Thursday, 30 September 2010
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
A moment of profound realisation passed over me last Saturday: I'd made my 85th post and I had 85 followers. Okay. Maybe not that profound, given that this is my 87th post and I have 87 followers. Maybe spooky is more appropriate. Or she's-been-spending-too-much-time-on-her-blog-again.
Anyway, as it seems to be customary to celebrate your 100th follower and 100th blog post, I thought I couldn't let either pass without doing something. So I decided on the following for each milestone, and which one comes first will be up to you:
- When I've reached 100 followers, I'll put everyone’s names into a draw via random.org and one person will win . . .a surprise! Evil laugh. It’s a nice surprise, honest.
- When I reach my 100th post (only 13 to go), anyone who comments on that post will get a special new blogging award. Hint: it has something to do with commenting.
Just so you know, when I reach my 1000th follower, I’ll post a short video of William Shatner and I acting together. Seriously, I will. Trekkies honour and all that.
As you may remember, part of the prize for the first place winner of my recent competition was to have a character named after them in one of my short story submissions. I sent the winner an email last night letting her know how that part of the prize is progressing. Currently, Jen Daiker is lost in a post-apocalyptic world and her boyfriend is desperately trying to find her. He's given up the chance of one kind of survival with aliens because he can't live without her. Where is she and will he find her? I don't know yet.
I'll let you know more as the story is written!
Saturday, 25 September 2010
If Shatnerquake by Jeff Burk is the low-budget third series episode from Star Trek: The Original Series, Night of the Living Trekkies is several classic second season episodes put together - think Amok Time and The Trouble with Tribbles. Night of the Living Trekkies is the superior intellect.
At 253 pages this is novel, as opposed to the the 83-page novella that was Shatnerquake, and is a book that appeals on many levels:
- Star Trek fans will love it. Think of a Star Trek convention where the characters are really put in dangers way; watch out all you redshirts!
- Zombie fans will love it - another zombie genre has been born.
- Star Wars fans may love it, but I doubt it. Know any Star Wars fans? Send them this for Christmas and really annoy them.
I would recommend this book as a must read for all zombie and Star Trek fans, and even if you don't know anything about either genre, you should still enjoy it.tera'nganbej neH jIH 'ach 'e' vIQIjlaH! (I'm really only an Earthling, but that's a long story)
Friday, 24 September 2010
How do you balance your time between blogging and writing?
In the four months I've been blogging, I've become addicted to it. No other word would better describe my feelings. I love the connection it brings with other writers around the world. I love being inspired by their creativity, and learning new skills. I love writing my own blog posts and the creative element that goes in to them.
But I'm also beginning to realise that I am spending a growing percentage of my free time blogging. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given the reasons I've already listed. However, I'm spending as much, if not more time, thinking about blog posts as with my writing. That is not good. My writing should come first. Which leads me to the question, how do you balance your time between blogging and writing?
Thursday, 23 September 2010
To take part in the blogfeast bloggers must write a scene where food is central to or part of what happens, and it is safe to say that I’ve taken a more unpalatable approach with my story.
Warning: this story is not for the weak-stomached or squeamish; Shaun of the Dead or CSI fans may read on.
Even Zombies Have Taste
I know what you’re thinking – give a zombie a few processed body parts, or a can of brains, and they’ll be satisfied. You’re wrong.
I’ve been keeping zombies for a few years now and each of them had slightly different tastes in food. ZomBob is the fussiest so far. The first day I took him home – after the standard 24-hours quarantine – he made his feelings on food known.
ZomBob had settled into his room that first day quite well under the circumstances – he’d been a CEO of a major corporation and was used to penthouse living - and if you had seen his drooling downcast face when he caught sight of his new accommodations, you’d have shed a tear or two like me. Martha, my wife, just pushed him into the nine by ten foot spare room with the seven-foot pole we’d bought from Pets For You; she was taking no chances.
Martha had been against keeping zombies as pets from the beginning. But, as I told her then, she was no Martha Stewart, and the spare room always did have that unpleasant odour. By the time ZomBob came along she was resigned to always having a zombie in our lives and joked she might as well have been one.
In his room were the basic essentials: straw bedding, potty hole, water cooler, and a food bowl. In the food bowl I’d emptied four cans of Pedigree Chum, chicken flavour. ZomSuz had always liked that flavour.
