Saturday, March 26, 2011

Geek night - LIVE! Come join us!

Tonight I've got a bunch of creative mates coming round to celebrate the fact we'll all a bit, well, 'geeky'. Another reason for this get-together is so that we can share the wonderful world of blogging and Twitter with the one of us (who shall remain nameless) who is a bit new to the whole concept.

Here's where you come in...
We'll be surfing the web looking for cool creative related content and talking about music, writing, photography and anything else that pops up. One of us will probably launch a new blog tonight, so hang around if you want to be one of the first to see it!

We want Geek Night to involve as many people as possible, and that means we want YOU to get involved, and here's how:
  • Watch us via the live camera*
    You'll have to follow the instructions in the cam window to view the live camera.
  • Comment on this blog post
  • Chat to us on twitter
  • Use the hash tag #GeekNight on twitter to get our attention

Tonight's Geek Night Guests: 
Also floating in and out will be my wife; the gorgeous gardener @emma_culture

We're getting together about 7pm GMT and gawd knows how long we'll be going for, I guess that partly depends on how much wine we consume!

*if you're reading this before or after Geek night then there will be no live camera, although I'm not really sure I need to spell that out!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Celebrating Anglicisms!

The quote about Lemmy also made me laugh!
A while ago I wrote a post in defence of the use of Americanisms in writing, but now I'm wondering if I need to post in favour of Anglicism's to prove that cool colloquialisms transcend nationalism.

This morning I found a review of my zine (Beat Motel) in an American zine called Razorcake, and they liked a very English line from my current issue so much they used it on their contents page, and here's why I think that being quoted in this way is cool as hell:  The world of zines is very different to the traditional publishing world (and even the 'self-published' world) because it doesn't adhere to any rules - if you want to throw something at the world you damn well go ahead and do it regardless of gross grammatical incompetence, good taste (or even correct spelling), and this incredibly open world celebrates individuality, especially when it comes to the way creatives use language.

At this stage in my (ahem) 'writing career' I have been published many more times in zines than I have been in what might be considered the mainstream, and a consistent thread that runs through most of the reviews I've had from American titles is a celebration of just how English my writing is.  Actually 'celebration' is probably a bit strong, but the colloquial nature of my language in the zines I write (and write for) is often mentioned in a positive way, in fact I've had a few reviews that only talk about how 'crazy English' my writing in zines is.

The writing style I use in zines is very different to the tone and voice I use in fiction writing, which in turn is very different to the style I use on my blog.  So there's no real conclusion to this post other than to proclaim a hearty 'huzzah' for non-conformity of language standards in the underground press!

Click here to buy Beat Motel #10...

Free book Fridays

Generosity is a virtue, and it's nice to be nice, so for the next few Fridays I'll be giving away some books.  The first person to leave a comment on this page after I've announced my Free Book Friday giveaway each week on Twitter will receive a book of my choice, I'll even pay the postage.  If I'm feeling particularly generous I might give away several books each Friday so if you've missed out on one chance it'll be worth your while hanging around for the next opportunity.

There's more to this scheme than a desire to randomly give away a few books - I want to do this as a celebration of the joy that sharing a reading experience brings to our lives.  I'm sure I'm not alone in the desire to share a brilliant book with a friend as soon as I've finished reading it, and these Free Book Fridays give me a chance to enjoy that feeling at every week!  This isn't a new idea, in fact there's an American blog called but they're doing things a little differently to me.

How to get involved with my Free Book Friday giveaways:
  1. Follow me (@andrew_culture) on Twitter
  2. When you see me announce that I'm about to give a book away come to this blog post and leave a comment.  If you're successful then I'll be in touch to get your address off you.
  3. Receive your book, read your book, and hopefully enjoy your book!

Picture is unrelated!
The books might be second-hand, they could be brand new, but either way you'll be getting a book that I've loved reading so much that I want to share it.  You don't need to be a follower of this blog to get involved, but if you fancy clicking the 'follow' button and subscribing to my blog then that would be lovely.

One last thing - I'm afraid I'll only be posting books to UK addresses, sorry!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When a does a romance become a farce?

When I started writing fiction (having spent years concentrating on non-fiction) I knew that romance was the genre I wanted to focus on. Books about boy A meeting girl B and (after obstacles 1, 2, and 3 have been conquered and boy C negated) falling in love* have always appealed to me. Most modern romantic fiction contains an element of humour, and the reason is obvious: falling in love can be one of the funniest things that ever happens to us, but I’ve been wondering if I can push that point a little further.

It would be foolish of me to declare that romantic fiction favours gentle humour, but it does appear to lean more towards the gentile and subtle, which is no less valid (and is ultimately more intelligent for both writer and reader), but is sometimes a bit sedate for my taste.

