Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A Bucket of Coffee and some hope

  
         Hello again, welcome back to my rather sporadic installments of the life of a young Author. The title of this entry speaks volumes more than some of my earliest blog posts in that I've summed up everything I will say and more in those few words. I've returned to Britain, this would be the main reason for the lack of updates; I've also passed over my birthday with minimal pain, receiving some very unusual and amazing gifts, and also some thoughtful ones. Now I’m back on the war path to getting my work out there, earning some money and working on my languages (and catching up on the news).
            My last days in Lyon are a good place to start, let’s just say, I’d not do them over. The city itself is beautiful, certainly if you are looking for a city break and some inspiration, it’s the place to go; however, as the seasoned traveller knows, it’s not the place alone that is important, the people make the place. I left behind a lot of fond memories and some good Friends in France, and I’m sure it will not be the last I hear of them. The last night I spent in Lyon was passed with an amazing friend was passed out on the town and watching videos until sunrise, then messing around in a small park with a panoramic of the city at sunrise. Nothing I’ve done so far could beat that.
            I took the train to Paris, it was both an unpleasant ride and less than welcoming day, but I visited the
Pokémon centre under strict orders from my sister, so after waiting in the rain, witnessing a crash and a guy being hit by a taxi, I finally got in. The wait wasn’t completely unpleasant, there were many friendly people there, and having the language I felt right at home conversing with other fans, swapping and changing 3DS friend codes and stories. The rest of my trip consisted of accumulating my other best friends and visiting the main attractions of Paris, I met a fun chap from London on my second day, visiting the Eiffel Tower on foot, and by chance, the house of Japanese culture, which was exhibiting a great display of Evangelion swords and drawings. Sadly, although we tried, we didn’t have time to see everything. My final night was fabulous, having both of my best friends together for the first time and going out for a gorgeous meal and seeing the Eiffel tower all lit up.
            I was pleased to watch ‘A Young Doctor’s Notebook and other stories’ after such a long wait, which turned out to be well worth it. I’ve recently gotten my hands on a few pieces written by Mikhail Bulgakov, after hearing Daniel Radcliffe praise his works in an interview that I watched, I knew it was something I had to read. When I find time to read, you can count on a review from me, I certainly hope and expect not to be disappointed by this author.
            So the next question, is this young author writing? Yes, he, or rather, yes I am. Editing is a slow process, but it’s getting there, I’ve also tried collaborating on a new project with a friend of mine, though it’s still too early to say if we will have any success at this point.
            Finally, back to reality, I have a new computer on the way, it’s not my dream one, but it cost enough that I’m satisfied that it’s going to last me for another half a decade at least. I also hope that with this and my new, very reliable phone, that I’ll be ready to tackle marketing at last, something which I still have very little idea how to do. Sitting around with a coffee in one hand, two language on either arm of the chair and a laptop where it should be, let’s see if I can dig my way into public knowledge, rather than be underfoot. Remember to support your new writers, £5 for my book will support me while writing my next one and while studying at university!
Until next time, read, write, live.

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Sunday, 25 May 2014

Poetic and prose devices, by no means exhaustive but guaranteed to be useful

This week we will be rounding off this poetry session and I hope it has inspired and instructed you all well enough to create your own masterpieces, unlike the villanelle I shared with you all a few weeks back, which even after all this time needs deconstructing and fixing. I thought this week I could give you all a quick intro to poetic devices and concepts, for more advanced poets out there, looking for a challenge. So I will give a quick mention to anaphora, epiphora, assonance, caesura, metre, enjambment, heroic couplets, imagery, juxtaposition, internal rhyme and generally the rhyme.

            Most of these are fairly basic poetical devices that you would use all the time without knowing what you were doing, but no doubt some out there will ask, why should we know about these and are they really going to help? Well I will point out now, that after you have read this, any poem that you have written to date will no doubt contain one or two of these features; those who can use not only one but several, and integrate them well into a poem is a poet well on their way to being worth their salt.
So, starting on what feels like will be, but certainly is not even a fraction of what I know, my non-exhaustive list of poetic devices and their use or function in poetry.

