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    Of gratitude (and a love letter to Facebook)


    2014 - 02.28

    In the last of my trilogy of recent blogs (after which I resume writing on my current projects, so it’s ciao here for a while), I would mostly like to praise Facebook. I’d also like to say THANK YOU to quite a lot of people, and one in particular.

    So, of Facebook. If you’re reading this, you’re probably on it and have a fair idea of my usage. But can you imagine: I had to be more or less coerced into joining. It was back when I was leaving The History Channel to be a nanny in Italy, and I think it was Gemma who sat me down at my desk and basically did the registration for me while I sulked melodramatically.

    My first profile picture was a bad tempered cat icon from an online comic, as protest at the whole affair. Besides which, there weren’t really many digital photos of me at the time (which is probably just as well but seems hilarious now).

    Today, of course, I cannot for the life of me now remember why I was so reluctant to join.

    Oh wait – maybe it was because I have a highly addictive personality.

    Not that people become addicted to said personality, you understand – it’s that I become addicted to things easily. Exercise. Cornflakes. TV shows. Rasmus. Peanut butter. But nowhere has this proven more true than with Facebook, and thus ours is a… complicated relationship. I love the old book of face. But I’d probably have an actual book of fiction finished by now if I’d never been signed up.

    That said, I’d like to think I’ll eventually have more of a platform from which to beg people to read promote the existence of Mandala, when I finally do finish it, as a result of my addiction. Being a prolific user, I have many friends.

    arguably too many, and really, let’s not start on the number of photos...

    Arguably too many, and really, let’s not start on the number of photos…

    The number itself has been observed many times, often in a slyly accusatory manner – the insinuation being that I go out of my way to collect them, or even friend whore. The truth is that one of the few things I am not addicted to is Adding All The Friends!!, checking all requests carefully and ignoring many. But I am addicted to connecting with compelling people. If I meet someone interesting in the real world, I ask to friend them. It’s only been awkward a couple of times, which is statistically quite lucky, really.

    In April, for instance, I hooked up with a man I spent around 10, 15 minutes fooling around in a gym with. Months later, he turned out to be the love of my life. Potentially one of the most important chance encounters of my life would have gone nowhere did I not always have my phone to hand and a keen interest in connecting.

    That this may never have happened...I SHUDDER.

    That this may never have happened…I SHUDDER.

    Now that may not quite excuse the number of incriminating photos other people have of me from this weekend, dressed in glorious 40s garb but with my very contemporary mobile to hand – but I’m just saying. Wins and whoopsies. It’s a complicated relationship.

    So. I was signed up against my own will and yet Facebook was a life saver while I was in Italy. Then I came back to London and History, and for my life, and for a given value of normality, normal services resumed.

    A year or two later, the end of my contract coincided rather unfortunately with the 2009 recession and elimination of all further job prospects. My friend Hols pointed out that I was spending so many hours a week in fitness classes that I might as well try and be paid for them, as opposed to just packing up and heading back to Australia. So I became a fitness instructor and then my life started to get really unconventional.

    But I get to meet the BEST people.

    But I get to meet the BEST people.

    I’d always done Quite A Lot Of Things! but I was soon having a good shot at doing All The Things!!, which meant Meeting All The People, and happily hooking them up on Facebook. Facebook evolved from a social network to a networking asset, and then a creative tool – the amount of solid writing I’m getting done can be fairly accurately gauged by the frequency of AUTHOR ASSIST statuses (yeah, I know. It hasn’t been a good six months or so).

    So yes. I love Facebook. I don’t keep up with everyone on there (obviously) but I keep up a whole lot better than I did without it. I’ve had countless professional, creative and fun opportunities crop up and problems solved through it. And I get a bit of justified flak from friends about my practically unconscious habit of nipping off to cyberspace mid conversation, event, film, show or even – and this is how bad the addiction is – while in bed. With my boyfriend. Who was paying me plenty of attention at the time #GirlfriendFail

    Keeping up with old friends is wonderful but for me, one of the greatest blessings of Facebook is being able to connect with and develop friendships with people I would otherwise have never met, or have met only once or twice, and briefly. I may never meet them in person – but I have inspiring, hilarious and enlightening interactions with them (along with utterly banal ones too of course) nonetheless. Their lives cross mine and mine theirs in a way that was impossible a decade or so ago and is a privilege of the current social media age.

