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Monthly Archives: January 2014

This year, for my Inspiration related posts, I want to talk about things I’m watching on TV and reading. Because part of me thinks that one of the reasons I have become lethargic about writing is that I’m not allowing myself time to experience other people’s properly.

We start with something from my childhood. I remember when I was a kid watching endless amounts of cartoons that, looking back, were intensely dark and weird. I was an avid fan of the X-Men cartoon and I watched Earthworm Jim and Animaniacs and stuff like that. But the cartoon that I remember most vividly having a huge effect on me was Batman: The Animated Series.

A lot of people say this. They should. It’s perfection in a cartoon.

I bought the entire first series on DVD a short while back (it was on offer for three English pounds in a book shop, weirdly) and started myself back on that fabulous road of nostalgia. I kind of imagined my re-run of B:TAS kind of like my re-run of X-Men, in that I’d start watching it and instantly feel far too old for the lame plotlines and stupid villains. I found a Youtube channel that ran the entire series of X-Men and couldn’t watch past the first episode. I felt… old. And cheated. And a bit embarrassed.

I remembered X-Men as the coolest, most of-the-moment cartoon of my childhood. It was edgey and it had explosions and all sorts of cool stuff. But as an adult, it was lame. And it kind of hurt.

So when I put the first disc of B:TAS in my DVD player, I was expecting disappointment.

Instead? Instead, I was transported back to exactly how I felt as a primary school child, watching that cartoon.

To start: that opening sequence. I mean, seriously. Get on Youtube and search it and watch it. Those clean lines, that harsh colour-scheme, that endlessly awesome theme tune. The opening sequence is the show in a nutshell. Dark, cruel and exciting.

And then we are treated not to an origin story, but to a Batman in the midst of his wonder-years. That’s how you start a strong Batman series. Everyone who was watching that cartoon knew, or didn’t need it, or didn’t rightly care. And why should they? Each episode is like a tiny film, perfectly crafted with brilliant characters and excellent writing. It stands up on its own. At the age of seven, Bruce Wayne’s tragedy didn’t matter to me. I wanted to see Batman defeating villains and solving crimes.

In that same way it appeals to that seven-year-old, it appeals to adults too. There are dark undercurrents of addiction, psychosis and death that haunt every story. And when I re-entered B:TAS I felt somehow like it had aged with me, like I had grown into it and it had been waiting for me all along to do so. I remember watching it with my Dad and having long conversations with him about it; I can see now why he agreed to sit through it with me on a Sunday morning in the first place.

No wonder the thing won awards.

I think this is what the films never hit quite right. That balance between the kind of gimmicky, fun side of Batman and the dark, awful side. Burton’s films got closer than the rest. We seem to fall on one side of Batman or the other, either with Joel Schumacher’s charicatures or Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

X-Men was a cartoon of its time. B:TAS is something else. The way it blends all facets of Batman together is perfect. Every piece of writing should aspire to do what it did.

Having finished series one now, I’m searching for series two. Anyone who loved this cartoon in their childhood should watch it again. You will be glad you did.

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Yes, another post about how difficult Circle was to write and why I dislike it.

Right, well, here’s the thing. It’s actually not that bad. I re-read it just before I finished it, to give myself a little bit of a helping hand for the end. I started right at the beginning and read. Properly. Not skimming. I read it.

The characters are solid. The narrator is consistent. I kind of like the way the plot hangs together. Some of the turns of phrase are lovely. And in the midst of reading it I thought, ‘y’know, this isn’t actually that bad.’ Something of a revelation, I guess. I suppose when you’ve worked on something for as long as I’ve worked in Circle for, you do get sick of it. I know I was. I was fed up of how everything felt like it was dragging. For me. In the story, it’s quite pacey. And I’d forgotten that.

It had been nearly 6 months since I wrote anything substantial on Circle when I finished it. I was of the mindset that as long as I get the ending down, then at least it’s finished. Nothing fancy. Nothing decorative. Write the ending and get out.

I sat down, for a good five hours, and did it.

And when I finished it, I didn’t get that same feeling that I got when I finished Son of Songs. S.O.S. was like a rollercoaster. You wait in the line, you get on, you get through, and you come off the end with some sort of emotional attachment to everything you felt and everyone on that ride with you and everything you knew about it and all of the stories still left to tell. Circle was like driving to Russia from France. You’re stuck in the car, surrounded by people you thought you liked until you’ve been there with them for longer than you dared to count, and you’ve drunk all the water and eaten all the crisps and in the end the only feeling you have is sheer relief that you’re never going to have to do that again.

I think what I’m trying to say is that one of the most important qualities you can have as a writer is to keep going through it. I never leave anything unfinished. Even if it was going to kill me, I was going to finish Circle. You have to get through it. It’s the only way.

I will be going back to it, when I can bear it. There are a lot of places where things no longer make full sense and I need to sort the continuity. But for now, I’m going to start work on my magic flowers story which, for now, I’m going to call Ash-Brides.

Hello all.

Happy New Year, and I hope you all had a restful festive period.

It’s that time again, folks. New Year’s Res time.

1) Post weekly on the blog. I’m hoping to do articles on things I’m reading and watching and things I’m interested in once more. I will update midweek.

2) Finish Heath of Fire.

In other news I FINISHED CIRCLE. No, you have not crossed into an alternate dimension. No, I am not lying. I finished it, and there will be a post about that next week.