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New Years Resolutions 2014 [Jan. 5th, 2014|02:52 pm]

Before the resolutions, a 2013 round-up. What did I achieve in 2013?

- Completed my MA degree in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)

- Successfully taught a European Studies course, during which I learned the names and map locations of all 47 European countries (wow, amazing!!! even Moldova? Yes, Moldova too!!)

- Started my DELTA diploma, kind of like a second MA in TEFL

- Published THREE books, two being collections of short stories, one my compilation travelogue / memoir of all my best haikyo adventures (sales yet to be anything more than pocket change, but hopefully that’ll change going forwards)

- Went to England, Wales, Thailand, and Cambodia (Angkor Wat!)

And 2014-

1- Blog more. I have no idea if I’ll achieve this or not. What do I write about? Will anybody care? I’ve never used this site as a ‘blogging platform’, really I’ve only used it for articles, what’s called ‘evergreen’ content, with a long tail of haikyo and ruins posts pulling in views for their photos.

But a blog, with text that is just about me, or my life, or my thoughts? Terrifying. What if I alienate the readers I’ve already got, and everybody leaves? My dream of greater engagement results in less engagement than ever before? Well, I hope it won’t. That’s that. So what would I blog about?

- Stories from teaching English in Japan.

- Stories from the gym.

- Maybe some photos.

- Some reviews (I’ve been chastened to write some positive reviews, but really the negative ones are so much more fun!) Perhaps I’ll aim for a mix of both.

- Commentary on stuff in the world.

- Few new haikyo. They just take too long to go to, to research, to write up. All that time required would clash with-

2- Write more. 2013 I really spent the time on my MA, and then on polishing up old works for self-publication. Each of the short story collections took a month or two each, the haikyo book took three months all in, and now I’m working to push out my fantasy book by the end of Jan.

Get that old stuff done and out. And then, the new! I’ve got a bunch of ideas for novels rattling in my head, some even plotted out, and I need to get them out.

- My ruins sci-fi dystopic Tokyo story.

- A sci-fi WOOL-ish story about a civilization hemmed in underground by a maddening fog.

- A sci-fi world-train story.

- The sci-fi / fantasy story with giant air whaleships and Matrix-like layered worlds.

- The sci-fi story about there being no electricity (conceived way before Revolution).

Maybe I can get two of these books done in the year? That would be great. Will I even submit them to traditional publishers? Maybe not. Self-publishing is so easy, fast, empowering (choose covers, title, everything), and potentially rewarding.

3- Gym harder. This year I discovered deadlifts, and rediscovered the benchpress (which I’d neglected for a long time). The power of both of these exercises is obvious, but I’m going to redouble my efforts on them, try to up the weights I lift by 10-20% for each, and see how that goes. Also squats, naturally.

And is that it? I suppose so. Other stuff like travel, social, work will take care of themselves, and don’t really need geeing on from resolutions.


What would you like to see more of on this blog? I’d love to hear from you!
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finished dissertation!! & DELTA [Sep. 22nd, 2013|03:16 pm]
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On Friday evening at around 11pm, after working on it all week and up to the final hour, I finished and submitted my MA dissertation!! Yeah! Never again! (we'll see...)

Hard work. The worst part was going through it again and again, each time checking that the spacing was right, then adjusting the table of contents and recounting the page numbers for every chapter. tiny little details, that I ended up doing 3 or 4 times, so much that my right had scrolling on the mouse was aching from repetitive strain

But, all done now.

To do it though I had to ignore my DELTA studies, and so on my first marked DELTA practise I got lile 5/60. Pretty terrible. I don't like it, reminds me of how I disliked Business Studies in 6th form. They ask a question, for which many answers could be acceptable, answered in many different ways, and still be 'right'. But if you don't answer in the correct format, using the specific terms they believe are defined one way or another, you won't get any points.

It's ridiculous, but I suppose it's the only way these fairly unscientific subjects can have something to test- by setting up their own terms which we must memorize and use. I'll do my best to get by on the minimum required to pass. I certainly do not want to learn to read and write phonemic script- such a waste of time! Meta-learning beyond anything useful.

