Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Pottermore Experience

I've spent a bit of time on Pottermore today, after I was given the go-ahead to enter yesterday. At first, I was unimpressed. Actually, that's the understatement of the century: Pottermore sucks when you first enter. You have no wand, no house, nothing to do and no one to talk to, and it's all very boring. The only thing to do is to follow the story and read about a few different things, but otherwise it's the most useless thing in the world.

Nothing at all good happens until you reach Diagon Alley and get to buy some things. You follow Harry's buying path, meaning the wand is last. The wand is the first thing that makes Pottermore fun, to be honest. Following a series of questions, I was assigned my official wand of wizardry: ten and three-quarter inches, alder, slightly springy and with a unicorn core. I was really rather happy about this. There's more info on the Pottermore site about the different cores and woods used, and for the first time the website adds something extra to the Harry Potter world: detailed information on the very basic tool all witches and wizards carry with them, and a first-time glance at some of the secrets behind their maker.

Once you visit Diagon Alley, you're also able to brew potions. My advice: use the free test run to give it a try, but then wait until later when potions will earn you house points. I don't know whether or not the potions you make before house assignment (if you can even do it!) will count towards your score.

Come Chapter Seven, you get into a house. Again, questions are asked and it's a little more interactive again. Plus, you know, you get into a house. Nevermind the questions: now you can boast about being in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor, cause panic about being in Slytherin or hide the fact that you're in Hufflpuff (kidding!). What house am I in?

Um... rawr?

So, I'm in Gryffindor. It's fun knowing that, and while it doesn't change the experience of Pottermore, suddenly I'm a part of something bigger than just myself along on this little island in the midst of the seemingly great Pottermore. Also, you know, Dumbledore was in that house and he's friggin' awesome. (Along with Harry and whatnot... but let's face it, Hermione and Neville really are the best people in the house!)

What I have yet to experience is a wizardry duel, and with a lack of any lessons on how to do this I remain pulled back into the story. I'm enjoying the idea of reading along to the "moments" in the book that are highlighted on the website, so it'll take me a while to get through it all, but it's allowed me to rediscover the wonderful storytelling in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It's not just the magic: there is genuine humour in this book that I might have missed as an excited child waiting for the climax and possibly skipping sentences to get through the book quicker.

That's what Pottermore really has to offer for older fans, like myself: a chance to rediscover the books, if they're put them down for a few years (yes, years!)

The website doesn't open to the public officially until October, so it's still in the Beta testing stage. But it will be worth it, in a way, when people start flooding in. Just be a little patient in the beginning: it will be boring, but  it gets better. The novelty of wands and houses really does add to the excitement a bit. Also, I've got this lovely boil removal potion brewing at the moment. It requires my attention, soon. When I discover some more of the magic of Pottermore - and I hope it doesn't end at novelty - I'll add a brand new post for that. And who knows, mayhaps I'll make some friends on the site!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Little Bit Busy

I heard on the radio yesterday that the difference between a professional and an amateur is that a professional does the work even when he/she doesn't really feel up to it. With that in mind and with three times the hours I normally have in work to exhaust me and subsequently less hours to actually do anything, I did some work.

Okay, "some" might make it seem like I've been busy all morning. I haven't. Really I just wrote a couple of reviews, neither of which have been read by the editor yet. But it's a start, right?

See, I know I'll have a lot less hours in work come September, but I'll be starting college again. And the joys of college also come with the assignments and tutorial work and lectures, and that alone is going to take up a lot of my time. You know, before I even talk to my friends. So I figure I have to get down to working even when I'm tired and even when I don't really feel like working on reviews or anything else remotely like work.

But hey: I want to be a professional! I already have plans for a project in the new year, the planning of which has begun, and that'll be occupying a lot of time in my life and a lot of space on my website. Thankfully, there's already some interest in it from some lovely people on Twitter. So that'll be fun.

In the meantime, I actually have to set up my website. It still feels weird saying I'm working on a website, and it's even weirder to say I have a writing job for The Phantom Zone that I will, at some stage, be getting paid for. Things couldn't be more bizarre.

