Rants, boots, and comfort shopping

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Why do we always treat ourselves, buying something special, to make us feel better?

I just ordered some New Rock boots. Oh dear.

Those who know me and my fashion and music tastes may be surprised to know I don’t yet own a pair of New Rocks. If you’re not sure what they are, think of big, black, shiny, sexy über boots with shiny silver buckles and sometimes devil faces or coloured highlights. They are stompy, tough, not-for-any-old-barn-dancing, expensive footwear. Custom models are available, and could set you back a fair pretty penny. I’ve gone for something a bit more basic, at £85.99 (including the £12.99 FedEx fee. That’s a big Blimey! in itself).

I shall post photos on my own blog found here and on my Twitter when they arrive some time next week. I’m just a little excited.

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Why buy new boots? Well, for one thing, my old boots have been letting in water. Whereas my work boots are decent, 3-figure composite-toe-plated safety Magnum Elite CT boots by Magnum Hi-Tec, my normal day-to-day boots have recently been a cheap pair from a shop in town. I own three pairs of Converse, so far this has been as stylish as I get. Time to upgrade a little.

Also, it’s a comfort buy. Work at the DDJ* has been pretty rough recently. Until now, our company has remained fairly untouched by the recession, even posting overall profits this year. However, shareholders have to be kept happy, and takings are down, so changes are being made, pressure is being applied at all levels of management, and those of us at the bottom of the food chain are left picking up the pieces, as always. Hopefully things will improve, but at the moment there are an awful lot of disheartened workers. Thankfully, I’m in a position not to be too badly affected, but it does become a strain when your co-workers are constantly down-trodden and mopey. It’s very hard to motivate people, even harder when customers are of the mistaken belief that they should get things cheaper (or even free) for the slightest inconvenience or complaint.

Trust me, if you’re shopping, remember you are not always right. People who work in shops, especially large, specialty stores like mine, are well trained to know what they are talking about. You want to try re-wiring your house without being a qualified electrician? Fine, go ahead. Don’t come crying to me when your house burns down. Want to plumb in your new toilet but don’t know your U-bend from your elbow? I ain’t mopping up the water. Want to knock through a retaining wall? Fit a new gas fire? Unblock your bathtub with high power drain blaster? Yeah, your funeral, and I won’t be attending. Oh, and if you say to me you’d get better service elsewhere, don’t mind me if I roll about laughing. You won’t. No other company in our field gives the level of training to its staff, or service to its customers, like the one I work for. We’re market leaders (in a buggered market, yes, but leaders nonetheless) for a reason.

End rant. Sorry.

So yeah, my new boots are a comfort buy. Sosumi.

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Which leads me to ask what are your comfort buys? What have you splashed out on when you really should be tightening your belt? What impulsive spending did you rack up on eBay for? Useful things like regular clothes or footwear? Or less useful, like party clothes or trinkets, etc?

(Also, my New iPad purchase last month doesn’t count as an impulse or comfort buy. Since I started selling kitchens, I started saving up out of my pay especially to buy it. Last month was when I finally reached my target for the spec I wanted.)

Answers in the comments below. Best ones may get a sweetie, worst ones get fed to Reggie.

* = Dreaded Day Job, the job which many writers must have that pays actual cashy money with which to keep roof over head and food in belly. Not always writing related. I sell kitchens. Stop sniggering at the back there.

Dredding Monsters

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I hate when Hollywood tries to remake or sequel films. They rarely get it right.

You may remember Gareth Edward’s 2010 hit indie sci-fi film, Monsters. Filmed with only two actual actors, a camera guy, sound guy, and editor, and using local people as extras, this film raised the bar of indie films. With a budget of five figures (and low five figures, at that) this film is a testament to what can be done with brilliant cinematography, excellent acting, and minimal special effects.

I just read on iO9 that Misfits director Tom Green is to film a sequel, Monsters: The Dark Continent. The synopsis of Jay Basu’s script is thus:

Seven years on from the events of Monsters, and the ‘Infected Zones’ have spread worldwide. Humans have been knocked off the top of the food chain, with disparate communities struggling for survival. American soldiers are being sent abroad to protect US interests from the Monsters, but the war is far from being won.

Noah, a haunted soldier with several tours under his belt, is sent on a mission: an American soldier has gone rogue deep in the Infected Zone, and Noah must reach him and take him out. But when Noah’s unit and transport are destroyed, he finds himself with only a young and inexperienced cadet for company – the brother of the man Noah has been sent to kill.

The two soldiers must go on a life-altering journey through the dark heart of monster territory, accompanied by a young local woman to guide them. By the time the three of them reach their goal, they will have been forced to confront the fear that the true monsters on the planet may not be alien after all.

And this just feels wrong. Three paragraphs, and the only bit that seems true to the overall style and feel of the original is the very. Last. Line.

The whole success of Monsters was the simplicity of it, the basic get-home-in-one-piece plot, and the unbelievably low budget and method of filming. This sequel sounds to me like it is trying too hard to be a blockbuster by following Hollywood’s tired old formula of action, adventure, horror, heroes, etc. Everything Monsters wasn’t.

I may be proven wrong, and I certainly hope I am. But I predict this new sequel will fall flat on its face, purely because the filmmakers are trying to emulate the original’s success without repeating any of the elements that made it successful.

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What I am excited for is the forthcoming Dredd feature film. Now, I liked Sly Stallone’s take on it. Visually, for me, it was perfect. The uniforms, Lawmaster bikes, Lawgiver guns, everything looked good. Yeah, the plot had more holes than a pair of fishnets, but I still enjoyed watching it. However, Carl Urban’s Dredd looks to be much darker, harder, and more realistic, in line with recent hero film remakes as Iron Man and the Dark Knight trilogy. I can’t wait!

