Welcome to my Blogger page, thank you for visiting. This is where I will share my reviews of books, movies and other things I enjoy. If you would like to see my ramblings, fanfiction and other general posts, please visit my Livejournal: beren_writes. Visit my pages to learn about me and my books.
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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

2 Sure-Fire Methods for Finding Errors in Your Work - #TipsTuesdays 14

Now we all know that authors need help editing and we should always get someone else to look over our work before it is published, however, it's always good to get rid of as many errors as we can ourselves first, and of course blog posts are often a solitary effort. Today I want to pass on two methods I use all the time to help me find errors in my writing. I hope they are as useful to you are they are to me. Tips Tuesdays 14

2 Sure-Fire Methods for Finding Errors in Your Work

I'm sure most of us have seen this somewhere on the internet:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
According to a researcher at Cambridge University, it doesn't matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole.
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Now according to actually substantiated research, there are different rearrangements that are more difficult to read than others, but it does illustrate how good the brain is at comprehending what isn't necessarily right. Sometimes we do this when we don't want to as well, like when we're looking for errors - I know I do all the time. We know what it's supposed to be so we don't see it. The methods below help curb this and find other common errors in writing.

These methods are spoken about in many place and by many authors, so I know many of us share the same views, hence I am sharing them again in hopes they will help someone who comes across them as I did in my early days.

Change the Format of What We are Reading

It is very likely we will have read our work several times as we go along and with familiarity comes word blindness and other issues. If we change the layout of what we are reading, we are forcing our brains to reassess what we are seeing. Hence we read it as new, not as what we expect to see.

It is very simple to do this and here are several ways it can be done:
  • In the word processor change the page layout from landscape to portrait or change the page size to A5 (or simply another page size depending on region).
  • If creating an eBook, read the book on an eBook reading device, making notes of any errors for correction in the master document
  • If creating a blog post, read it in preview as well as in the editor (I found six errors at least in this post when I did this today - let's hope I didn't miss any :))
  • Print out a work and go at it with a red pen
All of the above give our eyes a reason to slow down and our brains to comprehend what we are reading. Sometimes I cannot believe the errors I have missed when I use this method.

It is also by far the quickest method of the two.

The Read Aloud Method

This method has one very useful feature that the previous one does not; it allows us to find awkward phrasing as well as all the other errors. Now phrasing is a subjective thing anyway, but when reading silently some things feel okay that when we read out loud are actually not quite what we were going for.

When we read aloud we also employ a large number of faculties which are not necessarily used as greatly when we read inside out heads. This leads to many advantages over simply reading silently. The three most useful for the task of finding errors are the following:
  • Sharpening of Focus
    Because we are using our voices and listening at the same time, we help ourselves focus, blocking out distractions. All our focus is on the task and sounds and odd thoughts are much less likely to jump in and cause issues.
  • Greater Word Comprehension
    We often learn better when we hear things out loud as well as reading them internally. If you are comprehending the words more clearly you are less likely to miss the typos or the completely wrong words we all use accidentally some times.
  • Reading Aloud Slows Us Down
    Reading aloud simply takes longer because our external voice is often a lot slower than our internal voice, especially if we have trained ourselves to speed read. Reading slower prevents eye skips and pattern recognition that can often cause us not to see errors.
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This method takes time - reading aloud is more than a little bit slower than reading inside our heads. It takes days to read a full novel this way, but I cannot stress how useful it can be. Some software like yWriter  (and in some cases Word) even offers a read out loud option in the program itself so we can listen to it as well as reading it out loud ourselves. A machine is never going to have the intonation of a human being, but it will highlight typos.

So there you have it, two incredibly useful methods to help us find those pesky little errors which like to trip us up.

Two sets of eyes are always better than one, so an editor or beta reader are often incredibly useful, but when you only have the one set, like me today for this blog post, these techniques can help.

