Awesome People Reading

In light of my participation in the Novel Challenge/MS Readathon*, I thought it fitting to pay homage to some awesome people who love to read.

A while back I came across this very cool tumblr blog, Awesome People Reading, and couldn’t help but spend more time than I really should have clicking through the pages admiring photos of famous and inspirational people reading their favourite paperbacks, hardbacks, comics and newspapers.

Below I’ve attached a few of my fave pics, but definitely head on over to the full site to see many many more.

* I have so far raised $180 so thank you to you special people (you know who you are) for your contributions.  I stayed up quite late last night finishing George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, which was, by the way, excellent! Now on to book 3, Friday’s Child by Ian Kennedy Williams.

Marilyn Monroe

Michael Caine

Sid Vicious

Gregory Peck and Mary Badham

Elizabeth Taylor

James Dean and Marcus Winslow

Alfred Hitchcock

~storytelling nomad~

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The Novel Challenge

What could be better than spending a month reading AND doing something good for the world, all at the same time?  Not a lot, in my opinion.  Which is why I’ve decided to take part in the Novel Challenge and MS Readathon, to help raise money for Multiple Sclerosis, the most common disease of the central nervous system affecting more than 18,000 Australians.

I’m going to be spending the next 30 days reading my little heart out whilst raising money for a good cause.  Check out all the info by going to the top of this page and clicking on ‘The Novel Challenge’.  There you will find details, a link to my fundraiser page (which, by the way, you should totally click on), and a running record of my reading list as I fry my brain in book loving goodness.

I started the challenge today with Aussie author Marianne de Pierres’ Burn Bright, a wonderfully eery piece of YA Fantasy Fiction.

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones

I am now onto George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, which I couldn’t possibly resist after watching the brilliant television adaptation.  So far I am hugely impressed at how alike the show is to the book.  Gotta love that in a small screen adaptation.

Fingers crossed this little challenge will mercilessly reduce the size of my to-be-read pile, as well as making a small difference to those living with MS.

Happy reading readers!

~storytelling nomad~

An inside look at Pottermore

Last month I received early access to the beta Pottermore website after participating in a Magical Quill challenge, which basically involved answering a question that related to something in the Harry Potter books.

I was pretty excited when I found out that I would be one of a million rewarded with early admission to the elusive site, partly because I really had no idea what Pottermore actually was.

The home page had described it as so:

Pottermore is an exciting new website from J.K. Rowling that can be enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books. You can explore the stories like never before and discover exclusive new writing from the author.

So the new content bit sounded pretty damn exciting, but as for the rest of it…”enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books” and “explore the stories like never before”.  What the hell does it all mean!?

Well, let’s start from the beginning. First thing I had to do was choose a name for myself.  Because it’s all child friendly for the little people fans of the series, everyone gets a Harry Potter inspired pseudonym, so that the only way you can add your friends is by asking them what their pseudonym is.

Now, you don’t actually get to make up your pseudonym; you instead get a choice of five to pick from.  I chose DragonSpell167, but also had choices along the lines of UnicornHolly and SpellPatronus, both with random numbers at the end.

So with that over with I was introduced to the site.  And wow.  Really, WOW.

The first thing that hit me was the graphics, which are simply spectacular.  The site takes you though each of the books, chapter by chapter, through a number of images.  The beta version only has book one for now.

At the start of each chapter it looks something like this:

Pottermore: Chapter One

You get a small snippet of the chapter and below it three images of three scenes that are significant to the chapter, which in chapter one are entitled “Number Four, Privet Drive”, “Something Peculiar is Happening” and “Harry is Delivered”.

You then click on one of the scenes, and it takes you to that interactive image.  I say interactive, because that’s what they are.  The pictures are very subtly animated; car lights will flicker if you run your cursor over them, or owls will fly away if you do the same.

Beautiful Hagrid image in Chapter One

Each image also has three layers, and by double clicking you move further into the image from the foreground, to the middle, to the background.  In each layer, you might find objects which you can add to your trunk, or which might offer you extra character, place or scene information, content that did not make the books, or previously unknown backgrounds.  You get to collect Chocolate Frog cards, potions and spells.  Very cool.

So you go through each chapter the same way, exploring the images and finding things within them.  Some chapters may have only one or two images, others three or four.

What a lot of people have been talking about though, is being sorted into a Hogwarts house, and receiving your wand from Olivander.  The very cool thing about this, is that you get to do these things as Harry does them.  If Harry doesn’t get sorted into a House until Chapter 7, then neither do you.  But when you do, it’s a matter of answering a number of mysterious questions that really don’t allow you to cheat in order to get the house you want.

I consider myself proud (and lucky!) to have been sorted into Gryffindor!!! Woooo! You knew this already though, when I told you a while back about my time at Hogwarts.

Being sorted into the COOLEST Hogwarts house...naturally.

