Monday, 12 March 2018

Review: DEAD OR ALIVE OR #TheWalkingDead S8:11 #TWD #TWDFamily

Last week: Review ~ The Lost and the Plunderers

Not quite such a fab episode as last week, but I'm sure it pleased those amongst us who want to see zombies not gunfights!

I was a bit worried at first; when Gabriel was doing his 'I called for help, help came' stuff again, I thought, oh dear, are we supposed to believe that the Man in the Sky is leading him and Dr C out of the wilderness?  Come on... but no.  Just when I thought 'this is getting a bit daft', as I did with Ezekiel and all his 'and yet I smile' ridiculousness in S8:4 Some Guy, the silliness/schmaltz got turned on its head.  As Ezekiel's 'motivational' over-confidence was but a vehicle to show us how delusional he was....

And yet he smiled... but not for long. the smashed piggy bank revealing car keys, the Walkers getting trapped in the traps while sight-impaired Gabriel stepped over them, the bullet that somehow hit the Walker, not Dr C, were but lucky coincidences, and Gabriel's belief that God was delivering them to safety was nothing but optimistic, blind faith.  A moment later they were back in the Saviours' truck, and Dr C was dead.  

Gabriel was delivered to Eugene's workshop, where Eugene explained to Negan how, if he couldn't make enough bullets, they could kill their enemies by catapulting pieces of Walker over the walls of Hilltop ~ what, in the lame hope that some Walker innards will seep into their ears and up their nostrils?  Not sure how this is going to work; if I remember rightly, the Saviours used to eat the Kingdom's Walker-fed wild pigs, and nothing happened to them.  

Lucille has a good forage

I do love a dangerous journey, and Daryl and Rosita leading the Alexandrians through swamps filled with alligator-style Walkers ticked the right boxes.  Along with Tara (who has always got on my nerves but more so right now), the original Alexandrians (Tobin, Scott, Kent etc) are sure that Dwight is leading them into a trap, but Daryl and Rosita can see the bigger picture ~ and something tells me that Daryl doesn't want to kill him anymore.  Everything he did was for Sherry, Dwight says ~ and Sherry is, we are reminded, still out there, so I assume she will pop up just when she is needed, sooner rather than later!

Dwight gives himself up to lead the band of Saviours away.  He's fast becoming the hero of the hour - and I bet I was not the only one to find myself on his side rather than Tara's. 

Back at the Hilltop, Carol, Morgan and Henry sit on a log looking at the nasty Saviours, and Carol wonders if she feels so fond of Henry because he is actually Sophia's brother (Macsen and Madison Lintz).  Maggie presses her hand to her stomach and wonders when it's going to stop being totally flat, given that she must be into her fifth month by now ~ I'm guessing that Dr Siddiq will eventually save Glenn Jnr's life, so that we can forgive him for (indirectly) causing Carl's death. 

The Lintz siblings

But Maggie is no soft touch, and makes the decision to starve foolish Gregory and the captive Saviours, along with Alden the Most Slimy.

 Slimy Alden

The food situation is not too desperate because Jesus is out scavenging ~ maybe he will find a way of getting that supplies-filled truck out of the lake.... you know, the one that he and Daryl managed to let slip in S6:10 The Next World, when they were having their 'my dick's bigger than yours' tussle.

And so our gang finally get to the Hilltop, Daryl having remembered to take Judith from Tobin/Barbara first, to make the heartstring-tugging entrance we girls want. 

It's never not a good time to include this....

But although Carol springs forward to see her favourite man again (with you there, Cazza), it's not one of those wonderful TWD reunions we love so much, for we see Daryl mouth one word: Carl.  Poor Enid ~ her despair and tears were so real that my eyes watered too.  To those who say the show is not as good as it used to be, I'd ask you to compare that scene to Beth's ludicrous attempts at crying. 

I got to like Beth eventually, but her crying was baaa-aaad!

What next?  Will Sherry turn up with beer and pretzels just in time?  What's Simon going to cock up next?  Where is Ezekiel (I can't actually remember)?  Will Gabriel lose his faith?  What will happen when Negan finds out about The Kingdom?  Will Aaron arrive at the nick of time with Oceanside?  Will Jadis get to use the Super-Mega-Zombie-Masher again?

