Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shelters and Masks

There are things we take for granted in this world, and things we don’t notice. Shelters and masks, in that order. This may seem a little bit sudden, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot more of late. The house I live in, it drives me crazy. Sometimes all I want to do is scream and leave, and not come back. Except I’d have to. I have nowhere to go and nothing to go in.

As I walk the streets of Dublin, I’m forced to see the people I don’t want to see: the homeless. I understand that they’re not all drug-addicted excuses for humans or alcoholics or whatever, and that a lot of them are probably only there because of a mistake they’ve made in their past, and as I think about them, I realise they don’t have the liberty of just running away. They don’t have a shelter over their head to trap in the screams they let out, and they don’t have a door to slam after them as they walk to nowhere in particular in a huff. The homeless of Dublin, like the homeless of everywhere else, seem to be trapped in the endless cycle of asking people for change and barely getting enough to feed themselves, let alone to move on somewhere nice, to get to a hostel or to get off the streets. That would take a while, I think, to get enough to get off the streets.

I thought about the harsh winter we had. I didn’t see so many of the usual homeless of Dublin after that, and it made me worry for them. They don’t have a shelter over their head to keep out the cold and the damp and the illness, and they don’t have a door to closed to keep the heat in as they wrap up nice and warm before the fire watching whatever’s on television. The homeless of Dublin, like the homeless of everywhere else, are subject to this world, stuck in the endless cycle of winter, spring, summer and autumn.

Then there’s the rest of us. The ones who’ve see the homeless for a long time and done nothing about it, and who sometimes really don’t have the money to spare to give away, and who rarely feel like the money will go to much good. That might sound harsh, but a guy asked me for money earlier today to go to California. Then he said, “I won’t lie to you, it’s for drink.” My friends’ drinking habits I don’t mind occasionally feeding. They have somewhere to go afterwards. A homeless guy is doing himself no favours by drinking, because 1. it just drives people away from him, 2. the effects of alcohol aren’t permanent, so any warmth he may think he feels is only a temporary illusion and 3. he has nowhere to go when he’s done drinking, because he’s spent all the money he could have used for shelter.

The rest of us see people like this and we wear a mask.

Masks are interesting, though. Masks aren’t just for the homeless. Masks are worn by us all every day to hide how we really feel. That pain we’re feeling... we say it’s about one thing, which can be the perfect truth, but it could also be about another. Or we could hide it altogether behind a smile and a laugh.

I find a reason for a mask a lot of the time, though you won’t always see it on my face. I go into hiding behind my laptop, writing things I don’t want people to hear come from my mouth, to see on my face, to know, for sure, that it’s what I feel. I write my deepest darkest secrets down and cloud them with fiction so that they don’t appear to be anything more than the troubles of any of my characters. So where’s the big secret in that? That’s not hiding. Except there are problems – real and fictional – that aren’t my own, too. Everything about me is hidden in plain sight, but whether you recognise it as truth or fiction, and as my truth or someone else’s, is a different matter altogether.

Masks. Never. Fail.

I’ve been wearing them for... must be five and a half years, now. Five and a half years of being someone else, of smiling when I really had a problem – and when I didn’t, of course, or the mask would be obvious – and of pretending there was nothing killing me on the inside, no nightmares haunting my days and my nights.

Take off the mask and what happens?

People ask questions. People wonder. Worry, concern, anxiety. The smiling boy is frowning. Then, as quickly as they noticed, the mask is back on. It slipped off, just for a wee bit. It got uncomfortable. It got hot and clammy, stuck on so tight to the face of the smiling boy that he had to take it off.

People forget they noticed anything was wrong. They choose to forget, because masks are sometimes easier to look at. A perfectly constructed mask is a beautiful thing, covering up ugly truths. Masks even cover words. A simple, “Yeah, I’m fine,” suffices to dismantle most concern.

Everyone wears masks. The homeless do, too. They’d be crying most of the time, I think, until they couldn’t cry anymore, if they didn’t wear a mask. The problem, of course, is that tears get sympathy but earn trouble, too. Someone who doesn’t seem strong enough to survive may convince himself of that fact. And on the forgiving streets, a mask could keep you alive. Lying to yourself could keep you alive.

We don’t all have shelters, I know. We don’t all have one to escape, or one to protect us. But we all have our masks. We are all a silent mystery wishing never to be solved, hiding truths behind eternal yet fragile masks.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Friend #1

In my hunt for new ways to keep this blog going - because summer is so boring there's very little to actually report to you - I've decided to start another feature, one that will last for at least... 30 weeks. Or something like that. This new feature is Friday Friend; kind of obvious really - every Friday I'll write about a friend. 'Course, I can't tell you too much about them, you crazy Internet stalker. It'll be simple stuff, I suppose.

I'm starting with Ferris Bueller. No, that's not his real name. That's one thing I'll be hiding - it'd be rude to start telling people the real names of all of my friends. Since Ferris has been mentioned already, he seems a good choice to start with. Plus, he's the one I bother more than the others. In his own words, "I'm actually a b****x."

Ferris hails from the magical land of Meath, living on an acre of land with his parents, but he spends most of his time in Dublin. I go to college here with him, and he works in Dublin (his estimate is 10-15 minutes from my house in a car). Though, that might be how he drives - he's a fast but careful driver. Careful, most likely, because he likes his car too much to let anything happen to it. (Side note: it's the most comfortable car I've ever sat in!)

In all honesty, he's one of my best friends. It's nothing against everyone else, but I trust him with more stuff than any of my other friends. It all comes down to a few simple facts: 1. he hasn't divulged any of the things I've told him to other people, 2. he goes out of his way to make sure I'm not in any sort of trouble - my own brand of crazy and the assholes from my past both included in that and 3. he's trusted me with stuff too. It's easier to trust someone who'll tell the truth himself. And in his own words, "I'll never lie to you." Bless.

I do often wonder about people; I've been warned - by Ferris - not to worry about what people think about me. His exact words to describe me were "little self conscious b*****d". Which is kind of true. (Side note: the last word is not technically true - it's more of a colloquialism.) However, that's not going to stop me including the things I like about my friends in these posts.

So, without further delay: I like that he always seems to have a story to tell. I like that he's not afraid to show concern for people - genuine concern, not just are-you-alright-because-you're-getting-me-down concern. I like that he calls at night when he's drunk and starts retelling all the things he did that night, while also giving a running narrative of what's going on around him. I like that he trusts me enough to talk to his girlfriend - possibly because I'm always sober when he hands me/her the phone. I like that he always knows what song can make someone feel better. I like that he's not afraid to speak his mind about certain issues. I like how he keeps everyone in check - he keeps the talkers quiet and he helps people who have problems sort them out. And I like that despite the number of times I've done things that most people would freak out over, he still finds the time to talk.

I don't know for sure if I'll have such a substantial list for everyone. Probably not, since I talk to Ferris more than I talk to a lot of people, though there are plenty of things that I like about all of my friends.

As I write this, a few thoughts come to mind. Like another couple of reasons why he's first on the list! Firstly, he's not likely to see this any time soon because he's working. Secondly, some of the things I want to say about a couple of other people who might otherwise have been first are just waiting until a later week before more stuff gets added to them. Thirdly, "I'm number one so why try harder?" Ferris's words to one of the others.

Last remarks? Well, to quote the movie: "Ferris Bueller you're my hero."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Day in the Life...

Morning. Dreadful, painful morning and the unnecessarily early alarm tone from the attic as my brother gets ready for work, waking me up in the process. Half five. I can only groan, and I do. He doesn't stir for a while. There's no need for him to set his alarm that early if he's not going to get out of bed. I could forgive him, if he actually got out of bed.

A couple of hours later I finally get up myself, following a session of Morning Madness that I won't forgive myself for. Ever. Paranoia, self-inflicted nightmares, over-thinking everything in my life. It gets too much for me, and I can't seem to stop. So I get breakfast, instead.

This isn't entirely typical of my days, I'll admit. This is my summer, on the days when I have nothing to do but get up, get dressed and see if I can write. Or I'll read. Or, of late, I'll waste a couple of hours on the Wii. That doesn't make me happy. At least when I'm on my laptop I can do something that's relatively productive, and I can listen to music, which makes me feel better about the world, because it lets my emotions open up into the creations of other human beings, and I can experience this wonderful phenomenon of life, our ability to create beauty where before there is only silence.

