Jul 30, 2011

Soundtrack Saturday - Holding Out For A Hero

Soundtrack Saturday is back. This week, we've got an old favourite of mine. Every good protagonist should have at least one moment when this song is appropriate:


Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where's the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and turn and dream
of what I need


I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light
He's gotta be sure
And it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life

Somewhere after midnight
In my wildest fantasy
Somewhere just beyond my reach
There's someone reaching back for me
Racing on the thunder end rising with the heat
It's gonna take a superman to sweep me off my feet


Up where the mountains meet the heavens above
Out where the lightning splits the sea
I would swear that there's someone somewhere
Watching me

Through the wind end the chill and the rain
And the storm and the flood
I can feel his approach
Like the fire in my blood

Jul 29, 2011

Real Men Can Cook: Cheese on Toast

This is a bit of a cheat recipe, since it's ridiculously simple and really just a snack. Makes for great late-night eating if you get the munchies.

Mature cheddar cheese
1 small onion

Serves: 4-8

Step 1:
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees centigrade. Butter 8 slices of toast. Slice cheese. Chop onion into small pieces.

Step 2:
Place sliced cheese onto bread, then add onion pieces on top of the cheese. Lightly dust with paprika.

Step 3:
Cook in oven until the cheese has melted, and serve.

Jul 27, 2011

Back in the Game

I've been doing well getting back to work on my WIP. I've broken the 35k mark, so I can safely say the first draft is half-done. I've got some crit-partners already helping me out with comments and advice. If I was ever thankful for the encouragement and motivation to keep writing, it's now.

It's still difficult getting into the writing mindset, but once I'm there I feel so uplifted. It's not so much an escape as it is filling my time with something I love, something which is a positive part of me. I wouldn't say it's helping me heal, but it's giving me something to look forward to. A good thing to focus on, which is mine.

I'm not sure exactly when I'll have the first draft done. My first book took months to complete, but I was a lot less certain of how the story was going to go than I am this time. If I can maintain a steady pace and get, say, two chapters done each week, I should be able to complete the first draft in a little over a month.

Helping me in this is the fact that my wife bought herself a digital piano which had been reduced in price to a bargain. It's due to be delivered today and will be living in the front room, where I prefer to write. So my wife and I will be able to both indulge in our own artistic pursuits, but still spend time together. I'm looking forward to that.

Jul 23, 2011

Getting Back Up

The last two weeks have completely thrown my blogging and writing schedule to the dogs. All of my blog posts lately have been about Conor, and I've managed to write all of a single paragraph on my secondary WIP.

Everyone is being so supportive, telling me to take my time and not to rush myself. I'm my own biggest critic in this. I've gone through feelings of worthlessness, anger and guilt, all over the fact that I haven't been writing. It's been one of the hardest things to admit that I'm not this hardcore author who can keep working even while suffering the grief from the worst day of my life. My ego has taken a beating. I'm not the kind of person who can go through what's happened and come out unscathed.

In my heart, I know this just makes me a good person. Part of me is relieved to know that this has wounded me, and I still need time to heal.

But I want to write. I have a book coming out next year, and I want to be able to query the next book in the series by then, so that if it's accepted I can hope to see it come out the following year. I have a secondary WIP which calls to me. And now yet another idea which I want to play around with. I can't do these things, tell these stories I love to tell, unless I just write. It hurts. Sometimes I don't want to move or even lift my head.

But it's time to get back up. I've been hit hard. I've fallen. It's time to get back up. I don't know how long it'll take to get my strength back, but I have to start. My blog schedule may still suffer and my word count may be low.

But I'm getting back up.

Jul 21, 2011

Funeral Service

Conor's funeral was held yesterday. It was a bright, sunny day, spent surrounded by friends and family. The service at the hospital was beautiful, as was the short one at the crematory. Included in the readings were a poem written for Conor by a friend, and a short piece by Ellen Brickley which she wrote to express her thoughts on Thursday after hearing about Conor's passing. Both were beautiful pieces, perfectly expressing the love and strength we have come to associate with Conor's life.

My previous post about Conor marks my 100th blog post. I hadn't even realised. I can't think of a more fitting topic for the 100-mark.

After the services we came home and spent the rest of the day and night with our friends. We talked, ate, drank and laughed. We enjoyed the shared love and company of one other.

Everyone agreed it was a wonderful way to celebrate Conor's life.

Below are the pieces of music we used during the service. The first two were chosen by my wife, Jen, while I picked the last two.