    So let me tell you about one of my long distance Facebook friends.  Rachel Wemyss Syme and I met, briefly, in the real world, at the launch of Nick Harkaway’s second book Angelmaker. I think, from hazy memory, that we mostly met in the foyer of Camden’s Gilgamesh on the way out, and were in the same group walking to the tube.

    On the way out - Nick in the middle with Olivia and Rachel to his right

    On the way out – Nick in the middle with Olivia and Rachel to his right

    We’d managed to miss each other all the way through the party, hit right off on the way out and therefore hooked up on Facebook. Incidentally, at that party I also friended Ian Whates, who recognised me from my evening as Slave Leia a few months earlier at the SFX Weekender.

    ...it was a highly inconspicuous cosplay debut...

    …it was a highly inconspicuous cosplay debut…

    Ian is now my first publisher – of both my photographs and writing – in a Femme Fatale anthology which launches at this year’s Eastercon (SQUEEEEEEEE!). Just two days ago I did my first ever signing sheets and actually felt like A Proper Writer.

    still just going SQUEEEEEEEEEEE

    …still just going SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

    I also there friended Olivia Du Bois, who again I think I met on the way out of the launch, and has since become a friend without equal.

    Also a worthy adversary, quite capable of kicking my ass...

    Also a worthy adversary, quite capable of kicking my ass…

    And I was only invited to the launch because I stalked Nick himself on Facebook after briefly meeting him at one of Si Spencer’s networking SWALC events, and discovering that he used to take part in Body Combat at Esporta Swiss Cottage with the unstoppable Chi.

    So. Moral of the story: YAY FACEBOOK, making bloody brilliant connections.

    Now all Olivia and I need is for Nick to write us into his next book, so we can cosplay ourselves. Otherwise, we've said we'll cosplay him, and tweed is expensive, y'know...

    Now all Olivia and I need is for Nick to write us into his next book, so we can cosplay ourselves. Otherwise, we’ve said we’ll cosplay him, and tweed is expensive, y’know…

    …and back to the story. Rachel is as prolific on social media as I am – probably more so, for she also has complete mastery over the mystery that is Twitter. We chatted a lot over the following year or so, but I was still hugely surprised to be one of a relatively small group of friends invited to attend her wedding. At the wedding, I made friends with another friend of hers, Jess, who within a week, had found me my Tiggertron to adopt. Behold the power of Facebook…

    ...facebook thereafter being known as CatBook...

    …Facebook thereafter being known as Catbook…

    …and the point is that through Facebook, I have developed a closer long-distance friendship with Rachel than I have with friends I live in the same city with and actually see more than once a year. And about a month ago, she did something utterly ridiculous; something which proved just how powerful Facebook is, and how generous people are, and how invested we can get in each other just over the internet.

    Recently, I became very run down. The biggest fear for a self employed fitness instructor is getting an injury or illness which stops you working. You might be surprised how many injuries and illness you can teach through, if you’re bullheaded enough, and I have spent the last four years working my way down the list.

    But I got benched by a doctor, who wanted me to take a month off. I couldn’t laugh at him – I was too busy crying. Take a month off? An unplanned month off? I’d just had a month off to go back to Australia for the first time in four years because I can’t afford more regular trips. Another month?!

    Being the private, introverted soul I am, I made no mention of this told the world about it. I’d argued the doctor down to a minimum and reluctant 10-14 days off. He thought this was a bad idea but not as bad as me attempting to take just Monday and Tuesday off, because that would have made it a four day weekend, which was positive luxury, right?

    I fretted – about my body failing me, about my failing other people, about this foreign sense of helplessness, about the loss of income my failures were costing me. About the fear that I was hitting that time so many instructors reach, when the physical cost of the job grows too high while inflation never makes it to your income, and pulling back just makes the whole thing more unsustainable than it already is. And I haven’t written the three or four books most writers need to break into meagre money making and Plan B (Become a PT!) crashed and burned a year earlier. So, there kind of isn’t a Plan C.

