The Curious Evolution of Jennifer K. Oliver
A stroll through the mindfields
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jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Butterfly Hat)
(I swear, I've been doing other things lately aside from listening to podcasts. Anyway...)

Lovecraft's stories are always hit-or-miss for me. A couple of years ago, I went through a whirling reading fest over the course of about a week and inhaled as many of his stories as I could manage. Afterwards, I took a break and tried to sift through my feelings. For the most part, I came out of it frustrated--so much of his work is problematic and not easy to stomach, even given the period in which he was writing. At times it's racist, xenophobic, classist, homophobic; there aren't many female characters and women are under-represented; and it can be horribly purple at times. And some of his earlier work just isn't very good at all, on all levels. On the other hand, some of his stories are stunningly creepy and imaginative, and if nothing else, we can thank him for shaping what a lot of weird fiction and horror is today. There's a reason people still love to run around in his playground, and I think it's even more important to continue reinventing that playground, make it more accessible, diverse and consistent. But I digress.

I've been listening to and loving the heck out of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast (otherwise known as H.P. Podcraft) hosted by Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey. Basically, they've gone through most of Lovecraft's work, providing readings, commentary, music and resources. There were a couple of stories I wasn't originally able to finish--The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath being one--but recently I've revisited them with the podcast providing a kind of Cliff Notes / York Notes version, with additional laughs and observations I hadn't considered. Chad and Chris also often give background info about the stories, like when Lovecraft wrote them, what he said about them in his letters to correspondents, which magazines they were published in (or rejected by!), and other works inspired by them. It's interesting listening, and Lovecraft himself becomes a more interesting character when seen through someone else's eyes. I noticed that they're currently doing works by other authors, too, possibly having run out of Lovecraftian pieces (they're currently up to episode 212 and still seem to be going strong!).

And, for anyone who hasn't tried HPL before, The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast is a terrific place to start, especially if you're intrigued about Lovecraft but haven't been able to find anything by him that's easy to get into (as I said above, he can be very hit-or-miss).

You can also find them on Twitter and their forums.

Euphoria, by Collide.
jenniferkoliver: (Victorian Zombie)
Resurfacing from home decorating for a bit of author squee. The fabulous Kate Kelly visited Storyslingers last night to talk about her debut children's/YA novel, Red Rock, which came out on 12th September. Kate is great fun, very friendly and down to earth, and has interesting things to say about writing. One of her pieces of advice was to not worry about making a character likeable, but make sure they're someone readers can empathise with. There's a massive difference between the two. This is something I forget sometimes, and my characters can start to feel a bit safe and nice—and ultimately not very rounded and real.

Feedback has been steadily trickling in for my novel, and so far nobody has had any major, plot-broken issues. It's mostly character things that shouldn't be too scary to fix. At least, I hope not! If I can time everything well, I might be able to start querying agents in the first quarter of next year. Aaaah!

The Order 1886 is Not Steampunk — So apparently the PS4 game The Order 1886 is not steampunk, according to co-founder of Ready at Dawn. Sure, it looks like steampunk, has steampunk-inspired weaponry, world-building, costumes and aesthetic, but it's, um, not steampunk. No, really. It's not. (Does steampunk really have such a bad rep these days?)

Magic Realism — Blog dedicated to bringing you a review of a magic realism book every week.

Terry Pratchett, AS Byatt and Terry Eagleton on Fantasy, Fiction and Desire — Video. Fantasy is often seen as existing outside higher culture, with little to contribute to our lives. It is considered by many as little more than throwaway entertainment, but is this an error?

Strong, by London Grammar. Beautiful, chilled, and a little haunting.
jenniferkoliver: (The Walking Dead | Daryl)
I'm so pleased [livejournal.com profile] aigooism is playing Final Fantasy XIII. It means I get to bombard her with my knowledge of the game. Ahh!

Tuesday night was the Jaine Fenn and Suzanne McLeod author event at Storyslingers. We were extremely lucky to have them, and both Jaine and Suzanne were excellent guests and friendly, fun and encouraging authors. They each read out short fiction and answered a load of questions from us eager n00bs. I also got my copies of Principles of Angels and The Sweet Scent of Blood signed. I hope they'll come back to us in the future and do another talk, maybe even a workshop.