1.      Anaphora, the repletion of words at the start of a line/sentence/clause, this is a good pace setter and good to draw emphasis to or away from a topic, you can see this in villanelles to a certain extent, but this is not anaphora.
2.      Epiphora, this is repetition at the end of your line/sentence/clause. This is better at slowing your pace, at least in my eyes, or at least regulating it. Poetry with plenty of end rhymes could contain this.
3.      Assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds in words which are in close proximity, too much assonance is annoying to read, if you’re going to do this, keep it classy and purposeful.
4.      Caesura, a pause in the middle of a line, this could range from a comma to a full stop. It is an effective device to stop your metre suddenly, change topic or direction, this is a powerful and difficulty device to manage well so do your reading before usage!
5.      Metre, possibly your most important device, this is the pace of your poem, you must remember to keep your pace pretty regular, unless there is purpose for breaking it. A regular pace usually works in iambs but will contain other devices such as dactyls, spondees, apapest and trochees, all of which you can look up and master in your own time, when out of practice I have to practice these. With metre remember, keep it regular, or be purposeful.
6.      Enjambment, this device is where you run your sentence on to the next line, it is good for repairing your metre and is used a lot in sound poetry, very often you can get away with it in sonnets, as I have done more than once.
7.      Heroic couplets, one of Shakespeare’s favourite devices, putting two lines that rhyme side by side, even if the poem has no regular rhyme scheme these two lines will stand out for this feature.
8.      Imagery, this is more advanced than it sounds, an image requires that you construct it, and in which way you portray it, then you need to consider if you will develop the image you have painstakingly pieced together or if you will tear it down or compare it against another. Remember, no one will pull a punch if your imagery is poor.
9.      Juxtaposition, the device of putting two contradicting words side-by-side, such as ‘a raucous silence’, perhaps a more advanced device to add to a beginner’s arsenal.
10.  Internal rhyme, where you make rhymes within a line, rather than only at the end. This creates an unusual rhythm that defines a lot of poems with a special metre.
11.  The general rhyme, which can have many branches again. This is a device that many poets prefer to omit because it is seen as ‘the standard’ of a poem. Many starting poets believe that all poetry must rhyme, whereas in fact countless poems do not rhyme at all. I personally love poems to rhyme as it gives me a sense of the poem’s direction, but I’m not averse to writing without them.

So this ends the whirlwind tour of devices, hopefully I’ve imparted some good advice to you all from my own experiences, and I look forward to reading you all later.
Until next time, read, write, live.

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Sunday, 18 May 2014

Let your verse be as free as your creativity

            Hello again everyone! Nearing the end of my time in France and I’ve been busier than ever with new and old projects. This and next week will contain the last of my poetry focused blog posts. Now I’ve explained two of the harder forms, leaving some other forms free to explore in the future, this week we will be hammering on the immeasurable form, or non-form we call free verse. This kind of poetry, as you may guess from its name cannot be approached like the last two forms so far.
            Free verse is one of the most recent forms of poetry, born as blank verse it evolved, coming to light as we know it today in the early 20th century. Most notable users of this form include John Milton and T.S. Eliot. The reason I, perhaps a little zealously claim that free verse is of the 20th century is because there is a clear cut evolution to blank verse. A short list, by no means exhaustive will be described this week, these forms include; concrete poetry, beat poetry, urban poetry, stream of consciousness and sound poetry.
            Concrete poetry focuses entirely on how a poem is displayed on a page, sometimes the words on the page can have a direct meaning on the poem, sometimes they have nearly no significance on the poem’s meaning, they are just there for display. It is a type of poetry which I, myself have only limited competence with, preferring more formal types of poetry.

            Beat poetry is much more international, born in New York in the 1940’s, reaching its height very quickly, even today it is still going strong. Beat poetry focuses again on the aesthetic usually set in the city, many poems in this category feel as though you are pounding the pavements in the city, remarking on things that you don’t usually remark on in everyday life.
Urban poetry is the umbrella of many forms of poetry that focus on the everyday, but this on its own would be boring. Urban poetry is especially good at the technique of ‘othering’ making the everyday seem foreign or alien so that we become familiar with them all over again, touching or smelling these things for the first time, twice or several times.
The stream of consciousness is another form of poetry that is regarded by many as a very hit and miss branch. This type of poetry permits no editing, if you want the real deal, quite simply you can combine this with any type of poem or none at all. To describe it bluntly, you start writing and let your mind take you away with the poem, stopping once your train of thought has ended – thus you have a completed poem, for better or for worse.

            The final branch of free verse I will mention, sound poetry, is the polar opposite of concrete poetry, its appearance on the page bears little or no significance, what is most important is the sound of the words and the image they conjure in the reader, or rather listener’s mind. At the moment this form of poetry seems to be in vogue.
            There are no rules to writing Free verse poetry, so I can’t really make too many practical suggestions in devices to include in your poetry. And by this point, if you have mastered the other mentioned forms then you should probably need no suggestions in this. I would suggest, two things however, some forms in urban poetry often are written in the first person, having an inwards commentary or addressing the reader, they can blur the line between poetry and prose very often. Remember though poetry that you become too emotionally attached to may often not reach it’s potential, it is important to measure passion with technique in poetry.

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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Villanelles, it’s all in the pace

