Thursday, May 29, 2008


Blogless Troll's recent post had gizmos on it to rate it's suitability for children, it's readability and its cussing level. I thought it would be interesting to try those out for this blog. Look what I got:

This Page is Rated


Woohoo! Children are allowed in.

blog readability test

But they'll have trouble reading the blog.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

At least there is no "cussing". Which is odd. I wonder what counts as cussing around here? I seem to remember some strong language in here in an earlier post. Maybe their definition of cussing is different. I'd love to know what it is.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bad sex writing

It's a pity they didn't have the Bad Sex Award back in 1968. I've just come across a gem in the Pop Sensation blog. Scroll down to the excerpt from page 81 and you'll see what I mean.

I tell myself that nothing I write is ever going to be that bad.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Judge a book by its cover

Judge a book by its cover is a blog that shows and comments on dreadful book covers. Today's offering made me laugh out loud. Oh, I should warn you that the blog author has a fairly robust attitude towards sexual matters in case that doesn't appeal to you. I rather like it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Potty mouth

"Potty mouth" has to be amongst my least favourite phrases. Why? Because using a childish word for an adult activity attempts to diminish and so control it.

It's also inaccurate: most adult swear words that I know are related to sex or religion with a much smaller number of scatological words.

And it's judgemental. No one wants to be told that they have a "potty mouth".

This is why I like to use the phrase strong language instead. In my earlier post on the subject I said that I don't like the idea of offending people but with so many different cultures it's probably impossible to avoid offending someone.

There aren't many strong words I'm not willing to use but they have a shock value and need to be used judiciously.

I don't think Four Weddings and a Funeral would be so funny if it started with Hugh Grant saying, "Heck, heck, heck, heck, heck, heck, heck, heckity heck."

I'm also reminded of Thomas Bowdler who gave us the word "bowdlerise". I would not like to be remembered for having changed Lady Macbeth's "Out, damned spot!" to "Out, crimson spot!" I think I'd rather be remembered as foul-mouthed. But don't call me a potty mouth, please.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In the beginning

My first really long story started when I was on a camping holiday in France with my husband and two sons and it rained. We had no television or radio so we made board games and wrote stories. I continued to write the story when we got back home but I got bogged down and never finished it.

My next story was an autobiographical one, after we left the fundamentalist church we used to belong to. The story had a number of self-righteous characters who were trying to force their views on everyone in the name of God. It was very satisfying to write.

I found NaNoWriMo much later and completed three novellas, none of them remotely publishable. I've learnt that I need to plan to write a book because trying to edit an unplanned 50k work is painful or even impossible. I've learned how to write dialogue and the importance of characters but I'm still a complete novice at producing a believable plot. I work best with a time limit and I'm finding my current work is languishing because I've got too much time to write it in.

This was meant to be about how I started writing but it seems to have ended up as the story so far. So over to you now. How did you get started?

I owe the idea for this post to Writes in the City .

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Word Count Update

I wrote 600 odd words of my current novel* today plus 500 words of a short exercise on Critique Circle. Go me!

Mind you, for the last 18 days I've written nothing. Zilch. Nada. Not a single word. My average words per day this month on my novel* is 38. That's rather fewer than the 50 words a day minimum that I thought was an easy target.

I think what got me started again was writing a summary for my doctor of what's been going wrong with me. It's a case of getting into the writing groove by any means possible. Although it surprises me because the note for the doctor was not intentionally fictitious so I was using what felt like very different skills.

At the moment, I just don't understand myself.

*I'm not sure if it is a novel, or a novella or just a very long story. Or, if I don't start writing a bit faster, a short unfinished story.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Memes: the evolution of a new word

A lot of people have recently been tagged with The Inquisition Meme and as many of them don't seem to know what a meme is or how you pronounce it I thought I'd help out.

To begin with, you pronounce meme to rhyme with cream. I thought it was coined by Susan Blackmore, author of The Meme Machine but it turns out it was Richard Dawkins who first invented the word in The Selfish Gene. If you want to know about memes I recommend Blackmore's book, which explains the concept very clearly, or her meme page on her website.

As I understand it, a meme is a unit of information capable of reproducing itself using people's minds as its medium, just as a gene is a unit of information capable of reproducing itself using people's bodies as the medium.

