May 12, 2015

My current top ten songfest

Filed under: Amazon Associate,bloggery,music,things Rhiannon likes,YouTube — Tags: , — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 10:59 pm

These aren’t my favourite songs ever, just what turns up in iTunes listed as the current top ten top starred. But I have good reasons for starring them.

"Cool" video still

“Cool” video still

  • Cool [feat. Roy English], Alesso – As much as I love this song I love the video even more. I love the Silent Bob character and the Hot for Teacher geek and the underwear fantasy teacher. It’s a movie in five minutes,
  • Only Happy When It Rains, Garbage – A classic, but I’m surprised this rates higher in my list than Ready to Go by Republica which was even more of a classic favourite.
  • Give Me Novacaine, Green Day – my partner got me into Green Day and they grew on me over time, what can I say?
  • Ready for the Floor, Hot Chip – I will always love dance and this is such an anthem
  • Hey Na Na, Katie Herzig – encountered via a fanvid and fell instantly in love with this song
  • In For The Kill, La Roux – I think I heard this in the soundtrack to a TV show, which doesn’t really do it justice
  • Trouble Is a Friend, Lenka – who knows where I got this from but I do love a singer songwriter, I had a lot of Sarah McLachlan on tape.
  • Tickets, Maroon 5 – I love all their songs really but this is my current favourite
  • Starships, Nicki Minaj - there should be more hip hop and rap in this top ten but Nicki represents here for a large part of my usual listening list
  • Hit That, The Offspring

Base links as usual are to Amazon and I get a tiny royalty for recommendations followed through these links.

April 26, 2015

Television ratings

I was looking up US TV ratings while on the phone to a friend, via a wikipedia page that suggested one of our favourite shows is dropping alarmingly in the ratings. In 2013/14 the top rated (non football show) was one I don’t watch: The Big Bang Theory. I’ll probably get around to it though if only because it has Christine Baranski in it occasionally and I would watch her in anything.

Lena Dunham as Hannah in Girls

Lena Dunham as Hannah in Girls


Right now my current favourite television shows are all from the US. Here they are, listed in current order of preference and with Amazon associate links to DVDs of the shows referenced, if you like the recommendation and buy it through this link I get a small commission from Amazon.

  1. Girls, I really do rate this first. I love the interactions between the characters, their naivety, their attempts to create art while painfully self-consciousness of the fact their art is all about themselves. It’s lovely writing and acting and Lena Dunham is a genius. It’s slightly grimy reality. Not implausible, just uncomfortable. It reminds me a lot of my life as a university student.
  2. Empire, I’ve only just started watching this and I love it so much. The music really makes it for me. This is for me what Glee is for the people who love it, musically speaking. Taraji P. Henson is awesome, she makes Empire for me. Cookie should hire Diane Lockhart as her lawyer and form an invincible team.
  3. Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in The Good Wife

  4. The Good Wife, I was introduced to this show by the same friend I was talking about ratings with and we’re both worried to see it sinking from a high of 16th to a low of 27th. It just doesn’t make sense that Grey’s Anatomy still ranks this show when there’s just so much to love about The Good Wife – not just the divine Christine Baranski. But it has admittedly lost its way between the politics and the law and needs to get back to a reasonable balanced between villain of the week and arc plot to recover the key strengths of the narrative.
  5. Orange is the New Black, I hate the protagonist (so much more than Hannah in Girls) but the ensemble cast make up for it. Kate Mulgrew is awesome in this, which surprised me – because I hated her in Star Trek Voyager. I also rate Danielle Brooks, Lea DeLaria and have a crush on Laura Prepon.
  6. Parks and Recreation, I got into this after 30 Rock went away and followed it through to the the current and probably last seventh season. Amy Poehler and Aubrey Plaza make this for me. I find some of the comedy really uncomfortable – the “Gary/Jerry” character especially – although in the last season I think the show has tried to make amends for making him the butt of every joke.
  7. Kathleen Rose Perkins as Carol Rance in Episodes

    Kathleen Rose Perkins as Carol Rance in Episodes

  8. Episodes, I love the UK/US divide of this show and the relationship between Tamsin Greig and Kathleen Rose Perkins – even though it wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test.
  9. Community, it’s still funny but it’s starting to become worrying how these people are incapable of moving on from their attachment to this eccentric community college.

