Monday, 14 November 2011

Wrong room


I knew instantly I was in the wrong room.


My room shouldn’t have contained a perspiring middle-aged woman pointing at a flip chart in front of six assorted adults who stared blankly at .. well, me.

“Take a seat,” she said. “I’m Anita.”

Guess what I did. I sat down.

Clearly my appointment was left at the top of the stairs, not right. And I was fifteen minutes early. And Anita’s damp finger was pointing at an email address written on the flip chart which started PsychoBitch69@ … Shoot me, but I had time and I was intrigued.

“I’ve just been explaining,” said Anita for my benefit, “that your name and address should appear centered at the top of your CV.”

I nodded appreciatively. Anita looked like she needed all the encouragement she could get.

She continued, “Remember to use a normal email address. Employers aren’t going to employ someone with this kind of email address are they. And this is a genuine one I came across just the other day.”

“That was me,” said a burly woman at the other end of the little group of desks.

Anita’s mouth moved but nothing emerged.

“What’s wrong with it?” Burly woman demanded.

“Well,” Anita cleared a throat that didn’t need clearing, “imagine if you were the employer. What would you think of a person with that email address?”

“I’ve been diagnosed as psychotic,” Ms Burly explained. “I have a psychotic personality disorder. The doctor said.” Ms Burly sat back and placed a green Wellington boot on her desk. Her foot was still in it. “Shouldn’t I put that on my CV, like?”

Anita looked at each person in turn, finally stopping at me.

“I think I’m in the wrong room,” I said, and stood to leave.

The desperate look on Anita’s face will haunt me forever. Don’t leave me... it seemed to plead.

I left.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Reviewlettelette: Carrie Fisher - Wishful Drinking

It's short - you'll read it in an hour. The chapter headings are ludicrously big.

It's sometimes funny if a little repetitive. You'll smile and come away with a lot of unanswered questions.

The photos will intrigue you.

It's her one woman show edited and written down. It is not a detailed autobiography.

I suspect most women will want her as a BFF.

I was a little disappointed it was so short, but came away having enjoyed my hour with her.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Embassytown by China Mieville

I grabbed this book as soon as it was available from Richmond Library, checked it out and skulked away like Fagin jealously hoarding a newly pilfered watch.

This is the blurb:

Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.
Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts – who cannot lie.
Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.
Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts.
And that is impossible.

The back cover also spoke in glowing terms of CM's impressive intellect and originality.

Sadly, I didn't think so.

As I read, I felt two things:

  1. I've heard this all before, 
  2. The Emperor's New Clothes. ie Was there really anything there?
The 'Immer': sub-space, hyper-space, whatever, it's been done.
Growing machines etc.: Videodrome or Warhammer 20K  anyone?
Doppelgangers talking and acting as one: how about the two headed dragon in Quest for Camelot, or Paul Merton's Ian and Duncan Smith?
The whole 'language' thing brought Jack Vance's The Languages of Pao (first published in 1958, cripes!) to mind

Not exactly the same, granted, but close enough for me to want to tear off the 'original' tag.

Despite this - plus some strange inconsistencies I wont nitpick about - I liked the story. It had a beginning, a middle and a satisfying conclusion. [Strained metaphor alert!] It was a tasty fajita: a spicy filling wrapped in a tortilla made from flour ground by hand, over a shoe shop in Bradford, by Inuit cobblers high on marmalade. Unusual, yes. But it still tasted very familiar.

I've loved most of CM's work: King Rat, Perdido Street Station, The Scar (up until the end anyway), Looking for Jake and Other Stories etc., and will continue to be excited as each new work is released, but this one did not live up to the hype for me.

Can you see the Emperor's Clothes?

Read it. Tell me what you think.





Friday, 24 June 2011

Tomatoes, buses, cancer and loss

Richmond's Obelisk
For the same reason I never buy tomatoes prepacked in a plastic bag, sometimes I take the bus into Richmond.

With the car parked close by there’s no … gap. A simple step into a mobile cubicle, a cozy journey, and I’m outside the static pile of rooms I call home.

