Sorry I haven't been around to comment much lately, I took a couple of weeks away from the blog to focus on offline things. I've been doing a spot of revamping around the house, plus some extra summer work and a couple of web design projects that need finishing. I'm eager to be done with everything so I can get back to work on the novel. I'm about halfway through my YA passthrough, tweaking and strengthening. It's lost 10k words since its previous draft already.
Speaking of house revamping, I have a new bed! It is this one
. I bought a memory foam mattress for it and, oh my word, is it ever difficult getting out of it in the morning. So very comfy. Wintertime is going to be the worst, though, when I have to get up at six o'clock for work. Ungh.
I also finally tossed out my Kodak C310 all-in-one printer because it spaz-flailed one too many times. Bought a far cheaper HP Deskjet, figuring I won't feel like I've been robbed blind if it turns out to be rubbish. I don't trust printers any more—I've been through too many bad ones. Honestly, they can put people on the moon but nobody can make a printer that lasts… ;)Epic Steampunk Wedding Has Everything
- via The Mary Sue. It's the ring-bearing robot butler that got me.New Steampunk vs. Aliens Anthology
- put together by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray. Sounds cool! It has a Kickstarter page here
♫ You're Gonna Go Far, Kid
, by The Offspring.
On Saturday I went to a steampunk extravaganza market of curiosities with friend and writer Beth Stewart
. It's the first time I've seen anything like this in my area, and it was amazing, as we walked in, to find so many steampunks and people into Victoriana gathered together. A lot of the vendors had come from all over the country to sell their wares and show off their creations, and there were loads of beautiful stalls and very friendly people.
I took a few pics, which I'll pop ( under the cut, featuring jewellery and dresses, and a cool guy with a steampunk electric guitar )
I bought stuff from Skewwers Steampunk
who had a stall chocked with broaches and earrings and pendants. Unf. I could have spent a lot more time ogling the clothes, too, but the clothing sellers were popular and the stalls packed. There were also a couple of authors promoting their books, though I didn't get close enough to pick up any info. It's something to keep in mind though, if I ever manage to get my novel published.
Hopefully the popularity of the market means they'll put on another one soon.
, by Tricky.
I planned to blog each day of the Weekender, but yeah, I should have known there would be too much going on. This is a bit lenghty (hence why it's taken so bloody long to finish it!).
The journey to north Wales took about seven hours, but because me and Beth
were full of squee about the con it didn't seem that long—not until we got to our lodge and stepped inside out of the cold, and the wall of tired hit. The lodge was gorgeous, with modern fittings and a rooftop balcony, and a panoramic view of Cardigan bay and the marina below. It was a bit of a writer's haven; I could have happily stayed just to hang out there.
OK, but we did make it to the con. Friday's opening ceremony was short and sweet, and we got a promising taste of Area 51
, the weekend's performance entertainment who were spectacular and present pretty much the whole time.
Early on Friday morning, on our way to drop things off in the car, ( me and Beth got Darthed )
Vader accused us of squeezing his butt, which was a complete lie and you should never listen to a word that guy says. Does he even have
Anyway, there was a huge vendors area full of merchandise, books and trinkets, and even though we visited it three times during the day we only managed to chip away at maybe half of the stalls. There was a gamers area too, where you could hang out and play. I bought a Thundercats clock made from the cover of an old 1980s annual (Beth picked up a Danger Mouse clock for her husband; unfortunately I didn't have the excuse of a spouse or kid!). The venue itself was huge, split between two main buildings, with a cinema showing sci-fi movies around the clock, and various places to sit outside and grab food. The layout looked great upon arrival, though I did have a few issues with the panels being so close to the signing and vendor areas—more on that in the next post.
Then we settled down for some panels. ( Here Come the Girls, Here Come the Boys, No Airships Required (featuring Robert Rankin), and Vampires in Love )( More photos under here, mostly giant robots and Area 51 )
We popped back to the lodge to freshen up, but because we ended up chatting we ran a bit late to the cabaret. The entertainment had its moments of WTF (the Dalek impersonator from Britain's Got Talent, accompanied by brightly coloured dancing Tardises) and also its moments of WOW, like Mental Dave the illusionist and his teleporting rabbit (gah, so cute!), and again, Area 51. ( Vid of them in action )
Oh, and Titan the robot was kinda cool. I also caught part of its spot which you can watch on YT here
. Me and Beth were planning on getting an early night but there was a party after the cabaret—super cheesy music, and the robots joined everyone on the dance floor. We danced until nearly 1am, and then headed to the lodge for some well-needed sleep.
