Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chapter One: Is This Real Life?

College is officially over. No more exams (I hope.) No more assignments (I hope.) No more waking up at 7am to attend a lecture on Grace (I really, really hope.) Which puts me in a position of starting over again in a new kind of life. The Education Years are complete. Someday, I'll retrospectively figure out what to call this time of my life, but for now, I'll just focus on the fact that as of today, this is the life I have to live. This is:

Chapter One: Is This Real Life?

I got to wake up after half ten this morning. This was, admittedly, after a long day and a long night, but even still: half ten. And I was in no pressure to go anywhere. It almost felt good, but I'm still getting over the exam experience, thinking "I should be studying instead of watching Rooster Teeth videos on YouTube." Except no. I don't have to study for an exam anymore. I'm allowed to take some time to watch videos of grown men becoming emotionally attached to video game sheep as the very ground they walk on catches fire and the sheep plummet to their virtual deaths. That's a thing.

The day was also spent baking. Or, some of it was. A batch of brownies are, as of writing this, cooling before I can cut them. I haven't had the chance to bake in a long time because of assignments and exams in college. Now, I get to bake to prepare for a day out in the city that won't involve getting materials for exams or teaching. I get to walk around with friends all day and be a bum.

This comes at a point in time at which I get to start rolling out some grand plans I've been working on for a while, now. All things going smoothly, the first of these endeavours will find itself unveiled this Saturday, June 1st. Recent developments have made it so I can't go to Derry for the 2D Festival, so I'm home-bound. I'm using this as an opportunity to do some work that I've had to put off against my will for a while. For reasons.

At it happens, the weekend off allows me to devote three days to writing non-stop. Aside from the typical bank holiday hours I work, next week will then have me making use of my timetable, to put some structure in my days. Combined with a list of things I want to get done in the first month of Real Life, I can see myself accomplishing a lot in a short period of time. I suppose this is necessary, to keep my spirits high. I'm intending on putting my work in such an order that I should finish projects regularly, rather than all at once. Minor successes that come often are much more valuable to me than a lot of them at once.

It doesn't feel as if this is actually real, at the moment, though. Five years in a row I've completed massive exams - Leaving Cert, and college exams for a four year degree. Every time so far, I've had somewhere to go in September. Four years ago, I was in a position of not really knowing where I would go, but knowing I would end up somewhere. It took until August to really drill that in. I have a feeling that it'll be August when it finally hits me: this is my life, until I do something to radically change it.

It does raise the question though: do I want to change it?

I had a conversation similar to this sort of thinking a couple of days ago with a friend over Facebook. Assuming I've passed my exams, I'm technically a qualified teacher, now. He asked if I would go into teaching, and I answered honestly: while it's a passion of mine, I don't want to go into teaching until I've given the writing a shot. I'm playing it smart, planning on evaluating things regularly to see if I'm actually progressing with the writing. If not, then I'll pursue teaching more seriously in a year.

It's not a case of not wanting to teach, mind you. I've mentioned before: it's an emotional maturity consideration, and a consideration of my age and life experience. I'm not planning a boozing holiday to go wild, of course, but that doesn't mean I don't want to travel. I want to experience something of the world. I want to test the waters with writing, see how my bank account fairs as a result of publishing, establish long-term projects that aren't necessarily something to abandon if I enter teaching, and take a chance to find myself as a person.

It begins with the day out tomorrow, the weekend of writing, and the launch of my first big project. By the end of September, then we'll have to consider how much has changed.

The first chapter of my new life has started. Let's get this one right, shall we?

Monday, May 27, 2013


From June onwards, I'll be on my own timetable for weekdays. This will last for the foreseeable future, and for the first time ever. I won't have college in September (I hope), and I don't currently have a full-time job in place. Those sort of things just aren't that common.

The implications of this are both positive and negative.

For a start, my travel expenses per week are driven down significantly. Rather than spend about €25 on travel to and from college per week (a massive chunk of my wages), I can work from the comfort of my own home. I also won't have to worry about paying for lunch when I run out of time to make one in the morning...because I'll be eating in all the time. That's up to €20 saved per week.

However, despite saving money, I'm not exactly in a position to do much else with my life; I'm still only working weekends, so I can't afford to travel, or to move out. I also don't get to see people as often as I'd like (and I like people, especially my friends). And I have to set my own work.

