Archives for category: Rambles

China sucks. I have tried so hard to like this place and I can say China & I just do not get along. I’ve been living in North East China, in a dump of city called Changchun. Its a shithole. Like seriously this place is just shitty all over. For 6 months of the year its winter with -15 celsius temperatures. It can drop down as low as -30c, which thankfully I haven’t had to endure this winter yet. Last week it got down as low as -28c. Now that is bitterly cold. In my local shop downstairs they remove the refrigerators, because, heck its minus 20 outside, who needs a fridge when the natural cold will do. Which is great for icy cold beers. But sucks for the people working in the shop.

The worst thing about winter here is hiding indoors. Granted I’m not the most out going or social person in the world, but I do like to have my fair share of fun! Its virtually impossible to go outdoors, cause there is nothing to do in this place. Its too cold for a walk. Its too cold to get a taxi 40 minutes into the city to walk around the dirty disgusting spit laden streets. There is nothing to do in the city except either shop at local markets, or go to the malls and spend your RMB there. That gets old pretty quickly.

So weekends are very boring, a lot of binge watching happens, catching up on all the series that have managed to slip under my radar. Hanging out with friends in their apartments in the compound that we live in is the normal now. Its a very tough place to live and I could not imagine spending my life as a foreigner in this place. Every holiday is planned to escape it here. W currently is living in Ho Chi Minh City, so whenever I get the time off I go visit him there for normality. Vietnam is awesome, the people, the food, the culture, the climate is all just the bees knees.

Its almost February, so just a few more months of winter time and when summer comes {Spring doesn’t happen here} its actually not so bad and you can move from outdoors to the outside which is a huge improvement.

So I posted this on Facebook, but kinda felt it belonged here too on WordPress. Just a miniature rant on how I feel like an old fart…

Last night I attended a talk given by John Green on his latest book The Fault in Our Stars. I like to think I’m pretty hip. Down with the kids and all that. I try to follow memes. I peruse Tumblr & Reddit. I even worship at the alter of Buzzfeed.

Well, I have never felt like such a middle aged biddy in my entire life.

The 900+ teenagers in attendance screamed and shouted their way through the entire talk. It was as if the Beatles themselves had taken to the stage. I was completely flabbergasted. There was even ‘in’ jokes between John Green and the 900 so-called ‘nerd fighters’. WHATS A NERD FIGHTER? Can I be one?

And who the hell was Hank? And why was he singing songs about molecules and what not? Was I even in the right place?

So needless to say for an hour I was completely lost. How has it come to this? When did I become THAT person? And how come I had more in common with the 50+ year old man who left at the same time as me? We both turned to each other, wild eyed and scarred and muttered something about ‘the youth of today’.

Oy vey.

2013 for me is my ‘year of change’. The past two years have been hard, I lost both my Grandparents who were effectively like my parents. Their deaths came as a surprise and I miss them dreadfully. Also the job front has been at a standstill. I’ve working for over 2 years as a part time library assistant. And funnily enough I’m tired on living on half wages.

So resolutions abound, I pledge for 2013 to:

1. Become a skinny ass mo’fo. I’ve said these for probably the last 15 years, but this year is shall happen for me. Goodbye unhealthy lifestyle. Hello fruit and veggies galore.

2. Get a full time job. This may require me to leave my area of librarianship. Which does sadden me as I’ve only just entered the field and had assumed it was a career path for life. But ultimately I will be employed full time by the end of the year. I have to be. I got bills to be paying, bitch. {Watching too much Breaking Bad will affect your vocab…}

3. Self publish my novel. If I could just edit the blasting thing I’d be flying. I’ve never been one to go over my work, it bores me. Or I just gawp at the thing for hours. But hopefully by the summer it’ll be gone and I can check this off the list.

4. Give up smoking. I only social smoke at the moment, having giving up smoking in September and doing remarkably well. Now the only time I’ll smoke is on a night out and would never have more than 5. But if I could just kick this habit, that would be brilliant. Its a shame the smoking area is the best area in the bar to meet awesome people.

5. Be open to new experiences/chances. This boils down to laziness. I do a lot of stuff by myself, so this shouldn’t bother me, I just need to man up and get over being a lazy ass bitch. Too many times I have feigned disinterest cause it would involve me having to leave the warm and comfortableness of my home to venture into the city to experience something fun. When I do go out of my comfort zones I always tend to have a brilliant night too! So man up!

Hopefully this will prove to be a fantastic new year and I hope that I can look back at the end of 2013 and be extremely happy with what I’ve accomplished.

Well, fingers crossed at least.

I’m having a little bit of difficulty at the moment. And of course it’s coming right as I write the last few thousand words of my novel. Typical.

I’ve pictured the ending of my novel for so bloody long now, that as I write it, I cannot for some reason or another write coherently, it’s all coming out as word vomit, and not the good kind either. I don’t know if it’s a case of my brain, saying, “Missy, just put all your ideas out here, then we’ll come back to it later” or if I’ve suddenly just become a goddamn awful writer. Some of the last few sections have been really good, and this vomit at the moment has just been, well, vomit.