Hello, bonjour à tous! This week I have a special treat for you all. I will be laying out how to write Villanelles, one of my favourite poetic forms to write. This was the last form I learned in the traditional method back in college, for me, I feel it’s one of the easiest forms to learn, because like the sonnet, it’s a flexible form, but at the same more rigid.
            Let’s get right into this one; Villanelles have been shrouded in literary mystery for a long time, it took theorists what seemed like an eternity to distinguish the origins of this form. Originally it was believed that Villanelles originated from the Villanella, a type of Italian and Spanish folk song, however scholars now agree that only one true villanelle was written during the Renaissance: a poem by the same title, penned by Frenchman Jean Passerat. Because the form was considered complex on the continent, its form remained unpopular until the 19th century. It finally became popular when Theodore de Banville took up writing the form. Since then many authors, including James Joyce have been writing them. This 19 lined form has been described as some as the ‘exquisite torture wrapped up in 19 lines’.
            So, where do we start in learning this poetic form? The Villanelle is built, literally built in my mind, from five tercets and a final quatrain. In each line one can have between 6-11 syllables, averaging about 8 per line. The first and last line of the first tercets are repeated alternatively on the last line of each tercets until the final quatrain, where the final two lines are used consecutively to round off the poem. In This form it is important to have the first and third lines of the tercets to have a strong rhyme scheme, half rhymes, or slant rhymes are possible but they may often not work work when in the last quatrain.
            Some key vocabulary:
Tercet: a three line paragraph in a poem.
Quatrain: a four line paragraph in a poem.
Half rhyme: A general term for a rhyme where the last syllable is not a strong rhyme in spelling but in sound or sight, or in some other way.
Slant Rhyme: alternative word for half rhyme but these specifically apply to technical features such as sound rhyme, eye rhymes.
            Villanelles may typically look like this:


For me this style of poetry comes naturally, but we must remember that the form you write your poem in will change on the subject and your aim, but that is another more integrated topic. The benefit of the Villanelle is a strong rhythm which rolls throughout the poem, its resolution repeated throughout but separated until it rushes together climaxing the poem. Today I’ll do something a little different from last time and use one of my own poems as an example:

 Broken Record

I am a record, broken of course
Never changing my tone, same note
By that needle, always so coarse.

I play Jazz, though nothing morose
I survived the jukebox but-
I am a record, broken of course

I’m even a grandparent, loose
Are my CD children, unhurt?
By that needle, always so coarse.

Though the dust settled only once
Will Rap or the robot end my lot?
I am a record, broken of course

They still listen, smiles toothless
Partying no more in the night light
By that needle, always so coarse.

I repeat lines like a river’s course,
I will always proudly put-
I am a record, broken of course
By that needle, always so coarse.


It is one of my older pieces which I still can’t fix, but everything I have highlighted is on show here. I discussed last week how free verse and sonnets could interact, making the sonnet popular today, with this form, there is no room to update, as I know it yet; it has a form, with free meter and rhythm, but the form cannot change and nor can the rhyme scheme. Interesting devices to combine with this form can include extended metaphors, similes, alliteration and allegory. This has been another quick-how to and history of poetry.
            Until next time, read, write, live.

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Sunday, 4 May 2014

Sonnet writing for dummies and the literally obsessed.

As promised I’m beginning my late contribution to NaPoWriMo, (I’m getting tired of writing it too), as I don’t have the time to write poetry, I’m going to pass on wisdom from someone who spent years learning how to write it, until I have time to work on poetry again. I’m going to structure these next few posts to save myself some worry about how to write them. Poetry in nature is something you need to learn the rules to create well, meaning effectively and artistically, but doing it this way, you destroy the art which you have sought to create; thus I will add, once you have learned to follow and reproduce these rules, for lack of a better term, you then destroy them, and thus art is born.
I would like to start off this explanation with a short history of the form we are going to approach. For me, learning the history of a poetic form is like learning the culture attached to a country and its language.
In the 13th century an Italian poet named Francesco Petrarch created the original poetic form, as we know now as a Petrarchan sonnet. It held the monopoly on this poetic form, as one of the most refined and romantic styles of poetry, thematic mostly on the idea of courtly love for a beautiful, unattainable lady for 300 years until it was brought over to Britain by Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey. Notable masters of this form include some of my favourite writers; Spenser, Sidney Sidney’s niece Mary Wroth and of course Shakespeare, who evolved the Petrarchan sonnet into the classic British Shakespearean sonnet. The main difference is in Shakespearean sonnets we deal less with love and more with comedy, notably Shakespeare ended many sonnets on a rhyming couplet, something never seen in Petrarch’s work. The sonnet is a form that has survived the ages because although rigid in how it must be constructed it has an adaptability that many formal poems have not. Among the best-known British writers of sonnets are John Donne, Milton, Wordsworth, W.H. Auden, and Dylan Thomas, all of whom I enjoy reading for examples of how it is done right.
Sonnets are formed in several ways, but usually the form can be seen as fourteen lines of iambic pentameter and a Volta, indicating a change in rhyme scheme in the last third of the poem.
Some key words:
Iamb: an iamb is a unit of sound
Iambic pentameter: five iambs, usually made up of two beats per iamb.
Syllable: a single unit of sound that is traditionally a vowel enclosed by consonants.
            Volta: a sudden change or revelation exclusively used with sonnets.

Rather than explain the rhyme scheme of sonnets, traditionally the last syllable taking the form of a,bb,a,a,,b,b,a c,d,c,d,c, or the c,d,e,c,d,e or in Shakespearian sonnets c.d.c.d,e,e etc, I will explain it with pictures:


Just one example of how many people would write the form, also showing again its versatility.
            I would suggest all those who are new to using the form to start from scratch and learn how to write a Petrarchan sonnet, including the theme of courtly love of an unobtainable woman before moving on to Shakespeare’s form. Everything beyond these two is down to universal interpretation, but they are where most people will start to learn the form before breaking it with free verse.
            Incorporation of this form, or non-form to some, means that you no longer need to follow all the rules described so far. When you combine forms like this, the only thing that needs to be maintained is the number of lines and a Volta, the rest is down to your artistic interpretation.
            To finish off this rather long winded explanation, sonnets are considered as one of the most sophisticated forms, because when done traditionally they are exceptionally difficult to write well. Useful poetic devices that can be used in this form, which I will explain in a few weeks, include, end stopped lines, caesura, run on lines and metaphors.
            Until next time, read, write, live.

