Game of Thrones readers feeling a tad smug

Because we know what’s coming. And it ain’t just Winter.

Having voraciously read my way through the five books – and then started on the books about the books – over the past few months, I accept that I’ll probably be buying the DVD box set before the last two books are actually published. (I haven’t succumbed to the Sky monster).

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R.I.P Sir Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry suffered from PCA, a form of Alzheimer’s disease, for the past seven years. Although we’ve been robbed of his genius, we can help to save others by donating via the Just Giving page set up in his memory.

Orangutan courtesy of Pixabay

Sunday Slackers

The internet of fascinating things to while away your Sunday …

Beginning with Sassy Women Alert, as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler do a Ricky Gervais on an unsuspecting Hollywood (and it’s fab to see George has a sense of humour. No wonder we love him so.)

 

Literature/Film: With the hype surrounding a certain film due out next month, it seemed a good time to share one of the funniest and wittiest Twitter feeds around – Fifty Sheds of Grey.

Space: The cultural significance of space exploration

Tech?: 21 times people used the internet before it was invented.

Animals: Cats and Dogs trying to decide who’s boss.

Freelancing: Dispelling a few myths about self employed people (such as writers!)

Photography: The simple beauty of children and animals

Music: John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ made into a comic strip

Miscellaneous: Mr Men’s and Little Misses for modern day Britain

Music 2: 7 Elvis tunes borrowed from classical music

For writers: Honesty in Writing and a toolbox of practicality

Fun: 7 people who totally nailed it!

Thoughts for the week – The Final Frontier!

Rochester Literature Festival 2014: Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know

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We’re delighted to be opening this year with an hilarious and heart-warming one woman show with actress Sunny Ormonde – the outrageous Lilian Bellamy from BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, the world’s longest running soap.

Over the course of the next ten days, we’ll be joined by as-seen-on-tv-off-his-trolley comic genius Phil Kay, master of freeform performance and storytelling, and notorious Australian, Trenton Oldfield – who served six months at her Majesty’s Pleasure for disrupting the 2012 Boat Race in a protest against elitism.

We will be hosting two wonderful authors who’ll fascinate you with insights and anecdotes from their latest books: Angela Buckley introduces us to The Real Sherlock Holmes – Detective Jerome Caminada, whose methodologies mimicked Conan Doyle’s genius, and Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, who will discuss the impact of reality on fiction. While No One Was Watching is set against the backdrop of the Kennedy assassination and the abduction of a young girl from the grassy knoll on that fateful day.

Sadly, we have to announce the postponement of one of our family events,Assassin, due to technical issues. Featuring the fantastic Joe Craig reading extracts from his Jimmy Coates series – part boy, part weapon, totally deadly – and music from Jacob Bride, Graham Sykes and Jamie Godfrey, this will hopefully take place early in the new year. However, we do still have the awesome Keeper of the Realms author, Marcus Alexander, who is Charlie’s Keeper, who will entertain and inspire you with his delightfully wicked fantasy adventure series – get your read on! Waterstones in Chatham have kindly agreed to sell books in the venue on the day, if you need to complete your collection.

Our interactive story game this year is Murder in the Crypt, in which you’ll be invited to solve mysteries and puzzles with Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes and Auguste Dupin. In addition, we’re holding a Cafe Crawl, where you can sample poetry and storytelling, while Bookmark’d is a chance to buy books, swap books or just listen to books, read aloud by their authors.

Our Night at the Theatre will this year be held in conjunction with Chatham Grammar School for Boys and be presented by award winning 17% playwrights,Sam Fentiman-Hall, Sarah Hehir and Maggie Drury. The Spirit of My Dream is inspired by Byron’s poem The Dream and features new plays with a fantastical theme.

An exhibition curated by ME4Writers especially for the festival, An Assemblance of Judicious Heretics, has channelled Byron to produce work inspiring madness, badness and dangerousness in the hearts of artists. A live reading will bring the visual carnage to life!

Byron’s Teapot will be our finale – a mad mix of unusual and quirky music, poetry and theatre, featuring The James Worse Public Address Method, JP Lovecraft,Dylan Oscar Rowe and Brides of Rain.

We look forward to welcoming you to our exciting – and only slightly scary – second full length festival!

To read full details, download a copy the 2014 programme and buy tickets, please visit rochesterlitfest.com.

If you have any enquiries regarding any of the events or festival in general, please email rochesterlitfest@gmail.com or telephone 07904 643770.

We look forward to seeing you 🙂

The Word Play Wagon lights the Fuse in Walderslade

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been selected by the Kent Baton to open their Sparks Fuse Festival project, One Day Works.

My short term residence in the Baton – a vintage silver airstream caravan converted to a mobile art centre – is on Wednesday, June 4th from 11am – 6pm. It will be located outside Permark Post Office in Walderslade Village and its activities will be suitable for all ages and all abilities. No previous experience is needed, just turn up and play around with some words.

