Wednesday, 5 February 2014

New Etsy store is open!

As many of you know, for the last few weeks I've been bitten hard by the crafting bug. So hard, in fact, that I've amassed a large pile of lovely earrings and unusual bookmarks that I have to find new homes for.

Selling on Facebook profiles apparently frowned upon, I turned to the logical solution and created an Etsy store. So from now on all my pretties will be available here Starfallbeading on Etsy

I've also been inspired to put together some how-to blogs, so look out for them in the next few weeks! As always, check out my Facebook page Starfall Inspirations for news and updates.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

what a load of old horse...


Neighing in on this horse meat thing. Everyone's banging on about how awful it is that people have been eating horse meat without knowing about it. Or pig meat found in products that might have been sold to Muslims.

The theme seems to be ' oh noes, our consumer rights have been violated.' Personally, that's a pretty low priority for me.

Health and safety rules and food standards are there to protect the public. Some of the nastiest diseases are transmitted through food - e.coli, mad cow to name but 2. Have the horses that contributed to the 'beef' burger been tested for safety of consumption? They haven't? I'm shocked...

Bleat (sorry) about full disclosure rights as consumers as much as you like. Personally, I'm more concerned with the health consequences of eating illegally substituted, untested and uncontrolled meat.

But what do I know. Maybe the biggest threat is having our rights to eat labelled food shattered, as opposed to the spread of who knows what diseases. Here, have some horse jokes.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The best laid plans of NaNoWriMo

I'm going to put it out there. Last year (2011) I vaguely wanted to do NaNoWriMo. I had no idea what I wanted to write about though, and my last attempt at a tight deadline (The Terry Pratchett Prize 2009) coincided with a major bout of depression and an extended period off sick. I spent a year avoiding the half finished book and eventually was well enough in 2012 to complete the first draft."Sacrifice" is now a 49K monster stomping around and looking for publication. But I still wanted to do Nano...

This year (2012), I was determined. I sat down a few weeks into September and began writing plot ideas. From an initial bullet point set of genre and setting ideas, I developed a world, races, Gods and events. Then I wrote The Plan.

This thing is huge. It's 10 pages of A4, with each individual event written out in paragraphs. Sometimes it's a broad, sweeping "they reach the Inn and talk about stuff." Sometimes it's scene by scene plotting. I blame it on my experiences with script writing over the last few months - I have a tendancy to plan my initial treatments for flim scripts the same way. 

But it's working. I'm up to 18K words, which account for a frighteningly small amount of those carefully planned sections (about 1/5th of the 10 pages to be exact.) I'm starting to feel the burn, the dangerous desire to "just take tonight off, it'll be fine..." and then I glance at my plan and realise "oh cool, THIS bit's next and it's awesome" and I get the desire to write again.

The best bit? This is my brain on coffee and lack of nicotine. I glance at my plan and I see wonderful insights into my own thought processes, insights that will be lost in the word slurry of the actual novel. Genius sections such as "R is all yeah right whatever and blows up the volcano" which I know will turn into at least a chapter. It reminds me a little of Peter Jackson's famous "The Fellowship run down a staircase and across the Bridge" section in Fellowship of the Ring.

Watch the progress of "Elfheart" and the slow collapse of the writer's reality here

See also:
5 things to help you survive a LARP event
Starfall Inspirations on Facebook - writers portolio

Friday, 2 November 2012

Guest Post - When Sandy hit the Bahamas

Here's an experiment. Turn off the light. Now sit in the dark. 

And wait. 

Think. Where do you have a light source? Candles? If so, where are the matches? Torch? How long will the batteries last? 

What if you don't get power back before the candles run out? What if you don't have enough batteries?
How long can you wait, on your own, in the dark?

That light switch over there? Right now, many people on the East Coast of the US – and a fair few farther inland, could be flipping that switch, with no power to come from it. And no idea how long they would have to wait. Hurricane Sandy's knocked power out across a vast area – no surprise, given the huge, 1,500km width of the storm. 

