Category Archives: 2015

2015 – My review

2015 – My Review

Hello Dear Reader

Well 2015 has now passed and often people reflect on their year, a personal review you might say. I am no different than millions of others, so beware spoilers ahead. (Well for time travellers at least).

2015 has, just like many other years, been filled with ups and downs across the board. It is often thought that the downs tend to come to the fore at this point and yes there were a few scary moments. It has not been the best of times but things did pick up towards the close. One of the up’s was the pleasure of seeing Michael Palin live talking about his dairies and what he wrote about. It did make me think and yes write a blog about them. Maybe more people need to remember what a dairy is all about. Another odd good moment was a trip down memory lane to the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool and yes sitting watching a lot of people waltzing around the floor. Of course there were many other good moments most of which ended up in a blog or two. I also added to my list of achievements two presentations, one for the Keele Creative writing society which I was extremely proud. Add to this a very interesting trip to Buckingham Palace, one of the afternoon BBC Proms and an evening meal surrounded by most of the cast and writers of Sherlock. Now that was different.

Normally in the past I have reviewed a few good films, so why spoil a good format!

There have been a number of blockbusters yet again and surprisingly the best was saved for last (I am sure you can guess). Here are my top films (in no order whatsoever );

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Man From U.N.C.L.E

Ant-Man

Jurassic World

Spectre

Minions

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Of course they are all action based adventure films and the ones I saw at the cinema. There were a few I missed, noticeably Steve Jobs, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Martian and a few more.  It seemed as if each movie, for me, kept on building towards one of the best kept secrets of 2015. In this day it was surprising to find that there was little real information about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Man from UNCLE started a short series of spy movies this year, along with Bridge of Spies and Spectre. The latest James Bond movie, rounded what was a very well put together story and left at least one person with a dilemma. If you wish to read my review on this film here is the link; Spectre. The Man from UNCLE was good in the sense to tried to explain the origins of the lead characters. Will there be a squeal? Bridge of Spies was one of those films I missed which was a shame, but there is always rental.

In keeping with the past few years, hard to think there was a time before them, we had the latest two Marvel films. Ant-Man introduced us to the smallest of Marvel’s characters, while the Avengers (still no Steed) came back to battle their own demons. Both films gave us more to enjoy in this growing universe, well at least to the non-comic reading part. Again I enjoyed them for differing reasons; Ant-Man was more of a comic feel, the humour fitted well as did the story. It is always difficult to present a 60s or 70s comic version so taking the best from the whole comic range seems Marvels plan. Age of Ultron on the other hand showed that sometimes it is best not to mess about with alien technology. It will lead into a series of films that could tear the audience apart.

Minions, cute, yellow, strangely understandable at times and one of those hits that was not meant to be. Why? Well they were sort of supporting characters (even in animation) that just took off. There first movie and who knows what else will turn up, was funny predictable and ok. Also returning was the Park, Jurassic one, remember that? It was a major hit of the summer and well worth it. It combined the old with new, basically the Park opened as Hammond always wanted and of course someone decided to play God and well guess the rest. Another good escape.

So finally the film of the year. You can’t argue with facts and figures, not these. Even before the film had been shown it was breaking, cinema servers and records. I have not reviewed this film as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. However I did post just one word after I watched it … Emotional. It was all that everyone has said. It did take me back and yet did not reboot as many thought. It moved forward in a logical fanshion. The sets where real, the characters believable, the effects better, the story fine, yes there might be the odd plot hole but sometimes, just sometimes you have suspend everything. It was one of the few movies I could have just sat through a second time without moving. I did in fact see it twice already and plan to see it again given the chance. Many people tend to want to find problems with any film they see, I myself see plot mistakes – take IronMan 3. However, I don’t believe in just denocensing a film just because it does not explain where character A cane from.

So what else has happened that was memorable? A number of things really including having one of my poems published in the first Keele Creative Writing anthology. Completing my first book, which is due to be published in 2016, was a major achievement. That for me, is a goal I have slowly pushed for. It won’t be to everyone’s taste and I doubt it will gain me anything other than self pride. I will be able to say  not only have I written a book but it’s a published one.

Writing has been one of the more enjoyable outlets over the past few years. I have published more blogs in 2015 than before and branched out into posting photographs and a small video. I do plan on producing another short video in 2016.

