Wednesday 27 December 2017

(vol 4) EPILOGUE: "Back On Track - A Look Back At 2017"

So the year that was 2017 has come to a close. I've seen some awesome (and some not-so-awesome) movies, my personal life has taken a bit of a kicking, and once again I've reached the end of a year I'm mostly happy to see the back of.

But my writing life? That came back with gusto.



The year started where 2016 left off; no blogging,  just daily entries for the FlashDog's #VSS365 project and working on UTOPIA FOR PEARS

With the NaNoWriMo 2016 draft printed off and last December's notes collected, it was time to read through the novel and start finding the story so I could begin working on draft two. At least that was the plan.

It started well enough as I got up early in the mornings a couple of times a week, leaving the wife and child asleep upstairs. I'd read a couple of chapters, red pen at the ready for glaring mistakes, full of thoughts for character and plotting. But when I finished I was having a major issue with the ending as it tied itself up several times and began to feel like it wasn't working.

I decided to put it away. UTOPIA FOR PEARS is still on the agenda, but it was holding me back, so I moved on.

As a side project, I started a story using a diary I'd received for Christmas (see last post). While I don't really write down things myself, I thought it would be interesting to write entries as a character. I picked one out of my story notes that I thought would work and started his story, but unfortunately the daily entries started getting missed when life got in the way and suddenly I was a couple of weeks behind. Another writing project started and ended (or was it?). 

Meanwhile, David Shakes' INFERNAL CLOCK project entered it's final stage and was released into the world, both e-book and paperback. My story DELAYED was included which was my first attempt at horror writing since the 80's when I wrote HOUSE OF HELL and the ten part epic CHILDREN OF DEATH saga (I was about 10 at that time and the stories mostly contained gory deaths of one-dimensional characters - you know, because I was ten).


Movie wise the year started off really well. LOGAN was the X-Men film I'd been waiting for since before Bryan Singer's 2000 effort. I'm a massive X-Men fan (as the 2000+ comic collection will attest). It was gritty, real world action, with a sadness to it unexpected from 'comic book movies'. And a perfect swansong for the character as Hugh Jackman's final go at the role.

Once that was out of the way it was onto the craziness that was KONG: SKULL ISLAND. Sticking the super aggressive ape in a 60's setting and amping up his size (just a little) set the scene for a movie that, perhaps should have been brainless, but instead knew what it was and had fun with it. And while the human cast are mostly outshone by the CGI headliner (except Craig C Reilly), its good all round action awesomeness.


Two words; Kidney and Stones. I've had dealings with these before, but nothing as bad as the last week of March 2017 when I had to take time off from work and eventually get taken to hospital. On the plus side, I learned that I drink too many fizzy drinks, not enough water, and codeine makes everything feel great. A little lifestyle change later (plus CT scans and my first suppository) and things are a little better. Needless to say, I did very little writing during this period.



With UTOPIA FOR PEARS falling by the wayside, the only writing I was getting done at this point was the #VSS365 project on twitter. I was losing the umph to write anything at this time and didn't know where I was going next.

And then on the 13th April I opened up a Google doc while stuck on a train and began writing what was to become book 1 of the RAGE HARD trilogy.

The story of a young guy attacked and infected, left with the ability to channel his anger and change himself into a literal raging beast, RAGE has changed slightly over the months. From it's 'journal' beginnings, I found it wasn't it's own stand alone story, with rewrites bending to produce its now trilogy form.


When I was younger, my love of comic books was part of what made me a geeky outsider. Back then it was only the Christopher Reeves SUPERMAN films and Michael Keaton BATMAN films that were classed as 'okay'. When it came to superhero movies, there wasn't really much else.

Flash forward to 2017 and the second of seven comic movies I would see in this year alone was hitting the cinemas. And talk about left field. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 was now a mainstream superhero movie that your grandmother would be able to hold a conversation about. 

Back in 2014 The Guardians were unknown to all but an avid few, and they were a big gamble for MARVEL to take. Now though, the team dubbed 'Avengers In Space' are all household names. And this sequel is everything I expected and then some. More laughs, more action, more colours (!), Guardians 2 is a worthy sequel.

