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August, the month of metal and wookies

August was the month that finally put me in a venue with Tesseract. They are a band that I have really wanted to see live since my brother gave me a listen to one of their albums. The band are a metal band that have a strong emphasis on the melodic side of metal. Their songs sweep and surge until you are dragged into the undertow. As you can guess, I was a fan shortly after hearing the album.

The band were in town as support to Lamb of God. Their set was fantastic with the sound system in the venue doing the band justice. All of the melodic parts and heavier parts were there in their aural beauty. If there is any justice in the world Tesseract will soon be huge in the metal music scene. I’ve embedded one of their songs below for any of you that are interested.

I decided this month to try and fit in more comic reading into my week. Thankfully I have a nice selection of graphic novels to help achieve this goal. The first series I decided to re-read was Y: the Last Man.

I read it about two years ago and remember really enjoying it. The main reason I chose it as the first comic to read this time was the lack of superpowered or supernatural characters. All characters are pretty much human, secret agents and ninjas notwithstanding of course.

The premise is a simple one, and you’ve no doubt guess by the title, what would happen to the last man on Earth? Would the Earth become a utopia free of war and conflict once men all die off or would things be much the same as before?

I’m enjoying the second reading of the series and finding it to be funnier in parts than I remember. It’s a good series if you’re looking for a comic to check out.

August was also the month a wookie came to town in a luxury car. The cannonball run passed by neck of the woods early one Sunday morning in August. A rolling convoy of expensive cars with the passengers and drivers in fancy dress. There were a variety of costumes in the group but naturally the wookie was the highlight of the bunch. It was great to see so many people taking part and the large number of people that showed up to support it also.

July was a bit of fun.

I had originally planned to make a concerted effort at NaNoWriMo in July. The first few days went pretty well. The wordcount was a little on the light side but I was still making progress. Then the heatwave hit. I was convinced that I was going to evaporate at one stage during the month. This of course made it very difficult for me to do some writing. Watching TV was as much as I could handle after a day in the office surrounded by computers.

That’s not to say that the month was a total write-off. The bit of the novel I did manage to type up has provided enough content to keep me interested in continuing the story. It needs a lot of work but I think I might be able to make something of it.

I managed to see a couple of good movies during the month. The first one was Hedgehog. A wonderful French film (which I later realised I had an English copy of the novel on my ‘to-read’ pile). It’s set in an apartment building in Paris. There couldn’t have been more than twenty characters in the movie and it was entirely set in the building but it was a joy to watch. It’s a film I’d highly recommend to anyone that is looking for something different.

The other movies were Brave and Robot & Frank. Brave was an enjoyable movie but I’m probably a little biased as I’ve not seen a Pixar movie that I didn’t like.

Robot & Frank was another film I really liked. Frank is an ex-jewel thief living by himself and suffering with problems with his memory. His son arrives to his house one day and gifts him with a robot aid. As you can guess by the title of the movie, it is the unfolding relationship between Frank and the robot that is the focus of the movie.

Myself and the brother managed to get down to Cork to see West Ham play Cork City in a friendly at Turners Cross. I hadn’t seen much of any Irish soccer teams playing before, and what I had seen was less than inspiring to watch. But the match was actually a good game of soccer. Cork played a good game but were outclassed by the Hammers with the final score being 6-2 to the visitors. After the match, we took the “long” way back (i.e. stopped for a beer in most of the pubs we found on the way back to the city centre). A good way to spend a weekend in Cork. It’s a city I never fail to have a good time in.

July was also noteworthy as it was my dads 60th birthday. Unfortunately he was out of the country on the actual day of his 60th. That didn’t stop my siblings and relatives from throwing a successful surprise party for him when he returned. Myself and my siblings had planned to bring him for a few beers before the actual party. We planned to keep him on the opposite side of the town from the party venue.

My dad almost managed to throw a spanner in the works by coming into to town much earlier than he normally would when going for beer. We had to try and keep him in town as he normally only has a few beers and then is in a taxi before we know what is going on. Things went to plan in the end. He didn’t have a clue the party was happening and was delighted to see family and close friends waiting for him to celebrate his birthday. Needless to say, we had a struggle getting him to get in the taxi at the end of the night. He was in flying form.

All in all, it was a successful July.

Before June comes to an end.

I’m cutting it a bit close this month but I’ve managed to get the blog post in before the end of the month.

The first piece of news is that I have finished my latest module. I passed the four assignments and just need to get a pass in the exam to get a passing grade. It was the first time in almost ten years that I had to go to an exam centre. Thankfully the exam itself seem to go well enough. I was writing up answers right up to the end of the allotted time. Hopefully that’ll be a good omen for the result of the exam.

