Monday, 13 April 2015


Beauty. What is it? The broadest definition: a combination of qualities that pleases.

For me it is stronger, something that causes a mental intake of breath, a sprinkling of awe. I don't use the word lightly. It is not the same as pretty, nice, or gently pleasant. It affects you and stays with you, extending beyond the moment of its existence.

Beauty doesn't just exist in objects. It could be a face, the way the light reflects off a stream, a painting, a word combination, an action you hear about or witness. Back when I studied geology I had no interest in the aspects about how humans exploited the earth for fossil fuels; instead I loved being in the lab, able to hold pieces of mineral, examining how they felt, reflected, shone. A sliver of olivine glinting in the late afternoon light that signalled the end of study might bring beauty into my life. Reading by the lake, alone but contented, and glancing up at the water - that brought beauty.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Review: Son of Rosemary

Son of Rosemary
Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rosemary's Baby 33 years on. Look elsewhere for a plot summary. There is one key thing I'd like to say: the book isn't as bad as many reviews would lead you to believe.

Still, there are problems, and I think their number is five. Five. Five:

1> Going into it expecting horror, then discovering that 99% of the book has no horror element. Adjust your expectations. There is more shopping, hairdressing and neck kissing than horror; the novel is darkly comic in tone. Not bad, but disappointing if it is not what you expect.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Lots Of Hits

I was just looking at an old blog post, Creeping Jesus Multimediafied, and noticed that in the screenshot the video had 38,000 views and 814 likes. When I visited the video today it had nearly 100,000 views and over 1,600 likes. Wow. Although I wrote the story the credit goes to Creeps McPasta for doing the hard work of arranging to have it narrated. Still, it's nice to see it getting out there!

(Another horror story of mine got the multimedia treatment here.)

Friday, 20 February 2015

Rape In Fiction

In my last post I criticised Prince Of Thorns for cruelty and rape which I didn't think was necessary for the story, and - in fact - damaged it. But my mind wouldn't leave it there. I tend to dwell. And I worried that I was being hypocritical.

There is a reference to rape in my first novel. I had pondered it a few times, worried about it, contemplated removing the reference. I can't help but revisit things and question their significance and relevance and whether they are justified or not. It’s one of the reasons I included the question as to whether Turner was anti-Welsh in my FAQ (my conclusion: no; it would have been a strange attitude for anyone to accuse me of; although I hate nationalism, I’ve lived in Wales since the 20th century and spent nearly half my life here.)

Over time I have pondered whether I should remove the reference to rape from Turner. Easily done, since it's only a few lines. Many readers might not even notice it, since it's a passing reference during one of the villain's speeches, an ominous scene that leads up to a torture (which also isn't shown). I don't think it's ever been mentioned in a review of Turner.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Review: Prince Of Thorns

Prince of Thorns
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had heard about this novel's nasty teenage protagonist, Jorg, and bought the book because (as a writer myself) I was specifically interested in how a novelist could create any sympathy for an unpleasant protagonist; or, rather, whether they could succeed in this.

Well, the nastiest references to acts are near the start, when we casually discover that the protagonist raped, then burnt women alive. I almost put the book down at that point, but I wanted to know how, if at all, the writer would try and redeem Jorg. Well, he doesn't really. You can't. What happens is that so much occurs quickly that later events just swamp out the first few pages. Also, later explanations imply diminished responsibility for Jorg. None of that convinced me though. After finishing the novel I think it would have been better without those extra nasty references at the start. My dislike of the protagonist for that was never overcome, and the acts were beyond what was required to establish the antihero. I know that the author was partly inspired by A Clockwork Orange, but that doesn't mean that the worst parts needed to be emulated.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Finding Formats

We all know how to find words and phrases in a document: but have you ever wanted to find all items in a document that are underlined, for example? Or a particular word, but only when it is not in bold? It turns out you can do that easily in Word. I needed to track down all words in italics today, to check that usage matched my style guide, and it was surprisingly easy. If you want to know how to do it then there's a quick way here, and more options here. It's a handy tip for finding instances of formatting in long documents, particularly for enhancing consistency.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Words And Names

What are words? Just combinations of letters or sounds that have shared meaning. Or, in some cases such as a name, perhaps no other meaning than "this is what we call this individual item/person". In a logical world there would be no restrictions on names, because language is truly democratic and owned by all. However, we do not live in a logical world: companies and governments work together to restrict certain combinations for reasons of profit or control. Newspeak began a long time prior to 1984.

I got thinking about this when some friends told me last night that parents were not allowed to name their child Nutella. It's a silly name, but then again why should names be as bland as Charles or Brad? Although I'm not overkeen on names like Fifi Trixibelle or Satchel, at least the name is an outright admittance of difference, not some attempt to just choose from a limited pot out of fear of breaking with convention.

When I created characters and NPCs in role-playing games I rolled letter dice and used them to come up with names. But more and more words are getting legal restrictions, for example due to being registered as trademarks. Even words which weren't created by a company can be trademarked and restricted. Apple is a good example. Surely the trademark people should have said, “Apple? Sorry, that’s a real thing. You can’t trademark it for yourselves. Why not choose Apel? Apfruit? Drangus? There are limitless possibilities to make up words and combine them, why do you want to steal a word made by others?" Nah, that would be too sensible. So companies continue to steal from our language store. Please can I trademark the word glass? Memory? Candy? Of course.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Which is best?

Advice needed! I had a scene written, where fragments were separated by blank lines to indicate passage of time. I also worked it so that each section could be read as connected to the previous, even though in reality the two parts of a sentence referred to different things. Some people said this was confusing, so I need some more feedback. I don't want to use a style that pulls people out of the story.

I just wondered which of the options below people preferred, or found easiest to read? Let me know by email or in the comments (or via Facebook).

Note that it is only the transitions between sections that I am talking about (and those transitions are the only thing I changed between the three options). No need to read the whole thing three times!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Jane Eyre

I have read this novel at least five times. Maybe it is starting to wear thin on me. That's not to denigrate it: it is still an accomplishment to write any book which I would read more than once.

I won't reiterate the plot, we all know the lives and loves of a governess and the manly Rochester. It's got some great lines. One of my favourites was: "And with that answer he left me. I would much rather he had knocked me down."

** spoiler alert **
The co-incidences used as plot devices sometimes stretch credibility too far. The worst offenders: