Saturday, March 29, 2014

Explaining the Absence

I've been absent from the Internet, by and large, for over a week now. The explanation is simple in some ways: I needed a break, and then I went on one. I was tired, to put it simply. Tired, busy, and trying to manage too many projects. The reason it's taken this long to say it is because of the second part of the explanation: I went on a break, and this made me even more tired. But it was worth it.

See, I went to London. It was my first time in Britain, and so my first time doing many of the things that can only be done in Britain. I plan on writing a few posts about my London experience, but this post is simply to say that I'm back in action...ish. I've put together a plan to catch up on my schedule, but I have to see how life affects it. It's easy to say, now, that I'll be posting every day again, but that's not always how things turn out.

My plans for the next month or so are simple: write as much as possible. Once the work on the play is done, I'll have a couple more evenings to myself per week, too, which should make a difference on the writing front. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Drama. It's the travel that I don't like. I don't get to do much on journey, but it's a long enough journey to make. There's about an equal amount of time walking as there is spent on the bus, and often I'm left waiting, and that's time wasted.

Aside from the writing, I have a couple of things I want to do. These include a Zom-B marathon, catching up on The Walking Dead, and reading through my collection of graphic novels. It's the simple things, really. I do also have Game of Thrones coming back, soon, so that's something. Otherwise, though, I'm just going to keep things calm, and let myself have a bit of fun for a while.

It's one of the things I realised while in London: I need to do more things that I enjoy that aren't writing. I need to get out more, and do more, and if money allows, travel more. I've already set my heart upon going to Edinburgh this year if the events at the festival are to my liking, so that's something. And, of course, I'll be returning to London. I have to. As you'll see over the next few blog posts, there's an awful lot of ways one can fill one's time when in London, and it's still possible to have so much left to do.

Time always seems to be the problem, eh?

Monday, March 17, 2014

What I'm Working On Now

This week, a blog post was handed to me on a silver platter in a tweet, to participate in a blog hop/blog tour. The wonderful Ken Armstrong, of the Mayo variety, was in touch to find writers to follow up from his post.

I met Ken back in the days when Bebo was the exciting place to be. They had launched two new features: groups, and Bebo Authors. Ken joined the group, after I plugged it on his writing page. It wasn't until I joined Twitter that we really started talking. His blog has been a joy to follow, and it was my utmost pleasure to take the baton from him to continue on The Blogging Tour.

The gist is that at each stop, we point you in the direction of another three writers, in the hopes that they too will write a post on what they're working on now. You should check out their blogs, now, to get to know them before they put up their posts next Monday. (They might not, but hey: awesome writers!)

Darke Conteur is a writer at the mercy of her Muse. Author of stories in several genres, she prefers to create within the realms of the three 'S'; Science Fiction, the Supernatural, and Steampunk. Some with erotic elements. She has stories published in several online magazines including Bewildering Stories and Aphelion.

A gamer at heart, she also enjoys knitting, gardening, cooking and good music. When not busy writing, she looks after one husband, one wannabe rock star, three cats, and one ghost dog.

Check her out at:

I also contacted a couple of wonderful Irish writers, Ruth Long and Alison Wells, to post. If they're still up for, or you want to find out more about them, just click their names.

Incidentally, all three of the writers I contacted have books available, across different genres and on different formats. There's something for almost everyone! Now, onto to the questions that are begging to be answered!

1) What am I working on? At the moment, though it's in the early stages of writing, I'm working on a book called The Shadows of London. It's the first in a series about a few individuals in the London area who grew up with what could be described as superpowers. They're not heroes. They don't see themselves as special. As it is, the protagonist of The Shadows of London is a petty thief.

I'm also working on a couple of books on writing, but progress on them slowed down when I found something new and shiny from my childhood. (Okay, yes, I'll admit it: it's a game. I've been bitten by the procrastination bug.)

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? I've been following the superhero genre for some time now. When I was younger, I was obsessed with the X-Men comic of the 90s. This then led to me watching Spiderman, The Justice League, Static Shock, and all manner of Batman cartoons. As I grew older, new heroes joined the mix. Several television shows featuring superheroes - or people with superpowers - were aired and cancelled, and I seemed to fall in love with each of them. Recently, superheroes are making a comeback on the big screen.

