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.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Married with Zombies

Yesterday I got my copy of Married With Zombies, thanks to the kind author Jesse Petersen. A signed copy no less! It's Evil Editor's book of the month and it would be great if you'd come along and join the chat! It's a nice easy read that's played for laughs and although it's rather gruesome I enjoyed it.

The top photo was my submission to @SatScenes this week. While we're on the cat photo theme, here's Rufus in affectionate mode. I had to get my Beloved to take the picture quickly. He doesn't stay cute for long!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why did they even bother?

Imagine Ireland have compensated us for the appalling state the holiday place was in when we arrived. They sent us a cheque for £30. It won't buy my son and his fiancée a posh meal anywhere but it'll more than cover a McDonalds, so that's all right then.

Oh, and they sent us a £70 voucher for any holiday we might be mad enough to take with them in future. Anyone want a holiday voucher? We won't be needing it.

Extinct stories

In case you missed it, Phoenix Sullivan is calling for submissions for an anthology called Extinct doesn't mean forever.

I first met Phoenix on Evil Editor and she's now so good at critiquing query letters that she has her own blog for people to submit revised queries to, after Evil Editor has done his worst. Now here she is branching out into publishing!

The deadline for stories is the end of January, and it's a paying proposition. You might want to pop across and take a look.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Breathing Water

I've just finished Tim Hallinan's Breathing Water and now I'm desperate to read more.

I admit that I only started to read it because I was so grateful for all the help I've got from Tim's Finish Your Novel advice to writers (which I highly recommend). Then he kindly sent me a book about writing (not by him) as a prize in a competition he ran. After all that, how could I not read one of his books? The trouble was, they didn't look like the kind of thing I'd usually read. How wrong I was.

For me, the book started out slowly but after a couple of chapters I was reeled in and couldn't put it down - although I also didn't want to get to the end and not have it to read any more. You know that feeling?

What drew me in:
  • Great descriptions of place with just the right amount of detail. I found myself in another world.
  • A huge variety of characters. I identified with the main character, Poke Rafferty, and enjoyed the range of goodies, baddies and the more ambivalent folk who share his world with him.
  • The tension racheting up so that I desperately wanted it to come out all right for the main characters.
  • Wonderful dialogue that seems entirely natural and is very entertaining. 
  • And finally, a satisfying ending.

His newest book The Queen of Patpong is out now and it's going on my Christmas list. (It's a hardback.) Meanwhile, I've ordered A Nail Through the Heart and The Fourth Watcher from amazon UK. I hope they get here soon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Making girls into boys

Photo from Sociological Images
Did you know that in Afghanistan if you don't have any sons you can designate one of your daughters as a boy? You see, girls can't go out in public without a chaperone or work outside the home, but a girl that's classed as a boy can, and what's more she can chaperone her sisters so that they can go out and run errands. I read about it here and it's an article worth reading.

I don't quite know what to make of it. I think it shows that the status quo can be so embedded that challenging it feels impossible. The families don't let girls do the forbidden things, they have to create a 'boy' instead. It also tells me that people will perform any kind of mental gymnastics to enable them to support the way things are.

What I can't help wondering is if girls can do those things when classed as boys why can't they all be allowed to chop off their hair and dress as boys with all the freedoms that allows.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The end of an era

I've given up on Google Reader. I've had it on my iGoogle page for a long time and it's been very convenient to turn to when I want to catch up on all you lovely bloggers but it has one major flaw. You can't unsubscribe from anything.

Some time ago I decided to stop following Cake Wrecks and I unsubscribed in my Google Reader. A few days later Cake Wrecks was back with forty odd posts marked as unread. I deleted it from the reader. It came back. I unsubcribed in my Bloglist. It came back. I googled for a solution. There isn't one. Not one that works anyway.

So now I'm using BlogBridge. I'm hoping it will do what I tell it to and not decide for me that I really, really never want to unsubscribe from anything I've ever wanted to read in the past. Goodbye Google Reader!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How did I miss this?

Image by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid  some rights reserved 
A leading cannabis researcher has called for cannabis to be legalised for recreational use.

Now, to be honest, I can't get wound up about recreational use one way or the other. I like a glass of wine with dinner and I don't see why someone who prefers a puff shouldn't do that instead. (I can't stand any sort of smoking myself but that doesn't mean I want to stop everyone else doing it.) On the other hand, if wine were banned I'd still cope so not having your recreational drug of choice available doesn't seem appalling to me.

What I do feel strongly about is the people I know who are ill and who would get better pain relief from cannabis than they can from traditional medicine. I have a friend with fibromyalgia who'd be up and around if she could legally smoke. My Mum would probably have got relief from her arthritis - but how was a housebound old lady to get hold of an illegal drug?

Of course the other advantage to legalising cannabis is ending the drug trafficking in it and getting clean drugs to people.

My mind always wanders onto the sci fi implications of the news. I wonder what drugs they might use in other worlds.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mind what you tweet

You may have heard about the guy who was fined £1000 for making a stupid joke on Twitter. He's since lost two jobs because he was convicted of sending a menacing message but all he did was express his exasperation that an airport was shut so he couldn't see his girlfriend. He wrote:
Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week… otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!
OK, his comment was ill-judged but who knew Twitter was so tightly policed? I didn't.

I've a feeling that anti-terrorist laws in both the US and the UK make life harder for ordinary people while not actually preventing terrorism. Or do you think they're worth it for the sake of greater security?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

So many ways to be wrong

Tweeted by @vaughanbell (Mind Hacks).

