Friday, November 09, 2012

110 . . . house proud

At the start of last week, Dingo and I were looking to move. Not back to Oz (sorry Mum), but from our apartment.

Issues with the guys in the flat directly above us - early Monday morning romps depriving us of our sleep - have been going on for some time now, severely affecting our wellbeing. We were at the point where moving out felt like our only option.

We were dead serious, to the point of attending a viewing and sitting down with our mortgage broker. But it took less than 24 hours for us to conclude that this was not what we want. We love where we live, everything about it, everything we have done to the flat to make it our own. Christ, how could we abandon Club SF? That bar rocks.

So instead of moving, we are determined to make it work by looking into other options to deal with our inconsiderate neighbours (yes, weapons are involved).

If there was any shadow of a doubt about staying put, last Saturday night's shindig put the debate to rest.  We had a large group of our friends over for pies and beers before heading to The Oval to watch a game of Aussie Rules footy.  The Oval is about a five minute walk from our place, or a twenty minute stumble on the return, as we found out.  Great game - close one - shame I can't remember watching half of it and I was in the toilet when the winning goal was scored.

Almost all our friends returned from The Oval to our pad and we opened Club SF and the good times rolled on into the wee hours, fuelled by a lovely Thai curry, cocktails galore, and a danceathon to end all danceathons.  After a big clean up, the place returned to its former self - our home - and we sat on the sofa thinking, Hell no, we won't go.

Can't leave London (again, sorry Mum).  Love this city.  We had the pleasure of watching Skyfall (new Bond movie) in a lovely private cinema just off the banks of The Thames in Pimlico.  Movie was awesome, but so was the night - free glass of champagne, free martini (of course) and a lovely dinner at Altitude, a restaurant on top of Millbank Towers giving an amazing 360 degree view of London at night, coloured by pre-Guy Fawkes fireworks.

Oh and before that - a speedboat ride along The Thames:

The big tower in the vid is a five minute walk from us in Vauxhall - and further along is MI5 (James Bond's place of work).  We jetted further east with great views of the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and my favourite, Big Ben.  Only a four minute ride, but it was a brilliant.

Love London!!!  Love our home!!! Love Mum too!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

38 . . . the vanity game by h.j.hampson

About time I started reviewing the books that I read, especially given the cauldron that has been bubbling since Harrogate about sock-puppetry, paid for reviews and cyber bullying.  (More on my views on this later).

Here's the latest book: met the author at Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.  After speaking to her and hearing about her debut book, I downloaded it immediately on to my mobile phone while balancing a pint of Theakstons.  Didn't work; in the morning, the book wasn't on my phone.  Rectified that quick smart and finished the book in good time. 

Check out my  review below (produced totally free of monetary reward):

The Vanity Game is like reading a trashy celebrity mag, poring over an entertainment website, or watching reality TV – pure indulgent entertainment!  There’s sex and drugs and rock and roll – “celebrities” behaving badly – and its loads of fun.

A great debut from H.J.Hampson – she really captures the life of the D grade celebrity, the overpaid footballer, the 15 minutes-too-long of fame, and the industry and media that feed off them.  The dialogue is witty and quick, the characters enjoyable, and you do feel like you are peeking behind the curtain of celebrity stardom as it is today.  Although the central plot of the novel is intriguing and quite original, it’s the scenes of photo shoots, roof top parties and expensive debauchery that really kept me reading.

The protagonist, Beaumont Alexander, is not exactly a likeable character though.  He engages in a number of acts, especially in the first few chapters, that can turn readers right off.  I did find it hard to sympathise with the multi-million pound footballer and gained more pleasure reading about his suffering and the crazy world that threatens to consume him.  I could be wrong, but I think that’s intentional: for what other reason do we enjoy seeing photos of celebrities in uncompromising positions and read stories of falls from grace?  It’s bloody entertaining!!!
Check it out here: Amazon UK

Friday, August 10, 2012

19 . . . simon finally on line

Discovered a few days back that David Simon is finally on line with a new web site.  He's had the rights to the web address for a long time but only now has he started to use it.