With the exception of Misfits, though, most of the stories I became familiar with didn't push the boundaries of morality, and didn't seem to focus on what might otherwise be considered a normal life. It's the normality of what I'm writing that I think sets it apart. My characters are struggling through life, the same as anyone their ages might. Collectively, they'll experience homelessness, depression, mental illness, unemployment, criminal activity, physical illness, grief, and suicide. The fact that they have superpowers are merely the other side of their stories.

The powers provide a reason for them to find each other, and a means for them to deal with their situations, the same as an author would write, or an athletic would exercise, or an artist would paint. These are their skills, their abilities, and they're as natural to them as writing is to me. They're just less common abilities than most people have.

3) Why do I write what I do? Aside from my obsession with superheroes, I've wanted to write about normal experiences that many people shy away from. I wrote a play about depression, suicide and mental illness for the sole purpose of getting people to pay attention to the existence of those conditions and actions. I want to get people to think about the difficulties others might face.

Not everything I write will have superheroes in it, but this is the constant I want to maintain for my more recent ideas. I want to tell stories about experiences that are very real, and remain taboo. Addressing the New Adult market, I want to get people my age - people who are at the beginnings of their careers as doctors and teachers, bankers and lawyers, builders and store managers - to look at the world differently. We're blessed with advancements in technology. Many of us are fortunate enough to come from relatively stable backgrounds.

Someone has to talk about these issues, because it's too easy to ignore them until it's too late. I'm not going to pretend I write simply for the joy of words. Obviously, I do love writing. But it's people that make me want to write what I do.

4) How does my writing process work? This varies from book to book, and from week to week. It all depends on how many days I work per week. In an ideal week, if I'm starting a book fresh, it looks like this:

- Plan the book.
- Write the book, either exclusively (without even stopping to play Tales of Symphonia), or spread out over a couple of weeks.
- Edit the book.

Okay, that's simplifying it a bit. The writing process is more complex than that, usually. I follow my plan strictly, but that doesn't stop me going onto Twitter or Facebook. So, really, I write on-and-off for a few hours, sometimes with some successful marathons.

Often, I'll "warm up" with a haiku or two beforehand, or I'll put on music and just focus on the word document for a couple of hours. That's how I wrote Balor Reborn, and that's how I tend to write most of my books. More recently, I'm writing while my niece is asleep (when I'm minding her, obviously), which gives me about two hours to complete something. That could be a chapter, or it could be a blog post, or a combination of the two. On a good week, I'll get my posts for the week scheduled across various sites by lunch time on Wednesday, and then focus on other projects after that for the rest of the week.


Anyway, you're probably tired of me talking about myself for this post. If you've gotten this far, thank you. If you're new here, welcome. And if you're Ken, thank you for passing the baton on to me. I look forward to seeing what Darke, Ruth and Alison have to say next week.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Dreaded Future

During a conversation with a co-worker today, I was reminded about how much I was dreading finishing college. I was full of doubt and fear and worry, and I didn't feel one bit prepared for the so-called Real World. I didn't have any idea what I was going to do with my time.

I'm not happy that I didn't have a plan for leaving college. However, it did provide me with the benefit of having to think about it, without the added stress of exams to prepare for. Here's how this has worked out for me as I face the dreaded future.

1. I was able to choose a Masters course to apply for without panicking. When I panic about something and don't talk to people about it, I can sometimes shut down. I should have spoken up during my Leaving Cert about how unprepared I felt for it, and the result of not doing that was not being able to focus on actually studying. Which obviously only made things worse.

With the time to think outside of the walls of college, I was able to find a course that (1) interested me, (2) had career prospects, (3) would benefit me more directly on a personal basis than the courses I had considered this time last year and (4) feels like good value for money.

I was going to try do a Creative Writing Masters. I wasn't entirely sure where, but it was on my mind. However, I don't feel like the courses would have been appropriate for me. I was already at the point of looking at publishing as a business. I needed to continue learning about the various aspects of what it meant to be a writer; focusing solely on the craft, for a whole year, for a large sum of money, suddenly didn't feel right.

2. I was able to think of what I could do as (a) a back-up in case I didn't get into the course or (b) a career following the completion of my course.

