Monday 28 September 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse #bookreview -- The Quality of Silence by @Rosamundlupton.

Hello book lovers!

Time for Armchair Squid'sThe Cephalopod Coffeehouse again! I've read so many books this month but Lupton's is my favourite, no question. It's the third book of hers I've read and loved. First was Sister, then Afterwards, then this thrilling and chilling story of a mother and her daughter who can only communicate through sign language, yet take off on a crazy trip across the very north of Alaska to the Arctic Circle.

Click here to read more book reviews

On 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska. Through the madness of circumstances, within hours they are driving...alone... across a frozen wilderness. Here, nothing grows, no one lives and even the tears on your face freeze.

The reader is taken along on a wild ride in the cab of a huge truck with Yasmin at the wheel. Luckily, her talent in physics helps her work out the science of keeping this monster truck on track in the impossible conditions. But the extreme conditions, especially the perpetual darkness, add to the tension and terror as they go in pursuit of Ruby's father and Yasmin's husband who police believe has been burned to death along with the whole population of an Iniut village near the Arctic Circle. But there are other mysterious forces at work, related to the fracking that has been taking place in this previously pristine landscape. Could this disaster be related to the greed of big business? So, Yasmin and Ruby embark on a surreal adventure to find Yasmin's husband and Ruby's father. Against every well-meaning (and often threatening) word of caution, they steal a truck and drive north into a hideous,yet inspiring adventure in search of answers.

The book gets its title from Ruby's disability along with the deep silence of the frozen north.

Night will last for another 54 days.

They are looking for Ruby's father.

Travelling deeper into a silent land.

They still cannot find him.

And someone is watching them in the dark.

Thanks for visiting/reading.

  • Have your read any of Rosamund Lupton's thrilling books?
I was going to post for Mesothelioma Awareness Day on September 24th but missed it. If you haven't already, check out Hilary Melton-Butcher's excellent post on this dreadful asbestos-related disease.

If you want to continue the thrills, sign up for WEP's Halloween challenge. Linky open in 2 days!


Tuesday 15 September 2015

How to boost our creativity by asking questions.

Hello there!

Just came across an article in Writers Digest by Tom Sturges where he tells how asking questions to which we don't know the answers is a great creativity boost. He calls them Excellent Questions--questions you have no idea about. The opposite of Trivial Pursuit. 
Image result for image showing questions
Excellent Questions are a way to pursue new knowledge in an interesting way. It can be played in groups or individually. I couldn't help relating it to the questions we as writers ask ourselves...sort of like the 'what if?' questions that can get a story idea humming along. 

Questions are a vital element of creativity. Instead of being annoyed at the child who keeps asking questions, we need to applaud this child's creativity. It's the way to develop this crucial area. 

Where would writers be without creativity? 

So, what Excellent Questions can you come up with? What would you like to know?

Image result for image showing questionsHmm. I'm a dunce when it comes to most things scientific. I could ponder questions about the planets...which is the biggest? How do they differ? Which is closest to the sun? To earth? 

Now people. Much more difficult. Hmm. How many different ways are there to be unique? Why do we like certain foods and hate others? Why do some people want to live alone, shun society, while others live for a sense of community? Why do some of us like to travel and others feel satisfied travelling through their television set? Why are some people born beautiful and others consider themselves as drawing the short straw in the looks department.

Aha. Now I've reached my point. I've been pondering some questions about people as I've been brainstorming ideas for a creepy story for the WEP Halloween Challenge. Which brought me to thoughts of Beauty and the Beast. And the rest, as they say, is history. All will be revealed when I post on October 21. Nice and creepy. I posed the odd Excellent Question. But I won't be giving any answers!

Image result for image showing questionsSo if the idea of Excellent Questions appeals to you, let's get that creativity happening. If it leads to Halloween-inspired creepiness, feel assured you are welcome to share it on WEP next month!

Hmm. Why are some kids afraid of the dark and others are not? Why do some kids see monsters under the bed while others see cuddly toys? Why aren't we all afraid of the same things? 

All Excellent Questions.

Thanks for reading. 
  • Do you have some Excellent Questions? 
  • Would you think about posting something creepy for WEP's October challenge--flash fiction, poetry, non fiction, photograph/s, artwork? Love it if you would...
  • Sign up on October 1st so we can have a gigantic creep-fest. You might even win a prize!


Wednesday 9 September 2015

From the Couch returns! Today I have dragged Hilary Melton-Butcher onto my couch.

Hello everyone!

It's been awhile with one thing and another, but today I'm thrilled to have the wonderful Hilary Melton-Butcher reclining on my most beautiful couch. I'm sure it's where William Wordsworth penned his poetry. Haven't we all missed Hilary's fantastic historic blog posts? Before she took her blog break, she promised that she'd be back...and back she is!

