October 15, 2018, 05:11:07 PM

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Re: Readers prefer authors of their own sex, survey finds
Being a liberal leftie Guardian reader I would love to say that I don't consider the sex of the author when choosing a book, but my bookshelf tells a different story. While I didn't feel I actively picked out male authors (or avoided female ones) after a conversation with a friend last year, on checking I noticed that around 80% of my books were indeed written by men. That seemed pretty silly to me so I'm trying to redress the balance by only reading female authors for the next while (not just fantasy - anything goes). I'm a couple of books in but so far it's been a very rewarding experience (if anyone is interested I'm blogging about my progress here: https://davidsshelflife.wordpress.com/)

On a similar note, while attending a creative writing retreat I remember the female author acting as tutor recommended aspiring female writers use their initials rather than first name when submitting work exactly because of this bias. She explained that you can argue if it is a conscious bias or a subconscious one, but you can't ignore the fact that it exists (even if it shouldn't). I'd like to think that we fantasy fans are less prone to this kind of bias but then maybe I'm being genre blind as well as gender blind.

March 02, 2015, 09:52:43 PM
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Re: Congratulations to @OnlyOneHighlander Haha, nice sleuthing @Lady_Ty. Commander Vimes  would be impressed. That is indeed me!

I was really surprised when I managed to scoop that one. Neil is one of my favourite authors so being linked with him is super cool.

December 31, 2015, 11:25:28 AM
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Re: [Jan 2016] - Breaking the fourth wall - Submission Thread
This is a great prompt: tricky but lots of fun. My story comes in at 1,497 words and is called Narrative Friction.

Hope you like it.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Narrative Friction

Dawn cracked like an egg over the town of Scree. A bulbous yellow yoke of sun slid from the whitecaps of the Thin Sea, spilling translucent light along the harbour walls and sending it seeping into the warren of streets beyond. It was a quiet morning, a morning when nothing much exciting was happening at all, the kind of morning that by all rights should be given over to listening to the gentle calls of the sea birds...

‘Free Scree! Free Scree!’

 ...and thoughts of lunch. The streets were certainly not full and there were definitely no demonstrating crowds converging on Snob Hill.

‘Out, out, out! Get the clout out!’

‘Voices for the voiceless!’

All in all, everything was, as it so often is in Scree, quiet and calm and peacef-

‘Good narration, accurate representation! Good narration, accurate representation!’

‘Free Scree!’

‘Out, out, out! Get the clout out!’

Okay, okay, so perhaps there were some people in Scree not enjoying the beautiful wonders of the bountiful morning. But it was a small crowd, not even fifty –

‘Balderdash, I count one hundred and six from here, and there’s more coming down Cellar Street.’

Gripton, the greengrocer, was there, his placard boasting all the usual poor punctuation of his advertising boards.

‘Here you, its the message that matters, not all your fancy punctuation and grammar and what not.’

It’s. What-not.

‘Oh, so clever. Listen, it ain’t my fault Scree hasn’t advanced enough to see the benefits of universal education. People know what they get at my shop, no matter where the damn apostrophe is.’

And this was very true. All throughout Scree people knew exactly what they got at Griptons’ Greengrocers’:  ripped off.

‘You listen here you haughty-taughty, turnip-faced –’

‘Now, now Gripton. There is no need for language like that. As Mayor of Scree I will speak on behalf of the town.’

The Mayor was a sensible man, doughty and with the confident bearing so often found in natural leaders. He held out his hands to dampen the noise of the admittedly medium-sized crowd, and raised his voice so all would hear.

‘Narrator, it has come to my attention that recently the good people of Scree have been,’ the Mayor said, choosing his words carefully, ‘eh... less than fully satisfied with your portrayal of our nice little community.’

‘Damn right we are,’ came the gruff bark of Roget Brittle. ‘Last week he said I smells like a brewery with a hangover.’

‘And he called me an old crone,’ screeched the incessant Mavis Turtlepike. ‘I’m only thirty-two,’ she added through the gaps in her yellowing teeth. ‘Pah! Half the town’s got yellow teeth. No need to pick on me.’

‘Speaking of yellow,’ said the Mayor’s wife. ‘I have a name you know. Not just “the Mayor’s wife”. Bloody sexist.’ Lady Jacqueline Petriheart’s rising voice cut through the remains of what had been such a lovely morning. ‘That’s better. As I was saying, speaking of yellow, he said the wall paper in our drawing room looked like custard, post-regurgitation! He’s got to go I say.’

