Friday, December 31, 2010

A new look for the blog

This is why you shouldn't do a major blog revamp after you've had a few. Wait till the hangover at least!

The original image includes flashing effects. If you want to see what your blog would look like after an alcoholic overhaul, try Alcowebizer. It's enough to make you take to drink!

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Evil Editor Needs You

Evil Editor has a fun drinking game that he's setting up for New Year's Eve and he needs you to suggest titles for books about booze. Why not pop over there now and join in.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Meet Mac the Monkey

My sister came over on Boxing Day with her four dogs: three different sorts of chihuahua and a black Pekingese that sneezes wetly at people's faces; she's a gorgeous little thing with short legs and long hair so that she looks like a hoverdog. Two of the chihuahuas were rescued from a puppy farm and they come and plop themselves down on your lap and just cuddle. When they left I felt desperate for a small dog, although I know that wouldn't be a good idea because I'm barely coping with the cats.

Speaking of cats, they didn't share my view of the dogs and hid upstairs all day. Rufus crept down from time to time but when the liveliest chihuahua saw him he barked and Rufus fled.

After they'd gone, the cats came downstairs again but they were jumpy. I showed Rufus my new family member: Mac the Monkey, a present from my sister, and he leapt from my lap and looked at it in terror. I don't think I've ever seen him scared like that before, so the dogs must have really upset him.

Maybe it's just as well that I'm not up to looking after a dog. I don't think Bonnie or Rufus would thank me for bringing one into the house!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

picture by c_chan808

I can't quite believe that it's already Christmas Eve. My Beloved is at work and my main event of the day will be to walk to the doctor's for my B12 injection. We have no decorations or tree up yet and I feel like I'm waiting for something to happen. Actually, waiting for something good to happen is probably my definition of Christmas Eve and the best part of Christmas.

Both my sons and one nearly-daughter-in-law are home, and the other nearly-daughter-in-law will be coming over tomorrow evening. We may even see my sister and her four dogs on Sunday if the snow holds off. I think about who isn't here and feel sad but then I think about who is here and I'm glad they are. Not everyone is so lucky.

Whatever you're doing, I hope this Christmas time is a good one for you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Snow Penguin

We have a snow penguin in our back garden, made by my younger son and his girlfriend. At least they used pennies not pound coins on it, so we won't have to ring the police if it gets stolen, like this woman did.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hedgehog Time

I couldn't resist these gorgeous pictures of hedgehogs having baths. It might be cold and dark, and Christmas is coming at me far too fast and I'm not ready for it, but I can't help feeling happy when I'm looking at these cute creatures.

Edited to add this contribution from Richard (see comments below):
For anybody who's interested in hedgehog rescue, and also how best to care for wild hedgehogs that live in and around your garden, a friend of FH and myself runs a hedgehog rescue centre - and it has a website:

The site is well worth exploring, because there's a lot to learn - and Derek is very approachable if you have any questions that aren't covered.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


This is what the aliens' faces look like in my Space Escape nanonovel, although their bodies are similar to spider monkeys'.

You can see more potential aliens here.

I'm not writing or editing and I haven't been around much because I've had a CFS flareup. I hope to be back to normal soon.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Bad sex

... Robert McGinnis
The winner of the Bad Sex Award 2010 as his "winning" speech said
There's nothing more English than bad sex, so on behalf of a nation, I thank you

I thought that was a rather gracious response to receiving an award that no one wants to win.

I was intrigued to learn that his story is
about how the scars of childhood abuse affect later relationships and it's based on two people's real experience
and I wonder how the lines that have been so often quoted would appear in context. I may have to get hold of the book to find out, so it's true what they say about publicity.

The article by the award winner is here. If you're at all interested in writing books then it's worth reading.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm done

Circe Surfs the Web, after John William Waterhouse
Some rights reserved by Mike Licht
I wrote 50,000 words and now I'm done.

Well, I'm not really done. I've started reading through the story and trying to work out what the plot is. I'm not correcting typos (well, all right I am but I'm trying not to), I'm trying to make the story make sense.

