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goth aphroditemf

The ongoing saga of The Fish

Posted on 2015.05.22 at 16:24
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You might recall, fair Livejournalers, that one of my pet goldfish, Luke Skywalker, died in February.  Since Luke's demise, his buddy Darth Vader has been suffering from fish depression.  Seriously, people say that fish have three-second memory spans, but Darth KNOWS that his friend is gone.  He's just been sitting still and staring at the corner of the tank ever since.  I didn't want to get another fish, because Darth is about eight inches long and would devour a smaller fish.  And if I got another fish of similarly gargantuan proportions the tank would be overcrowded.  The other option was to find Darth a new home in a pond with other fish, since he's a decent size for a pond.  But the idea of him going to live outdoors and facing the perils of herons and winter frosts was too unbearable.

So this was my genius idea.  A fake fish!

As soon as I put the floating fish (named C3PO) into the tank, Darth perked right up and was back to normal!  

I have finally finished the major re-write of my book!  Now I'm in the process of fine-tuning the manuscript, and I believe the first three chapters are sufficiently polished that I am ready to start submitting them to literary agents.  This is phase one of my plan.  If I find myself bombarded by rejections I will try independent publishers that might be more willing to take a punt on a crossover work with niche appeal.  If that too fails then I will turn to self-publishing.

I've written a one-page synopsis that is basically a run-down of all the major plot points in the book.  This will be sent, along with the sample chapters and a formal letter that hopefully gives a pleasing impression of both the book and myself.

I really struggle with the wording for this sort of letter.  As I've mentioned before, it's hard to strike a satisfactory balance between, "Hey, my book is awesome!" and "Hey, I'm a complete dickhead!"

This is what I've come up with so far:

The letter...Collapse )


Summer = Punk

Posted on 2015.05.10 at 20:24
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The weather is warming up, which means that it is time to expunge metal from my iPhone and replace it with lots of lovely, summery punk.  Here's a current favourite, The Spits.  Their drummer is pure sex, just look at him go!

In September 2014 I began the Great Book Re-Draft 2.0 Project.  The horrors of the previous draft made it necessary that this process become a drastic re-write.  Entire chapters were purged and rewritten from scratch.  Since then I've managed to get 105,000 words to the point where I'm not absolutely mortified by them.  Now, with only 5,000 words to go, the end is in sight!  It's an odd and pleasant feeling not to be staring at reams of shitty, infantile bilge in need of radical reworking.  I just have to fix the ending then draft 2.0 will be done and dusted.

And then it's on to draft 2.1!

The first three chapters will be submitted to agents and publishers (and if I self-publish the opening is the free sample perused by potential readers on Amazon), so it's important to get them as polished as possible.  With that in mind I've gone back to the beginning, which I haven't looked at since I re-wrote it eight months ago.  Although during previous drafts I've been brutal with my editing, this final run-through is more focused on correcting niggling little details - repetition of distinctive words, errors in grammar/spelling/punctuation, excessively flabby sentences, scenes that drag out for too long, weak descriptions, overlong sentences and overuse of commas.

It's essential to put writing aside from as long as possible in order to read it with a degree of objectivity.  It's also important to print your manuscript out, because the eye will catch errors in a hard copy that it won't notice on a computer screen.  So that's what I've done.  The manuscript looks surprisingly gigantic now that it's printed out and sat on my desk, all covered in pencil marks and fag ash.

I'm actually... I hesitate to say this for fear of sounding like a deluded twat... sort of happy with it.  I'm not saying that it's a monumental piece of thought-provoking literature, because it isn't and couldn't possibly be so because philosophical contemplation of the human condition is well beyond the realms of my abilities.  But I'm content that my writing has sufficiently improved to the point where I feel that someone, somewhere might actually read this book and not think it's shite.  I suspect that for every affecionado of high-brow literary fiction there's a reader crying out for a tale of vampires and time machines with lots of fighting and swearing and ale.

goth aphroditemf

Books: Purchases for March 2015

Posted on 2015.05.03 at 08:18
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Another good month for buying paperbacks.

