Last month I visited the Tate Modern while in London, but totally forgot to blog about it. I've never been the biggest fan of (a lot of) modern art, so I was dubious going in, but open to try it and hopeful that I'd come away with a newfound appreciation. Well, I did. Mostly. I was lucky enough to see the latest Damien Hirst show, which was interesting and beautiful and grotesque and frustrating all at the same time. Not all of the pieces worked for me, but a couple of them worked strongly enough that I came away with a general good feeling about the exhibition. I'm still not sure if modern art is my thing, though I'm much more amenable to giving it a whirl.
Pieces that were hits: the shark
, the butterfly room
and Black Sun
Pieces that did not hit: The medicine cabinets
lost their charm after the third or fourth. I get that our bodies-will-ultimately-fail-us, and they may have provided a thematic thread through the whole exhibition, but I didn't need three roomfuls. And I admit, as much as I loved the concept of the butterfly room, I could only stick it for about three minutes before I had to duck out (literally). A lot of them were tropical butterflies and they were bloody humungous! One landed on my head as I went in and gave me the wiggins.
He's very focused on birth/health and death/decay. You go from the butterfly room, with its canvas-lined walls embedded with pupae that the butterflies hatch from and carry out their life cycle, to the black sun room which is a gigantic mural made of dead flies in resin. Yum.
Another piece of note—one I'm still not sure whether I liked or not—is A Thousand Years
. It's a massive glass box with a smaller white box inside that's filled with maggots (you can't see them). These maggots are continuously hatching into flies, which fly out of the white box and feed on a severed cow's head on the floor. There's also an electric insect-o-cuter in the box which draws many of the flies and obliterates them. Others just die naturally—they litter the floor like a black carpet. I must say, I felt a bit squiggly looking at that one. Plus, you could smell this faint undercurrent of flies and rotting cow's head. But at the same time, conceptually, it was pretty well executed.
♫ The Hand That Feeds
, by Nine Inch Nails.
Hi, dudes. It was starting to look a little dusty around here, so I thought I'd break my weird radio silence and try to get back into it. I also owe it to aigooism
, because she is awesomebeans and gifted my account with paid time. ♥ Plus, I've missed hanging out on LJ. After finishing the first draft of the steampunk novel I drifted into the vast post-novel chasm of lethargy, and it's been a bugger trying to get back out. Mind, I really did mash that puppy for two solid months, so I should have probably been prepared for a reasonable amount of fallout. But urk, I so wasn't prepared.
To deal with my recent creative dry spell, I've been doing a lot of DIY around the house. It keeps me busy and physically active, and ultimately satisfied when it goes right! The place is starting to feel fresh and sprung, and that helps me
feel fresh and all springy. Good times.
It was also my writing group's 1st birthday, and last Tuesday we had an impromptu party to celebrate. I can't believe it's been a year since Storyslingers started. In some ways it's like I've known them forever, and in others it's like we're still brand new. Hopefully our second year will be even more productive than the first
On the writing front, I think I'm steadily getting my mojo back, entertaining some new short story ideas. One of them focuses on a not-too-distant future in which there are web designers for our faces. See there, I'm combining things I know about with things on which I can only speculate! I did finish the first draft of the story about lightning, but have come to realise—with the help of a beta reader—that it's too rushed and I need more time to work it as a longer piece, maybe a novelette or even a novella. For now it is going back into the WIP folder while I concentrate on other stuff.
Oh, and I've finally succumbed to Tumblr
. If you have an account there and fancy connecting, go ahead. I will add you right back. The Tumblr may be updated more regularly than the blog, and it'll be about general stuff like media, literature, a bit of writing, and odd snippets from my brain. I think I already prefer it to Twitter...
I want to post about movies I've seen, music I currently love, games I've played and books I'm obsessed with, but this is getting rather long so I'll do the rest soon. For now, I'll leave off with one of my favourite tracks at the moment:
♫ Too Close
, by Alex Clare. I'm so happy this is doing well in the UK charts. :)
This past week's been exhausting but in a positive and productive way. I'm still behind on all things LJ and I'm sorry if I've missed anything important. I hope everyone is well!
The Dorset Writers' Network publishing day went swimmingly. Me and Jennifer Bell gave a talk on e-zines and online publishing, and amazingly I wasn't all that nervous, even though it was my first time addressing a (small, but big to me) crowd on a Topic of Interest. At one or two points we thought we were losing them, but the feedback was good and a few people asked if they could send follow-up emails if they had any problems. We also got to see a real, live Agent—in the flesh!—which helped demystify them a great deal. She was extremely nice, and after finding out she represents the genres I write in, I took her business card.
