Monthly Archives: February 2017

TV Marathon – FRINGE

I’m a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy. A self confessed nut about certain shows and movies. I’m not a pan-sci/fi fan, I have shows I dislike, shows I never got into.

Recently, I started watching Fringe. An American TV show about parallel universes, romance, weird science, time travel… It’s like Dr Who but no one is an alien. I started watching mid week, it’s now Sunday and I’m into season 3. I now have very real feelings for very fictional characters and am emotionally invested in the story now. It didn’t take me three seasons to get to this point; four episodes and I was hooked.

Characters, I have always maintained, are the most important thing about a story. It doesn’t matter to me that the science is beyond questionable. That is part of the fun. The fantasy. It’s just magic for a different audience, that’s all.

I like that the relationships the characters  have are complicated, but the romantic ones aren’t. Not really. Not compared to the stunning complications there are interpersonally, in matters other than the heart.

My parents don’t approve of how much time I spend in front of a screen. I write my stories on a laptop, I watch television (sometimes those two take place at the same time) and at work I spend six or so hours a day staring at a screen selecting data and adding information to files. My screen time is probably in the region of seventy percent of my waking hours. And that’s not counting phone use.

My father has the greatest disapproval of my screen use. He had a problem with how much I used to read too. When I was younger he would have to confiscate books from me. I always got my homework done. I always got all that. But still. I would read books in math class. I remember reading a huge chunk of The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop. I remember the teacher having to tell me off three or four times, but she never got me in trouble for it. I guess she knew math wasn’t my thing. But I still got everything down and I pulled of an ATAR of over 95 by the end of college. I did bloody well.

So how is screen time any different from reading the story from a page? Well, light emitting screens can screw with your eyes for one thing. pages, as passive and non-emitting, do not. Pages require imagination to interpret; you have to make the pictures and characters walk and talk in your own brain. TV is all about watching and absorbing. They are different ways of experiencing the same thing but I think both have value.

I might feel like I’ve wasted a day when I spend eight or ten hours watching the same people on the screen, but I often feel better. My life isn’t a cake walk (I’m not playing the victim or anything there; no one has a cake-walk life) but sometimes pretending that I can relate to fictional characters and exist in a universe where The Doctor can just flick a switch and save the world or where Dr Bishop can just announce that everything will be okay because the afflictions are just mutated cold virus and a bit of IV decongestant will save the day.

Is that so wrong?

The Man in the Dark

I had a dream a few months ago. I was confused when I woke up but slowly over the course of the next day I remembered some things that made me feel like the dream was something incredible important. Like I was supposed to write it down.

Most dreams I have I don’t remember. But this one was haunting somehow. Neither bad nor good. Just a story.

A woman walks down the stairs into a basement. I don’t know why. She turns on the light and there is a man in the basement. A handsome, silent man. He doesn’t speak and though she sees him and he shouldn’t be there she doesn’t really notice him.

That was all I dreamt, and I plan to make it into something more.

Review: Evicted by J.E.D Walker

Evicted is a tale of a man’s troubles. The man has no name and no past. He must fight through psychological hell to discover the truth of what he had done.

****

Let’s be clear; I don’t usually read this kind of stuff. I can read some pretty screwed up stuff but considering the reasons I have for picking any given book I don’t tend to read things deliberately that will disturb me. I should also let you know that the author kindly provided me with a review copy of this book.

 

Because nothing is more important than to be fair in a review like this, I have to say that the opening lines were both poetic and terrifying. The language is flagrant without being flowery and though there are many adjectives I don’t find the number off putting. The character development, and the utilisation of time as a factor in this pursuit is genius.

 

The emotional connections the characters forge and rend apart between each other and the reader are powerful and the language evocative. The subject matter is dark, with little twinkles of light, like stars on a cloudy night. It’s very real, far more real than most of the stuff I read. This isn’t to say I haven’t read dark books, or books with deep running undertones. Identical by Ellen Hopkins is a good example of a book written about reality the way it can really be. So is Evicted.