Car-less, there’s a gap. A distance. Independence. Freedom. A sense of isolation that only the wild adventurer in me can overcome. Will I find the return bus stop? Will I get on the right bus? Will I have the correct change? The correct change … even now, crouching here in my sun-drenched conservatory, I shudder at the thought of standing before ‘the fierce gatekeeper’ - Charon, if you will - with only … notes.

Anyway ...

I’m in Richmond, free of car. Sat on the warm worn sandstone steps surrounding the Obelisk. Eyes closed, basking in the sun. My hair’s now so thin on top I can feel the rays bouncing off my dome. It feels good and I smile.

“I’m ninety-three you know.”

The voice comes from a bent old man leaning on walking sticks. His heaving chest tells me he’s out of breath.

“Are you Okay,” I ask in the loud-but-definitely-not-patronising voice I reserve for potentially aurally challenged wrinklies.

“I’m under Doctor Bagshaw. Cancer,” he tells me.

“I ... I’m ...” I’m speechless. Behind those rheumy eyes is a person. Under that concave chest beats a heart that has thumped away since the end of World War One. It was thumping when Hitler invaded Poland. Thumping when Churchill roused a nation. Thumping when my own heart first lurched into life. Thumping when I stopped other men’s hearts in Angola. Thumping now.

“You have to smile,” he says.

And off he goes - the length of his stride wouldn’t challenge an arthritic hamster - left stick, right stick, left foot, right foot … slow and steady.

It occurs to me I must have been sat quite a while for the old gentleman to have sneaked up on me like that.

The skin on my face and head is hot, dry and tight. I’ve caught the sun.

Here’s that feeling again - will the bus arrive in time to save me? Or will my dry bones be discovered crumbling onto the stone steps, one day prompting archaeologists to wonder if Obelisk worship was common around these parts.

As for prepacked tomatoes: there’s something too corporate, commercial, convenient, you must-have-this-six about them. Picking loose ones is more dangerous, free thinking, closer to nature, independent.

There: they’re out. A curtain of words drawn to hide away the thoughts of my brother’s death from cancer.

People. What are we like? You have to smile.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Plan to straighten Earth’s tilt meets opposition from druids

The renowned physicist Professor Apex’s annoyance at having to adjust his clock every spring and autumn led to the, by now, well known plan to straighten the Earth on its axis.

After months of negotiating with the ‘Russians’, Saturn V rockets, one at each pole, were last night finally moved into place and secured horizontally, pointing, of course, in opposite directions.

A Super injunction, served on behalf of the Solstice Druids Souvenir Stonehenge Co-operative, halted Prof. Apex’s plans seconds before he was about to ‘push the button’.

“Don’t they realise,” Prof. Apex fumed at this reporter, “that the tilt of the Earth on its axis is causing all kinds of problems? Clocks have to be put back and forth every year, summer is winter in the southern hemisphere, birds are contributing to global warming with all that unnecessary migrating. It’s costing the world billions.”

A pro-tilt spokesman stopped playing his bongos long enough to say, “We like the tilt. Jobs rely on it. Sublime summer solstice. Oh, yeah baby.”

A police spokesman confirmed, “They’ll all f*cking bonkers. If that daft tw*t gets his way and straightens the f*cking Earth, who’s to say we wont all fall the f*ck off?! And if that gormless f*ck-wit wearing bed-sheets doesn’t stop playing his f*cking bongos I’ll shove ‘em right up his f*cking henge.”

An anti-tilt rally is being organised to coincide with the winter solstice in Rochdale at which Prof. Apex has vowed to continue his fight.

Tilt supporters remain unmoved.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Perfectly timed awkward questions

Inspired - or reminded - by a post over at Gen's Life: About a year ago I was looking after some kids by the river in Richmond.

One of the little darlings was a slightly autistic young chap - let's call him Henry - of around six years old. One of his 'things' was reading. He had to be reading something when out and about.

On this occasion he was reading one of the Harry Potter books. All well and good - until he finished it just as his mum called to say she was running late.

The little guy got agitated and starting rocking and getting quite upset - not about his mum being late, about having nothing to read.

Luckily I had a copy of my humorous science fiction book in the car. I couldn't recall any naughty bits or horrible violence - actually, I barely remember writing it - so, after a moments pause, I thought, why not? And handed it over.

Henry dived right in. He was happy again, none of the other kids had drowned in the river. All was well.

