The Curious Evolution of Jennifer K. Oliver
A stroll through the mindfields
jenniferkoliver: (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Last year I posted unfavourably about the 2015 John Lewis TV ad "Man on the Moon". I thought I'd just say that I much prefer the 2016 ad. They've pulled it back from the faux-Disney sap of 2013 and the saccharine absurdity from 2015. Putting aside badgers, foxes and squirrels trampolining together (yeah, that's right), I can at the very least believe that a derpy dog might see something fun and want in on the action. It's kind of what derpy dogs do.

Here is the ad in case you haven't seen it: Buster the Boxer.

Just to note, this still doesn't top The Journey's beautiful simplicity from 2012. That's a tall order right there. I still get a lumpy throat when I see that snowman battling the wind with such a determined face. Oh man.

Let's Get Rocked, by Def Leppard.
jenniferkoliver: (Vintage | Stressed is Desserts)
As a long time Ice Road Truckers fan, and fan of big, Transformery-looking things in general, I'm happy to be writing short audiobook reviews for Trucking Magazine (UK). My first review is for The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I wanted to start with a favourite and a positive note, and I have to admit, I'm secretly hoping Optimus Prime sees it and gives the book a try, if he hasn't already, because ahhh, the human condition! Next up, I'm reviewing Damned by Chuck Palahniuk, which I'm currently working my way through (and feeling quite mixed about).

Totally unrelated, I've deleted my Facebook account. It's been a long time coming. Facebook's a network I've never felt comfortable using, even casually. I never wanted to share any personal info, even under friends or filter. I hated being tagged, particularly placed at a specific location, and I hated having to manually remove tags about me. I don't like the format or layout, and I dislike how difficult they make it to leave. It got to the stage where I despised even having to briefly log in to reply to direct messages. So it's gone.

Saying that, I still have a Twitter and Tumblr and Goodreads and Last.FM and YouTube and DeviantART, so it's not like I can't be found. I'm sure all those are enough to be going along with for now.

It's strange that I remove FB from my life right as I begin researching celebrity culture for my new novel. But thankfully I'm more focused on the A-List celeb beast, rather than the Internet fame type, although I know it'll come up later. I've been following this in the planning of the new novel:

How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day, by Rachel Aaron. I also picked up a Kindle copy of the e-book which contains everything in Rachel's post plus loads more specific to plotting and revising.

Right now, it's mostly plotting and developing characters, with little bursts of happy writing in between. But I desperately want to get stuck in and mash some words—even now I can already see an increase in my output.

Cafe Del Mar (Michael Woods Ambient Remix), by Energy 52.
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Blah Blah Blah)
I banned video games from my house so I wouldn't get distracted, then the other day at Storyslingers a friend handed me Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us to borrow. I mean, it would have been rude to say no, right? ;) Anyway, I've been tentatively playing Beyond: Two Souls and it's amazing. I'll do a separate blog post about gaming soon.

Previously I mentioned a crisis of faith about historical fantasy, but to be honest there's been a considerable crisis of faith about all my writing in recent weeks. So I dug out The Artists' Way by Julia Cameron and took myself on a Writing Date to a local cafe. There was mild bustle. There was hot chocolate. And there ended up being about 500 words, which doesn't sound like a lot, but for me at that moment was a breakthrough. I'm also in the swing of doing Morning Pages again, and have uncovered a couple of incidents from my past that I believe have been blocking me from consistency in writing. Being aware of these mental hurdles means I can try to get past them when they arise. It's not always easy, but it's definitely doable.

Plotting of the new YA sci-fi novel goes great. And I'm so happy to be able to say that! For a time my main characters weren't giving me anything, but now they're blooming and becoming interesting people, and I'm starting to really enjoy them. This, like my historical fantasy, is a dual POV (one male, one female). I seem to roll that way with long-form. I like alternative perspectives.

This is so silly, but do you remember Gizoogle? It was a thing back in 2005 (I can't believe it's been that long!), and I had no idea it was still online and working. Gizoogle will translate a web page, Twitter stream, or segment of any text into gangsta speak. I ran part of my very British, very Victorian-era novel through it and might subject my writing group to the results next meeting.

Swords and Sociology, Redux - great blog post by Kameron Hurley about how too much technobabble can pull you out of a story. From her post: "It’s this obsession with details that the POV characters really wouldn’t 1) know or 2) care about."

Jodie's Suite, by Lorne Balfe, from the Beyond: Two Souls OST.
jenniferkoliver: (FFVII | Sephiroth)
I still can't get back into a decent sleep pattern. It's going to be brutal when I'm back to work and have to get up at 6am; I haven't been falling asleep until 2am. Come on, body—catch up.