In more k-poppy news, I'm now annoyed at EXO. I had this amazing dark atmosphere going in my YA novel, but then EXO went and released their new album and ruined everything with their upbeat pop-heaven straight from outer space goodness. Grr. Yeah, I'm really angry about this. Really. I am trying to get back into the Victorian era groove, but Wolf is making it difficult.

Get Lucky, by Daughter (Daft Punk cover). [livejournal.com profile] momebie linked this on Tumblr the other day. It is superb.
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Typewriter)
On Tuesday 16th July, 2013, fantasy and sci-fi authors Jaine Fenn and Suzanne McLeod are coming to my writing group, Storyslingers, to talk about their books, read us some of their fiction, and answer questions. Both Jaine and Suzanne are published by Gollancz, and have lots of experience in writing and publishing.

Jaine is a science-fiction writer, author of a number of short stories and the Hidden Empire series of novels. From Jaine's website: Most of my fiction is set in a seven-thousand-year future history. During this time mankind falls and rises again—with help—leaving human-occupied space as a largely stable area of several hundred semi-autonomous systems, no two alike. Unfortunately humanity's dark past won't stay dead and the future holds threats worse than any faced so far. Find Jaine on Twitter: @JaineFenn.

Suzanne is the author of the popular urban fantasy Spellcracker.com series of novels. From Amazon: Genevieve Taylor is a Sidhe, one of the noble fae, and she's unusual, even in present-day London where celebrity vampires, eccentric goblins and scheming lesser fae mix freely with the human population. Genny is a rising star at Spellcrackers.com, where she finds the M' in magic - and that invariably leads to mischief, malice and - too often - murder. Find Suzanne on Twitter: @suzanne_mcleod.

I'm so excited to meet them and hear them talk about their work and writing in general. My group is really energetic, so it's probably going to be a fun night. If you happen to be around the westcountry, UK, on the 16th, why not drop by. (Artwork for the promo poster by Dan Morison, who illustrated our amazing Story Slam posters back in 2012.)

Dark Horse, by Kidneythieves.
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Wolfwomen)
Topping Books was way too small to accommodate the sort of crowd Neil Gaiman draws, so the event was moved to The Forum concert hall. It was packed out. Me and my friend arrived early so we managed to sit near the front and had a great view of the stage.

Neil Gaiman's book launch was, as you'd expect, brilliant. He's so charming and understatedly funny. He started out with a reading from The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which sounds equally charming and, again, as well-written as you would expect. I have my copy of the book and I can't wait to start reading, possibly later today, if I can get all my work done.

Neil talked about how the book came about, saying that he originally started it as a short story for his wife who was away in Australia at the time, kind of a love letter because he missed her. But it soon became a novellette, and then grew into a novella, and when he was done and did a word count, he realised it was actually a novel. That's quite a love letter!

One of the most interesting parts of the evening was the audience Q&A. Neil explained at the start what a good question was (short, to the point) and what a bad question could do (make an audience angry). That got some laughs. Someone asked about the Good Omens TV show, and Neil said that there was nothing about Good Omens that he could talk about on stage. The wink was so heavily implied that everyone started clapping and cheering. *squee*

I took a few photos, which I'll pop under this here eljay cut )

Staff were giving out flyers about up-coming events and I noticed Margaret Atwood is going to be in Bath in August. So it looks like I'll be going back there soon for more author goodness.

5-HT (Loadstar Remix), by The Good Natured.
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Wouldn't Like Me)
Neil Gaiman's book tour for The Ocean at the End of the Lane kicks off tomorrow in Bath, UK. I didn't realise it's the first venue on his tour. He'll only be signing copies of his new book—understandably, considering the volume of the crowds he can generate—though it's a bit of a shame I can't get my copy of Good Omens signed; I managed to get it signed by Terry Pratchett a couple of years back. (At some point, I will get them both. It is a mission!) More info about the UK side of Gaiman's tour on his blog.

When Sci-Fi Crime-Prevention Tactics Aren't Actually That Far-Fetched - how likely is RoboCop? Well, according to this article, pretty likely! "We're now producing airborne drones that have the automated intellectual ability where they are able to pick out a terrorist and make a decision whether to kill them or not."

Saw this book meme on someone's journal months ago, copied and pasted it, but neglected to note who I snagged it from (nobody on my f-list, I remember that much).

On this list of 100 popular fantasy and sci-fi books:

Bold the ones you've read.
Italicise the ones you want to read.

