Reboots – Good or Bad?

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Which is your Pennywise?

Definition- ‘something, especially a series of films or television programmes, that has been restarted or revived.’ (lexico.com)

It isn’t a new thing; this remake business. It’s been going on since the beginning of the movie industry’s success. It is an industry that has always ruthlessly utilised anything it can. It’s like an unstable, mammoth beast that constantly needs feeding, whether on new produce or the scraps from others, doesn’t matter – just keep feeding the beast!

The well-known musical, Singin’ in the Rain although a new movie actually used songs from earlier films. They jujjed them up for a new audience and set them to dance scenes. Make ’em Laugh is also a complete rip-off of the earlier Be a Clown.

So what films are you probably going to see remade in the near future?

Ace Ventura – Morgan Creek Productions are definitely looking into it.

Akira – in the works for a live-action version.

Alien Nations – series of new movies is in the planning stages at 20th Century Fox.

An American Werewolf in London – Max Landis, John Landis’ son penning remake.

Big Trouble in Little China – Kurt Russell has given his blessing.

The Birds – supposed to be overseen by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes company.

Candyman – a Jordan Peele project in development for 20 years.

Charlie’s Angels – reboot is in the works from Elizabeth Banks of Pitch Perfect 2.

Childs Play – reboot directed by Norwegian film-maker Lars Klevberg.

Clue – Hasbro and 20th Century Fox.

Death Wish, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Don’t Look Now, Fantastic Voyage, Flash Gordon and more! The remakes go on and on and on……Personally, remaking Don’t Look Now is the biggest offence.

(denofgeek.com/uk/movies/remakes)

Chances are, you’ve already watched; and enjoyed, remakes of earlier films:

The Thing – 1951, as The Thing From Another Planet, 1982, 2011

It – Bill Skarsgard taking on the role of Pennywise originally played by Tim Curry.

Conan The Barbarian – Jason Momoa in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role.

Dumbo – The 1941 animation turned into CGI/live-action combo.

A Star Is Born – has been remade 3 times, the latest with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

A Christmas Carol – more than a dozen versions have been remade from 1901 to the present day.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – originally made in 1920, remade in 2005.

(theweek.co.uk/99568/the-29-most-remade-movies-of-all-time)

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The Thing 1951
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John Carpenter’s The Thing 1982

Undoubtedly, there are remakes that have been successful, both in terms of profit and audience appreciation. La Cage Aux Folles, was a 1978 French movie based on a 1973 play, it was remade by Mike Nichols as The Birdcage; starring Robin Williams. Cape Fear was originally created in 1962 with Robert Mitchum in the role of Max Cady; a wonderful edgy performance. It was later remade in 1991 with Robert De Niro playing a truly terrifying Cady – Mitchum appeared in a cameo as the Lieutenant.

The 1982 remake of The Thing with Kurt Russell, was enjoyed by audiences who had previously seen the black and white version – who wouldn’t want to see some coloured gore?

Some film makers see an opportunity to recreate something that was a personal favourite, or a classic story they enjoy, and to make their own version with updated visuals. How many film versions of the various Shakespeare plays exist?!

Compare the lush visual quality of Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula with those early Hammer Horror films. I grew up with Hammer Horror, and have a fond sense of ownership of those early films, and for someone to remake one feels like sacrilege. Coppola’s version did allow for the titular character to be abroad in daylight – as was in the original novel, and the costumes were undoubtedly gorgeous, however, the casting seemed very much intentionally geared to bringing the audience in; after all, Anthony Hopkins had the year before completed the hugely successful, Silence of The Lambs – and brought some of Hannibal Lecter with him – the scene in which he meets Mina Harker, he sniffs her!

Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman portraying Dracula.

So is it all about the money? Have the studios really run out of creative ideas?

Mention of a remake of The Princess Bride or Battlestar Galactica, for example, has caused great consternation amongst fans of the originals.

What about the screenwriters who are desperate for a break into the industry, to get their story ‘heard’, to be given a chance? There are thousands of writers across the globe, with fantastic concepts and stories, why are they not being given the chance to make their words into a visual feast?

One might argue that some film makers approach the craft with an artistic bent. They may, for instance, want to pay homage to an earlier director, or writer. They may enjoy creating parodies. But the bottom line for making movies is, let’s be honest, to make money. And if a movie or show was successful for the last generations, why wouldn’t it work for the next?

Many are pointing the finger of blame at Hollywood. Well given that it is the largest and most prominent film industry in the world, who can blame them?!

Me. There are films being made across the world, by all sorts of producers and indie companies. You have to make some effort to seek them out, sure, but they do exist. For instance, how many of you reading this are from English speaking countries? I’m primarily thinking UK and USA here. How many films have you ever watched? How many films do you have in your home? How many of those films are NOT in your own language? I would bet the vast majority of English speakers will stick with their own language when viewing for entertainment.

By profits garnered, the largest industries are to be found in –

USA and Canada

China

India

UK

Japan

English language films make the most, but there is nothing to stop English speaking people from seeking out foreign language films. In the age of the internet, much entertainment is at our fingertips. Think of the success; in the UK at least, of the Scandi/Nordic Noir films and TV shows. I devoured all the shows that hit our TV screens – The Killing, The Bridge, Bordertown, Wallander etc.

