Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)
Cheaper than Amazon, 5 day delivery free... and it reaches me in two days !!! ... Now that's what I call... "Smoking !!!!" :-D
Sadly, Fenella Fielding passed away a few days ago. She reached a good age, suffering a stroke at 90. Her life was quite unusual and I decided to buy the book she released last year, titled from one of her best scenes in, "Carry On Screaming," where she asked her visitors, "Do you mind if I smoke?" and when they confirmed that they didn't mind at all... her body was enveloped in steam from a dry ice source. Good joke.
Her obituary on the BBC is here - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/45409341 - and is worth a read, IMHO.
The only thing that rankled was when she met fellow actors - and there were many - who'd been asked to do adverts with a "Fenella Fielding-like" voice. "Bloody cheek," she would say with perfect comic timing. "Why didn't they ask me?"
What is unusual about this, is that I got the book cheaper from Hive.co.uk, than I could from Amazon. Purchases from Hive also include a donation to an independent book shop. Lesson... always shop around, because Amazon isn't the cheapest, especially now that postage isn't free for orders less than £20. Add to that, the Hive order was free postage for 5 day delivery. What's not to like?!
I'm looking forward to reading this one. There are various artists involved in this tribute work, and as such the styles vary considerably. Some true to the original work, others with their own takes which go towards the surrealist.
McCloud has done very well with this book.
Using the medium of comics, to teach the history, composition, creation, properties and philosophy of comics, is perhaps the only way that these things could actually be taught. McCloud is actually able to demonstrate, right there, what he is discussing.
He had a lot to bring to the table, but I'm not sure how much of that is in the version I read; with the original being published in 1994. Approaching sixty years of life, he has spent the majority of that in the world of comics, with a long running relationship with manga also. The art of symbols, language and everything that they became and sometimes decayed into, is summed up here in a book which, I have to admit, got a little heavy for me in places.
The representation of himself that McCloud chose to present in the book, would fit with his age at the original writing. I do find myself sitting back and wondering if he would change anything about the wisdom that he presented back then; or whether he reached the pinnacle of his understanding of comics at that point. So many years have passed.
I get the impression that he is a man for whom his life and his art, are one in the same; and the wisdom he expressed is from the very early days of the internet, and I find myself wondering if he had a crystal ball...
In conclusion, the book does a very good job of deconstructing comic art and bringing an understanding of the mechanics to the reader. It will ensure I take a step back when evaluating a new comic, and I feel like it has opened a door in the artwork, to the mind of the artist beyond. I do wonder about the breadth of audience for this book, however.
Feedback received, via the friend I originally gave, "Check Mate," to... from the lady they leant it to... to read.
Thanks for sending it to me but my heart sank initially as science fiction is not usually my preferred genre. However I did enjoy it, the lady obviously has a technical back ground and a great sense of humour as the characters were so beautifully drawn and very funny. The solution was so blindingly obvious but didn't occur to me remotely, so very clever. I will recommend it to my ladies in the book club
Yeah, I'm literally shedding tears.
In this article, it is noted that Walmart has entered the ebook and audiobook space.
Things are heating up, people !!!
I gave a copy of, "Check Mate," to a friend at the pub. He leant it to someone else. This is what she's returned so far...
"I have just started the book, with some trepidation as apart from Dr Who, who I love, science fiction isn't my thing. However I am almost half way through and the humour describing the various characters is hilarious. I hope to return it by the end of next week, so hope that is OK."
It's feedback like that, which makes writing books worth the effort. I'm looking forward to her final report and I'm chuffed to bits that someone is enjoying it. I'm also impressed that she's "just started" the book and is almost half way through it already. I mean, I know the start is quite slow, detailed and technically sluggish, so for her to have made it through the heavy stuff and break through to the humorous sections is worthy of a medal.
Let's hope she likes how the story progresses, and the twists and turns that await her.
This book is proving to be absolute genius. What better way to understand comics and the associated art, human and psychological theories, than to use comic art itself.
Sadly, it's taking odd pockets of time to get through books these days... like a hotel in Manchester overnight, to attend a headstone dedication the following morning... but I really want to get through this. However, this isn't your average read. It's a case of being fresh enough to be mentally engaged with what it's teaching.
