Jonathon Dean

Writer. Human. Nerd.

Author: Jonny Dean (page 2 of 3)

Metaldays are Here Again

Last week I posted the first part of my trip; the drive down from Manchester to Slovenia and the various ups and downs (both in terms of events and, y’know, altitude) that it involved. But why drive all the way to Slovenia? What madness could possibly have possessed us? Why not just fly, for Odin’s sake?

The answer, in short, is Metaldays.

Last year, my festival quota was filled by France’s Hellfest, but Metaldays is an entirely different beast.

First off, the sheer length of the thing; three days is one thing, but seven? It becomes the difference between a sprint and a marathon. Second off, the heat, since Slovenia regularly reaches 30+°C, and so by 8-9am sleeping in a tent becomes sleeping in an oven. Not exactly conducive to hangover sleep. In fact, from what I hear, it’s the heat that dictates the festival’s length; attempts to run a 3-day festival in the blazing sun resulted in a lot of people fainting in the heat. Solution: spread the bands out over a long time, and start the bands around 3-4pm.

The result is one of the nicest, most laid-back festivals ever. There aren’t many rock festivals where getting up early, having a proper breakfast, a shower, perhaps a walk into town, a few hours’ swimming and hanging out on the beach, and then catching every band on the bill is feasible – but Metaldays has all that and more.

Given that, the fact that the first two days had what I can only describe as biblical f*ckstorms, complete with constant lightning, rolling thunder, and rain and wind so hard they even took down the third stage, and you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d made some terrible mistake in choosing to go there – but the weather in the mountains is a fickle beast. An hour, maybe two, of torrential hammering rainfall, of lightning illuminating the skies and thunder loud enough to set off car alarms, and then all clear again. All sun, all shine, and back to hot.

And hell, to watch the clouds roll up the mountainsides, it was majestic.

The only miscalculation was to use a single-skin tent, that has done me well in France and the UK, but in those kind of hammering mountain storms? Well, even the best water resistant fabrics can only withstand a certain amount of water before they simply give up (otherwise they – and their occupants – wouldn’t be able to breathe, naturally), and in this case… yeah.

Luckily, the van was available to throw all the drenchables into, so my tent just needed mopping out and it was good to go for the night – though, in future, that’s gonna need replacing!

As for the van itself. Just having it there felt like decadence. We actually had a fridge to keep beer cold, and a place to charge phones! Luxury!

After the storms, we spent most of the day just relaxing on the beach by the river. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been as prepared for anything in my entire life as some of those guys – and I’m looking primarily at the Germans and Austrians – are to hang around that river. Some of them brought soundsystems, parasols and beach shelters, giant novelty inflatables (a strange quirk of fate meant that Lidl stores across Europe were all selling giant unicorn inflatables for cheap – so the sight of a hundred metalheads riding inflatable unicorns down the river was inevitable), and one guy even brought a full sized accordion to play as he sat in his inflatable boat.

(Alright, I didn’t get any decent shots of the river, so here, have these official ones courtesy of Stipe Surać – yes, I am in one of his shots, and no, you can’t see it.)

As for the bands themselves? Honestly the one band I absolutely wanted to see were the mighty Iced Earth, who I’ve never managed to see since they come to the UK so infrequently (and almost exclusively London), as well as Doro, Equilibrium and Amon Amarth, among a fair few others. All of whom were, predictably, fantastic – and even those who I thought were a strange choice for Metaldays (Marilyn Manson, I’m looking at you) still put on entertaining shows.

I think the number one thing this festival will be remembered for, however, is the moment grim, kvult, black metal legend Abbath fell down a hill mid-set, live on the jumbotron.

Brvtal.

At least his Motörhead tribute band are goddamn awesome.

For me, these kinds of festivals are as much about the bands that you don’t expect to see as the ones you do. I love seeing bands I’d never heard of before, and leaving as a fan. This year, that honour goes to Triosphere, Shotdown and Greybeards. Rock on, guys.

So that was that, a solid week after it had begun, Metaldays was over for another year. Goodbye Tolmin, I will most certainly be back.

Next stop (and next post): Italy!

On the Road to Metal

So, I’ve been pretty quiet lately, and that’s because I’ve been pretty busy.

I mentioned before about all the groovy stuff getting in the way of getting any actual work done, but it’s kinda difficult to feel bad about it given how just gosh-darn awesome everything has been for the past few weeks.

I suspect this will be a pretty long thing, so I’m gonna have to split it into a few parts. First up, the route to Metaldays!

For those (I suspect most) of you who’ve never heard of it, Metaldays is a week-long heavy metal festival in the mountains of Slovenia.

And guys, it’s really hard work.

I’ve been to this festival before, back in the long-long-ago when it was called Metalcamp and I could recover from hangovers much more easily.

But I’ve always flown, and this year we decided to roadtrip the thing, all the way from sunny Manchester, through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria. And hell, what an idea that was!

With a bit of a rocky start – the Eurostar sold out just before we managed to book our tickets, so had to reorganise the trip around the ferry instead, leading us to spend the first night of the trip crashing in the van in a pub car park in Maidstone – the rest of the trip went pretty smoothly.

