Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Guest Post by John Matthews

Writing my first full length novel – the good, the bad, and the challenging.

If you are thinking about becoming an author or just want to know how a writer creates a full length fiction novel, then keep reading. With a background in creative writing, web content writing, and a passion for suspense movies and macabre books, I had known for a while that I could create a compelling story. I was juggling several ideas in my head and started by writing movie ideas with the thought that I could craft a screen play. I sent movie pitches to several movie production companies and in late 2012 I had one of my ideas accepted for submission. But rather than start celebrating with this positive response, I had to accept one big stumbling block: I had yet to actually write the screen play.

After careful consideration, I decided to turn my ideas into full length mystery drama novels. I liked the idea of crafting each scene and character through words that could captivate the reader. I did not have a really organized plan for writing, and kind of “winged it” in the beginning. I had a good idea of the entire plot from beginning to end as I had developed it in my mind, and wrote this story down on paper. I made a character list and wrote down traits and attributes that each one should have to be relevant to the story.

I know that most authors recommend the “snowflake method” for creating a story. This is a slow, detailed process to craft the novel one small step at a time. I was not as rigid in my organization and more or less just dove into it. After I had the general story planned out and characters listed and described, I just started writing. One scene at a time, I was putting the story together as I went along. I tried to pay close attention to character development from the beginning but not give away too much too quickly.

The good aspect of doing things this way was the story more or less created itself. By going one scene at a time, you let the plot develop itself more naturally, and get better ideas for what you want to include later on. I brainstormed, a lot, usually before bed, to come up with more scenes and ideas for the novel. I had to think about what kind of interactions the characters should have and what smaller scenes would develop the plot better before some of the major twists and revelations happened. I kept a notebook with every scene listed in order. If I had a great idea to add a scene, even inserted into a previous point in the novel, I could do so easily.

The bad aspect of creating the story as you go along is that you will have to re-write, tweak, and edit over and over again. Every small change that you make somewhere could affect the storyline at places further along. I had to re-read the story scene by scene many, many times to be sure that everything still fit together in the way that I wanted it to.

After finishing the entire story for the first time, I wanted to get feedback from friends and have it edited. I sent the book to several people whom I trust personally to let them read it and give me constructive criticism. I specifically asked them: If you were to change something in the plot, add or delete a scene, what would it be? Do you understand the thoughts, actions, and emotions of each character? Is the story suspenseful, tense, and keeping you guessing as a good thriller mystery drama should? I wrote down any feedback that I received, thanked them, and gave their suggestions careful consideration. I took several weeks just thinking about new ideas and if any changes could improve the book. I decided on implementing a few of them and went back to re-write, tweak, and improve the story.

For editing purposes, I had a colleague who has a Master’s degree in English and was nice enough to offer her time to go through my manuscript. I sent just a few chapters at a time so that she wouldn’t feel overwhelmed and made the editing changes where necessary. After the entire book was finished, with the latest changes added, I had her read the entire thing once more, making any editing changes that she felt necessary.

It took me around nine months to finish my novel from initial idea to the final product. My method is somewhat haphazard, and required a lot of going back over things that I’d already written, but I feel that this also allowed me to keep reading the story and getting more ideas for improvements. I probably re-read every scene at least fifty times, and made a lot of tweaks to the dialogue, character interactions, and imagery. All in all I found this as an effective way to create my first book. As I am working on my second novel now, I find that I am a bit more organized from having gained experience, and can write the scenes more effectively from the start. No matter what your method is, if you are an aspiring author, just start writing – the rest will work itself out.

Author Bio:
John Mathews is a tenured University Professor of English and living in Rome, Italy. As he moves toward retirement after a long and somewhat stressful career, he feels the desire to break out of the mold and delve into thriller fiction novels which focus on the dark side of human nature, both that which is unfeeling and indifferent to the fate of others and that which derives pleasure and a feeling of power from pain inflicted on them.

With experience in dealing with all kinds of people and personal growth and development, he also writes non-fiction books that will inspire, aid, and promote happiness, success, and prosperity for everyone in their life. He believes that every human being has the potential for greatness.


Synopsis of A Game of Greed and Deception:Tammy, a young and beautiful Southern Belle, has married Stephen, an older and very wealthy business man. Accompanied by his beloved ten-year old daughter, the three of them head into the snow-covered Colorado mountains for a January getaway at a renovated hunting cabin to celebrate their one-year together as a family. The first night they arrive, Stephen goes out in the car to run a quick errand and never returns. Tammy secretly celebrates despite reporting him as a missing person to the police since she believes her plan to kill him for his money has worked perfectly.

But the next morning when the car is found totaled down the mountainside, there is no sign of Stephen's body. More or less trapped inside the cabin in the midst of a terrible snow storm, Tammy and her step-daughter, Maria, start having strange things happen to them. It appears that someone is sneaking into the cabin while they sleep and trying to injure or kill Tammy, perhaps to make her death look like an accident. Tammy quickly becomes convinced that Stephen knew about her plan all along and has planned a sinister revenge plot. But Maria finds evidence to suggest that Tammy has gone mad and fabricated the dangerous things going on inside the cabin as part of her entire scheme. Tensions mounts between the two of them in a real test for survival, while someone else with more evil intentions lurks outside. But could it be possible that both of them are wrong?