An interesting topic that I found on the interwebs this morning, was Jante Law which is an unspoken, "ten commandments," found in Scandinavian society. - https://www.bbc.com/ideas/videos/forget-hygge-the-laws-that-really-rule-in-scandina/p06gtkxt
It was started by a book written by Aksel Sandemose which was meant as a satire, but over the years society forgot the satire part and has taken those rules to heart.
There is now a debate in Scandinavian society about the removal of those laws... that people shouldn't be outcast if they don't obey them.
To a degree, I can see reasons why a few of those laws should be thrown in the bin. If I've spent years on my career, then I have something valuable that I can bring to the table, and I'd like to think that I'm good at my job... that career that I've spent my life working on. But some of those rules undermine that.
Stepping away from the debate, we come to the aspect of thought that, as an author, our books outlast us, and we imbue our work with our ideas, thoughts and viewpoints. I have to wonder what Sandemose would think about his laws and the impact on Scandinavian society if he was alive today.
It also leaves me to wonder about my own works. It's another one of those things that will forever be on the periphery, nagging at an authors mind.... what if my works, indented to be a signpost for society, or in Sandemose's case, satiring society, ends up getting taken the wrong way and actually becomes a hindrance to that society.
It is another situation which demonstrates just how much mightier than the sword, the pen really is. What sword can continue to shape and mould a society after the war is over?
This is something I'd never heard of until reading about it on the BBC Website.
A book called, "Sur La Trace de La Chouette d'Or," (The Hunt for The Golden Owl) holding the puzzles that guide the reader to a buried owl. Retrieving that owl entitles the winner to the real gold and silver owl. It's a puzzle that has been unsolved for twenty five years.
The author, Max Valentin, passed away a few years ago, but the family hold the envelope that contains the solution.
Mike S Miller. Currently going under the handle Blacklist Universe or, “Underdog Mike” on YouTube. Listening to his account of why he was blacklisted, I can understand why his unilateral assigning a religion to a character would have drawn criticism, but blacklisting him for it is perhaps a sad account of where our society is. But that’s another story.
He’s on Indiegogo with “Lonestar: Heart of the Hero” - https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lonestar-heart-of-the-hero-fantasy-horror/x/13412092#/ - And the first few panels are on the overview page.
Now Lonestar appears to be a good old fashioned hero, potentially to the point of stereotypical attitudes towards women… potentially fed by Mike’s own Christian beliefs… but I backed it anyway.
I did so after watching a few of his videos - https://www.youtube.com/user/UnderdogMike - and I sat back and thought of the whole situation, of how the dynamics of funding artistic endeavours of not only comics, but also books are created.
Instead of waiting for a book to be released and then reading the reviews and buying it, we’re investing in the production of something which hasn’t even been created yet; purely on the reputation of the artist/author… even though we know that there are likely to be elements that won’t score a 10/10 with us. After all, what work does?
I sat and thought for a while if that mechanic would work for me. The input from people who are invested in the project would be a much needed driving force to push projects to completion. Personally, I think my own circumstances mean that it wouldn’t happen for me, but when it comes to a little bit of entertainment, I’d rather spend my money on an endeavour such as this, and enjoy being a part of the journey of its creation, than put money on the horses which is gone in an hour. (I don't actually bet on the gee gees, but you get my meaning.)
For the money, I’ve got far more than the finished product. I’ve got access to the creator and the whole creative process. That is something which I would definitely entertain for my own books, as long as I had firm time that I could dedicate to the whole process, and ensure that I was creating enough of a journey that the backers would enjoy.
Being part of the creation process, has also allowed Miller to include people within the comic itself. Things like this really alter the dynamic of the creative process considerably, and I have written friends into some of my books, where they’ve actually wanted to be a part of the book. It adds a whole different, personal dimension to things, and I might actually buy more books and comics this way in the future, because it is so much more than just walking into a book shop and buying something off the shelf.
A collection of off the wall cartoons based on fairy tales, religious stories, legends and modern life.
Things start with a recognisable refrain and then, bam... there's a twist.
I actually got most of the jokes, but some were definitely better than others. It was a quick read and a refreshing change from my usual fare.
The quality of the pages are nice. There's an obvious chunk of work in this book. Even though it was over quickly, I do feel like I'll come back to this again.
This book is not only about Von-Teese herself, but she includes others and that also means men who are involved in the beauty equation from all angles. Sutan Amrull, aka Raja wrote, "Makeup is not only an embelishment. It's transformative."
