Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

Hallowe’en

This blog has been neglected of late. There’s been a lot of life stuff getting in the way of the writing, which I hope to talk about at a later date.

Today, though, is Hallowe’en. As a horror writer I feel I can’t let the day go by without comment.

The irony is that for the first ten years of my life, Hallowe’en completely passed me by. Living in the North of England in the 1970s, we didn’t really celebrate Hallowe’en – possibly because we have Bonfire Night five days later, which was a much bigger deal – when the whole neighbourhood would throw their scrap wood in a pile on a vacant lot all year, and then on 5 November it would be lit to create a big bonfire, and everyone on the street would gather to watch fireworks and light sparklers and eat Parkin and black peas. And if none of these things mean anything to you, you’re probably not British.

Anyway, in January 1980 we moved to Canada, and in October of that year I experienced Trick or Treating for the first time. I was a week past my eleventh birthday. I dressed up as a princess. My sister and I went out with my mother and stepfather and a couple of friends, and we hit three or four of the neighbourhood streets. I came back with a haul of candy so large it lasted me pretty much until the following Hallowe’en.

I didn’t get many trick or treating years in, as two years later – a week past my thirteenth birthday and in Grade 7 – I decided I was too old for trick or treating and volunteered to sit at the front door handing out the candy. I ended up serving it up to quite a lot of my classmates that year. Which they seemed to find quite embarrassing.

What I’ve always loved about Hallowe’en, though, is the concept of dressing up – of being somebody I’m not, just for a day. In high school everyone was allowed to turn up for school in costumes for Hallowe’en. One year I decided to go as a punk. This was so far removed from what I usually looked like at school that most people didn’t recognise me. Which was the idea, of course. And it was quite liberating, to shed my usual goody-two-shoes image and pretend to be a bad-ass. Even if it was for just a few hours, and it was entirely theoretical because I was way too timid to be a bad-ass for real.

Nowadays I’m in the UK again and although Hallowe’en is more of a thing than it was when I was a kid, it’s still not as big a deal as Bonfire Night. Trick or treating happens, but not everyone buys into it and for stores it’s pretty much nothing more than another retail opportunity. Some kids may get to go to school in costume, and some retail outlets let their staff dress up in spooky costumes for Hallowe’en, but I don’t know any offices that will let you do so, and as I sit here typing this at my desk at the day job (I am officially on my lunch break, so even now I’m not breaking any rules), it’s just business as usual.

But in spite of that, I still want to acknowledge the occasion.

Happy Hallowe’en!

halloween2

Childhood Hero

One of my favourite TV shows as a kid was ‘The Bionic Woman’ starring Lindsay Wagner. Jaime Sommers was my hero. She was smart, she was resourceful, she was super-strong, and she generally managed to rescue herself without any help from the men, because if she got locked up somewhere she could just punch her way out. I remember bounding around the play ground in slow motion pretending to be the bionic woman – because in the show (for some reason) whenever super-fast bionic running happened, it was done in slow motion.

I had the bionic woman action figure as a kid. It was one of my favourite toys, and it came with a bag of cool accessories – a wallet full of dollar bills; maps; mission instructions; make-up. All doll-size. When I played with my Jaime Sommers doll I made her jump over the sofa, making that clicking noise that generally indicated she was using her bionic powers.

My husband bought me the box set of The ‘Bionic Woman’ on DVD for Christmas last year, and it features all three complete seasons, plus the four episodes she originally appeared in from ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’. Her first appearance was in a two-part series. She was Steve Austin’s fiancee and a tennis pro, then she gets seriously injured in a skydiving accident, and Steve convinces Oscar Goldman to shell out the millions of dollars needed to bionically rebuild her. All goes well at first, but Jaime’s body rejects the bionics and she dies at the end of the second episode. But when ratings are high enough TV deaths are always reversible, and Jaime Sommers proved so popular, she was brought back from the brink of death and a second two-part episode in ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ has Steve discover that Jaime is still alive. But alas – she’s lost her memory and doesn’t remember being in love with him.