 

I won’t spoil your fun and give you a blow by blow of the events encased in a George Orwell-esque cover. I know how frustrating it is for me when reviews ruin my fun when I go to read the book the review inspired me to read.

 

The remarkable ability J.E.D Walker has of giving a reader feelings for a man who has no name for what is, in a literary sense, a long time. The emotions conveyed through both dialogue and what could otherwise have been harmless scene setting shows a possibly unique understanding of the way human emotions can effect the way the environment is perceived by the individual perceiving it.

 

This book may not have been my cup of tea. I did enjoy reading it. Would I pick it off the shelf had I not read it? Maybe not. But by making that choice I would have missed out on experiencing very real emotions. I always appreciate emotion. As the most important factor in the development of characters, and as characters are the most important part of a story for me, I find the emotion captivating.

 

It is for the emotion that I give this book 4 stars. It might not be something I would normally read but I am very grateful for being given the opportunity to read it.

Buy a copy here and experience it for yourself!

 

Am I cat person or a dog person?

Technically, I would say that I am an animal person. If I had to be any kind of animal, it would either be a wolf or a black panther, depending on how I’m feeling on any particular day. I am four legged animal person I suppose, but I think if you had a pet snake I’d probably still talk to it and make sure to say good bye when I leave your house.

So what? I’m weird that way!

Animals have a charming honesty about them; they delight me and even the most standoffish dog has a personality. I love the way they wag their tails, and even when they drool all over me I take it in the spirit in which it’s meant.

I have done a lot of dog sitting over the last few years; over thirty sits with seven or eight households. I’ve watered their lawns, turned up to work covered in strange dog and cat hair, and wrangled life out of vexing dishwashing machines. All for the good of the pets that are awaiting their parents’ (owners’) return. And for some money, but that’s just capitalism right?

As much as I love every animal, no matter how standoffish, stupid, or both, I have discovered since owning two cats and watching them grow up in my own house, that the love I feel for the border collies, labradors and Scottish deerhounds is nothing compared to my two little bundles of fuzzy joy. They might walk on my keyboard when I’m working and steal my pens and try and get into the dishwasher after a yummy protein based dinner, but their antics are the least annoying things I’ve ever had to deal with in my own home. I hope if/when I have actual human children I have half the understanding and compassion for their misguided exploration of the world that I do for my two fur babies.

It’s hard to be angry when the youngest of my cats, Benji, crawls onto my lap while I type, getting his entire body on top of my arms so I can’t type. I scold him lightly and he looks up at me and reaches out, touching my upper arm with his paw or dabbing my nose. Sometimes he will even lick my nose or hand. I can’t be mad at him when his purrs vibrate my whole hand as I rub his spine and play with his tail and I definitely can’t when he drops his head against my chest and promptly stops purring because he’s fallen asleep.

I’m an animal person. Their love is so clean and pure and it may only be because you feed them and give them shelter, water, and hugs, but at least they will never just leave.

Only downside; they don’t live as long.

I don’t want to think about my babies crossing the rainbow bridge.

642 TINY things to Write About #4

Tweet the story of your life.

Another tweeting challenge. Surmising 21 years of life (nearly 22) into only 140 characters, if I’m honest, is going to be difficult. And I will be publicising this post on Twitter, as I’m pleased to say that in less than a week I have more followers than I got in a month on Facebook.

This will require some careful thought. I will distill from 21 years the essence of the most important moments of my life and turn it into a beautifully phrased 140 character post. How many life events can I fit into 140 characters?