Find out more:http://www.amazon.com/Game-Greed-Deception-Mystery-Drama-ebook/dp/B00OHQA4HW/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23464432-a-game-of-greed-and-deception

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Excerpt: 'King of Dreams' By Greg McLeod

Part I – Icebound

Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?
Alfred Lord Tennyson 

1

After fifteen endless days the storm let up, but not the sense of foreboding that had begun to haunt Anuun already long before the massive front rolled in from the west, the air thrumming with violence, the light diseased, the sky heavy and roiling with menace like nothing he’d ever seen before, not once in all his many years.
            This far north, blizzards could strike in any season, even at the height of the short Arctic summer, and this one was only slightly early for a first serious blow heralding the onset of winter. What set it apart was that it raged for two weeks straight without a break, howling with a cutting, rending ferocity that for the middle of September was unusual even in these high latitudes – which was why Anuun didn’t notice the disruption in the pattern until it was too late.
            When the high winds finally did relent and he became aware of the intrusion, he immediately set off, deeply disquieted, taking the shortest route to the place where his finely attuned Iceling senses had detected the disturbance. Traveling underice, he flowed swiftly through the blue-green depths, now a fleeting shadow, now a streak of livelier color, now a whitish string of icebound bubbles freed by elemental magic to move with ease through compact matter.
            Only when the offshore ice became too fragmented to allow him smooth passage did he surface. His essence pouring into form like water into a sturdy-sided jug, he assumed his bodily aspect: a head shorter than an average human, stocky, broad-shouldered and immensely powerful, his curly hair and beard the silvered grey of finely spun frost, his eyes the profound ultramarine of deep-core ice.

At the site of the disturbance he found an Orrian ship, completely imprisoned by the pack ice.
Albatross, she was called, but her days of flying before the wind over sun-sparkled waves were forever over. Massive floes piled up three and four deep all around her creaking, groaning hull had already begun their slow, relentless work of destruction, crushing, grinding, splintering until, come spring, nothing would be left of the once-proud vessel but a handful of flotsam, free to drift off into the vastness of the northern sea once the strengthening sun beat back the ice.
            Inspecting the ship and its cargo, Anuun reckoned that the purpose of her voyage had been to trade with the Nordsmen, probably for pelts and the odd bit of gold. Blown hundreds of miles off course by the storm, she’d never reached Nordsmen shores, that much was clear from her hold still filled with Orrian trade goods – and with nineteen seamen huddled together under decks in a clump of frozen bodies, their faces blued and rimed with hoarfrost. Snow had drifted in through a broken hatch, and the deck was scorched and charred where they’d tried to start a fire, so desperately cold they’d risked burning down the whole ice-bound ship around them for a bit of warmth. For whatever reason, they’d failed to keep the fire going, and died a little faster for it.
            Anuun couldn’t help a breath of relief. Tragic as the death of these men had been, it had likely served to prevent an incomparably greater catastrophe. For their ship had come to rest worryingly close to the Forbidden, a place no man must ever be allowed to set foot in, a locus inhabited by something far beyond any mortal’s, and even an Iceling’s, grasp, something buried under the ice thousands of years ago for a very good reason.
            Ages past, Icelings had been assigned to guard against any living being intruding on this place, deliberately or otherwise, and they’d faithfully fulfilled the task to this day – though the passing of so many eventless centuries had perhaps begun to dull their vigilance a mite. Maybe earlier times would have seen one of Anuun’s predecessors brave a storm similar to the one just past, doing the rounds regardless of the inferno outside instead of sheltering underice until the weather cleared. And maybe not.
            At this point, the question was already entirely moot.

What Anuun had no way of knowing was that the ship’s crew had originally numbered twenty-four.
Four had been taken by the storm, swept overboard by waves that towered higher than the masthead before they came crashing down and cleared the deck of anything that wasn’t twice and threefold battened down. Maybe the four went in silence, or maybe screaming for help – with the howling wind and thundering waves it would have made no difference. And whether it was the water or the cold that claimed them first was anybody’s guess. The deep took them either way, with a swiftness that was close to mercy.
            Twenty-four. Four drowned, nineteen in the hold.
            One was missing from the count.
            That one had come through the storm alive. Owing perhaps to an exceptional constitution or to one of those twists of fate that border on the bizarre, he’d survived the cold as well, at least long enough to leave the stranded ship and head off across the pack ice to where he hoped to find land, the storm erasing his tracks almost as soon as he’d made them.
            But Anuun was nothing if not thorough, and he was warned. Near impossible as it seemed, his questing Iceling senses found the feeble traces of the human’s passage. When they did and when he realized where the man had gone, his heart went colder than the deepest ice cave.
            This should never have been allowed to happen. Not on his watch. Storm or no, he’d neglected his duty, broken the trust placed in his kind, risked bringing shame on the whole Iceling nation. Only one thing he could do: find the man before it was too late and untold horrors were loosed on the world.
            Desperate, he plunged back into the ice, a streak of white lightning ripping landward.

