Saturday 31 October 2015

The Zodiac Files ~ Round Up

Fifty-six writers/bloggers (and one proofreader!) accepted my invitation to be featured on The Z Files, telling us how typical they are of their star sign, how its characteristics manifest themselves in the way they work and what they write about.

The feature runs from the end of August 2015, until the middle of January 2016 ~ two more to go, and I will take back some writing time!

Here's a quick run-down; just click the writer's name to see any article you'd like to read or revisit:)

~ The Fire Signs ~

Leo and Aries: Me, and Proofreader Julia
LeoRosie Amber,   Rose Edmunds,  Alex JohnsonAnne Goodwin
AriesTrisha Ashley,  Joanne Phillips,  Cynthia Harrison
SagittariusJan Ruth,  Adrienne Vaughan,  Rachel Amphlett,   
Wendy J LennoxKatrina Mountfort

~ The Earth Signs ~
TaurusJaye Dawes,  Valerie-Anne Baglietto,  Val Poore
VirgoHeather Burnside,  Louise Marley,  Elizabeth DucieBarb Taub
CapricornAnnie Lyons,  Wendy Janes,  Georgia Rose, blogger Steffany
Capricorn and Aquarius: Nicky Black

~ The Air Signs ~

GeminiJerome Dumont,  Norah Colvin,  Haydn Lee,  John Privilege,  Shelley Wilson
LibraJan Brigden,  Marcia Carrington,  Jennifer Ammoscato,  Tom Hocknell,  Joanne B
AquariusCathy Ryan,  Lynda Renham

 ~ The Water Signs ~

CancerEmma Gray,  Sarah Boucher,  June Kearns,  Katie Oliver,   
Mark Barry
ScorpioJudith Barrow,  Gemma Lawrence,  Stacey Garrity,  Gen Gannon,  Robert Leigh,  Catherine Hokin,  Jenny Twist
PiscesJulie Haiselden,  Lizzie Lamb,  Maria Savva,  Sacha Black

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed, shared posts, commented, retweeted - and read!  I hope you have all enjoyed it as much as I have :) 

Thursday 29 October 2015

The Z Files: Valerie Baglietto ~ Taurus

Astrology ~ a bit of fun, a load of rubbish, or something to take seriously?

I invited around 70 writers/bloggers to write a piece about how typical they are of their sign, and how its traits affect their writing life ~ if at all...

Has your favourite writer been featured yet?  Links to all previous posts at the end of this one :)

The Z Files' second Novelistas lady ~ the bossy one, says Valerie-Anne Baglietto :)  If this is true, she can blame it on her birth sign ~ Taurus (well, if she's anything like my Taurean husband....). Val is a writer of 'modern, grown-up fairy tales, because someone has to and it might as well be me'.  I love that!  You can have a look at her books HERE.

Let's see what Val has to say about her Taurean writerliness ~

The grown up fairy tale writer in her Cinderella Coach - every girl should have one :)

Locking Horns?
A Taurean Writer Tells All 

"In many ways, I can be quite bullish when I want to be. So I suppose that fits in perfectly with the Taurean profile. I’ve been writing professionally in one capacity or another for nearly two decades, with the typical highs and lows of any creative career. Bullheaded determination has kept me going.
My element is supposedly the earth – a practical sign. I’m ambitious but realistic. I’ve got three children to orbit around, so I don’t work to ridiculous deadlines that would have me tearing out my family’s hair as well as my own. My writing has to fit in with everything else, wedged in between dog-walks and school-runs and frequently finding myself buried in a laundry avalanche. But stuff gets done, and books do get written, so this life works well enough for me at the moment."


"Taureans are persistent. We can endure. I set myself goals and tackle them slowly but steadily. I’m stubborn (ha, yes!) and strong-willed. I know I’m a perfectionist, which is useful when it comes to editing but not so good when I grind to a halt in the middle of the first draft, fixating over the ‘perfect’ word to end the ‘perfect’ sentence. I still haven’t learned to just get the story down and worry about the second draft later. Like a bull about to charge, all I seem to be doing is obsessively stamping my hoof in the dirt, over and over again.

Apparently Taureans can be quite diplomatic and peace-loving, with an eye for beauty. Hmm, not something I’d necessarily associate with a bull, but O-K. That does sound like me. I believe I’m known for being diplomatic when I’m keeping order among the other members of Novelistas Ink. And even though I do have a red-hot temper when provoked – my Latin temperament, I think, as well as the bull in me – I like to quickly make up and move on. I’m not comfortable with grudges.

