It’s my twitter birthday!

I noticed a tweet this morning from @TwBirthday

@dakegra Happy 5th TwBirthday! You’ve been around since 14 November 2007! twbirthday.com/dakegra/

So, in five years I’ve posted nearly 22,000 tweets. That’s about 12 tweets a day, give or take.

Here’s a nifty breakdown of tweets by time of day, courtesy of xefer

Apparently I’m following 1,794 people (lawks!) and I’ve got 1,252 followers (crikey!).

Quite how many of them are really real isn’t entirely clear – the number fluctuates on a daily basis as spammers get caught and blocked or people get bored of my tweeting.

So. Five years, eh? Cor. Doesn’t feel like that long.

I often get asked what the point of Twitter is. People sign up, follow @stephenfry, get bored, and stop using it.

With Twitter, you really do get out what you put in. Following some interesting people, talk to them, interact.

Set up links to Flickr or Instagram. Take some photos & share them. Comment on other people’s stuff.

The more you give, the more you’ll get. I’ve made friends around the world & down the road via twitter, blogging, taking photos.

Go on, give it a go. It’s fun.

Friday Flash Fiction

One from the archives, a bit of fun with Mr Pratchett’s Discworld

~~~~

The Library of the Unseen University was quiet and empty, which was just the way the Librarian liked it. Peeling a banana with one foot, he flicked happily through the latest copy of Librarian Worlde. He’d just found an interesting article on how to look after grimoires when the door crashed open.

Two student wizards ambled in, chatting noisily. The Librarian put his banana down, very slowly and deliberately. There was an extensive list of things that annoyed him, and the two students had racked up an impressive amount of them in the three seconds since entering the room. First years, clearly. He’d have to make some allowances. Perhaps.

The taller of the two approached the desk, throwing his book down with casual disdain. The Librarian mentally crossed another item off his list. The student continued his conversation, putting forth his opinion both at high volume and, in the opinion of the Librarian, very badly. The student broke off and turned. “I’ve finished with that, my good man. Where do you keep your…” His mouth fell open

“Good god, it’s a monk…”

The Librarian happily crossed the final item off his list as he picked up the student by his ears. Perhaps today was improving, after all. The Grimoires in the Special Collection deserved a treat. They’d not been fed for months

Things I learned from #NaNoWriMo

Things I have learned from doing #NaNoWriMo last year.

1. 50,000 words is a lot
Really a Lot. With a capital L. On day 1, it’s a huge snow-covered mountain of Lot, and you’re standing at the foot of the Trail of Lot wearing shorts, a t-shirt and entirely inappropriate shoes. You’re giddy with excitement and the promise of a story to be told. Along the way you’ll get cold and wet and experience the highs and lows, but when you reach the summit, the view is incredible.
Oh, alright. You probably won’t get cold or wet (unless you’re typing in the rain, which is pretty foolish) but trust me on the views.

2. When you get to 10,000 words, 40k still seems like a lot
It is, obviously. But you’re well on the way. Characters are turning up and doing Stuff, Plot is starting to happen. Giddy early days.

3. 25,000 words is a weird place
You’ve achieved a massive amount. Characters are now doing Stuff to each other in new and interesting ways, Plot is everywhere, Subtext might get a look in if it’s lucky, and Sub-plots bounce around like excited puppies. You’re halfway. Well done, writer!

4. When you get to 40,000 words, 10k seems like hardly anything
Weird, huh? True though. Perspective is a wonderful thing. That moment when you realise you’ve got four thousand words to go and you think ‘ah, I can do that tonight’ – brilliant.

5. Taking a day off writing isn’t the end of the world
So long as you remember to share the missing wordcount over the time remaining and don’t sweat trying to catch up. Unless you’re on day 29, in which case get your butt in the chair and WRITE. Don’t take too many days off though. I did miss a couple near the start and spent ages playing catch-up. Then missed two days near the end which left me 10k to do and four days in which to do it.

6. NaNoWriMo stories don’t come out finished
Or fully polished. Or even slightly polished. There might be the essence of a story in there somewhere, but it will need work. The first draft is suppose to suck, or so I’m told.
Boy, does mine suck.

7. Writing lots of characters is hard
I had entirely too many characters in my NaNo last year, to the point where I remembered late in the day that the two characters I introduced on Day One had entirely failed to make a reappearance. I also found another three characters wandering around from Chapter Two, lost and confused. They all came in quite handy when I needed some people for my psychotic homicidal teenage-angst-wridden AI to bump off in entirely creatively gory ways though.

8. Introducing lots of characters at once is also hard
Yeah. Mine turned up in groups of two and three. Finding an interesting way of introducing three menacing mercenary terrorist pirates in one go is bloody tricky. Go on, you try it.

9. Dialogue is my thing
