Thursday, 28 July 2011

Lessons to be learned.

I would just like to express my horror about what has happened in Norway. Over the last few days I've been watching the coverage with increasing unease. It was such a chillingly calculated attack - that sort of coldness really scares me.

But what really scares me is the increasing racism I see about me every day. Breivik was a Nationalist who attacked the Labour party because he believed they were allowing "the Islamification" of Norway and Europe. It would be a relief to be able to dismiss this as the belief of a crank, someone who - given his actions – was clearly an extremist. But...

Only days after the attack someone told me that they sort of understood where he was coming from - "foreigners taking over and all that". I was stunned. I mean, apart from the comment itself, when did it become ok to voice those views to someone you barely know? I - perhaps naively - thought that was the kind of sentiment you only revealed to people you knew well, who you trust to have similar views. The fact that it's now something that you can casually mention to someone you barely know suggests that this is a feeling that is growing in acceptance and that really scares me.

I grew up and still live in a very multi-cultural area. As a white girl at my school, I was actually in the minority. It never bothered me - it never occurred to me to be bothered. Everyone rubbed along well enough. But in the last couple of years, I've heard derogatory words bandied about like it's nothing. Racist sentiment seems to be on the rise, I’ve heard it and my friends have been on the receiving end of it. It is disgusting.

I really think we need to stop and think about this. I'll be honest - I am frustrated by people who move to our country and then just go on benefits. I'm as annoyed with them as I am with Brits who do the same. But I have no problem with people coming to our country, looking for a better life for their children, more opportunities. Surely we should be proud that when people want to get a better life for themselves they think this the place to do it?

We're all grown ups, can't we be mature enough to respect each other? When I mentioned this to a friend she said "It all kicked off with September 11th, didn't it?" The so-called "War on Terror" started and what it's mutated into is a war on difference. Why are we so terrified of people being different? This is the 21st century - we should have learned by now to be more inclusive, accepting and understanding of all walks of life.

I applaud the Norwegians for deciding that they will respond to these attacks with democracy rather than violence. There's definitely a lesson to be learned there.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Midnight Matinee.

Dr-Faustus-The-Globe-300x209Making a life list is a bit of a trend at the moment, isn’t it? I’ve written mine. Got almost 60 things to do. So far I’ve ticked off two things. One of these was seeing David Tennant on stage (which I did a little while ago in Much Ado About Nothing at Wyndham’s Theatre). Last night I ticked the second thing off.

I saw my very first midnight matinee at the Globe. I’ve heard about these for a while and always wanted to go so when I went to get tickets for a few plays this summer my friend and I decided to get tickets for Dr Faustus on 23rd July – the midnight matinee.

We left just after 10pm, which felt weird – if I’m out I’m normally out by then! And got there in plenty of time. We even got chatting to some French tourists at Southwark station, they were going to the Globe too so we showed them the way.

The play was really good – a great cast. Arthur Darvill, of Doctor Who fame was fantastic as Mephistophilis, as was Paul Hilton who played Faustus. Felix Scott, who took several roles, is one to watch I think. I’d really recommend it.

There’s always a good vibe at the Globe, but it was even better last night. I think there was more camaraderie because it was something a bit different. Everyone really loved the “jam session” at the end. It was great fun!

It was a bit of a trek coming home, I’ve got to admit. But at 5.30 I was tucked up in bed with a cheese and onion toastie, watching the sunrise.

An excellent night. I’ll be doing it again next year!

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Weekend That Was

I once said that I’d grow up when Harry Potter did. And guess what, people? According to the films, he’s barely 18! (Epilogue? What is this Epilogue of which you speak?)

This weekend, I saw the final film. I loved it. I told myself I was going to enjoy it and not pick it to pieces like I normally did. And I did enjoy it. There were two things that I really think they should not have changed (Neville’s hero moment and the final Harry vs. Voldemort showdown – won’t say how they were changed for fear of spoiling people). But then they included something that made me squeal (again – won’t say what because of spoilers). Thank you to Janice for putting up with my continued crazy.

And actually, thanks to J.K. Rowling and everyone – actors, crew, production, special effects – who created these films. I seriously think Rowling needs to be my home girl. I know that when I start shouting Expecto Patronum at shizzle, she’d be down with it.

But enough of Harry Potter! I have a life outside of Hogwarts, you know. (Oh the ways you can interpret that sentence).

In other news:

I have given up on Camelot – nothing on earth should be that big a disappointment.

I like writing like a demon.

I am yoga-ing to my heart’s content. Hello, abs!

I already know my week off is going to be fab. It’s going to start with a dye job, which may or may not be utterly ruined by Bikram Yoga. We shall see.