I hope all this, and more, will be answered next week!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

The Good and the Bad of Fifty-Something

When I reached my 5oth birthday, in the summer of 2009, I scarcely noticed it.  I was working at a job I didn't actively hate, I had a nice house in which I'd lived alone for the past year, a jolly social life, I was in a happy new relationship and felt as fit and lively as I had throughout my forties, even though the menopause was already standing at the end of the road, waving hello.  I spent my 50th birthday getting plastered on Cromer pier with several of those close to me.  Being 50 wasn't an issue.  I thought I'd just carry on carrying on.  It never occurred to me how different I was about to feel.

Age 49, in Cromer (where I used to live) with my friend Sharon

The change came when I got to 51.  The menopause had taken up residence and brought along its pals Hot Flush and Unreliable Moods.  My body decided to add a dress size.  My dodgy knees developed arthritis.  I'd never noticed I had these things called jowls, but I knew all about them when they began to sag.  Despite the happiness of the rest of my life, I kept feeling depressed and flat.  My sister, who is two years and four months older than me, told me that all this passes, as soon as the menopause packs its bags.  I couldn't imagine how this could be.  Surely, if I felt like this at 52, the only way was down?

But she was right.

 I do!!!! (in the bath)

Sometime around the age of 54, I realised that I'd accepted this new stage of my life, and no longer mourned what was before.  Which is just as well, because there's bugger all I can do about it.  Of course I have the odd regret or two, everyone does, and moments of nostalgia (perhaps more for the simpler, pre-internet days than anything else), but I'm glad I've done a lot of stuff and known a lot of people; if nothing else, it's all material for novels!  My mother often used to say 'youth is wasted on the young'.  Like most things older people say, I didn't understand it until I was old myself.  It's true, though.  If only I'd had the head I have now, I wouldn't have made so many dumb mistakes.  I wonder if part of this is simply being past the menopause; my moods/choices are no longer affected by my hormones.  

I didn't want this post to be all about superficial stuff, ie physical appearance, but then I thought, what the hell ~ most women talk, think and care about how they look.  So here it is: I think you have to accept that 'gorgeous' is no longer an option, and the sooner you do, the happier you'll be.  I've always felt sorry for the film stars who have all sorts of scary work done to their faces in an effort to keep themselves looking 30.  It never works.  Plastic surgery, botox, whatever, it doesn't make you look younger.  It just makes you look weird.  I am 58.  I have spidery liney bits around my mouth, the-jowls-that-sag, crows feet, a couple of lines around my neck, and a totally white hairline.  My youth has passed.  I can't bring it back; none of us can.  No matter how much money you have, you can't hold back time. 

Madonna, almost exactly one year older than me.  Even the lines round her eyes look lifted, and she's got that 'pillow face' look that fillers give you.

The good, bad and ugly of being 50+:
  • Good: In that I expect to be with my husband until one of us kicks the bucket, I am so glad that the ups and downs of my previously 'colourful' (euphemism for chaotic) love life are now over.  Now, I don't know how I had the emotional energy.
  • Good: I mind less what people think of me.
  • Bad: I have aches and pains that weren't there 10 years ago, and less energy.
  • Good: I've slowed down, and like being on my own more and more. 
  • Bad: There's stuff I didn't do that I am not able to do now, like travel and studying all the subjects that I find so fascinating.  There simply aren't enough years left.
  • Good/Ugly: That added dress size ~ mostly, I don't really care.  I just dress accordingly.  When I was younger I'd have been fretting, and loathing the sight of myself in the mirror.  
  • Good: I've stopped worrying about a load of stuff that doesn't matter, and feel more relaxed, generally. 
  • Bad: I have had to stop smoking, because it would be just crazy to have carried on.  I loved smoking.  I still have the occasional one, but it's very rare, because I'm now at the age when I have to take serious care of my health if I want to have a chance of living for as many more years as I can.  Yes, I now have to think about all that boring stuff like high blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol; that alone is hard enough to control.
  • Good: Experience has taught me how to deal with and understand the processes of grief, loss, rejection, bad days, anxiety, etc etc.
  • Bad/Ugly: I have to take about 30 photos before I find one or two I can use for social media/guest blog posts without thinking 'Jesus H Christ' every time I see them. And no, I will never photoshop them, because that's just nuts.
  • Good: I'm glad I had my youth before the women's liberation backlash; I feel saddened by the way in which so many young girls dress like hookers and feel under pressure to look and be sexually available.  But perhaps that is another blog post.