This reminds me of a load of books I still want to get my hands on before I, you know, die )

Rise, by Hans Zimmer. From The Dark Knight Rises OST. Been listening to this lately while writing action scenes.
7th-Jun-2013 01:25 pm - Stuff and things and links and such
jenniferkoliver: (Death Note | L)
I hate movies that start with a chase, usually a person running through a city or woods, often panting and screaming and stumbling, accompanied by loud, crashing orchestral music, but you don't see what's chasing them, not even a flash or flicker or dark shape, so it ends up looking like a random person is randomly running, screaming and stumbling through a random city or woods, and it isn't scary at all because you're not invested in the movie and/or characters yet.

Or when a character very obviously has a nightmare, and wakes up screaming and kicking, and another character says, "Aw, did you have a bad dream?" Oh my word, seriously.

(Yeah, I watched a couple of these recently.) :D And so this post isn't entirely ranty-pants:

The Stephen King Universe - a very detailed flowchart linking his books and characters. I love book and character links. It's something I'd like to do with my own stories.

Science Fiction Goes Hand-in-Hand With Real Research - via The Telegraph. Astrobiologist Dr Zita Martins says: "In Star Wars, there was the Tatooine planet, rotating around two stars. Recently the Kepler mission discovered a planet like that. It was named Kepler 16b, with the nickname Tatooine. Imagination always inspires scientists to go in a certain direction."

Saturday Comes Slow feat. Damon Albarn, by Massive Attack.
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Girl with Wolf Hat)
I can't remember if I mentioned my writing group was putting on an event at our local Arts Festival this year, on June 1st. Usually we just do a hand-made book stall and desperately try to peddle our short stories and bookmarks to people who haven't heard of us and aren't really interested, but this year we went elaborate and did a workshop, followed by an open mic reading, and then a creative people meet-and-greet. I lead the workshop which was to the theme of "Other Worlds", and recycled some of the material I used at the Year 10 workshop from January. We came up with intriguing ideas and I hope some of them will be developed into stories.

For the open mic segment, I read out a new flash fiction I wrote in May. I struggle with flash fiction the most, so it was nice to actually complete a piece and share it. I'm still not sure if it's submission worthy, but I like it and might post it here at some point. Mostly I wanted to read something live again, to get used to standing up in front of people and talking into a microphone. This reading felt far steadier than my first (at the Story Slam last summer), but that might be because there was a much smaller audience this time. ;)

The festival also marked our gallery of fictional maps that were submitted as part of our Map Making Competition (now closed). We had some stunningly imaginative maps come in from all over the globe; the competition got a lot bigger than we expected. I took a few pics of the shortlisted entries, which you can see under the cut )

Some links of interest:

Your Age on Other Worlds - just fill in your birth date and this website will calculate your age on all the planets in our solar system. On Earth I am 33.2 years old, but on Mercury I am 137.8 years old. Mars says I am only 17.6 years (which actually feels more accurate a lot of the time).

Iain M. Banks Update - posted on May 20th.

Generator, by Foo Fighters.
jenniferkoliver: (Deftones | Chino)
I've been umming and ahing about this for weeks, but I finally decided to sign up for Winchester Writers' Conference, taking place 21st—25th June 2013. While pricey, it's an amazing opportunity to have work seen by agents, editors and authors, and hopefully get some helpful feedback on the state of my novel. I've picked a single day pass, which entitles me to a host of talks and three one-on-one consultations with aforementioned agents, editors and authors. It's exciting and scary at the same time! Last year one of my friends went and an agent expressed interest in her novel, so it's definitely worth it. The talks look good, too, representing mainstream, genre, short story, crime fiction, commissioning agents and editors, poetry, publishing books, ebook publishing, marketing, writing for children and writing for the media. I will try and take notes so I can post anything of interest here.

There's also a History Festival taking place locally soon, and I'm trying to whittle down the number of talks I want to go to (mostly because I can't afford to do them all). So far I'm leaning towards: Victorian morals, prejudice, hypocrisy and women's rights; a history of the British Empire between 1850−1945; the drama of the 1832 reform bill; a history of writing seminar; and love in the world of Jane Austen. But realistically, I will probably only be able to do two or three of these. Argh, so difficult choosing!

And I've started reading number9dream, slowly, very slowly. I find with David Mitchell I need to read it carefully and savour every single line. I'm always blown away by his stuff.

