So…gishwhes…

gishwhes

So I signed up to gishwhes this year, pretty much on a whim and without any planning aforethought. For those of you who don’t know, gishwhes is short for The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen and it is seriously awesome!

The hunt takes place over a week at the beginning of August. Teams are limited to fifteen people and this year there was a list of over 200 items to complete. Some are almost impossible, others just plain ridiculous. All are fun.

Item 35: Design a device that would allow a five ounce swallow to carry a one pound coconut. SF note: I’m really proud of this one. Click on the pic to see a bigger version.

AnotherSwallowCoconut

I mention the lack of planning aforethought because while all items were enormous fun, they also took time and gishwhes just happened to take place on the same week that I started a new job and had writing group commitments in the evening, leaving me to mostly complete my tasks late into the night.

Next year, I’m planning on taking the week off and doing it properly!

Item 165: WILLIAM SHATNER ITEM – Carrie Fisher is known for her portrayal of Princess Leia in Star Wars. Her memorable hairstyle was often called the Princess Leia Bun. Bake a portrait of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in bread.

Leia bread Team Impala Rock Fans

 

There I was in my kitchen alone late at night, everyone else asleep or out,  busy rolling out dough and trying to make it look like Princess Leia. I had a very strange sense of: what the hell am I doing? And the odd thing, is that because of the internationalness of it,  I knew that even though I was doing it all alone in the middle of the night, all over the world total strangers were doing the exact same weirdness.

Item 34: How do you do it? Everyone on your team has such beautiful mustaches? Do you have some sort of hair growth cream you slather on or pills you all take? Let’s see a grid photo of everyone on your team that features your mustaches prominently. SF Note: mustache made out of kale? This is without doubt the most hipster thing I have ever done, and may ever do (until next year’s gishwhes of course)

gishwhesmustache

Like I said, lack of planning, and I didn’t know anyone else who even knew about it, so instead of forming my own team, I was assigned one. One of the great things about Gishwhes is that it is international. People from all over the world take part. We created a facebook group to organise the items and I got to meet some lovely and wonderfully creative people.  My team were mostly young Americans (with a couple of exceptions) and I think I was pretty much oldest in the group by a long chalk. Shout out to Team ImpalaRockFans for being wonderful!

 

Unfortunately, my team submission list on gishwhes has disappeared so I don’t have everyone else’s items (and there were some incredible ones), but it’s worth a google to find what people have done generally because gishwhes is really is a tower of super awesome creativeness.

IMAGE. Where in the world was this selfie taken? Find ONE of the places on the linked page and duplicate the selfie from exactly where they might have been standing: http://officialgishwhes.tumblr.com/boogiewoogie. This is a location-based item: you must find the exact location. You can’t use a location that looks similar. You can copy the selfie taker’s pose if you wish or do something completely weird and different, but you should have the exact same camera angle.

SF note: this one was a little awkward. I happened to know exactly where it was but there were a lot of  tourists with kids trying to take pictures, I had sun on my phone and really struggled to get the right angle. I may have looked a little odd, but that is at least 70% the point of gishwhes.

Shaun the sheep

Because of said lack of aforeplanning, many of the items (for me at least) had to be made with whatever I had to hand or could get from the local supermarket. This was good, but I did have to rush a little sometimes.

My five-year-old absolutely loved getting involved, and while his enthusiasm was wonderful, it didn’t always help. Like when he blew on my salt-and-pepper portrait of Ironman ( which I then needed to ‘fix’ and it ended up with an odd neck/jaw concertina thing). He then burst into tears at the suggestion that we may need to vaccuum it up once done, instead of leaving it on the dining room table forever. (It may have been a little past his bedtime).

Let’s see a portrait of Robert Downey, Jr. or Ironman made entirely of salt and pepper. Tweet it to him (@robertdowneyjr) with @gishwhes in the tweet. SUBMIT a link to the image to us, NOT a link to an image of the tweet – but you must tweet it to him for your image to count.

ironman sp

Winners of gishwhes get to go on holiday somewhere fun with Misha Collins (Castiel on Supernatural) who began Random Acts the charity that benefits from all the gishwhes insanity, but this really isn’t about winning, it’s about taking part (to use a giant but true cliche). And the spirit of that is present in the judging. Extra points are awarded for extra effort, so it’s not simply about ticking items off of a list.