You can keep track of your house points, what’s in your trunk, what chapter you’re up to, your Chocolate Frog cards, your wand and everything else on your profile page, which looks like this:

Profile Page

There’s more to it as you scroll down, which unfortunately I couldn’t capture in one image, but basically it just shows your progress and gives you easy access to the rest of the site. The line of yellow dots represent each chapter in the first book, the other larger red circles to the right being the remaining six books which are yet to be opened.  The highlighted yellow dot with the cat avatar pictured above it shows the chapter I’m up to.  The cat is the pet I chose for myself (only when Harry goes to Diagon Alley of course) and which is used as your avatar.  This page also shows the details of my wand, which was likewise chosen for me after answering a number of questions.

An example of the extra content that you might discover is shown here with Professor McGonagall’s background and extra tid bits of information:

Extra content from J. K. Rowling: Professor McGonagall

It goes on to give a particularly interesting history that explains her interest in scouting Harry for the Quidditch team and her eagerness to beat Slytherin.

Finally, the other activity worth mentioning is Wizard Duels.  You can gain house points by duelling with your friends!  You can also go to the Great Hall to see how all the other houses are going in their house point tallies.

All in all, I think it is a very cool concept.  The graphics truly are amazing, and it really is a great accompaniment to the reading of the books.  It’s not until you actually get into the site that you realise how accurate the original description of it was; “an exciting new website from J.K. Rowling that can be enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books. You can explore the stories like never before and discover exclusive new writing from the author.”  As confused as I was before, it really does make sense now.

I’ll leave you with a few more images to peruse over, including an example of how the multiple layers work in the Diagon Alley scene.  Give them a click to see them full sized.  I honestly can’t get over the graphics and their multiple layers.  In the meantime, hopefully see you there in October when it becomes available to all!

Harry recieves his letter: In this image, the letters are actually moving around the page

The Forbidden Forest with the Whomping Willow in the foreground

A unicorn slain in the forest

Diagon Alley foreground graphic

Diagon Alley middle layer graphic - the foreground images become slightly unfocused and move aside slightly to reveal what's beyond them.

Diagon Alley Background graphic - the other characters have moved aside to reveal Gringotts Bank, which you can now click on and enter

~storytelling nomad~

The benefits of book piracy

Neil Gaimen, author of American Gods and Stardust, gives a wonderfully encouraging and straightforward look at the potential benefits that the internet, copyright piracy and offering your books online for free can have on writers and the publishing industry.  Well worth the watch.

Thanks to the lovely and talented Charlotte English at Words About Words for sharing this gem of a video with me.  The first book in her new fantasy series, Draykon, is now available to buy from Amazon and Smashwords.  Check it out!

~storytelling nomad~

9/11: Breaking free of terror

Ten years on and with 9/11 once more upon us, it is sad to think that this day will forever evoke feelings of such sorrow and unbridled hatred.  The suffering of those involved and affected by the events on that day is utterly unimaginable to me, and I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain they bear, nor the torment faced by those who lost their life to such a tragedy.

Without giving too much time to those responsible, I think it is true to say that I have never really understood such rampant hatred.  I cannot assume motives or grounds for such an operation to be executed, but can only profess my belief that no wrongdoing in this world deserves punishment by such evil.  ‘An eye for an eye’ is never something I have attributed much conviction to, and although I do not consider myself a religious person, I still do not believe that anyone on this Earth has the right to play God and pass the judgement of death on anyone.

At the time, Australia seemed so far removed from what was happening in the US, at least to me anyway.  I watched with disbelief as the events unfolded on TV that day, but couldn’t seem to make sense of what was really happening.  I went to school as usual, and watched as a number of classmates feared for family or friends that lived in the states.  In between classes we would turn on the TV to watch the impact of the planes over and over again as the world began to grasp the severity of the situation.

The following month I had been set to make my very first solo trip overseas.  I had signed up for a three month student exchange program in Italy, and had thought of nothing else since the beginning of the year.  A new suitcase had been bought, a pile of things to take with me piled messily on the floor, and emails with my soon to be host-sister, Sara, had been exchanged.

When my parents started talking about pulling me out of the program, that was when first I felt the events of 9/11 truly influence my life as it was.

I was angry and confused.  How could such hatred ripple so far across the globe to affect my enthusiastic plans to travel a world I had been so excited about exploring?  What had I ever done to these people to warrant such an intrusion on my life?

It was then, I think, that I first began to truly fathom the weight of terrorism, the fear it evoked and the changes it could awaken.

In the end, I was permitted, with much trepidation on my parents’ behalf, to go forward with my student exchange.  They decided that it was in fact probably the safest time to travel, with so much surveillance and the number of safety measures that were then being taken when travelling.  I advocated that such acts of terrorism should not force us to stop living the life we had intended for ourselves, for then they had all but triumphed in crippling us with terror.

