29 Jun 2014

Poem of the Week: The Summer Days

Hello blog followers! (If you happen to exist, that is:)

I have been delayed in making this post due to an unfortunate little problem with our car—it not starting up. We had apparently drained the battery very thoroughly after the key was accidentally left in the ignition. Safe to say, it was a bit of an unnecessary shock; and more importantly, it took 3 hours to:

  1. get a neighbour to come in (no success—our leads are 10 years old and no longer functional); and
  2. wait for the RAC man to come so that
  3. the battery could be recharged.

So this post is late in coming. I hope you understand. I also hope you won’t run after me screaming ‘Bad blogger! Immolation by Internet fire!’ when I say that the textual analysis shall come tomorrow. You won’t kill me in my sleep, right? Right?

Anyway, here is the poem. It’s called the Summer Days; but you knew that already, didn’t you?

PS: In my biased opinion, I think it’s a great poem. Tell me if you agree.

Read and Download on Google Drive

PPS: ‘FOSS’ stands for ‘free and open source software’; more on that tomorrow.

28 Jun 2014

Good Books... Are Hard to Find

I’m a little sad today. I’ve been looking for a good book to read, and have been unsuccessful in my efforts.

I find it ironic. We writers—especially those of the self-published persuasion—strive for ‘exposure’ as its known. We want our books to be found, and we want them to be read. All artists crave it: being seen (or heard), and being appreciated.

Yet somehow, even those of us searching for good Indie books seem to have trouble finding them. You can imagine why not many average Joes get contact with the Indie world. But, hey; there’s no point being glum about life. And possibilities do exist—from venerable book bloggers, who do almost as much review writing as we do fiction writing; to all those free social networking sites that let you find more readers; and even to things like reasonably affordable advertising (online ads are cheap compared to traditional alternatives like newspaper ads—let’s not even go into TV).

Part of an artist’s job is to promote, not merely to create. In some ways it is a curse—it can be emotionally draining, tiring and not always easy—but: so is the creating. Success requires work. Art requires passion. If you don’t have that—well, this world may not be for you.

For those of us who succeed, however, the gains can be great.

For now, I shall be reading a well known author: Aristotle. Specifically—his Poetics. It should provide much food for thought, and may even bring with it some practical use, i.e. improve my writing. It’ll give me more background for my A-level philosophy, as well.

If any of you reading have a book they’d like to share—whether it’s your own or not—please do so.

And to finish on a lighter note—here’s a screenshot of my latest desktop theme. I’ve found it very inspiring, especially for the Poem of the Week which I’ve just written. (It’ll be posted tomorrow!)

27 Jun 2014

Some Advice on Covers

I’m not sure whether I’ve started a new trend, or copied an old one: but personally, I like learning about how a book’s cover was created—the thoughts that went behind it, the meanings behind it, and so on.

I think there is also a certain base aspect of the cover that readers aren’t really aware of. They don’t realise why the small, delicate illustrations on hardback covers are replaced with large, bright-coloured covers on the ebook version. It’s obvious once you think about it: small images can’t be seen in retailer previews.

And the retailer preview is one of the biggest ways a book gains attention.

This post will go into a modest amount of detail on the creation of my book’s cover, what I like about it—and what I don’t.

First Off: Size and Formats

One major practical concern for electronic covers are their digital size.

View The Sandman’s Cover in Full Glory

If you clicked on the rather vainglorious link above, you would have been directed to Google Drive, where you can view it. The cover—at its full size of 2500x1563 pixels—is 5.5MB. This is too large to be embedded on a webpage, and certainly well above what any retailer will let you use.

To work around this (and it is a workaround) you have to: a) use a smaller cover—reducing your ability to see fine details; and b) you have to use compression.

Most people use the JPEG format—and this is indeed the de-facto standard for pretty much every retailer or site—because it generally does the last point best.

Compression, for those of you who don’t know, is basically removing invisible elements of an image to lower its size, along with some mathematical cleverness that allows the same amount of information to be stored using fewer bits (at the cost of marginal CPU power to de-compress). It’s really clever, actually: you can cut down an image’s size considerably with no visible quality loss.

Beyond a certain point though, you lose quality. This, unfortunately, occurs on many retailer websites. But, hey; technology is constantly advancing, so this should get better.

The Process

It’s actually not terribly complicated. You first look for an artist.

It’s a bit of the Wild West with that right now. Finding a good artist mainly involves a lot of Googling, careful analysis of their website (is it professional? Book cover artists should easily be able to make a good-looking—though not necessarily functional—website) and analysis of their previous work.

For the latter, I usually have to think about: do I like their style? No author wants a cover they won’t like.

There is also the question of: will this appeal to my readers? And have they shown expertise in crafting their work within the limitations of ebook covers (especially size-wise)?

Once I’ve gone past those initial stages, I go onto step two: the genuine check.

