Archive for » July, 2011 «

JnK Clothing

Yesterday I, rather spontaneously, launched the clothing company I’ve been setting up with Keith Mountifield.

Junk has it’s very own fanpage here and is already taking orders for our very first two designs.

One is my own and you can see a picture of me wearing it to the right. This design called Sword And Fire and costs £21 for the t-shirt and can be ordered in colour of t-shirt and design of the buyers choice as well as male or female and all the normal sizes. Details of the colours and how to order can be found on the facebook photo for each t-shirt.

The other design we are taking orders for is Kez’s first design, Enjoying Time and can be seen below.

Hopefully new designs will keep coming and while they are the facebook page will be the first place updated with new designs and colours available. When we’ve got enough designs to warrant a website we’ll have one up and running with the same set up. The buyer will always be able to choose their t-shirt colour as well as design colour(s) from all available options.

Junk will also take requests to make a design to a specification as well as suggestions and requests for other items of clothing. Just email jess at jnkclothing.co.uk and someone will respond within 24 hours.


Fast Five: A Review

I’ve finally made it all the way to the 5th film in the series. Fast & Furious 5 as it was called in the Uk, Fast Five elsewhere.

This one was again a little different to the previous four films. Rather than focusing on the street racing they chose to head in a slightly more ocean’s eleven style direction and the drivers had to pull of a heist. The safe of Rio’s dodgiest criminal. They started the film in the same exact moment the previous left off, rescuing Dom from the security bus driving him to his high security prison, making this film set before the third one. This allowed them to bring Han in as well as many of the other favourites in the franchise.

While there weren’t as many car chase scenes there was still plenty of action with a car heist from a moving train, the group being pursued by the DSS cop, Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson, and the final big heist of the safe itself. There was also a very large amount of shooting and on foot chasing compared to the previous films, but this was not a bad thing.

My favourite scenes were by far the ones with both Dom and Hobbs, two highly testosterone filled men on opposite sides of the law, and boy were their scenes deliciously tense. I don’t normally like Johnson’s films as he hasn’t quite lost the Rock image in my head, but here it played to his advantage. If anyone was going to appear as a threat to our Dominic Torreto it was an ex-bounty hunter, turned criminal investigator for the government, who had subconscious wrestler thoughts to draw on.

Dom was also on top form showing off all three of his best qualities. Tough protective guy, sensitive and caring towards the female cop who had lost her husband to crime and an incredibly smart planner to not only pull of the heist but trick several of his adversaries into thinking he hadn’t until everything was safely out of their reach.

I found this film was also funnier than the previous four. The larger group allowed for more light relief moments with gags and sillyness. While this withdrew from the tension of the film I think it added more than it took away. That ‘team working together’ feel that was in the first one was back with full force and I was sad to see everyone go their separate ways at the end, though some of those moments were funny too.

They found a better balance in this film and I think it now appeals to a much larger market than the previous ones in the franchise did. It should be an easy like for people that enjoy action and Ocean’s eleven type films.

I also want to recommend watching until after the credits as they put in a sneaky peak at a possible plot line for the next one and it’s quite an interesting bit.

Designing t-shirts: What not to do

While setting up the new t-shirt company I did my usual trick and dived into the world of designing without really thinking. As such I made quite a few mistakes early on that cost me quite a bit of time. I thought I’d share a few of those here, mostly because their funny (looking back on them) but also because there is a chance it will help someone else.

Mistake 1

I drew my design by hand to try and get a rough idea of what I was doing. Now this would seem like a really good idea except I didn’t have a scanner when I first started. Make sure if you are drawing designs by hand that either you or a lovely friend has a scanner.

Mistake 2

When I first started drawing my designs on the computer I hadn’t ever heard of drawing with vectors. Therefore I drew my design quite literally pixel by pixel (yes this was after I’d drawn it by hand and then not scanned it) and it wasn’t until I showed my husband that I found out there was a way to do it line by line and also have it scalable. Yup by drawing it with vectors.

Mistake 3

My next assumption was that any program would do as long as it drew with vectors so I pulled up my little pixel drawing in Paint shop Pro 9 and started layering my vector drawing over the top. I then emailed my first design to a friend. They couldn’t open it. Paint shop Pro wasn’t an industry standard just because my husband had it and it was on my computer. Make sure you pick a drawing program that supports a good vector format that’s relatively standard in the industry. Inkscape is a good free one apparently and probably what I’ll be using in future. At least until I can afford Adobe Illustrator.

