Sunday, August 29, 2010

Last night's nightmare

I'm going to call it a nightmare, because it involved the following: gas explosions, bloody murders, psychopaths (and not the sexy kind) and, most frighteningly of all, going back to school.

In said dream I was once again at school, and being brainwashed into causing chaos, like opening a gas valve so that when Chemistry students lit their Bunsen burners, the whole building would explode. Except that, as the dreamer, I was aware of what I'd done and kept trying to hide.

There were some very strange hick kids, trying to do some odd sort of voodoo magic on me which I think involved some kind of wedding ceremony. I walked away from this and went to hide under the stage (er, the backstage are was a hangout for us theatrical types, back in the day) but couldn't get there because of the crime scene tape and the body.

Sherlock was there (the new Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch in his overcoat), trying to solve a murder with no apparent cause. Although there was a lot of blood. The killer had been trying to kill using other people, like me, subconsciously. One of his victims returned, naked, and said she wouldn't rest until he'd been stopped.

And then Superman blasted out of the school hall, halfway through an Art exam, then stopped and said, "I can't do this, I have to finish my exams, I've got a kid now," and flew back in trough the roof. I know. Bizarre. Art exams were held in the Art room.

I have no idea what this all means, and I'm not sure I want to, but suddenly I'm overwhelmed with the urge to rewrite it all as a YA superhero story. I mean, how cool would that be?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So, about that Spartacus

Yesterday I posted a picture of three lovely young men from the TV series Spartacus: Blood & Sand. And I'm so very glad you all enjoyed looking at them. I enjoyed looking at them too, on screen, sometimes wearing even less than in the pictures.

But it got me thinking. What was it, apart from the muscular naked men and the cartoon violence that kept me watching all series? (Yes, there is an answer) Well, the series did follow one valuable writing lesson that sometimes I forget:

Every character thinks he's the hero.

Put simply, nobody thinks he's an extra. Everybody has their own agenda, their own motivations, their own goals. Goals that shift and change with new circumstances. And it's these goals striking and sparking off each other that make for really interesting conflict--and not just the kind with sword and shield.

Spartacus, for example. To begin with his goal is to repel invaders and keep his people safe. Then, after he's forced into captivity, his people killed and his wife taken from him, his goal is to regain his freedom and find his wife. After the death of his wife, his goal is simple: to find out who killed his wife and get his revenge. When he discovers who was behind her death, and that there's no simple way to kill him and escape, he becomes the Spartacus we all know from legend: the man who slaughtered his masters and led a slave rebellion. And all of that comes from a few simple, primal, personal goals.

But what about the other characters? Why has Spartacus been taken captive and why has his wife been killed? Why does it become more difficult for him to simply slaughter his way out of the ludus and not care if all the other slaves are killed (which they would be, if any one slave harmed his master)? Spartacus probably has the most simple of goals and motivations, but it's complicated by the friends and enemies he makes.

It would take far more than one blog post to explain the various schemes and entanglements in the series, and it took more than one watching of each episode to understand them, probably because I got distracted by all the muscular naked men. But when you have a ludus full of gladiators, all planning or hoping for freedom but all subject to the whims of their master ad his friends; slaves who are planning their own schemes for freedom or at least a little cash; levels of Roman society all jostling for power and position and not really caring whose throat they have to cut to get it--then you have a lot of entanglements.

But while the series is called Spartacus, probably every character in the series thinks it ought to be named after them. For the amount of plotting John Hannah's character, Batiatus, does (did I mention John Hannah is in it?) he probably reckons there's going to be a TV show in 2,000 years called Batiatus. His wife, who wants her husband to be rich and powerful (and is possibly the only character to really include someone else in her aims) but also to have her bit on the side, probably thinks the show is called Lucretia. Neither of them consider Spartacus to be much more than a cash cow. Why should he have a series named after him?

Well, for one thing, that boy looks good naked.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Title, title, I need a title

So, I'm finally working on something for Changeling Press, and I have my story and my characters and my backstory and my episodes of Spartacus: Blood & Sand (for inspiration, ahem) and my research into Proto-Celtic, but what I don't have is a title.

Something with Warrior in it might be good, since that's what one of the characters used to be, before he was taken captive by the Romans, forced into the Gladiatorial ring, and cursed to live forever as a sex slave to whoever wears his torc.

But somehow, Sex Warrior doesn't have the ring I'm looking for.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mad, Bad & Dangerous: reviewed

Well, thank heaven for that. I was starting to wonder if Mad, Bad & Dangerous had been Teflon-coated. But finally, after six months, someone's reviewed it! Calloo callay. Those lovely folks over at Night Owl Romance have said some very nice things about it, calling it "Snarky, spicy, and laugh-out-loud entertaining." I'm quite happy with that!

And want to go see what they've been saying nice things about? (That's a really mangled sentence, but I'm hungry.) Today I'm guest-blogging at Kiss & Tell Girls, all about Kett and her story. There's also an excerpt: but be warned, it's kinda spicy!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Well, maybe I'm a bit odd

It's been suggested that my crush on The Master from Doctor Who, as portrayed by John Simm, is a bit odd. Why odd? Because he's a nihilistic psychopathic cipher for a bunch of megalomaniacal time travellers and he wants to destroy, let's face it, David Tennant's Doctor? Is that odd?