At Infection Control they’d told me ZomBob had not been fed since he was captured, so I expected him to be ravenously hungry. After a few seconds of sniffing the bowl’s contents, he let out a hideously loud groan and then threw up whatever his last meal had been; feet, I think.
“Just great,” Martha had declared. “And who’s cleaning that mess up?”
“No need to worry about that,” I said, as ZomBob began re-eating the contents of his stomach.
Over the next few days I tried to tempt his taste buds with a long list of canned groceries – dog food, cat food, hotdogs sausages, pork tongue, and even meatballs. He didn’t take a bite, and was beginning to look pale even for a zombie.
Martha wanted to return him but I felt sorry for the chap; it wasn’t his fault he’d been infected. He hadn’t asked to be bitten.
After a week I decided to try fresh meat, some mutton and chicken giblets. He actually ate the mutton, but spent far too long time chewing it. When I presented him with the same meal three hours later he turned his back on me and curled up into a ball under his bedding. Zombies don’t ignore their owners. Never. They’re programmed eating machines, with a raging instinct to chow down on anything made of flesh and bone within a five-mile radius. ZomFrank used to beg for his food and I’d taught ZomSuz a few tricks with the offer of her favourite food, pepperoni. But ZomBob was ignoring the guttural instinct deep within him. So, I did what any devoted zombie owner would do – I gave him a live snack.
Only it didn’t turn out quite they way I expected; Martha was not tasty enough for him. After I’d diligently sat watching ZomBob ignore my wife’s drugged body for more than six hours, she finally woke up, screamed, and then lost part of her left forearm in his mouth. He spat it out immediately.
It didn’t take long for the virus to take her and for me to realise I now had two zombies to feed, and one of them could not be returned. One of them was livid. And vocal.
I don’t get to spend much time with them these days; working triple shifts to pay for their steak and caviar does not leave much owner-pet bonding time. But I’m hoping to win the Pets For You Winnebago Competition. As the competition slogan says, Have Zombie, Will Travel. I think a holiday and new menu will do us all good.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
The publication of Counting the Pennies has been a bittersweet moment for me. On the one hand I’ve sold a short story to a magazine that averages a fortnightly readership of 280,000 plus, and only accepts 26 stories a year. But the editor has made quite a few changes. The title went from Counting the Pennies to Money, money, money (though they did use counting the pennies immediately below the title), an additional paragraph was added to the end (which I have to admit does make the ending better), and some words have been changed and sentences re-arranged. Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – it is still the story I wrote – just that the editor has altered and added to it in places.
I’ve read that when you sell a short story to a magazine the editor can pretty much do anything they want with it, but it still came as a shock to see the changes; especially adding the cliché ‘beating around the bush’! Maybe I’ve been spoilt with my anthology publications, where other than a few grammatical changes, the story is exactly as I wrote it.
What do you think? Have you had any experience in the women’s fiction market? I’d love to know your thoughts or experiences.
But delay those thoughts for a moment because it's time to announce the results of the competition. After assigning all 36 entrants a number, I used Random.org's True Random Number Generator to draw the three winners. And here they are:
1st Place - Jen
2nd Place - Michael G-G
3rd Place - Summer Ross
Congratulations to all three winners and thank you to everyone who entered. I'll be contacting the winners shortly for addresses, anthology choices, and in Jen's case, a character name!
Monday, 20 September 2010
Before I begin my top ten countdown let me say a couple of things: Firstly, this is a long blog post. I tried to keep it short but I got too excited. Secondly, some of the shows listed are here because in my opinion they are the best. One or two of them are here for more sentimental reasons; they bring back fond memories of childhood, family, and companionship.
10. Murder One (Case 1). First broadcast in 1995, the legal drama Murder One was in many ways a groundbreaker. It was one of, if not the first, TV shows to feature just one case over the entire series run, and in that respect it could be seen as the predecessor to the highly successful 24 series. Both the casting and script were excellent, and the only disappointment for me was the loss of the lead character Ted Hoffman, played by Daniel Benzali, for the second series. My advice - don’t bother with Case 2; it will sorely disappoint.
9. The X-Files. Where to begin? Mulder and Scully. The Smoking Man. Aliens. Conspiracy theories. Cockroaches. Killer insects. Science fiction. Mystery. I want to believe. I could go on and on. Everything about this show was right, from acting to episode plots. So why isn’t it higher on my list? The X-files was one of the most intelligent TV shows ever made and I spent some time debating where it should go in my top ten. The reason I do not rank it higher is that watching it now, it does seem quite dated and unfortunately it doesn’t give the same thrill at hearing the opening credits as it once did.
