Sunday, 29 January 2012

Help Wanted

Writers, do you know this? You have the outline of a story in your mind, but when you start writing one of the characters comes out the opposite from what you planned, changing the whole story. You try to go with it, but when it's done you hate the outcome. What do you do then?

That's exactly what happened to me with Twelve. I started to write and suddenly the interviewer was an absolute bitch, changing the whole script! I needed some days away from it all to be able to start again. So much time gone to waste! To make matters worse, I've caught a nice, dizzying cold and can't really judge the quality of my writing just now. That's where you come in! Please, if you have some time to spare, go read Twelve and send me your feedback.

By the way, the prompt was
"for there's no sense in believing what's right unless it leads to helping people in distress"
so I can't change that specific sentence. How did I implement it into the story? 
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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Review: The Light Fantastic

The Light Fantastic
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett is the sequel to his first discworld novel, The Colour of Magic. Published three years after the first, in 1986, the book starts off where we were left, with Rincewind the inept wizard falling from the disc. The Octavo, a very potent grimoire, goes to great length to save his life - or, to be more exact - to save one of the Eight Spells of the creator, which had taken up lodging in Rincewind's head some years previously. One moment falling right into space, next moment he finds himself in a wood of talking trees. He is reunited with the tourist Twoflower, but we never get to know what happened to Tethis the water troll, who was inside the Potent Voyager, a space capsule, with him.
Rincewind and Twoflower continue their travels across the disc, being pursued by wizards and accompanied by yet another hero, Cohen the Barbarian. This time, they meet druids building a kind of magical computer, they take a short stroll through Death's realm, are kidnapped, then saved by trolls, and so on. All the time, a new, red, menacing star grows bigger in the sky, threatening to destroy the discworld. Or is it? In any case, it is driving people mad with fear and curiosity.

I liked this second discworld novel quite a bit more than the first. It has more of a storyline; it was clear quite early that the goal would be to return to Ankh-Morpork and everything that happens somehow works towards this goal. Then comes the showdown, epic fights and heroic deeds (done by Rincewind, who was the greatest coward ever known before). The sudden change of character fits, though, as he is finally home and tired of running away again.
Disappointing, for me, was that we still don't know what happened to Hrun the Barbarian and Tethis from The Colour of Magic. Books that give no satisfactory explanation of the disposition of some of their characters, however minor they may be, always upset me.

Overall, it was a good read. The Light Fantastic is funny and exciting, but now that I'm getting used to reading Terry Pratchett again, and the first excitement for reading the whole series has faded, I can't help noticing that his later novels are, well, better. I'm looking forward to continue with the discworld novels and follow the author's development.

View all my reviews on goodreads.
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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Angels Again!

"many people are terribly frightened when they see one of the angels of the Lord"
After all, The Christmas Mystery is a book based on religion. What can one do?
Exactly, get back to Arthur and ask him to make another appearance. I think he rather liked his role, to tell the truth. I hope it won't go to his head!

Otherwise, there's not much to tell. Nadiya will be back with the next post with more news.
I hope you remembered Anne! But can you guess who Nadiya's mother is as well?
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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Hugo - a Review

The Sony Reader PRS-T1, or, as I call it - for no other reason than it was the first name I could think of - Hugo is exactly what I was looking for. Admittedly, I didn't get a chance to compare it/him with any other tool yet, but I don't have to to love it (him?).

First of all, I guess you'll need to know what I was looking for in an eReader, to understand what I like and dislike about Hugo.
Since I got some paperbacks in a terribly huge format for Christmas, I thought of buying an eReader to continue being able to read on the road. The thought, though, of having some electronic device with me at all times, gave me the idea that I'd love to write on it as well. I have a blog with flash fiction and not much time to maintain it, so the hour I spend on public transport would be ideal for writing, as long as what I write could easily be synchronised with my laptop or the PC in my office. I settled for the Sony Reader after some research, also into the tablet department, since eInk displays are more comfortable to the eye and the battery lasts much longer.

Negative points first:
I live in Germany. That often turns out to be a problem these days (blocked YouTube content and such), and it is a minor disadvantage here as well. Hugo, you see, comes with two pre-installed book stores: the Sony Reader Store and Google Books (yay!). Both do not work in Germany yet. Great. I tried downloading a free eBook from Google Books via the integrated browser, but Hugo was not able to open it. This leaves me only with the computer software to synchronise via USB. That, fortunately, is easy and fast.
Still, the software is my absolute hate point with the Sony Reader. It always synchronises both ways (at least, I haven't found a way to change that) and if some files (like notes for my blog) are the same, the files from the computer overwrite those from Hugo, no matter the edition date. This led to me losing quite a large fraction of a story already. Thank you, Sony.
As another minor point, I'd like to mention that a stylus is included, but without some place to put it, neither on the Reader itself, nor on the optional cover. Is that really too much to ask?

