Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Imaginary Friends

Sydney the red nosed etc

Sometimes, as parents, we ignore the advice we give our own children. We eat sugary foods after nine o’clock at night. We drink more than we should. We talk to strangers.

When Eldest Weasel was born, we were living in Wales, and though there were folks around us, none of them were long-term friends. I was home, raising a baby for the first time, and I didn’t have a peer-group. Lucky for me, we had an internet connection, and I began to explore the world of online communication. I had started writing, after all, and wanted to build a relationship with potential readers.

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At the time, Yahoo was running a social media site called “Yahoo 360”. It looked a lot like Facebook, and before too long I was “talking” daily with a bunch of people there. We talked about books, and tv programmes, and how our days were going. I didn’t know them as actual people – the picture above is the avatar I used, and most of the others had avatars that didn’t show their actual faces. Or species.

Sadly, 360 didn’t last much longer than our time in Wales, and I didn’t find a suitable replacement for many years. I still have some of the stories I was told by those people, and still think of them fondly – some had user names that crop up from time to time in other contexts. I don’t care what my kids tell me about Mario, for me Bowser will always be the name of a small dog wearing goggles.

These days, as I’ve often mentioned, I hang out at G+. It may not be popular with the media, who love to announce the demise of the platform every few months, but I have a healthy circle of friends on there, and they help me out with my stuff and vice versa. Recently one of my online friends let me know she was going to be in Vancouver, and could she drop by?

Me and Lisa

Lucky for me, her visit coincided with my break at work, so I got to show her the library where I work, and then we sat in the sun and chatted. Since Lisa’s husband’s work takes him on many trips, she’s recently begun meeting up with the folks she’s met online when the destinations coincide, and so far, she says “none of them have been axe murderers!”

It was great to meet Lisa, because she’s what I think of as a “proper” writer. She’s written five novels (with a sixth on the way) and she has two collections of short fiction available too: check out her website.

I picked up the audio copy of her Sci-Fi novel “Ithaka Rising”, the sequel to “Derelict”. It’s great stuff, and available at Audible. Lisa is a “proper” writer because she does the work, just like S.A. Hunt, who I wrote about recently. She produces a first draft then gets it professionally edited before going into re-writes. Her covers are gorgeous and produced in consultation with professional artists. Once she has the complete product, she works hard on the sales, the word of mouth, the reviews and the recommendations. She networks well, and the people who have met or spoken to her are happy to pass on a recommendation – she’s good at what she does!

It was great to meet Lisa and to be reminded that there are people behind those tiny square pictures. It’s nice to know that the conversations I have with my imaginary friends aren’t sailing off into the ether, but connecting me to real people, wherever they are int he world. So if you’re ever tempted to shut down Facebook and make some “genuine” connections, take a second to think what it is that’s making you think like that. You can choose what you communicate, no matter the medium, and it doesn’t matter how the message is delivered if it touches someone’s life.

Flash Fantasy part Six : Non epic tales of other worlds.

Standing stones

This time, when the Norsemen retreated, the occupants of the village took some time before attempting to return to a normal life. The battered gates had to be repaired. The scorched sections of the perimeter wall needed assessing. The village Elders had a vigorous debate with the younger men about the tactics of keeping the Vikings out.

Some of the women, frustrated by weeks of siege and too much helpful advice from their own elders, set out to forage in the woods. It was they who found the boy.

Younger than ten years, with piercing blue eyes, he was dressed in rough fabric, clean enough but well-worn. He said nothing, but seemed to understand their language. He was uninjured, but his throat bore scars that were old, as if he had worn a collar or chain for many years. There was no debate among them – clearly, the boy must come with them to the village.

Upon his arrival and presentation to the Elders, all work stopped. Everyone had an opinion about the boy and what should be done with him. The boy himself sat cross-legged in front of the women who had found him, listening to everything, but saying nothing.