Although I've posted about some of my highlights, there were a few sucky bits that I'll mention in the next post. From what I've read on other write-ups by people who stayed in the caravans on-site, we did right booking the lodge in town. Yikes!
Part two of my write-up is now online here
♫ On the Run (Feat. Jenna G)
, by The Qemists.
LJ confounded me when they removed the Last.FM link from the edit profile page. I'm not sure where they announced it, but you can now find and add your Last.FM link at the bottom of this page
. I don't really get the need for a relocation, but then, there are many things LJ does that I don't get. ;)
I'm 13,000 words into draft #2 of the steampunk novel and I'm trying to find old 19th century travelogues and journals written by Brits abroad. You'd think there would be tons of them scattered all over the 'net, but for some reason they're hard to locate or just plain unreadable because the scan quality sucks. My friend Yvonne dug up a few decent resources the other day, but even she found it difficult and she's a black belt in Google-fu. This may require another trip to Bath, this time during the week so I can raid the library. It's not too
frustrating hitting this wall because there are other parts of the novel I can get on with; the travelogue sections weren't in my original plan anyway, and I don't feel like they're major roadblocks at this stage. But I do need to get it sorted eventually, and I need to get it just right.
Aside from that, the second draft is going better than I dreamed. After realising it needed two main POVs instead of one, the scope of the novel has opened up even more. The finished thing will actually have four POVs, though two of them will be minor, contained in the short travelogues mentioned above. They'll also mark my first proper foray into 1st person. Aiee!
There are also a couple of flash pieces on the horizon for the Story Slam in July. I recently found my way to Erin Morgenstern's blog
where she's been writing 10 sentence stories set to photographs, and I thought I'd have a go at something similar using everyday visual prompts. Even if I don't read them out at the Slam, we're putting on a table of hand-made booklets and story flyers like we did at the Arts Festival last year
, and they make great printable pieces for sharing.
Random Thought: I'm always flailingly amused that Zack Braff calls Donald Faison "C-Bear" on Twitter. ♥ Scrubs
♫ Hungry Like the Wolf
, by Duran Duran.
Swiped this meme from a number of people. I'm not tagging anyone specifically; do this if you want to play along! Gah, this thing forced me to look way too closely at my early draft writing. :)
1. Go to page 77 (or 7th) of your current MS
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they're written. No cheating.
Steampunk novel draft #2:
… down to a brightly lit cellar. A couple of gaslamps glowed faintly gold, their light too weak to touch the workshop surfaces washed white by katium's unearthly radiance. Grace stumbled into a wheeled trolley, which clattered across the stone floor and bumped into another trolley. Upon it sat a device that resembled a familiar shape—an animal of some sort, with four protruding leverlike legs and a round brass head sat atop its squat body—though before Grace could register what it was, exactly, Kit grabbed a greying cloth from nearby and threw it over the device, muttering something about "A work in progress." With a little help, Grace made it to a workbench that…
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.
65,000 words through the first draft of the steampunk novel. A few weeks ago hierath
linked to one of her blog posts
in which she talks about story walls, and how they seem to crop up for a lot of writers at the one-third and two-thirds stages of a project. Being a bit of a newb at this novel writing racket, I assumed I was immune to these writing phenomena when the first 25k words went so quickly, but nope: I hit my walls around 25-30k and 60k. It's freaky! Anyway, I am pleased to say I'm now (mostly) unstuck and THE END
looms. I also have the beginnings of plot for the follow-up novel. Aaah!
I'm also hammering away at new short story that grew from a totally random plot-bunny attack. I can't remember why it came up, or where it came from, but something obviously pinged my brain recently because now I am writing about strange lightning-powered machines, set in the early 1800s. That's all I'll say for now. Oh, except earlier today I did a search and found this cool article: Secret Sprites: Study Explains High-Altitude Flashes
Something I'm finding extremely useful at the moment is this article on the 20 common grammar mistakes that (almost) everyone makes
from Lit Reactor. I'm guilty of a couple of these; unfortunately, they're like a writing reflex. But I'm determined not to let any slip through into final drafts.
There are a few projects upcoming and currently in progress. It's nice to have a To Do List that's short and manageable—I don't imagine it'll always look like this!
March 3rd: Writer's Network presentation: Online Publishing (w/Jennifer Bell).
March 6th: Speculative Fiction seminar in Bath.
Early March: Write Dadaism article for Paperblanks Blog.
