Monday, March 31, 2008

Review of March 2008

March started well for me with news that I had won the Dundalk branch of Curves 30 day challenge. Apart from a not too dodgy prize of a €55 token for Boots chemist, I lost 10lbs and 18 inches, which is the real prize. Unfortunately things took a turn for the worse after that high point and I suffered about three weeks of ill health which meant little to no writing, cancelled teaching days (hence loss of money) and exercising falling off the radar. I got two weeks holiday at Easter but was still picking myself up so I didn't get all the writing done that I had planned. My goal for March was to read 9 books. I completed five, which is up from last month but only half as many as January. Word wise, I wrote fractionally more than February with 11,400 compared to last month's 11,100. My aim was to enter 2 short story competitions this month and I exceeded it by two. I entered short stories into the Fish One Page Prize 2008, Tom Howard/John H Reid Short Story Contest, Aeon Award 2008 and the Invisible Ink Story Competition. I had also planned to enter a story to the Permuted Press Giant Creatures Anthology but failed to finish my story 'The Shark that ate Dublin' in time. Likewise, my entry to the Bristol Prize Short Story Competition 2008 was a non runner as I missed the post (imagine running a competition in this day and age without online entry as an option?). I had plans to submit my flash fiction 'Does Love Dogs' to AlienSkin but failed to edit it in time to submit it before March ended. There is always next month. Exercise was practically non existent this month, with no attendances to curves and only a few salsa slims and days where I played wii (highest fitness age 41, lowest 24). I did complete my achievement goal for the month in trying new things, which was climbing the Greater Sugar Loaf in Wicklow. I just scraped in at the last minute but I managed to get there in the end and it was a challenging but rewarding day. With my four submissions this month I have beaten my January curse - which is, I submit in January and then don't submit anything else all year until the January of the following year. I hope this trend keeps up. I promised to keep you updated on my stories from past months, so this is how my January entries are doing. My entry to Glimmer Train's Family Matters Competition, 'The Shadow Room' failed to be short listed and I am guessing that 'The Memory of Fat', my entry to the Maria Edgeworth Competition didn't get to the finish line either as the festival took place on Saturday and I was not invited to attend. I am still waiting to hear back on how my brave little stories are doing.
My hopes for April? To keep up submitting to competitions and publications. To increase my word count. To read more books. To think up and complete another new achievement. To have a successful Belly Dance workshop on the 19th and to have fun in Donegal with my sis's and dogs at the end of the month.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Great Sugar Loaf

Mountain View states that the Great Sugar Loaf ( or GSL), in Wicklow, is Ireland's 457th highest summit, has a height of 501 metres and is the most easterly summit in the Dublin/Wicklow area. Although I was not armed with this information this morning, I set out for the Great Sugar Loaf with Janna, Valpot and Pinky. The weather forecast (which proved to be accurate) proclaimed that the morning with be sunny but that rain would move in towards the afternoon. As a result we set off bright and early. We couldn't have asked for a better day. It was mild, the sun was bright and warm and it was dry. I was surprised at the amount of people at the GSL when we arrived. Cars lined the narrow country road for as far as I could see and a steady stream of people - parents with young children, groups of friends of all ages, men and women with their dogs - were moving up and down the mountain (or, technically, the hill). The GSL itself is a barren conical shaped structure, named after the archaic mountains of sugar that were once common in grocery stores and which it resembles in appearance. The lower slope is covered in short grass and furze, with sheep and mountain ponies grazing in the fields, while nearer the summit the ascent is more precarious with lots of scree and an almost perpendicular slope. The sky was crystal clear and we had a fantastic view over Dublin bay and the city as well as the nearby Powerscourt. It is weird to see, only a few minutes drive outside of the city, rolling hills of green spread out like a playmat at your feet with dark hedgerows and stone walls separating the verdant pasture, cotton buds of sheep grazingand the azure bowl of the Irish Sea embracing the horizon. The bird life was sparse. A few crows were visible, I saw a Bunting of some kind (I think Reed) and the air was alive with the beautiful song of high flying Skylarks. I was hoping to see some hawks, but I had no luck. I was doubly glad that the weather was fine because as we began to climb it became evident that a stream wound down the mountain in wetter times and it would have made for more unpleasant going. I found the weather and the views invigorating, but the climb was hard going. You know those moments when you begin to question your sanity and the advisability of starting on your chosen task? Well, I had one of those moments. It was very obviously highlighted that I am not as fit as I thought I was as I had to stop and rest on the steeper slopes, suffering the humiliation of young children and men hampered by baby backpacks (an unusual luncheon choice) racing past me. When the same people passed me going down who had only moments before gone up I began to get worried. However, I did not mind that I held up badly in comparison to the others on the climb. I am very proud that I was able to do it, that, despite finding it tough I persevered and that I didn't once give into my vertigo and dislike of slopes even though at times I could feel panic trembling at the edges. Near the summit the wind grew very strong which, combined with the narrow path, the steep incline and the number of people both coming up and down made it very unpleasant. Thankfully, the route down was a lot easier than the way up as gravity aided the descent and before long we were back at the car. Despite wishes to be air lifted out by a rescue helicopter, it was not necessary and we all managed to make it down under our own steam. My highlights of the day were 1. how well Janna performed, racing up the mountain after her ball (and Valpot) and then running back to me with a whine and a kiss to make sure I was holding up ok. 2. Seeing a man carrying a baby on his back who was moaning constantly. It was funny seeing the little tike complaining as her daddy reassured her 'almost there'. I also wondered why she was complaining when she didn't have to do the hard work and was being carried. 3. Seeing (what I think was an elderly) Collie dog sitting down half way up and not budging and feeling pleased that I had managed to make it further than this tired canine. 4. Managing to climb over terrain that I found both physically and mentally challenging. 5. Listening to the skylarks. 6. Last, but by no means least, Valpot and Pinky's company.
While I would like to climb the GSL again, I think it will be awhile before I attempt it again and I also now know that it will be a while before I can even think of attempting Kilimanjaro or Everest. Sigh.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Review of Week 24th - 29th March




