Hello and welcome to my Little Willow blog, well welcome to those who might stumble across it anyway as I have yet to give this address to anyone :) I thought I might try and see how I get along with just writing in it first. It's all a lot of random stuff, but hey, hopefully there'll be something interesting for people

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Film Review: SALT

The above film, starring Angelina Jolie as the title character, has been called very 'apt' with its storylines considering the real-life recent news events with Russian spies living ordinary American lives, attempting to eventually integrate themselves into Government positions etc.

The premise of the story is that Evelyn Salt works for the CIA and her world falls apart when a Russian man walks into the CIA claiming that she is a Russian spy and will kill the Russian president at the American vice-president's funeral. In order to clear her name, she escapes CIA custody and goes on the run to find her husband and protect him, all the while her colleagues are tracking her down and they begin to doubt her more and more. Her main pursuants are her boss and a counterintelligence agent, with the former convinced of her innocence and the latter sure she is guilty - why else would she have run.

The story itself is full of twists and turns, although some are quite predictable. There is a lot of action and blood and fighting, which all added to the entertainment for me.

I found the story and the action enjoyable, it was just shame that some of it was predictable. I also don't think the people I went with enjoyed it as much as I did but that could just be because I'm me and like most films :-)

6.5 out of 10

Assignment 4

I think I'm all sorted with the accessories I need to construct my article (some construction literally required, not just of the writing kind!) and price wise I should do ok with as well so yay for that. I just need to get around to actually doing it now. Thhis weekend is the bank holiday so my aim is to have finished it, ok let me re-phrase that, my aim is have started it and preferably be well into it, if not finished. That seems like a much more accurate, if vague, statement :) We'll see how I get on with that anyway.

Once I finish this assignment, I'll be almost halfway through the non-fiction assignments, which is something to be celebrated and commended I think.

Regarding trying to get things published, I've started falling behind with keeping on top of it. I did really well a couple of weeks ago and got a fair few things sent off or sent enquiries regarding submission guidelines etc, but I've not been very good at following it all up. So yet another aim for the weekend I think. I did receive a reply from Sainsbury's Magazine just to say they had sent it on to the correct department (despite me sending it to the email address given in the magazine!) and told me someone would be in touch if they wanted to follow it up - although I don't think a reader's letter is something to be followed up but hey, what do I know? And I had a reply from Writing Magazine to say they read my letter with interest and were considering it for their letters page - which to be fair I think is a standard reply letter to anyone who attempts to contribute. As I'm writing this, I'm getting a strong sense of deja vu so I apologise if I have already mentioned this.

Anyway wish me luck with finishing my assignment this weekend and see you all on the other side :-)

Thursday, 19 August 2010

An Evening with...

I went last night to the Waterstones Liverpool One shop to see authors Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride, both crime fiction writers. The evening was a Q&A session and there was quite a good crowd there to see them.

Mark Billingham started off the proceedings with a bit of a chat and talked about how he keeps an actual notebook of emails he receives from people complaining about the swearing in his books. He went on to tell us that the reason he keeps a note of them is because he can't understand why someone who is happy enough to read about murder and rape and blood is put off by a bit of swearing - and to be fair, he has a point. He read out a few of these emails which had everybody laughing.

Mark was originally a stand up comedian so he has a stage presence about him, making him someone you want to listen to, and of course, he has a sense of humour about it all. He went on to read the prologue of his book which sounded very intriguing.

Stuart MacBride followed on from Mark and began by acknowledging that most people there had probably come to see Mark - to which nobody really replied, but I guess was probably the case. Stuart was also a very interesting person to listen to and he talked about getting into the business and how his first book was so different to the run of current ones. His first book was a stand alone novel which was a crime fiction book but set in the future and he even admitted to writing this style so he didn't have to do much research - as it's in the future, you don't have to adhere to current laws etc.

Both authors talked about attending writer's conferences and doing other Q&A sessions and Mark said he was always happy for anyone to ask him any question, even if it's one he's been asked a million times before, as he said the questioner has travelled to come and see him and is likely to buy their book, so he sees no problem and doesn't understand why some authors get frustrated over it.