This was my first time in a hurricane. It hit The Bahamas as a category 2 hurricane, where I live. 

A few years ago, I remember a conversation between two colleagues, one who had been through a hurricane and one who hadn't. 

“I'm so envious,” said the one who hadn't, “I really want to be somewhere when there's a hurricane.”

“Trust me,” came the deadly serious reply. “You don't.”

Right now, the news is reporting on all the damage suffered by the east coast of the US – you won't have heard about much damage here in the Bahamas, though there has been some, chiefly through flooding and damage to crops. The reason for that is pretty simple – storms come through here so regularly that dealing with them is a part of life. People build houses that can resist storms. People know when to stock up, what they need, how to clear up safely afterwards. It's an experience thing – and New York doesn't have to deal with that experience often – or put together their buildings, public networks and power supply lines accordingly. It's the expectation that's the undoing. They expect one type of weather, they get another that they're not used to.

So right now, there's a lot of people sitting in the dark. Not knowing how long it will be before the power comes back on. 

I wasn't prepared for that part of it all. I had the candles, the batteries, but sitting there in a limited pool of light, watching the Kindle dwindle and the never-rising bar of zero reception on the phone, was a different matter. 

At first, there was the peering out through whatever parts of window you could see through with the shutters up – seeing the debris flying by, bits of tree, leaf and bush filling up the drive. 

And listening to the noise of the wind and the bands of rain that pass through, lashing past quickly and then just wind again until the next band.

You go into it gritting your teeth and balling your fists up for a fight. But in the end there's no one and nothing to fight, your adrenaline sits cooling in your veins as all you can do is wait. 

Ultimately it's just you. There. With your thoughts. And that was the hard, unexpected part of it all for me. Not the noise and the roar of the wind, but the silence. The not talking for days. The not being able to get through on a phone and speak to the rest of the world. Or just to someone. It's the expectation that's the undoing. 

Finally, the storm had passed, and the world outside the door had changed – walls that used to be there tumbled, trees toppled, roads crumbled. Fortunately, people here are used to the routine, and set about repairs and cleaning up promptly. I can't help but think of those not used to the routine, and having to struggle along in darkness still. There’s folks in need there, and I can’t help but think that, for some, it is in ways they could never expect. 

Donations are being accepted to help those in the US badly hit by Hurricane Sandy. You can donate at

Stephen is a writer and journalist living in Nassau City, New Providence, Bahamas. All images in this post are his. You can follow Stephen via @chippychatty on Twitter.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

5 things to help you survive a LARP event

Weekend recovery 98% complete...
Physical function returned to normal...
Exhaustion levels reducing daily... Looks like I've survived another LARP event!

Live Action Role Play (LARP) - best defined as amature dramatics without the audience. Running round wearing elf ear-tips and face paint, wielding foam-latex weapons and interacting with a plot so complex that half the time the writers don't know fully what's going on. Now scale this up to a weekend of over 35 people and put it in a sunny scout site in Wales, and you have a good idea of my weekend. 

Want to give this awesome hobby a try in the UK? Start by visiting LARP Events for your nearest game and system, LARP Store to get some basic kit and put camping equipment UK into Google to sort yourself out with a bed for the night. 

A note on monsters
Many systems make use of a "monster crew", a group of people who choose to spend their time being the bad guys and getting chopped up by the players. Hordes of ravening undead, bandits, benevolent healers, traders - you name it, they've monstered it. Without them, there can be no army to fight or cunning wizards to out-think. As players we massively appreciate them, as monsters we know we are working our asses off to make it a great event. However, the transition to a monster can be a tricky one.

Keep in mind, if you ever join their ranks and monster for a time - you are there to do a job, to provide heroic moments for the players; to be the meat in the players grinder. Don't go in with a desire to ruin the players characters or kill them off (unless the ref tells you to!) - go in as an encounter for the players benefit. Leave your ego at the door or pay to play! 

Next, read my 5 tips to surviving a LARP weekend then glue on your elf ears and get stuck in!

