Monday, 17 October 2016

the return of TERROR ISLAND

Aha, forgot to mention. TERROR ISLAND, my very first novel, is out now in ebook:

Here it is for Kindle in the UK

And here for Kindle in the US

Alternatively, if you would like a nice shiny FREE ebook version (in whichever format tickles your fancy), then why not sign up to the Rakie Keig mailing list?

Email terror_island_novel(at)hotmail(dot)com with the title SUBSCRIBE

And our email monkeys will do the rest (disclaimer: there are no monkeys, it's only me and my stubby-fingered typing skills).

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Now look what you've done. You've made me turn my chair around.

So, the new Ghostbusters.

I went to see it at the cinema two weeks ago. I went on my own, partially because I love going on my own (cinema is one of the great solitary pass-times, why do people feel the need to go as a crowd?) and partially because no one else in my circle of friends would countenance seeing it (bear in mind these are people who have paid money to see several Transformer movies, on purpose).

And Ghostbusters was good. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though at least thirty percent of the movie was rubbish (ineffective bad dude, sagging middle, cameos that made me cringe), and even though most of its problems stemmed from the associated baggage that always hinder reboots - namely a necessity to hat-tip the original whilst struggling for an original voice. It wasn't awful. I will watch it again on video.

But, see, I had no intention of watching it at all. I loved Ghostbusters as a kid. The cartoons and comics were the best thing in the world. I've had a low-level crush on Ray Stantz for nearly thirty years (it's no coincidence I married a man who's so similar to him) (husband considers himself Venkman; husband is wrong). Ghostbusters II was the second film I remember seeing at the cinema. I'm still mad at a critic who gave that movie three stars and described it as "ok if you like that kind of thing".

So I did NOT want to see a reboot. I groaned at every rumour of Ghostbusters III. I'd already decided I would ignore the new movie.

And then the shouting started.

Not just the terrible internet shouting. The shouting within my own house. My son and husband HATE the idea of the reboot. This isn't anything new - we hate the idea of lots of movies. But eventually one of us will decide we want to see it, and the other two will roll our eyes, and then it'll turn out the movie isn't awful and we'll all quite enjoy it. That's what happened with The Thing. And Star Trek. And Star Wars, for that matter.

But it didn't happen here. I suggested the new Ghostbusters looked alright, and was instantly told I was wrong. WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONITY WRONG. And what happens when people tell me I don't want something? I START WANTING IT.

I did not want to watch Ghostbusters. I did not want to pay £9.50 and wear the bloody awkward 3D glasses and deal with cinema audiences. You people made me.

(Not you specificially, of course. You're lovely. Other people.)

And now look what you've done. I enjoyed it.

So I came home and told people. And they shouted me down. Turns out, every opinion I have about this movie is wrong! Even something as simple as "OMFG Kate McKinnion why did no one tell me" was countered by the insistence that the movie had deliberately cast ugly women to prevent it appealing to men (thank you, hormonal teenage son, for setting me right). The movie was devised by a committee to squeeze a new gimmick into an existing franchise; a cynical cash-grab by greedy Hollywood; a trampling of cherished childhood memories.

The last two movies I paid money for at the cinema were The Jungle Book and the Angry Birds Movie. I missed the outcry about the former trampling on childhoods, or the latter cynically squeezing money from an existing franchise.

But you know what? It's fine.

When I was a kid, everyone liked the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. I was the only Ghostbusters fan in the village. I wore my jumpsuit and proton pack to school discos. I was stubborn and contrary and liked liking things that no one else did. This has not changed.

So it's okay if people don't agree with me. In fact, it's better than okay, because it means the new Ghostbusters movie is mine and I don't have to share it. Everyone else can bitch and moan, and I'll sit here quietly, and smile.

Monday, 20 June 2016

guest blog at That Reading/Writing Thing

Many thanks to the lovely Zeba Clarke over at That Reading/Writing Thing for letting me ramble all over her blog this week:

That Reading/Writing Thing

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

piling peas

A first draft is a pile of peas.

Stick with me on this.

If you've never shelled peas, you should try it. Befriend someone with an allotment, get a whole bunch of peas in pods, sit and shell them out. It's therapeutic. Also peas smell and taste amazing straight from the pods.