Jul 16, 2011

Conor William Henry Shortt

I'm aware that not everyone heard the news when I posted it on Twitter and Facebook last Thursday, and I'd like to have a more permanent mention of it here on my blog, too.

My son, Conor William Henry Shortt, passed away on Thursday, July 14th, while his mother and I held him. He fought to stay with us, living a total of 3 days, 8 hours and 38 minutes. He was born without functioning kidneys and, as a result of the low amniotic fluid levels that causes, underdeveloped lungs. He was never going to be able to survive without life support, and even that would only keep him alive for so long. We spent the entire day on Thursday holding him, before making the decision to remove the ventilator at 5pm. He kept on fighting, trying to breathe, for a whole hour, before passing peacefully.

I've never seen a newborn like him. He would squeeze our fingers, even try to get a better grip. He wouldn't let us go, and his grip was so strong. Conor knew us. He would only open his eyes when we held him. His body would fight to breathe better when we were there. He has been with us since he was conceived, and will continue to be with us, always.

In the last nine months, Conor has done so much. He has shown my wife and I how strong we are, together. That we can overcome anything through our love. He has brought our families closer together and reminded us how dear to us our friends are, and how much they will do for us at a moment's notice. Conor has been loved by people from all over the world. Even in death, he will continue to be with us and do great things. We agreed to a post mortem. Hopefully this can add to the understanding of what happened to Conor once the doctors confirm what exactly it was that caused this.

We know so much about him. He would give Jen the mightiest of kicks, elbows, even scratches with his fingers, to let her know how he was feeling. We know he liked Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. He enjoyed Thor and Transformers. He loved spicy food.

I could not be more proud of our brave little boy, or more thankful that he chose my wife and I to be his parents. We will always remember that he came to us and made our lives better. He lived and was loved. We will keep him with us, always, and make sure his future siblings know that they have a strong big brother looking out for them.

Conor William Henry Shortt : 11/07/11 - 14/07/11

Jul 12, 2011

More Conor

Today was a good day. We got to hold Conor for the first time, before he was transferred to the ICU department in Crumlin Children's Hospital. It really did feel amazing to finally have him in my arms.

He's had all his tests done, so tomorrow the hospital staff will get the preliminary results back and have a meeting to decide what needs to be done to make him better.

Since last night he's improved a little. He was taken off of an oscillator machine used to help stabilise his blood oxygen, and he's been doing well off it. His blood oxygen levels did go down from 90% to 86%, but they've also reduced the amount of pure oxygen being fed through the ventilator from 100% to 85%. I'm calling this a good thing.

My dad and I were allowed in to see him at Crumlin. We both provided Reiki together, which was a great feeling. I know he's still sick and has a way to go, but we love him and I believe he will pull through this. He keeps fighting. As soon as Jen held Conor, his blood oxygen shot up from 90% to 96%. I think someone knows who his mum is.

My Son

Conor William Henry Shortt was born at 09:22 today, 11/7/11. He weighs 3.33kg, or 7lbs 2oz. That is exactly what I weighed when I was born.

Also, dig the prime numbers here! 11th day of the 7th month. The numbers in the time of birth add up to 13. Three 3s in his weight in kg. I should have named him Optimus!

There were some complications. So he's currently on a respirator and has needed fluid drained from his body through tubes. He may also need dialysis. But he's a fighter, like his parents. And we love him.

Jul 11, 2011

Camera Presence

I've been playing around with my camera, particularly the video record setting. I've often wondered whether or not posting video blogs would be worth my time. But aside from trying to work out exactly what content I could provide that I don't already cover in this blog, my biggest issue is that I'm just not comfortable on camera.

I'm fine on a webcam chat, probably because I can see a person reacting to me. But when I look back at myself on a video recording, I can see all my old exaggerated expressions and intonations that I'd use when I was doing amateur drama rehearsals. And that stuff just makes me cringe when I see myself doing it. I've never liked the sound of my own voice.

While I probably won't start video blogging with any kind of regularity, I'm sure that some part of my promotion work will require me to either record myself, be interviewed, or otherwise speak publicly. I need to practice, and learn how to carry myself on camera.

So to those of you who have been on camera before, how did you get over this? Those who haven't, would be be comfortable doing it, or are there things that would put you off?

Edit: This was a pre-scheduled post. My the time Blogger posted this, my son, Conor, had been born.

Jul 9, 2011

Soundtrack Saturday - I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)

I've got an old favourite of mine for this week's Soundtrack Saturday: Meat Loaf's I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That).

