Wednesday, 11 September 2013

What does Voodoo do?

Zombie Girl Racer for the inaugural Hastings 1066 Walk of the Dead, November 2012

There's something very pleasing about a wardrobe full of fancy dress costumes. Costume party gear, not red carpet dress. Although that can be pleasing too, I imagine.

When I'm not being a ranting Voodoo, or writing - and I've recently rediscovered the joy of drawing - autumn is my favourite time of year, as it features Halloween. Even if I'm not involved in anything, it always feels a bit special. My best friend from school and I used to rent 'The Lost Boys' every Halloween. And it was Halloween when we got in one night and her mum told us that River Phoenix had died. That felt like the end of our childhood to me.

My first novel, written over 23 years ago now, revolved around Halloween, in a reality about five degrees askew from our own. So that's what I'm currently looking forward to.

But what else does Voodoo do, nobody is asking? Amid the multitude of internet rant-bots blogging away into the void, what does this one do, when not cultivating her own brand of attitude problem with the rest of the media world and its endearing, fear-mongering, attention-seeking foibles?

Well, I'm self-employed. I work for a number of clients who shall remain anonymous, all with high-profile professional careers. Some have been household names, and you'd certainly recognise their work. However, they're only just starting to grasp the idea of social media and having to do their own promotion, now that they're expected to. So that's what I do, for five minutes and two pennies to rub together. I set up the platforms and do the tutorials. Sometimes a bit of formatting and editing, and general I.T. support. A bit of film clip and showreel editing here and there, to enhance their profile content. It's an evolving business, so there's always more to add.

I've been asked interesting and thought-provoking things in my job. Such as 'How do I make all these other people on Google with the same name as me disappear?' and 'Why is this horror movie appearing in my Youtube (this list of Youtube search matches for my name) and can we report it to them?' and 'why aren't any of these people clicking on my Amazon widget?'

All I can say is, if you'd tried to make sense of any of this 30 years ago, people not clicking on your Amazon widget would be the least of your worries. But for people who didn't grow up with computers, and are only just discovering the blunders of technology, there are techno monkeys like me who just assume everyone can do it. Until I find myself consulted to troubleshoot everything from failed Paypal orders to failed ebook conversions.

Occasionally work gets more interesting, and I get to proofread and edit something different, like a feature screenplay about to go out on spec. Film is something else I've studied, and it's an entirely different kind of writing to books. So recently I was handed a screenplay that needed a bit of a rewrite and edit, based on a true story. It had been through group planning meetings several times in the past before being consigned to a cupboard for a while. I'd read it about three years ago when the writer was showing it to me as an example of earlier writing that she planned to rewrite as a book, but when this year some outlets for the screenplay emerged, it was dusted off for another round. So I read it more thoroughly.

Now, there are writers out there who obviously just sequester themselves away and write. They don't watch Family Guy or The Simpsons, they don't read Viz and they've never sat through a night of QI and Mock the Week, or The Big Bang Theory and CSI. They've never seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Star Wars, and definitely not The Hangover. Whether this is for artistic reasons, or religious reasons, or generational reasons, they voluntarily miss out on those things.

However, their potential audience won't have missed out so much. So when you're writing your blockbuster historical epic, and the last big movie you saw was Titanic, it's probably safest to get a more general consumer of popular culture to give it a quick once-over.

First of all, the Looming Great Mountain.

  • You set your movie in the vicinity of a famous mountain. One or two scenes are placed in proximity to the mountain. This is enough reference to the mountain that a true story needs. Any further mention of the mountain 'looming' or characters who pause to stare at it in mid-scene every five pages or so, suggests that by the end of the movie, aliens are expected to fly out of it. All good if your movie features aliens, or is to be directed by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Avoid attaching misleading significance to the scenery, unless it is going to monumentally explode at some point.

Secondly, the female romantic lead whose lines of dialogue begin repeatedly with 'Oh *insert male romantic lead name here*'

  • Try not to make your heroine unimaginatively irritating. Give her something original to say. But make sure, when you do give her a line, it's not something that Quagmire on Family Guy or Chef on South Park would say. Forbidden fruit, mmmm. Giggety giggety.