Mistake 4

Jpgs are the format used for all pictures when you save them to send to people. No they are not, it turns out. Jpgs are for photos with lots of colour and only sometimes useful for those. For designs svg is best. It keeps those vectors nicely formatted, where as jpgs just turn it back into a pixel design and a lower quality one at that.

There are probably other mistakes I’ve made along the way but I feel I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one day. I can now safely say the best way to do my t-shirt designs though is to draw them by hand, get them scanned in, use adobe illustrator to vectorise the hand drawn scan in, (there’s a tool for that) tweak where necessary and save in svg format. It takes a few hours max as opposed to the 50-60 hours I spent trying to do my first design.

 

Character Interview: Sherdan

Here’s the second interview. This one’s with Sherdan.

Why are you in charge?

This whole facility was my idea, I’m the one who knows what the exact goal of this place is. Who else would be in charge?

What are you going to do with Anya?

Nothing harmful. She posses no threat currently and offers the little bits of information she knows fairly freely to me. While she remains where she is willingly, without fuss, I see no reason to do anything with her at all.

So, Anya is safe here?

While she continues to cooperate Anya is more safe in this facility, with me, than she will be out there over the weeks and months to come.

What is the Prophecy?

If you are refering to the rumour being spread that I’m following some kind of prophecy about the end of the world then that’s not something I can really talk about.

There is a Prophecy then?

Rumours can get very convoluted when they are being circulated. It’s best not to believe everything you hear but as with all myths and legends there is often a little something based in fact. I really cannot say anything else on the subject.

Do you feel like your life has led you to this point?

I think life is what we make of it. If I have been leading to this point then it is simply because I have strived to be the greatest I can be in whatever I do. I do appear to have the talents and skills needed for the job I find myself in, that could be a sort of fate. There is really no way to tell for sure.

What are you trying to achieve?

The future, a better future. The advancement of the human race to something more sustainable and fair, less easily corrupted than the current political situations we have now.

 

For peeps that want the backstory of Sherdan and Anya and what this interview is all about check out the first idea spark here, the next moment between Anya and Sherdan here and then Anya’s interview here. Up next in the saga will be the background details like location and settings for the book plus maybe a few more minor characters. Let me know your opinions on any of this so far. The whole concept is very fluid at the moment.

Her Mother’s Hope: A Review

Her Mother’s Hope is the first of two books in a series by Francine Rivers.

It follows the journey of Marta from age 12 up until about 55 as well as following her daughter for a good chunk of the story. Marta starts off living in Switzerland with her mother father and younger sister and then moves from there to England via france and then Canada for a few years before finally settling with the entire family she has by then in California. Her life is far from easy and it takes the girl/woman a lot of guts to do many of the things she eventually does.

Her daughter, Hildemara, is almost the exact opposite of Marta and this is where a lot of the later story focuses. All the failing Marta saw in her family growing up, and in herself to some degree, are not wanted for her daughter and as such she pushes Hildemara to be something she’s not. I really don’t think this is anything that new as I think 90% of my friends get pushed by their parents in directions that from their point of view aren’t helpful but from their parents point of view are. It’s just one of those things of life.

What I did find gave it a fresh viewpoint though was how Francine Rivers managed to make you relate to not just the mother or the daughter but to both. You could see that they both wanted what was best for each other and that most of the time it was all just misunderstanding. Because they didn’t talk enough about life, misunderstanding led to hurt, which led to walls going up, which led to more misunderstandings etc, and the cycle went on.

I got to the end of the book and I just wanted to sit them both down and make them talk about their lives to each other, so both would understand that the other loved them, despite not always showing it in the right way. It also made me think, maybe I should take a bit mroe time next time I’m with close family and just make sure that they know I care.

Author Interview: Natascha Tallowin

Todays Author Interview is with Natascha Tallowin.

Tell us about your latest project.

