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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

A couple of weeks ago – on my first weekend back in Korea – I went up to Seoul on the subway. Quite impressively, Line 1 of the Seoul subway system comes all the way down to Cheonan and beyond. My journey up to central/north-eastern Seoul took two and a half hours.

I met a couple of friends for a few, too-brief minutes to pick up a box of things I’d left with them. I packed all the stuff into my small suitcase and left the box behind. I realised I’d forgotten to bring with me a box of chocolates I’d bought in the UK for them.

Afterwards, I headed to Apgujeong and to the HSBC bank (which stands, I’ve recently learnt, for Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation; I never knew that, but it explains the Chinese imagery in their adverts) to use my credit card to get some money; Korean banks don’t generally work with foreign cards, in my experience.

Back in Cheonan, I did more shopping for household items – especially kitchenware. On Sunday, I cooked my first meal in my new home – spaghetti bolognese … actually, specifically vegetable bolognese with fusilli tricolore. I’ve been cooking a fair amount since then – mostly vegetable curry and vegetable bolognese.

Yesterday, I got my first bread, cheese and eggs and had a lunch of fried egg on toast with Philadelphia, green olives and extra hot sauce. It was so good, I had the same again today. Need more bread, now.

Last weekend, I travelled to Daegu on the train and spent the weekend with Peter. On the Saturday, he was having a get-together, for which he made lentil soup and a Chinese aubergine dish. One of his other guests made chocolate cookies – in front of an audience. Later we watched a film (Brick, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt) that I became certain that I’d seen at the cinema when I lived in London; I didn’t recognise any specific scenes or actors, but it was nevertheless strikingly familiar.

Later, the cookie-maker led us in a joyfully politically incorrect game called Cards Against Humanity. Later still, that same gentleman took us to a bar in Daegu. The following day, Peter and I played Magic: The Gathering and, in the evening, he rushed me back to the station, where I was just in time to catch the 20:01 train.

I’ve been writing every weekday morning/lunchtime. I haven’t found a perfect place to write yet, though. The two branches of Starbucks in/near Shinsegae are too far away (I could go by bus, but it’s money I don’t need to spend); Ssangyong Library was far too quiet when I went there (it didn’t help that a man came and sat too close to me when he had practically a whole, quite large room full of empty seats to choose from); the Tom N Toms had lame coffee and loud music and overlooked a main street that filled up with students (by which I mean that young, Korean women are distractingly attractive); I thought the Caffe Pascucci at Ssangyong Station was pretty good on my first day, but, subsequently, the music got louder and more intrusive (even when I had my earplugs in and my headphones on to block out sound); I was excited to find a Starbucks in the E-Mart in Ssangyong yesterday, but today I found that the only power points appear to be built into a table in the middle of the café, and it was also extremely cold.

I hope to find the least worst place to write soon.

The only weekday I haven’t spent my pre-work hours writing recently was last Friday, when my boss met me at the hospital, where I picked up my medical report, and took me to the immigration office to apply for my Alien Registration Card. She paid for the taxi trip, but I had to pay for the immigration stamp (₩10,000). I can return to pick it up on or after the 14th of December – next Friday. Hopefully, very shortly after that, I’ll have a bank account and health insurance.

Work is going quite well; pretty chilly, though.

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I started writing again today. Proper writing – working on the short story I’d been writing back in February, before my extra-Korean adventures started. I only got a bit less than 400 words down, but it’s better than nothing, but my log shows that no one day’s worth of work made it into four figures, and in twelve sessions the word count is up to 8,000. I also read the story. As a first draft, it’s not that bad, but there are plenty of places where it can be improved.

I just need to ensure that I get into a good writing routine.

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New Year’s Eve saw Habiba and me meet some friends at British-style pub in Itaewon for dinner – most of us had fish and chips (I also had one beer). We then repaired to a cocktail bar for a couple of quite tasty drinks – a Green Fantasy and a Chocolate Martini, for me. And finally, we headed to a party at someone’s home nearby. Whilst there I had one shot of something fruity, two or three cups of wine and a few of beer.

My roleplaying buddy Matthew joined us towards midnight – and he discovered an area of of common interest with the host Moira – international peace and development. I chatted to a trio of Canadian guys – one who could pass for Korean, but is actually Vietnamese and Chinese (but Canadian) and his white visiting friends.

At midnight, we counted down and were happy.

On the way home I started feeling what I like to think of as ‘nauseous’ – although some authorities state that the correct adjective is ‘nauseated’. When we got out of the taxi, I was sick into a drain. I slept well enough, but in the morning I felt wretched. During the course of the day, I vomited maybe another seven times – usually with nothing coming up other than a bit of thick, orangey stomach juice. Habiba and I just watched TV all day; eventually, I started to feel better and managed to eat a good meal for dinner (one of Habiba’s soups).

The previous day, before meeting for dinner, I’d gone to Itaewon early and spent a bit of money at What the Book. I bought – finally – the tenth and last book in Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen, The Crippled God. I’m a bit wary of reading it, as the series has declined since the early books – or at least, my interest in it has declined. I also got an issue each of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Realms of Fantasy. I did some writing, too.

If I have a New Year’s Resolution, it’s to concentrate on creative writing again. It’s a project that I’ve neglected over the past year in favour of working on my roleplaying game and running a campaign. The RPG has been a challenging project, and one that I feel I’ve struggled to do justice to – although it’s also been lots of fun. It’s with a certain amount of relief that I’ve decided – once the current scene and its aftermath have been played through – to stop running the game. I’m going to suggest a weekly gaming night of Scrabble, Munchkin and whatever other things people want to play – maybe even a different RPG. I’ll only be able to participate in this for a few weeks until Habiba and I leave the country at the end of February.

