Thursday, 31 December 2009

As the minutes tick away...

I always get a bit gooey at this time on New Year's Eve. After tonight I'll never write 2009 on a letterhead again. This year will be consigned to history, along with all the rest of the so-called Noughties. And on this night I traditionally take stock; look back over the months, wonder what I achieved. Some years I've been glad to see the back of, but not this one. It's been a year of change but mostly for the good. My son finished Uni - after the previous worrisome years that was like achieving the peak of Everest. I revamped the WIP and got to grips with a new one - it's been a busy year on the writing front but I've learned a huge amount. I passed the 25 year mark on co-habiting with my better half (the official Silver Anniversary to follow in April). We even managed to ditch a bit of the mortgage - cause for much celebration.
On the downside, my old cat Sooty finally gave up the ghost at the grand age of 19. But he had a good innings and nobody lasts forever.

So when the bells ring at midnight I'll be thinking about 2010 and what it has in store. Who knows what we'll be looking back on this time next year, but whatever it is I hope you all have a happy, healthy and prosperous year - with lots of things to write about.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

How was it for you?

Well, that's it for another year. Did Santa bring you something nice? Or was it the usual cheap aftershave and socks?
I'm quietly chuffed because I got the new iMac I've been promising myself for years. And so far I'm very impressed - nice solid piece of kit with lots of bells and whistles. I hadn't expected the whole itunes thing,especially the radio channels of which there are hundreds with all sorts of music which saves me the wasted half hour trying to decide which cd to put on when I write. Very nice. The only game is chess, which I haven't played in years and never was much good at anyway. But it's no bad thing to have fewer distractions.
And I'm finally getting to use Scrivener. So far I haven't done much on it but it's early days. Last night I figured out how to import some images of my characters. I"ll keep you posted about my progress.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Are you a Santa or a Scrooge?

In eight more days it'll be ...sorry, I said I wouldn't utter the C word, but there's no avoiding it...Christmas. So what does Christmas mean to you? Does it fill your heart with Joy, or your stomach with bile?

Why not take Sandra's quick festive quiz to find out if you're a Santa or a Scrooge:

1) When it comes to decorations, do you:
a. hire a lorry to bring home the biggest tree in the shop and cover your house in so many lights it can be seen from Mars and DC10s keep landing on the lawn.
b. go for a tasteful wreath on the front door and a modest tree in the window
c. grudgingly resurrect the carcass of last year's tree from the bottom of a skip

2) Does the sound of Christmas songs playing on Tesco's public address system:
a. get you choked up or joining in.
b. bring a smile to your face.
c. put you off your poptarts.

3) Do you get your Christmas cards:
a. from charity shops.
b. from a large retailer.
c. by keeping the ones you received last year and changing the name with correction fluid.

4) Do you think of Christmas as:
a. a blessed time of hope and goodwill.
b. a good excuse for a party.
c. a waste of money.

5) When choosing a present for a nephew you will:
a. spend hours roaming the shops for just the right one.
b. give him cash - he knows best what he likes.
c. wrap up that lousy pullover someone gave you three years ago.

6) When carol singers come to your door you will:
a. invite them in for sherry and mince pies.
b. shake their hands and put a fiver in their collection tin.
c. sneak out the back door and go to the pub.

7) Christmas telly is:
a. an extravaganza of entertainment.
b. not bad, but you're too busy with the family to watch much.
c. another reason to go to the pub.

8) When invited to spend the day with family you:
a. are overjoyed and insist everyone come to you.
b. steel yourself but enjoy it on the whole.
c. pretend your cooker has exploded and wangle a free meal from someone else.

Mostly A - Congratulations. You are more Santa than Santa, and should have a wonderful time whatever disaster might be lurking. Nothing puts a dent in your Christmas spirit.
Mostly B - You probably have the most balanced attitude. Again you'll enjoy yourself but you wouldn't miss it if it stopped.
Mostly C - Well, if ever someone needed a visit from three ghosts it's you, you miserable git. You'll have a lousy Christmas - it's the only thing you enjoy.

