RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

A great writer left us for the next chapter today. His writing makes me laugh – and cry, often at the same time. He will always be one of my biggest influences. A man who loved cats, and witches, and theatre, and music, and werewolves, and dragons, and who wrote powerful women. I will miss having new works to read, but what an amazing legacy he has left the world.
Goodbye, Sir Terry. I’m sure you and Death are having a curry, surrounded by cats, in a dodgy Discworld cafe. Give Binky a sugar lump from me.

People Watching at a Rock Concert

So the rock music year began a couple of days ago with a visit to legendary Glasgow venue ‘The Barrowlands’, to see Halestorm. For once hubby and I didn’t queue all day like mad people to get to the front. For this one, we lurked at the back, drank Irn Bru, and enjoyed the music. I also enjoyed something you can’t do if you’re on the barrier: people watching.

The wonderfully tacky  Barrowland sign  - its been like this for as long as I can remember. Pic courtesy of Gordon Soutar

The wonderfully tacky Barrowland sign – its been like this for as long as I can remember. Pic courtesy of Gordon Soutar

It’s fascinating to watch other people at gigs. Most people are similar: bouncing up and down, air punching, horns up, singing along, having a good time and not spoiling anyone else’s night, even if they’ve had a few drinks. It’s great fun looking around and seeing everyone united in support of a fantastic band.

Then there are those who behave in such a way that they either a) mystify me or b) get on my nerves. Here are a few examples:

Moshers. Especially the ones who are clearly off their face. Why go to a gig and throw yourself into a melee of nutters where you’re extremely likely to get injured? The ones who are totally out of it – they could be anywhere. Why pay all that money when you’re not paying attention to the band?
Having said this, my friend’s son seems to be on the way to becoming an expert mosher. Must ask him what he sees in it… :)

Excessively drunk people in general. Who appear to have no idea where they are. Again, why not just go the pub? Then there are the ones who are rowdy and aggressive and spoil it for others, especially youngsters who are new to gigs. Take your drunken bad attitude somewhere else. Home, preferably.

On to something not annoying, but mystifying…okay, it is annoying. The couple who stood near to us and basically snogged the faces off each other for most of the gig. Hello, the band is over there! Yuck, you’re distracting me. Again, please take it home where you can’t gross everyone else out.

If you’re a big lad, don’t squeeze through and then stand in front of the shortest lassie you can find. That’s just rude. Stand behind her, you moron! She might thank you for it later…okay, probably not. ;)

When the band play the occasional ballad, don’t talk all the way through it. There’s Lzzy Hale with her beautiful voice and piano, singing her heart out – for all of about two minutes. Don’t worry, hardcore rockers, the noisy stuff will be back shortly. In the meantime, shut the f**k up.

I’m sure those of you who don’t see the appeal of going to gigs are thinking ‘Ugh, that’s why I don’t want to go!’ Let me reiterate that most people are NOT like this. Rock fans are some of the nicest folk you will ever meet. I’ve made so many friends around the world and had so much support from my rock music community. It’s become a cliché in itself, I know, but I find that the tattooed, pierced, black-clad brigade are usually far nicer and much less judgemental than many others I’ve met. Anyway, I digress.

Mz Lzzy Hale rocking out wearing our flag. Pic courtesy of Coral McCallum

Mz Lzzy Hale rocking out wearing our flag. Pic courtesy of Coral McCallum

Halestorm played a blistering set and further secured their place on my list of top bands to see live. I love Lzzy Hale’s lyrics – her songs really resonate with me: strong empowered women taking charge of their lives, especially in the bedroom. Sexy stuff. Some of my erotica pieces are actually inspired by her words. Then there’s her brother Arejay on drums. This guy has to be seen to be believed! No hiding behind the drum kit for him – he’s a consummate entertainer and a huge part of the rock show.

Arejay Hale demonstrates his unique drumming style. Pic courtesy of Coral McCallum

Arejay Hale demonstrates his unique drumming style. Pic courtesy of Coral McCallum

Next gigs are folk and orchestral music – yes, really! Then it’s back to rock again at the end of April. Until then, I’ll just have to crank up the new surround sound system. ;)

Jumping on the 50 Shades Bandwagon, Or, Me Ranting About Sex In Writing

As a writer of erotica, I’ve followed the whole 50 Shades debate with interest. I’ve read all three books; yes, I enjoyed them. I haven’t seen the film yet. I don’t have any fantastic insights or conclusions to add, I’m sure, but here’s my two penn’orth anyway. ;-)

Number one pet peeve: the people who are criticising the book when they haven’t read it. Or if they have, they’ve read a different book to me. I know everyone takes different stuff away from a book: that’s the beauty of one. But some of the things people have said are so inaccurate that I began to question if my memory was going wonky. So I’ve just re-read all three books. Nope, turns out they just hadn’t read it.

Yes, it’s not the most brilliantly written thing I’ve ever read. Neither is it by far the worst. So what? I thought it was a page-turner, but not everyone will. That’s fine.