I hear people say things like, “But I don’t like reading subtitles.” Waah, waah! Make some effort. Don’t sit like a cabbage on a beanbag and allow a drip feed of sanitised, candied mulch to pass through your eyeballs to brain bypassing your critical centre – which is probably so underused in people by now that we don’t even consider we might be being fooled into believing a thing is good when it is shite! Wake up. Make choices. Choose NOT to go to the cinema to see a remake/reboot. Choose NOT to watch a TV show that was around in the 50’s and is a quick, easy option for the studios.

There are a whole shit load of TV shows also currently in the planning stages of reboots/remakes.

In America there is in the pipeline – Bewitched, The Jetsons, Alf, Daria and Rugrats! In the UK there will be a Christmas return to Gavin and Stacey, possibly a season 6 of the incredibly successful Line of Duty, Poldark: series 5, End of the Fucking World: series 2 and the long awaited Taboo with Tom Hardy. But there is a slight dissimilarity between the American and British reboots – the British TV industry is tagging new stuff onto the end of previous shows; making new series, but the American industry is actually re-making old stuff.

Why?

The American market also has a tendency to take British shows and recreate them in their own image. Almost as though they are using the British market almost as a testing ground to see what is popular with audiences – this does irk many Brits and they feel as though the British TV industry is ‘selling off’ what belongs here; national pride kicks in slowly here. On the other hand, the so-called Snowflake generation, seem to adore these dilute American versions. They have grown up with a media swamped with American influence and it isn’t unusual to them, (true Brits quite often find the humour lacking and infantilised). A very quick scan of lists shows over 100 British shows that have been remade for American audiences.

It does seem as though we are reaching a tipping point. Sure, it might be fun to see Christina Ricci’s version of Wednesday Addams, or de Niro’s Max Cady. It also allows for makers to recreate scenes that may not have been publicly acceptable in past times. However, enough is enough the people are saying. Some things, favourite films and shows, should remain sacred and left alone. People will speak out when they aren’t happy, and my, unquantifiable and non-quantitative, research has shown that the prime country for audience dissatisfaction with it’s film industry is America.

The largest, most profitable industry in the world is failing it’s customers. Hollywood, you seriously need to get your act together (no pun intended). You are a money grubbing, money grabbing, egotistic, inflated, sugar-coated, bloated corpse with little regard for the art of film anymore. The whole industry is a cesspit of greed – who the fuck needs $425,000 – $1,000,000 per episode? (The Big Bang Theory gang!) Yes, we may love these shows, and the characters, but seriously folks – YOU’RE NOT THAT IMPORTANT!

The truth is, reboots/remakes are commercially successful, so that means you’re all guilty of making it the way it is!

People, you need to stop watching stuff that hasn’t been newly written, that isn’t original. In the world of literature, there are literally thousands of new books being published weekly. NEW BOOKS, not rewrites, not copies, new. Give writers a chance. New screenwriters must be desperate, DESPERATE, for work, because no-one is hiring them, because studio executives don’t want to take a chance, because they want to pump out the same old tripe to line their pockets.

I suggest you write to producers, film makers, film studios. Tell them you demand something new. Tell them to get off their fat, padded arses and go looking for new talent. Stop watching the remakes.

Studios, STOP IT! Just stop taking the easy option, stop thinking with your wallets. Make something new and interesting. Put out the call for new writers. Advertise for scripts. Trawl through social media and see what’s trending and maybe you’ll pick up a shiny new talent with fantastic ideas – stop playing it safe.

“So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!Howard Beale in Network

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Peter Finch in Network (1976)

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!

I felt a strong urge to update this post – it’s currently the summer vacation time in UK for schools. (sigh) If you visit here regularly, you should be used to my irate rants by now, for newcomers; in the words of April Ludgate ‘Welcome to the terror dome.’

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April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation

So…..

If you don’t like profanity – stop reading.

If you don’t like being told what to do – stop reading.

If, as a parent, you don’t like other parents berating you – stop reading.

ETC. ETC.

*This primarily refers to the UK, parents from other countries are ‘available’.

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!

I cannot tell you the number of times myself, a friend, or colleagues have said this.

First of all – once a parent, always a parent. It never stops, EVER, get that straight first off. Christ, my mother is 82 – and still worries about me and my brother! (Dad died this January 2019). She still has parental concerns. Still hopes we are managing okay.

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New Parents Don’t Have a Social Life!

Secondary schools are busy telling 13 year olds that their GCSE options are the most important decision they will ever make. NOT TRUE!!

Listen up – There are only 2 – yes two – decisions you will make in life that have great importance.

1. Do I spend the rest of my life with this other person?

2. Should I/we bring another human being into the world?

That’s it. Everything else is gravy.

Assuming you, reading this, said ‘yes’ to number 2, then I hope you have thoroughly prepared yourself for a life devoted to another human being’s well-being until said being is a fully independent adult – (this might extend to 25 as the new scientists are saying this is the age of real maturity for humans today!)

Question – What do you think IS the role of a school teacher?

I recently read a comment on Twitter from a young mum. It was in response to a thread about young people today not being able to tell the time on an analog clock. What? she asked, were teachers doing these days. Why weren’t they teaching her daughter to tell the time? She was vaguely outraged. I responded – as you do on Twitter, without engaging my ‘Do you really want to get involved in this?’ brain portion as follows:

Me: My mum taught me how to tell the time. I taught my daughter how to tell the time. Not teachers. Why is it always the teachers fault?

Her: Good for you. I’d expect my kid to learn time in school considering she’s there 8 hours a day.

