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It's been over a week since we returned from the jaunt to Florida, and I am still feeling daunted at the prospect of posting some of the photos here.  You see, I took over 1,500 photos over two weeks.  I can't possibly narrow them down!

We (me, Paul, Scarlett, Dylan, mum, dad, stepdad Gary and uncle Gary) spent seven days in my uncle Gary's timeshare apartment near Orlando, then three days at the utterly bonkers looking Lion King hotel in Disney World, then four days in Virginia (where auntie Gill also joined us) for my brother's spectacular wedding in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

During the time in Florida we managed to fit in Universal Studios, the Salvador Dali Museum, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon water park, Disney Hollywood Studios, Disney Magic Kingdom and Disney Epcot.  We also ate a truck-load of seafood.  Oh my gods, clam chowder!  And we visited an American Halloween shop!  Bugger me, it was the size of a supermarket!

The kids loved every second of it.  I really hope Dylan will have some memories of this!  He's not quite three yet, so I hope he'll be able to recall the time he met Star Wars characters, at the very least.

Due to wanting to spend quality time with my brother and sister-in-law and her family, plus the busy wedding schedule, we didn't do much sight-seeing in Virginia, though we did make time for a wine-tasting session at a vineyard.

The wedding was absolutely gorgeous, and such fun! Scarlett and I got a proper make-over for our turn as bridesmaids, with fancy hair-dos and a make-up artist. The scenery was like nothing I'd seen before, the weather was perfect, and the company superb!  I can't thank my brother and sister-in-law enough, and wish them the long and happy marriage they so deserve.

Photos!Collapse )

I have purchased ten shiny new ISBN numbers, for the princely sum of £149.99.  I’m not entirely sure if these are necessary for self-publishing (I've heard conflicting reports), but hey-ho, in for a penny, in for a pound.  And hopefully it will motivate me to write nine more books so I get my money’s worth.  Waste not, want not, and all that.

I have also embarked on the formidable task of formatting my book for e-readers.  I was not previously aware of this excruciating process, but thanks to the blessed guidance of joeybug, and her excellent recommendation of Smashwords Style Guide, I am well on my way to creating an ebook that won’t make readers’ eyeballs ache.  I have to say, so far it is looking very sexy indeed.  I am anxious to unleash it on the unsuspecting public.  Brace yourselves.

black death

Book Cover Art!

Posted on 2016.08.08 at 09:58
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It seems that all my attempts at pursuing a traditional publishing path have come to nothing.  The last two interested publishers threw in their hats - one because they weren't comfortable with dealing with a genre book, the other for reasons unexplained.

So it looks like I'm going to be self-publishing!  While I'm disappointed that my vampire/time-travel mash-up novel wasn't a tempting enough prospect for even the smallest of publishers, I feel satisfied that I gave the submissions process the best possible crack.  And although self-publishing was plan B, nevertheless it's a journey that I'm excited to be embarking upon.

The first ingredient in my plan was an official website, which I've already done (though it needs more content and perhaps a sexier design).  Next up was a badass-looking book cover.  With the aid of my extremely limited Photoshop skills, a free font and a public domain image courtesy of the British Library's Flickr Stream I cobbled together this easy-to-read, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin monochrome delight:

Now, it's not obviously vampirey, but I wanted to steer clear of the trends you see in contemporary vampire novel covers - stock photo of blandly attractive young woman, an inoffensive quantity of blood, spooky red font etc.

So I hope that the combination of title and design makes it immediately obvious that it's a) gothic/punky in tone b) takes place in Victorian times and c) is set in London.  And the Tower of London, of course, carries its own set of ghastly connotations.

Please let me know what you think - I need to know if anything needs re-jigging or if it simply doesn't work!

goth aphroditemf

We blinded them with science!

Posted on 2016.05.21 at 09:26
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People here in the UK sometimes complain about our schools adopting traditions from American schools.  Personally, I think that this is just a bit of cultural jingoism, as there's nothing at all negative about British schools starting to have proms and science fairs.  There's always going to be the "Good Old Days" brigade that whinge that school discos are getting replaced, even though school discos were shite.

Scarlett's school held its first ever science fair yesterday.  We had a few weeks to make a parent-child science project on anything we wanted.  Scarlett wanted to do a presentation about Galileo, so I helped her to find some facts and pictures and we stuck them to a sparkle-covered board.  Looked pretty damn sweet, if I say so myself!

Anyway, at the science fair... Scarlett won!  Having never had a science fair when I was at school I got to share her smug.