The floor was opened for the audience to ask questions, and there were a few common questions asked regarding Mark's new TV show of the first two books in the Thorne series, about if he'd had an idea for an actor in his head and he was asked about the cameo he had filmed. Both authors were asked about their characters and also about comparisons made to other crime fiction authors. Both Mark and Stuart claimed that the crime fiction lot are a nice bunch and they have good banter, but when needed, they're there to help each other out, regarding getting reviews for their new books etc.

The evening went on for over an hour and at the close, they signed any books people had purchased. I bought Mark's new one and Stuart's first one.
They were both very nice people and I'm glad I went along, despite not asking any questions about their writing, which I should have done but it was just too scary and I thought it could have gone off topic from what other people actually wanted to hear about, but there's always the option to ask any questions on Mark's Facebook page if I really wanted to :)

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Finally started

And here I was on Friday, all ready to be saying I hadn't done anything with my assignment. Such doubt in myself (not as you can blame me lol).

I managed to comlpete question 1 of 3 of Assignment 4 - woo hoo! I have now written 3 reader's letters for 3 different magazines on 3 different topics. I wrote to Easy Living, Sainsbury's Magazine and Writing Magazine. From those 3 titles, it's not hard to imagine writing about 3 separate topics really is it? As they are letters for magazines, I haven't waited for them to be looked at before actually sending them out. Purely because I don't know how long it'll take me to finish the other two sections and by that time, it could be far too late to send them, as magazines want fairly quick responses so that the letters remain pretty relevant to recent articles. For the Writing Magazine, most of the letters refer to articles in only the previous issue, so it shows you how fast it moves!

I'm pretty certain I know what my article will be on for the next bit of the assignment, I just need to find a market for it and I'm not sure who to aim for. Once I've decided on the publication, questino 2 will be quick and easy as it's just an analysis on that publication and we've done that before. Although I am concerned that the article I have in mind won't work as one full article and could turn out to be just a filler, in which case, I'll have to write something else, come up with a second idea! So my target for the step by step article is to get it to at least 500 words. Ususally I'm not very concise so it wouldn't be too difficult but I'm finding that with non-fiction I'm having to pad things out a bit which is as difficult as editing a piece that's too long.
Oh well, onward and upward!

I'm about three quarters of the way through Mark Billingham's second book, Scaredy Cat, so I should have it finished in time for the "evening with..." on Wednesday which will be nice. Although to be honest, I can't see myself actually asking any questions, I'm far too chicken for that kind of thing - need to get some confidence from somewhere! lol

I'm hoping to go to the library tomorrow night to have a think about my article and try and write a bit without as much distraction as there is at home (TV, internet, reading books and generally anything else that could possibly be done instead of my assingment!). It's like being back at school doing all this procrastinating! lol. I need to be good at doing this so I can call myself self motivated for when I go to interviews :) Ok, so I won't be able to actually write the article at the library as I will need to actually do the thing step by step so I can make sure the instructions can be easily followed, but I can write down what the general order is and sort it all out. Putting it down on paper will help. I think finding the cardboard will be the hardest part to be honest, the rest of it should be quite easy (from what I remember from last time anyway). Not sure when I'll be able to finish this assignment with various things on this week and I'm away next weekend and I have a few things the following week, so it could be the bank holiday weekend before I get around to it. We'll see though, maybe I can fit it around other stuff in the week. Plus I don't actually need to construct the whole thing in order to write about it, once I get to a certain point it'll be easier.

Anyway I'm off now - have to face the dentist in the morning :-(

Friday, 13 August 2010

This isn't working


This assignment is just not working for me right now. The last couple of weeks have seen a lack of desire to get on with it, mostly for the usual excuse of I don't know what to write about. I also feel these first few assignments have been very similar and having no particular theme to write about makes it harder. I've always found that when given an essay or anything at college/University, for example, you complain that you have to write about a topic chosen by the lecturer, but now I wish for those days back again.

You might think that an open assignment sounds easy as there's 'so many things you could write about', but think about it, can you pin down one thing you want or can write about? Especially then considering you have to do market research, so you have to find a magazine to fit the topic you want to go with and then write it in the same style as that magazine. None of it really gives any freedom, except for finding an initial topic - it's always got to fit in with an editor's style.