The time that I’ll save not working on the game will be ploughed into working on stories. The last time I was writing, I was working on a piece about hunting fairy-like creatures. I will return to that, but right now I’m working on a new one. And when I say ‘right now’, I mean it almost literally: I paused work on it here at the local Starbucks because I was feeling tired and I thought writing this blog post would wake me up. The coffee has probably helped, too.

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It’s been a depressing kind of a week. Having finally started work on the text of my novel the previous week – the novel that everyone keeps asking me about and that barely exists – this week the going has been hard and slow.

I’ve been trying to spend a fair amount of time on it; Monday and Tuesday are pretty much write-offs in terms of novel work, however – on Monday I have a blog post to research and write, while on Tuesday I have a roleplaying game to prepare for. Then the rest of the week I was plagued by a lack of sleep, which saw me getting up at progressively later and later times, cutting my writing time short.

Then when I did try to write, it didn’t flow at like it had on the second day (when I got a couple of thousand words down). On Wednesday I tried to rewrite the scene that I’d started, and got bogged down in the details of the logic of my protrayal of the characters – basically, I changed how they reacted and then had to incorporate the new with the old without completely redoing everything. I still got a thousand words done that day.

Then I spent a chunk of time drawing maps of a keep because I couldn’t visualise the characters’ walk through it. Useful work, I suppose, now that it’s done, but it takes up time and it’s pretty superfluous to the end product. Then I worried about not knowing what the characters were going to do in the immediate future.

By the time I finally felt a little happier about progressing on Friday, my daily output had dwindled to less than 600 words. That said, I started pretty late on Friday and had homework to do in advance of my Korean class.

The Korean class has been distinctly less than marvelous, too. The teacher spends most of the time talking – and very quickly – and doesn’t provide many opportunities for the students to speak. Still it was my last class with her for the time being – after a test on Friday, I progressed the next level.

Another thing that’s been bothering me has been pain in my left hip and in my left shoulder. Also, inability to sleep. These things seem to be reciprocal: sleeping on my side has probably given me a sore shoulder, which now makes it harder for me to sleep. I imagine my writing also factors into the equation: my experience this past week has left me feeling like I have no imagination and barely have the ability to string words into sentences (even my ability to have a conversation seems to be dwindling away). And if I can’t even make a go of writing, what the hell am I supposed to do with my life?

On the plus side, I started reading Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and it’s shaping up to be pretty good.

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I’m now coming to the end of my course of steroids for my colitis and things are well on bowel front. I’m back to full health – one bowel movement per day, no more bowel pain, probably back up to normal weight (although I haven’t weighed myself lately). In fact, my belly is getting a bit round – not from fat, just from food inside it, I suppose. The steroids have probably given me a bad bout of acne on my face, neck and especially scalp – which is beginning to clear up now, as well.

I had a mild cold all the time I was in America with Habiba, and I’ve only just got over it. For a while towards the end, it seemed to have cause my ears to get blocked – not so much as with water, but as the effect caused by the change in pressure when going up or down in an aeroplane. That’s cleared up now.

One side effect of the trip to the States is that I’ve had a flare-up of sciatica, due to carring heavy backpacks a lot and not keeping up with my core muscle exercises. I’m going back to the gym now (at Habiba’s insistence) and hopefully lots of crunches and the like will help. I just spent half an hour or so playing my guitar (something I don’t do very often, sadly); it made the pain in my left hip/buttock/upper thigh area worse.

Summer is fast approaching, unfortunately. Summer is too hot – and far too humid. It’s already pretty warm (and it’s been raining a lot the past week, which is a little unusual for Korea for this time of year).

The increasing warmth brings increased levels of sweat. When I went back to Britain the year before last I brought back half a dozen Lynx Africa deodorant sticks. I finished the last one a while ago, and I won’t be getting Lynx again (or Axe as it’s called in the rest of the world): the aluminium content causes staining – a lot of my tops have white stains on the underams. I’ve been using Old Spice lately, but it doesn’t work as well as Lynx – by the latter part of the day I end up being a bit whiffy, even if I haven’t been doing anything strenuous.

After some research, I’ve shaved my armpits (again – I tried that for a while back in 2006 or 7) and have started using white vinegar. That wouldn’t seem to the be best idea to reduce bad smells, but it seems to work well. The idea is that the vinegar changes the ph level of the skin, preventing the bacteria that cause odour from doing whatever it is they do.

I’m happy to be back home – it means I can get back to work on my various projects (there still doesn’t seem to be time enough to do justice to all of them). I’ve been continuing to prepare the ground for my novel (actually, it’s a trilogy, as far as I can tell) – and have now started writing the first chapter (again).

My blog (Elements of Fantasy) has been taking up all my writing time on Monday. On Mondays, my aim is to produce an analysis of one aspect of fantasy. There are various reasons for this. It’s good practice to write to a deadline. It’s also a form of autodidacticism – writing about this subject involves a lot of research, and the more I learn about fantasy, the better I can write it. It also seems to be a good idea to have an online presence that is more than just a diary (like this blog) to support my career as a writer (this comes from reading Kristen Lamb’s blog on the social media for writers).

I’m also running my roleplaying game. The first adventure is pretty much over, but now I may have given the player characters too much wealth and too much knowledge. However, this could work well if I can use this to catapult them into the main campaign story (which is still pretty nebulous at the moment). I also have a deadline motivating me to get the main story underway – if I get a job later in the year, as I plan, I will have much less time for writing, and running the game will have to go (I’ve already neglected my short story work for lack of time).

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