So take it away, Hilary!

Thanks Denise. Here I go, and I'll try to keep it under 1,000 words! 

On the Couch with me!

Denise asked a while ago if I’d come to her couch for a consultative visit … to get some background about little old me … soooo without further ado ….

This blogging world has turned my life upside down … for someone who was definitely considered not academic … ending up as a typist – though now that’s an advantage.   It seems I’m a very late developer, but now loving the learning and the possibilities that blogging throws open to us.

Denise has given us some prompts about our early lives … one of the ghastly ones that I still laugh about, yet visibly cringe! as now, but which absolutely horrified and upset my father (as he wasn’t that well then) … was when the three of us raced around the garden on our bikes or tricycle singing ‘Three Old Ladies’ Locked in the Lavatory’ – as the leader of the pack being the eldest – I am quite sure I was not popular.  My poor mother had to deal with the aftermath!

Despite growing up in the Flower Power era I was pretty conservative and restrained – sadly lacking in musical ability … yet I loved A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum which haunts me from those teenage days … and the others … Dylan, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Otis Reading … to name a few …

Who couldn't help but love these very pretty British boys of 
the 1960s when British music rocked the world!

I love British movies and watched Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines more often than necessary, as too The Italian Job … they took me away to other lands.  For some reason in London I hardly went to movies … playing too much squash I guess and being away at weekends.  Once in South Africa and divorced movies came into my world again (around squash), and now the excellent film society here has kept me abreast of new and old ‘refurbished’ films.

Books – we had lots around as children and I used to read vociferously as I grew up … but mostly novels which have a degree of history in them … but am surprised at the books I do read, that I’m sure 10 years ago I wouldn’t have thought about reading: shows you what blogging can do …

More will be revealed over at Positive Letters as time passes and I blog about some of them.  I think what has surprised me, and I’ve only recently realised, is that life is not divided into subjects or categories … everything overruns and melds in …

My time frame covers 65+ years from the late 1940s to today, the earth’s time frame covers 4.5 billion years of evolutionary history, while I also enjoy learning about our planet and its occupants … yet so often there’s a reference back or forwards in time … my brain is there and looking and noting so it gets blogged about!

Perhaps here I do myself down … as those early blog postings went off in those directions … a little of this and a little of that with some history, storytelling and ‘whatever’ thrown into the mix.

My letters home from South Africa, where I emigrated for 14+ years, were of a similar nature – and people encouraged me to write about my experiences.  The same when my mother was ill and I was writing out to family or friends … the response came please don’t stop your lettersthey are so positive and a joy to read … here cometh the blog name: Positive Letters.

Yet at school I was useless … put down about it … I certainly wasn’t encouraged … but perhaps that’s a blessing – to have something to grow with later in life and to be here … giving me a purpose as the later years come along.

Writing … I prefer to write using a machine … Now that I’ve found my metier … I’ll be putting my A-Zs into a series, along with other posts (partial probably) into other series and so on … I’d like to do one with Hardwick on his travels … and I have the family story to tell backwards – as there’s no reason for me to go forward … there being no children within the immediate family.

Inline images 1This is getting long … and Denise asks about scents and aromas … I love flowers and would endeavour to bring in scented flowers for my mother … she was an exceptional gardener; she was also a very good cook and we enjoyed cooking together or trying out recipes etc.

 I relax by walking – now I can, going off to museums, lectures, talks, cinema … as I can’t play sport any more: my squash days are over.  Anything that intellectually challenges me – and that surprises me too …

The point of life – is to love, live, enjoy and learn – and then leave this planet for others on a happy note.  Do your own thing – be your own person … but give back and care.

So from this independent minded bod on Denise’s couch I love you and leave you … and I’ll be seeing you all at your blog or over being Positive with me …

Cheers to one and all … and to Denise for inviting me to her couch …

My PhotoHilary from that blog full of Positive Letters and Inspirational Stories is a lover of life--who after London spent time in South Africa. She is an administrator and sports lover, who enjoys cooking and entertaining. Through her mother's illness she found a new passion...writing, in particular, blogging. Curiosity didn't kill this cat - interaction is the key.

  • Did you enjoy Hilary's visit today? 
  • Do you share any of Hilary's favourite songs from the psychedelic '60s?
  • Do you love any of the books or movies Hilary mentioned?

Over at Write...Edit...Publish today we have Elephant's Child, the winner of the Spectacular Settings WEP challenge telling us about her writing journey. Come on over and say hello!