It's a pretty powerful concept and gives an explanation for the way human culture works: everything from world religions to chain letters. I love it when a new word is coined for a new concept - it's so much better than hijacking an old word into the job with all its attendant baggage.

Today's post has been brought to you by the letters M and E and the number 7.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Censorship gone mad

I've been playing the game Verbosity which is an online game where you play co-operatively with a partner: one of you is given a word and has to describe it and the other one has to guess the word.

The problem is that Verbosity has a very aggressive word filter. I was trying to describe comrade and wanted to use the word "communist". I was stopped by the word filter. Then I was trying to guess a place of worship with a spire but was stopped from entering "church". "Church" for goodness sake"! Who on earth wants to object to the word "church"!

I'm not particularly in favour of censorship. I think that advising people of content that might upset them and then leaving it up to them is a much better plan. But even if I supported censorship this is just plain silly. What will they filter next: "liberal"? "democratic"? "freedom"? All those words could offend somebody I'm sure. If I thought the filter was at all self-aware I'd try out the word "fascist" on it.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Blogless Troll has tagged me with the Inquisition Meme. I'm not entirely comfortable with all these memes floating around but I admit I'm flattered that Blogless Troll chose to tag me. So, here goes.

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.

2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.

3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.

4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

Inquisition Meme

What were you doing ten years ago?

You're asking me to remember ten years ago and I can hardly remember last week? I had to check my CV to see that back then I was in the middle of a counselling course.

Those were hard times: don't ever do a counselling course unless you're ready to be taken apart into little pieces and left to put yourself back together again.

What are five things on your to-do list for today?

Seeing it's mid-evening and I've been swimming earlier today, not a lot. Certainly not five things, unless you count boring things like cleaning my teeth! I'm going to eat, play on the pc and go to bed.

What are some snacks you enjoy?

I'm not even going there! I'm off sugar, caffeine and alcohol in an attempt to get my energy back so I'm trying to think of anything except treats. It's a bit like trying not to think about pink elephants but I'm working on it.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?

Buy a library. Oh, I've got one! I'd buy a big one though. I'd buy a huge swimming pool with diving boards and flumes. Pay my sister's mortgage off. Buy houses for my kids. Pay for decent medical care.

Some of those, anyway.

What are three of your bad habits?

I'm supposed to answer this honestly on a public blog? You have got to be kidding.

All right, I'll admit to opening new jars and tubes of anything as soon as I get them even if the old one isn't used up. I want to see what's inside. Apparently it's very annoying.

What are five places where you have lived?

Lancaster, UK
Brighton, UK
Ardennes, France
Brittany, France
Epsom, UK

What are five jobs you have had?

Care Assistant
Civil Servant

What were the last five books you read?

This is another memory test, isn't it? I'm reading Chaos Theory by Graham Masterton. It's an adventure story and too bloody for my taste.

Before that, I read To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. It's a brilliant time travel book, bursting with energy and good humour. I'll look out for more of her books.

Then, Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. That was a good, fun read. Very fast moving and I wanted more from the ending but still recommended if you like vampire novels.

My memory gives out here.

What five people do you want to tag?
Five? You mean I have to think of five people with blogs that I'm willing to risk annoying with this meme? OK, well here goes:

Sylvia, Jessi, McKoala, talpianna, BuffySquirrel Hey, it is a compliment, honestly!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why I'm not a writer

I've decided I'm not a writer. Writers are people who write and I'm not writing anything at the moment. Only emails and forum posts.

Mind you, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time on my pc these last few days getting rid of suspicious files. After my Barclaycard details were stolen last week, my son suggested there might be a keylogger on my machine. With a lot of help from Derek of The Spykiller I've been getting rid of suspicious items from my pc.

Derek is a wonderful person: he gives his time freely to help people with their computers and all he asks in return is a donation to his Hedgehog Rescue Centre where he looks after sick and injured hedgehogs. Without his help, my pc would still be riddled with security issues.

Maybe when I've finished playing with virus checkers, HijackThis logs and Windows updates I will start writing again. Then I will be a writer.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Does sex matter?

I'm just finishing Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman. Now, living in the UK I'm used to the name "Jessie" being a girl's name and I don't know anyone who has the name "Jesse". So I read it as though the author was a woman, not a man.

