Of Musings and Wonderings











{November 26, 2012}   Resuming Normal Service

As anyone who saw the blog post I put up yesterday knows, I managed to finish NaNoWriMo with five days to spare. I think it’s the earliest I’ve ever finished; my first two attempts failed before I even really got started, back when I was 18 then 19. Blame it on school and working shifts that were 12 – 8. Anyway, for the three years at Uni, I managed to complete it; in my first year, I had been invited to go out with a few of the guys, and agreed knowing it wouldn’t leave me any time to finish before midnight that night. When I went to meet my mate, he told me the bus was coming in fifteen minutes. (The quickest way to the bus stop was less than two minutes.) Ready for the night out, I darted back to my room, turned my laptop back on and hastily wrote the last 500 words.

The following year, I think I finished slightly early. Last year, (and I checked my word count tracker yesterday to see) I managed to finish on 30th November. I didn’t think I’d do it early this year, but working regular, 8 – 5 hours meant I had plenty of time in the evening to write. It also helped that I had an idea that I could take literally anywhere. The novel itself is still far from finished, and in terms of story, it’s only halfway through. Concentrating on the story, I was actually surprised that it was over 50,000. Looks like it’s going to be a long novel.

It does mean, however, that I can now return to normal. For me, that means working on multiple stories at once, doing two chapters of each before putting it aside for a while and working on something else. I learnt a while ago that I work better that way; it helps me avoid writer’s block, and means I’m constantly able to work on new/different ideas.

But, for this week, I’m going to split my time between adding some more to my NaNoWriMo novel and my main work-in-progress, the edit of Play the Game. I’ve almost finished the latter – it’s a novella that currently stands at just over 20,000 words, and I’m hoping it’ll end up just over 25,000, if not more.

It also means I can return to updating this more. On that note, you can expect a few review blogs coming up. On what, I hear you ask! Well, just to give you a hint, here’s just a few of the things I’ve watched/read over the last few weeks –

Resistance (film)
Brave (film)
A Song of Ice & Fire: A Storm of Swords (book – finished part 1, currently working through part 2.)
The Shining (book)
Glee (TV)
The Secrets of Crickley Hall (TV)
Once Upon A Time (TV)
American Horror Story (TV)

Annnd, well, it’s December next week, so I’ll be turning my attention towards Christmas. Stay tuned, and I’ll see you in my next post.

What have you been up to this month? NaNoWriMo? Christmas shopping? Gone on an adventure?

And, for all writers who may be reading this – how do you found you write best? I always love to read other’s tips and tricks.



Currently, my word count for this year stands at 50,266. This means that, with five days to spare, I’m actually 266 words over the word count. I’ve mentioned before that I thought I would struggle this year, working full-time, but it’s actually been my best year. Maybe because of the lack of essays and readings to do. I’ve been able to just get home from work and write, without worrying about anything else. Anyway, for anyone who would like to read it, the first seven chapters are on FictionPress, here. If you want a taster, here’s the prologue. As always, if you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

How’s NaNoWriMo going for you?

Outside Your Window
Prologue: Stalemate

The cross hung from the thin gold chain around her neck, and every time her mouth opened, her hand flickered up to the cross, fingers brushing over it. Her eyes remained locked on him, bent over the keyboard, back hunched over.

He knew the only reason she wore it was to piss him off.

She had had it since she was thirteen, her communion present from an aunt. Or, as he liked to call it, just another part of the indoctrination process.

His eyes flickered over the screen, finger tapping on the mouse whenever he saw a link that caught his eye. When her mouth opened, when her fingers brushed over that gold cross – a symbol of how far they had drawn her in – he glanced over his shoulder at her, muttering something in reply, though in reality he was barely listening.

He liked to think she didn’t realise.

But if he had listened, he would know that she was all too aware that her words were going in one ear and out the other. They were simply sounds to him, something that for a brief moment interrupted his constant search. The search for something, she liked to think, she had already found.

“My parents want us over for Sunday dinner,” she said, waiting for him to snap about how he wasn’t going to go to church, no matter how many times they were asked.

She could just about remember the flutter in her chest, every time she saw him. She could remember the blush heating her cheeks, the way her eyes would widen whenever he told her how wrong her parents were, how wrong the people were she spent her Sundays with. Without a doubt, she had been enthralled and fascinated to find someone who was so different to them, who, she believed, really did think for himself.

But he was just as foolish as the rest of them.

“Why do you wear that?” He threw the question over his shoulder, before his attention returned to the screen.

She had to catch herself, surprised she had crossed his mind for even a second.

“Because I…”

Because it’s a symbol of my faith.