Always in touch with the troubles of the common people, Lady Petriheart sat stiffly on her literal high horse – a normally docile creature called Tiba, who today could quite conceivably become unsettled by the surrounding mob and, with little warning, might very well throw the Mayor’s delicate wife into the mud. Animals are so unpredictable, after-all.

‘Now then,’ the Mayor said. ‘You’re on thin ice there Mister. I won’t have you threatening people, especially not my wife. You aren’t in charge around here.’

As he spoke the Mayor’s face grew red with indignant rage. He puffed himself up, ready to make one of his grandstanding performances in front of the gathered townsfolk. This would have nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that there was an election coming up and he had to maintain the illusion that he was in control.

‘I am in control! This is my town, not yours,’ he said. But as the words left his mouth, the rational part of his brain – buried as it was beneath the greedy, self-serving parts – suggested picking a fight with an omnipotent, omnipresent overseer three weeks before the big vote may not be a wise move.

‘I won’t be intimidated by you!’

Is exactly what the Mayor had said to the Captain of the City Guard just before his mysterious disappearance, two months ago. The embezzlement case Captain Sharp had been working on at the time remains unsolved...

‘Ah, eh, yes, the thing about that is...’

The Mayor’s words stumbled from his flapping jaw as the assembled crowd began to wonder who the real tyrant in Scree was.

‘We do not need any lessons in tyranny from you,’ said Bishop Sorel, the gravity of his words only slightly undermined by the fact he was picking his nose.

‘I am not picking my nose!’ He shouted, cuticle deep. ‘Did you start that rumour? You are responsible for the initiates calling me Bishop Snotel.

‘Yes,’ the clergyman cast a glare across his attendant monks. ‘I know all about it. And no, it is certainly not true.’

‘There was that one time,’ said the ever-truthful, unimpeachable even, Brother Mets.

‘Enough!’

The new voice came from the centre of the crowd. It was an unfamiliar voice, an unimportant voice, the voice of someone who would never play a pivotal part in any plot, who would slip through the pages of life with barely a trace. It was the voice of...

‘Colin Dickson.’

It was Colin, Son of Dick –

‘No, not “son of”. Just plain Colin Dickson.  I won’t have you making a cliché out of me,’ he said in a deep, booming voice.

‘Whatever. Listen, we are sick and tired of your purple prose, your clumsy metaphors, your redundant adverbs,’ Colin said resolutely.

‘And we’re sick of you thinking you can run our lives. We’re here, united, and you can’t silence us all.’ This is what Colin had wanted to say, but as he tried to speak his words were drowned out by a growl of thunder, a screaming gust of wind and the deafening din of rain hammering into the ground and onto the town’s slate roofs.

‘You see!’ the sodden Colin shouted futilely, ‘What happened to the yokey sun and the beautiful morning. You can’t just change things willy-nilly. IT BREAKS THE IMMERSION OF THE READER!’

But no-one could hear Colin. The rain was too loud, the wind too strong. It wouldn’t be long before the townspeople retreated to shelter in their homes and hide in their beds.

‘OH NO WE WON’T! WE’RE STAYING RIGHT HERE AND THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABO –’

*

Colin woke up in bed.

‘What? How did you do that?’

He’d been having the strangest dream. All that business about demonstrating against the Narrator. Madness, he thought, I could never win.

‘Right, you just wait. You can’t get away with it that easy. Darling, wake up! We’re going back out there. Where are my shoes?’

Soon the townsfolk were massing again, slapping down muddy streets in bare feet. It was the strangest thing, overnight all of their shoes had disappeared.

‘You’ll have to do better than that,’ said Colin. He was dressed in a spectacular pink kimono. Inexplicably, it was the only piece of clothing he could find in the house. ‘We’ll stay here all week if we have t –’

*

A week later all had returned to norm–

‘Damn it! He’s done it again. Come on Sally. I’m not putting up with this. He can’t beat us all –’

*

A month went by and all the grievances against the Narrator were forgotten. The Mayor was re-elected, Gripton’s grammar had improved dramatically, and Bishop Sorel had been invited to an audience with the High Shepherd. As for Colin Dickson...

‘How did I get here? And what am I standing in? And what is that smell?’

