Prune-Ella gets second equal!

Or thirteenth equal depending on your glass-half-full-glass-half-empty perspective. The winner was more than worthy, a tight tale with lovely pace and rhythm, and only the requisite number of ‘I’s. Competition over, Prune-Ella is now out in the wild via the Nano Fiction page.

Meanwhile, one of my other stories, submitted to the critiquing zoo queue, has had some quite mixed comments. To broadly simplify; half seemed baffled by the concept, didn’t quite see a plot, and wanted parts that I thought were the crucially speculative elements, more spelled out. The other half loved it, got the plot, and bought into the speculation. Both views are obviously valid as these are writers reading as such and very generously giving their time to help others, but why the huge disparity? Well, it wasn’t a massive sample size and so I’m not going to dig out my Idiots’ Guide to Statistics but it breaks down along gender lines; male (puzzled) and female (not puzzled).

I had never thought of myself as writing ‘for’ a particular audience, unless you consider the academic community to be one such. That world has its rules and, to be published, you have to follow them but on the whole, and unless your research was so tedious it requires a little creative post-production work, you don’t have to consider your readers’ tastes in literature. I’m beginning to wonder though, if my fiction is largely aimed at women and, that being the case, what women and where? I sidled up to the speculative and SF genres in my youth, cutting my teeth on a childrens’ adventure series involving kids whose names began with the same letter as their space station and moving rapidly on to Isaac Asimov’s epic Foundation Trilogy. All my favourite authors since have been male and I thought women couldn’t write SF until Elizabeth Moon popped up with her strong female characters, intricate plots, and no-messing tech talk.  I’d also taken little sorties into dragon country with Anne McCaffrey and subsequently found myself on living space ships with histories and relationships all of their own. I like these authors. They give me believable future or alternative worlds, they deliver convincing technology, and they write with depth and texture. But do they write for women? What is it about these authors that makes me feel more at home in their books than I do in many of the gripping, character-driven tales of my preferred male writers?

And can I do it too?

Please!

and it was all going so well..

drumlin with snowAfter the snow we had mud and then we had torrential rain but today, just short of the frogs and boils which must surely follow, the day was glorious. Beautiful sunshine, the river at its height, blue sky reflected in large tracts of still water on the flood plain, and swans posing for photographs along the banks. Back in the garden, birds were visiting to take advantage of the food left out for them, and a butterfly – I kid you not – landed on the parasol. I kid you not about that unlikely feature either; every time I went out to replenish the dish with emergency rations for the puffed up, bleak looking blackbirds, robins and sparrows that had begun to picket my cherry tree, I found it iced up and snowed under. Solution? Obviously some sort of shelter, like maybe – an umbrella? And so it came to pass that, in a howling blizzard, I had found myself hauling out the patio parasol and feeling a right plonker as it whipped this way and that until I got it properly anchored. Supposing I’d slipped, broken something, needed the emergency services?

‘So you were out here putting up a sunshade?’

‘Yes..’

‘For the birds?’

‘Er, yes..’

‘Geoff – tell them to book in a psych eval after the X-rays, I think we’ve got a live one’

So anyway; beautiful day, butterfly, happy well-fed birds, and cavorting dogs on a riverside walk. Having got the new phone sorted out too, there was the opportunity to take the odd snap and see how it acquitted itself. The evidence is below (or alongside, who can really tell until the magic formatting dust is sprinkled?) and, just for academic interest, there’s a ‘before’ shot by which to make comparison. Of the scene, that is, not the pixelage.last snow 

Mosying on from the experimental snapping, we crossed down into the field where brooks and shallow lakes punctuated and divided the landscape. The dogs flew off across the grass, splashing and taunting, jousting and jostling – and swimming. Oh dear – we had a wellie crisis! The pretty little boots with the iris patterning weren’t going to suffice and, to be fair, my clumping ‘country gel’ pair would have struggled. I needed waders. I didn’t have waders. What I did have, in very short order, was a couple of litres of freezing water in each boot and at least fifteen minutes walking back to base.

We made it in ten. No more photos. No stopping. No conversation.

‘Afternoon. Yes lovely. Can’t stop, wellies full of ice. Tell you later’

And that would have been it for drama except that, as you might have guessed, all that sloshing along and displacement, none of which warmed anything useful – so much for the laws of thermodynamics – had created a vacuüm. Those wellies were staying put. Brute force was applied. Would I need the fire service? Better not let them see the parasol then. Tree loppers maybe? With feet and ankles frozen stoopid, the risk of inadvertent amputation seemed a little too possible. Gymnastics then. Last achieved at about age 10 in a pair of black shorts with a blue stripe up the side, this manoeuvre, involving pulling the ankle above the head with the hands while simultaneously levering the knee towards the chest in equilibrated resistance is not recommended without anaesthetic and I’m going to have a large one now. So what that the wellies are draining much of the river Adur onto the kitchen floor? It’s over. I don’t care. Gimme that glass! 