Let’s break this down – she expects her kids to learn to tell the time in school – because she did. Plus the Maths, Geography, History, English, General Studies, etc that teachers are required to teach. When have they got the time?(No pun intended). What is she doing with them herself if she cannot devote 20 minutes a day to play with her kids and incorporate time-telling?! Second, her kids are in school 8 hours a day?! I thought school day went from 9am to 3.30pm. A 6 1/2 hour day is usual, so unless they attend after-school clubs, I’m not sure where these 8 hours come from.

But the point is – teachers are now being asked to take on a bigger workload, why can’t you, the parent, do some of the work? It’s your child! You chose to have it!

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!

Do you realise that in hundreds of primary schools across the UK, teachers are having to –

a)Teach children how to tie their shoelaces.

b)Teach children how to use a knife and fork.

c) Teach children how to blow their noses.

d)Teach children how to use the toilet.

e)Teach children how to write their own first name.

f)Teach children to be nice! FFS!

This is basic stuff folks. Your child should be able to do all of the above before he or she begins school. At this point I will say that in some instances, some kids aren’t going to be able to do these things, because they may have a physical difficulty; say cerebral palsy, which vastly reduces their co-ordination skills. In my experience, mostly, these parents have found ways to help their kids deal with this – so it’s not those parent’s I’m talking to – it’s the dolts who don’t give enough of a fuck to make an iota of effort to do something to help their own kids!!!

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!

Then there’s the little maggots who are apparently so darling, that mummy and/or daddy will cosset them to the extent that they cannot do or cope with anything by the time they hit their teen years. They even got their own moniker – ‘Snowflakes’, think they’re special and unique but emotionally melt if challenged or made to feel ‘uncomfortable.’

‘Entitled Parent’ and ‘Entitled Children’ are yet another breed. YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO WHATEVER YOU WANT! GROW THE FUCK UP! Makes me puke!

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!

1. Forget about ‘rights’ – we all have the right to have a baby, I hear someone wail – really? You think? What about the child’s rights to be nurtured and loved and fed correctly and clothed and schooled and nursed and so on and so forth. You do not have to have children. It is NOT ‘what you do’ because everyone else does it! I see so many young mothers with multiple offspring who complain about their kids! You made a choice – get on with it! And use contraception next time!

2. Children come first. YOU hold sole responsibility for your child before he/she starts school. YOU are the primary carer – ALWAYS! Get over yourself if you think that your interests are more important than your child’s well-being.

3. Stop handing over responsibility! Teach your child something before he/she goes to school – for Christ’s sake!!!! It is NOT the schools job to teach your child how to – use a knife and fork, tie her shoelaces, blow his nose, wipe her bottom, fasten shirt buttons, tie his school tie, pronounce his name correctly, write her own name, recall own home address, learn some manners. All these, my daughter could do before attending Nursery school aged 3 1/2. No, she isn’t a child genius – she was prepared. It’s what parents used to do in the ‘good old days’ before teachers even had the massive additional workload they have today.

4. If you annoy me is it okay for me to punch your lights out?! At work, we can often spot the teen who has been smacked by his parent/s. Stop it. Just, stop. There is absolutely NEVER any need to smack a child. You are the grown-up, find a way to deal. Babies and Toddlers are not naughty, really; they are exploring the world around them – so you’re going to make them angry at the world from an early age – just because you are?! Grow up.

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?

Parenting is hard fucking work!

But the rules are easy – so long as you stick to them. Here we go –

1. If you aren’t prepared to put yourself second – don’t have kids. No exceptions to this rule, nope. Stop right now. Go get a dog, better still, a mouse – they only live for two or three years.

2. Assuming you agree that you are, in fact ready, prepare. Like military preparation, stock up on knowledge – that’s your weapon stash. Read stuff. Inform yourself. Take classes. Whatever it takes for you to gain knowledge about parenting, do it. (*Pssst…as a side note, but not to ruin it…you can never be prepared for the reality.)

3. Get them out of the damn nappies before they start school. FFS! And teach them how to wipe their bums – why should someone else have to wipe your kids arse because you were too damn lazy to show them how?! And blow their own nose – who wants to see all that green candlewax?

4. Let your child have fun – that’s what kids are meant to do. You did not give birth to your own domestic servant. Praise them when they try. Everyone likes to have their efforts recognised. Your kids do great things too, so tell them.

5. Have rules, and stick to them. Regular bedtime. Regular mealtimes. Consistency is key!

Take responsibility. Sure, we all make mistakes at times, we can all get stressed and make a cock-up of a situation. But if you’re not making the effort in the first place….

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – DON’T HAVE KIDS?!

If you made it to the end of this rant, congratulations. I don’t have a prize for you, but I do offer my gratitude and delight that you stayed the distance.

Now go be the best parents (or non-parents) you can be.

Book Review: The Bastard Legion #1 by Gavin G. Smith

The Bastard Legion: Book 1

Genre: Sci-fi
Pub Date: 2017
Publisher: Gollancz
Length: 336 pages
Kindle Edition: £2.99

Synopsis

Four hundred years in the future, the most dangerous criminals are kept in suspended animation aboard prison ships and “rehabilitated” in a shared virtual reality environment. But Miska Corbin, a thief and hacker with a background in black ops, has stolen one of these ships, the Hangman’s Daughter, and made it her own. Controlled by explosive collars and trained in virtual reality by the electronic ghost of a dead marine sergeant, the thieves, gangsters, murderers, and worse are transformed into Miska’s own private indentured army: the Bastard Legion. Are the mercenaries just for fun and profit, or does Miska have a hidden purpose connected to her covert past?