I’ve just finished collecting together enough poems and prose pieces to form my first anthology, ‘Some of Her Parts’, which is available to buy from Amazon.com .co.uk and LuLu.com.
It features the majority of the poems that have been published in literary journals, magazines and poetry anthologies, such as ‘Some of Her Parts’, ‘The Dream of Someone Else’ and ‘If I Didn’t Have You, Someone Else Would Do’, along with plenty of lesser known pieces such as ‘For Sale: Dorothy’s Shoes’ and ‘London in the Evening’.

When and why did you start writing?

I’ve been writing full length novels since I was about 9/10, and have been doing so ever since.
As for why I started writing, as cliché as it is, I doubt I could do anything else. I’m pretty unemployable really. I’ve got the qualifications but give me a boss I don’t like or an environment that I don’t crave to be in and I’ll leave immediately!

Writing fiction makes me happy, I crave doing it and am completely in love with it. I’ll never understand people who work jobs that they don’t adore.

What’s your favourite genre to write and what’s your favourite genre to read?

My favourite genre to write, and my favourite genre to read are pretty much one in the same. Literary fiction and the odd bit of diluted Magic Realism (think Chocolat by Joanne Harris). I don’t get on with science fiction or fantasy or things like that. I like to read and write about the real world and analyse the people in it.

What inspires you?

Food, film, the face behind the façade of the individual.
I often find myself drawing inspiration from the non-politically correct and the social deviants. For example I’ve written alot of poetry inspired by men who wear make up, cross dressers, transgendered people, gay men, lesbians, unconventional sex and common situations made awkward by people’s assumptions and prejudices.
I’m also inspired alot by other writers such as Virginia Woolf, Peter Hedges, Joanne Harris and Sarah Waters, and occasionally glam rock musicians such as David Bowie, Pat Briggs and Boy George.
I like people who shock, and push boundaries, but never just for the sake of it. I’d like to think some of my pieces achieve that.

Do you have any quirks to how you write?

I’m not sure. Probably not. I tend to just settle down with my laptop, a cup of tea and Eliza (my baby daughter) sleeping on my chest and start writing. I do keep word documents full of half ideas and quotes that I want to include in things, but that’s pretty much it, nothing too exciting!

Are their any of your characters you particularly relate to, if there is, who and why?

I think a lot of my characters share my general disregard for anything politically correct, and a lot of them don’t suffer fools, so I relate to them in that sense, but I think generally my characters are fictional, and are a way for me to explore different ways of being.

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

I’m now in the ‘ideas stage’, of two projects. One a novel, working title: ‘Theatre of Excess’, which is top secret at the moment, and two, a short story entitled ‘According to Maurice’, which I’ll turn into a play once I’ve completed it. My partner and I are also about to start work on a children’s story for our little girl, which will be interesting as writing books for children is something new for both of us.
Aside from that I’m busy writing poetry as usual and about to begin editing my latest novel.

Thanks for dropping by Natascha, I agree on the being unemployable thing. My husband jokes that I’m completely unemployable as well. I think there are quite a few of us writers that are similar.

Learning To Fly: Revamped

I’ve been given the honour of putting two of my short stories forward for a collaboration of shorts by me and two other authors. The genre is going to be fantasy so I thought I’d revamp one of my favourites Learning to Fly, I added some stuff, named my characters and here is the next draft. It may well get drafted again but for now I like it. Enjoy!

 

“Oi, dirt-sniffer, get out of bed.”

Liza groaned and rolled over. It was only dawn and she had not managed to get to bed until long after sun down.

“Come on. Your mother needs your help. I’ve got a visitor for our evening meal today.” Liza’s father, Nathaniel, banged his fist on the edge of her bed.

“For the third time this week?” Liza threw back her covers and stood up, being careful not to catch and tangle her wings.

“Yes, for the third time this week. Believe me, I am as fed up as you with all these fancy meals just to get you taken off my hands. With you being a dirt-sniffer you’re not making it easy.”

“I don’t want to be forced to marry some idiot you bring over for food just because you deem it necessary.”

Nathaniel lifted his hand and flung it backwards across Liza’s face. She reeled back onto the bed behind her.

“You will be on your best behaviour this evening, is that clear?”

She nodded as she felt her cheek. She had bitten her tongue with the shock at the back hander but she knew she had got off lightly. There would be no bruise. Satisfied, Nathaniel left the room.

