Monthly Archives: October 2012

Ghosts! Ghosts! Ghosts!

In case you’ve missed it, a collection of links to the Ghost Week on Tor dot com.

It’s a feast of articles, short stories (some favourites like Lovecraft and M. Twain) and more to entertain your dark, scary side 🙂

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Filed under Article, Fiction, Genre, Links, Non Fiction, Resources

FILM Moment: Male Bonding and Double Indemnity (1944)

Sometimes, a great b/w, classic noir/thriller is what you want.

And there are few better than this one: Double Indemnity.

Directed in 1944 by Billy Wilder, screenplay by Raymond Chandler based on a novella written in 1943 by James Cain, with Barbara Stanwick, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson.

I enjoyed watching it, following the over sound narration in its matter-of-fact almost monotone. All the classic elements of the noir are there, and some outstanding example of new filmic narrative.

However, one element stood out for me.  The friendship between Keyes (E.G. Robinson) and  Neff (F. MacMurray): is brilliant, understated, and yet massive in its role. It’s Keyes Neff’s confessing to, and it’s Keyes sitting near Neff and lighting his last cigarette: if it wasn’t for this friendship, Keyes would have solved the insurance case earlier, but he was blind to the culprit, because the culprit was close to him.

In my (unfinished yet) PhD thesis, I argue about themes of homosociality interrupted, and how it’s portrayed on the big and small screen. This is a quite a good example of male bonding as much paramount to the plot as the love story. The male homosocial interaction is camouflaged under horse play, tough love and rough words, and only at the end brought front stage with the utmost subtle intimacy.


I also looked online for a clip  of a speech by Keyes (E.G. Robinson), because it was a magnificent delivery, but couldn’t find it. I give you the text, instead:

KEYES Yeah. In the front office. Come on, you never read an actuarial table in your life. I’ve got ten volumes on suicide alone. Suicide by race, by color, by occupation, by sex, by seasons of the year, by time of day. Suicide, how committed: by poisons, by fire-arms, by drowning, by leaps. Suicide by poison, subdivided by types of poison, such as corrosive, irritant, systemic, gaseous, narcotic, alkaloid, protein, and so forth. Suicide by leaps, subdivided by leaps from high places, under wheels of trains, under wheels of trucks, under the feet of horses, from steamboats. But Mr. Norton, of all the cases on record there’s not one single case of suicide by leap from the rear end of a moving train. And do you know how fast that train was going at the point where the body was found? Fifteen miles an hour. Now how could anybody jump off a slow moving train like that with any kind of expectation that he would kill himself? No soap, Mr. Norton. We’re sunk, and we’re going to pay through the nose, and you know it. May I have this? [a glass of water in his boss’ hands]

(Find the full script here )

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How difficult is a difficult book?

I’m (obviously) enamoured of books. I learned to read quite early, and I’ve never stopped. I’m never bored: there’s always a book there ready to tell me something, teach me something, explain me something, show me something, scare me, amuse me, entertain me.

I’ve read some difficult books, and some light ones, and those in the middle: all can excel in content and form, a thriller is as good as a chick lit as a contemporary post-modern novel as a sci fi dystopia, and so on.

There’s a book for every moment 🙂

I came across a Top Ten of Difficult Books (of which I’ve read three): you can read it here. 

Now I’ll have more to add to my To Read list on Goodreads: ops 🙂  Up to now, one of the most difficult books I’ve been reading, stopped reading, started reading again and again is Michio Kaku’s Hyperspace. 

Now I have more to face. And yet, isn’t it exciting, now and then, to read something that challenges you? That’s the beauty of books, you can move from world to world, according to your mood, your inclination.

What’s the most difficult book you’ve read?


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FILM Moment: Minuscule le film

A shout-out for this intriguing film on the micro world buzzing at our feet. I’m not too keen on insects, but I’m trying to be better (same right to life that we have) and no, I’m not involved with it in anyway. Looking forward to see it, though. Good stories are good stories, whether their protagonists.

Minuscule le film.

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The focus should be on the text, even if you’re J.K. Rowlings

Back in the swing of things, more or less 🙂

Procrastination is an art, as they say (they as in, well, me). In order to provide you with yet another way to procrastinate – whatever your reasons – here’s a link to something I stumble upon: Bublish.

I haven’t used it yet, but it looks like a good way to pass some time, if you’re a reader and/or writer. I like its focus on text (‘bublished’ by the writer, read by the reader), which is how it should always be: it’s the story, the words that count, for me. I like the author’s option of choosing and uploading a passage, and commenting on her work. And I like the chance for readers to read the excerpts, find that gem, that new author to follow.