All our brains work differently and some people see errors really easily, while others of us have to try a lot harder to find them.  This is why some of us are professional editors and some of us aren't :). I definitely am not, which is why I find the two methods above so useful. I hope they serve you as well as they serve me.

Do you have any other methods that you find really useful for spotting errors? I would love to hear about them in the comments if you do.

Many thanks for visiting today.

Authors - win a month's stay in a castle for NaNoWriMo 2016 via Derek Murphy (book designer and author).

(occasionally you see a page not found, but wait a second and it will redirect you to the right place - I think sometimes the server is overloaded)

As ever I am always on the look out for Bloggers, Book Artists and Authors to host for Writerly Wednesdays. If you have in you any post about writing/books (including blog tours and books post - although I do ask the post have more than just an advert for the book, even if it's just a paragraph or two :)), I would love to host you.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Godzilla - Giant Lizard with a Heart of Gold?! - #MonsterMondays 26

Do you love a good rampaging monster? I know I do and before Pacific Rim (which is awesome because Idris Elba and giant monsters so double win) there was Godzilla! Welcome to Monster Mondays #26.

Giant Lizard with a Heart of Gold?!

Starting off as a giant lizard from the deep, a force of destruction and a metaphor for nuclear weapons, Godzilla has evolved in many directions. Originally he was the big bag, the ultimate, amphibious monster that looked partially like a dinosaur. With his ear piercing roar and his "atomic breath" he was the monster to destroy them all.

Then in some instances he changed, he became the good guy, fighting against the other monsters as the hero.

Who was around in the late 70s early 80s when Hanna-Barbera got their hands on Godzilla the first time? We in the UK were treated to him on late afternoon TV after school and this is the incarnation of Godzilla who will always have my heart.

I'm willing to bet, that if you have seen this cartoon, even if you don't remember the beginning of the titles, you can all hear in your heads the exact tone of this part:

"...and Godzooky"

Godzooky is Godzilla's much smaller, much more cowardly cousin in this show and I remember him being adorably cute. Of course I haven't seen it since I was under the age of 10 :). This Godzilla can breathe fire, rather then having somewhat sinister atomic breath, and Godzooky usually only ever managed smoke rings :).

Just in case you're wondering if you're hearing it right, here are the whole titles from  a kind soul on Youtube.

You can actually buy the series on DVD (region 1 only) from Amazon, if you are desperate to see it again after the reminder, terrible animation and all :).

I did really enjoy the last incarnation of Godzilla as well from the 2014 movie. Again Godzilla is the hero monster, rather than the all out baddy. There is still much destruction, but all in the name of saving humanity rather than destroying it.

So, which is your favourite incarnation of Godzilla: Japanese original, Matthew Broderick 1998 version, 2014 version, the 1970s cartoon (like me), the 1990s cartoon remake?

Friday, 20 November 2015

Wonder Woman - Princess of the Red, White and Blue Bathing Suit - #FanFridays 11

Are you old enough to remember the excitement of sitting down early Saturday evening every weekend to watch your favourite shows? Before VCRs, streaming and catch up TV we were glued to the TV for every second during the 70s. For Fan  Fridays 11 I have chosen one of my favs from that time: Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman
Princess of the Red, White and Blue Bathing Suit

Saturday early evenings were a very special time for me as a child - they meant the best TV shows were on. I didn't own a VCR until I was 18 so the only way to to make sure to see anything before that was to catch it when it was on (how did we live without catch up TV, how?). Saturday TV was almost a religious experience ;).

Wonder Woman, with the wonderful Lynda Carter, was one of those shows. It originally ran from 75 - 79 and has two phases, the first season set in the 1940s and seasons 2 and 3 set in the present day, as was.

I think my twin and I were too young to remember the 40s season, because it was ages before I realised there were two version of Steve Trevor and Diana Prince. I remember the computers and 70s hips clothes version.