At twenty-six Liza was well past the age Nepharil females normally married. Her father was still trying to find her a suitor. Two days before he had invited a seasoned warrior to dine with the family. She had poured hot cocaya in his lap when he had asked her father if a hundred felkin would be acceptable as a wedding payment.

A hundred felkin was not even a days wages. And to add further insult the Nepharil had already married five women. He had boasted of the beauty of one in particular all evening to her.

The beating her father had given her had been worth it. She knew that the only reason she did not suffer more from her father’s anger was because the only two things she had left to promote herself as a good wife was her looks and her ability to cook.

Knowing, that her two brothers would soon be up to torment her further Liza stopped thinking over the past and pulled her clothes on. She then brushed her hair and neatened the few feathers in her wings that had been knocked astray while she slept.

Hearing her brothers call to her mother downstairs stopped Liza from continuing her preening and sent her running downstairs. Joseph was her eldest brother and he often came to join them from the bachelor house for breakfast as well as meeting his younger brother, Stewart, for training. Liza was the youngest of the three.

As soon as she entered the kitchen her brothers and father started demanding her to serve them. Her mother was already at the stove, cooking. She had made a mix of wheat flour, milk and eggs to fry into soft cakes, Nathaniel’s favourite.

The three male Nepharil did nothing but sat at the table and talked idly of their work. Nathaniel and Joseph both worked as soldiers and Stewart was in training to be one.

Liza had just served all three drinks when her uncle, Christopher arrived. Christopher’s wife had died in childbirth, taking their child with her. Christopher, therefore, joined them for all their meals.

Christopher would often request of Nathaniel the use of Liza to help in his own house and, of course, her father would not refuse. It was one of very few things that had discouraged the drop in offers for her. Liza would do Christopher’s housework but he would always make sure that they had time for at least a small lesson in wing strength or positioning or anything else he thought would help her to learn to fly. Unknown to any one else he had not given up trying to teach her to fly.

As always Nathaniel ribbed Christopher for having no female of his own. For some reason this caused Joseph to pipe up and suggest that his uncle purchase a female elf slave to do his housework for him. Suddenly all three males decided this was exactly what Christopher needed.

Christopher could not get them to leave him alone about the idea until he promised to look into it. Liza sighed, though it went unheard. It was a shame that no one else in her family could respect that her uncle had actually cared about his wife and did not wish to just replace her.

Changing the subject, Christopher asked if he could borrow Liza for an hour or two just before lunch. His excuse was an errand in the marketplace but she smirked when she heard this. She had already done the task for him the day before when she had gone to the town for her own family.

It could only mean that Christopher wanted to actually spend time with Liza on a flying lesson of some kind. Her heart beat faster in excitement. She lived solely for the lessons with her uncle and the hope that one day she would no longer be deserving of the insult dirt-sniffer.

Liza could hardly concentrate over breakfast and got yelled at several times by her father for getting something wrong or not being quick enough. She managed to get through the meal and Nathaniel, Joseph and Stewart left. Christopher then gave her instructions of where to go in the marketplace and said goodbye as well.

After checking what time her mother would need her back to help with the chores and grabbing some fruit to eat Liza rushed off out of their tree-top house and climbed down the rope they had to have tied for her. The market was two miles away and up hill all the way, but Liza was too excited about getting there to care how difficult the journey was.

If she had been able to fly it would have taken her less than ten minutes to fly up the rest of the mountain to the Nepharil town near the top but she could not. Instead it took her forty minutes and she was breathing heavily by the time she could even see her destination up ahead.

Christopher appeared by her side, landing just a few feet away, before she reached the outer walls of the town. He smiled at her and she tried to smile too while she got her breath back.

“You were sooner than I thought you’d be,” Christopher said.

“I did not want to keep you waiting. You take a great risk”

“Every Nepharil should have the right to keep trying,” Christopher frowned, “follow me. I do not know how long this will take.”

Liza knew better than to ask questions. Christopher seemed to know exactly what to do to teach her the next thing she needed to know and she suspected that he had taught Helen, his wife, how to fly after she had been given up on and labelled a non flier.

Christopher led Liza up the mountain even further and away from both her home and the town. Liza had never been this way before and had no idea where they were going, but any excitement she would normally have felt at going on an adventure with her uncle was stolen by the coldness of the fog that wrapped itself around them.

