Who Wants To Save The World?

 

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NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to protect Earth from alien harm!!

Apparently, NASA is currently looking for a Planetary Protection Officer to defend planet Earth from the threat of invading alien life!! True.

This is actually real government job! But before you get all excited, here’s what it’s really about – NASA needs a scientist to help fight alien life —but it is microscopic! The Planetary Protection Officer will be in charge of keeping our space exploration equipment free of contamination; from  earth microbes and also microscopic organisms from outer space that may be attached to returning equipment.

Oh, so a ‘cleaner’ then?

It got me thinking about what use I would be in a world that REALLY needed a Planetary Protection Officer. I have been a fan of science fiction stories for as long as I can remember.

I had comics and annuals of The Fantastic Four when I was a little kid. I grew up on a diet of Star Trek and Doctor Who. I love films like Contact (Jodie Foster) and Netflix series like The Expanse. And I suppose like many of us do, I place myself in the role of one of the characters; not always the MC, main character, when watching – it’s what makes us root for them.

I never wanted to be Captain Kirk, or Lieutenant Spock, strangely, I most aligned myself with Khan Noonien Singh.  Khan was a genetically engineered human from the late 20th century. He only wanted a place of his own – he was a major player in the Eugenics Wars, tried to take over The Enterprise – but was left, stranded on a planet that was toxic, his true love died and Khan blamed Kirk for the rest of his life. I know, I know, not entirely a nice chap, but I couldn’t help feel sorry for him.

“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? Well…it is very cold in space!”

~ Khan to Captain Kirk


Later we had the redoubtable Captain Jean-Luc Picard and then Captain Kathryn Janeway. It took me a while to like Janeway, but when I did, I committed fully – but I never wanted to be her. I don’t think I am Captain material; even in my wildest fantasies. But was he, Khan, born bad or made that way?!

I think most of us fantasise the ‘if I could be…’ scenario when we watch films or read books. Super hero films being the most obvious. How many times have you had or overheard the ‘nerd’ conversation – “So, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?”

I haven’t got a clue – or didn’t have until I watched Heroes. Remember that one?

It was about ordinary people around the world discovering that they have super powers. Their lives intertwine as they work together to prevent a catastrophic future; who can forget ‘Save the Cheerleader, Save the World’? All the characters had a single superpower – except the evil guy whose ability was stealing everyone else’s – Sylar, played by Zachary Quinto, who late went on to be Spock! There was another character, Peter Petrelli who was a Paramedic, he was able to absorb other people’s abilities after touching them, albeit for a short while. So my chosen power is the ability to absorb powers from others (by Peter or Sylar’s methods! See! It’s Khan all over again!)

Among the Superhero canon, my all-time favourite was Batman. Who actually has no super powers, but was a billionaire highly trained physically and with ‘all the best toys’. Recently, my decades old devotion to the batty one has shifted – I still love him, still want to be him, but there’s a ‘new kid’ on the block for me – Deadpool. He is witty, tough, unpredictable, indestructible! Who wouldn’t want this? Oh, his face is a mess, like scary Halloween night in an abattoir mess, so he has to wear the mask. Would he ever work for NASA? I don’t think so. Would he ever fight to save the world from aliens, sure, if there was something in it for him I suppose. That something is his girlfriend, Deadpool after all, is a romantic; a scary, loopy, kick-ass romantic, but a romantic none the less. I think that’s what would drive him to save mankind.

But what about the ordinary folk, I hear you say, what about those who have no ‘special abilities’ and want to help save planet Earth from those pesky space invaders? I.E: YOU and ME? What sort of people will we need? Thinkers?  Muscle?  Builders? Carers? I know we need them all, but for the sake of my stupid argument, and in keeping with stories; there is only ever 1 hero, who will it be?

Some ideas for ‘ordinary’ people  – (other defenders of Earth are available)

Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock

Lyra Belacqua – His Dark Materials

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

James Bond – James Bond

Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rupert Giles – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Frodo Baggins – The Lord of the Rings

Peter Quill – Guardians of the Galaxy

Rincewind the Wizaard [sic] – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

Evelyn  ‘Evie’ Carnahan – The Mummy

I am surprised to see not one but 2 librarians in there, plus a librarians assistant (Rincewind, he never mastered wizardry and so helps out The Librarian – an orangutan)

 

‘I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am… I am a librarian.’