The Historian has been on my wishlist for ages.  By chance I found a battered copy for 20p at the church jumble sale!  It's a modern gothic tale of a historian researching Dracula and his real-life inspiration, Vlad the Impaler.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is another contemporary novel with elements of historical and science-fiction.  The eponymous protagonist is born in 1918 and lives the same life over and over again, always reborn in the same place after his previous death.  The plot, as a result of the multiple universe mode of time travel, is somewhat convoluted, but I'm enjoying the attention to historical detail.  It's the first book we read for bookclublj (though I'm rubbish at this book club thing, because I failed to finish it within the deadline).

I picked up Cloud Atlas, also 20p at the jumble sale, simply because I've had the film on my to-watch pile for ages and I'm reluctant to do so without reading the book first.  I've heard the film is an impenetrable mess of criss-crossing storylines that is best deciphered by reading the source material.  Like The Historian and Harry August it's a contemporary bestseller that blends various timelines with a mixture of science fiction and history.

I haven't read John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and have no intention of doing so.  I'm sure it's delightful and all, just not my cup of tea.  Boyne's follow-up, Mutiny on the Bounty, looks much more up my street.  The story of the Bounty's hostile takeover by disaffected crew in 1789, their castaway captain's epic journey across the ocean in a lifeboat, and the mutineers' murderous settlement in the South Pacific is a tale I'm rather fond of.  I'm looking forward to reading this fictionalised account.  Again, 20p at the jumple sale.

Lastly, a non-fiction book, The Year 1000: What Life was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium.  Three quid in cheapo bookstore The Works.  How could I resist?!

I'm going to my first battle re-enactment!  It's taking place at Valence House, our local museum/historic building, on the 25th of May.  The area has ties with the English Civil War, so that is the era that is the theme of the day.  A proper re-enactment group are behind the event and they have the sublime moniker of Sir Marmaduke Rawdon's Regiment of Foote:

I managed to get me and Scarlett a peasant costume each on eBay, because there's NO WAY I'm going in 21st century garb.  The costumes are adorable, and they were only a tenner each so I'm dead pleased.  Obviously we're on the side of the Roundheads (Parliamentarians), partly because Dominic West and Michael Fassbender played their head honchos, Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Rainsborough, in The Devil's Whore.  And also because they won.  And they had the coolest outfits.  And they cut Charles I's head off.

As well as this is the fact that ladies' civil war-era posh costumes (as worn by the Cavaliers/Royalists) are difficult to come by.  You can get Tudor, Elizabethan, Regency and Victorian fancy frocks without difficulty, but mid-17th century costumes are impossible to find.  So peasants we shall be.  This is what posh folk looked like in those days:

...and this is what the peasants wore (they look like they had better parties than the rich did).  My dress is sort of similar to that of the woman in the centre of the painting:

These paintings are both by one of my favourite artists, Jan Miense Molenaer.  He was Dutch, so I'm not sure if the peasant garb is entirely similar to that which would have been worn in England at the time, but hopefully the differences wouldn't have been that radical.  Up until Hogarth in the 1730s it was unusual to see portrayals of working people in English art, because artworks would usually have been commissioned by the gentry, who had no desire to see plebs adorning the walls of their stately homes.  

The big question now is... hat or no hat?  I have read that wealthy, fashionable women of the 1640s often went hatless, but would the same necessarily have been true for poor women?  I might just tie my hair up and have a white scarf round my head, that seems like a good compromise.  The women depicted by the Le Nain Brothers (working in France in the same era) have either cloth round their heads, or those white pilgrim-style hats, which shouldn't be too hard to buy/make:

goth aphroditemf

Off to Wales

Posted on 2015.04.27 at 16:51
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We're going on holiday this year!  To Wales, of course.  This is the ONLY place we ever go on holiday (apart from when Paul and I drove from from Northern Ireland to Dublin in 2002, and when we visited New York for our honeymoon in 2010).

This time we're going to be staying on a farm near Abergavenny.  This is what Abergavenny looks like:

Yeah, I know, what a dump.

