Mar 22

Coronavirus Update

2020 is going well so far, isn’t it? World War Three was threatened at the start of the year, most of Australia was on fire and now the Coronavirus…

Microscopic view of Coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract. Analysis and test, experimentation. Sars

Hello everyone, I hope you are keeping well in these difficult times. As you are no doubt aware, the world is currently in the middle of a health pandemic. The Coronavirus, also known as COVID 19, has at time of writing killed thirteen thousand people, over two hundred of which are in the UK.

The UK Government has taken drastic measure to slow down the spread of the virus.  Everyone is to either work at home or stop working for the foreseeable future, apart from key workers. All restaurants and businesses have shut aside from take out deliveries and supermarkets. Everyone is to practice social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and public transport. I think it is safe to say that everyone in the world has been effected in some way by the Coronavirus and everyone in the UK will know someone who has/will die from it.

I am working from home, for the foreseeable future. I am in good health as are my family and I have a good support network in my friends. The main impact on me at the moment is that I have canceled by writing retreat at Easter and that I currently have less time to write. I’ve also been less active on social media due to preparations for working at home. A small price to pay compared to others.

The purpose of this post is just to say that my future articles will be posted more sporadically. I have articles already written and many more planned but due to the on-going health crisis I don’t feel comfortable publishing them right now. When the Coronavirus has passed normal service shall resume.

I want to end this short post with a quick message. Listen to the Government and follow their guidelines. Don’t attend public gatherings. Don’t panic buy and keep an eye on each other. Although it seems like the world is a grim place when you read about people stealing toilet rolls, hoarding food for themselves and selling hand soaps for outrageous prices there is still light in it. Supermarkets in the UK have special shopping hours for key workers and the elderly. Businesses such as Netflix and Audible have made their shows and books free to help people in quarantine and self isolation. On our street the neighbours have started a traffic light system, giving us signs to place in your windows, to show if you need help or not.

 

This is one of my favourite quotes and it is now more apt than ever.

“At times the world may seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe that there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough…”

– Lemony Snicket.

Mar 08

Spitfire Review: Doctor Who series 12

Last week Doctor Who series 12 finished broadcasting and the internet is riddled with reviews, fan theories and opinions. It was certainly a decisive series and I thought I’d add my voice to the mix.

Doctor Who

Generally I think that this series was more enjoyable than the previous one and I think a large part of this was to do with expectations. Series eleven had a lot of objectives. It had to introduce a new Doctor, new companions, a new TARDIS and a new dynamic and feel to the show. While series eleven met some of these goals (if you want to read my in depth review of series eleven click here) series twelve was not bound by restraints, the groundwork had already been set. You could also argue that series eleven left the bar low for series twelve to succeed.

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Mar 01

Spitfire Review: Moments by Courtney Visser

Hello everyone. This Spitfire Review will be breaking from the norm. This is the first time I have interviewed a musician on my website.

I am a fan of the buskers on the Southbank of the Thames and through them I attend several music gigs in and around London. I first encountered Courtney busking in Camden Market several years ago. I took one of her business cards, watched several of her live streams and the promotion for her latest EP Moments over social media. Moments was released on Thursday 20th February to critical acclaim. I knew that Courtney would have a very interesting story to tell and the story behind Moments is explained below.

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Feb 23

Spitfire Review: Shakespeare’s Globe

I am relentlessly curious about theatres in particular backstage. What is is like back there? Is it as glamorous as the rest of the theatre (that depends on the theatre in question) or it is basic? My only experience of working in the theatre was in my first year of university during my Writing for Stage module in 2012 and the production of my play Captured in the Chelsea Theatre in the same year. I’ve been a Friend of the Globe for several years but I have only just managed attend the the Heaven and Hell tour where you are led into the attic, the basement and backstage of the iconic building.  Here are my thoughts on the experience.

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Feb 09

150th post!

This post is my 150th website post.

I can clearly recall the moment I started this website. I was sitting in a computer lab at London South Bank University. The rest of the class were publishing The South Bank Review, an online magazine created by Creative Writing students in their Third Year. I had finished my contribution, a short story titled Urban Exploration and a review of John Green’s Looking for Alaska (links can be found under my publications tab) and was putting the finishing touches on this website. Then I hit publish. This was back in May of 2015. Although the type of content, the regularity of uploads and the look of the website itself has evolved over the past five years I like to think that the style and essence has remained.

Looking back at my first couple of posts (which you can read here and here) it is interesting to see how much as I have grown as a writer. Although I’ve been writing since I was about ten I didn’t take it seriously until I was sixteen. I think younger Jack would be proud of current Jack. I’ve published a novel, Empty Nights, and read the opening chapter to a live audience at the Brixton book Jam in 2018 (it was also around this time that I celebrated my 100th website post), I’ve maintained this website for five years and I’ve had a series of publications.

Here’s is a quick writing update from me.

I’m still editing the manuscript for my next two novels, The Truth About Nicole and The White Wasteland. I’ve also prepared my website posts in advance so I have a month’s worth of content prepared. I’ve submitted fifteen short stories to competitions and I’ve booked my writing retreat for later in the year. I’m still on track with my 2020 goals and I’m currently happy both with my writing career and my job.

