Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Protest, Progress and Da Vinci

Yeah, I had to mention protest. Seems only fitting given today saw the "biggest" protest of public service workers in some time. I put that in inverted commas as I was disappointed that more didn't turn out. I had imagined miles and miles of angry teachers, nurses, firefighters, lecturers, doctors, and dinner ladies descending on parliament and demanding Cameron and Gosbourne's heads. Sadly this didn't come to be (estimates I've seen say around 25,000 were out in the London march, which is tiny compared to the anti-war protests in Blair's day), but good on those that did go out and march (rather than go shopping instead).

It will be a surprise to no one that I support the strike Britain saw today, though I don't believe it will do any good in the long run; the public sector are going to get shafted the way the private one did over a decade ago. It isn't right, but I don't see how it can be avoided. And, being British, we will whinge and complain about it but nothing will actually be done. On the upside we will eventually get over the anger and it will be just another grievance added to the thousands we already have simmering away. But it was right, in my view, for them to go out and express their discontent - if for no other reason than to stop the Con-dems being able to pretend that everyone is okay with their proposals. That, and I'm a sucker for the underdog.

In other, more writing related news, the novel is coming along nicely - the revisions make a hell of a lot more sense than the initial draft, and I'm generally getting through three to five scenes a week. I've started counting my progress in scenes, rather than words, and have discovered I do more work that way, when I sit down to tippity-tap for the evening. Mind games are apparently the key to writing success.

I also was incredibly lucky this week to go to the Leonardo Da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan exhibition, at the National Gallery. I only got this opportunity thanks to a friend who had an invite to a "networking" event; there was a lot more looking at paintings, chatting with acquaintances and drinking of champagne than actual networking going on. I kept my feet on the ground by being one of the few with jeans on. Take that you bourgeois fools (she says as she drinks said champagne and chats to thoroughly nice posh people. Hey, I am a good old fashioned socialist after all).

It was wonderful to see the work of such a magnificent artist, and to have so many of his paintings in one place was marvellous (though it shouldn't be so hard to do as he didn't exactly do that many paintings). We walked past impressive works that he never finished, sketches of pieces he never started, and I thought, "that's what I want to avoid - starting and not finishing, because something shiny came along and distracted me." So my zeal for the book has been renewed and I plan to carry on at a steady but do-able rate.

Who knew a renaissance artist, dead for nearly 500 years, could do that. Thanks Da Vinci.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Anne McCaffrey Goes Beyond the Between - RIP

The sad news reached me Wednesday this week that science-fiction/fantasy writer Anne McCraffrey had passed away on Monday, at 85 years of age.

The news was a shock; I've long admired and enjoyed a number of her stories, but more importantly she was one of the female sci-fi/fantasy writers my Mum introduced me to from the age of ten, creating my long love of the genre. She was also in the group of female fantasy writers who I felt wrote stories that I, a girl keen on having adventures of her own, could enjoy from a female point of view. Though I wouldn't go so far as to say she was an outright feminist writer, in the way Sheri Tepper was for instance, she nonetheless put women in the centre of things, just as Andre Norton, and Tanith Lee did. Women weren't just add-ons or passively experiencing events; they did things, right and wrong, and were as much a part of the story as any male character (or in her own words, as reported by one of her sons, "I was so tired of all the weak women screaming in the corner while their boyfriends were beating off the aliens. I wouldn't have been—I'd've been in there swinging with something or kicking them as hard as I could"). This may not seem like a big deal nowadays but a number of stories, even by writers I admired and enjoyed, had female characters not doing a lot or just being victims (i.e. Isaac Asimov and his Foundation series. Brilliant, but women don't feature all that much. And they still make the tea, even that far in the future). It felt sometimes like the boys got all the adventures while the girls waited for them to come and rescue them. McCaffrey, among others, showed me it didn't have to be that way, and I will love her for that for the rest of my life.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Flash Fiction - "We Can't Win Them All"

This is my entry for the feminist flash fiction competition going on at Mookychick. If you're not familiar it's open to everybody (male or female), internationally, and entrants are tasked with creating a piece of flash fiction or a haiku under 200 words based around an aspect of feminism. It's free to enter and the top prize is £100 (or your country's equivalent) and a year's subscription to Bust Magazine. See their website for more details if you'd like to have a go.