In good news, feel so light now dissertation is done! None of the DELTA grades matter until the exam, so this bit is just getting me into shape for the exam. I need to adjust a lot. And other good news, slowly getting over jet lag and jet sickness, and watched two great movies yesterday- Wolverine, and This is the End. Great action, hilarious comedy.

what what!!
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Maidstone, Wedding & Wales [Sep. 17th, 2013|06:47 pm]
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What a holiday we had in the uk. Really it was pretty amazing, packing so much new experience into 2 weeks, and all experiences that are kind of special- way different from going to Cambodia or even Bali. Cambodia was good, Bali was great, and on those trips we saw a lot, and did a lot, and relaxed a lot, and of course me and SY did it all together which just made it better.

But the last weeks was done with variously:

Granny Grists- 6 people
Wedding- 50 people
Wales- 11 people

So many people, which just made each experience richer, and made the whole thing this whirlwind of meeting, socializing, and sharing experiences all together. I suppose it feels a bit like the best moments of running the picnic group in Yoyogi Park, but better because the holiday people are all kind of in the same boat as us, of family and close friends, and will likely be around for the rest of our ilves. Experiences that we share with them now will be around forever to share, while the Yoyogi crew we were lucky to see any single person two times in a row.

It's the best of both, and at every stage doing something more interesting than a picnic.

Here's a list of everything new we did, or just everything that was great-

Gardening, and setting stuff up for the wedding. Surprising, because it's work, but it was kind of a first for both of us, and by doing it mom and Karen were so appreciative, we felt like we had really helped out, which was great because they did so much for us for our wedding last year.

First-class train to London. On the way to visit Granny we stopped off in the first class lounge and stocked up on free crisps, drinks, and snacks, then got sandwiches and tea on the train for free. Transfer smoothly through, and then we were-

Visiting Granny Grist. SY got to see what a mini-Downton abbey life might be like, on a small farm with a lovely garden, and have High Tea, and chat to Dad and Ailz and of course Granny, and imagine that kind of life.

Then the wedding! We were in charge of photographing it, and between us did a great job I think. We also gave a little reading in the ceremony in both English and Korean. We shepherded people around a little, and also functioned somewhat as mini-hosts, greeting people as they came in, helping out where we could. I played a lot with Amy's son, Kieran, which was a bit exhausting by the end but was very fun at the start. Baby Ivy was wandering around, and Joe and Vicky were there with baby Aria, and we met Vicky's parents (separated, but don't mention that).

Chat with Joe. I had a good long chat with Joe after the wedding, while our clothes were spinning in the dryer. He seems so much more like the Joe he was as a kid, thoughtful, cool, but also endlessly energetic and looking to jump on stuff, change the conversation, be hilarious.

Imax! Not sure I've ever done that before. Saw Elysium, which was good.

Then Wales! So many new things-

Big Brother House- 11 of us in one big cottage, sharing out chores (we cooked cottage pie with beetroot and pickled red cabbage for everyone on the second night, was delicious), eating what other people cooked all together round the table (Karen's roast lamb and Joe's BBQ were the best), figuring out how to get along with everyone (mostly Vicky's dad Jorg who could be quite difficult to talk to sometimes), chatting to Jay for extended periods (he is very funny), holding baby Aria.

Portmeirion- Site of the Prisoner. A very, very cool place.

King Arthur's Labyrinth- A very cold place, but pretty fun to go into the caves.

The beach- We ran 8km on the beach, ran home 4km in our jeans, swam half-naked in the sea, did the exhausting dune challenge (twice up and down the dune was enough!), climbed on the pill box, took photos of ourselves running (? Sy's idea, we did it three separate times!!).

The hills- We walked up to see the horses and ponies, SY took photos of sheep, we picked wild blackberries, and on the final day we climbed up the big hill to the top, and found Joe's bivouac which was still standing.

The food!- We went out to eat every lunch, to the Dovey Inn, then the Perihelig, then the White Hall, then a canteen in Portmeirion, then a cafe at King Arthur, eating Welsh sausages and mash, black Welsh beef burgers, steak and ale pie with gravy and chips, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips with mushy peas (twice), plus all kinds of desserts- buttered Bara Brith, Karen's chocolate cake, rhubarb and custard pie, ice cream, fudge slices, and so on. Lots of cider to drink, and wine, and beer too. Amazing, I must have gained a kilo in a week.