*          *          *

Now skidding over patches of wind-swept ice, now laboring through waist-high drifts of fine, powdery snow that crept into his boots and melted down his shins in icy trickles, Nudd Wiggin repeatedly cursed fate, the gods, and anyone else who’d ever done him an injustice.
            Since that list included practically everyone he’d ever met, it made for an impressive litany, with the captain of the Albatross currently ranking second only to the filthy, whoring slut who’d given birth to Nudd between turning tricks, followed by his drunkard, layabout father and then by a long string of masters Nudd had been apprenticed to, a bunch of narrow-minded, nitpicking fools none of whom had owned the sense to recognize his true potential.
            Looking back, he felt nothing but contempt for the lot of them… and, hell yes, a level measure of hatred as well.

The last of these masters, a furrier named Brychan, was the reason Nudd had started keeping the list in earnest, and the reason he’d begun to hate with a dedication he otherwise seldom saw the need to muster: Brychan, and his daughter Dilys – Amut take the vicious slag.
            For months, she led him on, acting the bitch in heat when neither her old man nor the journeyman she was bespoken to were looking, until Nudd finally decided to give her what she so clearly wanted. But the moment he tried to jump her the stupid cow started screaming down the house, and suddenly he found himself cast in the role of the faithless fiend who’d tried to rape his master’s precious daughter.
            Brychan, the craven arsehole, let his other three apprentices beat Nudd to a bloody pulp before calling in the city watch and having him arrested for a deed Nudd told himself he’d never intended to commit and hadn’t gotten round to in any case. Choosing between the noose and three years on an Orrian war galley was the easy part. Serving his time and getting through it in one piece was another matter. As an alleged rapist, he was scum to the scum that manned the huge ship’s one hundred and twenty oars, and he was treated accordingly, as likely to accidentally run into a fellow oarsman’s fist as catch a couple of – entirely unwarranted – lashes from the overseer’s cat o’ nine tails. He consoled himself with vivid fantasies of the terrible, painful things he’d do to every single one of them, once he was good and ready to strike back.

Just thinking about the bloody cocksuckers made him fricking mad all over again.
Their fault, all of it. Their fault that he was stranded in this freezing shithole. Their fault that he had to wade through all this godsdamned, bleeding white shit. Seething with anger, he came to a sudden halt. Sucked a gob of brownish-pink spit from rotting teeth and bleeding gums and used it to mess up the godsdamned snow that was so fricking pristine it made him want to puke. Wished he had a load of piss to add to it, but the bloody cold seemed to have sucked all the moisture out of him and left him drier than a hag’s cunt. Satisfied that he’d done what he could, he screwed up his muddy, close-set eyes against the overwhelming brightness and trudged on, still far from finished with the past.
            When his three years were up, for want of a better plan he took hire on a merchant ship, the Dauntless.
His list went with him, grown by over a hundred names but with room for plenty more, and a good thing, too. It took him less than a day aboard the Dauntless to figure out that her captain and crew were dead set on making his life as miserable as they could, giving him all the lowliest, dirtiest jobs and no doubt acting at the behest of the fricking gods, who’d had it in for him since the day he was born, or maybe even longer.
            Let them, he thought to himself. Let them go on digging their own graves. Though it’s still too early to say when exactly it’ll happen, they’ve got a big surprise coming. Nobody messes with Nudd Wiggin and gets away with it – not in the long run, they don’t, that’s for bloody sure.
            At the Dauntless’ first port of call he jumped ship, and so began a series of hires that ended with the ill-fated voyage on the Albatross.
            And to think that, this very fall, he’d actually considered hanging up his oilskins and trying his hand at something less strenuous than seafaring. But then he’d heard that the captain of the Albatross was offering double pay to any man willing to sail north a good three weeks later in the season than conventional wisdom deemed prudent.
            There was some talk about a fashion war having broken out between the two leading houses of the Orrian Dressmaker’s Guild, Orid and Lechan; something to do with a battle over fur of the arctic fox and prices having gone through the roof, which in turn prompted the Albatross’ owners to send the ship on a late voyage north to trade for the stuff.
            Nudd gave a rat’s ass for the reasons. The only part that interested him was collecting double wages, and then taking the winter off to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life – aside from paying back his enemies with interest, that was.
            And then the fool captain steered them straight into the worst fricking storm in history, and everything went to hell in a fricking handcart.

Now everyone was dead except Nudd.
No big surprise there. The idiots he’d sailed with had gotten exactly what they’d asked for, answering to the death god’s call like they did: limp-dicked, spineless chickens lining up at the chopping block even before the axe was sharpened, instead of fighting it like men.
            But then, he had a righteous anger burning in his gut to keep him warm. He had his list, had accounts to settle, and he’d be damned if he let a bloody storm get in the way of the revenge that was his rightful due.
            At least the godsdamned blow had finally died down, though his eyes were still half blind and stinging from the whipping snow, and his face felt cut to bloody ribbons. But he was alive, no thanks to anyone but himself.
            And so he plodded on, his imagination hard at work torturing, maiming and slowly killing his enemies one by one, until suddenly a fricking crevasse had the bloody cheek to open up right in front of him. Too late, he tried to stop, his skidding feet finding no purchase on the mirror-smooth ice. Inexorably, his forward momentum delivered him straight into the arms of gravity, reaching out to him from bluegreen depths that looked as beautiful as they were deadly.
            Fricking gods again, he thought angrily. Bugger the lot of you. I’m not ready to die.
            Then he was falling.