I've already spoken about it briefly at various points over the past few months, but I want to work in publishing. Since publishing jobs are so hard to come by, I figured a good alternative would be to set up my own publishing house.

I've thought it through on so many levels, and I think it's still a viable option. It was something I wanted to do before leaving college, and since then I've grown to understand it on a much greater level. I've refined ideas, established new ones, and focused on what makes sense in terms of what to publish and how to produce the necessary effects towards making the business a success.

I've been reading widely, paying attention to how other businesses are run, and looking at various aspects of the process of setting up a publishing house, and I think - given the time to put things together - I could have the ball rolling on it within six months.

That's not a timeline based on research: that's my goal. It could take longer, but I have to create a deadline of some description, or nothing would happen. (Just to clarify: I'm not actually starting this process yet. It will be 2015, at the very least, before you actually see the publishing house being set up properly. There's still a lot for me to do before I get to the point of setting up a business.)

3. I've been able to define my own abilities more clearly. It's one thing to put on a play in college that sells out. (That happened. That was awesome. We raised a lot of money for charity in the process.) It's another thing to be able to call yourself a marketing expert. Basically, since I left college I've been looking at what I can do and what I know, and working on developing both the areas I feel I'm strongest at, and the ones I feel need more work that are relevant to what I want to do with my life.

I've never had this much time to address my strengths and weaknesses before. Ever. I've been able to read different books on different topics, and put different things into practice. I've been reading up on various aspects of writing and business, and I'm working on a plan for publishing that will see my area of expertise expanding.

I don't want to just write about writing. That was never the plan. But it's better to spend time focusing on this one thing for a while, before moving on to also write about another thing. Not only do I need the time to research and develop a plan, I need the time to get my voice out there as a writer on a specific topic.

Those three things have been massively influential in helping me face the future more positively. I'm not worried about the coming months and years. Sure, the economy is still poor. Sure, I'm still only working part-time on minimum wage. But I have a better idea now of what I want from life, influenced by creative and critical thinking rather than an undue amount of stress and worry.

I've been able to figure out the future a little more clearly, and it doesn't seem quite so dreaded any more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A (Lack of) Progress Report

As far as writing has gone this past week... well, I haven't done much. I've wanted to, but I haven't exactly had as much opportunity as I would have liked. The most significant thing I've done is actually figure out why I want to write a particular series. That was done by figuring out what the overall story is. It's important, but it doesn't bring me closer to my target.

The main problem is that I've been spending my spare time relaxing a lot more than usual. That, when combined with exhaustion from a series of sleepless nights (partially my fault for staying up too late when I have to be up early, partially the fault of alarms going off in the middle of the night), has resulted in me doing much less than I'd have liked to.

I'm hoping that tomorrow will help put me back on track, with a couple of things planned for the afternoon and nothing else planned for the evening.

This means I have to avoid the PS3, though. That's been the biggest distraction. You see, recently I came across Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, and, having played the first game a few years ago, I couldn't help but buy it and play it. And play it I have. Constantly. It's not just a nostalgia rush, of course. I genuinely love the game, and I love following the story.

Yes, some of the dialogue is ridiculously cheesy. Yes, the graphics aren't the best. Yes, it's a dated game at this point. But it also has an interesting system of religion at work. It demonstrates the struggle for ideals in equality and peace.

It's a game that helped form the sort of depth I've wanted to include in my fantasy novels. I want to develop a system of religion that fits into the world. I want to create a rulebook for magic users. I want to create a world in which life is actually at stake, but not merely on a global level.

This is why I play games, even when it means not writing. The games that explore religion, and the games that explore the concept of the martyr, they help to create human stories concerned with personal destiny in the wider scheme of life. Colette in Tales of Symphonia has to save the world, knowing it will end her life. The l'cie in Final Fantasy XIII have to make a decision: destroy the world they come from, or die tragically. Yuna in Final Fantasy X has to stop Sin, knowing that the summoner never survives the pilgrimage.

I want to tell my own story. I want to figure it all out before I start writing that book.

Unfortunately, I don't think I can use that as an excuse for not writing the books I've already planned. I have a feeling I'll be playing catch-up on my books for the rest of the 40-day challenge. So be it. But I'll be damned if I have to give up doing something else I enjoy, too, especially on the days when exhaustion takes it toll.