And so from there spun a separate series that ran for three seasons, and I’ve been working my way through them chronologically. There are few things I’ve noticed about watching a show for the second time 40 years later.

Firstly: I watched every episode as a kid, but as young as I was at the time, I enjoyed the action, but I didn’t follow every nuance of the story line. I am re-watching episodes I remember watching when I was six years old, but I realise I was misremembering them.

Secondly: I realise that watching this show sowed the seeds of feminism in me at an early age. Even in the 1970s, in a less politically correct time, Jaime Sommers was a fantastic role model. As already mentioned, she was able to get herself out of pretty much any situation, as the villains always underestimated the strength of this ‘mere woman’. An early episode in season 1 has Jaime take her class of schoolchildren (for the day job she works as a teacher) on a picnic. When the boys refuse to let the girls play softball “because everybody knows girls are no good at sports” Jaime bargains with them that if she can score a home run, the girls get to play. So of course with her bionic arm she hits the ball and it flies for miles, she proves her point and the girls get to play baseball.

But I am also realising, in this retro re-watch, that actually it’s not a very good show. Apart from the appalling seventies fashions (orange and brown wallpaper? How did anyone think that looked good?), we have cardboard cut out villains, wooden acting, and implausible storylines. And then of course there are a few logicistical problems with the whole concept of bionics. Bionics are effectively cybernetics, something that I guess was a fairly new and exciting thing in the seventies. Having two bionic legs and a bionic arm are all well and good, but without a bionic spine, if you try to lift a car you’d do yourself a serious injury! And given the fact that Jaime’s bionic limbs are complete replacement for her biological ones, which got crushed beyond recognition in the skydiving accident, there is absolutely no scarring. There are a couple of episodes in which she wears swim suits, and there is no mark at all to indicate where her real skin ends and her bionic body parts begin.

But as a kid I didn’t think about any of this. I was just enraptured by the show. I found it scary at times. The last episode of season one involves a young girl (played by Kristy McNichol) obsessed with her dead mother, who was apparently accused of being a witch, and spooky things keep happening. I haven’t got to that one yet in my re-watch but I remember being creeped out by it the first time I watched it. I also haven’t got to the episodes featuring the ‘fembots’ – female robots who set out to kill Jaime. But the scenes in which the fembots walk around with no face masks, revealing a pair of staring eyes amongst circuit boards and wires terrified me as a child. I had nightmares for weeks about fembots. Hopefully they won’t creep me out quite so much forty years on.

I am enjoying my trip down memory lane in rewatching this series, and having a slightly more objective take on the impact it had on my childhood – good and bad. As I finish this blog post with the theme tune of ‘The Bionic Woman’ I’d like to open the floor to all of you reading. What TV shows from childhood had an impact on you, and have you ever watched that show in adulthood? If not, would you want to? Or is it better to keep memories of childhood firmly buried in the past, instead of running the risk of shattering one’s illusions by realising that the show you thought was amazing was actually rubbish?

New Year Reflections

The start of the year is a time to reflect on what’s past, on where you find yourself at the present, and where you want to be going in the future.

We are now a couple of weeks into 2016 and I find myself, on the whole, to be in a pretty good place. I have several publications under my belt including three novels and another coming soon (SUFFER THE CHILDREN, my first novel, due for re-release from MuseItUp Publishing later this year). I’ve got two more novels in progress, and ideas for a few more. The day job is going well, and I’ve seen significant improvements in my health since taking the decision to drop twenty pounds in 2015.

However, my life is also pretty packed. The day job pays well but works me hard, and I spend not only eight hours a day five days a week there, but three hours a day commuting to and from London. I have my bass guitar lesson once a week and am doing regular open mic gigs with Hubby. I am trying to develop a regular exercise routine, we play Dungeons and Dragons twice a month, I run the T Party writers’ group which meets once a month, and this is before we start talking about fitting in the writing, the promotion, the conventions, and holidays.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not a whine. I am where I am in my life because I chose to be there, and I do not regret anything. However, there is always room for improvement, and the start of the year seems to be a good time to look at what I  can do better.

