Friday 30 November 2012

#FridayFlash - A Little Flutter

Ever since I was a kid, I was always that idiot shouting "I bet you anything that..." Couldn't start a sentence without it. The missus used to watch all the soaps, and I was forever shouting bets about what characters would do next. Used to drive her mad. She'd stick a tenner in my hand and send me down William Hill, just to get some peace.

So anyway. It's a Tuesday afternoon, and I've been sent home from work. Quiet day, like, nothing else to do. Boss figured he'd save himself some money. I reckon I'll give Susan some peace, so I go off down the bookies. I'm £30 down after an hour but it's early yet so I'm not leaving. Reckon I'll win it back, you know? Anyway. I've just put a tenner on Buford's Chase and he's running well. Like an idiot, I start shouting, "I bet he wins!"

Damn thing loses so I start shouting that I bet the race was fixed, always "I bet this" and "I bet that". One of the girls behind the counter brings me a cuppa and asks me to pipe down, so I do. For a while. Eventually I start mumbling to myself, I bet I could win back my £40. I reckon it'll be easy, if only I pick the right horse. For a second I think about the one armed bandits but I know they're fixed.

So anyway. I'm looking through the listings for the next race. I don't have a system, not really, and by this point I'm just picking names I like. This guy comes up to me, so quiet I don't hear him until he clears his throat. He's dressed a bit funny, in a three piece suit and carrying a cane, but you get all sorts down the bookies, so I think nothing of it. He leans over and says we should make things interesting. I tell him I'm just trying to win back my £40, and hope he'll go away. He gives this big smile, all white teeth like those insurance people on the telly. Says that if I bet on Faust's Hubris and it wins, he'll give me £10,000. If it loses, this geezer gets my soul. I reckon he's a nutjob but I look up the horse, and the odds are good so I fling in a bet. Only a tenner, mind. Susan'll kill me if I lose any more than £50. That'd be worse than losing my soul - my missus has a right mouth on her when she gets riled up.

Anyway, the horse runs well, and I reckon I might be close to winning. I don't think the crazy will pay out £10,000 but the odds are 4 to 1, so I'll at least win £50. I can go home and Susan'll never know. Faust's Hubris is out in front, but the stupid thing falls in the last furlong. I'm halfway through shouting "I bet the race is fixed" when the guy puts a hand on my arm. His fingers feel red hot but I can't pull away. He's got me firm. Next thing I know, the bookies has gone and we're standing in a huge cave. A lake of lava takes up the middle, and I almost faint when I see people swimming in it. They leave trails of fire in their wake and they're screaming in agony but they just keep going. I try to run away but no matter how far or fast I run, I never get anyway. Just keep running on the spot like those joggers at the traffic lights.

I don't know how long I've been here but I watch the swimmers all day long. Every hour, and I know it's an hour because I counted the seconds once, this horned thing comes by and forces me to bet on one. No matter which one I bet on, it loses. Nothing happens to me, I don't lose any money 'cause there's none to bet with, but the frustration is killing me. I've tried everything - systems, patterns, all sorts, but I always lose.

I've never seen the man in the suit again, but I think about him from time to time. I sometimes think back to that day in the bookies, and the more I think about it, the more I could swear I saw him flick his wrist just before Faust's Hubris fell down.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Good Grammar Kills No One

I couldn't help but share this infographic, courtesy of Copyblogger...

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

The Joy of Reading

I wrote a post over on Write Anything about the joy of reading and I wanted to expand a little on my points and personalise my words, in part to contextualise them and also to explain where I'm coming from.

In the post, I say that it's vital that writers read in their genre in order to know its conventions, and to ensure their work avoids falling into the 'parody' trap. For example, I can always tell when someone has written a steampunk story without having read any steampunk because they include the major stylistic elements, but without any of the 'punch' that puts the punk into the genre's name. Steampunk is more than just brass and cogs. If you read enough of the genre, you'll know what to include - and what to leave out. You'll also know what's been done before.

I also say that it's important that writers familiarise themselves with how other writers use language, but in essence, it's important that writers understand how to string words together. I've read a wide variety of work from a range of periods, genres and writers and I like to think it's influenced the way that I use language. A lot of novice writers write in the way that they speak, but it's important to

Yet there's more to it than that. Reading should be enjoyable. If reading a book feels like a real chore, then ditch the book. Life is too short and there are too many books in the world to waste your time reading crap. I can honestly say that ever since I got my Kindle, I've definitely been reading a lot more. I've divided my reading time between the free classics such as Phantom of the Opera or Jane Eyre (which I'm currently reading), and the books I've bought that are written by my writer friends. I read those texts related to my PhD while commuting, but when I want to get some reading done before bed, out comes the Kindle.

A lot of people say, somewhat piously I think, that they'll never give up real books, usually quoting something about the smell/feel of a physical book, but as far as I'm concerned, a book is a book, regardless of the medium. I love the smell of physical books as much as the next person, and I'd happily live in Barter Books in Alnwick, but my Kindle means I can carry many books in my bag, instead of one, and it's a lot lighter than most paperbacks. OK so a book will never run out of battery and it's not the end of the world if a book gets wet, but having my Kindle has really altered how much, when, and where I read.

Plus it looks awesome in its Frankenstein case.