Monday, 25 November 2013

A Tale of Two Airports

It seems some pilots got confused last week, and landed a gigantic cargo plane on a runway far too small for it. Still, they took off again without too much ado. The required runway length can vary with the freight load and amount of fuel in the tanks, so it wasn't that much of a big deal. Pretty funny though how they managed to get the two airports mixed up. More details at http://thedailyedge.thejournal.ie/massive-plane-gets-stuck-in-tiny-kansas-airport-1185902-Nov2013/ with tweets and pics as it happened.

Publisher’s Life 3: Your Website

If you’re serious about getting into business, you’ll need a professional static website to be your online business card. This should be a reader’s go-to source for information about your books and authors, and anything else you can think of that would interest your audience.

The front page is very, very important – especially in terms of what appears “above the fold”, or the first screen a viewer will see without scrolling down. This area is your first impression and should showcase what you are and what you do. In my case, it’s the business name at the top (as on all pages) followed by some fancy script programming to make my book covers float across the screen – which became necessary as soon as I had published several titles and they would no longer fit in a static arrangement. Below that I have one of our intro videos, a very brief description of us, and a link to more information about me as the boss. I feel that all these things together give a good impression of our overall angle when someone first arrives on our site.



There are many other pages too. One for each author, with a biography carefully honed by the team; one for each book; a Bookshop with links to buy our titles; a contact page, a submissions page, and pages for each of our genres, collections and projects. That may sound like a lot, but it all built up over time, project by project and author by author.

One page is probably enough to begin with, if you make sure it looks clean, professional and inviting.

Daily Doctor: 7 Reactions to the 50th Anniversary (SPOILERS)

Ahem. Don't go any further now if you haven't seen the big event yet. Go on, get away - trust me, you do NOT want to spoil it for yourself.

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Okay? Okay.

Now that it's been a full day (at time of writing) since my first viewing of the special, it's time to lay down a few first thoughts. This will be pretty random; expect more coherent logic at a later date.

1 - The thing I most looked forward to was the return of the Tenth, and he did not disappoint. He says he's 904, which puts it a year or so after Voyage of the Damned - he's alone so it's after Donna, and likely right before The End of Time. Was anyone else sad that his hair was stubbornly plastered down on top?

2 - The Other Doctors. Billie Piper called it "a gift to the fans" and I think she nailed it. Of course I mean the thing with Gallifrey, not the mannequins in the final scene.

3 - Speaking of Billie - intriguing role. I did suspect she might not be exactly Rose. This was kinda fun but I would have liked her to show herself to Ten just once, to see his reaction.

4 - Speaking of Gallifrey - now THAT was an epic twist. Changing history without ruining the Doctor's own past since that time. The look on 11's face when the Curator puts it in his head is pure delight.

5 - Speaking of the Curator - Talk about cake for the fans! And the curious little things he said. Whatever could they mean?

6 - How the heck would a non-Whovian understand any of that? I'm curious if it's even possible - with all the hype, there are sure to have been some first-timers among the viewers.

7 - The 3D. It was pretty good actually. Enjoyed that. And the little 3D intro by 10 and 11. And that other little intro by Strax. Cinema-only intros, for you TV folks, but I'm sure they'll show up online somewhere.

More soon...


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Reality TV with Writers??

Long there have been jokes about a reality show for writers, similar to the ones there are for singers. But now it's actually happening for the first time - and it's in Italy. Now I've seen everything.

Read the flabbergasting details at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/14/arts/television/masterpiece-an-italian-reality-show-for-writers.html.

If you're a writer, would you participate?

Photo Story: Old Piano


This piano stood in the entryway of the house I lived in in 2009. The flatmates were mostly pretty awesome and there was a cool view of the sea (distantly, but there). The children of the house were meant to be having lessons but I don’t think I ever heard them practising. I do recall a few hours spent at it myself attempting to play Star Trek music or electronica, neither of which worked very well, but that’s likely because while I know a bit of theory, I’m not a piano player at all.


I liked how the ivory was sometimes worn or lost, yet it did not affect the instrument’s sound at all. Outward appearances are so minor in the scheme of things, aren’t they?

Daily Doctor: Redecoration Regeneration

Picking up on a theme from last weekend, here are various incarnations of the Doctor speaking a familiar line. There may even be more than this...


Saturday, 23 November 2013

Ireland: Beautiful Clogherhead from above

Clogherhead is one of the loveliest Irish places I've had the privilege of visiting. There's a little fishing village with a trailer park alongside thatched cottages, and a long, wide beach that vanishes in the mists. But it is the "head" itself that I found most captivating, with its ever-varying rocky shores that frame views across to Northern Ireland and the open Irish Sea. I was making sure I had the spelling correct when I came across this video, recorded by a remote control plane operator... wonderful stuff. Full screen is a must!

Conflicted

I am not built to handle conflict. I suppose none of us are, if it comes to that, but my past makes it especially difficult for me to face. I have unplugged my phone, turned off my mobile, and changed a few online settings. Some people are better at dealing with this stuff. Well, that ain’t me. The first sign of a raised voice or attack to my person and I threaten to shatter into a million pieces.

