Aug 21st

The big reveal - or the frequent small reveals?

By Squidge
Wonder if you'd help me with a question, cloudies? I have a problem about when to reveal some information in StarMark...and I'm wondering what would sit best with the majority of readers.

Please pop over to the Scribbles to take a gander and leave your thoughts if you'd like to assist. Thanks very muchly.

Squidge x 
Aug 19th

Not Quite a Hundred

By Debi
A very brief post to those of you who followed the adventures of my lovely dad as he approached his 100th birthday. Sadly, it was not to be and he died on 6 August, aged 99 years and 9 months. Hope nobody minds if I post this link to the video made last year. We feature in the second half.


Aug 19th

Freelance journalism is not for the faint hearted

By psycherbiker

I’ll tell you one thing that I have decided: becoming a freelance journalist is not for me. I have spent (wasted) £350 on an on-line course that quickly proved just that. Being a freelance journo  is incredibly hard work and requires  lots of diligent research. That means hours of raking through google, finding people to interview, transcribing tapes. In other words hard work, something I am not very well adapted to.

The only way to avoid excessive research, the course tells me, would be to specialise in one’s unique field – in my case psychology. But before I could slouch off on that strand, the course repeatedly warns that specialists find it difficult to make a living. By narrowing your field of writing,the size of your market reduces too. Result: you get fewer commission and so, less work. 

Add to this that freelance journalists receive relatively small remuneration. Unless you are a “Name” such as a loud mouthed presenter of a programme about cars for example, a few hundred quid for an article that might take you weeks to research and write seems to be the going rate.

They also suffer from chronic payment problems. Read the Journo forums and you will see that getting commissions is relatively easy-getting the invoice paid is met with very creative avoidance by editors. Well, lets face it, they have got what they wanted and isn’t todays newspaper (and your fantastically researched feature article) tomorrows fish and chip wrapper?. Such prevarications sound familiar to the ones I experience working for solicitors, “We need a report for Court on monday-invoice for the last one not paid, I will chase up our accounts dept right away”. No thank you – end of that as an the idea. I think I’ll stick to creative writing for now, at least I can just invent my work.

Yes, I know that the chances of selling anything fictional are remote but at least it does give one a sense of freedom and of being well, “Creative”. Isn’t that what writing should all be about. And I suppose there is always the off chance that one might write something that stupendously successful and actually does make some money. In the meantime, if it doesn't make me rich but enriches one in other ways, then isn’t that enough?


Aug 18th

Just started a beginners course and...

By HesitationMarks
Hello all, two or three weeks ago I started a course on here and recently due to just being in the mood I scribbled down a very short story. I'm not very experienced at all so was rather hoping some kindly folks could help me out with a few pointers and such. I'd really appreciate knowing if I'm somewhere near to the right track! I did it with a pen and paper as I wanted to remove the temptation to edit as I went, so I know there will be things that need tweaking or changing. I suppose that's part of the reason I'm posting it as well, to learn what editing steps to take after jotting something down, how to judge if it's worthwhile or just a meandering hand! As it stands now I have about 3 pages of A5 and I don't know if there's anything worth using or refining in there. I wouldn't say I'm happy or unhappy with it, at the moment it just is. A test run I guess you could say.

I am rather self-conscious with putting it up, but I know the only way to get feedback is to put it out there. Please keep in mind I am a total amateur, so be gentle! Hope this is the right place for it too, I'm still a bit of a newbie and have never used this feature so I also hope I don't use entirely the wrong settings. So, here we go and thanks in advance for any comments... 


The owls are hungry again. Have you ever seen an owl eat? Whatever you give them they gulp down in one. They don’t look like they should be able to, but owls are full of surprises. I suppose that’s why I’ve always felt an affinity with them. They’re so serene on the outside, but inside they’re skilled and sly. Is it arrogant to think of myself that way? Perhaps, but I do have proof.