After many friend recommendations I finally succumbed to WhatsApp on my iPhone, and OK, I see what all the fuss is about now. Since getting it I've been texting with a friend in Canada for free and it is awesome. :)

Steampunk Weapons Useless Against Fists - via one of my writing group friends. This is a short article on The Daily Mash, so not to be taken too seriously. Made me laugh.

In the Middle (Nero Remix), by The Streets.
29th-Apr-2013 02:09 pm - Caught up on SPN S7, and some links
jenniferkoliver: (SPN | Dean & Sam)
Caught up on Supernatural season seven, having lost the plot around the mid-season break, which always seems to happen. Couple of things to flail about, cut just in case they're still spoilery ) Every time they renew SPN I throw a wobbly about spinning good shows out way past their sell by date, but I actually really enjoyed this season, as I have all the others, and I'm sure I'll like S8 too. Maybe, just maybe, SPN will be the exception that makes it to S10 relatively unscathed.

85,000 words on the novel draft two. Yay! I added airships, and everything seemed to come together. Ain't it great when that happens?

Sirenia Digest - a monthly journal of the weirdly erotic. I've been subscribed to this for a while now and want to say again that it's worth checking out if you're a fan of Caitlin R. Kiernan's writing. She's currently sharing the original (and now retired) draft of her sequel to Blood Oranges, and there's always a new piece of short fiction, plus well chosen cover art to accompany the stories.

Why Nikola Tesla Was the Greatest Geek That Ever Lived - posted on The Oatmeal a year ago, this is still wonderful and hilarious and lovely.

Lady Froggy Steampunk Gatling Gun for Dainty Death Dealing - I really want one of these. So deadly! So cute!

Robocat, by Teenagersintokyo.
25th-Apr-2013 02:18 pm - Neil Gaiman event in Bath 14/06/13,
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Book!)
The excellent Topping & Company Booksellers in Bath are hosting an evening with Neil Gaiman on 14th June.

Neil will be promoting his newest adult book The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The evening will consist of an interview on stage, followed by a book signing where audience members can pick up advance copies of the book and get them personalised (which is so very, very cool). I have booked my ticket and I am excite! Find out more about the event here on the Topping & Company website.

There's also a Raymond E. Feist event on 10th May listed here that I'd quite like to go to, but I'm still not sure if I can afford to do both at the moment. Sadface.

Four Kids To A Glockenspiel by Brigade. Been listening to this a lot recently while writing.
5th-Apr-2013 04:47 pm - Iain M. Banks
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Butterfly Hat)
Devastating news about Iain M. Banks. I hope him and his wife are spending wonderful quality time together on their honeymoon.

A few months ago I was lucky enough to go and see Iain M. Banks at a talk and book signing for The Hydrogen Sonata in Bath. As I said in my original post, he was charming and energetic and funny, very warm with the audience, and seemed to want to answer as many questions as possible. I'll say it again, it's awesome when an author you read turns out to be nice. I wish him all the best.

Use of Weapons is my favourite Culture novel. It introduced me to Cheradenine Zakalwe, one of the more complex protagonists I've read in many years. It's also a masterful feat in story structuring, and I don't think anyone else could have pulled off that book quite like Banks. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it—or maybe start with The Player of Games if it's your first time with the Culture. Use of Weapons isn't always an easy book to read (but lord, is it ever worth it!).

10 top gadgets from Iain M Banks' Culture universe - collected at Techradar.

Butterflies and Hurricanes by Muse.
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Girl with Wolf Hat)
My friend Yvonne linked me to this, and I'm sure a lot of you have seen it already, but for those who haven't, Stephen King has spoken about a number of topics recently at UMass Lowell, including how he turns an idea into a story, writing screenplays, reading books twice, Randall Flagg (who is always around), creating characters, 50 Shades of Grey and how (some) readers (sometimes) don't challenge themselves enough, and Lovecraft. Even if you're not into King, it's a nifty glimpse into his writing life. I wish he'd had more time to chat. Watch it on youtube here.

And since my last post, I think I may have figured out the literary zombie problem, thanks to Yvonne's tireless critiquing sessions and some really helpful reviews on the online workshop. A couple of times I panicked that I'd have to rewrite the entire thing, but it was one of those instances where the fixes seemed major, but were actually not that bad. I hate how my brain decides I'm "done" as soon as I've finish a first draft—it makes going into edits such a slog. Usually once I get into them it's not so scary, it's just that gap between the end of free-flow writing and the start of nit-picking that sucks. In the past I've tried editing immediately, but I find I need a day or two of Skyrim distance to be able to see problems clearly.