Oh, and I have a Pottermore account. It's not great. Unlike Google Plug sayins, I don't think it's going to get better with more members. I've looked at the comments: people are just saying "interesting". Maybe I need to get access to more of the features, but if things aren't immediately available for testing by the Beta testers, it escapes the point of the website. More on that when I get a chance to look into the site more, but so far I'm calling it a let-down.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why You Found Me

Since hearing the Chameleon Circuit song Everything is Ending in the middle of July, I've had this thought in my head, based on the line: "And this must be why you found me." We find each other. But, you know, it doesn't seem like it happens on purpose. The most unlikely friendships in the world seem to be of some benefit to the people involved, but there's no real way of planning their existence.

I've been through a lot of crap in my life. That's undeniable, with some of the people I went to school with. (It's not just that, but it's one of the things that stands out that I feel comfortable enough to share with the Internet - friends know the rest.) But it seemed to me that because of all the crap, I just couldn't trust people straight away. It takes a lot for people to earn my trust, even if they don't realise they're doing it. It's not malicious and it's not because I'm not friends with people, I just don't trust very easily.

But then... well, I suppose I was found. The very first time I thought about telling someone what was going on in my head, about some of the crap in my life, it just felt right. It had nothing to do with anybody else I was friends with: I just felt like I could trust this one person without really knowing for sure that I could. For the first time in my life, I could trust someone completely without them needing to earn it.

Something like that is special. I've never met another person who, the moment I felt like I should say something, I did. I was able to come out of my shell a bit, do things I'd never done and I never felt alone. That's weird, isn't it? I mean, there were plenty of times when this friend wasn't around, but even just talking on the phone or getting the odd text or seeing comments on the Internet, just felt right. Everything in my life just seemed to fit properly because I had a friend I could trust.

Mind you, I never thought I would trust him. I never once thought about telling him anything, because I didn't feel it bothering me. My whole life I'd been looking for a friend like him, though (very clear memories of primary school trying to make friends with different people... none of it seemed right!). I stopped looking a very long time ago, but then it just happened.

Things like that don't happen all the time. I know that. But the point of all this: when you're found by a friend (or otherwise) like this, don't let it go. It'll be one of the most important relationships in your life. It will change you for the better, without you even meaning it to. It will just happen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mutant Babies!

On Twitter, a discussion got going between myself and @Darke_Conteur about X-Men. It took a turn for the better - and strange, when taken out of context - when we started to talk about next generation mutants. The Mutant Babies, we thought, would make for more compelling stories in the X-Men comics. We've all seen the various incarnations of Scott and Jean get it on, and Scott and Emma, and Wolverine and Jean, and Gambit and Rogue, Rogue and Magneto, Iceman and Polaris, Polaris and Havock... you know what, I'm getting sidetracked. The point is: there are lots of mutant couples in the X-Men comics, and lots of possible pairings, and the on thing that doesn't last most of the time: the children.

Okay, so Scott and Jean technically have three children together: X-Man, Cable and Rachel Summers. Except X-Man was grown by Sinister in the Age of Apocalypse universe and Cable is from the future, and they're basically the same person. To make things even creepier, Jean's clone Madelyn Pryor had a child with Cable, called Stryfe. So, they have four kids whose powers range from: telepathy (from Jean), telekinesis (from Jean), superhuman strength and durability (cybernetic in nature), technopathy (cybernetic in nature), precognition (from Jean, if enhanced beyond her capabilities) and, er, cross-dimensional travel (that one bewilders everyone). Scott's part in the powers seems to be in enhancing what's already there - X-Man seems to be able to focus his telekinesis into an eye-beam. Sound familiar? (It should: Scott is Cyclops!)

Rogue and Magneto also have a child, resulting in the phrase, "Yeah, scientific sex!" making its way into the World Wide Web. He manipulated her bio-magnetic field to allow him to touch her skin... anywhere. So, they have a relationship and a baby. A baby that has telepathy. This raised the question: how are the children of Rogue's powers determined? One source on Oliver Raven, the child of Gambit and Rogue, says that Oli has his mother's powers, to the extent that he has permanently absorbed telepathic and flight abilities from unknown sources.

Nightcrawler's children all seem to have powers that link back to his biological father, Azazel, just as Nightcrawler's siblings share the same trait. This is likely due to Azazel not being entirely human - beyond the extent of being a mutant. It's suggested, a lot, that he's a demon. Go figure.