~Evie Carnahan, The Mummy

 

Forget the words of Bonnie Tyler – “I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night” or Tina Turner – “We don’t need another hero,”

Let the ‘little people’ be the hero’s (Good grief, I sound like something from Team America!)

Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a hero? How about the protector of mankind? If you had to choose a non superhero to be our Planetary Protection Officer  who or what would you be?! And why?

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No pressure!

 

Book Review – The Lollipop of Influence by Mjke Wood

The Lollipop of Influence 

Following ‘Deep Space Accountant’, this is  the second book in the Sphere of Influence series.


Bob Slicker and his navigation officer, Florence McConnachie, are blamed for the open-ended jump that dropped their battle fleet into deepest, uncharted space. 

They attempt to make amends and are pushed together into an unlikely alliance.
Can they find a way home to the Sphere of Influence? Nobody ever managed it before, so they couldn’t make things worse.

Or could they?

From villain to hero, the adventure continues.

http://mjkewood.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Back in October 2016, I did a review of Deep Space Accountant, Mjke Woods first in the trilogy – The Sphere of Influence.

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I had been eagerly awaiting this second book in the Sphere of Influence trilogy, and Mjke Wood does not disappoint. Following on from Deep Space Accountant – we have left Elton Philpotts behind – literally – and travel with the erstwhile slimy accountant, Bob Slicker into deep space. When I realised that the story had moved on from Elton, I was momentarily piqued, I liked Elton Philpotts, I had become irrationally attached to him – even though he is an accountant. However, Wood has managed to transfer my loyalties as smoothly as an Eddie Stobart entering a SLOG; smoother.

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And so to Bob Slicker; Bob is a spineless, sweaty appendage to the hideously megalomaniac Martin Levison, can he REALLY be our new hero?
Can Bob find home? Can Bob find a girl? Can Bob find a spine?! Whilst Bob is spineless, Martin Levison is heartless. Bob wants Eccles cake. Martin wants Cognac. Bob wants to go home. Martin wants the world!

Along for the ride with Bob Slicker, is Florence McConnachie, second navigation officer. Florence is quick-witted, independent, dexterous, and no navigator. Like Bob, she has a boss who ensures that the blame is passed onto and firmly held by their subordinates, unlike Bob, she is about to get married. She dislikes Bob Slicker due to his association with Levison, and refers to him as ‘The Slicker’; he is a sweat machine of great magnitude. And alas for Florence, she is going to have to work with the man.

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Some of the characters are beautifully awful; Lieutenant Commander Kurasov is an excellent portrayal of an American style military officer; but with a private life back home that is worthy of its own story! Meera, the navigation officer, is a preening, self-promoting egotist who will undoubtedly get what she wants. And although these are characterisations that we recognise, Wood somehow manages to NOT make them feel clichéd.

A couple of characters are who you would want on your side in an emergency; Winker Watson especially fits the bill (I am presuming the name was taken from the schoolboy who played pranks on his teachers and classmates in the popular British comic, Dandy). Watson is a bow-tie wearing, coffee-making, cake-eating Payroll officer, who enjoys tinkering with spacecraft in his spare time. I suspect that Wood is quite attached to this Watson chap, as he is more fully depicted than any other secondary character.

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Although the story takes part in the vastness of space; where many American movies have been set, and some American language features are use, this is a quintessentially British story; the tone of writing contains no ice or vinegar like so many American novels do, by this I mean sarcasm or nasty wit (not that I don’t like a bit of sarcasm and bite), the reactions to emergencies,  behaviours, idiosyncrasies and flaws strike as ‘terribly English’, small things matter; as Bob discovers when the kestrels power system is drained!!! (Beer anyone?!) – I love that.

There is even a YouTube trailer  –

I haven’t seen one of these for a book before – or maybe I just lead a sheltered life – If you get British humour, you understand that the YouTube trailer has it’s lollipop licking tongue firmly in its cheek; all those big movie trailers, influenced by American film industry, that we have become used to are pastiched here in a short space of time – the dramatic music, the panoramic views of space, and the bold text.