Someone has chosen to hate me (or certainly to act like it) and make my life difficult. Yes, we have a full-blown personality clash, though they had that with more than just me. I do not understand how someone can so fully abdicate their personal responsibility and then hurl insults and threats on top of that. Well, be it on their conscience, though it’s still me, not them, who has to deal with the consequences.


So please forgive me if I am a little fragile for some time to come. It takes me a long while to recover from conflict, because it is absolute horror to me – trauma, essentially, like a deep wound to the soul. Perhaps someday I will heal enough to be able to withstand these things better, but in the meantime, don’t mind me if I hide away for a while.

Daily Doctor: Moffat on Numbering (SPOILERS)

Don't go any further if you're not up to date. You've been warned.

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The introduction of a new(ish?) Timelord at the end of Series 7 was a shock for all of us, and speculation started up immediately as people wondered where he fitted into the timeline and what it would do to the existing nomenclature. Well, Moffat tells us the new-old dude doesn't have a number at all, so he won't disrupt anything. He just doesn't count.

Whew, I'm glad I won't have to change how I say who is my favourite. Still, I've seen some fans in forums beginning to do so. Totally confusing...

Read the whole interview with Moffat here: http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2013-11-15/doctor-who-steven-moffat-clears-up-confusion-around-the-number-of-john-hurts-doctor

Friday, 22 November 2013

Astronomy: A Very Quiet Sun

From One-Minute Astronomer comes the lowdown on what's been going on with the Sun. Apparently it's having an abnormal cycle - right now it should be having loads of spots, but it's not. It means less auroras but also less interference for satellites. But it's not the first time this has happened. Have a read about the phenomenon here: http://oneminuteastronomer.com/9314/whats-wrong-with-the-sun/

Thor 2 - Movie Review

I have grown to enjoy the Marvel movies over the years, and this one was no exception. There was a LOT of smashing stuff up and battles and such, but it wasn’t the entire story, for which I am grateful. Anyway, there were a bunch of new and challenging situations for our heroes and our villains, and a whole lot of new scenery and effects. This film accomplishes quite a few things that we know we subconsciously wanted to see – Thor getting back together with Jane, Thor and Loki being brothers again, even an almost-nameless intern throwing a Mini is a rather delightful touch. I do feel sorry for Christopher Eccleston having to play such a stereotypical villain with short, trite speeches and most of those in a made-up language. Still, I guess it makes a change for him to be attacking London instead of saving it.
Fun movie, with an ending that implies a lot more to come.


Daily Doctor: The Fez, Just Because

No words needed.


Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Star Trek Onesie

Does your newborn have aspirations to the captain's chair? Or more to the point, do you have those aspirations for your offspring? Well, now they can impersonate Picard in no time. Not sure what happens when they grow out of this, though. I admit to some disappointment on clicking through that this wasn't a grown-up onesie, as have become very popular for sleepwear at least on this side of the world...


Author Spotlight: Adam & Andrea Graham

I met Adam and Andrea online in 2006 while the Lost Genre Guild was forming. Andrea became a critique partner for my first novel, while I read some of hers and her husband’s. It must have been very early on that I read Adam’s draft of Tales of the Dim Knight, and I loved it – comic book action with super-hilarious scenarios. Many years later when I started Splashdown I remembered it and asked if he’d consider working with me. It was my idea to add Andrea’s name on the front, since she’d done so much editing on the project, and anyway, isn’t a husband-and-wife writing team just the coolest thing?

The book has tended to polarise readers – either they love it or they hate it. I think that’s better than a so-so reaction. Adam and Andrea have gone on to self-publish the sequels as well as a number of other things.

So if you appreciate the zany and enjoy a bit of superhero slapstick, check it out!

I’ve visited Adam and Andrea twice at home in Idaho, and we had a great time touring the botanical gardens, fantasy hotel, museum and aquarium.

Daily Doctor: Preview with fez! (Non-spoilery)

This is just too cool. A two-minute excerpt from what seems to be the actual anniversary episode. Not too spoilery this time, even if you aren't fully caught up.


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Arrows Across America

I read recently about these huge concrete arrows that were laid out every 10 miles from coast to coast across the USA in 1924. Their purpose: to help guide the postal planes on their long journey. A beacon was also attached to a tower to ensure the arrow's visibility from high altitudes.
Read more at http://www.messynessychic.com/2013/11/15/the-forgotten-giant-arrows-that-guide-you-across-america/ - with thanks to DeAnna for this one!


A Summer in Ireland



Ahhh… That summer was the deep breath of my life at the time. I had just gotten away from Germany and all the oppression associated with my years there – I needed something really amazing to put me in a new frame of mind. And it did. I looked online to find a room to rent, and connected with Alison in Balbriggan, who promised me a sea view from my room and a beach just a few steps away across the field.

When I arrived in that fresh lushness, it was a balm to my ragged spirit, and I continued to write my current novel, Legendary Space Pilgrims, with new inspiration. Some readers say they can tell when my mindset changed along with my location.

But writing wasn’t all I did. At a tiny local church I met a new friend and we proceeded to go on lots of outings together – mostly day trips in the area around Dublin, but also a couple of weekends away in the West and North. Andrea has since become a good friend and we’ve visited back and forth a few times too.