An hour or so later Henry's mum arrived. She noticed her beloved son reading, apologised for not leaving more material, and asked what it was. I explained, with a little pride, it was my own work and Henry seemed to be enjoying it.

At that, Henry looked up and said, "Mum, what's 'bollocks'?"

Ah. I'd forgotten that bit.

Henry's mum took my book, gave it back to me, and, taking her cherub's hand in hers, left.

In case you're wondering, Henry's mum and I are Okay now. Though she does seem to carry a lot of children's reading material around with her.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Reviewlette: Darwin's Children by Greg Bear

A virus - Sheeva - has created a generation of kids who communicate with flashing freckles and smells. (And by that I don't mean they talk to their patchy pigmentation, or gossip with their flatulence.)
These children are getting ill, some are dying, and it's all because ... well, that would be telling.
The kids are scaring both officialdom and the general populace, so are being herded into, what amount to, concentration camps.

It's a good read. We get to know the characters quite well. The story moves along nicely ... but, I had the feeling I was missing something. After reading it was I told I should have read Darwin's Radio first. *facepalm* That's where we learn about the Sheeva virus and so on.

Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed it. Quite.

If you've read it, or intend reading it, let me know your thoughts.

In the meantime, I'm going to p-pick up a P-Penguin classic and chill.

Oh, I nearly forgot: I recently signed up with the free site, www.dailylit.com. I read about them in the bloggsphere somewhere.

If, like me, you haven't read some important classics, they'll feed you bite sized chunks in your email each weekday morning. I signed up for Moby Dick - I know, I should have read it years ago - and now get a page or two per day. It's divided into about 290 parts, so very quickly and easily digestible. There's a link on each email so you can ask them to send the next bit if you want to go a little faster. A feature I've used quite a lot as I've discovered Moby Dick is frikkin brilliant!

Anyway - I think it's a great idea so thought I'd share.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Greg Bear's Quantico

A story about the FBI and the threat of bioterrorism in the near future.

Sorry to say I didn't finish it. Made it to about 50% then lost interest. Confusing use of surnames made me forget who was who.

I've read lots of good reviews for this and was really looking forward to being transported. It was not to be.

I'm beginning to wonder if my tastes are changing.

Anyone else read this? What did you think?

I'm going to try another Mr Bear ...

Friday, 27 May 2011

James Clerk Maxwell's Grave

I've just found this short film I shot on a stills camera around 2004.

If you're a bit geeky, and think James Clerk Maxwell is one cool dude like I do, you may like this.

My narration is a bit poo but I'd just stumbled across the place and only had the Canon with me.



Some stills:
The headstone - click to enlarge
Old Kirk interior - click to enlarge

Old Kirk setting with Loch Ken in the background - click to enlarge

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Bend, don't break.

According to ‘the lads’ in the pub, because, 1) I drink pints with my pinkie in the air, 2) I recently admitted to being wrong to a female colleague, and 3) I like latte, I have to hand in my penis.

Fortunately, because, a) my favourite Bond is Sean Connery, b) I came up with “or more gore” as an anagram for Roger Moore, and c) I have the sartorial nous of a Star Trek convention, I was pardoned and allowed to keep the ‘Ald Fella’. For now.

We were talking about the pressures on blokes to be blokes. 33.3% of us thought the pressure overwhelming. 33.3% hadn’t noticed any pressure whatsoever. The remaining 33.4% was still at the bar, but I’m sure he - the tallest of the trio - would have said he had noticed but didn’t give a monkey’s.

Then the football came on and 33.4% kept interrupting the run of play with a story about getting on a bus behind a fat man with a gigantic back-pack and spending a happy ten minutes laughing as the guy tried to sit down in the narrow seats without removing said encumbrance.

Without thinking I asked the question, when is bending to peer-pressure ever a good thing?

Of course, there are many answers. It’s not good to be rude or offensive, or make people gag due to your halitosis, for example.

Also, if you want to sell books.

Placing your book firmly in a genre really does help. There are only so many labelled shelves in the book store or library. The drop down list on the bookseller’s website can only be so long. Even if your book is cross genre, pick the most representative and say that’s what it is. Help the publisher and retailers to sell it.