After half an hour of silence and regimented marching Christopher stopped. The two of them stood on the top of a cliff. The fog made the edge hard to see but Liza could just make out enough when the wind gusted and pulled the vapour out of the way.

“Here we are, today you fly.” Christopher looked at her. He had a smirk on his face. Liza gulped. She had not expected him to actually tell her she was meant to fly. She did not think she was ready.

“I want you to jump off the cliff. I’ll come with you.”

“You want me to what?”

“Jump off. You know how to move your wings right and have enough strength in them. At worst if you don’t manage to fly I’ll be there to catch you before you hit the bottom.”

Liza knew Christopher well enough that if she didn’t at least attempt his instructions he would threaten to stop teaching her. Taking a deep breath she turned towards the edge of the cliff.

She stood completely still, her teacher equally still beside her, both of them wrapped in mist. The feathers on the ends of her wings fluttered gently in the wind as she stood watching, hoping to get a glimpse of the land beyond. Slowly she took a step closer to the edge, stretched her wings outwards, and took another deep breath in.

Standing still again, waiting, she watched the fog swirl. This time she was rewarded for her patience by a brief glimpse of what was beyond the precipice. There was not enough time to see exactly what was there but enough to make her take another small step forwards.

Christopher, eager to continue, walked right to the edge and as he did the mist parted again, allowing her to see the drop from the cliff and the valley below. It was amazing and unlike anything she had ever seen before, lush green fields and a deep blue winding river.

Encouraged by what she saw she took the final step towards the edge of the cliff and hesitated once again. The white vapour closed in around her, thicker than before, as if it thought she had seen enough and did not want to tempt her further.

For a long time she did nothing but shake gently with fear. All the shock flying tactics the other Nepharil males had put her through flashed into her head. None of their ideas had worked and she was not sure now would be any different.

After a lengthy pause Liza’s nerves got the better of her and she took a step backwards. Christopher immediately turned to her.

“You can do this. Trust me,” he said. She looked away

“I’m not sure I can.”

“I would not ask you to do this if you could not.”

She nodded in response and stepped back to the edge. She held her breath, spread her wings and jumped. He followed and for a moment the two of them plummeted towards the ground below still enveloped in fog.

After what seemed an age to her she snapped out of her panic and used her wings to soar in the wind. She moved her wings up and down matching the rhythmic beat of her heart, just how he had taught her to.

Within seconds Liza was climbing, her teacher still beside her. She let out a laugh of joy as she rose back to her previous height and then higher still. The two of them flew and danced around each other, enjoying simply being there together, until she noticed that the wind had picked up and finally cleared the mist away.

Without hesitating she flew down and landed amongst the trees and flowers below. Her teacher was not far behind and faced her as he landed. It was obvious that he was as exhilarated as she was by her first flight. They smiled at each other, sharing the moment, before her grin broadened and she enquired.

“What’s next?”

Christopher laughed and Liza could not help but join in, exhilarated with the freedom she now felt. Both of them were standing with bright eyes and their heads a little higher than normal. They had been working away for years, building the strength into Liza’s wings so she could fly. Many times Liza had considered giving up, now they had achieved their goal.

She had flown.

“We had better get back to your home. We have already been gone well over an hour. Your mother will need you.” Liza nodded at her uncle’s wisdom. “I suggest you do not let your father know until after tonight’s meal.”

She bobbed her head up and down again. Christopher then took off into the sky and hovered, waiting for her to follow. She frowned as she stretched out her wings again. Flying from stationary was not going to be as easy as flying from the fall.

With a few exaggerated down flaps she managed to lift off the ground, only to find herself standing a few moments later.

“Just a little more.” Christopher encouraged her. He flew a little closer, just in case.

Liza frowned and concentrated on how it felt when she had begun flying the first time. After a brief pause, where nothing happened at all, she lifted off the ground and flew upwards.

They flew together in circles and twirls as she tested her new found powers to their limits, soaring on currents and then diving, to stretch out her wings and level off before hovering inches off the ground.

Christopher led her back to the cliff they had jumped off and then they flew together, low to the ground, back in the direction of the town.

