Monday, 28 June 2010

Crossing Over to a Land Called Fiction

There are books you simply can't tear yourself away from until you reach the last words. I've stayed up until 4am reading a book because I couldn't go to sleep without knowing the outcome and I become deeply attached to those characters when I'm left alone with them at night, no noises or voices to distract me. I'm immersed in the world of fantasy jutting from the pages.

When I wake up the next morning, there are a few instants where fiction and reality haven't come apart yet and I'm still playing the role of the heroine in my mind. As I read lots of romance, I might wake up feeling incredibly happy with the memory of a handsome millionaire proposing to me last night, and those nights when I've been reading a mystery or suspense novel, I'll feel an exhilarating delight as I remember how the hero saved me in the small hours from a being shot by the murderer.

I sometimes find it difficult to remember that the lines I'm reading are fiction and I'll mourn the death of a character as if I'd known them. When this happens, I wish I could write to the author and ask them to change their words, resuscitate their character as the feeling of loss becomes so real.

There are books that require a few hours to stew and linger in your mind and take over your thoughts and sensations before you open the cover of your next experience. When I'm still feeling a roller coaster of emotions inside as I replay the scenes in your mind, the thought of starting the next book makes me feel unfaithful to the characters I've just shared their lives with.

Do you get totally wrapped up in books and forget the characters don't exist in your real life? Do the scenes become alive in your minds?

Friday, 25 June 2010

The Siren

This is my first #Fridayflash. I've barely written any short stories, so I don't have much practice. (I know, I'm searching for excuses to justify any dreadful work I post, but this is scary.) 

The shrill of the siren came back to her. The sound was so engraved in her memory that it still triggered the dreaded shivers of anxiety down her spine as she woke up each morning. She heard it for the last time a year ago and it meant the end of one life and the beginning of the next. But today, a whole year later, she would go back to the comforts of her old life. She would have to bid farewell to the excitement and adventures she’d been living, but she’d had more than enough, she couldn’t take any more of this lifestyle.

            It had taken her a month to adjust to her new surroundings. She’d felt completely lost and frightened at first. She even doubted she’d survive in this foreign world, but her inner instincts had pushed her to fight for what she needed and she found energy and will where she thought there was none.

            The hardest part was the loneliness she felt. The inherent need to talk to someone and share her fears and sorrows or even her jokes on her good days wouldn’t fade with time. She’d always felt silly speaking to herself, but as the days went past, she’d realized it was the only way of channelling her feelings. Listening to her own voice as she recited her thoughts helped her distance herself from her problems and make a reasonable decision, despite the lack of objectivity.

            Now, as she felt the cool water cascade on her back, the tension released from every muscle and she let hope warm up her insides. She looked back at these past months with pride.

            What had she learnt from this past year? She’d learnt to appreciate the small pleasures that fill our lives and make it worthwhile. Those everyday treats we ignore when they’re within our reach but we miss once they’re not available. She missed the smell of her favourite detergent, the creaminess of chocolate mousse, the softness of her TV rug, the warmth of a pullover she’d had since she was a teenager, the squishiness of her childhood pillow, the sight of people bustling in her hometown fair, sitting at her local pub talking to her friends, the crunchiness of homemade cookies as they come out of the oven... But most of all, she’d learnt to value friendship and family in a way she’d never thought of before. Not being able to phone her best friend at any time of the day or cry on her shoulder when she was at her wits limits had made her realize how you take all these things for granted.

            Would she miss anything from this last year? She would miss her freedom and independence. She rejoiced in the way she didn't have to give any explanations to anyone about what she did. She would miss the lack of routines and timetables, as well as the activities she’d mastered, like lighting a fire, barbequing, fishing, picking fresh fruit from the trees, watching the stars in complete darkness and quiet...  

            Her mind went back to the first day of her new life. It had begun with a sunny morning announcing the perfect weather for a special outing. The only items in her bag were a book, sun cream, sunglasses, a towel, her iPod and a bottle of water. Her feet touched the fine sand which tickled all the nerves on her soles. She walked away to a hidden cove and lay down to read her book and listening to the music, but the heat was overpowering and the sound of the waves lulled her into sleep, the book fell out of hand and landed gently on the sand.

            She woke up startled by the loud siren. It took a few moments for her to remember where she was. The sun was nearly hidden behind the horizon and the light was pale and soft, the waves now stroked her towel. She stood up in a rush and clumsily picked all her things as fast as she could. As she raced back she heard the siren again, but this time the sound came from the opposite direction and she was completely disoriented. After running through the tall vegetation for a few minutes she stopped to catch her breath and terror run through her as she realized she was lost. She made up her mind and followed her instincts until she reached the beach where all she could see were footsteps leading in all directions, but most of all, a marked trail heading towards the shore where the boat should have been.
            Again, the siren in the distance teased her, and as she raised her sight, she saw the large ship sailing into the horizon, ready to reach civilization in a few days. Shock brought back the words of the girl at the agency, "The Secret Cruise is a luxury trip to a secret desert island. No-one knows where the island is and it’s only visited once a year.”