Finally, the only woman on the Elders’ Council pronounced that he must stay. She well remembered old tales of great heroes placed as children by the gods near those in need. No doubt this child, nurtured and protected by the village, would prove to be the village’s protector in time.

“All will care for him, feed him, teach him.” she said. “For it will take a village to raise this child.”

For all that he never spoke a word, the boy was bright, attentive ad charming. He was welcome in every home, sharing each meal of the day with a different family. He spent time at the blacksmith’s forge, strung the loom of the Weaver, sorted staves for the Cooper. He was good with the horses and calmed fractious babies without a sound.

One month after arriving in the village, when the moon had waned and the night was dark, the boy slipped from the house where he should be sleeping and lit a torch from the embers of the fire. He wound through the sleeping village, stroking his torch along the edge of every thatch. By the time the villagers were alerted to their danger, the fire was everywhere. Nothing could be done, but to run out of the gates of the village, lit from behind by the glow of their own burning homes. That same hellish light gleamed back at them from the waiting swords of the Norsemen.

Sometimes, it takes a child to raze a village.

 

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve posted anything here. At first I was just holding off until the excellent Chester Theatre Club had completed their run of “Merely Players

But then they got hit by the flu, and then I had family members in recovery too, Spring Break,

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and a birthday (not mine!)

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Plus, of course, the World’s Second Longest Bathroom Reno*.

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So, this is me, posting to say I have nothing to post, but life goes on…. and another Star Wars Helmet marches towards completion.

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*My friend Rob holds the title. For now.

How Learning to Juggle can make you a more successful novellist.

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  1. It can’t. Sorry.
  2. No, really. It’s a huge waste of your time and effort.

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3. Fine, look, it’s just an analogy. Juggling looks very difficult, but it can be learned progressively IF you are willing to put in the time and practice.

4. Some people take to it quickly, and others will find the basics a slog, but once you pass a certain level, then it’s no longer about innate talent, but your willingness to keep working and improving.

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5. Some people will crack a simple 3-ball cascade (above) and be happy. Others will go on beyond a 4-ball Mills’ Mess, and some will wonder how long it would take to break a few world records. People are different, and so are their goals. Don’t compare yourself to other jugglers unless you’re sure you share the same goal.

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So there you have it: Juggling might make a handy analogy, but it won’t make you a more successful novellist. It WILL make you more attractive to women.*

 

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*This is completely untrue. Sorry.

New From Lazy Bee Scripts in Feb 2016

February has been a bumper month for publications by Lazy Bee – at least, publication of sketches and plays that I’ve had a hand in. I’ll be publishing the regular Lazy Bee Newsletter later this month, but first I wanted to highlight the new sketches and plays available from TLC Creative. (Click on a title to read the script!)

The Land Army

During a routine inspection of a squad of Land Army girls, the visiting officer has some suspicions that all is not what it seems…

Behavioural Problems

Returning from his suspension from school, Thompson is keen to show his Headmaster just how much he has improved.

Cowboy

A rather unconventional super hero vigilante stops a mugger.

The Greatest Invention in History

A scientist about to reveal his world-changing invention has a number of unexpected interrupting visitors.

Catapult

Two medieval peasants try out a new, quick, cheap form of transport.

The Source of Denial

Struggling to write a ‘proper’ play after years of comedies, a writer uses his favourite character to explore faith, proof and truth, only to end up learning more about himself than he expected.

 

All these scripts are available to read or purchase NOW from Lazy Bee Scripts!

Flat refusal

Eratosthenes

This is Eratosthenes. He was a librarian. Well, to be precise, he was the Head Librarian for the Library of Alexandria, one of the most famous libraries in history. That’s not generally what he’s remembered for, though (when he’s remembered at all…)

Born in 276BC, Eratosthenes was something of a polymath. He studied Stoicism under its founder, Zeno of Citium, then became a student of Ariston, who was a Cynic. He also spent time in the Platonic Academy, under Arcesilaus. He wrote poetry and historical works, and he performed some incredible mathematic calculations, most notably the circumference and axial tilt of the Earth.