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Who remembers IRAC (Information Retrieval Associative Computer)? I used to think he was amazing with his voice and all his flashing lights. Have to say he's not so impressive these days, but the nostalgia is there.

Having a TV show in the 70s where a woman was the hero was amazing. How Steve got into so much trouble every week so Diana had to do her swirl and go rescue him is anybody's guess. I'm pretty sure I can blame my love of tying up the good guy in ropes and chains for him to be rescued totally comes from Wonder Woman, or one better, knocking him out and then tying him up. Seven year old me really fancied Steve :).

So those of you who were around in the 70s or saw the show in reruns when you were younger: hands up who would do the Wonder Woman twirl on the playground. Anyone ever manage to get their hair to fly loose of it's confines with the dramatic flare Diana Prince managed every week?

That, of course, was the best bit of every episode, when Diana would run out of options and, purse or glasses in one hand, there would be the music, she would spin, there would be that flash of light with that great noise and there would be Wonder Woman. It was awesome.

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Not once as a child did I question the fact that putting her hair up and sometimes wearing glasses stopped Steve from recognising her. For a spy he really was unobservant!

Wonder Woman is supposed to be everything good. She's wholesome, she cares about everyone and she can put any evil man in his place. The way she was so disappointed with any evil woman she came across was also brilliant. It was as if she thought they had let down their entire gender.

I have to wonder how she would deal with CCTV these days ;)

Thank you for joining me on this trip down memory lane. If you want to see Wonder Woman as she was in the 70s there are box sets of the DVDs available Amazon UK, Amazon US as well as being availbale on Amazon video.

Almost forgot, for all you writers out there - a chance to win a month's stay in a European castle for NaNoWriMo 2016 - what a place to write your novel. Competition is being run by the book designer turned author Derek Murphy.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A Competition for A Writer's Dream

Derek Murphy is a book designer and author who has decided to hire a European castle for November 2016 for a writer's retreat (or stay in a lovely castle hotel) and is running a competition for one writer to win a room at this retreat. The competition is for:
  • authors or want to be authors
  • people who participate in nanowrimo (but it’s OK if you haven’t)
  • primarily fiction authors (but it’s OK if you want to write non-fiction)
  • people who can take a month off and get to Europe next year (travel isn’t included in the prize).

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

777 Challenge - Page 7, Line 7, 7 Sentences - #WriterlyWednesdays 14

This is convenient :) I was tagged in the 777 challenge just as I was trying to decide what to write my post about today :).

777 Challenge
Page 7, Line 7, 7 Sentences

The 777 challenge requires you go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to Line 7 and share the next 7 sentences in a blog post. Once you have done this, you can tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their work-in-progress. (see further down for those tagged)

I'm going to cheat a little since I have two WiPs currently on the go every day. One is my NaNo fanfic and one is the new novel I am working on.

So my NaNo novel is "Defence, Pretence, Offence" a Harry Potter fanfic which is a sequel to my epic "Gold Tinted Spectacles". In this scene Draco is making overtures of friendship to his Slytherin housemates, whom he has been estranged from for some time.
For a few moments Harry watched his lover walk away and admired the striking figure Draco made striding across the room, and then he followed him. It wasn't as if they were attached at the hip anymore, but possibly they were on a finite piece of elastic.

"Pansy, Greg," Draco greeted politely as soon as he was acknowledged.

If Harry had interpreted his soulmate's lectures on the etiquette of these situations correctly, Draco's opening indicated that he was comfortable with the situation and quite pleased by it. From the way Pansy relaxed slightly and Goyle shifted his feet, he was pretty sure that the pair were relieved and somewhat surprised at their peer's acceptance.

"I'm glad I am not the only Slytherin representative," Draco continued conversationally, "if they were only training Gryffindors the whole place would blow up by lunch time."

