Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Black Cat Appreciation Day 2016!

So, I couldn't miss today, Black Cat Appreciation Day, to celebrate Black Cats, because I have an absolute darling of a kittie called Binx, who is my own little black panther; this is a picture of her (above) as she was rolling around on our decking in the sun.

When I adopted her and her mum, Silver (not a black cat, but still wonderful), from the brilliant rescue centre, Happy Endings Rescue, they said they have difficulty re-homing black cats, because people are superstitious about them, but I've always loved the melanistic little beasties :).

Binx was only 7 months when she moved in with us, and she was a pretty little bundle of nerves, but after a year with us, she is just such a loving little lady. She's always happy to see you, and if you call, she comes trotting up, tail straight up in the air. And she adores a good scratch on the top of her head.

I love my sweet little black cat, and I think everyone else should love her too :D.

If anyone is interested, this picture of Binx is available on Society6 as a print, plus all sorts of nifty accessories like phone and laptop cases, T-shirts, throw pillows, and much more, 

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Insecure Writer's Support Group - My First Post & My First Piece, where is it now?


I have recently joined The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG), whose stated purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Where we can post our thoughts on our own blogs. Talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. Discuss our struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Plus, a question is posed, and this month's is: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?


Well, the first piece of writing I had an aim to publish was way back when I was 11 years old. Having grown up watching British and American Sci-fi and Fantasy TV and film, Dr Who, Star Trek, Star Wars and some others which have been consigned to the dark vaults of history, I wrote a sci-fi extravaganza of bold young agents in an intergalactic (possibly interdimensional, I don't think I was all that clear on that point) force who fight the worst of the worst baddies with their laser pistols and psychic powers.

Well, as you can imagine, I am very, very glad the internet did not exist when I was 11 and that rather purple set of prose is now consigned to my very own 'history' drawer never to see the light of day again. :)

However, I did really, really want to publish it when I was 11, but, rather than send the manuscript to anyone, I sent letters of inquiry to publishers (I found their addresses on their books) to ask how to go about getting published. Some of them were wonderful people and took the time to write back. I can never say how grateful I am to those folks who took those few minutes to put together some words of encouragement that kept me, a child, interested in publishing. I didn't publish anything else until ten years later, when the internet gave me access to fanfiction mailing lists, but I have never forgotten those letters.

What came of your first pieces, my fellow insecure writers, did they lead to anything, or were they just good practice?

Insecurities:

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What's been bothering me for a while is that I'm not writing enough and I'm not achieving my goals. I haven't published a novel since The Burning Web, and I think I'm getting anxious, because I am getting close to finishing another, which is the sequel to Night Blood, but I've been close to finishing it for over a year!

I have been writing; blog posts mainly, which includes this year's A to Z Challenge, where I planned out an entire detective novel, The Case of the Cursed House. I have 2 novels over 50% complete, Ghost Blood, and an extended version of my novella, Bonds of Fire, plus I have a rewrite of the start of Sacrifice of An Angel to do. I think I'm getting anxious because I have so many irons in the fire, and now I just need to pick one and knuckle down and do it. Maybe that's what I need to do, admit to myself that I've been prevaricating way too long and get on with things. I'm going to write a list here and now:

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  • Finish Ghost Blood Draft #1
  • Rewrite the start of Sacrifice of An Angel
  • Finish Bonds of Fire Extended Version
  • Take The Case of the Cursed House plan and turn into Draft #1 

Now let's see if I can keep to it - I'll post an update next month.


Monday, 18 July 2016

Review: Ghostbusters - Awesomesauce!


Okay, so I may have revealed my opinion in the title of the post, but let me explain why I loved Ghostbusters (2016).

Now, I have been a fan of the original two movies since I was young, in fact, after seeing the new movie, I went back and re-watched the original Ghostbusters just for old times' sake :). Still good! But, ever since I first saw the trailers for the new movie, I have been waiting with excited anticipation for the reboot.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big paranormal fan - give me a movie or show with a ghost in it, and I'm there. Give me a movie with four kick-arse ghosthunters in it as well and you just made it a certainty I'm going to at least give it a visit at the cinema. However, that doesn't mean I wasn't nervous about this movie: there's been so much controversy about it, much more than other reboots that have slipped onto the scene, or blasted in some cases, I mean, Spider-man is about to launch into it's third since 2002 and no-one seems to mind, but Ghostbusters has drawn some vitriol.

