Friday, July 31, 2009

Be Happy

If you've ever wanted to be happier, now is your chance. Join in an experiment to see what increases happiness. All you have to do is to fill out a short form about your current level of happiness, watch a YouTube video about a one-minute happiness-boosting technique, and then use it once a day for a week. At the end of the week you will be emailed a follow-up form to see if the technique has helped. I'm going for it.

You don't have to wait for the experiment either. The Science of Happiness Blog has ten tips for greater happiness. I already do or have done quite a few of those, although I don't stroke dogs I stroke cats. I stopped listening to the news some time ago and that certainly boosted my happiness.

If you have any favourite happiness tips then maybe you could share them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bodacious product review

I was looking for a replacement part for our coffee maker and came across a wonderful review on amazon. I particularly liked the sentence:
Clarity and fit are indistinguishable from the original and certainly the performance is little short of normal.

I wonder if amazon will ask him to review any more products for them.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Beat this

Writtenwyrdd has a post about "The Rules" of writing which set me thinking. I'm sure writtenwyrdd is right and you can get too hung up on rules like never using a dialogue tag other than "said" but I think I've found out why that rule is needed.

I needed something to read and I picked up a book from the Oxfam shop. It was The Love Academy by Belinda Jones and in it she avoids using the word "said" whenever possible and sometimes in situations where I would have said that avoiding it was impossible. These are some of the delights that ensue:

  • "You're going to Venice?" he clarifies.

  • "I know," I whine.

  • "Well, you should never have told her in the first place," he glowers.

  • "I didn't do it entirely on purpose," I squeak, seeking mercy.

  • "Oh, that's perfect," I cooed.

Those are all from the first chapter. Other alternatives to "said" include: notes, wails, confides, teases, smiles, quips, enquires, tuts, observes, gasps, assures and prompts.

A favourite alternative to "said" which was used several times was "understates", as in
"She is not easily forgotten," he understates.

I think the editor was on holiday. Remember, this is from a published book. I'm sure you can do better.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One small step

Today is the moon landing anniversary. I was fifteen when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon. It was a wonderful moment and I watched it on television with my family and some of our neighbours.

Oddly enough, though, the moment I remember as being the most emotional was when Apollo 8 was the first space craft to travel behind the moon and lose radio contact with Earth. While they were behind the moon they had to perform the manoeuvre that would bring them into a lunar orbit. It was a risky undertaking because if the burn was not precisely timed it could fling them off into space or send them crashing down onto the moon's surface. We were all hardly breathing as we watched the television screen for those ten anxious minutes. The relief when they reappeared on time was amazing. We felt like the whole world started to breathe again and we were part of that.

All these years on, that moment has been eclipsed in history by the moon landing itself, but for me it will always be the defining moment of space travel. No wonder I love science fiction.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Writing Gender

Sylvia of Can't Backspace fame has found a fascinating article that shows gender stereotyping at its worst. Bev Vincent, a published male author, had a story savaged by an editor on the basis that
It’s quite a challenge for a writer of one sex to explore writing from the perspective of the opposite sex. Bev Vincent has not done a convincing job.
Bev's protagonist was male.

The story had a large autobiographical element, so every time the editor objected to something as not what a man would do, Bev had actually done it. Stereotyping wins over real life every time.

Apparently female horror writers also get a hard time as many people find it difficult to believe that they can write gore effectively. Actually taking the trouble to read their writing might provide an answer to that. I thought that the era of women needing a male pen name to get published was long past. Maybe it isn't.

Do read Apparently I Write Like a Girl, it's a very good article.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More swearing

In case you're interested in why swearing helps reduce pain, this article in TIME has some interesting suggestions.

The one message I got from the article was not to overuse strong words or you blunt their usefulness. Damn.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lost commas

If you've lost any commas I know where they are. I've discovered that I can get three into any sentence with no problems at all. I swear I spend more time removing commas than I do writing.

Do you have any writing quirks that irritate you?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Clarinet again

I have now played a tune that someone else recognised without me telling them what it was meant to be. Progress at last.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Swearing is good for you

A recent study shows that swearing may make it easier to bear pain, according to this article in WebMD

What interested me most was the finding that using strong language
taps into emotional brain centers and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain

I would love to understand how certain words get the taboo status that gives them the emotional impact that some people find offensive.

At least now we know that while strong language may upset some people there is a rationale for it. We're only trying to save ourselves pain.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

For Sylvia

(Link to comic on Inkygirl's blog is broken.)

It takes courage to write when you Can't Backspace.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A quick read

To save you reading all through Moby Dick, here is a short, graphic version:

Moby Dick graphic story copyright 2003 John Edminster
© 2003 John Edminster, posted in Unshelved blog

Friday, July 03, 2009


I had my second clarinet lesson yesterday evening and my teacher told me that I'd made progress, so my daily practice is clearly paying off. I can now play both parts of Duet for Clarinet and Duck simultaneously. Previously I could only play Duck Solo with Long Silences. I still get the silences but not as many.

When I manage the occasional good note, or even a succession of good notes, I get a real sense of achievement.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

What shall I write?

When I was growing up I loved science fiction and I was a fan of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, E.E. "Doc" Smith and John Wyndham, amongst others. All men, of course. I didn't know of any women writing science fiction at the time. I loved the rather terse and understated style of the writing and I tend to look back on those days as the peak of the genre.

More recently I've been trying to write and I've felt a bit lost as there doesn't seem to be a market for that kind of science fiction these days. I've been wondering whether it's even worth trying to write science fiction. (I know that Writtenwyrdd writes in that genre but she has her own particular take on it and she is seriously talented.)

Then I read Man in the Dark for Evil Editor's next book chat and I thought that it's the kind of book that couldn't have been written fifty years ago. It made me ask myself: "what kind of stories could I write now that I couldn't have written then?"

A whole new mental space has opened up in front of me and I'm looking forward to exploring it.
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