Friday, 15 August 2014

Is it worth five stars?

Goodreads has a star rating system. According to the site, the stars have the following values:
·       1 star - I did not like it,
·       2 stars - it was ok,
·       3 stars - liked it,
·       4 stars - I really liked, and
·       5 stars - it was amazing.
At its most basic, the star system has four positive stars and one negative. If everyone gave every book five stars, the system would fail.  So I don’t know where this idea came from that your book has to get a five star review or it is a failure. It has made Goodreads into a world where sock puppet authors give themselves five star reviews and other authors attack readers who post a negative review. Really, people? Really? Aren’t readers your market? Be nice to them. Or at the very least, don’t attack them in an environment that is supposed to be for them.
I've talked previously about how not everyone will like everything you write and they shouldn't. If you see a book with a few reviews and they are all five stars, then there is something off.
Last night I watched Priest on DVD. It is based on a Korean manga and is a fantasy movie set in a theocratic world where humans and vampires are at war. You give confession in a line of automated booths that look like portable toilets.
Humans have selected and trained a group of elite fighters to defend them and they have heightened senses and super-fast reflexes. The world is a gritty, quasi western world but they have awesome weapons, incredible looking dirt bikes and it is all very stylish and very dark. The vampires are genuinely terrifying and like nothing you have seen before. Vampires, who are supposed to be wiped out, kidnap the priest’s niece. It stars Paul Bettany as the priest, Karl Urban as a wonderful bad guy called Black Hat, Lily Collins as the niece, Cam Gigandet as a local Sherriff literally called Hick (bwahaha) and the wonderful Maggie Q as a fighting priestess.
It is not a five star movie; it is what people might call a guilty pleasure - although I object to that term. Things that please us and do no harm should not be felt with guilt.
It gets a rating of 5.7 out of 10 on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes gave it 16%. Its budget was $60m and it made $78m worldwide, but was considered a financial flop and I doubt the obvious sequel will ever be made.
Would I give it five stars? Heck no. Did I enjoy it? You bet I did.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Scrawling your name onto my skin

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

The bandage itched and the area underneath it felt sore and tender. He kept touching it; pressing against it as if to remind himself that it was there.
He did it again; his eyes closed in something close to ecstasy.
When he opened them she was standing in front of him. “Hey.” His voice managed not to squeak.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
Her solicitous look nearly unnerved him.
“I’m... fine.”
She glanced at his hand where it pressed over his heart. “Are you sure?”
Her head tilted. “Really? ‘Cause you look like you are having a heart attack.”
A nervous laugh escaped him. “My heart is fine,” he assured her. If by ‘fine’ you meant it started beating faster whenever she was around. If by ‘fine’ you meant his heart belonged to her. And she didn’t know. He had never told her.
It must have been the way he looked at her that gave him away because suddenly she put her hands on him. She lifted his shirt.
And his secret was exposed.
She stared at the tattoo under the cling wrap cover.
“What is this?” she asked in a low voice.
He couldn’t answer her.
She tried again, “That... that’s my name.”
God... as if he didn’t know that. He had it marked on his skin with a heart. He could only nod.
“My name,” she repeated. “But I don’t think of you like that.”
“I know-”
She looked guilty.
“-and that’s okay,” he continued. “The closest I will ever get to you is scrawling your name onto my skin.”
And the day he got it done... she had touched him.
© AM Gray 2014