Still on the list of shows I am watching but ones I don’t actually rate are:

  • Greys Anatomy, I have been watching this show for so long and at time it has been one of my favourites but in its eleventh season now it’s lost all the characters I cared about and seems a vague shadow of itself. It amazes me to see it in at 15 in the ratings. It has had some incredible moments though so I guess I’m still hoping it can pull it out of the bag.
  • New Girl, I’m not even sure why I like this show. It’s not because of Zooey Deschanel although she’s competent enough at this “adorkable” thing the show is marketing. It’s mainly the assemble cast I enjoy.

That turns out to be a list of nine so to tag this with a top ten I’ll add Suburgatory which only recently got killed off and had some brilliant character parts – most notably from Carly Chaikin and Cheryl Hines as Dalia and Dallas Royce who made this show for me.

April 17, 2015

The right chair arm

Filed under: bloggery — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 12:10 am

To whom it may concern,
I bought this chair on the 14th of March last year and have been very happy with it. But last week one of the arms snapped off. The plastic around the bolts just sheered away. Can I have a replacement arm please? (it’s the right arm as you look at the chair, the left as you sit in it.
Many thanks for your help in this matter,
Rhiannon


Hello,
Thank you for your message. We will send you a new armrest.
We are happy to provide you with further questions you may have.

Thank you so much for sending me a replacement chair arm and I really appreciate it. Unfortunately the one you have sent is the incorrect arm – the one you’ve sent is for the other side of the chair. Could you possible please send the correct one?
Many thanks, Rhiannon

Good day,
please send us a photo of the wrong delivery.

Here are two photos. In the first I hope you can see the existing arm of the chair and the one you sent. In the second is the broken arm (bottom) and the one you sent (top).
They are very similar but the correct arm is the reverse of the one I now have two of. I hope that makes sense.

Thank you for your message. Please let us know if you have received a left arm or right arm.

I don’t know how to answer that question without knowing which one you call the left and which the right. If you are looking at the chair – it’s the left arm. If you are sitting in the chair it’s the right arm.

as a spare part we have sent you a right armrest. You told us that you did not get the right armrest. Therefore, the question if you get a left arm?

Here’s a diagram to explain the problem.
Thank you for the time you are giving to this issue!
best wishes,
Rhiannon

April 5, 2015

Paying creatives

Filed under: bloggery,things I read on the internet — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 8:00 pm

I read this story today about Garbage (the band) requesting the use of a photo in a planned book and while I’m not qualified to comment on the legal issues (the band say they already own the rights so asking is a courtesy), I’m not impressed with the overall assumption that creative artists should be willing to donate their work for free to a “for profit” venture, or that artists should be always willing to help another artist out. This is the same week in which Madonna, Jay-Z and various other artists launched Tidal, again with the idea that creative artists should want to pay over the odds for other people’s creative art out of a general spirit of support.

So here’s my manifesto, as a creative artist, as a consumer of media and as an employer (via my own employer) of interns and other staff.

  1. All creative artists should be paid for their work if that work is considered valuable.
  2. If you sell your work via a buy-out agreement and it subsequently makes millions for someone else then sue for royalties.
  3. Any creative artist ought to be free to use someone else’s work but if that derivative work goes on to make millions the original creator deserves a cut of those profits.
  4. Don’t hire anyone to do for free a service that is generally regarded as professional.
  5. If you’re trading favours, establish an hourly value of your work so you know what you’re trading.
  6. When considering an internship role, look for detailed training programme and a clear understanding of what skills you are expected to gain.
  7. Remember that other people don’t have your skills and price them accordingly.
  8. Also remember that people expect work available on the internet to be free
  9. Make it easy for people to pay you and provide free samples of your work
  10. If you are perceived as successful then people won’t see you as a needy cause, so don’t launch a kickstarter if you’re already seen as having made it.
  11. Return on investment is key to most projects – but you get to add a category for self growth

to be continued

March 26, 2015

Why you need a decent camera

Filed under: adventures in the world of today — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 12:35 am

I took these two photos seconds apart. Neither is filtered. One is the built in camera on my iMac. The other is a Logitech external camera.