Not only is this a rocking song with some of the best combination of lyrics, music and vocal work of any of Meat Loaf's songs, but it's got a video the likes of which is never seen these days. Interesting fact: not a lot of people know that the woman in the music video is not the woman who recorded the original female vocals.

And I would do anything for love, 
I'd run right into hell and back, 
I would do anything for love, 
I'll never lie to you and that's a fact. 

But I'll never forget the way you feel right now 
- Oh no - no way - I would do anything for love, 
But I wont do that, I wont do that, anything for love, 
I would do anything for love, I would do anything for love, 
But I wont do that, I wont do that. 

Jul 8, 2011

Superhero Tropes: Kick Ass

Last week I talked about The Hero's Journey as it appears in Kung Fu Panda. This week I thought I'd talk about another favourite film: Kick Ass.

Kick Ass is interesting because, in addition to having something of a warped Hero's Journey, it is also, despite its premise, a perfect example of a superhero story. Spoilers follow.

When we first meet David, he comments about how his life is completely ordinary. He's just a kid who happens to like comics. He's not very smart, nor is he athletic. Here we have David's Mundane World.

Mundae, geek-filled, world...
The Call to Adventure: David makes a big deal about how the audience is not going to see some traumatic moment that inspires him to become a superhero. We even see his mother die, over breakfast, of a brain aneurysm. No revenge quests here. David just decides one day to buy a wetsuit and turn it into a superhero costume. Which is fine.

But that's not what happens. He and his friend are mugged for their cash, phones and even their comics. David looks up and sees a man watching, who just walks away him his window, doing nothing. This, right here, is David's Call to Adventure. In the superhero model, this is the incident which makes him believe that someone, somewhere, simply has to do something to make things different. Sure, right now it's just the ego trip of a teenage kid, but this has sparked something new in David, as we'll see later.

Supernatural Aid: The costume that David buys for himself becomes his talisman. It is the tool with which he gains the power to fight evil. Like all superheroes, the mask becomes the mark of authority. The symbol that he stands for something better than greedy, everyday behaviour.

On his first time out in the costume, David is stabbed and struck by a car. The driver, like other people who are faced with trouble, turns away. Here's where the movie breaks yet again from its insistence that this is not a typical superhero story, because as a result of his injuries, Dave suffers nerve damage. This nerve damage diminishes his ability to feel pain. We see David's friends joking around with him, hitting him with trays. He has his own superpower, relative to those around him.

Crossing the First Threshold: David's Threshold Guardians are the gang thugs he finds beating up another man outside a convenience store. Despite a terrible beating, and other people just watching, despite being told to call the cops, David keeps getting up, until the thugs realise he's more trouble than he's worth and take off. I love this scene because it echoes the earlier mugging scene, and David's response to the thugs asking what's wrong with him, looking to die for a man he doesn't even know, is beautiful:

"The three assholes, laying into one guy while everybody else watches? And you wanna know what's wrong with me? Yeah, I'd rather die."

Though perhaps without the straddling?
Belly of the Whale: Later, when all seems most bleak, Kick Ass and Big Daddy are prisoners of the mob, being tortured on a live web broadcast. This is David's final separation from his mundane world. He is faced with the worst his enemies can offer, with no hope of rescue. He has gone to the ultimate place the mask would take him. Unbridled violence at the hands of evil.

Rescue from Without: This is one of my favourite scenes in the movie, because it represents Hit-Girl's rise to eclipse her father as a superhero. She battles her way through the mob goons, receiving coded commands from Big Daddy even while he's being burned alive. It's emotional, heartbreaking and invigorating at the same time. It's the pivotal event that makes David realise that the idea of "With no power, comes no responsibility" is not true, and some people have to go and fix things because they're the only ones who can.

The Ultimate Boon: We had to get here, didn't we? This realisation is vital. The understanding that it's the simple act of putting on a mask and standing up to someone makes you responsible for the consequences, for the need to follow through, it what finally turns David from a boy playing dress-up into a superhero. It's the will to see it through that allows David to face off against Red Mist (a draw, in proper superhero tradition) and kill the big boss.

It's at this point that the movie really has become an unashamed love letter to superhero movies. We've had the epic, bombastic music, the steady progression of the protagonist earning the mask, getting the girl, beating the villain. Now, Kick Ass and Hit-Girl literally fly off, into the sunrise, rather than the sunset, with the bright, victorious music sounding their fanfare.

Yeah, nothing at all epic or heroic about this
It's a strange sort of Hero's Journey, because the movie tells us that it's trying to turn convention on its head. However it still adheres to traditional story elements, though it does hide them in a mundane sheen.

