Wednesday, 3 February 2016

IWSG: Goals and Resolutions for 2016


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

Today, I would like to share with the group my goals and resolutions (read: plans) for the year. The fact that this post is coming in a full month into the year serves as an indication of how strapped for time I have been. The combination of a full-time job and studying for a masters degree at the same time is a lot more demanding than I had imagined.

As such, it is high time I find a way to get things under control. So going with that train of thought, my goals for the year are as follows:

Goal #1: Get Organized

I need to start organizing my activities in such a way that I'll be able to allocate enough time for work, school and writing. I've never been one to come up with a strict day-to-day schedule of tasks, not to talk of actually following one, but it seems that is the only way to keep your head above water in this life. So this year, or what's left of it anyways, I am going to start prioritizing my activities. The starting point is ensuring that my work stays in the office. Once that is achieved, I can allocate what I have left of my time to school and writing-related activities.

Goal #2: Leverage Exposure

As most of you already know, my short story would be appearing in the upcoming IWSG Anthology. This would mark the first time that I am working with a small press. We recently completed first round edits, and my fellow authors and I are currently talking promotional tactics. Promotion has never been one of my strong suits, but I am hoping to learn from those in the group with more experience. I also plan on using the opportunity to gain more eyeballs on my existing work, and to possibly have new work by the time the Anthology is released.


Goal # 3: Be Happy (No Matter What)

Last but not least is the all-important need to find unconditional happiness. My year is already off to a great start, with my short story winning a place in the IWSG Anthology, so it is just a matter of keeping the ball rolling. But even if things went south all of a sudden, I need to stay grounded by reminding myself why I enjoy doing the things I do.

And speaking of the things I enjoy doing, I won't be doing the A-Z Challenge this year it seems, mainly because I'll be having exams that month, and I wouldn't be able to allocate enough time for writing posts and visiting other blogs. But I should still be participating in a lesser capacity if I can help it. I'll fill you in with more details as soon as I have them.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

IWSG: Anthology Contest Winners


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

Right. It's a brand new year, and with that comes new possibilities. This is usually when I share my goals and resolutions for the year, but I would have to relegate that to a future post, because right now, I would like to share some good news that I've been waiting to share. As some of you may know, I'd participated in the IWSG Anthology Contest a few months back. Well, the winners have been officially announced, and guess who's short story has been shortlisted to appear in the anthology? Hint, his name starts with an M.

I was pretty stoked when I'd first learnt that my little story had been chosen to appear in the anthology, which would be published sometime this year. I mean, I'd submitted an entry for the contest almost on a whim and didn't give it much thought after that. I would like to take this moment to thank Alex and all the other IWSG admins, for providing this wonderful opportunity to we insecure writers. I would also like to congratulate my fellow winners. I can't wait to see what stories you'd come up with.

Friday, 25 December 2015

2015 in Review: Looking Back

This is the final post in my 2015 in Review series. The series began on Monday, with a rundown of my favorite TV shows that aired during the calendar year. This was followed by a rundown of my favorite songs on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I revealed my favorite albums for the year, while yesterday I gave a rundown of my favorite movies. Today, I'll be wrapping up with a look back at the year as a whole.


Earlier this year, the internet seemed preoccupied with llamas running rampage as well as that one dress whose color no one could agree upon. But over here in Nigeria, all eyes were focused on the forthcoming general elections. Originally slated for Valentine's Day, the election was eventually moved to the 28th of March due to threats of terrorism in the north. On that fateful day, the Nigerian populace spoke volumes as they voted former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari its next president.


Not long after the elections, Nigeria suffered one of the worst fuel scarcities in its history, one that very nearly shutdown the entire nation. Keren Amaechi, a fellow Nigerian blogger, did a great job of capturing some of the madness that ensued; her post is worth checking out if you fancy a good laugh. Considering that we are one of the leading oil producers in the world, it is quite baffling that we should be suffering from fuel scarcities in the first place. But that's another discussion for another day.


About halfway into the year, I made the all-important decision to further my education with a masters degree. This was something I'd always had in the pipeline, but the final decision was inspired by my love for the TV show, How to Get Away with Murder. The idea was that the presence of a masters degree on my resume would boost my overall employability. It hasn't been easy balancing school with work and my writing, but I know it would pay off in the long run, so soldier on I must.

Speaking of my writing, I had set some writing-oriented goals for myself at the start of the year. One of them was that I would strive to have my current project published (read: finished) by the end of the year. Well, while I am yet to finish said project, I can at least rejoice in the knowledge that it is much closer to publication than it was then. This is due to some good news that I recently received, but that I'll be unable to elaborate upon for now, at least until an official announcement is made. So watch this space.