So when I started plotting my current work in progress I decided to push my luck when it came to pitching the humour. I made the decision that while my new book wouldn’t be a ‘whoopsie daisy missus, the vicar has come on my crumpets’ affair, it would contain a strong element of the ridiculous. I’m now roughly half way through my first draft and last night I read a passage out loud to my (very tolerant) wife, to which she replied,
“You’re not writing farce are you?” To which I quietly mumbled, “I hope not...”

But why not? Is farce without value? When does comedy become farcical? How do we know when we’ve crossed the thin line between what is funny and what is too daft to be easily digested? You tell me...

*Heinously simplistic I know, please accept my apologies!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MASON - From the core

MASON (yup, written in capitals) was a band formed by Martyn Peck (guitar), Dom Cattermole (drums), Simon Finbow (vocals) and myself (playing bass) a few years ago.  Martyn wrote a couple of pretty astounding Black Sabbath style desert rock/ stoner metal songs and we recorded them at the fantastic Amblin Man studios in Suffolk. 

After a short period of inactivity we took a pretty radical change of direction, added some extra members and morphed into a bit of a post-rock band called 'These Are End Times'.  Drummer Dom unearthed a video he'd shot at one of our practices at Springvale Studios in Ipswich and put together this rather smart little video.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kindle - it's tough (love)

Recently there has been a lot of chatter floating about on the subject of the Amazon Kindle, and I was just about to take a photo of my own Kindle for this blog post when Rinny cat took it upon herself to help me prove a point about how robust these devices are.

As you can see from the photo Rinny 'claimed' the Kindle as her own by rubbing against it and sending it crashing to the floor.  If this had happened to my iPad (or even my cellphone) I would have been in a dilemma - drop the camera and save the device, or allow the device to fall and hang on to my camera.  But I already knew that the Amazon Kindle is remarkably tough, so I let it fall.  The Kindle remained unscathed in a situation that would probably have been the wallet weeping death of a more complex device.  I have the standard Amazon case (with the cool little light) but I have no doubt that even without a case no harm would have come to the Kindle.

The Kindle does one thing very well, and it isn't intended to replace books any more than MP3 players are intended to replace live music.  I still love collecting old books, and I know my Kindle will never be able to replace the buzz of finding a book when I'm hunting in a dusty bookshop.

When I first got my Kindle I promised myself that I wouldn't become a boring techno-evangelist, and therefore this blog post isn't intended to get you all excited about buying  Kindle, but I will say this - if you love reading then there's probably a very good chance that you'll love the Kindle, and you needn't worry about it falling to bits if you've got a bit of the touch of a blacksmith about you (like I have).

Alison Morton has a good post on a different (and even tougher) Kindle case here -

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weird writing habits – what are yours?

For as long as I’ve been writing I’ve been fascinated by the habits writers develop, and the funny little superstitions they attribute to their ongoing success.  When I started writing my first book I decided that I would smoke a large cigar while writing the first page of every book I ever wrote form that point on, but that was many years ago, and that book ground to a halt as fast as the cigar habit (thankfully) did.

These days I do all my fiction writing in a certain seat in my lounge, with the net curtain propped up so that I can stare down the street and will inspiration to wander up the pavement and strike me between the eyes.  I also like to have a small pack of Aloe Vera alcohol hand gel with me; it’s not that writing is a dirty business, it’s more that spending a few seconds staring into the middle distance while applying the gel gives me a few moments to ponder the knots that I tie my writing into.

So there are my two little writing habits, but what are yours?  I’d love to know!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hive Novel - an enormous (but simple) idea for a collaborative novel.

Apparently this is beehive!

 The world is a constantly changing place - house prices fluctuate, hairstyles go in and out of fashion (mostly out in my case) and the way we work has huge potential to change at an alarming pace.  I say 'potentially' because if we don't want to make the most of technological developments then nobody is going to force us to, but if we ignore change entirely then there's a risk we'll miss out on something useful, or even worse we might miss out on some fun!

Enough of the waffle, get on with it!
I make a part of my living by looking at new technology and figuring out how folk can get the most out of it, and recently I've been looking at Google Docs, and more specifically how it makes document collaboration incredibly easy.  Google Docs allows several people to work on one document at once, so I think it might be fun to get a bunch of writers together to work on a novel.

Here's roughly how it would work:
  • I will set up a test story (no point in trying to run before we can walk)
  • Anyone who wants to join in will contact me and I'll send them the link they need to collaborate
  • We'll use the first few pages of the document to build a plot and detail characters
  • When enough of us have agreed that the story is finished we look into how we're going to edit it.