I’ve been reading submissions for a publishing house recently and it struck me that the author’s cross genre descriptions accompanying some manuscripts made them sound muddled, unsure, weak. Not a good start.

Books described as a single recognised genre did not suffer because they strayed or crossed over during the course of the story.

Sell as one genre. Let the readers add their tags at their leisure. You may be surprised at the results.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Reviewlette - Stone Spring by Stephen Baxter

It's roughly 7,300 BC, life is hard but nature provides and the people of Etxelur are proud that their daily lives hardly touch the landscape.

Vast quantities of the Earth's water have been locked up in the ice-caps but now they're starting to melt, and unfortunately, the sea wants its land back.

The land in question lies between modern England and the European continent smack dab in the middle of, what is now called, the North Sea.

We follow Ana and her people as she fights back after a devastating tsunami: building dykes to hold back the sea. So setting the seeds for an alternate history for Europe which will lead ... well, as this is the first in a trilogy, I don't know yet.

We're also introduced to ancient peoples from other parts of Europe along with individuals who have travelled far in their quest to trade or simply to survive.

It's a fascinating read, well written and absorbing, and the characters mature well as the story unfolds.

If I've one small issue with this book - as with most of Stephen's books - it's that it can be very dry. But then again, this is Mr Baxter's style. His works are always superbly researched and easy to read. I just wish there was a little more ... I want to say, ironic levity. Is there such a thing? It's just that everything is so damn serious. I'm thinking that, in other works, lines like, "We're going to need a bigger boat" give us a human perspective I think is lacking in this tome. (That may just be the inappropriate-quipper in me.)

But it's still a very good read. I'll be looking for the second in the trilogy next time I'm at the library.

You read it. Tell me what you think.

In the meantime I'm starting on Greg Bear's Quantico. Based in the near future, the strap-line is, "Three FBI agents. One Armageddon."

-------

Please check out my books.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Reviewlette - Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear

Our protagonist is woken on a Ship and doesn't know who he is or what he's doing there.

But something's wrong and everything, it seems, is out to kill him.

Hull Zero Three is an SF thriller, a mystery, a - sometimes gruesome - voyage of discovery.

There's not much I can say without giving the game away. But there is one idea that stood out for me ...
** spoiler **
What if mankind's only legacy is a space ship containing the last of Earth's species. The only planet it reaches is inhabited by intelligent life. The only way to survive is to wipe out the new planet's inhabitants. The ship has that capability. Should the space ship's crew allow it? Would they?
** end spoiler **

As well as making me pause for thought, I found it a fast paced, fully transporting, fascinating read but with an ending that wasn't one hundred percent satisfying.

Recommended for all hard SF fans. Let me know what you think.

----------------

Please check out my books here.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A heart warming tale

It's not often I'm moved to reproduce something received from a friend ...
This letter was sent to the Elton High School Head Master's office in
London after the school had sponsored a luncheon for Pensioners. 
An elderly lady had received a new radio at the lunch as a door raffle prize and was writing to say thank you. 
This story is a credit to all humankind. 

Dear Sir
God bless you for the beautiful radio I won at your recent Senior Citizens luncheon.
I am 87 years old and live at the local Home for the Aged...
All of my family has passed away so I am all alone.
I want to thank you for the kindness you have shown to a forgotten old lady.
My room-mate is 95 and has always had her own radio;
but she would never let me listen to it.
She said it belonged to her long dead husband, and understandably, wanted to keep it safe.
The other day her radio fell off the nightstand and broke into a dozen pieces.
It was awful and she was in tears. She asked if she could listen to mine, and I was overjoyed that I could tell her to f$*k off.
Thank you for that wonderful opportunity.
God bless you all.
Sincerely,
Edna

Monday, 2 May 2011

Reviewlette - Diaspora by Greg Egan

We're at the end of the thirteenth century and mankind has divided into three. Fleshers: naturally evolving Homo sapiens, gleisner robots: machines with human minds, and those in the polises: human personalities living in communities run by huge supercomputers.

We begin with the birth of Yatima, an intelligence created among the communities hosted in computers. The story follows its birth, introduction to the others in the polis,  its meeting with other types - gleisner and flesher - and ultimately follows Yatima as it searches this and other universes for a place safe from the natural disasters that threaten Earth.