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The overall title, The Word Play Wagon, reflects the diverse creative writing activities planned, including:

  • Turn over a new leaf: Add a poem, wish or favourite saying to a luggage label leaf you create and hang it on a Poetree.
  •  A Novel Experience: Bring your favourite book and write an original short piece based on its premise (see example ‘Triffidus Corpus’ here).
  • Hint: Writing micro fiction from as little as 10 words. (Examples)
  • Spoofing Medway: Write the local news as it didn’t happen! (Example)
  • Mystery Collective Poems: Add a line to the one before – it’ll be the only one you can see! (See examples here.)
  •  If and Then: A question and answer session with a difference. (Examples – scroll down to ‘Potlatch’)

I’m really looking forward to engaging lots of people in writing activities – who knows, I might find the next generation of Medway poets!

One Day Works will host a series of one day experiments throughout Medway during the Fuse Festival and its build up. From urban high streets to country villages, the project will showcase ten of Medway’s finest creative talents across a range of art forms. Along with the The Word Play Wagon, the works include an epic poem, sculptures made from found objects, archival collections, insect inspired costumes, drawings made from thread, an acoustic live music gig and a magic lantern performance. Click here for the full list of artists and their projects.

The Fuse Festival runs from Friday, June 13th – Sunday, June 15th, find out more at their website here.

It’s arts. It’s yours. It’s free.

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Triffidus Corpus

The day outside was sounding wrong. Feeling wrong. Even for a Sunday, the silence was disturbingly, mysteriously different. No rumbling wheels, no roaring buses, no tramping feet. Shuffling, hesitant feet, yes. But none with purpose. No birdsong, just unintelligible wailing and sobbing close by.

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He wasn’t able to see the light show played out in the skies last night. Bright green flashes; shooting stars; showering comets. A magnificent spectacle, they said. A unique phenomenon, they said. You should have seen it, they said. Rather insensitively.

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The feeling of the bogey man under the bed began to creep upon him. A lifetime of being deprived of his eyes did nothing to alleviate this. Was it that famed sixth sense, becoming more heightened?

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Was it his imagination? That fluttery feeling in his stomach, a prelude to something he dreaded. But what? Reaching out to touch … what? There was nothing there, nothing to feel and yet… still that persistent nagging.

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What was that? A waft of air passed by his face, light as a feather. He was reminded of a fly, caught in a spider’s web. Trapped by uncertainty; perplexed by inactivity. Stilled by fear. He became aware that something was waiting …

Lurching towards him, leathery leaves rustling.

A stem whipped back and forth.

A swish and a slap.

The sting whistle slashed.

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“A Triffid is in a damn sight better position to survive than a blind man. Take away our sight and our superiority to them is gone.” – John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids

I wrote this piece for The Skywatcher Investigation, our interactive alien game during the Rochester LitFest 2013 Other Worlds, Other Voices Festival. Using Wyndham’s descriptive language to capture the feel but creating a character of my own, it was performed by the multi talented Lance Philips of Physical Folk, playing a blind gardener, who succumbs to attack by a Triffid, played by the wonderful Sophie Williams. I read the piece aloud to the sound of Mozart’s requiem, Ave Verum Corpus, adjusting the text to fit the rhythm of the music.

It was a new experience for me but one I thoroughly enjoyed working on, and hope to do similar again in future.

Photo credit: Nikki Price Photography

Seasonally Effected Cultural Open Mic

The next Seasonally Effected session is at Cafe 172 (formerly Dot Cafe) on Wednesday, April 30th from 7pm.

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Expect an eclectic mix of poetry, song, storytelling and more – and get there early to bag a seat, because there was barely standing room available last month.

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Photo: Nikki Price

A rapper and beat boxer over from Sheppey joined in what was considered the Best SE Ever, particularly with the impromptu group chorus of Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley’s, not Handel’s). And a new genre was born, with Thomas and Umpdeep now much in demand for their combination of spoken word and drum beats.

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Slots are fully booked for this month but if you’d like to take part next time, contact Roy Smith via email seasonallyeffected@gmail.com. Podcasts of previous sessions can be found here: http://seasonallyeffected.wordpress.com/

Roy is running a free workshop on Thursday evening, May 1st (7pm, coFWD) for any artists, writers or creatives interested in working on his augmented reality game ‘ The Real Medway & Swale’  – contact him at realmedwayandswale@gmail.com.

Photo: Nikki Price

Photo: Nikki Price

My favourite opening lines in fiction

Challenged by James T Kelly on Twitter @realjtk, I plundered my own meagre, mainly fantasy, collection, to select a few of the best.

None are from the literary giants that The Independent – who started this challenge – took theirs, but my own favourites, plus a couple I’ve bought and got as far as the first line but then … well, you know how it is. They’ve been chosen because they paint a picture in my head without describing anything physical. Or they just make me laugh.