* SPOILERS*

This is book 1 in a trilogy, and the first novel, by Gavin Smith, that I have read. Will I be buying the rest? Read on…

But first, I want to tackle the ‘problem’ of men writing women. There has been much discussion across the media platforms about the, oft hilarious, but mostly irritating; to women, way that male writers portray female characters.

There seems to be some kind of gulf between male experience of how women behave and think, and what they lay down on the pages. Surely every single one of these men cannot be singletons, can they?

For as long as novels have existed, male authors have managed to write hilariously inaccurate descriptions of female characters. Indy100 – indy100.com

There have been occasional landslides of Tweets when another male writer is ‘revealed’ to have little working knowledge of how women perceive themselves.

the latest author to scale the whole mountain of male writers who get carried away when describing women, particularly their breasts. The Guardian: ‘A nice set of curves if I do say so myself’: a Twitter lesson in how not to write women‘ – theguardian.com

And the responses range from friendly micky-taking to total outrage. ‘Why can’t men write women?’ Goes the cry. Who are these men writing for? Not me.

‘She was 40 but could have passed for a year younger with soft lipstick and some gentle mascara. Her dress clung to the curves of her bosom which was cupped by her bra that was under it, but over the breasts that were naked inside her clothes. She had a personality and eyes.” The Guardian: All cleavage and clunkiness – why can’t male authors write women? – theguardian.com

Enter (into my sphere of reading), Gavin G. Smith. As I write this, I cannot recall a single moment in The Bastard Legion where Smith portrayed his MC in derogatory terms – I think she looked in a mirror once, and ran her hands through her short hair once or twice– that’s it. So what does Miska Corbin look like? Smith hasn’t given us an abundance of description. We know she has ‘dirty blonde hair’ with shaved undercut, she’s short, and she has ‘elfin’ features. He mentions her breasts once, and that’s only because one of her ‘crew’ is staring at them when he thinks she isn’t looking, and because he is a young man, a prisoner in a previously all male environment and probably hasn’t seen a female for a long time – unlucky him that he got Miska!

For me, Miska Corbin is an example of a female MC successfully written by a male. You see, women and men feel the same things, we all get emotional, and men don’t always express anger, and conversely, not all women cry. I felt that Smith had written a human being. Of course there has to be some physical description, we, the readers want to see what the writer sees, and he uses an economy of description that allows us to visualise her very nicely, thank you, without being a complete and total douche-bag slavering over his own creation.

Corbin comes from a military family, she was a marine; as was her father and her sister, and so trained in all kinds of weaponry and combat techniques. She’s also a hacker, a good one. And finally, she has a slightly unstable personality which means that she may, or may not, decide to blow a person’s head off – literally!- depending on her mood and what occurred prior to the current encounter.

I like her. I want to be her. She is Ripley for a new generation, with a sense of humour; if a little warped, and takes no shit from anyone. She is a great tactician and even in the direst situations, is capable of keeping her cool. So what’s her weakness? you may ask. Her dad.

Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan Corbin is dead and Miska, his youngest daughter, is determined to find out how/why/who. But Corbin senior’s death hasn’t prevented him from being a prime player in the story. He is a huge influence on our MC, and in Book 1 her raison d’etre. Her relationship with her father might be deemed unhealthy, but Miska Corbin seems to have unhealthy relationships with everyone she encounters.

When we meet her, she has turned pirate. She has stolen a maximum security prison barge – think of those great 19th century hulks in the Thames, then imagine it four hundred, or so, years in the future, and in space, with weapons, now you got it. There are six-thousand prisoners on board, from car thieves to gang leaders, rapists and murderers, some so dangerous that they are kept in some sort of suspended animation. How does one small female maintain control over this motley crew? Explosive collars! How frackin’ cool is that?! Smith sticks our heroine (is she though? Really?) in this high-risk situation, but needs a way to force all those men to do her bidding. Threat of instant death is a great inducement to do as one’s told. And if one’s head pops off, well then, one less mouth to feed. With the aid of her fathers hologram, mechanoid guards and VR environments, Miska begins to train her own personal army.

I find it a really interesting premise – take a bunch of violent criminals and make them into a formidable fighting force. There is potential danger from the men she now lives on board with, there is threat from the Corporation that hires her to do a dirty clean-up job, and from the unknown killer, or killers, of her father. Miska Corbin is a walking magnet for endangerment. You’re never sure who might turn on whom, how far will a bunch of mercenaries go to ensure their own heads remain firmly fixed to their necks?!

It is action packed. And I mean, all the time, action, (maybe a little too much?) even the moments when she is netrunning with her enhanced abilities. This area of the story I found less easy to follow – but I have the same problem playing Cyberpunk TTRPG. She meets a human shaped virus, has her skin flayed by gritty sand, and when Smith writes, ‘she dropped a number of heavily occulted hacks,’ I couldn’t honestly swear that I totally understood what that means.

I’ve read reviews of books that compare them to TV shows or films. I’m not sure I like this habit. Some reviews of The Bastard Legion claim it was like Suicide Squad or Killjoys crossed with The Expanse. I hated Suicide Squad, thought it was poorly written, clichéd, weak. Loved the other two. The Bastard Legion is the first ‘military in space’ story I have ever read; I’d not heard of this sub genre before. It is not poorly written, clichéd or weak. Smith’s writing is strong, it has the feel of a chunky, persistent force, prodding and driving you forwards. The prisoners aren’t just faceless men, they are nuanced; some more than others, not all bad – sort of, and in a couple of instances come across as more sane and less violent than Miska.