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Monday, 28 April 2014

Writing, self-expression or assertion of the state?

So, it’s been a while, I know my little corner has been as silent as the grave for a few weeks now. Many of you who were asking what will come next no doubt started what has happened. Well worry no longer, I’m back, though still sporadically. I chose to pass NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) developing my cultural and artistic pallet, rather than expressing it. In short, I went to the theatre a lot, researched a ton and experimented not just a little with my tastes and with cooking. In short, I’m not reborn, but things have been changing.
           
 So I suppose it seems only right to give you the highlights along with this week’s topic. I’ve been reading a well-known critic called Louis Althusser, though he wrote in French I’ve been reading his translated works, for ease mostly. He talks a lot about how we are controlled through repressive ideological apparatus, which in a literal and figurative operate through violent repression, and also ideological apparatus, which do not function as a union, thus cannot repress violently, but the state (as in government) use political, religious, family, or even educational sources to bend our way of thinking to what we believe is correct.
            So why do I include this quick detour in my blog? Because it sparked off some wonder in my mind whether we writers are writing for the people or if we are conforming to the ideological apparatus whether we are its product and are reproducing the message or if we are threatening it with our views, creating balance against its ‘brainwashing’.
I should add that I do not believe what we are taught in schools and by the church, in the most part is averse to becoming a good and moral human being, but whether it is by ideological oppression by the church or through capitalist segregation we certainly still have faults in society that we must target. I have been asking the big questions such as these lately, I’m still no closer to an answer in my own mind. As you write out there, I remind you all to reflect on the purpose of what you write and read, it all has a target; can you see it?
Let me share some less theoretically heavy stuff with you. I went to the theatre the other night (as I do most nights now) and I saw ‘metropolis’ a black and white, silent film directed by Fritz Lang. I’m not a big fan of cinema, but this film was worth a mention and some personal thoughts.
 In 1927, the year this film was first shown to the public, we were still in the glory of Western Europe’s industrial boom, class segregation was everywhere and the bourgeois business owners could even treat workers as commodities, not completely unlike the slave trade of the 19th century. There were some powerful images in this film, such as feeding the machines with humans, something I’m sure would have shocked back in the day, just as it horrified me. As for myself, I feel the director had no idea what it was like to really be on the other side of the fence, so to speak, that he had never gotten his hands dirty with the machinery, as the people operating the machinery were the stereotypical 2D characters. Nothing distinguished one from another other than their role, status and sex.
Still, I’m no film critic, I feel that I’ve profited from seeing it, even if it was not to my taste. I’ve also realised I’m a long way from understanding modern art, especially when it concerns dance. The most interesting dance that I attended was this week in fact, with a medieval theme, the couple clearly excelled in their profession. I imagine dancing in a corset cannot be comfortable, not in clothing that flaps around here and there. I felt they deserved their applause. The accompanying musicians were also commendable, two of the accompaniment were constantly switching between instruments I’ve not seen played before, mostly because they have fallen out of popularity hundreds of years ago as technology has developed.
I will be talking about how to write poetry for the next few weeks, so that I don’t miss out on NaPoWriMo, just because I didn’t do it in the month, does not mean I have to miss out on the fun.

Until next time, read write, live

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Saturday, 29 March 2014

A drop of heavy

 It’s been a full fortnight, which prevented me writing last week. Last week, I found myself back home in Britain, visiting for my father’s birthday. Subsequently my well laid-out plans to study were ruined when I fell ill. After a day in agony, and a quick visit to A&E, I had to spend the week recuperating at home. Thank the heavens for televised documentaries and light revision.
So, what did I do during this time you might wonder; well I found myself watching about an hour of daytime television, mostly the Kyle show. After this I would usually follow it up by a program I think was called, the treasures of Ancient Egypt, a three part documentary featuring the story of ancient Egypt from the origins of its art to the Roman and Greek conquests. I feel like I took a lot from the program, but perhaps nothing that I see myself writing about in the near future.
            I also indulged in things that I enjoy most of all, Japanese cuisine and culture. I watched many programs including ones like travels in Japan, and Japan cool. I picked up a lot of things I never knew about, such as washoku and umami; the idea of traditional Japanese cuisine, which reflects both a good diet and the seasons, and another sense of taste, in addition to sweet, sour, salty, sweet and bitter. It made me yearn to visit the country where I could try shaved ice from a generation’s old family run shop. I was sorry to leave home, especially since I knew the work that I was coming back to, not to mention I did not feel like I had much of a holiday, spending most of it ill.