Well, I may not be blogging much over the holidays so let me take this opportunity to wish all my readers a Very Happy Christmas.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

What's happening to all my gadgets?

The planets must be in a peculiar alignment or something. Did Nostradamus predict this? Everything technological seems to be crashing out on me this month.
The laptop is only just back from the shop where it had to get its ego stroked for the second time this year. Even so it still goes into a massive sulk whenever it has to download an update - which seems to happen far more often than strictly necessary if you ask me.
The dvd player gave us a turn the other night, unilaterally deciding to self-check while recording an episode of my favourite sitcom. OK it hasn't repeated this bizarre behaviour but I get the feeling it's biding its time.
Then last night the sky box finally gave up the ghost. To be honest I'm not too bothered, we'd been debating whether to say F***Off to the Murdoch empire for a long time but never got around to doing it. Now this has forced our hand and we'll get a freeview box instead.
But I'm anxiously wondering what's next on the techno meltdown.

Still, on the plus side my spanking new Mac is sitting under the Christmas tree waiting for me to excitedly switch on come the Big Day. Hopefully it won't give me any problems...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

To Mac or Not To Mac, that is the question...

My software lust is biting deep this year.
Many moons ago I discovered a writers' programme called Scrivener. I remember that day well. Here at last was the answer to all my writing needs. I got all hot and heavy and whipped out my credit card so fast I got friction burns only to discover it's for Macs only.

Drat. It took days, weeks even, for the sting of disappointment to fade.
Since then I've seen it lauded time and time again on various writers' boards. But to date it's still Mac only so if I really wanted it there would be only one way...
Yes, the Unspeakable Switch.

I've worked on PCs forever. Well, that's not strictly true, they haven't existed forever. Our first computer was a BBC - remember them? - not quite steam driven but about as hi-tech as your granny's knickers. Since then it's been Microsoft all the way. It's been an interesting journey - not always fun. Whatever the Hell they were thinking when they dreamt up Vista is anyone's guess. But I've stuck loyally with it, never seriously considering the alternative until now.

So now I am considering it. It's scary. Everything about the Mac looks different. Is it better? Well it costs a lot more, so it should be.

I'd welcome any thoughts, people. This is a huge step for me.

Oh, and on a happier note. The procrastinators among you (who isn't?) might be interested to know that the lovely Nathan Bransford now has his own writing forum attached to his blog. Find it here.

Toodle-oo the noo!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Crits - good or bad?

There's been a fair bit of talk lately about critiques and how to deal with them. It's a double edged sword and no mistake. You want people to read your work or you wouldn't be doing it, but you also want them to like it - or better still LOVE it - and anything less is a disappointment. When you get your first critical response the temptation is to throttle the bastard and curse them and all like them. If you've any sense you'll resist this urge and you'll find the sting wears off in a few days (or months, depending on how bad the crit and how sensitive a soul you are). Around that time some of the distasteful criticisms may start to make sense. Actually, you may think, that camel isn't necessary to the plot and perhaps six pages is a little long for the hero's closing speech.

We do need crits but sometimes they will hurt. It's human nature. If you care about your work, and of course you do, you won't appreciate some smart ass pointing out its flaws. That's what really hurts, of course. Someone spotted it before you did.

But if you stick with it you'll get better at spotting the flaws, which is the whole point of the exercise. That's why I believe critiquing other people's work is even more use to you than getting crits. It teaches you to look critically at a piece of writing, and before long you'll be doing the same with your own work.

In the end you have to be your own best critic. The better you get at this writing lark, the harder it is to find useful honest criticism unless it comes from a professional. But before they'll bother with you, you have to make that first step yourself.

Anyway, here's a link to a blog post by the lovely Nathan Bransford on this very subject. And being a pro he says it so much better than me.