jenniferkoliver: (South Park)
After three weeks of having no internet at home, and only sporadically being able to take care of important stuff using a friend's wireless, I'm finally back online. Aaah! There's tons to catch up with and I'm happy to be back, but there's a lot to be said for taking a few weeks offline:

I've written just over half of my new YA novel. As I said in my previous post (all those weeks ago), I'm using the Rachel Aaron approach and planning every chapter and scene before I write, aware of exactly what I want and need to get across before I start. I summarise the action, jot down small dialogue exchanges, list the themes/elements I want to shine, then I dive into the document. And my daily output has shot up—some days I'm cranking out 3000-4000 words, where before I was usually a 500-1000 words-per-day kinda gal. I'm sure things will slow down when the draft is complete and I start to revise, but for now, it's all jazz.

At the end of March me and a friend travelled to North Wales to attend the Sci-Fi Weekender 2014. We nerded out over some stunning cosplay, and got to watch live interviews with Graham McTavish and Royd Tolkien. I also especially enjoyed Festival of the Spoken Nerd, and Robert Rankin. I'm going to make a separate post for all of this, though, as there are a lot of pics and things I need to compile first.

I also dug two classical acoustic guitars out of the loft and I've been playing a little. There are some great sites that offer free user-created tab, pretty much any type of music you could want. I've found some obscure things and am having a ball relearning how to play between life and writing. It's been about thirteen years since I played guitar with any regularity, and it's amazing how much I still remember (I can even pick out an extremely slow, clunky version of Asturias, which is astounding. I mean, mine's terrible, but I remember the notes!). It's all tentative right now, but who knows, I might get back into it and start taking lessons again.

And there's a new EXO song teaser: Overdose. *squee*

Dark Star, by Fightstar.
jenniferkoliver: (Bleach | Ulquiorra)
So far, 2014 has been a tech-y year for me. I got Photoshop CS6 up and running and am still ogling all the wonderful tools and enhancements. Adobe have really outdone themselves with new joys like Erodible Tips—brushes that work exactly how dry media does; they wear down gradually the more you use them, and you can resharpen the "nibs" digitally. I also bought a Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch graphics tablet, which is taking a little getting used to (as expected) but is already proving an excellent addition to my PS adventures.

Me and Beth Stewart are in the process of organising what I hope will be a regular annual trip to North Wales for the Sci-Fi Weekender. 2014 includes a Theoretical Zombiologist, so pretty much all of my requirement boxes have already been ticked. I'm looking forwards to the panels again, and all the cosplayers! (Here is my post from 2013's Weeknder.)

Did I mention before that I've been catching up with the latest Bleach manga chapters, and also rewatching the anime? I stopped reading Bleach a couple of years ago because I tend to go through binge phases when something I like is drawn out over a long period (and Bleach has been going for, like, thirteen years now, so)—I'll leave it alone for big gaps then marathon it in a weekend or whatever. I do this a lot with TV shows, too. Anyway, I am catching up and rewatching and falling in love with it all over again. I want to write loads about it, but I think I'll save it for another post in the future. I have a lot of Bleach feels thoughts. But there will be icons soon!

In For the Kill, by La Roux (Skream Remix).
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Kitty Love)
A lot of folk have mentioned Welcome to Night Vale and I'm going to add my voice, because it is unique and clever and just plain rollicking creepy fun. This is the blurb: Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide. Great thing about Night Vale? It's free to download. Other great thing? It's extremely well produced and acted. And did I mention rollicking creepy fun?

I've had an idea for a new novel. Cheers, brain. I'm not done with the current steampunk novel and I've only just started outlining its follow-up, but now I have this third monster—a YA sci-fi about celebrity culture and self-identity. It was originally a short story I wrote last year that never quite came together or felt complete. And now I know why.

And it got me thinking: Sometimes you have a fully realised world and you try to work it as a short story, and you're sure there must be a way of showing what needs to be shown super subtly, in a condensed form. But some stories can't be pushed into small packages, and I think you have to go with your gut rather than struggle with them. Writers agonise over keeping things lean, but it should never be to the detriment of story.

Occasionally I would try to squish a story to fit the guidelines of my favourite magazines, but not so much these days. It wasn't healthy, for me or my fiction. Now I go with my gut, and try not to freak out too much if I realise that short story I've been bouncing around is actually a novel. :)

John Scalzi's Convention Harassment Policy - That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action. There's also a post where you can co-sign this policy.