I get my lunch around one. Or, if I'm feeling adventurous and I've gone into the city, I'll have my lunch whenever my companion - because there's rarely not a companion - wants to eat. If I'm in the city, there's no cleaning up to be done, just a few hours of exploring and going camera happy, most days. If I'm at home, I have to clean up the kitchen, scrubbing away the messes my family left the night before from dinner and from spilling tea on the work top, and the stains may lift, but I know they'll be back again in a few hours.

I waste my hours online, most days, doing nothing. Literally nothing. I'll leave links to reviews on Twitter, and there aren't enough reviews here to keep that up for much longer without getting repetitive. I'll read, play music through the laptop, keep an eye on Facebook.

And there's the texting. If Miley Cyrus isn't busy, we could be texting each other for the entire day. From five until half eleven, we text almost non-stop. She's the only one I seem to be texting these days, though Ferris Bueller gets a few texts every now and then, and sometimes a phone call. Miley never gets a phone call, because 1. her reception is bad and 2. Ferris is the one to talk to on the phone, because there's rarely a silent moment - he always has a story to tell.

Dinner is always around the same time. Always in the evening. Sometimes it's alone. Less than sometimes. That's a rare experience.

There are half a dozen cups of tea in my day.

There is always silence. Even with the music playing; the music is but the soundtrack to my life, and like in movies, the characters don't always hear it.

I worry too much about everything. Every. Single. Day.

I attempt to make plans. Adventureland trips to the city with friends from the countryside. Cinema trips with friends from the suburbs that are too far away from me.

Every day is waiting for September, when college starts back up.

Midnight, and I'm usually asleep. Sometimes I get lucky. Sometimes I get a phone call from Ferris. Even if he's drunk and it's late and I'm tired, it makes my day. He's a funny drunk, I rarely need to be up the next morning at a particular time and when I talk to him on the phone he usually wakes me up a bit. That used to happen a lot more than it does now.

Five thirty in the morning, and I curse my brother for waking me up at a ridiculously early hour...


This was written as part of Challenge 4 of the Literary Den's Summer of Writing 2010.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review - The Demon's Lexicon

The Demon's Lexicon (The Demon's Lexicon Trilogy)First and foremost: this review is long overdue. I started reading The Demon's Lexicon about a year ago, got 9/10 chapters into it, then for some reason I can't quite explain, I stopped reading it. I don't know why. I honestly don't. Anyway, I gave myself some incentive to read it: I put it on the List of Awesome for The New Book Club, and over the past couple of days I read it. So, onto the written review!

What were your initial impressions of the book?
To put it frankly..? I've read this before. Well, to be fair, I had. I'd read more than half the book before. I just couldn't remember lots of the stuff. Re-reading it though, has led me to accept that I was fool to ever put it down in the first place! The first few chapters are intriguing and introduce us to the characters who will affect the story the most: Nick, Alan, Mae, Jamie, Olivia and Arthur. Six characters and many secrets. Fantastic.

I heard a rumour you thought you had it all figured out.
Well... eh... yeah. I did think that. About half-way through the book, I thought I knew what was happening, what the mystery was. I knew there was a twist coming, because I've been following Sarah Rees Brennan on Twitter and she said so, but when it came I was like, Huh? What? Seriously? But I thought... And then you... I NEED TEA! *dies of awesome* Or something like that. So, if you think you have this book figured out half-way through, keep reading. Odds are, you're probably wrong. The author's not going to give it all away that easily. You have to read to get your answers, and even then you'll still be baffled (by the awesome).

So... it was good then?
Can't you read? I died of awesome! That's how much I liked this book! Okay, so it didn't pull me away on a wild journey like John Green's books do, but that's because this is a different type of book. This isn't about a chase after a girl because she's cute and awesome and everything right with the world; this is a book about a hunt for peace in an unforgiving world of demons, magic and clothing that shouldn't be worn in public, of violence and vengeance. It's not a book about romance, it's a book about family. (Nick and Alan being brothers...)

Will you be reading the sequel(s)?
I intend to... but not for a while, because I have a whole heap of books to read and review, including but not limited to: Darren Shan's new book Birth of a Killer, Barry Hutchison's Raggy Maggie, Michael Scott's The Necromancer, Michael Grant's Lies and John Green's An Abundance of Katherines. Seriously, with college on its merry way back, and one or two of these books not out for quite a while, and a "few" pieces of fiction of my own to write, I will run out of time. But maybe next summer, when I'll have another ridiculous amount of time off from college, probably the same weekend job with the same hours, and nothing else to do but read because my friends live too far away from me. The Demon's Covenant is out, though, and in stores waiting for us to buy it, so I will probably pick it up soon. Until then, you can read book one, and you will enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Photographic Memory #1

I can't claim to have very much to say, so I've decided to start a "feature" on my blog; welcome to Photographic Memory! Every Tuesday for as long as I remember to do so, I'm going to post a photo. Simple as that. It'll give you an idea of the sort of person I am, or what my friends are like.

It's Nerd-Tastic!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


As I start to lose my mind to this summer - not in a literal sense, and even metaphorically I'm exagerating slightly - I find myself writing a lot of fiction. However, as I've suggested to some people - and said to others outright - this fiction is more than just stories I'm making up. It's closer to say that I'm bending the truth, manipulating stories I've been told and days I've lived through to create a whole story out of it.

I told someone outright yesterday: the last few things I've written have had someone representative of you in them. And before he could say anything else: You just have a very interesting life. He argues that it's been filled with the wrong sorts of adventures. I disagree - he's led a life more interesting than anyone else I know, and the less people know about the stuff he doesn't tell everyone, the greater his life seems. That is manipulation of the truth; he said he never lies, but he keeps the truth to himself a lot, too. That's fine... though it does require him to have to read all these things before I show anyone else, because he's told me more than he's told a lot of people.

So, this is my explanation about what I've been writing. It is still fiction; the characters are made up, and though they bare an awful lot of resemblance to people in real life, myself included - and I'll get back to you on that one in a while - they are still fictional. They've done things that haven't happened, both before and during the narrative of the stories, and they have independant thoughts that I have to control to some degree to purposely prevent creating carbon copies of myself and my friends.

Now, there is a very good reason for me writing these stories; firstly, if I'm not in them, there's no point. That's not an ego thing, that's pure, unalterable fact, because of the secondly: I write these stories to make sense of something in my head, in my heart, in my dreams, or in the lives of other people around me. If I'm not in them, then I'd just be writing about my friends, a lot, and I'd only get from that exactly what I make up, with nothing to bounce off them from within my own mind-set. A character similar to me is required to learn things about a character similar to them. A character similar to me is also required to get through some of the darker things in my head, in my nightmares, so that I can make sense of my life and put a positive spin on things that happen.

The third reason for writing these stories: I need the practice. Every writer, once they start writing, is learning until the day they stop. Usually when they're dead, because even those who give up are learning, even if they're not putting it into practice. So, even if these stories never seen the light of day, even if only one person reads them and forbids them, I'll have gotten my practice.

Which brings me to the fourth reason: the one person who has to read them. I'm not writing them for him, per sae, but the messages in them are things that I should be telling him, but that I can't bring myself to, for reasons of embarassment, shame and common sense - if I told him some of the stuff I couldn't help but dream up, I'd evidentally go the wrong way about it and seem absolutely crazy, and in the very bad  Is-He-Going-To-Do-Something-Stupid kind of crazy. So, I have a character live through these things so that I don't have to. I have my character explain these things to his character and, even though it's speculation and fiction, I have his character respond. (side note: I was actually right about a response I'd get to doing something!) So I write these stories to explain in a full a way as possible (a) what's wrong and (b) why he shouldn't worry. It's a very long winded way of doing it, I know, but if I succeed in making him not worry, then it's worth it.

Fifth reason? Well, that's based on the third and fourth reasons. The practice comes in handy to create good stories, while the friend who has to approve of them or they get locked away. Say both of those reasons turn out positive - then the fifth reason comes into play: publication. Now, they won't be the first thing I'll attempt to get published. I actually had a dream in that I was published. Admittedly, I also died very young in this dream. That's aside the point. In the dream, two of my friends were left to publish whatever of mine they saw fit, and obviously whatever the publisher would actually put into print, and these stories - so full of my doubts, my fears, my thoughts, and their lives - are what they choose when nothing else that's left fits.