Well, if you put it that way.

But we may have established that I have a slight problem with psychopaths. I mean look at Spike. I named my cat after him. And when James Marsters (the actor behind Spike) turned up in Torchwood as Captain Jack's former 'partner in every way', with his inability to decide if he wanted to kill Jack or snog him, well, my Crushometer went up to eleven.

Of course, this isn't the sort of guy I'd like to meet in real life. But to write about, he's fascinating. That's why I keep coming back to Striker in the Realms universe. Charming, smart, very sexy, able and liable to kill you with very little notice and for equally little reason, he's absolutely fascinating.

Oddly, I've just realised what these men all have in common is the same colour hair. Peroxide as an indicator of psychopathy? Hmm...

Friday, August 06, 2010

Couple of random things

Some day, I'll get back on that meme I was doing before. Some day.

The other day my mum got the Autumn/Winter edition of a mail-order catalogue. "Any good?" I asked.
"No, it's all stuff for old people now." NB my mother does not consider herself to be old. If pressed, she may admit to middle-aged, but she had to get to about 55 before she'd even entertain the idea. "They used to have stuff for people more your age."
"No," I replied, "they had stuff that people your age think people my age would wear."

And it occurred to me that this sentiment felt familiar. I realised where: when reading a book about a group of twenty-somethings I've frequently felt as if the author had heard of twenty-somethings but never actually met one. They'd learned about this breed from TV and other books written by people who'd also no idea what it was like to be under thirty in the early twenty-first century. Being 25 in 2010 is vastly different from being 25 in 1970 or 1980 or even 1990.

Some authors do it really well, and it's quite a surprise to meet them and find out they're twenty or thirty years older than their characters. Maybe they have kids in their twenties. Maybe they have friends in that age range. Maybe they never really grew out of it themselves.  I'm not sure what the answer is, but I can't be the only one who's experienced that "This is what middle aged people think younger people act/talk/dress like" feeling. Can I?

The other random thing I wanted to mention is that I've discovered a brilliant way of running Windows programs on my shiny, yet somewhat aloof, Mac. I've heard of Boot Camp, which allows you to install Windows on a Mac, which sounds a bit desperate (and also expensive), and Wine, which allowed me to install Spotify on the Linux-operated Minnie (that would be my netbook). But neither were working for me on the Mac, where I just wanted to run my old versions of Dreamweaver, MS Digital Image, and Poser without difficulty (or the expense of buying new Mac copies, which in the case of Digital Image was impossible as a) it's a Microsoft product and b) it's obsolete anyway).

However! I've just come across CrossOver, which installs and runs Windows programs on a Mac. And it does it really, really simply. There's no going into Terminal and pretending you understand code. Just a few clicks to install. Free for thirty days, but for something that installed Dreamweaver so effortlessly I'd happily pay for the full version (and did). I'm having a few problems with the apparently unpopular Digital Image, but I'm sure I can resolve them.

So! Mac users who miss Windows programs: rejoice!

Now, to find that damn Poser disc...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Been a bit late with this. Sorry 'bout that. But here are my pictures and reports from the Latitude Festival a couple of weeks ago. I'm maintaining my suntan with some success, thank you.

The longest queue in the world, in which I stood with a 100l backpack and a frigging huge crate of camping equipment.
 We arrived at the campsite in high winds. As the site is basically a field, there was nothing to stop the wind from doing its very best to blow the tents over as we pitched them. I saw several nearly blow away. Thank God it wasn't raining!

Collapsed inside my tent. If you're wondering why this picture is so pink...

...that's because my tent was pink. Also a teepee. A pink teepee. Oh yeah. This is how we do it.

 Having pitched our tents, we went in search of a drink. And Tom Jones. He was supposed to be performing a secret set on a small hidden stage, but unfortunately as this was announced on national television it meant 20,000 people trying to cram into a space that might hold about 200. So we missed him. Dammit.

I still have no idea who these dudes were. Some giant ghosty people, I guess. And, see? If I've got photographic evidence then clearly it wasn't the drinking.

My cherry tattoo. Which was insisted upon because I was popping my festival cherry. It was sparkly and everything.
The excessively pleasant surroundings of Henham Park.

The coloured sheep. See above re: photographic evidence.
 I wonder if the sheep knew they'd been dyed? Can sheep see in colour? Do you think they were making fun of each other? "Dude, you're green!" "Yeah, well at least I'm not pink."

Puss in Boots, our official Festival Mascot, pleading for more beer.

My Festival Look, day two. It was all going fine until I got a bit silly with the glowsticks.

Sunset over the Obelisk Arena.

Ballet on the lake. Swan Lake, too.

My Festival Look, Day Three. Complete with bruised arm from hauling camping gear around. Oh, and someone with a cat's head.

Another Maybe It's The Drinking moment.

And finally, to prove I had a real, actual suntan, here's the mark left behind when I peeled the cherry tattoo off. Fo' real.
And would I go back? Well, once I've forgotten about the camping...maybe.

Maybe I will.