"I could never claim any stand-out striking features. No full lips. No big eyes. There are many 'ideal' traits I wasn't born with. But in that moment with my lips painted Cherries in the Snow red, I felt like a million bucks." ... "I want to live in technicolor"
... and boy, has she managed it!
Beauty is more than a skin deep illusion. It is the expression and exploration of self. Belony Venon wrote on page 280...
"By the time I 'fit in' among my classmates, I was no longer interested in being among them. I wanted to be with the outcasts, the punks, a much older crowd. I was given this beight, these curves, this skin - and I finally realized I had to own 'it.' It was a realization that came within me that my looks are my responsibility. This is who I am and I need to realize me."
If there is one thing to be taken away from this book, is that glamour is hard work. In Von-Teese's case, it's her career as well as her passion. The book contains more people that just the author and blends in history and life events such as her marriage to Marilyn Manson. She is a poster girl for more than just her looks; her dedication and passion for the style and era which she had made her own. Von-Teese is sort-of saying that if she can, anyone can if they're willing to put in the effort.
As you would expect, there is a lot of make-up advice and very nice pictures in the 380 pages of this, roughly LP sized, book. When she details her diet tips, her visits to a dermatologist and everything else she goes through then you have to sit back and admire the time and practice she has put in to her life and career. Obviously, this is going to be a case of picking what is right for you as few readers are going to go full on Von-Teese.
People fall in love with various periods. It's not only the looks but also the lifestyle and the morals that were present in the period that they wish to emulate. There are couples who live in homes from various periods of time like the 50's - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1042702/Time-Warp-Wives-Meet-women-really-live-past.html - one 35 year old lives in 1946 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9fI40Nni3k - and some live in the future - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2092504/Tony-Alleyne-Trekkie-loses-painstakingly-recreated-Star-Trek-flat-ex-wife-divorce.html
Von-Teese has some wonderful cars from the past but she also lives in the present with modern cars and she doesn't always go out in public in full Von-Teese mode either. She has furniture and accessories that also hark back from those earlier decades. This is not just a performance, this is part of her life.
Make up is a powerful force. It is empowering and extremely creative. It goes from enhancement to full-blown illusion. It can also imprison you if you're not careful. I believe that if you can't go to the corner shop and buy some milk without any make up, then it's time to wonder whether you're in control of the mask, or whether it's in control of you. Here's an interesting article on, "Make-Up and it's affect on self esteem" - http://www.thebetterlifeproject.ie/blog/2017/8/28/make-up-and-self-esteem
Make up in the UK is falling out of style. If you're in a customer facing job then you'd be expected to use it, but generally speaking the time and cost involved is an increasing barrier to its on going use in regular life. The USA also seems to be talking more about, "bare minimum," potentially because of the same pressures. However, I don't think that this multi billion dollar industry is going to lay down without a fight.
The relationship between men and make up is examined, but it also goes to the extent of glamour and personal style. It's a holistic thing.
Few of us will employ or enjoy the make up artists, dermatologists, hair designers, etc. that Von-Teese deals with as part of her job, but there is plenty to take from this book; and I'm not just talking about beauty tips either. Sometimes, we need to learn about someone elses life, what they value and what drives them, in order to help gain a perspective on our own. That's what I ultimately found in this book.
As you've probably worked out, my research went outside the book itself, which is one reason why it took me so long to finish reading it. Unfortunately some of the claims appeared not to have been fully researched, like on page 214 that Britain outlawed red lipstick in 1770. That was something which struck me as a bit out of whack so I decided to research it.
As one blogger put it....
"First off, any law or proposed laws in the UK parliament have to be published in the London Gazette - https://www.thegazette.co.uk - this can easily be searched to show no such law was ever proposed in parliament. This myth seems to have originated from a filler piece in a Richmond, Virginia newspaper from 1861 - fillers, as the name implies, were short paragraphs to fill up space in a paper - they were written on the spot if there was a blank space in the layout of the page that needed to be filled, and they tended to be humorous articles that were not meant to be taken seriously" - https://markbellis.blogspot.com/2015/11/no-lipstick-wasnt-made-illegal-in-1770.html
Indeed, I went to The Gazette and did a search for "false pretences" and found nothing for 1770. The closest either side was 1757 and 1775. Neither of them dealing with that matter. Indeed, a search for "cosmetic washes" returned the earliest match in 1858 and a search for the simple word, "cosmetic," only went back a few years further to 1854. "Lipstick" had its first reference in 1951, where in December customs appears to have seized 60 lipsticks in base metal containers, on the grounds that they were prohibited to be exported by section 23 of the Exchange Control Act 1947.