Looking at the pictures I took back then, I’m amazed at the huge variety of places I got to see, the stunning vistas, the rocky shores (I was showing the album to someone recently and she asked me, why so many pictures of rocks? I suppose that’s what the coast is mainly made of…), the castles and ruins, the green land in its mantle of fecund humidity.

I love Ireland, and I can’t wait to get back there someday.


Daily Doctor: Trailer Analysis

Chris Lough at Tor.com has done a lovely breakdown of lots of things we can see in last week's trailer. Not least of which appears to be the Tenth Doctor on a horse. It probably isn't David Tennant, because we know they didn't let him ride the horse for real in Girl in the Fireplace (could this be the same horse, story-wise?). But the suit is the right colour, and the TARDIS interior matches, too.
Anyway, have a read of the other observations at http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/11/doctor-who-50th-anniversary-trailer-hints.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A little something for the cat people among us...

I haven't had a cat who does this... but I can imagine it! This fellow looks quite proud of his stash, and a little worried that it could be cleaned up...


What can a Facebook List do for you?

Have you ever been annoyed about the selection of items that land in your News Feed? We know Facebook has algorithms that decide which posts to show you, based on how popular they are and other factors. Early on in the history of the Feed, I grew annoyed at missing things from good friends, just because their posts didn’t have loads of likes or comments or because I hadn’t talked to them recently.

Enter the List. Facebook has this option to help you organise your friends. You can make as many lists as you want, though I’ve only got a handful and really only use two or three regularly – with just one main one.

How to start your list: From your main page, go down the left sidebar until you see the heading called "Friends", hover over it and you will see "More" appear next to it. Click on More, then at the top, "Create List". Inside this function you will find a dropdown menu at the top where you can select Friends or Pages. You can put both types on one list, one after another.

So you go through and make your list. Include all the people whose posts you never want to miss. When you’re done, the list will appear in the sidebar beside your feed. Click on that and the magic begins to happen.

Now you are “on” the list page. Take a look at your browser’s address bar – that’s the list’s unique web address. Go ahead and bookmark that link, stick it on a button in your bookmarks bar…

Then, anytime you want to go to FB, just click that button and you’ll go straight to the most recent posts from your prioritised people.

Of course this might not apply to you if you have a very small circle of FB friends and are satisfied with what the Feed gives you, though I do suspect it won’t be giving you everything your friends say.

It’s certainly very useful once you get more than a few hundred contacts. Inevitably, you’ll know some better than others, and be closer to some than others. Those not chosen can still interact with you on your posts, and there’s nothing stopping you from clicking through to the regular feed anytime you like.

I currently have about 150 people on the list that I keep up with completely. That’s about as much as I can manage from day to day. To everyone else, I’m very sorry – but I far prefer this solution to unfriending you! I still want to keep you in my wider circles and maybe someday something deeper will spark.

Ah, but who is on this list of yours, I hear you ask?

Nope. That’s my secret!

Daily Doctor: A RETURN NOBODY EXPECTED!!!

Yes, this is that exciting. No, you're not allowed to watch it if you haven't seen The Name of the Doctor, the last episode of Series 7, because this will spoil that utterly. Why did I shout in the title? Because it's really that big of a deal...


Monday, 18 November 2013

Time Travel Theory

This isn't a Doctor Who post, actually. I read an article on Tor.com about time travel as it is portrayed in movies, and what kinds of various consequences it is shown to cause. They really should have mentioned the Doctor, since they included Bill and Ted, and we all know where they got the phone box idea from - right?

So, time travel. With or without consequences. Or self-consistency, which is another way to say that everything will turn out the same no matter what you do, because history dictates it. (Fixed points in time, anyone?)

Have a read at http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/11/story-worlds-time-travel-part-1.

Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card


[Let me give a brief preface in case such is required. I know there are those among my friends who strongly dislike this author because of his opinions on matters unrelated to literature. For an answer to that, please read John Scalzi's post (language warning), because he states the facts very clearly - essentially, somebody's views do not preclude them from writing well, and it is possible to divorce the art from the artist.]

I read Ender's Game last year and very much enjoyed the buildup of tensions and the bombshell ending. So I am excited about the movie and want to see it sometime soon. Discovering the existence of Ender's Shadow, a parallel novel, I wanted to read it to get me in the mood. Besides, I love parallelity.

It's the same story, but from another viewpoint: that of Bean, a very small child who is very, very clever. Impossibly so - seeing right through most situations and strategies immediately. So clever that he figures most things out in advance with hardly an effort. Yet his size is a disadvantage when his brains bring him superiority over boys much bigger than him. The smart ones learn to respect his skills.

Remember that bombshell ending in Ender's Game? It's no surprise to Bean. He knew what was happening all along.

Anyway, the movie effects look great - time to check it out soon, I think.

Daily Doctor: David's Sad Farewell

It's interesting now to look back at David's departure in light of the fact that he is returning in less than a week!


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Show me your USA Road Trips

This link has been going around Facebook especially in the past couple of weeks. Though I don't live in the country, I think this is a great way to record where I've been and for approximately how long.

My key to the colouring:

Red: passed through (on a bus or train or airport layover)
Orange: short stay (a few days)
Blue: long stay (a week or more)
Green: Several weeks.

