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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?’

 

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…”

Why do Writers …

Hello Dear Reader

Write Alone?

After my first article about why do writers write, I decide to ask another question of both myself and others. I know what makes me write, but why do I and others write alone? What is the joy and pain of sitting without contact for hours on end. But is that the real case?

Most times, a writer creates their own worlds, characters and more. In order to write you have to sometimes forget the real world to enter your own ‘real’ world. This is where a writer is often never alone, sometimes lost mind you, more so than in the real world. No matter how short or long the work is, there is a world of sorts. Each piece has a doorway to allow both writer and reader to enter.

This in itself is its own world. Although this is a work of fact, I am imagining what many other writers might be doing. To do this, I have to create my own world and populate it with what? Straight away I can be creative, take the writer who once more is sitting in the café. He is surrounded by people, yet is sitting alone. As soon as he opens that document, be it on a computer or paper, he can either enter an on old world or create something new. Therefore in theory he is not alone. Yet to be alone in the real world allows a writer to use those around him to create the imaginary world. Sounds like a migraine I can tell.

Writing alone means you are in control of what you create up to a point. Why? Again I guess it goes back to what a writer is trying to write. I, for example, once wrote a poem about a girl on a train station platform. She was sitting alone on the floor in a doorway trying to be unseen or so I decided. You see, I saw alone in my thoughts about the poem yet not alone with others who I was travelling with. The girl was alone and I created in my poem my view.

Sometimes, you have to write with another person, say on a script for a film or television show. To do that the group have to agree the world, the boundaries and parameters. Writing with others for me, means having some control taken away. You could not suddenly introduce a fire-breathing dragon into Victorian period drama, unless it was sci-fi. There are always exceptions of course. Authors do work with others one example is Clive Cussler who with others has produced a huge range of adventure novels. I often wondered what it would feel like to try to write a story in someone else’s universe. In order to do that I would imagine you have to understand the said universe in detail, even better than the originator. How would they feel if you found something new in their favourite character? Should you even try? Take one iconic figure, James Bond as penned by Ian Fleming. He did give some details about Bond, how he acted, his job and some of his character. Now we have new books written by others, should they change his appearance for example? Have they the right to change what someone has created?

Clearly you can play in another world to a point. But these days there is much more than just a book to consider. Copy-write attempts to protect those worlds. Yet fan fiction is found in many corners of the interweb often crossing boundaries without a care. I tried to write one particular story regarding Doctor Who. It took me almost ten years to complete. I started it due to making a daft bet that I had a better idea than someone else. Never make bets like that. I knew the universe I was entering, I was alone in my writing but felt the years of other writers as I built my story. Let alone the various characters I had at my disposal, I still had to create some of my own. When I finished it, I felt very happy. It needs work, it needs reviewing and more but I completed something.

Now I have my own worlds, my blogs and more. I still write alone as I am now in the café. Only I can see what my worlds are until I let them loose. It is an odd feeling, surrounded by people no-one paying attention as I write.

Why do writers write alone? To allow everyone else to be surrounded by their imaginary friends.

Tagline: “Are you sure it’s ok to open that book?”

Why do writers …

Hello Dear Reader

Write

Over the past few months, well years really, I have written my various thoughts, ideas, stories, and blogs. I have also spent a good portion of my time reading. Although that seems to be staccato at times. By staccato, I mean when I am interested in a book or need to read something or just hankering to remember a good novel, I read. Then I have time away, then back to reading again.

What makes me want to write? I found that my imagination created amazing worlds and characters for me. In my day, there was no internet, computer or to be honest, fancy gadgets. I had books, toys, Lego and more to occupied my mind. I was not content to just play, I needed to write my ideas down. I created my own worlds, most of which vanished sadly. In order to want to write, I needed first to read. I read all sorts, including numerous comics which in themselves helped me to see into certain places.

Others advised me later in life, I was told that the best way to write a book is to read many on the same subject. At first, I thought that would work against me. If I read the latest best seller on crime for example, would I subconsciously be influenced by said book and just rewrite it for myself. Clearly, it can’t be the case otherwise, how would writers know they liked a particular subject? I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy in my school years. Lots. In fact, I read one book so many times when I was young, I was banned from reading it again in school. Sadly I can’t remember what that book was, which in itself is odd.

