Blackbird – poem

Very soon there will be a new anthology heading your way (if you fancy this kind of thing). Tick Tock is an assemblage of stories and poetry by Wirral Writers, with  a variety of genres from sci-fi to fantasy, fiction to poetry. Not usually given to writing poetry (as those of you who follow regularly know), I was working on my allotment plot one day and was visited by my resident blackbird, I crouched down on the path and watched him for a while; before the stirrings of some lines and I had to go home and write. It took me as long to write this as it does to write a 1,000-3,000 word story.

Poetry is, I believe, the Tai Chi of the writing world – it looks short and simple, but it really isn’t; it has subtlety and nuances that stories do not need because there is more time to get your point across. Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, (what is iambic pentameter even?! )

So, anyhoo, I decided to post my small offering here, as a taster, an hors d’oeuvre if you will, of the forthcoming book. I hope you like it:

Blackbird

 

In the tree when I arrive,

A lively, musical trill from winding greenery and bee busy trees,

Watching as I clear and rake, weed and prune.

Tipsy flower tops brush dust along my arms as I pass back and forth.

And in he quick hops, head tilts, raven-ous. With his golden spear he stabs and gathers

Wormlings from the wetted leaves.

 

On the wood-chip path I squat like a child.

I cannot see that dark omen they say you are, robed in black

Secrets carrying messages on wings fleeting, flashing, slicing air.

And between the foraging and bolting greens I catch his ebon eye and see myself there reflected,

I see my raked youth.

I am earthed-up.

 

Green I was and grey I am,

I have hopped and tilted at life

Gathering less than he.

 

This ant-thronged earth has irritated my senses, and while I itched,

Time has leapt beyond my grasp.

We are; he, and me

Short-lived.

 

 

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Gargh! Ack! Argh! Dink. Plip. Smoosh.

 

So you’re busy typing away, racing through the plot-line, when all of a sudden, there’s an interjection of sound or texture that, no matter how hard you search, you simply cannot find one that fits the occasion. What are you going to do?! It sounds like, squelch, but feels like wet velvet, is there a word?

“Her hand stroked the smerchy surface…no…Her hand brushed across the squilching fibers…nah…Her skin squaalched over the mulchen fat-like deposit…” and all the while, you’re getting red underlining and suggestions for ‘real’ words. You hover over and decide whether you should: re-spell it, Ignore, Ignore all, Ask Google for Suggestions, or, Add to Dictionary.

But didn’t all words have to be made up at some point in history? So why can’t you? Writers as wordsmiths have contributed so many words to the worlds languages, there are a huge amount that have fallen by the wayside, or the meaning has changed over the decades (for example, did you know that the word ‘nice’ originally meant the opposite of what we know today?!) Of course, you can’t just go writing anything you want, it has to make some kind of sense within the context of what you’re writing; besides, you might discover if you stick a bunch of consonants together, you’ve just written a pre-existing profanity in Czech or Welsh!

I am beginning to think that, apart from Shakespeare and Dickens, it is the sci-fi and comic-book writers who have lent more to the modern world of words than any other genre of writers. I suppose it make sense, as they are the ones looking forwards, so to speak, they are inventors of words as well as worlds…

Tattarrattat

From Irish writer, James Joyce. The OED includes tattarrattat in the sense ‘a series of short, sharp, rapping or tapping sounds’, and illustrates it with a quotation from Joyce’s Ulysses: “I knew his tattarrattat at the door.” It’s also notable for being the longest palindromic headword in the OED.

Chortle and Slithy

Introduced by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass (1871): “He chortled in his joy.” The word is probably a blend of chuckle and snort and means ‘to laugh in a noisy, gleeful way’. In 1855, Carroll combined slimy and lithe to form the nonsense word, slithy. It conveys something slimy and distrustful.

Droog

Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange is filled with inventive language. One word has become synonymous with the novel – Droog. Alex, the protagonist of the 1962 novel, uses the word Droog to refer to his three friends. Meaning ‘a young man belonging to a street gang’, the noun is an alteration of the Russian drug ‘friend’.

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How about a nice glass of moloko?

Robot

Coined by Czech author Karel Čapek and made its first appearance in a 1920 science fiction play called R.U.R., which is short for Rossum’s Universal Robots. The word is from Czech robota meaning ‘forced labour, drudgery’.