This is where my timetable comes in. Knowing there are only so many days I can work on one project before it becomes tiresome, I've devised a way to write about several different things throughout the week. A mix of poetry, script writing, novelling, flash fiction, articles, blog writing, video making and general adminstration work sees me working full-time on writing.

It also sees me putting off the insanity of being without a structure in my life.

However, it does also call for me to have to use my time as if I were working a regular job. Specifically:

- I need to earn money from writing
- I need to have holidays from writing
- I need to work with people in some way

I'm already working on the last one, and I'm technically earning something from writing (though not enough to be currently in a position of paying myself an hourly wage for the amount of work that actually went into the books I have published, thus far), but actually having holidays is difficult. I'd need to plan projects towards similar deadlines. I'd need some sort of money to actually go somewhere (and somewhere affordable... the student lifestyle continues even after the degree has been earned!).

It's not impossible, I know, but it will take some work.

I've set myself deadlines and tasks per month (books to have completed, projects to launch that currently only exist anonymously, submissions) so I'm not going completely without direction. I have a whole folder full of tasks that need to be done, books to be written, and a step-by-step guide to getting them done.

I don't want my time to go to waste. I know how easy it is to sit by and do nothing. But I also know how possible it is to accomplish a lot in a short period of time. Two years ago, I found myself in the position of needing to write about 25,000 words in five days in July (Camp NaNoWriMo anybody); finishing that early, I applied for, and was hired, for a writing position on The Phantom Zone (a site that unfortunately not been written on in over a year, when I stopped writing when it appeared no one else was regularly posting); at the same time, I began putting my website together.

It had been a busy five days, but it made the time feel worthwhile. That's what I want to get out of life. Sure, I could sit around all day and watch RoosterTeeth videos or tweet about the varying quantities of tea in my cup, but I wouldn't feel like I was actually accomplishing anything. (Don't get me wrong: when summer hits, I imagine I'll be spending a fair amount of time listening to the RoosterTeeth podcasts while doing things like cover design, or taking a break from work, but I don't want that to be the only thing I accomplish in a day.) Similarly, I won't be repeating what I did last summer: watching videos with the aim of achieving something from what they taught, only to never put it into practice.

I need to fill my day with activities, and I need to be flexible (but professional) about how I do it. Essentially, I'll be working a seven-day week, though I'll be setting my own hours for five of those. And I need to. Not just to actually get the books written that I've been wanting to write for years and months, now, but to actually feel like I'm doing something with my time.

If history has taught me anything, I grow restless during time off when I feel like I should be doing something. Here's the reality of the situation: I won't have a research paper to write, or teaching practice to prepare for, or a deadline to finish the really serious, time-consuming work of longer books and projects, all of which are usually dictated by the coming of September. September will just be the month after August, not the month I'm working to another timetable again.

Until such time that I find full-time work, I have to make it for myself.

Incidentally, while I have many, many projects to do for the next few months, I'd like to blog every day in June (and possibly July...and August...and September... getting the picture? Every day. Forever.), but I'm wondering: what would you like to read? I'm open to suggestions (though I'm hoping not to repeat the Sexy Sea Anemones post that resulted from an extremely open call for blog post ideas a few years ago!). Leave a comment below (or on whatever social media site you found this post through - if I posted the link).

Thursday, May 23, 2013

As Good As Done

Today, I had my last ever theology exam. You know, all things working out for the best. With only one exam left - Poetry, after a four day break - I can say with some confidence that these exams are as good as done.

Thanks be to God.

With that wee "adventure" past, it's looking like the rest of my life is getting ready to pull itself together. I have arrangements in place for a couple of days out with friends, and I've scheduled the writing of several books over the next few weeks. I don't plan on taking it easy just because it's summer. Let's face it, I haven't actually had a prolonged period of time to write for a long time, now.

And I mean, just write. Like, forget about Teaching Placement. Forget about writing in the evenings. I could, potentially, write all day long if I really, really wanted to. Guess what? I want to. I really, really want to.

I know I have to be smart about this. I can't just start writing and never stop, and be damned with people who might want to do something as ordinary as talking. That's just not me. I didn't go through four years in college making friends and getting to know people just to ignore them the moment we finish up. They mean too much to me. Sure, talking to friends won't write books, but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile.

Hear that? That's me approaching this maturely.

Since I'm not currently resigning myself to write in front of a camera all the time, I actually have a lot of freedom in my life right now. I also only have a weekend job, so it's time to start looking into writing a wee bit more more. Or, you know, publishing more for money.