Are They Genuine?

Sadly, not all of these ‘designers’ know what they’re doing, or produce real quality work. It’s generally unlikely for a fake to get past the initial stage (that’s the thing about visual design; you can quickly tell whether it’s any good).

Still, I make sure to call up older clients and ask them about their experiences. In addition, I may check on sites like Writers Beware to make sure they aren’t some well-known scam. (On a slightly unrelated note, check out Publish America for a prime example of scammers catching out unwary, naïve writers.)

Working with Them

Once I make up my mind on who to hire (and yes, I do take into account obvious things like price) I then contact the artist. Email is the way to go here, although some require that you make first contact via a form.

Essentially, I send them information about:

  1. Who I am (so they know I’m not Criminal X Who Preys on Cover Designers);
  2. About my book—what’s it called, what genre it is, who do I think my readers are, and of course: the blurb.
  3. My idea for a cover design.

For the Sandman, my initial idea was to have Leila standing with her back to the audience, and framed by the sun. Font-wise, I thought serifs.

My designer—Marushka from Deranged Doctor Designs—agreed with me on the latter count, but thought the initial design too difficult to see at thumbnail size.

Personally, I wish she would have given it go—I think it would have been more powerful than what I have now, and more representative of the story’s content, and wouldn’t have given off that romance-y vibe that this one does.

Still, what I have is what I have, and I shall move on.

In any case: we went through a couple of drafts. Some may move through several (provided that the artist’s conditions allow this—make sure to read that!)

The first draft they gave me looked like this:

This leads me to another tip: make sure the designer in question has a strong interest and familiarity with your genre. This is especially problematic with designers specialising in romance (as you can see from the above). Sorry for any of you romance fans out there, but romance designers are the least imaginative I’ve ever seen—and what’s more, they seem resolutely stuck in romance-land.

(The romance genre and readers as a whole suffer from specific issues, but that’s a different matter.)

Other Considerations

Target market is the most often brought up. And yes: some books appeal more to one kind of person than another, and you’d be naïve (and even foolish) not to capitalise on that.

My short story, for example, doesn’t appeal to teenage boys. And yet I am one. Really, I write for the adult market, and from what I’ve seen, the Sandman appeals more to women.

That said, I would never target older women while alienating everyone else. That would be bad for my book, and bad for getting my message across. Neither should you.

Also, think of the colour scheme. A good designer should immediately recognise this (gold, yellow and red are obviously what one would choose for a book set in a mythical desert). But, people do make bad judgements from time to time: if your book is a vampire novel with a large amount of grey imagery (a not random example—I’ve had a cool idea about that, but let’s not get off-topic) and the designer picked red and black—well, maybe you should have specifically mentioned that little detail.

And don’t be afraid to say to your designer that something doesn’t work. Any good designers knows their initial draft may not immediately be right, so they should give you at least two drafts complementary.

Ideas Behind This Cover

It is quite self-evident in my cover. But when my next work comes out, expect to see a substantial amount of writing on that.


If this post sounds like a diatribe, you have my apologies. Finding a good book designer isn’t easy—and few are going to be giving it out for cheap. If I were to look back on my younger self, I’d say: get ready, do your homework, and make sure to get grandma to foot the bill.

I think that pretty much sums it up. You must be prepared to research, and to pay.

But the end result may well be worth it.

For the record: I think DDD did a great job with the colours and typography. Don’t be discouraged from using them—their prices are fantastic. Just saying.

What is Bad Writing?

It seems somehow presumptuous of me to talk about bad writing. After all: how do I know I don’t write utter drivel?

Well, I must believe that I don’t. I must, just as surely as the singer on the stage believes the audience will rise into applause—and not snicker acerbic commentary. Such is the way of all artists: only in belief (whether false or otherwise) can we gain the ability to improve.

See? I’m getting heavy all ready.

On a lighter note, I don’t believe bad writing is as common as some like to pretend. Too much the critics whinge: ‘Oh, this is vampire crap like the rest of them; this is so badly written—I cringe at the repetition!’ and so on ad nauseam.

Well, people tend to exaggerate trends to suit their opinions and biases. Also, even some ‘bad’ writing is actually pretty okay if you look at it objectively. But we’ll get onto that.

What Started This?

Well, a number of different things really. (I mean, is life ever so simple?)

I suppose the single event was reading a book—Faefever, by Karen Marie Moning, to name and shame—and thinking: this is well written; and it has great characters; and the story is fantastic; but, somehow, it’s done something wrong.

Upon thinking as to why it was doing something wrong, I came to the conclusion that the story was no longer being told for the story’s sake; it was instead an aimless game of emotional manipulation maintained to maintain the flow of cash.

(‘Uh oh, Alex, you really have to stop with all this word play; it’s doing mi head in!’ Tut-tut, darling. This is a writer’s blog, remember?)

