Friday, September 30, 2011

Musical Stories 13: Crime

The Musical Story chapter this week is crime, and I've got some real treats. Two of the songs deal with the same crime but I couldn't bear to leave either of them out so I hope you'll forgive me. Things I have learned this week: If you meet someone you think you want to spend the rest of your life with, it's best to finish with the current love first. It could be seriously bad for your health otherwise. You're welcome. Also, all three of these song titles would make brilliant titles for books.

I had a very hard time choosing which version of the first song to use. In case you're interested, on Youtube there are also great versions by Kirsty MacColl, (and if you've been here since the beginning, you know how much I love her), Nat King Cole and some random guy with a harmonica. In the end though, I went with a classic. This song is a testament to good manners. No matter what is going on in one's life, one should always remember to cancel those social engagements that one cannot attend!

For the second song, I deliberately picked a video that showed the lyrics. If you're able to, read those lyrics while he's singing. The singer was only about twenty when he wrote this. If I'd been able to write description like this at twenty, I'd have been a very happy girl.

What can I say about the third song except – enjoy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Internet - Luxury or Necessity?

This post was supposed to be my entry for the second Campaigners Challenge but I've got nothing. I even tried a poem, but it was just a lot of pretty words strung together with no real meaning behind it. I may be sitting this one out but that's okay, there are plenty of great entries out there. I have to say, I've been very pleasantly surprised by the high standard, considering the words given. It's been a really interesting challenge.

This week I received a telephone call from the local council who I'm negotiating a debt repayment with. We currently disagree on the monthly figure I should pay. Among other things, I was told that having the internet was a luxury I didn't need. I explained that I felt it was necessary as there are two adults in the house looking for work, and two teenagers who have important exams next Summer, who are constantly set homework assignments that require the internet. The Official said that wasn't a good enough reason to pay for such a luxury and it would have to go. He wasn't querying the amount I pay for it, just the fact that I pay for it at all. It's academic really, because even if I got rid of the internet, and made the changes that he said I should, our disposable income still wouldn't reach the amount that they are asking for.

So here's where I want your opinion, and I mean this genuinely. Am I wrong in considering the internet to be a necessity these days? Putting aside the fact that I'm a writer and a blogger, I could still work on my wip at home obviously, only research would be affected. The amount I pay for my internet would pay for 5.5 round trips per month between Techno and I to visit the Jobcentre and the library. The girls could probably stay late at school to do their homework. There are some problems with that, but I won't complicate things.

I'm honestly not just looking for you to tell me that the big bad council is wrong, (unless that's what you believe, of course), but I'm wondering if I have a false sense of entitlement, if actually the internet really is something that I should be prepared to get rid of.

So, internet - luxury or necessity?

ETA: This post has been edited to remove some of the more personal elements that I probably shouldn't have shared in the first place.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Musical Stories 12: YA

So far so good, there seem to be more advantages than disadvantages with the new comment system. You should be getting email replies from me as I post my replies on the blog, so I hope that's happening. I know it doesn't recognise your blogger ID, but if there are any other issues with it please let me know.

Time for my favourite part of the week. This week's Musical Stories are Young Adult. I've got three quite different choices for you, so hopefully something for everyone.

Number one is a classic. I like to think there's a happy ending for our MC. It's not looking so good for her parents but, as this is a YA story, I think they should be grateful they haven't been killed off!

Number two was a tough call. I debated whether this belonged here or in another genre. I made my decision based on where I thought it would be shelved if it was a book, so here it is. I'd like to make it clear that I'm not trying to make light of any events that have happened in the past by including this, it's just a demonstration that YA stories cover a very wide range of genres and topics.

Number three is something special. Apparently there aren't enough male MC's in YA literature so here's my contribution, evidence that boys have their hearts broken too!

The very first time I heard the third song, upon hearing the first few lines, I thought it was David Beckham talking about taking a penalty in some new football anthem. In spite of that, it's become a favourite of mine.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Competitions, good news and something special

What you were supposed to be reading today was my entry for the second campaigner challenge but as I have to find a dictionary to work out what I'm supposed to be writing about, I'll think I'll devote a bit more time to this one. Tomorrow is Musical Stories, so you'll see my entry next week sometime.

In the meantime, I've got a few things to mention. First is two competitions that I've been meaning to tell you about for a couple of week s now.

Are you a fan of Dean Koontz, Stephen King or Laurell K Hamilton? Would you like to win a book autographed by one of these three? Roland Yeomans of Writing in the Crosshairs is running a competition to win just that. All you have to do is write a review of one of his books for Amazon. This competition is running until October 1st and is open internationally. I'm particularly excited about this as Stephen King was my first 'grown up' author and Dean Koontz was my second.

The other competition I want to tell you about also has an awesome prize. On 1st December, D. J. Kirkby is giving away a kindle. Go here to find out how to gain additional entries. Follow the blog for future posts on how to gain even more entries.