Something of a social media, I suppose, but with a lot less personal details and less futile distractions: the front page says Social Book Discovery. Again, the focus is on the text. If you decide to try it, let me know! I don’t have a full book to upload yet, but as a reader, I’ll be there. The simple, clean look is attractive as well 😀

It may seem a lateral jump, but this brings me to mention J.K. Rowlings new book: The Casual Vacancy. I haven’t read the book yet, I will at some point. I read some reviews, some mildly positive, some mildly negative, some clearly written just to fill space and show the Potter ‘verse knowledge and wittiness of the writer.

Someone asked if her book would have ended up in the slush pile, without her name on it. Most books do nowadays, so I think yes, it would have. Doesn’t mean it’s not a good book, or necessarily a bad one. What it does say, it’s that name branding counts for a lot, these days, and I don’t think it should.

What do you think? If you were J.K., do you want to test your writing skills all over, once again? Would you change your name, so reviewers wouldn’t have anything else to comment on but the text? Would you care at all? 😀

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Filed under Books, Links, Social Media, Writing

Note of absence

A few days of silence, my apologies. I have tons of links and things to discuss (steampunk, writerly and possibly also a rant on male fashion), but I’m dealing with a family situation, so I’ll be absent for a few days. Posting will resume on Monday.

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How does writing happen?

I recently read an E.B. White’s interview, in The Paris Review.

The title of the interview is: The Art of the Essay N. 1. I like writing essays, and I’ve written everything from strictly academic essays to creative essays, and as in many other things, I’m always learning and improving. I knew E.B. White as the White in Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, which is a must-have elegant and precise book on style and grammar and many other tips on the use of English language in writing. But I never made the connection with the White of Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. Silly me.

It’s a long interview and it paints an interesting portrait not only of the writer but also of the times and ideas of his writing. I’m looking forward to read some of his other work, now, even though my List of Things to Read gets ever longer.

In particular, I fell completely in love with this passage:

Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer—he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. Delay is instinctive with him. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along. I have no warm-up exercises, other than to take an occasional drink. I am apt to let something simmer for a while in my mind before trying to put it into words. I walk around, straightening pictures on the wall, rugs on the floor—as though not until everything in the world was lined up and perfectly true could anybody reasonably expect me to set a word down on paper.

See, see? It’s not procrastination, at all! That’s what is, the waiting around for the right words to come in, the looking out of the window, the desperate sudden need to wash the previous week’s dishes, and yes, that too, the blurry windows have to be cleaned, now, and the mud on those shoes, look at that, can’t possibly be tolerated, and, and! I have to go buy groceries, right now.

Okay, yes, I’m being facetious. But I love that paragraph, I adore the sense of ‘me’ as a writer, the refusal to bend for someone else’s expectations of how writing happens.

Writing is hard work, and it’s different for each of us.

We shouldn’t let someone else’s expectations dictate how and when we write (every morning, every day, three pages per day, from 3 to 5, in chronological order, following an outline, mind mapping, and so forth). We need to experiment, yes, and listen to advice, and pay attention to our circumstances: for example, no point in pretending to write each day 10.000 words, if we have a day job, or a family, or other responsibilities. We’re just setting us up for failure, or for complaining.

But most importantly, we need to discover and then nurture and support how does writing happen for us. I still haven’t found a reliable routine, but I’ll keep experimenting.

Have you found your way to make your writing happen? I’d like to know 🙂

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Filed under Quotes and Quotations, Writing

The Next Big Thing

What an hopeful, positive title 🙂

Anyway, The Next Big Thing is a meme, a series of questions about your work in progress. Once you’ve answered them, you can tag other writers to do  the same (if they so will!)