Still, the question remains, why do we write? There are of course many reasons; creating others worlds, new characters, differing stories. A single writer can bring joy to millions with just a few words. Imagine the impact that stories such as A Christmas Carol or The Hobbit had on people. Remember also that when some of these books were published they had no social media as we do today. Yet, they had a huge impact on people. You also have to realise the imagination behind the book, which in itself creates an imagination in the reader. Each one of us, I am sure, see’s a character or location just that bit different.

Take the following few lines:

“He sat at a table in the café, trying to think of what to write next. It was noisy to a degree which helped him. His hands hovered over the keyboard. A few more words appeared on the screen. He looked up again. Did the people in café given him inspiration or distraction?”

What does that conjure for you the reader? In truth, it was me as I wrote this, sat in café trying to find the words of why I write. So why do I write? My reason is I want to see if I can tell a good story or create a deep poem or just engage people with these blogs. I have written numerous poems and short stories, one poem has been published. Very soon an article I have written will appear in a magazine. I am quietly excited. Shortly after, my very first book will be published. These days, everyone has the chance of telling their story and publishing it via social media or ebooks. What it means for me, is that I will have reached one of my goals. Should I stop there?

“The writer stopped again for a moment. How to sum everything up without appearing self-centred. Difficult, as writing could be a self-centred art. He considered other forms of art; painting, music or acting.”

You see, writing is an art form, it is self-expression, a desire to interact both with real and imaginary characters. For some writers, it explains sides of their own character they sometimes can’t admit to others. They can express grief, loss or depression in words that are harsh to hear. Words are also actions. Some writers want to show that there is a path forward to others. Some just want that selfish moment in time.

It was odd that I decided to write this without seeing what others said on the subject and a quick interweb search made me smile. There are hundreds of reasons and ‘posts’ on just this subject. There was even a competition. I also write because I can enjoy what I am creating. I joined a local creative writing group to help me better understand what I am trying to write and how to improve myself. It works. There is an element of danger as well. When you write, you think you see what others will read. That can be hard when someone reads what you have written rather than what you have imagined you have written. A single comma can change a line. Do I write just for myself where the only critic is myself? The answer can be both. Sometimes I just want to write and see. In my first book, I want to educate, my second I want to entertain. My third? That could be a little of everything. Everyone should write, even if it’s just a diary, you need to try.

This is why I write. Because I can.

Tagline: “Why the hell did I write that!”

Friday Fun

Hello Dear Reader

Friday Fun.

It is that time of the week, when we look forward to a well deserved break. At least some of us do. That moment in time when you compare the list of jobs against shopping or maybe a trip to the cinema. What about that desire to look at a new car?

For some, the weekend appears to have the ability to time travel and not in a good sense. Others, do take it by the scruff of the neck and just chill. Maybe, just maybe you have that little pocket in mind, Sunday afternoon. That part of the weekend just for lazing in front of an old film on the telly. Actually, falling asleep in front of the telly and claiming later you saw everything.

Others, well its that other list, mow the lawns, paint the kitchen (again), change the lights, remove the dead plants or whatever. Often heard is the saying, ‘I only come to work for a rest’. Some weekends are though magical. Yes you can spend all day in a garden just pottering or walk down those sun-lit lanes (far-fetched I know in the UK) enjoying the fresh air.

Of course, the weather and the seasons play their part in a weekend. A warm summer day against a cold winters afternoon may help you decide what mood you find. Though the warm summer day brings its own nasty surprises, bugs, bites and stings, let alone pollen. So is winter any better? Cold, ice and blocked roads. Maybe not. Autumn, the sweet spot between the two or spring, it’s twin? Both are favourites for me.

But the weekend can be a time to reflect on the week. Did you meet those all important targets or remember that vital appointment? Or maybe start that blog you wanted to write? A sudden urge to escape, to run away to somewhere different that much-needed break. Whatever you do, do it.

Myself, being an archer and writer (spare time) I will stand in a field and try yet again to understand the mysterious way my arrows fly or piece together the next chapter of my book. Do I kill off another character or let them live? Will I feel the effects of the unending time travel? Of course I will as it will soon be Monday morning.

So Friday fun, of course.

Tagline: ‘Friday night, Monday morning … is that a film?’