Woozer, who reached the grand old age of 15! Way to go Woozer, I thought you wouldn't make it but you proved me wrong. You can't knock the rockie spirit.


Mal... er, I mean Nathan Fillion. Hope you had a good one Nathan.


Writing was ok this week. I wrote about 3000 words, 3 short stories and submitted to one competitions.


Tomorrow I am climbing the Sugar Loaf (a big hill in Dublin) with Valpot and Pinky. It is my goal for March (remember the fun new things I was going to do every month? January it was Badminton and February it was Bowling?) so I hope the weather stays fine and we have a good time.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Book Review: Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd's father is dead, his mother remarried to a boorish man and his leg crippled by a falling tree. Life in his viking village seems grim until he wanders into the woods and meets some talking animals who turn out to be Norse gods in disguise.
This cute little book was produced for world book day and joins the ranks of similar chapbooks by famous authors written specially for the event. World Book Day seems to be aimed primarily at children, to encourage them to read, and hence the books are very cheaply priced with coupons distributed at schools that can be redeemed against the cost of the book.
I am a fan of Neil Gaiman's writing (it still galls me that I missed his book signing in Dundalk) and enjoyed his last adult book, Anansai Boys, very much. Because this is aimed towards children, Odd and the Frost Gaints lacks the darker more sexual elements of Gaiman's work, but it still retains many of his trade mark features such as deceptively simple writing, gods and magical worlds colliding with the ordinary.
I liked this book very much. The mention of the Asgard made me think of Stargate, but that was not Neil's fault. Last year I purchased Garth Nix's edition for World Book Day, The Creature in the Case, a worthy addition to his world of the Abhorsen. Other famous authors, including Ireland's own Eoin Colfer, have contributed works to this worthy cause. I like the idea so much of these short stories in book form that I want to write my own version for World Book Day - well, my alternative version of it. World Book Day for the non famous (yet) struggling writers. I plan to launch it on 27th July 2008 and get as many writers involved as possible. So, if you are a struggling writer and you would like to publish a chapbook to encourage reading, drop me a line.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What Tarot card are you?

Saw this on Malice Blackheart's blog and thought I would give it a go.

You are The Star

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Star is one of the great cards of faith, dreams realised

The Star is a card that looks to the future. It does not predict any immediate or powerful change, but it does predict hope and healing. This card suggests clarity of vision, spiritual insight. And, most importantly, that unexpected help will be coming, with water to quench your thirst, with a guiding light to the future. They might say you're a dreamer, but you're not the only one.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy Easter

I can't believe it has been over a week since I blogged. The last seven days have passed so quickly for me - and without much to show for it unfortunately. I keep on thinking it is early March, but April is less than seven days away.
Because I missed blogging on the big day - HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE
I know this picture isn't religious and doesn't relate to the true meaning of Easter, but it is so cute I couldn't resist. Now, if only that rabbit could be replaced with a pig and that picture would remind me of two good friends of mine.This time of year always seems to be an excuse to over indulge in cheap (or expensive) chocolate, which leaves you feeling rather bloated and ill. I was in Dublin at the weekend and I overheard a woman in the toilet's of a hotel saying that she couldn't eat chocolate because it inflamed her ovaries. I am fascinated by this. What are inflamed ovaries?

