Monday, 31 October 2011

So, where did Halloween come from?

As it's Halloween today (cue spooky music, creaking doors, and Vincent Price's cackle, which never fails to send shivers down my spine), I thought I'd delve into a bit of its history.

The word, Halloween, comes from a mash-up of All-Hallows-Even (evening) (first use recorded way back in 1556) and the name of Celtic festival, Samhain (pronounced sow-een, whatever the actors on "True Blood" call it).

Samhain marked the end of the harvest, the end of the lighter half of the year, and the beginning of some seriously long dark nights. It was also known as a festival dedicated to the dead, and some people still set a place for the dead at the Samhain feast.

The Gaelic custom of wearing a mask and costumes was often an attempt to placate evil spirits. Another method of warding off evil were the candle lanterns. Large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces, and placed in the window to frighten away the spirits.

In Scotland and Ireland, guising (dressing in costume) is a Halloween custom recorded as far back as  1895 where masqueraders in disguise visited homes to be rewarded with cake, fruit, and money (sounds good to me!).

So, now you're all nice and knowledgeable about where our Halloween name and customs came from, I hope you have a wonderful spookfest this evening. I think I'll be looking out my (admittedly tiny) collection of scary films. If you hear blood-curdling screams, that'll be me, hiding behind a cushion. Did I mention I'm useless with horror films?

Image: zirconicusso /

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Halloween fun

As Halloween is on Monday, I thought it a good time to list a few fun things to do :).
  1. Trick or Treating (Gee, I bet no one thought of that one ;). Generally, better to do with kids in tow. You might get a few strange looks otherwise.)
  2. Scary movie night (And I don't mean the Scary Movie collection, but some movies that can make you jump - great when having a sleepover.)
  3. Ghost Walk (Lots of places have them, particularly if there's a long history, and walking through a dark cemetery at midnight, even with other people, is pretty spooky.)
  4. Atmosphere (I might be out of touch with its modern incarnation, but this game, that involved a video playing on the TV as the game progressed on the board was great for some frights when the character would flash back onto the screen accompanied by a sudden thunder clap.)
  5. Themed costume party or dance (Great fun dancing to Michael Jackson's Thriller along with a guy in a Scream mask, a vampire, and a couple of zombies :))
Whatever you're doing, I hope you all have a fun (but safe) night.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A Most Improper Magick - Stephanie Burgis

A Most Improper Magick (The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson, #1)A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kat Stephenson is headstrong, forthright, and a tom boy in a time of balls, simpering misses, and convenient marriages. Rather than let her eldest sister marry a man old enough to be her father (not to mention the fact he might have murdered his first wife) in order to save the family from financial ruin, she sets out to find another way to save them, and stumbles upon her mother's magic books.

Monday, 24 October 2011

First blog award!

I feel so lucky right now! Not only have I gathered lots of new followers (hi new followers!), but not one, but TWO great bloggers have given me a blog award. And here it is:

Isn't it fantastic? All roses and pink and lovely :). Thanks very much to Beth at Thoughts from the Hearthfire and Laura at Daily Dodo for giving it to me.

This award requires you to pass it onto 15 recently discovered blogs. Now, I know this award has been going round lately, so to the people I'm about to recommend, feel free to ignore it if you want to.

Here goes:

1. Christine Rains
2. Creepy Query Girl
3. Flutey Words
4. Gap Years The Book
5. Jenn Nixon
6. LynNerd's Random Act of Writing
7. Nerd Girl Reads and Writes
8. Pensuasion
9. Ramblings
10. Rebecca Mahoney
11. T F Walsh - Fantasy Writer
12. The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment
13. Victim of Writing
14. Wicked, Tricksy, and False
15. Welcome to my World

Well, some might not be as recently discovered as others, but they're all equally worthy.

Did everyone have a nice weekend? I actually managed to spend some time just reading. I read straight through "Anna and the French Kiss", by Stephanie Perkins. I loved it! When's the last time you whizzed through a book, because you couldn't bear to put it down?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Some classic first lines

Sometimes a book is so well known, even the first line, without any context, is recognised. Can you recognise these?
  1. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
  2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a  good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
  3. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
  4. Marley was dead, to begin with.
  5. All children, except one, grow up.

How well did you do? Here are the answers:
  1. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
  2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C. S. Lewis)
  4. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
  5. Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)

Image: nuttakit /

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

NaNoWriMo is coming!

For anyone who doesn't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, although it might as well be International Novel Writing Month now, as people all over the world participate.

The aim is to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. It's a personal challenge, so there are no tangible rewards at the end of it, save a definite sense of achievement.

For anyone who's always thought, "One day I'll write a novel", NaNo is the opportunity to make that one day today.

Monday, 17 October 2011

A huge thank you

We interrupt our regularly scheduled post to say a huge thank you to all my new followers and everyone who commented as a result of the Pay It Forward blogfest.

I was stunned (stunned, I tell you) at the response from it. I think I gathered more followers in one day than I've done in two months! As a first blogfest, it's been a great experience. I've got to know so many new people, and discovered loads of amazing blogs I never knew existed.

An extra special huge thank you with hugs to Matthew at QQQE and Alex at Alex J. Cavanaugh for arranging the blogfest, coming up with such a good idea and making it happen. Thanks so much, guys!

