I haven’t at all gotten to answer any comments in the past couple of weeks, and I’m SORRY, and I will get there – promise. It’s taken me a whole lot longer than I expected to get back to blogland, and I’m only starting in properly now. It’s been a bit surreal around here lately. I had TWO nasty surprises in the past six weeks, with members of the local bands of rotten criminals trying to open windows at three in the morning, and me seeing them through the windows BOTH times. That brings the number of attempts by them to get in to four altogether, so I must admit that the last one on Good Friday morning knocked me off my perch a bit. There’s something horribly personally, and somehow violently, invasive seeing an actual person right there on the other side of the glass, even if they do run away. Needless to say I haven’t been sleeping the sleep of the just that I so richly deserve, so I’ve been rather bleary. I’m a whole lot better now though, and waiting with eager anticipation for the riot control self defence kit that I ordered, the very presence of which will guarantee me some good snooze time I think.
Other than that I’ve had some lovely work coming my way with many, many thanks to my wonderful supportive friends here, especially Sally Cronin and Chris Graham. I want to give an extra BIG thank you to Chris – The Story Reading Ape for designing my fabulous new logo for my Indie Support Services.
Don’t forget that there are all sorts of things other than covers that he can do for you Indies. From video trailers to banners, maps, and logos like the perfect one he designed for me. Zoom on over and follow him if you aren’t already – he is a wonderful font of help and support for all authors.
It’s so good to be able to finally start getting back to the books I love in all their forms. I found a particularly interesting one called The Voynich Manuscript that I’m sure a lot of you will find fascinating too. It’s been carbon dated to the early fourteen hundreds (1404 to 1438) and is named after the man who bought it in 1912. It’s written in an unknown alphabet – one that to this day has yet to be deciphered even though the most talented code-breakers and linguists have tried since its discovery. It’s filled with drawings of the craziest alien looking plants you could imagine, as well as pictures of women zooming through what appear to be tubes. Then there are astronomical drawings, and finally a couple that look like a combination of plants, the tube zooming females and the astrological designs.
The mind boggles. My mind does anyway. A lot of very staid and well educated personages have found all sorts of realistic explanations for this book, but I’m a writer so not apt to head straight for the boring. I reckon the writer of this most peculiar tome was either from the fourth planet from the central star in the Zerg galaxy, trying to draw a map home because her peers had found a fabulous way to use whacky plant tubes as interstellar transport (I deduce that said writer was female and the reason for the book was that said peers had decided to search for more plant-worthy men on another planet and forgot her behind) or that it was written by an aspiring adult comic book creator born before his time.
Either way—interesting stuff. If you want to download the PDF for a bit of nutty inspiration you can get it at Holy Books. The download is quite big though—over 50MB.
LOL and Stuff
I saw an episode of Come Dine With Me where one contestant actually said the letters OMG quite a few times. She obviously wasn’t trying to be funny – saying this seemed to come out as part of her normal conversation, but I do wonder why anyone would actually say the letters rather than the words in the first place. You aren’t going to get a sore mouth or fingers by verbally saying whole words. Maybe when something’s funny she could just deadpan say ROTFL rather than actually laughing. Or simply LOL if it wasn’t all that funny. Hopefully we’ll never get to saying Smiley Face or Like in our conversations. Everyone who zooms around online these days is part of this culture of communication. I do love my smiley faces, but I wonder where we’ll all be in another ten years as technology advances even further.
These days people probably don’t get bored in waiting rooms and come over all Mr Bean. Everyone has a phone, and everywhere you look people are looking down at them or aiming them at something or other. I’ve got a couple of books downloaded onto Kindle on mine, although admittedly I’ve never used it to read – I mainly wanted to see what my Kindle books looked like on my phone because us Indies need to see our scribbles on as many devices as possible. They look cool. I’m sure that lots of people do play games or read on their phones on train journeys and so on though, and that’s just the same as reading a book anyway. But everyone else who is not reading is also doing something on their phones. Personally I’m way too interested in people watching, but that’s just me and my nosy ways. I remember reading a story ages ago where those big headed grey aliens who go around apparently abducting people and fiddling with them in terrifying and offensive ways turned out to be us from the future. A future where we’d spent all our time physically doing nothing. All our activity happened in our heads, hence the overly large noggin and wasted away tiny bodies. The aliens wanted to use us, their ancestors, to fix their problem.