Let's me fair: I don't think I've ever written something in my spare time that wasn't because I wanted to do it. Every book, every short story, every poem, both plays, and that article I had published: all of it was written because I wanted to do it.

That's not going to change. It just so happens that I love writing, and I love writing different types of things. I consider it a journey, a wonderful little journey of discovery and of freedom and I wouldn't give it up even if I never made a living from it.

Now that the exams are pretty much over, I can start putting together those grand schemes of mine that have kept me in a creative mood throughout exams. Money allowing, I'll have the first project launched mid-June. That'll be a fun one. I'll be ridiculously busy by then, of course, but it'll be worth it.

I get to read, too. Can you believe it? I get to read, and I get to not feel guilty about it, because I know how to prepare for a poetry exam.

Life is picking up. Life feels good right now. Time to go make something of it, eh?

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Different Types of Customers in a Bookshop

With almost six years' experience of working in a bookshop, and being a fan of exploring book shops whenever I find them, I feel it's about time to take a look at customers. They come in all shapes and sizes, and more often than not fall into one of the following categories:

The I-Know-What-I'm-Looking-For Customer

My personal favourite: the customer that knows exactly what they're looking for and where to find it. Sometimes they need a little push in the right direction, but when a customer doesn't fuss over what they need and they know you have it in stock, it's a generally pleasant experience all-round.

The I-Think-It's-About-This Customer

A typical scenario, I have come to realise, is for customers to come into the shop knowing one thing about a book: what it might be about. Might. Like a war, or a place, or a person. Maybe. Sometimes, if they remember where they heard about the book, it's possible to track it down. If not, they verge on being...

The I-Know-Nothing-But-Help-Me-Anyway Customer

The worst situation I've ever had with customers is when they don't know what they're looking for. A friend-of-a-friend recommended it to them. When they were drunk. They don't know the name of the book, they don't know the name of the author, they don't even know what it's about, but they think the cover is yellow. (That's an actual, literal scenario I've had, minus the friend-of-a-friend and the inebriation.)

The I-This-Book-Online-But-Don't-Realise-X Customer

I've had three scenarios pop up here. In the first, the customer doesn't realise that the book they're looking for is out of print and has been for many decades. It's impossible to get, anywhere. The one that really bothers booksellers is when the book the person is looking for isn't actually available because (can you guess it?) it's an ebook. I've lost count of the amount of times people have come looking for a book that's only available as an ebook because it's been self-published. Which is where we get sub-customer #3: the book they're looking for has a print edition, but it's with CreateSpace. I don't have any direct problems with CreateSpace, but it's annoying to see its name pop up when a customer is looking for the book. The title is only available if, and only if, the author of the book has paid for the distribution of the book worldwide to wholesalers, and if the bookshop has access to one of these wholesalers. Even then it's difficult to get ahold of one from Ireland.

The I-Think-This-Book-Exists Customer

I've had people come in looking for a book, simply because they want to read about a topic. The problem is, people think the book has to exist because they thought of it. That's not fun for the bookseller who has to look for the book. Just like...

The I-Think-Someone-Should-Write-This-Book-But-I'm-Going-To-Ask-Anyway-Just-In-Case Customer

I think the name says it all. The book doesn't exist. The customer knows this. They are aware of Google. But they ask anyway, in the hopes that somehow a bookshop will pull out the book anyway.

The I'll-Just-Get-It-Online Customer

Again, we've got two. We've got those who explicitly say they're going to buy it for an e-reader. That's not fun for booksellers. But then, neither are those who say they're going to buy it on a bookselling website. Both are knocking us out of business in some manner.

The I-Think-This-Should-Be-Cheaper Customer

Yes, this happens. People come in, grab a book, bring it to the till, then argue over the price because they saw it cheaper somewhere else. Even if we don't have a price promise.

The I-Have-A-Voucher-For-X-Even-Though-You're-Y Customer

"What's the difference?" I've been asked. This being in relation to my shop, and another shop somewhere else in the country. Because this customer has a voucher, and they want to use it. The obvious answer is the correct one: "We're not the same company." Unfortunately, that's not always good enough. "Can't I just use it anyway?" Do I really have to go on? (This also applies to: rewards cards, returns, exchanges and problems in branches where our chain doesn't exist.)