I expected to feel pleased but I mostly feel tired and relieved.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Days!

Some rights reserved by Lawrence OP
Happy Thanksgiving to all my US friends! And Happy Thursday to all the rest of us!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Happy thoughts

jjdebenedictis has had a wonderful idea: to post a song from your childhood that makes you happy. Hers is here. I immediately thought of this song:

Meanwhile, some friends who met in the blogosphere in 2008 are posting voice posts from that time, or new ones in honour of that time.

I know I've missed some, so please comment and I'll add you to the list.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I know I just posted a cuteness overload from BoingBoing but I couldn't resist posting this one too. The original is here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cuddling Cats

Not a great day for me, not a good time of year. But cats always cheer me up.

It's worth waiting for the 20 second mark on the video.

Found via BoingBoing

Monday, November 15, 2010

Remembrance of times past

At Pacatrue's suggestion, as explained on Robin's blog, a number of us are taking a time machine back to 2008.

My blog really only started in March of that year and took off after I discovered Evil Editor and his minions. So here's one of my early posts where I show a great disdain for the real meaning of Deus Ex Machina so that I can get to a terrible punchline. The post first appeared on 17th March 2008 here.

Evil EditorI found Evil Editor's blog and I think I'm hooked. He offers advice to struggling writers on query letters and there's a whole community of his Evil Minions.

He also offers writing exercises, and I had a go at the latest one: to write a short (300 word) story with a Deus Ex Machina. So here it is:

Jason braced himself against a bulkhead and wrenched at the lever but it was stuck. He looked across at Emily imploringly and she added her strength. Her biceps bulged but the lever stood firm and the door remained firmly closed. Water swirled around their ankles. It was rising fast and would reach the ceiling in less than a minute.

Jason clutched at Emily. "We're going to die!"

She held him in her arms and gazed into his eyes. "There's only one thing we can do."

She reached into her enormous handbag and pulled out a can of WD40. One squirt and the lever came free. They opened the door and scrambled through, then pushed the door shut against the weight of the water.

Now the lever was hanging loose and they could not get the door to stay shut. Water poured through and Jason was shivering with cold and shock.

"If we don't stop the water coming through we're dead," he said.

"Don't panic." Emily reached into her bag and brought out a huge reel of duct tape, then bit off a long strip and handed it to Jason. Between them, they taped the door shut and the flow of water ceased. They slumped down against the sealed door to await rescue.

"How come you had the right stuff in your bag?" Jason asked.

"Everyone knows," Emily replied. "If it doesn't move and it should, you use WD40, and if it moves and it shouldn't, you use duct tape."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cat in the box

I found this at BoingBoing.

The Insanity Virus

Richard found a fascinating article that suggests that schizophrenia may be the result of a retrovirus that hides permanently in our genes and is set off by an infection around the time of birth.

I find this idea particularly exciting as schizophrenia is just one of a number of illnesses that have in the past been blamed on dysfunctional families, especially mothers. When my son first came down with what was then called ME, I was told by more than one person, "I think it's all in the mind, you know." (So is anorexia, apparently, but that doesn't make it trivial.)

A similar viral cause is being suggested for Multiple Sclerosis and I can't help wondering about the CFS/ME connection. What is so hopeful is that if the scientists find a genuine cause for these illnesses then they are on the way to finding a cure.

The article is here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas has come early!

You may remember that I asked for help in choosing a laptop, and I'm very grateful for all the suggestions I received.

I finally went for a business laptop with a matte screen, which is excellent for reading and writing (thanks, Richard). It's a very nice little machine.

I had an initial moment of panic: going down from an 18" to a 13" screen is quite a change! But it's small and light and the keyboard is adequate (although I'd expected a better keyboard from the reviews). I've got most of my regular programs set up and now I have no excuse for not writing!

It barely weighs more than a hardback book!

Just one niggle and that's about the Kindle. I have Kindle for pc but because the book I'm reading is on my Beloved's laptop, I would need to buy it again to read it on here. Naughty amazon! I've a couple of ePub books and they are no problem to transfer at all.