Bedazzled, New-fangled and Scuffle

 Mr Shakespeare left us over 1,700 new words according to some sources. Bedazzled, a word first used to describe the particular gleam of sunlight is now used to sell rhinestone-embellished jeans. Maybe poetry really is dead. New-fangled, as in ideas, from Loves Labours Lost. Scuffle was first used to describe the fights of the heart in Antony and Cleopatra is an example of an existing verb that Shakespeare decided could stand up just as well as a noun.

Gobblefunk, Splitzwiggled and Jumbly

“Gobblefunk” is Roald Dahl’s own language. The words are found across his literature and explain meaning when Dahl’s dream world transcends normal adjectives. Splitzwiggled means caught and Jumbly means all mixed up.

Shazam                                                                  

Shazam was coined in Whiz Comics in 1940, as the name of an old wizard who grants a 12-year-old boy the ability to transform into Captain Marvel. It was the wizard’s name. It came to be used, not so much as an expletive, as an exclamation of something; ‘Take that!’ “Shazam!”

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Kapow! Blam! And Zap!                                            

 Onomatopoeia; harder to spell than the words that belong in this category. But without them, where would we writers be! Kapow and Blam crop up mostly in the ‘superhero’ genre of comics, notably the earlier Batman strips.                                                                          Zap was used as early as 1929 to represent a sound. It is another comic strip word; especially from ‘Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century’. Its meaning ‘to erase electronically’ is from 1982.

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I love beating up bad guys, Batman.

Drokk and Grud (my personal favourites)                                                         

And so the world of comic strips entered a new age; children began reading them, can you believe that?! Also, the restrictions placed upon the writers forced the Mother of Invention to invent a whole new dictionary of profanities. Judge Dredd and co not only inhabit a whole new future of fatties with wheelbarrows and hi-tech stuff, but a new language developed. In case you didn’t know, Drokk most eloquently replaces the F word, Grud is instead of taking the Lord’s name in vain.

 

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Drokk indeed…

Why you should play Dungeons and Dragons.

There has been a lot said about this fantasy table top role playing game (RPG) over the decades, from the 80’s when it was deemed ‘anti-Christian’, to the 90’s when it became ‘Satanical’ and into the 00’s  when it was played by ‘nerds’. Now I want a go…

A little background…

The game was originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR)

Regarding the view that it promotes anti or irreligious feeling, influences teens to be drawn to commit suicide or even murder, I strongly object. If you look at statistics showing deaths as a result of ‘religious wars’, you find the numbers reach into the thousands, even millions. The Crusades alone were accountable for up to 9 million deaths (according to some sources).

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, especially the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean with the aim of capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic rule, to recapture Christian territory and defend Christian pilgrims. The term “crusades” is also applied to other campaigns sanctioned by the Church.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades

 

death-toll

This is a section of an image of the Death Toll Comparison Breakdown from Wait But Why site is a fascinating accumulation of statistics. http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/08/the-death-toll-comparison-breakdown.html

 

So it seems that war in the name of God was, and is acceptable, and by default, so are those deaths.  My research led me to discover a total of 130 deaths attributed to D and D – the large majority of these were suicides. I am not taking away the fact that it is always tragic when a young person takes his or her own life- and over 90% of these were male, but looking deeper we will find that there was an emotional even mental health issue at play here.

130 is a long, long way from 9 million, so should we ask ourselves, if people played games instead of following a religion, might we not have less death on our hands?

The view that Dungeons and Dragons (or D & D) leads young players to become involved in Satanism and Satanic rituals is also unfounded nonsense. Many members of Christian churches were up in arms about D & D in the 90’s as it was deemed a ‘gateway’ to the ‘darker’ side. The vast majority of these concerned parents were American. Reading some of the comments, or news reports of the time reminded me of those black and white info films they used to show of the dangers of smoking cannabis – ‘Reefer Madness’ is a fine example,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbjHOBJzhb0

and is laughably naive to anyone today who  views it today. The knee-jerk reaction must have been invented by the Americans, as anything that they cannot comprehend immediately, or that does not fit into their clean living, white picket fenced world is deemed evil.

I’d like you to take a look at what others have said about playing D and D, don’t just take my word for it – after all, I’m one of those ker-razy people who play it!