Let battle commence!

The CC ‘I-less’ writing challenge has closed and Prune-Ella is up against 13 others for the grand title of – well, nothing at all really. I must say though, if Prune-Ella did her stuff and flounced the opposition, I would be ridiculously pleased and need restraining from making postcards to send to people I hardly know.

Also completed today was the last tutorial of the OU course which leaves just the final assignment due at the end of the month. I have a half formed offering that reads ok but doesn’t grab me. Do I work on it and make it sizzle or start again with a different and more gripping plot? I think it might depend on how far I get setting up my new phone this weekend. Unlike most gadgets that come with a booklet resembling a Master’s in computing and programming, this came with barely a leaflet and so I couldn’t even find the SIM hatch. If the rest of it is equally baffling, that lame duck tale might be all there is! snowdrop image

There are new jottings on the Nano Fiction page. Please feel free to nip across and take a shufti. You could even leave a comment if you felt so moved. Go on, spoil yourself!

This ikigai stuff is dangerous!

There I was, ticking along with the bi-partite job bringing in the money and the sense of having a handle on things while I scratched away at snippets of fiction, then one sniff of ikigai and I’m thinking ‘novel’! How does that happen? How will it happen? I’m pretty familiar with project management and, way back in oooh-you-don’t-want-to-know, determined that my PhD was only going to take as long as I was being paid for so I’ve already got three years in my head. I’m conveniently ignoring the fact that I’m still working full time but I wonder if I should factor in six weeks rehab from the ikigai overdose. Hm.Dogs, snow & a stick

Yes, it’s still snowing. I’m beginning to feel Canadian.

Ikigai: waking up with a sense of purpose

Dan Buettner on how to live to 100+ http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_buettner_how_to_live_to_be_100.html

It seems to involve a sense of purpose, a plant-based diet, community, and some form of religion. Three out of four, maybe I get to 90…

Snowbound

grass and snowDue to an abundance of snow, and for the most part we’re inconvenienced here by even a light dusting, there has been quite a lot of down time lately. No doubt someone will mutter about the billions-worth of lost productivity and eventually we will find ourselves unaccountably responsible for the national debt due to chucking a few snowballs about instead of growling at co-workers and sending pointless emails with red flags attached. Meanwhile, in the absence of proper direction, much of the population is regressing to the year Daft and cavorting around in wellies with dogs. Any dogs will do, even if you don’t like them the rest of the year and treat them as though they will give you leprosy, because dogs go barmy in deep snow and start shoveling it along on their noses, dancing sideways across frozen puddles, and easter egg rolling down slopes.

Cats don’t. Cats sit indoors wearing expressions of deep contempt at your inability to shift the stuff. They have paraded to the back door, looked out, registered their demand, and then stalked back towards the front door where the evidence of your ineptitude is manifest – it is still there! My cats are lined up on the sofa in a collective huff. The dogs are lined up at the door looking like Santa’s just been. I’m picking up emails from my various work locations and considering a composting strategy – leave them long enough and they might turn into something worthwhile.

One email, not from work but leaking through my firewall of noble focus, told me that the first story I submitted to Critique Circle has been reviewed. Somebody drawn in by the sci fi tag had been kind enough to persevere even though it was, as I’d suspected, rather more chick-lit than High Klingon. He liked the futurismic stuff, he didn’t like the relationship stuff. He found the tech convincing but couldn’t stay with the romantic story line. He told me what I needed to know – I’ve been sending it to the wrong publishers! Of course it could be a load of old tat with no discernible plot at all but I’m thinking a female readership might get it while the men who have reviewed it didn’t. So, what publishers are there for whom a cross-genre, 5000 word product from a novitiate with no track record who’s never read romantic fiction would seem an exciting option?

Me neither.

Prune-Ella, Queen of the Dessert

Yes! Finished the exercise and submitted it to CC for what will probably be a right royal chewing! I’m not even sure if I followed the rules or not as appreciation of parts of speech and flying participles (or was that buttresses?) was obstinately non-stick at school, predating teflon by some considerable margin. I’ve always written rather more by feel than by knowledgable construction and so can come unstuck, to pursue the metaphor (or is it an analogy? You see my problem?), when push invariably comes to shove. Anyway, all that can come of this enterprise is deep humiliation or the satisfaction of not drawing attention to myself as I have no doubt that the other contributors will have delivered on both accuracy and wit. I did come in bang on the word count though, which is an achievement in itself as my capability with English grammar outshone my mathematical naus by many many astronomical units. And if they’re not called Angsts then they should be!

I’ll put Prune-Ella on the nano page once the fur and feathers have stopped flying and the bleeding is under control. I made a wordle though….  word art image