Examples out of the way, we started to wonder: what sort of powers would different couples' children have? Havock and Polaris - radiation and magnetism. She took her father's powers, his are similar to Scott's, his brothers. But would there be a cancellation of one parent's powers, like Scott and Jean? Or would there be more devastating effects? Remember, Polaris's siblings have powers completely different to her own: Quicksilver has superhuman speed and Wanda can alter reality for frick's sake! There's no telling what Havock and Polaris would produce. The same goes for Kitty and Piotr, both of whom alter their density in one way or another, and the list keeps going on and on as the writers attempt to add new twists to the tale.

I'm not even going to go into the matter of Legion, Xavier's son with the multiple personalities and abilities. Lets just call it complicated and move on.

The basis of the discussion resulted in the big questions: why haven't the writers utilized the children more? Why are they telling the same stories of the same characters over and over again? We get it: Scott's not exactly faithful. We get it, Logan likes Jean. We get it - they're adults, they have sex.

But for God's sake, why can't the writers let the children take the stage?

Think about it for a second. Say you take Rachel Summers. She's essentially Jean, in terms of abilities. Complicated. Cool. Take the child of Havock and Polaris. Rachel has a cousin. Maybe that cousin is a villain. Lets face it, someone has to be. Suddenly you have a new and complex story, because maybe the cousin - the grandchild of Magneto - hates humans. We're going somewhere. You might have to kill off Havock and Polaris for the story to work, but it's going somewhere.

Kitty and Piotr, say they have a couple of kids. They already have Michael together, though his powers and most records of him are missing from the Internet from what I can see (he was in Astonishing X-Men). So, their kids also have half-brothers and -sisters. (Fidelity... not the X-Men's strong points...) They don't all have to appear, but the ones with powers - and complicated powers, at that - would add to the mix.

The list goes on, of course, because the X-Men have been in circulation since 1963 - that's 58 years of sex they could have been having, and they haven't aged much. But with all of those stories told, the writers just have to pick the ones that can match up: stick to a story and keep it that way. One that's over, mind you, not one that they will decide will contribute to the same database of cannon as others.

Would I like to see this comic? Of course I would. It would be dynamic, exciting and it would add to the development of the comics. But it would have to be done correctly. A World War X type situation might help: they've been delving into mutant hate since the beginning, so making a war out of it won't be going too far. The set-up in the upcoming X-Men: Destiny is ideal - people hate mutants, so new mutants pop up along the way. Having the children struggle in this war-filled world, perhaps sent off for safety before puberty like English parents did during World War 2 and therefore separating them from their parents just as their powers pop up, would be a new and interesting story.

Once they don't bring in the frickin' aliens again. God, I hate the aliens in X-Men, especially the Brood.

Anyway... thoughts on that? The development of the comics seems to have gone from What If to What If, and it's possible people might get tired of it all. There's a reason people aren't liking the look of Destiny - I will still be playing it, because I love X-Men games! - and it's because they're not doing it right. But I do like the set-up of it, with new mutants and anti-mutant riots picking up. And let's face it: Marvel could do with some fresh blood. And the family drama? Well, try explain to your four-years younger half-sister why your shared daddy isn't around while the sky lights up red (and green, and blue, and then goes black... mutant wars will be colourful, obviously).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oh, That Play Thing

In college I'm known for two things (aside from always attending lectures and being kind of annoying... latter might be an understatement): writing and drama. Thankfully, there's way to combine those two joys - I'm writing a play. So far, the details of the play are quite secretive. I've been describing it as "complicated" to avoid giving anything away.

The briefest and simplest explanation I can provide for the play is this: It's about mental health. Yes, that's possibly one of the vaguest statements someone can make about a play, trumped by 'It has characters and a climax or two'. But that's all I'm saying about the topic of the play.

I'm hoping that it will be put on in college - during brief talks with the VP of the Drama Society I indicated that, if we don't have a director with a play to put on, I'd like the society to consider my play. Of course, given the fact that rehearsals generally begin quite early, I have to have the play written before college starts back. That's four weeks to the day.

Lisa Sills assures me that I shouldn't have a problem doing it. She wrote a 120 pages screenplay in a week, I can do a 60-ish page play in four weeks. Plus, you know, I do have experience writing a lot in a short amount of time.

The reason I'm writing this post, of course, is simply by means of an update. It's easier to explain the play in one place than to try explain it in four others, each with their own character limits. Too messy.

Moving on... If we don't have a director, I've expressed interest in directing the play. This is mainly because I don't want to act in this play. I've written it so that the Drama Society can put it on, but also so that any other theatre groups can. I'll be explaining that better closer to the opening night (if there's an opening night).