The drop was short.
Not six feet down, the seat of Nudd’s pants made contact with the ice, his free fall abruptly turning into a high-speed toboggan ride along a bumpy, madly twisting tunnel. Thankfully, what began as a frighteningly steep incline gradually flattened out until he was spit out onto the floor of a spacious gallery deep under the ice. Sliding down the entire length of it on his butt, he finally came to a stop at the foot of a wall that looked suspiciously like it was man-made, its dull, black stone seeming to swallow the little light that filtered down through what had to be at least thirty feet of ice.
            Nursing his bruised backside, he climbed to his feet, unsteady in the blue gloom, the slippery floor nearly throwing him right back on his face again. Looking back the way he’d come, he wondered how the bloody hell he was ever going to get out of this place. His only chance, he decided after a moment’s thought, was to somehow climb back up the tunnel. But for that, he needed something he could use to hack foot and handholds out of the sheer ice. Reaching for his knife, he cursed. The sheath was empty – how else could it be? Just his fricking luck again. What else…
            The wall. Maybe he could find a loose stone, work it free and use it as a tool. Bloody crude, but better than nothing.
            Taking a closer look at the wall, Nudd realized two things: one, the damned thing was made of a single piece, most likely hacked out of the bedrock, seeing as it was far too smooth and straight to be natural; and two, he was going to die down here.

Torn between wanting to collapse on the floor in a blubbering heap and the urge to scream out his rage over this totally unfair turn of events, he chose the latter, raising his face skyward and directing a stream of the vilest invective he could muster at the whole buggering lot of rotten, spiteful, scheming men and gods, all of whom kept on stubbornly refusing him even the smallest of breaks. For good measure, he gave the bloody wall a kick as well, hitting it full on with the flat of his boot.
            With a groan like a ship’s hull scraping against dockside pilings, where he could have sworn that moments ago there had been nothing but seamless rock an eight-by-three-foot slab of stone detached itself from the rest of the wall, sinking into some sort of recess in the floor and revealing a dark, narrow passage.
            Briefly, he wondered whether going in there was a good idea. Who knew but the stone might rise back up behind him, trapping him forever in a light-less prison deep underground. Then another thought struck him: what lay at the other end of that tunnel might well be some long-forgotten king’s tomb, brimful with gold and gems. Riches beyond imagining. The more he thought about it, the more sense it seemed to make. On the other hand…
            In the end, curiosity and greed got the better of him. Pushing aside any lingering doubts, he stepped over the sunken stone and into the passage.

The tunnel zigged and zagged through the rock for a stretch, as if whoever had made it hadn’t been able to make up their minds which way they wanted to go. Or maybe they’d been falling-down drunk throughout the many weeks it must have taken to hack the bloody hole out of the bedrock.
            When he reached the other end, Nudd found himself staring out into a large, six-sided chamber walled in the same, dull-black stone. There was no ceiling as such, only a natural, high-domed roof of ice. In the dusky, blue-tinted light that trickled down from above, he saw openings like the one he was standing in cut into each of the other five walls. Five chances of finding another way out – though he was almost a bit hesitant to set foot on the chamber’s spotless floor. Blacker even than the walls, it was polished to a high gloss, slicker than the finest marble, the kind of floor Nudd associated with the whispering, slippered feet of priests and highborn ladies – not that he’d ever seen one of the uppity cows except floating by in a curtained litter or gazing down on the common folk from some palace’s safe, high window.
            There was nothing in the chamber, though. No dead king, and no treasure. But then, the good stuff might well be waiting down one of the other five passages.
            His confidence renewed, he stepped out into the chamber – and found that the floor wasn’t polished stone at all but some kind of thick, oily liquid that sucked at his boots and shivered in slow, wavy ringlets around his feet. It was hardly half an inch deep, though, so nothing to worry about, unless the floor underneath sloped downward farther out.
            Just take it slow, feel your way as you go.

Three steps out, overcome by a sudden, unaccountable fear, he stopped.
Realized that he didn’t care anymore what lay behind those other doors. Tried to turn back. And found that, in the two short heartbeats he’d stood still, his feet had somehow gotten stuck to the floor.
            Suddenly he was sweating despite the violent cold, his hands clammy, his pulse hammering so loud he thought he could hear it echoing off the walls.
            All right, then. So I’ll just slip out of my boots and make a run for it. It’s only three bloody steps. Piece of cake, as long as I don’t stop.
            But, try as he might, he couldn’t seem to pull his feet free of the boots. Couldn’t even feel his feet, actually, only a cold, tingling sensation somewhere upwards of his ankles. Looking down, he saw that he’d sunk into the gods-cursed stuff up to his shins.
            Which was impossible, seeing as it was only half an inch deep and there was solid stone underneath. Could the nasty black shit be rising? But no – the sill of the doorway he’d come through was still free of it, clearly visible. So maybe some sneaky, hidden mechanism was cranking down the floor under him? No matter, he had to find a way out of this mess, and fast. Even while he’d been standing there wasting time on useless thoughts, he’d dropped another six inches, the stuff rising up to his knees, all feeling gone from his lower legs.