Once again, thank you for reading my work. Without you, this website would not be possible.

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Feb 09

Spitfire Review: Troy: Myth and Reality

Brit usium

The British Museum’s front entrance.

Despite it’s controversies (click here to hear more about them) I find the British Museum a wonderful and fascinating  building and could wander around its many halls and galleries for days. In particular I love their Ancient Greece exhibition. I find the ancient Greek culture fascinating, their pantheon beautifully flawed and their stories and legends captivating, especially in the retellings. I have visited the Greek wing of the museum countless time to gaze at the pantheon marbles and the remains of temples. When I heard that Troy: Myth and Reality was opening, the fact I would be attending was inevitable.

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Jan 26

Rants and Rambles: Trigger warnings.

Hello everyone. Welcome to my first rant and rambles post. In these articles I’ll be talking about a topic that is somewhat writing related. Sometimes I’m complaining, sometimes I’m making an argument. Sometimes I’m ranting and rambling. Enjoy.

The first topic of rants of rambles is Trigger Warnings.

A trigger warning, also known as a content warning, is a message given at the start of something to warn that the following content may be upsetting. Although trigger warnings are more popular online than in novels, they are becoming more common, with some universities even applying trigger warnings to required reading texts. These include academic essays and classic novels such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles.  The rise in popularity of trigger warnings has sparked a debate on their necessity and their usefulness.

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Here’s an example of a Trigger Warning from the BBC, taken from my iPhone. Note the trigger warning at the bottom.

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Jan 12

Spitfire Review: JoJo Rabbit

The first film I watched in 2020 was JoJo Rabbit, a comedy film based around a boy in the Hitler Youth at the tail end of Second World War. Johannes is a social outcast after an accident at his summer camp and has imaginary chats with Adolf Hitler to help him manoeuvre through his day. As the allies advance on Berlin, Johannes’ mother harbours a jewish girl whom Johannes falls in love with.

Although Nazi Germany is a strange  setting of a comedy (particularly in today’s climate and the rise of Neo nazis in America) I’m glad to say that the comedy lands. I was sat between a teenager and a pensioner and was pleasantly surprised to see them both laughing throughout the film. It should be clearly stated that the film criticised and lampoons the Nazis. At one point the phrase Heil Hitler is said thirty one times in sixty seconds to illustrate how ridiculous and unnecessary Nazi protocols were.

I’m always hesitant of child actors and I’m going to take this opportunity to state an unpopular opinion. I think that the main trio from the Harry Potter films Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson were terrible child actors. Daniel Radcliffe has gone on record as saying his performance in the first Harry Potter film was cringeworthy and I agree with him. Home Alone is another prime example but I really liked the lead actor Roman Griffin Davis as Johannes Betzler or “Jojo Rabbit”. He reminded me of conversations I was having at the age of ten and his naivety of what the war really means and the concept of death is truly heartbreaking. All of the cast’s performance was brilliant including Thomasin McKenzie who played Elsa the Jewish girl.

I thought the film would be a straight comedy film with a loose plot, similar to the Austin Powers film or Tenacious D. I was surprised that although it was a comedy there was a solid plot. It is very rare in England (or at least any cinema I have been in) for the audience to gasp or burst out talking in the middle of the film. There is a plot twist half way through, that I won’t spoil for you here, that made everyone in my screen gasp. Maybe that for that moment alone, this film is worth watching.

It was also interesting to see World War Two portrayed by the Axis powers. Most World War films made in the western culture focus on the efforts of the British and American soldiers. As such, the western public have a black and white view of Nazi Germany, picturing the citizens living in poverty amid crumbling buildings. Taika Waititi’s Germany is colourful and optimistic, even in the face of defeat. It is important to acknowledge that Germany citizens also lost their lives in the Second World War, some in efforts to stop the Nazi party, and that these people are often overlooked.

With such a sensitive topic, it was inevitable that this film would not please everyone. Although the audience I was with enjoyed the film, critics and viewers alike have called it disrespectful, meaningless and offensive. I can understand where some of these complaints are coming from. If your family has a history in the holocaust, you may not like the way the Nazis or the citizens of Nazi Germany are humanised. The film has also angered extremist groups such as the Nazis (yes, they are still around) or the Neo nazis but their complaints do not seem to have harmed the film’s ratings.

I’ll award JoJo Rabbit eight rabbits out of ten.

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Jan 01

2020 Goals

 

As you’re reading this I am probably taking down the Christmas decorations at home. It is tradition that if you don’t take down all your Christmas decorations by 6th January  then you will receive bad luck for the rest of the year. I don’t believe in luck (to quote Obi Wan Kenobi, “you make your own luck”)  but I also don’t want to tempt fate.

If you have had any form of online presence, you would have seen the joke about twenty twenty vision flying around the internet.

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Joking aside I do think it is important to plan for the future and I think 2020 is going to be a brilliant year. I have a full time job that I love, I have lots of creative projects on the go and I’ve entered the new year with great optimism.

Here are my goals for this year.