Why I love Hugo:
Hugo is sexy. Slim and light, and very easy to use. Apparently it has some problems with PDFs, sometimes, but ePUBs work well.
Typing is very, very fast. In fact, it is faster than the eInk display, but still no letters get lost. I love this.
Hugo comes, of course, with a pre-installed browser and also some dictionaries (more languages than I would ever need), in case you wanted to know.
The main reason that made me fall in love with Hugo, though, is that is works with Android. I don't have any experience with this, but still - thanks to the internet - I was able to root the Reader in less than five minutes. Now I have Dropbox installed, which allows writing in .txt format online, on my laptop, and on Hugo (offline). It synchronises very fast via WLAN, too. Never will use the stupid software again (for notes)!

Overall, the Sony Reader PRS-T1 is certainly a good eReader, with all functions that I saw people look for. And for people like me, who want a bit more, it is (probably) perfect.

This review has been written for Goodreads.
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Friday, 20 January 2012

Always Read the Manual

This is just a short apology for the lateness that is to be expected from Flash 11.

I wrote most of it on my way home yesterday, on Hugo of course. A few minutes ago, I synchronized the eReader with my office PC to finish the first written version in Google Docs. To my great surprise all that was on the computer was a file with the prompt itself, though. I checked back on Hugo - and it was the same!

What do we learn from this? Read the manual!
Well, actually I'm not even sure it's in there and I don't feel like looking it up now. How would it help, anyway?
I believe that, for some mysterious reason, the computer is always dominant. Synchronization always goes both ways (you can't switch that off) and in my case, the computer version of the note in question was only the prompt. It overwrote the note on Hugo and now I have to start practically from scratch again.
To make matters worse, I don't like the beginning any more. Hopefully that's just because I'm so upset right now, but in any case this episode has totally ruined my schedule.
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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Moving Into the Future

This, again, took some time. It was a very busy weekend, and even though I started writing Ten at a museum in Hanover, Germany, while listening to children having fun, it took quite some time to complete (and start the next Flash before uploading this one, of course).
Here's the prompt:
"a few seconds later what Elisabet had thought was a bird took off and flew down in a spiral towards the pilgrims"
Now you know why I needed a girl called Elisabet. :-) Since she is the daughter of Lucy and Dan, who are more or less my generation, we now notice for the first time that we have moved a bit into the future. Of course, other Flashes have been farther still, but they didn't feature innovations like a tunnel that can depict an abandoned road or be transparent as glass (not to mention the perfect sound insulation and the bird camera).
I tried to weave the word "pilgrims" in as naturally as possible. How successful was I?
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Monday, 16 January 2012

Review: The Colour of Magic

The Colour of Magic
Image via Wikipedia
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In his first discworld novel, first published in 1983 (two years older than me!), Terry Pratchett takes the reader on a tour around his magical world by sending the first ever tourist of the discworld, Twoflower, to explore it. He is accompanied - most unwillingly - by the inept wizard Rincewind, and his (the tourist’s) Luggage, a huge wooden chest made of sapient pearwood, which follows him wherever he goes and keeps his belongings save by eating those who want to steal it. On their travelling from Ankh-Morpork to the Hublands to the Rimfall, Twoflower and Rincewind meet many people and monsters, from thieving heroes to imaginary dragons. The ending is left open and will be continued in the next novel, The Light Fantastic, or so I have heard.

I had some minor problems with the book, mainly because I have already seen the movie twice and, as is so often the case, comparison is a bad idea but hard not to do. Even with the difference which irritated me, though, I enjoyed the book and had to smile at several occasions. The optimistic, naive and - most of all - curious Twoflower and his counterpart, the pessimistic, seemingly ill-starred Rincewind, are a great team when it comes to surviving all that Fate (the God) happens to throw their way, and they entertain the reader at the same time. Admittedly, they receive some help from the Lady in that great board game the Gods play...
The only thing that really irks me is the matter of Hrun the Barbarian, who joins Rincewind and Twoflower at the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth and simply vanishes after their clash with the people of the Wyrmberg. I hope he will return with some kind of explanation in the next book.