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Do read Deep Space Accountant first, it gives background to Slicker and Levison – which gives the ‘Lollipop’ story it’s tension.
And what is a lollipop of influence anyway? I hear you ask – well, you’ll just have to read it to find out!

The Lollipop of Influence has

Spaceships! Alien Planets! Bad Guys! Good Guys! Cake!

The Mike Wood Interview

Good morning Readers, as promised, another author interview. Today I have Mike Wood talking about music, Blyton and understanding that the reader cannot read the authors mind.

Mike is an active member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA); a professional organization for authors of science fiction, fantasy and related genres. He has won a number of awards including, Writers of the Future 2008 and the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest 2007. His SF short stories have appeared in Analog, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Lamplight, Ray Gun Revival, The Best of Jim Baen’s Universe II, Murky Depths and on StarShipSofa. He also, on occasion, writes travel articles in UK camping magazines. He lives on the Wirral with his wife who is an artist.

I first met Mike about two or three years ago, when I joined Wirral Writer’s. He has, I believe, the rare combination of skills – being able to listen, properly, and diplomacy.

 

Hi Mike, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

Me:And talking about flailing; Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

Mike:Ha! Always thought I’d reach an end to the ‘flailing’ part of life when I retired from my day job. I’d have lots of time to get on top of my reading and spend most of the day writing, that sort of thing. I’m six months on from retirement now, and it’s as hard as ever to carve out enough time to do all the things. Now I have added book marketing to the mix it seems harder to fit it all in than before.

Me: For readers who don’t know, Mike plays sax in a swing band; is that correct Mike? Does your music have any influence on your writing or vice-versa?

Mike:There has been a lot of study about how music helps the learning process. Something about how the brain is wired. I do find that when I’m stuck with a plot point or I’m at a juncture in a story where I don’t know which way to turn, a night out with the band seems to put everything right, and the solutions to problems just drop into place. Or maybe it’s just the night’s sleep afterwards that does that.

One aspect where writing and music mesh, though, is in performance. I write a story. I read it. Edit it. Submit it somewhere. After it’s rejected I’ll submit it again… and again. When the story ends up in print it can often be months or years old. The feedback from readers, while always welcomed, arrives long after the creative process has ended. It is extreme delayed gratification. On the plus side, however, that story is out there, and the feedback endures.

Music is the opposite. I might play, for instance, an improvised solo. I can sense if it’s working or not through the notes I’m playing and through the instant and continuous feedback from the audience. When the music ends there is applause (or they throw things) and I know how it went. But the solo is over. The notes are gone, evaporated, and will never be heard again. It’s nice to have the creative validation happen both ways.

Me: When you’re working on a novel or idea, do you have a ‘special place’ you work in; like a shed at the bottom of the garden, or a ‘den’ in the deepest cellar of your house? (Or caravan?!) And is it important to have such a place?

Mike: I have a room at home that is mine and I write there every day. There’s a desk, a wonderful office chair that I bought with my retirement whip-round, and I have a 24 inch screen that I use with my laptop, which is kinder to the eyes. It is a perfect work space and I love it.

But I also go away in a touring caravan. A lot! In the ‘van I’m working on my small laptop that’s balanced on a cushion while I perch on a bunk, with no flat surfaces to use a mouse, and I’m on a perpetual quest for electricity for recharging. And it’s funny, I write more and I write better when I’m away in the ‘van. I suppose The built-in thinking times help, such as those moments when the water runs out and I have to go out for more before I can put the kettle on, or the toilet needs emptying (and perhaps you don’t need to know the details of that one). It could be that when I want to gaze into the distance and ponder, there’s always something new to look at. I don’t know. It works for me, and that’s all I can say.

Me: You write sci-fi novels, but you also write travel books. These are two very different genres, do you see any disparity or correlation between these two?