It could also be a case of rushing. Although I don’t feel like I’m in a hurry. I’ve given myself a deadline of October 31st to finish writing Solace. This is not taking into account, time for edits, cover work etc. So I’ve still got a number of days ahead of me that will allow me plenty of time to work on the material at hand.

I think I’m just excited to be writing the final closing stages of the book. Because after this, well book 2 has been written for almost years. The majority of it, that is. And i’m itching to get started on that.

Obviously at times like this, it would be amazing to have an editor, to bounce ideas off. This is one of the harder parts of self publishing, the loneliness that accompanies your project. I haven’t established an online presence in relation to my writing, I’ve been so busy with the other side of things, that I thought leaving it until the novel was written would be a better decision. Now I’m slightly regretting it.

It also doesn’t help that the book you’re currently reading, the prose seems to be so effortless. Simple descriptions look like Joycean written passages. Goddamn.

What do you do to combat self doubts and bad writing?

Yesterday I went to the cinema to see Now is Good with three of my girlfriends. I’d read the book, differently titled, Before I Die by Jenny Downham last year as I traveled home from Spain. I remember crying sobbing my heart out on the airplane, the lady seated next to me giving me strange glances. My grandfather has passed away earlier that year from cancer, and the book and its characters rang true to me, so that as I sat there reading the book, thousands of feet in the sky, I felt my heart break again.
Watching the movie last night ripped all those feelings open again, this time my beloved grandmother had only passed away 4 months ago. Her death came as a shock to the family and to all those around her. I sat in the cinema, and let the tears stream down my face, I desperately wanted to open my mouth and wail, but it seemed too personal.

The row, which consisted of just my friends and myself, shook with our sobs. Our noses running, sniffling back the lumps of pure unadulterated sadness that encapsulated us all. As the final titles appeared on the screen, we all looked at each other and began to giggle. The sight of 4 grown women sobbing their hearts out to dying Dakota Fanning is quite a sight.

This post is also to remind me of the emotions that are attached to our characters. Yes we can create sad scenes, a break up, a death, a sad goodbye, but it is the characterization and the reality that make it so important. If we can identify with the character, we’ll follow them on their path, breathing their air, fighting their fights etc. As Oisin McGann said earlier in the month, we need our characters to be emphatic. This has never been more true than last night as we followed our brave heroine on her struggle with cancer and love.
Caution: A word of warning to those going to see the movie. Bring an entire book of kleenex. It’s unbelievably sad. This is my new notebook.

My personal life has become a tiny bit haphazard. Whereas nothing was happening up to 2 weeks ago, suddenly I’ve gotten myself a voluntary position that is out of this world and excites the hell out of me.

The new position means a lot more researching and trying to organize meetings and blah blah blah.

So I have cumulatively written next to nothing. Awesome. That novel of mine is just totally going to write itself.

So perhaps now is a good time to discuss Time Management cause I don’t have a notion…

Personally. I like to relax in the evenings after work. I like to check Facebook, float around the kitchen, catch up with the familia. That’s just a normal night. Then I’ll eventually sit down and write from 9pm to around 11pm. I think it’s something to do with winding down my brain and getting into that relaxed stage where I’m just about ready for bed, but not quite.

But then life interrupts, trips to the cinema, tea with friends, socializing at the weekend and thus being far too hungover to even contemplate writing. So I’m making the decision now. Right now goddammit.

To be a better person. To a} write more b} blog more & c} spend less of my weekends hungover. I really want to do this, I’ve been meaning for so long to finish this novel, that I just want it done, and ready to leave my brain. It trickles into my subconscious daily and lingers there waiting for it to be released. Naturally as a procrastinator I ignore it and leave it to fester. But fester no more.

Oy vey.

On Sunday I attended a workshop conducted by Oisin McGann, wearing a ‘Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel’ t-shirt. It was workshop for those interested in writing for children and it was absolutely phenomonal. I remember sitting there, scribbling notes and trying to take it all in, secretly wishing it was 3 hours longer. I haven’t met anyone like that before, who was able to dispense really good solid advice. Absolutely brilliant. AND it only cost €25 too! For 3 hours of brilliance. And it ran over by 30 minutes too.

I have reams and reams of notes that I took down from it, I apologize if this doesn’t necessarily flow well. I’ll do my best to make it as cohesive as possible.

Again, like the Independent Publishing seminar, we started off talking about the Cover – this is where it all starts. If you can attract your reader by having a fantastic cover, you’ve already won half the battle. The point of the cover is to attract them, then hopefully they will turn over and read the blurb on the book, then the 1st line on the page and so on and so forth.

The 3 crucial points to any good story are the  3 P’s: 

1. People – Characters/Life/Personality

2. Place – Setting/Location for the story

3. Problem – to make it interesting. It’s a challenge for your characters to overcome

The location and the people are linked. The location in some stories is a factor the main character, it’s the geography they know extremely well, they know the backstreets and alleyways, they know where to get a pizza at 5am. The problem could be, that the characters have suddenly been dropped into a territory that they aren’t familiar eg. Kid wakes up on Mars etc.

