Sunday, 31 October 2010

Don't Look! T-minus 12 hours.


This is what happens when you take an innocent stroll along Exmouth beach on Halloween. Take heed and beware the zombie fish!

Thank you to everything that joined in with my impromptu Zombie Week and special thanks to Jeremy, also known as iZombie. The picture you see above is his work and if you want to see some more of his genius, click here. If you're a Trekkie you'll particularly enjoy his zombie versions of Kirk and Spock. For a small donation, you too can become a zombie.

Now to NaNoWriMo, which for those of us living by GMT, is now only 12 hours away. Yikes. I had promised to let you know which novel I'd be writing, but I'm going to do that tomorrow. I have decided. Honestly. I just need to make a few last minute tweaks, fill out my NaNo novel page, and I'll be ready.

Friday's regional meeting went well and I really enjoyed myself. Being in the company of other NaNo's both inspired and motivated me to succeed. Some of the writers attending were first timers, like myself, and others have done several.

One of the things that motivated me was finding out most of the planned novels have a speculative angle, with genres covered including fantasy, historical, horror, murder mystery, and science fiction. All the novel ideas caught my interest. Of course some of the writers have planned their novels in detail and that did cause me to feel a little unprepared, but then I reminded myself I'm not a plotter. I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer, according to NaNo guidelines.

What about you? Do you prepare detailed plotlines and character notes? Do you have chapter titles and scene notes before you start writing? Or do you start with a rough idea and see where the characters take you?

Friday, 29 October 2010

Zombie and NaNoWriMo Dating

Actually, I didn't. It's day five of Zombie Week and I'd planned to tell you about my adventures on Zombie Harmony, a zombie-dating site. Perhaps I'm naive but I thought this site was purely for fun. However, I realised yesterday that it is a real dating site, albeit with an apocalyptic theme. In the interests of my living partner, I decided not to even sign up; I don't think he'd appreciate me receiving emails from Lonely Bill or Luvs2cuddle!

If you are single and fancy meeting someone via a more unusual route, sign up here.

It's not all bad news, though. I'm going on my first NaNoWriMo date today. I use the term 'date' loosely, because it is one of three meetings for NaNo members in the Devon region. But I do have to wear something red to distinguish myself!

It looks like there will be at least 20 of us attending, which is a good number. So, if you happen to be in Exeter from 3pm, and are passing The Boston Tea Party, pop in and say hello. For my foreign friends, just fuel up the private jet and I'll provide coffee and cakes when you arrive.

I have one major concern as I approach today's meeting and the weekend - I still haven't decided which novel to write. I've made notes for all three novel ideas, but as NaNo starts in four days, I'm beginning to panic. I have not filled out my novel page on the NaNo site and I'm worried about appearing totally disorganised for the meeting. How do I decide? At this point I'm seriously considering sticking the three ideas in a hat and pulling one out.

Have you been to a regional NaNo meeting before? If so, what should I expect? Have you decided what your NaNo novel will be this year and how much preparation have you done?

The final day of Zombie Week will be on Halloween, when I promise I will have made a decision and you'll get to see what happened to me when I was bitten by a zombie fish.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Main Course and News

It's day three of Zombie Week and I'm offering you the main course of the feastivities, the Zombie Bite Calculator.






If bitten, how long before you become infected? I would turn into a zombie in one hour and 14 minutes. How about you?






The Zombie Bite Calculator comes courtesy of The Oatmeal. If you haven't checked out Matthew Inman's site then it is well worth a visit. Particular favourites of mine are the twitter spelling test and how many germs live on your mobile phone? There also some hilarious comic pages, with topics such as how to use a semicolon and the five phases of caffeine intake.


Now for some news:

My 6000 word tribute to William Shatner, Why Do Aliens Love Iowa?, has been accepted for the Static Movement's Tribute to the Stars Anthology.

I'm ecstatic about this acceptance for many reasons. Firstly, at just over 6000 words it is the longest short story I've written. Secondly, it's the first story I've written with a particular person in mind, in this case William Shatner. If you don't already know about this anthology, the editor is looking for stories that are written as if you were making a movie and your favourite actor/actress will be playing the lead part. Thirdly, all the actors/actresses featured will be sent a copy of the anthology. I don't know if William Shatner will read it - I'm sure he gets sent lots of things - but you never know.