So, I toddled off to the cinema with my sister, eagerly anticipating this reboot and hoping that it was going to reinforce my love of the original while giving me something new to love about this franchise. I have to say, in the first 15 to 20 minutes, I wasn't so sure. The jokes were cliched and dull, with only a few moments of excellence; the opening section in the Aldridge Mansion is classic Ghostbusters, but after that, I would say to everyone, give the movie time to start properly.

Once the movie did launch, about the time that the gals start ghostbusting and Patty enters their lives, then there was no let up, I laughed, giggled, and snorted my way through the rest of the movie. It was AWESOME!


These ladies here, as much a bunch of misfits as Egon, Ray, Venkman and Winston, had me smiling like a loon. I loved them all. Patty Tolan is a no nonsense, sassy woman who knows all there is to know about the history of the city of New York. Abby Yates has never wavered from her conviction that the paranormal is real and her one-liners are genius. Erin Gilbert tried to leave the paranormal behind, but in the end, has to embrace her inner ghostbuster; she's dorky, intelligent and I love her. And Jillian Holtzman - she has to be my favourite special little snowflake, who's into particle physics and engineering and doesn't give two hoots what anyone else thinks.

This quartet of lovable nerds yank the Ghostbusters franchise very firmly into the 21st Century.

The story is not a remake of the original Ghostbusters, although it gives a lot of nods to its predecessor. This is a good thing. This story picks up the legacy of the original films and runs with it into a new space. There is a new bad guy, new tricks and tools in the Ghostbusters' arsenal, and a fun twist on the modern need for governmental cover-ups. Plus, there's Kevin.


Kevin is not a gender-swapped Janine Melnitz. Just like all the other characters, he owes his existence to the original movie, i.e. there was a secretary in the original, but Kevin is his own little bundle of laughs - and yes, I'm understating it, some of the jokes linked to Kevin had me crying with laughter. I will say no more, you have to see him to believe him.

You may have gathered that I thought the acting in Ghostbusters 2016 is excellent. The effects are fantastic too. Like everything else, the ghosts take their inspiration from the look of the originals, but then 21st Century computer graphics up the ante. The interactions with the ghosts are much more visually sophisticated and make the fights scenes at the end stupendous. Friends of mine have mentioned they might have been cheering out loud during the movie, and I can guess where. All I will say is, these ladies kick arse!

So, I'll stop now with a final word: ignore all the controversy and hype, go see this movie as a fun Summer reboot and you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Happy Camera Day!


Happy Camera Day!
29th June

I have to admit, I found this out by accident, but hey, I'm a keen photographer, so the day has inspired an impromptu post :).

I've always been the one behind the camera in my family. If you look at our holiday snaps from when I was a teenager, I'm not in most and that's because I was taking them. And since digital photography came to fruition, I've become an even keener photographer.

I began by buying a little Sony point and click, which was sweet and easy, but only had a digital zoom, which is advertising talk for the fact if pixelates like hell if you want to get a closer shot of anything. So, once I had the digital bug, I quickly moved on to investing in a Canon 400D, an SDLR which, with it's telephoto lens, was a monster of a camera, but which I still love to pieces. I dragged that camera round tourist attractions, to concerts, and I have some lovely shots from it. 


I also have loads of terrible ones as well ;P, since I have a bit of a shake and only one of the lenses had a stabilizer, and that didn't always work. But that's the joy of digital - if it's crap, you haven't wasted film :).

However, technology has moved on, and I now have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7, which is a compact camera with 4K technology. It is tiny compared to the Canon and the picture quality is amazing. I have 2 lenses, a telephoto which manages distance shots and macro, and a normal wider angle lens for landscape. I am tempted to get a separate macro lens as well, but that's for when I have saved up!
I have 2 favourite types of photography. The first one is macro photography, which is closeup and details, and the Lumix is great for me since the tech has inbuilt stabilisers. I do lots of photos of flowers and insects. But I also love landscape photography as well, especially water - if I can stop and stare at a river, or look down into the rippling calm of a lake shore, I love it and I'll snap it :).

Recently, I've decided to try and make some money from my photography by uploading my photos to Society6, a place where they'll take your art and put it onto everything from a fine art print for the wall to a duvet cover and t-shirts. One of mine, a garden spider, is below (it makes a very interesting T-shirt ;P):

https://society6.com/product/spider-on-web-vb7_all-over-print-shirt?curator=sophieduncan
Do you have any hobbies that the digital age has transformed?



Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Society6 & My Photos (plus there's free shipping worldwide until 5th June)

So, thanks to buying A to Z mugs this year, I found a really great site called Society6, which is a site where artists can upload their own designs and have them sold as prints and all sorts of other wonderful things like laptop sleeves, mugs and t-shirts.

Now, I'm a photographer as well as a writer, and so I decided to join up as an artist and publish some of my photos. It takes some time to prepare the images for the site, so I only have two photos up so far:

Stones in Melting Ice
Dandelion 2016

But even if you're not into my stuff, there are some other great pieces of art on the site as well and there's free shipping on everything worldwide until 5th June 2016. So I recommend checking them out for some unusual and interesting designs.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Murder Most Foul! A to Z Reflections Post - Cozy Mystery #AtoZChallenge 2016



Thank you to everyone who dropped by during the A to Z Challenge. My theme this year was Murder Most Foul, which meant that I was sharing an episode a day of my murder mystery, The Case of the Cursed House, or rather the bare bones of it. 

Everyday, I revealed more about my developing Cozy Mystery: descriptions of scenes; character details; locations; clues to the mystery. And, at the end of each post, I gave everyone a chance  to vote on whodunnit. So, I thought I'd share some of the results of the votes, revealing no details on who the murderer actually is...


I excluded any character who got 1 vote or less, and, as you can see, Alice Rigden, the superstitious housekeeper, was a strong contender early on and maintained her lead, with Lord Michael, the charming, but snooty Lord of the Manor, and Bethany Mortby, possibly the spurned ex, began to catch up later in the plot. This kind of info is going to be really useful to me for when I turn the notes into the full novel, because it's giving me hints as to whether I'm giving away too many clues or not enough, so thanks to everyone who popped by and voted.

All parts of the mystery are linked below if you want to go back and read it (I'm not revealing here whodunnit, so it'll still be a surprise ;P):


A to Z Reflections
This year I found the A to Z tougher than previous years, and there was but one reason - I didn't finish my posts before the start of the A to Z, which meant I was trotting to keep up. I had finished my posts for FB3X Drabblerotic, which was a minor mercy, but I dropped the ball on our other blog, the Wittegen Press posts, so I have to give a BIG THANK YOU to my sis, Tasha, who picked up that ball and did all but 2 of the Literary Smackdown posts.

Because I was running to keep up, this year was lot more stressful than others and I didn't get round as many blogs as I would have liked, but the ones I did are below. It was still a lot of fun, I made some new friends and rejoined some old! I never quite know which blogs are going to catch my attention, which ones I'll be going back to day after day, but there are always some, and there are also the lovely ones that I just popped by, but that didn't make me enjoy them any less.

The A to Z is a source of myriad wonders :).

A to Z Shout Out!

I had great fun bouncing around blogs this year. I kept a list of those I visited so I'd like to share with you some of the blogs I have enjoyed:

Curling Stones for Lego PeopleMarsGlass Beading Journeyhttp://www.curlingstonesforlegopeople.com/
The Cynical SailorEllen & ScottSailing Nancy Drew Mysteryhttp://thecynicalsailor.blogspot.co.uk/
Yolanda ReneeYolanda ReneeMurder and Obsessionhttp://yolandarenee.blogspot.co.uk/
Jingle Jangle JungleMary BurrisWomen in Musichttp://www.jinglejanglejungle.net/
Patricia Lynne AuthorPatricia LynnePhobiashttp://www.patricialynne.com/
The Old ShelterSarah ZamaJazz Agehttp://theoldshelter.com/
Multicolored DiaryZalka Csenge VirágDiversity in Folkhttp://multicoloreddiary.blogspot.co.uk/
Stephanie FarisStephanie FarisUnsolved Mysterieshttp://stephie5741.blogspot.co.uk/
Djinnia and the English LanguageDjinniaGhost and monstershttp://djinniaandtheenglishlanguage.blogspot.co.uk/
Megan Morgan AuthorMegan MorganAwful Romancehttps://meganmorganauthor.com/2016/03/21/the-a-to-z-challenge-theme-reveal/
Murderous ImaginingsYolanda ReneeSerial Killershttp://murderousimaginings.blogspot.co.uk/
Mop DogZalka Csenge VirágCrazy Hungarian Cartoonshttp://hungarykum.blogspot.co.uk/
The Quiet WriterRachelJWalkleyCastleshttp://thequietwriter.com/
Making Life An ArtGail ParkExplaining British Thingshttps://seezooeyrun.wordpress.com/
Deena's DaysDeenaThe 80'shttp://deenasdays.com/
A Bench with A ViewBettySights & Sites of Arizonahttp://viewsfrombenches.blogspot.co.uk/
Darla M SandsDarla M SandsMusichttp://darlamsands.blogspot.co.uk/
Poetry Penned in MoondustLeslie MoonPoetryhttp://moondustwriter.com/2016/04/05/mans-best-friend-atozchallenge-haiku/
Flash FictionLisa VooghtA Slightly Fictionalized Memoir http://lisavooght.blogspot.co.uk/
Back PorchervationsLuAnn BradleyNew versions of songshttp://backporchervations.blogspot.co.uk/
Stepheny Forgue HoughtlinStepheny HoughtlinHistoric Hotelshttp://stephenyhoughtlin.com/
The Faux Fountain PenSarah FosterRevisionhttp://thefauxfountainpen.blogspot.co.uk/
A Creative MindDianne RigginsWritinghttp://a-creative-mind.com/
My Life in RetirementDeniseWhy book is on shelfhttp://msdeniseh553.blogspot.co.uk/
What Are TheyJ Lenni DornerFiction Tipshttp://jlennidornerblog.what-are-they.com/
~