         This week has been pretty standard, I went to my last Français Langue Etrangère class, this Monday coming is the exam. I went to Jitsu where I managed to beat myself up, Taekwondo finished off my arm, putting me off training again this week. A positive note to add to the week, I finally got around to doing some Spanish revision, and tonight I will be babysitting a couple of lively French kids.
            Life really does take over everything, for those of you who still have not noticed, for me, I only realised this fact here. I find myself incapable of doing all the things I want to do and all the things I need to do without compromise. Even writing a blog post means I’m not doing something else, or I’m multi-tasking.
            But that’s me digressing, this week I would like to bring your attention to a writer whose ability certainly highlights my inexperience, that’s Louisa Mullerworth. Her book and facebook page, can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLouisaMullerworth it’s well worth stopping by if only for a look. Her latest work, ‘Dying to Help’ releases June 18th, so pre-order your copy! My own book has finally reached Amazon, (link will be below), I hope we all go and check it out.
            For this week, I am out of time; I have too many things to do which prevent me filling pages for you to read. I hope next time to target something a little more technical, as we’ve just been following me around for the month. If we have any literary topics that anyone would be interested in hearing my thoughts on, or would like to talk more about topics I’ve already mentioned, leave me a comment or send me a message from the links below. Until next time, read, write, live.

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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Kicking back with the books


Half term ending today with exams to come Monday morning – because there’s no better day to have one of what will feel like an endless number of trails; and I can’t say I have much to show for all my ‘well-spent’ free time, other than many, many completed series of anime. Not all the time was wasted – which eases the welling guilt. I have made a good start into editing my next book, which I hope to approach publishers with soon, and I’ve taken a few bites out of revision, namely French and Japanese grammar; once again Spanish fights to get a look-in.
            It’s my father’s 50th next week, and I’ve had to devote a lot of time into choosing the right gift for him, especially as he’s a modest person who insists only a card is necessary. I’ll be flying back for the sole purpose of spending the day with him, (because I’m nice once in a while), I’m sure there will be plenty I can accomplish while away from my studies for a week too.
            On to business, I must say I’ve fallen out of the loop in reading since I finished Madam Bovary all those weeks ago, I’ve been buying manga in French and Japanese to improve my linguistic skills, but I will start on something a little more challenging in the next few weeks I suppose. I have however, started skimming through blogs for inspiration such as, probably my favourite poet around, Katy Evans-Bush at http://baroqueinhackney.com . After meeting her in Bangor last year (or so) I’ve enjoyed stopping by when I’ve had the time to keep up to date with her going’s on – which I do more frequently than watching the news, to put into context how isolated I can be. Every time I look at an experienced blog though, I see how it’s certainly a good thing to look to your seniors for advice and example.

Naturally being on Erasmus has given me the opportunity to do everything I’ve not had time to do over the last decade, being in full-time education; however as people tell me, I can’t do ‘everything’ whatever that means, thought I would agree I can’t do ‘everything’ as well as I’d like, but I could say the same for French. Research time is on its way as well as exams and martial arts tests; as it all builds up, this should really be the proverbial kick up the behind I need to get things moving.

I am proud to say though, that I have not followed the stereotype of moving to a foreign land to eat, drink and party, though my sins do cover the first two. I found time to watch some television last night, something I do not do too often in France, due to the frustration factor, what I found was I have a taste for late night TV in France 4, discovering the singer GiedRé, who I imagine no one who reads me would know about. I found her songs and on stage comedy hilarious, to say the least, her sense of dark humour was enough to keep me glued to the screen to the end before watching the French adaption of Pirates of the Caribbean.
            The latest book, which I have the intention of getting my hands on when back in the UK is Zoë Skoulding’s ‘The Museum of Disappearing Sounds’, which can be bought at http://www.serenbooks.com/book/the-museum-of-disappearing-sounds/9781781720714 . As anyone who’s familiar with my work and life knows, I adore poetry, it’s what started me on this journey all those years ago, it’s also the first literary form that offered me a warm place to curl up and grow into the writer I am today; I particularly enjoy sound poetry, and those which carry a good rhythm. This is why this new collection sounds perfect for me. In fact, it’s through this poet (and lecturer’s) events that I’ve met a lot of international poets, most of which have really impressed me and inspired me not to give up on publishing my own collection one day. Though as in ‘Waiting for Godot’:
Vladimir. You should have been a poet.
Estragon. I was. (Gesture towards his rags.) Isn’t that obvious?
 

Yes, I’m a student and a writer, needless to say money isn’t abundant, but the work sure is.



            There are plenty of other things I’d like to do, like to read and of course write, but I have to sit down and take my studies and sales seriously at some point. I’ll be appearing in my local newspaper any day now the ‘Wrexham Leader’, okay it’s not a big bit of media but I think it suits me well really, the size and scope being modest but known. I do add in a shameless plea to support this new author (so I can release my second book) by buying a copy, or spreading the word.
            Right now, it’s gorgeous, at least for the Brits, in the south of France or Lyon, in between mid and North to some. And the last thing I want to do is stay indoors and study, but I can at least take comfort that I can tan while I work as I sit down to a cup of tea and some miso soup.

For this week, that’s me done and I hope to have another on time update next week, providing I have time. It has been my pleasure to update you all this week on an inside look at my world and interests. So until next time, Read, write, live.

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Monday, 3 March 2014

The Book is Done, So What’s Next?

So now that painful experience of writing, editing, rewriting, more writing, more editing, researching and submitting to publishers is all done, what is the next step to becoming a successful writer. At this juncture, I have to admit, without shame, that I have no idea, whatsoever. I do however, have a plan.
            Once back in Great Britain I hope to learn how to arrange some ‘meet an author’ nights. I would also like to work on getting some retailers to stock my books and to even get some media coverage for my finished masterpiece. I am however both stuck in a foreign country, with no one who specialises in arranging those things for me to do. I would like to point out, I write books, I don’t manage people who write them otherwise; I would have studied Business, not English.
            It perhaps is not so cool for someone who aims to be a future best seller to announce to the world that he (or she) is as lost as everyone else, but I would feel bad if I lied about it. Yes, writers too find themselves on the throne without bog roll sometimes too. However, while I’m worrying and planning on this side of the unknown; I’m working on things that I am good at too, that is, my next book.
            It should not be long now until I begin launching it through the virtual rocket (that is the internet) into the battered, paper encrusted walls, belonging to the editors (i.e. their inboxes) hoping that with the success of my first book, they will be more apt to receive my second. So, I leave you all at the end of another short update (as I’m hungry and have editing to get on with (unusually); I wonder what marketing strategies all the new writers have out there in getting the word out.

Until next time, Read, Write, Live

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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Fear of Ridicule is ridiculous.

As the title suggests, my blog for this week targets those writers who fear ridicule or criticism for what they want to write (or publish). It was this week when I had a friend, give me their reasons why they don’t write seriously despite having some, frankly, great ideas that I’d love to read personally. Their reason being that they feared ridicule for the plot; well what am I supposed to say? I have written, and am probably publishing a book that will offend and be criticised by thousands despite my good intentions to gender equality and neutralisation of religion, it’s a simple theory which I put forth, with many, more complicated ones within making up the story, but this is a quick read blog, for a deeper discussion leave a comment below.
            I would like to say to the world, particularly to anyone out there who can write, wants to, but cannot find the courage to do so; that the world you create on a page, so long as you justify everything in its context you cannot be ridiculed. That is to say, you can’t be criticised critically, of course there will be many who will make you a dart board for their opinions, as I expect and relish with my own work. I direct you, reader, to my post on fantasy writing, and the words of Terry Pratchett, one of many sources of wisdom for my work. All is fair in writing, so long as it has purpose and reason, that one is one of mine.
            I would like to, if I may, encourage writers to plan their works before writing, I remember many years ago now, meeting a Scottish amateur horror, writer, whose method it was to write with no plan; I’m all for streams of consciousness and letting your imagination guide you, but this leaves a lot of room for plot holes and means a lot of needless editing later on. For me it’s best to get emotional as you plan and detach yourself in either the second editing or final editing phase, to be kind to your editor in principle.
            For me and many who were born to write, the act is therapeutic; and act of completing one’s self, some of us were never meant to write and publish, those who do deserve saluting. It takes a lot of courage to subject yourself to the ravages of the critics and the world alike. Personally, I admire those who came before me and aspire to be as good as those who write better than me now and in the future. We all are born with a story, but not everyone has the ability to write it themselves. We have enough poets and writers, but that does not mean those who want it enough can’t find their place where there was thought to be none. It’s all uncharted waters in a continuum where nothing is original. So write, and find that missing part of yourselves on the blank page.
That will do for today. Now get to your desks, to your favourite armchair, or find a spot where you aren’t too squeezed and can have enough light to see the page and write/read good people.
Until next time, read, write, live.

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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Keeping up with the times

This week will be pretty short, I have been studying, training for an upcoming grading and working more on reading for university, in short, I’ve been swamped. This week I offer a reminder that everyone needs time to rest, no matter what the deadline, what the task, the aim, you cannot do your best if you don’t give yourself time to recover from the last battle.

            I’m very fortunate that I have office 2013, once I got my head around it, using it on the move eliminates a lot of bugs that plagued previous versions of word, though I did love office 2010. I still face on a daily basis the annoyance of my web pages not displaying properly, which I have no idea how to fix and of course the rest of the world giving me it’s worst.
            My book will no longer be released next week (the 19th) but on the first of March, for any of the Welsh population who may be following me, we know that this is St David’s day, appropriate in my opinion. So for the week, set yourself a goal (like me) and keep those increments small, those battles will all build up if you fight them all at once.