5) Spacial awareness
Its really hard to wander around with swords, staves, maces and armour without smacking people around the head, knocking into things and sweeping table tops clear by accident. The thing is, most of us move in a fairly small space. Carrying weapons often increases that space by several feet, and that takes some getting used to. 

Practise before the LARP event if you can, but if you don't have the time try to remember that you have a sword on your hip whilst going from A to B. The shouts of people being thumped or having their beer knocked over will follow you around camp if you don't.

4) Eat when you can
My first LARP event I was so embroiled in plot that my lunch time baked potato took well over 2 hours to actually eat. It seemed like every time I put the fork to my mouth there was some new crisis afoot that I had to attend to in another part of the site. 

If you have a spare 5 minutes to grab some food, do it. Whilst many LARP's make a point of arranging a set, plot free time to eat main meals, it's not always the case and even snacking can prove an elusive business. 

3) Pace yourself
Let me clarify. Some of my LARP friends pace themselves through a solid weekend of heavy drinking, no sleep and constant combat. Their bodies and minds are perfectly suited to this, so they don't die or end up a ruined shell of a human being by the Sunday afternoon (well, mostly). Personally, my pace is a lot slower - I prefer stretches of talking plot and relatively early nights with occasional spats of combat. 

On a LARP weekend, both these types of people, plus as many others as you can imagine, will be present. Don't fall into the trap of feeling like you have to keep up with the combat monkeys who need no sleep and consume only alcohol. Set your own pace, based on your experience with physical activity and rest requirements. Don't feel bad, even if people tease you about snoozing in the afternoon. Chances are, if they didn't like you they wouldn't tease.

2) What do you look like?
Think back to the days before you knew what LARP stood for or how to do spell vocals. If you had seen a large group of people carrying very chunky weapons and wearing face paints and furs, you would have been a little sceptical. If you had seen those people beating hell out of each other, you might have even been a little concerned. Imagine if you had seen them finish the beating and seemingly start to charge towards you... 

LARPer's want to give their community a good name. We don't want insurance battles, prosecutions or bad press. When you are running around in character, remember that societies norms do still apply to you. Be aware of nearby housing and don't scream your head off at 2am, even if the plot calls for it. Be polite to people you meet whilst in the woods, explain calmly what you are doing and if they ask for it, give details about where they can find more information (the club website for example). Especially in public areas like woodlands, be aware of nearby animals. Make sure you know what calls your ref team use for these situations and stick to them. 

Which leads us on to...

1) Obey the refs
Ref, ST, GM, they have many names. They can be identified by their harassed look, folders of rules, plot and timetables and often a visual marking such as a tabard or a sash. They are the Gods of the system, and they Must Be Obeyed.

Don't think that this is just because they are ego maniacs (although this may sometimes be true!) Generally speaking, they are there to make sure that the players have huge amounts of safe, lawsuit free fun. The refs ultimately take responsibility for insurance, health and safety and all decisions about rules are made by them.To get the most out of your LARPing experience, trust the refs to make the right calls and help them as much as possible. 

They in return will reward you with amazing plot, awesome set pieces and a safe, enjoyable environment to play in. LARPer heaven.

RJ plays in Three Kingdoms and Bath By Night, has run her own LARP in Bristol and is thoroughly looking forward to her next dose of LARP related bruising.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Voice begins... is the UK's newest talent show an Inspiration?

In 2010, the Netherlands was rocked by the newest talent show on TV. Called "The Voice of Holland", the show took the unusual approach to selecting aspiring singers by using the blind audition - the judges chose their artists based solely on their voices, prevented from seeing the hopefuls until the judge had committed to picking them. Even more uniquely, if more than one judge wanted an artist, that artist would get to choose who they worked with.

In 2011, the franchise took on America as simply "The Voice", after that it went viral, hitting nearly a dozen countries across the world. Now an internationally recognized phenomenon, "The Voice" landed in the TV rooms of Britain on 24th March 2012, to what the internet indicates was a roar of welcome.