See you on Friday, when coffee and zombie dating will feature on the menu.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Zombie Week (25th - 31st October)

After working Saturday, not getting to bed until 1am Saturday and Sunday night, and cooking a roast for the neighbours Sunday, I feel like a zombie this morning. And it has occurred to me that during NaNoWriMo I might just resemble a zombie to all the non-writers in my life, as every second of my spare time is devoted to the lives of my characters and the journey they will take me on. No doubt I'll be sat in the corner of the room at some event or function, looking vacant and staring into space. Someone will ask me if I'd like another drink and I'll say, "Is that wise? The spaceship has just lost artificial gravity and is plummeting to the hostile planets surface. I don't think now is the time for a drink."

So in an attempt to recognise and embrace the zombie within, and because I just want to have some fun before the seriousness of NaNoWriMo starts on the 1st November, I'm declaring 25th - 31st October Zombie Week on my blog. Sink your teeth into today's starter course, a book trailer that blends Star Trek and Zombies into one. On Wednesday I'll be offering the succulent main course and asking, how long will it take you to become infected from a zombie bite? We'll skip the dessert on Friday (zombies need to watch their waistlines too) and head straight for the coffee, because have you ever pondered the intricacies of zombie dating? No. I hadn't either. Finally, on Halloween you'll find out what happened to me when I took a walk at the beach and was bitten by a zombie fish. It wasn't pretty.

Let the feastivities begin! Please note this book trailer contains images that some people may find disturbing or offensive.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Cinderella's Shoe Blogfest

Over at Scribble and Edit the fabulous Madeleine is hosting Cinderella’s Shoe Blogfest, where your challenge is “to write a maximum 500 word piece or a poem about any character who loses something that when found by another results in their mutual happiness/relief/salvation/ Or whatever.”

I've decided to be experimental with my entry and it takes the form of letters. Please note that the following is entirely a work of fiction and comes from the writer’s imagination. It does not reflect actual events.


June 1974

Dear Leonard,

Please find enclosed a prosthetic ear I found during the LA convention; part of my 12-step recovery programme is to return any items that do not belong to me. I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me because you are my favourite actor.

Live long and prosper,
Judith



July 1974

Dear Judith,

I must say I was surprised to receive your letter at my home address, but I was pleased to read you are returning items that do not belong to you. I was sure I had lost that ear during my trip back home from the LA Con; I misplaced a whole box of props at a service station.

You asked me for my forgiveness but I need to thank you – returning that prosthetic ear has had a profound effect on me. On closer inspection I found the manufacturing serial number, which should have marked it as an ear I wore during the first season, was incorrect. After asking a few questions and talking to Majel, I have discovered I never wore the ear you returned to me and that I was not the first choice to play Spock! Another actor had already read for the part (Majel could not remember his name) and even had a set of prosthetic ears made for him. For some unknown reason the actor pulled out and I was offered the role. But I realised that if more than one actor has worn the legendary pointy ears then that means I haven’t always been Spock! This realisation has inspired me to write my memoirs. I am going to call them I Am Not Spock. What do you think?

Leonard



July 1974

Dear Leonard,

I can’t believe you wrote back to me! I’ve written letters to other cast members but all I got back was a warning not to contact them at their home addresses. I always new you were the nicest cast member. However, this will be my last letter to your home - step nine involves learning appropriate boundaries in personal relationships. From now on I will forward any correspondence to your official address.

I can’t believe the ear was not worn by you but please don’t call your memoirs I’m Am Not Spock. You are Spock!

Live long and prosper,
Judith

p.s. perhaps you could auction the mysterious ear for charity?



October 1996

Dear Judith,

You may not remember but several years ago you returned a prosthetic ear to me and suggested I auction it for charity. I was recently asked to donate items to for The Actors Hardship Fund and I thought of that ear. Unfortunately, I had to remove it from the auction as the actor who the ear was made for came forward and claimed he had lost it around the time it came into my possession. The actor claimed he was Spock! My lawyers said he didn’t have much of a case but I said let him wear it; if it fits then he can have it!