My entry is below, and ended up being about more than I originally intended... please to enjoy.


“But he’s a rapist.”
“Not exactly, he paid them didn’t he?”
“The girls were underage – and don’t even speak English.”
“He wasn’t to know that.”
“How could he not know that?! He screwed them and he doesn’t notice they can’t speak English? Oh, and that they’re obviously children.”
“I know you’re frustrated, but you can’t prove any of that. Especially not against a man like this. Don’t take it so personally.”
“I’m not… He paid for sex, which is a crime, he smashed a girl’s face in, which is a crime, and he raped who knows how many underage girls. How exactly am I meant to be okay with the case being dismissed?”
“You need to calm down, take a long term view. We’ll get him for something else – looks like he’s been embezzling for years, so once that case comes round we’ll get him behind bars.”
“And what about the girls? Looks like all but two of them are being deported and we both know they’ll just end up back here, pimped by someone else.”
“You really need to not get so hysterical about this. I know it’s frustrating, but we can’t win them all.”

This is an entry for the Mookychick blogging competition, FEMINIST FLASH FICTION 2011. Enter now.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Plodding On

Over a week since my last post - oops. Time flies when you don't pay attention, and between work, writing, life and a migraine from the depths of Hades itself I have definitely not been paying attention. So here are some updates of recent events and non-events;

- The blog has just reached 7000 page views! I don't know if that's good progress for a 1-year-old blog, but I'm pretty happy about it. I recently set up Google analytics as well to see what exactly all you lovely people do when you come to my little online space. Big sister is always watching.

- With the novel all plotted out it's been a far more relaxing process in writing the second draft. I've completed the first few scenes, though it remains to be seen if they stay or not; they're a bit more of a prologue than anything else, and I'm a believer that sometimes it's best to use reflection and flash backs for events prior to the main story. They might work though, as the mood is perfectly expressed in those early scenes, which runs through the whole story. I'll only know when it's all done.

- I have a few writing competition entries lurking on the horizon, the first of which should be live here on Friday. The others... well it depends if I make the time to sit down and come up with something for them.

It is amazing how little you can get done when you don't have your eye on the prize - I definitely need to start making all my technology bully me into getting more words down, through the use of "reminders". Otherwise known as picky, pushy, prodding pilickers. That's what I call them anyway.(ed. Spellcheck really hates the word "pilickers")

Hope all of your own projects, writing and otherwise, are plodding on nicely. Write on.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

How To Destory Your Writing Career

Plagiarism. The big no no of writing, whether that's a mid-term essay, a song or a story, nicking someone else's work and pretending it's your own is a sure fire way to get admitted into the fiery pit of condemnation. Odd then that it appears to have pulled off for one writer until a few days after his novel was published, when intrepid readers got more than a strong sense of deja vu. Q.R. Markham (real name Quentin Rowan), saw his spy novel "Assassin of Secrets" recently published in America, with much acclaim and positive comments from reviewers and the publisher Little, Brown & Company. On Tuesday the book was pulled by that same publisher when it came to light that parts of the book were copied verbatim from other spy and thriller novels. Things got even worse today, as the scale of the plagiarism is becoming clear, and even earlier works from this same author have now been found to be plagiarised versions of other people's work. If you thought you were having a bad day, Mr. Rowan is having a far worse one.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Flash Fiction; The Marketeers

It's that time again when Chuck Wendig has a Flash Fiction challenge on his blog Terrible Minds and yet again I couldn't resist. So here is my contribution. The theme this week is "Corporate Abuse", in keeping with the current Occupy movement and general dissatisfaction with the Capitalist system as it stands. A good excuse for some dystopian fiction in other words. I humbly present my piece, called "The Marketeers".