Thursday, 22 December 2016

Book Review: Slade House - David Mitchell

Turn down Slade Alley - narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you're looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn't quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies.
A stranger greets you and invites you inside. At first, you won't want to leave. Later, you'll find that you can't.
This unnerving, taut and intricately woven tale by one of our most original and bewitching writers begins in 1979 and comes to its turbulent conclusion around Hallowe'en, 2015. Because every nine years, on the last Saturday of October, a 'guest' is summoned to Slade House. But why has that person been chosen, by whom and for what purpose? The answers lie waiting in the long attic, at the top of the stairs . . .
(source: Amazon

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Folklore: Krampus - Saint Nicholas' Evil Counterpart?

(image source: Wikipedia)

In Austria we traditionally celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on 6th December. Having grown up believing that the Christkind, baby Jesus, delivers presents on Christmas Eve, Saint Nicholas is the closest to Santa Claus I will ever get. At home, the two were not that different. People would dress up as Saint Nicholas and visit schools or even homes. Much like Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas had a large book where he kept track of whether you had been naughty or nice. If you had been nice you got a bag of gifts, usually containing nuts, oranges, gingerbread, and chocolates. But if you had been naughty his companion, Krampus, would threaten you with his bundle of birch sticks. Even though the Krampus I encountered never actually whipped any of the children, the threat and playful whack with the birch was enough to drive home the message. Krampus was not to be trifled with, and the legend behind him is even more disturbing.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Show Review: The West Wing Or Why Characters Matter

(source: IMDB)

Recently, my other half suggested that we watch The West Wing. Belonging to the part of society that is not particularly interested in politics, nor fully understands the various systems, I was sceptical at best. But then, he had sat down to watch Poldark with me (and ended up thoroughly enjoying it) so I figured I owed him the benefit of the doubt. At the very least I could give it a shot. And, boy, am I glad I did!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Celtic Origins of Halloween - a look at Oidhche Shamhna

(source: pinterest)

October draws to a close and with that we firmly enter into the cold season. As a fantasy writer I find autumn and the early days of winter particularly enchanting. Mist hanging in the fields and curling around trees, leaves swirling in the breeze, grass covered in frost, and our own breath lingering in a white cloud in front of us. There is something mythical about autumn and as a former Gaelic student it is the Celtic tradition and belief system that most often inspires me.  As befits the season, I want to share some insights into Halloween or Oidhche Shamhna, as it is known in Gaelic, and the Celtic Otherworld.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Note keeping - a review of

(source: Pinterest)

Some readers may remember that I am a huge fan of the old-school notebook to keep track of my hand written ideas. While I don't believe anything will ever take its place, I recently came across an online notebook,  that is slowly growing on me. 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Fleshing out ideas Or How to get that plot?

(source: Pinterest)

For the past week or so the above quote has been very true for me. My mind has gone from a blank canvas and the momentary worry of "I have nothing to write about" to an ever faster spinning wheel which, at every turn, changes an aspect of the core idea I want to build my next novel around. It is an enlightening process. I consider myself by no means an expert, but in this post I will give you an insight into the tools I use to flesh out my ideas and come up with a potential plot.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Ideas, Inspiration, and Where to Go Next?

(source: pinterest)

I have recently finished the second draft of last year's NaNoWriMo novel. It took three months, much longer than anticipated and longer even than it took to write it in the first place. Add to that the summer slump, a number of personal changes, and a general sense of lacking direction and the pandemonium of life and mind is complete. Now I feel a bit like I'm treading water, wanting to move, but not really knowing where to, so this post is as much a to-do list for myself, as it is a bit of an insight into where I hope ideas come from.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

On Writing, World building and Parallel Universes

(source: pinterest)

In my last post about Stranger Things I mentioned that the idea of parallel universes is one that has appealed to me for a long time, especially the possibility of crossing from one world into another. It is that possibility which got me into writing, and one that I inevitably ended up exploring in my novels. Before I share my vision, let me just say that I will explore the idea of a multiverse strictly from a writer's perspective and as someone with an over-active imagination, not as a scientist. I will look at the stories my mind has created for those possible universes, not the facts behind them (fascinating as they are!).

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Show Review: Stranger Things

When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back.
(source: imdb)

Sunday, 17 July 2016

"Targeted" Advertising and The Incriminating Google Search History

(image source: Pinterest)

A couple of months ago I got very frustrated with so-called targeted advertising. Everywhere I went, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, random sites on the net, the only adverts I seemed to get were for nappies, baby foods, baby pictures, and other baby related things. Either that or advice on how to get pregnant and dating websites.

Being fairly oblivious to how targeted advertising works, I posted something along the lines of "Why do I get bombarded with babies and pregnancy stuff wherever I look, when the only thing I recently googled that had anything to do with children was child sacrifice?"

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Leaving the Living Room: New Writers Awards

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam.
In critic’s hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.

(Anne Bradstreet 1612-1672)

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Inspiring Places and the Appeal of Scotland or A Holiday Report

Two weeks ago I went on a short holiday to Glencoe, Mull, and Iona. Before leaving, I talked to a friend, telling him I was hoping to find some inspiration during my time away from the city. He nodded, but told me that a place did not have an effect on his writing. It got me thinking and I realised we were talking about two different ways to be inspired.

Inspiration is both the motivation to do something (usually creative) and the brilliant idea it sparks. For my friend an inspiring place is one that inspires him to do that work. For me, it is one that sparks ideas.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Book Review – Naomi Novic: Uprooted

Agnieszka loves her village, set deep in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest's dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. One young village woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all they value behind.
Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she's everything Agnieszka is not - beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it's not Kasia he takes.
(Source: Amazon)

Monday, 9 May 2016

Things to Write with or The Notebook Dilemma

I'm not sure how old that makes me, but I really struggle with touch screens. They are the bane of my existence and one of the reasons why my Twitter updates feature the odd typo. Twitter... so short, so tempting to update from my phone... and it always manages to catch me out.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Getting to grips with Blogger

When I launched the blog last Sunday, I considered myself well enough prepared for this blogging business, even though I never really had a public blog before. I was wrong.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

An introduction or Why am I here?

Life is a constant stream of changes, but no matter what life threw at me, from about age 9 onwards, writing has been a part of me. It was at that time that I wrote The Adventures of Bernie the Dog - self-illustrated and all! - and started dreaming the dream of one day walking into a book shop and finding a pile of books with my name on it.