... He had been fired from his job and taken up cleaning the town sewers to make ends-meat. His wife had left him. And he smelled awful, truly awful.

‘You won’t win you know. You can’t grind me down. I’ll fight to my dying brea –’

*

As winter closed in, Colin’s consumption grew worse. The rest of Scree had long since given up trying to challenge the Narrator. But Colin fought on, cold, miserable and alone.

‘You don’t get to control my fate. I’m a person damn it. Not a character, not a plot device to be cast aside. I have a soul!’ said Colin, but no-one was listening. With each vain cry his lungs rattled against an increasingly gaunt ribcage. The hovel that had become his home was drafty and damp. The stinking blanket that was his bed crawled with mites and lice. Icy water dripped from the roof and even the air seemed to shun him.

‘You can’t.’

Slowly, he came to realise, he would not see the spring.



January 25, 2016, 09:22:37 PM
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Re: [Jan 2016] - Breaking the fourth wall - Voting Thread
Well done to @m3mnoch!

This challenge was a lot of fun and all the wall breaking has inspired me to check out a certain Mr D Pool's new film this weekend...

Thanks to all those who voted for my story. My very old laptop finally went to join the calculators in silicon heaven this month so I didn't manage to get a story in for February, but I hope to be back in action soon (using my work computer to post this... Ahem, I mean working on those meeting minutes, honest)

March 03, 2016, 01:29:09 PM
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Re: [Apr 2016] - The Last Contest - Discussion Thread
Four or five, were still far away from our months with 13 entries. We're missing Raptori/Saurus and Elfi in our regulars. Also sad to not see @OnlyOneHighlander enter, seems like his kind of topic.

Almost finished, honest. Should be done by tomorrow night... okay, Friday morning/afternoon... Saturday's still okay right?  ;)

April 27, 2016, 09:54:56 PM
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Re: [Apr 2016] - The Last Contest - Submission Thread Made it! I'm returning from my broken laptop exile with this: Little by little, we slipped into the dark.

It's 973 words and I hope it never happens, but I fear it already is.

Spoiler for Hiden:

Little by little, we slipped into the dark

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was time for a Pepsi…”

Much better, thought Milton, returning ‘Pepsico presents A Tale of Two Cities’ to the shelf. His hand lingered on the spine of the book as he let his gaze wander across the other titles: ‘The Famished Road brought to you by Mars’, ‘The Grapes of Wrath in association with Jacob’s Creek’, ‘The Odyssey: Ryanair edition’.  It had worked. He knew it would.

Before the last election, the country’s libraries were on their last legs. No budget to maintain them, and who would agree to more taxes so someone else’s children can read books. No-one, that’s who. A knotty problem, but one that had been solved many times before. It just took a man with the right amount of imagination and, despite what his Year Seven report card might have said, he had it.

A knock at the library door. Stephanie, his chief aide, popped her head round the gap. “Two minutes, sir.”

“Thank you, Stephanie,” he said. Stephanie wasn’t her real name of course. Or at least it hadn’t always been. Employability data shows, she had explained to him, that her original name was likely to hold back her career, so she changed it. It had cost her, and had mother had been none too pleased, but, given her current position, it was clear to see it had been a wise investment. And of course, she had not repeated her parents’ mistake with her own children.

It was right, Milton said to himself, to hold the speech here, his old stomping ground. This school had given him so much, now it was his turn to give back. He took a final sip of his cappuccino, dropped the green and white cup into the recycling bin, straightened his tie and took hold of the door handle.

*

“Children,” Milton paused to look across the crowd, “Children are our most important resource. They are the workers of tomorrow, the life blood of our economy, they are - ladies and gentlemen - our future.

“Ensuring this future, securing the best chance of success for our children is, surely, the most important function of a government. And I can assure you, my government sees the unlocking of our children’s potential, preparing them for the global marketplace - with all its risks and uncertainties - as our most sacred duty. However, the question must be asked, is government, is the state with all its inefficiencies, its bureaucracy, best placed to carrying out this function?

“Can we expect our hard working teachers,” Milton let his eyes flash to the front row, the faculty row, where the wise old farts had squatted at so many assemblies, “Can we expect them to know which skills young people will need when they enter our ever more competitive economy? Can we expect our civil servants, shut away in Whitehall’s ivory towers, to be able to predict where we will be, what the key industries will be ten, fifteen years into the future? I remember, growing up, we were taught ‘you must learn your times tables, because you won’t have a calculator in your pocket wherever you go’.”