    And in a comment on a thread on my wall, Rachel said something along the lines of ‘I bet if half your friends threw a pound or two in a kitty, we could soften that blow.’

    And I said something along the lines of ‘that is too lovely but I will survive, thank you…’

    And she went and started a crowd funding campaign and asked most – if not all of my friends – for a pound or two.

    And somehow – and I’m still not entirely sure how, but the selfless effort of one good woman and the power of Facebook definitely got it started – this happened:

    Angels exist, and they are ALL AROUND YOU.

    Angels exist, and they are ALL AROUND YOU.

    And…

    …(Adele makes incoherent noises and gestures)…

    …I just don’t even know where to start. I’ve written 1,800 words over several days trying to work out what to say at this point, and I still don’t know.

    I know I need to say a massive, heartfelt and still somewhat bamboozled THANK YOU to Rachel for taking a wild idea and taking on my Facebook friend list to ask people for a pound or two to help me take a break. Years ago, Rachel burned out way more spectacularly than I was on track for, and has kept a motherly eye on me for a few years now, whispering words of caution and concern.

    I wish that she could have had someone like her present self to act as a guardian angel in her time of need. I hope I have the chance to pay her kindness forward in time.

    I thank everyone who wrote to me, either via Funrdrazor, PM, email or text to share their stories of burn out and implore me to take action now, as they wish they had when they were in my situation.

    I thank everyone who threw in one or one hundred pounds. I cried a lot after Rachel revealed the fund to me, and as I watched as contributions kept on coming in, even after the (very generous) goal was reached. Some of the amounts stunned me. Some of my cover instructors paid me the fees they had earned for covering my classes. Some friends, who I know earn less than me on a weekly basis, threw in 2 pounds or 5 pounds – which I know is as generous from them as 10 or 20 from other incomes.

    I thank all the people who donated anonymously – I can’t tag you in this post, even though I wish I could.

    I thank Facebook for facilitating this humbling surge of love, support and generosity from my friends. From people I know well, and people I have never met, whose lives intersect with mine nonetheless and who felt moved to help me out in a time of need.

    I thank everyone involved for showing me that any situation can be turned on its head. That I can hit the wall and look up to see hands reaching down to get me back on my feet. That from bad times, beautiful things can happen. That in darkness, candles unseen in the day burn brightest.

    And I thank you, dear reader, for even being here reading my words. Fitness instructing was supposed to be Plan B while I got Plan A – write cool shit that people will pay to read – underway. The faltering of Plan B has helped me refocus on Plan A.   My last two blogs – distributed solely via Facebook of course – struck a surprising chord amongst some readers and even though blogs are not the key business of Plan Awesome, all writers want is to be read. And for being here reading, I thank you for giving me your most precious asset: your time.

    Facebook is shallow by nature, skimming the surface of lives. But in coming off it to a page like this, I thank you for giving me your attention.

    Lastly, I hope everyone will have a Rachel at some point in their life – a friend to keep an eye on you when you falter, and to lend you a hell of a leg-up when you fall.

    My guardian angel x

    My guardian angel x

    Blurb-tastic


    2012 - 08.05

     

    So I’m having a bit of an argument with the blurb for my YA fantasy novel. And the title. Not to mention with the book itself. But for those so inclined to have a quick look – how am I doing? Do either of these ring for you? Neither? Do they stir any curiosity to read the book? Love to hear your (diplomatically phrased) thoughts!

    MANDALA: PALE, BEYOND THE STARS

    In three words:
    Boy vs Destiny

    In one sentence:
    An orphan boy experiencing the incarceration of his guardian through nightmares must find the man who destroyed his family before the dream-connection kills them both.

    Longer version I:
    Too much destiny is never a good thing, especially when quite a lot of it involves the likely premature death of the destined.

    Such is the burden on Lien, a boy with equal talent for instigating and attracting trouble, when he seeks the aide of a cursed spirit to save a friend, right some wrongs, kick some karmic ass and find out why everything awful ever seems to be his fault anyway.