It’s a pretty unique idea; stealing a prison and all the prisoners in it, and turning them into a well-oiled fighting machine, and I think that’s getting harder in sci-fi writing as technology in our world continues to advance, the writers have to up their game. Smith has a great premise and compelling main character; even though she ought to be locked up herself, who has some complicated relationships going on. Not just with her dead father – she and her sister really don’t get on, why does she give more slack to the prisoner Torricone? And what’s with the angelic, technologically enhanced Ultra?

There’s a lot going for The Bastard Legion – the mercenaries as well as the book – and I will definitely be purchasing # 2.

I’m giving The Bastard Legion

4 stars

Should I Have A Website?

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Having an online presence seems to be increasingly important for writers. Although I can’t imagine Beatrix Potter or Joseph Conrad would have had much truck with all this social media and self-promotion.

The anatomy of a Blog

Unlike many bloggers, I am not efficient nor consistent in my posts, it has been what, five weeks since I last updated? Shocking. But they are are a fantastic way of sharing information and opinions, and they can be a great tool for starting debates and conversations; if that is the way your blog is written. Blogs tend to be written in a chatty or informal style, or at least mine do, and often reveal something about the personality of the blogger.

Lately, I have been considering the idea of setting up a website – as somewhere to promote my books. The website also needs attention once it is set up, but not as much. One could liken the blog to an allotment – it needs regular tending and maintenance, whereas the website is akin to a meadow – it might need a little mowing or sowing now and again.

If I did decide to use a website, I imagine this blog would sink slowly into the sunset as I’d not be able to divide my time between work, writing, blogging and the website – so what to do?

The anatomy of a Website

Websites tend to follow a standard format, not dissimilar to blog pages as far as I can tell, in that they have a Homepage/About page, a Contact section, and Products and Services; though these may be incorporated within the body of a post on Blogs.

And which sort of website set-up would I use?

Content management system (CMS) – Is a system designed to support the management of the content of web pages. You can easily manage text and embedded graphics, photos, video, audio, maps, and program code (e.g. for applications) that displays content or interacts with the user.

Self set-up involves lots of skills, such as being able design and code. Although it might be the cheapest option in the long term, it might be time consuming; and in my case as someone with little IT competence, almost impossible.

Website/blog builder service – a program, or tool, that helps you build a website. The programs are very user friendly and use a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface with drag and drop elements.

For authors to best showcase their products and give full details of WIP (Work In Progress) they are better off setting up a website. But what are the different Pros and Cons of Websites and Blogs?

Using a free Content Management System (CMS)

Pros
Flexible
Advanced features
Easy to publish
User friendly
Usually includes hosting and free for basic websites
Content can be updated rapidly
Cons
Regular updates are required to make the site safe from hackers
The CMS stores everything separately, then assembles it on the fly when the web client requests a page, which means they can be slow

Doing all the setting up yourself

Pros
Cost-effective
Total Flexibility
Easy to publish
Cons
Time consuming
Requires design skills
Requires coding skills

Using a website/blog builder service

Pros
You don’t need any coding skills
You don’t need any design skills
Quick turn around
Easy to publish
Usually includes hosting and domain names for a premium cost
User friendly: WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
Cons
Usually comes with strings attached
Less flexibility
Expensive

After ploughing through the possibilities; which reduce drastically the less computer literate a certain person might be (!), there is then the problem of choosing a…

DOMAIN NAME

When I first started using computers and the website came of age, this word suddenly entered my world. What on earth is a Domain Name? I wondered. It sounds, still, like something from a Dungeons & Dragons quest: The Domain of Uglith The Mighty!!

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Image from Forgotten Realms.

Simply, a Domain Name is a web address, like: mywebsite.com. If you’re not using a web builder service, you need to register a domain with a company that sells domain names, apparently! Not only that, you have to pay for it! If the name isn’t available, you have to try for another one – so I have read. Does this mean that I can’t make my own up? I couldn’t locate that information…in all honesty, I got bored reading yards and yards of text. What I did pick up was to make your domain, Catchy, Unique and Easy to Remember.

Then there is the issue of Hosting.

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Note: I’m sure you can see a pattern beginning to develop here. Information and explanation becoming less cohesive and explanatory as I progress. If you’re familiar with my blogs, then you’ll understand – I am simply not built for the Information Technology Age. Anyway, back to Hosting. It’s not about wearing red velvet smoking jackets and regaling your guests with tales of derring do. Rather it’s something to do with computers called ‘Servers’, which run operating systems, store files and connect to the internet. They are designed to be open to the public so browsers can access web content. ‘Hosting’ refers to the company that rents space on one of their servers so they can ‘host’ your site there.

Some things I have to consider – so I am told.

  1. What type of website do I want to create?
  2. What will be the technical requirements of the website?
  3. What level of security do I require?
  4. Do I need email hosting?
  5. How large is the data I will be storing?
  6. What volume of traffic do I initially expect? And in the future?
  7. What’s my monthly hosting budget?

To all of the above, my answer is a consistent, I don’t know!