I took this one to show a friend my white hairline!!!  Thanks goodness for hairdressers 😃

Stuff to bear in mind if you're going through the 50-something depression:
  • It won't last forever.
  • The key to being happier when you're older (and I'm talking seeing 60 on the horizon now, not just perky, youthful 50!) is accepting it and learning to enjoy this new phase of your life.  And only not doing stuff if it doesn't feel right, not because you think you're 'too old' to do it.  The phrase 'too old' is different for everyone.  For instance, I am too old to wear leopard print leggings/go to noisy pubs.  I am not too old to *** insert something you not too old to do/be in comments, if you wish!***
  • The menopause is a normal part of a woman's life, not an illness.  Ideally, all the bleak times in our lives (bereavement, heartbreak, etc) are easier to cope with in the long run if you face and accept them, work through them, instead of masking them with chemicals.  But this is only 'ideally'; of course I understand why some people choose HRT or feel they need anti-depressants for a while; many of us choose the pills route at some point in our lives. I used Prozac to help me deal with PMT for a few years, and it worked, but I think the key is not to let it go on for too long.
  • Skin care works, and makes you feel nice.  My skin is not too bad for my age, and I am sure this is partly due to slavishly slapping on the moisturiser and Tropics Organic Elixir.  It doesn't have to be expensive; I use E45 during the day because my skin is so dry that it needs moisturising every few hours, and I can't afford to spend £60 a fortnight on face cream!
  •  Long baths filled with nice smells, walks in beautiful places, reading good books and watching escapist stuff on telly make you feel good, too (and it is a sure sign of old age to think of 'a nice bath' as something of a treat, but there you go!).
  • My mother told me that the happiest part of her marriage to my father was when they were in their 60s and 70s.  And I am actually happier now than I have ever been.
  • We are so lucky to be at this age, at this point in history, generally.  Even 50 years ago, women of our age were thought of as irrelevant by so many people.  Now, though, it is generally accepted that this is but another stage of life, and can bring with it new discoveries, new experiences and a different sort of happiness.

Other 50-something stuff you might like to read:

Are you in danger of becoming an old fogey? by Sally Cronin

Not Invisible by Tracey Scott Townsend

Tamara Goriely on Tom Willams' blog:
Older women and sport: yet another gender gap

Loving The Fifty Something blog 
Sam Smith on Twitter


Thursday, 8 March 2018

Coming Soon: UK2, the final part of the #postapocalyptic Project Renova trilogy


The final part of the Project Renova trilogy 
will be out soon! 

'Two decades of social media had prepared them well for UK2.' 

The pace steps up in this final instalment of the Project Renova trilogy, as the survivors' way of life comes under threat.

Two years after the viral outbreak, representatives from UK Central arrive at Lindisfarne to tell the islanders about the shiny new city being created down south.  Uk2 governor Verlander's plan is simple: all independent communities are to be dissolved, their inhabitants to reside in approved colonies.  Alas, those who relocate soon suspect that the promises of a bright tomorrow are nothing but smoke and mirrors, as great opportunities turn into broken dreams, and dangerous journeys provide the only hope of freedom.

Meanwhile, far away in the southern hemisphere, a new terror is gathering momentum...

'I walked through that grey afternoon, past fields that nobody had tended for nearly three years, past broken down, rusty old vehicles, buildings with smashed windows.  I was walking alone at the end of the world, but I was a happy man.  I was free, at last.'


Please note: although this is the promised end of the trilogy, I haven't finished with all these characters and this world yet.  There will be more!  

The other books in the Project Renova series, here:

Tipping Point: Book #1 on Amazon HERE

It's summer 2024, and everyone is signing up for Private Life, the great new social media site.  Meanwhile, news reports tell of a strange new virus on a quiet death march across the African continent.  A countrywide vaccination programme is introduced ~ but who will be the first to receive the vaccine?