Now, this post shall not be a critique of Mrs Moning’s work. I’m above that.

No, I am merely using Faefever as an example; my post will be aimed generally, at all genres. It cannot fully determine bad writing, for I lack the experience and—if we’re honest with ourselves here—books are unique: some will be good and some will be bad because of factors not easily quantified—including, unfortunately, our experiences and biases.

However, I shall try to ascertain what I think are the main factors that make bad writing, and indeed a bad book.

For reference, here is my Goodreads review of Faefever. It’s not all negative, I promise!

The (Primary) Features of Bad Writing

I’m going to start by repeating that this isn’t a complete list; and that some of it is down to opinion. But of course, you already figured that out, didn’t you?


This is probably the one most often mentioned by the critics. Typically, the line goes like this: ‘If I hear the word shiver or tingle one more time, I swear I’ll vomit all over the damn book and then throw it out the window [into the hands of a willing fan, of course].’

There is a certain amount of truth in this. A repetition of words is the classic sign of no creativity—which should be distinguished from no imagination because creativity is imagination applied in such a way as to create a work of art.

There is no such thing as an unimaginative writer, by the way. Anyone who can create a work of fiction must, by definition, have some imagination; otherwise, they would simply be unable to create a single character, scene or plot element.

But back to the point. The repetition of words shows either poor mastery of language, or editing sloppiness. More often both. Let’s face it: you can clean up prose using the help of a thesaurus.

But let’s also accept another fact: the English language (and indeed all other languages) has limitations. There are times when there simply aren’t enough synonyms of ‘gaze’ (for example) to adequately remove repetition. And remember—a language’s words are not merely facsimiles of other words dressed up in new phonology; every word in a language should carry its own, unique image. Merely replacing words with appropriate synonyms does not always create the intended effect.

The critics among you may be doubting this. Surely, you think, one can alter and modify the writing as to allow for less repetition?

Well, this leads me onto my next point.

Words versus Content

I am of the belief that words—as beautiful as they may be—should never take precedence over the story.

Every time you rephrase a phrase (boy, I’m really getting into the world play thing today) you—and pay attention now—expose yourself to the risk of losing something.

A story clumsily told is still usually better than a bad story well told.

(Ouch, that must have been a killer tongue twister. Perchance all this talk of bad writing has made me unwittingly do some of it...)

Anyway, the point is: if you write something turgid and flowery without any real substance behind it, we will not like you. I speak of the real readers here—the people who buy the books en masse—and not the pseudo-intellectual critics who don’t really enjoy what they do.


This one will be kept brief. A turgid story will neither roll off the tongue, nor be pleasant to read. Turgour gets in the way of things; it does not decorate the story anymore than it does the corpse.

Eclectic Writing

Let us take a brief foray into Hypothetical Writer’s Land.

NOOB WRITER: ‘Hey, I know what I’ll do: I’ll use Hemingway’s parataxis to create really powerful, frightening landscapes; I’ll use Mr Stargazer’s wit and humour to lighten things up a little; I’ll use long, flowery speech; and tight, succinct slam speech; and I’ll use lots of punctuation, and very little punctuation.’

ALEX STARGAZER: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t follow the above example. Firstly, it is impossible; and secondly, you will get utter codswallop.’

Thus concludes our brief, hypothetical scenario. Did you learn your lesson?

Punctuation, Punctuation, Punctuation

Whenever this topic springs up, I am reminded of Adam Smith’s (a famous economist, for the ignorant among you) An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

You can already tell where this is going, can’t you?

Those of you who study the 18th century will know quite well the annoying trend to use unnecessarily long and flowery language—but Mr Smith takes it to an extreme:

Among civilized and thriving nations, on the contrary, though a great number of people do not labour at all, many of whom consume the produce of ten times, frequently of a hundred times, more labour than the greater part of those who work; yet the produce of the whole labour of the society is so great, that all are often abundantly supplied; and a workman, even of the lowest and poorest order, if he is frugal and industrious, may enjoy a greater share of the necessaries and conveniencies of life than it is possible for any savage to acquire.

And believe me, that’s not even the worst this guy came up with.

(Of course, the more sagacious among you will have observed that Mr Smith makes multiple bad writing mistakes—especially among the turgour part. For this section, however, we shall focus on the punctuation.)

Mr Smith’s book could have been half the size that it was, and not have missed any important content. But the above passage shows a problem specifically related to punctuation—firstly, it is that of overusing the comma; and secondly, it is that of lacking in variety. There are neither dashes, semi-colons or colons in that paragraph: all of which would have made it more manageable.

(Along with some full stops, paragraphing and word snipping, of course.)

So if your sentences and paragraphs have an over-abundance of punctuation—as mine will soon have now—please take into account: the fact that such writing is difficult for the reader to digest; that such writing is no longer viewed so well even by the self-appointed critics; that you will (almost undoubtedly) lose sales; and that—even in the face of seemingly eloquent prose—you will sound like an idiot: and not of the funny kind.