But I have collected some Top Tips to keep people engaged in your website:

  1. Have clear navigation – if it’s not clear, people will get frustrated and leave.
  2. Use call to action buttons – helps lead people to desired actions.
  3. Make sure your site is loading quickly – humans are impatient creatures.
  4. Keep it minimal – too much design is distracting.
  5. Keep the same look and feel throughout – a ‘brand’ identity is visually more appealing.

It all seems like a lot of hard work. I’m lazy by nature and will try to get away doing as little as possible. But, I feel on the cusp of progressing with my writing. It needs a home of its own, something that can ‘look after itself’ so to speak.

So…

Should I Have A Website? I haven’t got a Scooby Doo!

Frugal Living: DIY Your Life

Apparently, frugal living is a huge thing, yes it is my friends, all that wartime spirit of Make-Do-And-Mend is back with a vengeance. On Pinterest you can discover lovely little pictures of attractive little books by people who have written on thrifty living, and links to bloggers who write on their favourite subject and more.

Image result for make do and mend

There’s information about how you can make money including such ‘gems’ as crafting your own candles or wreaths and selling them at an open-air fayre in summer. There are ideas for ‘up-cycling’ old furniture. Then there are the suggestions for making accessories from other things. TV and radio shows giving hints and tips for so-called ‘small gardens’.

But hold on there a moment. You know what my problem with all this is? It isn’t really frugal living. It’s a trend that seems to be perpetuated by, either, white middle-class folk or those on a not too bad income in the first place.

I look at the photos and the finished products, read the process for making said items and discover that 9 times out of 10, something had to be purchased beforehand to disassemble and reassemble into it’s new ‘frugally inspired’ form. (Not to mention, some of the so-called arts and crafts are shit)

Many sites, blogs and books are directed at American readers. Now I have to say this before I charge ahead – Americans are extremely appreciative of home-made stuff, whether it’s food, clothing or crafts. They are mad about collecting coupons, and therefore get some great bargains. My friend went to live there about 15 years ago, and one of the first things she did was join a glass crafting class – for free! She made me little Christmas tree ornaments! What I gather from watching American TV shows and my one visit, is that Americans love to go to craft fairs or markets – what is a Pottery Barn?! buy local produce, support small local town events – not so the Brits.

We are suspicious, cynical and reserved – generally speaking. “What, she made it? Couldn’t she just go and buy one, it’d look much nicer?!” Suspicious. “Oh really? That’s a lovely idea!”(Whilst catching the eye of another person who accidentally found themselves at a craft fayre) Cynical. “Maybe next time.” Reserved.

Also, we simply do not have the weather in the UK for any of those day long, outdoor, hippy-inspired, retro craft fairs. As soon as your table is up, it pisses down.

When I look for something to help with my frugal life, picture me sitting with my arms crossed, looking like Ron Swanson not being amused by a cheap, untalented clown. I’m going to present a suggestion list for real frugal living. I’m talking about an income of £15,000 p.a(or less) – that’s 19,547.93 United States Dollars my American friends – for a family of 3.

Rules for frugal living in the UK – from someone who lives it

1. DON’T SPEND WHAT YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY GOT!

2. Get a plot on an allotment. If you work at it, you can grow enough crops to supply your family with fruit and veg from spring to Christmas.

3. Keep an eye out for skips. Yes I mean those ugly, yellow dumpsters outside of people’s homes where they pile what they don’t want – you might find something you can really renovate and utilise.

4. Don’t buy expensive paint when redecorating – buy cheap and add test pot colours to alter the shade. Additionally, you might find that your walls just need a wash with sugar soap.

5. Use the Freecycle Network. Give stuff and get stuff for free!

6. Charity shops – use them. Stop whining that you don’t want to wear jeans someone else has worn. You drink water someone else has already drunk and peed out again. Over and over. Besides, all charity shops wash or steam their clothes.

7. Learn DIY. At least one person in every household should be able to drive a nail into wood or a screw into the wall. Preferably both.

8. Always make a list when you go shopping, and stick to it. Lookout for offers – and do not get fooled by promotional campaigns; Buy One Get One Free does not always work out cheaper; read the cost per weight on the shelf price. Stop buying ready meals and pre-processed food. Fresh is best for your purse and your family’s health.

9. Get over the idea of always having new things and make stuff for friends and family for special occasions. Accept hand-made items from friends and family.

10. DON’T SPEND WHAT YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY GOT!

I think that should do it.

Related image
The Master – Ron Swanson in his workshop.

Book Review: The Spherical Trust by Mjke Wood

Image result for the spherical trust by Mjke Wood
The Sphere of Influence, Book III. The Spherical Trust

Genre: Sci-fi
Pub Date: 2018
Publisher: Copperbird Press
Length: 421
pages
Kindle Edition:
£2.99

Synopsis

Bob Slicker is back, with stature. But being King of the Sphere of Influence isn’t everything he imagined. He’s convinced someone’s out to get him.
Elton D Philpotts has never been away, and he also has new-found status. But being a Finance Director isn’t everything he imagined. Is someone out to get Elton, too?
Only one man has an ego big enough to carry two such massive grudges, but Martin Levison is gone, lost in deep space with no route home. So who else wants Philpotts and Slicker dead?
The threat is bigger than one man. This time there’s more to save than a lost planet or a ragtag band of mercenaries. This time the future of the whole Sphere of Influence is in play.

The final chapter in the Sphere of Influence trilogy, feels like it’s been a long time coming; but worth the wait!

In Deep Space Accountant, the hero came in the unlikely form of Elton D Philpotts; the titular accountant, who has little confidence and an obsession with numbers bordering on OCD.