The I-Want-To-Get-A-Book-For-Someone-But-I-Don't-Know-What-To-Get Customer

Truthfully, these aren't always bad. Sometimes, it's a case of a grandparent looking to get a book for their grandchild, and they just don't know what kids read these days. (Many kids don't that doesn't help.) It's perfectly acceptable to ask for help. The problem arises when (1) the customer doesn't know what someone has read, or even likes to do, ever; (2) the customer refuses to accept the help they've asked for; or (3) the customer will let you give them advice for half an hour at Christmas during the busiest hour of the day, won't let you get away, and then buys nothing. That last one might be a stretch of the imagination.

The I-Don't-Care-That-You're-Trying-Close-I-Want-To-Browse-And-Maybe-Buy-A-Book-Even-Though-It's-Two-Minutes-Until-Closing-Time-On-A-Sunday-And-You-Want-To-Get-Home-To-Your-Family-Or-Food Customer

"Kill it with fire!" might be getting a bit worked up over it, but this is too much of a regular occurence to just let it slide. After a day at work, no one should be expected to hang about for someone who decides their time is worth more than yours. Shops have closing times, booksellers have other lives to attend to, and just because you have to get someone a birthday present three weeks later than you meant to doesn't mean you have a right to keep a shop open for another five or ten minutes. It may only seem like a short while to the customer, but people have buses to catch, people to meet, and other plans for after working hours. (Can you tell this one annoys me more than any of the others? Really, compared to this sort of carry-on, other customers aren't that bad. At least they show up when we're open!)

And finally... The I've-Been-Working-Here-Part-time-For-Too-Long Bookseller

I like my job, I do. I'm glad to have it. But six years has been a long time to still work less than ten hours on a regular week, knowing that that's how it's going to continue for the foreseeable future. While I was a student - and I'm so close to the end that I barely consider myself that, anymore - it was helpful to have hours only on the weekend, but looking forward it's not really going to be of much benefit, financially speaking. I'll have all the time in the world and no way of getting to actually see the world.

Yes, I'll be writing a lot, but I don't think it'll be too long before I get sick of the shop altogether. A lack of responsibility, a lack of direction, and a lack of working hours to make it feel like a real job are really making the future here look bleak. I'd rather that not happen. I'll compensate by making big decisions for myself outside of work, but eventually my time here will run out. And what a weird life that'll be.   

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Story That Sticks

It's finally happened: when I thought I was done with a story, it came back.

About two years ago, I wrote the first draft of a Sci-Fi novel called Bliss, with planned sequels in mind. I considered that book complete. At least, the story was complete. Part of me considered writing a novella set during the time of the novel to explore one aspect of the tale that isn't of real importance for anything else going on.

But that's not what I'm talking about here. I had that idea way back when I actually finished writing the book. I didn't actually write that novella - college will get in the way like that - but I still have it in mind.

I'm digressing. Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go to college for an exam, it struck me: a revised ending for Bliss. Don't get me wrong, I liked how it ended. It felt complete. I'll obviously have to change things a bit when I write the new ending.

Thing is, it's a whole extra section to the book. Several chapters, of actual significance.

How I didn't think of it before, I don't know. I think I was wondering how to make certain things work for later in the series when the idea actually popped into my head. I was quite proud of it, actually, but I won't know how well it works with the rest of the book until it's actually written. (I need to plan it, still, but it should be easy enough to make a natural progression from where I left off.)

Ideas don't usually come to me like this when I feel like a story has been finished. The only time an idea has ever stuck around for a while is with my many attempts to write a story with superpowered characters. I get ideas, I try to work with them, and inevitably I give up on the book.

The last time I was happy with an idea that I was working on was with The Jump, and that didn't last long. I didn't really plan the book too well to work with, or plan for sequels.

I'm planning a superhero novel at the moment - or, I was, for a while, and I need to get back to it - so hopefully that'll finally produce something close to what I've been trying to write since I started out writing. Early attempts resulted in being rip-offs of X-Men or Heroes. Even The Jump was veering on being too-close-for-comfort.

It's difficult to deal with such problems when the market already has a lot of different stories out there. However, I think what I'm working on now is coming closer to original than anything else, insofar as a superhero novel can be original.

We'll see how that works out, but for now I need to deal with the idea that won't stop hanging around for Bliss. I'm dying to actually get it written! On a related note, how did I get to be the person who writes these stories?

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Good Idea?

Back during my Teaching Practice in January, I wrote a book. This time around, my idea to write an awful lot seems to be happening during exams.

Creatively speaking, it's where my mind is finding itself. I've written four pieces of over a thousand words each over the past week. It's for a future project, specifically that website/blog thing I've mentioned recently. Again, no name reveal yet, on account of the fact that I need to own the domain name first. I need some degree of security.

