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Topics - Mark Hoffmann

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The Coffee Table / The truth about women
« on: February 28, 2021, 03:14:34 PM »
The truth about women
and cake

Day 1

On my haunches
I peer into the murky depths
of the ingredients cupboard

Ah there, at the back
behind the treacle,
an unopened pack of pistachios.

"What are you doing?"

I stand
toss the nuts in the air
and catch:
"I'm baking orange
     pistachio and cranberry

"What about my diet?"

"You are not obliged to eat them."

Wail. Huff. Sad face.
"But I won't be able to stop myself.
please don't bake muffins.
I beg you."

Day 2

Hopeful face
"Are you baking any cakes today?"

I'm listening to jazz
     and playing chess.
Anyway … your diet?"

"But, I need cake.
If I don't have cake, I'll probably

I wanted muffins anyway so why not.
I bake twelve.
Cool them on the rack.
Freeze ten.

Munch. Slurp. Munch. Happy face.
"These are delicious. I may be forced
to have a second one."

I had no idea I'd end the day
as a tactful Mr Bumble.
"Sorry, you can't
I've frozen the rest."

"You heartless bastard."

The Bar & Grill / Forum issue - unread posts
« on: January 17, 2021, 04:37:41 PM »
Has anyone spotted an issue with unread posts?

I sensed there was something strange going on and eventually got round to taking a couple of screen-shots.

The first shot shows a list of new posts for me. I then went into Association un plus before going back to unread posts. The second shot shows that not only is Association un plus missing but so is We All Have Questions - even though it is in fact unread.

Word Play / New game: The Time Traveller's Persistent Cough
« on: January 03, 2021, 03:03:21 PM »
In the past, we have had a lot of fun with book and film titles. But how would they be re-imaged for the COVID generation?

The Time Traveller's Persistent Cough

On his return from the future, the time traveller complains about the blandness of his wife's cooking.

Word Play / We all need answers
« on: November 23, 2020, 08:10:43 AM »

Answer the previous question. Be interesting rather than accurate. Write well, use all your skill as a writer.

Then post a new question.

If someone beats you to it, reply anyway. By that I mean, if while you are crafting your erudite answer, someone else responds, then go ahead and post your reply too. However, don't ask a second question, let the first responder's question stand.

Why, when it comes to animals, do we cherish rarity? Is, for example, a woodpecker any more beautiful than a goldfinch? Probably not, but when a woodpecker is seen on the bird feeder there is excitement simply because it is rare. Same with ducks and egrets. There are lots of ducks and little excitement. There are few egrets and hence much pointing and oohing and aahing.

Word Play / Your favourite news headline of the day
« on: August 01, 2020, 08:14:35 AM »
From the BBC:

Bognor Regis man charged over major Twitter hack

Success Stories / Love Reading Review
« on: July 22, 2020, 02:14:02 PM »
Best bit:
I found the mystery aspect of this book and the hunt for Oliver Olivovich’s killer twisty and interesting. I liked how the author takes the reader down a number of seemingly unconnected paths. I didn’t know how all of the different leads were connected as I read and I think that the author did well to pull everything together at the end.

Full review:

Ask a Question / Question about quotation marks
« on: June 19, 2020, 10:13:30 AM »
for Jo or anyone who knows the answer.

I'm reading Jo's A Bleeding of Innocents - which is excellent BTW - and noticed a format thing I've not seen before and wondered about it.

Where there's a long piece of dialogue and it is broken into paragraphs, the new indented para starts with a quotation mark. Like this:

blah blah dialogue blah.
     'Blah blah new paragraph dialogue blah

Note there's no closing quote at the end of the first para.

The fact it's a single quote is not a factor. All quotes are single.


Word Play / I wish I'd written that ...
« on: June 07, 2020, 02:44:02 PM »
For this game don't just list snippets you enjoy or admire, but give us writing that you wish you'd written because it's on your wavelength and/or written in your style.

From Hitchikers Guide

"My white mice have escaped," she said.

An expression of deep worry and concern failed to cross either of Zaphod's faces.

Ask a Question / Kindle and Amazon Prime
« on: May 12, 2020, 06:19:56 PM »
Does anyone know how you are credited for Amazon Prime sales?

I was speaking to someone earlier and he said he'd just download my book for free as part of his Amazon Prime subscription. I wondered how the publisher gets rewarded for such sales.

This piece started as a scene in my book, but I cut it as it was not needed. With a few tweaks, I changed it to a stand-alone short.

I thought it would be useful to get some feedback on the writing in general. All views are very welcome.  :)

Alligators 2 : Students Nil

It was a glorious summer day, the perfect day for a road trip. Postgraduate philosophy students, Judy and Craig, had just reached the village of Oxwold, a picture-postcard spot with a village green, a duck pond, and cottages with thatched rooves and traditional black and white frontages.

"Shall we stop here and see if we can find a quaint, old country pub that has ploughman's lunch on the menu?" Judy said.

Craig didn't care how old or quaint the pub was so long as it had cider. "What a great idea," he said and turned their tatty VW camper into a car park adjacent to the village pond. There were no other vehicles around, but Craig diligently parked between the white lines. He switched off the engine, and they were about to get out and explore, when Judy spotted the alligator, seemingly asleep on the village green.

"Not our problem," Craig had said and turned the key to restart the van's engine. There was a click, then another click, but no rumble of German engineering. He stopped turning the key and looked at the alligator. It was huge; almost as long as the van.

"Why don't you call the police," Judy said.

Craig glared at his phone with irritation. "Typical. No signal." He shook it as if that might help. Then he opened the side window just enough to get his arm out and held the phone aloft. He squinted up at it.