Other errors also crept in, like incomplete page references. "(Her steps in executing a healthy manicure are on page 000 and to do a moon manicure are on pace 000)" ... and it's things like that which rob the book of some of its trustworthiness, especially when the author is promoting her own products within its pages.
Once a week, I go to the local pub, where I act all social-like and attempt to convince my neighbours that I'm really quite harmless when you get to know me.
I was talking with another of the regulars about the book I've started writing, and he asked me to define my audience. I have to admit that I couldn't answer him.
He hails from the more traditional business world of manufacturing widgets and selling said widgets, to widget using people. Of course, in his position, the successful manufacturer has to understand widget users, and what they want from their widgets.
Personally, I didn't think that his viewpoint translated into the world of books, as different people have different tastes, and those tastes change at differing points in life. But, in for a penny, in for a pound...
So, I thought I'd ask you... my audience... to define yourselves, and what widgets you expect to see on my stall ... if that makes any form of sense.
"including politicians, models, actors and authors." - https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/11/technology/twitter-fake-followers.html
Social media has had a real problem for years. One by one, it's slowly being addressed but to see authors being quoted, instead of other professions like musicians, artists, etc. should be a wake up call not only to the creators but also to the audience.
Me? My career is I.T. and I've been on the internet since the mid 90's, so I could see this coming years ago. Advertising in its current format is failing. I even wrote to the CEO of Unilever with my observations and beliefs about this, so I'm not just an idle keyboard warrior saying, "I told you so," after the sky has started falling in.
So what happened? The society of old shoved adverts under our noses. We rebelled with add blockers. People desperate for social media fame went as far as cementing their heads in microwave ovens - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-42271150 - shooting each other with .45 handguns - https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40438207 - and more, in order to get those all important views.
Brands that were desperate to be seen, actually ended up getting a social conscience and not only started pulling their adverts from controversial media (exactly the kind of media that was required to get heads stuck above crowds) but also started firing employees that shamed the company even when they were on their own dime - https://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/12_outrageous_job_losses_due_to_mishandling_social_10202.aspx - and not much of this is a surprise. Amid claims that social media companies were cooking the figures of how many eyeballs had actually seen the adverts sold, https://www.jonloomer.com/2014/02/11/facebook-fraud-response/ - it came as no surprise that advertisers would scale back their social media advertising spend.
For the corporations, they are now turning to sponsoring the new wave of content. That will fail too, but for different reasons which mostly boil down to too much of it, in a market which will become very saturated, very quickly. They need to change tack more drastically. As I wrote to Unilever's CEO, I had no clue who Tom Dickson was, but now I know all about his company Blendtec through their videos - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBUJcD6Ws6s so advertisers are still working their way through the obvious.
But where does that leave the creators... you know, the authors?
Buying likes has been the common way to boost your ratings and in a rushed world some people are likely to latch onto you not because of the book reviews, but due to popularity, in a search for a quick decision on which of the mahoosive number of books to buy next.
However, the social media platforms have now hit problems. People have woken up to the personal data scandal and all the pushing and shoving. Trust has taken a hit... and so have stock prices. Big companies are being levied with fines which, to be honest, are just chump change to them, but are a signal that legislation is coming. The US saw the UK's GDPR and want their own. California are drafting laws and it's all going to get ugly.
But where does that leave authors and readers?
What? You're looking to me for an answer?! ... for authors, the same old grind will continue. I can see self published authors having a harder time than ever in getting their head above the parapet. Ethics appears to be making an impact; across the board people are being judged as much for who they are and what they stand for, as much as they are the works they produce. Among a certain percentage of the population, I can see this becoming a larger slice of the decision pie.
Among the readership, I think it will make it more difficult for some people and probably narrow the choices for those that haven't got the time to put the effort into their choices.
Long story short, it has always been tough for the little guy to get noticed. The ways to game the system worked for a little while, but now that door is closing and the indie book world itself will have to find a new way.
Where are you from?
I’m from Wales. Not the deep sea mammals, but the country. A part of the United Kingdom. Currently I’m living in Sussex, in the south of England, where I’ve been for around fourteen years.
A little about yourself (i.e., your education, family life, etc.).