To close then. 2015 another year to talk about.

Roll on 2016.

Tagline:’Are we there yet?’

 

Sporting Rant … Part 2

Hello Dear Reader

Sporting Rant … Part 2

Well it’s happened again. Sometime ago I wrote a small blog on the loss of sports from the BBC (free-to-air without ads I may add) to either subscription services (pay) or ad related channels.

It appears that after many years back on BBC, F1 has once more been sacrificed due to money. This time, because of outside forces who will all know, the BBC has had to let F1 go. This time it is with another advert laden channel.

Now, they have made claims much like the last lot, that the race will be ad free. I have my doubts, in fact I doubt they understand F1. It is annoying to see good sports disappear like this no matter how good the other side say they will be.

It happened at other times and funny enough not just to sports. Take the Goodies (odd I know) but they went from the BBC to ITV and lasted well not long sadly.

There is not a lot one person can do except to at least voice my concerns. This is not just about F1 now, this is about the careful dismantling of a British icon. Just remember this when you have to start paying to watch anything.

Sadly, F1 will go back a few steps. Maybe it’s time to find another sport before it is ruined as well.

Tagline: “Someone tell them the race started!”

Why do Writers … Present

Why do Writers …

Present

Hello Dear Reader

I recently had the honour to give a presentation to the Keele Creative Writing society on magazines. In my many years, I have given numerous presentations to a variety of people on a range of subjects. There have only been a few times when I felt really connected with the audience. Presenting to the KCWS was certainly one of them and it gave me a positive feeling. To stand up in front of any group of people takes more than just self-confidence. Not all writers can do this or in fact need or want to present.

So why do some writers put themselves at the mercy of such events? There are, of course, many responses to this question, many of which can be put down to the simple one of ‘my agent made me do it’. Now this does happen and in this media driven world, there is a huge demand both from the commercial side and the fan base, so long as your book has one. And here can be an interesting problem. Take the following fictitious example. The man in the café has been working on a new book, Matches of Seats. It is just about to become popular but before it does only a few people have read it. How then do you make something popular? By using social media and talking about your book or more to the point, the world you have created. Now starts the game of how to get readers to sell your book or sell your book to get readers.

You want to pitch not just to the agent who will attempt to sell your book but to the, at first niche fan base that might want to enter into your world. Matches of Seats has a number of streams it taps into, dragons, mythical worlds, blood, gore and soap operas on a grand scale. It can rise quickly if not quicker, if it becomes a television sensation. That may cause the writer to be in demand to talk about his book, so more presenting and less time writing. Each book takes time to write and there is that balance between promotion and creation.

There are however other forms of presentation. For myself, giving my presentation was both enjoyable and fulfilling as I was talking to very like-minded writers. It also gave me the chance to talk about an article I had submitted to a magazine and how I had to think about what I was writing. Many writers share their knowledge through their books this way, you need this, otherwise how will others become engaged both in reading and writing. It is difficult, I can imagine, these days to become popular and remain away from the social network.

In the café we find our writer pondering what possible success could bring him. Fame? Money? Maybe the pressure of another successful novel? Success breeds success or so they say. So why did it take one writer nearly 50 years to publish another novel? Others just keep on publishing book after book without what appears a moments breath. It certainly is a diverse universe writers live in not just in what they write, why they write but how they tell others.

As for me, well I certainly was glad of the chance to talk about my magazine article and in turn my book while hopefully giving others ideas.

Tagline: “Read the mag! It’s out in December!”

Why do Writers – Go Blank

Hello Dear Reader

Go Blank

In this third article of my short series (I have no clue how long it may run), I have decided to tackle a problem. Blankness. Some people do not think that writers have blocks, others know them only to well. Therefore, the first part of this is, do writers go blank.

parchment-memories-blank-paper

I have to say, from my own experiences the answer has to be yes. The mind is an amazingly complicated, it has to be given all it does. The phrase ‘My mind has gone blank’ can be misleading I would say. Parts of your mind can go blank, you can forget a person’s name or that cup of tea you were making. Sadly, there is the very destructive and heartbreaking conditions of dementia and alzheimer which strikes without a care. What I am looking at here is different.