He has started out by populating his blog posts with old articles and essays - a bit a rehash one might say, but for someone not living in America, all this is pure unseen gold from Mr Simon.  Very interesting stuff indeed, as expected.

That said, I still do miss The Wire big time.

WARNING: Language, violence and worst of all, SPOILERS!!  If you have not seen all 5 seasons, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT watch this video, feel me?  Otherwise, enjoy!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

eleven . . . inspiration

Regardless of what nationality, you can't help be moved watching athletes achieve their goals to the tune of 80,000 roaring fans.

Well done Mo!  Well done Greg!  Well done Jessica!

Come on Australia - be inspired!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

ten . . . speaking of self promotion

I haven't self promoted in the past, mainly because I don't have anything to promote - yet!

This blog is a version of self promotion for sure and ultimately it will form part of my very own writer's website (I've already purchased the URL!).  But I don't want this blog to solely be about promotion - that would just get too boring and tired and I'd feel dirty doing it.  Instead, I want my blog to be informative and entertaining, something you might find interesting.  You might even relate to my plight of searching for that path to publication.

Self promotion is a bit foreign to me and at times, feels a little bit strange.  In fact, it feels downright wrong in some respects.  Not sure I like forcing things down people's throats - I know I squirm a bit when normal blogosphere chat turns to shameless promotion. 

Of course, it is necessary.  The way I see it, without a little bit of promotion, people will miss out, especially any loyal readers or fans you may have picked up along the way.  New book out - why didn't you say?!   Also, there's nothing better than the build up, nothing more exciting than anticipation - so people love that and to be along for the ride.

Once I hit that marketing trail, I'll learn the ins and outs of promoting my work - either through my own channels or with the use of my agent/publisher/publicist.  In a perfect world, I would want people to get something out of the promotion, that it is entertaining as well as informative.  I want to get people excited and hopefully meet those expectations in the finished product.

I've always seen this blog as therapeutic, as a diary, as a record of the ups and downs of a budding writer.  If no one else read it but me, it would still serve a purpose.  Of course, I'd love people to read the blog and make comments - the interaction with friends, fans, (potential readers), is what makes things exciting.

Getting readers to come back to my blog consistently is conditional on interesting and regular content.  That's up to me.  But how do I get people to start reading the blog?  How do they find it?

Self promotion, of course.  Or using a more preferable term: visibility.

I recently checked out the stats for this blog and was excited to see that, yes, if only a handful of people, I do have some traffic coming through and reading the blog.  Without any promotion, except one post up on Facebook, that's not too bad.  But I dug deeper to see where this traffic was coming from.  Surprisingly, most of it is coming from USA and Russia.  Weird.  Then I looked at the source of the traffic and that's when things became confusing and reality kicked in.

Most of the recent traffic has come from websites that aren't search engines - references to myhealthcare and devscripts websites are all a little perplexing.  There are some that come via other blog entries, google, facebook and searches on photos - like Daniel Craig in swimming shorts - but most come from strange sources.

So I conclude from this that most of the hits on my page are either spam related or from people who were directed inadvertently here and didn't really read the blog.  There are some geniune readers (thank you!) but its hard to identify them.  As touched on in the article I linked to yesterday, determining the impact of self promotion on social networks and the web is difficult, and therefore, reading the stats is pointless.

So, if I want people to read my blog (which I do!), then a little "self promotion" will not go astray.  I've just got to find a way of feeling comfortable doing it - and have interesting things to say to keep people coming back.  And dropping a few comments now and again.

Maybe another Daniel Craig photo will do the trick!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

nine . . . does self promotion on social media work?

An interesting question that I would love to dig deeper into when time allows.

For starters, check out this interesting article which raises a few interesting points about self promotion on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.

Surprisingly, the numbers suggest it could be a waste of time.