"Give us some credit, Draco," Harry joined in and smoothly insinuated himself into the Slytherin gathering; "I think we'd at least make it until tea time."
Then there is the my current novel WiP which is called "Ellie Grange and The Mythical Space Diamond" - think female Indiana Jones in space :). Ellie and Lance (her AI) have just completed a mission and have been forced into a face to face meeting with the clients - who happen to be alien royalty.
No ordinary client would set up a meeting at one of those places; they cost a fortune.

"We're here, Darling," Lance told her as she went over her personal recordings from the mission, "ooh and we're being treated like royalty; straight in, no waiting around."

"Oh god, this is going to be awful," she bemoaned.

She liked to remain mysterious, not end up at face to face diplomatic functions. Her fame was unavoidable, but she preferred to maintain a reputation for distance and aloofness. Lance did a very good job of making sure most pictorial evidence was scrambled, but he wasn't omnipotent and these things just bred snooping journalist types.

"Interesting," Lance said as Ellie prepared to leave VR and get ready to disembark; "you're being met."
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So there you have it, my current WiPs. And now on to those I am tagging:
These are all some of my writing buddies over at the NaNoWrimo site. I look forward to seeing their WiPs :D

I hope everyone is having a lot of fun with their NaNos/WiPs and are well on track.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

How to Cheat Your Way to The Most Amazing Brownie :) - #TipsTuesdays 13

So there has been a lot of darkness since Friday and so I wanted to post something light and inconsequential today to brighten the air, just a little.

How to Cheat Your Way to The Most Amazing Brownie

Normally I bake from scratch, but occasionally I try out the box mixes just for the hell of it - usually if they are on offer, because otherwise it's a ridiculously expensive way of baking a cake (most of the time). I've also found that some box mixes are a bit meh.

However, on Friday morning when I was shopping in B&M I came across this Thorntons Salted Caramel Brownie box mix for 99p (I believe ASDA have it on offer for 1.50 at the moment).

I thought to myself, why not.

Now, I have no doubt that just making up the box per instructions would have made a lovely brownie, however, here's the tip.

You cannot have enough chocolate in a brownie!

Hence I grabbed a bar of dark choc (semi-sweet) I had in the cupboard and chunked about a third of it into bits. Then I added those to the dry mix before I added the melted milk choc and butter.

I managed to produce brownie heaven. It was nearly as good as my friend Jennie's brownies, which are in fact the epitome of brownie making in their squidgy, chocolatey goodness.

P.S. the instructions said to cook for 20 mins for really squidgy and 25 for a firmer texture, but with the extra chocolate, 25 is a must. I checked at 20, but the brownie was still completely molten in the middle and at 25 it was just set.

Also, these were good as soon as they had cooled, but they were even better the next day (I made them Sunday and Rob and I finished the last two yesterday for pudding at dinner time).

Anyone else have any ridiculously easy cheats for delicious things to share?

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Images from Tumblr
My thoughts and prayers to Paris and all those who suffer under terrorist attacks.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Sapphire and Steel have been assigned! - #FanFridays 10

It's Friday again and so I get to geek out and share another of my favourite classic TV shows. Welcome to Fan Fridays 10, where I have chosen to talk about Sapphire and Steel; I hope you enjoy.

Sapphire and Steel Have Been Assigned!

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For those who have never seen Sapphire and Steel, you have missed something superb. It ran from 1979 to 1982 on ITV in the UK and was made by ATV. It stars Johanna Lumley as  Sapphire and David McCallum as Steel, two agents from outside our own dimension who are sent to stop incursions from Time.

Each episode begins with the same voice over, from which I took the title of this post:
All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension.
Transuranic heavy elements may not be used where there is life.
Medium atomic weights are available:
Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel.
Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.

Sapphire and Steel is one of those series that just has that little bit of difference about it and it makes you remember it.

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Sapphire is the personable character, gifted with the power to reverse time, empathy and to analyse objects and people simply by touch.

Steel is the gruffer, practical character, with great strength, thermal and conductive properties and willing to make the hard decisions.