Sixth reason, based on the fifth: to give back to my friends what they gave to me. Not literally, because they didn't give me a physical object in this case. These two friends gave me my life back when I thought I'd just go insane, and just by being there every single day, even when none of us had to be there (in the college). And I've seen and heard the things they've been through, and I've shared with them some of the things from my life, and in the end, by the very end, I knew that if I could ever do something to make their lives a little bit better, to give them the chance to do the one thing they want to do before the one time, then I'd do my best to help them along the way to getting it.

Seventh reason for writing these stories: I enjoyed it. Let's be honest, unless you're getting paid an awful lot of money, or something means too much to you to stop, you should enjoy the whole writing experience. Actually, I didn't enjoy all of it. I had to stop writing at various points because it got too hard - emotionally - to write, because, well... okay, there was the repeated suicide of one of my characters. Long story... that one still has to be read.

So, I suppose... I suppose that's it. Until I write another mad story (side note: coming soon!). I'll actually be starting one tomorrow morning, and hoping to finish it within a couple of weeks. Dignity baby! Once that's done, I'll either be writing another book, based on a comment I left on Facebook (side note: I know, I'm a strange person - Dignity is based on a status update someone else left!) or I'll be writing one based on my own experience of bullying, with a few changes thrown in there. Thankfully, I'm remembering a few of the details of my secondary school life a little bit better now. That's also a downside: secondary school sucked!

These are my explantions into mad fiction, ladies and gentlemen. If you choose to ignore them and start insulting me, please do so to my face so I know who to stop talking to. What I've told you is the truth, pure and simple, and unless I'm forgetting something, I'm not hiding anything from you. And if you've read this far and you like that I've explained things, and you believe what I've told you: thank you, and God bless (if you're not a believer, just take that as a coloquilism to 1 billion people in the world and not an attempt to convert or to be rude). And with that closed bracket, I bid you adieu.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Interview with... Myself?

Allow me to introduce myselves: One is Nosey, the interviewer, the other is Bashful, the interviewee. Nosey will be attempting to garner as much information from Bashful, who in turn will be shying away from telling too many personal details.

Nosey: Welcome, Paul. I hope you're seated comfortably. Are you? Seated comfortably, I mean. Are you seated comfortably?
Bashful: Er... I suppose. Can I have tea?

Nosey: I ask the questions here! *sips from imaginary cup of tea* Now, tell me: what are you right now?
Bashful: You...can see me. Why would you ask that? *silence* Oh... right, no questions. Um, I'm listening to Elbow. The band...

Nosey: Good, you're learning to talk. Well done, there, Paul. Okay, let's get some info out of you. We'll start with the basics. Where do you go to college, and what do you study?
Bashful: I'd rather not tell the whole of the Internet where I study... it's a God college. Let's leave it at that. I study religion, obviously, and English. Like John Green did, though I didn't find that out until later. Also, I'm going to be a teacher when I'm done of the course. We're being taught about that, too.

Nosey: That doesn't sound like any college I've heard of. Where are all your friends?

Bashful: My secondary school friends are split up quite a bit, but the four I hung out with the most are all studying various things in one of Dublin's grander colleges. Aside from friends from work and choir and stuff like that, my friends are in the same college as me.

Nosey: No, I mean right now: where are your friends? *silence* Fine, we'll move on. Who's your best  friend? *evil grin*
Bashful: Er... I don't have a best friend.*silence* I have to answer, though, don't I? Dammit, no questions! Okay... okay.... um... er... okay, if I'm to go by a few different criteria: my best friend for talking to about anything is Liam, my best friend for being hyperactive and happy is Eileen, my best friend for completely unorganised days out is Eithne, my best friends for talking books are Jessica and Kevin-

Nosey: Cheater! It was only supposed to be one best friend.
Bashful: I don't have one best friend.

Nosey: I hate you right now. We'll move on, because you're a cheater. You're really going to be a teacher?
Bashful: That's the plan. Though, in saying that, I may pull a Roddy Doyle and go from teaching to writing full-time. I have plenty of ideas to keep me going for a while.

Nosey: Oh yeah, like what? *innocent*
Bashful: Well, you do make up half of this blog... You know, Meet Sam and it's possibly sequels, Dignity, Stepping Forward, Love is a Remarkably Destructive Bitch, The Great Leap, The Masked Expellator, The Jump and The Magical Emporium of Magical Things. To name the ones that come directly to mind... I figure that's enough to get started on.

Nosey: Well... *silence* You're weird! *laughs* When do you write? How much do you write a day? Have you written anything these past couple of days? Don't you read? Where do you get your ideas?
Bashful: *groans* I write when I'm not out or eating or sleeping, or otherwise preoccupied with things like chores or procrastination, or when I'm not extremely tired. Er... I write what I can in a day. If I'm getting really into a story, I'll try get 6,000 words done in a day. The most I've ever done is 9,385. Er... I finished a 15,000 word story on Tuesday afternoon, and since then... not really. But then, I read. So yes, take that! You would ask the most painful question in the universe. Not a question, just an observation. Um... I suppose I get my ideas from my own life. Okay, so some are reflections of other ideas: Meet Sam takes parts of my life, and others' around me, and throws them into the fray with the idea of a narrator in the head, as seen in Stranger Than Fiction, while a few of my more recently stories have been inspired by either actual events, speculation into actual events, hypothetical situations derived before actual events or morning madness.

Nosey: Morning... madness?
Bashful: Yeah, you know that experience of waking up bored and tired and hating the one who woke you up, and because it's too early to get up you stay in bed, and your imagination starts going wild, and you start worrying about things too much, and overthinking things, and then before you know it everything's gone a bit haywire, and you've overthought everything, and you've gotten a bit depressed, and you think of things like running away and suicide, and even though you don't fully understand why you've thought of them, and you don't even believe you're capable of them, you can't get rid of the ideas. That's morning madness.

Nosey: I see... And you think that'd sell?
Bashful: I never said it was supposed to sell. Sure, maybe a publisher will one-day be interesting in publishing these things, but for now they serve to do one thing: tell friends things about me that I can't say to their faces. Like, I can tell Liam anything... but sometimes I have to take the long route around it. By, you know, writing a book about it.

Nosey: Weirdo... That's a strange relationship you have with him. What's up with that?
Bashful: I knew you'd ask that... I just knew it! Well, if you must know, we made a deal not to bottle anything up. We've both been through a lot and it's not healthy for either of us to keep it a secret. Since we have a privacy thing going on, we can tell each other. That's why we're such good friends. That's how we know each other so well. And that's why I take the chance to talk to him whenever I can, just so it's not all the bad stuff coming out. I want life to be more than just our problems.

Nosey: You're boring me now. Enough about your friends and your books. What famous people have you met?
Bashful: That depends on what you define as famous. I've met Roddy Doyle once. And Dermot Bolger. Both came to my school. And Patricia Scanlan gave me her mobile number when I met her. Yes, her mobile number. Also, Darren Shan knows my name by now, because I've met him four times. And I met Bertie Ahern at work, because were the first shop he visited for his first ever book signing. Ever. As a result of that, I said a few words to Jackie Lavin, who was at the signing, but not too much. Online - if that counts - I've spoken to Charlie McDonnell, Alex Day, Stephen Byrne and Kristina Horner from YouTube, Rebecca Woodhead from Twitter, and spoken to a number of authors, including the very cool Barry Hutchison and Jeremy C Shipp.

Nosey: And how many times have you left home for a holiday, or whatever?
Bashful: Hmm... I've lost count of how many times I've been to Lanzarote - 7, I think - but I've also been to Portugal, Menorca and, twice, Barcelona. In Ireland, Connemara and Tipperary. If you include day-trips without my family, Offaly. Other than that... nope, nothing else.

Nosey: Sounds... interesting... Where do you plan on going?
Bashful: Well, depsite what Alaska Young says about plans, I hope to go to Edinburgh, London, New York, various places around Ireland, as many places as possible on college trips, and possible Toronto, but that's a long story that hasn't been entirely thought out or explained to relevant people yet. I've a trip to Galway next year, anyway, for Drama.

Nosey: Drama? You're a Drama Geek?!
Bashful: Not a geek, no. Well, the rest of the people aren't geeks... But yes, I do Drama at college. It's fun, but I suck.

