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Showing posts from 2008

New Music Thoughts

I've bought a few albums over the last three or four weeks - nothing surprising there with me being a big music fan I guess. Been listening through the new ones and have mixed feelings.

I bought the new Queen+Paul Rogers album. It's nice enough but I just don't get why they did it - beyond the cynical let's make some more money reason. It just doesn't do much for me at all. It has Queen touches but no real Queen soul. It has bluesy Paul Rogers bits but not enough to really satisfy. It's a bit of a mish-mash and I can't see much point.

Bought the new Metallica album too. After weeks of hearing commentaries about how this could be Metallica's last chance to show they can be the band that made Master of Puppets and the Black Album the CD finally arrived. I've played it - several times. I've considered it and then I read some reviews of it. I tried not to read all that many before hearing it myself. Well I'm not so sure. There are a couple of good…

Friday Blues

I feel like crap! Sorry to be blunt and sorry to foist this upon you. Mind you, saying that, I am under no illusions that people actually read these blog entries. I write them for little more than cathartic purposes - a way to get things off my chest.

Okay maybe I am being a bit of aman complaining about a little cold, but to be honest it's not the cold that's getting to me. I'm just tired. I'm working too much. I need to do it and I want to do it. I enjoy the job I have now and I believe in it. But I am hoping that the long hours are only short term.

It feels too long since I've had a serious break, a chance to recharge.

I know things just went this way. My wife lost her job and so the summer holiday had to be cancelled. Plain and simple - happens to a lot of people.

So I worked long hours in the last weeks at my previous job - including weekends to make some extra money. And then I cashed in my holiday days remaining to help the family finances. End result by year…

Thank you Desmond Carrington (I Never Thought I'd Say That)

My musical tastes are a little diverse. However I never thought I would ever find something on Desmond Carrington's show on BBC Radio 2. He plays oldies usually - fifties crooners and show tunes. I don't even listen to his show normally.

Today though I did by mistake. I left work late (go live - different story) and switch on the radio. I listen to BBC Radio 4 a great deal. When I left work today I was listening to Front Row - the station's nightly culture show. Well I was briefly, as I switch on it finished and it was about to go into the nightly serial. That didn't sound interesting so I switched to Radio 2 wondering if tonight was the night they have a Blues show - that's usually quite good.

It wasn't - I missed that by a day. It's on Mondays. However when I clicked over I heard some very pleasing Irish folk music with female vocals. I'm a long time Clannad and Maddy Prior fan so it instanly appealed. What he was playing was a song by American folkies …

Lincolnshire Plum Bread

This weekend I went to visit my mother. She lives in Lincolshire - about half way between Skegness and Grimsby. We popped over to Alford whilst we were up there with the intention of picking up some lavender oil - my mother likes scenting her house with lavender. Unfortunately the shop where we used to buy it is closed and seems to have been closed for a long, long time. It had been a while - last time we bought her a large bottle of the stuff and it lasted over two years.

Fortunately though just around the corner from where the oil shop used to be is a deli, one that sells some of the most wonderful things - cheeses, pastes, oils, james, meats (the in-laws are carnivorous after all) and breads. And oh, the breads. Wow! Lincolnshire Plum Bread is absolutely heavenly. If you ever in that part of the world try to find some. You won't regret it.

What's the point of blogs?

They're odd things. I guess a lot of people just use them like diaries, or maybe to keep family members up to date with events and the like. Some people use them to put forward outlandish thoughts - conspiracy theorists and the like.

(As a side thought I never overly get conspiracies. Not that I don't believe that conspiracies never happen, just the at the popular ones seem unbelievable to me - Marilyn Monroe, President Kennedy, Diana, Princess of Wales, the "fake" moon landings and Roswell. I just can't fathom them. There are times when the obvious reason to me is the right one. Just because you don't like the official version of things don't mean they are wrong. I digess anyway - back to blogs.)

Others use blogs to highlight their point of view. And they are becoming increasingly listened to.

I mean the US political parties are allowing some bloggers access to their candidates during this election campaign. This new media is becoming very important.

So shou…

Age Darkens

I know tastes change as you age. I accept this - in many ways I look forward to it. I have always enjoyed new things - okay new to me might be a little more accurate, this can involve discovering musical artists I'd previously overlooked, old films, re-runs, classic novels and the like.

But one thing I have noticed recently is that my tastes have edged darker and heavier. In many ways they've gone back to the type of things I used to watch and listen to when I was a kid. Musically my favourite bands at the moment are Metallica, Rush, Iron Maiden and Dream Theater. I still like The Who, Yes, Pink Floyd, Suzanne Vega and the like. It's just I prefer something a little heavier these days. When I feel like some music I'm more likely to put on Nick Cave, Disturbed or Stonesour than REM or U2.

My reading tastes have darkened too - I'm reading horror as the norm, rather than sf. I'm watching horror films and crime and horror TV shows like Dexter and Bones and my old fav…

Bernard Hamandcheesetoastie

This is cathartic. It's a chance to remind myself that I want to be a writer. I've done. I've sold eighty pieces - heavily weighted though that number is in the direction of reviews. But I've not done any real writing for a little while. I've tried. I've half started a number of reviews - for Kevin Anderson's The Ashes of Worlds, for Thomas Disch's The Word of God, for Mike Resnick's Stalking the Vampire, for Nigel Suckling's The Book of the Vampire and for Tim Lebbon's The Reach of Children. I guess I can add Brian Keene's Ghost Walk to the list too as I finished reading it last night.

They are all good. I need to get them all reviewed. It's just my mind's been out of sorts. When I finally came to the conclusion I had to leave my last job it was a jolt. It threw me off balance. When I received the job offer (from my now employer) I bucked up a little. I began writing again - polishing off a couple more comic horror tales (which h…

Happy-slapping Eeyore

It's Tuesday - day two of my wife's new job. Good thing too - money is always helpful. Only problem is it's in Peterborough. Nothing wrong with Peterborough - except if you live in Ashby de la Zouch. It's a good two hours drive there and back so it means she is staying in a B&B nearby and is away between Monday morning and Thursday evening.