I am in holiday mode this week, even though I am not officially on holidays, and this has made it hard for me to work. I will leave my official review of the month to next week but March hasn't been a great month. What with being sick for the majority of it, my life has suffered - from my work to my exercise regime and my animals. I hope that in the remaining few days of the month I can turn things around and, to paraphrase the words of (the original) Sarah Connor 'Write a lifetimes worth' - or at least a months.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Book Review: Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer

This is the fourth outing of the highly successful series centering on criminal boy genius, Artemis Fowl written by Irishman Eoin Colfer. In the last book, Artemis and his bodyguard Butler had their minds wiped by the LEP recon (or fairy police - they live under the earth's core. Lord Boate anyone? X-Philes are probably the only people to get that). Without knowledge of the fairy world and his changing outlook on life, Artemis has returned to a criminal life but his past has not forgotten him. Opal Kobi, arch villain and uber intelligent Pixie, is seeking revenge on the people who put her behind bars. That means Artemis and Captain Holly Short, among others, are on her list. The usual crowd are reassembled in this novel from Foaly to the flatulent dwarf, Mulch Diggums.
It has been a while since I read the last Artemis Fowl book. I enjoyed the first book, with the titular hero reminding me of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's character Special Agent Pendergast (and hence Sherlock Holmes). I found the second book somewhat dull but the third book in the series was, in my opinion, the best of the lot with a great storyline and more depth to it than the others. The Opal Deception did not come close to changing my mind on that matter. Is it just me or is Artemis wearing a bit thin? Perhaps I have finally got too old to read children's books. I found this installment a trite by the numbers affair with every other line a punch line and its tongue much too firmly in its cheek to keep my interest. Don't get me wrong, I do like Artemis, but I just couldn't get into this one. I had hoped that the fourth book would follow on from the third with a deeper more layered tale but instead it seems to have got even more frivolous. It's not that dark things don't happen in this novel - in fact something very serious and surprising takes place - but it didn't have any resonance with me. I couldn't believe in the world or believe that Mr Colfer was taking it very seriously when he wrote it. I can't fault his writing style or the way he builds tension and creates conflict but for me, in this book, everything was a little too contrived and the need to be amusing and clever claimed precedence over the characters and storyline.
I am the first to admit that the mood you are in when you read a book greatly influences your enjoyment of it, and perhaps I was simply in the wrong mindset to enjoy this book. I am sure that the leagues of Artemis Fowl fans would eagerly inform me of my errors, but The Opal Deception left me cold. I'll think twice before I read another. I give it 5/10