All in all, it's been yet another eventful year for me. I went back to school, learned new things, and most recently changed jobs. But most importantly, I had fun sharing my experiences with you guys right here on my blog. Here's hoping that next year brings even more opportunities and fun. Merry Christmas guys, and Happy New Year in advance.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

2015 in Review: Favorite Movies

Kingsman: The Secret Service



There was no shortage of spy movies in 2015, with movies like Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Spectre, Man from U.N.C.L.E, and the aptly-named Spy all finding various levels of critical and commercial success. Added to that list is Kingsman: The Secret Service, a comic-book adaptation that boasts some of the best action seen all year.

It Follows



It Follows is a love letter to the horror films of old, with its slow-paced narrative and attention to detail. The story itself is quite simple, almost deviously so as we follow a young woman who is followed (read: haunted) by a shape-shifting entity. What sets the movie apart from others of its kind is its production values, and its haunting soundtrack by video game composer, Disasterpeace.

Mad Max: Fury Road



Serving as both a sequel and a soft reboot to the franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road was one of 2015's standout action films. It stars Tom Hardy, who replaces Mel Gibson in the titular role, and he is supported by a talented cast that includes Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz and Charlize Therone, who pretty much stole the show as Imperator Furiosa.

Avengers: Age of Ultron



The Avengers once again assemble in this sequel to the 2012 summer blockbuster, which was itself a culmination of the various movies that made up Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time around the heroes must fend off an artificial intelligence bent on bringing about the extinction of the human race.

Jurassic World



Chris Pratt proves his star power once again in Jurassic World, after breaking out last year with the success of The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, both of which were featured on my 2014 favorite movies list. The movie broke all manner of records upon release, besting the Furious 7 to become the highest grossing film of the year, a record it might soon have to relinquish to a certain movie further down my list of favorites.

Inside Out



Disney and Pixar have hit another home run with Inside Out, an animated film that explores the complexities of human emotions and the human mind through the eyes of a little girl. The movie features exceptional animation as well as a talented voice cast that includes Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith and Bill Hader.

Goodnight Mommy



Ever the fan of psychological horror films, I had rushed at the opportunity to watch Goodnight Mommy after I'd heard it was being compared to the likes of It Follows and The Babadook. But nothing could've prepared me for the pure mindf**kery of this Austrian movie that follows the misadventures of a pair of twins, as they suspect their mother of having been replaced by a complete stranger during facial surgery.

Dope



Dope is one of those few oddball movies that does not fall into the confines of any particular genre. It is a comedy, drama, and an art film rolled into one. The movie tells the story of an unlikely trio of close knit friends in high school, who through a series of unfortunate circumstances find themselves in possession of a sizable amount of drugs for which they must assume distribution duties.

The Martian



The Martian was one of the few surprise hits this past year, although truth be told, many had already anticipated some level of success for the movie, given its source material. The movie works because it is not afraid to be different from others of its kind, just like I'd detailed in this review.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens



J.J. Abrams delivers once again with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the latest installment of the science fiction franchise that has now spanned five decades and seven movies. This newest episode is arguably the best one of the bunch, even though many have chosen to find fault in the similarities it shares with prior episodes. Still, there is no denying that the franchise is back with full force. I mean, the box office numbers speak for themselves now, don't they?

And the winner is...

Mad Max: Fury Road



It was a close race this year. My choice for favorite movie could've easily gone to Star Wars, especially since it had the advantage of a recent release, as opposed to Mad Max that came out months ago. But therein lies the very reason I have chosen to give this year to Mad Max, the fact that I have seen it several times and the movie remains just as mind blowing as it had been on my first viewing. I'll be going to see Star Wars again soon though, preferably in 3D, so who knows, I might just feel inclined to revisit this post then.


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

2015 in Review: Favorite Albums


Fall Out Boy - American Beauty/American Psycho




American Beauty/American Psycho was the first album to strike a chord with me this year. Released all the way back in January, the album is probably one of Fall Out Boy's strongest cuts till date. It is one of those rare albums that hits the ground running, and doesn't lose steam by the end. Highlights include Centuries, Fourth of July, Favorite Record, and Immortals.

Madeon - Adventure



Adventure is the debut album of French DJ, Hugo Pierre Leclercq, who is better known by his stage name, Madeon. The most remarkable thing about Hugo is his relatively tender age of 21. Don't let his age fool you though, because this kid has got some mad skills, and the evidence just happens to be one of my favorite albums of the year. Highlights include You're On, La Lune, Pay No Mind and Technicolor.

Zedd - True Colors



Three years ago, I had included Zedd's debut album, Clarity, in my rundown of favorite albums for 2012. And earlier this year, I had dedicated one of my rare music reviews to his second album, True Colors. So needless to say, I am a fan of his music, and including that music in my list of favorite albums once again was a bit of a no-brainer. Highlights include Papercut, Daisy and Illusion.