Item 96: The Tooth Fairy is on strike. Invent another fairy that provides a service in your home for your children, or your dorm room/apartment for your roommates. Dress up as the fairy providing the service, and then caption the image with what you are. SFMy son told me that the most helpful fairy service would be the cupcake fairy (obviously), so here you are:

Cupcake Fairy

 

Item 57: You know how sometimes you look at your child’s weird behavior and think, “Where did you come from? You certainly didn’t come from me.” Well, after extensive DNA analysis (thanks for sending that in) we just discovered they did not, in fact, come from you. They came from the new planet that was just discovered: Earth2.0 (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jul/23/nasa-closest-twin-to-earth-kepler-452b). They’ll behave better if you stop trying to make them human. Dress them up or convert them back into keplerians and take them to a park, playground, ice cream shop (or similar). Teenage keplerians are acceptable and even encouraged as long as they’re with their parents. Really go to town on the costumes, make-up and location for this for bonus points!

keplerian

 

And sometimes what looks the most awesome, is not necessarily the most fun. I could easily have made a more impressive alien but my son wanted to do it himself and had a great amount of fun doing it.

Item 108: VIDEO (Time lapse this down to 14 seconds.) Lay your bets, and time lapse a snail race from the starting gun to the finish line. SF: Please excuse the quality.  5yo + crappy video on my phone + zero experience in filming and editing videos = amateur hour.

Same with the snail race item. We had to make a video of a snail race and he was so enthusiastic that it really made for an odd video – moving snails into position, arguing about whether it counted when they went off track, and so on. Adult-me on my own could have made it more professional but at the expense of 99% of the fun.

So that was my contribution, here are some other super things created by the rest of the team. As I said, unfortunately I’m not sure how to capture them off gishwhes now the item list has gone (anyone?) so it’s far from a full set:

Item 92: RACHEL MINER ITEM. Make and wear a “Save The Unicorns” t-shirt and stand in a crowded public place asking people to sign a petition to “Save The Endangered Unicorns.

Item 160: Let’s see an ice, snow or sand sculpture of an SPN character.

Bobby

Item 51: Death’s funeral.  SF note: you may need to be a Supernatural fan to fully appreciate this one

deathsfuneral

Item 172: Build a raft made entirely out of empty plastic water bottles. Float in a lake on your raft

Item 95: Show Kim Kardashian how to break the Internet.

Item 93: Contribute the recipe for ‘Dinomite’s Fluffy Bites’ to Allrecipes.com and get at least 20, 5-star reviews from people who enjoyed the recipe

dinobites

 

And finally I give you:

Item: 104  Turn your living room into a giant snow globe with fun props and falling “snow.” SF: This is not the full item, just the Christmas tree. For the non-Supernatural watchers, this is Castiel Angel of the Lord. I love this so much.

castielangelofthelord

And that’s all I can find for now.  I’ll see if I can cadge the links from the team and add them in. (And you really should come back and check because some were incredible. Yulexy’s hipster trap made me laugh out loud).

Right, so end of post.

And I hope I’ve persuaded at least a few readers to get involved next year. Because next time I am going to do it with bells on!

The Creative Apocalypse

Absolutely fascinating article from the NYT on the ‘creative apocalypse’. The idea that the internet is undermining creative industries with freebies is still going strong, but Steven Johnson makes a compelling argument that the creative people behind these industries are doing just fine — thriving in fact. It’s the big companies and conglomerates that are struggling.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently, and strongly believe we’re living through a creative revolution not a creative apocalypse. Johnson’s article completely nails the point. Anyone interested in how artists’ livelihoods have been changed by technology and the internet should give it a read.

Harold the strained metaphor

You know how sometimes late at night your brain just goes a little bit insane. Well, this is mine.

I was thinking about creative people and how some of them are utter geniuses in so many ways but struggle to function in real life. And if they could somehow just get themselves organised, they’d take over the world.

The old saying is that ‘so and so couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag’. I’m going to call this mythical ‘he’ Hepzibah because I love the name but I’ve never been able to find a character to fit it.