With The Lollipop of Influence, the previously odious, and sweaty, Bob Slicker had to team up with navigation officer, Florence McConnachie, to escape the planet they had been abandoned on.

The Spherical Trust brings the whole cast together – including the re-emergence of arch enemy, Martin Levison. We get to meet Elton’s parents; albeit briefly in his father’s case, but Polina Philpotts is a woman to be reckoned with, I really liked her. She is one of those practical, common-sense women who knows politics, isn’t intimidated by it and will chain herself to a rock to save a beauty spot – we could do with more like her in the real world. (And this is where the title comes from – think National Trust!)

This third book ties together the previous two in directions I had not imagined would be the case. It has nearly all of the characters racing across known and unknown space; bouncing from planet to planet in the Sphere of Influence, in a dizzying race that accelerates not in a machine-gun blazing, cinematic, all-American heroic manner, but in that bumbling British style that has many comic moments.

There’s a lot about how we, as a species, take our environment for granted; without being preachy – if there’s one thing Mjke Wood does not do, it’s preach. Like when Elton discovers where all the waste goes:

Elton pondered on it. He looked at the size of the pipe, vibrating with the onrushing surge of excrement. He thought of the volumes he’d seen gushing in from all corners. He thought about the time frame, one hundred and sixty years. Out there, somewhere in space, was a place where you would not want to crack open your spacesuit helmet for a nanosecond, because there was one mighty bad smell.

I could not see how Wood was going to tie everything together; especially when he incorporated the Teddy’s – child-minding teddy bears, introduced killer bees and a whole section of a planet devoted to Norwegians who loved to sing at all hours of the day. I could not envision how certain events could be addressed in a single book; such as how to save a planet, how the bad guy gets his comeuppance (if he does), and what do all those numbers mean?!

But he does it. And he does it well.

There is a quintessential Britishness to Wood’s writing, like Tom Holt, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, Wood has lovingly crafted characters who are appealing; for the most part, silly; a lot of the time, and prone to making mistakes like the rest of us. We follow the multiple viewpoints through interstellar blunderings, cringing board meetings, ripped pants, assassination attempts, and waste management. Wood has a, seemingly, effortless style that can be deceptive, his work is very easy to read, but it is not light on the science in science-fiction. He does not shy away from dealing with scientific terms, there’s mathematical problems he has evidently had to solve, such as the time differentiation between planetary travel and enough technicalities to keep readers of hard sci-fi happy.

If there was a criticism I would make, it would be that I think it could have been longer. There was a lot of information to compact into a novel this size – though I can understand the author wanting to keep all books in a trilogy of similar length. I would, for instance, have liked more about Russ Kurosov the muscle-bound Commando who had a special ‘Jim’. A the end of the trilogy, a note from the author reads, I have ideas for stand-alone novels set in the Sphere, with new characters, new problems and new insanity. I can only hope that Kurosov is one of those selected for further investigation!

Oh, a little addendum – there’s an Easter Egg throughout the story. I had one of those hang on a minute moments. Copperbird, the huge corporation that runs all sorts from prisons to heated boots, is the imprint the books are published under!

I’m giving The Spherical Trust

4 Stars

Book Review: Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

Genre: Fantasy
Pub Date:
2008
Publisher:
Gollancz, an imprint of Orion Publishing Group
Length:
536 pages
Paperback:
£12.99

Publisher’s Synopsis

The end is coming.

Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him but its going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the King of the Northmen still stands firm, and there’s only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend, and his oldest enemy. Its past time for the Bloody-Nine to come home.

https://firstlaw.fandom.com/wiki/Last_Argument_of_Kings

Back in January 2017, I wrote a review of The Blade Itself. I ‘won’ it in a book swap. Little did I know that it would be the beginning of a three-year journey for me into the world of Logan Ninefingers and his motley band of Northmen.

What to say about a trilogy that got mixed reviews and a massive following that led to a well visited wiki Fandom, that I was, on and off, submerged into for three years?

Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie – he writes amazing characters.

Logan Ninefingers is Still alive. Continues fighting, and is drawn into, not only personal conflict in the North, but the greatest battle in the Union. Last Argument of Kings finds him questioning himself more and more – is he a good man, or an evil man? Is he fit to lead his band, or best serving as a follower? Should he allow his barbarian, mindless, other self; The Bloody Nine, to take control in battle, or give up and welcome death?

Ninefingers has been our prime MC throughout the trilogy; as it is him who begins the first book and ends the third, and as he matures, so his view on his own lifestyle is called into question – can a man so steeped in blood and violence opt for a peaceful life – does he even deserve it?

Abercrombie has given us a (anti)hero who could easily have been a pedestrian D&D style character, but despite what some critics say, I do believe he develops. He may not stop fighting, but he lets us know, via internal dialogue, that he wishes the whole bloody affair over and done with. His is a cerebral development; strangely, given that he’s a mercenary, a killer – a murderer. I say it’s cerebral because Ninefingers thinks about what he has done and how he came to be where he is. He thinks about how it might be if he changed, and realises that because he has so much history of violence and a reputation for it, then the chances are pretty slim. This is a melancholic chapter in his, and the reader’s, journey.