When the first UK case is reported in the quiet Norfolk seaside town of Shipden, no one realises that it heralds the beginning of the end.

Lindisfarne:  Book #2 on Amazon HERE

Survivors find a safe haven on the Northumbrian tidal island, but soon discover that lack of food is not their only problem, as they come to terms with the reality of a lawless society.

Patient Zero, stand alone short stories from the series, on Amazon HERE.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Review: #TheWalkingDead S8:10 THE LOST AND THE PLUNDERERS #TWD #TWDFamily

Review of Epsiode 9: HONOR

What a terrific episode!  Definitely one of the best this season; I loved the format with the named sections.  Great idea, hope they do this again.

The handprints discovered by Michonne as she packed to leave
Michonne's pre-titles part was so, so sad, as she and Rick packed up (not forgetting the orange backpack) and said goodbye to Alexandria, looking back at the Walkers roaming through the roads of burnt out buildings, where once kids walked dogs, Deanna planned expansions and Rick punched Pete's lights out, in front of half the community.  Even more sad than Hershel looking back at his lost farm...

Carl's grave
Michonne tried to save the gazebo from burning because Carl used to sit on the roof, apparently, though for me it had a sadder memory: when Noah met Reg Munroe over oatmeal to discuss architecture in S5:14 Spend, little knowing that he would get eaten by the Dead in a revolving door later that day, and Reg was soon to get his throat slashed by the aforementioned Pete.

'This is the beginning...'

But back to the present ~ how much do you love that Negan doesn't know that 'perpetually-pissed-off' Gavin and his gang are all dead?  A group has already been sent out to see what's afoot at the Kingdom.  So good to see the main man out of the loop for once, and with only the arrival of Maggie's '38 more' boxed gift giving a hint that his army might be failing.  I suspect that the newly rebellious Simon is soon for the chop, or certainly will be when Negan discovers that he offed the Scavengers rather than implementing standard measures.  Talking of which....

Simon shows Jadis and Tamiel who's boss

The Walker Scavengers about to fall into the Super-Mega-Zombie Masher

... I have never liked or been that interested in that particular group, but I so enjoyed seeing the 'real' Jadis and finding out what she was before, why she was there, etc.  Yeah, it wouldn't have hurt Rick to take her with him, but you can see why he didn't.  Maybe he might have done if he'd known about her Super-Mega-Zombie Masher ~ let's hope Negan doesn't discover it first, as I am sure it must have another part to play, it's too good a bit of kit to only show once.  Wasn't there something a bit pathetic about Simon still talking the talk to Jadis and her crew?  Even though he killed them all, you got the feeling it was a last, desperate show of strength.

Jadis alone

Meanwhile, Aaron and Enid are still with that other not-very-interesting group, Oceanside, knowing nothing of the latest events back home.  I had to smile; once again the lovely Aaron tried to discuss matters in a reasonable, middle class and intelligent fashion, only to discover himself chained up and threatened, just like in S5:11 The Distance, when Rick wouldn't listen to him, either.  I note that Saviour-in-Waiting Rachel was eager to kill both him and Enid; I'm sure Negan can make use of her. 

'Why won't Cindy listen to my perfectly reasonable proposal?'
'Um, Aaron, I killed her grandmother.'

And so Rick and Negan talk.  Yes, the latter did seem truly sorry about Carl, but we must not be swayed ~ if ever you think he's starting to seem more human, remember how he smiled and made jokes when he killed Abraham and Glenn.

...and ditto when he killed Spencer!

I think Andrew Lincoln has excelled himself since Carl's death.  The despair on his face is so convincing.  I wonder when we're going to get to hear the contents of all Carl's letters? 

Incidentally (for TWD obsessives only!), I love that thing they did in this  ~ showing a scene, i.e., Rick and Michonne turning up at the junkyard to find no one but undead Scavengers, and Rick stepping in the blue paint, then turning back the clock to show how it all came to be.  They did this in S4:10 Inmates, when Daryl and Beth are making their way through the woods after the fall of the prison, and find lots of clues as to what might have occurred along their path before.  We're then taken back a few hours to show how Tyreese, Lizzie and Mica trod on the grapes, left fresh blood on foliage, saw a guy get bitten, etc.

