Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Previously...


Yes, it's that time of the month again. Come and share all the highs and lows of your writing and reading month. Leave a link to your post in the comments!

Previously In Writing

I did something I've been meaning to do for ages - I applied to join the Golden Egg Academy. It's run by a UK publishing house and I'm hoping I'll get in with Conspiracy of Echoes. I'm hoping I'll hear in October if my work's good enough to make use of all their editorial help.

Previously in Reading

I picked up the latest in the Young Bond series, Strike Lightning. It was okay. I do wish Charlie Higson was still writing these. I feel like he dedicated a bit more space to characterisation, which I miss. Steve Cole focuses more on action, which is fine, but I do miss those little quieter moments.

Next Time in Goals

I joined an orchestra!!!!!! That was my goal for the month, and I achieved it! And I had so much fun. My next rehearsal is next weekend, and I can't wait. Of course as soon as I wanted to start practicing more, my violin broke. Thankfully I've had it repaired. Now all it needs to do is stay in tune for longer than a day... although I am learning to tune it a lot faster than before :P

My goals for this month are to continue practicing the violin. Being in an orchestra is a bit of a trial by fire. It's highlighting my weaknesses and forcing me to improve them rapidly.

A Word of Advice 

For those of us without agents, it can feel like that publishing dream may never come true. It's all out of your control. Which is why if you should find a dream you can control and you can achieve independently. Don't give up on writing, but find something else to bolster your self-confidence.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Writing Quirks

 
I was thinking the other day about my writing quirks - the thing that stamps my identity onto my writing. Kinda like how you can listen to loads of music from the same composer and always hear their unique sound. And I don't just mean the writing itself, but also how I write.

Coffee shop writing is a quirk I think plenty of us share... even though I don't actually drink coffee. Tea or hot chocolate, please!

One of my quirks is my decision to give my female characters traditionally male names. Hayden, Ed, Ryan... In fact, the main character of my recent Ghost!Story series is the only one I've ever had with a traditionally female name - Zadie.

Some quirks I've had to work really hard to stamp out. I used to write really long sentences. I stuffed in as many unnecessary words as humanly possible. Everything was so chatty. My characters never shut up, and neither did I. Going back and reading it now is pretty cringe-inducing. I also wrote overly detailed (and overly complex) fight scenes. Keeping track of everything became impossible. Everything went on and on and on. Yawn. That particular quirk had to be edited out. A lot. Editing teaches you to write more succinctly in your first draft so you don't have to edit so much later on.

Then I have little quirks like making sure I use specific pens with specific notebooks. I am really obsessive about stuff like that. For someone who never plans, and isn't particularly neat, I get very funny about not having the right pen...


Actually, I love writing scenes by hand. I find it so liberating to disconnect from all electronic devices, picking up a pen, and scribbling scenes or ideas or character moments. Sometimes, I'll write an entire first draft by hand and edit it as I type it up for the first time. How's that for a quirk?

Then there's my obsession with good writing music. I find it so useful when I'm particularly stuck to listen to some great music and let the inspiration flow. For me, there's no better way to engage with my emotions than to listen to a stirring piece of music.


So there's a selection of my quirks. What are yours?

Don't forget next Wednesday is Previously day! Share your writing and reading month :D

Friday, 16 September 2016

Old Habits

A busy, messy desk isn't the only sign I've fallen into a few old habits lately. What? A busy desk is the sign of a busy, creative mind! I know where everything is. I just have to move piles to get to certain things every now and then...

Lately, I've been writing what I want, when I want, how I want. One of the best things about not having a major project on the go right now is the freedom to experiment, while simultaneously falling back into my old comfort writing habits.

For example, I love to write at night, in a dark room with really good music. I recently played Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, and since then, the score has taken on a new meaning to me. Listening to it and exploring a few ideas is so liberating.


I'm not tying myself down to an idea. I'm trying out different things; writing scenes, exploring character concepts, trying different genres, indulging in a spot of fanfiction, revisiting things I haven't looked at in a few years... I'm having fun. I think after not writing for a while, focusing on what you want to write, rather than what the market may or may not want, is a great way to remind yourself why you love to create worlds and share stories.

What are your old writing habits you like to fall back on every now and then?