First Among Sequels – Jasper Fforde

The dangerously high level of the Stupidity Surplus was once again the lead story of The Owl that morning.

My number one – encapsulates the ultra alternativeness of the alternative Swindon in one line.

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 Stargazy Pie – Laura Lockington

Nobody understands the meaning of the word embarrassment unless they have travelled on a packed Inter City train with a small masturbating monkey, trust me on this.

We don’t know the how or why but we get it.

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 Chocolate – Joanne Harris

We came on the wind of the carnival.

And we knew something magical was going to happen.

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 The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

I read this for the LitFest Skywatcher event (scroll down), writing my own piece using his descriptive language to capture the feel. Reading it aloud on the Sunday afternoon, with Sophie and Lance acting it out, all was silent apart from the bells of Rochester Cathedral and Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus paying softly behind me. It was quietly chilling.

Photo: Nikki Price

Photo: Nikki Price

The Truth – Terry Practhett

The rumour spread through the city like wildfire (which had often spread through Ankh Morpork since its citizens had learned the words ‘fire insurance’).

Master of the * and turning a cliche on its head, I could probably have filled the list with lots of Pratchett.

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In fact …

The Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett (favourite first whole paragraph or two!)

The wind howled. Lightning stabbed at the earth erratically, like an inefficient assassin. Thunder rolled back and forth across the dark, rain-lashed hills.

The night was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could believe, on which gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard of fate. In the middle of this elemental storm a fire gleamed among the dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weasel’s eye. It illuminated three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: ‘When shall we three meet again?’

There was a pause.

Finally another voice said, in far more ordinary tones: ‘Well, I can do next Tuesday.’

Irresistible.

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The Righteous Men – Sam Bourne

The night of the first killing was filled with song.

Macabre beauty.

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Valhalla – Tom Holt

‘Oh, look,’ observed Napoleon. ‘There’s a speck of dust.’

The diminutive French general concerned with housekeeping? Really?

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The Northern Lights – Philip Pullman

Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.

He spelt demon wrong differently to everyone else. And why does a Hall need a capital letter? Do the Landings have capitals too?

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The Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling

The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it ‘the Riddle House’ even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there.

The first Potter book not to begin at No.4 Privet Drive; the first to show us how far she was prepared to take these characters; the first to give us real background on He Who Must Not Be Named; the first to give us pay-off from that trip to Olivander’s.

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Jackdaws – Ken Follett

One minute before the explosion, the square at St. Cecille was at peace.

The juxtaposition of war and peace. And a must if, like me, you’re slightly obsessed by the Special Operations Executive.

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My favourite two I’ve only read the first lines of, saved on my Kindle:

Night at the Circus – Angela Carter

‘Lor, love you, Sir!’ Fevvers sang out in a voice that clanged like dustbin lids.

Shades of Grey (God, no, not that one – relax!) Jasper Fforde

It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit, and ended up with me being eaten by a carnivorous plant.

Roll on the summer holidays …

Ok, there is one ‘classic’ that’s probably on everybody’s list:

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Defines ‘Evocative’.

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For S.O.P.H.I.E – the GOMK charity book

A wonderful side effect from my involvement in the Rochester Literature Festival was being asked by one of our exhibiting artists, Richard Jeferies, to write for his charity book, Goth on my Keyboard.

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The Goth character has an adoring public on Facebook and beyond, and is now using her celebrity to publicise a good cause close to home. Myself and fellow writer, Alison Eley, have responded to Richard’s brilliant drawings and character in this book, and Richard himself also adds emotive words to his images, as well as deliver the short and sweet cartoons that are GOMK’s usual platform. It’s a true life mix of humour and poignancy and frankly, well worth your time to read it. I’m thrilled and honoured to be a part of it.

Most of us are free to express ourselves in any way we see fit, whether through our choice of music, art, or the way we dress. Sadly, even these days, there are those who seek to destroy anything they don’t understand, or like, or is different, and Sophie Lancaster paid the worst possible price for this.

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The book is  now published and all the proceeds go to the S.O.P.H.I.E Lancaster Foundation, a charity set up to help fight hate crimes, following the horrifying attack that led to her death. Kicked to death for looking different. In the 21st century, in a civilised, mainly tolerant society, how can this happen? The book, including VAT, costs just £2.39. Please buy it by downloading from the link, and aid this cause in the following aims:

  • To create a lasting legacy to Sophie.
  • To provide educational group-works that will challenge the prejudice and intolerance towards people from alternative subcultures.
  • To campaign to have the UK Hate Crime legislation extended to include people from alternative subcultures or Lifestyle and Dress.

To find out more about the S.O.P.H.I.E Lancaster Foundation, visit the website here.

Stamp Out Prejudice, Intolerance and Hatred Everywhere. Thank you.