As we got into Belgium, ready to stock up on water and snacks for the long drive south, we were surprised at how quiet it was. Slightly later, we were surprised at why the Aldi was closed, even though the sign quite clearly said it should still be open for another six hours. Slightly later still, we discovered that July 21st was Belgian National Day, and thus everything was closed. Bugger. Eventually, after some frantic googling, we managed to find a supermarket across town that was still open for half an hour. Foot down,  a scramble down the supermarket aisles and some frantic French translation later, and we had some basic provisions to last us all the way to the camp site in Luxembourg. Huzzah!

Actually, the camp site in Luxembourg was by far the nicest one we stayed at over the course of the trip. Even in spite of the kids’ disco that inexplicably ran into the early hours, a camp site with decent facilities makes all the difference, particularly when you’re unlikely to sleep indoors for another week and a half.

As it turned out, that wasn’t the case. Despite heavy traffic, and heavier rain meaning that we were delayed in getting to the city – and didn’t have time to explore, boo! – we met up with some friends in Freising, and got drunk Bavarian style with those guys, before crashing on their collection of couches and air beds.

It was a shame that the heavy rain and heavy traffic meant that we didn’t get to see a great deal of Germany, but the next day driving through Austria was completely different. Driving through the tunnels and mountains afforded us stunning scenery. And if the mountains themselves weren’t stunning enough, the Austrians have done a bit of decorating over the centuries, and adorned half of the mountaintops with magnificent castles. Who needs fantasy landscapes when this is the view from the motorway?

From there it was a flat out drive to Slovenia!

…with one stop. Of course, it couldn’t be that simple. As we entered Slovenia through the mountains, the weather was at a balmy 27°C, the roads were steep and single-lane, and the brake discs began to let off smoke.

Now, this isn’t a good thing at any point, but at the top of a mountain, with at least a mile until the next place it’s possible to stop, in the blazing sun and a steep downhill road where the brakes will be needed constantly? That’s an issue. Eventually, though, we found a place to stop, and honestly, I can think of worse places.

Luckily, the stopping point was by a glacial river. Not that that helped a great deal; over an hour later, and after around 8 litres of icy cold water dumped on each brake disc, and water was still boiling on contact. Honestly, I think that if it has been a little further away, the van just wouldn’t have made it intact (or at least, the wheels wouldn’t).

Clearly the gods of metal were raising the sign of the hammer at us that day, because we made it to Metaldays, rather than Valhalla.

 

To be continued.

Handsfree Summer

The whole ordeal is over – more or less – which is marvellous news! It means that I can get back to work… sort of.

After almost four months with either a completely or partially useless right hand, rather a lot of things have started to slip. My typing speed, for one, has simply plummeted, and it’s going to take a lot of practise to get that back to anything like what it should be.

Other things are a bit ambiguous as to whether or not they are technically problems. See, my hand has broadly healed just in time for various trips and events that obviously eat into my writing time, though I’m not exactly the first in line to call these things “problems”.

Taking part in the Manchester Day parade, for example, was a lot of fun.

Not exactly a problem, per se (though my wings did keep getting caught in various things), but with a lot of preparation and recovery involved with marching several miles in the blazing sun pushing a giant phoenix float. Not something that leaves me a great deal of time and energy to get the writing show back on the (paper?) road.

And this was just a few days before the other big issue-but-not-issue; a week in Corfu with the girlfriend. Technically I’m claiming the amount of swimming done counted as part of my physiotherapy, because, well, it can’t have hurt, right? But living in Manchester, where summers are an endless procession of grey, miserable days, interspersed with the odd bright day that turns to rain the instant someone lights a barbecue, a little bit of guaranteed sun is required to not go mad. And who can argue with this?

So this leads me to the next predicament; Metaldays. In a week’s time, I embark on a ridiculous road trip through Europe, to a  7-day metal festival in Slovenia, and then back again. That’s another two weeks where writing will be… let’s say difficult, for various reasons, some of which aren’t even alcohol related.

So that’s seven days. Seven days to get as much work done as humanly possible.

It’s… it’s just not looking good, is it?

Cast-away!

Isn’t it nice having two hands?

Time for another update on the hand front; after two months, hand surgery and the implantation of wires into my hand (making me a temporary cyborg – huzzah!) the cast is finally off, and I can shower without a plastic bag taped around my right hand for the first time in a long, long time.

 

Since the cast came off and the wires were yanked out with a pair of pliers and no anaesthetic (both causing pain and ending my cyborg status – boo!), I was hoping the recovery would be swift and easy. Unfortunately, the human body doesn’t like that so much, meaning that the two months immobilised in a cast have led to a pretty hefty amount of muscle atrophy, and a massive drop in my ability to move my wrist and fingers.

 

So here I am, typing slowly, clumsily and wrist-brace-ily, waiting for a letter telling me when I get to start physiotherapy, and the long journey back to actually being able to use my newly de-prisoned hand, and the very strange-feeling new skin that lurked beneath the cast.

 

Joining the Cast

Another update re: the hand, since it’s been over a month since the last blog post.