(Edited to add: thanks to Sylvia for setting me straight on this. I now have my Kindle books available on this laptop too.)

Anyway, thanks for your help and support!

(In case anyone is interested, it's an .Aspire Timeline 8371 - 944G32N / Core 2 Duo SU9400 1.4GHz / 4GB / 320GB / 13.3 inch / Vista Business / Laptop / Notebook (LX.TTK0Z.001).)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Why didn't you buy that book?

Used Book Buying area - Third Place Books

There's a new website called Lost Book Sales where readers can explain why they didn't buy a particular book and what they did instead. There are many cases of "It wasn't available digitally in my region so I got a copy from the library/bought a second-hand copy instead".

Wouldn't it be nice if publishers took notice?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Free book

Simon Kewin, of #1 Writing Tip fame, is making one of his stories available free for this month. Just pop over to his blog and read all about it.

I got my ePub copy on Smashwords and it is only $0.99 full price but if you use the code Simon gives on his blog, you can get it free. I've read other of his short stories and enjoyed them so it's definitely worth a look.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

A blog post a day

Two Bloggers, after Norman Rockwell

I've posted before about Tim Hallinan. He has a Finish Your Novel section on his website that I highly recommend. It's inspired me many a time.

Now he's started The Stupid 365 Project. He's going to post on his blog every single day for a year, at least 300 words. He's up to day 35 so far and we've read about Hell; disposable razors; Hepburn; Olivier (both of whom he met); short stories; and iPods; to name just a few of the topics he's covered. How on earth does he find something to write about every day? If you pop over to his blog you might find out.

Friday, November 05, 2010

#1 Writing Tip

Simon Kewin is still on a roll with his writing: he had news of four pieces accepted for publication yesterday! You can see his post here.

After a bit of discussion in the comments, he came up with his #1 writing tip and I share it with you here:
you do actually have to write something!

That may be where I've been going wrong.

Mind you, I am writing every day now but not for publication: my nanonovel is slowly emerging. I'm checking the word count every two hundred words, which is a bad sign, but I'm having fun with it all the same. The only problem is the plot holes which are piling up, if holes can pile up. Well, these ones are.

How is your writing coming along, presuming you do any? Or if you want to, just pop in and say "hi"!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


fumacinha 02
The Daily Mail has posted a sensible, balanced and thoughtful article. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!

It's arguing that
Making cannabis legal would save police time, police priorities, the courts’ time and it would raise money. It is a commonsense and ‘liberal’ solution.
If even the Daily Mail can see this, what's wrong with the government? Oh, I forgot. They sacked one of their scientists for finding that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis. Why should they listen to Professor Nutt now when his Independent Scientific Committe on Drugs finds the same thing?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

This looks interesting

Gay Pride New York 2008 / 20080629.10D.49816 / SML
Photo by See-Ming Lee

The BBC has opened its archives to chart the gay rights movement in the UK. It's a bit of a shock to be reminded of how far we've had to come.

Pacing myself

Romeo, Romeo, WTF Romeo?, after William Powell Frith
I'm pacing myself today. After overdoing it yesterday morning and leaving myself a crumpled heap for the rest of the day, I've decided on half hour stints only. That's 700 words at a time, give or take a few.

It's very satisfying to see the word count go up and it's great fun being self-indulgent and writing exactly what I want to write even if no one will ever want to read it! I'm currently describing alien food and it reminds me a bit of Enid Blyton, and the the Tooth Fairy stories I used to tell my kids when they were little.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Two thousand words

It's half past eight on 1st November and I have my first two thousand words.

So far so good.

I may go back to bed now!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Image by SurFeRGiRL30
I'm planning on a nice lazy day to recover from yesterday's kick-off party, followed by watching a romantic comedy with my Beloved while answering the door to local kids seeking treats. I love seeing all their costumes and handing out sweets.