Picking up a crate from the stack next to the shed door, I make my way to the large chest of a freezer, though I’ve always thought of it as a coffin. I open it and gaze down at all the frozen chicks within, one in particular catching my eye as it has for days, maybe even weeks. I can’t seem to ever not look. The neck is at an odd angle, if you look closely you can see this is because of a large and now frozen gash all along one side of it.

I begin my work, counting out the precise number of stiff baby birds, always picking around my dead bird. Four for each barn owl, six for each eagle owl, seven for each snowy, and two for the pretty little kestrel I found trapped in barbed wire last month. She’ll never fly again so it’s up to me to make sure she has a life worth living.

When the crate is full I turn to leave and catch a glint in the corner of my eye. The Stanley knife. I pick it up and slip in carefully into my pocket, best not to leave it laying around.

The owls are as pleased to see me as they always are. I know it’s mostly the food but I still think there’s something more to it, especially lately. Twelve barn owls in total, all gazing down at me. So many shining eyes that never fail to pierce right through me. They know what I’ve done and still they come to me. That’s how I know it was right, and I know they’d thank me if they could.

She could never understand them, no-one could understand them like me. She said they were losing us money, that their enclosures were taking up valuable space, why not knock them through and build a play park for all the children? The children who begged to see them before they realised the world isn’t Harry Potter. We’ll send them away she said, close down for a while and leave my owls to the mercy of who knows what? I told her that can’t happen, I wouldn’t allow it. She smiled and said I had no say in the matter.

The knife is hard and cool in my pocket. I slip a hand around it as I’m walking back to the sheds, comforted by its solid presence. I’ll probably have to take it home with me, but that’s OK. It’s a treasure.

I drop the crate off and attend to my final job, the one lurking behind the freezer. On my knees I reach behind and pull out a small phone, old and cheap. Slipping it into my other pocket I leave and lock the shed behind me, humming tunelessly. Round the back I find my bicycle where I left it, swing a leg over and start on my way to the local hospital. It’s a mile or so away and I use the time to practice and refine under my breath. I’ve been more convincing every day and I can’t slip up now, not when it’s so close to being done.

I enter through the back and come to stop by the little duck pond, as I’ve down for days now. It’s always best to be near the birds. From here it’s simple, pull out the mobile phone, switch it on, wait for the bright green screen to load up, and finally select the only contact. My work and hers. I clear my throat and press the call the button. Answer phone of course, as I knew it would be. When I open my mouth I don’t hear my own voice, instead out comes that grating Welsh accent of hers, every word a second longer than it needs to be and every syllable an octave higher.

“I’m afraid I’m still very unwell. For the sake of the animals I really mustn’t come in yet.”

In a few days she was going to realise how much she enjoyed being away from work, a few days after that she would be feeling well enough to make a big life decision and move away quickly and quietly. I suppose I could bury her then. Or just leave her with the other dead chicks.


Aug 17th

Absent Fathers

By Caducean Whisks

I’m puzzled  by something I don’t understand and wondered what you thought.

In June, there was a game on Twitter. For every day of the month, we had to name a favourite book that suited a prompt. A bit of fun.

Prompts were, for instance: A book with a blue cover. A book with a food theme. A foreign book. An out-of-print book. A future classic. Etcetera.

Anyway, on Father’s Day, the prompt was to name a book that starred a good father.

Have to say, I found this harder than I thought I would. And it got me thinking.

I know, in real life – amongst my own family, neighbours and friends – and on the Cloud, that there are plenty of good fathers who play a healthy role in their children’s lives, who participate in bringing them up, provide and protect, who do all the things that a good father should do, and ought to be proudly celebrated. But are they?

I found it so hard to come up with an MC whose main role in the book is as a father.

Only one book occurred to me – My Son, My Son by Howard Spring (why, oh why is he out of print?). He’s also written another with a strong (and good) fatherly male role model – Hard Times – although strictly speaking the gentleman isn’t the MC’s father.