Milton took his smartphone from his inside pocket and held it up for all to see. “And that was right, of course,” he continued, the audience’s chuckles proof his speechwriter’s concerns over this play to the gallery were unfounded. “Because instead we have supercomputers!

“And we have this magical machines all thanks to the dynamism, the creativity and drive of the free market.

“Now, we all know the market is not perfect, there are always winners and losers, but it has been proven - time and time again - to be the best tool for organising resources and improving the common lot of humanity. And I believe it is time to bring this, our best tool, to bare on our most important function.

“Liberalisation of investment into and delivery of education will bring this dynamism, this creativity  to where it can do the greatest good. Under the reforms published today, companies and international corporations will now have the ability to set up their own schools, with children free to choose their own futures.

“Rather than learn coding and computer science from a teacher - who may have finished studying five, ten years ago - wouldn’t it be better to learn these skills from Google or Microsoft? Rather than learn about mathematics from old Mr Brickland - who told me about those calculators - wouldn’t it be better to learn it from Barclays or Pricewaterhouse Coopers?  It is the difference between being taught about Shakespeare and being taught by Shakespeare.

“And if one of these talented young people,” Milton cast a hand across the youngsters sitting on the stage beside him. Stephanie had been right. Having the school’s current pupils in the hall would make for a great photo opp after the speech. “If one of them excels at their new studies, and is ready to enter the workplace and earn a wage, should we shackle them to an arbitrary age limit? If a person is fifteen, fourteen, twelve, and wants to take a job, and has the necessary skills, should this aspiration not be applauded? After all, we don’t stop people from working because they are too old anymore. Why should we deny people the right to work because they are too young? To do so is a patronising assault on liberty, on the freedom to choose, and I am here to tell you today, we will put up with it no longer!”

The thump of MIlton’s fist on the lectern echoed through the cavernous assembly hall. He looked up. His fingers in his free hand were shaking. A long, slow breath eased from his lungs…

And then the applause began.

***


April 29, 2016, 02:26:15 PM
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Here Be Dragons by OnlyOneHighlander Hello everyone!

I've been away from the forum for a while but I promise I've been using my time productively, and now I've got a book to prove it! Here Be Dragons is a light-hearted fantasy of 400 pages and it's now available on Kindle.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Here-Be-Dragons-David-Macpherson-ebook/dp/B07CCGBDQW/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1523814668&sr=1-3&keywords=here+be+dragons

Blurb below:

"When Orus graduated from the Cromalot School for Heroes he was ready for a life of glory and adventure. But after being seduced by his first damsel in distress, he quickly learns the heroing life doesn't bring in the steady income required to raise a family.

Twenty years later, with his son all grown up and his waistband all grown out, a favour for a friend gives Orus one last shot at the life he always wanted. But any old hero can slay a dragon, this old hero has to save one.

Perfect for fans of authors such as Sir Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, Here Be Dragons is an action packed, comic fantasy full of unexpected heroes, dastardly villains, chases, escapes, questionable parenting, ill-fitting trousers and an ill-tempered donkey (as if there was any other kind)."

If you want a taster of my writing first, here are a couple of my stories from the FF Monthly Short Story comps:

The Four Orcshiremen http://fantasy-faction.com/2015/writing-contest-winner-fantasy-cliches

Last Regrets: http://fantasy-faction.com/2016/monthly-short-story-winner-flash-fiction

Big thanks to the FF Short Story crew for helping me build the confidence to get here :-)

April 17, 2018, 09:29:50 PM
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Re: 4-Word Reviews Deep Blue Sea (film) - shark sandwich

Under Major Domo Minor (Patrick De Witt): A Wes Anderson film book

April 17, 2018, 09:55:59 PM
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Re: Here Be Dragons by OnlyOneHighlander Thanks! It's hopefully the first of many :-)

next please make something dark and gritty, you've got it in you too!!

Dark and gritty could be fun. I have had the idea to do a very gritty knights vs werewolves story for a while. All set within a castle and the werewolves are already inside, like a siege in reverse or a fantasy version of Aliens (they mostly come on the full moon, mostly).

April 17, 2018, 11:37:10 PM
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Re: What are you currently watching? You betcha!

Fargo is brilliant. And V. M. Varga is a great villain. He so slimy he oozes 

April 23, 2018, 01:36:58 PM
1