The first part - Yatima's birth - had the old programmer in me itching to create an AI on my laptop. Again. (One attempt, in 1985 on an Apricot Xi, took seven weeks and resulted in something that could distinguish between music and not-music. Yup. Really useful!)

The book is chock full of ideas. Mr Egan certainly seems to know his stuff - though at just over ten years old, some of the ideas are starting to look a little dated.

If you don't mind a bit of science, it's a good read. Had me transported for hours. Though the end tended to peter out a little. The last revelation is - deliberately it seems - subdued.

If you're a hard sf fan you'll enjoy it.

Read it. Let me know what you think.

------------

Please check out my books.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Mad driving and sleep deprivation

Yesterday, Alan the accountant was at the golf driving range for the first time.

I watched as he placed his tee and ball on the green mat, holding them together in one gloved hand. Just like a pro.

He lined up his club to the ball, wiggled his hips, two short fake stabs, a long back-swing then whoosh-wack!

The ball left his club vertically, ricocheted off the roof, clanged into his bucket spilling the fifty or so balls it held. He ducked and took a step back onto the rolling avalanche. His feet whipped out and he hit the golf-ball strewn ground flat on his back. I missed the actual impact as I involuntarily flinched and closed my eyes for a millisecond. But the sound and groan were unmistakable: it hurt.

His three wood landed a second or so after he did. Seemingly attracted by things spherical, the heavy club caught him squarely in the testicles. He groaned again.

It’s a true measure of my maturity that I fell about laughing before checking to see if he was alright.

He was. Is.

Nothing broken other than his resolve to be the next Arnold Palmer.

He may, Lord help us, breed again.

Every so often, during the rest of yesterday, I’d think back, especially to the point where Alan hung in the air for a split second before hitting the ground and being assaulted by his own club. Each time I did I’d chuckle. Later that evening I started to laugh, slightly hysterically, at the vision until my stomach hurt.

But guess what: I slept like a baby last night for the first time in ages.

Laughter really is the best medicine.


Check out my books

Monday, 25 April 2011

Flap soar grrr

The crows play when there’s a strong breeze from the West.

A few dozen stand in the field sheltered from the wind by a four foot high hedge.

One crow jumps straight up aided by a quick flap, fully opens its wings and is caught by the Westerly and sent soaring in a great loop up and backwards and down again. As it approaches the ground it glides forwards, protected once more by the hawthorn barrier, and lands close to where it initially jumped, completing a great circle.

Another crow does the same.Then another. Sometimes one at a time, sometimes in pairs, the crows play with the wind.

Why? They make no attempt to get over the hedge - they’re simply having fun.

Makes a pleasant change from pecking at road-kill or teasing my dog, I suppose.

And this made me wonder: what did dinosaurs do for fun?

Which in turn made me think: I really need more sleep. The petty-death has eluded me for several nights. I’ve tried warm milk, vigorous exercise, counting sheep, moderate amounts of alcohol, reading, writing (mostly drivel) and hot baths. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Wasp figures and hot bras

Borrowed from www.monster-munch.com
With the lawn growing higher than the dog, I decided to get a bigger dog. Then she gave me one of those looks, so I relented and mowed the damn grass.

Half way through this mow-fest I’d turned into Sweaty Tomato Man. The sun and unaccustomed exercise had conspired to make my skin glow like a tramp’s brazier(*), and the mower’s electric chord - which I swear is alive - was driving me to use language unheard since my days as a merchant seaman.

Cue the attractive female neighbour bearing gifts.

Turns out she’d spotted me and my mower going through our Ultimate Fighting routine and decided to reward me for an earlier act of kindness - I’d used my male cunning and engineering prowess to figure out the exact hole in her car down which to pour the windscreen washer fluid.

I accepted her lemonade and chocolate chip cookies and we sat and sipped and chewed and chatted awhile.

The conversation turned to bumble bees and, as we talked, a wasp landed on my bare leg. “Not to worry,” I said. “It will only sting me if I make a sudden move.”

You guessed it. The little shit stung me.

I hate Mondays.