You will be pleased to know my new memoir I Am Spock will be out shortly.

Leonard

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

100th Blog Post!

I can’t believe I’ve reached my 100th blog post already. I’ve been having so much fun in blogging cyberspace that I didn’t notice the time whizzing by, and because I wouldn’t still be blogging if it were not for all the heartfelt comments I’ve received over the last few months, which have motivated and inspired me to continue writing, I wanted to dedicate a new award to the bloggers who’ve taken the time to comment.

So if you’ve ever commented on one of my blog posts or are commenting today for the first time, the Comments with Heart Award is especially for you.


There is just one small rule for picking up the award: please leave a comment below telling us what commenting means to you. Share with us the highs, lows, laughs, and sometimes tears of blog commenting.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

CassaStar Launches!


Start transmission.

I’m breaking my new blogging schedule because today is the launch date of CassaStar, the debut publication of talented writer and fellow blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh. I’ve already downloaded my kindle version and, having read the first two chapters, I can tell you that if you buy this book you’re in for a thrilling ride. I will be posting a review shortly. In the mean time, here are a few things to make you want to teleport your own copy.



What is the blurb?

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin, the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?


Who is Alex J. Cavanaugh?

Apart from being a creative and prolific blogger, Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He’s experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently he lives in the Carolinas with his wife. Visit his blog to get a taste of who Alex J. Cavanaugh is.


Where can I buy the book?

CassaStar is available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, and BAM. It is also available in ebook format for Kindle, iPad, Nook and others.


Is there one of those cool book trailers I can watch?

Yes. Clear here to launch the trailer.

So what are you waiting for? If you don’t believe me when I say this book will take you on a thrilling sci-fi journey, trust in all the other bloggers who are dedicating blog space to Alex J. Cavanaugh this week. They have faith and so should you.

End transmission.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Making the Tough Decisions

Towards the end of September I asked the question, how do you balance your time between blogging and writing? I was struggling to find a happy balance between the two and needed some advice as to how to better manage my time.

My fellow bloggers came up with many helpful suggestions and solutions:

Stockpiling posts.
Putting writing first.
Sticking to a blog schedule.
Limiting blogging to so many days a week.
Getting up earlier to spend time on your blog.
Taking days off from blogging.
Remembering it’s a book you want to publish and not your blog.

I must admit that even though all the advice offered sensible solutions, I didn’t really act on any of them – I was having too much fun with my new addiction.

However, over the last two weeks I’ve finally realised that whilst blogging has opened me up to numerous friends and a wealth of knowledge, none of that is any good if I’m not writing. Over the last two weeks I kept a record of how much time I spent on my blog or those of others (including any associated emails and links) and then compared that to the time I spent writing. The difference between the two figures is shocking:

Blogging 22.5 hours
Writing 7 hours

Less than a quarter of my free time was spent writing, and with NaNoWriMo starting in two weeks, I cannot continue devoting such a large proportion of my time to blogging no matter how much I love it. And worse, I’ve begun to feel the quality of my writing is slipping because I’m not giving it the time needed. So I’ve decided to take the advice to limit blogging to certain days of the week, or in other words, introduce non-blogging days. I know that might seem severe but once I turn on the laptop and venture online, I just can’t help myself.

My new schedule will allow me to blog on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On those days I can blog as much as I want without feeling guilty, because on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays I will be devote my free time to writing. Of course there will be the occasional exception – blogfests, guest blog posts, and fellow blogger book launches – but I will try to stick to the schedule. If I don’t there is only one other option left - to not have a blog. I don’t want to even consider that option.

What do you think? Am I being too hard on myself? Do you think it is possible to stick to such a schedule? Would you tackle the issue in another way?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

NaNoWriMo Here I Come

With a big intake of air, and much stomach clenching, I signed up for my first NaNoWriMo on Sunday. I've been considering it for a couple of years now and decided that I needed to just do it and hopefully finish the month with 50,000 words. They may not be 50,000 publishable words but then that's not the point of NaNoWriMo; the re-writes can be done later.

There are pros and cons for spending the 30 days of November writing on average 1,666 words a day.