Nosey: I'm not that interested to be honest... Want to get married and have children?
Bashful: I would consider it, though it'd have to be in that order, and maybe only be one child. It all depends on the girl, I suppose. And the first child. *shudders*

Nosey: I can see you're getting uncomfortable. Perfect. What's your biggest fear?
Bashful: Heh? Um... okay... Fear isn't much of an issue for me, I suppose. I don't like being alone at the wrong times. And I don't like insects crawling all over me, but that's because I've heard of times when people have eggs planted in them, and then the eggs hatch, and... *shudders* And I had a weird dream about spiders, dozens of them, exploding out a strawberry. Big, chunky spiders. And I thought: I don't like strawberries, but in the dream I was about to eat one. I was about to eat spiders! And eh... aside from that... I think I'm always worried about hurting someone. Just, in general, like.

Nosey: Is this because of-
Bashful: Yes! Exactly because of that.

Nosey: Well... okay, I think we have everything we need to blackmail you. We'll be in touch when we feel like probing your mind again to try and uncover some secrets.
Bashful: Wait, what?

Nosey: I'll ask the questions around here!


This was written as part of Challenge 3 of Summer of Writing for the Literary Den. I hope you enjoyed it! (Please don't blackmail me...)

Review - Looking For Alaska

Looking for AlaskaI've said it once and I'll say it again: John Green is a Writing God. Fact. I read his debut novel Looking For Alaska yesterday (mostly yesterday, anyway) and I have to admit, I loved it. I preferred Paper Towns (reviewed here) for the most part, but Looking For Alaska managed to make me cry, three times.

On with the review!

Initial impression of the book?

It seemed to have a slow start, but even that was enjoyable. It's sort of like the calm period of a flight; you know, when you're in the air and everything nice and relaxing, movie's playing, food is delivered, then you hit turbulance. You start to wonder what's going to happen. Am I going to die? What's causing all this shaking? Who the hell is flying the plane?! I want to see the pilot. I have to know he's onboard! Then the overhead speakers come on; it's the pilot. Everything's okay, he says.

The plane lands. You're fine. You clap. You saved ours lives, man! The holiday begins. The book gets half-way through. Then your little brother decides to jump into the pool, in the shallow end, and he breaks his leg. The holiday is ruined. People are upset. Things get better as you start to head home, and by the end of the holiday, your little brother is safely on his bed, shaken up a little, but ultimately better for the experience of having been on a holiday, even if it hurt him a little.

That is my experience of Looking For Alaska.

How did the book compare to other things you've read by John Green? You know, that one thing you read of his... noob.

Like I said before, I preferred Paper Towns for the most part. I fell in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman, and even though I really like Alaska Young, she was no match. Close, though. And the girl makes all the difference. The girls in John Green's books, from what I can tell, are absolutely crazy, and they're what changes the main character. We get Miles Halter in this book, obsessed with being alone and the last words of dead men and women, who suddenly picks up a social life, doesn't fail in his new school and learns a thing or two about labyrinths. I prefer his quirks to those of Q in Paper Towns, but only a bit more.

The plots share some simialrities, too. Dashingly beautiful (but totally in control of herself, and not poster girl pretty - more human pretty) girl changes the life of bashful boy, then does something to mess with his head ever so slightly. It's a recognised formula, and yet... and yet... John Green still managed to surprised me. It's not what he does, but how he does it.

Where to from here?

Well, I've no big road trip ideas springing to mind from this book, and I don't think I'll be looking for a way out of the labyrinth, or looking for last words, or doing anything like what the characters in this book did... I suppose that means I'll be getting my money together to buy An Abundance of Katherines and/or Will Grayson Will Grayson. 

Did you take any message from this book?

Yes. Don't objectifiy women. Make observations about them, but don't objectify them. Also, people are very strange, very vague and a little bit messed up. All of us, even if some people (code for 'most people') pretend they're just part of the same system of life and economy as everyone else around them. People have dreams, people have doubts and people do things in the spur of the moment, but largely people are becoming drones, and it's girls like Alaska Young and Margo Roth Spiegelman (goddesses, both) who change people into something much more than that. That's the message to take from this: be yourself, and only be the same as every one else in that regard.

Done being preachy?

For now. Just go read the book.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Found the Plot

Well, I've been writing this book on 9 days (I started a while longer than that ago, but I didn't write every day), and I've finally figured out where it's going. For once, I know what to write later when I get home. It's going to be longer than Stepping Forward, but it'll still be a novella. The plot isn't too complicated, but I don't intend it to be. It's sort of a confession of a book, an examination of the lives of friends, of love and longing and pain, and once again something that pushes into the boundaries of hypthetics, creating things in people that aren't there, or that aren't seen, at least.

In saying that... I had a plan to show a particular side of a character, who was based somewhat on a friend, because that side of him is almost non-existent as far as most of us have seen. Only, last night he showed it off, without really knowing that nobody had seen it much. I won't go into too much detail on it, but I thought it was a nice coincidence, and it just means that my character is a little more real than I'd first imagined.

When I get home, I'll be acting the arse and recreating a series of events that I found quite hilarious. If I finish the chapter tonight, I'll be moving on to something a little more difficult, which I'm not entirely looking forward to, except for the exploration part of the plot. That'll probably be carried into the next writing session, tomorrow morning, which will also see the start of the side of the aforementioned character that I'd wanted to show. The last chapter might also get written, if I focus enough. I'm working at five, so I have a good few hours to get work done on this thing. I only wanted to get it done by Sunday night, but now that I know where it's going I think I can finish before I go to work on Friday, or at the latest when I come home from a seperate shift on Saturday afternoon.

After that, the fun begins with another book. This one will probably be another novella - I don't plan on publishing them, but I like writing them for the experiences involved. You know, writing a book, creating characters, exploring ideas of friendship, love, life, death, mystery, getting to know people better. It's all fun, even if some of it is quite depressing. In fact, the next one is by and large all death. It's called The Great Leap. I actually can't wait to get started on it. I imagine it'll be of a similar length to Stepping Forward, but the ideas in it are a lot more difficult to get a grasp of. It calls into question matters of faith, and presents a continuous idea of always having a second chance. So, depressing but still with a bit of hope.

After that... Dignity. Though I may finish the second draft of Meet Sam instead. I'll have six days off work to get The Great Leap written, which is plenty of time if I have no plans (so far I have one plan, in the evening, when I rarely write anyway). Yeah, I think I'll finish Meet Sam. It could do with completion. When Dignity is written, then, I'll do the edits of Meet Sam, then start on my parody novel, The Masked Expellator, which looks at the life of a vigilante with a strange ability to throw up at will, and how he actually becomes a real hero. It's going to be utterly ridiculous, of course, but fun to write.

When all this is done - Meet Sam, Stepping Forward, The Great Leap, Dignity, The Masked Expellator and Love is a Remarkably Destructive Bitch - I'll be printing them in matching books, the difference being the colour of the cover, and perhaps some clip art on the inside. The books will be fun to have, and handy for having people read them. Meet Sam and Dignity are sort of free-for-alls, though I think a couple of people will want to read them first. Stepping Forward is currently in the possession of someone, who'll be the only person to read it until it gets a seal of approval. This is actually the same as The Great Leap, though I may make changes to my original idea to make it less like real life. Love is a Remarkably Destructive Bitch has to be read by two people before I show anyone else, and The Masked Expellator will find itself in the possession of the person who I first presented the idea to.

I've even kind of figured out the dedications... Meet Sam is just for friends in general, Dignity being for my fellow students at college, Stepping Forward for a particualr friend, Love is a... for two friends, The Masked Expellator for the person who gave me the idea, The Great Leap being for the friends who helped me through the darkest periods of my life (they won't be named individually.)

Okay... that was weird. I don't know how all that happened from I know where my book is going! I apologise. My ramblings generally just happen. Still, I hope you're enjoying following me on my journey to printing a number of books, single copies only. This summer will be amazing if I can get all this work done!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I predicted earlier that today would be, well, shite. I was right. Work wasn't all that great, for a start. It never is a on Sunday. When it collides with other things you could be doing (say, going to the Meath match or to the pub after, to see a couple of friends), it's only worse. Seriously, I was so pissed off that I was working today - one chance I might have to see a friend for weeks, after many weeks, too, and I'm working for it. Great.