    Saddle up for a swashbuckling adventure across Altica, a splendid medieval world where the taller the story, the more likely it is to be true. For our intrepid hero might be unprepared for the hazards of the wide and wild world, but not half as unprepared as Altica is for the force of nature that is Lien.

    Longer version II:
    Growing up in a geographically and chronologically unreliable forest can make the unusual seem mundane, but even for teenager Lien, a recurring dream delivered daily by a night mare seems out of the ordinary. Especially when the dream charts the nightmarish dying days of the friend to whom he owes his life.

    Lien’s quest to catch his night mare, ride her back to the source of the dream and save Arete leads him beyond the wild borders of the Leaverness forest. There he discovers the medieval world to which he was born, but peopled by folk who would use him to destroy the ancient, mystical world in which he was raised.

    For in the turbulent city of Avenel, Lien finds that everyone has a different idea of who – or even what – he might – or should – be. There’s an empty throne pointedly missing a teenage heir; a chivalric order which some people are dying to get him into while others would kill to keep him out of; and whispers of war within the city and without, which Lien wants nothing to do with, but seems unable to escape.

    To navigate the mysteries of his past, dangers of his present and ensure he has a future, Lien will have to seek the aide of a force more dangerous yet – Mandala, a possessing spirit that some claim represents justice, but seem closer to an avatar of vengeance. The path to Mandala draws Lien closer to finding Arete, but also to a confrontation with the forces that destroyed his family and will gladly finish the job.

    So it seems that too much destiny is never a good thing, especially when quite a lot of it involves the likely death of the destined. Saddle up for a swashbuckling adventure across Altica, a splendid medieval world where the taller the story, the more likely it is to be true.

    LIEN by Anne-Laure Daviet – http://www.mi-chemin.net/carnet

     

    50 Kisses – Love v Fantasy II mark II…


    2012 - 06.30

    Following yesterday’s draft for the SWF ’50 Kisses’ competition, I have an Edit By Community win! With thanks to all those who wrote with suggestions, I have a completed 2 page entry – similar but tighter, with not one but THREE kisses AND actually to length. Well. Marginally. Oh, and a happier open ending.

    Might have to try this more often. You guys ROCK!

     

    EXT. PARK – DAY
    LEATHER JACKET MAN (LJ MAN) – beautiful in his own right, and wearing an exceptionally beautiful leather jacket – proceeds.

    DONNA (V.O.)
    No. You’ve still lost me. You fell in love with the man – or the jacket?

     

    INT. LOUNGE – NIGHT
    MAGS perches on the arm of a couch, absently plucking the petals of a single red rose. DONNA sits more conventionally, wine glass in hand. On the coffee table, a half-eaten pizza and a flyer for Valentine’s Day Specials.

    MAGS
    Indeed, therein lies the question.

     

    EXT. PARK – DAY

    MAGS cycles past LJ MAN, entranced by his jacket. She slows.

    MAGS (V.O.)
    First: the jacket.

    DONNA (V.O.)
    You stalked him?

    On LJ MAN: MAGS now rides slowly behind, having turned back.

    MAGS (V.O.)
    I was enamoured. What kind of man could wear such a garment? I decided he must be a heroic figure. Lethally genteel. A spy, perhaps -

     

    INT. BAR – DAY

    LJ MAN leans against a bar, suave ala James Bond. Seeing an elegantly dressed MAGS, he pushes aside his martini to take and gently kiss her unresisting hand, his eyes on hers –

     

    INT. FUTURISTIC SETTING

    MAGS (V.O.)
    – or a steampunk space cowboy. The kind who cleans up six kinds or intergalactic vermin before breakfast.

    LJ MAN swaggers in with a stupidly souped up SF gun. Pulls MAGS in by the waist, kisses her extravagantly, while aiming the gun at the camera and FIRING –

     

    EXT. URBAN SETTING

    MAGS (V.O.)
    Or an urban superhero, fighting for justice and… other stuff on the streets of post-apocalyptic London -

    LJ MAN stands back-to-back with a cat-suited MAGS, surrounded by THUGS. They share what might be their last kiss, then draw their respective post-apocalyptic weapons to face their fate –

     

    EXT. PARK – DAY

    MAGS slowly rides past LJ MAN, eyes still glued to the jacket.