I realised after making it that Colorado should be blue, as I have spent more than a week there in total. But I'm not going back to start over and recolour all the other states too, so there we have it.

Make your own at http://www.defocus.net/visitedstates/generate.html.


Author Spotlight: P. A. Baines



Paul is one of very few Splashdown authors that I haven’t actually met in person – although I hope to remedy that on my next jaunt to Europe. He lives in Holland, you see, somewhere I’ve not been since I was a tot on tour with my parents.

We met online in 2010, that much I do know. However, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I have absolutely no recollection as to what the venue might have been. Surely a writers’ group of some description.

Paul is the only other Brit on my team – so I enjoy his “proper” spelling and particular sense of wit. At times we have noticed that we write fairly similarly, so this may be a result of the British thing plus science fiction plus literary style and so on. In any case, I covet his input on my own writing.

We’ve had some grand old fun, so we have, in the time of our acquaintance – not least of which, the infamous Anvil Interview conducted by our own Diane Graham. With cheesecake.

Paul’s first book won two medals at the Indie Awards, and we’re nearly ready to publish his second, which blows the framework of the first all to pieces along with your mind. You won’t want to miss it!

Visit Paul's website at http://pabaines.com/.


Daily Doctor: You've Redecorated

Here's another set of shots from the trailer. It's always fun when they dig up in-jokes from the past. In this case, a line that has been spoken on the show a number of times before. And once again... behold their faces!


Saturday, 16 November 2013

Really Weird Asteroid

Recent Hubble Telescope investigations discovered this asteroid that isn't behaving as an asteroid should. That is to say, an asteroid doesn't usually have a tail like a comet - but this one does, and not only that, but it has six of them. Theories include that it could be spinning to cause this. Read more at http://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.co.nz/2013/11/nasa-identifies-weird-and-freakish.html...


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood



Asked to describe this story, my one-word reaction is “disturbing”. I suppose dystopia always is, but the sense of foreboding and captivity here is so oppressive that it overpowers everything else.

I was very annoyed with the author because she basically doesn’t tell us anything at all. I’ve heard that too much backstory is bad, of course, but none at all really made me mad. There is simply this highly regimented life where everything is controlled: from the clothes you must wear for your status in society, to the tasks assigned to that status, and especially everything surrounding the act of breeding, which one gathers has become rare and sacrosanct, but without being told the hows or whys.

At the same time there are hints of flashbacks that begin very vague and become progressively more specific as the book goes on. This is all a reader has to go on to figure out what has happened in apparently just a few years to shift the normal-sounding society, in the flashbacks, into the horrible yet whitewashed existence of the story’s present day.

It’s all very surreal. The tale of one woman only, with not a clue as to the bigger picture or the inciting incident for the societal transformation. Making it even more surreal is the epilogue, a transcribed speech by a professor some hundred years later, speaking about the story itself. And this is where you find all that elusive background information that actually explains what’s going on.

Perhaps it was more creepy to leave all of that unsaid before the epilogue. It certainly creeped me out; I dreamed about the story twice in the days after reading it. I admire an author being able to do that, even though I can’t say I enjoyed the reading of it very much. I can see why this won a Hugo – such a completely haunting story is rare.

Daily Doctor: Screwdriver Showoffs

Because we all want to relive this scene from the trailer. Over... and over... and over again. Oh, their faces!


Friday, 15 November 2013

Olympic Torch in Space

Last Saturday, the Olympic torch had a most unusual relay handoff - on a spacewalk. Read the whole story at http://web.stagram.com/p/585544702122632088_528817151... Surely the torch couldn't have been lit, though... right?


Publisher’s Life 2: Getting the dream rolling

Once I knew I wanted to get into publishing, and I knew what my niche was, it remained to research exactly how this could work. I wanted to use a different printer than the one I had back when I self-published, and I eventually landed on Lightning Source as what seems to be the industry standard for independent digital publishing.

I had this in mind as I continued swapping critiques with various people, most in the Lost Genre Guild. One of these was Fred, and as I read his story, I began to believe that this would make a fantastic opening title for my line. I asked him if he was interested, and the rest is history.

Then I needed a name for my business. I didn’t really have many options in mind, because once Splashdown suggested itself, there wasn’t room for anything else. I’m crazy about water, and it’s also got to do with space travel, so that was that.

Next time: Setting up a website.

Daily Doctor: Action Trailer 2

This is sort of an extended version of the shorter one I posted yesterday. While some of the footage is the same, a good deal of it is not, and it gives more context to the rest in any case.

Again, all sorts of fun things to spot. Mostly facial expressions in the interactions between the 10th and 11th Doctors. Because face it, that is the thing most of us are looking forward to... right?


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Amazing Places: Tulips from above

Photographer Anna Paulowna took a scenic flight over some Dutch tulip fields. The results are pure eye candy. Check out the whole collection at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bruxelles5/sets/72157626454113099/...


Photo Story: Golden Gate Bridge


This picture is from my trip in 2008. I was staying at the hostel near Fisherman’s Wharf, and walked all the way around the coast to this ocean beach. On the way I ventured a little distance onto the bridge, but the sheer height was freaking me out rather a lot so I turned back and continued on terra firma. The coastal pathway begins right by the bridge if I remember rightly, and it’s littered with old wartime defence installations on the cliffs. Farther along there are steps down to the sea. Nice to have places like this so close to the city – San Francisco reminds me of Auckland in a lot of ways.