The surprise movie of 2017 for me was COLOSSAL. The original trailer had me intrigued, but with rising cinema prices, and a busy slate for this year already, I didn't think I'd get a chance. And then some free tickets fell into my lap.

It's disappointing just how underrated this film was (me and my friend were the only two in the screening!). It looks silly, but contains a serious message and gets quite dark in the second half. I highly recommend.

And to round out the first six months is another superhero movie and another surprise hit. It's no secret that DC are struggling to play catch up to the awesome and superior MARVEL movies but WONDER WOMAN was their first real win (though I really like MAN OF STEEL). Offering a more optimistic hero, and really letting her be more than a one dimensional token female, Wonder Woman just works as an introduction to a truly powerful character.


April and May were two of the darkest for me in a long, long time (which probably explains the more aggressive nature of RAGE's first draft). With problems in my own personal life, and then the passing of a good, good friend of mine, I probably wasn't the best person to be around back then. Things are better now, but (despite the return to writing and some good films) April and May will not be fondly remembered.



Heading into the second half of the year I had no idea of the big step I was about to make. Frustrated with still not having anything released after being in my forth year of trying, a swift random decision escalated very quickly into my published collection of flash Fiction; BRISK WORLDS. It was hard work as I threw myself into it with gusto. I learnt formatting, Kindle, and basic cover design, all in the space of weeks. The eBook hit shelves early September. Woo hoo!

And with a published project at last, I thought it was also a good time to return to blogging. If I'm honest I really missed it, so much so that I've managed to crank it back up to weekly for the foreseeable future. I feel like I've got shit to blog about now, with knowledge of what it actually takes. I knew I couldn't carry on talking about a process I was only seeing from the outside. But now I'm a doer and so I'm back.

#VSS365 came to the end of it's first full year on September 5th and I was proud to say I had posted for every single one of them. It was a great idea by METROPOLITAN DREAMS author Mark A King, and although he's stepped away from it on it's anniversary, a couple of FlashDogs jumped in to take over (because that's the kind of people the FlashDogs are). Due to the fact that I'm now rolling with bigger works and stepping away from Flash Fiction, I've stopped taking part (if I did even one, my compulsive side would need to carry on for another year), but I still keep tabs and have some very interesting and amusing reads throughout my day.


Geek me was looking forward to the tail end of summer cinema. However, while my writing went from bad to awesome, films went the other way; starting high and ending quickly in disappointment.

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING was the most impressive in this quarter. Better than MARVEL promised, it was a return to form for SONY's flagship character that fell from grace after the disappointing SPIDER-MAN 3. Iron-Man didn't out stay his welcome, the effects were impressive, and the story was busy in a good way, unlike the villain filled efforts that had come before.

Unfortunately that was all she wrote, because next up was THE DARK TOWER, a film based on my favourite book series of all time. I had such high hopes for it at every step of it's production. But when it was finally released, it couldn't hide the mess that it was. I offer that someone who has not read Stephen King's magnum opus may enjoy it more, but for me it was a rushed, poorly written adaptation of a far superior source material. I will say that almost all of the actors were on form though (Jake's best friend was the only poor performance).

Weeks before THE DARK TOWER I was aware that it might be a flop. KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, however, caught me blindsided. The first film was a surprise hit, much like Guardians 1. Many people aren't even aware that the series is based on a comic book. Building on the success of the first should have been simple, but as the film carried on, my excitement drained and I began asking questions of the plot, characters, and pretty much everything else. I was cheering at the opening action sequence, but by the last third I was just a little meh.


Things were turning around a little. A trip to the Goodwood Festival of Speed was a highlight and a much wanted tick off the old bucket list for me and Mrs C. Not a bad way to celebrate our 10th anniversary. 



Getting BRISK WORLDS published on Kindle was cool, but there is nothing like that feeling when you're finally holding a physical version of your works. After releasing the eBook in September, I dived straight back into the project and worked on the paperback version for October. 

