of being a teacher. This idea was then encouraged unknowingly by many friends and family who, from the time I was sixteen to before I'd submitted by CAO application (for those who aren't aware - essentially a less-than-fun way to pick college courses!), told me I should be a nurse or a teacher, or a bestselling author. (Many were kind enough to say that to me before they'd even read anything I'd written.)

But the letter, written in October 2002 (which feels a life-time ago, now...) I wanted to be a Journalist. I wanted to write words that people would read and make enough money from that to live and be a Grown-Up.

I don't see why, despite having not studied Journalism at third level, and despite having studied to be a teacher, I should give up on that idea. After all, how many of us really live up to our childhood dreams?

With that in mind, something that I hadn't given much thought to over the years, I've made up a list of things I need to do. It's not just little things like write a blog post, though tomorrow's tasks are kind of step-by-step things towards setting up my new poetry and prose blog. After that, though, I have a lot of work that needs doing in different areas, all towards making my childhood dream come true: to write and get paid for it.

I think I'm used to the idea of getting back to work in September that this rush of motivation so late in the day doesn't feel strange to me. As it is, once I'm done writing this I'm planning on doing some work. I think it's about time, three years after setting up my website, to give it a bit of a re-design. I'm still keeping the same look, but I want to have it laid out differently. A lot's changed in three years, and I think it's about time to reflect those changes online.

Summer break was fun while it lasted.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Psychic Butterfly Attack!

Recently, I started playing Pokémon Yellow online. It turns out I've gotten really into it again, like I did when I was a kid. I get excited about my roster of Pokémon, and I jest my opponents when I bring out something that'll be more effective against their choice of creature.

For a while, I was on a "Let's bring out Butterfree!" craze, nearly shouting at the screen "Psychic Butterfly Attack!" whenever I used Confusion. I don't think any of my opponents were ready for that one, because who expects a butterfly to have psychic abilities.

More recently, I've gotten obsessed with raising the basic elemental Pokémon to be their best - Pikachu, Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle. The thing about Pokémon Yellow is, you can get all four of them rather easily.

But while all that was going on, I found myself a Drowzee. It's a psychic ant-eater-faced humanoid that feeds on dreams. It comes equipped with Hypnosis, for to send its opponents asleep, and with Dream Eater - a technique I was given by a lazy man - I literally get to eat the dreams of my opponents' Pokémon away. It's since evolved, too, and is the strongest member of my current roster.

I also have a Gyarados, following the handy online advice to level up a Magikarp early on. How something goes from helpless, stupid fish to giant flying sea dragon I'll never understand. But I don't need to understand, when it can just bite everything to death.

Basically, I'm getting ridiculously excited about a game from the 90s, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. It was things like this that made childhood fun even when it was raining outside. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have ghosts to bust.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Is it Time to Police the Internet?

I heard the news today that another young girl died by suicide, choosing to take her own life as a result of bullying through Ask.fm. I'm not going to repeat the whole story here. You can probably find it by searching Google for bullying or suicide stories related to the site.

My main issue is that rather recently, Ask.fm has been at the centre of three suicides, three victims of bullying and harassment, and hasn't appeared to do anything to prevent further incidences. Its anonymous messaging continues, with people told to "drink bleach" or "go get cancer", and it once more highlights the problem with social media and developments in communication technology: cyber bullying.

In the past, bullying took place (by and large) in the schoolyard, or in the street, or in the workplace. While all of that still happens, modern technology allows the bully to break into the victim's house and intrude upon their private space with messages of hatred. Victims of cyber bullying can't escape the barrage. It attacks them where they feel safest, and it removes any semblance of protection the home might offer.

Awareness campaigns haven't quite caught up with cyber bullying. Not only do most people not feel as if they can talk about the issues of cyber bullying - it's easier to pretend it's not happening than to explain how you might have "let it happen" - most parents don't know enought about online safety and how simply telling children to avoid strangers on the Internet isn't good enough anymore. If anything, that only makes the Internet worse; there are billions of strangers who wouldn't harm you if you spoke to them online through Twitter or Google+, but there are dozens of people you do know (potentially) who would take advantage of your online presence to make you miserable.

I'm not going to pretend I understand why people treat others like that. What I can address, however, are the suicidal ideations that arise as a result of bullying. As evidenced by the three recent suicides as a result of online bullying, it's not uncommon to feel as if your life doesn't have enough value to keep on living it. In the most recent case, however, the young girl in question pointed out that sometimes a suicide attempt can be exactly what most people mistakenly assume all suicidal thoughts to be: a cry for help.

When the whole world - or your whole world, at least - seems to be against you, and you don't know how to explain how it makes you feel, and you don't understand why people treat you the way they do, and hide behind a veil of anonymity, it can be difficult to speak up and ask for help. If I thought someone was going through this sort of situation, though, there are some things I wouldn't say to them:

1. Suicide is a permament solution to a temporary problem. That's not a comfort to hear right away. When someone has agreed to find help - both with the abuse and its consequences, then it's time to highlight this point. It's more helpful for someone to realise they have done right by not taking their own lives than for someone to feel like they're thinking of doing something wrong.

2. Suicide is wrong. Someone who has been made to feel as if their existence is wrong isn't going to be put off taking their life by this point.

3. Suicidal thoughts or actions (attempts or self harm) are weird. While they aren't normal, and while someone experiencing them might not feel as if they are normal, there is the chance that someone sees them as being part of them. Pointing out that something is weird isn't going to make someone thinking or doing it feel any better about how they view themselves.