It’s hard thing to define, is pretentiousness. It’s such a long word, even, that many don’t even know what it means!

(Hint: it’s what makes you sound like an uppity-tightety f*, to put it in the teenage lexis.)

My take on it is—if it makes you sound supercilious, smarter than you really are, or arrogant as hell; it’s pretentiousness.

In writing, it typically manifests itself through the use of unnecessarily specific and complex vocabulary; it is also, usually, accompanied by weasel words—‘some claim; others believe, wrongly’—and by numerous asinine statements such as: ‘I am smarter than any of you, so you cannot disagree with me.’

The label isn’t always correctly assigned, mind you. Sometimes prose genuinely works better when using more complex words than others. Sometimes the impression of pretentiousness is deliberately used for effect; and sometimes, it is just the writer’s style.

Still, it is something best avoided.

Misappropriation of Register, and Other Miscellaneous Things

If any of you recall your English classes, you will know about ‘register’, otherwise known as ‘formality level’.

I won’t bore you with all of the various levels of register (there are many; you speak differently to your mother, for example, than you do your boss).

What you should know is that language belonging to the situationally incorrect register can destroy the believability of fiction prose, making it sound artificial and silly.

Example—a teenage boy is talking to his mother:

MOTHER: ‘Charlie, what do you want on your toast?’

SPOILED TEENAGE BRAT (CHARLIE): ‘Why mother, I believe I would like one with caviar; another with pate of olives; and another served with creamy, luxurious English butter.’

Obviously, you’d have a hard enough time convincing an audience that the above is really happening (and that is part of what fiction is supposed to do, though that’s a different matter).

Then again, register can be used to reveal the character’s personality. In this case, it shows that Charlie is a spoiled brat.

Register can also be used to reveal the subtle changes in two character’s relationship. A loss of formality is a common feature of friendship, for example.

Basically: register is a powerful tool that any writer must master, otherwise your writing will sound totally off.


At nigh 2000 words, this has turned out to be a lengthy post. I would write about what makes a book bad, but that would swell this to many thousand of words, which is faux pas among the blogger circles. It will, therefore, be relegated to a later post.

For that can of worms, stay following.

To conclude this post: writing is multi-faceted and has a strong degree of subjectivity. However, if your writing sounds pretentious; somehow off; or difficult to read; or perhaps a little repetitive—you know the cause. Hopefully, this will have identified those major areas of fault.

Let’s hope I take my own advice to heart now, and get to finishing the edits for my novel.

The weather has turned cloudy once more, so I shall have plenty of time to write. Bear with me. Updates shall be posted to the Information Centre page.

Okay. I guess that’s it. If I haven’t bored you totally (apologies if I have), please take a look around on my now substantial blog. And remember: more is coming!

22 Jun 2014

Poem of the Week: The Trees

I am making a few changes on this blog.

Firstly, there will no longer be a Three Days’ Word. But don’t despair! What I am merely doing is transferring the TDW to ordinary posts. As much as I can, I will include a rare, unusual and intriguing word in my posts—that particular word will be hyperlinked to its entry on the Oxford Dictionary (my favourite; and no, I have no affiliation with them).

The second change is that the Poem of the Week—and indeed, all of my other posts—will be written in a manner that is more active rather than passive. I will try to engage you lot: I will give you more detail, and some quotational analysis. (I’m starting to sound like that dull English teacher, now aren’t I?)

I shall also be making a little ‘Information Centre’ page; basically, this will give you some news about what’s going on with my books, and some projects I am currently engaged with—in writing or otherwise.

The Three Days’ Word is going away because it makes this blog look too much like a dictionary. Also, it’s more fun to understand a word when it’s used in a real life context, as opposed to the artificial environment of a dictionary.

The Information Centre came about because I think I was diverting too many words to various updates on the blog’s homepage, which should only really contain ‘the good stuff’. (I guess I’m doing that now as well, aren’t I?)

Moving on...

As you may have guessed, the poem is called ‘The Trees’. I guess I could have called it ‘The Supreme Battle between Mankind and Nature’ or perhaps ‘On Life, the Universe and Humanity’ but that would have been much too long-winded (and rather pretentious), so I went for ‘The Trees’.

As usual, you can view and download the poem on Google Drive:

Read and Download

Unlike normal, today’s dissertation/essay/writer’s thoughts shall include quotes and active engagement—geez, I must have really swallowed that marketing book whole...

Anyway, let’s begin with this:

We are the guardians of old
And the bastions of nature;
We are ancient, we are forever;
We are the Trees.

(It’s always a good idea to start from the beginning, isn’t it?)