The thing with story telling is, we want to see our characters at their most extraordinary. We want to meet the characters on their most challenged day of their lives. Think Katniss on Reaping Day in the Hunger Games. Think of any of the Harry Potters.

Character:

We want a character that we can empathise with, someone with whom reawakens feelings and makes us care for them. We want to be concerned about our protagonists should something happen to them. For plot driven books, readers don’t empathise with the main characters, instead we focus our attentions on the plot around them which is driving rapidly forward.

In order to develop a character, and to make them human, look around at the people surrounding you. Take traits from them, such as the friend who sucks her thumb and twirls her hair when she gets tired, or the friend who makes awkward situations funny and brilliant by breaking the ice with terrible jokes. Look around you and insert real life situations from the people you’ve met.

Show don’ts tell. If a secondary character is nearby, get the main character to tell the secondary characters their feelings, rather than letting the main characters thoughts take over the scene. It becomes more human.

Place:

Keep the pace of the plot going, think of it almost as if there is a film crew following your main character through the room etc. Yet keep the description and action going. Observe  in real life, look at your environment and pick up on the little things that you’ve never noticed before. The environment is a very handy tool for plot development, it affects the behaviour of the character etc. However make it grounded, so that the environment feels real to the readers. This makes it relatable for the readers. Don’t delve into an imaginary world, leaving the readers bewildered.

Plot/Problem:

Pose a question….and then answer it. This is the stripped down version of how to write a story. Leave a trail of crumbs for your readers to follow by dropping hints and clues along the way.

There are 10 steps to a formulaic plot.  

1. Start off with a bang {a dramatic scene – heighten the emotions}.

2. Slow down, introduce characters and setting.

3. Establish the main problem.

4. Make a plan {Make the character involved in the action, if they stand back, they will be less involved and the story won’t be interesting}.

5. The plan goes wrong.

6. Have to improvise.

7. Will they succeed?

8. All is about to be lost!

9. They succeed! Or Fail!

10. Wrap it up. The readers should want more, but be glad that it is resolved.

And that wrapped up the workshop. Oisin then went over a little bit on cover writing, advances, the market etc. It was fantastic and I left with a big grin on my face. If you get the opportunity and want to write for children, I highly recommend any workshop he conducts in the near future.

Phew. I suppose I should get back to writing now! Make my own stamp on the YA world.

 

There are 120 days left until my December 31st deadline. This weekend was a complete right off, primarily due to the fact that the Navy was in town. Now being a single girl, the sight of a man in uniform, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Black suits, with gold strips signifiying their rank, and the hats, oh lord, those hats. White with peaked black tips. Every single girl that came across them instantly accosted them and got a picture with the Officer and then with the hat.

I stalked a group of Officers up to Bankers and spent 2 hours learning about the Navy. It was fascinating. And, oh my word, they were all so polite and so nice. I don’t think I’ve meet men like that who were just raised really well and just lovely. You certainly don’t get them in large groups like that here in Ireland.

Swoon.

They leave tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn and its going to be a sad affair. My favourite comment of the night belonged to an Officer. I commented on the fact that the US Naval Academy had lost to Notre Dame {pretty badly too} at the Aviva earlier on that day. The officer, took a sip of his beer and looked me dead in the eyes. “Yeah, well we killed Osama.”

I loved his comment. It was part a} douchebag & b} amazing. I think I laughed in his face and walked off.

Now I just need to find a naval officer to marry and sweep me off my feet a la Richard Gere in an Officer & a Gentleman. Below, me and one of the many officers.

Image

 Yesterday I downloaded a free trial of Scrivener to try out. It’s a tool that used by most writers and features handy little things like cork boards, so each chapter or section is displayed with a little synopsis running underneath. Another feature I like is you can import all your research into another section, long are the days of miscellaneous folders gone, and instead, this new all in one section folder, makes researching interesting and companionable to piece you are writing.

I’m so used to writing in Word, that it will take some time for me to get used to it. I do have to admit that having all your documents in one place, and one that is easy to flip through is a major selling point. Once the trial is up, in 30 days time, I’ll see how much it has changed my way of writing and decide whether or not to purchase it. I also highly recommend watching the tutorial’s as well. I would have been absolutely lost without them. My eyes just tend to glaze over at the thought of reading long instructive paragraphs on, well, instructions.

Also downloaded last night was Apple’s Mountain Lion. Again a few tutorial were glazed over/watched before I fully appreciated what I had just bought. I do like the notification system though, that’s pretty awesome.

Yesterday I booked a place for Writing for Children Workshop at the Mountain to the Sea festival next weekend {Sunday 9th Sept}. A 3 hour workshop with Oisin McGann, should deliver some insight into how to write for children/teens. Its been a number of years since I was one, but then again I do live in a household of 2 almost-teens.

I’m also attending Independent Publishing Seminar on Saturday 8th September, with the hopes of learning some more knowledge about the route of self publication. I’ve lately been reading Catherine Ryan Howards fantastic blog on her journey of self publication and it’s been extremely informative. I can’t wait to hear what else she has to say about the topic.

Should be an interesting weekend over all!