Because it brings me hope.

Because it reminds me I am loved, by someone.

They had come to a stalemate.

It had crept up on them both from the beginning, really. It wasn’t supposed to last, not really. A fling, an experiment for her. She was still finding herself when he found her, still trying to realise who she was. She had only ever had one boyfriend, and he had cried the few times they had done the act that was supposed to bring people closer together.

Her parents had loved him.

They had not loved the boy – the man – in front of her.

Their determination that he was not going to be a part of their lives had pushed her into moving out, but when they started relenting, starting inviting them over for Sunday dinner or to family parties and meals, the attraction had waned.

Not that she would ever admit it to them.

She took a deep breath.

Neither of them were happy, and she wished he could see it. He crawled into bed at three, four in the morning, turned his back on her and fell asleep. She lay on her back, staring at the ceiling, her fingers brushing the cold cross, still searching, still looking.

I am loved.

By a man she couldn’t see? Couldn’t touch or feel or have a conversation with?

It wasn’t enough. Of course it wasn’t; she had tried so hard to convince herself it was, to tell herself that what she had with him was enough, but she would always have Him.

But as she stared at the slope of his neck, stared at the mark just under his ear and the ruffled, dark hair, she knew one of them would have to break it, for both their sake’s. She wanted excitement, and fun, and she wanted to be loved. More than anything, she wanted to say I love you and hear someone say it back, and not just as an automatic response.

Walking away would throw her into the unknown. As things were – not perfect, not right and nowhere near happy – it was easy. She had someone to come home to, had someone she could tell about her day even if he wasn’t listening.

And if she walked away, she would just be proving her parents right.

Her back stiffened, as he pushed away from the computer and spun around, a big smile on his face. His eyes were framed by lashes longer than hers, his eyes a beautiful shade of brown. She had loved him. The face that looked at her was the face of the man she had fallen for, hard.

The feelings were gone, but how was she supposed to turn her back on them completely? On him?

“Film’s finished downloading,” he announced, and she was struck by how different he seemed, now his face wasn’t reflecting the light of the screen. “Want me to hook it up to the Blu-Ray?”

The smile came easily, for the first time in God knew how long. He was safe. And despite everything, she liked safe.

“Sure.”

Two Months Later

Everything crumpled around him. For a second, he thought the walls were actually falling, actually wrenching themselves apart. But when the image disappeared, the walls were still there. She wasn’t.

His heart thumped in his chest as he moved to the kitchen. The flat had seemed huge when they first brought it, with a spare room they had turned into a study and a giant living room. It had seemed to shrink over the last couple of years, but now it seemed too big. He yanked open the fridge, eyes roaming over the food there.

There was a take away box with soup in it. A post-it stuck on the top read more in the freezer. He looked in other appliance, hands shaking as he surveyed the boxes there.

How long had she been planning it?

Slowly, he drew in a breath. In through his mouth, out his nose. Once, twice, three…

He stumbled back, falling into a chair at the kitchen table. His hand went to his head, and as it moved he suddenly had the image of her hand, her delicate, long fingers brushing against her cross.

There was someone else.

There had to be!

He was shaking as he stared around, wondering what to do. His friends, the people he could spend hours talking to, lived too far away. The US, Australia, various places in Asia.

His fingers tingled as he brought his hand down, itching to move swiftly across his keyboard, to click his mouse. A game. Maybe that was what he needed; he needed to play a game, to log on, to lose himself.

Scrambling from the chair he lumbered through the hallway, before finding himself stumbling towards the chair. He wrenched it out from the desk, sinking into it before turning to the computer. Moments later, he was watching the bar load up as the game connected.

The moments ticked by.

I’m leaving, Brandon. I can’t do it anymore.

I don’t love you, and you don’t love me.

She had been wrong, he was sure of it. Love wasn’t something you could define easily, he knew that much. But surely what they had – the ease, the comfortableness – was love? What else was there supposed to be?

Maybe she just needed time, he thought. Maybe, after a few days with her parents and being made to traipse back and forth to that building where they spoke to their invisible man, she would realise how much she really needed him.

As they always did, his fingers moved quickly. They knew without his eyes looking where everything was, knew with the magic of muscle memory exactly what to do.

The chat box popped up.

Wondered where u were.

C’mon man! We need you!

His eyes flickered from the box to the middle of the screen, before he typed a response.

She’s left me.

Who?

My girlfriend.

Oh, that sucks. Got a new mission coming up if you fancy it.

He stared at the screen, his mouth feeling strangely dry.

Sometimes, just sometimes, he grew bored of the game. When that happened, he would watch a film with her, or talk to her, or they would just sit in their bed and read together.