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Fifty Years of Star Trek

Source
Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek. And, to celebrate, I thought I'd look back over why I love this franchise so much. At least I'm going to try. It's a hard thing to summarise. I'm going to take more of a general look, rather than delving into specific series/episodes. I know this is bound to be one of those posts I look over and remember everything I forgot to put in it.

Star Trek is very nostalgic for me. I grew up with it. Throughout my childhood and teens, Star Trek was on TV every week. More than any other sci-fi concept, Star Trek gave me hope. Instead of worrying that humanity would destroy itself, Star Trek showed us that we can do better. We will do better. It's an inherently hopeful concept. Most other massive sci-fi franchises available to us right now are a lot less hopeful. Here in 2016, we could really use the message of unity and optimism Star Trek shares. It teaches us that diversity should be celebrated. It's a lesson we desperately need to learn. Beyond really channelled classic Trek. It's why I love that film so much. It reminded me of the Trek I grew up with.


I remember sitting down with my family on Wednesday nights to watch The Next Generation on BBC2 in the early 1990s. The first episode I really remember is Skin of Evil, or, as I always think of it - the one with the black ooze monster.


I love this episode. Loooove it. But not as much as Frame of Mind, when Riker's performing in a play in which he's mentally ill... or is he actually in hospital suffering delusions? What's real? What's the illusion? Star Trek does those kind of mind-bending episodes so well. They definitely had an impact on my own writing.

As a little girl, I honestly believed Captain Picard and his crew were up there, on the Enterprise, flying through space. I can recall that sudden feeling of disappointment when I realised it was only a TV show. But it was a TV show I loved. Watching it all again now,  I still feel that sense of hope and wonder. And it is crazy rewatching some TNG and DS9 episodes and remembering them from when they first aired. It's amazing that these stories have stuck firmly in my head for over twenty years. That's a good lesson for a writer to learn; create something a little girl can watch at the age of four, five, six, and still love by the time she's thirty.

Oh, and even Voyager's early episodes have passed the twenty year mark. That's amazing.


The thing that keeps Star Trek relevant, even the original series, is how it takes our problems and transforms them into conflicts with aliens so that we can examine our society's issues from an outsider's perspective. It's not always subtle, and the stories don't always get it right, but Star Trek always tried to make us think. Watching all the different shows now makes that so much clearer to me. When I was younger, I just loved the idea of flying around on a spaceship with a bunch of friends, exploring new worlds and having adventures. As an adult, I find it fascinating how the stories deal with the conflicts we're dealing with today in a way that forces me to look at them from another perspective.

But I also love it when the show straight up throws science fiction at me. If you only ever watch one episode of the original series, be sure it's City on the Edge of Forever. What would you do if you accidentally saved the life of a woman whose survival changed the outcome of the Second World War? Then there's the episode of Voyager when they accidentally find themselves trapped in orbit of a pre-industrial civilisation and not only cause the planet below to suffer terrible quakes, but accidentally impact the world's cultural and technological development. Or the episode of DS9 when poor old O'Brien keeps jumping a couple of hours into the future and realises the station is heading towards its doom. The thing that differentiates sci-fi from fantasy is the idea that sci-fi could happen. And who are we to say these two plots couldn't happen someday?

And speaking of technology, do you own an iPad or another tablet? I remember looking at things like that in Star Trek growing up thinking how amazing and futuristic it'd be to own something like that. And now look at us! How many of you are reading this post on a piece of technology straight off the USS Enterprise?

(Hey, Jaffa, don't even pretend you didn't act like your Gameboy SP was a tricorder. I know the truth.)

I love the characters, and how their differences complement each other. I love how they interact with each other, and how they come together to solve whatever problems face them. I love how real and relatable they feel. I love the culture clashes. I love how friendships develop. I love how despite how different the crewmembers are, and how different their homeworlds are, they come together to form families. No one, in the Star Trek universe, is too different to belong.

That's what I've always taken away from it, anyway.

Oh, and who's my favourite character? Duh. It's Porthos!


I can't pick a single favourite character or episode. Film... oh, I can do that.


But it takes its place in a much larger universe. I love Star Trek because it allows us to see a future for humanity in which we've united and taken our place in the universe. There's not a lot else out there with so much hope for us. I think it's a huge part of why the franchise endures. I'm so excited to see Discovery bring Trek back to TV in 2017, because as much as I love the films, Star Trek is at its best on the small screen where we can really get to know the people and their worlds.