Red wine may feature too. Diets are for wimps: I just buy bigger trousers. (I mistyped "bugger trousers" and maybe that's more like it.)

I hope you have a wonderful day today, however you spend it!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday Scene

Once again I nearly forgot to post my @SatScenes photo for today.

I love London. I wish I could visit it more often.


I had a wonderful time at the Nanowrimo London kick-off party today, meeting old friends and making new ones. It's a wonderful feeling meeting people you've already chatted to on Twitter. I can't believe how great all these people are!

And now I'm completely wiped. It was worth it though.

Clocks change and hot man uncovered

I've been asked do the UK clocks go forward or backward tomorrow and what does that mean anyway? This little video gives you the answer.

(I posted it last year but I think it's worth watching again. And again.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Haunting

If you've got a blog about writing, you might want to pop over to Theresa's Halloween Haunting, where you can:

Haunt blogs, find friends and critique buddies. It’s a great way to find blogs to follow and get more followers. And a chance to WIN PRIZES!

I'm not sure I need more blogs to follow just before Nano but it sounds like fun! Maybe I'll see you over there.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nano is coming!

Portrait of a Lady Blogging, after Vermeer
Image by Mike Licht

It's not long now till I start the very reasonable and sensible challenge that is NaNoWriMo. Oi, no sniggering you lot!

I've planned my "novel" up to a point and got stuck. I've looked for a laptop to take to write-ins and got stuck. I've tried to update my touch typing skills and guess what?

Now I'm in a sort of limbo waiting for it to happen.

With any luck I'll be well enough to make the London meetup this Saturday. I'm looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones - although "old" is a comparative term here. I think I'll be the oldest person there!

If I normally comment on your blog, you may find me missing for a month. (Can you find me if I'm missing? Who knows!) Although last year I found that the more I wrote on my NaNo, the more I wrote everywhere else.

I've won most years that I've done it but not all. I have no idea if I can make it this time so I'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Like a dragon on his hoard

No mud for Rufus today. Instead, he scuffled in the rubbish bin until he had a good haul of litter and now he's using it as a bed.

There's no understanding that cat.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Good start to the day

I don't believe in bathing cats. Not unless they really, really need it.

When Rufus came in today from his morning saunter, he hesitated before jumping up on my lap. "Poor little thing," I thought, "he's probably wet." I reached down to check and his underside was indeed wet. It was more than wet: it was thick with mud; he was covered in black sludge on his sides, belly and tail.

I tried rubbing it off with the cat towel but there was just too much. Rufus was grooming himself and then vomiting up the black ooze. "That can't be good for him," I thought, so it was bath time.

I'm so glad we have a downstairs loo. You can shut the door and even a very wet and angry cat can't escape. There was hissing, there was struggling, there was climbing up my shoulders and over my back. In the end he was mostly clean and most of the cat shampoo was rinsed off.

And I'm now up and showered early and the downstairs handbasin is squeaky clean. So it's not all bad, is it?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So cute!

from Nakisha
My ACEO cards that I ordered last Thursday have arrived and they're so cute! I've propped them up on my desk as you can probably see from the picture. (The originals don't have the copyright notice but I wanted to protect Nakisha's work.)

They're just adorable and it cheers me up to have them to look at.

Monday, October 18, 2010

No more sex?

Photo by kainr
The Guardian is claiming that sex is out of fashion in literary works. Now, I agree that it's very difficult to write well about sex and I've already talked about that here, here and here.

It's not that I've got anything against writing about sex in theory, it's just that in practice it can often end up sounding rather silly. I tend to take the same view as Hilary Mantel:
If you can make your reader's imagination work, that is much more powerful than saying, he put his hand here and she put her hand there. That just makes the reader think, are these people contortionists and could I get into that position?
If, as Martin Amis claims, it's impossible for a novelist to write about real sex, then that would let me off the hook. I'm not entirely convinced though. What do you think?

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Today my Beloved and I met our younger son and his fiancée and went for a pub lunch. Afterwards we went for a stroll and met some goats, who were keen to eat grass from our hands. I'm not sure why, they had plenty of it under their feet.