The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness



2015 is generally considered a great year for Canadian musicians, with the likes of Drake, Justin Bieber, and The Weeknd all scoring hit singles and albums. But the year is perhaps most significant for The Weeknd, because it was this year that he finally found the mainstream success he truly deserves. His second album, Beauty Behind the Madness, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Charts, and it has thus far produced four hit singles. Highlights include Often, Shameless, In the Night and Prisoner.

Years & Years - Communion



Years & Years released their debut album, Communion, in July of this year, following the success of their hit single, King, which as you can remember was also featured in my list of favorite songs yesterday. The album itself was well-received by fans and critics alike, debuting at #1 in the UK, where it became the fastest selling debut record ever. Highlights include Shine, Take Shelter, and Worship.

Fetty Wap - Fetty Wap



While Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly might be considered the best hip-hop record released in the past year, there is no denying the pleasures to be found while listening to Fetty Wap's eponymous debut album. The album elevates the New Jersey rapper past the level of one-hit wonder, even though most of the songs adhere to the same formula that made Trap Queen such a hit in the first place. The most remarkable thing about the album is a lack of big name collaborators, with the guest spots being reserved for his crew mates. Highlights include Trap Queen, My Way, No Days Off and Rewind.

Disclosure - Caracal



For their highly-anticipated followup to their 2013 album, Settle, the UK duo of brothers known as Disclosure chose to swap out the previous album's heavy reliance on deep house and garage, drawing influence from R&B. The result is a more downtempo album, with each track tailored to fit the various guest vocalists that were featured. Highlights include Omen, Holding On, Good Intentions, Echoes and Molecules.

Justin Bieber - Purpose



As far as comebacks go, there wasn't any more impressive in 2015 than the one made by Justin Bieber. Here was an artist who many had written off following a string of bad press and a prolonged hiatus. But following the success of Where Are U Now, my favorite song for 2015, he had not only scored his first ever #1 single on the Billboard 100 with What Do You Mean, but also put out one of the finest albums of the year. Other highlights include Sorry, Been You and Get Used to Me.

Adele - 25



It is no secret that Adele's 25 had been the most anticipated album this past year. This was especially true following the breakaway success of her previous album, 21. So when the album became the fastest selling in the history of music, pretty much everyone and their grandmothers saw it coming. But the album itself is every bit deserving of all the success and praise, being a more than worthy successor to her previous work. Highlights include Hello, I Miss You and Water Under The Bridge.

Troye Sivan - Blue Neighborhood


Troye Sivan is an Australian actor and musician that is perhaps best known for hosting a successful YouTube channel. His incredible voice first came to my attention earlier this year in the ZEDD song, Papercut. His debut album, Blue Neighborhood, just released earlier this month, and it is packed full of potential hits. Highlights include WILD, THE QUIET, TALK ME DOWN and COOL.

And the winner is...

The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness



I've been a fan of The Weeknd long before he became a mainstream success. His beautiful falsetto and mature lyrics were two things that made his music catch my attention. In Beauty Behind the Madness, both those things are on showcase throughout, but packaged in such a way that embraces his just attained mass appeal. Put simply, this is what Michael Jackson would've sounded like if he'd started making music today, and I can't think of an artist more worthy of that comparison.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

2015 in Review: Favorite Songs

Fetty Wap - Trap Queen



It's amazing how Fetty Wap has gone from being a complete unknown to being quite ubiquitous in the 2015 music charts, all within the span of a single year. The rapper shot to fame following the success of his debut single, Trap Queen. He has since been riding the wave of newfound fame, with the release of a self-titled debut album, as well as a bevy of followup hits under his belt.

Major Lazer & DJ Snake - Lean On (feat. MØ)



Lean On is undoubtedly one of the most massive crossover tunes in years. The song is by Major Lazer, a dance-hall-inspired group/project led by American record producer, Diplo, with contributions by French producer, DJ Snake, as well as vocals by Danish singer, MØ. The result? A feel-good mishmash of cultures that defies categorization.


Skrillex & Diplo - Where Are Ü Now (feat. Justin Bieber)



2015 was a busy year for Diplo it seems, who is featured on my list of favorites songs once again in this collaboration with fellow producer, Skrillex. The duo, known formally as Jack Ü, are joined by none other than Justin Bieber. And from the first moment I heard the song, I knew there was something quite special going on here.


Disturbed - The Vengeful One



I'd spent the better part of 2015 rediscovering the music of Disturbed. And the catalyst for that was The Vengeful One, the first single off their most recent album, Immortalized. As such, I can't imagine having a rundown of favorite songs without at least acknowledging one of the songs that had helped shape my playlist this past year.