Is it a good idea to take on such large projects during my exams? Probably not. I mean, with Teaching Practice I could easily finish my work for the evening before moving on to my own writing. With exams, I have to focus a lot on the content that's due to come up on the paper in some way shape or form. Not only is there a lot more work involved, it's a lot more necessary to actually remember it all as I go to sleep (or at least when I sit down to answer the question.)

On the other hand, exams seem to be a great time to channel creative energy into projects that I don't necessarily have to do all the work on now.

I'm planning a day out with some friends, planning a project with a friend, planning my website/blog, and trying to sort out my life. Nothing too big, obviously.

This time of the year is ideal for making decisions about what to do in the immediate future, in most cases. In previous years, I've know how the summer would turn out. Usually, I would be alone for long periods of time, what with friends' work schedules and re-locations back into the countryside of Ireland, or beyond into the world. This year, things are less certain for me, but not in a scary way.

If I find full-time employment, I'll still have weekends to do work and hang out with friends. And evenings. I won't lose them.

And if I remain on my part-time hours in the bookshop, I'll have a lot more time to explore massive projects that will consume much of my time between getting out into the world to socialise and see new places (on some imaginary extra money...)

Basically, I don't see the summer as being a hollowed out block of time this year, which is usually how it ends up by September each year. I suppose the big difference this year is that September won't necessarily end whatever break I find myself with by the end of exams. It won't do to settle into a routine of doing nothing, because it'll be difficult to get out of.

I suppose that's why I've been planning so many different projects. I want to make sure I'm not idle. While it's probably not a good idea to write a few thousand words per week during exams, I can still do some planning. Planning has never hurt me. Right now, my plans are obviously subject to change (even the date I have in mind for my day out as mentioned above is subject to change), but it's not a bad thing.

Life is moving on, and I've been taking the steps I need to that'll make it less terrifying no matter what state of employment I find myself in after exams (as in full-time or part-time). Plus, knowing I can churn out a thousand words per night is something of a comfort, even when the pressure is on with college. Yes, I should be putting my time to good use for my studies, but the simple fact of the matter is this: studying is boring when it's with exams in mind. (Learning for the sake of learning is genuinely more fun. Stay in school kids.)

Good idea or not, I'm going to keep going as I have been. And I definitely won't give up writing something every day.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Nothing to be Done

In January 1953, the first performance of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot hit Paris. In the absurdist play, a line is repeated over and over again: "Nothing to be done."

I can no longer use those words in relation to my "spare time". I drew up a list last night of all the different things I have to do. As far as I can far, only five of these things are public knowledge:

1. The Modern Irish Myth books.
2. The new website I hope to launch next month.
3. The book I mentioned in yesterday's post.
4. My exams.
5. Submitting a book to a publisher.

I have mentioned other things on the list to people I work with and friends who are writers, but there's not much revealed about the remaining six items I have on the list. They've been kept very much in the dark, because some depend on others. (One this month affects one that's listed for work to begin on in June, which affects two from June-onwards and one from August.)

So, secrets.

But that doesn't mean I won't be working on them. In fact, when I actually have an idea of how that one pivotal piece of work this month turns out, I'll probably be able to start announcing some of the items on this list.

As a result of having drawn up the list, though, I've revoked my permission to say that I have nothing to do, or to say that I'm bored. The list isn't even complete. One idea that isn't on it is something that will be slotted in based on when I'm free. And it occurs to me now that I haven't even scheduled writing a poem every day for a month, like I said I would do at some point.

Frankly, there's so much to do that if I ever say I don't have anything to do I'm just trying to avoid doing something. I'll have to redo my timetable with this list in mind, of course, but the key thing to remember is that despite all the times I've said I have nothing to do, I've just been putting off doing something. This is largely because of the writing guilt I mentioned last month. I'd feel weird writing a novel when I'm supposed to be studying for exams.

After exams, though, no excuses. I have six items per month after May (only two this month, including exams!) which means that if I only ever put in one day per week on them I'll still have a day off. A day per week doesn't actually seem like a lot when I start looking at the workloads involved in all of this, but some of these projects will take up more time than others.

Off the list, I still have a lot I can write about. Remember those topic cards I put together back in December for the New Year? They still exist. I haven't had to touch them in a while, because of the blogging every day in April, the writing poetry last minute, and the occasional bit of fiction (I can't wait to write fiction again!). But they've always been there. I could very well go through one of them a week and see what comes out (random selection and all that). I could make that a day's activity, if I wanted, to work on a topic card.