First of all, this blog has been neglected for the last couple of years, and I am going to endeavour to change that this year. Monday will still be the guest blog feature Monday’s Friends, as it has been for some years now. Wednesdays will be a writing-related post, cross-posted on the WriteClub blog. I hope to pick up the Ten Commandments of Writing feature, which rather tailed off halfway through last year. Friday Fears will feature with more regularity, and I would welcome contributions of two-sentence horror stories from anyone who feels inclined to send me one – credited, of course.

In addition, I’d like to feature other posts on the blog, about more general subjects. I can’t promise this will be weekly – it’s more likely to be once or twice a month. But when I started the blog, I was talking about commuting and London and weather and travelling and all the things that I deal with in my everyday life. And because I don’t want to be the kind of writer that only comes online to say ‘buy my book’, I’d like to get back to this again.

So, that’s one resolution: more regular blog posts. A second, more personal one, relates to the aforementioned weight loss. This was something that I didn’t really discuss on the blog, but those who follow me on Twitter will be aware of it, since I was Tweeting about my weekly weigh-ins.

This was something that came about when I went on a short holiday to France in June and couldn’t get the zip of my favourite summer dress done up. Coming at a time when I’d lost several family members and friends to cancer within a fairly short period, I was more mindful of needing to look after my health and decided the time had come to get a bit healthier. The weight loss was all about trying to shed bad habits, as well as a few pounds. I hate the gym, I hate vegetables and I love all things sweet and sugary. But sometimes you have to do things that are good for you, whether you want to or not. I aimed to get back to ten and a half stone (that’s 147 lbs for the Americans amongst you), which is what I was when I last lost weight, in 2009. The intervening years had apparently seen a gain of over twenty pounds, which I wanted to lose again. I managed to hit my goal just before Christmas, but then came all the eating and drinking and not moving from the couch for two weeks that accompanied the holiday season, and I’m now a few pounds above that goal again.

However, I resolved at the beginning of this year to try and go back to the good habits I’d adopted at the end of last year: regular exercise, more fruit & veg, fewer sugary treats, fewer takeaways, less red meat. I’ve ridden this whole weight-loss roundabout before. The weight comes off, I go back to eating what I like to eat, it comes back on again. This year, I want to try and keep the weight off – especially since Hubby bought me several new dresses in my new smaller size for Christmas, and I want to be able to keep on wearing them.

It can be quite difficult as a writer to stay fit, since writing generally involves sitting on a chair for hours at a time, moving only to get more tea and another couple of biscuits (favourite food of The Muse, apparently). And I am inherently quite lazy. I have no trouble getting up early to write, especially when my early morning writing sessions involve a yummy breakfast muffin at the coffee shop I set up in, but I am much less inclined to get up early to go for an early-morning swim.

There, then, is Resolution Number 2. And then there are the writing resolutions, which I discussed in the December round-up post. I have two novels to finish. I have to crack on with them.

There’s an additional resolution that comes in to help me with all the others, and that’s to be more organised. I’ve got a rather anally retentive personality anyway, and I love lists. Lists are the key to staying organised. I have to do lists for every week, involving both writing and non-writing related goals, and they get dutifully ticked off as I complete the tasks. Finding time to write, or to exercise, equally involves noting appointments in my diary and making sure I turn up when I say I will – even if not doing so lets down no one else but myself.

It’s always dangerous to declare one’s intentions in a public forum, since you have a lot of people to answer to if you fail to fulfil them. But it also provides a good motivation to sticking to your resolutions.

Hence, I start the year full of good intentions. I guess we need to come back here at the end of the year and see how well – or otherwise – I’ve managed to do!

Whatever you wish for this year, I hope 2016 delivers.

Cover Reveal: The Whispering Death

FINAL COVER

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s time to unveil the cover for my forthcoming horror novel THE WHISPERING DEATH!

This one is being released by British horror publisher Kensington Gore in the Autumn. The e-book version may, in fact, be available in a few weeks. The print version will follow in a couple of months. I am hoping to be able to launch it at FantasyCon in Nottingham in October but I am awaiting confirmation on that.