Daily Doctor: Action Trailer 1

This trailer was leaked last Saturday a little earlier than the BBC intended. It's the first one showing real action from the movie, and it does not disappoint. A horse leaping out of the TARDIS? Rose's eyes glow - is that the return of the Bad Wolf? Clara with a Vortex Manipulator?


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Hobbit: Misty Mountain Song

I rather like this song and the feel of the whole clip, so although it's from last year, I'm sure you'll enjoy it...




There is a new song for the upcoming second movie, but I watched it and found the clips quite disturbing. This movie is going to be very, very violent and fiery, notwithstanding the odd fact that both Sherlock and John are in it. If you want to check it out, it's at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qoe_xqI3oSs - but consider yourself warned.

Splashdown Updates

The pile of things to do certainly didn’t get any less during the weeks I’ve been sick, but slowly I’ve begun to attack them. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

·         Cover design for Rob McClain’s Isles of Myst – The concept involves a castle and some Celtic knotwork, and has been going around in my head for most of the year. It proved more difficult than I thought to make it real, but it’s well under way even though it’s not quite ready for the public eye. All in good time!
·         Editing and bits and bobs for Aquasynthesis II. The final stories are in, the narration is complete, and I’m in the process of inserting each tale into the overall manuscript. Then will follow full editing on the piece as a whole. The cover isn’t far off ready either – similar to the first, but coloured differently.
·         Final copyedits on Paul Baines’ Alpha Revelation. The cover is ready here, thanks to Zoe, and there’s not much left to do.
·         Awaiting more actual submissions from authors I spoke to at conferences this year; three New Zealanders (yay!) plus a goodly number from Realm Makers.


Somehow it feels better to look at each of these individually instead of at the humungous “publish three books as soon as possible” – which is also applicable, but these are the steps that will get me there.

Daily Doctor: The Lost Tales, #1

It was all over the news last month that two whole serials of the Second Doctor were found in Africa, stories that were previously lost. And now they are out on DVD, remarkably quick work I might add.

Anyway, Neil and Sue Perryman from "Adventures with the Wife in Space" (in which a fanboy husband convinced his New-Series-only wife to watch every Who episode from 1963 on, and recorded her remarks about it) have added their witty review of the first story, The Web of Fear, to the pool. Don't mind their long-windedness, that's kind of the fun part. You'll hear all sorts of comments relating to other British TV and suchlike.

Check it out at http://wifeinspace.com/2013/11/the-web-of-fear-redux/...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Amazing Places: Ireland Instagram

I recently came across a lovely Instagram feed from Abarta Audioguides in Ireland. They've got an awesome collection of shots of those old ruins and landscapes that give Ireland its ancient mystique. Check it out at http://instagram.com/abartaaudioguides.


Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey


Right, so I liked what I saw when I dipped into the world of Pern a couple of times previously. So I wanted to go to the beginning of the story and find out how it all began. Now I realise this is not the book she wrote first, it came much later, and some readers caution against beginning here. Ah well. It certainly makes a great introduction.

It begins aboard a spaceship in its final weeks of travel to a new home. There are plenty of personal threads and wider political issues as the cram-packed ship prepares to land. Chronicles follow of the first years of settling in, of new discoveries and homemaking on a brand new planet.

Then comes a threat from space: a deadly dangerous bacterial life form that destroys everything organic it falls on. Witness the battle as the people fight for their settlements and find ways to stay safe – including the daring genetic engineering of a local lizard into what we know as dragons.

Many of the cultural practices seen in later books are shown here at their birth. Names of first colonists become names of settlements. I loved following the journey of Irish Sean and Sorka in particular, from their childhood to becoming the first Dragonriders.

Great read. I’ll be returning to Pern again soon.

Daily Doctor: Let the Trailers Begin!

Now if you don't mind, I'm going to be bombarding you with trailers this week, since I've been out of commission while these were all coming out. This one was the first of the recent batch, and though I was all clogged up and feverish and dizzy, seeing this did make me feel better! It's got a lovely assortment of memorabilia floating about the place - see if you can spot the fez, the jelly babies, various sonic screwdrivers, K9, Clara's leaf, and much more...


Monday, 11 November 2013

Thoroughly Interrupted

Well, hello again. You might guess from one of my last posts that I came down with a particularly nasty bug. It turned out to be a chest infection thingy, also with fever, and that pretty much scuttled any plans I had for my brain to do anything. For weeks, as you can see. I’ve also got laryngitis and haven’t spoken a word in 4 weeks or so. Whispered, yes, but it’s not quite the same. Weird.

Anyway, time to start over, and on a Monday, no less. This forced break from blogging and writing and publishing has allowed me to step back and look at it all a little more objectively – not from the inside, as it were. I’ve recognised that there are certain strategies that make my work easier from day to day – for example, it’s a much better use of time to write and schedule all my blog posts a week’s worth at a time, rather than scrambling for something every evening. It’s also better to view my publishing tasks bit by bit, rather than the whole schamassel which can certainly seem overpowering at times.