Basically, I have a lot to do, and no more excuses for not doing it.

Each project is different. There are novellas, a blog, a business-in-the-making, scripts, non-fiction books on a variety of topics, poetry, fiction and essays, enough to keep me writing for the next few years at least. Considering all the other books I have in mind that I want to write, I don't think I'll be stuck for something for a long time. Any one of these ideas is a lot to take on. Blending them together will be difficult. Overall, though, I think it'll provide the right level of stimulus to make sure that writing never becomes boring or repetitive.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


I don't normally go through much exam stress. I panic right before going into an exam. I have to calm myself down. This year... I think I've developed insomnia because of the exams.

It's been a combination of not getting to sleep easily, to waking up ridiculously early. This morning saw me awake before half five, and unable to get back to sleep. It was made worse by a head cold causing my head to pound and my joints to hurt. But that's aside the point.

The past week or so, sleep has been difficult. I do my best to get to sleep, but eventually it comes down to trying to empty my head of ideas. I've been taking down notes in a wee little notebook I seem to be carrying with me everywhere I go now, a cheap little A5 pad with 500 pages. It's ideal.

Essentially, it's boiled down to two huge projects, and one small one. One of the larger projects is a website, the other a book. The small one...also a book. Just shorter. Surprise surprise.

Both will require a lot of work. The website more so than the book. I won't reveal much about it here, except to say that it's a writing website. I have to purchase the domain name that I like before making much more reference to it. It'll be fun, though. If all goes according to plan, I'll be launching it in June.

The book, on the other hand, will take longer to get anywhere. It's a collection of short stories and essays. I have a cover image in mind already, too. This is how much I thought about it in the early hours of the morning - a life-time ago, now. It's intended to be fun, both for me and readers. I've no idea when I'll even be able to start working on it, though I imagine it'll be a work in progress for a few months, on-and-off.

The shorter book is non-fiction. I imagine it'll be complete before the longer book. Most likely, it'll be out sometime late in the summer, or in autumn. I have other projects in mind, ones I've been hoping to get started for way too long, now. They have to take precedence. An insomnia idea can be put on the long fingers until my current plans have been followed through on.

I don't know if it's madness, half-dreams or genius that's causing me to get these ideas. However, right now, I could really do with the sleep, instead.

Studying today was made difficult on account of the fact that my concentration levels were way down. This was from a combination of tiredness and illness. Let me tell you, Bioethics: not fun when you're literally sick and tired. Scouring through notes on the principles of bioethics, abortion, euthanasia and reproductive technologies is a challenging enough task with concentration levels on high.

Still, I made it through a fair chunk of the material in my cramming for exams. Long-term study doesn't suit me too well. It doesn't suit a lot of people too well. Especially not people who are losing sleep.

I could be wrong, though, about why I'm suffering from insomnia. It could just be the sickness. I was definitely uncomfortable in bed last night. All I know is, it has to pass. For that to happen, I need to take better care of myself. This should mean more exercise and healthier food. Instead, it'll mean more comfort food. Dopamine: it happens anyway.

I'm joking, by the way. I eat healthy enough at home. (I used not to, but then I gave up everything for Lent and my compulsion to stuff my face with crap from the press isn't quite as in-my-face as it has been in the past.) I should exercise more, but that would require the willpower to actually do something. (Maybe I'll take up swimming again in the summer, he says hiding the parenthesis. At the very least walking some more...)

Anyway, I'm rambling. Insomnia is here. It's causing me to think up projects big and small and convincing myself I have the time to go through with them. It's also making study difficult, which might lead to more insomnia when I begin to really panic. This blog and a weekly visit to the comic book store are probably the only things keeping me sane at the moment. Thank God for small blessings and all that jazz.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Thoughts on Iron Man 3

The finale of the Iron Man Trilogy demonstrated that just because the second film wasn't up to scratch doesn't mean the third has to follow suit. Iron Man 3 was a wholly different film than the previous films in the series; it wasn't a simple case of Stark's own technology being used against him while he tried to prove himself to Pepper Potts.

Spoilers Follow

We're taken into the anxiety-filled world of a post-New York life, post-Avengers Assemble. Tony isn't capable of standing on his own two feet at the thought of the battle, at the thought of entering into the wormhole and damn-near dying. In the comic books, he doesn't experience such a cruel fate of heroism, at least not so early in the Avengers career. In the comics, he doesn't have to deal with the fact that he almost died so early on in his life. In the comics, instead of dealing with a severe anxiety problem, he suffers from alcoholism.