Mike:That’s a really good question. Yes, there is massive disparity. In hindsight I have taken a road that only a lunatic would travel. I have separate author names: Mike Wood for Travel and Mjke Wood for Sci-fi. I maintain separate Twitter accounts and separate blogs. It is often said that you don’t make money in Indie publishing with a first book, and that you need patience to build a catalogue. Well I have two first books. Whatever possessed me? I suppose it is because I love to write Sci-fi and I love to write Travel (It’s not real travel – I don’t go very far, and my blog tag line describes me as ‘probably the world’s most un-travelled travel writer’.) What’s for sure is that the indie writing world lets me do this. A traditional publisher would forbid it and call me a *&%*# idiot. They’d be right.

But yes, there is occasional cross-over. The sci-fi book I’m working on now has a scene where the protagonist uses his camping skills with unfortunate consequences. There is misfortune and comedy. Sometimes you just have to shoehorn the ideas into place.

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Me: In ‘Deep Space Accountant’, the hero is, well, an accountant! Is Elton based on anyone in particular? And do you see accountants as the secret heroes of the universe?!

Mike: You would think that my being an accountant in the old day-job would have provided at least some of the characters and story. But the truth is, I came up with the original idea for Deep Space Accountant long before I ever worked in finance, back when I was a bus scheduler. The inspiration actually came from a Gary Larson cartoon: Seymour Frishberg, Accountant of the Wild Frontier. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. It was an image of an accountant standing on a rocky promontory out in the old Wild West. I wanted to try it in a Sci-fi setting. I wrote the first draft. Then I became an accountant. Then I did the edit/rewrite. So maybe in the rewrite stage some of my colleagues might have made the odd cameo appearance. I’ll say no more.

And the second part of your question, about accountants being the secret heroes of the universe – well, that’s certainly my marketing pitch, so I’m sticking to it.

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Me: Thinking about everything you have written so far – What was your hardest scene to write? And why?

Mike: I wrote a story a few years ago called “The Third Attractor”. I did it to push myself into new areas and put myself into the shoes of characters with whom I had little in common. The story was essentially a single scene, a conversation between a female mathematician and a priest. Well, I know nothing of maths, I’m male, and I’m an atheist, and in the story the female atheist mathematician proves the existence of God, to the priest, via mathematics. Yeah, I’d pretty much set myself up for a fall on that one. As it turned out it became one of my best short stories up to that time, and it was published in Abyss and Apex magazine. It was a tough story to write. I had to research theology, and I went to a lecture on Chaos theory at Liverpool university to try and get my head around all the maths problems. I loved writing it though, and I was chuffed with the result

Me: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Mike: Realising that what I see in my head cannot be seen by readers unless I go to the effort of describing them. This is a trap I fall into again and again. I can see the setting, and can feel the wind and smell the new-cut grass. I can see and hear the characters, know how they move, and recognise their accents. Then I make the assumption that my readers all have the same vision from some kind of telepathy. But they don’t. So I have to go back and fix it. And if I don’t, the story fails. It is a blind spot. One day I’ll learn to think about it before my editor points it out.

Mike: I’m going to give a second answer, because another thing that I find hard, very hard, is turning an idea into a story. I have lots of ideas, my notebooks are full of them, but they are not stories. Stories are characters overcoming problems. Okay, let me open an old notebook to any random page, now, and read… yes. ‘What if we could eliminate all risk?’ It is an idea, but it doesn’t say who the story is about. What is their problem? How do they resolve the problem, if at all? What pitfalls will they meet along the way and how will they overcome them? All these things combine to make a story. Getting from idea to story is hard, and always a challenge. That particular example became one of my longer short stories, “Risqueman”, and it won me a trip to Los Angeles. The journey from idea to story, though, was tortuous and I gave up and abandoned the idea many times before the outline of a story clicked, and even then I changed the Point of View character and the ending two or three times.

Me: How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Mike: My best for a first draft novel is four weeks. But then I start to fiddle with it. I find this part the slowest. My personal record for the longest ‘fiddling about’ stage is for Deep Space Accountant, which evolved and changed over thirty years. I wrote other things in the meantime, but DSA was always there to draw me back in. Then I rewrote it, with different characters, different title, different plot and different settings. I did the rewrite, without looking at the original, in four months. So, ha! I can write fast, but I haven’t lost the ability to procrastinate at a world class level.