6. Wonders of the Solar System. The only factual show on my list for a very good reason – I am absolutely sure that this show has inspired a whole new generation to look at physics and science as something of fascination and wonder, rather than of stuffy old men and slide-rules. Of course it does help that the 42-year-old presenter (Yes, 42), Professor Brian Cox, has a magnetic personality and boyish charm. Also known as the Rock Professor because he was once in a rock band called Dare, he’s brought a big heap of cool to physics.
If you haven’t seen this series, do. Its follow up, Wonders of the Universe, is currently being filmed.
5. House. Being English, watching this show for the first time was a strange experience. To many of my generation Hugh Laurie was one half of the comedic duo Fry and Laurie, and mostly played the bumbling Englishman. Here, in House, he was playing a complicated, acerbic, and some-what sexy American doctor. It took me several episodes to get past the accent change and I very nearly gave up; I’m glad I didn’t. In my opinion, House is one the greatest TV shows ever made. The medical cases are fascinating, but what makes it worth watching is the relationships between the characters. My recommendation – watch it, now!
4. CSI Las Vegas. Not any of the others, just Las Vegas. Off course CSI Miami has the bonus of featuring David Caruso (Ladies, do you remember the naked shower scene in NYPD Blue?), but nothing beats the Las Vegas series. I think it is safe to say that I could now eat whilst watching any number of disgusting things on television because of this show; the autopsy scenes are not for the squeamish. When William Peterson had the idea for CSI, I think the TV producers must have wet their pants with excitement; such was the uniqueness of the show. Now there will be those who might point to Quincy - a show that narrowly missed my top ten – as being the first show to feature a forensic scientist and autopsies (you didn’t quite see them) but CSI has taken it to a whole new level.
3. 24. Whilst this show has, in my opinion, reached it’s sell-by-date, and featured some dubious continuity errors to fit into the 60-minute timeframe, series one was something TV viewers had never seen before – a whole series based on one day. What a risk they must have felt they were taking, but one that paid-off in the biggest way.
I remember series one was broadcast slightly behind America, on Sunday evenings in the UK, and every Monday there was only one topic of conversation at work – Jack Bauer and Nina Myers. I remember having to avoid the daily papers when the final episode aired in the US, so that we wouldn’t know the ending. And there was no temptation to peak; we were devoted. It still amazes me that some people haven’t watched this show, and I get great pleasure from lending them series one and seeing their faces when they beg for series two. Another ‘watch it now’ moment from me.
2. Star Trek. Some of you who know me well will be wondering why Star Trek isn’t my number one; you’ll have to read my number one to find out why.
Star Trek The Original Series was the TV show that started it all – my lifelong fascination with science fiction and space. Every Thursday evening I was allowed to stay up 45 minutes past my bedtime to watch it and how I thank my foster parents for that pleasure. Watching the original series now it seems dated, the acting wooden and dialogue cheesy, but that ongoing mission to explore new life ignited a passion within me that will never burn out. I am Trekkie and proud of it. I have watched all the series but the original and Voyager are in my opinion the best. William Shatner is my favourite actor, with Leonard Nimoy a close second, and my favourite film is The Wrath of Khan. I don’t have a uniform, yet. But I do have a phaser, so watch out!
Now cue the drum roll because here is the show that made it to the top of my list:
1. Battlestar Galactica (the remake). If Star Trek was the show that started my fascination with sci-fi, the original Battlestar Galactica was the show that made me stop, think, and believe I to could write such stories. It had dodgy special effects and somewhat cringe-worthy stories lines, but it was a whole different world, and a world full of humans that were not us. And they had fantastical names like Caprica, Apollo, and Starbuck. And there were robots called Cylons.
Now skip forward to 2003 and the Battlestar Galactica remake hit our screens with a three-hour miniseries, and then continued through five seasons. This remake was nothing like the original series. Yes, there were 12 colonies, Cylons, and a ship called Galactica. There were characters called Admiral Adama, Baltar, Starbuck, and Apollo, but that is where the similarities end. This was a superior TV show in every way. The casting was phenomenal - it was very hard to choose your favourite character (mine was Colonel Sol Tigh). The special effects were on the same level as, if not better, than those of a blockbuster movie. But there was so much more to this series than good casting and effects. BSG was a dark show that drew parallels with many of the issues facing the world today, such as terrorism, and they were not afraid to deal with controversial topics. As Adama said, “The day comes when you can’t hide from the things you’ve done.” Indeed.