I'm particularly excited because we're planning to visit a nearby 18th century manor house where quite a few recent Doctor Who episodes were filmed.  And Raglan Castle, an epic fortress built in the 1430s, is also within driving distance.

And there's the obligatory visit to Hay-on-Wye, which is... wait for it... a town of book shops.

...including something that combines two of my favourite things in the world... a bookshop in a castle:

goth aphroditemf

I drank the Kool-Aid

Posted on 2015.04.27 at 11:49
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Scarlett is currently obsessed with American candy.  Every Saturday after swimming we take her to Mr. Simms' Olde Sweet Shoppe in town and she picks something new to try from their import section.  The sweets cost twice as much as British sweets, and are about half as nice, but I suppose she enjoys the cultural experience of eating near-mythical exotic confectionary like Twinkies, Chips Ahoy, Hershey's, Reece's, Ho Ho's, Jolly Rangers, Baby Ruths, Butterfingers, and birthday cake flavoured M&Ms.

Last week she chose make-it-yourself sachets of Kool-Aid powder.  I was keen to try this beverage too, having recently realised that the giant jug of bloody-red liquid that jumps through the wall of the courthouse in Family Guy is the character that appears in Kool-Aid commercials.  Sorry, Seth MacFarlane, that joke is meaningless in Europe.

So I made up the jug of Kool-Aid, and lo and behold... it tasted like a cross between sea water and cat piss.  Why is this drink so popular?!!  I imagine cyanide would enhance the flavour.

goth aphroditemf

Bartering with Sky TV

Posted on 2015.04.26 at 08:40
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Me: Some of my Sky TV channels aren't working.
Sky TV: We're gonna charge you £65 to send out an engineer even though you've been paying £80 a month to us for the last six years.
Me: No you're not.
Sky TV: Ok, we can do £60, in three instalments of £20.
Me: Not good enough.
Sky TV: Alright, the best we can do is £30, that's a super-special deal just for you.
Me: Nope, not happening. And now I'm so pissed off that I'm thinking of cancelling Sky.  In fact, I'm gonna start by cancelling the Sports Package.  There, gone!  How do you like those apples?
Sky TV: You've got us by the balls here... Alright, we'll send the engineer out for free and all repairs and replacement equipment will be free too.
Me: In your face, sucker.

Note: This conversation, in reality, took about two bloody hours and was between me and about four different Sky call centre staff.

goth aphroditemf

History: London Bridge

Posted on 2015.04.17 at 07:56
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I bought this chunk of awesome for a mere three pounds:

London was tiny then.  It barely extends beyond the old Roman wall, and the south bank of the Thames is all fields.  The Tower of London is at the city outskirts, and surrounded by yet more fields.  There was only one bridge across the river - the medieval London Bridge that lasted from 1209 (it was completed in the reign of King John, younger brother of Richard I Lionheart and best known as Prince John in the Robin Hood stories) until the replacement was completed in 1831.

The 19th century bridge was transported brick-by-brick to Arizona and reconstructed there in 1971.  Legend has it that the purchaser, Robert P. McCulloch, thought he was getting the splendid neo-gothic Tower Bridge, but apparently that's just an urban myth.

iain banks

Books: The Rats

Posted on 2015.04.12 at 10:15
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This week I read The Rats by James Herbert.  Herbert sadly passed away in 2013.  He is one of Paul's favourite authors, and is widely regarded as being the British Stephen King.  It's true, there are a lot of parallels between their careers and writing styles.  Both came from humble backgrounds and went into respectable careers (King was a teacher, Herbert worked for an ad company), then had their debut novels published in 1974. The Rats was Herbert's first book, Carrie was King's.  