This afternoon, I came up with Pa Larkin from The Darling Buds of May; although I haven’t read the book and base this purely on the TV series. Lovely Pa Larkin.

So it’s taken me two months to come up with two-and-a-half books where the MC is primarily a father.

Of course there are plenty of fathers in literature – but they are either absent (Little Women, The Railway Children), ineffectual (Mr Bennet in P&P, Uncle Quentin in The Famous Five), or plain bad (sooo many). None of those could be said to be an MC. Mostly it’s a walk-on part.

This is scandalous! How so? Is this not a gaping hole in literary coverage?

Where men are portrayed as fathers in literature, the child is usually an adjunct to their main lives.

The Private Eye struggling to raise his daughter alone, is just a plot complication. It’s really about being a Private Eye on the trail of a serial killer.

The hero who is trying to save the world may have a failing marriage and a child to ramp up the jeopardy, but the story isn’t really about fatherhood, it’s about the man being a hero.

Another that’s just occurred to me, is Kramer vs Kramer, but that’s the film. Don’t know if there was a book, too. Probably. Yes.

Also, Paul Auster wrote a book about his father which I read aeons ago and can’t remember a thing. But that was memoir, so doesn’t really count.

I remember The Cosby Show on TV, a couple of decades ago. How lovely, refreshing and popular that was. We, the public, were yearning to see the portrayal of a fine, upstanding, humorous, intelligent, family man.

By contrast, there are plenty of good, strong mother role models in literature. How about Ma in The Grapes of Wrath, holding the fambly together?

Shelves of books about single mothers and their children. Battling women with alcoholic husbands (Angela’s Ashes); tragic mothers facing unbearable decisions (Sophie’s Choice).

The absence of fathers in books may be historical, in that traditionally at least, there’s minimal emotional engagement between literary fathers and their children; the women appear to have done most of the worrying. But is this not stereotyping? Surely there have always been good, kind, strong fathers? So why are they so rarely written about? It’s not right.

And moving into the present day real life, we have men sharing the child-rearing, house-husbands, single parent families with a nice father. So why isn’t this reflected in literature?

Perhaps I’m not reading the right books. Male MCs tend (from my limited experience) to be lovers and fighters and baddies, and just about all of them are on a quest – be it the policemen or the seekers after truth. They’re rarely portrayed home-makers and friends, unless they’re gay.

Is it because women still write in the conventional province of women? Hearth and Home? And men still write in the province of men? Heroes and Action?

Yet women are now writing about women going on quests, fighting evil, taking on the world – so where are the men writing about men in their new roles?

I’d love to hear of more examples and do hope I’m not being sexist. This seems to me, to be a huge gap in the market. I’m not the right person to write about fatherhood, so the floor is wide open. Anybody?

[Don’t forget to credit me when it’s a blockbuster J]

Aug 17th

A rose called 'Miss Piggy'

By Squidge
Nothing at all to do with words, but everything to do with me being generally creative...

Plus, it's a break from preparations for York!

Some flowery goings-on at the Scribbles...

 
Aug 17th

The man with no name

By dyslexic of dartford

THE MAN WITH NO NAME

 

I'll tell you the story of the man with no name

don't know who he was or from where he came.

Pull up a chair if you think you have time

buy me a drink and I'll spin you the line.

 

Big scull Murphy was mean and large,

he ran the village, thought he was in charge.

The hardest man for miles around

until a stranger rode into town.

I remember that night in the 'Pig and Flute'

a man walked in, in a feathered suit

with bells on his knees and a big top hat

piano accordion strapped to his back.

 

This is the story of the man with no name,

don't know who he was or from where he came.

I'll have to stop there now I've run out of ale

so buy me another and I'll finish the tale.

 

The stranger he drank at a furious pace,

pint after pint he threw down his face.

Silence fell as Skull came in from the night,

big ugly Murphy, he wanted a fight.