Thirdly, ethnic minorities who, once their familial relationships are established, continually address each other as 'My father', 'my brother', 'my son' etc...

  • Also, try to avoid conversations between ethnic minorities in which they remind each other constantly about 'our ways' and 'our culture'. There is a little thing called 'show, don't tell'. It applies even more so to screenwriting than novel writing. Do not treat your ethnic minorities in the same way that Vulcans are treated in Star Trek. If the line 'Greetings, Earthling!' would fit in with the others you've written, you are in Star Trek dialogue territory. Equally, if they also speak to one another in flashback, out-of-vision, Obi-Wan Kenobi style. I scribbled Use the Force *insert name here*! at least once on my copy.

Fourthly, do not play fast and loose with various ethnicities' perceived grasp of English (copied from 'Allo 'Allo and Dad's Army).

  • The screenplay very nearly had a full cup of tea spilled on it when I read the line 'Are you with us for long time Colonel?' spoken by a Japanese officer, followed by much repetition of 'Yes yes, very good, yes'. My annotation in black pen was Ooohh Me Love You Long Time Colonel! Yes Yes! :)

Fifth, over-use of 'Come' as an entire line of dialogue from the romantic male lead.

  • Does he own a dog? In which case, 'come' may be acceptable once or twice, if the dog is also in a leading role (pun intended). However, if his romantic counterpart is female and human, over 17 years old, the audience is over 17 years old, and he is not a Bohemian vampire or a monosyllabic heroin addict, 'come' is the least romantic word I can think of, due to its over-use in the last thirty years or so of teenage vampire movies and soft porn. My annotation here, following a page of notes saying Enough 'yes yes!' and Enough looming great mountain! and Enough 'Ohhh *insert name here*' was Enough 'come'! 

Sixth point - make sure your characters stay in character. And your timeline stays characteristically true to time.

  • For example, a police officer who calmly states what constitutes illegal activity in an opening scene should not suddenly become a superstitious mess in the middle without due cause, just to get a certain piece of info-dump across. And do not have small children impersonating aircraft at the turn of the 19th Century, unless their surname is Wright.

And seventh, the info dump.

  • Make sure that if your characters in the early 20th Century feel the need to engage in lively historical exposition about events going on in the world at the time, it isn't verbatim information taken from Wikipedia. Unless they are still alive, and revered contributors to the Wiki community...

Anyway, it was all taken in good humour by the writer, and the edits were done and it's already being rejected by grumpy agents, from what I hear. They don't know what they're missing out on. I spent a whole six and a half hours on it! In my own bedtime! :)

I've heard funny things about higher profile first drafts recently (postmen driving mail vans and mobile phones in houseboats set in 1929), so I'm starting to wonder if the affliction of screenwriting is more common than we know.

Maybe that's why second anticipated movies are never as good as first hit movies. The writer/director has been told they're a brilliant writer, so they stop asking for second opinions or for proofreading from their friends and family. You never know...

...So that's what Voodoo does, when not hanging out on here, or slinging words around elsewhere in a cavalier fashion, making books out of them. Just in case you ever wondered what a rant-bot does in real life :)

L xxxxx

Friday, 26 July 2013

'Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition' 5-day freebie on Kindle + 'The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum' free in Smashwords July sale

Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition
Now available free through the next 5 days (promotion ends midnight 30 July Pacific Standard Time). Click below for regional product links:
Lara Leatherstone – not her real name, she got it from an internet Porn Star Name Generator…
…And Connor Reeves, also not his real name, as it turns out – how he came by his, is less clear…
Both are obliged to work their way through the To Do List of ‘Hollywood Hit-Men’ – a breed mostly preoccupied with gold chains, impressing barmaids, and shady contracts – erasing these unwanted pests with the minimum of paperwork. Or pay.
When she’s not under surveillance by Head Office, Lara spends her time juggling a night job in bar security, an only child with a zombie fixation, and what passes for a social life in the small hours in between. And the minor matter of ongoing internal scrutiny, by her own highly-self-monitoring personality disorder.
HOW THIS EBOOK WORKS: This version of Death & The City has been adapted for you to literally ‘cut to the chase’ and skip past Lara’s longer internal thought-processes. You’ll see the hyperlinked word SKIP in the right margin, which will take you into the next action segment. If you want to return to the top of the segment you skipped, the word BACK will take you there. So depending on your reader preference – for the times when you just want to stay in the action, and for when you want to know what’s going on in that mind of Lara’s – you can either jump ahead, or read the whole thing continuously – it’s up to you.
Death & The City (c) Lisa Scullard 2008
+Bonus - 'The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum' full-length parody is free for all devices on Smashwords until the end of July, with promo code SW100

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Voodoo Guru - Look who's talking?

Hello, and welcome to my latest rant.

The most recent theological journalism trend (in the footsteps of that last creationism fad set up to get tongues wagging) is the ancient chestnut 'religion stops people raping and murdering and doing all that bad stuff'. Well, it clearly doesn't. Ask any number of former Catholic choirboys. To quote a popular FB meme, I'd be worried if I met someone who told me that it was only their church that stopped them doing such things. I'd rather go to a hell full of happy agnostics afterwards, than a heaven full of repressed former criminal psychopaths that Jesus forgave after they dunked their heads in the holy birdbath.

The majority of folk that I've met in my life, as I'm not living in a secular country, don't feel the least bit inclined to engage in such dastardly behaviour. And it's not the threat of any punishment, or consequence that's 'stopping them'. Nothing is 'stopping them'. They simply aren't inclined to START that sort of behaviour. It doesn't appeal to them. They don't need to be told, threatened, coerced or cajoled otherwise.

I'm sure there are a few crooks out there who did turn over a new leaf after hearing additional voices in their head (rather than seeking mental health advice), or found themselves suddenly attracted to cake and coffee mornings and helpful people as an alternative to paying off those bad criminal debts in unsavoury ways. The promoters of such conversions only think that they're in the majority because those are the only stories they listen to, in between absorbing too much tabloid journalism about the rest of the world, and looking up damaged people to appeal to their imaginary friends to help. Delegating anything helpful they could otherwise be doing themselves to a speculative supernatural force.

These well-meaning, cake-bearing folks tend to try and get to the young people among us early on (disregarding any individual private motives) suggesting that certain theological teachings in schools and communities will prevent violence. In my experience, any form of cultural brainwashing of young people incites violence, once the young people in question have been ingrained with the misinformation that they have no control or responsibility over their own life, nobody is 'without sin' and that their destiny is just to be the puppet of some higher power.

"Ask for *the great one* to give you the answers!" these preachers of sorts tell them.

You don't want to know what the hormonally-imbalanced voices in the mind of an adolescent tell them. If they share those voices with you, you're better off giving them sugary carbohydrates and lots of rest and maybe a visit to the doctor. Don't tell them it's any of your imaginary friends or even more imaginary enemies trying to chat them up, unless you like human-shaped flying squirrel impersonations landing outside your ground floor windows.

I have a little insight of my own to share.

Many millennia ago, before spoken or written communication, when humans were dragging each other around by the hair, discovering the joy of arson and finding out what didn't make them throw up too often, barely anyone alive back then got to live to be as old as you. It was young people, with all their hormones and crazy ideas and energy, who made it possible for you to be getting as old and bored and opinionated and obsessed with imaginary friends as you are now. They quite clearly didn't die out as a result of unduly eating each other or throwing too many rocks at heads. Because look in the mirror - there you are.

And if most parents died at the ripe old age of 25 or so, a lot of community support kept their dependents alive in order to make the next generation, and the next, and the next - until, eventually, you came along. Life was short, fast, and hungry - right up until the 'civilised' ages - such as the Bronze Age, when some people probably made it to be as old as 35 and the word 'grandparent' had to be invented. You are made of their DNA, handed down through the lifespan of the human species.