When I came to a sex scene I thought: "I don't really believe sex can be like that for a woman". I checked the author's name, and sure enough, it was "Jesse" - a female name. I thought: "Hey, what about that! It's a woman writing it so maybe that's how it is for her. Oh well, you live and learn."

Later on, when I looked at the name again, I realised that it is a guy writing it. There was a clue on the back cover:
The author is the son of mega-selling thriller writers Faye Kellerman and Jonathan Kellerman

so really I should have known. When I realised it was written by a man, I went back to thinking that he really wasn't any good at writing sex from the female point of view.

So I wondered if you notice the gender of the person writing the book you're reading. And if you do, does it matter?


I got the first spam on this blog today, in a comment on Favourite Words. It's only one and I hope it's not a trend. If it is, I may start to use comment moderation; so if you come in and find your comments being moderated, I apologise in advance but at least you will know why.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Favourite words

One of my sons' favourite words when they were younger was "defenestrate". I think it fascinated them that there was a specific word for throwing someone out of a window. I do wonder when the action would have been common enough to need its own specific word.

They also liked "troglodyte", which is what I called them when they wanted to hide in the house playing computer games in the semi-darkness, instead of getting out into the good fresh air.

I like the word "iridescent", although I admit I had to look up the spelling. I like the way it sounds and the effect that it describes. "Deliquescent" and "incandescent" appeal to me too, for some reason. I don't think it's the ending "escent", after all the word "descent" doesn't particularly appeal to me.

I wonder what other people's favourite words are.

The cat pictures.

I promised pictures for the cat lovers and here they are:

I'm not sure which of the cats I love best. They are still so tiny.

If anyone wants to treat this as a caption contest, then please do. We could make up our own LOLcats.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The wrong words and bad spelling

The worst examples I've seen recently of using the wrong word were in this review on amazon. To clarify: the review was excellent but the book being reviewed clearly wasn't.

A couple of examples:
"The lamp's glow was very weak compared to the blue glow emancipating from the basement."
"Spiers's eyes popped extraneously from their sockets, as his face turned from a deep red to a sickly purple."

How does such writing get published? AuthorHouse. Self-publishing at its worst.

Oh, and I'm sure you've seen this before but it seemed appropriate:
'Spell Checker Blues'

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

The rest of it is here: Geoff Johnston's poetry page. Although it wasn't a spell checker the "author" needed but a dictionary. Or a fire lighter.

I'm not sure why I'm posting this. Maybe it's to reassure myself that although my writing is bad, it isn't that bad.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Domestic interlude, with added cats

I haven't posted for a couple of days because real life has been happening. Real life included a visit on Bank Holiday Monday to an old friend of mine who has had kittens. Well, her daughter's cat has had kittens and we may be getting some. I feel nervous about taking on a cat again - or more precisely two cats. I always feel like this about taking on a new responsibility and it will be wonderful to have feline company again.

For any other cat lovers reading this: the kittens are two ginger, one with white paws; two tortoishell, one with some white; and a black cat. If I can work out how to get the pictures my husband took off the camera and onto the pc, I'll post one or two. My friend says that we can have our pick of the litter, and I'd really like the ginger and white and the tortie and white, if they get on with each other. We can have them when they are twelve weeks old and have had their injections. Before then, I need to get cat flaps installed and a side gate to our garden. I am really excited, in case you hadn't guessed.

For everyone else: normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Word Count Down

I tried Sylvia's idea of setting a lower word count and it worked. For one day. I managed over 300 the first day, 100 odd the second day. On the third day I just edited. Net added words: nil.

Never mind, it's three days I've worked on a story. Today I haven't even opened it yet although I've got ideas about what I want to put in it next. It's this dratted inner editor. I'm going to have to be ready to write the worst first draft in the world and edit it later or none of it is going to make it to the page.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Slang, text and LOLcats

cute cat picture with caption: MY FEETS they are go wrong wai
Picture taken from LOLcat Pics. I have a guilty love of LOLcats. The cute cat pictures, the funny language.

I enjoy neologisms and playing with words, I love learning languages and seeing how our language develops. New slang, like "cool" and "lame" and "wicked" (OK, it's old slang now but I can't think of anything more recent) fascinates me. For some reason the same doesn't apply to textspeak.

I'm not sure that there is any logic to finding "I can haz cheezburger" funny and hating "C U L8r" but there it is.
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