Image: Felixco, Inc. /

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Pirate party games

My newly four-year-old nephew is having a pirate-themed birthday party today, and my incredibly organised sister has worked out some special pirate party games. I thought I'd place them here in case anyone else finds them useful.
  1. Pieces of Eight (find a picture of a pirate, cut it into eight pieces, write a number on the back of each piece to show they belong to the same puzzle, and then hide them around the house or garden. The children have to find their number and piece together the puzzle.)
  2. Musical Islands (a variation on musical chairs - the children sit on cushions)
  3. Pin the Patch on the Pirate (a variation on pin the tail on the donkey)
  4. Pass the Booty (a variation on pass the parcel)
  5. Treasure Hunt (what would a pirate party be without the ability to hunt for treasure?)
Does anyone else have some fun games to add? Or anyone use some of these to great success?


Friday, 14 October 2011

Pay It Forward blogfest

"Pay It Forward" is a blogfest dreamed up by QQQE and Alex J. Cavanaugh, and, what's more, it's the first blogfest I've taken part in! It's designed to help highlight three blogs you think worthy of more attention. Here are mine:

Surrounded by Books
Blog for author, Cherie Reich. A great blog that promotes writers, offers helpful insights - such as the "Ask an Editor" sections - and has flash fiction on a Friday that I always enjoy reading.

In Shadows
Blog for romance author, Brynna Curry. A nice variety of posts, including interviews, short stories, and, currently, some very pertinent recipes for Halloween :).

YA Book of the Day
A blog focusing on the YA market, with some fantastic posts on YA books, including reviews, recommendations, and giveaways. Also, some general discussion on writing/reading-type topics.

I'm now off to check out everyone else's recommendations :).

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

How to write on trains

I don't usually write poetry, but this came to me after trying to write on a train on a particularly bumpy trip, when all I had was a notepad and pen. Hope you enjoy :).

I have my notebook at the ready.
Now, if only the ride could be steady
My work would be on one line and not
Up and down and full of ink blots.

I thought I would use this journey to write,
But instead of simply left to right,
The words are now all over the show
Often in a language I don’t know.

I’ve done my best through rickety trips,
Clattering over rails, and up and down dips,
But my pen is all over the page in a mess.
Perhaps not my best idea, I confess.

So, this is my advice to writers on trains
Who need every bit of time they attain:
Write all you like, but follow this creed
Don’t write anything you’re hoping to read!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Comfort Films - "Clue" (1985)

While one of my favourite things when I need comfort is food (chocolate works wonders!), I also turn to films when I need a laugh or that feel-good warmth.

Today, "Clue" popped into my head, and it's perfect for the way I'm feeling now - tired, irritated, frustrated... - Why are you all running for the hills? I'm not THAT grumpy. OK, maybe I am, but I have "Clue" to make me giggle and restore my good spirits, so you're all safe.

Just the thought of the manic nonsense of the plotline, Tim Curry as the butler, Wadsworth, and those great lines ("Who's there?" "Nobody." "What do you mean?" "Nobody. No body... Mr Boddy's body. It's gone.") has me smiling.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


I admit I haven't really taken to these just yet. I'm being swayed by the Kindle, but it's still out of my price range, so I'm not about to get one. However, I thought I'd do a little list of those available at the moment.
  1. Kindle (Amazon's offering, and available in both the US and UK)
  2. Nook (Barne and Noble's reader, and I've heard good things. Only available in the US though)
  3. Sony (I see a lot of these in shops, particularly Waterstones)
  4. Elonex (Unfortunately, I don't think this stands a chance against the others, particularly as its features are far outweighed by those of the Nook and Kindle)
  5. Waterstones (Yep, they're releasing their own according to this article. As they mention the Nook as their inspiration, I'm hopeful.)
Have you moved onto an eReader yet? Which is your favourite and why? Any I've missed (probably several) that you think deserve a mention?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A bit of research - Allergic to the sun

In "Racing the Dark", the world is ruled by vampires. While my vampires don't follow every rule the myths lay out for us, they do follow the "burn in the sun" bullet point.

Part-way through the story, Darin comments that, "It is derived from a human genetic disorder." That disorder would be Xeroderma Pigmentosum, and the short explanation of it is that the person's body can't repair the damage caused by UV light.

The MedicinePlus Medical Encyclopaedia defines it as "a rare condition passed down through families in which the skin and tissue covering the eye are extremely sensitive to ultraviolet light."

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Phantom of the Opera is here

Anyone else love this story? Or the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical? I confess I saw the musical first, but I still love Gaston Leroux's original book.

Well, as you probably already know, the musical of Phantom is celebrating its 25th anniversary in London this year. Yep, it's been 25 years since it opened at Her Majesty's theatre with Sarah Brightman as Christine and Michael Crawford as the Phantom. To celebrate, a production - specially designed for the Royal Albert Hall - took place over the weekend. Sunday's evening performance was also broadcast live in cinemas across the UK.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Nonsense words

When I was growing up, my dad could always make me laugh (still can, in fact), and one of the ways was these nonsense words. Between him and my mum deliberately mixing up syllables and mispronouncing words, it's a wonder I ever learnt to speak proper. But they always made me smile. In the hope these give you a bit of a laugh, I've laid them out for your delectation. Enjoy!

  1. Gatport Airwick (Gatwick Airport, a UK airport)
  2. Presactly (when either "precise" or "exactly" on their own just won't do)
  3. Flutterby (Butterfly)
  4. Skissors (hard 'k' as opposed to soft 'c')
  5. Electrickery
Anyone else play this game? Or have any other words to add?

Image: vichie81 /