When had they last done any of that, though?

He had downloaded the new game just a couple of weeks ago (or was it months?) and it had taken up all of his time. But she understood that, she always did. She had been there when every new game had come out, had got on with her own life while he lost himself in discovering a new world and new characters with old friends.

Friends whose response to his girlfriend leaving was just Got a new mission.

The next words that popped up surprised him and, what struck him even more, it was a private message.

For his eyes only.

How long were you two going out

He didn’t recognise the name, but responded any way, grasping at any chance to pour out his heart.

A few years. He struggled to remember the exact time. She had always been good at that. In his mind, he reached for something – a number – that would stand out to him, that would make him remember. But he couldn’t.

That sucks. Sorry. You not got any mates you could hang out with?

He glanced at the name. Messenger632. With a shrug, he replied.

Not here.

You away from home or something?

I guess. Home. That small town where his parents lived. No, the city he had moved to when he was eighteen. Scrap that – the flat he was in now?

Brandon frowned. Home.

Yeah, I’m away from home.

When did she go?

An hour ago. He thought. It could have been longer. He really had no idea. Closing his eyes, he leant back. The strong smell of her perfume filled the room, like it usually did when she walked in during a game. His eyes snapped open, but she wasn’t there.

Of course she wasn’t.

It seemed pretty final, he typed. He watched the words across the bottom; messenger632 is currently typing.

You really love her?

Yes. The answer required no thought; of course he did. He frowned at the screen. It seemed an odd question to ask, anyway. Coming from a stranger.

Plenty more fish in the sea. Chin up – maybe it’s for the best.

Messenger632 logged off, leaving Brandon staring at the screen. He shook his head, before focusing on the game at hand.

His friends were waiting for him; they needed him.

And they needed him to focus. He pushed thoughts of her out of his head, before plunging into the world at his fingertips.



{November 20, 2012}   Staying Inspired During NaNoWriMo

Days 1 – 7

It’s day 20 of NaNoWriMo, and I expect many are beginning to feel the pressure. After all, there are only ten days to go, and if you’re slightly behind, there’s not that much longer to catch up. Considering I thought this would be my hardest year yet, I don’t think I’ve ever been this far ahead. Not at this point, anyway. I think it’s to do with the fact that I know I don’t have a lot of time to play catch-up, and also because my free time, for the first time in what feels like forever, is really my free time. I don’t have homework, I’m not working until 8PM like I was in my gap year, and I don’t have essays and assessments due like every November for the last three years. Also, unlike while I was at University, I’m not feeling guilty for not doing something course related whenever I work on the novel.

The last few years, I’ve waited until December to start uploading the NaNoWriMo novel, but this year I’ve decided to upload two chapters every weekend. This is mainly because this year’s novel is a lot more jumpy than previous years, and I’m trying to fit a lot more in. Because of this, I wanted to get feedback as I’m writing it, although I’m currently on chapter fourteen and I’ve only uploaded five chapters plus the prologue. Anyway, if you’re interested, you can read it here.

Outside Your Window is the story of Brandon, whose life revolves so much around his computer, his online life and games that his girlfriend leaves him. Seeking sympathy, he turns to his remaining friends – those involved in his current gaming obsession. One seems to have a sympathetic ear, but after chatting with ‘Messenger’, Brandon is sucked out of his life and thrown into a new one.

I wanted a lot of freedom with this – I ended up writing about Brandon being sent to different moments in history, before being dropped in someone else’s body in the future. Then, well, he ends up in Wonderland. I mentioned previously how having a lot of scope helps me, especially because it means if I get bored, I can simply completely change the scenery. But I still have to push myself, as I can’t just stop mid-scene and put Brandon somewhere else, I have to flesh out the worlds he visits and I can’t simply use the same thing over and over again to get him to different places.  So, I hear you ask, what inspires me during November? Well, don’t fear, because that’s exactly what I’m going to talk about now.

Day 11 – Hungover. Day 12 – birthday. Day 14 – 1,440 words lost. Very upsetting. Day 15 – severely hungover.

Books

For any writer, reading is perhaps the biggest source of inspiration. This is no less true during November. I mentioned above how Wonderland features in Outside Your Window, and though some of that inspiration comes from the films, with the main character constantly comparing what he sees to both versions of Alice in Wonderland, it wouldn’t feature at all if it wasn’t for the book, and the fact that said book is in the public domain. It means I could take the core ideas and put my own twist on them (and yes, I have read the book). I started the month (and finished October) by reading The Shining, and along with some other horror that’s inspired me, too. I haven’t got to it yet but I intend to have a bit of horror thrown in there. Plus, there’s a random character called Danny, and The Overlook gets a mention when a playboy billionaire mentions spending much of his life in hotels.