            She’d counted the days and an exact year had gone by. Today, The Secret Cruise would come back and she would make sure she didn’t miss it. 365 days after, she would go back to civilization.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Sadly We Don't Only Use 10% of Our Brain Capacity?

I'm in shock after discovering that the famous "we only use 10% of our brain capacity" is in fact a myth. Scientific evidence proves that this isn't true and is a myth that presumably arises from a misinterpretation of research made in the early 1900s when researchers said that "only 10% of the neurons in the brain fire at any given time" (it says so in Wikipedia, not that I know anything about this type of thing).

Anyway, this revelation is pretty unsettling because it just shows what a low brain capacity I've got. I always found some comfort in thinking I couldn't do much more with only 10% of a brain, so being so forgetful wasn't really my fault. I've suddenly lost my excuse for being a half-turnip. Now what do I say?

For the past months I've been reading blog after blog in search of all the writing suggestions and advice that will make my novel worthy of an Orange Prize -in fact any colour prize would make me happy, as long as it's not foggy grey or doomed black.

So, as I read through all the wonderful advice available, the level of information in my brain rose and rose until it was so crammed it just couldn't save any more words. This is when I was expecting the other alleged 90% of brain capacity to kick in, but it never happened. It's reached its maximum capacity and either I delete some of the data stored or no new information will fit in. Which means, not only my house needs tidying up, but my brain needs decluttering too and I don't know where to start.

There is such a variety of opinions, rules, advice, do's and don't do's which I need to know, that if I delete the wrong information I might miss my chance for an award. Any ideas? How do you select which information to keep? Whatever matches your own ideas or your current situation? Whatever someone you admire says? Whatever someone successful says?

Friday, 18 June 2010

False Friends?

The Social Media must be the most popular way of making friends at the moment. I'm pretty addicted to twitter and I'm meeting all these amazing people without even putting a foot outside my house. Many of them I talk to every day, others only once a week or two, others I'll read but won't talk to them..., but on the whole, you do get the feeling of friends. And it's people from all over the globe, from different cultures, jobs and lifestyles.

I'm always a bit weary of using the term friends for people I've never met, but lately I've realized I talk to many of these newly found acquaintances just as I would with my "real life" friends. It's usually just fun and jokes, but you can also share your problems and you'll get buckets of sympathy and courage and suggestions. It's what you'd expect from friends.

However, doubts do start creeping in, and you wonder if you're just seeing more than is there, you interpret other people's interest as a sample of their friendship but they are simply being kind and answering your messages. I find it a bit difficult to define these new trend relationships, but I guess it's a matter of time as with any other relationship. Time will either strengthen or fade the relationships and the permanent and reliable ones will remain.

Have you made real friends through Twitter or blogs?

Monday, 14 June 2010

Will evolution lead to an annex in our brains?

You know how evolution has adjusted our bodies to our needs. The most evident change being our vertical posture which implies walking on two feet, although my body resents this fact and hunches back into dangling arms position by the end of the day, maybe I evolve at a slower pace than the rest or I've ended in the wrong era.

In any case, I've been wondering if evolution will head towards an additional section in our brains. For some time now I've spent time with people who have this protuberance coming out of their hand. It's not an extra thumb or pinky finger, it's called a mobile, smartphone or iphone. These people have incredible skills with this bulge, they can eat with it in their hand, they can watch telly, drink coffee, drive, and  I wouldn't be surprised if it shares places with the sponge in the bath.

However, some people have more developed skills than others. Some are more limited and they can only nod while they fidget with their protuberance (um, still talking about their phone here), this is fine, because the person opposite them thinks they are listening to them, but others can even nod AND answer back while their fingers type these tiny keys on it.

How do they do it? It can only be because they've grown an additional section in their brain. There can't be any other explanation. These people have an advantage over the other less developed people who simply stop reacting to your conversation while their gaze is fixed on the little screen of their bulge and thumbs race over the keypad, which leaves you feeling as the most boring person on Earth. But don't worry, you're not that boring, you just can't compete with the world surfacing from that screen: web contents, blogs, twitter, email, online shopping...

I want this additional section in my brain. Where do I get one? Can you buy iBrain attachments? I wouldn't mind an extra memory card for my brain either. It would be so convenient for multitasking and I'd get so much more done in my too-short 24 hour day.

Have you evolved into the iPeople or smartpeople race or are you lagging behind like me in the under-construction-race?