The people- Jay played the guitar, while Joe built bivouacs, Bev cleaned everything and locked all the doors every night, Jorg lectured us about golf when he'd never played it himself, Vicky looked after Aria with ultimate patience, and Alice carried around Ivy on her hip like a tribal lady, teaching Ivy to say all our names though she's only 15 months old. Angela kept Jorg in line, while Doreen was always friendly, and Mom and Karen kept everything running under the surface, probably exhausted from the past few weeks of wedding prep and work.

It was really a great time, and so great to share with everyone, and with SY. I hope we do it again some time!
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400 & in UK [Sep. 1st, 2013|05:20 pm]
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So we arrived in the UK at around 4pm yesterday, shattered as expected. Mom was there and we all taxied back to her place, then SY fell straight to sleep, and I got busy working to change our train schedule to go see granny grist.

Well, mom did. I made calls. We had planned to go the next day, today- to visit granny and dad south of london. We'd be leaving about now, if we stuck with it! But we realized we were too tired, and wanted a recovery day, so we managed to shift the trip to all on one day, up and down, tomorrow. Is better by far.

Princess is on the bed! She purrs a lot. It's so great to have a cat around, even if her fur is a bit matted in places.

Mom is clanking around downstairs, cooking maybe, so will go down and say hi.

Oh, my Bells of Subsidence promotion ended, with 400 copies given away. I'm very pleased with that. If it leads to some new followers on my mailing list, some reviews, then it's even better. Just nice to think 400 people may read my stories, because I put them out there. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!!
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299 & UK!! [Aug. 30th, 2013|07:26 pm]
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The download count on Bells of Subsidence is 299! It's slipped a little in ranking, but that's OK. Hopefully some of those people will leave (positive) reviews, and there's some social proof, helping me out when the next books comes out. Maybe some of them will join my mailing list too, take an interest for next time.

Tomorrow we go to the uk! I take my big bag, which always frustrates me because I can't believe how much STUFF i need to travel with. What is even in that bag? Well, a lot of space is taken up by two big presents (for the nieces) and my camera gear (for taking photos of the wedding).

The rest is 6 shirts (because we're there for 14 days), two jeans, two shorts, a suit (for the wedding), sports stuff (cos you gotta exercise), shoes for all the above, and that's really it. Takes up space. Should be a little lighter on the return journey though, which is cool.

Keen to work on my haikyo book now, get it finished and out there. Got the structure, seems like it will hold together as a book rather than just a disconnected series of explores, so that's exciting. Hopefully will shift a few copies. Also it neatly sums up my time in Japan, ties a bow on it, and done...

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250!! [Aug. 29th, 2013|10:25 pm]
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So far 250 people downloaded my short story collection- pretty great. I really have no idea who they all are, I checked my mailchimp stats and saw that some 40 people opened the email I sent them, and only 15 of those actually clicked on the download link.

So where did the other 235 come from? I don't know, but I'm glad they did. I'm right behind Hugh Howey (of Wool fame) in the free SF short stories list, at #2!!

And I got my first 5-star review! from my wife! thanks honey!!

Today I worked on the upcoming haikyo book. Giving it a throughline is the trickiest part, so it's not just a collection of very short, unconnected explores. That would work if it was primarily a photo book, but now I want it to primarily be the story. Hence, throughline. But yeah, I'm getting it.

Plus haikyo, plus photos, plus directions. Hopefully can get it all done in a month, then get some readers on it, and publish! I love the freedom of self-publishing. I just do it.

The pizza at our local pizza shop seems to be getting smaller. I am so disappoint. We'll have to go somewhere else, maybe...
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Great Expectations & House of Cards [Aug. 28th, 2013|10:04 pm]
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I'm about a third through Great Expectations by Dickens, and am constantly surprised by how much fun it is. Every scene Joe is in is properly funny. Pip's sideways thoughts in brackets are usually funny. All the characters, from the very fussy Wopsle and Pumblechook to the awful Estella, are memorable, bright, and engaging. So far it is a lot faster-paced than A Tale of Two Cities, and the characters are so much warmer.