Personally I’ve noted that the old bod tends to expand rather than waste away with too much of sitting, but you never know what could happen as technology advances. Maybe a skinny pill really will be discovered at some point – one that exercises you without you having to unglue your eyeballs from whatever screen you’re looking at. Anyway.
Hopefully all you properly seated for the month NaNoers are going great guns. This is one time that the dreaded writer’s block can’t get you, because what you write doesn’t have to make perfect sense right now. So remain firmly on bum and scribble to the finish line. Kick that rotten block to the kerb!
Short Stories and Cliffhangers
I read an excellent post about cliffhangers, and it’s got me thinking now. Maybe I’m weird, alright then, if you insist – I am weird. There are two things about me that have the potential to get right up some peoples nostrils when it comes to my scribbles. I write multiple genres and I like to play sometimes when I write. Nothing makes me grin wider than when I’m playing in the land of anything goes. Short stories are generally where I play though, because experimenting with the style of voice you tell a story in, or popping in a cliffhanger at the end of a big fat novel is very likely going to incite rage. With a series you have to have an ending to each book that leads you into the next book. Sometimes this can be construed as not so much a cliffhanger as an unfinished book. It can be tricky sometimes to have an ending where your reader is happily looking forward to the next book, rather than wanting to find out where you live and sock you in the nose. I’ve come to the end of reading standalone books with the most outrageous non-conclusions that seemed to totally defeat the purpose in the telling of the tale at all. Stories must have endings. Even short stories must have endings. But. I like short stories with cliffhanger endings too.
I have loads of short stories lurking forgotten in the bowels of my computer. My short stories tend to happen to me, and I write them fairly quickly. Ages ago I got a review for The Visitation from a reader who enjoyed it and wanted more. She felt that she had been left hanging. I felt bad about that. It wasn’t a horrible review at all, and I felt so guilty about it for a while that I actually wrote quite a bit more, which then turned into a bit more again before I closed it and sent it to join the rest of the story lurkers I’ve built up. There’s about forty odd thousand words I could add to The Visitation right now that would effectively turn it into a whole dystopian book. I quite like those forty thousand words to be honest, and one day I might turn them into a book, but I won’t ever tack it on to The Visitation. The point is that I wrote that story specifically the way I did because I wanted the shock of the ending. I wanted to write it as an essay of one man’s descent into some serious crazy, and I wanted the end result of that crazy to be shocking. I wanted to make the reader wonder if he’d really had a vision, or if that was just the pinnacle of a life so crappy that he lost the plot. So I’m happy with Tony’s story the way it is.
Now, after that rambling explanation, I’ll get to the point. Right at the time I got that review, I was about to publish another short story. Also apocalyptic, and also with an ending that could lead into a whole novel. I think that it’s alright to end a story like that. Just because I’ve loved a story and want it to carry on doesn’t mean that it should. The short story I was about to publish had really become a prequel as I wrote the final lines though, and something I definitely wanted to explore some more, so that review stopped me in my tracks and I hesitated – not wanting to put something out there that would be a bad reading experience for anyone. Then I totally forgot about it. I found it again during my internet blackout and decided to publish it after all. Reading it after so long was interesting, and like The Visitation, I ended it the way I wanted to end it. I wanted people to be wondering about the purpose of the skin thing, and wondering too what the small group of humans could do – if anything – even though their fate seems inevitable.
