Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This blog is under quarantine

The blogger responsible for this blog has been infested with zombies. We advise extreme caution.

Blogging will continue once all the undead have been decapitated and their bodies safely disposed of. We apologise for any inconvenience this infestation has caused.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Challenge Inkpot Friday

All right, readers, I'm fighting fit and ready for another Friday Challenge. So, put on your thinking heads and fill the comment section with tasks for me to complete by Monday. I can't wait to read what you've got in store.

Thanks to Daily Pets for this adorable photograph. Visit their website for a daily dose of dog and cat cuteness.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What do you identify with?

Last week literary agent Nathan Bransford blogged about writers who get too tied up with writing being their identity. I don't really understand the purpose of his original post (it has since been edited to say 'don't let the publishing process define you') apart from the fact that it is unpleasant when writers spam you, send you angry emails and phone calls and generally demonise agents and the publishing industry. However, he did bring up a couple of points that I found interesting and, immediately upon reading them, offensive.
1. Is writing a hobby? While he has retracted this somewhat, in his original post he likens writing to a hobby such as stamp collecting. I am sure that loads of people write as a past time but just because you do something in your spare time doesn't mean it is a hobby. Writing demands a lot of time and input, even when you are not sitting in front of the computer typing out words, and to improve your writing you have to put in a lot of hours. If you want to get your work published - and change your writing status from 'hobby' to professional - you have to work hard at honing your craft, editing your work and sending it out, which all takes time and effort. At one time all authors were in the hobby category. I wonder if they had thought of it as such would they have ever got published?
2. The second point that caught my interest was his distrust of people who claim that 'writing is more important than oxygen.' Now, I don't know if I've ever used that phrase, but I know that I need to write. Whether anyone reads what I write or not, whether I get paid for my work or not, it doesn't matter. I have to write. The same way I have to draw and act. I need a creative outlet. If I don't, then it bottles up inside me and I don't feel right. From talking to other creative people, I know they feel the same way. It doesn't make me special, it isn't a virtue, it is just the way I am. I'm sure other people have to sing to keep an even keel or play sports. Does it make me sound over dramatic when I say I have to write? Is it something I would put in a query letter? No, because when you are contacting an agent it is for a business relationship and I don't think it has a place in a business letter. Do I expect my agent to understand my need to write? Most definitely. I would expect anyone who deals with creative people to understand their need to create and, at times their pretension about it. Understand and accept and help keep grounded in a business sense, not request that it be placed in a hermetically sealed metal box.
My point is, writing is a creative art. It requires part of your soul. It is part of your identity (part, not whole) and it is personal. However, it doesn't mean you can't distance yourself from your work, put your business hat on when needed, take criticism and behave professionally. Every creative profession is the same. I don't believe if you could separate it from you and put it away neatly that any great works of art would ever have been produced.
What do you think? What makes up your identity? Can you separate parts of your life that mean a lot to you and keep them strictly professional, be they job, relationships or hobby? Do we need to contact Mr Spock for some Vulcan advice on how to suppress our emotions?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm as weak as...

I'm not well. :(
Thanks to Daily Pets for this dose of cuteness. Check out their website for more adorable photographs.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Writing tip of the day

A popular nugget of writing advice suggests that you read your story out loud after finishing it. Hearing it being read helps to identity repetition, awkward phrasing and misspelled words that might be skimmed over while reading quietly.
While I agree that this is a good practice, I sometimes find it difficult to listen to the flow of the piece when I am reading it out loud. I get caught up on how to read it and often get no value of whether it reads well or not.
To help overcome this I have found recording reading it aloud and playing it back a big help. I like to listen to it with my eyes closed, as if it were written by someone else. I find this a great help in identifying pace problems, plot inconsistencies, stilted language and also if the story holds up or not. I find it helpful to listen to it again and again, when sometimes repeat readings can make the words meaningless before my eyes.
Have you ever tried recording your story and listening back to it? Did you find it helped?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Challenge #3

Those eagle eyed among my readers will notice I had not two but THREE challenges last Friday, the third being provided by Ying_Ko_4. Apologies for not mentioning it earlier, I only noticed it today. Here is my very rushed story in response to that challenge. Thank you, Ying_Ko_4, it was fun to write. Enjoy.


It's the End of the World as we Know It.

