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aladdin_ezraOK for those of you without social media: **SPOILER ALERT**

When I first heard about the new Star Wars animated series, Star Wars: Rebels, I was pretty excited. An animated series which I could, in theory, watch with my kids and which spans the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope? What could be more completely awesome?

I’d watched the original 2003 Clones Wars series and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, it wasn’t a live-action Star Wars feature and it wasn’t gritty, adult animation, but it was Star Wars, it told a number of stories behind the movies and it wasn’t the Star Wars Holiday Special.

The 2008-2014 Clone Wars series came at a pretty bad time for me and television (3 kids between ’07 & ’11), so I have seen what would probably add up to around nine minutes of that series. Perhaps I’ll get back to it one day, but just the name “Cad Bane” makes me want to barf a little. Sorry, George, but you know you’ve made it when characters from your stories have their own section in the dictionary under “cliché”.

senator_jar_jarNow unlike many Star Wars fans, I wasn’t bitterly disappointed with Episodes I, II & III. I think they were flawed, certainly, as were Episodes IV, V & VI. I’m not a Hayden Christensen hater, I think his performances were as credible as Mark Hammill’s. I even understand the place of Jar Jar Binks in the overall story (ie. they needed an idiot in a senior senatorial position to propose the Chancellor’s increased executive powers), I just think they made him too much of an clownish idiot and not enough of an ambitious, politically-motivated idiot (one does not need to look far to find plenty of those in the real world). I do think the fall of Anakin Skywalker could have been better handled. I mean why not put Padme in some ACTUAL mortal danger and force Anakin to make a choice between doing something truly evil and letting Padme die? Scales – tipped; problem – solved. Alas.

Overall, I really enjoyed Episodes I, II & III. Episodes IV, V & VI still hold with me as better and more important, but mostly because they were ground-breaking in their time and because I was a kid when they came out (and kids just really know how to enjoy stuff in a life-long kind of manner).

Also unlike many Star Wars fans, I have seen the acquisition of Star Wars by Disney as a good thing. My theory is that Disney is likely to make a shitton of Star Wars films (as they have with Marvel), some will be good, some will be bad, some will be terrible and some (and here’s why I’m excited) will be extraordinary. I am more than willing to chew through the chaff in order to enjoy the cream. It’s all Star Wars.

So this brings us up-to-date on my opinion of Star Wars of Christmases past and future, let’s actually look at the Star Wars of Christmas present: Rebels. My first impression of the show has been a very common one and quite a lasting one: Ezra is Aladdin. He looks like Aladdin, he sounds like Aladdin, he even gets called “street rat” in Ep1. It’s not a co-incidence and it’s something the creators have done consciously, which kind of shits me. I really had believed that all of those memes with Mickey Mouse as a Jedi were a joke. Apparently not.

chopper_palaceI’ve learned to live with Aladdin being the main character in Star Wars: Rebels, though, because for the most part, the show is really good. Sure, the crew of the Ghost is basically lifted as a job-lot from Firefly*, but this means that the characters are solid and the crew chemistry works well to create tension (even if it is a little forced). It’s also nice to have an atromech which is genuinely an arsehole instead of an omniscient, yet benevolent meddler in the affairs of the galaxy (like R2-D2) or an idiot (like every other astromech in the Star Wars universe so far). On the subject of astromechs, I was more than a little horrified during Episode 2 (Droids in Distress) when C3PO and R2 showed up. I was thinking “Oh NO! Can they not come up with some new way to do comic relief in Star Wars!?!”. Episode 1 marred by Aladdin, 2 by the Droids. Things were not off to a good start. Then Episode 2 ended with a rather nice handover and THAT was when I started to like this show.

swr_fightStar Wars: Rebels is a kids cartoon pitched at probably 7 – 12 year olds. The storylines aren’t anything we haven’t seen before (I mean what is?), the characters aren’t (yet) anything we haven’t seen before and the violence is a bit much for under-7s, but not realistic enough to be considered gritty or realistic. The fleshing out of a bit more of the Star Wars universe is really nicely done and the situations the characters find themselves in remind me very much of the Jedi Knight PC games (which were super cool by the way). I think if you were watching these as an adult seeking grown-up storylines, characters and situations, you will be disappointed, but if, like me, you are looking to enjoy a bit of Srat warsy goodness with your 7+ year-old kids, then this show is going to make you and your kids very happy. 7yo and I are certainly really enjoying it.