Then yesterday I skipped over to Bath with Becky Bye
, Beth Stewart
, and Jennifer Bell
for a speculative fiction workshop held at Roscoff Deli and lead by a lovely group of post-grad creative writing students. It was so nice to connect with more local writers, and we've since swapped Twitter handles so we can stay in touch.
On Sunday I finally got to type "The End" in my steampunk novel document! It's a first draft that's sparse in places, and a draft that's full of plot holes big and small, but I am aware of those plot holes and I know they can be fixed. I'm letting it settle for a few days before I begin any editing, and in the meantime I'm going to write the outline (yeah, backwards!) and shuffle things around for maximum impact. My little first draft is woefully broken right now, but I do love it. ♥
And at last, I'm slowly cobbling together my very own custom layout for www.jenniferkoliver.com
. It'll run on Wordpress, using the Thematic Framework
(which is brilliant, btw) , and I'm really excited about it, but man it's a slog figuring out some of the code. The design hints at the Victorian era and is light and fun and whimsical, which will work nicely alongside my current projects (and a few on the distant horizon). I've also been itching to change my LJ shoe layout for a while, so I think I might adapt the new layout for this blog, too. Anyway, once I'm down with the WP theming, I should be able to switch it up now and then to keep everything feeling fresh. On top of that, I've got a couple of small web design commissions on the go. All in all, good times!
, by Fightstar.
How awkward is it when you're walking along and someone comes out of a room or doorway and starts walking the same way as you, and you're sort of walking together but not quite, and you don't know each other, so one person has to speed up and one has to slow down until there's enough distance between you to walk comfortably again, and everyone involved feels a tad stupid? The answer is, most awkward!
I've been playing a spot of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
in my spare time (a little late to the party, as always), and all I can say is: epic whoa. ( Cutting this for lengthy rambles about large RPGs )
Aside from that, I've been writing, submitting, receiving rejections—a couple of them very encouraging—working, playing, and snuggling my cat. Me and my Storyslingers
co-mod are hoping to host a Short Story Slam
in July, so we're starting to plan for that.
I hit 40k words on the steampunk novel recently, which I estimate to be about halfway through. It's good, solid progress, and that is fab. Also, things that I started to think weren't relevant and may end up being cut are now becoming relevant. Is this a part of my brain that's one step ahead of the rest? Could be, could be! Thank you, brain. I'm still mostly running on instinct, still finding it an enterprise of discovery and excitement. But there's always that tiny, niggling fear that I'll lose the plot or veer too far from my (shady) goal.
And a couple of weeks ago I discovered:
♫ Wake You Up
and Insect Flick
, by Coven. A relatively new dubstep act, who I hope continue to bring out quality beats!
This week I've been art and craft shopping like crazy, searching for interesting materials with which to make promotional stuff for the arts festival. And I must say, my wanderings have been extremely fruitful! I've got multi-coloured card and paper, stencils and stickers, as well as some beautiful calligraphy pens in silver and gold ink that are perfect for writing and drawing on dark backgrounds. I'm gradually transforming my spare back room (that also serves as my cat's bedroom) into a studio. Not sure how Harry the cat feels about this!
I'll be showcasing three separate pieces, two of them printed on large postcards, and an A5 folded booklet for a slightly longer piece that was written for one of the writing group's prompts. ( See a sample here )
More indulgently, I've also discovered a little craft shop in a nearby town that sells Paperblanks notebooks
. Do check out their website, if only for the pictures of their books. They're exquisite. I'd eventually like to get a notebook from their Fabulous Footwear
collection (no major surprises there, eh?). Their magnetic wrap closures are a dream, as you don't get frayed or rumpled page edges and it keeps the paper clean. So far I've bought their Filigree Floral Ebony
book and the smaller, extremely cute Swirling Peacock Ivory
I've also just started a new website design commission for a local picture framing business. It's always nice designing for people who are arty, as they generally know what they want in terms of style/texture/etc.
The writing front has been dominated by research lately, but that's ok—I have a gazillion notes, and it's enjoyable work. I'm almost ready to tackle the first draft of my steampunk story, which needs a rewrite and some TLC.
Funny I was just posting about micro-fiction, because yesterday one of my Twitter stories went live @onefortyfiction
. It can be found on their website here: Grey Matter
. I'd recommend it if you like a smidgen of humour with your zombies. :)
The last few days my attention has been mostly riveted on the UK riots coverage, which continues to unfold like a horrific movie. It's almost unbelievable, and makes me damn relieved I don't live in an inner city where most of the trouble is going down. I hope the city dwellers on my f-list are keeping safe and well out of the way. Possibly related, me and Jen Bell hopped over to a neighbouring writing group and poetry reading Tuesday night, and when we left there was a guy getting arrested on the street outside. It was noisy and there were a few more people scattered around watching and egging it on. We ended up power-walking back to the car, a little freaked out, and I thought: holy crap, that was just one guy! I can't imagine what it must be like on the streets with hundreds of them. Bloody terrifying.