Soon: Finish first draft of short lightning machine story.
By March End: Finish first draft of steampunk novel.
♫ Polaroids and Chinese Whispers
, by Our Ceasing Voice. Post-rock from the Austrian Alps. This is very atmospheric; good for moody writing. It's also available for free download on Last.FM here
, as are quite a few of OCV's tracks.
Had a great day out in Bath last weekend, and it turned out to be very fruitful in terms of research material. I came away with way too many books, a few photos hastily snapped on my iPhone, and a gazillion details and ideas for the world-building of my steampunk novel. In the end we only managed to hit one museum—No.1 Royal Crescent—as we ended up wandering for most of the day in the crisp air, soaking up the atmosphere and architecture. More trips are required soon, and perhaps we'll be able to visit the Jane Austen Centre or the Roman Baths.( There are a few pictures under here, mostly of miscellaneous buildings and the Royal Crescent. Some hints as to what my novel backdrop will look like )
The tour guides were gracious and extremely patient with me as I bombarded them with eager questions. Even though my research falls just after their period of expertise, they were all kind and accommodating and explained a load of nifty stuff that'll be handy when I'm editing and shuffling facts around. I also think I scared one of the guides during the following exchange:Kind Lady Tour Guide:
*interesting facts about the 18th & 19th centuries*Jen:
Wow. Can I take you home with me and sit you next to my desk so I can ask you questions as I write?Kind Lady Tour Guide:
Hahaha… *slowly backs away*
For those wondering, I didn't kidnap her. It was tempting, though.
I also succumbed to two more Paperblanks notebooks—"Autumn Maiden
" and "Lindau
." You might think, by now, I have too many notebooks and it'll take me years to fill them, but… there are never enough.Never enough.
♫ Horror With Eyeballs
, by The Dissociatives.
Starting my new notebook
was so much fun
, all those crisp pages and the new-book smell, and that shiny gold-brushed brocade hardcover and mmmm. As always, Paperblanks blows me away with their quality designs, and this particular book is the perfect look and feel for my current projects. Ah, it really is the little things in life, isn't it?
On Sunday I'm venturing to glorious Georgian Bath
on a research trip with my writer friend Jennifer Bell. This will give me the opportunity to fill in some of my "[insert street name here]" notes in the novel document, and also visit various landmarks that feature in the story, including the amazing Royal Crescent
where one of my characters lives (in 1865). They've done up the first townhouse in 18th century style, so I should be able to figure out the layout of the house and pick up some ideas of its contents. I'm also hoping to hit the Jane Austen museum and possibly the Pump Room restaurant
for some afternoon tea. It would be fun to see the Roman Baths
, but I don't know if we'll be able to fit it all in, as we also want to swing by the library. Anyway! I will no doubt take loads of pics, and I'll post some of them here if anyone's interested.
I've also got a week off work starting today, and I plan to do some serious word crunching throughout. The steampunk novel is now at 45,000 words, and I've got the rest of it figured out—hastily sketched in aforementioned notebook. In some ways, it's sad knowing everything that's about to happen, because I've had such a blast feeling my way through to this point. But, the end is in sight. Well, the end of the first draft, that is.
Hope you all have a great weekend! I should be more commenty in the coming week, as catching up with LJ happenings is high on my To Do List.
♫ Piano Tune VIP
, by Bar9. More dubstep (I know, I know, but it's all I can listen to right now while I write!), this time really
filthy. You need decent speakers for full effect.
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!
I just spent more time reading fake_lj_deaths
than I care to admit. I didn't plan on getting sucked in by the deluge of crazy that's been reported there over the years, but then, I say that about a lot of websites and blogs. The things people do, the lengths they go to—like it's really worth all the effort and all the lies. But still… it makes for some interesting, eye-opening reading. Kind of reminds me of the Msscribe fandom biography
, although I doubt many fakery fiascos will ever match up to the sheer scale of that one. You may need to set aside a whole weekend, if you haven't already read it. (And on a side note, I do feel horrible for the people who genuinely get hurt, who are lied to and whose good will is taken advantage of. I'm not saying it's all hilarity. Most of it is just plain train-wreck reading.) I don't think any of us can
be entirely true to ourselves online, even if we tried. It's a totally different format. But it's about how you present what you do show of yourself, right? Right.
