Friday, October 30, 2009

Time is running out

Time is running out for you to enter Writtenwyrdd's Halloween Competition and win a cuddly Cthulu. Entries must be in by midnight on 31st October (although whose midnight writtenwyrdd doesn't say*).

What are you waiting for?

*Edited to add note from writtenwyrdd:
EST, and thanks for asking! You get five more hours of grace this way, anyhow. UPDATE: But by the time I get up the next morning will do. I prefer it 'postmarked' nlt 10/31 though.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are your aliens weird enough?

they feel no pain [...]their lips are behind their front teeth, they breathe mostly through their skin, and acid doesn't really burn them

from Popsci
These aren't aliens. They are naked mole rats.

If a terrestrial mammal is so very weird, how much stranger do our aliens need to be?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Not a book. Today I'm reviewing Boo! Halloween Chocolates from Hotel Chocolat. They came today, so thank you Nicola both for the prize and for getting it to me so quickly.

The chocolates are individually wrapped so you can hand them out to trick or treaters if you like. I won't. Let them eat Haribo, these are mine.

I usually eat very dark chocolate with a strong bittersweet taste. But this milk chocolate is unusually full of flavour. It's smooth, velvety and delicious. You put it in your mouth and it melts into... Oops. Now you know how I came to write my flash story. I'm not really a chocoholic. Really, I'm not.

The chocolates come in several shapes: my favourite is the cat. What could be better, cats and chocolate. They only needed to add a book and I'd be all set. Maybe they'll do that next year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spam Quality

My spam count has gone up from around 15 a day to around 70 a day overnight. This is not good news.

The worst of it is that the spam just isn't such good quality any more. I was using the spam to pick up interesting names that I might use in stories. Names like Krysta Mariala, Josue U. Kerr, and Betsy Boudreaux. Now all I'm getting is Approval Department, Member Services, and Term Life Insurance Quote. I can't somehow see these as character names.

Although, why not? Thinking about it I could write a really fun story with some of those characters. Maybe I should work on it now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I won!

Oh my God! I was one of the ten winners in Nicola Morgan's chocolate competition! I'm in shock!

My story:

Lucy eased off the purple wrapper, savouring the moment. The silver foil was harsh against her fingers as she pulled it back to reveal the dark chocolate within. Snap! She broke off a single square and placed it in her mouth. Bitter flavours melted into sweet. She held it on her tongue, allowing the heavenly liquid to seep backwards and slip down her throat. Her eyes closed.


Her eyes flew open. Her heart raced as she saw the shopkeeper pointing to the sign: "Shoplifters will be prosecuted."

"Forty pence, please, and next time pay for it first."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Editing mode

Only one week now till Nanowrimo, and I'm in editing mode. I went in for Nicola Morgan's Chocolate Competition (now ended), and I've sent in an entry for Writtenwyrdd's Halloween Competition (there's still time to enter that one) and I'm editing a story I hope to submit to 365 tomorrows. I reckon I'd better get a move on because I need to be out of editing mode by next Sunday.

Oh, and all you UK people, we put the clocks back tonight. Thanks to Lee Wind for pointing me towards this timely reminder:

I think I need a bath now but not a hot one. Or maybe I'll just eat some chocolate.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Less is not more

I was just reading about a moonless night and thought about all those words ending in less. Somehow a lot of them don't work very well for me.

Am I alone in seeing a picture of a moon in my mind's eye when I read moonless and then having to purge that from my thoughts to get to the intended meaning? When I read
The moonless night was interrupted by a bright flash of light.
the first image that came to mind was a night scene bright with moonlight. Now if the author had written dark I would have been with him straight away. I have a similar problem with spotless which brings up a picture of spots for me, whereas immaculate doesn't. (I know it comes from macula = spot but I'm not fluent enough in Latin for that to be an issue for me.)