So here’s to the next round of Daily Doctor, Photo Story, Reading Challenge, and whatever else I can cook up for you here.

Monday, 21 October 2013

The kangaroo who went to the pharmacy


...or chemist shop, as we call them hereabouts. This kangaroo somehow got loose in Melbourne airport and went to a nearby pharmacy for something to help his sore feet.

More info and a video here at The Journal - don't forget that in an Irish newspaper, the best part of a funny story is often in the comments that follow it...

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way



This gorgeous video introduces a new coastal road in Ireland's wild west. I have seen only a little of it, and it is truly stunning. Notwithstanding the slightly corny advertising spiel, I got just a little bit teary at the thought of the auld land where my grandfather and great-grandmother were born. I have to get back there someday.

Feeling like crap

Something has been crreeping up on me these past few days - perhaps I just exhausted myself, but I have been feeling far more drained than ever before. Last night I started getting feverish and that has continued throughout today, though I was able to keep my appointments, but I didn't feel like eating anything and that is most unusual for me. My temperature was a little over 39.5 C (103 F) earlier today. I think I'm going to try sleeping it off and hope I'm well enough to go out for a couple hours tomorrow as well.

Sorry for a bit of an insubstantial blog today, but I honestly don't have the brains for anything better. And perhaps it wasn't a great idea to start King's The Stand last night either, haha. That one might have to wait until the eerily similar symptoms are all gone...

Daily Doctor: Did Clara save River?


WARNING: SPOILERS (if you haven't watched all of series 7) --
Blogger Charina at areyoumarriedriver.tumblr.com has postulated a scenario in which one of the versions of Clara returns to the Library and rescues River from her final fate. The analysis is in depth and fairly sound, but represents just one of many twists that Moffat could have been setting up for. Have a read and see what you think.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Bolero Pool Flashmob

aka... Splashmob! With an "ice skating song" that we children of the 80's will never forget. Torvill and Dean, anyone? But the scene couldn't be any more different than this...



I confess, at 1:41 I thought the dude got out of the hot tub because he was weirded out. Wouldn't you be? But no, he was just off to an instrument of his own, or at least it seemed so at 2:20.

Reading - Just After Sunset by Stephen King


I think this is as good a place as any to begin a foray into King's work. Many of these tales are nail-biters, making me skim so fast (to find out what happens) that I barely recall anything about the language use or the writing itself. Others are less so, just creepingly creepy, and there's even a couple in there I would call sweet.

King explores his own fears and in doing so, banishes them from his mind and possibly into his readers'. He never shies away from the gritty side of life, whether it be someone's ignominious sexual memories, the texture of decomposing excrement, or the obscenities and prayers that factually would occur in such situations.

He does have a particular gift for depicting what goes through people's minds when they think they are about to die. It's a very human thing.

Although these are horror and thriller stories, many with a paranormal element, there is a thread of triumph running through the collection. The protagonist doesn't always get through unscathed, but there are plenty of positive outcomes - and plenty of ambiguous ones as well, where things have changed forever and the character now faces a different future that may not have been wished for.

Of this bunch, my favourites were Stationary Bike and The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates. And it has a cool cover. While it was on my couch, two different people wanted to know if it was printed in 3D - but no, that's all in the ordinary 2D effect.

Daily Doctor: NZ Coins


From the New Zealand Mint comes this collection of coins, one for each Doctor. There is a twelfth space in reserve for the release of another coin next year. They come in a fob watch case and each one has a face value of one dollar in Niue. There is also a separate Tardis coin in gold and coloured silver versions. Too pricey for me, but it's nice to look at the pics - closer views of each coin here.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

This Steampunk's Local

I read with interest in the local rag of a team of people raising funds to make a steampunk movie. The graphics in the trailer are awesome, to say the least! Space trains appear fairly often in literature but I don't recall seeing one in film before. This will be something to watch out for. More details here, though I wonder at the somewhat one-sided view of steampunk the article shows.


Author Spotlight: Caprice Hokstad


Caprice and me go a fair way back, as online friends go: it must have been around 2006 that we met in connection with the Lost Genre Guild, where she is now a trusty co-moderator with me. She's a fabulous and versatile writer, with the rare ability to do full justice to both fantasy and science fiction. I am honoured to include her Ascendancy Trilogy in the Splashdown lineup, and it's an ongoing fight to get her the attention she deserves. Words like diamonds, people. I also enjoy reading her self-published science fiction with a slightly harder edge.

The picture above is from my visit to California last December, and a trip to a nut farm for their festival which included rides on a tractor-train thing. Yep, it was pretty grand weather, but I hear it doesn't change much at all in that area.

If you are even slightly a fantasy or SF reader, you've got to try her books. You won't regret it and they're certainly not the usual fare!

Caprice's Amazon page (Fantasy)
K.J. Blaine's Amazon page (Science Fiction)

Caprice's blog



Daily Doctor: 50th Anniversary Stills


The BBC has released this preview image from the upcoming anniversary episode. There are a few more to see here. I don't know about you, but I don't reckon that tie on Ten has ever been seen before in this capacity :P

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Coventry's Dungeon

Recently, an Irishman with the online handle demc7 made an exciting discovery when he moved into a new apartment near Coventry, England. The flat was part of an old monastery building, so it makes sense that a place like that would have a few secrets.