It's also weird that I was recently talking about book covers, 'cause I got the cover art through from Karl A. Nordman
for my dark fantasy novelette "Dust City". There was joyous flail! There was much squee! And my cat gave me some odd looks.
I still have a couple of stories from Darwin's Evolutions
to catch up on, too. Links forthcoming.
And I thought, what with the recent LJ-apocalypse near miss, it was worth mentioning again that I have a mirror journal on Dreamwidth here
. That's where I'll relocate should LJ ever implode for more than week or two.
So, good things? I got a shiny white iPhone 4 this morning to replace my old 1st gen phone which I accidentally dropped and cracked. The old one was on its dying legs anyway and the battery needed charging three times a day, so I don't feel too
indulgent. But I do love my new baby. And to think, I used to hate mobile phones!
On Wednesday I'm heading to London to meet up with whymzycal
. We're going to be all touristy and visit a museum, although I doubt I'll be concentrating on art when there is a Dabs nearby to glomp and natter with.
Bad things? I think my Twitter account was compromised this morning, as people started getting spammy private messages from it. But I did not send those messages (I would never send spam on any social networking site, ever) and if anyone else gets PMs from 'me' please let me know. I've done the security check, changed passwords and info, so I'm hoping that'll be the end of it. I also disabled all the third-party sites that were linked up to my Twitter, which means no more cross-posting. Doing it manually takes a little extra time, but for the added peace of mind I'm willing to do it. Yikes.
And now I'm going to catch up with LJ things! Hope you're all well and survived the LJ-apocalypse. :)
On Saturday I went to see Foo Fighters at the Milton Keynes Bowl with davidrcooke
and his bf Chris. I'm only just recovering now, hence the late write-up. It was epic, and I don't mean epic in the sense that something mildly cool is epic, I mean epic
epic—they played for two and a half hours, and they had three support acts in the forms of Tame Impala, Death Cab For Cutie, and Biffy Clyro, plus two special (secret) guests in the forms of Roger Taylor (Queen) and Alice Cooper. Or as Dave Grohl put it, "Alice Fucking Cooper!"
EPIC, I tell ya.
It's safe to say it was the best live show I've ever been to, hands freaking down
, helped by the fact that the Foos are my favourite band and I've been dying to see them again. Since November last year it's been like waiting for all my childhood Christmases rolled into one. Yes, I know, but they're special!
Anyway, this write-up got a bit long so I'll pop the rest ( under a cut. Click here if you want an enthusiastic run-down of everything, with pics and links to footage of the show, as well as official music videos. Oh, and squee. Lots and lots of squee )
Right now I have a stinking head cold that I'd originally been mistaking for hayfever, but it's got worse over the last few days and it seems there's no escaping it. :/ So, I'm going to be mostly MIA until I'm de-snuffled. I hope you're all doing well!
We had the first critique session at the writing group last Tuesday, in which most of us shared our short ghost stories. Mine went down quite well, and I may post it here—once it's been through a bit more editing. The main problem I had was keeping it reasonably short while building up atmosphere. And while I don't believe it's my absolute best work ever, I'm quite pleased with it.
The next writing prompt is "Knife and Fork", suggested by one of our group members and based off a quote about the author Victor Canning:Canning regarded himself primarily as a storyteller. “Give me a knife and fork,” he once said, “and I will make a story out of them.”
I've got an idea for this already. A really, really silly idea. :)
It's been a busy couple of weeks. Strange at times, too. Most notably, a couple of weekends ago my cat found a nest of baby mice in the garden and insisted on dragging the poor little buggers out. I tried rescuing the two that I found, but one died almost immediately. The other made it a couple of days, but unfortunately it was just too young and tiny to live outside the nest. While it was alive I took a short video of it on my iPod, which you can watch here
. Baaaaaaaby! It has been buried next to a marigold in the garden. It's amazing how much you miss a creature so little, after such little time together. RIP, baby mouse.
Another update and a flist catch-up coming soon!
A while ago I mentioned taking on a local creative writing group, something I found both awesome and daunting. Luckily, I found a brilliant co-organiser in the form of Jennifer Bell
, who has more experience at these things and has been a terrific help, not to mention a ton of fun getting to know.