And next weekend I’m seeing my first midnight matinee at the Globe. Can’t wait! Swiftly followed by a vintage fair. What more could a girl want?

So you know those moments where you think “Well, Bradley James has yet to declare his undying love, but apart from that life is pretty sweet”? I’m having a lot of those moments lately.

P.S. For some reason I can’t comment. Who knows why! So – DOT, just to say I agree with the comment you left. Humbug indeed!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

So that’s that…

harry-potter-deathly-hallows-2-posterYou may or may not know that I often do reviews at Vulpes Libris, the book review blog. I’ve done a couple of long pieces, including The Death of Arthurian Legend, a review of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a piece on Why I Love Shakespeare.

Today I posted this piece – my farewell to the Harry Potter series. With the final book published and the credits rolling on the final film, I just wanted to say – a somewhat tearful – goodbye to a series that I have adored.

Thought I’d share the link to that. I know there are lots of people out there that just don’t get the Harry Potter thing, but I was one of those girls that always wanted to be a witch. Combine that with the age I started reading the books (I was about 11, Chamber of Secrets had yet to come out) and you can see why it coming to an end is a bit of a big deal for me. And if you don’t, well, read that piece if you’re interesting in finding out why!

Does anyone remember the ”Previously…” trailer before the Buffy s.5 finale? It encompassed everything from s.1 onwards. HP7.5 should have that.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


Cracked-Fanfiction-storyHas anyone seen this, in the Guardian: Ten Rules for Writing Fiction (Part One)?

It made me think. If I was a best-selling author, what would be my advice? Well, I’d probably agree with several of the rules stated above, particularly Margaret Atwood’s advice:

You chose this, so don’t whine.

But there is one original thing that I would suggest:

Write fanfiction.

Yeah, I know. I can hear the tumbleweeds. But that's actually how I started out.

I always knew I wanted to write, when I was about 11 I started a work of non-fiction called Why Did Dinosaurs Die? This was going to be the definitive work, epic in its scale, the foundation for my ground-breaking thesis. Then I moved onto fiction (more dinosaurs!) But I was young, so of course, these books came to nothing. Then, when I was about 16, I discovered A little while later I posted my first story, a one-shot, and that was it - I was hooked.

I actually consider fanfiction my apprenticeship. I was using characters that already existed, creating my own tangents from stuff that had already officially happened. The pressure was off - I didn't have to do all the hard work of creating real people and real worlds, I just got to play in it.

I learnt a lot. Fanfiction is a cruel business – if you're making a character do something they wouldn't do, if the plot is boring or unbelievable, reviewers will tell you. You quickly learn about pacing, plot, rhythm and keeping people interested. Even learning to recreate a character’s voice is useful.

Soon though, you'll want to commit one of the cardinal sins of fanfiction - create an original character. Generally referred to as a Mary-Sue. I'll hold my hands up, the last thing I wrote was an OC. But my reviewers liked her. I had learnt enough that I actually managed to pull it off (I'm still quite proud of this). And that gave me the push I needed into my own original fiction.

Be warned - the move into purely original fiction is not as easy as you think. Yes, you've now got yourself into a writing habit, you've got a clearer idea about pacing, rhythm, if you're lucky you're even well on your way to finding your voice. But now there's no safety net. You can no longer rely on Steven Moffat for your plots, Joss Whedon for your characters. It's all on you now. And that can be scary. You can start by twisting some of your short fiction - turn your vampires into accountants, maybe. Lift one of your plots (maybe you’ve got Harry Potter taking Ginny Weasley on a date to the cinema) scour out everything that isn’t yours and shape it into something that is unrecognisable as fanfiction.

I actually just got cracking on stuff that came to me, but the idea from my first novel actually had a fanfiction base. I saw a made-for-TV film, thought about how I would have changed it and that was the starting point.

Try it. It might work for you. It worked for me.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

A date to remember…

I’ll have a proper post soon, I promise. But I’ve been a tad busy with writing. Yes, that’s right – bye bye, writer’s block. Hellooooo juicy words!

I’ve also been getting a wee bit excited about the 16th July. The final Harry Potter will be out, Part Two of The Deathly Hallows. I’ll be there. I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when I was 11, so the books are part of my childhood. I have my issues with the films – some casting I love, some I loathe, some stuff should not have been cut! – but I always go and watch them. It would have all ended back in 2007, but we’ve eeked another four years out of it thanks to the films and I CANNOT WAIT to see the last one. I’m going to LOVE it.

Here’s the trailer:

(Nowhere near enough Neville in this trailer)

16th July 2011. Put it in your diaries. The day you’ll all discover that I was right all these years. Neville Longbottom is a B.A.M.F.