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Friday, 7 February 2014

Look back to remember why you’re going forwards

            Another week has gone by and therefore another post has been written, although in some hurry this week. Now I make a point to have my blog posts written well advance of when posting (especially if it’s a theoretical topic as they take some thinking about) but this one was last minute; this is because, this week I’ve felt worse than if I’d gone on holiday with a group of Germans. At the time it feels amazing, but the hangover isn’t something you want to talk about for a few years following. I’ve not been drinking, to clear that up, I’ve just been struck by a rather potent bout of influenza. However I’m nearly back to full strength again.
            This week I think it’s important to talk about how my mind has been able to look back over the last few years and realise all the efforts I’ve put into getting to where I am and how I could not have gotten here without having people I could depend on. Family, no matter how little you can see them and my friends, mostly the non-British ones have kept me on the straight and narrow in the course I’ve chosen; I suppose this means I’m dishing out a lot of Birthday presents for the next few years.
            I remember four years ago, when I started learning to write at a level that was not just considered childish fantasy; I began by learning poetry, reading different poets, different forms, and even over the last few years I’ve met many poets from around the world, much to my delight. Fiction has always been what I found hardest to write (or write well) but I’ve always wanted to go against what was natural to me and write fiction, after a few years, and many punctuation mistakes – that I still make all the time – I’m here with an editor cleaning up my multiple messes.
            So, in Eleven days from now, I hit the official launch date of my book, do I feel ready for the critics and those who misinterpret my work and disagree with me? No! But I made the commitment to start and finish this book, the edits and Nocturnal Press put their faith in it too, I suppose that means it was meant to be out there. Even now I’m working on another book (or few) to hopefully publish next year or so, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Until next time, I have a week of work to catch up on. So read, write, live.

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Friday, 31 January 2014

Writing Satire, Telling The World What Is Wrong

Satire is a long lived and converted art, that really only became a true art from thanks to the likes of Alexander Pope and the Romantic Poets and writers of the 17th and 18th centuries. It is something always under censure and even in present society it is still in effect every day, restricting what we say and hear.
            This form of writing has been around since not too long after the form of writing, used to express an opposing political opinion, which at one point could cost you your ears or fingers! It came to a head when censorship laws were passed to restrict the press. The centuries above are in my opinion the most fascinating time to see writers express their opinion that the world is ruled by morons and that things needed to change.
            Satire is the practice of criticizing a person or group of people, there are many ways a writer will go about doing this, which I will name three types for today and let you all experiment with them:
Caricature: used for the effect of exaggerating for comic and satiric effect one particular feature of the target, to achieve a grotesque or ridiculous effect. This type of satire mainly refers to drawings, rather than writing, but of course, blowing up something in literature works just as well.
“He was a large man, eating a burger, and the sweat that glistened from his pours formed greasy globs, as they slid down his fat face’.
Burlesque: No, it’s not what you think, this form of Satire involves a person who plays a specific social role, such as a musician who speaks like a politician.
‘In his grimy jeans, which drooped down to the floor and run-of-the-mill band t-shirt, he turned to the crowd “I would like to address the people down below, thank you for your patience, but we really cannot tell you the situation involving our music as it is regarded as top secret, however, what you may have heard from a certain website was unfortunately stolen by someone who does not agree with what we sing’.’ Though I would love a musician to say something like that on stage at a concert!
Irony: This is probably the most confused literary term, but here it is, the academic definition is when the real meaning of the words is different from (and opposite to) the literal meaning. Irony, unlike sarcasm, tends to be ambiguous, bringing two contrasting meanings into play. For example,
“I think that students shouldn’t be given money because all they do is read all day”. In a sense the sentence is considered ironical because working for students involves a lot of reading, and also most of the money a student is given is part of a loan which they will repay once working.
            These are your three types of satire to try out, and personally I think we should be writing more of it, however there are rules to writing good satire, not just knowing the theory. You must always keep in mind that you need to know what you’re talking about, or you’ll be no better than the cleaner saying they will be a millionaire one day, you must learn to never say sorry for your beliefs, if you’ve written it then it’s your view and that is okay! Finally you need to know that you will receive the same in return in greater and more painful portions, but no one smarts so much as a fool, so if you’re ashamed of something, don’t do it, it’s how to avoid being the subject of satire. Now go out there and tell the world what really bugs you the most, but be careful where you use it, or you may find yourself subject to censure!
As always you lovely people, read, write, live!

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Friday, 24 January 2014

The right conditions

This week I'm going to step out of my depth and talk about having the right environment in which to write; or rather, the right conditions to evoke the writing condition – yeah, not my best one-liner.
            I think it’s important for a writer to have their own space in which to write; personally, I've tried lots of different environments during my years of practising the art. I've found many work for me, generally they have all had a positive atmosphere, a surplus of coffee and have been laid out to encourage positivity. Now I know you’re asking, what is he talking about? Laid out to encourage positivity sounds a little far-fetched, I know, but it’s all to do with an ancient Chinese practice called feng shui. Which is literally the art of decorating in order to encourage good energy to flow in your surroundings, or at least that’s as much as I understand as a novice to the whole concept myself.
            I have made some progress in implementing it at home, my own room has a bonsai, which I call ‘leafy’ when it actually has leaves… My very basic approach is to keep a wide open space around my desk and a few of my writing charms at hand. I eventually lose myself in my rush. When I'm out and about, I obviously can’t change my surroundings too much, but the wide open spaces of good bars and cafés, typically symmetrical and full of life do more than enough for the writing buzz, especially when married with caffeine.
            Now I know, hold up a second, writing charms? I've never heard of them, what are they and why mention them now? Right? Well they’re something I've made up for myself, I'm no doubt the first, but I may well be a minority for all I know; there are all sorts of spiritual stones and such like, so why not play a trick on your mind and have objects that inspire you mean a little more than just a reminder, for me I have an earring, a necklace, a silver spoon, a pocket watch and a scarf as mine, I suppose my lamp would count, but I think I’d just not see the keyboard as well without it. Each of these things hold some significance to me, I didn't just go out and say hey I need a writing charm and this is pretty.
            I can’t really say the latter of these two topics of the day work for everyone, but I recommend arranging your working space is not something you want to be in and if out and about, then try to find somewhere that gives you all the feelings I've described here, or make sure their cappuccinos are at least worth the money you pay for them!
For now, that’s me out. Read, Write, Live.