Seriously, get me two characters in a room or on the other end of a phone/radio, and I’m happy as a pig in muck. I like my characters to talk. A lot. To themselves, if no-one else is around.

10. Planning helps…
I set my NaNo on two spaceships, with action bouncing around and between each. I realised late on that I had characters running around between different locations, but had no idea how those locations hung together. Whilst it was quite nice to be able to have them get from Engineering to the Bridge quickly, it probably contradicted tons of earlier stuff.

11. … but is not essential
It’s quite nice to wing it. Characters had a bit more freedom to do Stuff, and I can go back and re-plan my locations based on what I know now. At the end I threw in an entirely new pair of characters and let them experience the results of what had been happening for the previous 45,000 words. It was fun to see it through a fresh pair of eyes. And finished off the last 5k quite nicely, though opened a whole new set of questions. I reckon that the story needs at least another 25k to finish it off.

12. I need a new keyboard
My super-cheap Microsoft value keyboard is fine for puttering around on the internet and firing off status updates to twitter and G+, but for serious keyboard time, it sucks. Note to self: remember to buy new keyboard.

13. Sleep is for wimps
I find that my best writing time is from about 10pm until about 1am. I’ve done my day, I’ve settled down with a nice cup of really hot tea and I can just go at it. My brain has had the day to work out the kinks from the previous writing session and come up with some new things I wanted to try.

14. Music rocks
Finding the right tunes to write to can be a challenge, but is fun. If you’re writing sci-fi, I can recommend the Portal 2 soundtracks, ‘Music to Test By’. Bonus points as they’re FREE.
Whereas writing exciting action scenes to Kate Bush? Doesn’t really work. Although her new album is utterly glorious and beautiful.
Over the month I also compiled a ‘stuff I really like’ playlist on Spotify which I would put on shuffle and just write to.

15. I need to get a good thesaurus
Lots of what my characters ended up doing was going through airlocks, doorways, corridors, hatchways and interacting with computers, consoles, control panels and so on. Finding new and interesting ways of describing the same thing over and over is a challenge. I suspect in the second draft, a lot of that will find itself on the cutting room floor.

So, fellow writer. What have you learned from NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo ideas

I think this year’s NaNoWriMo[1] might have to be a homage to Bond, James Bond. It is his 50th anniversary, after all. And I’m a HUGE Bond fan.

I need a good villain name – I’m thinking female, as very few Bond stories feature a really good female villain, with the exception of Rosa Klebb[2] and possibly Elektra King[3].

I need a good name. And possibly a Dastardly Plot – I’m considering having her attempt to wipe out the world’s coffee supply…

Suggestions onna postcard, to the usual address.

[1] oh god, am I really considering doing it again??
[2] though if memory serves, in the films[4] she was part of SMERSH, and therefore technically part of Blofeld’s gang
[3] not the best of Bond villains, though, was she?
[4] in the book though, she was working solo iirc

NaNoWriMo approaches

It’s that time of the year again when thoughts start to turn to NaNoWriMo.
For those new to NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month (see what they did there?), and takes place in November of each year. The premise is startlingly simple:
You start on November 1st and finish at midnight on November 30th. In those 30 days, you write 50,000 words.

Fifty thousand?” I hear you cry. “Isn’t that like totally a lot?”

Yes. Yes it is. And stop shouting, please..

That’s kind of the whole point. You’ve got thirty days. You need to be averaging 1,666-and-a-bit words per day, so you don’t have time to edit (well, assuming you’ve got other things to do other than write). It’s all about getting that first draft out of your head. Write first, edit later.

(First drafts, by the way, are supposed to suck. That’s the law. You can check if you like.)

Anyway, I did NaNoWriMo last year, and for the first time ever (I’ve tried it several times before), I went over that magic 50,000 word mark.
Not only that, I finished a day early. *polishes winner’s medal*


There were points in the process of writing it where I was literally laughing at how bad it was. The grand plot and character that I’d started on day one sort of fizzled out by day three as I moved over to see some action over *there*. I realised on day… fifteen? sixteen? that the character I’d based the whole story plan around hadn’t been seen for two weeks. I wrote her back in, decided that I didn’t really like her much, and wrote her back out again. These other guys? Doing all the cool stuff over *here*? Far more interesting.
So, it was an experience. It completely drained all of the writing mojo I had though, and I’ve not really written anything much since. I picked up last year’s NaNo recently and started re-reading it. I was surprised that bits of it didn’t actually suck quite as badly as I’d remembered, and bits of it actually sounded like I knew what I was doing. Other bits sounded like someone else had written them.

These were clearly the post-midnight caffeine-fuelled sections. You tend to get a lot of them.

