Monday, 31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012!

So here we are.  The last day of 2012.

It should be the end of a great year - the year of the London Olympics, Paralympics and Queen's Jubilee.  It was a great year to the British.

In reality 2012 was a mixed bag.  I suffered anxiety attacks throughout the summer and don't get me started on October.  A whole month of illness, anxiety, job interviews and loss.  One of the worst months of my life.

 On the up side, the world didn't end.  Twice.

The year also had some utterly astounding moments.  We visited London Zoo where one of my old university friends is now lucky enough to work and she kindly gave us a behind the scenes tour of the reptile house which I will never forget.  Utterly amazing.

Yes, that is MY hand stroking a giant tortoise!

This is the year that I went to Scotland twice.  Yes, I am very proud of that!  We spent our first wedding anniversary in the glorious Inverness enjoying the sights of the Highlands and then my birthday in the beautiful Edinburgh.

Television and the cinema of 2012 has been fairly good.  Ok, so The Dark Knight Rises didn't quite live up to expectation but The Avengers was amazing, as was Looper, The Woman in Black, Brave and Ted and don't get me started on The Hobbit (no really, don't).

2012 also saw the first half of the third season of The Walking Dead with the fascinating Governor, the amusing Red Dwarf X, the second series of Game of Thrones and we lost the beautiful Annie in Being Human.

Rather than set myself resolutions in 2012, I gave myself goals;

  • Publish The-Novel-Formerly-Known-As-Silver – yes…well… I sent it off to two small publishers and got one rejection and one request for the full manuscript followed by a rejection.  I’ve since decided to rewrite the novel which will also be renamed, which I’m starting today!  
  • Write the sequel to Silver – This is linked to the above so this hasn’t happened either.
  • Write Matter of Time – Done!  Hurray!
  • Enter as many short story competitions as possible – While I did try and do this I was not successful in being placed at all.  I did write a few stories that I’m proud of though.  Early days…
  • Start writing articles/freelancing – I’ve thought about it a lot, does that count?
  • Get fit – HAHAHA!
  • Eat healthy – I tried and was doing quite well until November.
  •  Start writing a blog – Erm, hello!  And yes, today my blog is one year old! I even managed to write a blog serial!
And now 2013 is upon us.

Next year holds a lot of promise.  Wednesday is my first official day in my new job with my shiny new salary which is exciting in itself.

2013 has started with a bang with a new series of Miranda.  The Walking Dead season 3 will return in February and we will be able to find out what will happen to our beloved Daryl and Merle Dixon. 

Merle and Daryl Dixon

The big screen holds a lot of promise for 2013; Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Kick Ass 2, Star Trek Into Darkness, Die Hard 5 and Monster University.  Hmm...they seem to all be sequels!  One stand alone coming next year is the belated World War Z, but having seen the trailer I'm no longer looking forward to this film.

The main film I'm looking forward to in 2013?  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug of course!

I am starting 2013 with the biggest pile of books to read that I've ever had including the titles The Hobbit, The Woman In Black by Susan Hill, A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin, The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore, Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, 11.22.63 by Stephen King, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, a number of titles by Suzy McKee Charnas and Ursula le Guin stolen from my mum and I will also be buying Red Country by Joe Abercrombie which is out now.

So, my goals for 2013...
  • Enter as many short story competitions as possible.
  • Get published - somehow, somewhere!
  • Finish and submit Matter of Time - I finished the third draft just yesterday!
  • Rewrite and finish The-Novel-Formerly-Known-As-Silver
  • Write the first draft of a new project
  • Continue with my blog and write another blog serial
  • Read more female writers - as you can see from my above list, I'm on my way!
My most favourite Dwarvish hat ever!
I have a good feeling about 2013.  Some people are feeling rather superstitious about it - prolonging their wedding or getting pregnant until 2014.

But the number 13 once won me a giant Mars bar and I'm feeling lucky.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, have a fantastic night and a wonderful, happy, healthy 2013.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

O is for Obsession


Something has happened.
It used to happen a lot when I was little and it never ended when I was a teenager.  I stupidly thought I would one day grow out of it.


So it’s time to make a confession; I am an obsessive.

I don’t mean obsessive compulsive, although I do wash my hands far too much.  I mean obsessive.  Something will enter my life and then it will take over my mind.
It used to drive my friends and family insane.  Now I try to keep it to myself, I find other ways of letting my obsessions breathe.  Those closest to me will still be able to recognise the signs – in fact I bet you a small piece of Christmas cake that my mum knows exactly where this post is going!

My obsessions usually sprout from television or film.  A concept or character will hook into my mind and set up shop there.
Obsessions leave their mark.  They reach inside me, turn me inside out and leave me changed.

Examples of some of my past obsessions?