This is the scariest novel I have written in a while, and it’s not for the faint-hearted as it has rather a lot of gruesome scenes. It also has a lot of references to LARP, to D&D, to Resident Evil and is an homage to geekiness in general. Oh, and it has zombies, too.

I am very excited about the release of this book. For those of you in the UK and not going to FantasyCon, I’m endeavouring to arrange another launch, in the South of England, to offer another opportunity to attend. As always, watch this space for further info.

In the meantime, here’s a teaser in the form of a blurb for the novel.

Blurb for THE WHISPERING DEATH

Death comes to us all; life is the name of the game and everyone has a role to play.

When a group of live action role-players perform a ritual as part of a game, they unwittingly unleash an ancient evil that tears their world apart. The reanimated corpse of a long-dead magic user, corrupted by powerful dark magic, offers a promise of unlimited power, but at a terrible price. Having helped open this Pandora’s box, Mark and Elizabeth must race against time to close it again – before it’s too late.

Monday’s Friend: J E Seymour

Today I am pleased to welcome crime writer J E Seymour as my guest to the blog, with some sage advice on the editing process.

On Editing
By J E Seymour

I’m in the middle of editing my third novel. It’s not fun. I’m not even talking about the multiple times I’ve edited it myself, which is its own nightmare. I’m on the second round of professional edits with my publisher’s editor. Don’t get me wrong, she’s great. I don’t have anything against her, except that she’s forcing me to work at this. Yes, she is pushing me to do things with my writing I haven’t done before. Yes, she is making me stretch. And those are good things. I’m thrilled, really. When I’m not staring at the screen and cursing her.

StressFractures (2)This is what a good editor does. A good editor tells you what you’re doing wrong. The writer has to be able to take that criticism and make the writing better. Some of the criticism hurts. How can this person say that about my writing? But then, when I step back and look at it, maybe she’s right. Then I can make it better. And that is why a writer needs an editor. We all need someone to tell us when we’ve made a mistake.

Good editing starts at home. Set aside your first draft. I ignore it for a few weeks, some people set it aside for months. Then come back to it. You’ll see things you were missing the first time through. Then move on to beta readers. An outside eye, whether it’s a writers group or an individual reader, will again find things you missed, but should also help you with things like continuity.

After this, go over it yourself again. Pay attention to what your first readers said. Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way. Be objective.

For me, the next step is to send it to my publisher. Then the professional editor takes over and the real work begins. And if you’ll excuse me, I have to go bang my head on the desk as I go through the latest round of edits.

Author Bio

510x765-LeadPoisoning (2)J.E. Seymour lives and writes in the seacoast area of New Hampshire, USA. She has two novels out with Barking Rain Press – Lead Poisoning, and Stress Fractures, both featuring Kevin Markinson, retired mob hitman, Marine Veteran and all around family guy. Her third novel, Frostbite, featuring the same character, is due out from Barking Rain in March of 2016. She also has had more than twenty short stories published in print and ezines. In addition to writing, she works in a library and takes care of a farm with four ponies, two horses, a donkey, several cats, two rescued greyhounds, a cockatoo and two pet snakes. Find out more about her at her website and buy her books direct from the publisher here: http://www.barkingrainpress.org/j-e-seymour/

2014 in review

WordPress have provided an overview of activity on my blog for 2014. Thanks for reading! Here’s to 2015.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My Favourite Toy

The main reason I got so excited about Christmas was as a kid was because it was a time I used to get loads of fantastic new toys.  The presents I get nowadays are just not as exciting as they were back then.  And I suppose I’m a lot more cynical in my old age.

actiongirl

Action Girl as she looked when I first got her

However, of late I’ve had conversations with people my age about favourite Christmas presents of childhood, and that’s got me thinking back to my favourite toys.

I have to say that my favourite toy of all time was Action Girl.  I don’t remember what year I got her, or even if she was actually a Christmas present.  But she was manufactured between 1971 and 1977, and my guess was I got mine around 1976, when I was about six or so. This picture on the right is actually of my doll – same red hair, same outfit.  And she was presented in this box.  Check out that psychedelic 1970s outfit – all brown and orange!