  • Birth
  • My first cat
  • My first and poorly chosen boyfriend
  • Starting university
  • My second and poorly chosen boyfriend
  • My third and most terribly chosen boyfriend
  • Moving from the house I grew up in
  • My fourth, current, sensibly chosen boyfriend
  • Moving out of home
  • My next two cats
  • My graduation from university

See that’s just a very very brief overview and it’s already far too much. So. I will have to make some of them fit in the same bullet point. I could ignore the birth bit, because, well, that’s a given. The first cat was pretty defining so I’d keep that. Boyfriends are important, even bad ones, so they can be bundled together and starting university can stay. Moving was traumatic so I could even include moving to the new house and then moving out of home in the same point. Graduating university is insanely important, so I’ll keep that and obviously the two cats.

Then there’s the niggling thought that maybe the question isn’t about actual events and more about philosophy. But I shall ignore that niggle and pursue the current project.

I’ve had 3 pussy cats four boyfriends two graduations and a wonderful 21st birthday party

 

And there it is. One more time?

 

I’ve had 3 pussy cats four boyfriends two graduations and a wonderful 21st birthday party

Sing it (in your head) to the tune of twelve days of Christmas, and it almost works!

642 TINY things to Write About #3

Boil down Hamlet, Shakespeare’s longest play, to a tweet (140 characters). 

140 characters isn’t a great deal when you consider how long and complicated the play is. I haven’t spent a lot of time on Twitter and I haven’t read Hamlet since I was in grade 10 (and I haven’t got any interest in re-reading it just for this), so this might be a total flop.

Hamlet is about a mad young man, his not-so-stable-fiance-to-be. A suicide, a poisoning, someone runs away and a skull gets talked to. So all that craziness aside, how to boil it all down  to 140 characters?

David Tennant in a production of ‘Hamlet’.

The rules of Twitter have to, obviously, be followed. Which means that any 140 characters I produce have to include spaces or any other symbols. I can use hashtags to replace spaces and I can take great creative licence with the spelling to make the character limit work. So I will use a word processor to make sure my character count stays below the line.

Before I thrash out 140 characters in MS I need to work out which points need covering. Thinking back I remember the best part about Hamlet as a student studying it was watching David Tennant read the words of the book while lying on his back with his feet on a chair and with such a wide mouth and wild eyes. Hamlet and Ophelia are the central characters; then there’s a sword fight and poison and a ship to England… I think I can easily craft 140 characters on those two alone.

 

The fiancé is dead, the prince is mad, the king doubts, the poisoned tips spikes and stings and the ship flies across the seas for safety

 

How’s that for a first effort? It doesn’t cover a lot of the finer points but in 140 characters I’m limited in what I can achieve. A heavy hammer is the only tool I’ve got. I’m sorry I couldn’t do better guys.

642 TINY Things To Write About #2

This is the second instalment of the series I’m writing basically working through the creative prompts from the TSFWG*’s book, 642 Tiny Things To Write About. The second prompt in the book is still on the first page.

Write last year’s fortune cookie. It got everything right.

This is similar to the first prompt, but gives me a little bit of a different challenge. A lot happened last year and finding just one thing might be difficult. I would need to pick an event, obviously, to base the fortune cookie on. I could base it on a feeling or something else but I feel like that denies something about the spirit of the fortune cookie. So what happened last year?

  • I got a second cat (he’s a total cutie and he’s a great writing buddy!)
  • I had my second anniversary with my much loved partner
  • I made some of the first friends since high school
  • I had the only group project ever that hasn’t made me want to rip all my hair out.
    • Well, it did, but because of the teacher, not my group mates.

Those are all good options. I am drawn to using the cat thing. I mean, look at the kitten. Look at him. He’s adorable.

Say I use the cat, and I use the same set of parameters for fortune creation as I did for Tiny Thing #1. It has to be somewhat philosophical, one or two lines, applicable to anyone, but especially me, obviously. If it came true then all I have to do is pick something that happened and create a suggestive phrasing that both hints at and guarantees a future. That’s a subtle line to walk there but I might be able to do it. Because Benji is so adorable and there is no pressure for me to use a ‘serious’ situation in my task, I will take him as a theme.