The Pros:
  • It will be a test-run for writing a novel.

  • I'll have written 50,000 of a novel.

  • I'll be joining a community of writers taking part and, hopefully, gleam lots of useful advice.

  • I'll have achieved something I never thought possible.

  • I'll feel good about myself.
The Cons:
  • I will need to write at 1,666 words a day or, taking a few days off, at least 2,000.

  • I will need to sacrifice certain activities to find the find the time, such as TV, housework, ironing, and cooking. Hang on, that could be a pro.

  • I will need my friends and family to understand they won't be seeing as much of me as they'd like.

  • I will need to cut back on my blogging time, severely.

  • The 50,000 words I end up with may be absolute rubbish.

I'm sure there are lots of other pros and cons I've not yet thought of, which I will quickly learn or readers will point out. But the biggest question now is what do I write? Here are the options I'm considering:
  1. Hear on Earth - a science fiction novel I started and stopped over 13 years ago.

  2. Seeds of Change (working title) - a science fiction short story I am considering extending into a novel.

  3. Two Novellas - a zombie western and a horror western.

I will let you know nearer the time which option I've chosen.

For those who have visited the NaNoWriMo website and watched the video on the homepage, if I were a tupee, I'd be William Shatners (watch the video and you'll understand). For those who have or are signing up, you can find me under the username of 'shatnerstupee'!

Have you done NaNoWriMo and/or are you doing it this year? What are you planning to write? What advice would you offer to anyone taking part?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Aha! Heaven and 100 followers

My legs and feet hurt and I'm exhausted, but it was worth very minute. Well, except for forgetting about my fear of heights when booking the concert tickets, Aha not doing an encore, and it taking us forever to find the hotel. But what would a trip to London be without a mishaps?

The Royal Albert Hall was the usual stunning venue and Aha treated us to two entire albums - Hunting High and Low and Scoundrel Days. Morton Harket didn't sound any different than 25 years ago; whether he looked any different I couldn't tell as we were high up in the Circle seats (the photograph was taken with the zoom on maximum and doesn't indicate just how high up we were). And when I mean high, I mean the fear inducing, stomach-churning heights that comes from having a seat in the second row from front of the circle. I must remember the small issue of height next time I book tickets for The Royal Albert Hall. Apart from that the only low point of the concert was Aha not doing an encore. Why? Even if was just one song it would have been what the fans wanted!

Finding our hotel after the concert was a bit of a disaster. We'd booked ourselves into the Travelodge at Covent Garden and forgot one minor detail - an address for the hotel. After an hour of aimless wandering we hopped into a rickshaw and five minutes later we were there, minus £15. Why didn't we do that in the first place?

On Saturday we went to Foyles bookstore and I was in heaven. One hour and three writing books later we left. I know I could have probably bought them cheaper on Amazon but how could I not buy something in one of the best bookstores in the country?

We pulled into our local train station at about 9pm last night and were treated to the end of the Exmouth carnival. So, all in all, it was a great trip.


I have 101 followers!

Whilst I was away the answer to which will come first - 100 Followers or 100th Post Awards? - was decided. A huge thank you to dirtywhitecandy for taking me to the magic 100 figure and to DanPloy for taking me just over.

In my post on the 28th September, I said that when I reached 100 followers I'd have a draw and one person would win . . .a surprise. This morning I hopped over to random.org and put 1 to 101 in the random number generator and asked it to give me a winner. Drum roll . . .the winning number was follower number 12, Pixie J. King.

Congratulations, Pixie. For your prize you get to choose two of the following books (if you have one or more of them let me know and I'll offer some alternatives):

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo.



Thank you to everyone who has chosen to follow me and I hope that I will continue to make my blog a place you want to visit from time to time.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Aha! My Friends

There won't be any question of the day tomorrow because I'm off to London to see Aha in concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

It's the LSO who is the real Aha fan but after dragging him to the Film and Comic Convention in July I knew I needed to treat him to something special, and the Royal Albert Hall is special. Stunning is the word I'd use. I've only been there once before and that was to see the legendary film music composer Ennio Morricone and I was blown away by the venue, the music, and the amazing atmosphere. If you ever get a chance, go.