Two Cities was pretty dull, in how worthy it was trying to be, I feel. There were the few comic turns, and the climax moments at the end were great, but throughout it did seem like a lot of terribly worthy people, mostly sitting around and getting on with their lives.

Pip's story is full of life, by comparison.

House of Cards is a political drama about high-stakes power and manipulation in Washington, with Kevin Spacey as the House of Representatives whip. It's very sharp, very cool, and I love how it keeps avoiding cliche. There was a 'sexy' girl honey trap, but Spacey didn't fall for it. There was a chance to have a main character go back to his junkie ways, but instead he flushed the stash. Also there was a 'I hate God!! speech, in a crowded church, that was openly calling out Martin Sheen's Latin church rant in the West wing.

Good. Avoid the boring paths we've seen a million times before. Make the characters strong, and show them butting heads with others who are just as strong as them. That's what we want!!

SY home any time now!
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self-promotion and beers [Aug. 28th, 2013|10:50 am]
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'The Bells of Subsidence' is at number 79 for free science fiction in the Amazon bestseller charts! Yeah! I see around 80 people have downloaded it, which seems really high, so of course I'm glad. No money, no comments yet, but it's exciting to think that many people may read it, enjoy it, get something out of it. Brilliant.

It's also-
#1 in children's SF dystopian
#2 in SF galactic empire
#3 in SF short stories

all free, of course. but wow! it may well drop out again in a few hours, but it's still very cool to have even such minor visibility. It must be coming from the bulk email I sent out to 200 people on my website mailing list- thanks to them all!

While that was happening, I went to play pool with Matt. The games were close, but in the end he won by one game. As usual we went in an alleyway in Takadanobaba afterwards and drank beer and talked about writing. Of course we talked about the merits of self-publishing, and he said the view I was feeling before- the most important thing is to get the approval of publishers and agents.

I still want that. But I also want my stories to be out and available for readers.

Whew, today I'll work on the haikyo book I suppose. I think it has a good chance, it's an interesting story with lots of cool details.

SY comes home today, hurrah!!
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book LAUNCH!! [Aug. 26th, 2013|09:13 pm]
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I'm doing it! Sometime tomorrow (Tuesday) my short story collection 'The Bells of Subsidence' will start selling for free on the Kindle store- at the same time, an email will roll out to 200 people on my mailing list telling them it's free and asking them to go download it.

What's going to happen? Will anybody respond? Will nobody? Aaargh!!

The way to look at it is this- if no-one responds, then the list is worthless, and they're the wrong readers. I need to find an audience that will appreciate my work. and according to everybody, that takes time, persistence, and consistency. Yeah, good, I expect that. Added to which, short story collections hardly sell at all.

I would like to get a few good reviews though. Social proof.

I also put 'Bells' in my website sidebar, think it looks neat, see here- http://www.michaeljohngrist.com/

And here is the book promo 'poster' I made for the email-


And finally the book cover itself-


Let's sell like crazy yeah!!

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bye bye SY, book, and Pacific Rim [Aug. 25th, 2013|04:32 pm]
SY goes away to Korea for a few days, which is always a little sad, but I kept busy by working on republishing my short story SF collection.

Published, yeah!! I actually put the book on Amazon yesterday, after spending hours on tricky little formatting issues like adding the hyper-linked table of contents, getting the right font size to work on all readers, then converting the html file to epub, then previewing it and checking everything still worked.

After upload, SY bought a copy, first copy sold!! But the formatting was all screwed up, whaaaat?! Headers way too big, not the right font, table of contents 'go to' didn't exist, things not centralized, what the heck?

So I do it all again today, add an Introduction, change the blurb, and upload again, along with author page. Hopefully it's up in a day, everything's correct, then I'll put it on my blog on Tuesday, and maybe a few folks will buy :)

Yesterday we watched PACIFIC RIM!! Needs capitals because it was so big and loud. Great movie. Just so big, full, deep, solid feeling, in every way. And immensely kick ass. Every time the music kicked up, and the team went into battle, I got thrills of excitement, like i was going into battle myself. Exactly what you want to achieve in a movie like that. Very solid movie. For some reason I was comparing it to Ghostbusters in my head- maybe as a totally original, big-scale, but also funny, crazy premise.

Tonight, perhaps I'll watch The Purge.
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