Here's his video tour of the "dungeon"...


How to set up email filtering in Gmail

Email filtering is an absolute necessity for me personally, as it keeps my inbox clear of all but the most vital direct messages. Gmail doesn't have folders per se - but its labels function can operate in much the same way.

First, select a message of a type that you want to filter away from your inbox. Then click on the Label button above your inbox, this looks like a little tag. Select "Create New" and insert your label's name.

Then find something about that message and others like it. Do they come from the same email address? Do they always have something particular in the subject line? Enter one or more criteria into the Advanced Search panel (reached by clicking the dropdown arrow to the left of the blue magnifier button). At the bottom right of that panel, you will see an option to "Create filter with this search".



You will then get a list of options. The first is the most important: Skip the Inbox! Then be sure to check the box "Apply Label" and from the dropdown, select the label you created previously for this category of message. If you wish, also check the box to apply to existing messages that fit this search, then all relevant items will be cleared out in one move.

Thereafter, when a message comes in that matches your filter, you won't see it in the inbox. Rather, it will appear in the Label list on the left of your screen, with a number in brackets indicating how many unread messages you have in that category.

When you are creating a new label, you also have the option to "nest" it - that is, make it a subcategory of another label.

Life is complicated enough without having to manually chew through large numbers of emails each day. Let Gmail or another system get them out of your way - or even delete them! As for me, I'll take all the help I can get.


Daily Doctor: My Trafalgar



I got a bit of a thrill seeing this shot from the upcoming adventures of the Doctor, because that's Trafalgar Square in London, and I have been there - as a child, when I paddled in the fountain pool, but also more recently when I climbed on one of those pedestalled lions, maybe that very one! Here's proof:

That's me on the left, and Marcelle on the actual back of the lion. I was never good with heights. And while this was indeed long enough ago to fall into the era of terrible cameras, at least it's still in living memory.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Optical Illusions: Bending your mind



Not everything is as it seems. What is real and what is not? What is 3D and what is merely flat?

European Journeys

When I lived in Germany, I got to make several brief trips to other places around Europe. These included:

France (Paris, staying in a quaint old family-run hotel at the foot of Montmartre)
Spain (Guardamar del Segura, Costa Blanca, with friends)
Austria (Salzburg, to see the castle, also once Innsbruck and once not sure of exact location; remote mountain)
Switzerland (Zurich, Geneva, Winterthur and another remote mountain location)
Czech Republic (only just over the border, for work - I think we ate lunch in Rozvadov)
Tunisia (Hammam Sousse, with a friend for a week in February to escape the northern winter)
England (London, visiting dear friends in Wembley and getting to play the tourist)
Scotland (With my mother, Edinburgh, Perth, Glasgow, Isle of Bute, and a glimpse of Strathraer as we left it)
Ireland (Bangor/Belfast, Dublin, Balbriggan, Doolin, Antrim, Downpatrick, Newtownards and Strangford Lough - Ahem. There'll be a whole other post for this lot!)

Here's a couple of my favourite photos from those trips. Bear with me - for much of this time I was using a first-generation cellphone camera!


On the outskirts of Geneva, looking across the border into France - yes, that's a giant cliff. Geneva is on a bit of Switzerland that sticks into France, so it's possible to use city transport to cross from one French border to the other in about an hour. Which we did. Fun! There was a cable car to go up the cliff, but it happened to be closed that day, so instead we found a nice French restaurant out here in the middle of nowhere and had a meal of several courses for a very good price.


The terrace at Hotel El Menchia in Hammam-Sousse, Tunisia. We breakfasted here each day, then set off to explore the local area - markets and bakeries, and nearby towns by bus or open trolley. Sousse itself has a marvellous souk that pours itself, walled, down a hillside above the modern city, and in the other direction we found a yacht marina with everything a tourist might want.


Walking about the Isle of Bute, we got alternately rained on and dried by the sun. Just look at that blue sky and black cloud! This is a view from the Rothesay golf course above the town, looking east at the mainland and the Firth of Clyde.

So many places, so much to see! Perhaps all of these will need their own posts eventually...

Daily Doctor: The Enemy of the World - Trailer



By now it's old news that nine of the lost Patrick Troughton episodes have been found in Africa. That's nearly two whole stories, and one of them is introduced in this fascinating trailer. It seems the Doctor has an evil lookalike. Looks like a great story - very psychological. I think I'll enjoy this whenever I get to see it.

Monday, 14 October 2013

What if the moon's orbit were only 420 km?



An imaginative videographer has put together this composite piece showing what it might look like if the moon orbited the Earth at only 420 kilometres. Most striking is the sudden blackness as it passes overhead during the day, followed by only a crescent being visible thereafter.

Publisher's Life 1


I've been in the indie publishing business for about 6 years all up - my own self-publishing to begin with, followed by four years of Splashdown and the release of 26 books, most pictured here. So I thought it might be interesting to blog through the motivations, the technicalities, and eventually the day-to-day decisions that come with being an indie publisher. I know a lot of you are thinking about self-publishing. Maybe it seems like too much scary work. I know it can be - it certainly feels like that some days for me even now! But I'd like to explain how I did it, to help shine a light through what can be a murky and mysterious topic.