And some links of interest:

A massive list of bestsellers that were initially rejected. Only because this one lists more books than usual.

You're Not Supposed to Write That: Taboos in Speculative Fiction, by Vylar Kaftan, for Apex Magazine. 'Because it’s presented under the umbrella of “what if,” speculative fiction allows people to consider how society can break down, independently of their preconceptions about their own society.'

O Holy Night, sung beautifully by Nat King Cole.
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Kitty Love)
Bit of a shambles getting to the Iain M. Banks launch last night, so I didn't get to meet him or have a book signed. But! I got to listen to him speak and answer questions. He was charming, funny, engaging and energetic in his answers, with just the right amount of self-assuredness that comes with having a successful and long career. It's always better, isn't it, when an author whose work you enjoy turns out to be nice? I'm just sad about the travel problems that made me late. They couldn't be helped, though. Alas. Perhaps next time he has a book out he'll tour in Bath again. Knowing Iain M. Banks, the next book will be just around the corner. Oh, that reminds me, at one point he said that he currently has enough stuff in his notebooks for at least one more Culture novel.

Not a lot else to report, other than my spending most of my energy these days trying not to get into Korean and Chinese boy bands. Nugh.

Ooh, but some more links, found via random surfing, bookmarks or friends:

Take Five Minutes. Here be everything a simile should not be. From their site: Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual similes and metaphors found in high school essays.

10 Ways to Terrorise a Telemarketer. Only because I get called by telemarketers every day, sometimes multiple times, trying to sell me things I've already told them multiple times that I don't want.

Actually, the entire Manbottle Library is good fun and worth a look.

Protection by Massive Attack.
jenniferkoliver: (Jay & Silent Bob)
Dragon Age III: Inquisition was recently announced, and should be with us late 2013. *squee* Bioware's DA franchise is one of my favourites, Origins being the first PS3 game I ever played. I've been itching for more info about the third game in the series, and while the developers aren't saying too much—mostly technical stuff at this point—they've given a couple of interesting morsels, like the possibility of having up to 10 companions (though I'm guessing not at the same time) and armour and followers being more customisable than in previous games. The map also sounds epic compared to Origins and II, and there was mention of a French theme, so hopefully we'll get to see some of Orlais. Wonder if they'll figure out a way of cameoing Bann Teagan again. I do love me some Teagues!

Just a reminder that Iain M. Banks will be at Topping Books in Bath this Thursday, from 8pm. More info here. Looks like I'll be getting a train in, since my car broke down yesterday in a most spectacular fashion.

And a few links, either from my bookmarks or snagged from various friends:

Bad Lip Reading of Twilight. Someone's made a hilarious dub of Twilight based on what it looks like the characters are saying. I think I prefer this version.

The 30 Second Bunnies Theatre Library. This is basically popular Hollywood movies, performed by animated bunnies, in 30 seconds. Genius. I particularly like Terminator, Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction.

Japanese Streets. I spend way too much time lurking here. Fantastic blog that's been going for 10 years, documenting Japanese street fashion. A lot of cool or quirky looks from Tokyo, Osaka and beyond.

The Pretender, by Foo Fighters.
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Book!)
Storyslingers and music cafe Beggar's Banquet teamed up last Thursday to put on an evening of short stories, poetry and groovy tunes. It was a small, friendly gathering, the venue itself being very cosy and mellow-lit. We had 17 people in attendance, most of them writers, artists or musicians (and those in between who do a bit of everything). A lot of writers had only met once or twice before, so it was also cool to reconnect. And as always with these types of events, I was utterly floored by the talent in my local area.

There are a few pics of the event under here. Yes, I actually remembered to take photos this time! )

And at the weekend we put on our usual collection of handmade books and flyers at the Arts Festival. I thought it seemed a bit smaller this year, and we didn't draw in as much interest as I'd hoped, but we did manage to snag a couple of email addresses for the mailing list—a success as far as I'm concerned.

Now, finally, things are a bit calmer. I'm scouting the 'net for prompts for my next 7 Days, 7 Stories, which I'm planning to kick off next Monday. If anyone knows of any good story prompt venues, let me know. Otherwise, wish me luck!

Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event, by Deftones.
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