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Saturday, 30 April 2016

Murder Most Foul! - Z is for Zenith - Cozy Mystery #AtoZChallenge 2016


Welcome to my contribution to the A to Z Challenge. My theme this year is Murder Most Foul, which, for you, my blog visitors, means that you will be sharing in The Case of the Cursed House, or rather the bare bones of it. 

Everyday, I will be revealing more about my developing Cozy Mystery: descriptions of scenes; character details; locations; clues to the mystery. And, at the end of each post, you will have the chance to vote on whodunnit. So, without further ado, on with the case...

Previous parts:


Story Notes (since we're at the climax of the story, these notes are a lot more detailed than the previous episodes)

Given that she's been up half the night, Aisha is sent home once Lord Michael has been arrested. She grabs some lunch at a supermarket and then goes home. She plods up the garden path to her home and her step mum, Jamini, is in the garden again,. As soon as she sees Aisha, she drops the metal bar she is manhandling around the garden and goes to her. She wraps an arm around her shoulders and guides her into the kitchen, sits her down and puts on the kettle. Jamini asks if everything is alright. Aisha smiles tiredly and says that they arrested someone, but she's not sure they have enough evidence to convict. There's nothing physical, only circumstantial, but she thinks Barnwell is a good interrogator, so she'll probably get her man.

Over a cup of tea, Aisha starts talking about the people in Wittrenham. How she thinks it will be a long time before they get over 2 murders. She says she is particularly worried about Lady Emma, because she told her that Wittrenham was her escape from what happened to her parents and now it's all up in the air. She says it must have been awful, both parents dying like that.

Jamini sits back then and tells her that Emma's father isn't dead.

But she lost them both, Aisha checks.

Yes, but not because he died. He killed her mother. He had a psychotic break by all accounts, and murdered his wife over some perceived break of etiquette. He's in Broadmoor. It was all very sad. Some people thought Emma was going to crack up as well, like her father, but then Michael took her under his wing and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Aisha sits back, sipping her tea. Something is nagging at her, so she asks if Emma was a stickler like her father.

Jamini says yes, she was ever so precise and fussy. Very unusual in the art crowd they belonged to, but everyone knew to mind their p's and q's around Emma. Her art was the same, very exact, she'd spend days straight trying to get something just the way she wanted it; she could be a bit strange after one of those sessions even before her dad killed her mum. Everything had to be just so.

Aisha asks how far Jamini thinks Emma would go to have things just so.

Jamini shrugs.

Aisha goes upstairs to get changed, but things are still nagging at her. She's worried about Emma, and when she starts thinking about Jon and his need to carry out Bill's wishes, she starts to get really concerned: he could still be in danger. It's nothing more than a hunch, though, so, in her civvies, Aisha decides to go back to Wittrenham, just to check things are alright.

...

When she arrives in Wittrenham, Aisha goes to Jon's cottage, but Bethany answers the door and tells her that Jon has gone up to the Court House. Aisha heads up there, calling Barnwell as she goes, but Barnwell is interviewing Lord Michael, so she leaves a message, telling Barnwell that she thinks something is wrong, and that she has gone to see Jon, because she is concerned he's in danger.