There were many accessories available for Action Girl, including clothes and furniture.  One of my big beefs was that apart from the rubber boots that she came with (see picture) none of the shoes you could buy her ever actually fit.  Unlike other fashion dolls, Action Girl’s feet were realistic looking, with soles and heels and five toes.  The plastic high-heeled shoes that generically came with every Action Girl outfit never actually fit on her feet properly.

In the UK, we didn’t really have Barbie in the 1970s.  We had Sindy instead, who was a fashion doll known for her distinctive round head and big eyes.  I had a Sindy too, but I preferred Action Girl.  Action Girl was fully flexible and every joint could bend.  Each section of the doll was connected to the next joint by a length of wire.  It wasn’t pretty, but it made her far more interesting than Sindy, who wasn’t nearly as flexible.

Sindy as she looked in the 1970s

Sindy as she looked in the 1970s

Unlike Action Girl Sindy is still available, but she’s been through a few face lifts since she looked like she does in this picture.  In the 1980s she looked rather a lot like Barbie.  So much so, in fact, the manufacturers of Sindy got sued at one point by the manufacturers of Barbie, so Sindy’s face had to change once more.  Nowadays, it seems she looks a lot more like she did originally, and she’s once more got the round head and large eyes.

Although I preferred Action Girl to Sindy, Sindy had  far more accessories than Action Girl did, and with Sindy being a more enduring design they were more easily available.  So over several Christmases I got Sindy’s bed, and dressing table, and wardrobe, and even Sindy’s horse, but I used them with Action Girl, not Sindy.  I never got the saddle for the horse, so Action Girl used to ride bareback.  She was cool that way.

I named my Action Girl Jennifer, and she went everywhere with me.  I even took her into the bath with me, which in retrospect was a bad idea.  First of all, those metal pins holding her joints together rusted.  And her hair, which was made of nylon, frizzed up and got completely ruined after the first dip. But none of this bothered me.  I loved her, and the two of us had many wonderful adventures.

When we moved from England to Canada in 1980, we had to get rid of a lot of our toys because we couldn’t take them all.  Action Girl was one I made a point of taking with me.  When I moved back to England, aged 18, limited on space again and having to get rid of stuff once more, I still brought Action Girl with me.  For much of the last decade, I had her sitting on my PC, inspiring me to write.  She got put in a box when we moved house two years ago, and sadly didn’t fare too well in the move.  In fact she broke in half.  Her waist was fastened with that rusted pin and two elastic bands, connecting her top torso to the bottom and allowing her to swivel, but after 35 years those elastic bands were perished.  Somewhere over the last few decades one of her plastic hands, which also swivelled (I thought it was neat that her wrists could move in a complete circle), broke and fell off and got lost. But I can’t bear to throw her out, so she’s still up in the attic in a box.  I’m still trying to decide if I want to get her restored to her former glory, or whether it’s best to keep her in her original state, battered and broken though she may be.  At least this proves how much she was loved.

So, with a week to go until Christmas, it seems appropriate to open this topic up to conversation.  Can you remember those Christmases past, and what your favourite childhood toy was?

Monday’s Friend: Marsha R West

Today I’m pleased to have fellow MUI author Marsha R West on the blog, on the day she’s revealing her new cover!  Welcome, Marsha!

Marsha WestSJT:  Which writers have inspired your own writing?

MW:  I’d have to say Carla Neggars. I’ve loved her series about the families in the New Hampshire White Mountains that she intertwined with the family in Tennessee. I love her descriptions and think she’s brilliant the way she keeps all the pieces together. Setting plays a big role in her books, and I usually begin with the setting. My first two books are stand-alones, but I’ve sold the first book in a series.

SJT:  What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

MW:  Well, I’m very glad no one told me how hard the job was. I might not have begun the journey. 🙂 I guess I wish someone had pointed me to classes sooner. I know of people who took on-line classes before ever beginning a book. I made many mistakes with the first two books I wrote that I could’ve avoided. Of course, it’s definitely a learn by doing job! Some stuff I don’t think I’d have understood if it had been presented before I was ready.