Monday, March 17, 2008

Prader-Willi Syndrome

I saw a very interesting documentary on Prader-Willi Syndrome this evening. I had never heard of it before but, thanks to the information super highway, I was able to Google it after the programme and learn more than I ever need to know about this interesting syndrome. It effects boys and girls equally, is found throughout all ethic groups and doesn't seem to be passed on genetically. It is a genetic disorder caused by an anomaly in chromosome 15. That's all very well Inky, I hear you say, but what effect does Prader-Willi Syndrome (named after the two doctors who first described it and more commonly called PWS) have on its suffers? Well, it does so in many different ways but the main one is that they are obsessed with food.
Born with less muscle tone, a PWS child will usually sleep more than other children and develop at a slower rate. At around the age of two they become obsessed with food and will begin to put on weight, even without a change in diet. They need up to 50% less calories than non PWS sufferers but are unable to know when they are full and think about food constantly so, naturally enough, obesity is a big problem (no pun intended). They have developmental and behavioural problems as well. Their mindset is very rigid and they dislike a break in routine or change in circumstances. Once they get stuck on a point they can obsess on it and not deviate from it unless carefully distracted. They are prone to mood swings, violent outbursts, swearing and self harm. Physically they are often small in stature and sexual maturity is very delayed if indeed fully reached. They have small hands and feet, lack muscle tone, dislike exercise, have difficulties in social situations and sleep a lot. There is no cure and the only treatment is strict diet control and behaviour management. A person with PWS can never be left alone with food (or so claims the PWS association of Australia on their website) and independent living is not achievable.
The documentary showed three different people and their families living with PWS. One, a man in his 30's, travelled to India to see a holy man for a cure and was bitterly disappointed when he didn't get one. Another, a woman, resented her father suggesting she live in a care home for PWS where the kitchens are locked insisting it was a prison, despite the residents themselves telling her how good the place was and how someone with PWS couldn't live on their own (one woman had entered the care home weighing 32st and within a year was down to 14st. She was an enthusiastic supporter of the home and tried to convince the woman by sharing her own experience, but her story fell on deaf ears). The third person the programme followed was a young girl who, despite being eldest in her family, behaved more like the youngest and whose favourite fictional character was the incredible hulk (I hope this was a genuine liking on behalf of the child as it seemed just a bit too pat as regards the documentary needs. The girl could change on the drop of a hat from a very sweet, laughing child to a screaming, violent monster and her favourite character was the incredible hulk? You certainly didn't want to see her angry).
Anyone who knows me will be aware of my own battles with weight, obesity, food addiction, self harm, short statue and fondness of sleeping yet I know I don't have PWS and I'm not even trying to claim that I have. I know I have the will power to stop eating, that no one is to blame for the weight I carry but myself. I have nothing but admiration for those who CAN'T stop eating and who still fight against the hand they have been dealt - especially to the woman who lost 18st. It is all very well to say that you are addicted to food and that it is like a drug addiction where you have to take your drug every day to survive, but who started to abuse that drug in the first place? I know I turned to food for comfort, for its numbing goodness and companionship. I worked hard to get to the weight I am today and I have to work even harder to get it off. It is a struggle, it is one day at a time and it is darn hard. However, I chose this path. People with PWS didn't, and I applaud every single one of them and their families for taking the steps on that rocky path of weight control and succeeding.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Review of Week 10th - 16th March

I've had to have words with my immune system. What should have been a cold that ran its course in a couple of days ended up knocking me down for two weeks with serious consequences to my work. I don't think my white blood cells are working hard enough. I called them in for a debriefing and gave them a good dressing down. Shame faced they nodded their little white heads and pleaded to try harder. Only time will tell if they can keep out of the gambling dens in my pituitary and stay on the job.
With that in mind, the last week hasn't been my most productive. I'm getting back on my feet now, but I still have a cough and the sniffles so progress is slow. That said, I managed to write four thousand words (one short story and one flash fiction - both need editing) and read one book. OK, that isn't much to boast about, but those words were written from my sick bed.
I hope next week to be getting back into the swing of things.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Because the 17th March falls in Holy Week this year, St. Patrick's Day is being celebrated on the 15th March. So,

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Brilliant Introduction to Shakespeare???

I was leafing through a book sellers magazine the other day and I came across a selection of Shakespeare's plays (or 'stories' as they put it) presented with pretty covers and illustrations for younger readers. The accompanying blurb went as follows (and I quote):- '...The tales have been retold using accessible language...' Now, I don't know if it is just me or is the weakest part of Shakespeare's work his story lines? Star crossed lovers, jealous husbands, vengeful sons, power hungry men - yes, they are strong basic plots but it is THE WAY they are told and the beauty of the language that makes them great plays. Hamlet would be nothing without his soliloquies. Othello would lose its power without iambic pentameter and would Lady Macbeth still pack as much punch without her scheming words? I don't know, I suppose it is good that Shakespeare's 'stories' are being made accessible to the younger reader, but I feel his plays without his language are a bit like eating chocolate without the guilt - it just ain't possible.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Death in Dreams

I was watching a movie (1408 to be exact. Not bad; typical predictable Stephen King storyline, but very watchable thanks to John Cusack) and the old chestnut 'you can't die in your dreams' came up. As it happens, I had a dream recently where I killed myself. I was a professor in a university and something terrible was going to happen. I knew this because there had been a taster of it the week before but when it came back it was going to stay for good (the terrible event involved everyone in the whole world being turned into zombies). I couldn't stand the thought of this so myself and my husband decided to commit joint suicide. We lay down on our bed together and I shot him in the head and then shot myself and died. When I died, the dream merely changed to another dream. I didn't wake up or anything like that. So I guess you can die in a dream and live. Anyone else out there die in a dream, or am I just a very sick and twisted individual?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Photos

My new photos are now up on MovieExtras. I like my full length shot (although my trousers are so long it looks like I don't have any feet, which is strange) and I like the 'personality' shot (above) but my head and shoulders shot isn't great. It isn't the photographers fault, he did his best. I don't like it because I am grinning like a maniac in it. One of the lists of photo dos and don'ts on Movie Extras is don't look comical, casting directors don't like that. Well, all I need is the red nose to look like a clown. It is very embarrassing. I wonder if I'll get any job offers from it (anyone looking for a village idiot?)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Book Review: The House of Thunder by Dean Koontz