Monday night was the first meeting—an initial gathering, mostly to sort out details about the group, arrange a solid meeting schedule, etc. There were a few fluttering nerves, but nothing too bad, and once we had our hand-outs ready, a selection of creative writing books scattered artfully around the tables, plates piled with sweets and biscuits, and the kettle on the boil, we were reasonably calm and ready to roll.
The group is lovely
and we're varied nicely, too, with different age groups and walks of life and interests and creative processes. We're now gradually getting stuff set up, like a sparkly website and a little donation box for funding tea and coffee and other goodies. Me and Jennifer have met up a couple of times outside the group and we've already come up with a tentative programme that could span up to 15 months of discussion material. Not bad for a newbie group, eh? :)
Our topic of discussion last night was inspiration, in which we covered the different mediums and places we go to generate ideas and find motivation. Then we decided to pick a group prompt and write something for the next meeting, when we'll be reading and critiquing each other's work. One group member hit on the fascination with ghost stories and inadvertently sparked our first prompt, so that's what we'll be writing about—ghosts and all manner of spooky things! I may end up sharing my group stories here if I feel they're too short or not fully-formed enough to submit anywhere else. We'll see.
I'm so thrilled about the group, and hopefully it'll just get better and better. Whatever happens, this is already another positive step on the long and winding writing path!
Welcome back, LJ, after another exciting episode of DDoS Attack! I quite liked their Twitter
update from a couple of days ago: "Down again! We've been slammed with another DDoS attack. Think you know why? Tweet your conspiracy theories here!"
It certainly sounds like someone isn't happy with them right now. There are theories going round that it's an attempt to get people to move to other social networking sites, which is kinda lame.
Anyway, there's been a bit of movement in my life recently, resulting in me inheriting a writing group. Well, technically I've inherited the idea of a writing group, as the one that used to be active in my home town has long been dormant. Now I'm attempting to revive it, with loads of help from my local arts club. This is superb on many levels, particularly because in the past when I've tried joining courses and groups they've all ended up cancelled for one reason or another. I figured there had to be local writers eager to network and talk plot, structure, and style, and there are! I've already had six people contact me about the group, and I'm jazzed about meeting them. *jazzes*
When we begin meetings, providing it all goes well, I may ask if the other members mind me writing the odd article based on what we discuss and post them here (or at my website, which I am building slowly but surely, and hope to be able to launch soon!).
What I wanted to ask was if any of you have led or participated in writing groups, and what tips you've picked up to create a happy environment for writers of different levels, ages, and walks of life. Are there any activities you would recommend to get the ball rolling? Any official stuff you suggest doing to keep things organised? I'm sure between us we can work something up, but it's always nice to have a few pointers from experienced group participants.
Because of the recent DDoS attacks on LJ, parts of the site aren't loading. I'm reading, but alas, I can't comment on all the things I want to comment on! Plus, a handful of my userpics have mysteriously vanished. I'm going to leave them alone for now and see if they come back when LJ finishes fixing the damage.
Fun times yesterday when I went for a routine check up at the dentist and ended up having a monster of a filling. It's bloody huge! Thankfully it's an upper-back molar and doesn't show. My face was numb for hours after and I couldn't smile, so now I finally know how all those Hollywood stars feel after botox. Not cool! I've got another appointment on April 20th for a second filling. Now I wish I hadn't mentioned that dentist horror story in my other post - I'm sure I jinxed myself.
On the up side, I finally got to order my shiny pink VAIO
The lovely Helen Ginger from Straight From Hel
has given me the Stylish Blogger Award
, which is fabulous and thoughtful and very kind of her! Looksie, there's even a stylish badge.
The rules are: make a list of 7 things about yourself, then pass the award on to 7 others.1.
I've got two tattoos. The first I got in 2000, and is of the Indian symbol for "Om" which you can see here
. The second I got a year later and is a small black and red dragon on my stomach, but alas, I don't have a pic.2.
When I was thirteen, I wrote a short story about a murderous demon dentist. This says a great deal about my feelings toward going to the dentist at the time. Those feelings haven't changed much over the years.3.
I spent my 20th birthday riding an elephant through a jungle in southern India. Best, and bumpiest, birthday ever
An ex-boyfriend had a star named after me when we were together. I have a chart and certificate of it and everything; it's something I just can't throw out. If you're wondering where the star can be found, it's: oh47m13s +19°34'43", in the Pisces constellation (apparently!).5.
My first job was as a kennel maid at a boarding kennel and cattery. I basically got paid to walk, feed, groom, and snuggle dogs all day during school holidays and at weekends. It remains one of the best jobs I've ever had.6.
