Friday, 12 December 2014

That Time Of Year

I last celebrated xmas about 20 years ago. As such, I recommend this article The Gift of Death by George Monbiot. And this poem by Benjamin Zephaniah, performed here. And if you wore a jumper for Save The Children, consider this.

You want more? Here's a silly story I wrote back in 2000. It's not one that'll ever published, just a bit of unedited whimsy, but what do you expect for free? :-)

The Importance Of Being Humbug

December 22nd. Magnificent golden light shone horizontally across the silent library in the burg of Hushingdon. Peace was settled on that little place dedicated to the gathering of knowledge and dust, which swirled and danced in the shafts of light. The only sound was the turning of pages.
The Librarian sat at the Enquiry Desk, deciphering the Holy Trinity of mysteries that were Dewey, USMARC and XML. He knew that there was only one other person in the library – a trendy-looking blonde girl who had asked where The New Statesman was kept. Since then she had been sat in the centre of the reading room, surrounded by a dead forest of empty desks. She was intent and intense, and The Librarian couldn’t help but look over at her, for indeed, she was beautiful. Beautiful in a cold way – the beauty of a bright Winter’s morning, or the Ice Queen. Austere and something to worship, but possibly unforgiving.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Amazon's Kindle Fire

I have a Kindle Fire HD - it was a gift from someone, since normally I wouldn't be keen to support Amazon. The Kindle Fire mostly works well as a simplified tablet but with irritations, including:
  • Regularly refilling the carousel with music I had deleted.
  • You can't get rid of nagging "Customers Also Bought..." icons.
I don't care what they bought!
  • You can't put a lockscreen image of your choosing up, such as one with a visible contact number if lost.
  • It has a cluttered top menu with options trying to sell you things which you can't get rid of even though you don't use them such as Audiobooks, Newsstand, Videos, Shop.
  • Some clunkiness - I made new documents in a word processing package and the Kindle could see them and open them, but they didn't show up when I connected the Kindle to my PC - it turned out I had to reset the Kindle before they showed up.
  • I remove docs (pdfs) from the device after I have read them, using the hold>menu option, but when I look at the Kindle's storage space directly by connecting it to my PC the documents are often still there, invisible to the Kindle but taking up loads of space (with altered filenames). I have to delete them a second time manually. The Kindle seems to duplicate and rename pdfs, and only delete the originals through the OS shell options.
  • Amazon support.
  • It gets confused by smilies:
How they look on my PC

How the same email looks on my Kindle
  • When you switch to typing in numbers there is no option to add a full stop/decimal point. You have to jump back and forth between screens to do numbers with decimals, classmarks etc.
The number screen, lots of symbols, but no full stop

There are nice features too, such as the ability to email documents to a special address and they then appear on the Kindle (though copies are also stored on Amazon's servers by default: a setting I recommend changing).

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Doom Wars

What are the key personality traits of writers?

I recently read a post on Rock Paper Shotgun about key gaming moments. It got me thinking, and I wrote this:

One of my key gaming memories was "Ending the Doom Wars". Nowadays I have 101 FPS games to play. Back then, an undergraduate at university with my first PC (I had to work full time at Asda for a week, sometimes 12-hour days, to get the money for my 486DX to replace my beloved Amiga 1200) I had one, and it was called Doom. I had played the free shareware episode again and again. Then a university lecturer lent me the CD with the full game on so I could install it, and I began to play in earnest. The rules I set for myself were originally that I had to play on the Ultraviolence difficulty level (the hardest one before respawning enemies appeared) and I was not allowed to reload a game if I died. Instead I pressed spacebar to respawn with just a pistol. No level in Doom was impossible - it just meant a different approach as you sneaked around, led monsters to fight each other, and gathered weapons all over again. In fact, that was often more fun than entering a level with a full loadout. It made it tense again. Scary, even. It meant your skills and knowledge of the level improved. And the feeling of satisfaction as you survived to hit the exit switch was all the better.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Lykke Li

At the weekend I went to Manchester to see Lykke Li perform at the Albert Hall. She's a very exciting, super-talented Swedish woman who writes songs, sings, and performs, but is hands-on as a creator and re-creator in other areas. Her videos are striking, she's been in films, and she is happy to reinterpret her previous work (the versions of songs performed at the concert were often subtly changed from the album versions).

If you've never heard of her, here are some of my favourite songs and videos: the funky Get Some; her new Gunshot; the mesmerising Sadness Is A Blessing; and I Follow Rivers.

This concert was at the Albert Hall. I'd never been before, it's a cool venue, with its stained glass windows and cavernous interior. I chose to be stood in front of the stage rather than sitting on the balcony and being restrained. Eliot Sumner was the support. I’d not come across her before but she came on and owned the stage with her big bass and punky attitude, singing catchy and energetic songs with such gusto it was a really great surprise bonus to see her too.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Notes For Writing Fiction

There are some useful and concise tips for fiction writers on the website of Wade & Co (a literary agency). Well worth reading before you start drafting your next novel!

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Walking Dead

I enjoy PC games that tell stories, and games where you get pulled in, to become an actor in that story, making decisions that can change things. We all love it when we read a book or film and think: "What would I do in that situation?" With a good game you can find out.

Since it's Halloween, I decided to replay the PC game The Walking Dead (Season 1). Forget the zombies, it's an emotional tale of a man redeeming himself and protecting a young girl. By the end of the fifth and final episode many gamers reported being upset and emotional in a way they had not experienced before in a game - something more familiar to book readers. To be upset you have to care about the characters. This is a game that is all about characters, and difficult (if sometimes artificial) decisions. I couldn't help but be impressed at how this story was told. And if you enjoy The Walking Dead comics, and Romero's first three zombie films (Night, Dawn, Day), this will certainly scratch your itch. Remember the paradox: the biggest danger, but also sometimes your best help, is other people.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Readers Wanted!

Hello my discerning, intelligent, attractive friends. I'm fine, thanks. Wow, you look good today, John. That pin-stripe suit goes so well with the Fender Strat on your back. Now, if I - oh, that dress really suits your drumsticks, Susan. That's it, take a drink. I've gathered you all in my castle today to talk about my next novel, 2000 Tunes. It's nearly there. I've had good feedback from my editor, which was a cause for rejoicing. I was told the novel is well-written, immaculately plotted, and entertaining. The one issue left is that it's too long for most publishers, so needs a bit of trimming back, and a few other small touches.

"What's it about?"

Thanks for asking, Roger. It's set in the year 2000 and is about a music-obsessed young man waiting for The Hacienda to re-open. And about love. And family. And criminals. It can be read as a partner to Cold Fusion 2000, though that isn't necessary, since 2000 Tunes stands alone. It's just that if you enjoyed Cold Fusion 2000 then you should like 2000 Tunes. (Whereas if you prefer my horror stories then this probably won't be your cup of tea, or glass of Pineau des Charentes).

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Good Books

If you're looking for a good horror or sci-fi book or novella to read for Halloween, I recommend these ones from one of my Goodreads shelves.

Have you read any of them, or planned to?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Temporary Turner cover

To celebrate Halloween this year I made a new, temporary cover for Turner (for the e-book versions only). It's based on this Gianluca image. I'll change it back once October has passed. Happy spookiness, my little gremlins!