It has lead to odd conversations. We have them at times - most often when we are driving and just passing the time. So we have a new medium for them - the nightly telephone calls.

Tonight's conversation lead to one of the bizarrest concepts yet - hence the title. And all because of the need to buy a coffee cup. Her new employer has a coffe machine - nothing unusual so far. It dispenses plastic cups and my wife prefers real mugs and cups. So a quick visit to a supermarket and (apparantly - I wasn't there) the choice was between two - Tigger and Eeyore.

It came down to one thing - the fact that my wife always found Eeyore to …

100 Things to Do Before You Die

I am a sucker for lists - and UK newspaper The Independent has posted a list (with pictures) of 100 Things to Do Before You Die. Here's the link

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/100-things-to-do-before-you-die-912856.html

And for the record - I've not done any of them - although I have been in Venice whilst the Biennale was on - but we didn't go anywhere near it as we wanted to see the town itself.
And we've not been there during the Carnivale either.

Detached from Reality

I've never been a fan of football (soccer to any Americans reading this). When it comes to sports I like rugby and cricket - and I will admit American Football. But for some reason soccer never got me. When I was a kid I never minded it all that much - although any attraction I had for it melted away as my childhood ended.But in recent years I've grown in despair more and more about it as a sport. And the reason for this is nothing to do with it as a sport. It's the fact that football seems to have become a glamour sport. From the outside it gives the appearance of being more about hairdos, tattoos and image. Oh, and money.And today I saw something that appalled me - and before anyone criticises what I am about to type I realise that the following is just a rumour. The BBC website is reporting that Manchester City's new owner will make an offer for their neighbour Manchester United's star player Cristiano Ronaldo said to be in the region of GBP 135 MILLION.This is …

Good Food - in Derby

Yesterday we went into Derby to take of the regular stuff - banking, picking up magazines etc. What we found there was a wonderful surprise. All through the middle of Derby was a market - lots of French/Italian/Greek/German food stalls (with some smattering of craft stuff).

Being a family full of avid foodies (or greedy types if you want us to be honest) this was something we simply had to indulge in. And the reason is simple. When it comes to it our European friends do the basics of food so much better than the English. That and there is not quite the culture of fast food over on mainland Europe. I've seen Burger joints in France and Italy but they don't seem to be as much in the mainstream of culture as in the UK.

I'm not saying saying that the English cannot produce great food, quite the opposite. The best of English food can be up there with the best in the world. The problem is that it is not all that good if you are a vegetarian (and I am).

However if you talk Mediterra…

One last though - Black Sheep

Before I head off to read my book I though I'd better just mention a truly wonderful (or awful, not quite sure which) movie. It's a spoof horror film from New Zealand called Black Sheep. It is the first film that has had me, my wife and both of her parents laughing out loud at. A truly rare thing.

It combines a bit of moralising (against genetic engineering in farming and various environmental issues) with a boy-comes-home tale, totally wonderful scenery, a love story and the most ridiculous horror imaginable. Great stuff - well worth a laugh.

Underneath it all

I am an intelligent and educated man. I studied astrophysics at University so I feel this boast is backed up by some evidence. I can speak Italian (reasonably well) and some French. I like theatre (although not musicals), I visit castles, cathedrals and country houses for fun - even venture into the middle of nowhere to see stone circles and other prehistoric sites. I have a fondness for cairns, dolmens and other stone age structures. I read science books, history books, archaeology, mythology, politics, art etc etc etc.

I consider myself a cultured fellow.

So why is it then that I have just watched, and thoroughly enjooyed, bull-riding on the TV. What gets me especially is that, on top of everything mentioned above, I'm English. I've never been to Texas (I know, I am implying this is a purely Texan sport - let me off on this one, I'm on a rant).

So bull-riding, hmmh! I might pretend to being all high-brow and superior (remember ranting, I'm honestly not too bad - I hope …

Wonderful pedantry

I am a pedant. Many of my friends would say it is one of my defining characteristics. I cannot help being pedantic. Most often I see it as an intolerance on my part to growing incorrectness.

It's a debate I have with myself from time to time - mostly when it concerns the English Language. I make mistakes in it, but I try not to do so. I know which is the correct version of its/it's to use. I know their vs. they're vs. there. I can differentiate between two, to and too.

I also have dislikes apart from simple misspellings (and I am not talking typos here - this editor doesn't spell check so some may get passed me).

My main bugbear is "try and". To me that suggests you are going to try AND you are going to do it. Surely it should be "try to". I am going to "try to" write grammatically correct English. Second in my pet-hates list comes "should of". I know it sounds like that but it's quite simply wrong. "Should have", &quo…

And talking of music

Back in the 1908s I watched, like many others, the mini-series "V". One of the characters (Robin) was played by a young actress called Blair Tefkin. That was that, so I thought.

Well Tefkin is also a musician. Or rather these days she is mainly a musician -I don't think she has acted in years. And I have a copy of her CD Shocked and Devastated. I love it, reminds me a lot of The Throwing Muses - another of those bands I liked back in the 1908s. S+D sounds a little out of its time when you consider it was released in 2000.

To me elements of it sound like 1960s early psychedelia era stuff, all jangly and upbeat. But more than this it sounds like the US-Indie stuff of the 1980s - hence the Throwing Muses reference.

All the same I think it's great and I wish she would release a second album.

Que Te Quiero

Talk about missing the boat (musically here).