By the time he finally understood what was really happening to him, the black crap and the cold tingling were already up to his arse. It was then he started screaming – screaming, and wildly thrashing about, suddenly caught in the grip of utter madness, trying to claw his way out of a nightmare that cruelly refused to be anything other than real.
            The moment his uselessly scrabbling hands touched the black liquid’s surface it started eating them away as well, just like it had done with his legs, dissolving skin, flesh, and bones like some impossibly concentrated acid and consuming what was left of him with unearthly speed.
            The last part to go was his head, his mouth stretched wide in a continuously rising scream that only broke off when the stuff reached his vocal cords, his face staring up from the floor in a frozen rictus of horror, distorted far beyond anything that might have still been called human.

*          *          *

Some time later, a shudder went through the liquid covering the floor.
Here and there, puckers and dimples appeared, multiplying and spreading out as if a wind were rippling the shiny black surface. Whorls and eddies formed, gradually joining into a single, purposeful current. Then, with a sudden quickening, the viscous stuff drew back from the chamber’s edges, baring a rapidly widening margin of the underlying stone as it coalesced into a large, amoebic blob centered over the very spot where Nudd had been consumed.
            For a while the accreted liquid simply hung there, wobbling, heaving, collapsing and reconsolidating, an amorphous mass obviously striving towards organized form, oozing its way through a painstakingly slow series of failed attempts as it sought to mold itself after some as yet indecipherable pattern.
            Finally, contracting once more and further than its mass would seem to allow, it reached the shape it had been seeking. There, feet planted wide, stood a perfect copy of Nudd Wiggin, resurrected from the sludge, faithfully reproduced in every detail and black as the devil’s arsehole on a moonless night.

Almost hesitantly, the Wiggin-thing looked around, moving slowly as if it feared that any rapid movement might cause it to dissolve in a large puddle on the floor. And indeed it was still far from stable, the stuff inside it not yet settled, its outline warped, buckling and bulging like a sack full of angry weasels as it strained to hold itself together.
            For the longest time the Wiggin-thing stood still, waiting with seemingly inexhaustible patience for the inner turmoil to subside until only the odd, wandering bump or hollow still occasionally distorted its outer skin. When even those had ceased to appear, it raised a foot and took a slow, careful step forward. And another. And a third. Heading back the way the original Wiggin had come. It wanted out, that much was clear, and it no longer looked as if anything could keep it from getting there. Gradually, color began to seep into the black, skin and hair and clothes beginning to look like they had before.
            Once, just before it reached the tunnel entrance, one leg gave a sudden wobble and shed a large gob of black goo on the floor. Stopping to reclaim it, the Wiggin-thing scraped it up with a booted foot. Then it went on, single-minded, unswerving in its purpose.

*          *          *

Synopsis:

Everybody’s on the run: Laurin the dwarf, sent on an improbable errand by a dead king, ends up with an assassin on his tail. Bryn of Bailon, heir to a dark and troubling secret, discovers there’s no escaping the impossible burden that’s about to be placed on his shoulders. And Rhea Redbreast, apprentice Headhunter, makes it onto her own guild’s hit-list when she seeks justice for her parents’ killers. But the real trouble is just beginning: shipwrecked on the frozen shores of the Ice Wastes, eternal victim Nudd Wiggin stumbles onto an ancient weapon and is turned into something more – and less – than human. As the cruel and devious King of Dunmark unleashes a war that quickly spreads to the neighboring kingdoms, a weaponized Nudd raises terror after terror, driving wave upon wave of desperate, battle-hardened Nordsmen south towards the war-torn kingdoms’ borders.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Problem With Saying ‘All Women Are Beautiful’

By Lori Day from Role Reboot:

Lori beautiful

I often hear people say to girls or women:
“You’re so pretty! Just look at you!
“Turn around—let me get a good look at you!”
“You’re beautiful just the way you are.”
“Always remember that you are beautiful to me.”
“You’re gorgeous inside and out.”
“You have beauty and brains.”
“You can be smart and sexy.”
“Plus-sized women are sexy too.”
Now lets gender-flip that. How often do people say to boys or men:
“You’re so handsome! Just look at you!
“Turn around—let me get a good look at you!”
“You’re handsome just the way you are.
“Always remember that you are handsome to me.”
“You’re gorgeous inside and out.”
“You have handsomeness and brains.”
“You can be smart and sexy.”
“Plus-sized men are sexy too.”
If that sounds absurd, it’s because it is absurd. No, we don’t do that to males. We don’t constantly remind them of how handsome or sexy they are while doing whatever they are doing, living their lives. We don’t carefully reassure them that they are handsome and sexy no matter what, as if their faces and bodies are their greatest repository of self-worth. The value of men to society is not primarily measured by their ability to be judged attractive while simultaneously being smart, adventurous, bold, or brave.
We also do not give males the message that their physical appearance is critical to the aesthetic landscape of everyone else. We don’t do it to them when they are boys or when they are young adults or when they are middle-aged men or when they are old.
Cradle to grave, males get to be seen and depicted as more than their bodies. And they are rarely photographed or otherwise depicted as a commodified group of nude or nearly naked male bodies. Sure, some commenters will post examples of sexual objectification of men by media. It happens! But it happens way, way, WAY less than it happens to women, so let’s not get derailed here because that will be the purpose of those comments. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.
Look, I’m not foolish enough to think that the male gaze will ever go away (or even should), nor do I believe it will ever cease being a driving force behind what a lot of women themselves have come to view as empowering. And the male gaze is not the problem per se. The problem is that a lot of men and women consider female outsides to be terribly important and constantly up for assessment in a way that is not the case for men. It is dehumanizing while being all too human.
I understand human nature, but I still want more for girls and women. When females are reduced to their bodies, it is easier to violate them because they are seen as objects that are less human and less deserving of rights and respect. Look around this country and this world at the treatment of women by men. (#notallmen…must be sure to slip that in there). If female bodies were not so commodified, how might that change the world?
(Read the full article here.)