Gave him a call (or eight) to see if I would be a nuisance going down to the pub, 'cause he's with all his friends from Meath. By the time I got through to him, I was told they were leaving in about 15 minutes. I was okay with that. I knew there was always the chance that (a) they might be going somewhere else or (b) he wouldn't want me there, because he'd be the only person I knew. Okay, (b) is paranoid Paul speaking, a bit. It was the reason I didn't head down regardless of whether or not he was okay with me being there, because I didn't want to invade on him space. That's just wrong.

So, there I was, thinking it was all fine, I'd just stay in... and suddenly I feel like I'm about to cry? What. The. Fuck? Where did that come from? I really thought I was okay with it. I really did. What the hell is the matter with me?! Anyway, listening to ELO to combat this sudden burst of bad emotions. I was told they were the music to listen to if I was feeling depressed. This is the closest I can get to that, I suppose. ELO for the night, so.

Now, if that strange burst of emotion isn't enough... well, things are about to get even more annoying for the night. There's a girl in college, who shall remain anonymous, because what I'm about to tell you paints her in a bad light. Back in May, she was annoying to a few people (side note: this is useful background info) by sending emails about our last night out. Fine, except that people already had plans, and she was using "jokes" that just made things worse (like called an email Study Tips!, and sending it to the module list of emails for the exam the next day and calling herself Ents. Officer, when there's no such thing!). I emailed her back to tell her to stop emailing like that, to stop with the things I didn't know at the time we her attempt at jokes, and to tell her that she was annoying people. She got pissed off. Badly.

We talked about it on the last night. I didn't want there to be bad blood between us when we came back to college. She hasn't said anything to me since then, but she never said anything to me before now, anyway, aside from replying to my email. I had no reason to think poorly of her. Until tonight. She's created an event on Facebook to get people in college to go to a reunion. I'm friends with her on Facebook. Anyone in the year who she's friends with on Facebook she invited to the event. Except me. She left me off the invitation list. And it's public! I can see the event. I'll be able to see who's going and who's not, where it is, when it is, and I'm not invited! She agreed that we'd put everything in the past. I explained my side of the email.

If this sort of stuff keeps up, I'll tell her she's using bullying techniques. She accused me of bullying her after I sent one email, because my friends intimidated her so much she couldn't have a bitch and moan at me about my email. Apparently I'm not allowed to sit with people at college, anymore. So she said I was bullying her. What. The. Fuck? That's not bullying, that's me calmly telling her to stop emailing before she causes trouble for herself, and me doing what I always do - sit with my friends. I can't help it that there happens to be a lot of them in the college. We're naturally drawn towards each other for not being conformists.

I shouldn't have to deal with this sort of shit. I swear, if she keeps up this exclusion thing, I will be saying something to her. Exclusion is a form of bullying. I know, because that's how I was bullied in the past. And if she denies she's bullying and keeps it up? Well, there's only four words that really sum up what will happen. The bitch will burn! (Not literally, I might add. Arson and murder aren't things I'm very fond of.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

That's WEIRD!

Until I was about seventeen, I wasn't myself. I mean, I was who everyone kind of expected me to be, but I kind of failed at that. I wasn't interested in: (a) generic rap, (b) sports or (c) devilment. I kept my head down and did my work, and if I got an idea I didn't tell anyone about it. I strived to fit in, doing crazy, stupid things like listening to a band because people liked them, or buying a DS because I thought then I could be included in a group of people who had an "exclusive" club.

As I came to the end of my time in secondary school, I wasn't afraid to let people see some of the real me. I was asked a few times by first years (I was a Prefect - first years knew who I was), "Aren't you cool?" What do you say to that? I wasn't going to lie, and I wasn't going to lecture them on the meaning of the word cool. I said to them, "No, I'm not cool." They laughed, I kind of laughed, and we went our seperate ways. They asked again the next week.

See, cool by my definition is what people decide they like. Okay, someone can look cool without actually being cool (they can look cool and be cool, too, obviously). But cool implies that everyone likes what I do, that a majority of people think that what I do is what they'd like to do. I wasn't cool. I was weird.

Summer - boring. I won't bore you with the details of those few months. The most exciting thing was getting my place in college. That's it. That was my summer of 2009. It was in September that I made a few changes, though. I stopped giving a damn about what people thought of me. I didn't hide the fact that I was a writer, that I was loud and hyperactive and that I disliked sports. Actually, that's not even entirely true. I dislike soccer, and I can't watch a lot of sports because they bore me, but I like GAA. I'm just no good at it, and when I was younger, Gaelic seemed too much like soccer. In short, it was bawring.

So, I started college. I let people know I was a nerd. "I listen to music from the Internet and I watch lots of Sci-Fi. Also, every morning for the next four years that we're here, you're going to hear me say hi to some of my friends, because I'm that loud. And you'll wonder how someone can be so happy on a Monday morning."

Monday mornings... there's a fun one. Most people are severely depressed on Mondays. Not me. I go through most weekends without seeing my friends, so when Monday comes along, I'm more than happy to see them. I'm bouncing-off-the-walls, ready-to-explode giddy! This does different things for different people. Most keep a certain distance from me for the first half hour, until I've calmed down a bit. One friend and I had a thing where we'd high-five once a day instead of saying too much. I think I hurt his hand with explosive amounts of enthusiasm.

This all comes down to one thing: by general consensus, I wasn't normal. General consensus is wrong. I was normal, but I wasn't the same. A friend, the same high-five-till-you-hurt friend, has me talking about any problems I have. That's normal. It's not generally accepted - guys talking about feelings? That. Is. Ridiculous! Right? Nope. It's different, though.

Of course, I still get asked a few of the same questions in college as I did in secondary school: Why don't you drink? Did you write a book? What's it about? The answers are this: I choose not to drink. Yes, I wrote three (that was the old response; now it's Yes, I wrote four, but I haven't had a chance to use that that). It's complicated. Very complicated.

That's. Not. Normal. People want answers. They want to know what's going on. Someone not drinking is weird. If you saw me on a night out, you might not guess that I'm sober, though, because I tend to be a bit... can you guess the word? HYPERACTIVE. Wonderful stuff. But it still confuses people when they see me with a Sprite and wonder if there's Vodka in there, too. Bartenders probably get confused when I order drinks for other people, too. Like buying a mate's Guinness for him, or giving a girl a Jager Bomb to help make her night better, because she's lost her bag. Actually, I order three Jager Bombs once. That must have confused the girl behind the bar!

The book thing is more difficult to deal with. People will ask, because they'll have heard from somebody. It's a small college, so word gets around. Generally my reponse is, Did you not know that? Oh... Then they ask what the books are about. I literally cannot summarise four books in a short enough amount of time. I tried before. Someone then asked, Where do you get your ideas from? I suppose the best way to deal with that question the next time I'm asked it is to just say, In general, from the people I know here, and wave my arm around the building a bit.

I suppose it's my own fault. I could try fit in and not let anyone know the real me, but that's no fun. I'd be a carbon copy of the society I hate. I'd be drinking to satisfy other people, trying to play soccer despite the fact that I suck at it, and listening to music I can't stand. That's no way to live. I'd prefer be an enigma to people. I'd prefer be weird than be the same. That's probably because I'm a twin and look the same as someone else.

I suppose I have a new response to Aren't you cool? I probably won't ever get asked that again, but I have a response to it. What do you think? Yeah, that'd really mess with someone's head.


Written as part of Challenge 2, Normality of Summer of Writing 2010. Full details here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Writing Days

I have a very particular writing day; I've gotten myself into a habit, based on how tired I am at particular times of the day. I can't write too much at night, anymore, unless I'm still in the swing of things. I usually wake between seven and eight in the morning, so I'll shower by nine or shortly afterwards and get going for the day. I got over three thousand words done today. That's not my best, but I'd be more than happy to get that done every day.

Every day I write is the same, assuming I wasn't out the day before, and therefore extra tired. Admittedly, the tiredness can carry on for a few days. I've noticed two day gaps developing in my writing. Anyway, every day is the same if I'm not tired; I write after my shower (and my breakfast) until about one in the afternoon. At that point, I'll have lunch. I'll also have had about two or three cups of tea. I'm an addict at this stage. I'll get a cup at lunch, too, and one at hour later; by five or six, I'll have to stop to get dinner, and afterwards I'll be to tired to write anymore, as the day will have stretched on.