I have always been a passionate fan of music - and not afraid to pick my tastes purely on the grounds that I like things. In fact I will always consider any person's musical taste to be equally valid compared to mine. That is, if they have a defined musical taste and don't just sheepishly follow a trend. I accept some people like the current club-scene dance music stuff. I don't but if they have a passion then that's all to the good. It's not having musical taste that I don't get.

Mine results in a core set of likes (NWOBHM, Prog-Metal, Prog-Rock, Folk, some rock - Springsteen end, etc) but it does mean I have odd bits thrown in to the mix.

Most of this comes from my formative years being at the very end of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s. As a result I quite like some bits of 1980s pop. I like Ultravox, The Jam, The Style Council, U2, Simple Minds, Suzanne Vega etc. Nothing to gain me odd looks at all. But t…

One of those books

Every now and again a book clicks. It hits me at just the right moment. Often these are books I wold consider amongst the best ever written (Clifford Simak's City, Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, Ward Moore's Bring the Jubliee, Frnak Herbert's Dune etc etc etc). But as often it's just because the book is the right one for the frame of mind I find myself in.

This is where I am now. Although I would say the book is superb, there is more of the right timing about it than it being in the list of ultimates.

Anyway, enough procrastinating, the book in question is Kevin J. Anderson's The Ashes of Worlds.

This series started six years ago with Hidden Empire and right from the get-go I was completely and utterly hooked. It's odd in one respect. My normal tastes are for single volume short novels or preferably novellas. (And yes I realise Frank Herbert's Dune is not particularly short at 600+ pages and Asimov's Foundation Trilogy is, well, a trilogy.)

But Anderson&#…

It's Groundhog Day...Again!

I have a number of favourite films, one I can watch over and over. They usually fit into two categories.

The first type comprise the action films, the science fiction and horror films - the ones everyone would expect from me - Highlander, Terminator, Die Hard, Scream, Starship Troopers, Robocop, Star Treks and so on.

The second type seems to surprise a lot of people when they find out. I like sentimental and feelgood movies - It's a Wonderful Life, Love Actually, The Fabulous Baker Boys and Fried Green Tomatoes being typical examples.

But above all other films there is one I can watch over and over, and you could say it spans both areas. The film is Groundhog Day. It is simply wonderful, and always guaranteed to make me smile.

And yes I am watching it again right now!!!!

Writing Rethink

About a year and a half back I decided to start writing. I'd been a reader for many, many years and wanted to give it a go. I started in easy, writing reviews for various magazines, then added articles. Went well at first. I sold most of what I submitted.

But I wanted more. I have been a fanatical reader of science fiction and horror. So like most people in that position I wanted to write it. So I have tried. I have written about 20 stories - mostly horror, mostly what I would consider comedic. Seems I'm alone though.

I have submitted these tales to various magazines and websites out there and have the grand total of NO SALES. Bugger!

Well okay maybe I am not being totally honest here. I have sold one drabble (100 word short story). Wasn't connected to these though. I write an article on Jack the Ripper a little while back and had an idea for a twisted little meander. So I scrawled it down, sent it off and, much to my surprise, they took it.

So that was nice - a good warm feel…

If Only Someone Will Buy My House

We went out today - myself, my wife and her parents. We went to Market Harborough in Leicestershire. I've always liked this town - I find it friendly, welcoming and homely. So much so I would like to live in the area.

We popped into a couple of estate agents in town to see what the housing stock nearby is like. We picked up details on a couple and went driving - just to have a look round, find which villages we like.

Well we found a couple. And one in particular. A wonderful, wonderful seventeenth century house with a courtyard garden. And it's within the price range. It would be absolutely ideal. Only problem is we haven't manage to sell our house. And at the moment that doesn't look all that likely...

Such is life. I suppose the good news is that with the housing market the way it is there is a good chance that it will still be available when we are in a position to buy. Fingers crossed.

Goya's Ghosts

Wow! I sat down this evening with the family. Just to relax, wind down after the week at work. We clicked onto the movie channels and found Goya's Ghosts. All I can say is wow! This has to be one of the finest films I have seen in a long, long time - maybe years.

Francisco Goya, the Spanish Inquisition, Napoleon Bonaparte, heartbreak - strong emotions and occasional brutality, but all done well. Superb.

Odd Socks

The human race is an odd animal. We're not that far removed from pack animals. We like to follow. We set things up to allow us to follow - fashion, pop charts etc etc...

Facebook seems to be one of these things. I have a few friends on my Facebook profile, 89 at the time of writing - not bad for a anti-social so-and-so like me. The one thing I keep noticing, and falling for, on Facebook is groups and fan pages.

These notices pop up every time I log onto Facebook telling me the various things my friends have signed up for. And invariably I join one or two or swear my allegiance to someone or something - announcing myself to the world as a "fan".

I believe anything could get fans on Facebook - any actor, writer, singer, object or activity - The Toxic Avenger, Vampires, Backgammon, CDs, DVDs, BluRay, Lawnmowers, Baseball Caps or even Odd Socks...

We are sheep - baaa!!!

America Watching - From Afar

The American election gets a lot of coverage on the media over here. A lot. Just as well I like politics and current affairs. I guess a lot of people don't. I've heard a number of people here complain about it's level of coverage. The old thing about why do we care about the US election over here in England...

I guess it's the fact that the US is the world's greatest power. Still is, although no idea for how long they will remain on top. So they are important - and this process will determine how the course of the US for the next four years (at least until the next round of elections come around. Nothing major seems to happen during the election rigmarole).

But it's also a great circus. Bright lights, bold colours, bouncy music - everything over the top. In comparison election campaigns over here in the UK are dull.

I enjoy the circus. Odd really. I never liked the real circus.

Bloody Packaging

I've been a bit of an eco-hippy in some ways for years. I've recycled glass and paper as long as I can remember. I drive a small engined car, and don't make too many unnecessary journeys. Etc etc etc.

I could go on - many would. I'm not trying to preach though. I'm just trying to set the scene (so to say). After all I like Italy and fly there every now and again to recharge my batteries.