Aisha goes to Court House and finds the side door open. She goes in and follows voices to the library. She finds Jon pouring two glasses of wine. He greets her and welcomes her in, saying that Emma and he have decided to drown their sorrows with some Manor cellar wine while working on how to make the future better than their pasts. Emma smiles, but the smile doesn't reach her eyes, especially when Jon offers Aisha a drink. She says thank you as he passes her a glass, but Emma is watching her a little too closely to make her comfortable and so, as she takes the glass, she catches it with her sleeve, upending it all over Jon's trousers.

Aisha makes a show of apologising and hurries him out towards the kitchen to clean up. She is then left with Emma in the library. She asks Emma if she is alright, that Michael's arrest must have been a shock.

Emma agrees, but says the best way to move on is to get on with things. Then she asks Aisha what she's doing in Wittrenham, isn't her job finished.

Aisha says she's still a Weald and Romeny Marsh Liaison Officer, and that means looking after everyone on her beat.

Emma suggests that she had been neglecting the other villages on her beat in the last few days.

Aisha agrees, but says no other villages have had two murders, and she is still concerned about everyone in Wittrenham.

Emma walks around the sofa table that the wine is standing on, watching Aisha as she goes. She plays with a letter opening that is sitting on the table and Aisha backs off a little.

Emma tells her that for a police officer she isn't very professional. She says she can see the fear in Aisha's eyes. She asks when she knew.

Aisha says she wasn't absolutely sure until just now.

Emma smiles, taking proper hold of the letter opener.

Aisha asks why.

Emma - because my fool of a husband couldn't do things properly if I made him a list. I have been clearing up his messes and smoothing over his disputes since I married him. I have to say this is the biggest one he has ever managed. I couldn't see him arrested for fraud.

Aisha - so Bill had to die?

Emma - I liked Bill, he was such good company, but he wasn't a man to be persuaded of anything. I did try my feminine charms, but Bill already knew my disposition and he did not bite. If he had, we would have been sharing a game of tennis about now.

Aisha - but you were poisoning him for so long, wasn't there another way?

Emma - the rat poison was a lucky find. you could say it inspired me. I began with small doses, to see what effect it would have. Of course, I had know idea the man was actually dying anyway.

Aisha, so why didn't you leave it at that. Bill was dead.

Emma - Elves, you mean? He was a snivelling weasel, no backbone. He was about to go and confess all to the police. He didn't know about Bill, but even so, he could have made things very difficult for Michael.

Aisha - he was afraid of you, wasn't he.

Emma - terrified; apparently he was quite perceptive.

Aisha - And now it's Jon's turn, you've poisoned the wine, haven't you.

Emma nods - He's told me all about the plans for the artists' retreat. Coupled with the plans for that awful developmental eyesore, I can't let Jon turn Wittrenham into a disaster zone.

Aisha steps back as Emma moves towards her. Jon walks in at that point, still brushing off his trousers, and looks up to see Emma brandishing the letter opener. Emma begins to turn towards Jon, who is frozen in shock. Aisha grabs the bottle of wine and smashes it Emma's feet. She yells at Jon to run and get help and then lunges for Emma as Jon flees. Metal contacts with skin and Aisha yells as the letter opener scrapes over her ribs. She dives past and runs for the door. Emma does not follow, but when Aisha practically falls into the hallway, Jon is disappearing out of the front door, but Emma comes out of the second door to the library, between Aisha and the exit.

Door slamming behind Jon, Aisha runs for the stairs, up towards the darkened hallway, Emma growling in pursuit. Aisha makes it to the top, but the sharp point of the letter opener catches her on the back of her shin and she falls onto the hallway floor. She scrabbles away and turns on her hands and knees to see Emma closing down on her, letter opener brandished aloft.

Emma - you have ruined everything!

Aisha - you could never get away with killing Jon.

Emma - Michael is in custody, he can't have done it, and the rest of the poison would have been found in Alice Rigden's tea caddy. There's nothing else for it now.

Emma raised the letter opener even further, but then she glances up. She freezes, her eyes open and, dropping the letter opener, she screams as she puts her arms in front of her face. She steps backwards quickly, too quickly, and, as cold air rushes past Aisha, Emma loses her balance on the top step and stumbles backwards. Aisha tries to grab for her, but she misses. Emma tumbles down the stairs. When she lands, she is not moving, her head is in a very odd position and her eyes are open. Aisha looks down at her through the bannisters, and, she can't be sure, but next to her ear, she thinks she hears a female sigh.

~

And now it's time to vote again - be honest, did you work out whodunnit?


So, did you guess whodunnit?

Yes!
Yes, but I didn't no why.
Hadn't a clue :)
here

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