When they were about half way back they landed to walk the rest of the way. Keeping Liza’s successful flying a secret would not work if she was seen in flight and, although she did not vocalise it, her wings were now very tired. Her wing joints ached with the exertion. She hoped it got easier with practice and use.

Christopher left Liza where they had met, after a brief hug, and she headed home. It was almost two hours since she had left the house and she knew her mother would need her back soon.

Her uncle’s warning not to let anyone know she could fly was still at the top of her thoughts so she walked, with a slight bounce, back to her house. Facing another dinner with men only there to try and buy her hand in marriage did not seem too hard to face with the knowledge she was no longer a dirt-sniffer.

 

Fast and Furious: A Review

This is the 4th film in the franchise and possibly my favourite. I struggle to decide whether I like this one more or the first but this one probably spends over half the time being my favourite. I think mostly it’s because I am relieved they go back to the format of the first, and the original team is back together hijacking trucks again. There are a few more twists and turns in the plot of this one as well which makes it even more interesting.

Brian is also a cop again and there is another very awesome race between Dom and Brian, complete with quirky sat nav guidance.

Brian has to, yet again, earn the trust of Dom, Mia and the rest of the team which includes Han from the third film. Han is an awesome addition to the group and I was really pleased when I saw him in the film as he’s one of my favourites from the third.

I also felt this film had quite a few awesome one liners in it. There is a cute one when Brian admits to someone else that he dated Dom’s sister.

Vin Diesel’s acting is also on top form. His brooding presence as Dom is so well done and is the perfect combination of passive aggresive and calm cool attitude. He really knows how to act as this kind of guy and the only thing lacking is a little bit of grief over the death in the film. I wasn’t 100% sure he grieved as much as he should. Admittedly he is a guy that doesn’t show much emotion but I would have personally liked a little more.

The end rocked too but I won’t spoil that.

Music: A Distraction

I often listen to music while I’m working. I really don’t like silence so it provides a background noise and I feel more comfortable. Lately, however, I’ve found myself very distracted by what I am playing.

For a long time I used spotify and had a playlist with lots of well known songs on. The playlist was so familiar that I could just zone out and focus on writing. I stopped using spotify when they introduced the clause that free accounts could only listen to a song 5 times. Since then I’ve been using last fm.

Last fm has been great for suggesting new music to me. I’ve found lots of awesome new songs, composers and bands. For example Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman. It actually made me cry the first time I listened to it, and the second time… and every time after.

My biggest problem though is not being able to create an actual playlist on last fm. It has a library of songs that it chooses from, but it’s random, so everytime  new songs play it distracts me as it’s not what I’m expecting or used to coming after the previous song. I also find new or newer songs more distracting. I either want to sing along to them or pick the lyrics apart. In a few cases I even want to rewrite them.

The most distracting song at the moment, however, is Through Heaven’s eyes from the Prince of Egypt soundtrack.

Character Interview: Anya

As promised here’s the interview with Anya, thank you everyone that provided questions.

Why have your Church sent you here?

The group Sherdan has set up here has begun to worry them, especially with rumours that he’s following some kind of prophecy about the end of the world. I was sent to find out what was true and what wasn’t. If this is the end times then we’re involved one way or another.

Why did you say yes?

I just felt like it was right. I was talking to someone in my church above me about considering coming to find out and they told me several people in church were all suggesting that it might be good to send someone. I was the only person that thought they might be that someone. So I came. It felt right and I wasn’t the only one that thought so.

Are you scared?

Yes, a little. I was more scared when I first arrived but the longer I am here and still alive the less scared I am and I’ve never been so scared that I’ve not trusted God knows what He is doing. There were points when I had to tell myself ‘just keep going, God know’s what He is doing, just keep going’ etc but I always got through those times.

Do you feel prepared for this?

Yes and no, I know I’ve managed to do everything I need to so far. I still don’t know what the prophecy is but I’m still alive and so far I’ve got through. I’ve always believed we are never put through more than we can handle.

Do you like Sherdan?

So far. He’s more understanding than the others here but he runs this place and I don’t agree with everything they’ve done. He’s a very closed person and won’t talk to me about much. It’s too early to tell yet. I don’t dislike him.

Do you think you’ll survive this?

I don’t know. I try not to think about it. I’m just trying to do what I feel called to. I may well not survive but as I said I try not to think about it.