Stark's demons are at the core of Iron Man 3. We see a lot more of the man behind the mask in this instalment, much more than we've been given a chance to see the previous three films he's had an important role to play in.

As for the Mandarin... my experience with Iron Man as a child showed the Mandarin to be one of his most dangerous enemies. He also used magical rings. That's a bit of a stretch for Marvel with these films. Though Thor and Loki use magic - in a sense - no human has ever used it. So, we see the Mandarin leading the Ten Rings, a terrorists organisation. You might recognise them from the first film. They were the crowd that kidnapped Tony Stark, from whom he escaped using the first Iron Man armour. I always knew Marvel had a plan for these films, and that just proves it.

However, the Mandarin wasn't the only thing from the comic books that made its way on-screen. Extremis, a DNA-altering drug, shows up as a terrorist weapon. We don't have Mallen, the first person to be injected by it in the comic books, but we do have Eric Savin - Coldblood - to take his place. He's a violent one, the lead henchman, and provides more than enough trouble for Stark...and the US government. Extremis was used well within the film, creating a real sense of danger for innocent people, and creating a situation that made victory difficult for the troubled Stark.


My one big question though, is how do they intend on bringing in Tony Stark into Avengers 2? A simple case of heart surgery changes everything. He's no longer attached to an electro-magnetic-ARC-reactor. He's no longer his armour. He's no longer Iron Man. And he blew everything up.

Where the hell do they go from there? Yes, it was the ultimate sign of his redemption, his ultimate transformation from self-obsessed billionaire to Regular Guy in a Relationship billionaire, his way of finally dealing with his anxiety issues, his complications, his troubles. But it separates him from Bruce Banner, the other hero who is his armour, like it or not.

With only rumours as to who will join the cast in Avengers 2, though a confirmation that we'll see the Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver (!), it's hard to tell where they plan on going. Even with the notice after the credits that Tony Stark will return, can we confirm that he'll be an Avenger? Only time will tell, and there's plenty of it before we even complete the four announced films that make up Phase 2 (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy). Still plenty of time for Marvel to sign new contracts with the actors, right?

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Importance of Pym

Why Ant-Man? That was a question that kept coming up in discussions about Marvel's line-up of films. Of all the people in the Marvel universe to introduce in films in the current plan, why Hank Pym?

Don't know who he is? He's the many-times rebranded superhero who can shrink himself down to the size of an ant, or grow himself to a hundred feet tall. Changes in mass accompany such size changes. He received his powers from messing with particles he later dubbed Pym-particles. He's a scientist. He's a genius. And he's a wife-beater. Let's see them explain that in a kid-friendly way in his big-screen appearance.

So, it's kind of handy having someone who historically has shown to be able to literally squash the enemy. Except, it seems like the only good thing he ever did was set up the Avengers. Yes, him. He was one of the founding members, and one of the ones who really made them work as a team, if I understand his role correctly.

But his significance goes beyond that. Let's look at it like this:

He created Ultron. That nasty piece of work is a self-improving, constantly growing mastermind Artificial Intelligence, as smart as Pym, as blind-sided as Pym, and with none of the conscience you would expect a hero to have. (Except, you know, wife-beater. Poor Janet.) But, aside from the big-bad that he created (and that he's always been necessary to stop), how important has he been?

Think Planet Hulk. Think the prison in Civil War. Think the interdimensional dome that appeared in what I believe was Messiah War. Every time they've needed scientists, he's been there. He's been a douche about it, but he's been there, he's helped, he's been important.

What about Ultron? Well, Ultron made Vision. Vision, another cyborg/android/biological-robot thing, had children. Actual children. With the Scarlett Witch. They died. Twice. The first time, House of M happened. That led to No More Mutants, which led to Avengers Vs. X-Men, which led to what we have with Marvel now. Including Xavier being dead...

But those kids of Vision's came back. Twice. The second time as actual people, and not just weird demon things (as it was explained to me). They were important parts of the Young Avengers, along with (wait for it) Hank Pym's daughter. She also found Pym particles.

So, Pym has been kind of important. One of the big-but-young teams in Marvel have him to thank for their existence. Many mutants lost their powers because of him. He's locked people up, thrown them into space, and created one of the most dangerous beings in the universe. Big deal, right? But what if he never existed?