Me: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Mike: I had to think about this, because really, not so many. Apart from the second travel book that is still a work in progress, I have just two novel-length books that didn’t go beyond first draft, and not because they couldn’t have worked with some further effort, but because they were projects with which I fell out of love. About half of my short stories haven’t made it into print and some are now trunked. Others are still in play, though. I tend to wrestle with projects until they work. Sometimes it takes a few years to find the right market, but I find it is worth persisting. Most projects will get there in the end. I’m a firm adherent to Heinlein’s rules, and rule 4 says: put your story on the market and keep it there until it sells.

Me: And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?

Mike: I make no apology, I loved “The Famous Five” and “The … of Adventure” books by Enid Blyton. No single book stands out above the others. I loved both series and read some of them in single all-night reading sessions. These were my gateway drug into reading, and probably contributed to wrecked eyes, too, because I read a lot of them under the covers with a torch until two in the morning. These books took me through to around age ten, until I discovered my Dad’s yellow-and-black-jacketed Analog Short Story anthologies that he used to borrow from the grown-up library and, well, that was that. Sci-fi hooked me from then on.

And that concludes today’s interview; I know, it is all over too soon isn’t it? Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed, Mike.

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You can find Mjke at mjkewood.com, mjkewood.blogspot.co.uk  and his books on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and Nook.

*At the time of interviewing, the anthology Tick Tock, was going to press, in which Mike was not only a contributing author, but the compiler. 

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Join me next time with Kit Cox – creator of Jack Union and the Union-verse books and short stories.

Until then, Ta Ta.

 

I still haven’t a clue – sometimes…

I am a little late updating my blog this week, apologies. I went shopping this morning. Yeah, I shop; too old for my mum to do it (and even if she did it would be all kilts and scone shoes!) I needed new jeans for work and a shirt; I had vouchers left from Christmas, I hate shopping, but it’s a necessary evil – wouldn’t want to subject the world to my naked, flabby torso!

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Anyhoo, one shop which I have patronised for about 20 years now, was extremely disappointing, the range was poor, and there was no style consistency that made it the brand I am used to. It looked like a hotchpotch of clothing from various stores. And it got me thinking about how authors write.

Who do you write for? Are you the kind of author who is so familiar with their audience that the stories just flow? Or are you so familiar with your audience that you daren’t stray from the style they like? Do you even have/know your audience? Are you writing in a fixed style/genre, even though you’re a ‘new’ writer? Is it bad to write different styles or should you stick to one?

I don’t know!

You’re you. I’m me.

But regarding my own writing – I’m relatively new to this ‘business’, having been applying myself to it seriously only for the past 4 years. I dove straight in with a novel. I was attending The Asylum in Lincoln; it is the largest annual Steampunk Convention in Europe. I attended a writing class run by Sam Stone, author of delights such as “Kat on a Hot Tin Airship. We all had to write the opening line of a story, I didn’t win the competition, but received some very encouraging responses and went home to continue writing. The story is finished, (it took three years) the manuscript doing the rounds! But afterwards I read “The Drowned World” by J.G Ballard; at the end of the book was a list of quotes from the author and one of them stuck with me – he advised new writers to NOT to go straight in with a novel, for how can you know what your style is? What genre suits you? He suggested writing lots of short stories in different genres and to keep doing it until you found your own.

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Faced with the plethora of genres to chose from, Alex sank into a state of lethargy.

 

I suppose these days, many people who think they want to write, do it because they want to write ‘that style of story’. I thought I wanted to write Steampunk. I have since written horror, sci-fi, dark humour, poetry, speculative fiction, children’s and more. I’m still not sure what my genre is, though I have very strong leaning to Speculative/science fiction.

So like that shop I visited this morning, I’m not sure what to put on my author ‘shelf’, so to speak. I am still learning, I have a HUGE amount to learn, I write daily. I write short stories, flash fiction, all genres, I enter competitions, I submit all over the place. I carry a notebook everywhere and write down lines, words or imagery that pops into my head; sometimes I listen in on peoples conversations and write down what they say. And sometimes, I really haven’t a clue what I am doing! HA!

It’s all grist for the mill.

Keep writing, reading, submitting and have a great day.

It’s Monday, what are you writing?

Good morning all !