Jul 6, 2011

Can't Stop Reading

I figured I'd mess around with my schedule. I'm working on a film analysis post which was originally for today, but my head is swimming with stuff right now and I've decided to postpone that until Friday. Which is just as well, because I can't decide on a recipe to post for Real Men Can Cook this week.

I'm reading a book by a friend at the moment, the second in a trilogy. It's not yet published, and it's not her main WIP for the time being. But I'm telling you, I'm hooked. I'm a sucker for strong and engaging character relationships in a story, and this has it in spades. Even when I want to slap the characters and tell them to act sensibly, I still care about them and want, need to read more.

I love when a book does this to me. This is why I read, to connect with characters and feel that desire to watch their fates, no matter what that may be, no matter whether I want to hug them or hit them.

So, topic open for discussion. What books have drawn you in so much you can hardly sleep if you don't read just one more chapter? What ones make you want to scream because you can't read fast enough to see what happens next?

Jul 4, 2011

On Standby

First up, happy Fourth of July to all my American readers! My wife and I were in New York on our honeymoon for July 4th in 2008. We spent it on the World Yacht dinner cruise and had an amazing view of the fireworks. Fantastic night.

I thought my Monday post this week would be best spent letting you all know that, at her hospital visit on Friday, my wife was told that the baby's head is fully engaged. While we're still a bit over a week away from her due date, she could potentially go into labour any day now. So it's full labour-watch here at the Shortt household.

This does mean that I may miss a blog post somewhere over the next few weeks. So if you spot that, there's a very good chance it's because I've had to rush my wife to the hospital, unless of course I've had the foresight to pre-schedule a post beforehand.

Wish us luck!

Jul 2, 2011

Soundtrack Saturday - Invincible

This week I've got another rocking track straight from the Eighties.

Invincible, by Pat Benatar.

This bloody road remains a mystery.
This sudden darkness fills the air.
What are we waiting for ?
Won't anybody help us ?
What are we waiting for ?
We can't afford to be innocent
stand up and face the enemy.
It's a do or die situation - we will be invincible.

This shattered dream you cannot justify.
We're gonna scream until we're satisfied.
What are we running for ? We've got the right to be angry.
What are we running for when there's nowhere we can run to anymore ?
We can't afford to be innocent
stand up and face the enemy.
It's a do or die situation - we will be invincible.
And with the power of conviction there is no sacrifice.
It's a do or die situation - we will be invincible.

Won't anybody help us ?
What are we running for when there's nowhere

nowhere we can run to anymore ?
We can't afford to be innocent
stand up and face the enemy.
It's a do or die situation - we will be invincible.
And with the power of conviction there is no sacrifice.
It's a do or die situation - we will be invincible.

We can't afford to be innocent
stand up and face the enemy.
It's a do or die situation - we will be invincible.
We can't afford to be innocent
stand up and face the enemy.
It's a do or die situation - we will be invincible. 

Guest Post at Roni Loren's Blog

Today I've got a guest post over at Roni Loren's blog. Roni is an erotic romance author, with her first novel, Crash Into You, due for release in January, 2012.

My topic is "Love Scenes in Fantasy," a short discussion about the use of love scenes in the fantasy genre, and what the choices in their use can mean as part of the story.

Jul 1, 2011

Real Men Can Cook: Pizza

This week's recipe is a little more involved, but it really is one of my favourites.

Total Time: 1hr 15 mins, approx.
Serves: 2 (2 9-inch pizzas)

To Prepare the Dough:

250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
125ml warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for oiling

Step 1: Sift flour and salt into a large bowl, stir in yeast. Gradually stir in water and oil to form a soft dough.

Step 2: Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl and turn until the full surface is covered. Cover and leave to rise for 45 minutes.

Step 3: Lightly knead the dough and divide into 2 before rolling out.


Bolognaise Sauce
1 whole chorizo sausage
2 balls of mozzarella

Step 1: Spoon out the sauce onto each base, spreading evenly.

Step 2: Tear pieces off the mozarella balls and place on top of sauce.

Step 3: Slice chorizo and place pieces on top of the cheese.

Step 4: Cook in an oven on a baking tray or pizza tray, pre-heated to 200 degrees centigrade, for 10-15 minutes, or until fully cooked.

There you go! Of course, changing the toppings up is one of the best things about making pizza. Chorizo is one of my favourite toppings, though. I recommend getting a proper round pizza tray for cooking. Use a pizza cutter to slice, or do it the proper Italian way and just eat the pizza straight off the plate with a knife and fork.