Writing will always be my first love. But as I went about self-publishing my first book six years ago, I grew to enjoy the process of making books. And I realised that I could never write fast enough to satiate my hankering for the release of fiction similar to my own: speculative fiction, but with an uplifting and sometimes literary bent. Eventually I found plenty such material languishing in an unpublished state and resolved to do something about it. 

To be continued...

Daily Doctor: The Doctor Goes to Camp


Fan site Kasterborous reports that a camp in Massachusetts includes in its programme the chance to play a part in the Doctor's adventures. Check out the details here...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Here Comes My Flying Car



As we near the date when Marty McFly visited the distant future, many of us have complained about the glaring lack of flying cars. Well, they may not be all that far away after all!

Giant's Causeway


Giant's Causeway is a fabulous natural monument on the north coast of Ireland. The legend goes that an Irish giant was fighting with a Scottish giant, and threw stones into the sea in his desire to make a way across to teach the Scot a lesson. There is a similar formation beyond the ocean in Scotland (image search: Cave of Melody). Check out Ireland.com's Giant's Causeway page for more background and a lovely video.

As for me, I visited in 2008 with a friend. The long and winding cliff pathways, the conveniently foot-sized stepping stones on their long seaward tongue, and the organ-pipe formations in the hillsides all make for an expansive and mind-boggling experience.


Daily Doctor: River Said That


A particularly correct juxtaposition in my Pinterest feed.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

NZ: Islands got names!

The two main islands of New Zealand have never had official names. Until now, that is - the situation has been rectified! The names North Island and South Island (locally always used in conjunction with a "the") are now properly registered as titles, alongside Te Ika a Maui and Te Waipounamu. No, I didn't look those up. They're well known already.



Week in Review

It's been a busy week, but a good one, with lots of things getting done. As of today my car is going again (yay!) though I still need to give it a good scrub, deal with some rust spots, and update the Warrant of Fitness and registration.

I've been reading Stephen King's short stories, and that is quite the intense experience. The suspense is so heavy that it's impossible to linger over words. An admirable quality in a thriller, even if it's not what I would aim at myself.

Translations have kept me busy too, with several jobs coming through from various agencies. On the publishing front, I've done some doodles of Celtic knots for an upcoming book cover, had a number of discussions with authors submitting to Splashdown, brainstormed a new royalty and marketing system with my team, and further clarified my plan for my own writing. Worked some on our next anthology project and also reformatted a couple of full submissions for reading on the Kindle in the weeks to come.

We're getting a new flatmate next week so there have been some preparations to make. I also finished rearranging all of my books into various bookshelves in the lounge, bedroom and hallways, and was pleasantly surprised to find I have several shelves' worth of space available for new books. I must go and check out the secondhand shops again and see what classics I can pick up.

And I've just come back from a laughter-filled evening with friends over archery, food and Balderdash, in which I learned what a twangdillo is, and gained points for some legal items involving Canadians and fresh bear meat. I love that game!

Daily Doctor: Losing the Fez


An actually very moving piece of dialogue becomes insanely ridiculous when one applies it to the fez that River shot to smithereens.


Friday, 11 October 2013

An 18th Century Robot


Behold the face of a doll that can write. Built by Jaquet Droz in the mid-1700s, this automaton is programmable with any combination of letters and writes them with a feather and ink.

There's a video here of how it works. I found it quite creepy, yet fascinating at the same time!

5 things I love about GIMP


GIMP stands for the Gnu Image Manipulation Program. It's a free piece of software that pretty much does any design work you could ask of it. My only limitation in working with it is that I often run up against the end of my knowledge, but that never seems to stay a problem for long, as you'll see. Here are my favourite things about it!

  1. It's free and open source! This means it is always without cost, and anyone with a code-monkey brain can fiddle with it and add new bits, and there are lots of those new bits floating around for anyone else to use as well. Native to Linux, it also does just fine on Windows.
  2. Imagine it? Then do it. If there's something I want to do in my design but I'm not sure how, it's a simple matter of hunting down one of the huge number of crowdsourced instructionals and following the steps until I get the gist of it. A search string like "gimp metal effect on layer" will bring up various results.
  3. Preset Logos aka Text Effects! These may sound scary, but essentially you can take any piece of text or a whole layer and apply a 3D effect to all of it. There are only a couple dozen presets, however when one considers that each can be tweaked in inexhaustible variations from the default, paired with the use of different colours and fonts and backgrounds and textures...Yeah. I ain't gonna run out of options.
  4. Standard Functions. Everything you expect in a graphics program, from sliding colour adjustments to freehand painting and line drawing with customisable brushes; sophisticated cloning tools, layer mechanisms, transparency, powerful undo options, filters and shadows, animated GIFs, perspective, alignment, and exporting to all standard image file types. It takes a while to learn it all, but every item works just as it should.
  5. It's fun! This may be more of a personal thing, but I very much enjoy the way the program is set up and the endless tweaking I can do on any project. Yes, in some ways it's like a pencil and paper; yes, it lacks physicality, but goes a good way towards making up for it in potential pizzazz.