Both stories are supposed to end with the end of mankind right there – but not quite, so that’s the way they ended, but I think maybe that even in stories, us old humans don’t want to see things like that. We want better endings – happy endings. So again, both endings don’t show the actual death of the last man on the planet, although it’s obvious enough. Still – the hope we naturally have moves ahead with the people staring at extinction, wondering if one of the few left alive at the end will against all odds save humanity, wanting to know more. Is this a bad thing to do as a writer? I don’t think so. I like reading unusual stories. I don’t like books that don’t end at all any better that the next reader, but I find some openish endings fascinating. So, I swiped one of the covers I had up for sale, tweaked it a bit, and published it. I’m chuffed with my little forgotten tale, and hopefully readers will like it too. When my next Shadow People books go live, I’ll definitely be writing a novel to follow this one, but probably only starting a decade or so after this short ends, but I’m not calling it a prequel because it really is what it was written as – a short and twisty little tale. So here it is. Hopefully the cover won’t scare anyone away – that creepy alien guy sort of made himself.
What not to do at one o‘clock in the morning if you don’t want to get the creeps …. Google Shadow People, and then read articles about them. I’ve got lots of things on the go right now. One of them being the second book in the Shadow People series. I woke up at midnight with all my projects, and currently hectic real life bits also, zooming around my frontal cortex. Trying to go back to sleep was futile, so obviously it was time to start my day. There I was, innocently sipping a nice hot cup of tea, about to check my emails, when it occurred to me to have a squiz online for inspiration to resolve a tricky bit of Return to Lapillus. So…
The first article I opened told me what I already know. Shadow People is the name of things that many people claim to have had experiences with. They are shadowy apparitions that sometimes appear once only, but often hang around and terrorise specific people. They’re completely black, some have blood-red eyes, some totally white, and some have no eyeballs or features at all. There are quite a few theories about them. One scientific theory is that they are visions caused by an anomaly in certain individuals brains. Others range from the ghosts of dead people trying to manifest as full-body apparitions, alien beings from another dimension, or demonic entities. My Nefandus in Shadow People are a bit of a combination of all of these things, so not new news that brought on any light-bulb moments for me.
When I originally researched these critters I never looked at any of the comments attached to the articles I read. This time I did, expecting the laughter and jeering that this sort of thing seems to bring out in the online universe. Not so much this time though. Most of them were from those sharing their own experiences. Judging by the couple of hundred of accounts that I read, from people (most of whom seem to be just normal folk, leading ordinary lives) who say that they’ve not only seen these shadow people, they’ve been rendered immobile, and sometimes touched or hurt, I started to wonder how close to reality some of our fictional tales are. Given the weirdness of reality in general, I don’t see any reason to doubt the existence of these things.
Each one of the billions of us that inhabit this particular space-rock lives in a totally different reality. Life is experienced differently by all, and seen differently by each different set of eyeballs. Not one of us has any kind of proof as to why we’re here, or even if we’re here, and not part of the fevered dream of some unimaginable being, or the denizens of some wild computer game being played by more unimaginable beings. Scientifically we’re only starting to find out where we are, and it’s highly unlikely that the known universe that we can actually see is all that there is. What we can see is still a mystery anyway. We know that there is more “dark matter” (the invisible mass that must exist because it has a gravitational effect, and therefore weight) than there is matter that is visible.
I also read about a study done years ago, where it was found that the human body lost a couple of grams of body weight when we spiritually depart this mortal coil. I don’t know how true that is, but then again, maybe those grams are what make up the mysterious dark matter that makes up most of the universe. And it’s all over the place, so who’s to say whether or not, apart from possibly the souls of our benign great, great, great, great grannies, there aren’t a couple of Shadow People, lurking about in there, waiting to scare the daylights out of us in the dark of the night. Now I think I’ll just be off to turn on a few more lights.
Till next time friends.
Text © Jo Robinson 2013
Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
Beyond The Blue Horizon
Beyond The Blue Horizon
“I believe that it is nothing less than our duty to make contact with these beings.” Riblot peered at the screen. “They appear to be somewhat intelligent. We cannot leave without showing them that they are on a dangerous path.”
Zarble’s erect crest quivered, showing his distaste for the creatures scurrying across the screen.