With this being the first month without study obligations to fulfill, I managed to get a nice amount of reading done over the month. The study can tire a person out at times. This means that I wouldn’t have much energy for reading some evenings. That was not to be the case this month. And because I had so much more free time, I was able to vary the reading material. I picked up some books that would be introductary reading on philosophy, ethics and logic. Some of it was tough at times but it was worthwhile. It’s an area that I have been wanting to read more about and I finally managed to make a start on it this month.

The extra free time in the evenings also means more time has been used to write. It has been generally been going well. With the increased frequency in writing, it has also become more obvious where the problems are with my writing. The biggest being that I seem to lack focus. I start writing a story and it goes well for maybe a thousand words. Then it just fizzles out. I have managed to be talked into taking part in NaNoWriMo next month (July). If last November is anything to go by, this will be a great excercise to train myself to focus. I’m actually looking forward to the challenge!

I’ll leave you with a video of a song by Venna. I discovered them during the month when I was going through my new music purchases. The album is outside the type of music I would buy regularly but it has been a welcome change. The video is of them performing “Quitting Contest”. That is the song that jumped out at me on the first listen. It has managed to infiltrate the back of my mind and set up a bed there. I hope you enjoy it also.

I May have missed my April post

It seems like I missed April entirely. Time seemed to just whizz past and before I know it, we’re most of the way through May.

The studies required extra time so the writing had to take a back seat for most of the month. I did manage to get some reading done, including my recently purchased copy of Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman. I had seen the video around the time it had been orginally uploaded to the web.

It was just the sort of speech that made a person want to just start painting, writing or any other kind of art. The speech had the type of message that I really like, essentially telling everyone to make good art. We can all draw inspiration for various moments in our life and use it to create our art.

The book arrived at a good time to keep the spark of creativity going in spite of all the time given over to the coursework. I did manage to make some notes for some story ideas and I’m hoping that once mid-July comes round that I’ll be able to make use of them.

I’ll leave you with the video of the speech by Mr. Gaiman. I highly recommend it for anyone that wants to do something creative.

Marching Onwards

Greetings once again. This entry is somewhat later than I had hoped but we shall attempt to soldier on regardless.

The last month has been spent doing a lot of reading about writing, with particular emphasis on writing a novel. It’s something I’m really interested in ever since I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time. It was a really enjoyable November. The project demanded that time was spent on adding to the novel each day for the month.

As a result, I set myself a daily goal of five hundred words a day. I wasn’t attempting to write another novel, rather I was just giving myself the task of doing some writing every day. The hope was to keep the writing muscles limber for when I start the next writing project.

I don’t have any specific project as yet but I do have a couple of ideas rattling around my skull. Maybe with a bit more time one of the ideas will leap to the fore. There’s no rush as yet as I’m committed to a computer programming course until the end of June. But once I have the free time between courses I hope to get to writing something a bit more substantial.

The last piece that I started work on had way too many similarities to the early books in the Wheel of Time series. There were some good ideas for a story but I have to shave away anything that seems to me to be close to something from the Wheel of Time books.

There are plenty of things to get my teeth into in the weeks before the course ends. The plan is to build up some notes on the ideas so I can hit the ground running when July eventually comes around.

The February update

The blog is still going, although it’s not a frequent as I’d like. But I’ll use the “quality over quantity” excuse for now.

The year has started well regarding my goals for trying to achieve tasks that will help me improve with the writing. I have managed to dramatically cut down on my TV watching and use the free time to devour as many books as I can.

The books have been a mixture of philosophy, fiction and writing help-books. The writing books were particularly interesting when applied to whatever fiction I was also reading at the time. I still enjoyed the fiction but I could now appreciate the work that had gone into book also. I can see the development of the characters, the foreshadowing etc. And I’m sure that appreciation will only grow as I get more books into me.

In addition to the increased reading, I’ve assigned myself a weekly task to write a piece with a minimum of 1,000 words. That has been more of a challenge compared to the reading, probably as it requires me to produce the piece. The pieces I’ve produced so far have been somewhat lacking in beauty.

The pieces are generally a self contained scene. Some of the pieces have interesting ideas under the surface but the language and structure of the piece wouldn’t entice a reader to stick with it. I’d be hard pressed to do so myself to be perfectly honest. But I imagine it’ll be much like my experience with learning to play soccer. I couldn’t do much on the pitch at the start but as time progressed I began to realise where my strengths lay. Here’s hoping that the writing will be much the same. At least then I will have a few things that I know that I can do well. I guess time will tell in that regard.

And so 2013 has begun.