— IEK

*Ghost Crew = Firefly Crew:

  • Captain with a gruff, unfriendly facade who is really a gentle soul
  • Motherly, good-hearted second-in-command who is really in-command because she can manipulate the Captain & because she is always right
  • Quiet, rebellious younger female with engineering/demolitions tendencies
  • Not-very-bright muscle with questionable loyalty to the crew & a chaotic attitude
  • Wildcard newcomer to the ship who has special powers
  • Book died in Serenity, so they didn’t need to transplant him. What? I said **SPOILERS** at the top and if you haven’t seen Serenity yet, what the hell, man?

So I just deleted a comment from a very clever spammer (OK, so they weren’t THAT clever, they used the name of the product they were flogging as their posting name), BUT here’s what they wrote:

“Hey just wanted tto give you a quick heads up. The text in your article seem to be running off the
screen in Firefox. I’mnot sure if this is a fortmatting issue
or something to doo with internet browser compatibility
but I thought I’d post to let you know. The layout
look great though! Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Cheers”

Spelling errors and all – this actually gave me pause to think. I mean, sure I checked the site in Firefox and all is well (because I generally know what I’m doing), but I thought it was quite clever. Spammers usually type very general “Your post is the best I’ve seen on this subject” type buttering-up to get you to approve their spam, but this was something I hadn’t seen before.

Anywho…just thought I’d share.

— IEK

100000_wordsRecently week Bifrost has finally tipped over 100,000 words (um…yay?), so in typical self-assessor style I decided to have a look at how many words I’d written the last time I decided to “take my writing seriously”. You know…just for comparison.

I remember it clearly, I didn’t have a writers group or critique partner (still don’t actually…um…anyone?), I didn’t have Twitter (it didn’t exist), I didn’t have Evernote (also didn’t exist), I didn’t have Scrivener or a tablet PC or even a smartphone and I reached a point where I just didn’t know what to do or where to take the novel, so I just kind of stopped.

So this morning I had a look at my wordcount spreadsheet from way-back-when…and there it was: 140,943 words.

140,943 words…AND I STOPPED!?! I need a time machine so I can go and kick past-me’s butt really, really hard. What a dope! Another 10,000 words and I have TWO ACTUAL NOVELS!!! AAAARRRRGH!!!

Now I feel like “why is it taking me so long to get to that point now?”* I had a full-time job back then, though one other thing I didn’t have back then was kids, so my level of distraction and household work was a LOT lower. Still…it kind of feels deflating after the initial excitement of reaching 100,000.

I suppose on the bright side, every word of that 140,943 is set before Bifrost starts, so when I get done with this one, a couple of prequels are going to take no time at all! (You hear that, potential publishers?)

Looking forward to the revisions on that one.

— IEK

 

*And why does it take me 150,000 words to reach an ending I’m happy with!?!

greenscreenHave you ever been in the middle of writing something, then suddenly had the need to type a symbol like ™, € or º?

If you’re like me (or most other people), you will have cursed, gone to the menubar, opened up Insert => Symbol, then scrolled through until you found the right symbol.

BLOODY. TEDIOUS.

Now in my current WIP (Bifrost), I have need of the ° symbol ALL THE TIME. It started to become frustrating having to go to the menubar every time until I remembered a time at highschool, back when I was first learning how to actually USE computers* instead of just re-coding them so I could win** and I remembered the fun I used to have with the ASCII character codes***.

A quick Google and I had a number of reference guides in how to shortcut-key the symbols I needed.

Even if you have a ref guide open in your browser, then glance at it every now and then it’s certainly faster than constantly going to “Insert => Symbol” and faffing about for 5 minutes every time, plus I’ve found if you use one of the symbols enough times, it becomes second nature to just ° (oh…I mean hit ALT+0176).

Here’s the site I open most often for NumPad shortcuts (because it gives both IBM as well as Windows standards and sometimes one or the other doesn’t work): http://www.irongeek.com/alt-numpad-ascii-key-combos-and-chart.html

As you can see from the Google link, though, there are a LOT of other sites if you find IronGeek unsuitable.

Happy NumPad shortcutting!

— IEK

 

*Yes, I am old

**Like really old

***Yes, look I also am a MASSIVE nerd & this was how I had fun in highscool OK?

i_feel_sickFor a writer, concentration is extremely important. No matter what you’re writing, if you find your mind wondering from the topic or scene, either your writing gets loose and less engaging or it stops altogether.

This is a serious conundrum for me because I do get VERY easily distracted, but also I tend to work best when I have multiple things going on at once – focus is something I rarely have.

For this reason, I have historically had multiple writing projects on the go at the same time, but of course – none of them have ever actually been completed!

It has only been in the last year that I have finally forced myself to focus on a single WIP and try to write only on either that or this blog – any other ideas or inspiration I get is written down quickly in Evernote and left at that. Sure, I now have whole scenes and passages of dialogue for other WIPs in Evernote, but I’m not returning to it, working on it, revising it or trying to plug it into a coherent story UNLESS it’s from Bifrost.