Such a good episode ~ I felt we're getting near to some resolution at last, and hopefully on to the next phase in Rick and co's lives; maybe even the odd happy day when things start to work out, before the next foe appears?

After the credits I watched the excerpts for next week, which looks like an absolute belter - Daryl, Rosita, Dwight and co on the road to the Hilltop, with dangerous Walker-filled watery crossings, Tara pointing a gun at Dwight (my guess is that she won't do it just yet), a feverish Gabriel and Dr Carson on their own journey, Maggie starving her prisoners, Enid crying (why?) and Eugene making a bullet ~ who for?  I really don't like to wish away my days, but...! 

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Lately I've Been Watching....

Previously on Lately I've Been Watching...
25 February 
5 February

Full review of S8:9  HERE
Full review of S8:10 HERE

The Walking Dead
5 stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


Excellent crime drama series (Netflix) ~ in New Jersey, a 15 year old boy is mowed down by a rookie cop whose superiors advise him to drive away and say nothing.  The boy dies, though it is proven that he would have lived if the alarm had been raised straight away.  The boy is black; this explores not only corruption in the police force, but colour prejudice, too.  It's very good indeed; I'd say that if you loved The Wire, you'll love this.  There weren't many actors I recognised in it, it's not one of those Big Name series, but it's so worth watching, I was totally gripped, and hoping so much that it was popular enough for a second series!

4.5 stars

Just watched Season 2.  Okay, it's a bit OTT, and not very historically accurate, but I do enjoy it.  About the life of Louis XIV, the Sun King.  Lavish, dramatic and showy ~ I'd say that if you loved Showtime's The Tudors, you'll love this.  George Blagden is very un-Athelstan in it ~ it's great fun, with lots of handsome chaps and great frocks to look at!

4 stars

Netflix series.  A surprisingly good find ~ family drama, darkly comedic, centred round the autistic teenage son.  Oh - not an autistic child, but a child with autism; I liked the way that the mick is taken out of politically correctness and buzzwords in the parents' group.  Stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Rappaport and Keir Gilchrist as Sam - he's terrific.  Really hoping they make more!

4.5 stars

Film, about US figure-skater Tonya Harding and how she battled through lack of money, conflict with her mother who supported her and put her down in equal measure, marriage to a violent redneck and the prejudices of the skating world powers-that-be, to qualify for the Olympics ~ all of this leading up to her alleged co-operation in the much publicised attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan.  By the end I felt really sorry for her, though I bet she was delighted to be played by the fabulously beautiful Margot Robbie.

4.5 stars

By the way... I watched this a couple of years ago, just saw something about it and remembered it.  Terrific film for all post apocalyptic and survivalist addicts like me!

4 stars for The Survivalist

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

7 myths that can hold new #writers back

1. Writing is a team sport
It's not; it's very much a solitary activity.  In order to produce a good novel, you have to spend hours and hours alone, motivated only by your will to write it.  When it's finished, of course you will need your proofreader/editor/test readers/cover artist, and yes, it's lovely that we can now talk about what we do with other writers we meet via the internet; the writing/blogging community on Twitter is particularly friendly and supportive, but essentially you're on your own.  All those lovely people who RT your blog posts and say 'woo-hoo' when you tweet your word count aren't writing your novel; writing isn't about being in a fun social media club.

As Zadie Smith said, don't rely on gangs, groups and cliques.  The presence of a crowd won't make your writing any better than it is.

2.  Motivational quotes
Related to the above, I recently saw a tweet asking for inspirational memes and quotes to motivate the tweeter to get on with her novel.  In order to be a prolific writer you will sometimes have to open that Word doc when you would rather watch telly or go on Facebook, when you have reached a plot point that isn't working or are scared that you've just written 10K words of total garbage, but if the desire to write is strong enough, you'll do it.  If it's not, all the motivational quotes in the world won't get your novel finished.  That's okay.  You don't have to write.  You might want to go back to it five years time, instead; maybe now isn't the right time.

Which brings me to...

