Thursday, July 31, 2008

I need therapy.

I seem to be addicted to setting up internet pages for myself on various social networking or writing sites. Here's the latest, over at the red room.

Please don't tell me about any other similar sites. Otherwise I will feel obliged to go there and set up a page.

Perhaps my addiction to setting up author pages will cure me of my addiction to checking my amazon ranking. It's the methadone to the heroin of amazon watching.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Around the world in 80 detectives (take two).

The article originally appeared in The Independent, it seems. Thanks to Ken aka Sibelius of WriteWords and Diane for pointing it out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Around the world in 80 detectives.

Great fun piece on the booktribes blog, with some excellent suggestions for crime holiday reading to suit your destination. I particularly liked their St Petersburg recommendation.

38. St Petersburg

Another period piece, this time by the British author RN Morris, who cheekily borrows Dostoevsky’s detective Porfiry Petrovich from Crime and Punishment. He has written two novels so far, showing St Petersburg snowbound by winter, and stinking by summer.

Kids broke up today, which will explain my low blogging activity. I've desperately been trying to get as much novel and libretto written while I have the chance. Not much will get done for the rest of this week.

I've been crime writer by day and librettist by night.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Review radars, human and otherwise.

My automated review radar - google alerts - and my human review radar - Maggie my publicist at Penguin - have alerted me to a couple of interesting book sites, both of which seem to have featured AVL.

First there's Mostly Fiction, which actually has a double review of both A Vengeful Longing and The Gentle Axe (being an American site, they reviewed the American edition).

And then there's Book Browse, which not only features A Vengeful Longing on its home page as one of its recommended reads of the week, but pulls together a few of my best reviews so far!

Friday, July 11, 2008

And the winner is......

... not me, but Frances Fyfield for Blood from Stone. Congratulations to Frances and to all the winners at last night's CWA dagger awards. Special congratulations to my table companion Amer Anwar who won the Debut Dagger for Western Fringes. As yet unpublished, but I'm sure the offer will come soon. Well, as soon as Amer has finished it!

Right. Now on with the new one.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Inspiration Machine, Part 2.


The Inspiration Machine is essentially a tube which presents the user with a series of four inspirational stimuli, a combination of words, letters, images - both abstract and figurative - as well as some Egyptian hieroglyphs. These stimuli are revealed through revolving windows in independently movable paper sleeves. To use the machine, the person in need of inspiration may either think of a random number, or roll a die to generate a number. A preference for 'up' or 'down' is also either expressed or randomly generated by means of a coin toss. The first rotating sleeve is then turned the requisite number of times in the indicated direction, revealing the first of the inspirational stimuli. This process is repeated until all four windows have revealed a stimulus. It is then up to the user to interpret those stimuli in whatever way they wish.

Here's a photo, showing the inspirational windows in series:

The following sequence of four images shows more detail of the inspirational stimuli, giving an example of the kind of inspiration that may be produced by random turning. Apologies for the poor focusing, blame the camera man. I will describe what each window shows, just to clarify.

The first stimulus (above) is verbal. It presents the words RACE MIND in blue, overwritten with yellow letters that can be read either as CHIN ANT or CHINA NT, or however the user wishes.

The second stimulus (above) is visual, representing a sail boat on the sea.

The third stimulus (above) shows a pair of hieroglyphs. The first is suggestive of a pair of tongs, the second of a hook of some kind.

The fourth stimulus (above) shows butterflies and flowers, etc..

You get the idea.

Obviously, it's up to the user how loosely or literally the various stimuli are interpreted. They are intended to work in conjunction with the imagination of the user, who is expected to open his or her mind to the possibilities suggested. For example the sail boat on the sea could plant the seed of a journey of some kind, the precise nature of which is left up to the user. Or it could literally inspire a story about taking a boat to sea.

I'll post some more permutations again soon.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Inspiration Machine.

My ten year old daughter is in an inventors' club at school. She spends most of her spare time jotting down ideas for inventions, and the rest of it trying to actually make them. She says she's quite good at coming up with inventions but what she finds hard is thinking of problems people might have that need solving (by means of a new invention). So she is always asking us to tell her the problems we face in our lives, so she can think of an invention to help us.

Yesterday I gave her a few of my own problems to work on. I was trying to think of things that might conceivably be solved by something a 10 year old could invent and successfully make. That turned out to be a big mistake, because when I stopped patronising her and told her a real live problem - one that I was convinced would be impossible to solve - her face lit up immediately and she said: "I can invent something for that!"

The problem I gave her was the difficulty of coming up with ideas for stories.

Her invention, which seemed to pop fully conceived into her mind, was an "Inspiration Machine".

She seemed to have a pretty good idea of how she was going to solve this and straightaway rushed off to get the materials she needed, without even sketching a blueprint.

The first thing required was a long cardboard tube, the kind you find inside rolls of wrapping paper. We'd taken all our cardboard to the recycling centre so we didn't have any old ones hanging around. No problem. Only the day before, her mum had bought a new roll of birthday paper, which now - with Dad's controversial consent - no longer has an inner tube.

The next thing was to cut some paper into 12cm wide strips, make some mysterious marks on the cardboard tube, and then ponder the question, "How am I going to do this?" This last part, the pondering, took the longest time.

It was at that point that my help was enlisted, but I have to say that my role was purely as a technician. The concept and design for the Inspiration Machine came totally from my daughter. We discussed how it was to work and what needed to happen. She had very precise requirements and I suggested a few ways they could be achieved.

It then came to creating a prototype. My daughter got busy with the important part - programming the machine with inspiration, while I produced the mundane mechanical elements necessary.

It didn't take long to put it together and put it to the test. To our amazement it worked!

I mean it really did work, and in ways which neither of us had imagined possible. It has certainly helped me, because today I was inspired to write 1,000 words, a target I haven't hit since I began work on this new novel.

In the next blog post I will describe how The Inspiration Machine works and I may even provide a photo.