Yes, I used to get BADLY distracted by my own non-current WIPs, not to mention computer games, reading books, reading comics, building Lego, chatting on Twitter, doing my actual full-time job & all of the other things which go along with being part of a family and co-running a household. No wonder I never finished anything!

These days, though I still struggle finding time to write (see my post about Writing Tips for People with No Time), the time I do get is now dedicated to finishing Bifrost (OK or writing for this blog) and I have started to employ some tricks which either stop me getting distracted or (because I can’t avoid it) get me UNdistracted.

So…my top-5 tips for avoiding distractions or getting undistracted (in no particular order):

  • Routine – get into one. If you can schedule the same time every day to write, the world has more of a tendency to leave you alone (note that children do not count under the banner of “the world”, so schedule that time for when they’re asleep or at school/daycare)
  • When it’s time to write, leave your phone in another room where you can’t hear it vibrate & do not open social media!!
    • If you DO open social media (bad writer!) make it a rule that the first thing you tweet or post is from the scene or section you’re writing (if it’s not written yet, at least that’s social media working FOR you)
  • If you do lose focus, try to write the next part of your scene or section incorporating something from whatever is distracting you. Sure, you may have to delete everything after you got distracted, but it will force you to keep writing and might even help move you forward (it’s not like not-writing was getting you any closer)!
  • DO NOT wait until you are “inspired” to write. This is the #1 killer of WIPs. Inspiration happens at 3am, it happens in the shower, on the toilet, when you are supposed to be doing chores or doing your day-job or (occasionally) after you’ve had a particularly strong coffee – inspiration rarely happens when you’re sitting conveniently in front of a computer. Inspiration is not something which gets books finished, writing when it’s the last thing you want to do is what gets books finished.
  • Don’t quit until you absolutely have to. You may think the scene you just completed is rubbish, you may be really stuck for ideas, you may have noticed that you have ended up with a character in two places at once* (or some other massive plot hole) – DON’T STOP. Keep writing, finish the chapter ANY WAY YOU CAN – it doesn’t matter if its tripe, just finish it. Then finish the next one, then the next one until you’ve finished the book. The only thing which can’t be fixed in revisions is a first draft that isn’t finished.

Happy writing!

— IEK

*Bifrost still has this exact problem in Chapters 16-18 and I’ll be fixing it in revisions.

I made this! Well...not the movie, but the screenshot and...well...the text.

So many of you will have seen the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer by now. If you haven’t and you want to FOR GOODNESS SAKE – GO! NOW!

If you DON’T want to see the trailer and you live in some sort of pre-Internet spoiler-free world…um…OK, good luck and:

**SPOILER ALERT**

I was fortunate enough to be drinking coffee and checking my Twitter feed when the trailer first leaked on DailyMotion. I immediately retweeted @DailySuperhero‘s tweet because I trust those guys to have the real deal, then I watched it.

I actually need to have a double-carriage-return after even SAYING that I watched it because it was THAT exciting. There are numerous videos on YouTube now of the reaction to the trailer and I’d really quite like to see a video of my bouncing on my chair like a giddy child when the HULK-BUSTER ARMOUR came on. I genuinely lost my shit, as did a number of other fine people I know when they first saw it (thanks for the memories, dudes).

Now the trailer as a means of advertising upcoming films has been around for a long time, but I feel that its place as a genuine art form and even phenomenon has only really come about since the advent of high-speed internet and social media. The EXPLOSION of tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts* and forum threadviruses has allowed movie producers and executives to gauge the quality of their trailers immediately. I think the global reaction to the leaked trailer either forced Marvel *cough*Disney*cough*’s hand or did it’s job in convincing them that this teaser was EXACTLY on the money.

I tweeted earlier in the week that I hadn’t been this excited about a trailer since the first glimpse we all had of a dozen or so Jedis kicking some arse in the Episode II teaser back in 2001 (after the sad “love story” crap from the third teaser trailer). In fact, let’s all re-live that Jedi moment (bless the Internet)…

Ah…I know I feel better.

Anyway…what was I saying? Ah yes: arse kicking. How much did James Spader’s narration MAKE the Age of Ultron trailer? I was so looking forward to nightmares narrated by him on Thursday night. Alas, I slept well. But for the period of about the last two days, I’ve been riding a wave of excitement about how completely awesome this movie is going to be and how the fulfillment of many childhood dreams feels.

Like many magnificently energising action movie trailers, the Age of Ultron trailer had enough glimpses of devastation to hint that whatever threat the Earth was under, the Avenger would truly be needed again, showed enough of the unhinged menace of Ultron to make you realise that this big-bad would be more than worthy and gave you THE BLOODY HULK-BUSTER ARMOUR!!!! So fans of drama excited, fans of apocalyptic storylines excited and fangirls & fanboys VERY excited. It was almost the perfect trailer.