The first month of a new year has just passed the halfway point and I’ve managed to start as I mean to go on. I’m getting plenty of reading done. It’s a mix of fiction and books providing tips/pointers about writing. So I’m managing to get a better understanding of what I do and don’t like in a story as well as reading some pointers for when I actually sit down to write my own stories. It’s definitely feeling like time well spent.

My mind is demanding more and more books be fed to it. It’s nice that the motivation is there to spend some time each day reading. The desire to write is also growing and thanks to the notebook I filled over the course of 2012 I have some ideas for stories that I can possibly attempt during the coming year. There are snippets of three different stories that currently are somewhat appealing to me but I need to go through all the notes before I know what one I’ll tackle first.

Something that really lit the fire to do more writing this year was NaNoWriMo last year. The result of that month of writing was over 100 pages of story, which amounts to the last amount of writing I’ve ever done for a single story. The story itself is very rough and raw but it was the fact that I could write so many pages that really excited me. Some editing/revision could fix the problems that were bugging me but you can’t do that without first committing the story to paper.

Anyway, this year looks like it’ll be a good year for getting some writing done. I can’t wait to see what the next 11 months reveals.

As November draws to a close.

The blog hasn’t been getting as much love as it deserves but it couldn’t be helped as I’m focusing all my free writing time on NaNoWriMo.

The month has gone better than expected but it could have been better also. I have managed to maintain an average wordcount of 1,000 words which is below the 1,667 wordcount that is required. I think part of the problem is that between work and study, the window for inspiration on the NaNoWriMo is quite small. I have about 2-3 hours spread over the course of the day where I just need to be in “writer mode” once the allocated time comes round.

For most of the month it hasn’t been a problem as the story is developing from a blank page. So characters/plot all have to introduced and developed while trying to move the story along at a pace to keep the reader interested. I would say up to around 19k words things flowed pretty well. Once past that marker though, things needed to more focused if I’m to have any hope of tying things up by 50k words.

I have discovered that I’m a “planner” not a “pantser”. I had some basic character and story put down before I started. Then the story fleshed out the details. The problem is that some of the story went off on a tangent and means that my inner editor isn’t happy with the opening of the story. That’s not to say I’m unhappy with the story, it’s just that I wouldn’t have used the opener that I used knowing what the story now is.

Another problem is that because I didn’t plan the story out in better detail, there are large sections of the story that are a rambling mess. They need to be pared down otherwise the story would cruel and unusual punishment to inflict on any potential reader.

Even though the wordcount has slowed right down, the month has been a great eye-opener. I now know I do have the discipline to sit down each day and get part of a large story done. I’m also no longer put off by the blank page. It’s now a page waiting to be filled, even if takes a couple of weeks to get it completed.

I don’t know if the NaNoWriMo story will get completed any time soon as it needs a lot rewriting and plot fixing. But I do know that I’m going to be doing a lot more writing as a result of taking part in NaNoWriMo. And that’s a big positive to take away from the experience.

NaNoWriMo so far.

My first attempt at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has officially started. I have to say that right now the novelity of it has me quite excited about what might be achieved over the month.

The wordcount is already behind what it is supposed to be, but it has given me time to mull over some possible ideas for the story as a side-effect.

I’ve informed my immediate family and some of my friends as to what the general idea of the novel is. I’m really pleased by the positive reaction to the idea. Up to now, it was just something that I thought might be an interesting/possibly funny story. But I’ve gotten some questions about the story that suggest it might have more legs than I initially suspected.

Some of the feedback has given me some ideas to get past parts of the plot that weren’t working for me. There are some parts of the story that still need a bit of work but it’s get closer to where it needs to be.

At this stage in NaNoWriMo, I would recommend anyone who has never tried it to give it a go. It really gives you focus and motivation to do some writing every day.

Counting down to November.

The prospect of doing NaNoWriMo has me is a quite optimistic mood since my last blog. I had at the time of the last blog two possible ideas for potential novels to do for NaNoWriMo.

Then out of the back of my imagination a character shoved his way to the front of my mind and declared he was the lead in the book I was to write. The other two possible books were somewhat muted by his appearance. His energy and constant nagging has removed the chance of any other book been written in November. He’s definitely the first character in quite some time that feels like a three-dimensional character. Some of the images and scenes that involve him made me laugh quite a bit. I really hope to capture the spirit of the character once I get started on the project.

The general idea for the story isn’t too well defined right now, and there aren’t any other characters appearing to keep the lead company. Some of the leads interests have put some possible directions for the book to go. But that could all change once the other characters throw their oars in. The book looks like it will have children as the lead characters, but I don’t think it’s going to be a book solely aimed at children.

I’m really itching to get going with NaNoWriMo. Until November arrives I’ll just use the time training myself into a daily routine of getting a nice amount of writing done. I can also do some research on the bits of the story that have already popped into my head.

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