    MAGS (V.O.)
    – and then it occurs to me that the jacket might be a maguffin, and I was actually attracted to its wearer.

    DONNA (V.O.)
    Halleluja!

    Completely oblivious to the gate/tree/post/pedestrian she’s about to ride straight into –

     

    INT. LOUNGE – NIGHT

    MAGS
    Only then I fell off my bike.

    DONNA
    And did he chivalrously come to your rescue?

    MAGS plucks the last petal from the rose.

    MAGS
    Alas, no. And what if he had? How could he have possibly lived up to the man I had imagined?

    DONNA
    You realise this says a lot about why you’re still single.

    MAGS looks all secret-squirrel.

     

    EXT. PARK – DAY

    MAGS hauls her bike back upright, dusting herself off. Ahead, LJ MAN pauses, looking to MAGS as though he might turn back.

    She grins. Ready to give this a go anyway.

    50 Kisses – Love-Fail II


    2012 - 06.29

    So the London Screenwriters Festival is ambitiously running a competition to crowd source 50 short films. It’s called ’50 Kisses’, is based around the question of ‘what is love to you?’ and needs to be set on Valentine’s night – all of which make three really strong reasons why I only got around to writing an entry the day before it closes.

    Well, on the penultimate day I confessed on Facebook that I had no idea how to approach this question, and then started something terribly melancholy. Semi-autobiographical, you see, melancholy being a generally accurate emotive state for the vacuum which is my love life.

    Not that the 2 page films had to be about that kind of love – although the Valentine’s night setting probably screwed up a few more original approaches. I had a strange moment on the tube recently. I thought I’d try that on for size.

    2 pages. Set on Valentine’s night. Exploring love. Thoughts welcome.

    EXT. PARK – DAY

    Pedestrians and cyclists pass, going about their business.

    DONNA (V/O)
    No. You’ve still lost me.

    Amongst them weaves the back of LEATHER JACKET MAN (LJ MAN).

    DONNA (V/O)
    You fell in love with the man or the jacket?

    INT. LOUNGE – NIGHT

    MAGS perches on the arm of a couch, absently plucking the petals of a single red rose. DONNA sits more conventionally, wine glass in hand. On the coffee table, a half-eaten pizza and a flyer for Valentine’s Day Specials.

    MAGS
    Therein lies the question. (more…)

    Riding the bell-curve. And finding voice. Possibly at the same time.


    2012 - 06.26

    So I currently have something of a social media Problem, which is to say that I’ve overloaded this website with a number of my interests, not all of which everyone considers complimentary. When I’m feeling vital and bullish I tend to petulantly toss my hair at this and say ‘well it’s all me, and it all intersects, and if you’d rather have me in boxes, you probably don’t actually want me so let’s just clear all that up now before people get upset, shall we?’

    You really don’t want to me see when I’m upset.

    And when I’m feeling less bullish and more broke and vulnerable, I think ‘I should really do something about that,’ a thought inevitably postscripted with the ineffable ‘later’.

    So until I decide What To Do About It, I’m just going to make a point of my holistic theory, however bullheaded, and write blog posts that straddle and connect facets of my life. Which pretty much explains the eloquence of this post’s title.

    It started with Chris Jones/Living Spirit’s first London Breakfast Club event for screenwriters. One of the greatest joys of working as a city Personal Trainer is that I’m now able attend stuff like this, and I am always up for a cooked breakfast. After too many hours in the Box I also tend to crave things like daylight and the company of story geeks who will happily sit down and dismantle films, books and TV series over a plate of burnt and greasy food cooked far beyond any nutritional value.

    The first Breakfast at the Phoenix Artists Club featured the lovely and personable Linda Seger as the guest speaker, talking largely about the difference between Art and Craft, and their impact on Voice. And because I currently spend much of my life in a black and neon underground gym learning not to write fictional stories on the page, but to rewrite/edit the lives of clients who come to me to change their personal stories, my brain started connecting everything Linda said to my new vocation.