It has to be said, Herbert wins when it comes to creep-tastic author photos.  If I ever manage to get a book published I aspire to have an expression of such shit-curdling ferocity on the dust jacket:

Weirdly, despite being set in 1974, The Rats feels as though it's set in an era so distant that one might as well be reading about Victorian London.  There are slums, derelict buildings, and uncleared bomb sites.  Homeless people are a frequent sight, it's perfectly acceptable for teachers to hit kids, and no one thinks twice about referring to black people as "coloureds".  The men and boys are all macho, pint-drinking breadwinners (generally scientists, politicians, civil servants, policemen or teachers) and the women are hysterical housewifes who spend their time putting on make-up and letting the milkman look down their cleavage.  It's so absurdly sexist that I had to laugh, though eventually it does get annoying that the female characters are so utterly ineffectual and the men are the only ones with any agency.  Seriously, you don't even see a woman drive a car in this book, let alone do something as outrageous as have an original idea.  (This is where King's debut novel, Carrie, wins hands down - the three strongest, most fascinating characters are Carrie, her mother and Sue Snell, and feminine power is a major theme.)

The story itself - giant mutant rats living beneath the city start eating people in increasingly macabre situations - is straightforward enough.  Much like a King novel, Herbert introduces us to a string of (often despicable) characters' points of view before mercillessly slaughtering them, while the narrative thread is held together by an everyman hero.

As in an old-fashioned horror movie, the characters are often implausibly fuckwitted.  On at least four occasions I noticed them going into dark cellars completely unarmed.  People keep running around wailing, "But how are we going to deal with the rats?!!" and I couldn't help but think, "Well, I dunno, flame throwers, axes, guns, a bulldozer, a cricket bat with nails stuck in it... just stop using your bare hands, you twonks!"  

The Rats contains a surprising amount of sexy bits for a book that's about people having their faces bitten off by giant rodents.  The sex scenes are pretty funny too, actually, and not just because of the references to the characters - Shock!  Horror! - not being married.  I understand it was the 1970s and everything, but honestly, what man, during foreplay, pulls on his girlfriend's pubic hair as if this is in any way erotic?!    

Despite my chiding, The Rats is an enjoyable, light read, with buckets of gore and a genuinely creepy premise. What I liked most about it was how clearly realised early 70s East London is.  The city of Herbert's novel is a deftly-crafted shit-hole that bears no resemblance to the rose-tinted, glam rock and flares version of the 70s that we are used to seeing in modern depictions of the decade.  I'm too young to remember 70s London, so I wonder if this books functions just as well as a piece of social commentary on the abandonment of the post-war East End as it does as a trashy horror novel.

ripper street

History: The Tottenham Outrage

Posted on 2015.04.11 at 09:06
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Despite the title, this isn't an entry about Arsenal's arch-nemesis Tottenham Hotspur.

I finished reading The Black Museum by (former museum curator) Bill Waddell.  As I mentioned, it's a book about the Metropolitan Police's private museum and explores some of the crimes that have evidence on display there.  Most of the crimes covered were things I have read about in the past - Jack the Ripper, Dr. Crippen, The Acid Bath Murderer, John Reginald Christie, Dennis Nilson etc.  (I confess, I used to be addicted to those "World's Cuntiest Serial Killers!!!" true crime books.)  But one particular historic crime in this book was new to me.

It's known as The Tottenham Outrage.  In North London in 1909, two Russian anarchists stole a bag of money and then engaged the police in a two-hour car chase and shoot-out.  The rampage left four people dead and dozens wounded, and culminated in the two criminals shooting themselves in the heads rather than get caught.  The original police report is printed in Waddell's book, and it makes such exciting reading that it's a wonder it's never been made into a film.

What's interesting is that the subsequent press coverage and resentment of Russians in the area show that prejudices towards Eastern European immigrants are far from a new phenomenon in Britain.

Here's a brief-but-fabulous retro 1980s documentary about the crime:


Latvian Folk Metal Fail

Posted on 2015.04.10 at 13:51
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I bought this album, thinking it was entitled Amorphis and was by Latvian folk metal band Skyforger:

To my annoyance, when it arrived I saw that the band pictured within were not dressed as medieval peasant folk.  The band depicted in this CD had t-shirts and jeans and *shudder* white man dreadlocks.

I know something was amiss, and a word with my faithful friend Google alerted me to the fact that this CD is named Skyforger, and is by a Norwegian metal band called Amorphis.  "Bollocks," said I.