I could probably write forever on this topic, so I’m just going to direct you to a clip on Youtube and then say, in true BSG style, if you haven’t watched this TV show, why the frak not?!
Sunday, 19 September 2010
As a recipient of this award I must partake of the following:
- Thank the award giver and link to their blog.
- Nominate five other creative writers/bloggers and link to their blogs.
- List either six crazy truths and one outrageous lie or six outrageous lies and one crazy truth.
So, a massive thank you to Emma. The five creative writers/bloggers I nominate are:
Now for my six crazy truths and one lie or six outrageous lies and one crazy truth. But which are they? You decide!
- I've seen David Bowie in concert thirty-four times.
- I have a crush on Professor Brian Cox, who presented Wonders of the Solar System, and follow his twitter comments daily.
- My brother and I came third in the National Cadet Sailing Championships.
- When I was twenty I was stranded in Egypt when I lost my flight boarding pass. I was interrogated for two days before they let me fly home.
- When I went to Paris in my teens, we couldn't go up the Eiffel tower because Duran Duran where filming their View to a Kill video.
- My partner is 18 years older than me.
- Although I'm 38, I quite regularly get asked for ID when purchasing alcohol.
Have you decided yet?!
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
“Once again I have found myself in the position where I cannot ignore the need to do something. This time it is Pakistan … The United Nations estimates that twenty million people have lost their homes as a result of the flooding that started last July. Add to this the thousands who have already lost their lives, and the thousands who will lose their lives because of famine and disease … And well, it is once again time to do something!”– Greg McQueen
I know this is incredibly short notice, but Greg is asking for 500 word short story submissions by Sunday 19th September. Why not search your unsubmitted files and see if there is anything suitable?
For full submission guidelines click here.
Details on how to purchase 100 Stories for Haiti are available here.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Ever looked at your favourite actor or actress and thought they should have been Luke Skywalker or Supergirl? Ever wondered how hilariously funny it might have been to watch Danny DeVito play Dirty Harry or Walter Matthau as The Godfather? Well now’s your chance to blog about it. On the 9th November tell us all about your top ten alternate actors and actresses, and the films you wanted to see them in and why. Give us your list of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright weird.
Sign up to the Top Ten Films They Should Have Made Blogfest below. Enjoy!
Update: As the 9th November is a few weeks away, I'll be posting and sending reminders nearer the time.
Friday, 10 September 2010
Today as I’m running a competition for my readers!
On the 21st September I will pass from aspiring writer to paid professional when my short story, Counting the Pennies, will be published in Issue 98 of Yours magazine. Even though women’s fiction is not my first love, I am beyond excited. I’m also nervous. Will they have changed the title? Will the story have been edited? What illustrations will they use? Will people like it? Of all the stories I’ve written this will have the largest readership; from July to December 2009 Yours showed an average fortnightly circulation figure of 284,560. So this publication is really big deal for me.
And because I’m so excited I’ve decided to hold my first competition. All you have to do to enter this competition is be a follower of my blog and leave a comment below. That is it!
First Place - A copy of one the following anthologies I have been published in: 100 Stories For Haiti; Haunted; The Mysterious Dr. Ramsey; Flash!; or Patented DNA (if you are happy to wait until October for your prize, Fem-Fangs can also be included in that list). A copy of Issue 98 of Yours Magazine AND I will name a character in a short story submission after you! So polish those name badges, because you don’t know where you may end up.
Second Place – A copy of one the following anthologies I have been published in: 100 Stories For Haiti; Haunted; The Mysterious Dr. Ramsey; Flash!; or Patented DNA (if you are happy to wait until October for your prize, Fem-Fangs can also be included) AND a copy of Issue 98 of Yours Magazine.
Third Place – A copy of Issue 98 of Yours Magazine.
On the 21st September I will use random.org to choose the three winners from all eligible entries and announce the results later that day. Enjoy!
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
The world of Star Trek meets George A. Romero. Are you salivating yet? I know I am. I’ve already ordered this one from Amazon and will post a review during my ongoing blog mission to boldly not, well, get eaten.
But I’ve not finished. On the 20th September Alex J. Cavanaugh is holding a Top 10 TV Shows Blog Hop. What do you thing are the odds of me not listing any of the Star Trek shows in my Top 10? This looks like a must for TV Junkies. Visit Alex’s blog for further details and to sign up.