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Logan Ninefingers.
Image from
comicvine.gamespot.com

Jezel Dan Luther returns to Adua, his home city. Physically scarred from his journey to the West (Book II: Before They Are Hanged). He is still a young man with dreams to match, yet changed by his experiences. He is a little less brash, a lot less selfish – and in for a terrible time. He thinks to marry the woman he loves; Ardee West. He thinks to settle down into some well-paid post of Captain. Jezel, unlike Ninefingers, gets little chance to think, he must do as he is told; because of the position he finds himself thrust into. His choices become shockingly limited; despite his new-found role, and he can only react to situations. Jezel does his damnedest to be a decent man and feels thwarted at every turn. In the first book, I reacted to Jezel as, I’m sure Abercrombie meant me to, with contempt. He was a superficial, selfish little shit. In this final book, I desperately wanted it all to work out for him.

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Jezel Dan Luther.
Image from GeeklyInc

Superior of the Inquisition, Sand Dan Glokta, is still in the secrets trade. We still get that oppositional internal dialogue when he speaks with others; A shame to leave such lovely company…but when duty calls. He thinks after a short interview with Arch Lector Sult. Glokta probably changes least of all. This could be attributed to the fact that a man so crippled and steeped in politics and up to his elbows in others blood and bile hardly has much choice. He cannot run; literally, he would not be able to hide for sure, and he knows that at any point his bloated corpse might end up floating down the river. But Glokta still held my interest, why? Simply because he sticks to what he knows best, which is staying alive. There are, however, two very touching scenes. One involves his old fencing friend from his youth, Collem West, the other involves West’s sister, Ardee. It is interesting to watch Glokta in the face of helplessness, he always expects the worst outcome – but for two instances, he hopes, not for himself, but for Collem and Ardee.

I have to admit to having a lump in my throat when Glokta encounters his old friend who has been struck down with a hideous disease.

Of course there are many, many other characters who deserve mention – The Last of the Magi; Bayez, The Dogman, Black Dow, Ferro Maljinn, Severard, but I couldn’t do them all justice in a simple blog post.

There are few men with more blood on their hands than me.

Logan Ninefingers knows all about fighting and death, and there is a tonne of it in this book. The battles are hideously well written. The fight on Crummock i’Phail’s hill fort is astonishingly violent and immersive. It was like being behind the wobbly wooden barricade with them, as they waited in the dawn mist watching Bethod’s army waiting to move. Fingers, limbs, heads, every possible body part is pierced and sliced and skewed and bludgeoned. How on earth Abercrombie found so many words and phrases to describe death in battle is beyond me. It isn’t a huge cinematic blockbuster of a war, it’s one of those horrible localised battles; sure there’s hundreds of men involved, but we are exposed to the horror of hand-to-hand fighting, the smells and the grunting, the feel of steel sliding on bone. We see our ‘hero’, Logan Ninefingers do a truly horrible thing. In previous books we have seen skirmishes and battles, we have seen blood and guts, but this battle is truly mayhem. How can the reader possibly relate to the character after committing such an atrocious act? But here’s the thing, I did!

The final battle in Adua is equally violent, with a dash of Bayez’ magic thrown in for good measure. Sometimes, battles in films and books can be so expansive, so huge that we cannot really get a feel for what is going on. Abercrombie gives us snapshots of the city through the eyes of each character as he, or she, struggles to survive. This way we see what it is like to be a refugee from one’s own home, the starving peasant, the soldier who actually is scared, ruination where once stood beauty.

It’s bleak. It’s dark. It’s depressing. And so it should be. War is no fun for anyone; even those who signed up for it in the first place – because it is fucking dangerous, and we can feel this in the people fleeing, in Jezel’s desperation to lend a hand, in Ninefingers mad rush into a row of pikemen, in West’s hasty assault with his cavalry and infantrymen. And I was totally engaged.

I have read reviews that said the writing is ‘clunky’. I have read that people found it boring, or everyone dies (everyone doesn’t die by the way). I thought the writing was succinct, none of that Tolkeinesque, flowery stuff, just your good, solid writing that I feel fits the style of narrative. I still like that Abercrombie kept the chapters as seen from different points of view, and the internal dialogue is wonderful. It isn’t fantastic writing – but then again, I’m not sure what that means – a thoroughly academic command of the written word AND the ability to create an amazing story AND engaging characters AND…whatever else?

But it’s a fantastic tale well told.

Boring? Boring?! I can’t imagine what they were reading. This is not a boring book. It keeps the pace of the previous two, action, violence and intrigue, interspersed with quieter moments to alter the pace. Abercrombie manages to avoid clichés very well, the whole thing could easily have tipped into another fighting fantasy book with swords and sorcery and blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t. I’ve picked up loads of books in the fantasy genre and then tossed them aside after a couple of chapters (and that was being generous in some instances).

Not to spoil it, but everyone doesn’t die. Some do – I’m not saying who – some survive in the same way they always have; by their wits or by violence, and some survive because they bend with the times.

We don’t always get what we want – could be the moral of the story (if there has to be one). Or, be careful what you wish for, you might get it!

You see, like real life, sometimes good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Is there a ‘happy ending’? I’m not sure, but I was not expecting that.

I always have a little sad moment when I complete a book, and this was no exception. I’m going to miss drinking wine with Ardee, struggling down dank staircases with Glokta, and wrestling with my conscience with Logan Ninefingers. I’m not sure I can leave it all behind, I might have to go after other titles by Joe Abercrombie – and that for me is what makes a good, if not great, storyteller.

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Cover of first volume of The First Law comic book covering The Blade Itself.
Image from GeeklyInc

I’m giving Last Argument of Kings (and The First Law trilogy)

5 stars