I also write contemporary, adult fairy tales set in picturesque villages, so I guess that’s the ‘eye for beauty’ part right there. Gritty, urban and bleak? Sorry, not me. 

So in essence, in some things I’m quite grounded like my earth sign, but in other ways it’s very obvious that my head is occasionally in the clouds! Perhaps, in fairy tale fashion, this bull sometimes magically transforms into a giraffe…?" 
(Just an excuse for a picture of giraffes because I think they're so beautiful!)

I think we can safely say that Val is fairly typical of her sign...if you've looked at her books at the link above, you might like to follow her on Pinterest HERE and on Twitter HERE.

Now, which famous Bull writers should I choose to join Val?  

I've gone for he of the similarly fantastical, Terry Pratchett...

...and a lady who stubbornly said 'no more novels' after publishing one in 1960, but published her second in July 2015 ~ Harper Lee, of course!

Coming Next:  a charming French Gemini!

Previous Posts:
Aquarius and Capricorn: Nicky Black
Capricorn: Steffany R
Libra:  Joanne B

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Plague Inc. ~ Bacteria ~ Mega Brutal: My strategy for the destruction of humankind :)

For Plague Inc addicts only (ie, nothing to do with the usual stuff on my blog!)

I'm loving playing Plague Inc. by Ndemic Creations (on my tablet) ~ I progressed to Mega Brutal last weekend and wrapped all seven  main ones up in a few days (suffering arm and wrist ache, it has to be said...).  I found Fungus the hardest, so it's my favourite.  I'm not a huge fan of computer games, but this one is brilliant.

For anyone who is struggling with it, here's how I destroyed the world with Bacteria on Mega Brutal.  There are probably tons of other ways of doing it, but this is the way I got there:

I've found the best place to start Bacteria is Egypt, though India is not bad.
If you have the option (which presumably you have, if you've got to this stage), modify with the following:

DNA Genes: Cytochrome Surge

Travel Genes: Aquacyte

Evolution Genes: Patho-Stasis

Mutation Genes: Genetic Mimic

Environment Genes: Extremophile


Obviously there's no guarantee that you'll win it first time with this - it depends on the order the countries get hit, for one thing, and you might want to modify it slightly, but this is the sequence by which I've extinguished humanity a couple of times :)
First, you need to protect your plague from run of the mill anti-biotics, so as soon as you have 11 DNA points, activate Drug Resistance (DR) 1.  Next, get it spread around.  You've already given sea travel a boost with Aquacyte, so go for Air 1.  As this might take your plague into rich countries with better developed medical facilities like the USA, the UK, Spain or Australia, the next thing you need is DR 2.  This will take 25 points, but be patient, don't be tempted to use them for something else.

Around now, your plague might evolve a random symptom.  Devolve it immediately, because any symptoms will alert people to the plague's existence, and the cure will begin earlier.  Throughout the game, devolve any symptoms that don't help along your chosen path, as you can get refunded points.

Your next priorities should be:

Water 1

Cold Resistance (CR) 1

Genetic Hardening (GH) 1

Why? If your plague is travelling to colder countries, it needs to be hardened to the environment.  You also need to get it travelling around countries without airports.  Around this time, though, you will get the message that the plague is 'More infectious than TB', followed by 'More infectious than HIV'.  These signal that, any time now, it's going to be discovered.  You need your 7 points for GH 1 immediately it is discovered.  The order in which you activate the three above features may vary, depending on the game's progress, but getting GH1 as soon as work starts on the cure is all important. 

Now it's a race against time!

Get GH2 as early as possible; these two really do slow down the cure, giving you more leeway.  This is important!  Next, you will need:

Air 2

Water 2

CR 2.  

While you're getting these, the cure will be progressing, and you'll be tempted to get some Genetic Reshuffles (GReshuf).  It's best to leave these until the cure is at least 50% ready, as they are more effective then.  If you use them early, the cure progress only goes down a few per cent, but if you use them later it can be as much as 10 or 12 per cent. 

You need CR2 in order for the plague to infect and carry on infecting in Greenland and Scandinavia, and it doesn't hurt Russia and Canada, either.  Air 2 gives it all a real boost, but you usually need Water 2 for the Phillipines, the Carribean and Greenland, though I have got them without on occasion.

The final Air and Water one, Extreme Bioaerosol, is tempting but should not be necessary - and it costs 23 points you will need elsewhere.