How did he discover these things? Well, the explanation of the calculation of the circumference is the more relevant for today, and I can barely understand it myself. Essentially, he knew that the sun would be directly above the Egyptian city of Swenet (now Aswan) at noon on the Summer Solstice. He measured the sun’s elevation in Alexandria on the same day at the same time and found it to be 1/50th of a circle (7°12′) south of the zenith. Knowing the distance between the two physical locations, he could calculate the arc (the curved portion of the Earth’s surface), and assuming that the Earth was a sphere, he knew what percentage of the circumference was represented by that distance. The rest is a matter of either multiplication or division, depending on your choice.

Why does this matter? Because it happened 200 years before our new calendar started, a calendar that is now at 2016 years. And we have this bozo:

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My last-but-one play came back from my publisher this week with a few pertinent notes on it. One of them was pulling me up for a character saying “People used to believe that the Earth was flat”. My publisher pointed out that the impression given was that it was the majority view for thousands of years before being disproved relatively recently – say during the Renaissance. But Eratosthenes knew enough to perform his experiment while there was still a library in Alexandria, and today we have people mooching about who seem determined to burn that library all over again.

Should we question established wisdom? Certainly. But we are the latest in a long line of thinking people. The information is there, preserved in the libraries of centuries, and now more available than ever before. B.o.B. saw something that didn’t match up with what he had learned in school, but he didn’t go and look for the answers. He Tweeted a petulant question, and when people lined up to educate him, he doubled down on his ignorant stance, preferring to believe that he was a rebel against misinformation, a voice in the wilderness, instead of simply wrong.

Which reminded me of this:

Evidence

What if you do it all properly?

Writing the novel is not enough, say the experts. You have to get it edited properly, and actually DO the suggested rewrites. You have to get the formatting right, and you should really pay good money for decent cover art. These things, those experts say, are the foundation of a good novel.

Of course, the story itself needs to be the very best it can be, the most exciting, interesting, gripping, real-character-filled rollercoaster of a story ever. That goes almost without saying.

But say, just for the sake of argument, that you have all that.

Do you get to hit the big time?

Many people say yes. They say you get the right combination of brilliant product, and the good reviews, and the word of mouth, and the celebrity endorsement, and the world is your mollusc.

Which is why I want to know why you, out there, are not buying everything written by S.A. Hunt.

(Well, not you, the person over there. I understand, you only read Harlequins, and the guy off to the left who sticks to non-fiction… That’s fine. You guys take a break while the rest of us chat, ok?)

S.A. Hunt has done everything right. He wrote a great book, The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree, and while he was still putting it together he was engaging with people on Social Media. I remember him posting some possible covers for the book. He’s done promotions and giveaways and had beta readers and discussions and he’s done guest posts on blogs. Better still, he wrote the second and third books in the series that begins with “The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree”, known as “The Outlaw King” series. I took advantage of a promotion that got me both the first and second books for a reduced price, and I went ahead and bought the third at regular price because I was so caught up in the story. I’m eagerly awaiting the fourth installment right now, because Mr Hunt doesn’t stand still – he’s started another series in a different genre with “Malus Domestica”. Intrigued by the amazing artwork on the cover, and knowing I already liked his style, I bought this book too and read it over three nights.

S.A. Hunt is doing everything right – he even has an agent. But he hasn’t been featured on Oprah’s book club, or made it onto the New York Times bestseller lists. Why not?

I honestly don’t know. My guess is that it’s only a matter of time, which is an object lesson for any authors out there who have thrown their heart and soul into their first book and are waiting for the gravy train to pull into the station, but just imagine what it’s like for S.A. Hunt himself, as he works on Outlaw King book 4 and Malus Domestica 2.

The next time you’re talking to someone about books or reading, mention S.A.Hunt. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say you were part of the reason he made it to the top?