And Hepzibah is actually pretty awesome, because the rest of us are still stuck in our paper bags and we’d kind of like to find a way out, while creative-insane Hepzibah has realised that actually living in a paper bag is a good idea. We got into the bag for a reason (maybe there are dinosaurs out there), so she’s redesigned her paper bag so it has windows and maybe a propeller so it can fly up and away from the dinosaurs and installed a balcony so she can drink her tea with all the benefit of being outside but still having the safety of the paper bag.

Meanwhile the rest of us really need a dummies-guide to paper-bag redesign because we’re still stuck in the dark listening to the roaring outside.

That made me think about how that isn’t so much an strained metaphor, as one that was so stressed that it grew legs and ran away to join the circus and now he dresses in clown outfits and hangs from the trapeze, but he’s really an embarrassment to his family who are still conservative metaphors and every time someone asks about him, they just look away and say, ‘We don’t like to talk about Harold.’ And now Harold is something of a legend in Metaphorville, and secretly all the teenage metaphors think he’s kind of cool.

Either way it doesn’t matter, because Harold followed his dream and he is much happier now.

And I am sharing these thoughts with you because I am tired and I don’t feel like doing real work.

Gishwhes!

Gishwhes has begun! For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s the world’s biggest scavenger hunt and last year looked like a great deal of fun, so this year I signed up!

The items range from the merely odd (cover someone you love in butter and give them a hug) to virtually impossible (ride in an airplane with a giant motorboat strapped to it. Must be life size).  My son has already agreed to the butter one, so that will be… interesting.

Unfortunately, it is a competition so I can’t share pics and videos just yet but I will do when I can.

It’s not at the best time: new job next week, as well as three writing meetups but I’m enjoying doing silly stuff right now even if I won’t have time next week.

And for those of you participating, *waves*. We should have a secret handshake. Or secret internet wave. Or something! Either way, hope you’re enjoying it and looking forward to seeing what everyone does with it.

 

On reading too much

I was going to write a post about the problems that accompany reading too much, but…

Just kidding. That’s not a thing.

The only problem is real life interfering with my reading time.

That said, I did just get to the end of a 350,000+ word fan fic and found out that not only is it not finished, but it hasn’t been updated since 2012. #readerproblems

I deserve a medal. Or maybe a badge. Or something.

The fun thing about having my own website is that I can put whatever I want on it. So I would like to put in a quick woohoo! for me because I have been so stupidly busy recently. (Think 4am alarms and working a work day and then through lunch and then into the evening too).

But I have finally finished my stories, and done a bunch of other things I promised people I would do, and fuck yes! I may still have a thousand things on my to-do list, but I’ve crossed off some of the big ones. *does dance of awesomeness*

And if someone’s reading this and thinking that I still haven’t done what I promised I would. It’s either on my list or I’ve forgotten. Feel free to give me a nudge.

 

 

Author Interview – Juliet and Brian Freyermuth

 

demon danceMind of the beast

Brian Freyermuth is an award-winning video game designer who has teamed up with his wife Juliet to write the Sundancer urban fantasy series. I’m always a sucker for good UF, especially the Jim Butcheresque kind that the Freyermouths have created. I always find it interesting how creative skills transfer from one medium to another, and was curious about how they found writing as a team. Take a look at what they think about this below:

Brian wrote Demon Dance and Juliet edited it. You then wrote Mind of the Beast together. I suspect I’m too much of a control freak to co-write with anyone. How do you decide who does what when writing, and how would you work through any creative differences?

It’s definitely a process we’re still working on. For Mind of the Beast, I wrote the initial draft, and Juliet came in and rewrote a bunch of the scenes and marked others for deletion. We would then edit this official “rough draft” together. When it comes to creative differences, we really don’t have that many, and we just discuss the ones that come up until one of us is convinced.

One thing that Juliet absolutely loved was writing the action sequences. She watched Captain America and the Avengers to see how bodies are thrown around by superheroes, just to get the same feel to Nick’s fights. When she wrote the action scenes in Mind of the Beast¸ she envisioned Captain America crashing into buildings.

As well as being an author, Brian is also an award-winning video game writer. I imagine the skills required to design games would transfer well to writing: scene setting, story flow and so on. How well do you think this helped with writing a novel, and were there any places where the creative process was unexpectedly different?

It definitely helps when writing a novel. For example, in video games your dialog needs to be crisp and minimal because of VO budgets. In novels having shorter dialog achieves a quicker flow on the page.