  1. Edit The Truth About Nicole and The White Wasteland.

I have two completed manuscripts sitting on my desktop. The first is called The Truth About Nicole, stands at 80,000 words and is the result of NaNoWriMo 2018 and Camp NaNoWriMo 2019.  The second manuscript is titled The White Wasteland, is 50,000 words which I worked on during  NaNoWriMo 2019. I haven’t touched either manuscript since I finished them and I’m eager to work through those pages with my red editing pen.

Several people have asked me about my writing process. I think it is like a conveyor belt. First I complete draft zero. These are little more than words on a page. At this point, the manuscript is riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Sometimes the sentences aren’t even legible. Afterwards I go back and edit through this draft, correcting any mistakes and applying the right formatting. This is draft one. Once this draft is complete I’ll start adding additional scenes and removing others. This is draft two. After another read through I’ll add more notes. I repeat this last step  until the manuscript is ready for submission.

It took me eight drafts, and three and a half years, to complete Empty Nights. I’m not sure how many drafts There Truth About Nicole or The White Wasteland will require but I hope it won’t take me as long.

I want to reach at least draft three on both projects by December.

 

2) Explore more of England/The World.

I love travel programmes and I love exploring new places. I want to see more of the world while I have the chance. Last year I did well in this regard by visiting Paris and Gran Canaria.  I have another Writing Retreat booked in near Easter on England’s south coast and I also want to visit York. I’m also looking at attending the Edinburgh Fringe festival although, I’ll admit, this may be pushed back a year.

3) Consume more media

This may sound like a strange goal at first. When I was in younger I always seemed to miss the popular shows. I never watched shows like Breaking Bad, Skins or the Walking Dead and as such I never understood many of the pop culture references my friends used. I don’t believe in the saying, TV rots your brain. It enriches your mind and as a writer you should read as many books and watch as many programmes as you can. Although I finally subscribed to Netflix at the start of 2019 I didn’t make full use of it until the middle of the year. I’m making a vow to myself to watch as many shows as I can on my commute to and from work.

This doesn’t mean I will cut down on the number of books I read. As well as reading books (both physical and on my kindle) I’ve also started printing screenplays of my favourite films to read. If you have an interest in screenwriting there are thousands of screenplays drifting around in cyberspace, most of which are free. It’s very interesting to see how the story changes from page to screen. I have also started an Audible account so I can listen to books while at the gym. If you follow me on Twitter you will see that I’ve started the Goodread’s 100 books challenge. I’ll be keeping a record of my reads on Goodreads which will share across on my Twitter feed.

Those are my three main goals of the year.

I’ve also made some slight changes to this website. Previously each article has come under five different categories. Writing Posts, Spitfire Reviews, Inspirations, Interviews and Odds and Ends.  I’ve added a sixth category called Rants and Rambles, the first post of which will be out later this month.

What are your goals for 2020? Do you think it will be a good year? Let me know and I’ll see you next time.

Dec 10

Final post of 2019

I’m wrapping up this website slightly early this year due to the fact that December is a very busy month for me. Aside from Christmas, December is also my birthday month, I need to finish all my tasks at work and I promised my friend I would proof read his novel manuscript. I also need to submit my own manuscript to a competition in early January and plan to spend the month licking it into shape. As usual JackDowd’sWritingBlog will emerge in January, this time with a few new features…

Let’s reflect on my goals of 2019.

  1. Empty Nights related events

My first goal was to turn Empty Nights into an Ebook and have it stocked in my local library. I used to have a joke with the school librarian that, one day, my books would be on her shelves.  Sadly none of these things have come to pass… yet. Empty Nights is not currently available on Kindle or as an E book and although I started research how to put it into my local libraries I was unable to follow through with the plan. On a positive note I have had to order more business cards because I gave away my first two hundred and fifty and I do attempt to bring my novel up in conversation.

2. Holidays

I’ve had a very successful traveling year.

In February I attended Paris for a fencing competition. If you want to know more about my journey I created a travel vlog which is on the StartingAsStranger’s YouTube channel. The video can be found below:

 

I also visited Gran Canaria with two university friends.  I was splashed by a dolphin whilst at sea and explored two shipwrecks in a tourist submarine. That was the highlight of my year.

3 Complete a creative project

After dedicating most of 2018 to Empty Nights, I wanted to take a break from writing prose and tackle a different medium. While on my writing retreat at the south coast earlier this year, I wrote a spec script for a TV series titled Gatekeepers. It’s in the same vein as The Sarah Jane Smith Adventures (if anyone remembers that brilliant program?) and I throughly enjoyed my time on it. I’m hoping to submit this script to various competitions  across the UK next year.

4. Submit short stories.

I’m ashamed to say that I have had nothing published in 2019. I’ve written ten more tales to add to my writer’s arsenal and I have also removed some old stories from circulation so I can tweak them for the new year.

5. NaNoWriMo 2019

If you’ve read my previous post then you’ll know that I completed NaNoWriMo 2019. I wrote 50,000 words in thirty days and have a rough draft of a new novel manuscript to work on in 2020

Four out of five goals. I’m happy with that.

Merry Christmas everyone. See you in the new year.