And it’s not even as though the Logitech camera costs very much. Why’s the iMac cam so vile?

February 16, 2015

Advice column – fiction edition

Filed under: bloggery — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 10:07 pm

I’m engaged to my father’s best friend. He understands me better than anyone else. Should I be worried about people judging me?

My sister married my SIL’s molester. Who should I invite for xmas dinner? My mother says I have to invite my BIL. My DH says he won’t attend if I do.

My cousin who I fancy keeps letting his GF ride my horse. What should I do?

Should I marry my disabled ex boss or my cousin?

Our nanny is a dog. Is this normal?

My employer’s children refuse to go out. One is disabled, the other grew up overseas. They both refuse to skip and play outside like normal children and scream and shriek all day and all night. How can I get them active?

Our exchange student isn’t well. She looks pale and sad. She hardly eats anything at meals but we found fifty bread rolls hidden in the back of her wardrobe. I think she might have an eating disorder. My daughter loves having her here but should we send her back home instead?

My disabled teenage daughter insists on running my household. Her mother died when she was 10 and since then my single SIL had been seeing to meals and household jobs until she died. My daughter was injured a few years ago and caused us a lot of worry over her injury and then her bad attitude. Now she claims to have had a religious conversion and wants to be in charge of the house. I have five other children. Should I let my daughter get on with it, even though she’s bedbound and in pain most of the time?

I’m obsessed with thirteen year old girls. Some years ago my friend killed himself as a result of a business deal we were both involved in, leaving his daughter destitute – and it was my fault! Now I’m rich and I want to make it up to my dead friend and everywhere I go I see girls the same age as his daughter. I want to buy them food and clothes and bedlinen but I’m worried it might make me seem weird. Would it be less weird if I asked my Indian butler to give them presents on my behalf? He’s very congenial and has his own monkey.

My sons both married American women and I refused to meet my daughter in law because I expected my grandchildren to be vulgar and badly brought up. To my surprise my grandson C is a bright, handsome little chap even though I’ve never met his mother. I have met the mother of my grandson B and she was a horrible common woman. I want to leave all my money to grandson C but now lawyers have got involved. Am I being unfair?

I’m a typical teenage girl. I like makeup and flirting with boys. My brothers and sisters think I’m shallow and whenever we get together they whisper together behind my back. They all still play the same make-believe game we were into as kids but they leave me out every time. Am I wrong to want to grow up and live in the real world?

My sister’s maths tutor might be dodgy. They have their lessons in a local park and she comes back with stories of rabbits in waistcoats and mushrooms that make you feel bigger or smaller. Is this normal for keystage 5 or should I be worried?

I’m at boarding school and I’m worried my friend’s guardians are abusing him. I think my teachers and the headmaster already know but they don’t seem to care. How can I support my friend? PS: My family doesn’t have a lot of money so I can’t afford to buy him presents.

November 5, 2014

Space Cadets – recommended reading

Filed under: recommended reading — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 12:19 pm

Books about teenagers in space.