So you start shelling the peas, digging your nails into the pods and emptying the cute little peas into a bowl. At first you're delighted by your progress--look at the peas in this bowl that was formerly empty! Observe me creating! And gradually the pea pile begins to grow. Some pods pop open easily; some are resistant little bastards. Some pods are crammed with perfectly formed peas; some have only a couple of withered little things. They all go on the pile. And as you work, you notice that appearances are deceptive--sometimes the big, bright peas have that dry chalky texture, while the teeniest, most unassuming ones can have the sweetest flavour. They all go on the pile.

At some point you'll wonder why you ever started this stupid repetitive task. The pile doesn't look like it's growing. You still have half a tub of peas to shell. You have weird green stuff under your nails. There's a bag of frozen peas in the freezer you could easily have used instead.

Keep adding peas to the pile.

Eventually you'll reach the end. Now you have a pile of peas. Impressive, isn't it? Take a moment to appreciate it. You did that, you produced that whole pile of peas, with your own two hands.

But, as you're probably aware, a pile of peas is not a finished dish. You could eat them as they are, sure, but that's not necessarily the tastiest way to enjoy peas.

So you start refining your pile. You take out all the manky peas, plus the bits of pods and leaves and stems that always seem to sneak in. You cook the peas. How you cook them depends what you want to end up with--mushy peas are different to minted peas are different to that strange pea-foam they make on cooking shows, obviously. Plus everyone's cooking styles are different. One person boils, another blanches, another steams. There is no definitive way of cooking peas.

But every finished pea-based dish starts off with a pile of peas.

And, to round off this tortuous metaphor, a first draft is nothing more or less than a pile of words you've had to dig out of your head and dump onto paper.

Keep piling those peas.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

writers (never) retreat

This weekend, ten of us got together to work on our respective projects for the first inaugural Manx Litfest Writing Retreat.



*confirms first and inaugural do mean the same thing*

Damn, I knew it. But, see, the difficulty is I promised myself I wouldn't edit during the Retreat. I would just write, splurge, obtain the vomit-draft, and worry about editing later. And there's the difficulty - it's hard to just write, without going back to fix things, even when (especially when) you can see there's something obviously wrong with what you've just typed.

And it's hard to find time to write, as well. I've complained before that we're all too busy. We have kids and jobs and social lives and pets and Fallout 4 and bottles of wine that won't drink themselves (delete as applicable) and a million other drains on our time. So this Retreat was designed as time set aside for just writing. No housework, no kids, no spouses, no interruptions (some wine).

I've started a new project, with no plan, only the most general idea ("write something in space," my husband says) and the determination to plough forward without looking back. And it was fun. Even during Nanowrimo I never set aside long periods of time to write. It's just never feasible. My Nano stats are (usually) a steady slope of approximately 1,666 words per day building up in increments. Sprints and all-nighters are not part of my usual repertoire.

I've no idea if what I wrote over the weekend is any good, because I've not read it back yet. I've got my momentum and I'm pushing forward with the draft... and I'm hoping we get to do another Retreat at some point in the future because it'd be super-helpful if I could write nearly ten thousand words every weekend...

Friday, 26 February 2016

MTV Cribs - Sanctuary Hills Edition

It's no surprise to anyone that I love Fallout 4. I'm not a casual gamer - I don't dip in and out of games, I don't impulse buy, and I squeezed every drop of gameplay I can out of games. So the games I go for tend to be those I know in advance I'll love (Assassin's Creed can stay out of this for now).

So, I love Fallout 4. But, even though we've had it since Christmas, I've not completed the main mission yet. I've spent my time tooling around doing side quests, accumulating companions, and establishing settlements. Oh, such settlements.

In fact, the one thing that's consistently disappointed me in the Fallout series is the main storyline. The denouement of Fallout 3 irked me, I disliked the whole business in New Vegas where we had to pick sides in order to progress, and in Fallout 4... well, it's telling that I've halted my game before the end of Act I, preferring instead to build towns in mirelurk-infested swamps.

Here are five things I love-love-love about the game:


I suck at first-person shooters; no one's surprised by this either. My coordination's rubbish, I have no spacial awareness, and the controls of anything more complicated than Llamatron confound me. So HURRAH for a game that lets the good players use iron sights and the sucky players use a dedicated targeting system (an opinionated targeting system, I've realised - what internal criteria lets it decide whether a certain enemy is "Raider Scum" or "Psycho Raider" or whatever? How prejudiced.)