Friday, 11 June 2010

Tough Challenge: Unveiling 10 Things You Never Knew

Today I’m tackling a difficult challenge Talli Roland gave me. It comes in the way of an award and I should tell you 10 things that aren’t of common knowledge. I’m too uncultured to give any exciting information you won’t know, so I’ll try to think up things you don’t know about me:

1.- I’ve got an excellent memory for useless details. I’ll remember any gossip you tell me, but will probably forget to collect my children from school.
2.- Despite having studied Business Administration before Translation I’m completely dyscalculic (learnt this word the other day) and block the moment you mention a figure. Thank goodness for mobile directories and calculators.
3.- I tune out of conversations sometimes. I can’t help it, a word triggers my imagination and off it goes, oblivious of what the other person is saying. If you ever talk to me, give me a little nudge if my eyes glaze and I’m smiling when you’ve just told me your cat fell off the roof.
4.- I think I left my energy dose at the hospital when I was born. If you mention the word sport I might walk (never run) in the opposite direction.
5.- I’ve tried all sorts of hobbies, riding, ice-skating, photography, sewing, pilates method, badminton, sailing, wine-tasting (that is a bit blurry, I wouldn’t spit after tasting)... Some of those were fun, but I’ve discovered my real passions are cooking, eating, writing, reading and watching films and TV.
6.- I speak Spanish, English, French and could get by in Germany but I’ve forgotten most of it. I tried practicing in Germany but everyone would just answer back in English and I started wondering if I was in the right country. Maybe I should try the south of Spain, I’ll have more chances of hearing German there.
7.- My best friend is called SuperLex and he’s an Oxford Dictionary. I wish I could install it on my mobile phone. He’s my faithful assistant. Thesaurus is a good friend too.
8.- Some of my favourite words are flabbergasted, dumbfounded, scarecrow and butterfly.
9.- I was told I was no good as an interpreter as my voice is so monotonous. I’d probably bore the audience to sleep. I’m very shy and I blush like a lobster when I speak to a crowd.
10.- The more I work at home, the more of a hermit I become so my addiction to twitter is increasing at terrifying paces. Do you know of any good twitter rehab centres?

Phew, that was difficult. Now I’ll pass this award to another five people:

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

What happened to Silence is Golden?

I've just been over at Talli Roland's blog where she was complaining about all the noise surrounding her house and I could imagine how nerve-racking it must be.

I now live in the middle of the country, where the loudest noise you'll get is the cowbells. Well, and a few peacocks screeching their heads off in the middle of the night. However, I've grown accustomed to the quiet of rural life.

But life in general is full of noise. Even if we're alone we'll turn on the radio or TV or rush to the phone. If you peep through your neighbour's window you'll see they're listening to some sort of entertainment.

There are times, nevertheless, when you crave for silence. There comes a time when you just want peace and quiet to hear your own thoughts. Just stop and listen to yourself and, if you're a writer or an incipient writer you'll probably hear voices screaming at you to let them out.

And the truth is silence brings us precious moments. Whereas you'll often find yourself trying to fill in those awkward silences with people you barely know, you'll be sure you've made a great friend when you can sit in silence with them comfortably. Or put your head under the water (remember to take it out again) for a few moments and feel the peace and silence invade you, probably reminiscent of your pre-world life. And what about those moments when everyone is asleep and you have silence all to yourself, which means no-one is directing your line of thought, you're free to ponder about anything you feel like...

So I try to make the most of those brief moments when all is silent and I'm left alone with my characters. I sometimes hush them, but they'll just ignore me and keep the party going regardless. Silence is so often bullied away by noise that it only makes shy appearances and comes in tiny doses, so I grab it whenever it dares to creep into the room.

Are you a silence seeker or will you play music whenever you're alone?

Friday, 4 June 2010

Age-less media

In line with a previous post on the age of our characters, I've been giving the age subject a bit of a thought lately.

I've recently met lots of different people by email, twitter and blogs. Some of these people don't show their faces and you've no idea what their age is, but we just treat each other on equal terms. In fact we tease each other without second thoughts about our ages, just the usual respect for each other.

I've watched people talk to older people, and there isn't the natural, relaxed relationship we get on the social media. That is one of the things I like about this virtual world, lots of the prejudices disappear the moment you can't actually see the person on the other side of the "line". You've got to be careful, of course, hiding behind a keyboard can make you careless and lead you to lose the customary respect, you may lose all your inhibitions.

Also, written language can lead to misinterpretations, so you've got to take extra care with your sarcasm and irony. But on the whole, it makes life so much more fun for those of us that work at home alone.
Have you made friends of all ages through Twitter or blogs?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Is this simply a house?

To you this will probably just be another house, but to me, this is a result. 

I'd been looking for this house for a long time. I'd seen it in the Real Estate Agency's window but I couldn't find it in the village. One day, however, someone talked to us about a house on sale. They didn't describe it, but we went to see it nevertheless, driven by our curiosity. When we got there, I was amazed to see the house I'd been looking for during the past months. 

The surveyor declared it in ruins, and I think he was actually being generous there. It was a heartbreaking sight; the roof had caved in in several places, the walls were black from the dampness, spiders everywhere (eeeeew)... But this didn't deter us. After many fights with licences, councils and banks, we bought it and spent the next five years wondering if we were crazy. We did most of the work inside, but luckily we hired someone to do the roof and plumbing. However, I've devoted many hours to plaster walls, churn cement, fill in holes, paint walls... and I had never, ever touched a builder's tool (no puns please). There is still lots to do, but we converted a derelict pile of stones into a habitable home.

Now, I look at my house and feel pride. It's the result of all our efforts, money and tears, but it was worth our while.

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