A rival to the X Factor and Idol, the concept of the blind auditions has certainly captured the imagination of singers all across the British Isles. The opening show tugged the heart strings of many, including the judges, as artists came forward to overcome enormous personal barriers and wow the nation with their talent. And talent there was, with some extraordinary performances, often demonstrating instrumental ability as well as simply great pipes. An immediate step up from X Factor's one trick pony approach.

The judges themselves are likely to appeal to the nation, primarily because they seem to be far more real and entertaining in themselves than most previous offerings from talent shows. The fact that often they are forced to try to out bid each other for their chosen star's approval reveals more about them than they probably intended, and a spirit of slightly bitchy competition is something that Britain loves to see in its celebrities.

Over the course of the opening show, which I admit I have been looking forward to since seeing the format on the trailers, I was stunned by the talent and remarkable courage of the artists, delighted by the personalities of the judges and happily engaged in a debate with my mum over the fairness of the blind auditions whilst we watched together in family time mode. I should point out that a) we rarely do family time mode, especially not in front of TV, and b) I have personally avoided and abhorred talent shows such as the X Factor since their inception. For me, the fact that I was able to watch the whole show without getting bored or irritated is a feat of strength by the BBC.

To conclude then, "The Voice" has definite potential as a real talent show that will create and nurture some fabulous talent. A word of warning to the producers and judges though - keep it about the talent. There is a risk that the show will descend into personalities and that would be a shame.

The idea that anyone, fat, thin, ugly, beautiful, whatever, can step on a stage and be loved for their voice and their talent is a precious idea, and should be held at the core of this show. Lets hope they pull it off.

Next episode of "The Voice" can be seen on BBC One, 19:00, 31st March 2012.
Catch up on missed episodes. Twitter feeds and all the gossip on "The Voice" BBC page.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Underworld: Awakening? Spoliers

Watching the new Underworld film, I was forced to acknowledge that they have actually done a pretty good job at making a popcorn Sci Fi. By this, I mean a science fiction styled movie that is intended to fill cinemas with people wanting to watch Kate B in a tight catsuit (again) and lots of explosions.

My issues with this film stem from an unlikely place. I actually enjoyed the semi unsuspected plot twist of the previous films, specifically where the Lycans turn out to be the badly treated victims of Vampire evil and as such can enjoy the rare status of protagonist blood thirsty monsters. By the time I was done watching the prequel, I was rooting for the Lycans all the way.

Awakening has of course ruined all this. Vampires are once again cast as the poor little victims of Lycan aggression, and the Lycans have gone from seedy underground scientists to fully paid up members of the Government, using their resources and power to pick on dearest Selene and her boyfriend.

The addition of a Selene spawn makes very little impact - the plot of the earlier films indicated that breeding was now a possibility for her thanks to her Blade - like status of being everything a Vampire could be but without the irritating being dead thing. The gratuitous sex scene that sold the second film to most underage watchers pretty much confirmed it.

Effects wise, there was the usual amount of gore, violence and cannon fodder extras that the Underworld franchise prides itself on. There were many many guns, a decent use of specialized anti monster weapons and the ever amusing grenade v's instant healing cliché. But to be honest, the CGI creatures actually looked very poor, perhaps because they were slapped in right next to the wonderful prosthetics that actually made the original Underworld stand out upon its release.

In a film designed to continue the existing story, the simple fact is that the plot appeared to be circular. Back to the original premise of Lycans being super evil and Selene and Michael being the hunted outcasts. Whether this was a deliberate attempt to recapture the interest attached to the original film, or if the plot writers decided that actually Lycans make a cooler bad guy than Vampires, I don't know.

However, as I said at the beginning, this film was a popcorn movie, and as such carries with it the charm of the Resident Evil series - ultimately watchable, as long as you don't prize continuity and plot over flashy explosions and PVC.

Recommended for date nights, something to watch whilst getting ready for the club or hungover viewing.

Rating: **