They weren't nearly as impressive as the goats on jjdebenedictis' blog. Who knew goats could do that? Well, I didn't.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Where to get pictures for your blog

Lexi Revellian has written a helpful post over at BookBuzzr about How to Write a Popular Writing Blog.

One thing that struck me was
Use images – a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Google images is a good resource; aim for striking images that are relevant (it doesn’t have to be in an obvious way).

I've started using Flickr for most of my images because they have a huge Creative Commons section, and that way I know I'm not violating copyright.

When you go to Flickr, you'll see a set of links across the page giving drop-down menus. You want Explore/Creative Commons. You'll then be offered a variety of licenses, you can choose any of them and click on See More. That will take you to a page of images with a Search box at the top and now you can search Creative Commons pictures for anything you like.

I know that Old Kitty takes her own pictures of Charlie every day - and very photogenic he is too! Where do you go when you want pictures for your blog?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Better than chocolate?

Picture by Nakisha
So pretty!

I'm exhausted after too much driving the last two days; yesterday I had to take my son to the sleep apnoea clinic and back, and then I had to go back today to return the apparatus they'd strapped on him. He came home the first day all wired up and they even gave us a piece of paper with a police number on it to show that it was legitimate medical equipment and he isn't a terrorist! I'm so glad we weren't stopped.

So today I've been lolling around trying to recover (CFS really sucks) and I came across these wonderful pictures on Etsy and I treated myself. I also bought two ACEO cards with dear little rabbits huddled under quilts but those have to come by post.

Picture by Nakisha
Nakisha said I can use the images on my blog, so I may be posting more of them in the future. They're just so lovely. It's a less fattening way of cheering myself up than with chocolate.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Remix is out in paperback!

When I reviewed Remix back in August, several people commented that they'd like to read it in paperback. Well now you can! You can buy it on amazon, or direct from Lexi and she'll even sign it to whoever you want for only £7.99 including p&p if you live in the UK. Just look for the widget in her right hand column.

Oh, and she's giving away free bookmarks too!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

All the good ones were taken

All The Good  Ones Were Taken has a very funny post today about the etiquette of books in pubs. Do pop over and see.

Omnivorous trees

There are a lot more amazing pictures of trees eating objects over at Imagine if trees moved fast enough to eat people...

I'm thinking SF again. (I've been informed that the term "Sci Fi" is so last century. Well how was I to know? I'm so last century myself!)

Monday, October 11, 2010

How to be more creative

Photo by
Do you want to be more creative? Then pretend to be a child. In a recent study it was found that
Individuals imagining themselves as children subsequently produced more original responses
So, there you have it. Out with the finger paints and away you go!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday Scene

I nearly forgot to post my @SatScenes picture for this week. I've set up a separate page for these photos.

It's not exactly Narnia, is it? Dusk comes early in Surrey in October.

Do you want a spreadsheet?

A couple of years ago I offered my Nano .xls word-count spreadsheet to anyone who wanted it. I've updated it with 2010 dates and the offer is again open, so if you want a copy just email me. All you have to do is to enter your your current word count and it tells you how much behind or ahead you are.

I like to update my wordcount as often as possible; I feel encouraged to see the numbers turning green when I hit a target. Little things...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

All alone

My Beloved left at 4am today for a tennis holiday in La Manga. I was invited but oh dear me no. I didn't even like tennis when I was well enough to play it!

Anyway, like last year I was awake at 3am while he was pottering around getting ready to go. That's not a good time to be awake, I tell you.

So now, I'm all on my own. Except for my son, his fiancée, two cats and the whole of the internet.

I'll be fine as soon as I stop being grumpy from lack of sleep.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Can you help me choose a laptop?

Image thanks to ICanHazCheezburger

I'm writing this on a large (18") laptop that is really my Beloved's. When the family pc got too slow for me to use I kind of took over his machine, which is wonderful but awfully heavy.