  • Rites of Passage by Alexei Panshin
    In 2198, one hundred and fifty years after the desperate wars that destroyed an overpopulated Earth, Mia Havero’s Ship is a small closed society. It tests its children by casting them out to live or die in a month of Trial in the hostile wilds of a colony world.
  • Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
    2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets.
  • Earthseed by Pamela Sargent
    Ship hurtles through space. Deep within its core, it carries the seed of humankind. Launched by the people of a dying Earth over a century ago, its mission is to find a habitable world for the children – fifteen-year-old Zoheret and her shipmates – whom it has created from its genetic banks.
  • The Dancing Meteorite by Anne Mason
    On her space station Kira Warden is the only earthbound teenager – with the same emotions as humans had thousands of years ago. Her only friend is an alien teenager living in a sealed environment on the station whose own home planet has been destroyed.
  • Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold
    When Miles Vorkorsigan washes out of the Barrayaran Military Academy for being overly fragile he thinks his life is over but then Miles’s natural (if unorthodox) leadership qualities lead to a series of adventures.
  • This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger
    When Aurora’s parents decide to move to the Moon she doesn’t want to say goodbye to all the places and people she loves.
  • Paradises Lost by Ursula Le Guin
    A generation ship is half way through its voyage from Earth to a new planet.
  • Deepwater Black by Ken Catran
    In a desperate attempt before the end, all humanity’s resources are dedicated to a crash program to produce a deep space ark, capable of seeding humanity on a new world. The ship is crewed by six clones; teenage versions of people who achieved great works during the ark project and equipped with the memories of their donors.
  • The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey
    The story of a young orphan who is discovered to have telepathic talents when her community is wiped out in a mudslide.
  • Earthsearch by James Follett
    Some years before the story opens, the huge Earth starship Challenger, on a mission to find Earth-like planets for colonization, encountered a meteoroid shower that killed all of the adult crew and seriously damaged the ship. The only human survivors were four babies – two boys, Telson and Darv, and two girls, Sharna and Astra. The four have been raised from childhood by androids and tutored by two disembodied voices called Angel One and Angel Two. Most of the humans believe the voices are real angels, but Darv is more suspicious and believes they are actually computers.

October 26, 2014

Spooky books for Halloween

Filed under: recommended reading — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 1:55 pm

HalloweenCelebrating Halloween, here’s a list of spooky books for readers of various ages, to read under the covers with the lights turned up high. These are listed in rough order of the age range that I’d recommend these for, from juniors to middle grade, YA and adult.

  • Which Witch? by Eva ibbotson
    Arriman the Awful, feared Wizard of the North, has decided to marry. But his wife must be a wicked witch skilled in black magic. Belladonna desperately wants to be a wicked enchantress but her magic is hopelessly white. Terrence Mugg is an unattractive orphan with a worm for a pet. This lighthearted read is intended for junior shut has enough humour to keep adult readers engaged as well.
  • The Haunting of Cassie Palmer by Vivien Alcock
    Cassie is the seventh child of a seventh child and her medium mother expects supernatural powers from her. When Cassie experimentally tries to raise a spirit she accidentally raised the wrong one: a sinister man named Deverill.
  • Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr
    This was read to me when I was eight by by class teacher. Perhaps a bit spooky for some eight-year-olds but I loved it. Whatever Marianne draws with a magic pencil she visits in her dreams: a house, a boy, food and toys. But when, in fit of temper, she draws eyes on the stones surrounding the house, her dreams enter a new and terrifying phase.
  • Why Weeps the Brogan? by Hugh Scott
    Wed 4 Years 81 days from hostilities… so reads the clock in Central Hall. For Saxon and Gilbert, though, it is just another day in their ritualized indoor existence. Together they visit the Irradiated Food Store, guarding against spiders. Among the dusty display cases, however, a far more disturbing creature moves. What is the Brogan… and why does it weep? This book works a dark and mysterious way to a dark and devastating conclusion.
  • The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
    I fell in love this book when I was ten and dressed in black and called myself “Arha the Eaten One”. Arha is a child priestess serving the Nameless Ones in tombs under the earth. When a wizard arrives in the catacombs she confronts everything she had learned about herself, the gods and magic. This is an Earthsea novel but it stands alone.
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner
    Alison and her brother Roger are spending their summer holidays in Wales. While ill in bed Alison hears noises from the attic above. Gwyn, a local boy, is sent to investigate and discovers a set of plates with a complex floral design around the edge of each piece. Alison discovers that when she traces the design and cuts it out, it can be folded into the shape of an owl. But each new paper owl disappears and so does the design from the plates. This novel builds the tension slowly but surely and its mystery has stayed with me since I first read it as a young preteen.
  • The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones
    The ghost knows she is one of four sisters, but which one? She also knows there’s been an accident. As she struggles to find her identity, she becomes aware of a malevolent force stirring around her. Something terrible is about to happen. One of the sisters will die – unless the ghost can use the future to reshape the past. But how can she warn them, when they don’t even know she exists? This is the Diana Wynne Jones book based the most closely on the author’s own peculiar family and is full of haunted echoes of her own past.
  • Transformations by Anne Halam
    This is the second book of a trilogy but it stands alone. Sirato, a child of a mining family, is endlessly criticised by her strict family. Her older teenage brother Holm is indulged in all sorts of whims. Then Zanne of Garth, a Covenanter known for her work to end the poisoned machines of the past, arrives in Minith she begins to uncover a twisted secret beneath the town’s stony exterior.
  • Del Del by Victor Kelleher
    This terrifying story of a child’s personality unravelling, told by his older sister, is one of the most sinister YA novels I have read.
  • Fade by Robert Cormier
    A story about a power of invisibility inherited through the generations and the malign effects it has on its possessors.