4. Suicide is never an option. Not only does this feel like a command, it's not even true. Suicide, for many people in every walk of life and in every culture around the world, is an option. It might not be one that people approve of, but the option is there. If you don't want someone to follow through on this option, tell them that instead. It's much more important for someone to hear that they are cared for, than to hear that they aren't allowed to do something.

5. Think about what you'd do to your parents if you killed yourself. While it might feel like an appeal to someone's sense of compassion and love, when experiencing suicidal thoughtss, or on the receiving end of bullying, or suffering from depression, it can feel as if you aren't receiving any love yourself. Returning it, or feeling good about anyone, can be difficult. Trying to make someone think about the consequences of suicidal actions while they are still at risk isn't a solution; it can create feelings of guilt or of worthlessness, and can make someone pull in to themselves even more as a way to get rid of any ill feeling thinking about family might bring about.

So, what should you do?

1. Be a friend. In cases of bullying, being the friend who's always there should be your primary concern. Allowing a victim of bullying or someone feeling suicidal to talk about what's bothering them is the first step towards preventing more drastic actions. If you're concerned that someone might be suffering in this way, keep an eye on them; look for any sign that something is wrong when they receive a text or look at their computer. If you know someone is giving them trouble, try to talk to them about it. If they don't want to mention something because they think things will get worse if they do, suggest being the one to report that something is wrong. In cases of bullying in schools, it can be easy to spot the bully once it's evident what they're doing.

2. Try to make arrangements to spend time with your friend away from a computer. A trip to the cinema or the theatre can be a good distraction, as any mobile devices that might be used to receive texts or emails or to use social media (including Ask.fm and Facebook) will have to be turned off.

3. Direct your friend to support services, and help them tell their parents and teachers (or employers, friends, etc.). Having more people to talk to and more ways to deal with the problems are essential.

4. Encourage your friend to (a) delete their Ask.fm account and (b) block anyone giving them trouble on Facebook or Twitter. Report bullies on any and all sites on which they are active.

In the long run, the less people using Ask.fm the better. At the moment, it doesn't support users who are being victimised and bullied. It makes cyber bullying too easy, and it provides one more easy avenue into someone's life. Anonymity is a dangerous tool for a bully to possess. Be aware, however, that it is possible to track anonymous users if the police are involved. Cyber bullying, in Ireland at least, is now a criminal offence, boarding on harassment. It's possible to catch the people causing your friend or loved one trouble.

For those who might have seen this happen already: don't feel guilty if your friend was in some distress and you didn't notice. It can be difficult to tell when someone is being bullied when it doesn't involve physical violence, and it's almost impossible to tell how someone is feeling at any given time of the day. The most important thing you can do is be there in future, and learn as much as you can about bullying, mental health issues like depression, and suicide. While it's not an easy topic to address, knowlegde and awareness are the first steps in preventing further incidences.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

WHO Doctor?

Did you see the announcement? I'm sure you saw the announcement. You know, the Big Announcement. Peter Capaldi is the new Doctor in Doctor Who!

Capaldi has already appeared in the show, in The Fires of Pompeii. Interestingly, his character didn't die. He met the Doctor and Donna, and lived a successful life in the months following the destruction of Pompeii. His family treated the heroic duo in the TARDIS as gods.

There has been some criticism of the decision, because he's older, and he's well known, and he's not black or a woman, and he's appeared in both Doctor Who and Torchwood already. But what I want to focus on, for just a moment, is his casting in World War Z, notably that he's listed as W.H.O. Doctor.

You can't write that.

Now, only the really important stuff. Is he a good choice for Doctor? Some might argue right away that he is; River's Doctor was "older". If the good Professor Song is still alive - it's hard to keep up, but I believe she must be - then I imagine she'll be quite happy to meet the twelfth Doctor. It's just... well... isn't her first time meeting him the last time he'll meet her? And vice-versa? We know she dies in the Library. We don't know how she met him. (Feel free to correct me on that, but that's how I remember those details, and it's been a while since I might have heard them.)

They also have to get married still, which is kind of a big deal, and this might be why Capaldi has been chosen as the Doctor. He's old enough to not look out-of-place to viewers - or to audiences who don't watch the show and might suddenly see their picture everywhere, because I have no doubt it'll be the TV wedding of the year. Whichever year that might be.

But appearances aside, they need a new Doctor who isn't necessarily going to be Clara's type, and who can at least get along with her as a friend with a new personality and a new way of thinking, and travel with despite her knowing his entire life-story up to the point of his regeneration.

There's a lot to happen during Capaldi's time as the Doctor, and I think they need a new face to bring it all about neatly. But the actor has to be in command of the role. He has to be strong, he has been out-there. He doesn't necessarily have to put on such a physical show as Matt Smith did, but he has to hold the audience's attention just as much.

He won't appear in the 50th anniversary. We know that much. I think it'd be a bit much to have Ten-Two, Eleven and whatever the heck we call John Hurt's Doctor (8.5? Nine-with-an-Extra-Twist-of-Insanity?) all in the episode as well as the regeneration.

So, Christmas. And we don't necessarily know that Clara is going to be in it. We don't know anything about it. All the attention is on November 23rd (50th anniversary episode), with very little of it on the actual episode that will see Matt Smith leave the show.

Capaldi has Christmas; he has a wedding, maybe. If he does, he'll probably meet River for her first time. That could be awkward. All of this might reveal the name of the Doctor, for the first time, or they might keep it a secret. But if what I think is true for River and the Doctor, and Capaldi is the man who meets her first, she'll be leaving the show during his time as the Doctor. And won't that suck?

As for whether or not I'm happy with the casting...well, you'll have to wait and see how I react to him actually playing the role. In season 8. About three episodes in. Because I don't want to judge him based on his first appearance before I can even get used to him!