Kid 2 tells me this is super creepy…

Sunday, 3 August 2014


In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
He laid the book on the shelf instead of putting it back where he’d found it. It might be a giveaway; he should not be here, let alone be looking for ancient papers hidden inside old tomes.
He was putting aside the ones that seemed to have thicker pastedowns inside the front or back covers. Promising endpapers as it were. In the past he had found one or two pages hidden in this manner. He was also looking down the back hinges of a few. A small, folded piece could be slipped down behind the headbands.
A glance toward the windows showed no light in the sky. Did he have time to finish his search? He had to. He would not get another night.
A noise in the hallway; as if the front door was closed very carefully. He doused the light but probably too slowly. Backing away into a dark corner, he held his breath.
The steps stopped at the library doorway.
Please go away, he prayed silently but it didn’t work. The door pushed open, and a girl who walked with a slight stagger lurched in and threw herself down on the settee under the window. She didn’t even see him.
He stood there and waited.
She made a heartfelt sigh and then she fell asleep.
He should have picked up the books he had put aside and left the room, but he didn’t.
Creeping over, her looked down at her. Her cheeks were flushed, her lips very red and her hair lay in a tousled mess around her face. He had a sudden urge to brush it away from her face.
Her eyes fluttered open. He was too slow to move and she just looked at him. “Oh,” she muttered, “You’re real.”
He had no idea what that meant. Flustered and with no time to run, he whispered to her, “Go back to sleep.”
“Okay,” she agreed happily.
When her eyes closed, he succumbed to his impulse and brushed the hair from her forehead. She smiled at his touch.
He didn’t take the books. He felt guilty.
He asked around and he found out that the niece of the old man who owned the estate was visiting for the summer. That must be the girl who had disturbed him.
But he wanted those books. And he was frightened that the girl would recognise him. He kicked himself for being so sentimental as to leave them behind.
And he wondered what her comment about him being real meant.
He changed his hair parting and allowed his beard to grow a little before he was brave enough to approach her at a regional function. It was a children’s performance or some such. He took little notice. Once he had talked to her for most of the night; she seemed unwilling to desert him, as well.
Now he wanted both; the girl and the books.

© AM Gray 2014 

Monday, 28 July 2014


I’ve been watching Millennium on DVD and I’m up to season 2. I saw bits of it when it was on TV back in 1996 but I missed too much to have any real concept of what was going on. (imdb)
It was a Chris Carter production; the same guy that made the X files and it is very well written.
The main character is Frank Black played by Lance Henriksen. I could listen to him talk for hours, I tell you. As I was watching, Kid 2 walked past, stopped, reversed, listened for a minute and made some comment about his amazing voice.
Carter has said that he wrote it with Lance in mind. For him, there was no other actor to play the lead.
Frank works as a profiler for a shadowy organisation that is dealing with an increase in odd crimes as the earth counts down the days to the end of the world; the turn of the millennium and the beginning of the year 2000. The purists will tell you that the actual turn of the millennium is the end of the year 2000, not the start. Ten is in the last decade not the first year of the next; that would be eleven. The Groups’ symbol is the ouroboros; the snake that eats itself and each time he turns on his computer the symbol displays and tells him how many days are left.
Back then, people really thought terrible things were going to happen. The Y2K bug was supposed to make all computers fail. I was living in a third world country at the time and the company made us go home, just in case they couldn’t get us out if they needed to. Believe me, we got evacuated every year for one reason or another so they were right to be concerned. But they would not listen to us tell them that it wasn’t computerised enough to have an issue. Hey, free holiday for us!
But in any case, Frank Black is some kind of psychic.
He touches things and gets messages in a flash of vision or insight. At first, we aren’t sure whether it is just an observation and logic process a la Sherlock Holmes, or if he has a gift. Once we see his daughter has it, too, we know it isn’t logic.
Will Graham, the Thomas Harris character, does it on Hannibal or its earlier versions like the movie Red Dragon. And in another Danish show that I watch, Unit 1 (Rejseholdet), one of the detectives, Thomas La Cour, does the same thing. Leaps of intuition that seem to come from nowhere when they mystically channel the victim or the perpetrator. Often, they know so much they are suspected of the crime.
I guess as writers, it allows you to cheat a little.
Provided that your viewers believe your character can do it, it will work.