When about half the world is infected, you need to introduce the symptoms.  I find that Coughing and Pneumonia are the most effective for infection, and also they lead to Pulmonary Fibrosis and then to Total Organ Failure - and I believe Total Organ Failure to be essential for winning any of the games on Mega-Brutal.

While you're getting the five essentials above, you will, of course, need to curtail the cure with GReshuf 1.  Use your skill and judgement to decide on the order!  The points should be going crazy by now, and you'll be popping blue bubbles all over the place, too.

If, during this time, your plague evolves any random symptoms, devolve them if it means getting a DNA point refunded.  If it doesn't, don't bother.  If it's one of those on the path towards Total Organ Failure, that's a bonus - but if it gives you TOF itself, you'll probably lose the game as it will kill everyone off too soon, before the whole world is infected.

You know you've got a good chance of winning if your cure is under 50% and you have around 100 points when the last human on earth is infected.  Immediately this happens, go to Transmissions and devolve Air 2 and then Air 1, or Water 2 and Water 1.  This will give you 3 more points.  Then go to Abilities and devolve CR2 and then CR1 - 3 more points. 

You now have your maximum points - but the cure may be getting dangerously high now. If it's over 75%, activate GReshuf 2.  

Before you do anything else, get Pulmonary Fibrosis and Total Organ Failure.  As soon as you get TOF, the deaths will start piling up, and the points will roll over non-stop.  You may have to get GReshuf 3 or increase the deaths first.  It's likely that the cure will reach over 90%.   If you haven't got enough points to get GReshuf 4 (it's unlikely you will have enough, to be honest), go to Symptoms and get Coma and Paralysis - these will take the cure progress back from that dangerous 97%, to under 90 - and by the time it gets back over 90, so many of the countries will be in total anarchy that cure research will have ground to a virtual halt, and you'll be able to watch humanity get destroyed at your leisure.

Blood pressure raising stuff!

If you're like me, you might like to add a few more symptoms just for the hell of it, points allowing - I'm rather fond of Seizures and Insanity.

Watch out:

Don't be swayed by the 'festival of kissing' notification - I reckon it's just there to get you to waste points!  Don't get panicky over the ones about air filters and water filters on planes and ships - they can be dealt with when you're ready.

You don't need any cows or birds or rats, or anything else, if you do it this way.

Always devolve symptoms before the plague is noticed.

Don't be tempted to add a lot of things like sneezing to make it more infectious.

Ignore the Bacterial Resilience - it's not as effective as Air, Water and CR.

For more info about the game, click on the Ndemic Creations link at the top - he's on Twitter, too: @NdemicCreations
It's available on Android, iOS, Xbox One, PC
(I have not been paid to promote this game and have no connection with the makers of it, by the way - it's just a great game.) 

Wanted ~ one book reviewer!

Whispering Stories is one of the best book blogs I've come across.  It's run by a delightful lady called Stacey; you can see the blog HERE; it (and Stacey!) can be followed on Twitter HERE.

Like many book bloggers, Stacey is now finding that her to-read pile is getting larger than she can manage, so is looking for someone else to join her on the blog.  If you're interested, this is what she's looking for:

"I'm looking for someone who owns a kindle or a device they can read a kindle on (ipad etc), all I'm after them doing is reading and then reviewing the book. They then send the review to me and I'll sort the post out.

I will put their name on the review and they will have their name on my blog as being part of my blog team - so would need a picture and some info on them.

I don't read horror books or sci fi books, so someone who may like those would be good, but I'd be interested to hear from anyone whatever genres they prefer; it's just that a liking for horror/sci-fi would be a bonus!

They need to understand that there is no financial gain, they will get the books for free though.

The reviews are placed on the sites already set up for Whispering Stories,  I will let people know who did the review and that they are part of the team and chance the profile on the pages to include them.

Generally, they need to be able to review a book a once a fortnight (though more often would be great!) - this isn't cast in stone, and at times I do understand that they may need more time. They need to be trustworthy and honest with their reviews."

If you're interested and would like to discuss this further, please contact Stacey via Twitter or her blog at the links above - not me!!
Many thanks for reading ~ and if you know someone else who may like to do this, please pass it on. :)

The Z Files: blogger Steffany ~ Capricorn

Astrology ~ a bit of fun, a load of rubbish, or something to take seriously?