Said playboy millionaire’s surname is Lancelot, inspired by, of course, the King Arthur stories. I considered for a second calling his company The Round Table or something similar, but actually ended up with Camelot Exiles, deciding it was just a bit more fitting. I have to admit though, part of the King Arthur inspiration came more from another take on the legend of the Holy Grail than just the story itself.

Musicals

I’ve also been listening to the Spamalot soundtrack a bit, on and off, while writing. Haven’t seen the musical, (unfortunately, I was off at Uni when it was on in Cardiff) but bloody hell do I want to. Especially after hearing it. Anyway, yeah, I don’t think I would have come up with Lancelot/Camelot Exiles if I hadn’t been listening to this a bit. On a similar yet somehow different note, there’s another soundtrack I’ve been listening to, pretty consistently. I love Les Miserables, I love the story, and there’s something about it that just puts me in a “Hell yeah I can do this!” mood. Okay, so they’re singing about revolution while I sit here typing, but still. One More Day is just as good motivation as Eye of the Tiger. (Which I am planning on putting on when I’m about 500 words from 50,000.)

Notable mentions; Footloose. What can I say, for some reason I write just a tad faster with a decent 80s beat behind me. Also, Glee. Especially the songs that are all about reaching for your dreams and just doing what it takes to get there because if there’s any show that beats all overs in terms of cheesiness for that theme, it’sGlee. It just gets me writing, okay? Please save the judgement.

The Screen

I decided I haven’t actually watched enough films recently to have a whole section for them, but the two I have seen in the last few weeks – Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Halloween and Resistance on Saturday – have added a little something. Like I said, in relation to the first, I’m thinking of adding a little bit of horror into the mix. Actually, I was going to have the Mad Hatter to turn out to be a serial killer, but decided on a bigger role for him.

Resistance is a Welsh film (though English language) set in WWII. It’s a better book than film but it’s a good story, even if the film was a bit flat (thinking of posting about that shortly). Anyway, watching it reminded me of the book and the way the story just drew me in. And, again, the whole World War Two setting of it, plus the fact that it’s sort of alternative reality, have added to my inspiration.

Now, for the biggest one. TV. Anyone who has seen Once Upon A Time will probably pick up on where I got a lot of the jumping through worlds inspiration from, especially in terms of a certain hatter. Though, again, I’ve tried to keep that away from the TV show. Still, Once Upon A Time manages to tell loads of different stories in loads of different places and it does it well. Plus, well, the female characters just kick ass and I guess that, in part, inspired part of Candice’s character. Or what I hope to achieve with her character, anyway.

I just couldn’t resist.

Of course, there’s also American Horror Story. It’s a show I really love, and along with The Shining, it’s going to be a huge influence on some of the latter parts of the novel. If I get to that before the 50,000 words run out, anyway. (If not, then the novel will be a lot longer than I expected.) If you’ve seen the show – either series one or two – then you’ll understand. To me, it’s a brilliant retelling of some of the cliché horror stories. The second series seems to take inspiration from everywhere, involving (spoilers) aliens, slashers, demons/exorcism, and more.

Put it all together, and, basically, you can see where the whole jumping through time and space idea came from.

Among these, you could also include Supernatural (TV), Revolution (TV), A Song of Ice and Fire (books), 80s music, Alkaline Trio, Billy Talent, many other bands and songs, and real life experiences, plus, most likely, a few others that aren’t getting a mention here.

So, there you have it, a quick run down of things keeping me inspired (and, admittedly, sane) throughout the month of November. What about you? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo? What inspires you, either in or out of this month?

(As a side-note, this post is only about 200 less words than what I’ve written for NaNoWriMo today. Maybe I should have spent more time on that rather than this, but I haven’t updated in a while so figured I’d better let people know I am still alive.)



{November 10, 2012}   My Personal Dream Team

It’s old news by now, but with Disney’s recent purchase of LucasFilms, comes the prospect of Episode VII of Star Wars. Some people seem to be pretty scared by the fact, while others are excited. I am, without a doubt, the former. I love Disney, and in recent years my love has only grown. The Avengers was, to me, a great film, and I’ve been very much enjoying Once Upon A Time. I  feel like I can get excited by Star Wars, and I think it is safe in Disney’s hands. Plus, well, the memes doing the round have been pretty good. The thing is, if there is going to be another trilogy, it needs to be in good hands, and I’m talking about individuals here and not just Disney. I don’t know enough about the extended universe to comment on plot or story, or theorise on which direction they take it in. I have only seen the original trilogy. I, as of about an hour ago, have a life-size cardboard cut-out of Yoda, with my brother’s face on it, as an early birthday present. (I had already started writing this before he gave it to me.) By life-size, I mean it’s the same size as Yoda. So, no, I am not a huge Star Wars geek.