Many times I have sat writing a blog or parts of my books and suddenly found I could not think of the next line, let alone a word. I had in effect, lost the path my story was taking. I could not see which way go and neither could my characters. Here is where it might sound strange. Many writers look to their characters to ‘tell them’ what they would do next. They believe that the characters are alive and in print they certainly can appear so. Some people consider the writer or author as the person who uncovers the story rather than telling it.

So who has the blank? The writer who can’t see or the character that can’t remember? Take the man in the café. He is, as always, sitting alone trying to write a simple paragraph to his novel. If we listen in, we can hear his dilemma.

“As my hero turns the corner he is faced with … I have no clue what he is faced with? I don’t know what sort of steam punk creature this will be? Is it a mechanical steam-driven robot or a man using a clockwork thing. And what sort of thing would it be?”

Clearly there are a few issues here. Some might say there should have been a plan about what the hero ran into next. Some would say, has he run into enough for the day? Either way, it’s a blank moment. Now the problem is how long do you stay put trying to work out what the thing is? Stay too long and you could become worried or panic and create a rust-bucket of a monster which falls apart at the first stare. If you skip over the problem and pretend he has beaten it, are you prepared to go back and rewrite what did not happen?

There are also the start-up blanks. These happen when you plan your day, ready to write pen held firmly, crisp white paper waiting for words. Then … nothing. No ideas or worse part ideas. You want to or need to write a new poem to complete a collection. There is nothing forth coming. Do you write random words in hope it generates the wisp of an idea or even a line of poetry? Tricky. There are exercises that helps free the brain and the mind or both. Writing random words may well allow you to clear that block. Using things like magnetic poetry words can work as well. You can even create your own version by simply writing lots of words on a piece of paper, cutting them up and randomly picking them from a tin or hat (purple in colour).

That might be enough to help you forget what it was that caused the block. What if you can’t even figure out what would make a good short story? Random words may help but you need something more concrete. Take our man again, he has decided to start a new short sci-fi story. The problem is what?

“A fresh start, new story, competition to enter. What shall I base it on? Robots, time-travel, the future? The competition is for a short 1000 word sci-fi story but they don’t say what sci-fi! My mind has gone blank.”

Actually, his mind is full of sci-fi he just can’t see the aliens from the robots. Which leads me to another form of blankness. It is not that you can’t write it’s just the subject is so vast. Help is at hand. One idea is to use a random subject generator. Here is what one might look like;

Number Period Number Style Number Style 2

1

Future

1

Robots

1

Aliens

2

Pre-historic

2

Space Travel

2

Derelict 

3

Modern

3

Time Travel

3

Planet

4

Post-nuclear

4

Aliens

4

Base

So what would you do. Well, very simple really, pick a number from 1 – 4 (or more if needed) from each of the three categories. Then check the table and see what it gives you as a start. This is not a new concept, it has been used in role-playing for many years. The old D-10 dice rolled in hope of something interesting for a character is very much still around. Even an electronic version can’t take away that fun element. You can also use this to help rid yourself of that annoying writers block. It might not be the best plan but then again it may just get you going again.

Our intrepid writer, sitting in the café, realises this could be his way out. It is not a block as such more a dilemma at this point. As I said, too many robots in his mind. As we join him once more, we can see how this exercise plays out…

“Ok, I have rolled the dice three times and drawn, 4,1,2. If I look that up what do I have. Post-nuclear, robots and a derelict. Derelict what? Is that all I need? Ah there is an idea. What about the last robot that comes to life years after a nuclear attack. It could become sentient and go in search of others. Brilliant!”

And so his writers block or confusion is gone. The outline of a new story has begun and our writer feels refreshed let alone relived. I am sure there will be other times writers go blank for no good reason. Most of the time, it’s how they get themselves out of that crazy maze trying to find the happy path of words. Some use exercises, some use music, some just sit staring into the empty reaches of space. Whatever it takes, the path is always there.

Tagline “I have no idea what to put here…”

Movie… Movie!

Hello Dear Reader and Film Fan

Movie …

This is a short blog to show a short video I made today.

Seems anyone can actual be a movie director, you just need a set, a plot and a camera. Having watched a few old episodes of the detective series Banacek, I decided to my version of the disappearing police box.

Enjoy !