Years & Years - King



In a year already teeming with music made up of sing-along lyrics and danceable beats, King might just be the most infectious of them all. The song is by the British trio, Years & Years, whose music are a throwback to the House-inspired songs that filled the UK charts for the better part of the 90s.

Coldplay - Adventure of a Lifetime



To cap off my list of 2015 favorites, I have chosen the first single off Coldplay's A Head Full of Dreams album, Adventure of a Lifetime. Like most of the album, the song is so unlike what we are used to from the band, that you can't help but applaud them for expanding the range of their sound. Also, the song boasts a mean guitar riff that stays in your head for days on end.

And the winner is...

Skrillex & Diplo - Where Are Ü Now (feat. Justin Bieber)




Now, here's a pleasant surprise. I mean, who would have thought I would one day be singling out a Justin Bieber song as my favorite song of the year, right? But if I am to be honest, there was no other song that had managed to remain on my playlist as long as this one. Released all the way back in February, the song's longevity was undoubtedly helped by its inclusion on Justin Bieber's recent album, Purpose. It has also served as a vehicle for the troubled singer's much-needed comeback. I'll be talking more about that comeback tomorrow, when I highlight my favorite albums for the year.

Monday, 21 December 2015

2015 in Review: Favorite TV Shows

It's that time again apparently, when I rundown my favorite things from the past year. It's a little something I've been doing on my blog since I started blogging, and those of you interested in seeing what it was like in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 can find out by clicking on those links. This year's series, like previous years, would run all through the week, so be sure to come back everyday for more of the good stuff.

Right. Today, I'll be starting with a list of my favorite TV shows. I don't watch that much TV to say the truth. Okay, scratch that, I don't watch any TV at all. But thanks to the convenience of computers and the internet, I am still able to follow some of the more popular shows out there. And here are a few of my favorites for the past year.

Game of Thrones



2015 was a good year for Game of Thrones fans. Not only did we get a fifth season of the popular HBO show, we also got the video game series by Telltale Games, with five of its six episodes spread throughout the year. And while we are yet to get the long-awaited sixth book in the series, we are at least rest assured that the story would move forward come next year, since the show has finally caught up with its source material.

Better Call Saul



From the makers of Breaking Bad come this better-than-average spinoff of the highly-acclaimed show. It centers upon the transformation of struggling lawyer, Jimmy McGall, into the titular character, Saul Goodman, whose seedy practice Breaking Bad fans are already familiar with. The best thing about the show is that it not only serves as a prequel to Breaking Bad, but still succeeds as a stand-alone show.


Daredevil



The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has spawned quite a number of successful movies and TV shows, from Avengers to the Agents of Shield. But until the introduction of Daredevil earlier this year, none of those properties had pushed the boundaries in terms of the depiction of violence and other mature themes. Unlike the 2003 movie which was heavily panned by critics, this is clearly not family-oriented entertainment. But with high production values and arguably the best villian in the entire MCU, Daredevil has raised the bar for superhero-themed shows.


Fargo



For some reason, I had totally failed to watch the 1996 Coen Brother's movie, Fargo. This changed of course earlier this year, after I'd binged the entire first season of the TV show inspired by events of the movie. And much like the movie before it, the series was packed with quirky characters whose mundane lives were quickly spiraling out of control. The second season just wrapped up last week, and it was even better than the first one, a feat considering how well-received season one had been.

Ash vs. Evil Dead



Once upon a time, I used to be scared s**tless by the 1981 movie, Evil Dead. So much so that I never bothered to give any of the sequels a chance. It wasn't until I'd seen the 2013 remake did I decide to give the franchise another try, and it was only then that I discovered its unique blend of comedy and horror. The TV show, Ash vs. Evil Dead, perfectly captures that blend, finding that perfect balance between gratuitous bloodshed and side-splitting jokes.

The Man in the High Castle



Based on the alternative history novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle is an Amazon original series that explores a dystopian version of 1960s America, one where the axis powers won World War II, and the United States has been conquered by the Japanese and Nazis. The first thing that grips you about the series is the high production values. But ultimately it is the struggle of the resistance movement that draws you in, whose cause hinges on the successful distribution of certain film reels made by the titular man in the high castle.

And the winner is...

Game of Thrones




While it can be argued that the latest season of Game of Thrones had quite a few missteps, there is no denying the overall satisfaction the season brought to fans. Much of that satisfaction can be attributed to Episode 8, Hardhome, during which we got to witness the first full-on battle with the white walkers. The payoff from that episode alone more than compensates for the slower opening episodes. It's a shame (Get it? Shame!?) the season had to come to an end shortly thereafter, and in such a manner so gut-wrenching. Season 6 can't come soon enough.