Both are telepathic with each other and other agents.

They balance each other and back each other up to make the perfect partnership.

Lumley and McCallum play off each other so well with perfect chemistry and I simply love both characters.

However, what really hooked me as a child was the plots. There were six adventures filmed and I don't think I saw them all first time round, but those that I did see, like Two and Four really stuck with me. All are brilliant except the last one which I refuse to watch because there is a huge cliffhanger that has never been resolved.

Adventure One: A mother and father disappear from a remote farm house while reading their daughter nursery rhymes in the top room of the house. Sapphire and Steel have to prevent Time breaking through using the old house and everything in it. 6 eps

Adventure Two: There are ghosts gathering in a disused railway station lead by a World War I soldier. Sapphire and Steel must find out why, while distracting a human ghost hunter called Tully. 8 eps

Adventure Three: A time capsule sits invisible at the top of a modern block of flats, an experiment from the far future to investigate how humans used to live. Something malevolent has travelled with them and Sapphire and Steel must enter the capsule to find out what it is and stop it. 6 eps

Adventure Four: Ghostly sepia children run around an old junk shop, where the original landlord, whose hobby was playing with old photographs, and one of the tenants have disappeared. Sapphire and Steel must discover what is going on and how to stop it. 6 eps

Adventure Five: Lord Mullrine is hosting a party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his company. He has made sure that everything is authentic, from the clothes to the test match on the radio. Time has used his attention to detail to break through, regressing everything back to 1930, killing the guests one by one, for its own nefarious purposes. Sapphire and Steel pretend to be party goers to prevent Time succeeding. 6 eps

Adventure Six: Sapphire and Steel are called to an abandoned service station to find out why time has stopped.

All the adventures are superbly written and they are all slightly different. I can never decide which is my favourite. I love Adventure One because of Steel's gruffness and the introduction to the characters. I love Adventure Two because the ghosts are just brilliant and we find out Sapphire and Steel are not completely infallible. I love Adventure Three because it's just so skin crawly in places. I love Adventure Four because it makes me want to never have my photo taken ever again. I love Adventure Five because its so intricate and the way Sapphire and Steel enroll a human to help them is brilliant.

However, I think they dropped the ball on Adventure Six.

The whole series is available on DVD at Amazon UK and Amazon US as well as being on Amazon Video US. I have the original DVDs they brought out a few years ago, but I keep eyeing the repackaged versions because I hope they changed the menus. The original DVDs have possibly the worst menus system I have ever come across on a DVD - it's shocking :).

I see there is supposed to be a remake coming as well - I look forward to it. I think Sapphire and Steel could be brilliantly rebooted for the modern era.

So have you seen Sapphire and Steel? Who is your favourite character?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

We will remember them...

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Always Remember to Take Time to Do What You Enjoy - #TipsTuesdays 12

Always Remember to Take Time to Do What You Enjoy

It's just a short entry today to remind everyone that you are important and you should make sure to take time for yourself, even if it is only a short time.

Sometimes life is good, but sometimes it's hard and there seems no time to do anything but work or look after someone else or sort things out. No matter which, try to remember that you are as important as everything going on around you. Take a moment to give yourself what you need.

Depending on what you love and how much time you have you could:
  • Watch a sunset
  • Stargaze
  • Stroke the cat
  • Play with the dog
  • Read a page of that book you've been meaning to finish, or a whole chapter
  • Go to that website you've been missing because of work commitments
  • Have a nice mug/glass of your favourite coffee/tea/hot chocolate/wine
  • Bake a cake (and eat it ;))
  • Kiss your significant other
  • Watch the next episode of your favourite TV show
  • Talk to friends
Whatever it is that makes you happy, let yourself have it, even if it is just for a minute in a well of chaos. You may be needed by others, you may be under a pile of work, you may have exams coming, but remember to bolster yourself too. Thirty seconds or an hour, whichever you can spare, give it to yourself.

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