NaNoWriMo: Week 1

The first week is gone and I've written approximatly 14,000 words, about 2,000 words a day. I've had a few bad days where its taken me over two hours to write my 2,000 words. I've also had some really good days where it's taken me only an hour to write 3,000 words. At this rate I should well and truly have it finished within the month.
Except I'm going to Sydney for a week right smack bang in the middle of November and I highly doubt I'm going to have time to write what with all the beach walking, cocktail drinking and general merriment I will be having. Which is why I'm trying so hard to finish as much as possible before then. I have only one word to say: GARRRGH.

Here are my stats so far:

Your Average Per Day
2,001 
Words Written Today
1,856 
Target Word Count
50,000
Target Average Words Per Day
1,667
Total Words Written
14,012 
Words Remaining
35,988
Current Day
Days Remaining
24
At This Rate You Will Finish On
November 25, 2014
Words Per Day To Finish On Time
1,500

And here is the first page:

Chapter One

“Your grandmother made it a condition,” Terence McKraken told his daughter.  “If we ever hope to see that money, then stay with her during the summer holidays you will.”
“Grrrr.” Matilda was too angry to form words. She kicked the back of the driver’s seat. “Grrr. Grrr. Grrr.”
“Will. You. Stop. It.” Terence reached his arm back and pushed her legs away. “I’m driving, Tilda, do you want to die in a bloody car crash?”
“YES.” Matilda yelled in his ear. “And don’t call me Tilda. If you couldn’t be bothered calling me by my full name, then why did you call me that?”
“God grant me serenity,” Terence whispered under his breath. In a louder voice he said, “We called you that because it’s a nice name. And Tilda is a nice name too.”
“I hate it there. Grandma Melinda glares at me and tells me to play outside.”
“When I was growing up, she packed me off to boarding school first chance she got. At least she wants to spend time with you,” Terence’s voice was bitter and it surprised Matilda. She’d never thought of her father being a child with feelings. And for him to still feel those feelings as an adult was disconcerting indeed.
“But Da-ad,” She protested, even though she’d been protesting all year and nothing had made a difference.
“But Mat-illll-da,” Terence retorted.
You should know how boring it is. There’s nothing to do. And I’m there for weeks and weeks. Can’t I just spend one week at home? Just one little, itsy-bitsy, tiny little week?”
“You know the conditions. Every week of the summer holidays or we get nothing.”
“Grrr-”
“And don’t start growling again,” Terence warned.
“Fine.” Matilda heaved a sigh and pressed her nose against the window. The streets of London were whooshing by, choked with traffic and people. She stuck her tongue out at a gaggle of pedestrians at a crossing and several of them stared back at her in shock.
“I’ll come and visit you on the weekends, would you like that?” Terence asked.
Fine.” Matilda heaved a bigger sigh.
“Don’t sound so pleased.”
“I’d adore it if you came to call, father dearest.” Matilda spoke in her best posh voice. “Oh, indeed, my, yes!”

“We’re nearly there.”
End Page One

And here is a picture that pretty much sums up my situation because I randomly decided to do this on November 1st and only have a vague idea where it is going:

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Excerpt: The Franciscan' by W.R. Park

A hush fell over the crowd in the square when the pope appeared in the entrance guarded by two huge iron doors. The only sounds were the distant drone of Rome's traffic and the splashing of the square's giant dueling fountains. Pope Francis hesitated, allowing his entourage to catch up, before descending the steps to stand before the seated clergy. Forcing a smile, he stepped forward, blessing those gathered for the ceremony.

On about the tenth step down, the crowd's expression of restraint turned into one of horror and disbelief. Most were too stunned to utter a sound. Screams were trapped in a thousand throats, but all managed to point upward towards the basilica's dome, and behind those slowly walking down the steps. Wooden chairs being tipped and flung aside clattered on the stone laid square, as the assembled clergy leapt to their feet, anticipating the worst.

Confused by the crowd's alarm and unaware of the danger, they turned all too slowly to avoid the coming peril. Kim, who was several steps behind the group, was the first to hear a dull cracking sound. He turned and looked up. The huge concrete crucifix that had rested on the left shoulder of the gigantic statue of Christ, standing at the center of the row of saints, broke loose. As it tumbled, it struck the peak of an architectural structure and burst into sizable chunks, showering down on the pope and his unsuspecting group.

Kim sprang forward, taking several steps at a time, and just as his shoulder was grazed by a large jagged piece, he gave the pope a mighty shove. The force of being struck gave emphasis to the thrust of Kim's hands, and he literally propelled the pope through the air.

Pope Francis somehow managed to land on his hands and knees. Rolling over onto his backside and ignoring the pain of bloodied, skinned hands and knees, he was grateful to see that most of the group was spared injury. Kim was on his feet, briskly rubbing his shoulder. Cardinal Mumbwa was bent over and holding the back of his leg where he took a hit in full fury, but motioned that he was okay, as did Kim. To Kim's left lay Cardinal Buldini. He lay flat on his back, his belly pointing to the heavens, his legs in the direction of the basilica and head towards the square. Blood trickled down his forehead from a deep scalp wound.