Several people have said Christian ‘stalks’ Ana at the beginning of the book, until she agrees to have a relationship with him. Ahem…I should probably be locked up then, because I did the same to most of the guys I fancied when I was younger. I didn’t have access to a helicopter, a private jet, or even a fast car, but as far as my meagre finances would allow, I turned up at their workplace, their watering hole, and made sure I got noticed. Did it work? Sometimes. Did I ever get a lasting relationship out of it? Ask hubby.

Oh, and I’ve been stalked. House watched, harassing phone calls, and physically attacked. That’s a story for another time, but for me, what Christian does is not stalking.

It’s a STORY. This is the big one, isn’t it?

Should we not have these stories, because some people might take them as gospel truth, or some kind of handbook on how to have a relationship?

Some of you will say, ah, but, these stories aren’t necessary. Why do we need stories about kinky sex, fucked-up people (ooh, I swore), and odd relationships? Well, by the same standard, why do we need stories about dragons, spaceships, and Superman? Let’s get rid of all those too. Ah, but those stories don’t harm anyone. Tell that to the young me who jumped out of her bedroom window to see if she could fly. (I can’t, but I have great balance and I can land really well. Otherwise that story would have ended very differently). And yes, I knew even back then that I was being stupid. I did it anyway. There lies the story of human nature.

I got most of my sex education in my early teens from Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel. My mum had told me the mechanics of sex when I asked, aged 10. She explained very well, too, but what she couldn’t explain was passion, desire, or even love. My parents didn’t have a loving relationship. I learned about those from books. I also learned about wanting the wrong person, making the wrong decisions, why drugs and sex can be a dodgy mix, and all kinds of other stuff. Did I think that what I read was ‘reality’? No! Was it the definitive way to conduct a relationship or a sex life? No. Did I think ‘Hmm, I might like to try that?’ Yes.

What did I learn from reading trashy sexy novels? That men and women can both be monsters. That women can be empowered and take charge in and out of the bedroom. That playing around with different sex scenarios can be fun. IF YOU WANT TO.

There can be true love, great sex, and all points around and in between. There can also be crap relationships and crap sex. There can be abuse from both men and women. These things I didn’t learn only from books.

Aren’t we just catering to the lowest common denominator if we don’t write, film, paint, sculpt, whatever, this kind of stuff? Isn’t it just another example of ‘dumbing down’? Surely the answer is BETTER EDUCATION. About fiction, about fantasy, and that crossing it over to reality should only happen WHEN YOU WANT IT TO.

Ana chooses to try Christian’s way. She enjoys it, and when she asks him to go further to see what it’s like, and hates it, she dumps him and leaves. They get back together, but then he has to make changes if he wants to be with her, because she doesn’t like all the stuff he likes. So.

I like a straightforward romance as much as the next person. I also like to have my buttons pushed every so often. Damaged people are much more fascinating to read about than sweet, simpering heroes and heroines. The rogue cop who gets results is way more interesting than the policeman who does it by the book. Don’t we just love the maverick doctor who takes risks and saves the patient’s life with an unorthodox treatment? In real life, the lines will never be so neatly drawn.

Yes, I like this stuff. Sue me.

Yes, I like this stuff. Sue me.

Fun With Flash Fiction (and Beer)

I had a moan on my blog the other week about my current writing slump. Big thanks to all who sympathised, encouraged, and suggested ideas to help. I love you all!

I’ve been looking back over what I’ve written in the past year. One thing that’s struck me is how much flash fiction I have – much of it written before I even knew what flash fiction was. A lot of it was written for my Creative Writing course exercises. Of course, some of it’s awful. But there a few stories where I’ve thought ‘Hmm, I quite like that!’

I think flash fiction may be my way back into writing. A word count of between 100 and 1000 is not too daunting. That’s not the only reason I like it, though. It forces you to be tight with your words. Flowery phrases and pointless waffle are out. Flash is a great way to hone your writing skills.

My next question to myself is: do I do the A-Z Blogging Challenge in April? I’ve had an idea for a theme for it since a couple of years ago, and it would be flash fiction stories that I’d be posting. Or is that me putting pressure on myself again? I’ll have a think about it…watch this space.

Here’s a 100 word flash I found from way back at the beginning of my writing course. We were given a random word generator by our tutor. The word it chose for us was to be our prompt – no cheating and changing it! I got ‘Pub’. How apt, those that know me cry. You should have had no problem writing about that.

So of course, my story wasn’t about an actual pub. But it was inspired by the word. And by hubby and his friends’ love of real ale. And their ability to spend a lot of time in the garage, with said ale. ;-)

**********

Amber Nectar

George watched as Andy poured the pint. It was like seeing a mother hen with her chick. Andy had been fussing around his home brew kit for what seemed like hours, with George feeling more parched by the minute and wishing he had gone to the pub instead.

His friend was proud of his own beer, though, so George was in Andy’s garage, waiting to taste the new batch. He accepted the pint with due reverence, knowing he was privileged to sample it first. He took a sip of the smooth golden liquid.