  • The Lion King (I was only little so I won’t say much but I will admit to knowing all of the songs by heart which embarrassed my husband at Bristol Zoo this year as I sang and danced my way around the centre green.  I saw this film at the cinema 5 times)
  • Buffy and Angel (a large DVD collection and a novel idea which I have written three beginnings for, so far)
  • The Lord of the Rings (my true introduction to the world of fantasy which led to me writing the beginning and only the beginning of a high fantasy novel but has influenced my writing and reading choices ever since)
  • Firefly and Serenity (a way of talking, an introduction to Nathan Fillion (and therefore Castle), and a novella idea)
  • Supernatural (an annoyed husband who was apparently forced to go upstairs for 40 minutes at a time for a whole three seasons which I watched back to back!  My Emily May character and subsequent novel ideas and my Summer 2012 blog serial)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (which made a nerve wracking summer bearable and led to me wearing bandanas for a few months and left me with heavy eye make up, a small collection of pirate books and novels, an unfinished written novel and a novella idea.  I saw this film at the cinema nine times.  Yes.  Nine.  I would have gone for the tenth but the cinema stopped showing it)
  • The Walking Dead (an ongoing obsession which has led to a plethora of zombie novels on my book shelf, a written short story and a multitude of daydreaming)

What do most of these obsessions have in common?  My writing!  My obsessions are my inspiration.  I live them, breathe them, allow them to consume me.  I twist them and bend them and the result is a plot line, a character, a concept, an idea that results in a short story, novella or novel.

I am a writer, therefore I am obsessive.  My obsessive nature makes me a writer.

I tell you this now because all of the signs are there once more.  I’ve just bought a movie soundtrack (not unlike me, I have many) and I have recently been to the cinema to see the same film twice in less than a week.  A film I didn’t really want to see in the first place.

Yes, there is something about dwarves and wizards and dragons and hobbits that has enticed me, dug its claws into me and dragged me kicking and screaming back to high fantasy.  And yes, I did just admit to seeing The Hobbit for the second time at the cinema.  And you know what?  I loved it!

I was wrong in my review – Gollum is not overacted, he was brilliant.  The music is also beautiful.  The second time round I really heard the dwarven score which is why I’m now the proud owner of the soundtrack, a new ringtone (someone ring me, please!) and the book is winging its way to me (I know, I haven’t read it yet, for shame).

I am now waiting for the story ideas to flow.  I wonder if this will be an obsession which leads to big inspiration.  It may just be one of those wonderful worlds that I can happily disappear off to when I close my eyes.

I imagine I am not unique in this.  I know there are other obsessive people out there.  I wonder if they are writers too?

And now for one of those moments in a film that gives me pleasurable shivers and makes me desperate to pull out a pen and paper...

Monday, 24 December 2012

An unexpected delight

Hurray!  The world didn’t end!  To celebrate, last night we went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  

I wasn’t expecting to like it much.  I saw some clips previously that looked heavily epic, if you’ll excuse the term.  After three years of Lord of the Rings (which I loved), I’m a little tired of epic.  Especially as I now can’t watch Lord of the Rings on my home television.  It belongs on the big screen, which slightly ruins it.  So I went to see The Hobbit tentatively.

Before I first saw The Fellowship of the Ring, I didn’t really know a lot about fantasy.  I was suffering from writers block and then I was introduced to Middle Earth.  I remember especially the moment that Gandalf lit his staff to reveal the insides of the Mines of Moria.  My usually noisy mind (dissecting dialogue, commenting on direction, telling me what’s going to happen next) was made utterly speechless.  That silence in my head had never happened before, nor has it happened since.

The Hobbit was a fun and wonderful reminder of why I love fantasy so very much.  A reluctant, young Bilbo Baggins is dragged into a quest by wizard Gandalf the Grey to help twelve dwarves reclaim the lost dwarven kingdom of Erebor in The Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug.
It’s a traditional fantasy – dwarves and dragons.  Now, I feel I must be honest.  I have not read the book (yet), so please bear this in mind when you read the following.

As with the Lord of the Ring films, The Hobbit is visually a masterpiece.  The scenery is definitely epic and the CGI is brilliant.  The detail of the characters is amazing, although some development is lacking in places.  The Hobbit, unlike Lord of the Rings, is a children’s fantasy and as such contains warm humour and bright colours.  It is fast paced throughout most of the film and during the rare slow moments you can rely on a fast paced action sequence being just round the corner.

As I mentioned, character development was lacking in places.  This is probably due to the number of dwarves present rather than poor writing.  Thirteen dwarves means that it’s difficult to know each and every one, even in such a long film.  Especially when there is also a hobbit, Gollum, three wizards, a Lady and Lord of elves, three trolls, an goblin king and an orc villain...
A selection of dwarves stand out;

  • Thorin (Richard Armitage), king of the dwarves,
  • Balin (Ken Stott), Thorin’s advisor and friend,
  • Bofur (James Nesbitt), a comic and outspoken dwarf who seems to be the first to develop any kind of affection towards Bilbo,
  •  Dwalin (Graham McTavish), the warrior and possibly the biggest,
  • Ori (Adam Brown), the youngest and
  • Kili (Aidan Turner), yes Mitchell from Being Human!