While we're on the subject of competitions, I have some good news to share. Although I didn't place in the first campaigner challenge, (see here for the winners) I was lucky enough to win a random prize which turned out to be a critique of a full ms of up to 85,000 words by the lovely 1000th Monkey. I've been in touch with her, and I'm very proud to say I have my first deadline. Admittedly, it's a loose deadline, but it's still great. I work so much better under external pressure!

Still on the first campaigner challenge, I'd like to thank all the judges for their time and effort and, in particular, Michael Offutt who had the huge task of delegating and organising the judging. Not a task I would have relished.

One more thing to mention before I go. CherylAnne Ham wrote a guest post at Bird's-Eye View earlier this week extolling the virtues of a blog tool called IntenseDebate. Red more about it there, but the two things about it that really excited me were the fact that you can respond individually to each commenter and, when you respond to a comment by email, it automatically posts the comment on the post. At the moment I'm doing that separately, so I'm going to try this. Let me know if there's anything you don't like about the new comment system (assuming I've installed it correctly, of course). I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Finally, here is something special. I'm afraid I can't remember whose blog I got this from, I've had it a while, but I often look at it when I need reminding that it's okay to do what I do. Don't peek at the end before you've looked at it all, but I have the last line stuck up next to me on a post it. I hope you love it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Musical Stories 11: SciFi

This week the Musical Stories begin all over again with the Sci-Fi genre. For those of you who haven't been here since the beginning, this is where you can find the first Sci-Fi stories. Don't forget to come back and enjoy this week's choices though!

The first song this week is a classic, although you might not know this version. It may be exciting travelling beyond the stars, but it can be lonely too.

Song number two proves that even in the SciFi genre, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or does it? Is he thinking of only her while they're all that distance apart? I have my doubts. I guess you might say this one is a bit cheesy, but it's fun!

Finally, a story where an alien is preparing for first contact and doesn't want world domination? Now that would be quite an original storyline!

I hope there was something you liked there. Next week we're going to tell some young adult stories.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If I could be anyone...

As I suspect you've noticed by now, there's a bit of an event happening for the release of Talli Roland's new book Watching Willow Watts. You can buy the ebook at Amazon UK or Amazon .com.

Talli asked us who we would choose to be for the day. I promise you, the name of who I chose is entirely coincidental, in that it happens to be one of my favourite names.

I had real trouble deciding who I would be. So many names of people I admire went through my head but then I'd think about their traumatic personal lives, their bad habits, their unsuitable spouses … you get the picture. That's when I realised it would have to be someone I know everything about, so the person I would like to be is Willowslayer, my dwarf warrior from the online game World of Warcraft. (Yes, I wanted to call her Willow, but the name was taken. Nobody ever used her full name anyway.) I played this game for a lot longer than was good for me and made many many characters, but that's all they ever were, game characters. Willow was different, she was the first character I ever created. The only one whose name and appearance I never chose to alter.

There are a number of races to choose from in this game but not many people choose female dwarves. They're not pretty like some of the other races, but that's why I like her, she's different. None of my friends ever blamed me when I died, or got lost, it was always 'oh Willow's in trouble again'. I was never really very good at the game, but I tried hard, and I loved to help people, so that became Willow's personality. Don't get me wrong, I am aware of the line between fantasy gaming and reality, but the people I knew online didn't know me, they only knew Willow the clumsy dwarf. Willow got to fight dragons, demons and monsters. She got to stand at the front taking the blows while others did the damage. She rode a ram, and later an insane motorbike. She could fly anywhere she wanted on a beautiful multi-coloured hippogryph. Best of all, when she died (which was a lot), she got to resurrect and do it all again! She also had the dirtiest laugh I've ever heard on a game character!

If you've never played an online game like WoW, you're probably thinking I'm a bit weird right about now, but if you have, I suspect you'll understand!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Musical Stories 10: Romance

I've got bad news and good news. (Yes, I know it's usually the other way round, I like to keep you on your toes!) The bad news is that this is the last week of Musical Stories, sort of, as 10 seemed a good number to finish on. The good news is that I've decided to do it all again, so next week we'll be going back to our first genre, except with different songs, obviously!

This week's genre is Romance, so you can all come out from behind the sofas after last week's horror choices. Let me tell you it was much much harder than I expected. After all there are gazillions of songs about romance, right? Sure, but you would be surprised at how many of them are actually about doomed romances, which is no good for us. Our romance readers like to end with at least a hint of a happy ever after, I'm sure! Then there are the many many songs that, whilst about love and romance, don't actually have a storyline. I've never been an editor, but I'm pretty sure I can guess what their reaction would be if they received a story that was basically 'I love you, you love me, wow we're happy'. But, of course I persevered and I came up with three that I hope you'll enjoy, and if you don't, come back next week for the SciFi :-)

Song number one I actually pinched from my friend Abby at Something to Write About. I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of the artist or the song until she posted it on her blog a few weeks ago. Something made me note the name, and I'm glad I did, so thanks Abby! What I like about this song is that not only does the singer reference what some consider to be the most romantic tragedy of all time, but she still manages to give her story a happy ending. I guess that's what they call a new twist on an old idea!