I have no idea if this idea has any mileage in it, but if just a handful of writers are prepared to spare a little bit of time then I'll give it a go!  Writing and editing with Google Docs is as easy as using any word processor so nobody will need to learn any new technical skills, the only skill you'll need in order to contribute to the 'hive mind' is the ability to write.  Because this is online collaboration contributors will be able to dip in and out whenever they get a few minutes.

If you're interested in getting involved in this (potentially crazy) idea, or if you have any reason you think it's a bad idea please let me know in the comments.

The feet with a thousand followers.

This post was inspired by (and written for) a competition over on Nicola Morgan's 'Help! I need a Publisher!' blog HERE.  The winners were great, so it's well worth having a look at them HERE.

I'm not the only person staring at my feet.  Of course the others are staring at their own feet, not mine, apart from James, but you know about his filthy fetish.  Sorry, I'm being 'inappropriate', but I know how you loved to laugh when you shouldn't, and when nobody else would dare.  It's a shame they denied your final punchline.

I wonder if anyone else is talking to you in their head.  You must be bored stiff (ha!) in your coffin on the dining table (don't worry, mum told them to put down coasters first).

Why is all this pomp amusing me so much?  Probably because I know you would hate it.  Dad made a big deal about the service being how he thinks you wanted it, shame they didn't give the you send off I know you really wanted, but where did you expect them to find such a large catapult?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book grieving - how do you do it?

I've just finished reading 'The Player of Games' by Iain.M.Banks and when my eyes fell off the last page I felt a familiar sensation- I felt sad. The reason for my woe wasn't the story in the book (which was pretty peppy and intelligent science fiction), the seed of the sadness was the reaslisation that never again will I be able to read that book for the first time.

Book grieving is something I'm sure we all suffer from time to time (or if you're especially lucky then all of the time), so how can we best deal with it? In the case of the Iain.M.Banks book I've just read I'll simply move onto the next book in the long running 'Culture' series to which 'The Player of Games' belongs, and the next book will offer reasonable respite, as will the next book in the series, and the next. But I'm only putting off an inevitable ultimate sadness - I know that one day there will be no more Iain.M.Banks left for me to read, and that day will be very sad indeed.

But this blog post isn't about Iain.M.Banks and how wonderful the worlds he creates are (and oh mercy, they really are), it's about how we deal with book grief in general. It's my theory that we don't deal with it at all, I don't think we want to at all - the pang of sadness we feel when finishing a great book is the appetiser for the next course in an unending feast of literature. If book grief didn't 'blight' us with this insatiable appetite for devouring stories then maybe our reading careers would only ever consist of one book, and wouldn't that be sad.

P.S. Seriously though, Iain.M.Banks is worth a read even if you're not a Sci-fi fan! I always thought science fiction was a bit, well, 'silly', but Iain.M.Banks proves the old Wodehouse adage that 'it's not the story that's the thing, it's the telling', and it just so happens Mr. Banks' stories are told in a galaxy far from here!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

In defence of Americanisms.

USA_Jan_2009_01192009ASL_2886I'm occasionally accused of using too many 'Americanisms' in conversation and in my writing, but having grown up in rural Suffolk between two huge cold war USAF bases, with American servicemen's  families as neighbours, and having done work experience on USAF Woodbridge as a teen, and considering that I worked as the only employee of an American, and that I also worked on USAF Lakenheath I 'think' the occasional Americanism might be excusable.

Although 'explanatory' might be a better word to use than 'excusable', because I don't feel I need an excuse to talk however I wish to.  The English language (and all language) is a living, breathing, snarling and ever developing beast, and anyone who believes that we should speak 'the Queens English' is grossly confused about the way sentient beings communicate.

Language isn't something that should be placed in a vault under lock and key for its own preservation, the way we communicate is as much a part of social evolution as fashion and trends in beliefs.

I won't labour the point (because wiser men than I have written great books on the subject) but there is no English language.  There's certainly no English language that we can claim was born in, and belongs to this soggy little island we call the UK.  The words and phrases we use were started out German/ Scandinavian then got mixed up with French and Norman (yes they're two different things) and then nicked bits and bobs from almost all other European languages.  So why is it so frowned upon for a Englishman to use American words?  The 'foreign' words that we have assimilated into the English language are a part of the reason that English is so damn fun to write with!

In conclusion surely Americanisms (along with slang, hyperbole and colloquialisms) are irrelevant as long as we're understood ?

P.S Accents are another matter entirely (I know), but if you'd like to hear a proper old Suffolk accent then watch this short video my dad posted on YouTube; the man you can hear speaking has one of the best examples of a rural Suffolk accent that I've ever heard!  Can you tell what he's saying?  Suggestions in the comments box please!

This blog post was partly inspired by a Twitter chat I had with Talli Roland, go and buy her brilliant book right away!  That's an order!