3.  It's all about really wanting to be a writer.
In author interviews I am often asked if I have a good piece of advice for would-be writers.  Maybe too often, I say that they need to make sure they want to write, rather than be a writer.  If you fantasise about talking on chat shows about your latest best seller, if you tell everyone you're an author as soon as you've completed chapter one of your first novel and love sitting in cafés with your laptop because it makes you feel writer-ish, if you've spent the morning thinking up catchy #writerslife tweets but haven't actually added any words to your story, it's possible you want to 'be a writer' more than you want 'to write'.

Let me illustrate this further.  Mary (not her real name) says her goal is to be a best-selling author, and describes herself on social media as a writer.  She has a huge following on Instagram, where she posts daily photos of herself in gorgeous clothes surrounded by books, typewriters and clever word pictures.  They're beautiful, creative, and she gets thousands of 'likes' on each one; well-deserved, as she clearly puts a great deal of work and thought into them.  But writing?  She spent three years co-writing a 60K word novel, self-published two years ago.  She has published nothing since.  She says she wants to be a writer.  She does not yet realise that what she really wants to do is take wonderful photos and become a social media star; at this, she works very hard and is successful.  Mary likes the image of herself as a writer.  She does not actually want to write.
This isn't Mary, btw; it's from a free photo site!

Zadie Smith again:

Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4. Getting that 'yes' from a publisher means you've arrived.
Not necessarily.  Publishers range from the Big 5 (HarperCollins, MacMillan, Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster and all their offshoots/imprints), to large independents, to smaller independents, to mainly e-publishers, to two guys working out of their spare room, to vanity publishers who advertise themselves as 'hybrid' in order to kid the author that paying to be published does not mean it's a vanity press.  Big 5 book deals are incredibly hard to get, but some smaller publishers have no clout with retail outlets, are not that fussy about what they take, or indeed about how they produce your book ~ or pay your royalties.  I've written more about this HERE.

5. Once you've got a publisher, you can forget all that marketing stuff and just write.
No, you can't.  Unless you're a major publisher's next big thing (which will still mean interviews, book tours, etc.), most of the marketing will still be on you.  One Big 5 published author told me that signing her contract was when the work started.  She is required to have profiles on all social media sites (not just idly chat on FB writers groups, as before!), and use them on a regular basis; it's part of her working day.  Many small publishers do next to no promo.  Vanity presses do none at all, because they've already made their money from you.

6.  You can ignore legalities and the laws of physics, etc.; readers will suspend their disbelief because it's fiction.
A lot of them won't.  Yes, we know that zombies don't exist (one day, one day...!), but we don't want to feel that the writer thinks we're stupid.  If X would not explode at Y temperature, we don't want to be told it will.  If professional bodies would not be legally allowed to do Z, we won't be convinced by the story.  Similarly, it rarely works to change a character's personality in order to fit the plot, or to suddenly shoe-horn in a couple of unlikely revelations in order to construct the end twist you've just thought of.  Readers notice.  Part of the skill of writing a novel is working out ways to make your plot work within feasible boundaries.

7. Reviewers should give constructive criticism.
Sorry, but they're not obliged to.  It's lovely when you get sensitive, tactful, balanced reviews that help you with your future writing, but it is not a reader's job to tell you how to write.  The time for a full, constructive critique is before you publish.  Once your book is out there it is an article for sale, and if the reader doesn't like what he's bought, and wants to say nothing more than 'It was a bit boring', it's entirely up to him.  Take heart; a few less than brilliant reviews won't stop your book selling.  

Feb 28
I'd like to just add 3 more myths, suggested by Barb Taub, below.

You will achieve immortality through your writing.
Yeah, your book will still be around when you're dead.  So will millions of others... and, sadly, these days, if you don't publish frequent new titles, that book of yours will soon get pushed back onto a dusty bottom shelf of the vast, ten hangar-sized book store that is Amazon, and forgotten.

Writing classes, blog posts, books and online courses can teach you how to be a great writer
Um, no, they can't.  They can teach how not to be a bad writer, and how to structure a novel, but the talent needs to be there in the first place.

Everyone has a book inside them.
This may be partly true, but, sadly, many of them should stay where they are.  Doesn't mean you can't get better ~ most people's first novels are a bit rubbish; I'm talking the first ones they write, not the first ones they publish.  I'll expand on this in a future list.

Good luck!