And while story flow and scene setting is pretty much the same across all mediums, the biggest difference between the two is this: while a novel is the character’s story, a game is the player’s story. As a game writer, you have to account for the choices that the player will want to make and how those changes will affect the story you’re trying to tell. In games, the dialog branches depending on the player’s choices, and sometimes there are multiple endings to the story.

Compare that to a novel, where your characters make their own choices, but it’s only one choice. You don’t have to worry about accounting for multiple branches because it’s only one tale, even if the characters drive the story.

Paranormal romance is supposed to be a subgenre of urban fantasy, but there is such a tsunami of sexy vampires out there that many readers think the two are synonymous. How have you felt this has affected the series’ reception and how you’ve marketed it?

I think there’s a lot of overlap between the two. Demon Dance and Mind of the Beast are not romance, but there is relationship drama in both. Relationships are part of human nature, so it should be part of all genres. When we market both books, we’re very careful to call them Urban Fantasies, because while the romantic plots are there, they aren’t the focus of the plot. They have the same types of mystery and action of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

What projects are you currently working on?

We’re currently working on book 3 of the Sundancer series, along with a few minor projects on the side, including a few short stories, as well as the planning stages of a serial. Between that and my job at Telltale Games, I’m pretty busy.

Could you imagine the Sundancer series being adapted for screen, and who would you like to play Nick St. James?

No question. A younger Lou Diamond Philips. If I had to pick a modern actor, it would be an actor\model named Rick Mora. He’d have to wear blue-green contacts for the role, but otherwise his look is perfect.

Connect with Brian and Juliet on their website, or twitter (BrianJuliet)

pant pant pant

Phew. Finally finished my stories for the Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror anthology, and the Crime and Punishment anthology that were *cough* due a few weeks ago.
I’m quite pleased with them both. Watch this space. I’ll be revealing more soon!

Author Interview – Mark Speed

I’m always a bit nervous about reading indie authors I meet (even if I am one) because you never know what you’re going to get. We all know the quality varies substantially. I know a lot of readers who refuse to read indie books at all. That’s a real pity, because while they might successfully avoid some of the dreck out there, they’ll also miss some damned good books.

Dr How, Mark Speed’s Dr Who parody easily comes under the latter category. Parody is tricky to get right, and far too often it just ends up being a hatchet job of the original. Not so here.

Speed pulls it off. The series is not only professionally and skillfully written, but was also an enormous pleasure to read. Dr How and The Illegal Aliens was one of the most London-y books I’ve ever read: imaginative and funny with some truly delicious puns. Speed writes with great skill, and the stories are more than capable of standing on their own feet.

DrHowAliens

These aren’t books only for Dr Who fans. Any reader with a taste for comedic writing and fun fantasy will enjoy them.
You really aren’t losing anything by giving it a go, and I recommend that you do. There’s nothing like finding an exciting new author.
I’ve asked Mark along to answer some of my questions about the series and his writing.

Your work is original and very funny, but parody is a particularly tricky genre to get right, what drew you to it?

Sci-fi has always been my favourite genre, and I was a teenager when Hitchhiker’s Guide came out and sent it all up. I loved Douglas Adams’ outlandish ideas. Writing the Doctor How series was my chance to have some real fun, without the strictures of ‘normal’ storytelling.

No one had done a Doctor Who parody before, and I didn’t want it to be along the somewhat disparaging lines of Bored of the Rings or Barry Trotter. I love Doctor Who and it’s part of the tapestry of my life, and some of my earliest memories are cowering behind the sofa on Saturday evenings as a child.

Whilst an author is protected under the law governing satire, I wanted to do something more creative than to just mimic. So I decided that I would create an alternative universe, starting with the assumption that the BBC had been given the wrong story back in 1963. That allowed me to do a few things. First of all, it pays homage to Doctor Who as a work of fiction. It keeps it intact as a set of stories within its own space, but at the same time provides an alternative viewpoint. At the same time, it provides a rational explanation for all the horrendous timeline conflicts that exist in the Whoniverse. If you go to Reddit you’ll find fans doing their nuts trying to keep track of the mess that 50+ years of different script editors have made. It was the chance to start with a clean slate, and I’m sure the writers on Doctor Who would sometimes kill for that. In The Day of the Doctor, they even had to find a way of undoing the horrendous acts he committed during the Time War. If you start from the premise of ‘What if the BBC had the wrong story?’ it leads you down some interesting paths. Why was the term ‘Time Lords’, rather than ‘Time Keepers’ chosen, for example?