Inky sighted through her binoculars at the deserted petrol station forecourt below. Beside her Janna, her German Shepherd Dog, growled. Inky rested a hand on the dog’s head.
‘I know, Babe.’
She looked over her shoulder at the way she had come. Already the street was filling up with the shambling undead. The smell of the rotting corpses had become visible after twenty five days of continual sunshine. A halo of flies surrounded the hoard wherever they went.
Inky scratched her head. If she delayed any longer the zombies would catch her, but she dreaded going out into the sun once more. Its rays, which she once longed for, had become lethal and even a short exposure to them sapped her energy.
‘Come on, Janna.’
Inky scratched the dog behind the ear before leaving the safety of the building and running down the steps to the road. She had no choice but to go on. Without caffeine she wouldn’t survive another twelve hours of the suns leeching, and the petrol station was her last hope.
‘Please God there’ll be some left in this one.’
She jogged out into the street, her dog at her side. The zombies howled, catching sight of fresh meat, drawing more of their kind out of the abandoned shops and businesses that lined the street. Inky clenched her fists and urged her legs to move faster. From the moment she had left the shade of the building she had felt the sun sucking the life from her. Apathy threatened to overwhelm her. If she didn’t reach the shadow of the forecourt she would stop dead on the pavement, easy prey for her pursuers.
Janna nudged her leg and whined, giving Inky enough strength to run the remaining distance to the petrol station. Once underneath the awning, she stopped to catch her breath. The sprint had taken a lot out of her. If she didn’t find caffeine fast, she didn’t know if she would be able to make it to the end of the street.
Janna sniffed around the idling pumps, the high price per unit frozen in memorial to a way of life that was now gone. Outside the shop peat briquettes and bundles of sticks lay equally obsolete, thanks to the twenty four hour heat and sun.
The door to the shop stood open. The dog approached it cautiously. She paused, body tense, as she sniffed the threshold. After a few moments she turned to her master and barked once. The all clear signal.
‘Good dog, Janna.’
Inky slapped her pet on the back as she went into the shop. She wouldn’t have survived so long if it hadn’t been for Janna. Once in the shop she went straight to the dog food aisle and tore open a bag of kibble, spilling it onto the floor for the dog to eat. She took a bottle of water from the refrigerated cabinet. A plastic bowl full of lollipops stood on the shop counter. Inky tossed the sweets and filled the bowl with water. Janna took turns drinking and lapping up the food.
Inky poured the remainder of the water over her face and hands to cool down and then went looking for caffeine. There were no fizzy drinks left in the cabinets, all the chocolate had been cleared off the shelves. Even the coffee had been taken.
Inky pounded her head against the counter, making the cash register ping.
Janna looked up and whined.
‘It’s ok, Baby,’ Inky soothed the dog. ‘There has to be another way.’
She remembered there was caffeine in some pain relief medication. She started reading through the list of ingredients on what was left in the shop.
Behind her, Janna tensed, the mane along her back bristling. She started to growl, teeth bared, and then lunged forward barking.
Inky twirled. She hadn’t noticed the door behind the counter. It opened slowly, revealing the darkness of a room beyond. She grabbed a bottle of motor oil to use as a weapon.
A man appeared in the doorway. Janna whimpered and shrank back, pressing her body against Inky’s legs. The man wasn’t a zombie. He looked vaguely human, wore a smart suit and tie and had a large, smug grin plastered on his face. He looked familiar. Inky knew she had seen him before. She recognised his face from the posters that hung on the lamp posts out on the street.
He was a politician.
‘Join us, Inky,’ the politician said. ‘We have been watching you and we think you are just what our party needs. Come with us. We’ll protect you from the zombies. We have plenty of caffeine. We promise we’ll keep you safe.’
‘Never,’ Inky said. She threw the motor oil can at the politician. It hit him in the face, pushing his smile askew, but he kept coming with arms out stretched.
‘Join us.’
Inky screamed. She ran out the door and onto the forecourt. The zombies had almost reached the petrol station. She ran out onto the road, but her way was blocked by an army of politicians. She didn’t know their names, but she knew in her bones that they were the ministers for health, finance, justice and education. The junior ministers walked at the front, their arms outstretched, their grabbing hands like claws. At the back of the politicians, driving them forward, was the Taoiseach. Inky couldn’t see him, but she knew he was there and the thought filled her with dread.
She knelt on the hot tarmac, threw her arms around Janna and buried her face in the dog’s fur.
‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered.
The sun drained Inky’s energy. She could no longer stand. She crawled on her hands and knees away from the politicians towards the zombies. Janna limped after her.

