Saturday, 23 February 2013

Now that I'm getting spammed has my blog made it?

This little blog of mine has been chugging on for over a year now. I've had the odd spammer during that time, but blogger has done a good job of catching spam comments and relegating them to the spam bin.

Over the last week, however, I've noticed a dramatic increase in spam and many comments seemed to have escaped the spam bin!  How has this happened?  Why has this happened?

Well I did do a little reading around the interwebs and it seems that spammers are getting more sophisticated in their commentary making it more difficult for programs and people alike to identify them as spam.  They're becoming more flattering too; check out this one (I deleted the pesky link) - 
This design is incredible! You certainly know how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I ωas аlmost movеd to start my own blog (well, аlmost...HaHa!) Fantastiс job. І really еnjoyeԁ what yοu had tо say, and more than that, hοw you presented it. Too cоol!

Why thank you!

So I'm sure my research is right - spammers are becoming more sophisticated.  But I prefer to look at it as a sign ... my blog's finally made it!  Yay!

Seriously, if you're having trouble determining a spammer read this article.  In the meantime I've turned off my 'allow anonymous comments' option. I hope this doesn't inconvenience anyone.  But it will save my time deleting all those spams.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Words from George R.R. Martin

Like the rest of the world, I'm a George R.R. Martin fan.  I've always been a fan of fantasy, but Martin's brand is different.  He's taken the genre to another level – one that's more 'real'.  His characters experience problems of leaders and peasants from history.  The magic remains mysteriously, and sometimes frustratingly, in the background.  But it is all the more intriguing when it happens.

Like every other fan I am eagerly awaiting the release of the next novel of the series - The Winds of Winter.

In the meantime, what to do?  Well, I recently spent the afternoon listening to Martin in a couple of interviews and a podcast.  Interesting stuff for fans and aspiring fantasy writers alike.

A Song of Ice and Fire

The whole thing came to him in the summer of '81 when he struck upon the idea of a wolf that gave birth to pups during a summer snow.  The summer snow was very important.  From this he wrote a chapter and once that was done he knew what would happen in the next chapter.  He spent the rest of that summer writing what would become 'Game of Thrones'.  I like the way he stopped writing to draw a map and fully imagine this world of Westeros.

I'm happy to report his favourite character in this series is Tyrion, with Arya coming a close second (same as yours truly).  You may not be surprised to learn that Joffrey is loosely based on five to six people he went to school with (I think Joffrey reminds all of us of a few people we'd rather forget).

Martin often receives letters from people who complain about the detail of his sex scenes.  Interestingly, he receives no complaints about the detail of violence in scenes.  He states this seems to be typical of America today.

But Martin takes the opportunity to challenge, politely, the sexlessness of Tolkien's work.  And it's an interesting point.  Amid all the imaginative landscapes and creatures – humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, hobbits, trolls and more, imagined by Tolkein, they're all ... sexless.  Martin hasn't shied from sex in his work, and this makes his characters and stories more realistic, despite the 'fantasy' label.

On Writing

Martin endorses four rules for writers, as espoused by Robert A. Heinlein:

  1. You must write.
  2. Finish what you write.
  3. You must market what you write.
  4. Refrain from rewriting - except on editorial feedback (endless fiddling with your story is not going to get you anywhere).
Martin adds two of his own rules to this list:
  • Beginners should start with short stories – there is quite a demand for this in well renowned science fiction and fantasy magazines.
  • Keep your day job, writing is a hard gig.
Other tidbits he said along the way:
  • Martin's general philosophy for fantasy is to base it in reality, then get imaginative.
  • Even good fantasy falls into the mistake of thinking the good man will become the good king – Tolkien does this with Aragorn.  But societies are more complicated.
  • The character is the heart of fiction.  Make characters real.
  • If everyone hates the villain and loves the hero – that's when we are dealing with cardboard.  People are more complex.

Some words for thought, no?

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A writing schedule that works.

In previous posts I hinted about a writing schedule that works for me.  So, I thought I'd share it.  It's nothing new or particularly innovative, and the key here is that it works for me.  You should find something that works for you.

When I first decided to become serious about writing, I resolved to write when time permitted.  I'm sure you can guess what happened.  Life took over.  The phone would ring, I'd answer it.  The dishes would need doing.  There would be a show on the tv that sucked me in.  My writing trickled away to something I did on the weekend.

This arbitrary approach was never going to work.  One piece of advice often repeated, is to write often.  It's important for our practise and our momentum that we write on a daily basis.  Stephen King states that if you don't write every day "you'll lose the urgency and immediacy of your story..." (On Writing).

I'm no different to most aspiring authors.  I have a full-time job and family commitments, so how was I supposed to find some quality time to write every day?

Well here's what I did.

I sat down one day and looked at all of my commitments for each day of the week.  I decided upon a goal to write for one hour a day, six days a week.  Then I went through every day and found that hour.  Some days I write as soon as I get out of bed at 6am.  I grab a cup of tea and write through to 7am.  Other days I write in the evenings, before bed.    The weekends prove a little more flexible, and often I write more than the one hour.

Sticking to this schedule has enabled me to complete my first novelette and novel (soon to be released), and I am half-way through a third work.  Some days I write a thousand words.  Other days I barely make 200, but I am writing.

I guess the 'trick' if there is one, is to look at each day and determine the best time to write.  The next thing is to stick to it - ignore the phone and make the dishes wait.