I gave the album a listen and it's far from the worst accidental purchase I could have made.  The lyrics are based on ancient Scandinavian poetry, which is pretty cool.  However, musically it's terribly generic, like a bland, by-numbers cross between Metallica and Iron Maiden.  Meh.  I've stuck it on eBay.

Skyforger's own CDs prove elusive.  They sing ancient Latvian folk tales, in their own language, mixing traditional instruments with heavy metal.  Sometimes they have swords.  I can't get enough of them.

goth aphroditemf

UK General Election

Posted on 2015.04.08 at 09:31
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It's the general election on the 7th of May.  Until recently I was fully intending to vote for the Green Party, as I did last time (prior to that I voted for the Respect Coalition, but their leader George Galloway has become somewhat of a fruitloop of late).  However, the leader Natalie Bennett's recent poor performances in debates and interviews, and the party's lack of a clear plan to balance the economy has made me question this.  Also, I did this political allegience quiz:

Interestingly, the quiz shows that my compatibility with Labour is 92%, and 88% with the Greens.  I concur with Labour on many current issues:

- Raise tax for multinational corporations
- Stop making cuts to public spending, you greedy pricks
- Raise the rate of income tax for the highest earners
- Prosecute people for tax evasion
- Bring in a mansion tax on property valued at over £2million
- Increase minimum wage
- Cap bankers' bonuses
- Scrap zero hours contracts
- Give more power to regional governments
- Scrap the hereditary House of Lords and make it a fully elected body
- Gay marriage - yay
- Give terminally ill patients the right to euthanasia
- Don't, for the love of all that is sacred, reinstate the death penalty
- Decrease military spending
- Stick with our buddies in the EU
- Don't abolish the Human Rights Act, we are not living in Medieval times
- Don't spend billions renewing the Trident Nuclear Missiles, it's not the fucking 1980s
- Abolish University tuition fees
- All state schools should follow a standard curriculum
- Less privatisation for the NHS
- Private firms should reimburse the NHS if their profits exceed 5% on contracts
- Increase environmental regulations on businesses
- Scrap the hated "bedroom tax" (a charge levied on the poorest of the poor for the heinous crime of having a spare bedroom)

This expanse of common ground made me question why I was against voting Labour in the first place.  Partly it's because their leader, Ed Miliband is another over-privileged toff like many of those in the echelons of power.  But Ed, it seems, is not part of the Old Etonian, aristocratic set.  He went to a comprehensive school, is an atheist, and the son of Jewish communist immigrants, which for me makes him slightly more appealing than the spam-faced leaders of the Tories and Lib Dem (not to mention sinister super-villain Nigel Farage, a man who looks like he keeps severed genitals in his chest freezer).  Ed also has a record of standing up for the rights of gay people and women.  Current Prime Minister David Cameron, on the other hand, once campaigned against having homosexuality taught in schools, and voted against the right of gay couples to adopt.  Oh yeah, and he just happens to be the queen's fifth cousin.

Then there's the issue of who actually stands a chance of winning the election.  The Tories and Labour are neck-and-neck in the polls, but neither has a significant enough lead to ensure a majority in the House of Commons.  This will mean that whoever emerges victorious out of Labour and Conservative will form another coalition, though probably not with the Lib Dems as everyone thinks they're tools.  So if Labour win, they will most likely join up with either the Greens or SNP.  As well as the Green Party, I'm also fond of the Scottish Nationalist Party and their leader, Nicola Sturgeon, though obviously I can't vote for them as I live in England.

So I'm now seriously considering changing my vote to Labour in the hopes that they emerge victorious and form a coalition with a left-leaning, female-led party who will cajole them into sticking the promises they've made in the run up to the election.

Here are most of the books I've been given or purchased since Christmas:

My friend Zoe bought me the Tom Holt book for my birthday in January.  It's a fantasy-comedy about a dorky guy who is forced to work for a demon law firm in the City of London.  I was sort of enjoying it, but the breakneck pace and references to things that I had no clue about were leaving me a bit mystified.  Then a quick glance at Tom Holt's bibliography revealed that this is in fact the third in a series of six books!  And so I have put it to one side until I track down books one and two.