“I cannot agree Commander. They bring to mind those that we eradicated on Arox-49. If we had arrived but a few centuries later they would instead have completely eradicated that most highly evolved species in the waters of their world. These beings are clearly a form of destructive parasite. I recommend that we cleanse this world of them. Considering that we are but two, our transporter and drive are damaged and not fully functional, and also, we are under specific instructions not to interact with new species. We know nothing of this planet other than what we have observed in one of their days. I say leave them be, or destroy them.”
Riblot uncoiled a tentacle from around the leg of his stool, and moved over to the window, staring at the planet below. He scratched his chin thoughtfully.
“Indeed,” he said in disgusted tones. “Those awful creatures on Arox ate their superiors. And it was not we who destroyed them, but your hasty tentacle! I merely took responsibility as your commanding officer. But, here I see hope. We cannot eradicate these beings! They are merely struggling to find their way to the higher knowledge of the cosmos. We can help them. Teach them. Show them the way.”
Zarble joined him at the window and sighed. “It is true that our great Queen was not pleased that we did not first take aboard a few specimens from Arox before destroying those disgusting creatures. She was angry that we might have made a mistake.”
He questioned the gentleness of his leaders. The dominant species on the planet below were clearly collectively insane, vicious, and apparently hell-bent on destroying not only themselves, but every other denizen of their world. His tentacle itched to release the missile that would rid the universe of them before they found a way to infest that too.
“Instead of contact, would it not be wiser to collect a few of these, er, to take home? We are not qualified to choose to include them into the universal community. We can beam down into the waters, assuming the transporter is working, and gather a few from among those that infest the seas in those floating contraptions, without making ourselves known to rest of them. Our suits are not visible, and our physical appearance should not attract their notice.”
Zarble watched his commander’s face light up at the thought of having company on the long flight home. It was boring with just the two of them, and the damage to the drive negated the possibility of their usual mode of travel.
“Yes!” Riblot’s beak trembled excitedly. “We so closely resemble those creatures we briefly spotted in the deeps of their oceans that we will not frighten any of them. We will go under cover of darkness.”
“Hmm,” said Zarble. “That’s another thing. That group appeared much more intelligent than the parasites, er, beings, you wish to meet. We could be mistaking what appears to be the dominant species here for the most advanced.”
Riblot irritably swatted Zarble’s eyeball with an extended tentacle. “Let us not forget who is in charge of this mission Lieutenant! Bring me my suit, and let us get on with this harvesting.”
They undulated through the warm waters of the ocean, unaware of what waited beyond the blue horizon.
“It’s wonderful being out of the vessel, and swimming free after all this time aboard ship, is it not Zarble?”
Zarble’s terror had begun to grow when he realised that the faulty transporter had deposited them in the warm, salty sea, twenty times reduced in size. He looked nervously at the myriad of creatures swimming around, inspecting them. He also was beginning to doubt the integrity of his invisible, protective suit. He felt sure that he had felt a nip when a strange looking finned thing had darted behind him.
“Commander! We must abort this mission. I feel unsafe!”
“Nonsense! Your cowardice is unfounded and embarrassing Lieutenant! Look above. Here is one of their floating devices now. Have the immobiliser at the ready. Prepare to board. Aaargh! My eyes! What is this bright beam that so attracts me?”
“Come on Jan. Have a bit!”
“Nah. Those two didn’t look right to me. Never seen a day-glo pink calamari with fourteen tentacles before.”
“Arr well. Your loss. Seems right enough to me. Not as chewy as the last lot.”
Ryder squeezed more lemon on the final morsel of tasty tentacle, and popped it in his mouth.
© Jo Robinson 2013
Alien In Africa
There’s a big storm brewing here. I find it a bit hard to focus on what I’m doing when there’s a gale force wind blowing, and some fairly large twigs and branches zooming around, so I’m off to a very late and shaky start today. I’ll be concentrating on African Me from next week until it’s published, and then on to book two in the Shadow People series. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in to getting my paintings finished for the new covers of all my scribbles too. A friend asked me the other day if it wouldn’t be wiser of me to stick to one genre, and wasn’t it confusing to write stories that are pretty much polar opposites. I’m not sure about the wisdom of this, but I don’t find it confusing. I find it easy to slip into book worlds, whether I’m writing or reading.