Long story short, rather than getting my bandages taken off at the fracture clinic appointment, I was booked in for surgery, and now there’s a pretty hefty wire holding the bones in my hand together, underneath an even bigger, solid plaster cast.

I advise the squeamish to look away now.

20170418_114640

Pretty hideous, right? Trouble is, now I’ve seen it, I can feel the thing in the side of my hand.

Another three weeks of this, and then I get to start the exciting world of physiotherapy.

Trouble is, I’ve achieved basically nothing in the last month. Partially because typing is difficult, clumsy and painful, and partially because I’ve been on codeine for big chunks of it.

Three weeks, and then with any luck I can get back to writing, back to being able to use a knife and fork, and back to showering without a bin liner taped over my arm. Huzzah!

Genre Tax

With taxes being big news on both sides of the Atlantic, from the Tories’ major u-turn on their proposed raise in NI contributions for self-employed people, to the continued questions over Donald Trump’s refusal to release  his tax returns, we should take a look at taxes.

Tax forms a major part of the proper functioning of a modern society. As the saying goes, nothing is certain but death and taxes, and the same is true in your fictional world. As we’ve already looked at death (twice), it’s time to take a look at tax. Continue reading

My Productivity is Fractured.

So, here’s the latest hiccough in my productivity:

Can you, uh, can you see the problem here? I can type, but it is one of the world’s slowest things trying to type with only my left hand. Not to mention how astonishingly uncomfortable it is to sit at a keyboard with the strange angle my right arm has to be (and don’t even get me started on trying to capitalise or use punctuation!).

So why is my entire arm bandaged up and near unusable? Would you believe a minor fracture in my little finger? No? Neither would I, but that’s what it is. Unfortunately, the fracture is so close to the joint that my wrist needs to be immobilised too.

Apparently, the unofficial name is a “boxer’s fracture”, since the usual way that part of the hand gets broken is by punching something damn hard with improper technique.

But that makes me sound a lot cooler than I am, because I just tripped over a cycle path kerb.

Fracture clinic appointment in just over a week. Let’s hope I can take this bloody thing off by then and get back to work.

Redrafting and Querying – Story of a Writer’s Life

The last two months since I finished Draft Zero (and then Draft One) of Airborne Empire have been a flurry of nothing.

 

There’s something soul-destroying about months spent redrafting and writing queries, then redrafting the queries, redrafting the manuscript and everything else. I think it’s the perceived lack of forward momentum involved. Don’t get me wrong, redrafting is important, and it absolutely improves the work, but there never seems to be an end-goal in sight. When you hit the George Lucas style of tinkering around the edges, you can drive yourself mad with it, but it’s still work that never seems like it’s done. At least with writing a first (or zero-th) draft, there’s a definite point when you’re finished.

 

As a result, months of rewriting and working on queries just feel like busy work; you’re pouring time and effort in, and getting no sense of accomplishment in return.

 

To make matters worse, the other writing project I started in the meantime needs more development work than I had imagined. Which, naturally, means I’m not doing the bits of that that I enjoy either.

 

Still, at least the news hasn’t been uniformly depressing so that I don’t really want to write Stories Behind Stories posts at the moment and… Oh, yeah, that one’s happened too.

Never mind.

The Long In-Between Times

I finished “draft zero” of Airborne Empire just before Christmas. I call it draft zero, because it’s not yet polished, fixed and adjusted enough that I am happy enough to call it “draft one”, yet. Yes, that is exactly how my numbering scheme works.

But now comes the difficult part; conventional wisdom says to let the manuscript sit for a while before you revisit. This is, of course, sensible. There’s no point in going back through your work the second you finish typing out the bare bones. You’re too close to it, the things you accidentally left unsaid are still in your brain. The characterisation is in your brain but might not necessarily be on the page. You need some distance, and to come to it with a fresh mind.

Which requires a break, and some in-between time, and a palate cleanser. And, if you’re me, at least, a palate cleanser includes a dozen ideas for new projects welding themselves onto my brain, and not letting go. Which can be difficult if your goal is to go back and redraft something else, because you simply don’t have time for a new writing project on top of your old one. I’m still not sure I’m happy enough that the Twist and its associated queries, are good enough to send off yet. In fact, Airborne Empire started as my palate cleanser for the Twist, and look at how that worked out.

At this rate I’ll reach a point where I have a dozen novels at various stages in the redrafting process that never get sent anywhere, while I continually write new projects and send them to join the old ones in their very own pre-query hell.

All we can do is push ahead, and try not to drown in a stack of unpublished manuscripts.

The Afterlife

With even more celebrity deaths in the news since I wrote my last piece claiming that 2016 was the year of death, the year seems determined to prove me right with the deaths of Muhammad Ali, Kenny Baker, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Ron Glass, Andrew Sachs, John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael and sanity. That being the case, it’s time to look at another aspect of death that has a profound effect on the fictional society that you’re creating: the afterlife.

Every society has some view of  what happens after death – whether that includes some kind of afterlife, or simply a nothingness – and that belief can have a profound effect on how people behave. A well-defined belief in an afterlife can add depth to your world, and define the shape that your society takes. Continue reading

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