They've started to explore this in Age of Ultron. Issue 7 shows a world in which Hank Pym had been killed before he created Ultron. The Secret Invasion went a little differently, but people seem to be okay by-and-large. Unless they've been killed and we just don't know yet. Also, Iron Man seems to be Vision. But still Tony. And he's in charge of the whole planet.

Things got weird, I'll admit.

Was Hank Pym so important that without him the Avengers form in a different way? They're not even the Avengers in issue 7. They're the Defenders. Rubbish, right? That doesn't sound so heroic. And they're not the same heroes, either. Captain America is there, yeah. But missing an eye for some reason. Wolverine is there. The Hulk is there. Janet - the Wasp, Pym's wife - is there. Doctor Strange is there. But then, Cyclops is also there. It's as if the X-Men don't need him anymore, and he can he join the Avengers. He probably hasn't killed Xavier.

I have to say, if I had to choose a world with Pym, or a world without Pym... I'd probably go for the former. But then we have to try reconcile the fact that Ultron has kind of broken the whole planet...

All in all... I can't explain why they're bothering to bring Ant-Man into the movies. All I know its, Hank Pym is important. One of the most important men in Marvel history. He just also happens to be useless to Marvel right now unless they can also get Reed Richards. Which they won't. (Reed is part of the fun Brain Squad of the Avengers - him, Pym, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner like saving the world as a mastermind group of super scientists.)

Marvel fans, what do you think? Is Hank Pym important? Should they be bothering with him in the films? Did I miss out on another really big event in his life that has a massive impact on the way we should look at him?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Competitions, Publications and Performances

While I can't be certain as to how my employment status will look for the coming months (aside from the weekend job in the bookshop!), it seems that I'm feeling a bit more prepared, really and truly, for writing competitions, for publications, and for performances. I have tended in the past to avoid them, partially out of a lack of time to consider themed-stories or poems due to college assignments, partially out of fear of being judged.

The first is much easier to get past. After this month, I will have nothing more to do for college. Until such a time that I can actually afford to do a Masters programme, I won't have any such assignments to hand in anymore. I'll have, at the least, evenings to myself. With these evenings, I'll finally have the time to consider submitting something. Within a group I run on Facebook, I've been gathering a little list of publications to consider submitting to. Even just having the list is a comfort.

It's not just short stories and poetry, though. I've been thinking it through, more and more over the last few years, and I'm getting to the point of being mentally and emotionally ready to submit to a publishing house. I've done it once in the past, when I was fifteen, and there was a distinct problem with that: I convinced myself that the book was ready, when I wasn't even at that point myself. (The book also needed a lot more editing than it had gone through. A LOT. I won't deny that at all.)

Now, though, I feel ready. I feel like I can actually submit a book - and I know which one - for publication. I won't be talking about that much from here on out until such a time that I actually have good news to share, though. Aside from the book still needing some work, I don't want anybody getting the impression that it's not worth publishing because one editor or agent didn't consider it suitable enough.

It's all part of one big movement for myself. I've never felt ready for somthing like this like I have now. I'm even considering competitions that have an entry fee, if I can write something that I think is suitable. That's a large step for me. I don't often put money on the line for anything. I'm not a gambler. I never really have been. Putting my money on the line for a competition is going beyond my comfort zone. I guess I never really trusted myself before now.

That's where we meet the fear of judgement.

I don't think I'm alone in that. It's not quite a lack of confidence in my ability (that's partially why I avoid submitting much, but I've managed to overcome that on a few occasions for publication purposes). I think it has more to do with the person on the other end of the submission process, knowing who will be reading what. That's put me off for a long time.

Then I entered the Heart in Mouth competition, on a whim, and that actually turned out okay.

Making that shortlist was a major deal for me. It gave me some confidence in myself. It took away some of the fear of submitting short stories and poetry to competitions and magazines. There are a lot of opportunities out there for someone to submit something, especially if they write across several different forms of writing like I do.

As for performance... I think the anxiety has gone out of it. Having gotten on stage both for fun and for the competition, I've gotten a bit more comfortable doing it. I know I still have a long way to go - it's still beyond my comfort zone - but I know what I need to do to help myself improve. It'll be a while before I attempt actually getting listed as performing - the open mic will do, thank you.

So, there we have it. I'm much less scared now than I was even this time last year. I can't say how well I'll do in all of this, but it's a good first step to get myself emotionally ready for this. The writing will come a bit more naturally, I think.