‘The guardians of old’ immediately tells the reader (hopefully you) that the narrator considers themselves to be protectors, and have considered this their duty for a very long time. Also of note is the specific phrasing: ‘of old’. This particular expression is used in common speech to refer to a time that was beyond living memory; in this case, it refers to the living memory of all humans—the trees were here before us.

The ‘bastions of nature’ gives the Trees this image of almost being nature’s fortification. After all: where trees lie, animals are bound to follow. (It is also a little ironic, considering that humans have been chopping them down ever since we existed.)

The last line is quite obviously identifying the narrator (the voice of all trees). But it is the line ‘we are forever’ that is most crucial here—the Trees have gained the idea that they are beyond time.

(‘Why did I sign up for this?’ you’re thinking; well, keep reading, ’cos it gets better. I think.)

Now focus your attention towards this:

Frozen flakes
Of the merciless elements
Bit our branches:
And still we held steady.

A reader’s initial thoughts when reading the poem are that the Trees are nature; however, this is not the case. Nature—in the form of the elements, in this case—seems to be against them.

Here the track reaches a cross road. (That’s lit code for ‘there is more than one possible meaning’, BTW.)

It could be that the trees were once guardians of nature—but that in their power and seemingly endless longetivity, they forgot their place. A bit like Lucifer falling from the heavens, if you like.

More likely though: the trees never were what they think themselves to be. Nature is a collective of many individual organisms; and it has no leader, and knows no authority. The Trees were basically just a group of plants that got ahead of themselves.

For the more perspicacious among you, the correlation with humanity’s own view of itself is apparent. Too many people think we are the masters of our planet. We are not.

Again, the irony of the poem is apparent.

Fast forward a bit more, and we get to this:

We shall transcend space,
And the fabric of time –

This is the ultimate show of arrogance. The Trees haven’t just screwed off nature now—they’ve started to challenge the universe itself.

To Conclude

What’s the point of all this, you ask?

Well, an art form is not meant to give didactic messages, nor to masquerade as an essay. So, technically, you can determine whatever you please from it.

My message is: don’t be supercilious. There’s always a bigger monster in the forest...

20 Jun 2014

Apologies for the Absence

Dear readers:

I apologise for my absence in blogging. I’ve had my third migraine in the past two years. It knocked me out of commission for a day—afterwards I was busy with a bunch of other important things that prevented me from blogging.

Anyway: I shall be in Holland (on a trip; not moving) soon. I may be a little erratic with my blogging then—I’ll be rather busy, you see. However, I shall be in Romania by about the 14th of July. There I shall have plenty of time to entertain you lot...

I have also, I can inform you, set up a dual monitor configuration. Here it is:

(I apologise for the dodgy quality: I ain’t no photographer, oh no.)

I shall now proceed to bore you with a brief analysis of why I think dual monitors are overrated—and in some cases, a downright bad idea. Skip the subsection if it doesn’t interest you.

Dual Monitors…

Let’s start with the obvious: having two monitors requires a lot of space. If I weren’t such a suckish photographer, you’d be able to see that one 22" and another 23" monitor combine to take up most of one pretty big table.

If—like my grandma dilligently waiting for me in Romania (no, I have’t forgotten you; but you can’t understand this, can you?)—you’re someone who doesn’t have much desk space or indeed space in general: dual monitors are a suckish proposition.

That’s bad brownie number one. Bad brownie number two are the cables. You need more of ’em, and you need ’em long. Not good.

There’s also the wee little issue of having the right cables. You see, many computers have integrated graphics (that means there is a small GPU embedded within the CPU; if that sounds like gibberish, you probably shouldn’t be reading this, but I digress).

Anyway, integrated graphics solutions rely on the motherboard providing the right outputs. Most mobos usually only have two outputs: one DVI and another HDMI.

Trouble is, most monitors don’t support HDMI, so you’re left needing an HDMI to DVI (or whatever) cable.

Besides the fiasco with space and cabling (making all of this seem increasingly impractical) there’s also a myriad of other issues. Many operating systems don’t allow per-monitor configuration of pixel densities; this means that if, like me, you like to have a secondary satellite monitor—a smaller one—then your text on the second monitor will look scaled down and be painful to read.

(You may observe that I am writing this in a Linux virtual machine that runs on the second monitor. Virtualising another OS is currently the only way round this.)

Finally, after all that, I’ve realised that having two screens isn’t such a big boost to productivity. Most of the time I’m doing one task; and having a second monitor just gets in the way. I usually turn it off.

Dual monitors are indeed good for doing certain kinds of multitasking. I sometimes do web coding, for example: I find it quite useful to have a monitor open with the language’s documentation, and another open for the text editor.

Still, dual monitors are if anything productivity degrading to many of us (rarely as a writer do I have to do two things at once; I’m usually trying to focus on writing).

And let’s face it: it’s not impossible to work with two windows at once on a single monitor—especially if your OS is designed to maximise available screen space à la OSX or Ubuntu Unity.