For readers who want to get to know Terry Pratchett and/or the discworld, I can definitely recommend The Colour of Magic. The skilled writer that he is, Pratchett manages to describe the discworld to the outsider without losing sight of the story, introducing important terms and facts (e.g. Great A'Tuin, the world turtle, the names of the four elephants that carry the disc, the Big Bang hypothesis and the eighth colour, octarine) and comparing it to our world (magic versus technical progress, views and opinions, etc.). I believe that you can read and understand the other discworld novels without having read this one first, but if you like the discworld, you need to read this book.

View all my reviews on goodreads

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Friday, 13 January 2012

The Thing With Inspiration

Today I'd like to tell you a bit about my usual writing schedule.
Thanks to Hugo I am now able to write not only at home and at work (I like Google Docs), but also on the go, which is a big plus! Almost all of Nine was written on Hugo on my way home two days ago. Wow. :-)
When I get to a new prompt, I try to first make up my mind what the story should be. The first draft happens almost only in my head, except for some key notes to make sure I won't forget anything in case of a distraction. Then I write the story down for the first time, and, when it's finished, move on to the next prompt. This way, I can get some distance to my writing, which helps with the editing later, and it also ensures that the next post is on the way when I post something. After the notes and maybe the beginning of the next story are written down, I return to the last one, read it over a few times, edit and post. Repeat.
(Sometimes, though, like today, I don't have much on the next one before I post. Today, this is because I won't be home this weekend and wanted to get this posted before.)

Now, why am I telling you this?
Here's why: after finishing the first written version of Eight, I told an old friend that it was finished. He asked if it was erotic, which made me laugh, having Elisabet's baptism in mind. But then I moved on to the next prompt
"they had broken a solemn promise"
and even before I had time to think it through, the erotic story had settled down in my mind and wouldn't budge. Blame him if you don't like it. ;-)
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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Another Point of View

"part of the glory of heaven that has strayed down to earth"
Isn't this a nice description for a newborn human? How long did it take you to understand what was going on with Elisabet?

This prompt gave me the chance to introduce Elisabet ahead of time, since her name is part of prompt number ten. She is the daughter of Lucy and Dan, or rather, the daughter of Lucy and an unknown stranger. Being blond, Lucy grew up with the goal of saving her natural hair colour from extinction by having blond children. Dan, being more on the dark side and almost her exact opposite, didn't fit the concept, but lucky for her fathering children proved a biological difficulty for him. He agreed to the in vitro fertilisation and even let Lucy select the father. In turn, naming the baby would be his call.
Now, Dan might not be very fond of reading books in general, but Lucy changed him somewhat. His favourite book, probably for its strangeness and easy of reading, turned out to be "The Christmas Mystery". When he knew that a blond girl was on the way, there was no doubt about what her name should be. Lucy wasn't very happy with this, and tried once to at least adjust the spelling to a more common version, but Dan wouldn't budge. In the end, bound by the promise she had give him, Lucy had to surrender and get used to the name.
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Sunday, 8 January 2012

Of Heaven and Lost Memories

Gah, I am so very late again! My sincerest apologies! Distractions are everywhere, in so many forms. One of them will - hopefully - be posted here later today. ;-)
First, though, is the seventh prompt:
"in heaven we've always considered this to be a slight exaggeration"
Can you see the problems I had with this?
I mean, heaven. It's such a specific term! Is there any way that "we in heaven" could be other creatures than angels? I tried to work around that, since angels don't really fit my concept, but in the end I gave in and created Arthur inside the dream world.
My next problem was the exaggeration. What could it be? Well, once I had come to terms with the angel and real heaven thing, it wasn't so difficult. Himalaya was already part of the story and could easily be used as stairway to heaven...
Then I was stuck, though. I had promised that all the 24 Flashes would be independent, but thinking of heaven and angels and Himalaya, I couldn't help thinking of Five and the poor, confused Brian. It also seemed that Five was harder to understand than I thought, which made a sequel all the more appealing. So there you have it, I hope you don't mind.
Is it clearer now?
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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Love, Anyone?

Happy New Year, guys and girls!

I am so distracted right now, and have been for some days! I don't know how I can keep up with writing in this state! Nevertheless, I managed to write another one, for a very interesting prompt.
"a camel can move from place to place as well, a bit like the castles on a chessboard"
It's something one of the three Magi says when they are discussing towers (which tend not to move) and watching the stars. I kept quite close to the meaning this time, since I couldn't find any other way to fit a camel on a chessboard into the world in my head.

The style is inspired by Sir Terry Pratchett, at least partly. I like the way he talks directly to the reader sometimes, and I like to experiment with writing styles. It got a bit geeky as well...
I hope you liked it!
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