Aha will be performing their entire Hunting High and Low album, containing several iconic tracks from my childhood, with a 30-piece orchestra and screen projections. It should be an experience to remember.

Can you believe it's been 25 years since their Hunting High and Low album? Do you remember 1985? What were you doing that year? Share your jumper dress and pixie boot moments with us all.

In 1985 I was 13 and a geek. I was in love with Nik Kershaw and David Bowie. I know, they couldn't be more different. I remember watching the Take On Me video repeatedly and the whole family watching Aha on the Royal Variety Performance. If I remember correctly, they sang The Sun Always Shines on TV.

I'm not sure what year jumper dresses and Pixie boots came out, but I wore them. I had a grey and pink striped jumper dress and burgundy pixie boots, which I wore all the time. Those were the days.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Weird Anthology Calls

I'm always looking for the more unusual anthologies to submit to and here is a round-up of some I'm hoping to write stories for that might also interest you:

Midnight Movie: Creature Feature by May December Publications. Stories should be between 3,000 – 10,000 words and contain at least one type of creature (zombie, vampire etc) and NO humans. May December publications specialise in zombie fiction and have several other anthologies open to submission. No submission deadline yet. Details are available here.


How the West Was Wicked by Pill Hill Press. Think the American Wild West with a speculative element, and then make it weird or disturbing. They haven't officially posted details on their website about this yet, but you can check out the discussion on this and several other anthologies on their forum. Reading for this anthology starts on the 5th January 2011 and they are leaving a wide word limit for this one, 500 – 15,000 words.


Staying with the western theme, Wicked East Press is looking for submissions for a 2012 anthology entitled Dead Rush: Old West Horror. With a deadline of 28th February 2012, there's more than enough time to write a story. Word limit is 3,500 – 7,000 words, but they will consider stories from 1,500 – 10,000. Check out this and several other anthologies open to submission on their forum.


A Tribute to the Stars by Static Movement is one anthology I'm incredibly excited about. Stories must be a tribute to your favourite star, and you will name the star you'd like to play the main character. Any actors/actresses named in the anthology will be sent a copy, so serious submissions only. There is no maximum word limit but a minimum of 2,000 (thanks to Pixie for correcting me on that one). Any genre is acceptable, but this is a story for the actor/actress to star in, not about them. See the forum discussion for more details.


Finally, Pill Hill Press are still looking for submissions for their Daily Bites of Flesh: 365 Days of Flash Fiction anthology, 500 words or less stories about zombies, vampires, werewolves, and other man-eating/bloodsucking creatures. I've had one piece already accepted and I'm currently writing a second. Check out the details here. Deadline is 3rd November 2010.


Now for an update on my 1oo Followers Draw or 100 Blog Post Awards Celebrations: I now have 94 followers and this is my 92nd post. Which will be first? It's too close to call.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

I Smell A Bad Ending Turned Good

I don't know whether to be chuffed or embarrassed, but I'm a finalist for The Scent of an Ending competition. If you don't know anything about this competition, it asks you to submit the title for an imaginary novel and the final 25 - 125 words. The twist is that your ending must be a bad. Your writing must literally stink.

As I'm always looking for the more unusual competitions, I entered and was surprised to be selected as a finalist. They haven't named the winners yet but you can read my entry here. Details for their next competition, ending on the 3rd January 2011, are here. As they put it, "Start the New Year wrong!"

In the mean time I'll be keeping my nose to the grindstone and hoping I might win.

Friday, 1 October 2010

How long is a story prompt?


How long is a story prompt?

I've been selected to be part of an anthology with a twist. I can't give to many details, as it's very hush, hush. There will be ten authors, each writing a 10,000-word story. I've never written a story of this length before but I've decided to use it as a warm-up for my novel; I can use it to practice writing something much longer. And another great thing about this selection is that it is helping to pull me out of my work blues.

Part of the anthology process involves me providing a story prompt. The prompt should be enough to trigger a story but short enough that you are not outlining the story. I think of a prompt as being anything from one sentence to a paragraph; the kind of thing you may see in a writing practice book. What do you think? I would really appreciate some advice.