Novel progress is goodstuffs. I've passed the quarter way mark—quarter way! Aaah!—and we're only halfway through January. davidbcoe
recently blogged at Magical Words about Writers and Ambition
, and a lot of it resonated with me big time, especially given my current project:
"Creative ambition is what drives us to do things with our story that we’re not sure we’re capable of doing: deeply complex characters, complicated plot twists, non-linear narratives, exotic settings that require that extra round of research or brainstorming. In other words, it forces us to stretch as artists, to challenge ourselves, to risk failure by reaching for greatness."
This is exactly what I'm pushing for with the steampunk novel. At first I thought it was going to unfold in a certain way, but as I write I realise that I have the materials to do things I've never done before. The gamble is those things not working, but if I can't try it with a story like this, when can I? So, if the plot doesn't want to be linear (which it currently doesn't), I'll let it go and see what happens. If the world doesn't feel as rounded as it could, I'll research harder and bring out as many colours as I can. Right now, I'm more excited about it than terrified, though that's subject to change. *g*
And now that I have a shiny new PS3 slim (in limited edition silver, no less!), I've finally been able to finish Dragon Age II
. Hurrah! As long as you don't treat it as a sequel to the epic, sprawling, plotty Dragon Age: Origins
, it's a fairly entertaining game. You get to kill a lot of baddies. There are issues with uninspired backdrops and repetition, but there are a couple of nice cameos from DA:O characters. I can see why loads of fans didn't like it, but it's fun if you don't take it too seriously. I do hope DA3 will be better, though.
♫ Dragon Age II Main Theme
, by Inon Zur. You might like this if you're a fan of Hans Zimmer.
A little belated, but Happy New Year, everyone! I hope January is treating you kindly so far.
My January is all about writing, writing, writing. I'm learning I write more regularly on a long project than on a series of short projects. I realised that I wrote a bunch of short stories in 2011 that I never edited, and therefore never sent out on submission—this, I shall remedy in 2012. (Wait, that sounded dangerously like a Resolution!) ( Some blather about the steampunk novel-in-progress, cut for the sake of the uninterested )getyourwordsout
has kicked off and I'm already well over my target word count. The community itself is so organised
and has the most dedicated mods—I love it! And I'm meeting all these cool new peeps, too. Peeps I can't wait to get to know better!
The other night at my writing group one of our members gave a presentation on Concordance
software, which is for analysing language and studying electronic texts closely. There are a load of key features, like word counters, the ability to make wordlists, word frequency lists, indexes, and you can do proximity searches. My favourite thing is that you can check which words occur most often in a document (a bit like a word cloud), a handy way of weeding out those wicked crutch words you're not even aware are sneaking into your stories ("very," anyone?). Nifty. More about the software here
Also, I mentioned the new TV series Eternal Law
a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say so far it's not grabbing me. I'm saddened, as I had high expectations. But I'll stick with it for now and see how things unfold.
, by Nero. Dubsteppy goodness. Nero was probably my favourite emerging music act from 2010/2011.
I hope you all had a fabulous holiday! I'm drifting through my last few days off before I go back to work on Tuesday. To be honest, it'll be nice to slot back into a steady structure, as too many lazy mornings are bad for my health (or maybe it's all the leftover chocolate from Xmas. Who knows!).
There are two more TV events I forgot to blather about in my previous post: Downton Abbey
's Christmas special and the BBC adaption of Dickens's Great Expectations
. ( There are spoilers for Downton within. Also some videos and trailers of Great Expectations that Dickens fans might be interested in )
Moving on, I really want one of those spiffy little word counter thingies for the novel, but I'm afraid a counter will only enable me to obsess over numbers. It's bad enough having a word count at the bottom of Word documents (sometimes I switch them off because my eye strays there way too often, and I should be more focused on, y'know, actually writing new words, not how many old words I have).
Related, one of the things I'm enjoying the most is coming up with my own technology, especially the more creepy stuff. The worst part is that I can't talk about it, even though I want to. It's partly a jinxing thing, and partly the fear that I'll give away plot stuff that ought to be kept as a surprise. I've noticed a lot of authors are happy to talk openly about details of their stories, but I can't even bring myself to utter the title yet. I is wimpy.
Oh, and related to the above related, the other day I caught myself magpying. It was a horrible crash to Earth when I realised. I thought I'd come up with a terrific idea for a plot element, but it turned out I'd read something similar only a month or two before, so I had to take my plot back to the workbench. Such a shame, as the idea was fab, but props to the other author for making up something so cool that, for a moment, I unconsciously channelled it.
, by Therapy? This takes me right back to my rock-chick days, moshing my heart out and getting stomped on. Ah!