Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What do you read?

What do you read? Do you have preferred genres? 

Looking at my book shelves I have quite a lot of sword and sorcery, several sci fi (I recently got into Philip K Dick), lots of spy novels from Bond to Bourne and a variety of crime fiction. I also like Alexander McCall Smith's and Ian Banks's Scottish stories and humour; Pratchett, Fforde, Idle etc,.

I also have a lot of non-fiction. Some autobiographies - Jackie Chan, Billy Connolly and a dozen or so rock stars.   There are lots of reference books and a huge pile on esoteric subjects from space-time to the history of learning! 

What I don't have are any books written between 1700 and 1900 except Conan Doyle and Gothic novels. I also have no chick lit. 

How are your bookshelves weighted? 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Social media

I've just signed myself up to Google+. Since I already use Google email and Google Blogger to write this blog it seemed like a natural next step. So far though I'm not finding it quite as intuitive as I'd liked.

So if anyone has any tips or knows of good places to find advice please let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

It drives me crazy

Are there everyday niggles that make you disproportionately angry?

The on that gets me yelling at inanimate objects on a fairly regular basis is a box of eighty matches that has a strike strip that gives out after about forty matches. My guess is that they are designed for eighty strikes but since no match ever lights first time those eighty strikes are up before the box is half empty.

I remember many a day as a kid where the loud and very rude words emanating from the kitchen or bathroom that were a clear indication that Dad was trying to do some plumbing!

What drives you to distraction that really could be walked away from in peace?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Music Formats

As a teenager I was obsessed with records. I am sure most of my pocket money went on buying albums, usually at the local Our Price store.

Once I was old enough to be allowed to go to London on my own I discovered a fantastic little store inside Kensington Market where I would spend hours just flicking through their vinyl trying to pick a couple of LPs to take home. I would wander round the whole market looking at shoes and coats, candles, scarves, models of dragons and wigs in neon colours, and I would often grab a jacket potato as well. But the majority of the time I was in that record shop.

I would also spend a couple of hours a week putting collections of songs on to cassette tapes.

Record sleeves even got books dedicated to them
Then at the end of my teens the Compact Disc began its rise to ubiquity. In a record shop rack they just don't flip in the same satisfying way, a rack would only stack them two or three deep because of that. The case art work was tiny compared to the twelve inch square glorious design you got with an LP. Album art designers (Storm Thorgerson, Roger Dean, Derek Riggs to name just three) would never have achieved such fame as CD artists.  The disc claimed to be unbreakable so there was never the same sense of care of and reverence as there was with a vinyl disc which could be ruined with a single scratch. As long as I still had a working turntable I was reluctant to replace my vinyl albums with CD versions.

CDs were easier to tape from though and I still have boxes of my compilations, and copies on tape for playing in the car.

At University I wrote a dissertation on competing music formats, describing the rise of CDs and going on to debate the relative merits of DAT (digital audio tape) and DCC (digital compact cassette)  - a debate similar to the VHS and Beta wars of a few years earlier, based as much on the access the patent owners had to recordings they could sell their formats with as the technical benefits of either.

At the end of the 90s I bought a MiniDisc machine and spent many a happy hour recording digital compilations from my CDs.

Unfortunately it was not a format that lasted and before long the MP3 took over. A music format with no physical substance at all. Artwork has to be viewed on a computer, there can be no reverence or fear of damage to something that has no form. Consequently record stores are fast disappearing or becoming game stores. My small collection of LPs, though, has become more valuable to me and I am increasingly reluctant to risk damaging them.

The march of progress moves steadily onward but those little  moments of pleasure that are gone forever are memories I cherish.

How is progress changing your world? Are you at the forefront of technological advances or do you cling to the old ways?

Sunday, 11 November 2012

When and where writing happens

Hello and welcome to act two!

My good friend Maxi recently posed the question "Does a change of scene help your writing?" I wasn't sure how to answer, I don't tend to try it out. I like my cosy sitting room with a netbook perched on my knee.

Then last night, while in a hotel on a rare night away from home, my brain decided that it works best at 2am after the lights go out! I wasn't best pleased. Caffeine may have played a part as much as the location, since I have been decaf all the way for about five years but there was only full caffeine tea available yesterday.

remembering, notes, ideas, inspiration
Taking notes
So as I settled into the nice comfy pile of hotel pillows my mind decided it was the perfect time and place to start writing. It becomes a terrible dilemma. Do you turn on the light and jot down some notes, or dictate to a handy mobile phone? Or do you try to remember what the great idea is as you go to sleep? My mind decided it needed to make a note. Cue scramble for the unfamiliar light switch, a pen and paper and some notes in scrawl that would make a doctor blush. Off goes the light and settle back down. And another idea strikes. Another scramble and more scribbling. Settle down again, and guess what? After about six of these note making fumbles I gave up and made some hot chocolate - what a blessing hotel kettles are. Finally, at nearly 4am, I got to sleep.

I could have tried to sleep and hope I would remember, but I have made that mistake before. About a year ago, after some weeks of struggle, I was lying in bed when suddenly a MacGuffin sprang fully formed to my mind. I was so pleased that this straightforward solution answered so many story problems I was convinced it would still be there in the morning.

How wrong I was. I still can't remember what it was and that story has not progressed.

What I need in this age of technology, is a sound activated dictation machine that then prints out a perfect rendition of the words I speak. I think it can be done with a lot of cash but the cheaper options I have tried have let me down.

So last night I got four hours sleep. Not enough! But I do have about eight pages of notes that I might just be able to decipher and get a chapter or two out of!

Do you get midnight inspiration? Do you keep a pad by the bed? Or are you on the crest of the technology wave and downloading your thoughts direct to an implant in your hand?