In the meantime, I have a title for the play. Finally. After weeks (if not months) of trying to come up with one. Ready? Comfortable? Okay: The Rest is Silence

I'm not going to go all English student on you and explain its significance, but I will extend my thanks to Nancy and Kate on Google+ for the feedback and discussion, and to my brother for giving his opinion on the options available.

Now I just have to write the play. But I never start without a title! That is Rule Number Uno for me. If/when the show goes into production, I'll be announcing those details. Though probably not here. See the links in the sidebar (those colourful buttons to the right) for announcements of various sorts.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Perks of the Job

Unless you're new here, you know I have writing job at The Phantom Zone. It's what I sum up as being a geek website. That doesn't quite do it justice; essentially, it's site for articles and reviews relating to science fiction, fantasy and horror across film, comics, books and games. This covers quite a lot of what actually makes it into the mainstream media.

The job, for which I merely have to contribute somewhat regularly - recent delays are about to be explained - enables me to write about the films I go to see every weekend (well, almost every) because mostly they fall into one of the three above-named categories. The job also allows me to review books I love, because there's no exclusivity to "adult" market books, given the fact that kids and YA books are now being read by adults more freely. They're simpler and easier to get through, and that can make them more fun for a busy reader.

But the perks of the job get better, and this is what has delayed recent posts: I get to interview some of my favourite authors. I don't think The Phantom Zone has had too many interviews in the past, but General Zod, my editor, gave me permission to seek and publish interviews on the site. Following my review of The Warlock, I was able to then interview the author, Michael Scott, via Skype.

Now, that's why I've been so inactive on the site. The Skype call went on for a while. I recorded it, but I had to get the actual words of the call written down. I still have to put together an article around the quotes I'll be taking from the interview. But overall, it was a fun experience. Michael's very charismatic and he had a lot to say about his books and about writing. I have two more interviews lined up so far - one via email, the other unconfirmed. I've received a free copy of the first author's book, and I will be receiving a copy of the other author's. The fun part? The latter is one of my favourite authors. I can't wait to get to interview him for The Phantom Zone!

So, two free books so far. That's a plus. So far I haven't been paid - payment is, as advertised, based on ad-revenue - but that's okay for me, for now. I know I won't be cheated out of money from the editor. In the meantime, I can review books for the site and I've been given permission to do a number of different articles for the site, so it's simply a matter of picking and choosing when it appeals to me/when the time is right.

Even better, still, I get to call myself a professional writer. Yes, I'm still working at a slow rate - too slow to make a living if I was writing for print magazines or papers - but I will be getting paid for the job. I'm an actual (going-to-be) paid writer. That feels pretty damn amazing to say!

By the by, just so we're clear: unless Zod disapproves a book to be reviewed on The Phantom Zone, all my sci-fi, fantasy and horror reviews (including YA in those genres) will be posted there. I'll still have other book reviews of my own, here, just not in those genres. So... keep that in mind. My tastes haven't changed, I just have a job that I can use those reviews for. Also, because I'm now doing reading for two places, my reviews may not be as regular as usual (i.e. once a week on a Wednesday) but I will always attempt to write a couple of posts a week, unless I'm away from the blog entirely (for personal reasons, a holiday or an overload of college work, including teaching practice).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to collapse from exhaustion after having watched several hours of the riots last night and being woken up early this morning. Until next time...

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's Not Okay

I'm sure people know: London is burning. Fires, riots, looting; it's a scene from dystopian novels, and there are no police around to stop any of this going on. I'm hearing on the news that it's not just the people living in the areas: people are coming in from different areas of London and acting up. Buildings are burning, both homes and businesses.

One of the people I follow on Twitter retweeted something important: Europe is just coming out of a recession. Money is still tight. And no one can afford to pay for all of this damage. These places will remain burned for a while. That's an unfortunate truth London may have to face.

And here's the thing: it's not okay.

It's not okay for people to loot and steal and take everything of value in buildings.

It's not okay for people to burn down these buildings.

It's not okay to do it in the name of a man who was shot by the police.

It's not okay to put people's lives in danger in the name of false justice.

It's not okay for London to suffer.

It's not okay to blame all of London's youth.

This is a strange situation. There's no denying that. People are acting out and I don't see how they can excuse themselves of it when they're caught. Rioting is not cool, no matter what these people think. Bored? Angry? Annoyed at the government? None of those are reasons to endanger lives and damage the financial futures of so many people. Can't get a job? Don't steal from shops. Not in school? Don't make it so people can't afford to go.