Friday, 25 July 2014

The giant’s causeway

Giant’s causeway

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Picture Source:
Clochán an Aifir - the giant’s causeway
The witch-light glowed as it floated gently above the palm of his right hand. His left held the head of his cane. The rocks of the giant’s causeway were slippery and treacherous and he needed the cane for stability. The last thing he needed was to fall and let the light go out.
It took much concentration to maintain the magic light for such an extended time. The night was passing quickly and he had to finish this before the dawn.
His familiar flew overhead in her preferred bird form. The kite’s eyes were better than his.
He strode over the hexagonal basalt columns looking for one in particular; an octagonal one. Using an artificial light like a lamp or a flaming torch would not help; the stone would show only under a magic flame. A kind of test of your ability. If you couldn’t even find the stone, you could not gain entry.
And that was what he wanted.
He was searching for what lay under the giant's causeway. He was searching for Finn MacCool, the man who made the causeway according to legend. He wasn’t actually a giant; the stories had that wrong. Perhaps his size had grown as his reputation did. But he did have supernatural abilities and as the world changed, he had retreated to the world of the fae. The octagonal block marked the entrance like a door handle.
A whistle from the kite and he saw it. A blink at the edge of his vision.
The kite swooped down and landed on his shoulder.
“Ready?” he asked her.
© AM Gray 2014

Sunday, 20 July 2014


Smashwords recently arranged a deal with Apple to supply ebooks to them for their iBooks platform.
I hadn’t checked in on my Smashwords sales and download figures for a while (total of 6384 - yay) but today I noticed that I have an open ticket, or error notification, on Kissing Cousins, one of my free short stories. When I click on the link, it tells me that Apple has tagged my story as ‘containing prohibited or explicit objectionable content’. As a result, my daily sales figures have halved for Apple.
There is nothing in that story that is that objectionable, at least to me, and it kind of worries me. I mean, people think Amazon is bad? How bad do you reckon Apple will be if it becomes the new gorilla in the room? I have spoken before about my concerns on the thin edge of the wedge so far as offensive material goes. I don’t get dinosaur sex or whatever the current fad is, but I will defend your right to write and read it. Someone may have issues about hetero sex whilst another person may object to homosexual sex or even seeing a photo of two women kissing. In Australia, a bus-stop ad showing two fully dressed men, one standing with his arms around the other from behind and holding a condom packet in his hand caused quite the ruckus. One group wanted it banned and another larger group insisted they put it back.
Objectionable material is in the mind of the beholder.
But ooh … does it make me a real erotica writer? If I am already banned?