So there you go. My suggestion is to spend your money on a super wide screen monitor, or maybe even just on a monitor with a very high resolution. I find that pixels help almost as much as inches when it comes to running two apps side by side.

Moving on

I am finishing off a review of Faefever (by Karen Moning) on Goodreads. There is a lot to say, and I was interrupted by my awful migraine in writing it. Please bear with me—the review will be the basis for a post on what bad writing can be. Stay Internet-tuned...

(Ouch. Still have’t come up with better marketing lingo.)

PS: I shall be restarting the Poem of the Week and the Three Days’ Word properly soon. Just give me a bit more time, okay?

14 Jun 2014

Exams Are Over

My exams are now officially over.

After 125 pages of revision (no, that is not a typo) and 16 past papers (not a typo), and 24 hours of exams (are you getting the gist of this?) I am finished.

I’ll say this: these 12 GCSEs of mine better be good, and they better count for something. I think the school was too optimistic on both counts, especially with the last—having a shedload of GCSEs isn’t that amazing; what counts more is having a couple of very good GCSEs.

In any case: I will be doing History, Philosophy, Maths and Physics for my A-levels in the upcoming two years. I am confident about all except Maths. That will be hard. But—I’m not certain I want to do law. And my best options after that are computer science, engineering and economics; all of which, as you may have guessed, require maths.

Let us leave such heavy matters aside though. No exams means no stress. No exams means more time. And more time means—more blogging!

My Internet connection is rather unreliable (curse BT) but I shall try and write poems, blog posts, and even get my novel and novelette on the shelves.

Speaking of which—here’s an extract from the Necromancer. It’s the Prologue, in fact. Maybe it will interest you, and my little foray into the world of writing will not have been in vain.

PS: I shall be in Romania for most of August. My grandmother has a better Internet connection than we do, but there will be some occasions where there won’t be any updates—we’ll be going to the mountainside (hopefully) and to our country home as well, in which case, Internet is not a certainty. Anyway...

Under the cold, unforgiving light of the full moon, under the harsh shadows of the Northern Mountains, there lies a forest.

The moonlight reflects off the trees to give them a stunted, unnatural feeling, like mutated giants; the moonlight reflects off the crystalline stream to give it an almost ethereal appearance, like a river into Hades; and so does the moonlight reflect off the mage.

Her eyes are bluer than polished diamonds, but in the darkness they appear more like imitation crystals. They betray anger, determination, and fear.

Her hair is light blond, like spun silver. Her robe is silver too; its fine weavings are visible even in this twilight gloom.

And she runs. She is running from him: the Necromancer.

“Come now little bird, wouldn’t want to spoil the fun for daddy now would we?” he croons sadistically.

The mage keeps running.

Damn. I should have realised their master would come running here when I killed those things. Stupid, Eiliara, stupid!

A shadow comes towards her. Its tenebrous form slides and slithers like the supernatural snake it is; it travels quickly, too quickly for a human to evade. It bypasses the streams, that being its only hindrance.

It has reached the mage.

It grips her in its icy tendrils, attempting to carry her into the dark, pitiless void from which it originates.

But the mage is ready.

“Allear Nesmbotal!” The spell makes her voice seem distorted, as if from some great chasm. It rings out, staying in the air longer than what any natural sound should. Power follows it.

The Wraith splutters, and screams, and twists. But the mage has used its greatest weakness: magic. There is a brief sense of saturation, the way a storm is just before it drops its deadly hammer. There is a brief flash of light, as if from some unseen plane. Then the creature is gone.

Stupid Neshvetal. Why send a Wraith – a being of magic – against a skilled mage? she thinks.

Moments later, the answer presents itself.

There is a sudden WOOSH of power, and the Necromancer appears.

His eyes are balls of azure light, glowing with deep, unnatural power; his hair is darker than the darkest of nights, yet it reflects the scant moonlight like some fantastical lake. His form is tall – his posture, arrogant. A cruel smile lights up his long, aristocratic nose and handsome (if rather dark) features. He knows he has won.

Maybe he has, the mage thinks. Stupid Eiliara. Of course it was bait – your magic alerted him to where you were!

“Hello my pretty,” the Necromancer says. Smugness tinges his voice.

“Damn you, Neshvetal! I am a Silver Mage in the Order of Peacekeepers: you should not be able to defeat me!” the mage replies. Her bravado is false, of course. She knows she cannot defeat this strange, alien being. She knows it deep in her heart; and although she has been trained to never feel hopeless, to never feel crushed, that is exactly what she is.

“Foolish mage. You are arrogant just like the rest of them. You think you can rule Arachadia all by yourself, sharing the wealth of the petty, unwanted Queen.

“But hear this: I will end your corrupt tyranny! No more shall Arachadia be ruled by the incompetent. No more shall peasants fear the tax collector, and no more shall the Peacekeepers exist – for I will be its new leader!”