I’ve not decided if I’m doing NaNo again this year. I quite fancy the challenge, but also fancy doing something a bit different.
Watch this space.

Neil Gaiman: ON WRITER’S BLOCK.

Neil Gaiman: ON WRITER’S BLOCK.:

neil-gaiman:

I’ve seem to be hitting writer’s block far too often now. My grade in my creative writing class is suffering because i don’t turn in anything because i’m never really satisfied with anything i do. all my good ideas seem to turn into bad ones once i write it down. How do you get pass writers…

via tumblr http://dakegra.tumblr.com/post/18894600218

Monty: Prank calls

“Who are you phoning?” asked Molly, looking up from her computer monitor. 

“Oh, don’t mind me,” he replied, flicking through the telephone directory he’d been carrying as he walked into her office. “Ah. There we go. Mind if I use your phone?”

Monty picked up the telephone and started pressing buttons, checking against the number on the page. Molly waved her hand for him to continue. They were his phones after all. 

He cradled the handset on his shoulder. “Saw something interesting on the side of a truck this morning. Thought I’d give them a call… Hello?”

Molly sighed. Dear God, she thought. Was it really that time of the month already? She continued typing up her resume.

Monty stuck his tongue out at her, then returned his attention to the call. “Hello. Yes. Diamond Relocations? I saw one of your trucks this morning and have a little job for you. The address? Zenn Industries HQ, Thomasson Plaza. Yes, the centre of town. Are you free today?”

Molly rolled her eyes, clicked on save, then got up and went over to the coffee machine. She waved a mug at Monty.

“Excellent. What? How many boxes? Just the one.” He grinned, twirling his yellow pencil around in his fingers, nodding at Molly’s offer. “Very small. About three inches square. The Mortens-Haag Diamond. He keeps it in a safe on the thirty-seventh floor. Do you provide security or should …”

He held the handset away from his ear, a look of glee on his face. “Got further with that lot! I wonder…” He resumed flicking through the pages of the directory.

“Don’t you get bored of doing that?” Molly asked.

“Never, my dear girl. Never. Aha! Here we go…”

She poured him a large mug of something dangerously caffeinated, and leaned over his shoulder to see what he’d circled with his pencil.

“You’re not…”

His grin was the only answer she needed. She sat down, plugged in her headphones and cranked the volume up. Monty ignored her and dialled.

“Hello? Yes. Twenty-Four Hour Recovery? Saw one of your trucks this morning, and have *just* the job for you. I need last Tuesday back, it’s a bit of a blur…” 

The name’s Bond. James Bond

*giggles* Via the magic that is TWitter, I discovered the Random James Bond Movie Generator I liked the sound of this one:

Thunderpussy, Starring Daniel Connery

Helped by villainess Dominique Onatopp and a laser beam, James Bond’s nemesis Karl Stromberg plots to start a nuclear war.

or this!

You Only Loved Me Twice Again, starring Sean Brosnan

007’s nemesis General Julius Koskov conspires to start World War III with assistance from a laser beam and exotic ally Octogalore.

Octagalore! laser beams!

punctuation geekery

someone linked to this apostrophe test on twitter last night. I took issue with one of the questions

You have to select *one* option as the correct answer. Go for it.

Question 10:
a) The Roman’s bridges and roads were vital for moving the troops’ supplies.
b) The Romans’ bridges and roads were vital for moving the troops’ supplies.
c) The Romans’ bridges and roads were vital for moving the troop’s supplies.
d) The Romans bridge’s and road’s were vital for moving the troops supplies.

Which did you go for? Here’s my reasoning:

a) works, if you’re talking about one specific Roman, and if he built (or was responsible for building) the bridges and roads being used by the many troops.
b) works, if you have lots of Romans and lots of troops. This is the ‘correct’ answer.
c) also works (imho), if you’re talking about one *specific* troop.
d) is an offence against punctuation, and should never be spoken of in polite company.

thoughts, comments, rants welcomed.

Bucket

The sign read: “Empty buckets are to be left with Sundry Officer. Failure to comply will result in swift retribution. Doors closed at 10 PM.”

Cliff sighed and looked sadly at his half-full bucket. The contents squirmed in a way that seemed to sigh back at him…

This wasn’t why he’d joined up. He wanted to travel through space, exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilisations, boldly going where no man had gone before.

He looked in the bucket again. It glooped at him mournfully, depositing a slimy tendril of mucus on his freshly laundered red shirt. His watch read 21:56.

He considered his options. He could, he supposed, attempt to hand in a not-quite empty bucket. He didn’t like the sound of the word ‘retribution’ though. He could tip the bucket out in the nearest garbage disposal, but as a vegetarian and animal lover, it would go against pretty much all of his beliefs. He squinted at the contents of the bucket. He was pretty sure that it was alive. It was certainly moving.

He looked at his watch again, then opened his backpack and tipped the gelatinous mass inside, before opening the door to the Office.

He’d always wanted a pet.