And on top of that, I also branched into Kobo for the first time too. With my KU 90 days finished in December, and no real benefits seen, I was eager to get my book on my e-reader of choice. 

Finally, a year review wouldn't be the same without a November full of NaNoWriMo. 

2017 saw my complete my greatest NaNo ever. I broke all my personal records with highest word count (83,302), my highest word count in one day (8114), and finishing the earliest (17th).

The story itself is a mess, born from an earlier attempt and blooming almost uncontrollably into something involving God, super powers, aliens, the President, and a Southampton video store. But I see the story in there and I already know what to cut and where to add. And if all goes well, which I'm very confident it will, this book should be out in the second half of next year. My first full novel release.


I'm a BIG fan of the MARVEL films, and completely respect what they've managed to pull off with their multi film franchise. But despite my passion for anything with the word MARVEL before it, Thor has always been the runt of the litter. The first film was good, but didn't lean enough on the fish-out-of-water comedy that was it's highlight. And the less said about the bore-fest that was THE DARK WORLD the better. 

RAGNAROK, however, plays to the actors and characters strengths, and it is a truly action packed and hilarious movie. It plays with it's colours and music to perfection, giving the film it's unique (in the MCU at least) feel, placing it closer to the Guardians films than anything like Captain America or Iron Man. 

Earlier this year I missed out on re-releases of TERMINATOR 2 and ROBOCOP on the big screen, arguably two of the most iconic action films of all time. I wouldn't make that mistake a third time when my all time favourite 80's action movie, PREDATOR came to town for it's 30th anniversary. And it turned out that not only the film was epic that night; just getting there was a mini adventure.

The film itself was glorious. Still my favorite, and a hundred times more enjoyable on the big screen with the soundtrack, alien clicks, and worlds greatest quotes booming out of speakers that put my TV to shame. PREDATOR is a master class in characters, tension, and action.

And to end on a high, due to the lights coming up ten minutes early (though it didn't really ruin the film) we all got refunds. Nice.

Following two great films, JUSTICE LEAGUE had a hell of a challenge to make it three for three. Unfortunately, due to Warner Bros meddling, a director switch out, lazy acting, and a rogue mustache, the film was already crippled before the lights went down.

JUSTICE LEAGUE isn't a terrible film, but it's frustrating seeing the potential just below the surface and knowing that it could have been amazing if the right people only cared enough instead of chasing the buck in lazy imitation. The whole film was just 'Meh'. 

So it was left to Disney again to finish the year on a high and they didn't disappoint. 

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI picks up right where THE FORCE AWAKENS left off. The film has divided the geek community, but I was one of the few that thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Sure it was different, but the people moaning about these changes where the same people moaning that the previous film was too much of an homage to the original trilogy. 

I guess you can't please everyone.


I've been following the NFL since a work colleague got me into it back in 2011. I had family in Philadelphia at the time, so I made myself an Eagles fan.

Being on this side of the pond, and with no near future plans to travel to the States, seeing a game live was always a stretch. That is until my sister-in-law got tickets for one of the London games.

The atmosphere was awesome, with fans from all 32 teams milling around and being pretty damned polite. The game itself was a good one, with current underdogs the Cleveland Browns hosting the Minnesota Vikings. Based on the last couple of season, the Browns should have lost (Spoiler; they did) but they put up a hell of a fight and surprised everyone by not only scoring first, but keeping it tight through the second and third quarter.

Will definately go again.

Round Up:

And  that is my 2017. A tough year in parts, but the highlight of finally self-publishing can't be over looked. This year was just about getting a finished product out in the wild with me as the sole creator. 

Next year will be more about getting multiple products done on time scales. I'm moving from hobby to business, slowly but surely. I'm still not confident to put work up as pre-order as some fellow indie-authors do, but I'm going to work hard to get them done to the plan.

Fingers crossed my personal life bucks up, the films get better (more Marvel and more Star Wars on the way!), and most importantly, my personal bookshelf gets bigger.

See you in seven.

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