My writing day is also filled with music. I know some people can't write with music playing - I can't write poetry with music playing, for instance - but when it comes to fiction, I have to have music playing. I like my little writing montages. Many days it's the same songs, over and over again, a playlist on YouTube of songs recommended by Liam (he has the best and most varied taste in music out of anyone I know); unfortunately, the playlist is twelve songs long. So I switch between that, Alex Day's album on his website, and The Doors. Today, I did something special. I wrote along to The Beatles. I never listen to The Beatles. Ever. But I loved it. (It was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club) I also played Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon; I'm familiar with a few of the songs, but played as a whole... wow! The next step is to get my hands on a Bruce Springsteen album, more of The Beatles, a Bob Dylan album or two and something by Simon and Garfunkel. Apparently they're all awesome.

Writing along to music like this, I can get through a story in no time. It's my job, though I don't get paid. I just work throughout the day, getting lots written on my current work in progress, Love is a Remarkably Destructive Bitch. If I'm forgetting all about modesty, it's a pretty good book. I need to finish it within the next couple of weeks, though, because I have three more books I want to write before the summer's over, and I'd also like to get the second draft for Meet Sam written. I think that'll be next, so that when I've written the next of my books, The Great Leap, and probably Dignity, too, I'll be coming back to it nice and fresh. Once the edits on the second draft are done, I'll be working on a new idea, fresh off the press last night: The Masked Expellator. It's a parody superhero novel. I blame Fiona for it.

As you can tell, I'm a little bit busy, and still working weekends. Miley Cyrus might be getting a job soon, so my Adventureland days with her may soon be coming to an end... scratch that, they'll be coming to a pause. Adventureland doesn't end, it only takes a short break. We'll make sure to get more stuff done during the college year. It'll be awesome. The only upside for me (upside for her being money) is that I'll have lots of time to write in between the less frequent plans with other friends, so I should be able to get at least Love is a Remarkably Destructive Bitch written. Hopefully by the end of the month. I'd like to write The Great Leap and Dignity before I go back, but I'd have to have many days like today, or like June 25th - 9385 words that day! I'd be writing a novel a week if I wrote like that all the time!

But there you have it: my routine and my goals. My writing will slow down considerably once I go back to college, so I want to get as much done as possible within the next couple of months. The upside, of course, is that I have breaks of this length every year. For the rest of my life. (assuming I finish college and get a job as a teacher, and that I don't end up working as a writer full time, in which case I have a "break" like this for the rest of my life, during which I can write a dozen first drafts a year if I wanted to.)

Actually, I like that idea in the brackets. See, I don't just write novels. I write novellas too, now. They're shorter, but I still manage to get some depth into them. My trick is to limit the number of characters in them, so that there's not too much to have to do. I had two main characters in one I wrote recently called Stepping Forward, with a grand total of seven side characters, with only two of them having any narrative focus at all. And it's quite awesome, if I do say so myself. The only printed copy of it is in the possession of a friend for him to read before I can show anyone else.

Novellas are a wonderful thing, though. I mean, less publishers are likely to print them, but they're still fun to write, and if I actually become a successful, popular author, a publisher might take a chance with something like Stepping Forward, or it'd be published as a serial novella, or with two or three other books in one volume. Something cool like that.

Now I'm getting myself all caught up in hypothetics, again. As you can see, writing days leave me with lots of time to think too much. I've been told I do that too much, anyway. I'll leave this blog post here, before I write all about my plans for WORLD DOMINATION.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review - The Lords & The New Creatures

Jim Morrison: Lords and New CreaturesThose that know me know that I have recently fallen for the music of The Doors. Those that stalk me know that I have recently acquired a copy of the late, great frontman Jim Morrison's poetry books, in one combined volume, The Lords and The New Creatures, for both myself and a friend. As the volume is one book, so shall this review be of the collected works of poetry published during Morrison's lifetime.

Did this live up to the standards set by the music of The Doors?
Yes, and no. No, in that it's harder to see the rhythme of the poetry, which is what makes so many of the songs by The Doors so great; a constant beat, a drive towards something, a pace that can change radically mid-song to create something wonderful, to reach a climax, empowered by electric sounds and mind-blowing lyrics. Yes, in that the words are fascinating, an adventure Morrison went on with The Doors, opening up to new thoughts, and presenting a wonderful fascination with life, death and culture, three of Morrison's biggest concerns, overall, if you let certain things fall into them.

How does the poetry compare to other works you've read?
To be fully honest, most of the poems are entirely unlike anything I've ever read. There are certain things lacking, but this comes down to the simple fact that my greatest experience with poetry is with very controlled poetry. This is freedom, absolute control of the words held by the poet, not the art-form. It's not greater or worse than anything I've ever read; it stands apart from it all, a distinct life-form of its own, unique compared to my previous experiences with poetry.

Which is, in your own opinion, the greater of the two books?
My favourite of the two was The New Creatures. It may be because there is a clearer system of verse in it, or that it focuses on a wilder side of Morrison's life, and on Pamela, rather than largely looking at cinema. That said, The Lords is still a powerful piece of poetry, and shouldn't be skipped. They're available together, so read them together, and make your own mind up.

Is this recommended?
I don't read something without recommending it, most of the time. What I'll say, though, to be fair, is that this book is probably best suited for lovers of (a) poetry and/or (b) the lyrics of The Doors (or just the band itself). It's not something I would give just anybody (and I didn't give it to just anybody - the friend I got a copy for is the very same friend who got me into the band in the first place). And I rather like my way of doing this: buy yourself a copy and buy a friend a copy, so you can discuss the poetic awesome that is Jim Morrison's work. It's better shared, like the music. Thousands of fans didn't flock together for no reason; the music of The Doors, the words of Jim Morrison, are a group experience. So yes, the volume is recommended, but recommended for sharing too.

Strange Days

All throughout Sunday and Monday, I had a period of silence; I texted whomever texted me, and with the exception of a couple of texts on Monday, that was it. I didn't talk to anyone until they talked to me. This does make for a lonely time, of course, until someone says something to you. I was fortunate that on Sunday, I got a text from the lovely Miley Cyrus, and for seven hours we kept a conversation going about friends and stuff like that. At the same time, I was reading The Thin Executioner (review). It kept me going through the day. It was actually a pretty good day, after that. I remember going to bed happy.

The next day, I wasn't so happy. Having discovered I wouldn't be seeing a friend, whom I haven't seen in about three and a half weeks and hadn't heard from in a few days, either, I got myself a bit down. I didn't text anyone, then. I stopped replying to Miley to stop myself moaning to her the entire day and getting her down. Paper Towns (review) arrived at twelve. I read that, to keep me going. I got through the entire thing that day, in between a couple of texts to see what, exactly, I might be able to arrange with the ever-distant friend. In short: nothing. He didn't reply. I sent him a long, bitchy email about it. I finished Paper Towns, texted him again.

Three things: one, sorry for being such an arse earlier. Two, I've sent you an email that I still don't really understand but I know I still want you read. Three, I read the most amazing novel ever today, and I think I understand things a whole lot better now

I didn't get a reply, and I didn't expect one. I went to bed thinking about hunting down paper towns.

I awoke at three in the morning. I was tired. Very tired. Three hours sleep. That was all I'd gotten. I was awake until six, thinking about something. Just thinking and planning. Like Margo Roth Spiegelman. I love Margo Roth Spiegelman. So I planned, like Margo, to go somewhere. I knew my itinerary, once I knew when I was having dinner; I left my house early in the morning..ish. I got a quarter past eleven train with an Eason bag in my hand, containing a not-birthday present and a brown envelope filled with the necessary explanations of crazy, and my novella.

I walked to his workplace; I had my plan, but I didn't have a car to speed things up. I hurried around the industrial estate, looking desperately for where he worked so I could hurry back to the city centre for lunch. I eventually asked a man at a taxi place - because taxi drivers know where everything is - and found the place. Closed. Yeah, they'd just moved a few days ago.

That was it, I thought. I'd come all that way for nothing. Except... "Are you looking for [insert name of company here]?" It was one of the employees. He had the van behind him. He had a pony tail and a friendly face, and he explained that they'd moved, and where they'd moved to, and asked did I know how to get there. No, I told him. I didn't say I'd gotten the train, that I couldn't drive, and that I was in a big hurry. He gave me directions. I was still a little lost. Eventually, I just asked if he could deliver the Eason bag.