First, let me slide this in here swiftly; new anthology, Tick Tock, is out now on Amazon. This is an eclectic mix of poetry and prose, sci-fi, fantasy, fiction and more, from Wirral Writers. I have three pieces included – The Scream of the Butterfly, Blackbird and Farewell. I hope you will enjoy it.

Now, it’s Monday, for some reason it is looked on with misery or a feeling of bleurgh! I fell into this trap during my mid to late twenties – but why?

It’s only another day to write something amazing!!!

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What are you working on at the moment?

Are you struggling to get that character with the rather bland personality to be a hero?

Is there a flaw in your timeline?

How many fluffy aliens does it really take to run a spaceship?

All relevant questions; to someone! And you know what? You’re the ones who have the answers – it’s your world, your people, grab them both by the short and curlies and shake the living daylights out of them until they comply. Bend them to your will. Be the boss, go on!

Now go write!

 

 

*Postscript – I am letting you know, so I don’t deceive my readers, some of my links  now connect to Amazon. If someone buys something via my link, I get some coin, not a lot, I’m not going to be able to buy a new washing machine, but I want you to be aware.

 

 

Female Authors For IWD

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day.

Now that may not mean much to some people – and I do not mean men, there are plenty of females who don’t give a second thought to the plight of women around the world – but it means something to me. No, I’m not going to go all mushy on you, well, maybe just a little…

As a parent of a daughter, I am all too familiar with the patterns of disregard and derision and low expectancy flung our way. And this is a day to do something about it.

I’m not good at ‘joining in’ with strangers to hold hands and carry a banner, so instead, I’m going to suggest some female authors you should read, because you know what?  MALE WRITERS STILL DOMINATE THE BOOK WORLD!

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/feb/04/research-male-writers-dominate-books-world

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/07/male-writers-continue-dominate-literary-criticism-vida-study-finds

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/book-gender_n_1324560.html

GENDER of authors published by Little, Brown in 2011

 

This is my little effort at ‘Being Bold For Change‘; convincing you all to read something by a female writer. I’m jotting down some of my favourite female authors. Give them a go, you will, I am sure, find at least one that you enjoy. There are links to Amazon should you wish to purchase a copy.

Read these – No really, I’m not kidding

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Why? Because Atwood is what I would call a ‘real’ writer, she has worked at her craft for many years and the published results reveal nothing about the authors gender – and I like that – Oryx and Crake is a mesmerising novel set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is so full of imagination and wonder, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Why? Forget all those Hammer films, this is one of the original Gothic novels and so contains the style and tone of that period – might be considered dull by some. It is tragically beautiful.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Why? Any of Christie’s books are an extremely easy read, and because of that if you like crime drama, you’ll become addicted and want more. A murder? On a speeding train? You know it’s got to be someone on board, but who?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Why? Because it is simply brilliant. A story told through the eyes of Scout, a child, whose father is the town’s lawyer; a good man, an honest man, this is the one man in literature that you could truly say – ‘That’s how fathers should behave’.

 

Briefing For A Descent Into Hell by Doris Lessing. Why? Because this might be the strangest, most life changing book you read. Lessing was classified as a science fiction writer, but she herself called it ‘inner space fiction’. A real master of the writers craft, Lessing tells a tale of how we treat those with mental health issues.

 

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Why? Between Dracula and Twilight, there was Anne Rice’s series of vampire books. If you read any Anne Rice, you wouldn’t need any other vampire books. Sensuous, dangerous, tragic; Interview with the Vampire takes us from the cotton fields of old Louisiana to the modern day, through the eyes of Louis. But the star of the show, is Lestat!

 

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. Why? What a wonderful world of painted artistes and high-wire acts; a modern day fairy tale, is one way of describing the work of Carter. Enter the world of Magical realism, stories of the bizarre, wondrous and sometimes, magic, you cannot fail to be entertained and delighted.

 

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. Why? How does a child look at the world when the world she inhabits is tilted at a precarious angle? Parents whom we might today call abusive, at the very least, uncaring. When you don’t fit in – when you are not an orange – what do you do? A tale about a young girl coming to terms with her sexuality.

Thank you for reading, please do try at least one of these titles, not because they’re by women, but simply because THEY’RE REALLY GOOD BOOKS!

 

 

 

Add to Dictionary

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…