What I am, however, is a huge fan of almost anything that mixes the old with the new. By this, I mean TV shows and films that have good old-fashioned adventure with a touch of sci-fi future. Which brings to the first person I thought of when my mate in work told me about Disney’s Star Wars future.

I’m just going to go ahead and assume most people were thinking of the same person.

Star Wars is little more than a Western set in space. I love the idea that all American films are, essentially, Westerns, but that’s a topic for a whole other blog post. Anyway, space western. Star Wars uses the traditions of that all American genre and transports it beyond the stars. It has the renegade cowboy, the heroic small-time kid and the high class woman in need of saving. I could go on, but it’s all standard stuff that pretty much everyone knows. So, kids, what other things have we seen on our screens in recent years that have the Western in space feel? Only, maybe they go a step further, make it even better by actually picking up Western settings and dumping them on planets, even having a very Han Solo character at the forefront of it all.

Who else better to work on the new and improved Star Wars than the guy who brought us Firefly?

 

You really don’t get more Western in space than this.

So, yeah, I really do think Joss Whedon would be a great choice for this project. If there’s anyone who can get the setting right, who can really infuse the Star Wars universe with that Western/Sci-Fi feeling, it’s him. And he did do a good job with The Avengers. Plus he clearly has the backing of the nerds and geeks, who love to fawn over anything that has his name attached. Not that anyone can blame them; he’s a guy who knows his genres, who knows the exact right tones to hit and how to hit them.

There is, however, one problem.

If he does take on Star Wars, expect to fall in love with one of the characters for the first half, only to have them needlessly killed off somewhere later on.

Now, the second name that would make me squeal with delight if it was ever attached to Star Wars….

Thing is, I do think it’s unlikely that this guy will be a part of the films, but if anyone is reading this, hear me out.

Eric Kripke created Supernatural, with the aim of making it ‘Star Wars in truck stop America’. Dean Winchester, especially, errs of the Han Solo side at times, and like the characters in Firefly, Dean and Sam sometimes have a very Western air to them, riding into town, saving the people and riding back out again. Not only that, but Kripke is great when it comes to family relationships. His characters struggle against brothers and fathers, find father figures in places outside their biological family, and fight hard for their kin. Although these films aren’t remakes (hopefully), the original trilogy does have the whole ‘father/son issues’ thing going on, and if there’s anyone who could, perhaps, explore that theme with a wider scope, if they carry it on, it’s Kripke.

Luke, Han and…Yoda?

The thing is, despite the fact that I love Supernatural, even wrote my dissertation on it including the whole ‘Star Wars’ quote, I didn’t really think of Kripke being involved in the Star Wars reboot (for lack of a better word). Not until this week, when I checked out his latest offering.

And about halfway in, it struck me.

Kripke should have some involvement. Hell, pair up Joss Whedon and Eric Kripke and watch the magic happen.

See, this week I checked out Revolution and, if you haven’t seen it already, here’s a quick low down.

So you say you want a Revolution…

One day, for no apparent reason, everything just stops working. Anything that is run by electricity, has a battery, is plugged in, it all just stops. Cars no longer run, planes fall from the skies and Militias take over the United States. Fifteen years after the blackout, and General Monroe looks for two brothers, Ben and Miles, believing they know someway to get the power back on.

Charlie, Ben’s daughter, looks like she could be a Winchester. Seriously, just look at her clothes and compare them to Dean. Anyway, apart from that, there’s a really nice sci-fi/fantasy feeling to the show. People use horses to get around, they hunt with bows and arrows as guns are banned, and know Google as simply ‘some computer thing’. It feels like Kripke took medieval fantasy and plunged it into the 21st Century. And it works. The fight scenes are amazing, with plenty of word clashes and men on horseback. Okay, so it’s far from the futuristic world of Star Wars, but if given the chance, I think Kripke could really do well with a sci-fi set in space. And just imagine those fight scenes with light sabers rather than swords.

I, personally, think it could work.

Plus, Kripke is really good with story lines, especially the epic battles between good and evil, as well as being brilliant at family relationships and stories on a smaller scale. Just think about it. Kripke and Whedon would make an epic team, both bringing something uniquely awesome to the franchise.

What about you? Any names that sprung to mind when you heard about Star Wars: Episode VII? Or, even, just people you would love to see involved?



et cetera