Judy let out a squeak. "Craig! It moved its tail."

Craig snatched his arm back into the van and pressed the button to close the window. He stared at the creature. It still had its eyes closed, but its tail was indeed twitching. "I think it's dreaming; chasing wildebeest."

"You know this is all your fault," Judy said in a measured tone.

Craig turned on her. "My fault? Fuck off. If you weren't so obsessed with trying to find that mythical, and let's be honest, highly improbable quaint, old, country pub that serves half-decent food, we wouldn't be here. We could have stopped in a town and got a couple of pasties from Greggs – no doubt, an alligator free zone – then got the van repaired at Kwik Fit."

"Don't you shout at me you useless twat. I told you to get the starting motor fixed before we left London."

Craig let out a humourless laugh. "It's a starter motor, not a starting motor. Why would I trust the opinion of a gormless bint who doesn't even know what the part's called."

Judy jabbed her finger at Craig's face. "Well for a start, if you had listened to me, we wouldn't be stuck here, in the middle of nowhere, with no phone signal, in a van that won't start, with a fucking-great, alligator waiting to eat us."

Craig exhaled. "Listen, this is getting us nowhere." He pressed the button to lower his side window again and stuck out his head just enough to get a closer look at the beast. It appeared to be fast asleep. "You stay here. I'm going make a run for it; get us some help from the village."

He opened the van door. "Here goes." He got out and stood for a moment beside the van, watching the alligator for any signs of movement.

"Wait," Judy shouted as she made the worst decision of her young life. She got out of the van and gently pushed her door shut. "Let's face it together.".

The alligator awoke; first one eye opened then the other. It looked at Judy and licked its lips with a leathery tongue the size of a tennis racket. Judy screamed. "CRAIG. CRAIG. Do something."

"Quick, get on the roof of the van," Craig said and began clambering.

Judy put her hands on her hips. "What? Why can't we just get back inside the van?"

In the seconds it took Judy to proffer that alternative strategy the alligator had darted across the few feet separating them and was on her. It sank its jaws into her guts and shook her like a rag doll.

"Poke it in the eye," Craig shouted from the safety of the van roof, though whether Judy heard him over the sound of snarling and her own screams was debatable.

For a second Craig stood on the van roof, paralysed with fear, then he began shouting for help and looking around in disbelief at that lack of passers-by.  He realised no one was coming; he was on his own. If he were to save Judy, he'd have to act decisively. He took a long breath, held it, then threw his phone at the alligator's head. He missed. He closed his eyes, screwed up his face and tried to think his way out of the problem. He was, after all, almost a philosopher.

Suddenly he realised that the screaming had stopped. He looked down to see that the alligator had disappeared; it must have sloped off without him noticing. He jumped off the van roof with a thud.

All that remained of Judy was a pool of sticky blood, a heap of random body parts, and a pristine students' union card. He sniffed; the air had an unpleasant shitty aroma. He prodded Judy's carcass with his toe and wondered what he should do next. In many ways, it would have been easier if the alligator had eaten her entirely, but oh no, life was never that simple.

He was about to head off to the village to get help when he spotted a chunk of intestine stuck to the sole of his left shoe. He went to the van, grabbed Judy's favourite scarf, and wiped his shoe clean.

At first, the sharp pain in his leg didn't seem that bad. Then he looked down and saw an alligator attached at the calf, and it suddenly kicked in. He began thrashing the reptile on the head with his beanie. "Get off me you green bastard."

Judy's essence hovered by the pond and watched with a degree of schadenfreude as Craig performed his last few terminal thrashings.

After a brief pause, Craig's essence appeared beside Judy's. "Hi," he said.

Judy scowled at him. "That was my favourite scarf."

He shrugged. "Exactly. It was your favourite. You no longer need a scarf. You no longer have a neck."

There was something hurtful about Craig's comment; something Judy could not quite put her finger on. Not that she had a finger.

"What happens now?" Craig asked.

"No idea," Judy said.

Then their essences began to shimmer and fade until a light breeze came and scattered their remaining electrons to the corners of the Earth.

Writer's Talk / Technology - I thought this was clever ...
« on: May 06, 2020, 07:55:40 PM »
I have Robert Harris's latest, The Second Sleep as both an audiobook and as an ebook on Kindle. I bought the kindle version because I wanted to study the sentence structure in detail. Whereas the audiobook is just to relax and enjoy.

I'd listened to a couple of hours of the audiobook on my phone, then had a read of the kindle book on my iPad. When I went back to the audiobook later I got a message telling me I was at a different stage on the iPad and asking if I want to move to that position in the audiobook.  :o

I thought it clever that it could compare the totally different formats to do this.

Ask a Question / Second book, same characters
« on: May 04, 2020, 11:35:28 AM »
So in Book Two how much old ground do you need to go over? Is it safe to assume most people will have read Book One, so just need a little reminder?



Success Stories / I pulled the trigger
« on: May 03, 2020, 04:16:41 PM »
The Severed Hands of Oliver Olivovich - Kindle version

UK -

US -

Oz -

Paperback to follow very soon.

Ask a Question / Is editing a never ending process?
« on: April 30, 2020, 05:31:57 PM »
Do you ever read through your manuscript and think the following? OK, that's done. I didn't change a thing on this read through and now I'm 100% happy.

Or do you just make fewer and few changes each time but never finish and eventually have to stop because you have acute editors-wrist and just can't go on any longer?

The Bar & Grill / Front Cover?
« on: April 25, 2020, 05:01:00 PM »
Designers keep ignoring me so I've taken a break from editing to play around with GIMP.

Click the bottom one. It's a better size.

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