---

* - a tramp, for our American chums, is a bum or vagrant. Brazier is a container for fire, usually an oil drum sporting strategically hammered holes, and not a misspelling of tramp’s brassier - an altogether different kind of fire hazard.

Buy one of my ebooks.
If any make the Kindle top 100 list I’ll donate $500 to First Book


THE ARDLY EFFECT - humorous scfi


WHIMSY 6 - six flash fiction (very short) scifi stories


NURSE BECKY GETS SHOT - thriller / crime caper

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Reviewlette: Tom Holt's Blonde Bombshell

I’ve been away from home that past couple of weeks or so.

Working twenty-hour days.

Submerged in technology.

Rare Internet visits via the library during rarer lunch breaks.

I’ve had one book with me: Tom Holt’s Blonde Bombshell, which I read in my hotel room as often as I could.

This is what the book is about:
The Ostar, bright, doggy aliens are being driven mad by noise pollution from Earth. They decide, quite reasonably, to blow the Earth to bits. To this end they build an advanced bomb then launch it towards Earth. It fails. So, they build a better bomb. What follows is a comedy of errors involving an alcoholic human, a couple of misplaced Ostar, several dead octopi, entities of pure electronic text, AI love and, of course, a unicorn.

It’s funny. LOL in places. (Now LOL is in the O.E.D. why not?)

A very entertaining read with messages about the absurdity of war and the nature of consciousness without taking itself too seriously.

I found it an ideal companion and de-stressing tool.

Please read it. Let me know what you think.




Buy one of my ebooks.
If any make the Kindle top 100 list I’ll donate $500 to First Book


THE ARDLY EFFECT - humorous scfi


WHIMSY 6 - six flash fiction (very short) scifi stories


NURSE BECKY GETS SHOT - thriller / crime caper

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The awkward turtle

Borrowed from http://www.cafepress.co.uk/+awkward-turtle+mousepads
Some time ago I learnt about the awkward turtle. It’s a hand sign made during an embarrassed silence.

I found it useful in the pub one night: five of us stood in a circle by the bar, sipping beer and generally talking rot. Our ranks were breached by Natalie, a chatty, attractive brunette known for her penchant for gargantuan circular steel earrings.

“Hide me,” she said, clutching the front of my shirt, adding, “Sorry,” when my less-than-manly eek made her realise she’d grabbed a handful of chest hair.

Pausing for no more than a second - it was obvious whoever she was dodging was hot on her heels - she broke from our circle, disappearing among the twinset and pearl brigade.

Colin, a carrot-topped kitchen supplies salesman from Stockton, eased in and expanded our circle.

“I reckon I’m in with that Natalie,” he said, taking a swig from his white wine spritzer.

The rest of our group, acting as one, took a sip of beer then studied the fading paisley carpet.

I placed my glass on the bar then made the sign of the awkward turtle.

“Oh shit,” said Colin. “Really?”

“Afraid so,” I said, placing a sympathetic hand on Colin’s shoulder.

So there you have it. The awkward turtle, a great communications tool. Also, according to the Internet - so it must be true - the awkward turtle is the American sign language gesture for platypus.

Can you think of any other useful hand signals? Except that one .. and that one .. and definitely not that one.



Buy one of my ebooks.
If any make the Kindle top 100 list I'll donate $500 to First Book


THE ARDLY EFFECT - humorous scfi


WHIMSY 6 - six flash fiction (very short) scifi stories


NURSE BECKY GETS SHOT - thriller / crime caper

Friday, 1 April 2011

Everything explained

Stolen From nastyhobbit.org
In a deterministic universe we’re not even afforded the position of passengers. We’re made to do and feel, observe and think, only what laws of causality allow. I must write, or stop writing. I have no choice. So I wont - didn’t, can’t - choose.

Our lives, in a completely deterministic universe, are pointless. We’re dominoes, falling one after another - our lives a cascade of reaction to what went before.

But then who says there has to be a point?

And who or what nudged the first domino?

Our concept of first is, of course, wrapped up in the concept of time.

And time is … well, firstly, let the universe and all its particles exist in every state in which it can possibly exist. All at once.

In one or more of these states your brain would be there complete with memories, itches, thoughts, feelings and so on. Reading this.

That is all. No time required.

Just one mystery remains: where did the universe and all its particles come from?