Little Witches Bewitched on KindleSpecial offer! Halloween 2014: Little Witches Bewitched, Rhiannon Lassiter’s novel for juniors is discounted by 80% on Kindle in the UK and the US. From 27 October to 3 November this set of short stories for junior and middle grade readers is discounted to £0.99 in the UK and $1.99 in the US.

Small, but brave.” – Ann Giles, The Book Witch

These stories are ideal for children who love dressing up, imagining curious castles and dreaming up magical shops.” – KM Lockwood, Serendipity Reviews

In the first story, Little Witches and the Trick-or-Treat-Trick, the heroines meet each other for the first time on Halloween. Dulcie’s au pair is a fashion student who has dressed her up as a modern witch – “occult casual” she calls it. Verity has lost the battle with her sisters for first choice from the dressing up box and ended up with pirate boots and a witches hat and broom. While out trick-or-treating they accidentally annoy a mysterious old woman who casts a spell on them Dulcie and Verity gain magic powers for real. In Little Witches and the Wandering Shop they work together to find a way to reverse the spell.

There are three more Little Witches stories in this collection. Little Witches and the Family Ghost is a ghost story which takes place in Dulcie’s grandfather’s stately home. Little Witches and the Cat Burglar is a crime story in which they meet a strange black cat. Little Witches Back in Time is a time-travel adventure in which they meet Shakespeare.

For more about the book visit the Little Witches book page.

October 22, 2014

Reading the reviews – a writer’s POV

Filed under: Advice for writers,things I read on the internet — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 8:35 am

I remember the first bad review I got. It was lengthy, completely negative but I don’t recall any specific critique of the book. it ended with the advice “Don’t read this book until you want a bad time with a bad book that you will hate”. Or words to that effect. It’s been a long time now and didn’t save the link. I remember thinking the tone was so vituperative that I wondered if the reviewer had something against me personally. Was it someone who I’d annoyed in some way?

And then I moved on. My books had got plenty of good reviews and there wasn’t much to be gained from this one. It never occurred to me to stalk the reviewer and demand an explanation. They didn’t like my book and had said so with gusto. When I don’t like a book I’m much the same. in book group, on my blog, in my reviews for Strange Horizons – I to explain why I don’t like a book, exactly what I felt didn’t work and why. For the more professional pieces I try to cut back on the hyperbole and stick to the facts, in venues like book group we compete to find the most scathing critique. But in any venue my reviews are only as good as my opinion. If you like the books I like you’ll love ‘We Were Liars‘ and loathe ‘Twilight’. Probably. There are exceptions to every rule.

I still read reviews of my books. Sometimes they’re helpful. I’ve found comments that point out there’s a curiously dated quality to some of my contemporary fiction which may come from the fact my great influences include Mahy and Wynne Jones who I read in the 80s. Reviewers are also furiously divided on whether Bad Blood is frightening. Some readers can’t read it at night. Others are bewildered by what’s supposed to be scary. Reviewers have pulled me up for problems with pace, for naming of characters, for too much exposition and muddled action. I’ve also had praise but this isn’t about that.