And he did. He took it from me and drove off. Sorted. I walked to the train station again. There was nobody else there. No staff, no commuters. It was silent. There was no info on when the next train was coming. I was in the middle of nowhere, the only back arse of Dublin, and I had no way of getting home. No one but Miley Cyrus and Pony-Tail Man knew I was in the area.

I waited. What else could do? I just waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually the train came. I was already late for lunch. I had already deferred the question of where I was and how long I'd be. I had no idea how long I'd be, when I first got the text. The train brought me back to the city. I finally had my lunch.

Then Miley texted. Could she meet up? Of course she could! We hung out. Adventureland Day 3. We headed towards Stephen's Green. I had just said to her to text our friend who I'd tried to visit, when the TARDIS began to call out. The TARDIS is my ringtone. I know, utterly nerdy. I didn't recognise the number, but I knew who it was.

The package had been delivered. I'd asked him to call when he'd gone through everything. It was in a letter of explanation in the brown envelope. I'd written it between half four and ten to five that morning, then rewrote it much neater writing, and with a fancy pen. He called me crazy, twice, in two different ways. He could write a book if he wanted if he can manage to not repeat himself in conversation. I was impressed, and laughing. He was stuffed away under a table. Literally under a table. He had three computers, two screens, over 100 ports and, if you'll excuse my French, a shit load of cables. He had to try figure out what went where. And he had no windows. Not the comptuer programme. He literally had no windows. He couldn't see what sort of day it was outside. He wasn't missing much. It was overcast.

I bought Strange Days, the album by The Doors, and a Jim Morrison poster. I was happy. I was estatic, actually. I'd gotten a phone call, and when I got home, I discovered that I'd also gotten a reply to my really long email. A really cool reply. I won't post it here. It's more fun keeping it to myself. My train had left the station four minutes before I received the reply, so I didn't get until later. That and the phone call and the meeting up with Miley - they made my day. It. Was. Amazing.

But I was still very tired. Sure, I now had the musical awesome that is Strange Days playing, and we got pizza in for dinner, but that didn't make up for the fact that I woke at three and fell asleep shortly after six, only to wake again shortly before eight. Even as I write this, after at least eight hours sleep, I'm tired. I'd let myself worry too much beforehand. Still, it's all turned out for the best. I think... Unless he really thinks I'm crazy. But he wouldn't have called if he didn't want to be friends. S'all good in the hood.

Yeah... that was three really strange days. Today is recovery day. I'm tweeting again, blogging again, responding to comments again, leaving things on Facebook again, texting again, not calling anyone unless I need to because I'm low on credit, but that's it. I'm back in touch with the world, after lots of silence and lots more craziness.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some tea to make and drink. I reckon five-seven cups today should help...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review - Paper Towns

Paper TownsI received Paper Towns yesterday, as a result of the wonderful giveaway by The Book Smugglers. Devoured it in less than eleven hours, in between a few personal problems that needed addressing, making and eating lunch and consuming a somewhat over sized chicken curry that I didn't regret later on, thankfully. Naturally I had to review it, to tell people who weren't already familiar with the author about how amazing it is.

How amazing is it?
Life-changingly so. I mean, I've never really understood myself until I read this book. I still have a few questions, but I think I finally get a lot of the stuff going through my head. I'd need to scour the book for quotes to use in my defense of me being crazy, but the book more or less does it for me. Paper towns, paper people, travel, life, death, love, hate, family, friends - I get it. That's my life. This book is my life. And you know what? I bet it's the lives of at least a dozen other people. You don't get that very often with fiction. That's how amazing it is. John. Green. Kicks. Ass.

Yes, I know, it's horrible. But this is the first of John Green's books that I've read. I started reading Looking For Alaska, but I don't have a library card that definitely works, and I didn't have it with me that day I started reading it but didn't get very far, so I didn't get to take it home with me. Anyway, it was bad timing. I had exams to sit, still. But if Paper Towns is anything to go by, then the rest of John Green's books will be equally brilliant pleasures.

So, aside from being life-changing for you..?
Ah, that. Yes, the book is very funny. That's worth mentioning. I mean, I was literally laughing out loud for a few minutes, balled up on my bed, almost in tears because of one hilarious line. That's how funny it is. Even the best of comedy movies can't do that to me. Most comedians can't. And aside from being brilliantly funny, it's also a thought-invoking book, and one that really does set high standards for intellectual thought. If I thought my friends would read it, I'd make them all get a copy of this book.

Definitely recommended, then?
Haven't you been reading the review? Of course it's recommended! I wish I'd read it a few weeks ago so it could be in my staff picks at work. That's how brilliant it is and how much I recommend it to people. It will blow them all away!

Any last remarks?
I will be in search of paper towns. There will be a blog post about this at some stage in the future, when I have followed a string to its dead-end. If and when you read this book, you will understand what I mean. That is all.

Review - The Thin Executioner

The Thin ExecutionerThis long awaited review of Darren Shan's The Thin Executioner comes a couple of days after I've finished reading it. I'll admit it took me much longer than I'd hoped to read it; it came out at the end of April, but I had exams that got in the way, and then a lot of summer distractions. Anyway, on to the review!

First impressions of the book?
Okay, at first I wasn't happy with the book. I couldn't get into it after my exams. It took a while to get back into the swing of it. That's more to do with me not being in the mood to read. Once I got going, mainly on the last day when I got through an awful lot of it, the book was a great read. The story always took the reader on a new journey. There was always something to reference back to, something to shock and disgust and repel. In short, something to horrify!

How did it compare to other books by the author?
Darren Shan out-did himself on this one, creating a stand-alone title that rivals both his series(es?). It ended in a much neater way than The Saga of Darren Shan and The Demonata. While I loved both of them, this was truly a masterpiece of collective story telling in a single tome. The character developed in a lot neater way, the world was much more full, the mythology more expansive, and there wasn't any of what had become usual of Shan as a downside. That is to say, there was no verging-on-pretentious creation story, and no meddling with time. The book was was it was; an adventure, a change in a life, and in the end the love story everyone had been hoping for. Okay, so I knew how it was going to end. But anyone who knows anything about stories or Darren Shan, or both, could figure that one out. Still, it was a nice ending.

I want to get this for my ten/eleven/twelve year old; is it suitable?
What does that even mean anymore? Okay, there's references to sex. But that's in everything now. The Simpsons makes loads of references to sex. Much more than this book. There's violence. Lots of it. But almost every movie and television show has violence. The only difference is that this is a book. But can I just say, if you're surprised there's violence, look at the title. See the third word? Yeah, those guys kill. There's violence, and it's wonderful. So, if you're okay with those two details, then yes, this book is suitable.

What about recommended?
Most definitely! If it had been out in mass paperback this would have been a staff-pick at work! But they frown on us picking books that cost too much if they're going to be available for cheaper in a few months. But I still recommend it. Especially as a summer read! It's pretty much amazing.

Did you get it signed? We know you Paul - you're obsessed with Darren Shan.
What are you, my stalker? Yes, I got it signed. I went to the signing in Dublin on April 30th, and had a nice little chat with Darren Shan himself. It began with "Oh, hello again. Still writing away?" Yeah, we keep in touch. He's pretty cool that way, that he remembers who I am every time I got to a signing now. He also wrote a pretty cool inscription on the book. Made. My. Day.

What a fun anecdote... why did you tell us that?
To show that Darren Shan's not just a great writer for his stories! He's a legend of a man, very friendly, and you're doing the world a service by making sure he has the publication deals to keep making his tours amazing for everyone. He listens to his fans. He gets to know them. You don't get that very often. You will love Darren Shan. Trust me on that one. He's very cool. And his books are pretty awesome too.

So... are you going to rate the book?
Eh... no. I never rate books. I'm not critical enough to give anything less than a four. If we go by YouTube's system of rating, though, I give this book a thumbs up. It's not to be missed.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Oh My God It's Miley Cyrus!

So, yesterday was my second day of Adventureland with Miley Cyrus. It was rather epic. I went to Offaly, where she lives; we spent a large amount of time being children, in and out of her house. Her parents were lovely; her dad (or, daddy if you go by how she refers to them) was very smart and funny, and her mum kept trying to feed me. Her brothers were shocked that I didn't like football, but oddly didn't hold it against me. Once I said I had no interest in it, they left it at that. That's a first. Really, it is. Too many people start asking, things like, "But why? Would you not just watch it?" Eh, no.