The answer is simple .. wait, telephone, brb ...



THE ARDLY EFFECT - humorous scfi



WHIMSY 6 - six flash fiction (very short) scifi stories



NURSE BECKY GETS SHOT - thriller / crime caper

Monday, 28 March 2011

Whimsy 6

I made a small Kindle ebook with six of my flash Sci-Fi-ish stories and, just for the experience,  put it on Amazon for 99c / 71p.

Someone actually bought it and made some nice comments here.

If you have some flash stories, why not put them together in an ebook? Who knows, you might sell some.

Let me know what happens if you do.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

When sitting in circles was sitting in heaven

Uh oh. Another rant about the demise of British Libraries?

No.

Just a thought which came to me the other day as I sat in Richmond Library paging through the latest New Scientist.

A small, curly-haired blonde girl, her shoulders barely reached my knee, skipped past flushed with excitement. "When, mom? When?"

It turned out she was impatient for the start of story-time.

On further investigation - standing up and looking over a bookcase - I saw a dozen or so kids sat in eager circles around a lady squatting on a small plastic chair.

'My' little girl joined the group and the lady started to read from a large yellow book opened on her lap.

I was transported fifty-cough years back in time: the little wooden horse had collected quite a lot of money and stowed it away inside his hollow body when suddenly ...

I remember being completely transported, the words read to me made wonderful images in my mind, evoked real emotions. More than that, the sentences started to imprint patterns on my brain. Patterns representing communication, speech, the written word. I was being taught the more formal structure of written English and loving every second of it. And I was sharing the experience. I was learning the value of shared experiences.

If Richmond Library closes, if thousands of libraries throughout the United Kingdom close, where will these children go? What are we taking away from them by not letting them share this joy?

A library is not just a building from which books are borrowed.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Moving pictures

Please take a look at this YouTube video.

The guy collects old photos and explains why.

Flash stories that moved me.

You can find it here.

Reviewlette - May Contain Traces of Magic by Tom Holt

May Contain Traces of MagicMay Contain Traces of Magic by Tom Holt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Chris, our friendly magic-goods salesman, lives in an England where magic, time travel and demons are the norm.

I enjoyed the read overall: humorous, interesting, puzzling. Though, too much retrospection and wondering what was going on for my taste.

A little more action and a little less thoughtful pondering would have added another star, in my view.

My first Tom Holt, and I will try another.

Read it. Let me know what you think.

Monday, 7 March 2011

"A virus ate my course work."

Lily: outmoded homework
destruction mechanism.

My son's English teacher is moaning at me because my son claims a virus ate his course work!

How cool is that?

In my day I had only the dog to blame. Oh, and on one memorable occasion, I claimed my neighbour's toddler had put my work in the oven and cooked it. Memorable because Mr Skinner - who thought he'd heard every excuse ever concocted by twenty years worth of errant school children - actually applauded. I'd come up with a new one it seems. I also recall he took the opportunity to give me a clip round the ear as I bowed in recognition of the applause. An action he'd probably be chalked, de-mortarboarded, and struck off for if carried out in 2011.

So, as I sit here, watching my son gloomily complete his assignment, all the while protesting his innocence and how sore his hands are and how hungry he is and how he feels a bit dizzy and his arms ache and he needs to pee again and is the light a bit dim and on and on … I'm wondering at the wonderful array of excuses modern technology has afforded our petite protégées in their quest to avoid homework. Viruses, flat batteries, wi fi that wouldn't wi or fi, forgetful memory sticks, and the combinations! … a veritable Rubik’s Cube of possibilities for the imaginative sprog.

But how many of their clever excuses could retrieve a stick, or make us laugh dragging its itchy butt over the carpet while mum shrieked in horror?

Oops. Have to go and crack the whip. Apparently his feet itch. Mine too. But for different reasons.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Monday's question

How do Johnson's make their talcum powder smell like babies?

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Sarcasm? What's that, like?

Clark Whelton's amusing piece on the decline and fall of American English, and stuff is worth a gander.

Here, in the North East of England, the word "like" has been used as a full stop, "umm" replacement, and filler for many years.

Likewise, "sort of" has been littering sentences around the Middlesbrough conurbation since, at least, the 1980s.