I've never been harassed at a convention, but I've been inappropriately grabbed before, and I would hate for something like that to colour a fan's enjoyment of an event that should be a safe, welcoming and exciting environment.

Ashes to Ashes, by David Bowie.
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 | Wolfwomen)
Tomorrow I board a train and head to Winchester for the Winchester Writers' Conference. I'm no longer nervous; there have been weeks to be nervous, and I am all out of nerves. By now, the Author, the Agent and the Editor (walked into a bar. Sorry, it sounds like the start of a joke) will have read my first chapter and I'm dying to hear if it's working. It feels like the right time to start sending out my novel to first readers, and that's exactly what I'm doing. Chapters 1 − 3 went out to my writing group a couple of days ago. Perspective, I do not have it any more. ;) But gosh, I'm actually enjoying editing through the second draft, tightening the bigger things like voice (which is so important to me when reading books) and character motivation. I don't enjoy editing short stories, but I seem to thrive editing novels. Who'd have thunk it?

Mostly I've been writing and editing to The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack, by Hans Zimmer. I wish I could do with words what Zimmer does with music. I feel like I could sit and peel back layer after layer of his scores and keep finding new twists and turns. Atmosphere is another one of those things I latch onto when I read a book, and Zimmer knows atmosphere. He's incredibly inspiring.

Speaking of awesomeness, yesterday I finished reading The Raven Boys, the first book in the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved this book immediately, so much so that I decided it was one of my favourite YA novels before I was even a quarter way in. The blurb makes it sound way more romancey than it is, though there are the beginning glimmers of a romance. It's more about the magic and mystery and intricate platonic relationships, and I highly recommended it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman, was lovely, entertaining, dark and charming. As expected!

Beetlebum, by Blur.
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: (X-Men First Class | Charles & Erik)
Part one of my write-up can be found here.

Bit of a slow start on the second day, mostly because we didn't get to sleep until nearly 2am which for me is insanely late. Saturday offered a good selection of panels, but unfortunately it was often hard to hear what panelists were saying because the venue was much busier (kids being off school, etc) and the signing and vendor areas were close by. I also found that a lot of people were hanging out in the audience seats, chatting while they waited to meet celebs or visit the vendors. At one point me and Beth had to move seats because we couldn't hear a word of the panel. This is one of my major gripes about the weekend: discussions held in noisy, echoey rooms.

Here's a rundown of the panels from Day 2. Why the End of the World is so Popular, Fantasy Worlds and Creating Marvels, The Future is Bright but What Would Asimov Make of It? )

We didn't do quite as much character spotting, mostly because me and Beth were tired from late night dancing, but I got a snap with a dinky Predator (omg!), and Beth got a few good pics, including Dalek snogging, more robots, Area 51, me and the Ghostbusters, and Titan ) We hit the vendors a bit more aggressively this time and spent more money on books and cool nick-knacks. I nearly picked up a copy of Watchmen signed by David Gibbons, but instead bought a load of novels I've wanted to try for ages but never got around to.

Oh, and it's amusing that Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, who plays Curtis in Misfits, was running late due to train problems, given what his character's superpower is (time travel). Ha!

Definitely the highlight of the day was Brian Blessed, who was interviewed on stage by Robert Rankin. What a combination, and possibly the only time when Rankin wasn't the centre of attention—he seemed genuinely honoured and awed to be sharing the stage with Blessed. Mind you, Blessed is a character in every sense of the word, and is larger than you could ever imagine. Rankin said that when he agreed to do the interview, the guy from the con sighed with relief and admitted that everybody else they'd asked was too afraid to do it. Ha! As expected, Blessed is loud and flamboyant and energetic—bounding on stage proclaiming "Gordon's alive!"—and he's also funny and charming and intelligent and interesting. He's also the biggest, loudest nerd ever, has a bunch of fun celebrity anecdotes, and if what he said is true he's also a fully qualified cosmonaut and is hoping to go into space at some point. He's so passionate about science and sci-fi that it was hard not to get emotional during his speech. Really, the perfect Guest of Honour.

One thing I'd love for next year is panels geared towards deeper discussion about writing and sci-fi. While I enjoyed the panels and really liked all of the speakers, some of them were a little safe and a bit obvious. I recently posted about higher-level writing discussion panels and how they're not always accessible. Since the con is designed for nerds, it shouldn't be too much to ask—most people will already have a grasp on a lot of the basic advice and viewpoints. This isn't exactly a criticism, mostly me wanting more of the good stuff.