Pope Francis gingerly got to his feet, wiped his bloody hands on his sides, and gritted his teeth while he pulled away the torn fabric that was embedded in the flesh of both knees. “Kim, if you're okay, see to Buldini; he's beginning to move, but needs assistance. Put a compress on the gash and take him to the infirmary. And Kim—take good care of him. You understand me?” Quickly surveying the fallen debris before turning his attention to his dumb struck audience, he said, “Thank God. This could have been disastrous.”

Thomas, favoring his right leg, hobbled over to where Buldini sat upright on a step. He held a handkerchief to his head and looked quite shaken. “Kim can care for him. Thomas, I need you here,” ordered the pope. “We'll go forward with the installation proceedings.” The remainder of the group, also shaken but unharmed, were brushing small dust particles from their formal costumes and assuring the pope they were unscathed.

The crowd stood petrified with hands to their mouths. The clergy remained on their feet, chairs scattered about. Everyone anticipated the pope's words as he limped down the stairs towards the throne-style chair that was placed for his ceremonial use. Upon reaching the appointed spot, he took the microphone, looked at those directly before him and said, “Please be seated. This is your finest hour. And may I please be forgiven for sitting—I seem to

have injured both knees.”

The same whispers spread like a wave from person to person as his Holiness sat holding the mike. “Look at his hands and knees.” Twice the mike nearly slipped from his hands smeared with blood, and both bloodied knees were bared for all to see.

He pulled down on the large scooped sleeve of his Franciscan habit to use it as a glove in order to hold the mike in his right hand, and motioned for silence with his left. A collective “Oh!” filled the square when they saw the palm of his raised hand, which looked as though the entire palm had its skin peeled off.

Reacting to the people's obvious concern, he wiped his hand on his lap and then held it up for all to see. “You see, it looks a lot worse than it really is. I'm fine. Really.” Then he looked down and lifted the bloodied and torn skirt of his outfit and remarked with a toothy grin, “But I'm afraid my tailor is going to be extremely upset with me.” The air was filled with good natured laughter.

The smile quickly disappeared and was replaced with a serious expression. “Guests, members of our religious orders, and cardinals-in-waiting. We did not stage this little episode to command your attention. It is, however, an example of a number of similar situations we will now reveal to you. The timing for full disclosure is right, considering the advent of today's reported scandalous and false accusations against the papacy.

“I'm pleased to see the media is out in full force this afternoon. What will be revealed to you for the first time, will be broadcast on the GlobalNet worldwide.” Teams of camera crews and reporters scurried around, jockeying for the best view of the pope, anxiously waiting to report the breaking news live.

A hush came over the crowd as Pope Francis stood to speak. From the grimace on his face, they knew his knees had stiffened and he was in pain. But he continued. “What you have witnessed a few moments ago, was the third such attempt on my life since my inauguration.” A gasp arose from the crowd.

“Yes. A third attempt. The first assassination undertaking came soon after my election to the papacy. Sadly, Cardinal Uden Borne of the Netherlands was mistakenly murdered in my stead. Next, Kim Xinan, a Franciscan friar from China, took a bullet in his chest that was meant for me. And as you just saw, once again, he risked his life and came to my rescue.

“Since we made the decision to follow Vatican II's and III's direction of opening the doors and windows in hopes that fresh air would clear the musty bonds of timeworn tradition, we've been repeatedly attacked. The papal order, especially to those in the Church hierarchy, to ardently follow the spirit of Saint Francis' service to all the sons and daughters of the Creator, I believe, was the catalyst that drove the enemies of Pope Francis to this end.

“In addition to the personal physical attacks, they have now stooped to assaulting me on another level—that of a well-organized and orchestrated international character assassination. I am not the only target of this shameless and unholy effort. They have also assaulted the reputation of my faithful Franciscan brothers and that of the hallowed monastery from which we sprung.”

He turned and laid the hand held mike on the chair's seat and picked up the clip-on, and attached it to the large collar of his habit. Once again he turned to face the audience and cameras. Taking a deep breath, he fell to his wounded knees and stretched his arms upward toward the heavens. His normally handsome and welcoming features were twisted in an expression of suffering.

From the piercing cries of those in the crowd, you knew they, too, inwardly felt the stabbing pain. A small pool of blood became visible at the corners of both knees.

Pope Francis bowed his head. Moments passed agonizingly slow as he prepared himself to set the pain aside. Once that was accomplished, he raised his head and spoke. “My brothers and sisters, I now kneel humbly before you and the world—and before our Father in heaven. And as our Creator is my witness, I say to you simply—there is not an ounce of truth in the vicious lies that are being reported. My Franciscans and I are innocent of the slanderous accusations being leveled. They are, as I have explained, part of a plot to discredit this papacy. Those responsible are the ones who stand to lose the most, financially, if all of our announced innovations would come to fruition.”

He stopped abruptly, lowered his head once again, and took another deep breath. Many of those in the square were now openly weeping at the courage and compassion of the pope. He looked straight at the audience, and continued through gritted teeth.

“I need your help to survive this trial by fire. I need your prayers of support. I need you to believe in me.” His head dropped to his chest, and his body wavered slightly as he attempted to steady himself while his hands gripped his thighs.