But packaging irritates the hell out me. Okay I can recycle a good deal of it, but why is there so much of it. I try to avoid much of it - not buying items that are overly packaged, but it is annoying.

I prefer to buy fresh produce - ideally from a market stall. So one of my gripes is easily avoidable - that of individual shrink-wrapped vegetables and fruit. These really are baffling to me. Why plastic wrap fruit and veg? I can just about cope with supermarkets attaching little sticky labels to apples telling me they are apples - okay, I am being flippant, they do say which type of ap…

Addendum

I've skimmed back through the post I just completed. Made me sound like a right depressive. I'm not. I'm generally a happy person.

It also made me sound like a self-conscious person with little confidence. I'm not. See me at work, at the day job, and I'm anything but. I know what I'm doing there though. I'm in my comfort zone - even this early into my current position. I might not know the system, but I do know how to design software. I can program - and well.

Writing though, that's out there. I never took any subjects beyond sixteen that required essay answers. In Mathematics, Computing and Astrophysics things are right or wrong. No real middle ground...

Well, back to it.

Keeping your spirits up - it's hard

For years and years I skirted on the edge of writing. I read a lot - and I mean a LOT. I read about books, about authors and about writing. I wrote many, many reviews - for various fan sites all over. Then last year I took the plunge - gave it a go and started to submit.

But I still played it safe. The majority of what I wrote were still reviews - although with articles thrown in here and there. For the most part they sold. Not too bad.

However I started to get story ideas. I should have resisted. Since then I have written a dozen or so short stories - mostly horror-lite with comedy (or at least I think they are comedic, I might be biased). And of these I have sold none.

Well to be fair I did sell a 100 word drabble to Necrotic Tissue - so I have sold something and you should have seen the grin on my face for the few days after that.

But of my short stories - nothing. And I have had a number of rejections, none of them too bad in themselves, but they do tend to get to you. Especially when…

Trying to relax - not successfully though...

I started this day on this blog...

I decided to get back into the typing thing by blogging. I've not been all that much in the write frame of mind of late. Work pressures got to me. I admit it.

I left my old job a week ago. The last few week's were fraught - after nine years it really became a wrench to the system. That and the last week I have been concerned about making a good impression at my new employers - hopefully not too obviously whilst I am actually there though. The evenings and this long weekend being the fraught time.

So I have not been the most relaxed when trying to scrawl. I've been working on a short story - featuring demons and ghosts, zombies and werewolves. After a little over a week it is not half finished, and only about 800 words long. I've tried an article - got a great idea for a piece for Raving Dove, hoping lightning can strike twice - and I've tried reviews. Nothing doing.

So I've watched an episode or two (Torchwood and Pushing Daisies)…

More music, more music, more music, Part 3

Okay, moving on.

Choice nine is an album that has been in the 6-CD rack in my car for the past four years - Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run. It's title track aside (stunning though it is) the album is just packed with wonderful, wonderful songs. The opening track Thunder Road is one of my favourite songs - although I do believe I never mentioned it when listing favourite songs - and includes one of the greatest lyrics I've ever heard in "You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright" - Bruce certainly knows how to woo the women.

Each of the tracks on this album is a classic. They'd be stand out tracks on most other artists albums .Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, Night, Backstreets, Born to Run, She's the One, Meeting across the River and Jungeland. They are all truly great.

I have to admit I love Springsteen's music (no sorry, most of Springsteen's music - The ghost of Tom Joad went a little too country for me, and the Seeger Sessions stu…

More music, more music, more music Part 2

Okay two down (Metallica's Master of Puppets and U2's The Joshua Tree) down - guess that means I need to find another eight albums for my list.

I have to move onto one of my favourite bands - King Crimson. I pondered this one for a while. I like this band immensely but which album above all others. I know I never said I was only going to pick one album per band but somehow it seems right to. Listing ten albums by the same band (say Dream Theater, more on them later) wouldn't really say much about me - except look at the sad Dream Theater fan.

So I thought about their debut album - In the Court of the Crimson King. It's an absolute classic, but is it their best? To be honest it is a bit floaty at times. The opening track - 21st Century Schizoid Man is inspired. I have no idea what effect this would have had in 1969 when the album was originally released. It was good and fresh sounding when I first heard it more than a decade later, but in 1969 that track must have been tr…

More music, more music, more music

A little while ago I listened in to a conversation about the best albums ever made. Annoying thing is I cannot remember where it took place. It could have been on TV, on the radio (but I only listen to Radio 4 so that's not all that likely) , in the pub, on a train or pretty much anywhere. I blame an aging brain for not remembering the exact details of when and where...

However my half-formed memory did leave me pondering the idea. Not original I know. I guess just about eveyone has done this over the years but it has bugged me. I have listened and relistened to a number of albums trying to work out which I considered best. I've been trying to leave aside personal feelings towards certain albums for associative reasons. I like Rush's 2112 (the first of their albums I listened to) and Hold Your Fire (as it was the album that confirmed me in 1987 as a die-hard Rush fan - guess it came along at the right moment) but I wouldn't put either down as their best - even if 2112 i…

Je suis un philistin??? And an Olympic hope.

I admit it. It's true. I am. I must be.

I've just sat down to watch the closing ceremony of the Olympics. The fireworks were nice - pretty even. Then the dancers came in, the drummers and the men riding large wheels. I lost it when that happened.

The commentators started talking symbolism. That's the usual point when I leave the room - and I'm not talking metaphorically - I actually leave. I have to. If I stay beyond that moment my natural sarcastic self has nothing stopping it surfacing and my family would probably kill me (and yes I mean this is figuratively).

It's like ballet and interpretive dance. My brain simply isn't wired that way. Abstract art I can do - and like greatly. Whacked out weirdo music also good. But choreography? Not for me.