This book was first published in 1980 under the pen name of Leigh Nichols. Its writing style reminds me of Robin Cook or Michael Cricthon's books of the same era. The story centers around Susan, who awakes in a small county hospital after receiving a brain injury in a car crash that left her in a coma. Her recovery is going well and she is even developing a romance with her dishy doctor when she starts to see the ghosts of the four men who killed her college sweetheart thirteen years before - or does she? The plot is clever in that nothing is quite what it seems and the writing describes skillfully some scary set pieces. It is an entertaining although not ground breaking read. I give it 5/10

Monday, March 10, 2008


I lost my voice yesterday and I can't remember where I put it. The weird thing is, I think I can still talk and then I open my mouth and this hoarse croaking whisper comes out. No matter how hard I try to speak, it doesn't make any difference. When I manage to get a word out it sounds like I have important secrets to impart and it is strange when people reply in a normal tone of voice. I know when other people have lost their voice I always feel tempted to whisper when I speak to them - in solidarity or just because it sounds plain weird talking normaly while they speak quietly, I don't know. I hope my voice comes back soon. I hope there isn't a deeper reason why it is has left me - like a message that I should be silenced or that it has found a big black horse and a cherry tree it would rather be with. Ok, altogether now - whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Review of week: 3rd - 9th March

My health wasn't great this week so, apart from teaching, I more or less took the week off. I read one and a half books and wrote half a story. Should have heard back about some of my January stories by this stage, but still not a peep. Writing is a good lesson in patience. My fitness age today is 26. Must do my brain age, probably would be about 88. Lost my voice today, hope I can find it again.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Quote of the day

'There's too much blood in my caffeine system!'

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Lion

For their loyalty to her cause
She rewarded them.
Before her throne they knelt, heads bowed,
And sapphire light engulfed them.
For moments they knew bliss and then -
Changed eternally -
They emerged into new life.
Free together they enjoyed the novelty,
Discovering what it was to be,
And in their play they trespassed,
Using gifts that did not belong to kill.
Rent from top to toe by claws designed for giving,
A fissure opened to allow a shadow in.
Multiplying like the darkness,
The creatures grew from the once proud ones sin.
Blue flame flickered now in colder fury,
Cursing the favoured for their one ill fated action.
Shamed to look upon each other they scattered,
Seeking distance to fill the void they had created.
Yet hope still glimmered if they paused to find it.
Redemption lay within their grasp,
If not their sight.
To rid the world of shadow and to heal it,
To end the wrong they caused and make it right.
Until that day they must wander,
Knowing neither warmth nor sleep nor food nor love.
Denied all that makes life precious,
Persevered from death until they can make good
Their fall and once more roar in union together.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Book Review: Voices by Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin is a well known author in fantasy circles for her Earthsea trilogy of novels. I read the Earthsea cycle several years ago and, while I enjoyed them, I have a very vague memory of what they were about. I'm not sure where Voices fits in with her more famous books, but I certainly enjoyed it a lot better. It is set in a town that has been persecuted because of its love for books, and told through the perspective of a seventeen year old girl. The prose is simple, the descriptions evocative and the situation very realistic despite its fantasy setting. I'm not really sure why it is called Voices, as the story is told from one person's point of view and voices don't seem to play a big part in the story (as in, she doesn't hear voices and she isn't always listening to different people and their opinions). There is also a woman with a lion which I liked. This story involved little to no magic, so if you like your fantasy stories very magical and unlike the so called real world, then this book isn't for you. However, if you are in the mood for a nicely told little tale, then you might enjoy this. I give it 6/10

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Book Review: Year's Best Fantasy 5

It scares me when I think I bought this book 3 years ago and only got around to reading it this year. Yup folks, the year's best fantasy stories in question are for 2004 (the book was published in 2005) and if these stories are the best, I'd hate to see the worst! Most of these stories weren't even published in magazines, but other fantasy story anthologies, so I think the whole book is a bit of a con to get the editor's pals stories published. I hadn't heard of most of the authors apart from Neil Gaimen, whose story is particularly poor (both in writing and in taste). There were one of two stories I liked, several I am surprised qualified as fantasy and the majority I am amazed even got published in the first place. If these are examples of good short stories, then I am even further off the mark than I thought I was with my own writing. I give this collection 4/10