Sunday, December 21

Dulce et Decorum Est

When people think of War Poetry it's usually divvied up between the patriotic stuff and the anti-war poetry, especially the first world war. At work we've got a large selection of WW1 Christmas cards, mostly sent by soldiers. A lot were drawn by a soldier in a unit then copied to make a card for all of them; if you weren't front line life could be pretty dull. There's some wonderful art, but also some brilliant songs and poems. Thought I'd share a couple with you for Christmas.

This first is from the Royal Engineers, who designed their own card with outlines of every bit of equipment they could think of. Mallets, trench pumps, extending rules... And on the inside is this song.

The Toilers

1. The rain comes down in torrents,
And all the trenches fail;
The mud is deep and sticky,
One cannot move at all.
No water in the tanks today!
No water for the tea!!
Send someone for a sapper
From the 103 R.E.!!!

2. The C.O. grouses lustily-
"This tench is very bad.
The N.C.O.'s are hopeless,
The men are going mad.
They cannot get their sandbags,
Or a stick of nine by three;
Send someone for a sapper
From the 103 R.E.!"

3. The men have no protection
From the shells, and rain and frost.
They all must have deep dug-outs;
Not a moment must be lost.
A C.O. gets excited,
And 'phones the B.G.C.,
Who asks for lots of sappers
From the 103 R.E.

4. The works' report is handed in
On Friday afternoon,
Of all the jobs that have been done,
Or will be very soon.
A wire comes in at 6 p.m.
From the irate C.P.E.-
"Are you doing any work at all,
Oh! 103 R.E.?"

This one is accompanied by a picture of a tired solider in the desert, and a shield with four kinds of insect and a crocodile on it, as well as an exploding thermometer.

Greetings from Mesopotamia,
Your knowledge of which should shame yer,
In this so called Garden of Eden
Our troops have done some doughty deeds in.
We're not in the lime-light view,
Flies, such heat, you never knew;
Fevers, Arabs, Turks, thirst, boils
Shells and bullets are our toils.
But now its getting somewhat cold,
Now we think of friends of old,
And hope that when this reaches you
Huns and wars are finished too.

On that note, I'll sign off for Christmas. That and I'm typing this on the train, with a dodgy wifi connection and the beginnings of motionsickness... Ta-ta!

Monday, December 8

Don't you love it when a plan falls together?

Had a day off today, so I've posted Exoticism off to Riptide. I've been waiting for anotehr submission period to open since I missed the last one, since I really think Exoticism matches their guidelines well.

Katey pointed me towards Three Crows Press's call for Erotica a couple of days ago. I've been feeling very inspired, but completely directionless on it until last night. I decided to do something a bit Angela Carter-ish, using a Little Red Riding Hood as a starting point, but with a spider instead of a wolf. Well, a wolf spider, to be exact! I was in bed when I decided that would be a good title, and thought perhaps I ought to write it down (I wasn't likely to forget the idea, but I might have the title). No pen and paper to hand, but my laptop was right here, and since I didn't have work... Bashed out the first draft by 1 AM. I've made some substantial changes now, and I've already put it up elsewhere for crit. I've gone for f/f mainly because the selkie story is m/m and Bliss if f/m; it felt like time for a bit of lesbianism!

Saturday, December 6

submission updates and the end of MiniNaNo

What news? I've had Ruin and Exoticism back from Clockwork Phoenix and have dispatched Ruin to All Hallows. Absolute Write pointed me in the direction of the latter, being one of the very few ghost story specific publications.

I've also found another couple of thousand words for the selkie story to make it eligble for the Samhain anthology.

I'm eyeing up Supernatural Tales, but there's no real submission guidelines on the site. I'm wondering if they're in the magazine itself, so I'm having a read through of the few PDFs to decide if it's worth subscribing.

I'm also reading through Oubliette for KVTaylor, and I'm very excited. Partly by the word 'Oubliette', to be fair, but that's what happens when you don't see Labyrinth until your twenties!

I watched Ghostwatch last week, and struggled to sleep after. Easily one of the most frightening things I've ever seen. TV and films have an advantage over text in that apparations can occur without any of the characters drawing attention to it. In fact, if there hadn't been three of us watching (and if one of us hadn't seen it before) we'd have missed a few appearances of Pipes. It's not until near the end that the cameraman spots him too.

It's also incredibly well written, with the slow build, and the smooth shifts between learning from the characters and noticing things before they do. Knowing its fiction doesn't seem to do it any detriment, though you are aware that the kids aren't quite a good actors as could be hoped. By the end you've forgotten that as the presents prove themselves more than equal to the challenge - Parkinson the sceptic, Sarah Greene the believer, Craig Charles the joker. That they're all recognisable names and faces helps the verisimiltude, especially since Parky was considered a fairly serious presenter. The real life relationship between Sarah Green (presente in the house) and Mike Smith (presenter in charge of the phones) gives it a good emotional wrench, too.

Of course, when it was originally broadcast if you didn't tune in for the very beginning, and if you hadn't bought the Radio Times, you'd wouldn't know it was fiction until near the end (though many viewers didn't work it out then, some even accusing of the BBC of lying to cover up one presenter's supernatural demise). The use of the format is perfect. Interviews are naturally exposition heavy, telephone lines are a great way to get the 'everyman' involved, satellite links allow for multiple experts and everyone knows how well ghosts and electricity get on!

There are so many elements to it that intertwine. It's not obvious that they're all significant until the end. The video interviews (and Sarah Greene's own ghost story) are all true, and it's a shame you don't get to hear the end of the last one, but the ominous feeling the comes from it cutting out is worth it.

I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but no one whose heard of it doesn't know it's fiction, and, well, if the ghost wasn't reall, what would be the point? Despite this, and despite hving seen multiple clips, I certainly wasn't happy wandering around my own house in the dark afterwards!

It's worth multiple viewings, and I'm going to fork out for the BFI DVD; the BFI is always expensive, but they do make some unusual stuff available. The fact that on DVD you can rewind it to catch all of Pipes's appearances doesn't make it any less scary.

Okay, so I didn't manage every day, but I more than tripled the expected word count for the month, and compared with 'proper' NaNoWriMo I'm actually confident I will succeed next year.

(actual stats: 87% of days and 311% of pledged word count)

I completed two more ghost stories, and a lot of random little snippets. The days I didn't make it were pure bad memory - even on those days when I put writing off if I remembered at the end of the day I wrote (albiet a single page sat on the living room floor just before heading up to bed).