Wednesday 2 September 2015

10 Ways to break #Twitter etiquette. #IWSG...and WEP winners announced!

10 Ways to Break Twitter Etiquette.

Okay, we're told that we have to be on as many social media platforms as we can manage (or mismanage). I joined Twitter when there were (only) 42 million accounts, while there are now 974 million. Seeing I'm practically a founding member, why is it just lately I've started using my Twitter account more than sporadically? Well:
  • it's a quick and easy way to send the odd promo WEP message, 
  • it's a great way to support other writers with a quick RT (Retweet), 
  • you can reply instantly to people when you're online at the same time.
  • you can join online discussions/groups of like-minded twits,
  • you can create your own hashtag (#) so all these messages are sorted for we created #wepff so anyone can pop in and read entries for our challenges.
But like all the unwritten rules about social media--Bloggers--you should reciprocate when people comment--Facebook--you should 'like' everything you, well, like (or don't like)--Instagram--don't stop with the food pics, we live for them!! 

So, just in case I wasn't, er, insecure enough already about all the rules I'm breaking left, right and centre, I just read a post by Frances Cabelloan author and social media strategist and manager for writers who filled we twits in on the best way not to make a hash of Twitter. 
Image result for image of twitterI nodded along to Frances' stringent list...uh oh, uh oh. I've paraphrased her list and added my own words dipped in golden pen (sorry Michael!). So if you see anything that makes you gasp, it's probably my words.

Here's the rules twits are breaking:
  1. Not uploading a picture of ourselves as our avatar. We all love eggheads, cats, dogs, book covers, oceans and rivers, don't we? Well, Frances doesn't. She says: Your avatar needs to be a professionally taken picture of you, or if you're a little short of the mun, call a friend! Then don’t make a funny face.
  2. Leaving the header image blank. Fill in the blanks, twit! There's any variety of free applications, such as Canva, PicMonkey (my fave), or Pixlr. So go create a header image for your account. You can add your book covers, announce the publication of a new book, or use an image that reflects a scene in your book. You can download a free image from Unsplash or Pixabay or upload  your own picture. (I checked these out--awesome free photo-sharing sites). I  need to do a LOT of work here!
  3. Writing a senseless bio. Frances asks whether your bio is littered with #cappuccino #frappuccino #kittens #puppies #writer #reader #blogger? Write a professional bio! Your Twitter avatar and bio are searchable on the Internet, so use your Twitter profile to advance your author brand/business. Check out Joanna Penn’s header image and bio below. Pretty perfect for supporting her brand, promoting her books, and establishing her as a professional author.
  4. Using all 140 characters available to you. Keep your tweets ideally to 110 and no more than 120 characters. Using fewer than 140 characters will give others a chance to retweet you without having to reconfigure your message.
  5. #Doing #this #with #your #hashtags. Are you using more than three hashtags in your tweets? Naughty!
  6. Not interacting socially with other writers. It’s important to be friendly on Twitter, meet other authors – even those who write in your genre (perhaps especially those authors) – and promote other authors. The more authors you meet and promote, the more they will suggest your books to their readers. I have a friend who blocks twits who promote their own books. A tad harsh?
  7. Spamming new followers with direct messages. It’s because of all the spam in DMs that a lot of people on Twitter (including me) stop reading them. It's sudden twitter death to ask a new follower to read your blog, buy your book or visit your website in a DM. Attract them with your writing and content.
  8. Retweeting tweets that praise you or your book. I once read somewhere that retweets of praise are like laughing at your own jokes. Promoting yourself in this manner is akin to bragging. Whoopsies!
  9. Announcing how many people you followed/unfollowed. Apps such as Tweepi love for you to announce to your followers that you just used their app to unfollow 201 people, but you know what? Who cares?  Is this the type of content you want to become known for? Yukko, I hate those vindictive type of tweets!
  10. Ignoring the 80/20 rule. Guess what? It’s not all about you. It’s not even all about me. Or your most treasured colleague. Make sure that 80 percent of your content comes from a variety of sources and that you restrict your own content to 20 percent.

Even if you stopped reading when I passed the 300-word IWSG rule, I hope you learned a little about the twitterverse today. 

BTW, the Twitter hashtag for IWSG is #IWSG.
  • What uses have you found/not found for Twitter?

First Wed of Every MonthThanks for calling.Thanks Alex and the team for hosting today's challenge.

Alex's awesome co-hosts for this posting of the IWSG are Julie Flanders,Murees Dupé, Dolorah at Book Lover, Christine Rains, and Heather Gardner! 

Go here to read more IWSG posts!

And the winners of the WEP Spectacular Settings are announced today. Choosing 3 from 44 was a torture, but we just got to read several spectacular entries several times. Go visit WEP and congratulate the winners! Could be someone you know, or would like to know!