Paul's Young Turks cover version

Posted on 2016.05.14 at 10:01
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Paul recorded a cover version of Rod Stewart's Young Turks on GarageBand. I found some 1920s and 30s photos and Paul made them into a montage on iMovie to accompany the song.

goth aphroditemf

Syd Barrett in Mojo Magazine

Posted on 2016.05.08 at 10:09
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I haven't posted any magazine scans in AGES!  Perhaps this is because the endless recycling that rock-oriented magazines do is tedious.  Or maybe it's because magazines are about £6 now and don't offer much that can't be found online for free.  But recently I splurged on this beaut and thought I'd share it.

It's difficult to shed new light on Syd's story, beyond what's already been written in the excellent biographies that are available.  But this article manages to do just that.  The interview with Syd's sister Rosemary (courtesy of Mark Blake) is particularly insightful, especially when it comes to his post-Floyd activities. I also enjoyed the retrospective of his songwriting.

Oh, and the magazine comes with a couple of lovely art prints of 60s era Floyd posters!


goth aphroditemf


Posted on 2016.04.28 at 20:33
Current Music: JJ Burnel - The Euroman Cometh
I took a couple of months off of LJ but now, like the Jedi, I have returned!
I had a bit of a health scare recently when my doctor thought I had diabetes, but it turns out it was just an overdose of… calcium.  Yep, the least rock’n’roll overdose one could possibly have.  Last year when I started avoiding dairy and eggs (in addition to not eating meat since I was 12) I thought I should take calcium tablets.  Two massive, impossible to swallow calcium tablets a day.  Now I know that there is sufficient calcium in green vegetables, fish, soya and Quorn, so I’ve knocked the tablets on the head and I’m feeling much better.
Looking forward to being back in the LJ saddle and catching up with all you fine people!

I watched Macbeth last night, partly because of the lure of shirtless Fassbender, but also because FUCK YES THE BARD!!!

Shakespeare's tales are saturated with the best and worst of human nature - lust, violence, madness, hilarity, love, vengeance, ambition - to such an extent that they've endured for over four centuries.  Not only that, but many lines are ingrained in our contemporary language as everyday idioms... a foregone conclusion, a sorry sight, all of a sudden, all's well that ends well, dead as a doornail, as luck would have it, bated breath, more fool you, wild goose chase, vanish into thin air, there's method in my madness, the short and the long of it, the Queen's English, send him packing, in a pickle, and my personal favourite Elizabethan sexual euphemism, "the beast with two backs."

Something that I find interesting about the stories themselves (aside from all the stabbing and cross-dressing) is that they were often already ancient when Shakespeare adapted them for stage.

An illustration from Holinshed's Chronicles, which Shakespeare drew inspiration for the story of Macbeth from.

For example, the real Macbeth, or Mac Bethad mac Findlaích to give him his catchier title, ruled Scotland from 1040-1057.  In reality, Macbeth killed King Duncan in battle, and was later killed in battle with the English.  The popular 16th-century history book Holinshed's Chronicles portrayed Macbeth as a stabby witch-botherer, and it was from this depiction that Shakespeare's play drew inspiration.  Further influencing Shakespeare was the Stuart king James I's belief that he was descended from King Malcolm.  Never piss off your patron, especially if he has the power to have you hanged, drawn and quartered.

And now a story that is a millennia old, once performed to catcalls and the throwing of rotten vegetables, can be enjoyed in the comfort of one's living room, where every ripple in Michael Fassbender's pectoral muscles is rendered in high definition.  It's almost as though Shakespeare, whether through prescience or rampant egotism, had some inkling of his eventual longevity, as he states in the closing lines of Sonnet 18,

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
 So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

goth aphroditemf

Domain Names

Posted on 2016.02.11 at 12:11
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Does anyone have any experience of buying domain names?  I wanted one for my "official" writing blog, but I'm flummoxed by the number of websites that cater in domain names, and I'm not sure which ones are most reputable and offer the best value for money.  Any advice?

I'm going through the process of copying some of my more relevant LJ posts to the new blog, which is working out well because I'm too lazy/busy to come up with new content.

goth aphroditemf

Death of Sennheisers

Posted on 2016.02.05 at 09:41
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Back in August I treated myself to a lovely pair of over-the-ear Sennheiser headphones.  Though Sennheiser are generally known as a maker of high-end audio products, these are the cheapest in their range, retailing at around £20-30.  I managed to get a second-hand pair off of eBay for £15, and was thoroughly pleased with them.  Look, I'm glowing with joy:

Imagine my dismay when, during my commute to work, I put them on to find that the sound was only coming out of one side!!!  I later confronted Scarlett, since she uses them with her iPad.