Thankfully my family called me down to see the London bit. For eight minutes there was a presentation of what London will be like. And it had Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis playing "Whole Lotta Love".

I am so hopefull …

What a week the world has had.

Well, whilst I've been through my own personal change - the world has also been having a weird old time.

Just when we have ten used to one pretty worrying thing, another comes along to rattle us a little further.

Musharraf has resigned in Pakistan. Okay he came to power in a coup and overthrew a democratic government but Pakistan has been pretty stable these last few . Given its location in the world - bordering Afghanistan one side and India on the other - this is one country we all want to remain stable. Two suicide bombings in Wah haven't helped the government's cause there.

The world economy is spiralling downwards, energy prices high, food prices high, credit crunches etc etc - scary times.

Russia and Georgia fighting over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A plane crash in Madrid. Safari deaths in Africa, insurgents fighting in Somali, bombings in Algiers, etc

The world seems to be going to hell.

However I found some bits of news to make me smile (apart from GB/NI winning 19 Gold…

One week down

Sitting here typing late on a Saturday afternoon I have survived week one in my new job.

I have to admit to being very nervous on Monday morning as I drove in to the new office. After all it had been nine years three months and eight days since I last drove to a new job (and yes I realise knowing this kind of thing to the day is kind of sad - but I have always been able to remember this kind of rubbish).

New people to meet, to get to know, to work with. New systems to learn, understand and improve. New industry to get used to. It ain't advertising anymore.

So one week down I have to say it's been good. It's going to be hard work, it's going to be stressful at times I am sure. But I think I'm up to it.

Wish me luck...

Writing Update

I have writing news. It's been a while - pressures of work have meant I've not been writing much these past few weeks.

But I have had some feedback/updates on earlier writings. A couple more rejections - one review, one drabble. You can't win them all.

On the good side though my copy of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #36 arrived today - containing my review of Paul Collins and Danny Willis's Allira's Gift - book on of a young adult fantasy series that is quite enchanting. And I received notice that a poem I write way, way, way back at the turn of the year has gone live at Fear and Trembling - the link in case you are interested is below

http://fearandtremblingmag.com/item.php?sub_id=3682

New Beginnings - Strangely the Same

Today I started my new day job. Everything is different except my drive to work.

The new company is directly over the road from the old one. At least for a week, next weekend my new company moves into its new offices - so just four more days before I move and things get a little better. I won't look out and see the old office.

It's going to be a hell of a learning curve. After nine years programming the same way, for the same company, the same industry and the same clients, I have a new system to learn - a new mindset to adopt.

Wish me luck - it's going to be fun.

Endings - New Starts - Odd Thoughts

Life is in transition...

I've been working for the same company for nine years. Until yesterday that is.

Nine years doing the same job, seeing the same people every day - and it's over.

I resigned a month ago, and yesterday was my final day. It's still sinking in.

In many ways I regret having left, but I had to. Things had changed.

The company had grown in the last year, new people had joined.

I had reached the point I did not see my future being there - but still I didn't want to leave.

I start afresh on Monday - new company, new job, new industry, new office, new set of people.

I'm apprehensive. I'm excited. I'm edgy. I'm optimistic. I'm determined to succeed.

I feel this will be good.

Stranger Than Fiction

I've never seen a film with Will Ferrell in a starring role before. In fact the only things I've ever seen him in have been two Austin Powers movies and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and trailers to numerous movies I have no interest in ever seeing - Anchorman, Blades of Glory and films like this hold no interest for me.

I don't tend to get along with many American comedy films. American Pie and all similar films usually leave me cold.

But Stranger Than Fiction had a few things that grabbed my attention. For one thing Emma Thompson - I've been a huge fan of hers for years. I consider her a great actress and, importantly for me, intelligent. And this isn't me attributing positive characteristics to someone I like - this woman has won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. That's not something you get unless you can string a few words together.

Secondly Dustin Hoffman - a great, great actor who has starred in some of my favourite movies - and I'm thinking Wag th…

Facebook - The Bane of Writing

I have to admit an addiction to Facebook. Not so much for the making of friends - although it's very nicely re-introduced me to a couple of old University friends I'd thought long in my past. No the thing I like (and dislike) about it is that it has puzzle games likes Scramble, Word Twist and Pathwords - all of which allow you to play against friends.

And there's nothing I like more than word games.

The result - I've spent another lunchtime playing games on Facebook when I really intended to do some research for a history article. Darn! Good fun though.

Old SF films

I've spent today working. I know a Sunday and I've been working - the day job really does get in the way. Well one more week and that will be a thing of the past (new job aug 18 - but that's another story).

I've been keeping going with cricket (which will surprise no one) and old science fiction movies - makes a change from old horror movies.

Just watching the end scences of Wedlock (with Rutger Hauer and Mimi Rogers) after having watched Trancers & Trancers 2 earlier. It's been a blast. The only problem is trying to find copies of Trancers 3 to 6. I can get the first five in a box set but it feels a little bit wrong to do so as I already have the first two.

Maybe I should just get it and list my copies on eBay - you never know they might sell.

Next time I have some work to do like this I might go for Terminator and Terminator 2. That or dig out my copy of Highlander and Salute of the Jugger.

Cricket and Francesco

Kevin Pietersen made his debut as England Cricket captain in a match which really doesn't matter.

Ah well, it was good to see England on top for once - and Steve Harmison back bowling well - even if the result doesn't really matter with south Africa 2-0 to the good with just this match left.

We've been enjoyed the latest Francesco da Mosto series - a voyage across the Mediterranean following the old Venetian trading routes. I've just watched last 's two episodes - a day late because I'd gone to a now-ex-colleague's leaving do. Wonderful show as always - Francesco is very charismatic and enthusiastic. He brings real feeling to his shows. I just wish he did one every year rather than one every other year.

Mind you perhaps the wait contributes to my enjoyment...