Don't just talk about the events going on, contributing to the mass of information filling the Internet: spread the word that it's not okay. And whatever you do, remember that it's not every teenager and young adult in London that's doing this. There are limited groups of people doing this damage.

Hopefully the people of London can get through this. The next great fire that city should see if the Olympic flame coming in. How the guilty youth can forget that their city has so much to offer in the next year is beyond me. Good luck, London.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


So, I found a way to make myself do some work: incentive. In this case, it was Incentive Fudge. I bought a tub of fudge in work (don't ask why a bookshop sells tubs of fudge, please...) and I decided that for each of the four items on my list of tasks to do for the day, I would get a piece of fudge from the tub.

It's simple, though you don't have to use fudge as your incentive. Tonight, despite being tired, I got two of the four tasks done already. I will be doing a third one before bed, in my notebook, but I won't be able to do the fourth. It requires more time than I have, so I'll just move it along a day.

My tasks were:
  1. Review Super 8
  2. Type 7 questions and answers for the Michael Scott interview (by the way, I interviewed him yesterday! The review of The Warlock can be read here.)
  3. Write a piece for my website (I have an actual piece in mind, but I don't want to spoil it!)
  4. Write a piece for Pinkie's Blog
I have done the first and fourth on the list, and I will be doing the third, but the interview is recorded on my digiphone, so I won't be able to write that up tonight. It requires playing back on the interview a lot, and there was a lot said in it.

That said, I think if I hadn't procrastinated earlier, I would have gotten my list done. The only thing left to do instead of doing the second piece is to make a new list for tomorrow and include it on that. I have a little more time, tomorrow, since I'm in work later, so I can probably get a couple of my tasks done early on.

FYI, I learned this trick on Google+ and in reading my magazines about writing. An article in Writers' Forum spoke about freelancing and prioritising time. The G+ thing was someone's writing diary. It's a good idea and I'll be writing about it more on my website, I think. It's not something I have time to do because I'm running a website, a blog and submitting to The Phantom Zone, and I'll be going back to college, but for people who don't already have a boatload of things to occupy their time, it's useful for making sure you do your writing for the day.

Me, I just use a tub of vanilla fudge.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Writing Magazines and Why You Should Read Them

If you want to write and you don't think you can get all the info yourself through trial and error or from the experiences of your friends, you need to check out the writing magazines in your country (Ireland and UK share most magazines). These magazines are not only a good read, and they not only provide work for writers, they contain information across genres and formats that writers can afford to miss. As well as that, there are valuable submission opportunities in the pages of many writing magazines that would likely get lost among the years-old search results Google spews out every now and then (it's not their fault those pages are still popular!)

In the UK and Ireland, the two magazines that stick out for me on the shelves are Writing Magazine and Writers' Forum. While the former is my favourite of the two, WF does have it's benefits, especially given the fact that editors take different directions each month and have different writers. Even if both magazines covered the same topics, most of the time the writers will be saying a lot of different things that readers can make use of.

Unfortunately, the latest issues of both magazines had the same sort of articles on women's magazines. The market for women's writing is stronger but more competitive, and both magazines focused on the decline in magazines accepting short stories. There's not much else you can say on that, except for the writers to offer advice on submitting to the remaining magazines - and identifying what they want!

Both magazines also offer features on using the Internet as a writer. For Writers' Forum, Alison Baverstock occasionally takes up the position, but not every month. Baverstock's articles are also limited to a page most of the time, so they're more of an overview than anything else. Over the past few months, Rebecca Woodhead has been taking over two-three pages of Writing Magazine with in-depth guides on how to use Blogger, Wordpress, Twitter, Facebook and more; each network is divided by issue, making them valuable and still short guides to these sites. For these guides, WM is the one to look for. (As a side note, Baverstock does have three excellent books to check out, on publishing, marketing and whether or not you have a book in you).

If you can spare the money - £3.60 for WF and £3.75 for WM, though it's longer and has more submission opportunities - these magazines are worth getting from the shop. If you want to subscribe but can't afford both, your best bet is to look at an issue of both and pick one after seeing how you like the writers and the content. Couldn't be simpler.