I couldn't help thinking that this gives us so many ways for characters to mess up and drive the plot.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Spray-on clothing

When I've thought about future clothing (for sci fi stories) I've mainly had in mind a torc worn round the neck that produces an electric field all over the body. The field could be transparent, translucent or opaque and as multi-coloured and changing as desired. The idea would be to keep dry and warm with as much or as little concealment as desired.

Well, we're not there yet but this is one I didn't think of: spray-on clothing. The future is now and I love it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Unusual book

It's a metal book but it's not an ereader. Made out of aluminium, both the cover and the foil pages, it celebrates the release of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. You can even try and get hold of the only copy: it's going to be given away to one person who comments here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Get your creativity flowing!

I've just discovered  two wonderful sites for overcoming writer's block.

Leah Peterson has a weekly 5MinuteFiction challenge, where you have five minutes to write to a prompt. (You get fifteen really but that's to allow for slippage.) It's every Tuesday at 1:30pm EST - that's currrently 6.30pm BST for those of us in the UK. Today's challenge is here.

And through Leah I also found Creative Copy Challenge, where on Mondays and Thursdays they post ten random words for you to make into a short story.

I've tried the Creative Copy Challenge but the time limit on 5MinuteFiction has me stymied at the moment. Can you manage it?

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I finally remembered to take a photo for @satscenes. Yes, this is the excitement that is my Saturday! Well, I forgot to take a photo of the launderette.

Don't you just love the way that the tumble of colours and textures makes it harder to see Bonnie? I tried to get her to pose on the kitchen floor but she had her own ideas about that.

Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

No fixed abode

Photo by Franco Fellini some rights reserved
I forget where I came across this competition for European writers. (Edited to say: thank you Old Kitty for reminding me that I found this on womagwriter's blog.)

It's a flash fiction competition with a £60 prize pot but no entry fee. The word limit is 300 and the theme is NO FIXED ABODE. The only down side is that you have to enter by snail mail - but there's plenty of time to do that as the closing date is November 30th.

I'm sorry it's only open to Europeans. I'll be interested to know if you enter!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Wish fulfilment (spoiler free)

A few days ago I read All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye by Christopher Brookmyre and absolutely loved it. It's about a young grandmother who is leading a boring restricted life, and how she responds to the challenge when her family is under threat. She shows qualities she didn't know she had and finds adventure and excitement. It's gory in places but so much fun.

So then I decided to read Pandaemonium by the same author. It was a very gory read - I see now that it's advertised as a horror flick and in places it reminded me of Hot Fuzz. I skipped a whole chunk of the second half as I couldn't stand the gorefest. There were parts I did enjoy, like the scene when one of the girls does a tarot card cold reading on another girl, but it wasn't the reading experience I was after.

I wonder how much the difference was that I really related to the main character in the first book. Do you like wish fulfilment in your reading?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Faster than a speeding internet

My son's fiancée has just told me about the pigeon that flew faster than the internet. It carried a 4GB memory stick 60 miles while the internet only managed to transfer a fraction of that information. Mind you, they were using ADSL.

I can't help thinking there's an idea for a story somewhere there.

Image © Copyright Christine Matthews and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Ireland episode 3

On our last day we went whale watching and we saw seals, porpoises and dolphins.

The dolphins came alongside the boat near enough that you could almost touch them, and one of them was a baby! Does it get any better than that?

Oh, and here are a few more colourful buildings for good luck!

Now you can make up your own slide show just like Lexi suggested!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Ireland episode 2

So, the bad stuff on holiday was the state of the place when we arrived, and my son's fiancée getting her handbag stolen with resultant window damage to our car. Her car keys were in her bag so her Mum flew across to Dublin to get her spare keys to her. Altogether we lost about three days of the first week on this kind of hassle - and my poor younger son and his fiancee were only there for that week.

There was good stuff too though. We managed to spend an afternoon on the beach, and we enjoyed shopping in Wexford. There was a wonderful bookshop complete with indoor fountain and mural (above) and we spent ages looking at crystals and trinkets in another shop. I didn't actually buy anything but it was fun!

The second week we had a splendid view over a harbour from our windows and a friendly heron that visited. (I know that's a seagull! But there was a heron too.)

The houses are so bright you almost need sunglasses and they have colour combinations I would never have thought of - sometimes with good reason.

They have real telephone boxes! And they're green! And so are the post boxes.

The food was wonderful too, and according to My Beloved the Guinness was good. But the best bit I'll tell you about tomorrow.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Ireland episode 1

I can't do long posts at the moment - I'm still recovering from the holiday. So this will have to be episode 1. There are some more cheerful episodes coming up later!

These photos are of the state of the first place when my son and his fiancée arrived there. I've spared you the worst ones!

My younger son and his fiancée arrived the day before the rest of us, due to ferry booking issues. They found our first little holiday home in an appalling state - abandoned uncleaned by the previous occupants. They spoke to the property owner who sent a woman to change the beds for them (!) but she didn't do any cleaning and they spent their first evening cleaning up so that they could bear to spend the night in the place.

Unmade beds was the least of it. The floors and surfaces were filthy and I don't think you want to know about toilets and bathrooms: just imagine your worst!

The owner sent a cleaner the next day, who did at the rest of the cleaning. We got her back once to finish it, then gave up. We asked for compensation but the owner explained in great detail that it wasn't her fault. Right.

The holiday company emailed us to say that a cleaner had been sent in on the Sunday, which was true but wasn't the point. They seemed to think that was the end of the matter. I was incandescent: my baby had to cope with all that mess! It's amazing how easily I get into Mum-mode.

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