Catching up with Films

Okay, now I know no one can ever accuse me of being up to date with movies, but I have to admit being particularly behind with regards Spiderman films. I watched the first in the series a while back but had never managed to find time for numbers two and three.

I figured as number four is going to be made I'd better catch up...

So this evening I made time and sat down, with the family, to watch Spiderman 2. My, that was a waste of time. Not exactly a brilliant film. Okay, there are some decent enough moments in the film, but generally it's not all that brilliant.

And yes, I will be watching the third soon.

English Cricket

England lost the third test against South Africa - and with it the series. Not exactly news I know. I spent yesterday watching England work pretty hard at rescuing the match, but in the end South Africa proved themselves the better team.

And today Michael Vaughan has resigned as England captain. Well, all I can say is well done. Well done Michael for all the service put in over the years, for all the good you have done for English cricket and for the dignified way in which you brought your time as captain to a close. Under your leadership England became a force in world cricket again - no longer a whipping boy.

I also have to say "Well done" to Paul Collingwood. Like many, many others I was moaning about his recall to the England team for the Third Test. He'd done nothing whatsoever in months and I thought Ravi Bopara should have been picked ahead of him. But he came to the wicket on Friday, still looking hopeless but battled - and battled harder than just about anyone I…

nossa morte

The latest issue of nossa morte - complete with three of my reviews went live last night.

Here's the link...

http://www.nossamorte.com/

The most depressing part of writing

Before you start thinking I am going to mention rejections, stop! I am not. Rejections are par for the course. You come into this game knowing you will get rejections.

The most depressing part for me is finding the markets. I often spend more time trying to find where to submit a piece than I did writing it. And I have to say it is just plain annoying.

I have found many places to submit stories, reviews and articles over the months I've been doing this. And I am grateful to them all for being so accepting, helpful and kind to me (and for the acceptances I've received of course). but I don't want to overload them with submissions - for one thing many of these sites limit the amount you can send for an issue.

So having a newly written review in hand I set out to find a possible market for it. That was two hours ago and I am still looking...

fotolog

After a period of pretty much ignoring my fotolog page - through pressures of work then job hunting and prioritising my writing over this kind - I have decided to start posting to it again. And hopefully I will get back to some kind of regularity.

to this end, yesterday and today I have added two new photographs - of Rome's Pantheon and a terracotta-tiled roof in Turin (as seen from the Mole)

If you want to go over and see my fotolog - all images are places in Italy, you won't get any cutesy family shots on my blog - you can find it by clicking the link below

http://www.fotolog.com/ielester

Hope there's something there you'll enjoy.

IE

nossa morte update

I've just received an update from nossa . They have decided to run another of my reviews in the August issue - that of Graham Masterton's The 5th Witch.

So all three book reviews they are featuring in this next issue were written by yours truly.

Kinda cool.

More review sales

I have two new reviews appearing in Issue 4 of nossa morte. The first is a review of Tim Lebbon and Christopher Golden's Mind the Gap, the other of Nate Kenyon's Bloodstone.

Should be available early next month.

you can find them at http://www.nossamorte.com/

Thomas M. Disch

A little over a week ago an author I particularly enjoy reading committed suicide. I tried writing this a few days ago but the words just wouldn't come.

If you asked me to list my favourite authors at any single point over the last few years Thomas M. Disch is unlikely to have ever featured on my list. Isaac Asimov, Edmund Cooper, Mike Resnick, Robert Charles Wilson, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Moorcock, Orson Scott Card, Paul di Filippo, Robert Heinlein, Stephen King and Zoran Zivkovic would all have been mentioned at one time or another - depending upon my mood. But not Disch.

Thinking of that now I find it odd. I have found his writing consistent. Every book entertained me. He was a great writer and I am saddened that once I have read all that currently exist, then there will be no more. There will be no new books in the future.

But equally I am saddened by the details I read - of his depression, of his mourning his partner, of his fears over eviction.

His life he obviously felt not …

Book stuff - a miracle

The miracle of miracles happened this week. A book exists that I have read and enjoyed, my wife has read and , and both her parents have also read and enjoyed.

And the miracle title is Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader - a delightful short novel with Her Majesty The Queen as central character. It is a little irreverent, although in a very gentle way. And an absolute pleasure to read.

How can you tell when it's summer in England?

The rain's warmer.

Okay, it's an old joke, but this supposed to be July. It's cold, it's raining all the time.

Ah well, it does make it easier to be at the keyboard.

Concerts

I like music - a great deal. I like live music a great deal and over the years I have been to a number of concerts.

More recently though the regularity has diminished somewhat. Most of the bands I like either no longer exist, are dead or just far below their best.

Recently though the chance to see a couple of concerts did come up - although for bands that are more my wife's taste than mine, so...

Last week we went to see Whitesnake / Def Leppard at the Birmingham N.E.C. Arena, and last night was Bon Jovi at Coventry's Ricoh Arena.

(I can't complain, I have dragged her to see Dream Theater and Yes over the years. And although she doesn't mind either band I believe her opinion of them is akin to mine of the bands we have seen in the last week.)

Well they were good, enjoyable even for a non-fan. Whitesnake are not the same band they were once. Literally! Only Coverdale remains from the classic line-ups of the 1980s. But they were pretty good, even superb on "Here I Go Aga…

Another sale, another rejection - sounds about even

Oddlands magazine has accepted my review of Rhys Hughes's novella Crystal Cosmos, The Drabblecast rejected a sf short story. Ah well, the story got a tweak and is out there again at another market.

Fingers crossed.

Now back to writing...

Like a Banana

I can't believe two months have passed since I last visited this blog.

It's unbelievable.

I can only blame it on work pressures. Sorry!

I've been coming home from the office late a lot this year. Hopefully not for too much longer though. And in having less time, and less energy, what I have had I have dedicated to writing pieces for sale.