Two Swiss Guards dressed in their colorful pantaloons and polished helmets seemed to appear out of nowhere; their capes flowed and their swords clattered as they ran to assist their pope. He tried unsuccessfully to stand on his own. All the strength in his knees had abandoned him. Each guard placed a hand under his arms and sat him on the chair.

Squaring his shoulders, he raised his head and looked at his benefactors. He recognized them both as the two guards that Kim had unceremoniously hoisted up the Tower stairs, and whom he later mildly chastised. “Thank you guys. I owe you one,” he said softly.

The heart wrenching scene that played out before their eyes was far too graphic for many of the faithful and bystanders. Women swooned, and tears flowed freely. Even the most hardy found that holding back the flood was impossible. The sight of the bleeding, shaken and physically weakened man of God, genuinely pleading for their prayers and their trust, was more than their hearts could bear.

An ear-splitting chorus of, “We believe! We Believe!” filled Saint Peters'


_____________________________________________

The most internationally anticipated religious suspense-thriller since Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, WR.PARK’s The Franciscan is now available for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace. Written 14 years ago, The Franciscan eerily forebodes current events in the Vatican predicting the coming of the current Pope Francis and proves to be a timely novel more than a decade after it was penned. This is the first book in The Franciscan Trilogy.


Synopsis:

“The pope is not infallible.” When the newly elected Pope Francis utters this bold and unprecedented statement, he captures the attention of the world’s population. His reforms leave no corner untouched as he strips away the mask so long held before the face of the papacy. Bringing with him and open-minded candor rarely seen by public figures – he’s an inspiration to his followers – and a threat to those who oppose him.

“When I penned this novel about a fictitious Pope Francis fourteen years ago, I never envisioned that a future pope would select the name, Pope Francis I. This novel’s Pope Francis is a bold and courageous pope whose sweeping reforms reversing ancient Vatican edicts place his life in grave danger. The world can only hope and pray that today’s Pope Francis, as bold as he is, will be fruitful in his endeavors and have a lengthy and healthy reign,” said WR.PARK.

Praise for The Franciscan:
New York Times bestselling author James Rollins commented on WR.PARK’s thirteenth novel: “I’ve been a fan of WR.PARK’s work for years.”

“The Franciscan featuring the first Pope Francis is about murder, suicide, extortion, assassins, devilish plots with a narrative with more twists and turns than a ride through purgatory.” – Publisher’s Auxiliary

“Unexpectedly thrust upon the throne of St. Peter by dark forces within the Vatican, this pope is trying to institute a radical agenda of change while contending with assassination attempts and political intrigue… and then things get really exciting.” – The Leaven Catholic Newspaper

“The Franciscan is a fascinating tale and has great general appeal. Readers who like intrigue and mystery in a colorful historical setting will enjoy [WR.PARK’s] effort and will certainly look forward to his subsequent offering.” – The Sun Newspaper

“Every now and then a book I’m asked to read and write about pleasantly surprises me. The Franciscan is a case point. It’s an intriguing read – weaving together two fascinating tales. It kept me interested up to and including the end.” – Northwest Florida Daily News

About the Author:

Author, columnist, teacher, lecturer, past president of three advertising agencies, William R. Park, Sr. is nationally known and respected in the advertising and literary worlds—and a Member of International Thriller Writers, Inc. His past works include: The Talking Stones, Overlay, Fatal Incision, plus ten others, each backed by glowing praise from numerous bestselling authors.

WR.PARK currently resides in the Kansas City area with his wife Genie. To learn more, and read what bestselling authors said about his body of work, visit: http://www.wrparkpublishinggroup.com/

Connect with WR.PARK on Twitter and Goodreads:
https://twitter.com/park_wr

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4132383.WR_PARK

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The feminist T-shirt scandal exposes an entire system of exploitation

From The Guardian:
Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg feminist T-shirt
Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg wearing the Fawcett Society’s feminist T-shirt. Photograph: Elle
The high street brand Whistles, fashion magazine Elle, and long-running feminist campaign group The Fawcett Society are currently caught in a fashion scandal after the publication of Mail on Sunday allegations that their collaborative ‘This Is What A Feminist Looks Like’ T-shirts are made in a Mauritian sweatshop by women earning 62p an hour.

The descriptions of the living and working conditions endured by migrant women working in Mauritius are harrowing – long hours, meagre pay and prison-like living conditions. What they are not however is a revelation, this is well documented (pdf) business-as-usual in the global fashion industry.

Sam Maher, policy officer at Labour Behind The Label, has recently returned from meeting with garment workers unions in Bangladesh and is very clear that exploitation is unavoidable in a collaboration with a high street retailer. “The issues of long hours, low pay and the exploitation of women are endemic in the industry. If what you want is a quick turnaround T-shirt that you can sell in your shop then trying to buy one ethically is a more or less an impossible task.”

“It’s not a question of if they [The Fawcett Society] had done a couple of other checks they might have found a different factory”, Maher continues. “There needs to be a realisation that this isn’t a question of a good factory versus a bad factory, this is an entire system of exploitation.”

A press release from Whistles has described the company’s “shock” at the allegations and stated their commitment to manufacturing taking place under “safe, fair, humane working conditions”.


(Read the full article here.)