And, just in case you're wondering if you've read Rebecca Woodhead's articles: yes, I did use her tips to make my website, set up my Facebook page and set up my LinkedIn profile. The only thing I haven't done is a book trailer. I think I'm missing the word "yet" from there. Whatever the case, they were in-depth enough to teach me almost everything I need to know about using the different sites, and that's just one reason to go looking for these magazines. (There's also the tips from different writers on all genres and, in WF, a magazine-submission guide for different topics each issue: Law magazines, Religious magazines, Parenting magazines; consider what you want to do as a writer, then see which magazine is most helpful to you!)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review - The Great Gatsby

The Great GatsbyBack when I was in first year of college and infinitesimally younger, our lecturer put F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby on our course for us to read. Now, I do my best with college reading material, but there's something about being told to read a book but there being no obligation to read the book that just puts me off it entirely. I tried to read the book, and failed miserably. Then John Green decided people should read it, and suddenly I had an interest. I think that says more about my willingness to follow up on a recommendation of a book than it does about my interest in college.

Anyway, by far the biggest highlight of the reading of the book - aside from finally doing what I'd set out to do before, and failed - was to discuss the book with John Green. He made a video talking about the first chapter, and I seized upon the opportunity to answer his question about Gatsby's 'American Dream'. More on that at the end of the post in a "spoiler" zone. Until then: the review!

So, what did you think of the book when you finally got around to reading it?
I was honestly and pleasantly surprised by how funny it was. I think a major problem with the great classics in literature is that many of them are portrayed as exactly that: great and classic. Classic implies age, and age reminds us of our grandparents laughing at stories that are only funny to them and no one else. But this, while being a "classic" was nothing at all like that. The humour was full of wit and intelligence that seemed like a product of the great modern minds, not just in books but on television in talk shows and the like (Stephen Fry immediately comes to mind.)

Beyond that, there was also a great story to fill a relatively short book. There were characters of varying complexity, scenes of places that, while being dated, felt right when I read them and relationships that were imagined perfectly. It was an old book, yes, but a story that can still be read today. (In fairness to it, actually, it's not even ninety years old. If I'm half as interesting at that age I'd be delighted! If I aged as slowly as the book, too, even better.)

What's your favourite aspect of this book?
I don't know whether this is because John Green recommended it or whether I just noticed it, but I like how there was a clear comparison between The Great Gatsby and Paper Towns; in each book, the characters all mis-imagined people expertly, so that Gatsby was a whole number of different things and only some of that true, like Margo was a different person according to everyone else. How we imagine people complexly and how we get it wrong is by far one of the most interesting messages that I can take from the book (both of them, actually). It's a book that can teach us a lot about not only fiction but the people who surround us, too.

Who would you recommend this book to?
If you like John Green, this is a good book to pick up next. The humour is similar (if a little older) and the style of writing is different, but the messages in the book are familiar and worth picking up. For lovers of American literature, for people who like to read the classics, for people considering studying English in university and for people who love good stories and/or strong messages in books, this is for you. It's a fantastic book and once you get into it you'll fall in love with it. Unfortunately, it's only nine chapters long, so it'll be a short lived romance. Some of the best ones always are.

The "spoiler" section, featuring the comments on The Great Gatsby

I apologise for turning all English-student on you, but this is actually what I said in the comments section of John's video. I'm such an incredible nerd sometimes.

Me: It seems to me that the continuing search for wealth and monetary success is surrounded not only in a growing sadness, but in a mixed sense of morality (seen clearly in Tom's mistress in New York). Daisy and Tom are rich, young and good looking, they have a beautiful little girl, and neither one is happy. Combine that observation with the snobbery about East and West Egg and we see that all they value in the Great American Dream is wealth and not the happy lives meant to go with it.

John: I agree with everything you say here: Somehow we've managed to divorce success from happiness, which leads to a larger question: Is being happy the goal of being alive? Or is there some greater goal? And is the greater goal served by the ambition to wealth and luxury? (I think this is not such a clear-cut question, and I think Gatsby explores the question in all its complexity.)

Me: I think we can imagine that Gatsby's American Dream changes throughout the novel. He's achieved what he first set out to do - getting wealth by any, even scrupulous, means - only to find that he wants to be happy. He hopes to use his wealth to get the girl he loves. Maybe one of his greatest flaws is not realising that he can have happiness in being honest (demonstrated by his friendship with Carraway) rather than trying to prove his worth by the value of his house.