Friday, 18 July 2014


A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Picture Source:
What was he going to do?
He had stared sightlessly at the fire for so long that he could still see it when his eyes were closed. He closed them now and got a memory flash of earlier in the night. Three persons entwined in ecstasy. He sat here as the sun rose with the scent of them still on him. Them. Two lovers. One male, one female. He thought he was possessed. Such a thing. He had heard rumours of it, but he had never thought of himself as attracted to men before, so when Rose suggested her cousin join them, he had initially assumed the cousin would be female. He had done that once before; had two women in his bed. That had been an unforgettable evening.
He had slumped through the dinner. Bored. Afterwards, he hurried off to head up to his room and stripped ready for what he thought would be happening with her.
She had known he may have had doubts. She entered first, and was alone. She kissed him eagerly and slid her hands inside the front of his embroidered robe to reach for him through his linen undergarments.
“Oh, I missed that,” she whispered to him as he hardened with anticipation..
“He missed you, too.”
“He seems very pleased to see me.”
Henry chuckled, low and throatily. “Where’s your cousin?’
“He’ll be along in a minute.”
“He?” He stepped back and closed the robe tightly over his body.
“Oh, didn’t I say that?” she asked disingenuously.
He took another step back. “No. You didn’t and you know you didn’t.”
An amused tinkle of laughter. “Does it matter?”
“What? Of course it matters.”
“Why?” She slid in close to him again. “He’s beautiful; like you.” She grinned. “In fact ... I can’t wait to see the two of you together. The light and the dark.” She gave a catlike shiver of anticipation.
“You don’t do that?”
Be with men? “Of course, I don’t. And you know that.”
She laughed. “But have you ever tried?”
He was speechless. “Ah... no...”
There was a knock at the door.
“Ooh.” She jumped with excitement. “That’ll be him.”
He wasn’t sure what he expected but the man who was standing in the doorway when he opened it was not it. He was not effeminate. He looked remarkably like him, but as she had said, the dark to his light. They were of a similar height and build; wide shoulders and muscled arms. The man carried himself in such a way that he knew he was physically fit. Henry spent all his time riding and fencing to keep in shape and it also allayed the boredom.
She reached past him and grabbed her cousin by the arm, tugging him into the room with them.
The man glanced at his face as he passed him. “Are you sure he wants to do this?”
He shut the door firmly.
“He does. He just doesn’t know it, yet.”
“Oh, honey,” her cousin answered, “That’s not fair.”
“What do you care?” he retorted. He had a wild urge to open the door again, and throw them both out.
The cousin looked deeply offended. “I do not force myself upon anyone.”
“He doesn’t need to,” she added. “Now, cousin Evan, this is my friend and sometime lover, Henry.” She grabbed Henry by the arm and drew him closer towards them. “Henry, this is Evan.”
“You don’t expect us to say hello or something?”
“Manners, Henry,” she chided.
He rolled his eyes. “Hello, Evan,” he started, “Sorry to waste your time.”
Evan lifted an eyebrow. “So it’s a no, then?”
“I am afraid so. But Rose can stay.”
She pouted.
He never could resist Rose pouting and she knew it. She kissed him.
And then she kissed Evan.
Evan wasn’t wholly into it; he kept looking out of the corner of his eye at him as if he thought it would upset Henry.
Rose was annoyed. “You can both go to bed alone if you are going to ignore me.”
She stalked over and poured herself a wine. The men watched her walk across the room. They glanced at each other.
“It’s your room,” Evan said. “And if you don’t want to... that is understandable.”
Henry’s manners were too good. “Perhaps a wine, first?”
Evan gave a short nod. She passed him a goblet. “Thank you, Rose.” He took a sip after holding the glass up to him in a silent salute. “A delay would be sensible in case someone saw me enter.”
Did anyone see you enter?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“A long delay will make tongues wag, a shorter one and people will think you are just delivering a message.”
She leaned in against Evan. “So what is the message?’ she asked coquettishly.
“I would be happy to bed either of you.” He sounded amused.
She kissed him again. This time he was more interested; responding to her and holding her firmly against his body. Henry watched them.
“Will we show him how it’s done?” she asked Evan.
Henry snorted. “I don’t need lessons.”
“I know you don’t-”
“Oi.” Evan objected at the implication that he did need lessons.
She threw herself onto his ornate bed. “So show me,” she teased.
They shared her; one on each side. But then, sometime during the touching and after too many cups of wine, he lost track of whose hand was whose, and whose mouth was whose.
It changed from the men sharing her, to the cousins sharing him.
She crept out at some point and he woke to see Evan sitting in the chair, shirtless and watching him.
“Still here?” Henry asked.
“Yes.” Evan studied him. “Are you well?”
“Me?” He was surprised at Evan’s concern. “Ah... yes, Thank you.”
Evan stood and slowly approached him. Henry sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed ready to stand. The other man put a hand under his chin and lifted his face. He brushed his lips gently against Henry’s before stepping away to finish dressing.
Henry stood, found his brocade robe and put it on. He held his arms tightly folded across his body. He looked uncomfortable and conflicted and Evan seemed to know. He didn’t try to touch him again.
He stopped just before the door. “You know who I am and how to contact...” He stopped talking. “If you wish,” he added in a quieter tone. “Good night, Henry.”
So now Henry sat and tried to think. If he was very honest with himself, it was Evan that he had enjoyed the most. And it was Evan that he wanted to see again. And alone; without Rose.
And it was that realisation that he wasn’t sure how to handle.
© AM Gray 2014