When I arrived at Singapore airport, I watched with a speechless curiosity as small troops with large guns patrolled the airport solemnly.

The armed troops may have since receded, the fear numbed, and the memory faded, but the events of 9/11 still resonate loudly in the extra security measures when travelling, the sorrow of those who suffered loss, and in the date that will for many years to come remain a reminder of an innocence we all lost that day.

Despite it all, however, I remain hopeful that time will heal the hurt caused, little by little.   One year ago today, I watched a very close friend of mine take her wedding vows in a church filled with loved ones.  Together we shared a wonderfully happy day and rejoiced in their love, happiness and a bright future.  Together we created a memory that now has me looking back on this date with joy.

We cannot forever dwell in the misery of our past if we are to ever find joy in the pleasures of the future.  Whilst we must grieve those lost and honour them their suffering, whilst we must remain heedful of those who continue to sanction war, death and hatred on the world, I think it is important to remind ourselves not to seize on the hate from which such a tragedy first arose.  Hate and prejudice will not recover loved ones, nor change the past.  Nor will it bring peace to the future.

Before I relieve you all of this rant of mine, I implore you all to read Pico Iyer’s short travel story, The Khareef, which can be found in his book Sun After Dark.  In this spectacular account, Iyer travels to Oman, the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, just six weeks before the attacks on the two towers.  I found it an extraordinarily moving account of a journey to a place so far removed from anything we know, and yet chilling in its mysterious allure.  Most importantly, however, it shines a small light on a group of people affected by the events of that day; those that we often spare little thought for.  The ending is spectacular and Iyer is a truly magnificent writer.

Joss Whedon once said, “War is not just the business of death, it is the anithises of life.”  Here’s to hoping that despite the tragedy we relive today, we nonetheless fight to break free of terror and war, and continue to strive for peace and happiness for all.

What 9/11 now means to me: My dear friend Ruth and her husband Tim on their wedding day - September 11th 2010

~storytelling nomad~

Celebrating my 100th subscriber!

Yeah! 100 active subscribers!

This week marks my 100th subscriber! Hoorah! A big shout out to Darth Draconis at Maleficus Amor who was subscriber number one zero zero.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what 100 subscribers mean.  You see, I have never been much of a numbers person, words have always been my forte.  100 seems like a pretty good number to me.  It’s three digits, it’s an even number, it’s more money than I have in my bank and it’s a number I can count to (just).

But in terms of blogging, I have no idea if it’s a good number or not.  I guess any number over zero means you’re doing something right; it means that someone other than yourself likes what you’re doing.  But is 100 a ‘good’ number in the blogosphere?  Perhaps I’m making a fool of myself celebrating this milestone, while the rest of you laugh with your thousands, or hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

In which case, screw you bitches!  My 100 subscribers are way better than yours.

In the end it comes down to this.  I started this blog just over 3 months ago, with no previous blogging experience, and let’s be frank, no idea what I was doing.  I’m not here for fame or fortune, but an outlet for my writing, my ramblings and my thoughts on whatever comes to mind at any given time.  I have been using this blog as a tool to improve as a writer and to discipline myself into writing more regularly.  In that sense, I feel I have gained immensely from this humble venture.

But the fact that one hundred, and now more, of you are responding well enough to what’s being published here certainly has not slipped my attention.  It may not have been what I set out to achieve, but it’s certainly an amazing feeling knowing that you’re there.  It’s what encourages me to keep going with this little dream of mine, and I truly value the input, reception and good cyber vibes from you all.

Thanks internet peeps.  I may not know what the number 100 means in this blogosphere, but I know that YOU mean a lot to this aspiring writer.

Give yourselves a pat on the back for being awesome.

~storytelling nomad~

The Versatile Blogger Award

The wonderful Maryann over at My Reality Show recently bestowed upon me the prestigious Versatile Blogger Award.  Hoorah! Thanks Maryanne! I feel most honored!

There are four simple rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:

  • Post a link to the person who gave you the award.
  • Tell your readers seven random things about yourself.
  • Award 15 newly discovered blogs.
  • Send them a note letting them know you nominated them.

Seven random things about myself:

  1. I do an awesome pterodactyl impression.  For the best effect I like to make this noise in unsuspecting echoing stairwells.
  2. I have a younger brother called Harry who lives in Germany.  He’s pretty cool actually, although we talk more and get along far better when we live in different countries.  Hi Harry!
  3. I only drink water.  For no other reason than it tastes reallllllyyyyy good and I don’t like anything else.
  4. I will judge you if you mispronounce ‘mispronunciation’.
  5. Although I have strawberry blonde hair, I am under the constant delusion that I am actually just blonde, while the rest of the world believes I am simply a red-head. I am often referred to as a ‘ranga’, an Australia term alluding not so subtly to orangutans.  Other recent friendly names include strawbs and ginger.  At least ‘strawbs’ is relatively accurate.
  6. I am a chocaholic.  I cannot remember a time that I wasn’t, and I believe I always will be a chocaholic.
  7. I can hula hoop like a rock star.  No seriously, I can do that shit for hours.