    All stories give someone a problem, and the story itself lies in the gap between where that person is, and where they want to be. The writer’s job is to be as creative as possible about crossing that gap.

    All PT clients turn up with a ‘problem’ – be it weight, strength, aesthetic, rehab, they want more energy, general health – and the success of their training program lies in whether it enables them to close the gap between where they are now, and where they want to be. The PT’s job is to be as creative and inspiring as possible about closing that gap.

    As a writer, you have to know what you can bring to the table, Linda says – what you bring that no-one else can.

    As a PT taking on a new vocation and business, I am exploring what it is that I can bring to my clients. What I can bring that no other PT can. (more…)

    Life’s too short not to be Leia: SFX Weekender 3


    2012 - 02.09

    This may require some explanation

    If the geeks do inherit the earth, rejoice my friends, because they know how to throw a damn good party.

    Now since arriving on the fair shores of Albion I’ve been no stranger to the writing, film, TV and comics fan scene, and there is photographic evidence of me prancing around in a wannabe Xena/Angua outfit at Discworld events. But I am telling you true, ain’t nothing I’ve seen could have prepared me for geektasm of an SFX Weekender. Or a Pontins Holiday Park, for that matter.

    Am I talking Swahili? Never heard the word geektasm? Fair enough, I probably made that one up. Put it this way: SFX Magazine hosts an annual Weekender consisting of talks, panels, screenings, merchandise trading, cosplay (costume play, aka legitimate dress-up for adults and yes, that is no euphemism), excessive alcohol, extraordinarily bad food and very little sleep. Walking into the bar at such an event is likely to look like this:

    Drinks, ladies?

    An SFX Weekender is a place where you can run into any character from the varied realms of SF, Fantasy and Horror and the people who created or bought them to life. Where you can be groped by Chewbacca in the bar, run into Paul Cornell in the cafeteria and hear Brian Blessed sing O Sole Mia ala Pavarotti (from about three miles away).

    OH, THE TRAUMA

    It is therefore, in short, strange, surreal and very special.

    (more…)

    Love Fail: Fantasy v Reality


    2012 - 01.28

    In which I fall in love with a jacket, or possibly a man, and then certainly a fantasy of the man, which despite his being a pretty decent prospect, usurps any possible reality. In short, why I am fast approaching my 10 year anniversary of undisturbed spinsterhood.

    I’m in the tube station leaving Oxford Circus and I see this amazing tan leather jacket ahead of me. It’s battered and faded, it has tabs and twists and buckles and it tapers at the waist with fancy stitching and I think: that is a hell of a jacket.

    It’s a man’s jacket, and if I had a man, I would totally dress him in a jacket like that, and then I would have to fight every other woman off him.  With a katana. It would be like Kill Bill, every day, only this Bride would be fighting for her man.

    Behold, the blood of mine enemies (Photo: Victor Kurzweil)

    It’s that sort of jacket.

    The jacket is keeping pace with me through the ticket barriers, and is right ahead of me going down the escalator. Time to look beyond the tan leather: who could possibly be wearing this divine article? Turns out it’s not a bad profile. Not bad at all. Crafted. Stylishly styled medium length hair. Designer stubble.

    No,  I hadn’t met Jake again, but you get the idea.

    This is all fine, but what I really need is to tell him how amazing his jacket is. It’s a compulsion – admiration for an article of clothing this special must be articulated publicly. The words desperately need to leave my lips. But this may come across stalkerish, no? Or like a really, really bad chat-up.

    Dilemma.

    I stand on the escalator, quite paralysed. Fortunately, it’s a long escalator. I have time to notice the folder in his hands. Fancier than your lowly ring binder, and just about as battered as the jacket, which I have managed to look away from. Artist then? Attractive prospect. Under his grip, I can just make out the words ‘Milan – Paris –  New York’.