Me: Did you know the sound is only coming out of one side of the headphones?
Scarlett:  Yeah, it's ok though, you can still hear stuff.
Me: But only out of one side!!!
Scarlett:  So?  It doesn't matter, does it?

My child will never be an audiophile.

Anyway, it's given me an excuse to purchase an upgrade.  This time my eBay bargain-hunting skills really paid off, as I picked up a brand new, boxed set of Sennheiser HD 239s (retail: £80) for only £23!!  

zombie aphroditemf

I made a website thingy!

Posted on 2016.01.28 at 14:08
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I recently rediscovered my old Wordpress password and set up a basic page for when I need some sort of writer website thing.  It looks rather empty at the moment, but hey, I'm brimful of good intentions!  And hosting with domain names is dirt cheap.  I recall how I used to play around with Dreamweaver and Frontpage and now they strike me as involving a terrible amount of faffing when compared to modern built-it-yourself-you-twat website generators.

Now I need to think about what super-insightful, inspirational, hilarious, informative things I can post there.

Ah, I know, I'll just copy-and-paste this post.


goth aphroditemf

College Interview with Maths angst

Posted on 2016.01.28 at 12:02
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I had an assessment and interview for the counselling college course I want to start in September.  First was an English test, which was ludicrously easy.  The questions were things like, "Insert a comma after the subordinate clause in the following sentence."  That was the hardest question!

The maths test was another story.  I'm not terrible at maths.  In fact, I did my Maths GCSE a year early when I was at school because I was regarded as being especially GOOD at maths!  But I suppose it's one of those things where you lose your skills without regular practice.  This is a typical question.  We had no paper to make notes and no calculator.

Bob and his dad go out for dinner.  They split the bill at a ration of 3:2.  Bob's dad pays £51.60.  How much did the meal cost in total?

This made my brain hurt.  I understood that I had to divide £51.60 by three and then times the answer by five, but for the life of me I could not divide £51.60 by three in my head!  Now that I'm sitting here in a non-exam environment it's easy... 60p divided by three is 20p.  51 divided by three is 17.  But this took me about fifteen hair-pulling minutes of idiocy when I was in the test!!

The interview part was thankfully as easy as the English test (I suppose I'd make a rather shoddy counsellor if I couldn't have a conversation with a stranger!), and I've been offered a place for September, yay!  

iain banks

Snowy Books

Posted on 2016.01.28 at 11:46
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Paul and I watched The Revenant this week.  It's a brutal, intense Western in a horribly chilly snowscape.  Throughout I was thinking, "What will poor Leo go through next?!"

It's making me want to read some historical books in a similarly snowy, desperate setting.  There's an excellent episode of Last Podcast on the Left about the Dyatlov Pass Incident, which is a completely bonkers story of a group of Russian skiiers being found dead in the 1950s.  I found this book covering the incident, which is now on my Amazon wishlist:

Dead Mountain

Something else I stumbled upon was the Donner Family Incident, which is the story of how a group of pioneers got stranded in the mountains in 1846 and had to cannibalise the dead in order to survive (shades of In The Heart of the Sea here, one of my favourite books).  This book covering those events is also on my Amazon wishlist:

The Indifferent Stars Above

Here's my list of my favourite albums of 2015.  It's 100% balls-to-the-wall (or... minges to the hinges?) metal/rock/punk.  No free jazz, no poncey singer-songwriters, and absolutely no hipster wankery here!

My top five absolute super awesome favourites:

The Men that will not be Blamed for Nothing – Not Your Typical Victorians

Clutch – Psychic Warfare

Ghost – Meliora

Ginger Wildheart – Year of the Fanclub

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Blossom

And the rest:

Backyard Babies – Four by Four
Baroness – Purple
Blur – The Magic Whip
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
Danzig - Skeletons
Def Leppard – Def Leppard (shhh.... seriously, it's really fucking good!)
Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down
Faith No More – Sol Invictus
Hawk Eyes – Everything is Fine
Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
Kauan – Sorni Nai
Lindemann – Skills in Pills
The Mutants – Tokyo Nights
Scott Lee Andrews – Jaws of Deaf Vol #1
Slayer – Repentless
Sleater Kinney – No Cities to Love
Therapy? – Disquiet

What music were you all digging in 2015?