Well, on that front I've not been doing too bad. I've had a bunch more reviews accepted at Shroud Magazine, and a puzzle and article in each of the first three issues. I am hoping to get enough time tomorrow to finish the article I want to submit for issue 4 - hope the editor likes it.

I've had reviews in Andromeda Spaceways (print) and nossa morte (web), and the biggest fun for me - a flash fiction tale accepted by Necrotic Tissue - should be in their July issue.

I've had a fair few rejections too I'm afraid, but I guess that's part of the game.

Anyway - hopefully the next blog post will not be too far off.

A Torrid Few Weeks

This last few weeks have been crazy. They've seen me working days often longer than 12 hours and weekends. And by this I mean the day . The result of this is that I have written almost nothing.

To compound my gloom most of the pieces I had sent out in the weeks before the MADNESS started were coming back during this period with rejections, or in one or two cases kind passes (book reviews where the book was not considered what they wanted to cover, although they did say the review itself was fine on both occasions).

Add to this spending great deals of time emptying the house so it looks more appealing to anyone coming to view it - we are hoping to sell it and move a little further north - somewhere up near the Peak District would be nice. time consuming work but also depressing. My books are no longer on shelves, but all boxed up and in a storage unit about 12 miles away. I'd guess only about a tenth of them are still here and most of those will be going too.

And in the middle of …

Sir Arthur C. Clarke

One of the authors that first attracted me to science fiction died today. Together with Isaac Asimov, Michael Moorcock and Robert Heinlein, Clarke's books grabbed me and filled me with a passion that has never left me.

These men were responsible in a large part for the man I became. I don't think that's an exaggeration. I read sf from the age of nine. It encouraged me towards science and my degree choice. It set me up for the life I've lived - in computing.

And more dear to me than just about anything these men began my love affair with books, something I pray will never end.

Thank you Sir Arthur.

Rest In Peace

Well that's been a couple of weeks.

I'd established a rhythm with this blog. Writing an entry or two nearly every day - all seemed well. Then the last two weeks happened. Crazy time. Too much work to be done (day job wise) and downtime became recovery time. The little time I had with sufficient energy to write I decided to concentrate on writing things that might make me some money.

So sorry about that - for anyone who is reading this blog. But I am hoping that things may return to normal somewhat, and that I can keep writing these entries.

Anyway, the last two weeks! Well I have done more than just right code. Visual Basic and SQL hasn't been my entire life.

Watched some good TV - Moonlight is a bit of a favourite, Dexter is seriously good and there have been the old favourites - Ashes to Ashes, Torchwood, Stargate , ER and the CSIs. and of course Time Team for my archaeology fix. All have been good, the return of Carson Beckett in Stargate Atlantis being surprisingly good - I was expenting a contrived little stor…

Time Team 7

The team were back in the west country, down near Bath investigating the site of Francis Popham's mansion at Hunstrete. Once more it looked like a quick and easy dig, after all they had pictures and inventories of the mansion.

But once again the truth ended up being more than was portrayed, the team uncovering a nice piece of Georgian deception with regards the house...

After more than a decade of watching this show I am still totally hooked.

Reading and watching

End of last week we received free DVDs for a couple of horror movies (reviewing has its perks). These were Furnace and The Ferryman.

Well the first of these has been watched and it was a little disappointing. Good start but it just didn't really deliver. It's also quite out of time in some ways. Since the Scream Trilogy came out with tongue-in-cheek discussions of the "rules" of horror movies, horror has changed format. The old style "it's behind you" style is gone for the most part, as are the "shapes seen in shadows" style scares of old.

This film, however, has them both in spades...

Book wise the last week has been the new Stephen King book Duma Key. King has lost none of his ability to write characters, but this didn't have the edge of his earlier work. The scares are not there, although he still knows how to write great characters.

What the hell's up with the rugby

I've watched three rugby matches in three weeks (of teams I support) - and each one has been terrible.

England in two of them were atrocious, and now Leicester Tigers have played far far below the level they are capable of, and lost to London Irish. Irish didn't play all that well themselves, it's just that Leicester made mistake after mistake after mistake.

Frustrating.

Torchwood and Ashes to Ashes 2

More nights, more TV. I know it's hardly the most inspiring thing to blog about but I don't go out every night so, okay for that matter any night really - I'm not a social animal (I may have mentioned that before).

But please don't think I sit in front of the TV all the time I'm not working. I don't. To be honest outside the shows mentioned in my blog and the occasional watching of an episode of the Book Show on Sky Arts and the odd documentary I don't tend to watch much TV.

But that's digression. The TV shows -

Torchwood is still great. The episode in question was fairly unoriginal in concept, a new team member has appeared out of nowhere, and everyone knows who he is and seems to believe he's been there for a few years. So obviously this new guy's not going to be good news.

This has been done before repeatedly and this could have been a pretty poor episode. But to be honest the plot here was incidental to playing with the backstories of the charac…

All Good Things...

I've been a cricket fan as long as I can remember. I have watched so many good players, never mind their team or nationality (although I would prefer more of the better ones to have been English), and always feel a pang when one of the best retires.

Shane Warne has gone, Chris Cairns, Brian Lara, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist all too. And now New Zealander Stephen Fleming has announced he will retire after the upcoming Test series against England.

It's been a pleasure to watch him over the years, a good batsman but, in my opinion, a truly great captain.

Writing - positive reinforcement works

I mentioned on Saturday I receive a print copy of Shroud Magazine - the first time I held something I'd written (excepting print outs). Well it cheered me up.

Then I get two payments in on Sunday, covering three reviews I had written last year. Then I go check out page on Nossa Morte issue two containing my review of Gossamer Hall.

http://www.nossamorte.com/feb08/gossamerhall.html

All of a sudden I want to write - above all else. So in the last couple of days I have written a Jack the Ripper article, which Tim at Shroud was very eager to read (and so it is sent to him) and a new review (which is off with Nossa Morte).