The Necromancer attacked. Eiliara’s wards – her magic defence system – absorbed the first ball of icy blue fire that came towards her.

But she swayed.

Damn. He’s powerful.

She made a futile attempt to counter-attack. But as the words of the spell formed on her lips, she was struck by his mind.

She was enveloped in a storm, the storm of his telepathic barrage. Darkness, hatred and madness were its clouds – and behind that, there was a deep, underlying anger. She spun and spun, trying not to fall into its malignant, twisting vortex; trying not to meet the fate of the damned.

As if it were possible, the attack intensified. The mage had been trained to combat such attacks: counterspells, shields, bluffs and misdirections had been hammered into her head from day one.

None of them do her a shred of good. The Necromancer is simply too skilled, too powerful.

But before her mind finally succumbed to the darkness, before she could be overwhelmed, she summoned one last, desperate spell.

A telepathic message. It narrowly passed through the invisible magic surrounding her, finding its way to her friend – Terrin.

There was no detailed report of her findings, no vainglorious warning. The message was simple:

The Dead have risen.

9 Jun 2014

The Light at the End of the Tunnel...

EDIT: I should mention that I am referring to my wonderful exams, as required to attain my 12 GCSEs. Just in case you poor lot was feeling confused. (And yes, I know that phrase isn’t grammatically correct. Shoot me.)

If you were expecting a philosophical, pseudo-intellectual essay on the meaning behind common cliches, you ain’t getting one. No, I shall, for once, use the phrase as it is meant to be used: to describe an accolade.

In this case, the accolade is—or is it are?—my exam grade(s). Basically, I need to get a bunch of As in order to get into sixth form. More likely, I’ll get a bunch of A*s, but let’s not get cocky.

Anyway, today I had math non-calc. It was pretty challenging. I think I did well; I may even end up with an A*, if luck (and the grade boundaries) go my way. Math is my weaker subject—I’m not terribly bothered if I miss that A*. Although it would be nice.

I have three more exams left: chemistry C1 and physics P1 (the easy units that we do at the beginning of the year). And math calc, of course. Hopefully I’ll ace that one and surprise a few people.

My last exam will be on Friday. Tomorrow is chemistry. Wish me luck; and do hang on tight, if you happen to have developed any interest in this little blog of mine. (Don’t worry: I won’t blame you if you haven’t. I kinda think I’m a bit boring too, you know.)

And since I am called Stargazer—here’s a little quote to keep you hanging:

‘The light at the end of the tunnel: the quintessential image of hope; what we strive for, and have striven for these past few dark, terrible weeks. Its light is weak, now; the sound of decaying fossils, and of a restless earth, is still strong in our ears—the sharp cannon-blasts of falling water droplets is a tempest of the underground’s wrath.

‘But it will be over. Soon.’

7 Jun 2014

Exams, Exams, Exams

As you have been able to ascertain over these past few posts, I’m busy with exams. Monday is Math. Then there are two more sciences, and another Math one.

I’ve sort of become... de-sensitised to it all. Revision today, revision tomorrow. Exam? Big deal. Done it a million times already.

I suppose it’s better than the alternative: a breakdown. Or maybe bombing them all.

But, let us leave unpleasantries aside; I have a new poem for you! I call it ‘The Lovers on the Mountain’. It’s a little odd. Which is no surprise—I myself am a little odd, so it would only make sense for an odd poet... to produce odd poems?

Anyway, it’s happier than most of my doom-and-gloom-and-death poems. Which isn’t saying much. But I do think it’s pretty happy: it has nice emotions—although some are not so nice, but no real work of literary merit doesn’t—and it has a nice message (I think; I’m not so sure I understand the message myself, though that’s a different matter...)

Okay, so here it is.

The Lovers on the Mountain

I would write you an essay, but I fear that: a) I would bore you; and b) I wouldn’t have the time. (Remember: the song goes ‘I have exams, exams, exams; I must revise, revise, revise’. If that were really a song, though, it’d be a pretty bad one...)

Also, I think I should keep some of it a mystery... at least for now. Heck, maybe you can give me your theories on it. I mean, I don’t understand it perfectly either; perhaps you can better determine my strange little mind...

(If that sounds creepy, sorry. It’s a little late here.)

Above: my revision so far. Quite the pile, eh?

2 Jun 2014

Poem: In A Rainy Valley

Now, my blog posts don’t usually start with a disclaimer, so I’ll just say: this poem ain’t my best work. Why is it here, you ask? Well, it’s concurrent to my policy: fuck the doubts, publish the stuff. So here it is.

In A Rainy Valley

I stand
In a rainy valley;
I gaze
Upon the woes of humanity.

My form is a caricature, you see:
I prefer to fly, as a dove
And a being of purity;
I wear this body as a mask.