(via The Nameless Horror) -

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

eight . . . reading out loud

Read a great bit of advice a few years ago: read your novel out loud.

You find out a lot about your writing when you do this.  Reading it aloud, like I did today with Chapter 3 of my novel, showcases the bits that work and the bits that really suck.  You'd be surprised what a difference a verbal version of your book makes. 

Sure, people don't read novels out loud often (putting aside audio books for now), so why would this help in the rewrite process?  I don't know.  It just does.  It's probably to do with being an objective reader, something that is difficult to do when you have laboured over every word and paragraph of your novel for months or years.  Reading it aloud means the words and the story comes at you from a different direction, allowing you to assess it objectively.

Really helps with dialogue too - very quickly will you notice how dialogue isn't working, either for that character, in the back to back banter of a conversation or just in general terms.  And that's good.  Rather you pick it up now then a reader picks it up later, when its too late.

So that's what I am doing with the fifth draft of my novel: cutting it back and reading it aloud.

Hardest part is finding the time and place to do it.  If there's someone else in the house, it just feels weird.  I get all self conscious and end up not actually listening to what I am saying.  So, you have to be alone - that way you can sing it loud and proud, you can add special effects or crazy accents, you can do whatever you want.

Just don't forget to listen.

seven . . . carrying the weight

Today, I didn't write.  Not a word.  Not even this blog (which I am doing three days from now . . . in the FUTURE).  It was just one of those days - filled with jobs and appointments and weight lifting.

I'm cool with it.  Stressed me out a little bit, but I got over it.  Sometimes, it just doesn't happen.  Of course, that is a poor excuse.  Don't have time?  You make time.  So my bad on this one and I have apologised to myself for dropping the ball.

Missing a writing session creates a weight on your shoulders, especially if you have a deadline to meet or a timetable to keep to, like I do.  One day wasted means one day to catch up; it means you are behind the eight ball.  String too many of those wasted days together and deadlines start to look daunting.

Best thing to do is get right back into it.  Forgive yourself and don't dwell on it.  Because you can make it up.  Missing a day does add a burden to your future working schedule, but as I found out tonight at the ExCel centre in London, us people are capable of carrying a degree of weight around quite successfully, sometimes up to three times our own body weight.

You just have to make sure you are in the right weight category.
Om Yun Chol of Korea takes Gold

Sunday, July 29, 2012

six . . . first event

Went to my first ever event last night - Gymnastics at the North Greenwich Arena - formerly known as The O2 but renamed for advertising reasons.

I really enjoyed it. Not a big follower of the sport but it didn't take long to catch up with the rules, if not the scoring. The ability of the male athletes on each of the apparatus is amazing. Sure there were some falls and missteps but overall, these guys were putting in their best efforts and it paid off.

It came down to the wire for qualification between Spain and Romania and ultimately, due to a few crucial mistakes, they both missed out. USA tops the list, followed by Russia and Great Britain. Rankings count for nought post qualification as the scores are wiped clean for the finals. Looking forward to it!!

Highlight was seeing the oldest gymnast at the Olympics - Iordan Iovtchev - on the Rings. He performed very well, showing superb upper body strength, and qualified for the finals. Inspiring - and that's what the Olympics is all about.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

four . . . the writer rises

Difficult day today. Not necessarily hungover; more in a state of sleep deprivation. Yesterday I had some work drinks and despite good intentions, I was unable to get home at a reasonable hour. Therefore, a day of zero writing.

But I feel I made up for it today. I was tired for sure but after work I headed straight home and worked on the fifth draft for over an hour. Very productive indeed. Happy with my efforts to bounce back from too many San Miguels last night.

I also managed to fit in a movie tonight - Conviction with Hilary Swank and the excellent Sam Rockwell. It was quite a touching movie and worth catching.

Wasn't as good as The Dark Knight Rises though; that movie is awesome. Not as good as The Dark Knight but it goes close - which is saying something. All great performances and a very intriguing story with many many layers. Not often a superhero movie keeps me thinking long after - but this one certainly does. Go see it.