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Friday, 17 January 2014

Filling in the gaps, or not!

When I found myself unable to find a relevant topic for this week’s blog post and decided now was the time to write about nothing in particular did this, rather clever, topic hit me squarely between the eyes. See what I did there? No? Look again. Still not sure? Then this week I’m talking about the dos and don’ts of fillers. Naturally we will start with the question of what is a filler, what is its use and the pros and cons of using them, when and where. Let’s do this.
            Fillers – are words or phrases inserted into a sentence which have no use other than to make the sentence flowery, or add a little more detail. They are much more common in full length novels and older works, but you will rarely see them in fast-paced novellas or thrillers.
Fillers are used in a whole variety of ways to give your reader time to immerse themselves in your scene from more than just the passer by point of view. Even in language we use terms, such as ‘like’, and ‘y’know’, all used in a way that does not convey their inherent meaning; but these examples only apply to oral language, great for when you want to write speech, but not literature around it.
In a simple sentence you may often see a filler in between two commas, for example ‘Mike’s ball, which was red, flew out of the park with a single swing of his leg’. The filler here being ‘which was red’ it isn’t essential to our understanding of events, but also ‘single’ it was not essential to the clause either.  For those who have studied English at a higher level, it’s all a case of –spot that non-essential clause.
Moving on, we now know what a filler is and why we use it, now when and how to use them, that is their pros and cons are our next focus. Fillers are really useful in chapters where you, as the writer, want to slow down the pace of the story and give the reader time to catch up with evens and deliver some more complex information. The idea of sentences including fillers is, that they are rarely contained to what we call ‘simple sentences’ that is a sentence with one verb and one noun, not strictly true, but it’s less common.
            If you want to write good action, or good horror, that leaves the reader reeling from every blow you inflict, and each limb you sever, you must remember the golden rule of these genres and scenes. Simple sentences win. Your aim in these scenes is to contain any action to a simple sentence for maximum speed and impact, that way you are able to reflect on events later in each gruesome detail; we will talk more about these genres another time.
Final note on this topic, do not abuse the filler, and avoid overuse like the plague. Common filler errors; unless you write in an older style, eliminate 90% of the words like, seemed and was. If it is like something, then show it, nothing ‘seems’ like something, it is or it is not! And was is too passive, make things active. More on some of these again another day
Until next time; read, write live.

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Friday, 10 January 2014

An Author on the Edge

So for the last few weeks now I’ve been either giving advice or pushing out some motivational words in the hopes that someone who started off this year like I did, will finish it in kind of the same manner. Today, I am not going to do either of these things.
There remains about a month until my first book, ‘Mr Locke’s Diary’, becomes available for those of you out there who are interested to buy can finally do so. I don’t know your individual interest levels in this, but let me say that I’m sweating pretty hard right now! I’ve learned a writer not only suffers for their art, but their art does a pretty good job of rounding off the experience on its way to the public. I don’t doubt the quality of my work, as many painstaking hours have gone into preparing it for its maiden voyage, but I, like any chef or parent out there fear its rejection.
This, I suppose, after the dreaming, planning, editing, begging, publicising, cover art designing, more editing, more campaigning and dreaming and once again editing we arrive at publishing. The last step is no less difficult than all the previous steps, even if it is the goal.
Of course, anyone who is serious about this line of work knows the writer’s job does NOT end at this last step, your role just shifts slightly to marketing. If you have been good you’ve already amassed online followers, blogged regularly and talked avidly about your achievement since you first signed that contract. I think I would score well on my effort. When I first found out that I was being taken on, I wasn’t sure, in honesty, if it was my friend or I who was the most excited, either way I found myself pinned to the ground in a hug as we were both shouting for joy.
Now I’m at my desk, checking, rechecking, getting myself out there (and sometimes I’m actually doing University work) all in preparation for my and my book’s futures. I’m still as elated as that first day, because after many reasonless rejection letters, I will soon be in print.
I suppose two words of advice to round off this mostly intimate talk; a rejection letter doesn’t always mean you’re a bad writer, it just means, ‘we have enough people’ or ‘it’s not what we’re interested in’; and secondly, you can always benefit from having a friend on hand for the tears and to pop open the champagne.
Until next time, read, write, live.
Ciao
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