SJT:  You’ve been a high school theatre teacher. I absolutely loved my drama class when I was in high school and for a while harboured a fantasy of becoming a famous actress. Did you ever teach anyone who went on to become a famous?

MW:  I had a student who went on to work in the business as a stunt double, especially for children. And one of my students became a theatre teacher herself. That I think is very cool.

SJT:  Your bio says you own dogs (or perhaps, more accurately, they own you). I feel the same way about my cats. Do you think there’s a difference between ‘dog people’ and ‘cat people’?

MW:  In actual fact, we lost both our puppies last summer. Simon died one week and the next week my first book came out, and the third week we lost Scout. Very sad time 😦 mixed with the joy of the book release. Basically, I cried every day for six months.

I’m a dog person, but I know folks who have both. I just don’t see how the connection can be the same between the two. Dogs give you unconditional love. Cats seem to have a take it or leave it attitude with their parents. But I’ve never had a cat, so I could be misreading the signs.

I do think that all animal lovers are basically good people as opposed to someone who doesn’t like animals. Animal abuse is committed by some of the lowest of the low in creation!

Truth Be Told 300dpi(1)SJT:  Tell us about your new book.

MW:  The short tag for TRUTH BE TOLD is: SWAT member teams with brother’s former LA homicide detective partner to stop a blackmailer. Falling in love wasn’t one of their strategies.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that. The blackmailed person is Meg’s father, the mayor of Fort Worth. Her brother’s partner, Scott, was medically retired from the force when he nearly lost his life saving her brother’s. Scott struggles against the attraction he feels for Meg, who couldn’t possibly find anything of interest in him when he can’t walk without his cane and has no clue what shape his life will take. And all the while the blackmailer inserts himself into the family’s life. Will he succeed in killing one of them before they can stop him?

TRUTH BE TOLD releases next month.

SJT:  What’s next for you, writing-wise?

MW:  I’ve returned to my theatre roots for the third book, SECOND CHANCES, which I just sold to MuseItUp Publishing. When a member of the board of a non-profit arts agency turns up dead, the homicide detective assigned to the case looks at everyone involved in the organization, including the Executive Director. This book is scheduled for e-release in the winter of 2014/15. It’s the first of several about four women friends all in their mid-forties who struggle to protect their families from the dangers stalking them. They are surprised when it appears they might stumble into a second chance at love.

SJT:  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I confess I’m a huge TV junky. Thanks goodness for the record button. I even record House Hunters on HGTV. I love being able to skim through the commercials. Saves me a ton of time.

Reading and Travel are high on my list of things to do when not writing. DH and I love to go to New England especially Maine, which is where my current Work in Progress is set. It’s the second in the series, but I’m only about a fourth of the way through.

Vermont Escape 200x300VERMONT ESCAPE can be found at.

MuseItUp Publishing
B & N
Amazon

BLURB:

Two years after the murder of her husband, someone guns down Jill Barlow’s father, a Texas State Representative. The authorities suspect a connection between the murders, but can’t find proof. Jill longs for the peace she found when she visited Vermont after her husband’s death. With the perpetrators still at large, she flees to the small town of Woodstock.
The gambling syndicate, believing she has damning evidence against them, pursues her, shattering her dreams of peace. In an effort to protect her grown children, she doesn’t tell them violence continues to stalk the family.
Despite having lost so much already, with the lives of her family and friends at stake, will Jill be required to make more sacrifices, even the hope of a second chance at love?

AUTHOR BIO

Marsha R. West, a retired elementary school principal, is also a former school board member and theatre arts teacher. She writes romantic suspense where experience is required. Her heroes and heroines, struggling with life and loss, are surprised to discover second chances at love.

Marsha, who loves to travel, lives in Texas with her supportive lawyer husband. They’ve raised two daughters who’ve presented them with three delightful grandchildren.