My progress is lacking, but that doesn't mean I can't talk about it.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Just Hook It To My Veins!

Last year, I tried to give blood. I failed immediately. It turns out, if you want to give blood for the first time in Ireland, you can't have exams within a couple of weeks of the donation. They're afraid you might hit your head and not perform as well as you should.

So, that sucked.

Every other date that came up just didn't work out. Until Thursday. On Thursday, myself and my dad - a long time donor - went down to a nearby school. We filled in our paperwork, he went and donated, and I was asked my name and date of birth about eight times.

The thing about giving blood is, you forget for a second that they're going to stick a needle into you, or that they need to test for iron. So, they stab your finger. (Okay, it's a slight prick to draw an itsy-bitsy bit of blood.) Thankfully, my iron levels were good. I was good to go. I was sent to get a drink to stay hydrated - even after two giant glasses of water at dinner - and then it was to the bench.

And...stabbed. Again. With a needle. And this one was an actual needle, which I refused to look at on the off chance that I might feel uneasy all of a sudden. Not that I could ignore the fact that there was something sticking out of my arm. Or that the attending nurse placed the blood bag on my wrist, for some reason. It made me realise that blood is quite warm. I never really thought about it consciously.

I expected to feel a bit dizzy the longer the process went on, but I was fine. I was tired before going, and the bright lights overhead in the school's gym weren't helping, but I didn't feel weak or lightheaded.

That doesn't mean they let me sit up straight away, though. Because it was my first time, they had me lie down for a long time. The nurse even left. Eventually, another member of staff told me to sit up, and when I didn't feel weak, I was allowed to get up and walk away.

All in all, it was a fairly easy process. I didn't bruise. I wasn't sore (except when the plaster tugged at my skin - that was annoying!) I was fine. And I'd given blood for the first time. After almost a year since trying and failing once, I was able to do something that I saw as being important.

Below, I'll leave some links for blood donation sites. It's a relatively painless process, and if your blood is suitable, you could help save a live.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

4 Books in 40 Days

I like to set myself challenges. It's important to me to continually find a way to make life and writing that little bit more interesting by putting deadlines on things. Typically, these challenges coincide with something else in the year. The New Year marked the beginning of my current daily-publication process. February marked my Love Poem month. Lent is going to mark a 40 day challenge. (Note: Lent is actually 46 days from Ash Wednesday until the Saturday before Easter Sunday, inclusive. The Sundays aren't included in the 40 days of Lent.)

During Lent, I have 40 days that don't require me to spend an unplanned amount of time doing something else. Between family commitments (2 days), a small break abroad (3 days), and the play (1 day), I have 6 days' worth of plans that can't be avoided.

I'm dividing the 40 days I actually do have between 4 books. Two are non-fiction books on writing. Last weekend, I planned 8 such books, and I think it's worth taking the time to getting them written. The idea is to publish them a few months apart between now and September 2015. That is, assuming I get in, when I should be finished with my Masters.

The first book will, in theory, be written between March 5th and March 14th. It's one of the non-fiction books, and one I've been meaning to write for some time.

The second book will be written between March 15th and 28th; there'll be a few days in the middle of that period when I won't be at my laptop, and so I won't be able to write anything. I could, however, finish the book early. It's a novella, and one that I'm very excited to actually write. However, it needs to be planned first, hence the delay in beginning it. I have an idea about what I'd like to do with it once it's written, too, which is always nice. You'll find out more on this book later in the month.

The third book is the second non-fiction book. I'll be writing it between March 29th and April 9th, though there'll be a break in there, too. This one I'm writing because (1) I noticed a market for it, (2) I'm something of an expert at it and (3) I really want to give it a shot. I'll actually be using the second book in the challenge as the basis for a chunk of this book.

The fourth book, then, is one you've already heard of: The Blood of Leap. I'm determined to put what will hopefully be three successfully-written books to good use on the motivation front. Between April 10th and 19th, I want to finish the book. This will require me re-reading it, re-planning it from where I've left off, and writing it. If all goes according to plan, it'll see publication in late April or early May.