So Benji is a cat. He was a tiny kitten when we got him. His name when we first saw him was Colin. He sounded like he should have spectacles or a little tiny monocle or something. He was the cutest little creature, and my partner picked him out because he was stripy and small. So maybe something about ‘the sweetest little straggler will come into your life’ – that’s just non-specific enough to sound like a pet or a child. I tell you what, a child would have been a terrible thing for last year. Or maybe something a little different. Something about rescuing someone special? Benji would be a great therapy cat as long as you were a writer who would never need to write anything. He loves pens and pencils and keyboards and paper and cardboard. He’s a complete terror, but he makes me smile.

The most beautiful little creature will come into your life. They will love you unconditionally and never make you dinner once.

And that would be 110% true. The closest Benji has ever come to making me dinner was when he stole food off my plate. Or knocked a pot off the stove and onto the clean plates.

 

*The San Fransisco Writers’ Guild

642 TINY Things To Write About #1

642 Tiny Things To Write About is a book with – you guessed it – 642 writing prompts and creative notes. This will be the first of the creative exercises. I’m going to be using these as a stepping stone past writer’s block.

Write yesterday’s fortune cookie. It got everything wrong.

Now yesterday was a complicated day. I got some stuff wrong. I got very little sleep. I did three articles for my freelancing job. So what fortune, apart from ‘tomorrow you will become a dragon and save the world’ (hats off to Alice for that one) would be false? First I will think about the traditional wording of the fortune cookie. It’s usually ambiguous enough to always come true, non-specific enough to apply to everyone. So that gives me something to work with. If the cookies’ message are usually so ambiguous and non-specific, then what do I write that fits those parameters but is still wrong? See? Writing this isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds. So. Brainstorming.

First things first; like any good question – for an essay, a writing prompt, anything like that – it has two parts. The second part is a good place to start. “It got everything wrong”. So what didn’t happen yesterday?

  • I didn’t write a hit best seller
  • I didn’t really smile all that much
  • Neither of my cats had kittens (which is good, because one of them is male!)

So, the moral of that bit of the story will be that I have to be a bit less specific. Maybe things about me as a person. That feels a little broad, so maybe the first half of the question will give me an edge on the problem. “Write yesterday’s fortune cookie.” I feel like this bit implies that the fortune cookie will actually tell a future, rather than just give some meaningless platitude. So that will make the second bit easier. So I have to look at the standard format for one of these ‘fortunes’. From a quick google search I can see that it usually sounds like a weird philosophical statement. No more than two lines. Occasionally with some kind of lucky number list or something like that beneath it. If it has to be about a future, then I have something of a doozy. I was supposed to go to dinner with a group of old friends last night and I didn’t because I didn’t feel well at all. This was before the night of no sleep. I figure that makes a good plan that fell through; and I can totally make an auspicious saying out of missing a dinner. So here’s my first try:

Your next dinner will be a beautiful moment with long lost friends. 

How does that sound? I think the general sentiment is ‘fortuney’. But if it was from yesterday, and the dinner was supposed to be yesterday, so maybe the ‘your next dinner‘ might not work. So I need to factor in the timeline necessities. I think the ‘beautiful moment with long lost friends‘ is perfect for this bit. So I’ll keep that.

You will have a beautiful moment with long lost friends. I think that’s a bit non-specific and  non-mystical. It’s still untrue, which sticks true to the assignment. But it lacks a certain something. I liked the first draft better, so I think I need something in between the two. What about “There will be a beautiful moment between long lost friends. It will be a once in a blue moon experience.” That might work. The second line doesn’t really need to be there, but it adds power, especially considering I haven’t seen any of the three people I was supposed to see since last year or the year before. So I think the last sentence does actually help with the answer tot he assignment. I shall keep it that way. Here it is:

 

There will be a beautiful moment between long lost friends. It will be a once in a blue moon experience.

 

And there it is.