Utterly in ♥ with Hou-Bim's fantastic (and fantastical) illustrations. So colourful!

And I finally get the fuss about the Kindle. On Saturday morning I woke to a totally unexpected gift of a Kindle E Ink from [ profile] aigooism! I've been on the fence about getting one for ages—on one hand, I wanted one because they're convenient and shiny, but on the other hand I had a lot of expenses this year, particularly with my NY trip, and I couldn't justify it. I'm now stuffing my Kindle with books. I've raided Project Gutenberg for a lot of the classics, as well as Amazon's Top 100 Free Kindle Books. I also already had a number of books for iPhone which I've converted using Calibre.

There's a great article up at Society and Religion about the possibilities of setting the next Elder Scrolls game, TES6, in Hammerfell. It considers the impact of climate and environment, society and politics, and culture and religion (as well as other cool things): Small Islands off the Coast of Hammerfell to Explore. It does sound entirely feasible that a future TES game could be set here.

(Related, I love it when friends discover Skyrim and I get to re-live the experience all over again and also become something of a guru.)

Parachute, by Cheryl Cole.
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Book!)
I forget about entertaining dialogue all the time. It's another one of those million things I'm still working on. I think that often when we write we convince ourselves we're writing snappy dialogue because the dialogue is fast-paced, but it needs more than just pace: it needs to distinguish character, show character ticks, traits, attitudes, and relationship dynamics.

I recently read "Genderbending at the Madhattered", a short story by Kameron Hurley, and ended up following the link to Kameron's blog because I wanted to see what else they'd written. And I found an article about writing character banter that's worth bookmarking, Who Cares? On the Importance of Banter and Character-Driven Narrative. I hope it's OK to post a brief excerpt here:

When I went back and looked at my own writing, I realized I was spending all my time trying to be a Serious Writer, and sorely neglecting all the humor and snark that makes life itself bearable. It was the revelation that maybe I should be spending more time figuring out snarky dialogue and fight scenes that eventually led me to write God’s War the way I did.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in something else – worldbuilding, or plot – that we forget about the people, and we forget that the world exists to make the people the way they are and the plot only exists because the characters move it.

(Also, I love that Dragon Age: Origins artwork has been used in the post, because Alistair and Morrigan are wonderful examples of character banter. Actually, I love all of the questing dialogue in DA:O.)

Black Dove, by The Daylights.
jenniferkoliver: (Victorian Zombie)
I realised this morning that I didn't post to wish everyone seasons greetings. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a lovely day doing whatever you did! I'm usually more on the ball but I think I'm still recovering from my NY adventures. My inner time zone is taking a while to catch up, too.

I want to post about the MTV show Teen Wolf but I have a feeling it'll be a long ramble, so I will save my extensive thoughts for its own post. But I've been watching and for the most part enjoying it. This is all thanks to [ profile] davidrcooke, who said it was a little bit like a contemporary Buffy in some ways. I see a lot of other influences in it as well (aside from the obvious one, that is), and absolutely love the soundtrack so far. More later.

The other thing is @FacesPics on Twitter. It's so cute! Basically, people send in photos of inanimate objects that look like they're pulling faces. Such a wonderful idea. While I was staying in New York I saw some sockets that looked like little distraught faces—like these—and it reminded me to recommend Faces in Things.

Best of You, by Foo Fighters.
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.
24th-Jun-2013 02:25 pm - Conference happenings, and links
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Shoes)
Winchester Writers' Conference was exhausting, but in the informative, busy, fun way. The opening speakers were Julian Fellowes (who wrote this little British TV show called Downton Abbey) and his wife, editor Emma Kitchener-Fellowes. I only took one photo, mostly because the day was so packed with workshops and talks and meetings that I forgot to take more ) Fellowes is entertaining and inspiring and has so much energy. His enthusiasm set Saturday off on the perfect note.

The day consisted of discussions, workshops and one-to-one appointments. I went to five talks: Settings to Die For, Self-Editing Before Publication, Means to an End, Making a Drama Out of a Crisis, and Not Another Vampire Story )

The one-to-ones were probably my favourite part. I got great feedback and each one was extremely encouraging. I came away thrumming with writerly delight.

It's not the cheapest conference in the UK, but in my experience it's definitely worth going to if you can.

NASA’s Sci-Fi Vision: Robots Could Help Humanity Mine Asteroids - from Universe Today. More sci-fi future nerdery, but an exciting prospect. So if Armageddon really does happen like the movie, we won't have to send Bruce Willis up there to blow it up. That's a relief.