When I was but a wee young thing, I would remove a small drain cover outside my house and dangle my feet down the well. My parents have photos of me doing this, ( and you can see one here )
This signalled a lifelong love affair with water. Sadly, I also lost a wind-up toy fish (originally intended for bathtimes) down the same drain, which wasn't so good.7.
Possibly my favourite book of all time is "The Talisman" by Stephen King and Peter Straub. To me, it is unadulterated epic dark fantasy, unhindered by pasted-on romance and silly narrative devices. For this reason, I can forgive its sometimes long-winded descriptive passages. Jack Sawyer and Richard Sloat are two of my favourite child characters, and their pure, bittersweet friendship moves me every time I read it. And lovely, loyal Wolf! Wolf!
I was devastated by the sequel "Black House"—it was like reading a book from an entirely different fictionverse.
Because everyone on my f-list is stylish in their own way, the following list is randomly selected and does not in any way suggest those not on it are not stylish. I tag: babarnett
, and xjenavivex
. (No pressure, though, guys!)
Yesterday I hit 45,000 words on The Big WIP, which in my rough estimation is about halfway through the final word count. Half. Way. Through. A. Novel. To a few of you this'll sound like peanuts, but I'm really jazzed about my little half-a-novel! It's not only the longest piece I've written, I've also still got the momentum, excitement, and inspiration I had when I started. There's no breaking point or peak to this hill, and I'm not expecting to start rolling smoothly down to The End. Climbing, hiking, hauling myself up is doing wonders for my stamina and willpower—I can see The End, and I can't wait to get there, but the scenery is fab and I'm happy to take it all in. Always a good sign. ;)*
The thought of how much editing I'll to have to do when the first draft is complete, however...
Finding a compatible hypnotherapist who is a) reasonably priced and b) relatively close to where I live is proving tricky. There are a few non-extortionate hypnotherapists in the general area, but factoring in petrol costs to get to them ratchets up the price. I've looked into self-hypnosis, but this is confronting a phobia rather than Life Issues (life is grand, overall, I must say, and I don't want to go fixing it if it ain't broken!) and frankly I'm too chicken to step up to The Phobia and challenge it to a deathmatch. This is going to require tag-team tactics. I want a referee in the ring.
One of the things I hate most about my phobia is how illogical it is. Heights, most of us can understand, as there's a real possibility of plummeting and doom. Going out in public, we may also understand, with all the social pressures and insecurities flying around. But mine? The most annoying part of it is, the majority of people I speak to find the object of my phobia "soooo cute!" *grumbles*
Have any of you ever confronted your own phobias without outside help? Or used writing as a form of facing up to your irrational fears and dealing with them? Have you discovered any other methods, aside from hypnosis and Phobia Deathmatches, to help overcome a problem like this?
A friend came to stay over last weekend, and I asked him to bring his nifty professional camera because I've been wanting to take some decent pics for my various social networking profiles, but for some reason I could never get a good one with my iPhone. Of course, once I got my paws on the expensive camera the project rapidly went from a Jen photoshoot to a Jen's cat photoshoot. But I did get some utterly gorgeous pics of my fluffy boy Harry, ( one of which I've uploaded for your viewing pleasure (if you're into cats or cute things) )
Thanks again to those on Facebook and LJ who sent me birthday wishes on Wednesday. I don't deal with birthdays very well, but the thoughts and messages were much appreciated and cheered me up to no end. ♥ So far, 31 is not too scary and not much different from 30, except that now I'm all pro-active with my stories. Progress, woohoo!
Since I mostly got monetary gifts this year, I've decided it's time to buy myself a shiny new laptop, and I've fallen in love with the Sony VAIO S Series. In pink
, no less! I can't wait to hold its sleek, pretty little body in my hands. :)
Happy Valentine's Day, to those who celebrate it! And to those who think it's all a commercialised bullshit sentiment fest, uh, Happy Commercialised Bullshit Sentiment Fest Day! In honour of St. Valentine, I'm going to link to possibly the greatest love song ever written. You can hear it on YouTube
. Ah! No matter how many times I listen, I still get that heart fluttery feeling.
Writing-wise, I'm a veritable word machine right now, and I've finished the first draft of two more short fantasy stories, as well as steaming on through Chapter Five of The Big WIP. I want to talk about The Big WIP so bad
, but I'm chicken about jinxing it, so I'll just say it moves surely and steadily. Also, I still can't get used to calling it a 'novel' in public, so for now it will simply be The Big WIP. Novel makes me sound way too grown up.
The other thing I wanted to ramble about, since I'm here, is a weird experience I had one morning a couple of weeks back, one that I can't seem to get it out of my head. It was spooky and more than a little gory, so I will ( cut this for details about roadkill )