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I haven’t seen Prometheus yet. I’ll probably catch it on iTunes, I just don’t have time to see films at the cinema these days. But I am going to be trying to catch The Dark Knight Rises at some point.

What are you looking forward to this year at the movies? Tell me in the comments below.

Of Hamsters and Vest Tops in Darkness

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I’ve recently discovered the joy that is Apple TV. Not a toy for everyone, but great for procrastination. I have an iPad (3rd Gen) and its brilliant, so being able to AirPlay things is still novel enough to not be getting old anytime soon. I’ve also found Netflix. Yeah. So, first horror film review:

Darkness, starring Anna Paquin (True Blood) and Iain Glen (Game of Thrones) starts off well, family in a new home, middle-of-nowheresville, teenage daughter worried dad is going to have a relapse of his mental breakdown. Things get creepy as dad finds an old, boarded up room, the lights start flickering, and younger brother Paul begins losing pencils under his bed, suffering unexplained bruises, and drawing pretty gnarly sketches of dead children.

Unfortunately, as the tension mounts, the writers seemed to have got a little excited about the plot. Cue an Ouroboros (Our Rob or Ross anyone? Lister!) under the floorboards, creepy but helpful old man, devil worship, a forthcoming eclipse, and an overly long exposé as to the hows and whys. It could’ve lost nearly fifteen minutes here, and still been pretty clear. The ending is not too predictable, and suitably ambiguous.

I enjoyed the film, gave it a 4 star rating on Netflix, but it could’ve been better. Plenty of shots of Paquin running around in a strappy vest top (not that I’m complaining…) and Glen chewing the scenery trying to make the best of a bad job. Overall, good rainy-night fare.

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You may remember mention in the past of Reggie, the LitDen hamster. You’ll be glad to know he’s made the transition from the old forum to the new blog site well. LitDen Towers uses a lot of energy (I think that’s just Paul sending Darren Shan fan mail again, but I’m not sure) and Reggie has taken to his new job like a hamster to a… wheel. Huh.

Anyway, he’s now in the cellar, spinning the wheel that turns the generator that keeps us going. He’s well fed, I found a nest of gremlins the other night, and he doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between them and small children. Thankfully. So far.

So, I’d just like to warn all visitors not to venture into the cellar without me. He’s not caged anymore, just a reinforced titanium gate at the bottom of the cellar steps. You don’t want to lose an arm or a head, now do you? And please don’t complain about that awful whirring noise in the middle of the night. A six foot long hamster on a wheel the size of a double decker bus is gonna make a racket. Why do you think I sleep in the attic?

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Editing has begun on the new Anthology. I have stories already submitted last time, and a few new ones to be going on with. Email Paul if you’d like to be involved. No set time limits on this one yet, except I need all stories in by August 31st.

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I’m intending to split my posts up, proper reviews and writing discussion fortnightly, with other stuff in between. As with all plans, that may go tits up at any time. Watch this space. For now, that’s me done. A glass of brandy and a boom are waiting. I’m currently reading The Mammoth Book of Steampunk (ed. Sean Wallace). All I’ll say is: it’s brilliant. Also, Captain Brown gets about a bit, doesn’t he?

Music and mood

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I write creepy stuff. If you hadn’t already noticed… Well, you’ve not been paying attention, have you?

I like dark, macabre, spooky things. Things that will disturb and unsettle. Getting the ideas for this kind of thing is easy, you just haven to read the papers on a daily basis and you’ll have plenty of ammunition to prove people suck. Channel this suckiness into art (“Make good art!” Neil Gaiman’s recently impressed on the world. He’s right, as he usually is.) and you have horror. Or dark fantasy. Or science fiction with a dark, horror twist. That’s the easy bit.

But how do you write without going mad?

Poe said he suffered from insanity, with terrible periods of sanity. Perhaps this is par for a writer, but I’d rather not be locked up as a nut-job just yet. How to avoid it? Don’t get caught find a way to channel your energy.

Everyone finds their own thing; my thing is music. I listen to heavy metal, a lot. This is good, head banging is extremely good for getting rid of pent up aggression in a mosh pit. The lyrics and mood of the songs are good, too. But that’s okay for violence. But what about the scary, generally creepy stuff? Well, I’d been struggling until recently when I discovered a new artist to listen to. Her name is Charlotte Eriksson, she plays under the name The Glass Child. You can find her here.

Her music is decidedly creepy, heartfelt and soulful. Her voice is unique, and certainly not to everyone’s taste. But then, neither is Evile or Slayer or Jessie J or Eminem. You like what you like, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Listening to Charlotte’s music is really useful to me. It helps me relax. It puts me in the right creepy mood, almost melancholy, but not quite, to be able to write creepy, scary scenes without the violence. This is what I was looking for.

I’ve not had chance to see her play live yet, but I fully intend to. In the meantime, here’s her official video for her single I’ll Never Tell, which showcases a pair of fantastic dancers, Enza and Francesco Cara.

We all have ghosts and scars, they are a theme which runs in my writing and Charlotte’s music. I’m going to be blogging fairly regularly on Friday nights. I hope Fridays will be the dark, creepy day on the LitDen Blog, full of creepy shadows and ghosts and scars. I want to explore the darkness, and I’d like you to come with me. Don’t be afraid, I’ll hold your hand.

In the meantime, what music do you listen to that puts you in the right zone for writing? Do you have playlists for your stories, to go with the action? Or just a general theme for whatever you’re working on at the time?