Challenge #1

Shadowthorne, you set me a tough task with this challenge. For those of you who weren't around Friday, Shadowthorne challenged me to write a poem/prose extolling the virtues of something/someone/someplace that I hate the most. I decided to write about James Bond. I have hated agent 007 since I was a very small child. His womanising, chauvinism and smarmy charm always fills me with anger, so I thought he would be an appropriate subject for this most challenging task. I picked Goldfinger as my movie of choice to suffer through over the weekend so that the full glory of Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang would be fresh in my memory. Here is my offering, Shadowthorne. It hurt me to write it. I hope you enjoy.


Why I love James Bond

To anyone who has watched a James Bond movie, I would have thought the answer was obvious. In all his incarnations, agent 007 is handsome, witty, intelligent, one heck of a fighter and whoa! what a lover. However, for those of you who have not yet succumbed to the pleasures of ‘oh, James’, here are some of the reasons I love the man who is licensed to kill.

He is a spy. Who hasn’t dreamed of being, or being seduced by a spy? Their lives are so exciting. They get to travel to exotic locations, play with expensive gadgets before they are released to the rest of the population, tango and look good in evening dress. While I’m sure the reality is slightly less glamorous than the movies depict, we can all be spies vicariously through Mr Bond without any of the down sides. For the short while we are watching him on screen we get to be a spy with him, revelling in his daring escapades, his irresistibleness to women and his witty one liners. Who wouldn’t be entertained by that, I ask you?

He is so good looking. The only thing better than being 007 is being one of his conquests. While I wouldn’t mind meeting any of the various Bonds, Sean Connery would be my first choice. With his brooding dark eyes and smooth Scottish accent, I can see why every woman he met fell into his arms. It would be worth losing your psychic vision, as Jane Seymour did in Live and Let Die, just to have one night of passion with Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

He is so informative. I’ve learned a lot from watching James Bond movies. Some of it is applicable to everyday life – like how to avoid skin suffocation (which has been known to happen to cabaret dancers) from Goldfinger, while the other life lessons – such as how to act in a car chase and always wear evening dress under your wet suit – I haven’t had to use as yet. However, I am prepared for all eventualities.

He has impeccable dress sense. Whether in a tux or a pair of shorts, 007 is always perfectly dressed for the occasion. And, being a spy, he is very toned and well worked out, so clothes hang perfectly on him. I particularly like this towelling one piece beach suit. You just don’t see enough of those around anymore.

He is a man of action. From parachuting off ski slopes to amphibious car chases, Bond never stints on action. Good looks and witty one liners will only carry a film so far. In Bond movies, the action fills in the rest. The Roger Moore days did tend to take the stunts a bit too far at times, but even still they were enjoyable. Daniel Craig makes Bond too human. I prefer the Connery days where Bond was stylish and deadly.

His gadgets. Even the movies made in the sixties have gadgets which are pretty state of the art. While small cameras and GPS are pretty standard for us ordinary folk these days, who wouldn’t kill to have their car kitted out by Q?

And finally, the bad guys. What would Bond be without his villains and, even more so, the villains henchmen? Who can think of Goldfinger without Oddjob, his bowler hat wielding thug? Or Blofeld without his cat? And let us not forget Jaws, silver toothed fiend in both The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Because James is so wonderful we want to see him pitted against a villain of equal calibre. No second rate baddies for our boy, please.

These are only a few of the many reasons why I love James Bond so much. If you haven’t watched one of his films in a while, or if you feel lukewarm about our favourite British spy, I urge you to watch one of his movies. You’ll be hugely entertained, feel better about life afterwards and I can guarantee you’ll be hankering after a martini, shaken not stirred.

Challenge #2

Wow, Shadowthorne and SSQuo. You've kept me busy all weekend with your wonderful challenges (and I think you both passed on your colds through the comments!).
I've decided to split the challenges into two posts. This post is in response to SSQuo's challenge to write a Haiku about my intruder. The second post in answer to Shadowthorne's challenge will follow this afternoon.
So, here is my Haiku.

Intruder Knocking
Snail burglar at the window
Slimy prints on glass

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Friday Inkpot Challenge is Back!!!

That's right - the moment you've been waiting for has arrived! This time the challenge is going to be even more extreme as I only have until Monday to achieve whatever evil, insane and down right dastardly tasks you will set me.

Ok, you know the drill. Leave your challenges in the comment section. I look forward to reading what you come up with.