Some extraordinary things happen later in the series that you simply couldn’t do in Doctor Who. Without wanting to ruin it for readers, I cross some major boundaries.

The story is very, very British, as is the humour. I grew up in South Africa, and if it weren’t for living in London for ten years I think some of it might have confused me (the rhyming slang being an obvious example). I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed Kevin’s character as much. The UK isn’t a small market for ebooks, but it pales in comparison to the US, how have you found your writing is received in other countries?

Doctor Who himself is very British – he’s the ultimate Great British Eccentric – an archetype recognised the world over. One of the UK’s biggest exports is our famous sense of humour, and our language has come to be the world’s lingua franca. Our unique humour has been exported too via the likes of Monty Python, Are You Being Served? and Little Britain, amongst many others. Harry Potter has also done an enormous amount for popularising British fictional characters and accents amongst an audience that includes Who fans.

The US market is about five times the size of the UK, but they have always supported a much stronger sci-fi market because they’re a more forward-looking society and don’t have that British Literary Establishment baggage which frowns upon anything enjoyably readable. Sci-fi in the UK has only recently begun to be taken seriously. The term Whovian was coined in the US for fans of Doctor Who – and it’s in the US that the conventions began.

Fans of the Doctor How series in the US have written to tell me that they’ve recommended it to other Doctor Who fans, and passed the paperbacks around, but fans in the UK have said they’ve met a lot of resistance. I’m not sure whether it’s because we see Doctor Who as an almost inviolable cultural hero here. I did worry about a backlash by hardcore fans, but everyone seems to have taken it in the way I intended: it’s a homage, and a different perspective on a hero I grew up with.

If the series were to be adapted for TV, which actor would you imagine being cast as Dr How? (Oddly, when I thought this I imagined Peter Capaldi. Possibly because he’s not as boisterous as Who’s earlier incarnations. He might make a better How than Who)

This is the weird thing. I started planning this series in early 2012. I began writing it in 2013 and finished writing book one about a month after Capaldi was announced as the new Doctor. I published Doctor How and the Illegal Aliens in March 2014. It really freaked a lot of my friends out that I had – to a certain extent – nailed Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor in terms of his dress and personality. So I think you’re right – Capaldi would make a better How than a Who!

I do a little acting, improvising and comedy (I’ve taken a one-hour solo comedy show to the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of times). A great many of my friends remarked how similar How is to my own personality, so I wouldn’t mind a crack at it myself. An odd fact worth mentioning is that Peter Capaldi, Stephen Moffatt and I were all born within a few miles and a few years of each other in Glasgow, and in the same maternity hospital. Maybe there was something in the water at that time?

There’s an enormous amount of natural humour in your books, and you clearly have a great deal of fun playing with words. Do you think you’d be able to write a strictly ‘serious’ book, or would you struggle to stop the humour seeping in?

I had counselling recently about some really serious stuff. My poor therapist found it hard to do her job at some points because I kept cracking her up. It’s how I’ve always dealt with problems.

A few years ago I did get about 30,000 words into a very ‘serious’ literary work, which I would like to come back to and complete. It deals with some truly horrific issues, but still in the background there are some humorous notes playing if you listen for them. I found it almost impossible to turn off the humour completely. If you read the memoirs by Brian Keenan and John McCarthy of their five-year kidnapping ordeals (most of which they spent blindfolded and chained up, and were regularly beaten) you can see that they found humour even in those dark hours.

I think humour was designed to keep us sane. If you’re going to have an intelligent creature that can plan for the future and understand its own fate, it needs a coping mechanism.

Where do you see the Dr How series going? Do you have a specific arc in mind for the character?

I’m in the process of finishing book three of five. I planned the character arcs back in 2012 and have been refining them as I plan each book in more detail.

Doctor How and Kevin both have definite arcs. Kevin is human, and is changed because that’s the essence of humanity. There’s a limit to how much you can change a Time Keeper, but regeneration allows for some radical changes. I should note that it’s a key feature of the series that we meet one more of Doctor How’s cousins in each of the novels.

You can find out more about Dr How here, or connect with Mark on his website, Amazon, or Goodreads.