David Bowie

Posted on 2016.01.11 at 11:13
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With the exceptions of Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett and Rick Wright, I don't think I've ever felt so saddened by the death of a musician.
David Bowie's been a constant present in my life, from when I was a kid and my parents played his records and his videos were on MTV, and then when I fell in love with him in Labyrinth, then later when I was 18 and I fell in love over again when I saw the Ziggy Stardust concert movie, and later still when got high to his Berlin albums.  He was even in my favourite vampire movie, The Hunger.

Bowie was a true pioneer of popular music in the 20th century. Consistent, prolific, charismatic, photogenic, lovable, and insanely talented - he encapsulated everything the archetypal rock star should be. Whether you remember him as Ziggy, or the Thin White Duke, or the Goblin King, his presence will be greatly missed.
RIP David Bowie, you were the best and your greatness will never be surpassed.

black death

Books: Sketches by Boz

Posted on 2015.11.21 at 08:10
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Recently I've been reading Charles Dickens' first book, Sketches by Boz.  It's not a novel, it's a collection of some observational pieces about the lives of ordinary Londoners.  It was written in 1835, during the reign of William IV.  It's funny, people always think of Dickens' novels as taking place in Victorian times, but while most of them were written during Victoria's reign, many are set earlier.

Anyway, there are some interesting parallels between London of 180 years ago and London now.  There's a passage discussing the Hackney carriage drivers (the horse-drawn predecessor of the famous London black cab) being furious that cheaper, faster independent cabs are becoming more popular and threatening their business.  The same week I read in the newspapers that there was controversy over the rising popularity of minicabs threatening the black cabs!

This passage was also interesting, in light of perennial news stories decrying binge drinking and claiming that women are becoming more violent:

"On one side, a little crowd has collected round a couple of ladies, who having imbibed the contents of various ‘three-outs’ of gin and bitters in the course of the morning, have at length differed on some point of domestic arrangement, and are on the eve of settling the quarrel satisfactorily, by an appeal to blows, greatly to the interest of other ladies who live in the same house, and tenements adjoining, and who are all partisans on one side or other.
‘Vy don’t you pitch into her, Sarah?’ exclaims one half-dressed matron, by way of encouragement.  ‘Vy don’t you? if my ’usband had treated her with a drain last night, unbeknown to me, I’d tear her precious eyes out—a wixen!’
‘What’s the matter, ma’am?’ inquires another old woman, who has just bustled up to the spot.
‘Matter!’ replies the first speaker, talking at the obnoxious combatant, ‘matter!  Here’s poor dear Mrs. Sulliwin, as has five blessed children of her own, can’t go out a charing for one arternoon, but what hussies must be a comin’, and ’ticing avay her oun’ ’usband, as she’s been married to twelve year come next Easter Monday, for I see the certificate ven I vas a drinkin’ a cup o’ tea vith her, only the werry last blessed Ven’sday as ever was sent.  I ’appen’d to say promiscuously, “Mrs. Sulliwin,” says I—’
‘What do you mean by hussies?’ interrupts a champion of the other party, who has evinced a strong inclination throughout to get up a branch fight on her own account (‘Hooroar,’ ejaculates a pot-boy in parenthesis, ‘put the kye-bosk on her, Mary!’), ‘What do you mean by hussies?’ reiterates the champion.
‘Niver mind,’ replies the opposition expressively, ‘niver mind; you go home, and, ven you’re quite sober, mend your stockings.’
This somewhat personal allusion, not only to the lady’s habits of intemperance, but also to the state of her wardrobe, rouses her utmost ire, and she accordingly complies with the urgent request of the bystanders to ‘pitch in,’ with considerable alacrity.  The scuffle became general, and terminates, in minor play-bill phraseology, with ‘arrival of the policemen, interior of the station-house, and impressive dénouement.’ "

It's also interesting to note that the characters are speaking in a form of cockney accent that has died out over the years - replacing W with V, for example.  Some people like to be disparaging about the dialects used by working-class people (here in the UK, at least), without really realising that language is not static, it is constantly evolving.


Working in a record shop

Posted on 2015.11.12 at 13:57
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I feel very privileged to be able to say that I LOVE my job, and I wake up each morning excited to go there and get stuck in.  I've had some very mundane jobs in the past (DIY store cashier, the meat counter in a supermarket, horrendous office/accounts jobs surrounded by obnoxious twats), so I'm eternally grateful to be working with great people doing something I love.  It's even better than my previous "best job ever", working at a cinema.