What I'd like is a small machine that I can take into other parts of the house. I want to be able to play on my laptop in the same room as my Beloved while he's watching cricket or football. I'd like to be able to read ebooks in bed. I might even take the machine to a write-in if I'm well enough.

The 13.3" machines look good because they're mostly small and light but have full size keyboards. Two of the contenders so far are the HP DM4-1050EA which  has a 14" screen but seems lightweight and to have reasonable battery life and the Samsung Q330 Notebook PC. I don't want to spend more than I have to, seeing that I'm not earning.

Some Twitter pals (Pewari and stacy_chambers) have already made great suggestions. The MacBook looks good but a bit too pricey for me. The iPad is also wonderful but I need a real keyboard.

Do you have any thoughts on particular machines, or things to look out for, or places to buy laptops in the UK?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tips for NaNoWriMo

StoryADayInMay was asking for tips for Nano. These are mine.
  • Get as many ideas before you start as you can. You’re allowed to plan and plot and it’s easier if you do.
  • Write every day before you surf the net or whatever you do for fun. Write 2000 words. Don’t stop even when it’s rubbish.
  • Plan the next day’s writing while you’re out walking or cooking dinner.
  • Use a spreadsheet to keep track of your word count. (I have one I can email you if you like.)
  • Go to meetups. They’re fun!
  • Have fun!
Have you got any tips? 

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A Rainy Day in Surrey

My @SatScenes photo for today.


I've just signed up for NaNoWriMo again this year. I think the main reason is that I want an excuse to meet up with everyone in London again. (If I'm up to it, which isn't certain.)

This time last year I had a huge chunk of plot sorted out but now I just have a story idea and a couple of characters. Still, when has that ever stopped anyone?

I see Polenth has signed up. Will anyone else be doing it?

Friday, October 01, 2010

The end of banned books

It's the end of banned books week and I'm left feeling a bit bemused. Most of the books that count as "banned" were challenged in schools or libraries, usually unsuccessfully. A few of the books that were challenged were required reading in schools, and I have to say that forcing a child to read a book that is too adult for him or her seems rather cruel to me. As censorship goes, this isn't very successful.

Then you have the entirely different case of Operation Dark Heart. The author collaborated closely with the US Department of the Army in writing the book but this wasn't good enough. He was summoned to meet with the US Department of Defense, after which existing copies of the book were destroyed and a new version was produced with some of the information removed. The publishers claim that this isn't censorship and I'm left wondering what they think it is. But it was in the interests of national security so that's all right then.

I wonder if there are some books that should be banned, such as books inciting hatred or telling you how to make a bomb. My guess is that with the internet nothing can stay banned or secret for long but the Operation Dark Heart case suggests that some people at least think otherwise.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

October challenges

I've got two writing challenges for you for next month, thanks to a Twitter pal. (If it was you who tweeted these then let me know and I'll credit you. I relied on my memory which was clearly a silly thing to do.)

The 750 words one month challenge
You have to write 750 words  a day (not a month) for a whole month. If it was 750 words a month I might manage it. (link)

100 words
Write exactly 100 words a day for a month. (link)

I'm not sure which would be harder: writing an exact number of words would be challenging. Anyway, if you accept either of those missions, it should keep you busy till Halloween!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Novelists aren't the only writers

Image by Ape Lad some rights reserved
I suppose a lot of us dream of writing a book, and some of us actually do it, but I've noticed the assumption around the blogosphere that all writers are novelists and we're not. All novelists are writers, I'll grant you that, but it's possible to be a published fiction writer without ever writing a novel. For example, Simon Kewin is heavily into writing excellent short fiction and getting it published, although I have to admit that he's written a novel as well.

I suppose I just want to be less invisible as someone who is an amateur writer but one who'd like to get a story or two published one day. Of course, it might help if I finished a few stories first!

Having said all that, there's Nanowrimo coming up and I intend to join in. Not because I see myself as a novelist but for the buzz of the challenge, the forums and the meetups. You can meet some awfully nice people during Nano you know!

I wonder what your writing means to you.
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