Craig Hallam is an English writer. I have met him on a couple of occasions, and I can tell you that he is a very lovely man; kind of word, polite and friendly; he used to be a nurse – how decent can you get. He plays D and D. Visit his page “How D&D helped my writing – I’ve found it’s a massive help to maintaining creativity. When my books are stumbling… and I can’t get my Auth-on, D&D has been exactly what I’ve needed.” https://craighallam.wordpress.com/tag/dungeons-and-dragons/

Ethan Gilsdorf is an American writer, poet, editor, critic, journalist and teacher – second decent human career. He plays, or played D and D. And can explain a lot better than me, why you should play the game. I GAVE A TEDX TALK “WHY DUNGEONS & DRAGONS IS GOOD FOR YOU (IN REAL LIFE)” Ethan Gilsdorf explains the positives, for himself, of playing the game, and why it can be good for you too. http://www.ethangilsdorf.com/ethanfreak-blog/2016/5/25/igave-a-tedx-talkwhy-dungeons-dragons-is-good-for-you-in-rea.html

Playing D and D, I have learnt about so many things I did not learn in school. My knowledge base has expanded. Why? Because when you are the DM; Dungeon Master, or in my case Mistress, you are tasked with writing a scenario, or story if you will, that will not only fit the players, but challenge and entertain them, not for a couple of hours, but possibly for weeks on end! And if you veer away from the ‘traditional’, rule toting aspect; like we did, you better find something to keep your players playing.

Research, research, research.

I reckon I could teach university students a thing or two about how to research.  Because we moved from the original themes of dwarves, elves, wizards, dungeons and, er, dragons, we have to work with each other – collaborate – on what we all wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the experiment doesn’t work, but mostly, it is still fun. In fact, now I come to think of it, in over 25 years of playing (Yes, you read that correctly TWENTY FIVE YEARS), we have to my knowledge only had 3 games with dragons in them!

Where/when have we played?

By this, I do not mean what time and what room in the house, I am referring to game scenarios. After the traditional scenario/setting, we have played; an all Dwarven world, post-apocalyptic Mad Max style world, 12th century Damascus, World War II, the future ( space, cyberpunk, extra-terrestrials), Discworld influenced landscapes, Time Bandits influenced game, horror film influenced games, pensioners, demi-gods, siblings, postmen!! The variations go on and on.

You can see how the imagination is tried and tested – excellent for an author.

So, to me and my ‘team’; some of this might surprise the sceptics amongst you:

We’re all of us, over 50 years of age.

One of us is a professional musician and educator.

One supports the elderly.

One supports students with learning difficulties.

One of us is in the IT sector.

One of us is a support in the community.

One is an artist.

We’re all parents.

And we drink tea at ‘half-time’.

In conclusion, I have nothing against religion per say (you have no clue as to what belief system I follow if any) and I am deeply saddened by the death of anyone under the age of 50. But a table top role playing game is not the reason people fall by the wayside in one form or another. It encourages fair play, comradery, storytelling, imagination, patience, acceptance to name a few aspects. And its great fun!

What about ‘the nerds’, I hear you ask…

…well, that goes without saying.

 

 

10 Good Reasons to Play D&D by AMERON (DEREK MYERS)

http://dungeonsmaster.com/2010/11/10-good-reasons-to-play-dd/

 

Shameless Self Promotion (Lesson Learnt)

I made a horrible discovery – the book that I self-published a couple of years ago was set at the wrong price. I wanted it to be as affordable as possible as I was more interested in people reading it than making money.

I found that after the initial set-up at £3.65, Sticks & Stones was suddenly showing as £22! After a couple of e-mails to the people at Create Space and Amazon, it has been amended. So, if you’re interested, please pop along to Amazon to purchase this little gem at the correct price.

The lesson to be learnt here (for me) is don’t leave anything to chance – and do check how your ‘baby’ is doing once sent out into the world, don’t just abandon it!

Here’s an extract from one story, ‘There’s Rosemary, That’s For Remembrance

‘…I confess my fault, I admit I have no vocation for a convent life, and desire to be banished from the community. This request was not listened to for a moment. The breasts of the pious sisterhood are raised in a perfect fury of indignation, and a determination to inflict immediate punishment upon me. Sister Joan suggests that I should be burnt to death, Sister Sibylla that I should be walled up alive. Others cry out that I be flayed, that the flesh should be torn from my bones with red-hot pincers.’