Anyway, we had enough fun that me and Beth have already booked the lodge for next year. If anyone decides to go in 2014, let me know!

The World, by Nightmare. Japanese visual kei / rock live at Nippon Budokan.
jenniferkoliver: (Predator | Hand)
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 a butt?

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.
jenniferkoliver: (South Park)
Me and a friend are off to the Sci-Fi Weekender (formerly known as the SFX Weekender) in North Wales in a couple of weeks. The website says: It's a festival of fun and activities for people who love science fiction and fantasy which makes me all squiggly and squee.

Check out their line up. Craig Charles! The only thing that could make that cooler is if Robert Llewellyn was there too, but I'll happily take "Dave Lister" alone. There is a Doctor Who, two actors from Game of Thrones, loads of sci-fi and fantasy authors (who I can't wait to see!), and Brian Blessed—who I'm sure we'll hear coming from many, many miles away.

Since I rarely go anywhere on holiday, this will be my chance to get away and fully nerd-out among like-minded people. We've booked a beautiful lodge by the sea that has wi-fi, so I should be able to do some blogging from the con, providing I don't wear myself out too much on sci-fi awesomeness.

Anyone on the f-list going?

In slightly related news (well, it's fantasy related), I see Supernatural has been renewed for a ninth season. While I'm still worried they're going to eek this show out until it's not good any more, I'll reserve judgement until I see it. And OK, yes, part of me is also super excited about more SPN. :)

Ooh La La, by Goldfrapp.
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Wolfwomen)
I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I did the Year 10 writing workshop. I wanted to blog about it way sooner, but lifestuff got in the way (as it often does). The workshop was great. There were about 25 students in attendance, which made me nervous to start with, but I had a teacher and teaching assistant there for support and to help keep things focused. I think the girls enjoyed it—at least, a few of them definitely did. There were a couple who weren't so into it, but that's to be expected; they didn't have any choice but to be there. A couple of students came to speak to me at the end, which was lovely. The very first thing I did was read out one of my short stories that works with their prompt "Other Worlds" and it seemed to go down well. Here are the topics and exercises from the workshop. Could be helpful if you're planning something similar )

I've also managed to write a solid few thousand words recently, passing the 50k mark on draft #2 of my steampunk novel. Thrilled! The last ten thousand or so words have been such a slog, but now I know I'm just over halfway with this rewrite, and it feels sweet.

Random: playing Oblivion last Saturday, questing my way across Tamriel, and at one point I turned around to see that my follower (who's sticking with me because his quest is currently active, plus I like the company) was missing his cuirass. So far, he hasn't found it, because he's still running around with me half-naked. Not that I'm complaining or anything. :)

And a couple of links for fun or interest:

Confident Writing - A blog that features articles, tips and suggestions to help you write with confidence.

Sci-Fi Weekender - Taking place in North Wales, March 1st – 3rd 2013. I'm linking to this because me and a friend are going. There are some awesome guests of honour—I will blog my squee about this in a few days!

We Apologise For Nothing, by Fightstar.
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Blah Blah Blah)
I am going to Bristolcon! This is exciting for so many different reasons. I was checking out the member list earlier and noticed one or two authors I'd like to meet, people whose work I read in my favourite magazines. I'm also thrilled that I'll get to hang out with [livejournal.com profile] hierath and hopefully get to speak to [livejournal.com profile] cherylmmorgan again.

I am also going to see one of my favourite sci-fi / space opera writers Iain M. Banks! He'll be signing copies of his new book The Hydrogen Sonata at Topping and Company in Bath in October. I just know I will become a bag of gibbering squee, desperately clutching my copies of Use of Weapons and The Hydrogen Sonata when I see him. I can only hope I don't say anything too stupid if I actually get to say hello.

September also marks the local Arts Festival. I can't believe it's come around again so quickly. Feels like last year's was only a few months ago. As usual, Storyslingers will be putting on a bookstand with handmade books, flyers and bookmarks. This time, we're hoping we'll be in a more accessible area than last year when we were tucked away where nobody could find us. Will post about this again nearer the time.

White Rabbit (Spc Eco Remix), by Collide.

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Jennifer K. Oliver

March 2017

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