These are my reasons for liking writing fiction - although I do realise that if you finish a novel and want to sell it, changes would need to be made, but your writing style and storyline would remain. Writing fiction allows you to just leave this world for a little while and focus on something more exciting and (often) impossible in the real world. Of course you do eventually have to return and find something non-fiction to write about, so you definitely come back to Earth with a bump.

I will try my hardest to stop wasting time and get onto it on Sunday and try and spend a full day focused on it. I plan on doing a step by step article and I already have most of the bits I need for it as I will actually have to construct it at the same time as I intend on taking pictures of the process. Plus buying the bits will allow me to provide a cost - luckily I know someone I can give the finished product to so it's not money wasted.

I hope to come back on here on Monday and say I've completed at least one section of my assignment. :)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Book Review - Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

I've not long finished the above mentioned book and although it's not a genre I often read, I did find it a very enjoyable read. The synopsis of the book is:
Alison Willetts is unlucky to be alive. She has survived a stroke, deliberately induced by a skilful manipulation of pressure points on the head and neck. She can see, hear and feel; she is aware of everything going on around her, but she is completely unable to move or communicate. It's called Locked-In Syndrome. In leaving Alison Willetts alive, the police believe the killer's made his first mistake.
Then DI Tom Thorne discovers the horrifying tuth: it isn't Alison who is the mistake, it's the three women already dead. 'An appropriate margin of error' is how their killer dismisses them, and Thorne knows they are unlikely to be the last. He must find a man whose agenda is terrifyingly unique, and Alison, the one person who holds the key to the killer's identity, is unable to tell anyone...

There are many crime fiction books out there with a main set of characters who appear in each book and I have found with these kinds of books, they can start to get a 'samey' feel about them. However, this is the first book I have read of Mark Billingham's, so I have yet to feel this about his books. I found his storytelling quite compelling. I liked how most of the book was centred around Tom Thorne and his investigation into the killings, but I aso liked how the occasional chapter was reserved for Alison or for the killer him/herself (I'm not going to give anything away!).
I think this book had a good 'creep' factor in what the killer was trying to achieve and it does almost make you feel that it could happen to you by placing other victims in similar scenario's that you could quite easily experience yourself.

This book and his second book, Scaredy Cat have been made into a new 6-part TV show which will be shown on Sky One from October. I have just started reading the second book tonight as I am going to 'An evening with...' the author in a couple of weeks and wanted to have read a couple of the books. I was impressed with this book as a first novel and you can see that a lot of research went into it.

I'm not sure I would recommend this book to my friends as I don't think it would be their type of genre, but I would definitely recommend it to my family members, who enjoy many other crime writers' work.

7 out of 10


My week off work, which I was going to use to keep moving on with my writing, hasn't quite turned out like that. Procrastinating is so easy, there's always something so much more important to do at the time, like check my emails for the millionth time since I logged on :) One thing no one procrastinates on is procrastinating.

I have done a couple of things, I've started editing a short story, which is quite hard as I don't really like reading my own stories. I've also continued on writing another short story, although I'm only a page and a half into it, so should really keep on with that. As for my assignment 4, I've still yet to look at it properly, I know it's about magazines again and I find them so hard to get into. I've never been a magazine reader, I've always been more interested in the fictional world; plus magazines are so expensive, especially when used only as research!
I'm still determined to stick with the non fiction section of the course however as I feel it will help me be more concise. Originally I had thought I may find a hidden talent for that kind of writing, but now I know there's no chance of that! lol Finding topics to write about is a nightmare, I definitely feel like I know nothing about anything, well not enough detail for an article.

Today I have emailed a couple of magazines with article proposals from my last assignment, so we'll see how they go. I've also been looking up a variety of short story competitions that I could enter; never realised how many of them there are out there! But the Freelance Market News and various people's blogs that I follow have been very helpful with this information.

Can't remember whether I mentioned this in a previous post but I've been considering trying to do an interview with an author I'll be going to see soon, but I feel far too scared to do that yet, I don't feel I have the confidence to go for it. Plus I think it's getting a little late for setting it up and then there's lots of planning of questions involved and I also don't own a dictaphone so it wouldn't be the most professional interview. I think I've already talked my self out of the idea for now - I'm sure there'll be opportunities with other people in the future.

Right, I think I'll venture off and read what assignment 4 has in store for me :-(