An alarming trend to join the two has emerged in recent years. "I was, sort of like, saying to him, I said, sort of like, what you up to, like, I said, and he, sort of like, said, he said, I sort of like ..."

Sometimes, that's all I hear. "Blah, sort of like, blah, sort of like, blah blah, sort of like, blah, sort of like ..." Once I'm tuned in, I'm left floundering as the meaning of the sentences disappear beneath a sea of "sort of like"s.

But peculiar to this region - perhaps Liverpool too - is the use of "like" as a sarcastic signpost. Flagging the point, combining with tone - often underlining a rhetorical question -  to push home the opinion that the recipient is somewhat less than brilliant. Sometimes "like" will even reverse the meaning of the sentence up to that point.

When you read the following examples, remember to drop your voice at least an octave when saying the word "like". It's the opposite of up-speak? Where you raise the pitch so everything becomes a question? I think you'll get the idea?

Examples:
On seeing a man with a huge gash in his head:
Bob, "I think he needs stitches."
Eve, "What are you, some kind of surgeon, like?"

On seeing the corpse of a dog in the road:
Bob, "I think it's dead."
Eve, "You a vet now, like?"

And so on. Quite useful then?

Anyway, it's Saturday, the garden wont ignore itself.

Here's wishing you peace, happiness and a great weekend.
Eve, "You turned into Mahatma Ghandi, like?"
Oh, shut up.
Eve, "Good comeback, like."
I'm off.
Eve, "Hurry back, like."

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Badgered

Photo courtesy of the BBC

Today I learned something new about my Cocker Spaniel, Lily. She is scared of badgers.

What I learned about myself is this: I’m a dumb-ass who’d be lucky to be half as intelligent as my dog, because she knows that badgers are vicious little devils who have no concept of the word friend.

I also learned:
1) Don’t offer a badger a mint. They prefer fingers.
2) Don’t attempt to reason with a badger. They consider every word a personal insult demanding immediate satisfaction.
3) Over less than twenty yards and a five foot wall, put your money on me, not Lily or a badger.

What’s a badger doing up and about in the middle of the day anyway? Aren’t they nocturnal or something? Don’t they prefer slippy-smooth worms to large hairy humans? Perhaps it couldn’t sleep. That would explain the bad temper.

Lily’s due another walk and doesn’t look too keen. If I’m not back in two hours call in the Dachshunds.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Time to fess up about the Crusader Challenge

I've never had erinaceous (like, as or pertaining to a hedgehog) hair. It has never spiked. I had waving hair.

Now it's waving goodbye.

Most commented on - sneezing when thoughts turn to matters libidinous - is true. That's not to say I'm prone to debilitating bouts of sternutation at the sight of every well-turned ankle. Crikey, I'd never get the shopping done. No, it's pretty infrequent. Just often enough for me to notice a correlation. And make me do a little research, where I found we, us human male folk anyway, have erectile tissue in our noses. Makes you think about Pinocchio's psyche a little differently, huh?

There's the doorbell. I'd best go, it may be the Avon Lady.

Gesundheit.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Crusader challenge

Over at Rach Writes ... there's a crusader challenge. It's a getting to know you exercise. So why not.


I have to tell you: one secret, one lie, one interesting quirk, one annoying habit, one of my best character traits, and one of my favourite things in the whole world. Not necessarily in that order.

I surfed in the world championships in the 70's. At that time I had erinaceous hair. I've never been unfaithful. I grind my teeth (even when surfing).  Lascivious thoughts make me sneeze. I have a weakness for Theakstone's Old Peculiar. I pilfered a penknife from Woolworths in Blackpool when I was ten, and have felt guilty ever since. I forgot, in a quirky way, about the words bloviate, fuliguline, rabbit, and blade, and  - I've just noticed -  the .. umm .. word count. 

Can you guess the lie?
(Just as well it's the taking part and not the winning that's important.)

What Ho! I write like ...


I write like
P. G. Wodehouse
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!


Snork! 

Friday, 18 February 2011

Critiqued

Theresa over at EditTorrent chose a small, hundred and fifty word extract from my WIP to critique.

Interesting to see how the mind of a pro works when editing.

Take a look around her blog - some good stuff for writer types.