And a couple of reviews:

“A compact collection of well-crafted short stories on the theme of witches and witchcraft. There are some graphic and quite uncomfortable stories in this collection, but the vivid use of language makes it a very entertaining read. For me the stand out stories include Passing On, a chilling and disturbing first person account of medieval a witch trial; the vivid and poetic Sticks and Stones; and probably my favourite, the heart warming tale, Rescuing Robert.” Mike

“Unusual for this genre. Beautiful, sometimes painful, stories about witches. Not your generic, pointy hatted, hook-nosed, wicked types. All types, from all backgrounds; from a nun accused of witchcraft to a student who has to make a choice.”  Elaine

“Compelling short stories, an original and intelligent take on witchcraft.” Anon

Early Spring Clean…

…or, How I Made a Mess Of Redesigning My Blog !

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Morning!

I decided to give my blog a new look; apparently that’s what you’re meant to do every once in a while. I read about ‘designing my brand’, ‘speaking to my readers’, and so forth. To be honest, I didn’t get most of it, if you’ve been following me a while, you will know I am a terrible technophobe, I find it excruciating.

Last night, I decided to have a look, just a look mind, of other layouts available. Somehow, I clicked on one and couldn’t undo the change! Such an idiot!

Then I ‘lost’ sections of text/pages, only to discover they had been shoved into a little drop-down menu at the top – no sir, I didn’t like that.

Short circuit in businessman head

This morning, I have been working my way through the Themes to see if I could find my original one, I thought I had, but it was only pretending to be, the layout was different. So eventually, I bit the bullet and took on board some of what I had read – at this point I have to tell you, regardless of whether I read or hear about ‘how to…’ do something IT related, it will NOT stay in my mind.

I have fumbled my way through theme after theme, wondering where on earth some of the stuff goes when the layout changes. Some of it just isn’t there anymore! WTF!?

So, it has taken me three hours to get this, what you see today – and I still cannot find the headings I had set up on previous layout!!!! I just did a quick preview -no, no, no, that’s not what I wanted! You stupid machine! Stop putting things in a little menu! Why does there have to be choice?! Why can’t I just write books? Why am I so hopeless at this!

I don’t have time to make alterations…

Argh!

Write/Wrong

Is there a right way and a wrong way to go about writing fiction?

There are literally hundreds of helpful sites, books, blogs etc. to help the budding author. Word Press itself has some excellent ways to assist, one I quite like is:

http://www.copyblogger.com/creative-writing-blogs-2011/  which has 10 examples of other peoples blogs; very different styles, just find what suits you.

Today I made a diagram explaining how I, and probably most of us, go about our writing process.

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The wrong way people!

 

 

I don’t know about you, but I often get lost in a Research loop, or worse, a social media loop. Especially with a longer piece of work (by longer, I mean over 30,000 words). Loop 1 takes us round and around the write/doubt/research/write loop. Loop 2, in red, the worst loop of all, can send you into a none-writing spiral – argh! Get those pesky social media sites away from me – the flesh is willing but this spirit is very weak…

…then, when you’ve gone around more times than a partner at a wife swap convention, you get a new idea!

Hey! The original one isn’t complete yet, my barely developed disciplined brain says. And I begin again. Sound familiar? Then like me, you need to get a grip on yourself!!!!

Sheldon Cooper gets stuck in an infinite loop.Image result for sheldon gets stuck in an infinite loop

…or else, find your own version of Howard Wolowitz!

 

 

 

 

FAST 24 – Raising Money For Unicef Children

I do not usually post none-writer items on here. But this is something I feel strongly about and I am posting on every social media site I possibly can.

Right now, millions of children are in danger. They face violence, disease, hunger and the chaos of war. Unicef ensures more children get life-saving food, vaccinations, education and protection than anyone else. Today, children in places like Syria, South Sudan and Yemen are caught up in violent conflict, with millions forced to flee their homes. In 2015, Unicef responded to 310 emergencies in 102 countries. Please donate what ever you can to my fundraiser for Unicef UK. With your help, we can build a safer world for children.

I am a parent. I have one child – a teenager now – but she will always be my child, no matter what age. The thought of anyone or anything harming her, makes me distraught (just thinking about it). I am a coward, I like the idea of being pro-active and getting out there and doing something – but I can’t. I’m scared. So, I am choosing to do a 24 hour fast to raise a bit of money for those children who are less safe than my child is.

Imagine, if you will if you are a parent, watching your child go without food today- no food AT ALL. Now imagine that there is no food tomorrow – AT ALL. Repeat ad nauseum…

If you can donate, please do, and thank you in advance. If you can’t afford to, tell someone who you know can. Visit:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Alexandra-McD

And, Thank You.