2010 – The Year of Doing (What was I thinking?)

Originally posted on another site on 9 February 2010.

When I said that at the beginning of the year, I was referring to writing, submitting, trying to get published. It all sounded so easy, well…easy when written down on paper, that is. However, as is the way of the world, the cosmos took it to mean something else and has since bombarded me with other things that need “doing”. And I can’t do these things tomorrow or next week, it has to be today. Now!!

It started out with the anthology being converted for upload at Smashwords. I had ten days to do the conversion, but due to a family commitment that ten days turned into six. I managed it with a day to spare so that was good. However, since then I haven’t had time to check on how that projects is going because one thing after the other has been thrown at me.

Not all of them have been bad things. There have been six birthdays and a 60th wedding anniversary in the last three weeks. But there has also been the news from my son that he’s moving overseas to live for 18 months and everything in his town house had to be sold or gotten rid of (in two weeks!). There was plenty of “doing” where that was concerned and I’m exhausted as a result (and that’s not taking into consideration the emotional strain on me either).

On top of all this, I’ve also had to endure constant train delays – due to lightening strikes mainly. It started with the incident the other week and hasn’t improved in the slightest since. In fact, last Thursday the storms finally got the ultimate result and caused a land slide and train derailment. Of course, it was my train, but I drove that day as I had to pick up my son from his now empty town house and take him home with me. That plan didn’t quite pan out but it meant that I was in the right place at the right time for a change. I wasn’t on the train when it derailed (no one was hurt, by the way). It meant I didn’t have to walk in the pouring rain to where the train and road met and catch a coach the rest of the way home. But it also meant that I couldn’t get home as the landslide blocked the highway so I had to invade my parent’s home. Luckily, they didn’t mind having their daughter home with them for the evening.

On Friday morning, I borrowed clothes, makeup and anything else I needed in order to go to work feeling refreshed (it didn’t quite work as I didn’t sleep well in my old room, which I found surprising). I listened to the news reports all day which told me the highway had only two lanes open and the trains were still not running. I phoned my son for updates on his “cleaning” progress at the town house a couple of times in the afternoon trying to motivate him to get the job finished. After work I picked up my son and we headed home expecting long delays, but was thankful when we didn’t have them.

We encountered those delays on Saturday when we had to drive back down the mountain. We sat at one set of lights for 45 minutes. Cars stopped in every direction while road crew stood around watching the flooded road fix itself (not!).

The Year of Doing isn’t panning out how I envisioned. I haven’t had the time or energy to do anything writing related since I returned to work on 11 January. I feel so exhausted that I’m lucky to get through the work day, let alone try to be creative on the train or at home.

I’m hoping that all this “doing” will stop very soon.

DVD Review: District 9

Originally posted on another site on 30 January 2010.

District 9Well, what can I say about this movie? District 9 is definitely a movie with a difference. It starts out as documentary type viewing, with news footage and fake interviews. In all honesty, I was bored for a while and didn’t think I’d see the movie through to the end. However, my partner sat thoroughly engrossed and was even in fits of laughter at times. I guess I was too tired to appreciate the jokes.

But then things turned more serious and although we still saw occasional bits of the documentary side of the movie, the viewpoint mainly changed to the main character (and script writer). From this point, my boredom subsided and I became more interested in what was happening. Basically, the story is about an alien ship that arrived over the South African city of Johannesburg in the late 1980’s. Something was wrong with the ship and the aliens couldn’t return to their own planet, so they were transferred into an area called District 9, which promptly became a slum. Twenty years later there’s over 1.8 million aliens living in District 9.

This is a science fiction movie that is totally different to all the other movies of the same genre. When it finished, my partner looked at me and asked if I liked it. I couldn’t give an answer. I didn’t, at first, but it grew on me. I believe I appreciated it even more long after the end credits rolled up and I had had a chance to think about the messages the movie left me with.

In my opinion, the theme of the movie is to do with racism and segregation. How we discriminate against other people and those less fortunate than ourselves. How we show no tolerance for other people’s ways. How we can’t accept that not all people are the same – as in their beliefs, their education, their customs.

The aliens in this movie were a joke to begin with. The things they were shown doing, such as feasting on tyres, were ridiculous. The main character treated them like imbeciles. But then, when events changed and the movie became more serious, we were shown the other side of the aliens. The main character was running for his life and he found help from the aliens. He discovered they had feelings and fears, that they wanted something better for their young. A comradeship formed between him and one of the aliens that, at the beginning of the movie, you wouldn’t have believed possible.

If you want to watch something different and thought provoking, then watch District 9.

An Afternoon in the Life of a Writer

Originally posted on another site on 29 January 2010.

Firstly, the title of this post is a bit misleading, because the events I’m going to write about is not writing related. Luckily, the afternoon is not a typical day in my life either. If it were I would no doubt be in a looney bin by now.