And tomorrow - the Olympics Begin! See what I kinda did there? Probably not. Fair play.

three. . . too drunk to write

It happens sometimes. Onwards and upwards.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

two . . . every little bit helps

I'm watching The Dark Knight Rises tonight at Leicester Square Odeon and am looking forward to it big time!  If it's half as good as The Dark Knight, I will be well entertained.  And for a good three hours.

Yep, it's a long movie and will finish around 11pm.  When I went to bed last night, I thought about the day ahead and when I could fit in some writing.  I was well tired post South Africa and Harrogate and stayed up late so I could hear about the Dingo's Olympic Ceremony technical rehearsal experience.  So, an early start was going to be difficult.  And, due to the movie's long running time, after work was out of the question.

My thought process was to try and sit down in front of the computer before work and do something - even if it was only 15 minutes.  And that is what I did.

You might say 15 minutes isn't much and I'd agree.  But its better than nothing.  If I'd spent fifteen minutes on all of those days I did nothing, my novel would be finished by now.  Big lesson in that.

Anyway, I've opened up that Word document today and that's making it much easier for me to enjoy tonight.  All I have to hope for is a good movie, enjoyable popcorn, and no talking!!!

And a moment's thought for those who lost their lives in Colorado.

Monday, July 23, 2012

one . . . what's first?

Three hundred and sixty five days.

A year to hit my straps and send forth my debut novel into the world of published books.

Seems like a long time, one year.  Think about the twelve months and you can no doubt rattle out a lot of achievements, a lot of events: travel to new countries, meeting new friends, challenges at work, food cooked and eaten, movies and TV shows watched, books read, life lived.

A year is a long time, but it can move quickly.  It can pass you by and if you don't have a game plan, before you know it, you're travelling back from Harrogate thinking, why aren't I published yet?  Why am I still working on the same book as last year?

So: the game plan:

Finish the 5th draft.
Tidy up research points.
Give to my chief in-house editor to read.
Send to select few to read and review.
Finalise with one last read through.
Send to the two agents who were interested in my novel back in the glory days of Dragons Pen at Harrogate (many moons ago).
Keep sending to agents until someone signs me up.
Work with agent to make the novel the best it can be.
Obtain publisher and agree a publishing date.

Looking back at that list, 365 days does not sound like a lot at all.

But things move quickly when you have a game plan.  A game plan and zero tolerance for excuses.

Time to begin.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

At the risk of repeating myself ...

My word. The last time I posted on this blog was exactly a year ago. Time flies etc.

It was the same day as the last day of Harrogate 2011 and I was full of inspiration to get cracking on my novel. To get it done.

One year later, on the last day of Harrogate 2012 (!), I'm in the same place again - revved up to finish my novel once and for all.

How depressing.

Sure, I've made a lot of progress with the completion of my fourth draft - but still, it's scary that another 365 days have gone by and the book isn't out there in the hands of agents and publishers.

What's going on here is a lack of consistency. I've mentioned it many times: the best way to write a novel is to write. And that isn't happening at the moment.

This blog is an example of that inconsistency. Many promises of regular updates of experiences and achievements. And I've haven't posted a blog entry since 365 days ago.

So - shall I give up? Hell no!

Instead, I'm going to stick to my guns and finish this sucker off. I'm going to reach new heights. I'm going to town.

365 days from now, my novel is not only going to be in the hands of agents and publishers, but i am going to have a dedicated agent and this behemoth of a novel will be published.

Positive thinking. Set the goal. Stick at it every day. Realise the dream through hard work and determination.

I was going to rename this blog The Final Countdown but have decided not to for obvious reasons. But it is a good title. 365 days, counting down, to publication. Potentially the final push towards becoming an author.

So: See you tomorrow for Day One.

P.s. Harrogate was once again an amazing experience - inspiring, intimidating, encouraging, humorous, and a great place to meet friends - old and new.

See you next year guys!!