15 newly discovered blogs:

Ok, so they’re not all ‘newly discovered’, but they are all awesome.  Check them out.  Like, now.

  1. You’re a Writer! – Fantastic encouragement and support for new writers.  I really recommend reading this.
  2. The Bailey Daily – I not long ago reposted one of Shawn’s posts for its hilarity.  I’m a fan of his work.
  3. Sarah Leaps – Recently Freshly Pressed, Sarah’s blog is not your average writers’ blog.  You see, Sarah has some wicked skills with a paint brush….the electronic kind…that you find on programs like ‘Paint’.  She complements her posts with these original artworks, which I believe are extraordinarily entertaining.
  4. The (Writer’s) Waiting Room – Hannah recently provided a run down on how she came to write her first book, in response to my post on how many writers sneakily avoid revealing their method.  Thumbs up!
  5. Divertir Publishing – An independent publisher, this blog gives an invaluable insight into the sort of things writers can do to help get their work published, and the processes that happen behind a publisher’s doors.
  6. The Wuc – This blog is absolutely freaking HILARIOUS.  I get a good chuckle out of it every. single. time.
  7. Just Coop It – I’m a big fan of this talented writer/actor/choreographer, whose book ‘The Song of Earth’ is about to hit a bookshelf near you!
  8. Angela Wallace – Believe, Dream, Awaken – Author of ‘Phoenix Feather’, Angela is a talented writer with a blog filled with book reviews, writerly musings and inspiration.
  9. That Book You Like – Chosen as one of 5 official ‘unbloggers’ for the Melbourne Writers Festival, where I was recently a volunteer, this blog gives some excellent accounts of a whole host of events, authors and sessions that made up the literary festival.
  10. She Thinks Too Much – Currently taking part in the 30 Day Book Challenge, which I had so much fun with.  Worth a read.
  11. Dodging Commas – Check out Stef’s wonderful grammar tips and writerly musings.  It was only today that she passed on this amazing link on semicolons, which I have endlessly struggled to understand.  No more, I tell you!
  12. MJCache – Hysterical blog.  Ends each post with something along the lines of, “I totally klepto all images” or “All images swiped, snatched and nabbed from dear old Google when he wasn’t looking.”
  13. Nitpickers’ Nook – I loved the post on this blog entitled ‘The (non)word that drives me nuts’.  You’ll have to head over there to find out what it is.  If you’re a nitpicker of words, grammar, language and communication in general like me and have been looking for a community of nitpickers to share your woes, then head over to this blog.
  14. Bunny Ears and Bat Wings – Lex shares some fantastic advice and thoughts on writing.  Also, this blog has an awesome name.
  15. The Happy Logophile – A logophile is a lover of words, and you will find just that at the Happy Logophile.  Jo also wrote a superb piece of flash fiction for the revenge 100 challenge.  Check it out.

~storytelling nomad~

 

100 words of revenge

It appears that a bit of phenomenon is taking place over at Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds.  Each Friday he broadcasts a Flash Fiction Challenge, invoking those willing, to come up with a 1000 word flash fiction story according to the topic or theme of the week, as set by Mister Wendig himself.

This week, however, the challenge was to do the same, but in 100 words.  Yes, write a story in ONE HUNDRED words.  Impossible (to be shouted in thick French accent)! You might protest, but alas mes cheries, it can be done.

I’ve had a crack at doing this once before when entering the 100 Words or Fewer contest, whose link can be found over to the right there under ‘Groovy Links’.  I received some pretty good feedback from my last entry into that contest, and although I didn’t win anything, I was keen to try it again.

So, with that deadline coming up again and with all the action happening at Terrible Minds, I felt that maybe the stars were aligning to send me a message.  Something along the lines of, “Get off your butt and write something.”  Not one to disagree with the star gods, I today took up the challenge.

So what is this week’s theme?  Revenge.  Muahahaha!

Check out all the details about Chuck’s challenge here.  Meanwhile, here’s my entry:

A Royal Retribution

Perched high on her dais, the Queen looked down upon the people of her kingdom.

The nobles shifted uncomfortably, their garments glittering in the afternoon light.  Beyond them, the stench of the penniless beggars rudely invaded her nostrils.

In a magnificent show of dignified ceremony she bowed low to her people and proclaimed,

“Had he remained loyal, I would have seen fit to let him live.”

Yet it was neither these words, nor the sharp sound of the sword being unsheathed that they would remember, but her gracefulness as she knelt to receive the cold blade for assassinating their King.

~storytelling nomad~