It's important for me that I actually spell this out publicly. I have found in the past that when I announce exactly what I'm writing, I tend to write it more easily. Of course, I won't be shirking off my regular writing responsibilities. I still have to write my flash stories for every week. I need to prepare content for the days I'll be missing. All of this needs to happen while I'm working, while I'll minding my niece, and while I'm directing a play.

This is what I live for. I live to write, and to write a lot. A rough estimate for the four books, in terms of a word count, is around 80-90,000 words. Add to that thirteen flash stories, six articles, fifteen blog posts (one extra-special Monday post, explaining the second book I'm writing - though I'm cheating by writing this one a day early!) and thirteen poems, and it's going to be a busy Lenten period. I can guarantee two things on Easter Sunday: I'll have my regular article, and I'll be gorging myself on chocolate, because damn it I'll deserve it!

4 books, 40 days, let's do this!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Professional Focus

I have a theory: I'm much more likely to get my Dream Job if I'm already working in the field in some respect. As far as theories go, that's not awful, right?

For me, it's publishing. I'll always be a writer, but there's only so much help I can offer to the writers who are looking for it from a desk in my small bedroom. I want to be able to help writers complete their books, publish their books, see their books for something more than a vague idea in their head.

However, since I have the whole "Do a Masters" thing to consider, I can't do either of two things at the moment: get a full-time job (period) or start my own business. With that in mind, I decided I would re-evaluate my plans for some books. Specifically, I would take the books that looked like I was just piecing them together and turn them into something more useful.

Seriously, though: I literally had a book that consisted of vaguely related ideas. Not. Any. More.

I'm taking what I call a "professional focus" on this. Yes, I've been treating my books professionally from day one, but to the end of being a writer. I've decided that my books should also be related to what I want to get from life.

I've already got Planning Before Writing and 25 Ways to Beat Writer's Block. To them, I'll be adding a few other titles, covering various areas of life as an author. The focus will be split between the craft of writing, the business side of things, and the lifestyle side of things - the three areas I had originally wanted to focus upon in my vaguely-connected books.

I don't plan on bombarding the market with them all in one go, of course. I want to take the time to write the properly, and to mix things up a bit so the books don't focus on one single aspect of writing. Today, while on my break in work, I put together short plans for four books, two of which I've wanted to write for a while regardless. It'll be an interesting project, and it fits into the general aim I set myself at the start of the year: establish myself as an "expert" in the field of writing.

To make a long story short, I want to be able to say to a publisher - either one I'm applying to, or one I'm submitting to - that I know a thing or two (or ten...) about what it means to be a writer, and I know how to make the process of writing and publishing a book so much easier than a lot of people make it for themselves. It helps to be able to prove it with more than a CV.

This is where the "professional focus" comes into play. I'll be working as a publisher, and working around the field of publishing, for pretty much the entire duration of my Masters. The entire time, I'll be preparing myself for the opportunity to say "This is what I can do; this is what others have said about it, and these are the pieces of paper from an established university that say I can do other things too."

I have to believe that I'm on the right track here. As it stands, I've already been told my experience is impressive. (It just didn't help that the company wasn't in a position to hire, because that's the publishing world for you.) I have a plan for myself, as difficult as that may seem for some people to believe. It's not so specific that outside variables can completely derail things within the next two years, and it's not so vague that when it comes to implementing the Grand Finale I'll be left without options.

I know what I want to do with my life, I have an idea about how to do it, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let myself get away with not even trying. I have a theory, and it needs to be proven.

And, just to make it specific about what I'm going to do now: I need to compile the plans for every book on writing I'll be writing and publishing over the next 18-24 months. I'll be typing them up, colour-coding them as Craft, Business or Lifestyle books, and placing them in a folder in the planned order of publication. On Monday, I'll begin the process of writing the next book.


It's worth mentioning, at the moment I'm offering friends a helping hand with their writing as a sort of free coaching service. (Sort of a coaching service, not sort of free.) Feel free to contact me with any sort of writing-related questions you might have. If I feel like it could benefit more from a direct conversation rather than an email reply, I'll put out the offer to you. This is all time-and-energy based, so if I don't reply right away, or I can't arrange a conversation (through Skype or Google+), don't be offended.