But I still haven’t finished. If a zombie Star Trek book and Alex’s TV Blog Hop aren’t enough to satisfy your ravenous appetite, Angela at Jaded Love Junkie is holding a Blogfeast on the 23rd September. As she puts it, “Not only is it a blogfest of food, but it’s also a feast of blogs.”
Have I satisfied your appetite yet?
Sunday, 5 September 2010
Now the editor has infinitely more experience than I and I can clearly see that there were commas that were simply not needed, but since when did I become so obsessed with commas? Has a comma laid lots of comma creatures in my head and even now they are slowly infesting my brain with millions of their comma babies?
What should I do? What would you do? Will I ever be able to look at my comma laptop key in the same way again? Are you obsessed with commas? Or are semicolons or apostrophes your vice?
Friday, 3 September 2010
What are your quirks?
I love the word ‘quirk’ and all it’s variations: quirky; quirkily; and quirkiness. It’s the sound of the ‘q’ and ‘k’ I like the most.
I’ve been thinking about how I am quirky, or what people might find peculiar behaviour. Here is the list I came up with (feel free to laugh but please don’t call the men in white coats):
- I cannot use notebooks. Instead I write lots of post-it note messages to myself, which can become incredibly chaotic. I think it goes back to having terrible handwriting and not being able to keep a neatly written exercise book at school - it bugs me no end if I make a mistake or the pen blotches.
- The post-it notes I use have to be the yellowed lined variety. The downside to this is that they are expensive. Once, I found them on a half price sale at WHSmiths and bought every pack on the shelf. Also, when I write stories by hand, I have to use the A4 yellow-sheeted pukka pads. Nothing else will do.
- I read magazines backwards, starting at the back page.
- If I buy a book from a bookstore, it has to be in mint condition. If it’s from a charity shop, I’m not bothered by the condition at all.
- When I eat a meal, I never eat it all. I leave a little of everything, and have to be ravenously hungry to empty my plate. It's always been a source of amusement with my family and friends, but I never thought anyone else noticed. I was wrong. At work the other day, someone asked me if I was feeling okay. I asked why, to which he replied I hadn’t left bits of food like I usually do. Oh dear. My secret is out.
What are your quirks? Do you feel brave enough to share?
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
My house was the original hospital in Chadron, Nebraska. The house on which it's perched is locally known as Pill Hill.
On the Pill Hill website it says your house is haunted. Did the ghost influence your decision to create Pill Hill Press and specialise in speculative fiction?
That's funny. No, the ghosts had nothing to do with my decision to open Pill Hill Press.
Apart from you, there are several other editors. How does that work?
We communicate via email, text messaging and phone calls.
There always several anthologies about to go to press or open for submissions. How do you come up with the ideas?
If I come across an idea that I think would make an interesting anthology, I run it by my husband (author/editor Alva J. Roberts) and some trusted friends in the small press community. If everyone agrees it's a good idea, I write up a call for submissions. Also, I try to listen to ideas/suggestions from the authors who frequently contribute to PHP's anthologies.
Pill Hill Press now has a Kindle Store. How is that going?
We're new to the eBook world, so we've been pleasantly surprised by our success in the electronic venue.
The ‘to read’ pile must be huge. How enjoyable to you find the submission process?
While I like the submission process (it's where I get a first look at how the anthology is going to come together), sometimes it is overwhelming... we get hundreds of submissions a month. Organization is key. I have lists upon lists of deadlines and daily tasks. Keeping up with the slush pile is challenging, but very rewarding.
What makes a good Pill Hill Press story?
Pill Hill Press is interested in stories that capture the reader's attention right away, and deliver a satisfying, comprehensible ending.
What advice would you give to anyone considering submitting a story?
Read the guidelines. As I sift through so many stories, I get a little frustrated when I realize that an author hasn't bothered to read any of our writer's guidelines (available on our website at www.pillhillpress.com). Also, proof read your story. Read it out loud and listen for awkward passages. Have a trusted friend or colleague give you constructive criticism. Revise, revise, revise. Thirdly, make sure you are familiar with what the editor/publisher is looking for. An author can send in the world's most fantastic puppy story, but it won't be accepted if the theme of the anthology is werewolves on Mars.
Zombies or vampires? Vampires.
Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead? Shaun of the Dead.
Stephen King or Stephenie Meyer? Stephenie Meyer (Yeah, I know... he sparkles!).
Paperback or ebook? Paperback.
Starbucks or Costa? I don't drink coffee.