And with that, I bid you adieu. I have a website to work on and articles to write for The Phantom Zone.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Recent Developments

It's weird to think that in a matter of days I've gone from being a Twitter user and a blogger to having a website in development, a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile. What's weirder is the even more recent development: I've offered my services to help people set up websites of their own through For free. So long as I know the person and can arrange a time with them to put together the website as they want it to be from what's available, I'll do it. I won't supply content - the stuff that makes up the website - but I will do the actual putting together of the website.

It wasn't that I had intended to do it, but when I realised that it might come in handy for some people and that I could get it done pretty quickly for them, it made sense to help. I've already started referring to them as clients (actually, I've been saying "clients" all day, inverted commas included, because that's just the closest word to what actually describes them.) To make things even more frighteningly professional, I've started to make appointments for my "clients".

So far I have two to do in September (this will be after my website has launched, so they'll have a few days to see the finished product before finalising on all of their choices). I won't say who they are just yet, but I'll be linking to their websites when they go online. I also plan on giving a crash course in marketing to them, if they're interested, since I'll be right there with them. It's all optional and entirely free of charge. The only thing they'll ever have to pay for is the optional stuff offered by I don't believe in making money from my friends with something like this, because really all I'm doing is saving them time. The websites are just put together using the basic functions on

What makes this service helpful is that I actually have experience with I've used a few times over the years for different projects. I'm fairly handy with it. I may as well save people some time by setting this up for them. It'll look professional but it will have required little effort for myself or my "clients".

The reason I'm mentioning this is to offer the service to anyone whom I know personally. It took me a day to set up my website (it doesn't look like much right now, but that's because the actual technical stuff has already been done to hide the website that's been made - it's a magic trick.) And I mean a whole day with tips from somebody else to guide me along the way, having already used before. I know that I could do it all in the space of a couple of hours again, and all I need is the content to add to it.

So, if you want a website and if I know you (especially or even if you're still in the same college as me), drop me an email using the Contact button on my website (use the red P button in the right-hand sidebar to get there) and let me know. It's advisable for bands/musicians, writers, illustrators, photographers, actors and, if they're interested, societies in college. I'll gladly help. I'll be putting together a check-list of things for websites so that people can see what choices they have to pick from from And remember, it's all free.

Also, if you read this far, I can reveal what my exciting announcement from yesterday was: I'm now an official writer for I can't wait to get started with it properly!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Bank Holiday Weekend

In Ireland, there's a certain air of excitement for some people when it comes to the bank holiday weekend. I think for most it's the day off and the extra chance to drink. I remained entirely sober this weekend (the weekend includes Mondays on these occasions, if you don't know already) but that didn't stop me having a good time. For once. Only that I had the time off work did I actually enjoy myself.

There's been some excitement for me over the past three days. To begin with, I got my 50K written by Saturday. That ended a massive writing spree that left me exhausted, but the weekend had only just begun. So I did the only thing I knew how to do: I started a new project. My novel isn't finished, of course, and I will return to writing it shortly, but I had some stuff to do.

Badge for my website!
Sunday saw the rise of my website. There's a fanciful link to it in the sidebar. I've written quite a bit of content for it already, but that's for the grand launch in a few weeks' time. But that story's already been told.

Today, I set up more sites to link to the blog. My official Facebook page was first to show up to the world. I was reluctant to set one up, because I thought it might seem pretentious, but Rebecca Woodhead set me straight. It's now there - and linked to in the sidebar - and thanks to the support from Rebecca, it's gotten over 25 likes already! It doesn't look like much, but I'm delighted. I'll be using it to ask daily questions (or at least only one question a day) and to link people to the articles and other content I post on my website.

To follow up on that, I set up a LinkedIn profile. This one terrified me. While a website was a handy way of spreading content that wasn't all just me-me-me, and a Facebook profile was something I was used to from experience, a LinkedIn profile is so much more. It's the professional side of my website, but in social network form. If you don't know already, it's where professionals go to meet and exchange contacts and connections and it's all extremely terrifying when you don't feel as if you belong. I'll see where it takes me.

The real fun of the BHW is something I'm not even sure I can tell people about yet. It's extremely geeky and exciting, and so far only four people know about it - two of them being my parents! Hopefully I can make that announcement soon. When I can, it'll be on my Google+ account, Twitter and Facebook, with an update in my positions on LinkedIn. Blimey, I feel so professional with all of this going on, now! I'm geeking out!