I would hope that the characters of the dwarves will develop further in the next two films, of course.   In the meantime, not knowing all of the dwarves well does not hinder an enjoyment of the film.  Rather, in this film they give the impression of what it means to be a dwarf – brave, merry, honourable, to enjoy good food and a good fight, stubborn, kind and gentle.

Thorin Oakensheild
Gandalf (Ian Mckellen) is a different wizard to one we meet in The Fellowship of the Ring.  He is younger and a little naive.  He allows his fear to show and therefore his vulnerabilities.  He is overall a more likeable wizard.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved him in Lord of the Rings, but I like him more in The Hobbit.

Bilbo Baggins is played brilliantly by Martin Freeman.  The mannerisms that Ian Holm introduced to Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings is carried through and fully developed.  Bilbo is a likeable but reluctant hero.  He doesn’t seem to realise just how brave he is.  He is a kind hobbit but at the same time there is a pompous, selfishness there which is probably the weakness that leads to him stealing the ring from Gollum.  It is that same pompousness that keeps him with the dwarves even when they doubt them.

Yes, Gollum is there too of course. The 'riddles in the dark' scene between Gollum and Bilbo is wonderful and the CGI of Gollum has improved (if possible).  Gollum is already complete by this film but it feels that a huge emphasis was put on his scenes, perhaps because he is such a fan favourite.

My main issue with The Hobbit was the similarities with the Lord of the Rings.  Of course it must feel familiar with the settings and music, as it is set in the same place.  As we first see Rivendell and the beautiful music of the Rivendell elves picks up, I found myself smiling.  Later as we cut to the dwarves marching across the snowy mountain tops to that same music that followed the Fellowship, my heart sank.  I am tired of the epic nature of the Lord of the Rings and perhaps these familiar scenes and music stirred these memories within me.  They were short lived however, as the next scene drew us closer to the warm nature of the dwarves.

The Hobbit has been accused of having scenes which are too long.  This is true in places.   A lot of the scenes could easily have been cut.  To be honest, I only vaguely noticed them.  The film is mostly fast paced and my mind only wandered a few times during the more lengthy scenes.  The most boring scene was one in Rivendell as Gandalf, Saruman, Elrond and Galadriel discuss a new darkness looming.  While it was interesting to see Galadriel’s relationship with Gandalf and a non-evil (perhaps?) Saruman, I just wasn’t interested.  I wanted to be back with Bilbo and the dwarves, on their journey to reclaim their home.  However I’m sure that this dull scene will play its part in the following two films.

Speaking of Galadriel, where are the strong female characters in the travelling group?  I know that Tolkien could write them.  Galadriel, Arwen and Eowyn are proof of this, yet there were no females in the Fellowship and there are no females in the travelling group in The Hobbit.  Ok, so it’s supposed to represent male comradeship but what’s wrong with a female dwarf helping to reclaim her home?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Hobbit.  I sat down in the cinema telling myself it was ok if I didn’t enjoy it and that I wouldn’t force myself to see the next two films.  Now I can’t wait to see the next one.  By the last scene I was hungry for more.

Last week I tried hard not to listen to a man at work telling a colleague about the film.  I was fearful of spoilers but needn’t of worried.  However, he did say that he just couldn’t get on with a film that had giant eagles in it.  Last night, as the giant eagles came into view, I was reminded of this and thought to myself, what?  I don’t understand.  I honestly don’t understand how anyone could not like this film, never mind the giant eagles.

Radagast the Brown
Yet, I am the only person I know who has loved this film.  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe this is a bad, boring and long film.  I was carried away by the premise, by the new characters in a familiar setting, by the connections between The Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring, by the simple and wonderful story concept, by the warmth and comradery of the dwarves.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, in the Fellowship of the Ring my mind was rendered speechless by the sight of the mines of Moria.  Something similar happened at the very last scene in The Hobbit.  I won’t tell you what the scene was but suddenly my mind fell silent.  And then it uttered three words to me; Oh.  My.  God.

I should leave it there but I want to mention one more thing.  As a writer, when faced with a good film, my overactive mind begins to create a new character.  Who would I be in this film?  What would I be, who would I be and what would her story be?
I had these thoughts during Lord of the Rings and I had them during The Hobbit.  What a conflict, surely I cannot be in both.  Which would I prefer?  Oh, that’s easy.  Definately a female warrior dwarf to a Lady of Rohan.

Which would you prefer to be in?

Merry Christmas everyone!