    Ah, not an artist, but a designer instead? Fashion. Probably gay. My gaydar is either broken or was never installed and there isn’t anyone around I feel it would be socially acceptable to nudge and do a ‘pssst! Dude in the jacket. Gay?’ to. Where is Trudi when you need her?

    So we get to the bottom of the escalator, and he’s hovering at the turn to the central line. He glances my way – MOMENT! – but I brick it, drop the ball, epic fail. The usual sunny smiles refuses to appear.  Suddenly – and it’s taken six years – I am a Londoner. I do not make eye contact or speak.

    I am an idiot.

    (more…)

    Notes to self for LSF


    2011 - 10.28

    So it’s here, the London Screenwriters Festival has arrived and let’s be fair, based on the experiences of the pre-pitching day, there are a few things that I need to remember:

    1. leave the cloppy heels at home if I’m going to continue to be unable to sit for more than 40 mins at a stretch. It’s a challenge, people. 4 days without exercise and there may in fact be casualties. Cloppy heels, meanwhile, really ruin the ninja-ness of my exits (in aide of a brisk walk around the quad to not kill people), and I’m concerned that, in noticing said exits, other delegates may come to believe I suffer an unfortunate degree of incontinence. Or that I have a really awesome secret fourth life that requires constant attention to my mobile. I might pitch more in that direction.

    2. quit swearing like a sailor, or

    2a. develop a broader vocab for said swearing so that at least it’s entertaining if  not educational for other non-mariner folk

    3. not PO anyone else. Not that I knowingly PO’d anyone at the LSF today, but I may just additionally italicise knowingly here as a thinly veiled reference to this week’s amazing aptitude, on a number of fronts, for putting foot in mouth or, worse, foot in other people’s mouths or, worse still, inadvertently causing friends to be kicked in the teeth by other people’s feet and all with the best of intentions.

    That’s me on the left: more wisdom from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman

    5. stop being so massively insecure about EVERYTHING EVER

    6. remember names. Any names. A name. A name a day and that’s a whole four new names. Why can’t everyone put their photos on their damn business cards? Oh wait, is that just me… and speaking of which…

    7.  pluck up the courage to actually conduct the Great Business Card Experiment. Because yes, after Moo bollocked up my business card order – and after all that traumaI redesigned, reprinted, felt smug, and yet after one day in a room of strangers who don’t understand my predisposition to dressing up and waving weaponry around on the weekends, find myself quite paralysed at the idea of handing any of them around.

    This could be a whole new Ninja Fail blog in the making, my friends. Even if I do actually offer or get asked for any cards, will I actually produce them?

    Would you?

    Not a risky PR strategy AT ALL

    Business Card Aaaargh


    2011 - 10.11

    The London Screenwriters Festival is almost upon us, which is an occasion on which  forcing your business card upon people politely offering your business card to every moving body is deemed socially acceptable, if not mandatory. Packs of writers will rally one another to bouts networking courage through little competitions, like who can give out or acquire the most cards.

    Admittedly this usually results in the majority of card exchanges happening between fellow writerly aspirants, which is often less productive than slipping your card into the hand of say an executive, director or producer – who many of us are catastrophically incapable of speaking to in a manner that sells us as intelligent, interesting or even human. But look, we’re a shy bunch, by and large. Baby steps.

    The point of course is that for any exchange of cards to occur, said cards must first exist. Which leads rather neatly to the Aaaaargh at hand.

    Put yourself in the place of a Person of Power attending the Festival (and by this I mean anything from a potential fellow collaborator to an agent who might just think you’re the bomb). You’re going to spend three days being  politely harangued by gangs of quietly terrified writers, desperate to network and be noticed. You’re going to end up with a hand (briefcase and every available pocket) full of business cards and a brain rammed with new names and faces, most of which will remain in a defiant state of disconnect. Or possibly that’s just me. But while first impressions and snatched conversations can be fleeting, those cards will be reliably real and present.

    Photographers, artists, actors and models and their ilk are the lucky ones – they get great cards. You have to be a right muppet to fail on making striking cards for the likes of those professions. But writers? I’m sifting through my collection from a few years back and while some are quirky and cute and occasionally clever, there’s not a whole lot a business card can say about the writer, beyond them being one – contactable by phone, email, website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and hell, here’s even a mail address, cos you’re sure to want that.