Marsha’s current WIP is another romantic suspense. It’s the second of a planned series about four women who met when they were kids at summer camp.

You can read her blog Thoughts on Thursday and Tuesday Author Chats at http://www.marsharwest.com/category/blog

She hopes you’ll stop by. She’d love to hear from you.

Social Links

Blog for Thoughts on Thursday and Tuesday Author Chats
Facebook
Twitter

Thanks so much for having me today, Sara Jayne.

2013 in Blogging

So I’ve had a summary of activity on my blog in 2013.  And it got 2,300 views – not too shabby!

There’s no doubt that having guest bloggers attracts more traffic to my blog, so I won’t be stopping that feature any time soon.  The most commented-on posts have been from guest bloggers.

Except on 10 September, when nothing in particular was going on, the blog was viewed 53 times and apparently the post with the most hits was the Fashion Fix post from four years ago.  Not quite sure what was going on there.

Anyway, if you’re interested in more stats regarding Imaginary Friends, the link is below.

Click here to see the complete report.

Here’s to more blog activity in 2014!

Gadgets

I got an iPad mini for Christmas. I am still figuring out how it works. And it has made me think about how many gadgets I actually own, and how important Internet connectivity has become to daily life.  At home I have a laptop, a NetBook, a Kindle, a PSP, a Playstation 3, a mobile phone and an iPad that all connect to my wifi.

I cannot imagine life without email, or Internet access. Whenever we go away anywhere, the first thing I do is find out how to connect to the hotel’s wifi – and whether or not it has wifi influences whether or not we choose to book it.

I also cannot imagine life without my NetBook.  This little gadget I take everywhere with me, and I do most of my writing on it.  It has become such a part of my life now that I find it difficult to write without it.  I certainly could not go back to the days of scribbling stories in pencil in the back of school exercise books, which is how I did it in my teenage years, and indeed back then could not imagine writing a first draft any other way.

The Internet has changed the world.  We can all connect with each other through cyberspace.  It has incited revolution in countries where oppressed citizens can see what life is like in other places, and collectively decide they don’t want to put up with this anymore.

It has made research a great deal easier.  In the old days, if you wanted to write a book set in, say, the French revolution, you had to go to the library and make use of the card catalogue to find books on the subject.  Now you just do a Google search.

It has made self publishing easier.  Anyone can upload a manuscript to Kindle Direct Publishing and publish a novel.  Whether or not they should is a whole other story, but I’ve already blogged about this recently so I won’t go into it again (see my post here if you want to know my views on this).

My mobile phone I have also become hugely reliant on.  I still have a paper pocket diary, but I find myself keeping track of appointments on the calendar on my mobile phone far more often than I refer to my diary.  I don’t leave the house, even briefly, without my mobile phone, just in case something happens and I need to phone for help.  In fact, the mobile phone has proved to be an even more world-changing invention than the Internet.  Just about everyone in the world has one.  We’ve been to remote villages in third world countries where people live very basic lives, but still everyone has a mobile phone.  From what I understand, the charities that work on trying to improve communications for people in poor remote villages across the world find it easier to distribute the old handsets that are thrown out to the people in these villages than to dig up the landscape in order to install cables for land lines.  There are now more mobile phones in the world than people, apparently.

Of course, technology often fails, and every time there’s a power cut, whether it be at home or at work, I am reminded how dangerous it can be to completely depend on technology.  I have more than one alarm clock set just in case the power fails in the night and the alarm fails to go off.  I back up my writing on several computers, and to Dropbox which I can access from pretty much every mobile device.  So if one computer goes kaput I can access my files from elsewhere, including battery-operated devices in case the power fails.  This is also why I have a paper address book and a paper diary – if technology fails, I don’t lose everything.

The speed at which the world has changed in the last thirty years is frightening.  But changed it has, and whether we like it or not we have to adapt to the changes.  We all have houses full of gadgets.  That’s the way things are these days. For most people in the Western world, the energy required to power these devices is taken for granted.  But what if the electricity ran out?  Permanently?  How devastating would that be for this changed world?

There’s a story in there somewhere…