‘Perfect’, he exclaimed.

Andy beamed with pride.

Writing About Not Writing

It’s very annoying, but I’m finding it hard to hit my writing groove again after the holidays. At first I was all like ‘Why the heck can’t I get back into it?’ and mentally beating myself up. After a think about it, I’ve decided to stop that. Why? well mainly, because my writing is supposed to be FUN. I’ll explain.

One thing I have been writing is my diary. Until my Creative Writing course last year, I’d never kept one, and I’m a bit sporadic about it. But since I’ve been struggling to write fiction and blog posts, it’s been a great way to ensure I write something. It’s been helpful in pinpointing what the problems are:

1) I’m getting busier with the day job. This is intentional. I’ve neglected it over the last 2 years with my dad dying and my mum being unwell, and I really want to give it the attention and hours it deserves. But more day job inevitably means less writing time.

2) Hubby changed jobs, so he’s in and out at different times, and we’re still adapting our routines to suit that.

3) I was starting to put pressure on myself to write, or more accurately, to write specific things, which was self-defeating. Suddenly, it wasn’t FUN anymore, and so I’ve been finding excuses not to do it.

So: I’m taking a little step back. I know deadlines are sometimes necessary, but all they’re doing at the moment is stressing me out. I feel like I’m in danger of falling out of love with writing – and I don’t want that to happen!

I’ll continue to write in my diary, and hopefully still blog regularly, if not weekly, until I get back on track. I’ve also been doing more planning for future stories, and working on characters’ backgrounds. I’m not going to pressure myself to submit to magazines and anthologies, or to work on my novel. I’m going to spend some time writing as the mood takes me, which was how it all started in the first place. :-)

Fellow writers – have you ever felt like this? Did you find ways to get over it?

With A Little Help From My Friends – hopefully!

Karen Soutar:

Writer friends – the lovely Coral needs some advice on KDP. Does anyone have any helpful hints and tips? (Also, a ‘Guide To Dealing With Exam-stressed Teens’ would be useful). ;)

Originally posted on coralmccallum:

It’s been another one of “those” weeks around here. Living with two exam-stressed teenagers isn’t fun, as I’m sure all parents of teenagers will agree. Five exams in five days has been baptism by fire for Girl Child. (These exams are her first experience of sitting formal exams in the school assembly hall) I really felt for her and could empathise with her rising fear and panic, as I recalled my own exam experiences. I can still clearly picture the rows and rows of desks and still hear the silence.

In the midst of all this emotional turmoil, I made time to take my next leap of faith towards bringing my “creative baby” to life. Well it was on this week’s To Do List and had to be done at some point.

Mid-week I set up my Kindle Direct Publishing account. GULP!

Cue rising fear and panic to rival Girl…

View original 456 more words

Creative Blessings (Or, Thank Goodness My Brain Works)

I heard some news from a friend this weekend, that led to this post. The friend in question is going through a VERY tough experience (not my place to say more). I guess as well as offering comfort, we all count our blessings when we hear of other people’s hardship. It got me thinking about the things I would call blessings, and of course I have all the ‘usual’ ones, and I’m very glad of them:

A loving and supportive (if occasionally annoying) husband ;-)
An always-there-for-me best friend, and a little team of other great friends
Four mad cats that always cheer me up
A lovely house
A paying job
Pretty good health

But what blessing am I most grateful for? My MIND. Let me explain.
For a start, it works. Mostly. :-) It’s wired up reasonably well. I don’t suffer from any mental health issues.
I’m quite intelligent. (What? – long-suffering-hubby). Yes, I said it. I can understand forms and do sums and even fill in a tax return correctly!
But I’m most grateful for my IMAGINATION. It’s got me through some of the darkest patches in my life.
I didn’t have a particularly happy childhood. I was bullied at school for being clever and ‘different’. At home, I had an emotionally (and occasionally physically) abusive father. I escaped into books, but also into worlds I created for myself. Sometimes I wrote stuff down, sometimes I didn’t, but there was always a story being told inside my head.
Many years later, when I was forced by circumstances to deal with my father once more, I started this blog and began writing fiction again, and I swear that those things went a long way to keeping me sane during that time.
If I have money worries or job stress or whatever, I write down what I can do to sort the problem out (I’ve always been a great maker of lists). Then, I escape into my head and compose a story, or scribble something in my writer’s notebook, or type away on my iPad or computer.
I know there are many other ways to take one’s mind off problems: go for a walk, watch a movie, vent to a friend – and I’ve done all these. But in the middle of the night, when my brain won’t switch off, I can always escape into an imaginary world. Some of those worlds have seen the light of day on this blog, others haven’t. But they’re always there.

Occasionally, I got told off as a child for ‘having my head in the clouds’. Or a book. As an adult, I can balance the real world and my creative one. I like the real world, mostly. But sometimes, the one in my head is better. ;-)

Image courtesy of news.stanford.edu

Image courtesy of news.stanford.edu