The afternoon in question started at 4.30pm, the moment I walked out of prison…I mean…my work place and headed for the station. It was raining, heavily. I didn’t care as I had an umbrella and was thankful the temperature wasn’t 40+ celcius, as it had been for a few days. I navigated the bridge, finding my way down to the street below with ease. I felt quite good, even though I had been unwell for most of the week. The work day was over and there was only one more day before the weekend.

I paused before crossing the main road, noticing the gushing rain water trying to find it’s way to the river. Once on the other side of the road, all was good, I didn’t have far to go before I reached the station and then I would be homeward bound.

It was at that moment that I gasped aloud and stopped in my tracks. A car filled with laughing youths had ceased the opportunity to amuse themselves and had driven directly into the water and sprayed it all over me. I was soaking wet down my right side. Not damp. I mean dripping wet – hair, bag, clothes and shoes – completely drenched! The shock of the cold water hitting me unexpectedly was what stopped me from moving for several seconds.

A few minutes later I boarded the train, my skirt dripping a trail behind me, my cold feet squelching noisily in my sandals. I found a seat and sat down, the wet skirt clinging to my legs. It felt uncomfortable to be sitting with wet material between my chilled body and the seat. My backpack was as wet as my umbrella and I didn’t know what to do with either of them, except discard them on the floor and hope the puddle that quickly formed around them would run unnoticed by the other commuters. It’s difficult to relax and read in that condition, but I tried – although the pages of the book were damp.

If that had been the end of it, I would have been OK. But it wasn’t. That was the beginning of my two hour trip. Four hours later I finally made it home!

Four hours. It’s a long time to sit with wet cloths on and I’m sure that my discomfort added to my mood and stress. Anyway, twenty minutes after boarding, the train came to a stand still. Fifteen minutes later we were told the train in front of us had broken down. Finally, we made it to the next station and the people from that other train boarded ours. We were on our way again, but I rang home to let my partner know I’d be late. Another twenty minutes passed and again we found ourselves at a stand still. We were told that lightning had struck a signal box and it was twenty minutes before we moved again. I rang home again. This time saying that I’d phone prior to reaching home so that I could be picked up. We crept towards home, but it wasn’t meant to be. The train stopped once more and this time we were told that because of the lightning there was no signals between where we were and my home station. An hour later we had not moved an inch. My clothes were still more than damp, but no longer dripping. I was cold, hungry and irritable. I had given up trying to read. I pulled my jumper out of my backpack to find it was damp. And we were stranded in a “dead zone” so I couldn’t phone home. By this time, all the passengers were angry and restless. One poor mother of a newborn baby did everything she could to quieten her baby, with no luck so we had a baby screaming for two hours. Other small children started getting upset and crying too. Youths were restless and started playing music (loud) to pass the time. There was a lot of bad language being thrown around too. None of this made the trip even slightly bearable. It was a horrible, horrible four hours.

Finally, the driver received permission to carry on without the signals working. When my home town came into view I discovered the battery of my mobile phone was dead so I couldn’t phone home again and I then had to disembark and walk home in the rain. What a perfect ending to the day!

I got home at 8.40pm and went to bed at 9.30pm so that I could get up at 5am this morning and start the whole routine all over again. The weather man claims there will be an electrical storm this afternoon! Oh bliss!

DVD Review: Surrogates

Originally posted on another site on 27 January 2010.

SurrogatesImagine living your entire life from within the confines of your home. You never step foot outside the highly secured front door. Not for anything. Not ever! Why? Because it’s too dangerous. But you still go to work, go shopping, go to the doctors, go to the beach and to parties. You can go hand gliding, bungy jumping and skiing. You can do anything you wish. You can even jump out of a plane, if you want to. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if you forget to strap on a parachute first!

Every second on your life outside that front door is done through the eyes of a surrogate – a robot that looks like you or an improved version of you, or however you want other surrogates to see you. You can make yourself look gorgeous, but the actions and words of that robot are your own, so if it lacks personality…well?!

Imagine a life where every interaction you have with other people is through the eyes of a surrogate…and most of those other people are surrogates too. I can’t imagine I’d like a life like that and for this reason I found the concept of the movie, Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis, quite interesting.

Of course, as in every situation, there are those who refuse to succumb to a life such as the one I’ve just described and in the movie that sector of people are part of the conflict in the story. The reasoning, and I tend to agree with them in a lot of ways, is that it’s not natural to shut ourselves away and live life through a robot. In fact, can you really say it is living?

In the movie Bruce Willis’ character is married and he never even sees his actual wife. He only ever sees her surrogate, even though they live in the same apartment. He never leaves the apartment and she never even leaves her room. This also causes conflict in the story.