Tomorrow I hope to finish off the review of the Ray Bradbury Dandelion Wine anniversary edition and one or two other reviews.

Let's hope this continues.

Eklavya

Last August I travelled to the United States (to Minnesota) on business. On the flight there I noticed a Hindi film named Eklavya amongst the options and chose to watch it. It was superb - wonderfully filmed, well acted and a great story.

I watched it again on the flight back to England. Recently I noticed it was available on DVD from Amazon and placed my order.

It arrived today and I have spent the previous two hours watching it again with my family. It is still wonderful, and my wife and her parents also loved it. My wife intends to watch it again in the near future.

Writing Update - a physiciality

For the first time since I decided last February to write seriously I have held a print copy of my work. The first issue of Shroud Magazine arrived yesterday, complete with an article on the Bodysnatchers, five book reviews and a crossword - all created by me.

I've not been able to stop gloating about it since.

http://www.shroudmagazine.com/

Time Team 6

The latest dig sees the team investigating World War 2 defenses in south London, trying to track down all the emplacements set up to try to hamper any invasion of England that may have happened between 1940 and 1944.

Now World War 2 programmes are not amongst my favourites. I like my history to be considerably older, and I enjoy seeing the objects that were handmade that are uncovered on bronze age digs in particular.

But WW2 does have one tremendous advantage for Time Team. It is about the only type of dig they do where they actually have eye witnesses, and this week there were a number of elderly gentlemen featured who remembered exactly where all these defenses were located.

Good show

Rugby - what's up?

I'm English. I am a rugby fan. So I watched England play their latest six nations match against Italy in Rome. All I can say is what the hell is wrong with England. For the second time in two weeks I have watched England play okay in the first half, establishing a lead in the game by the half-time break, only to come out in the second half and completely forget how to play.

Last week Wales beat them, this week they barely held on against Italy. They didn't deserve to. If Italy had just managed to win a couple of line-outs at crucial times then the result would be reversed, and Italy would have won a victory no one could have denied them.

At last the Leicester Tigers won, beating Premiership leaders Gloucester away.

Death Proof

Now this is a film that was pretty much guaranteed from the outside to send my mother-in-law running for the hills (figuratively speaking). On that level it succeeded, barely ten minutes into the film she'd decided an early night and reading her book was a far better option.

This may sound like we were all being cruel to her, but I should explain. The four of us (me, my wife and her parents) like movies. But our tastes do not completely overlap. There are movies we all like, and there are movies only some of us like. The three of them frequently watch movies or TV shows whilst I am up here hitting the keys on this computer. We put on a science fiction movie and, chances are, my father-in-law will soon be asleep.

Anyway, Death Proof - the latest Quentin Tarantino film on my viewing list. Different to say the least, and quite wonderful - and also splendidly violent.

Too many places...

Why is it whenever you think you are settled on this year's holiday choices, so many other possiblities jump up and scream "Me, me, me, me!!!!"

There are simply so many places I want to visit, and life is just too damn short. And just why couldn't I have gotten myself a job as a travel writer...

So I'm looking at all these old magazines about France and Italy (part of boxing them all up in preparation for having people come look at the house) and seeing pictures of wonderful places.

Lecce, Bologna, Ancona, Assissi, Belluno, Genova, Pisa, Florence, Siena, Modena etc etc for Italy. Paris (yes I know, I've never been), Carcassonne, Nice, Avignon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence, Orleans and so many more for France.

And I haven't ventured outside my two normal country choices. I want to visit Germany, specifically for Cologne Cathedral and Berlin. Tallin (Estonia) looks beautiful, as does Riga (Latvia), Prague (Czech Republic), Dubrovnik (Croatia), St…

Ashes to Ashes

I was a passing fan of "Life on Mars", the coma / time-travel cop show on the BBC a couple of years back. I'd never describe it as one of my ultimate favourites, but it was well put together and entertaining.

I'm now watching the first episode of the follow up series "Ashes to Ashes" and I have the feeling that I may well like this show a little more. The reason for this is quite simple...

I am forty years old. In 1981 I was thirteen, and rather than the mid 1970s of the first series I remember this time. In the first few minutes we've had David Bowie references (an obvious given the title), Ultravox, Adam Ant and the like. Plus phone cards and walkmen as new technologies.

This is the time I remember. And this is a series I simply have to watch.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Last year when Pavarotti died I remarked, at the time off the cuff, that each time a person of iconic status dies the world is diminished. Pavarotti most certainly was an icon, the greatest voice of a generation (maybe longer).

But in his own way Indian Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was also iconic. His name is forever associated with the Summer of Love, with the Beatles investigation of mysticism and with Transcendental Meditation.

He died last night, believed to be 91 years old.

One less icon.

New UK genre magazine

On Saturday I received a copy if the first issue of the new UK genre mag Polluto. It describes itself as a bit of a counter-culture rag - with issue one subtitled "Post-Natal Depression and the Mysterons". It's an odd read from what I've skimmed so far, but seems as though there will be good stuff in these pages.

Issue one was original intended to feature Michael Moorcock and Justina Robson but unfortunately for the mag circumstances (poor health and novel deadlines) caused these two to not make it. They are apparantly hoping to be in future volumes.

But there is still much good stuff in here. Authors featured include Jeff Vandermeer and Rhys Hughes, plus there's artwork, non-fiction columns on culture and poetry.

If you want to check it out - here's the link

http://www.polluto.com/

New Arrival, Book-wise

New review title arrived in today's mail, one I know my wife has been looking forward to for some time. The book is the second novel by Steve Westcott, an Isle of Man based comic fantasy author.

We will get the chance to meet him in a little over a week as he's doing a book signing in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. It's only about half an hour's drive from the house so...