I was tagged by the lovely Jane Riddell – you can find her blog and her Next Big Thing here.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing
I chose to go with my second project, instead of the Victorian novel (in the rewriting stages). As an aid to develop it further.
What is the working title of your book/ work in progress?
Another World. Very much a working type of title, but you never know, it may stick.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Fooling around with the world’s time-line and lots of ‘what if’.
What genre does your book fall under?
Speculative fiction (specifically, alternative history).
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh gosh. I’m afraid, as a writer, I won’t have any input whatsoever. And because this is a work in progress, my characters may still change (you never know what can happen in those wild editing phases!)
However, I know my main character has ginger hair, and yes, yes, you can dye it, of course, but I’d like it to be natural. Also, it has to be someone with a Scottish accent, or capable of faking a decent one. I can’t see either David Tennant or John Barrowman with ginger hair, so it’ll have to be either Damian Lewis or Paul Bettany. On the other hand, why not someone new?
What is your project one line tag?
Don’t have one yet.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’d like to go the traditional way and have an agent. Nothing against being self published, I simply don’t think that at this point in time I’ve got the necessary organization and skills to make self publishing successful. I’ve looked into it, and in order to do it right, you do need to work full time on it for a long period of time. Right now, I prefer to keep writing.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’ve been working on it on and off for a couple of years, but doing all sorts of things in the meantime. But usually, once I’ve done all the preparatory work, it takes me three months to write a first draft.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I need to research this. Haven’t read much in this genre yet.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Reading 1421 by Gavin Menzies.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
As it stands now, being taken into a flight of the imagination, and have a taste of how things might have been different in world’s history, and for us.
This exercise was fun, and made me think about my work in progress in different ways. Always a good thing! Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement, especially when you deal with yourself: put something down in writing, make a commitment (that’s feasible, accountable, realistic) and the chances of it happening will multiply. We do believe in what we imagine, and by imagining it we make it more real, and by making it more real, we believe it can happen, and we make it happen.
Not as simple, of course, but that’s the principle 😉
I now tag…well, any willing volunteers, just leave a comment and I’ll add you to this post 🙂
Thanks for reading 😀

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How do we define weird fiction?

I like the idea of supporting and promoting weird fiction. Of course, how we define weird fiction may be vastly different, although intuitively we all know what weird fiction is. Or do we?

For me, weird fiction is fiction that follows its own logic, with a narrative path that may differ greatly from the usual. Often it’s fiction from another country/culture, and not necessarily just books. Film narrative varies a lot from country to country (Chinese films, Russian films, European films as opposed to Hollywood ones and so on). There may be a beginning, development and ending…or there may not be. Or not in this order.

How do you define weird fiction?

From time to time, I will share here a few links to interesting, weird, different fictions as I find them.

I found an article in LOCUS MAGAZINE, by writer and blogger Harry Markov, about a  short stories’ collection by Bulgarian writer Angel G. Angelov: The Act of  Walking on Water (2009). The collection sounds really interesting, and if you don’t know Locus Magazine, do keep an eye on it for science fiction and fantasy news and interviews and more in between.

Markov says of Angelov’s stories:

Angelov grows in magnitude and fuels stories with a unique brand of intellectual erotica, philosophical monologues and warped realities…..with a slight nod to the Lovecraftian philosophy of cosmicism.

Now, anyone that hints at Lovecraftian’s cosmicism is someone I’d like to read. I hope this collection gets translated into English (my chances of learning Bulgarian are very slim).


Another good place to find interesting and weird fiction is Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading.

Among the latest offering, a series of short stories by Alex Epstein’s, from his collection: For My Next Illusion I Will Use Wings caught my attention. It’s a very good example of what can be done with flash fiction / micro fiction.

[Alex Epstein] performs an act of distillation, capturing the very essence of fiction.

Epstein’s collection has been translated into English, so I hope to put my hands on it at some point! It makes me think of author Lydia Davis‘ style of writing and preference for short, and extremely short in some cases, fiction.

My style is a reaction to Proust’s long sentences

That’s what Davis says of her choice of short narratives in this Guardian interview. I personally loved Proust’s long sentences, but I also love Davis’ ability to be essential.


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What is Relational Dynamics and how it applies to writers

CoachingRelational Dynamics is a coaching style, and you can read more about it on their website.

Coaching can be defined in different ways: it’s not therapy, and it’s not just a friendly chat. It’s a process of learning, whereby the coach has the skills and techniques to guide the coachee in finding strategies to positively approach what they want to approach.

A coach is not there to give you answers (and certainly not instructions on how to do this or that). It’s a very complex process, and it requires hard work on both parts, coach and coachee.

Now, why am I telling you this? Because I am taking part in this course, hopefully to qualify as a Personal Dynamics coach (keeping in mind that it is a PROCESS, and as such, a never ending learning curve) and my aim is to specialize in personal coaching (as different to leadership and management coaching in hierarchical organizations ) and in a very specific niche of coaching: coaching for writers.



1 a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end

2 a natural series of changes

Writers, as I know from experience, are faced with a number of specific challenges, related to personal and career life, and choices. All of this reflects more or less directly and/or openly on the writing process, which can become even more tangled and conflictual than it already is.

Take Writer’s Block, for example. It’s a loaded term standing for all sorts of problems. And the solutions we find sometimes are temporary. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to work through that block, and find strategies to deal with it which go beyond the basics writing exercises we all know or can find in writing books?

And there are many more examples of how coaching can help writers, on their own, in their writing, or in a workshop-type situation. I’m going to develop myself as a coach and as a writer. If you have any experiences, advice, or questions, feel free to contribute.


Filed under Coaching, Writing