    So what do you put on the damn thing?

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    Exercise for Writers – part 2


    2011 - 08.05

    Writer?
    Finding it hard to exercise?
    Check out Part 1 of Exercise for Writers, and then do continue…

    Number 3
    Appreciating exercise as a way of exercising the imagination.

    So with No1 and 2, you’re multi-tasking to maximise efficiency of a passive exercise (watching/listening) with an active exercise. But there’s definitely a split in concentration there. Exercise on its own can be exercise for both body and imagination – but that’s when Time (as in ‘I don’t have enough’) and Motivation (as in ‘I don’t have any’) raise their baleful gaze and send many writers slinking back to their desk, and probably their fifth coffee of the day which may very well require the dippage of cookies or complimentary crisps.

    I know the equation. Coffee goes in, writing comes out.

    Now we’ve all experienced the way  familiar activities kind of disengage the conscious brain, often leading to unexpected spurts of creativity – who hasn’t had some astounding flash of genius while doing very rote tasks like the dishes, driving or going to the bathroom? So how about we substitute those things, just for instance, with activities like going for a walk, a run, a swim, a cycle? These are just the sorts of tasks that seem to allow the right side of the brain to take a break from thinking about annoying daily bollocks, disengage a bit and deal with important things. Creative things. And if you want to pimp your creative self to awesomeness, try using thematic music selections or just lightly focusing on a particular plot, character, problem etc, because these are times where you can make surprising leaps of creativity and logic that simply wouldn’t happen sitting at a desk bashing your head against the keyboard.

    So this isn’t exercising while media consuming – it’s using exercise as part of your media creation. It’s about not looking at exercise as an annoying thing you Should Do But Is Really A Big Distraction but looking at exercise as an opportunity to walk around your current project from different angles. To hold the story and characters lightly and allow your mind to play with them while you’re gallivanting around/lapping the pool.

    But: TIME IS THE ENEMY, right? Ok, are there ways to try to built this into your current schedule? Instead of driving or training/tubing to work, can you cycle instead? Lose the aaaargh of transport and get your exercise and mind-space doing something that has to be done anyway (although detaching the mind and cycling in, say, London, can have some serious OH&S implications – said from experience, although that doesn’t stop me). It’s that time where you get to disengage your brain and let Stuff float up. The problems you’re grappling with sometimes solve themselves. Sometimes you discover problems you weren’t even aware of. That might not seem a win at the time, but better sooner than later, eh? And sometimes, as a bonus win, you discover solutions (ok, and problems) via realising the solution to something you didn’t even know was a problem in the first place. Get in.

     

    And finally, more Technical Blah  to consider when re-wiring your attitude towards exercise, to see it as a benefit, not a chore:

    – exercise helps you live longer, strengthens your immune system, improves blood pressure, bone density, metabolic rate and blah blah blah blah blah

    Yeah, I get it. Long term stuff can be hard to prioritise in the ever present here and now. So prioritise this: right here, right now, it helps sharpen concentration and means you can sit and throw shit at that computer screen for longer. It’s probably going to be less shitty shit too if you’ve broken up your day-job-desk-sitting and your writer-desk-sitting.

    It will almost certainly look less like this.

    – you spend your time creating interesting, dynamic, kick ass and inspirational characters, right? So why the hell do you get to be a sedentary slob then? Be a superhero (after all, all superheroes are just normal dudes pretending to be superheroes, whether writing, drawing, acting, reading or watching them). Pimp yourself out. Why do your characters have to do all the work? Pump some iron. Lose some weight. Eat better. Look better. Feel better. Live it. Your job is to imagine you’re other people – it’s not being crazy, it’s being good at what you do. Some days I’m Vandal, some days I’m Sienna, some days I’m Rael, some days I’m Buffy, and occasionally I get a bit carried away and dress up as Xena. Doesn’t hurt anyone and believe me, I feel fiiiiine.

    I do get some odd looks on the train though.

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