I've started reading the Iain Banks poems but I'm finding it hard going due to my allergy to poetry.  As much as I love Iain Banks I just can't find it within myself to enjoy poetry, which always strikes me as being the most pretentious of all the artforms.  I was hoping Banks' poetry might be more down to earth than other contemporary poetry, but alas, I'm finding the meaning impenetrable and my eyes glaze over after a couple of verses.  I might be good; it might be the best poetry ever written by anyone, but I really can't tell because my brain refuses to digest it.  Perhaps some notes to frame the context of when/why these poems were written would have been handy, but as a posthumous work I suppose that wasn't possible.  Still, I'm going to persevere because I feel like a total thicko for not being able to comprehend any poetry at all and this book is probably the best place to start if I'm going to force myself to appreciate poetry.

Alan Garner was one of my favourite authors as a kid.  He writes fantasies about teens in the English countryside, which draw on ancient mythology and regional legend.  I haven't read Red Shift before so when I saw it come up as a suggestion on Amazon I coveted it instantly.  I managed to find a nice hard back edition on eBay for only a few quid.  It's a story set in rural Cheshire, where three intertwining stories take place in the midst of the missing 9th Legion in Roman Britain, a besieged church during The English Civil War, and a motorway lay-by in the 1970s.  Ugh, just writing this makes me excited, I can't wait to read it.

I devoured the Tales of Old Essex book over the course of a night, after purchasing it in a local garden centre.  It was eight bloody quid, but I didn't mind so much because I'm a sucker for local history and this book is particularly adorable.  My favourite legend was The Three Heads of The Well, which concerns Saint Helena of Constantinople, daughter of Old King Coel of Colchester (yep, the guy in the nursery rhyme) and mother to Constantine the Great.  As a young princess, Helena was banished by her wicked step-mother, but regained her status and fortune after finding three decapitated talking heads in a well and combing their hair for them.  This book contains much of this brand of what-the-fuckery.

I already have the second book about The Black Museum, so I was delighted to find the first one in our local library old-stock sale.  The Black Museum is a private museum at the headquarters of The London Metropolitan Police, with chronicles the grisly history of murder in our city.  There are Victorian deathmasks of executed criminals, hangman's nooses, the protective apron used by the Acid Bath Murderer, a crossbow used by the Kray Twins, an IRA rocket launcher and the pans that serial killer Dennis Nilsen used to boil his victims' flesh in. Apparently it's quite a disturbing place to visit, which is why it is closed to the public.  The book lists the exhibits and tells the stories behind them, along with the history of Scotland Yard and the museum itself.  

My dad got me The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2015 for Christmas, after I debated whether I should request either the book or a year's membership to a website offering the same services.  After help from my trusty Livejournal friends, I opted for the book.  It's arranged in sections - newspapers & magazines, books, poetry, theatre, art & illustration etc.  Under each heading are essays offering advice on finding work in that sector, and listings of publishers, organisations, publications and so on and so forth, with relevent submission details.  It's a weighty brick of a book which I'm sure will prove very useful when I finally finish redrafting my book.  Which hey, might actually be this year if I get my arse in gear and stop procrastinating by buying books online and writing rambling Livejournal posts!

Victorian Household Hints is another library purchase.  It lists all the servants of varying rank in a wealthy Victorian household, and details what duties they might carry out and how.  I never get sick of reading books about Victorian shit.

Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon is better known as Outlander, the source material for the TV series of that name.  I don't know why it has a different title in the UK - perhaps there is another well-known book called Outlander?  Anyway, I bought this book brand new because sometimes I feel bad about buying so many second-hand books, since that is not really supporting authors.  I read the first couple of pages and it seems that the TV show has done a good job of capturing the protagonist, Clare's intelligence and practicality.  In fact, much of her narration is reproduced ad verbatim in her voiceover in the show.  I'm keen to get to the sexy bits.   