I do hope I don’t confuse my blogging friends though, with my trips into Africa on one day, and then heading off into alien worlds the next. It all makes sense to me, although I have been told that I can be somewhat odd, so I might be wrong. I really don’t find the idea of beings inhabiting other worlds in any way weird. In fact I think that saying that we are the only life forms in the universe is illogical. I spotted an item on the news the other day that NASA have found two more planets circling Kepler-62. They’re only slightly larger than Earth, both in the habitable “goldilocks” zone. Models suggest that they are both water worlds too. It doesn’t make sense to me that planets with warm temperate climates and covered with water won’t have life.
I don’t see why all other life would have to be bacterial either. The universe is most probably teeming with all sorts of critters way more advanced than we are. Although that would probably not be too difficult. Watching the news, I often wonder where all the hatred and awful acts will take us. At this rate we will be our own undoing, and not have to worry about being invaded by aliens. I’m still pretty sure that if aliens ever do pop on over, it won’t be to say Hi. They would probably be wanting the real estate, or maybe stopping over for provisions, and who knows what could be on an alien menu? Either way, I hope that when they do we’ll have worked our way up to where we can honestly call ourselves civilised, and to where we’re working together for the betterment and safety of all. If such a weird and wonderful event were really to take place right now I don’t think we’d stand a chance, because we’re too busy hurting each other to stand together against a global threat. I really hope we start to learn soon.
Till next time friends. xxx
Free Books On Amazon
To celebrate the fact that it’s always Spring – somewhere, I’ve decided to put all my tales on Amazon up for free today and tomorrow (12 – 13 April). I’ll pop the links on here if you’d like to download them. I hope you enjoy them! They will go free at around 12 CMT, so in around two hours from now. African Me & Satellite TV will be published next, and then on to the second book in the Shadow People series.
And join us today and tomorrow at the Spring Fever Reads Giveaway, and stand a chance to win more books and a Kindle Fire!
Till next time friends. xxx
Where Aliens Fear To Tread
It’s finally happened. I asked my computer a question it couldn’t answer. Rather, I googled a question that answered most unsatisfactorily. What I want to know is, what would actually happen if an alien-ish spacecraft landed on the Whitehouse lawn? I promise that I haven’t been relieved of my very last marble. It’s just that I’m writing a scene where that happens. I was about to Google and ask about the whole security setup there, as you do, then it occurred to me that that might upset people. To be honest, knowing the sorts of things us scribblers get up to, more than likely the Chief of Security for Alien Spaceships Landing in the Rosebushes would just say, “Aaah. Another one of those weird writer people again.” And ignore me completely. But on the off-chance that they might think I was trying to figure out a way to come for tea and crumpets with the big guy, I changed the wording. I’m thinking I should just make something up in this instance. Considering some of the aliens in my worlds, it’s probably better that I don’t give them the lay of the land. You never know who eyeballs your blog posts these days. I saw the video of that snake-eyed television presenter. I’ve probably said too much already. Anyway.
Apart from slowly catching up in general with various projects, I’m working harder than I knew I could getting Shadow People ready for its zero birthday on the 8th February. January was pretty much a write-off as far as work was concerned, so I’m pleased with myself right now. I’m actually really enjoying reading it as I check for typos, and thinking that one or two other people might too. Getting ignored for a few weeks seems to have made it easier to edit. When I read that Stephen King writes a story all the way through, and then puts it aside for seven months before editing and publishing, it didn’t really make sense to me. Surely it’s better to edit when the story is fresh in your mind? Looks like our Steve is right again. Right now though, I’d better get back to figuring out whether to wait politely for the aliens to exit their ship, or blast the little buggers for squishing the hydrangeas.
Till next time friends. xxx