The only thing I found as a mark against it was that the scenes of devastation, the ruined, dusty cars and Cap walking between them, the scenes of crowd fleeing and screaming in terror could easily have been lifted from the first Avengers film – the scenes were just so similar (stock footage?). But I can forgive all of that VERY easily for the HULK BUS–

…Oh OK, I’ll shut up now (briefly).

— IEK

 

* Self reference – I WIN!

 

If, like me, you are often on-foot, in a hurry (in my case because time and I are not friends) and you live in a highly-populated area, you will regularly find yourself facing a thick stream of similarly-hurried people coming at you. This can make the journey from Point A to Point B seem like it takes a route through F, U, C and K.

Oncoming pedestrian crowds can often result in a number of collisions, shoulder glances and even the dreaded Failed Evasion Dance (you know the one, you both try to evade each other in the same direction 3 or 4 times until you both laugh uncomfortably, then start dancing again).

When I am truly in a hurry and have no time to dance, collide or slow down very much, I have found the most effective method for avoiding all of this palaver is simple: do not make eye contact. In fact do not even look at people’s faces, instead, as people get closer, keep your eyes at leg-level and focus your gaze at the gaps you see in the oncoming crowd.

Humans are instinctive creatures and if they recognise that something coming toward them is not looking at them, they will instinctively take it upon themselves to evade. People can also see where you are looking and instinctively assume that’s where you’re going. The crowd will open up before you.

I should advise, though that this technique really works best if you’re the only one doing it. I mean if everyone was just looking at gaps, collisions would probably increase. But hey – they might be nice and you two can live happily ever after.

Happy hurrying!

— IEK

Three things struck me this morning: 1) I am old 2) I tend to study my own behaviour 3) I have a lot of life experience not especially common in one person 4) I haven’t written a blog post in a month 5) Mathematics really isn’t my strong suit.

With all of these 3 things in mind, I am going to start a series of posts aimed at putting my own life observations out there. I am not a doctor, I am not a psychologist, I am not a woolly mammoth, but I will happily tell you what I have observed because, like all people who provide life observations or advice, I think they might help someone (and I love the sound of my own inner voice).

Well now I’ve gone and written too damn much and I’m going to have to write my first observation in a new post.

Well at least I’ve knocked point 4 on the head…

— IEK

Well, I’ve finally broken Chapter 18.

It’s been a horrid slog through 17 and 18, but I’ve finally broken its back thanks to some stellar work from alcohol and #5amWriteClub I have CONQUERED THIS SHIT.

I say shit and hey, it probably is because it’s a first draft, but at least it’s done. Our good friend (whom I have probably never mentioned before) the Witch has met the love of her life (so far) and has discovered something quite unique about herself.

It’s all downhill skiing from here, right? … RIGHT!?! Well sod it – bring on Chapter 14!!!

— IEK

It SOUNDS good, doesn’t it? All those wasted hours on the plane and in hotel rooms – now upgraded with WRITING! W00t! I’m gonna finish this book in a WEEK!

…and then reality sets in: we do not go overseas to get our books finished (well…those of us who aren’t filthy rich or full-time writers don’t anyway). Alas, no. We go overseas either to travel and enjoy the experience of another country and culture or to work in another country’s office which looks probably not a hell of a lot different from the one at home and where did all that free time go again?

This trip (almost 7 days) I managed to write exactly 1,221 words. A little more than I’ll get done during a single 5am Write Club.

Even now I’m shocked and more than a little disappointed. I thought I’d written a lot more before I’d synced the additions with my manuscript. It would be so much easier if we didn’t have to content with the social aspects of overseas travel – meeting and greeting, having dinners and lunches with your colleagues, family or travel partners and if you didn’t feel so exhausted at the end of the day that it’s all you can do to brush your teeth and get into your pyjamas.

And perhaps this is what sets writers who get their work done fast from the rest of us. I once heard a very famous and popular author say (I’m paraphrasing here from memory, but…): writing is not a social job. It is a very solitary and quite necessarily anti-social thing to do. I agree totally with this and if I wasn’t such a social animal, I might be able to tell my work colleagues “No, I’m sorry, I’m staying in” and write the hell out of a chapter or two…but unfortunately I am a social animal, so when they say “do you want to come to dinner?” I’m the “Of course – where are we going?” kind of person.

So…as I creep further and further past the other side of my self-imposed “deadline” (let us never speak of it again), I find myself buoyed by the fact that I am past half-way on the book, but somewhat defeated by the fact that it’s taken me THIS LONG.

— IEK

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