I try to respect those reviewers and to learn from their critique. Some comments I can discard, confident that the reviewer didn’t get what I was going for or has made a mistake. One book was criticised as too derivative of one of my mother’s works – a book published five years after mine! Others I have to ponder. Was the action muddled? Could it have been improved? Almost certainly.

The thing is that you don’t get to rewrite an existing book. Love it or hate it, that book is done. The only possible response to critique is to address it in your next work. To work on your pacing or your endings or your sense of place and space. This is called honing your craft.

And although every writer knows the lure of procrastination and the terror of the empty page, obsessing over the personalities and identities of your reviewers is not a useful way to spend your time. If you find yourself being sucked into a dark place in response to critique use that in your fiction (Tim Dowling’s The Giles Wareing’s Haters’ Club is a good example of this) but back away from the internet for your own sake and sanity.

September 13, 2014

Mysteries, secrets and lies – recommended reading

Filed under: recommended reading — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 10:27 am

We Were Liars is the best book I’ve read this year. I have been recommending it all this week and it’s also made me think about how many books I enjoy are mysteries. In its honour, here are ten recommended mystery novels.

  • We Were Liars by E Lockhart
    Could be read as YA or an adult novel. The heroine knows something terrible has happened but can’t grasp what or why, the answer must lie in at the summer vacation home where she lost her memory two summers ago.
  • Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson
    Intensely creepy thriller about a women with a rare form of amnesia which has erased her short term memory and she has to rebuild her identity each day, but can she trust what she learns?
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
    Margaret goes visits bestselling author Vida Winter, intrigued by her collection of twelve stories confusing named ‘Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation’. The thirteenth tale is wrapped around the mystery of Vida’s own life and the disturbed twins Emmeline and Adeline March. Vida must be one of the twins to know their family secrets so well – but which one? Is she protecting someone else or her own deeds.
  • Asta’s Book by Barbara Vine
    This is one of my favourite Barbara Vine novels. Asta’s book is a diary bequeathed ultimately to Asta’s granddaughter Ann after the death if her aunt Swanny. The diary is well known by that stage, a bestseller translated into multiple languages, but could it hold the key to a mysterious murder and a lost child? As Ann unravels the mystery of the diary and the murder together, she learns surprising and uncomfortable facts about herself and her family.
  • Dead Famous by Ben Elton
    Ben Elton is very clever in the way he weaves his plots. In this novel, set on the stage of a Big Brother style reality TV show, you don’t even know who has been killed until a third of the way through the book – and there remain the mysteries of how a murder could have been committed in full view of the public and the identity of the killer.
  • Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
    The beginning of this novel is one of the most sinister and mysterious I’ve read. At doesn’t seem like a detective story but a supernatural one and that mood is retained throughout the novel.
  • The Dark Room by Minette Walters
    Heiress Jane “Jinx” Kingsley wakes up from a coma after what appears to be a suicide attempt. She’s been jilted by her fiancé, who has since disappeared together with Jinx’s best friend Meg. With the help of Dr Alan Protheroe of the Nightingale Clinic she tries to recover the truth from her shattered memories and night time terrors.
  • The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
    This narrative is told in the sequence that makes sense for parts – but not all- of the story. Throughout it is a sense of lurking danger and dread. Henry’s time travel leaves him so very vulnerable and we know that a tragedy is coming while the details remain obscure.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tart
    Long before The Goldfinch we all knew Donna Tart for this novel. Richard arrives at Hampden College, a poor Californian student who is quickly seduced by the charismatic classics students and their Professor. Desperate to be a part of the group, he misses the signs that will lead to more than one a brutal murder.
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
    Laura Chase is dead and her one novel ‘The Blind Assassin’ has a huge cult following. Only her sister Iris knows what really happened when she and Laura were children and how the novel came to be.
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