Without VATS, I wouldn't enjoy Fallout nearly so much. I like dumping all my bonuses into intelligence / charisma and not having it significantly hamper my character. I'm certain I never progressed far with Skyrim, in contrast, simply because I was rubbish at combat.

2. Watercooler moments

This is what Fallout (and Skyrim) does best, isn't it? When four or five people get together and start comparing stories:

My sister accidentally seducing her companion in a crowded submarine when all she'd wanted to do was have a nap. My son dressing Jun Long in the Grognak costume to cheer him up. The Fat Man my husband modded to fire eight nukes at a time, with which he frequently blows himself up.

Some of the moments are scripted (the teddy bear reading on the toilet! The sentry monkeys in the insane asylum! The Witchcraft Museum filled with nope!) but the best are the random stupid things you do, then immediately run to tell someone about.

3. Settlements

Not so much my own settlements, which are functional and un-ridiculous (with the exception of Sanctuary Hills, see below), but everyone else's. My husband (who never got into Minecraft or Sim City or anything like that) freakin' loves building settlements. His towns have market places and bars with disco balls and dining rooms with play areas for the kids, and all his walls line up and all the lights work. He has towns you could live in. I have two shacks and a confused brahmin wandering through the vegetables.

Every time my husband logs in, he has to give you the tour of his latest settlement. God love him, he is so proud.

4. Trolling

Something we discovered along with the husband's keen love of virtual towns is his equally keen love of physics. Or, more accurately, his vast annoyance when you ignore the gravity and, say, build a stairway in the middle of your settlement leading to a shack balanced on nothing. He twitches every time I walk past it.

Logging in on someone else's save is also popular. I changed Jacob's username to Jaybum, he changed mine to TitsMcGee. I removed his power armour, put him in a dress and selected TAKE ALL from his workbench. He built another staircase in the middle of Sanctuary, put a platform at the top, stood my character on the platform, then removed the staircase so I was left balancing fifty feet in the air with no way to get down. He was careful to take off my power armour first so I couldn't jump, and to place the fast travel pad up on the platform so I couldn't fast travel to the ground.

I am currently plotting revenge.

5. How much we care

Everyone else in my extended family has played the main mission, so when they want to discuss it, they go up to the bathroom, shut the door then complain in overexcited whispers. When the husband puts an extension on his swamp-mansion, he calls us to come look. We giggle to ourselves when someone is strolling unawares towards a queen mirelurk. We complain about our favourite companions. We've each picked a different faction to support, and complain greatly about them too.

We love this game.

The reasons we love it, sadly, have little to do with the main storyline. We've found our own fun. Which is great in one way, but I'm sad that the story itself hasn't captured us. And, I'll be honest, even though we love this game, we don't love it as much as we could. I'm not invested in anyone like I was with Boone, for example. Or even with Charon.

But then again, I haven't finished the game. Maybe it'll change my mind yet.

Friday, 12 February 2016


This is something you'll know if you're a musician, or have ever tried living with a musician:

Practice is a sonovabitch.

My husband plays the guitar. Plays it pretty well, in my slightly-biased opinion. He's owned his guitar since he was young but it's only in the last few years that he's started practicing properly. Like everyone, he started out with three chords and Green Day's Time of Your Life; two years later he has a dozen chords and maybe twenty songs (of varying difficulties and competencies). He has calluses and is always losing his plectrums. So, he's a guitarist, basically.

(I also maintain the fiction that his guitar infuriates me. I'm always accidentally kicking it or knocking it over or spilling coffee on it. Actually I quite like it. Shh, don't tell.)

Anyway, the point is that my husband didn't become amazing at guitaring overnight. There were days and weeks and months of Time of Your Life and scales and bloody Tenacious D and failed bar chords. There's the "Does this sound in tune?" question every day (twice a day if I've kicked the guitar recently). There was nearly the loss of an eye whilst replacing an A string.

But he's stuck at it, and over the days-weeks-months there's been gradual but obvious improvement. And he's still practicing. Every day, in the free moments while waiting for me to get ready to go out, or while running the bath for our youngest, or when I'm watching TV (see, the annoyance is mutual). And he's still getting better, every day.

Practice is a bastard. But sadly, it's a necessary bastard.