I’ve seen reviews that complain that the movie has taken ideas from other movies, such as The Matrix, but everyone takes ideas from somewhere and this movie is not a remake of The Matrix in any form or fashion. This movie is thought provoking. It made me think about where our future is heading and it made me wonder just how far we might go in the name of security. Yes, I would love to send a surrogate to my place of work to do my job for me…and continue to receive the wage associated with that work. I would love nothing better, but I don’t think I’d like my entire life to be lived through a robot. It might be exciting at first, and it might be a way of experiencing (to some degree) the things you definitely wouldn’t try in real life but it would be damn lonely in the long term.

I recommend this action packed movie and if you’ve seen it, I would really like to know what you think.

DVD Review: Orphan

Originally posted on another site on 25 January 2010.

OrphanI had seen the posters for Orphan but didn’t really think much more about it until G arrived home with the DVD. He said he’d seen the preview on the internet and thought we’d both enjoy it.

The movie is a suspense thriller about a couple who adopt a nine year old girl shortly after the stillbirth of their third child. The marriage is on edge. The mother is finding it hard to cope with her loss. And then Ester comes into their lives. Everything is sweet for a while and then things start to happen. Nasty things. Deadly things. Things that will make the hairs on your neck stand on end and your skin crawl. It had me on the edge of the seat. It was creepy, suspenseful and – something that doesn’t happen to me often – it affected my sleep that night (I kept thinking someone was in the room with me, in the dark, and I couldn’t sleep because of it). I guess sinister children have that affect on me!

It was a movie that felt cliché in some ways, yet spoke to me in volumes in others. The young actress, twelve year old Isabelle Fuhrman, who played nine year old Ester was superb in every way. Without giving away any details, she had me totally convinced she was what they said she was. Her acting ability at such a young age is outstanding and she deserves an award for her role in this movie (I never think of things like awards when I’m watching a movie, so she really did impress me). In fact, whoever cast this movie did a great job. The characters fitted together well and complimented each other.

Some movies are watched and forgotten within days, this movie will remain strong in my mind for some time to come. The chilling plot plus the exceptional cast make a movie that I can highly recommend…but don’t let your kids watch it, it might give them ideas!

Anthology Available for iPhone, Kindle, etc

Originally posted on another website on 21 January 2010, but edited for the purposes of posting here.

The anthology, Speculative Realms, which includes my story Where Strength Lies, is now available in many ebook formats. These formats include epub for iPhone, iPod Touch, Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook and most mobile apps; mobi for Kindle and many handheld devices; pdb for Palm Pilot devices, PalmOS, Symbian OS and several others; and, then there’s pdf, rtf and plain text for use on computers and some other devices.

New eBook Formats Available Soon for Speculative Realms Anthology

Originally posted on another site on 19 January 2010.

I know I’ve been a bit quiet lately, but it’s been absolutely necessary. I’m under contract to get some work done by the 25th of this month…and it’s looking as though I’ll make the deadline. 🙂

Speculative Realms is proud to announce that by the end of this week, the anthology will be available in many more formats. They are:

An open industry format, supported by the Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook, most mobile apps [Stanza, Aldiko, Shortcovers], and many other reading systems.

Sony Reader (LRF)
LRF is the format used on Sony Reader ebook devices.

Kindle (.mobi)
Mobipocket is an eBook format supported on Windows PCs and many handheld devices.

Palm Doc (PDB)
PalmDoc is a format primarily used on Palm Pilot devices, but readers are available for PalmOS, Symbian OS, Windows Mobile Pocket PC/Smartphone, desktop Windows, and Macintosh.

Portable Document Format, or PDF, is a file format readable by most devices, including handheld e-readers, PDAs, and computers.

Rich Text Format, or RTF, is a cross-platform document format supported by many word processors and devices. Usually pretty good at preserving original formatting from Word documents.

Plain Text
Plain text is the most widely supported file format, working on nearly all readers and devices.

More details, including location where these can be purchased, will be announced as soon as they are available to the public.

The Road Divides and I Must Go Astray

Originally posted on another site on 15 January 2010.

The return to work has seen me fall behind in my blogging as it means I, once again, am getting up very early and doing a lot of travelling. This week, being my first week back, has left me feeling tired, too tired to write or even think about writing…much! And I’m even having trouble keeping my eyes open enough to read. Strangely, I don’t seem to have the same trouble with Bejeweled 2 on my iPod Touch. 😉

Next week will be different. It has to be because I stand at a place where the road divides. I already know which road I must take. Unfortunately, it will take me away from Whispering Caves, but only for a short time. In fact, the road is quite short and if I don’t hurry to do what needs to be done I’ll find myself falling over a cliff at the end of the road. Sounds bad, doesn’t it, but I’m dramatising the situation for your benefit.

This road is a necessity. It’s for the anthology and I’m very excited about the new direction we are going in. However, that grand news will be announced on another day so be sure to return here in a week or so to find out what the fuss is all about – you might even get yourself a bargain!