Happy fiftieth birthday, Star Trek. Thank you for always being there. I can't wait to see where you go next.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Previously...


Yes, it really is the end of August.


Previously in Writing

August was fanfiction month for me. With nothing new on the horizon for an original novel right now, I decided to have some fun. Well, okay, a lot of fun. Thousands and thousands of words of fun. Fanfiction, even when I do share it, is for me. It's pure indulgence, but it also keeps my creativity ticking over. I've written about my love of fanfiction in the past, and will probably do so again in the future. It allows me to explore ideas and write in different genres. Eventually, it will lead to my next big idea. But I'm not worrying about that right now. I'm still querying Ghost!Story, so while that's trying to find an agent, I'm gonna have some fun.

Previously in Reading

Other than fanfiction? Absolutely nothing. 2016 has been pretty quiet on the book front. I think I've been so busy with other creative outlets, not to mention busy at work and in my non-writing life, that something had to give. That something, so far, has been books. That being said, there's a couple of books coming out in September I'm really looking forward to.

Next Time in Goals

I've been saying I'll do it for years, but this time, I'm hoping it's for real - I'm going to join an orchestra. I've been playing the violin for nearly four years now, so it's time to take the next step.

A Word of Advice

Don't be afraid to write for no one but yourself. I say it so often on here, but it's worth repeating: not everything you write has to be for an agent or publication. It's so easy to forget that the reason we write is because we love it when everything's about querying and requests and rejections and so close but not close enough.

And on that note, if you'll excuse me, I have some more fanfiction to write. WHEEEEEEEE!

Alas, no linky today. Please be so kind as to leave links to your posts in the comments below.

Here's to September!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Monthly Soundtrack Reviews - Star Trek Beyond

Soundtrack: Star Trek Beyond
Album Art Source
Year: 2016
Composer: Michael Giacchino
Stand Out Track: Night on the Yorktown
Works Well With: Big adventures, exploration, science-fiction

For those of you new to my blog, I am a huge Trekkie. And I am an especially massive fan of Michael Giacchino's scores from the three latest films. I will keep this spoiler free, promise! But if you haven't seen this film yet, go! Despite the sadness of losing both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, you will leave with a massive smile on your face. The film is just so much fun. Oh, and if you're prone to motion sickness like me but want to see the IMAX version, I discovered travel sickness medicine solved all my woes on my third viewing.

For a fiftieth anniversary film, this was exactly what the franchise needed - something fun, new, but at the same time reminiscent of all that's gone before. The music absolutely captured this. Listening to the music on its own is extremely moving. There are moments when I'm smiling, moments when I'm on the edge of the seat, and moments when I need to grab a tissue. And Hitting the Saucer a Little Hard captures all of that in a single track. It's a thrilling piece of music. It even has a callback to the TV show's music, just like The San Fran Hustle from Into Darkness

Just like the film itself, the music has a massive sense of fun and wonder. The whole way through the film, I kept thinking how much it felt like those classic ensemble episodes, when everyone works together to get stuff done. It was amazing. Night on the Yorktown captures just how amazing a sight that spacestation is the first time you see it in the film... I loved the concept of that place, and the music matched my own sense of WOW! It's such a stirring piece. It swells with hope, something that I always took away from the older Star Trek stories. And it's not just that one piece. A Lesson In Vulcan Mineralogy sounds cheeky early on. It plays during one of the funniest scenes in the whole film. I love it, but I'm not spoiling it.

There's also some great character music in here. Thank Your Lucky Star Date suggests a sense of duty, one tinged with 'is this really what I want?' Cater-Krall In Zero G, while I can't go into spoilers, has a thread of melancholy, right before it becomes the soundtrack to a big fight. That melancholy filters back in at the end. I really like it.

The score has some real menace, too. The Dance of the Nebula feels like the uncharted territory they're exploring is about to turn around and bite them in the arse. It's a tad creepy.

The score has some brilliant action pieces to inspire a good fight. Motorcycles of Relief and Mocking Jaylah will get your pulse thumping. Good if you've got a few space battles to write.

All I know is, I can't wait to hear this performed live <3 I shall impatiently await news of such an event. After all, hearing Star Trek and Into Darkness live in 2014 are concert highlights of my entire life.

Oh, man, I love this film. It makes me so happy. So, so happy.