I invited around 70 writers/bloggers to write a piece about whether or not they're typical of their sign, and how its traits affect their writing life ~ if at all...

Has your favourite writer been featured yet?  Links to all previous posts at the end of this one :)

Struggling up the hill to my blog, today's contributor is Capricorn blogger, American ex-pat living in Scotland, Steffany.  Her blog is called Deep Greens and Blues (link at end)... it's a (quote) liquorice allsorts type, in other words, about all sorts of subjects; I like the TV and films bits!  And I love this picture she sent me of herself with a heron!!

Tell us about yourself, Steffany :)

"So I’m a Capricorn. Which means I’m meant to be a sturdy, reliable (even miserly, vain and pessimistic according to the word clouds, ouch! ;-)) type of person. When you hear that someone is a Capricorn I don’t think you naturally associate creativity with the sign. Which is odd, because there are an awful lot of Capricorn actors and musicians, and yes, writers! I was impressed to learn that some of my favourite authors are fellow goats:  from David Sedaris to J.D. Salinger, and perhaps less surprisingly, Edgar Allan Poe. I think this gloomy, macabre yet also funny, author probably fits the Capricorn stereotype better than most!

I was pleasantly surprised that humour came up as a Capricorn trait in the word clouds, because it’s not the first thing that comes to mind usually with my sign, and most Capricorns I know do have a pretty decent (if often dry!) sense of humour."

"As for me, I do identify with many of the traits associated with my sign; I am quite bookish and have always enjoyed writing. I think I express myself better on the page than in spoken word. Capricorns are often good listeners. We will sit quietly in the corner of a large group and occasionally come out with a good one liner to remind everyone we are there! I think this quality has helped my writing; I often seem to remember things that most people don’t.

Which isn’t to say I fit the Capricorn mould perfectly; I am not in the slightest bit organized, and can be a bit of a flibbertigibbet generally. I blame my Scorpio moon and Sagittarius rising! But I also think they are why I find astrology fun, most Caps seem to think it’s all a bit silly!"

"The “old before our time, aging backwards” association is another one I relate to. I was a pretty studious, quiet kid generally. And having turned 40 this year I finally started a blog, which is something I could have done when I was younger. But I think perhaps hitting the big 4-0 made me take myself a bit less seriously and feel braver about sharing my ramblings with the world. I do generally feel a bit more carefree these days than I did in my twenties, but that could just be a generational thing!

When someone says my blog made them laugh it really makes my day, because I do have the Capricorn tendency towards self-criticism and doubt over everything I produce. Capricorns are not natural attention seekers in life, which I think is maybe why we are drawn to artistic pursuits, where we feel less exposed, safer in expressing ourselves under guise of our creations.

One of the most pleasant discoveries I made in my authorial astrology dig was that A.A. Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh) was a Capricorn. There is such gentleness of spirit in his work that I think reflects an often unseen, sensitive side of the sign. His words are deceptively simple, yet full of heart and wisdom, often used at weddings and funerals when people are lost for words, which I think isn’t a bad achievement for a grumpy old Capricorn at all! 

“The things that make me different are the things that make me” -A.A. Milne."

Possibly one of the best analyses of the Capricorn personality I've ever seen!  I particularly like the bit about getting younger as she gets older ~ a little talked about goat trait. You can follow Steffany on Twitter and have a browse through her blog...HERE

Now, some famous scribbling goats...  Steffany's already mentioned some, but here are a couple of others, chosen to show that being a Capricorn is not all doom and gloom!

.... certainly not in The Shire!  Bet it took some Capricornian tenacity 
to produce all of JRR Tolkein's works, though.

Look!  Capricorns can do glitz and glamour as well!  
Author of all those blockbusters you read in the 1980s ~ Judith Krantz.

Who's next?  Taurus makes its second appearance :)

Previous posts:
Leo and Aries: Terry Tyler and Julia Proofreader
Leo: Anne Goodwin, Alex Johnson
Aries: Cynthia Harrison
GeminiJohn Privilege, Shelley Wilson
Aquarius and Capricorn: Nicky Black
AquariusCathy Ryan, Lynda Renham
SagittariusRachel Amphlett, Wendy J Lennox, Katrina Mountfort
VirgoLouise Marley, Elizabeth Ducie, Barb Taub
PiscesMaria Savva, Sacha Black
ScorpioRobert Leigh, Catherine Hokin, Jenny Twist
Taurus: Valerie Poore
CancerKatie Oliver, Mark Barry
Libra: Joanne B