The second song is a slight cheat as it isn't a whole story, but I think it does a wonderful job of describing the build up to the first romantic encounter, and I don't think the scene would be out of place in a romance novel today, even though the song is thirty years old.

I'm putting my pretend editor's hat back on for the last one. 'This story has far too much back-story, and is all tell and no show. It is also the most romantic thing I have ever read.' Or something :-)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group 1

I know I just posted yesterday, but today is the first meeting of The Insecure Writers Support Group, brainchild of the rather awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh. Click on the link for more details, but it is what it says, a bunch of us insecure writers getting together to share those insecurities and give support to each other. If you'd like to read some of the other posts, click on the badge on the right and it will take you to the page where the other members are listed.

I'm probably the most insecure writer I know, just like many of you are probably the most insecure writers that you know. Most of us are, right?

Today though, I'm not going to write about my insecurities, I'm going to talk about this brilliant means of support. It's the one thing that's kept me going when nothing else has worked, not even chocolate.

Have you guessed what it is yet? Yep, it's you. Yes, you there, and you, and you, even you at the back, trying not to be noticed.

It might sound corny but this whole community is one big blanket of support. I'm not just talking about the people who read my blog, but also the ones who have no idea who I am, but still post stuff that resonates with me, that makes me feel like I'm not alone, others have felt like this; and that maybe it's not automatic that I'll be a big fat failure.

Of course, the people who read this blog are extra awesome. There's the published author that still leaves funny little messages that makes me think she likes what I wrote, there's the man who - unknowingly - gave me a lift right when I needed it and then, through emails, became someone I consider to be a friend. There's the woman who's now at the querying stage that seems to see something in me that I don't see in myself. There's the guy that made me rethink something I'd previously taken for granted and actually got me to start using my brain again. I could fill pages with what you guys have done for me, and how you've kept me going, even when you've never known it.

I now 'talk' to people that I once wouldn't have dared to approach, and we talk as equals. I'm not afraid to ask for advice and support when I need it.

If there's someone you admire, even if they don't know you yet, drop them a line and tell them. I don't care who they are, I bet they'll be thrilled. If you read a blog and someone seems a bit down and you've got a few minutes to spare, drop them an email, let them know you care. Someone did that for me once, I promise, it made a difference.

It's tough out there, thank God we've got each other.

If you missed yesterday's post, I'd appreciate your opinion of my flash fiction piece. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Campaigner Challenge 1

The first campaigner challenge is here. In Rachael's own words:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

Here's my attempt. I've gone for the extra challenge of the beginning and end phrase and exactly 200 words. I'm not great at flash fiction yet, but I relish the chance to practice. Also, please don't judge me on the title :-)

I'm number 147, if you would like to vote :-)

Prisoner of the Mind

The door swung open. For a second he stared at it, too frightened to move. Then excitement overcame fear and he scurried across the cell. Peering into the corridor, he saw it was empty, and the door at the end – the one that led to freedom – was open too.

On the verge of running, he paused, uncertain. What if it was a trap? What if they were hiding, waiting to see what he would do? Maybe they just wanted another excuse to beat him. His smile was smug, he was too smart for them. He wouldn't play their game.

He shuffled back to the far corner of his cell, waiting. For them. An hour later, although he didn't know it was an hour, there was a shout from the far end of the corridor.
"Which idiot left the outer door open?"
Then another voice. "Jesus Christ! The auto mechanism' s malfunctioned, we've lost him."

Running footsteps then, approaching the cell. A head poked in.
"Panic over, he's still here. Idiot probably didn't even notice it was open."
He smiled to himself. They thought he was a fool, but he was too smart for them. The head withdrew, the door swung shut.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Musical Stories 9: Horror

Today in Musical Stories we're moving onto the horror genre. I think this is one of the most subjective genres I've tackled. After all, everyone gets scared by different things. I hope there's at least one in this week's choices that sends a little chill up your spine :-)

The first one is a demonstration that horror doesn't have to be set in a dark forbidding building or a creepy forest, and it doesn't have to be a stormy night. The tune to this song is pure and sweet, like visiting a beach or a park on a sunny day. It's only when you get closer that you see the dark underbelly. In this case, the lyrics. Words and music, total contrast.

I promised something a little heavier this week, at least by my standards (it's no secret I'm the ballad queen), and the second choice is it. Sometimes what you see is what you get. Presentation, subject matter, narrator, it all screams horror.

Finally, an example that proves that you don't have to bite someone's neck or rip their heart out to be scary. Imagining what's coming next can be just as chilling. My tongue may be in my cheek a bit with this one, but I do think the ending is genuinely creepy. Don't forget to check the toy box before you go to sleep tonight!

(In case anyone is wondering, this last video is made using in game footage from World of Warcraft.)

I hope you find something amongst this lot to enjoy.