We also watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and decided that one of our friends is pretty much like Ferris. Naturally, I texted him to express our opinions. "You. Are. Ferris. Bueller. FACT!" I don't know whether he was more amused or confused.

Aside from having a wee adventure to Tullamore, getting Animal Cookies, White Mice, jellies and hot chocolate, we pretty much just hung out and chatted. Good times were had. We also took a few photos, and recorded the above video. Photography was mainly consisting of us wearing 3D glasses. Let's face facts - 3D glasses are a waste unless they are actually worn, so we might as well take photos with them. I won't be posting them here... because really I'm too lazy. See, it takes a while to get to Offaly, so I travelled a bit yesterday... two 40-45 minutes train journeys, two 15-20 minute LUAS journeys, one 20-25 minute bus journey and four 15-20 minute car journeys. I got home after twelve at night, having left before nine in the morning.

It. Was. Awesome!

However, it has left me quite tired. I think I'll be resting up tonight and writing tomorrow, and hoping I'll have another day of Adventureland next week. Even if it does stop me writing, it's loads of fun! And that's what this summer is all about, for me. Writing is what eats away at the boredom between Adventureland, and what lets me explore the lives of a few people. Fun fun fun!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

*gasp* Cheating in Exams? Really? *sarcasm*

The Irish Times recently posted an article online about cheating during the Leaving Cert, after a student revealed on that there had been some cheating in her Carlow school. Notes in socks and phones and laps, stuff like that. And we're supposed to be surprised by this? I mean, there are literally dozens of ways to chear during exams. Dozens. I've heard loads of ways people have cheated over the years, in big exams and in small exams, and so this student's post that people are cheating in the Leaving Cert didn't really catch me off-guard (by the way, if you have no idea what the Leaving Cert is, it's the set of exams Irish second-level students have to take to determine what third level courses they can do).

It has been pointed out by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) that they are aware that cheating happens. Last year, with both the Leaving and Juniors certs, there was a total of 89 investigations into cheating, 83 of them in the Junior Cert. The only difference this time around is that the media have been let in on what's happening. The SEC also dismissed the myth that any student caught cheating would be exempt from sitting exams for four to five years; only in extreme circumstances is this measure taken. However, they never specified the period for how long the student wouldn't be able to attend exams.

This article really annoyed me for a couple of reasons; firstly, that the student in Carlow thought that cheating in her school ought to be announced to the SEC by her - if she was aware of it happening, she should have first told her principal; secondly, that no one on was able to clarify whether or not the myths were true; and thirdly, a remark made by a student in oppositon of the Carlow girl - the system cheats students, so students who can't remember facts and other such things should be allowed to cheat during exams so they can get into third level.

News flash - college exams require the same, if not more, attention to detail and memorising of facts as the Leaving Cert. If you don't learn to memorise things in a way that suits you, then you're only option is to cheat the entire time. And if you get caught in college, do you know what happens? You get kicked out. No SEC to back you up. If you make the mistake of cheating (or getting caught), then you have to suffer the consequences. Encouraging cheating in the Leaving Cert to get into third level is just a load of bull. It doesn't get easier when you get to college. You can't cheat and expect to get away with it like so many people do at second level.

And the shock at cheating. Oh. My. God. Would people get over themselves? This isn't a perfect little world where everyone does what I do at exams. I study. I don't study well, mind you, but I study. I don't cheat and I don't even give myself the chance. That doesn't make me better than people. I can tell you one person who did better than me in the exact same exams this year who didn't cheat, either. I don't actually know too many people who cheated. At all. My point, though, is that not everyone does things my way. Which isn't the best way, mind you. I was in a panic the entire time. I'm just saying - people shouldn't be shocked at cheating. The world isn't filled with crazy people like me. Lets face it - lots of students bring something into an exam to cheat with. But that doesn't mean they use it. I mean, they might have a note in their pocket, or something, but that's a safety net. I don't believe in them, because I'd be afraid I'd get caught not using it.

Like I said, crazy.

No, cheating isn't as shocking as the Irish Times article shows us people think it is. People really have no idea of the world if they think no one cheats. Heck, lying and cheating is what many people do to make sure they can keep living their lives. It's not bad as such. Okay, it's a bit bad. I wouldn't recommend it. But at the same time, I acknowledge it happens. People not paying taxes, or people lying about their health to get benefits, or people using a quick-fix method at work for something, or stealing someone else's work despite the copyright disclaimer at the bottom of the page. It happens. Get over it. It's technically cheating the system.

All I can say is, those students need to look down at their feet. There's a welcome mat there, right in front of the Real World.

Love is a Remarkably Destructive Bitch, Extract

Love is a remarkably destructive bitch. It comes and goes and all the time leaves heart ache for someone. Someone. Always. Hurts. That is the truth about love. It’s not music where there is none. It’s not getting that funny little feeling in your stomach when you see that certain someone. Love isn’t that first kiss under the apple tree or walking down a beach holding hands. Drunk people hold hands all the time. Children kiss under apple trees for a dare. They aren’t love, and they never will be.

Love isn’t a song on the radio that two people adore.

Love isn’t roses on Valentine’s Day. Roses are soft, silent death and you just don’t know it. Kill the bitch if that’s how you want to be. That isn’t love. That’s murder.

The point, the truth, is that love hurts too much for us to really logically wish to pursue it. And yet, humans as we are, we look for love everywhere we go. We read books on the matter, watch films about it, hear some poems about it. We do everything we can to find love, and we’re always looking in the wrong place. And it is in this truth that I present to you a case of love, that I ask you a question I’ve been wondering for some time now. What is love, but loss?

Andrew didn’t save those words; he didn’t post them online, he didn’t print them off. If he needed them, he’d write them again, though he had his doubts about that: he would never need – really need – a short essay on how love is a bitch in all its forms, and he wouldn’t remember exactly what’d written, and nothing could ever come out like that again. With a sigh of resignation, he left the computer room.

His full name was Andrew McCourt. He was a closet musician; that’s not to say he played music in his closet – he called it a wardrobe, anyway – but that he never told anyone about it. A lime green ukulele was forever hidden from his parents and their prying eyes, and he only played when he was alone. Andrew McCourt had much experience with being alone. Most people would find that evident in his unnaturally grim look on the world of love. Everyone would find it strange, if they knew how he felt about love, that he mostly played love songs.

Andrew couldn’t sing for shit, as far as he was concerned. With a few thousand songs at his disposal, he was sure he could maybe sing...three. He could sing three of the songs. He could play a dozen times more, but when it came to actually hitting any of the notes, and sounding good at the same time, Andrew McCourt was a lost cause.

He went to a small college locked away in a tiny pocket of space, away from spying eyes and judgemental pricks, in one of the greater suburban areas of Dublin, studying a sorry combination of music and religion and pretending he knew what he was doing. He didn’t have a clue about composition, and even less of one about anything they did in religion. He didn’t care for God, very much. God hadn’t done him any favours past creation, and even that was called into question.

Andrew’s parents accidentally had sex with each other, thinking they were different people. The miracle of Andrew’s conception.

He didn’t tell everyone that story. He refused to let people know that he wasn’t an accident in the same way they were – that the lovely people at the condom factory had made a few errors back in the late eighties and early nineties; he wished he didn’t know that he was a mistake of human judgement and manufacturing defaults at the same time. While they were sober. Allegedly.

What he did tell them was that he had a very good reason for getting sloshed, and that maybe he’d tell them some day. He would in his arse; Andrew knew what to tell people and what not to tell people. In his years of experience, limited though they may be at the age of eighteen, he’d discovered that the trick to faking happiness is to hide everything that might make you unhappy. It had worked so far.

He surrounded himself with the strangest bunch of people he’d ever thought possible; they all had their own problems, of course, because people are born for trouble; they all had their little idiosyncrasies that drove other people insane; they had all been bitten by the love bug at some stage in their time in the college. Not Andrew. Andrew was a miserable child when it came to love. Andrew swatted the love bug before it had a chance to hang around for too long.


This has been the opening extract for my new WIP, Love is a Remarkably Destructive Bitch. I hope it has kept you suitably amused.