I am neither human
Nor bird, of course—
I am the Watcher,
And the uncaring observer.

The valley is deep;
A blue mist hangs over all—
The blinded gaze of weaklings.
Trees are everywhere.

Crows caw;
Lie in wait.
And the wolves are howling.

Humans run, away from the animals
From themselves
And from their mistakes.
But it is no good.

I smile:
Like salt is my smile—
Cruel crystals of
Beauty and inhumanity.

My roar reverberates;
A plangent message to all:
Your punishment is nigh.
Your death awaits.

I was the victim once:
The naked woman;
The homeless man.
A person who never did anything wrong.

You hurt me.
You and all your bullshit.

Now feel my wrath...

1 Jun 2014

Obscure Word: Vociferous

‘Alex, Alex, what happened to the Three Days’ Word? Is it being replaced with this crap?’ you ask.

Well, no. The Three Days’ Word will stay... at least for now. No, the reason this post is called ‘Obscure Word’ is because it isn’t going to be superseded by a new word in three days. With my up and coming exams (hurray!) I can’t keep this blog up-to-date in my usual timely fashion (ha ha). Therefore, this will stand for the next two weeks—okay, maybe a little less.


Pronunciation: /vɜ'sɪfərʎs/

Etymology: From LATIN ‘vociferari’ meaning ‘to cry out; to yell, and shout’.

Definition: To be outspoken and loud—to be insistent in being heard.


‘Vociferous are the activists; but are they deceived by greater entities?’

‘We are the vociferous, and the indefatigable: our voices shall not be drowned out, not in blood or in noise or in propaganda.’

An Update Before the Second Exam Series

Hello dear readers:

Yours truly is going to be busy over the next two weeks or so: there will be exams. No, I haven’t done them all yet. Yes, some of them are important. (Indeed the school would like us to believe all of our exams are important, though of course, this is nonsense.)

My most pressing concern is for the wonderful math exams, where I shall be active in doing trigonometry, functions, and bullshit.

Anyway, since this is going to be the last (sort of) major update on this blog for the next two weeks or so, I’m going to give you guys a rundown of all the—reasonably—important stuff going on.


It seems odd that I should pay attention to it. After all: it’s marketed at lazy, narcisisstic (boy that’s a hard word to spell) people who can’t write more than 140 characters at a time. However, I seem to be getting a fair number of views from it, so I figure it’s worth my time to do something on it.

What I shall be doing is tweeting a series of tweets in which I shall write small, inspirational snippets of text. (Or at least, I hope they will be inspirational.)

Some say that art is enhanced by boundaries; that boundaries create a precisely defined medium in which the reader can more easily connect with the words. Others claim that it is the difficulty of writing within a set series of rules—quite stringent rules, in the case of Twitter—that essentially forces writers to improve.

I used to think both were a load of rubbish. Now, I think it is only the former that is wishy washy gobbedygoop.

Anyway, I shall be tweeting a series of tweets. I’m not entirely certain what it’ll be about—probably some writing nonsense—but I do hope it will get me some more readers. Oh, and I’ll probably collect all those tweets over the two week period and stick on their own page here. Lucky, aren’t you?

And before I forget: my Twitter username (is that what it’s called?) is @AlexBujorianu. It’s my name in the non-cyber world. I might change it, in which case I shall update this.

EDIT: My username has been changed to AlexStargazerWE (WE being short for ‘Writer Extraordinaire’.)

Moving on…

I have been engaged in a little side project for my poems. Unfortunately, it’s been rather slow going; I shall, therefore, post a poem soon, in order to keep you happy. Stay cyber-tuned… (Ouch, I really should think of better marketing dingo for myself.)

I shall also be posting a Three Days’ Word, although I question its popularity. If you’re reading this: do you like my little showcase of obscure words? Do tell.

What About Your Exams?

They’ve gone rather well so far, surprisingly enough. The sciences, in particular, went very well. I also had a cracking shot at the history exam; and of course, at the English Lit exams.

I should explain: there are multiple exams per subject. My Wild West history exam went the best, though I don’t think I slouched on the Crime and Punishment one either. The English Lit exams are one for poetry, and one for the analysis of two texts. The latter went best, mainly because the former includes an ‘unknown poetry’ section in which the particular poem was rather short and difficult to write about. Still, I may just be paranoid.


I made a new friend at a party yesterday. I like making new friends; I find them in short supply, for the most part. More on that when I have the time.

I am also collaborating with a little writer friend of mine: Karen Gordon. Her blog is Joie De Mid Vivre. Check it out.

Okay, I’ve written enough. I shall be posting the Three Days’ Word soon enough, along with a poem. If you’ve read this far, you probably like my little blog, so feel free to subscribe via email (see the right hand column) or via RSS feeds (check your browser for ‘Subscribe via RSS’; this can be found in the Bookmarks menu in Firefox, for example).