Losing You, by Phaeleh.
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: (Watchmen | Rorschach)
While doing a spot of research for my novel, me and a friend discovered some lists of unusual patron saints. Some of them are silly or funny, but some are just plain mind-boggling. (This is in relation to the naming of a building in my story, btw. None of these will actually feature as characters, which is probably a good thing.)

Saint Monica, Patron of Alcoholics.
St Fiacre, Patron of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
St Magnus of Fussen, Patron of Caterpillars (I totally want to be this saint).
St Vitus, Patron of Oversleeping.
Saint Barbara, Patron of Fireworks.
St Clotilde, Patron of Disappointing Children.
Saint Drogo, Patron of Unattractive People.
Saint Jesus Malverde, Patron of Drug Dealers.

And these two vie for my favourite:

St Isidore of Seville, Patron Saint of the Internet.
St Hubert of Liege, Patron of Mad Dogs (Protection from Werewolves).

Find the full lists here, here and here.

(Novel research aside, there are a number of opportunities for fictional hilarity on these lists.)

The Kids Aren't Alright, by The Offspring.
25th-May-2013 10:20 am - Off to (hopefully) sunny Southampton
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Blah Blah Blah)
Tomorrow I'm heading to Southampton for a few days to spend time with one of my best friends in the universe, [ profile] davidrcooke. A change of pace and scenery is nice once in a while. I'm hoping to get a bit of writing and editing done while Dave's at work, and I'm sure the salty Southampton air will be a refreshing shift of atmosphere. I love being near the sea.

Speaking of Dave, a couple of years ago he gave me this amazing notebook for my birthday, under a cut to spare your friends pages ) Because of the blank pages, I think I'm going to keep it as a mixed media book, and paste artwork and images into it, as well as snippets and notes and ideas. It'll probably be exclusive to my current novel (weirdly, I still can't bring myself to name the title here on my blog! Maybe one day, if I actually sell it...). I've already started collecting pics to print out, once I get hold of a new printhead for my Kodak. Anyway, best friends give the best gifts, because they are already the best gift of all.

Reading YA fantasy The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater ([ profile] m_stiefvater). It's about carnivorous water horses and an annual race held on the fictional island of Thisby. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. I'm a quarter way through, and already caught up in the strong character voices and beautiful prose. It's a totally different idea to many other YA books out there.

Johnny Dombrowski - an illustrator I found on Tumblr, whose artwork is rich and colourful, mixing boldness with a slight blur that gives some of his pieces a dreamlike quality. His concepts are interesting and unique.

Endlessly, She Said, by AFI.
jenniferkoliver: (Foo Fighters | Learn to Fly)
Like with SPN, I lost track of Merlin when it was on TV, stopping a few episodes into series four and not picking it back up again. Until now. I've watched all of S4 and S5 and have a few thoughts which I'll cut as usual )

I was thinking about blog posts the other day and recalled a friend who said she's way more likely to read a post if there's an image in it. I wondered what your thoughts are on this? Do you prefer a post to include an image, either relating to the topic or one that evokes a vibe, or are you more than happy to read text-only blogs? I notice a lot of blogs post images with their entries, but I see almost as many who don't (or if they do, it's not every post). It doesn't make any difference to me as I'm usually there for the text. Unless an image is adding something to the topic, I can live without it. Text doesn't intimidate me (I mean, I read books and manuals, and over the years I've learned to speed read and skim when necessary). It's interesting though. I also wonder if anyone's polled this.

I've started a new Paperblanks notebook! I'm currently writing in Lindau, an intricate design with faux jewels and gilding. So beautiful. I love running my fingers over its cover and moving it around so the light catches the shiny bits.

Better Book Titles - Who have put up some new covers recently.

Steampunk Lego - It was only a matter of time, wasn't it?

Kyle Quit the Band, by Tenacious D.
jenniferkoliver: (The Walking Dead | Daryl)
A lot of the time, what I love about a fictional character is their interactions with other characters. This is how I get to know my protags: make them talk to other people, many different types of people. It's like when you speak to somebody posh on the phone, you sometimes find yourself affecting a posh accent, and afterwards you berate yourself for doing it. My characters do the same kind of things.

I got my one-on-one appointments confirmation from Winchester Writers' Conference. I'll be speaking to one author and two editors. The nervousness solidifies! I'm currently sorting out a synopsis and ms samples, which need to be sent off by May 29th. This will be my first ever synopsis. I'm sure I'll agonise over it for ages.

Terry Pratchett on science, technology and his favourite Discworld characters - from The Guardian.

Permission Based Publishing: The NY Publishing Model (and Why It Doesn't Work) - from Huffington Post. The section in this article that struck me was Help midlist authors break out.

Considering Theme & Motif - good article by James Broomfield highlighting the differences.

Bottles to the Ground, by NOFX.
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.
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