Skull looked at the man with a gleam in his eye

and said “you big dancing poof, now prepare to die.”

But he should have known right from the start,

that Morris dancing is a martial art.

 

This is the story of the man with no name,

don't know who he was or from where he came.

Do you fancy a drop of strong barley wine,

could you buy me one, I think we've got time.

 

Skull pulled back his arm to give him a dig

when the man jumped up and started dancing a jig.

To the sound of bells, Murphy screamed in pain

as the stranger's knees went up again and again.

The finale was a great pirouette

and a flying kick that I'll never forget.

Skull lay at the feet of the man with no name

who turned to the bar and shouted “same again!”

 

This is the story of the man with no name,

don't know who he was or from where he came.

What's that you say I drank all your wine,

I'm sorry my friend I thought it was mine.

 

We honoured our guest with a rousing cheer,

he turned to the bar and shouted “more beer.”

We danced to the music that played on and on.

The village erupted into wine and song.

The party raved until well after hours

Scull changed his ways and now grows flowers.

The stranger cut a magnificent sight

as we watched him cycle into the night.

 

That was the story of the man with no name,

don't know who he was or from where he came.

Remember this story where ever you roam.

Now then young man, could you carry me home.

Aug 16th

Exploding head syndrome

By Hil

When you fall asleep, do you get those myoclonic jerks, which sometimes wake you up, where you dream you are falling off a log (as easy as...)? Maybe they don't wake you up; maybe they wake your partner.

Did you know that there is a 'condition' called Periodic Limb Movement Disorder? This is not the same as myoclonic jerks, nor Restless Leg Syndrome; it is a movement of the legs, every 30 seconds or so, and can last for hours each night, like sleeping football. It might wake the sleeper. It is more likely to wake the partner.

Another sleep phenomenon is known as Exploding Head Syndrome. This is quite harmless and does not actually result in an exploding head. At the very moment when you fall asleep, there's a sudden loud fizz or buzz, like an electric shock, that feels like it's right in the middle of your brain. It's not really a noise, because you don't hear it with your ear (although some people experience it as a loud bang, or a clanging sound.) It makes you gasp for breath and wake up with a jump. Then, you start to relax and feel sleepy again, but now you're worried it will happen again. It doesn't hurt. It doesn't do any harm. But it's rather scary. It's OK, you tell yourself. I can sleep. Eventually you fall asleep again. Zing! There it is again, and you're awake. At last, either it doesn't happen, or you sleep through it.

But if you sleep through that, you still have the football legs to contend with next to you.

Looking up health related things online can be misleading, or even dangerous, but it can make you realise you are not the only one, not going crazy, and reassure you that even though the experience and the name are scary, your head is not about to explode.

 

 

Aug 16th

Help. I've run out of stories...

By stephenterry
My blog site is unusual in that I don't blog. Instead, I post chapters of my stories. Whether anyone reads them is debatable, but I do get about a thousand hits a month. No comments, though!

My problem now is that I'm trying to complete my latest novel, and there are no more stories left to post.

So, if anyone of you would like to post your stories or articles on the site - you know, the ones that are experimental or whatever, feel free to contact me by PM. In return, you'll get free publicity there and on Facebook.

Everyone welcomed.
Thanks.
 
Aug 15th

Could this be the ultimate blues song ?

By dyslexic of dartford

DEAD MAN BLUES

 

I didn't wake up this morning'

I didn't get out of bed,

couldn't have any breakfast,

I'm lying still instead.

Didn't read the papers,

didn't catch the news,

ain't no one can help me,

I've got the dead man blues.

 

I don't believe in Jesus,

in heaven or in hell.

My limbs are turning stiff

as my body starts to smell.

My skin is changing colour,

in ever greying hues.

I am just a body

with the dead man blues.

 

So put me in a coffin

and place it in the ground,

I will feed the worms

and I won't make a sound.

So make the best of your life

because we're all born to loose

and one day you'll come and join us

in the dead man blues.

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