Dauntless doesn't have the same effect, presumably because daunt isn't a word I use regularly and when I do meet it it's mostly in the negative, as in undaunted.

Mostly, I think words ending in less are best avoided, especially if the alternative is shorter and more direct. What do you think?

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Language Problem

If you were to meet a sentient being on another planet, it's not very likely that they would be speaking English. Even on this planet it's not the language with the most native speakers. (According to Wikipedia it comes third.)

In science fiction there are a few well-tried ways to get around this problem, most of them involving hand waving.
  1. Have some sort of universal translation device e.g. the Babel Fish

  2. Have the traveller live in the alien culture and learn the language over an extended period of time e.g. Out of the Silent Planet

  3. Have a reason why the language is like a dead earth language and take along an expert in that language e.g. Stargate

  4. Have the aliens intercept our radio and tv signals and decode them, despite the fact that they aren't even compatible worldwide e.g. The Simpsons

  5. Use maths and chemistry to start the communication. I'm not sure if you can get to war and peace like this.

  6. Ignore the problem, have everyone speak English and hope that no one notices e.g. Star Trek

I have to admit that this last one is tempting although I find it unsatisfying.

If you were writing about someone meeting a totally new group of sentient beings, how would you get them to communicate?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Win a cuddly Cthulu

Halloween is on its way. For me, it's the Nano kick-off party and the chance to meet some of the other crazies who will be writing a novel in a month. For you, it could be the chance to win a cuddly Cthulu.

I would love to enter writtenwyrdd's competition but I have no aptitude at all for writing horror. Now if it was sci fi...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Slow typing

I cut my thumb last night when I was preparing dinner and I am having to use the wrong thumb for the space bar. I can't believe how slow that makes my typing so if I seem curt you know why. See how slow it is here.

I can't play the clarinet either for at least a week because of the bandage.

We didn't even get the dinner in the end because I burnt it while faffing around for plasters etc.

I'll be all healed up in time for Nano, though, so that's all right.

All grown up

Guess which cat brought in a live frog the other day?

Up till now, Bonnie's main prey has been moths, which she brings inside to eat. The other day I heard frantic mewing so I rushed to rescue my poor little cat from whatever was upsetting her, only to find that she'd trapped something alive under a desk. At first I thought it was a bird but no. I don't really like frogs but I managed to grab a cloth, throw it over the frog to get hold of it, and put it out into the garden. Bonnie took a while to realise it had gone and she was not pleased. I wonder if she would have eaten it.

My little babies aren't babies any more.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Writing love scenes

I wasn't going to have any love scenes in my Nano novel this year and I certainly wasn't having any same sex love. My Main Character Rhea is a woman with a young son and I had her pinned down as firmly heterosexual until Claire came along and fell in love with her. Something here must be fascinating me because I keep coming back to love between women. I was so sure this year I wasn't going to go there!

I'm not sure I'm going to write any love scenes as such, though. Mostly because I don't think I have the skills. As NightWings puts it:
love scenes are part of loving relationships - or can be. I've been struggling with those a bit. To be honest: I haven't been all that successful.

NightWings is a new blog that looks like it's going to honestly explore some sensitive areas. It's worth a look.

In a previous Nano I had two bedroom scenes: one was a pillow fight and the other was an argument. It's just that love scenes are so much easier to write badly than to write well.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Shop early for Christmas?

I really hate doing my Christmas shopping early but I'm signed up for NaNoWriMo again so I can write November off. I have three and a half weeks to get ahead of Christmas before the madness begins.

I'd much rather start writing now but then I'd miss the excitement of being part of the challenge. It's like my husband doing the London to Brighton Bike Ride - it's no fun doing it on your own.

So, is anyone else up for the challenge? I realise that you may be a "real" writer, someone who writes all year and has a hope of getting published. Maybe Nano would take you away from more important writing. If you're like me, though, a happy amateur, then come and join us. All you have to lose is your sanity. (I'm making a big assumption here.)
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