Gaming: Skyrim Speedrun

Posted on 2015.04.04 at 09:40
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You might recall I recently posted about how it took me a ridiculous 146 hours to complete Skyrim... Well, apparently I shouldn't feel too bad, because a journalist for admitted to spending over 200 hours playing Elder Scrolls: Oblivion without even starting the main quest!

On the other hand, here's a guy completing Skyrim's main storyline quests in less than 40 minutes:

Watch live video from DrTChops on Twitch

He's now the Skyrim speedrun world record holder.  The tactics for speedrunning this game are:

- Play on PC, as an orc.  Orcs are the fastest runners.
- Exploit the glitch where you can hold out a bucket or plate and run through walls, thus bypassing entire dungeons.
- Exploit the glitch that cancels dialologue exchanges when you barge into a non-playable character.
- Use horses to climb mountains.  Horses are the best climbers.
- Fast-travel to previously unvisited locations using the horse and cart.
- Go naked.

I'm not sure whether it was amusing or frustrating to see someone just merrily skipping past all the enemies that I spent hours hacking at with my sword!  

goth aphroditemf

Book club!

Posted on 2015.04.03 at 13:50
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In case anyone is interested, there's a new book club LJ group started by ireflect - bookclublj

I've ordered the first fiction book, The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August by Clare North.  Yay, time travel!

Also, does anyone know of any LJ groups for writers?  I tried to post on add_a_writer recently and it seems that the group has gone dead, which is a shame because it was a useful networking tool.  


Book signings for kids

Posted on 2015.04.01 at 10:37
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Scarlett's school has started having regular book signings.  Children's authors come in and talk about their book, then give the kids advice on how to write stories of their own.  Admittedly, there are elements of the whole set-up that I feel a little cynical about - the writers are often self-published and are using the school tour as a clever way to hawk their books.  But if the process gets kids talking and thinking about writing stories then it is a good thing by my reckoning.

iain banks

Answer for question 4298.

Posted on 2015.03.29 at 12:08
For the writers out there -- have you ever had a story in your head for a while (sometimes years) but just can't get going on it? What are your tips for dealing with this type of writer's block?
No, the problem I have is that I have a number of concepts that could become full-length novels, but I'm so obsessed with finishing my current project that I've left all others on the back-burner. I've written notes for these future projects, and some have extensive historical research and detailed outlines.

Thinking about it, I suppose this isn't really a problem, as it means that when I eventually do get around to writing these books hopefully my writing skills will have improved.

Regarding dealing with writers' block... Because I write historical fiction, I find that once I do some background reading and become immersed in a particular era the writing flows easily. It is easier to understand the characters, their situations and motivations once I have a fixed idea of the context of the times and the physical details of the world in my head.

zombie aphroditemf

Horror Films for Kids?

Posted on 2015.03.29 at 10:50
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Scarlett has, to my delight, been showing an interest in horror movies.  Since she's only nine I wanted to start her with something more gentle so she doesn't get turned off of the idea.  She's already seen creepy kids films with horror undertones like:

Corpse Bride
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Hocus Pocus
Monster House
The Addams Family
Hotel Transylvania I thought I'd try some slightly more mature films, since she's quite a level-headed nine year old:

Edward Scissorhands
The Woman in Black
The Others
Sleepy Hollow

Weirdly, the only one that really scared Scarlett was Arachnophobia, despite the fact that it's obviously played for laughs. The Others seemed to be her favourite, which pleased me since it's a decent film that I can handle watching over and over again (because, you know, kids can't possibly just watch a film once and be done with it).  Overall she seems most interested in ghost/paranormal-related stories, despite my best efforts to pique her interest in vampire movies.

Now I'm not sure where to go from here.  Although I watched films like The Fly, The Thing, Alien and It when I was her age and came away mentally unscathed, I'm somewhat reticent to let my own child watch them!  So this is the next batch of films I'm aiming to introduce her to:

The Burbs
The Sixth Sense
The Haunting
The Lost Boys
The Ring
The Frighteners

Does anyone have any suggestions of horror/supernatural films that might slightly scare a child without traumatising them?

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