Independent record shops, sadly, are closing down all the time.  This is probably down to the usually blamed factors like downloads, vinyl being an obsolete format (unless you're an aficionado or a hipster).  Most of the customers that come into the shop are DJs (as are three of the staff members).  My stepdad talks of a time twenty years ago when he didn't get to sit down all day and the store would be packed with people eager to obtain the latest rare grooves, but nowadays most business is done online.  Modernisation has been key to the shop's survival, as has a keen eye on the latest trends in record-buying.  1960s-70s classic rock sells well, as does rare Northern Soul and reggae.  Surprisingly, 90s indie/rock vinyl is scarce, due to lower demand at the time the records were pressed, when CDs were the format de jour.  A copy of Oasis' What's the Story Morning Glory on vinyl sells for upwards of a hundred quid.  Whereas a once popular 80s album by an artist like Eric Clapton or Dire Straits is now worth peanuts because there are bloody millions of them floating around.  Surprisingly, Elvis records are hard to shift because there were so many cut-price compilations put out over the years.  It's only the original pressings that are worth a goldmine.  CDs are generally worthless.

So my time working in the shop is largely spent putting records on to a range of websites - Discogs, eBay, and our own site, which is linked to MusicStack.  Often I'll have to clean and photograph records and record soundfiles of them for the site.  Record collections are obtained by furiously distributing flyers around London and the South East (a job I've previously done for my stepdad).  We take phone calls and ask people questions about their record collections (how many, what format, condition, genre), then my stepdad spends evenings traipsing around in a van collecting the worthy stuff.  He might pay, say, £1000 to someone for a box of old reggae 7" records, but there will be a handful of records in there that are worth £500 each.
Photos...Collapse )

iain banks

Bizarre Rejection

Posted on 2015.11.06 at 10:32
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This week I received my first detailed rejection e-mail, which was a welcome change after all the copy-and-paste replies I've had previously.  It was from one of the publishers that had asked for the complete manuscript after enjoying the opening chapters.  Most of the rejection made sense.  The publisher thought my writing style was "stuffy" and overly-formal, which I can accept.  They did say some complimentary things too - they liked the premise, the story and the characters.  But the part that made me go, "What the deuce?!" was this - the publisher said that I'd used too many long, obscure words and he/she had required a dictionary to look some of them up!!  I'm racking my brains to recall what ludicrous words I might have employed.  Supercilious?  Asinine?

I believe that, when trying to write in an interesting manner, one has to strike a balance between not overwhelming the reader, nor patronising them.  Perhaps in my efforts to write dialogue that's appropriate to the historical settings I've gone over-the-top with the flowery language?  On the other hand, maybe the staff member who wrote this response has a vocabulary that is insufficient for a job in publishing?!   I should add that this publisher deals exclusively with historical fiction, so I would have assumed that they'd be used to archaic language!  

zombie aphroditemf

Halloween 2015

Posted on 2015.11.02 at 09:41
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Me, Paul and the kids went to a friend's party to celebrate Halloween.  All the adults and kids went trick or treating together, which was hilarious, and my first ever trick or treating experience (it just didn't happen in England when I was a kid - even dressing up is a relatively new phenomenon).

I went as Kirsty from Hellraiser.  I opted for this costume because the character has the exact same hair as me, and wears a white t-shirt and denim jeans - the EASIEST costume imaginable!  Though I did go to the effort of making a fake puzzle box, from a handy template I found online.

Scarlett was a creepy clown (I did her make-up), and Dylan was an adorable skeleton (I cut his hair and ballsed up the fringe, so he looks like Baldrick from Blackadder):

Scarlett carved her own pumpkin, I carved a Danzig-themed one, and then made a delicious pie from the innards of both.  It was my first attempt at pumpkin pie (I usually make pumpkin cake), and I was rather pleased at how it turned out:

goth aphroditemf

My bro is getting married... again!

Posted on 2015.10.25 at 14:09
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My brother and sister-in-law are having a second wedding!  Last year they got married in Bali (they have lived in Korea for the last few years, and been backpacking around the Far East).  Here's the LJ entry with pics of their first wedding:


Angela, my sister-in-law, is from West Virginia, so that's where they're having their "proper" wedding, next year.  So it looks like we're all having a holiday in America!  After Jim gets his green card he'll be moving there too.

I think Scarlett and I are going to be bridesmaids, which is awesome, because if there's one thing we both love it's a fabulous frock!  

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