I’m a career IT technician and for these last ten years I’ve been living with my Mother. It's just how it worked out. No children, but loads of friends. When IT work went quiet I’ve done various things for a living, including brief spells as a photographer, baker and a period as a light truck driver. I like walking for relaxation. I also have channels on Vimeo and YouTube, although I'm not monetised. I'm not in this for the fame and fortune; that's another lesson I learned over time.
Tell us your latest publishing news.
I’ve started a new science fiction currently titled, “The Wrap.” No idea when it will be finished. It’s a case of doing it whenever the muse strikes. I'm hoping to get it finished this year, but as I have a day job I won't worry if it drags on a little.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing in 1996. I was into BDSM and writing was a way of working some of the fiction out of my system. Things you dream of, but will never become reality. That was published by a specialist in the genre. I did see a copy of it available on Amazon three years back, but someone was asking ridiculous money for it, so I stepped in and reviewed it myself, giving it a three star. Someone commented of my review, “You stand practically alone, I would guess, in the modesty of your self-assessment. Remarkable!” I actually checked to see if it was still for sale, but it was listed as unavailable. Well, whoever bought it was warned fair and square!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself a writer. It isn’t my career. Sure, the elation of holding a book with my name on it was incredible, but over time I realised that I’ve got a long way to go before creating anything of any worth; so I guess I’ll never really consider myself a writer.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I don’t think it was inspiration, more than circumstance. I had a computer so the tools were there, and I had emotions that I wanted to get out.
How did you come up with the title for your latest novel?
At the moment, it’s still a working title based on the central object of the story. Right now, I can’t see that changing.
Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
My previous genre came naturally, as BDSM is in my soul. Science fiction, which is what I write now, is challenging in terms of writing new worlds and new societies with their own rules, while still keeping it relateable. I suppose I could try mixing the two some day, but even that’s already been done.
How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Realistic is where I like to be. Things that could actually happen. That’s what I also like to see in the books that I read. I don’t knowingly bring my experiences of any one individual into the books; although I’ve used common-ish names and I do wonder whether some of my friends think that a character of the same name, is what I think of them; but I think they know me better than that. OK, I, “hope,” they know me better than that. Otherwise, I'm in deep trouble.
Some events, particularly the main BDSM series, do draw on real people and events; but everything has to be mashed together to form a cohesive story line, so no one would really be recognisable from them.
Of all your characters, which one is your favourite? Why?
I think that Mark is my favourite, from the BDSM series. He’s the dominant, but particularly as the books go on, it demonstrates the areas where he doesn’t have any control and that life haunts even him. Just because he’s the one whose supposed to be calling the shots, he’s still human and can’t control everything. To a large degree, I will always curse that I didn't write these books later on; but it was always actually meant to be, book and done, to get the story off my chest. I certainly didn't envisage making it a series. I think that, if I'd written them later down the line, I could have done a much better job of the books, but even then Mark would have still been the key character, for the same reasons already given.
What is your favourite book of all time?
“Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency,” by Douglas Adams. There are some other books that nip at its heels, but that’s top of the heap by a small margin.
To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Well, I do travel as far as wikipedia and Google maps let me. Both before and during. For, “Check Mate,” I did a chunk of research on a few locations and I looked over Roswell for both geography and the buildings themselves, as well as the surrounding areas. I try and do my research, but there are limits.
Who designed the covers?
For the BDSM series, the publisher found the artwork. Check Mate was done by a friend from Germany, and GENIE was done by an artist in Worthing who declined to be named in the book, so I’d better not name them here!
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Well, the BDSM series had a message, that scene people are just normal people with a penchant for exploration. They still have to face the same challenges in life that everyone else does. The science fiction books don’t really have a message, except possibly a warning of what can happen to humanity if we take things too far. But then, a good chunk of fiction seems to do that.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favourite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I’m still reading old authors. People who are generally no longer of this world. I blame it on my TBR pile! My most favourite is Terry Pratchett in his early Discworld days. He had such an ability to take mundane observations about our everyday society and turn them into something which would make me actually laugh out loud.
Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
A good friend, Phillip Kettless. He’s named in almost all the books, or possibly all of them, I can’t remember. He’s got a great imagination and I’m hoping that he buckles down and writes his own book some day.
Would you please recommend three titles for a holiday break?
“Prison Ramen – Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars”
“The Game Believes In You”
“Life with an Autistic Son”
… and I recommend those even though they’re factual, because that’s what a break is all about; renewal, yes?