If you have an imaginary life and imaginary friends who get you through the day, great. But what works for you isn't necessarily applicable to the rest of us. For example...

If you were told that you had to start having insulin shots just because it keeps some people alive, and you didn't need it, you'd say no, wouldn't you? It would conflict with your entire working body chemistry. The same goes for other people's mental health, happiness and wellbeing. Lots of people in the world are FINE. They aren't carrying any guilt, or concealing any crimes. They aren't being horrible to anyone. They have a happy, healthy family and friendship network. They're not looking for answers to things when the questions aren't relevant to them. They're getting on with life. Some of them are doing good and philanthropic things with their spare time and money as well. They don't care whether or not there's anything afterwards. They're dealing with what's real and what's in front of them. THEY LIKE IT HERE.

When you look at your kids playing games and sorting out their differences, try to leave YOUR imaginary friends out of it.

Don't delegate your parental responsibilities to your imaginary friends, or your church's imaginary friends. Just the same as you don't allow your kids' imaginary friends to take the blame and punishment for all of the cookies vanishing and the dog escaping. Supposing your child's imaginary pal turned out to be real, and yours isn't? You can't have it your way and not theirs by the same thread of logic, just because some folks constructed a fancy building to go and chat to yours in, and wrote stories about them. (Kids do that too. Usually with bedsheet tents, Lego, and crayons).

There's always the Naughty Step. It works a lot more effectively and instantaneously than some threat of hypothetical supernatural judgement in seventy or more years' time.

Because considering how long we'll get to live by the time you think you've convinced them, and how old and senile we'll all be, nobody will remember anything said to us or that we said to anyone, ever. Maybe with the exception of 'I love you' - so don't waste too much of that on your imaginary friends. Spare some reminders for your flesh-and-blood ones.

Remember - young people started the human race. Right up until the age of medical science, and people regularly started to live past 40. Only a couple of centuries ago.

Now - go and sit in the Naughty Corner, and have a good long think about it. And if your imaginary friends keep interrupting, maybe you need a cup of Horlicks and to go eat some of that cake yourself.

L xxxxxxxxxx

Friday, 31 May 2013

No words needed - just watch...

Patrick Stewart talks about Refuge, Combat Stress, domestic violence and PTSD.

Found via George Takei on Facebook.

L xxxxxxxx

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Friday, 12 April 2013

The Voodoo Google - Search engine gears up to catch Human Traffickers in the act

Going global - for the US partner, POLARIS PROJECT - click here
On CNET News, April 9, 2013 - click here


Or text INFO or HELP to 233733 ('BeFree' on predictive text/button phone - may be different on QWERTY keyboard phones such as Blackberry, e.g. 233733 = errzrr)

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

If you support Women's Rights in the Third World, support them at home - Petition

"Dear L,

Thanks for signing my petition, "Justice for Rehtaeh: Demand an independent inquiry into the police investigation."

Can you help this petition by asking your friends to sign too? It's easy to share with your friends on Facebook.

There's also a sample email below that you can forward to your friends.

Thanks again -- together we're making change happen,

Sherri B."


Note to forward to your friends:

I just signed the petition "Justice for Rehtaeh: Demand an independent inquiry into the police investigation. " on

It's important. Will you sign it too? Here's the link:


L xxxxxxx

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Voodoo Review - "The Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge Collection"

Free on Kobo - with free Kobo reading apps for all generic devices and smartphones

A freebie amuse bouche of short stories - fronted by Jeffrey Archer, meandering through the delicacies of twenty semi-finalists selected from almost 1000 entries, and finished off with a palate refresher of honourable mentions - the final blast for your reading tastebuds being 'Performance Car' by yours truly (under my author name/police description Lisa Scullard).

I've read them all, and the author profiles behind the tales, and it's a delicious and clever little collection. Just right to make you hungry for more.

I'm sure there are some big names in the making within. I've said it already, but huge congratulations to everyone!

L xxxxxx

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Voodoo Revue - Musical Interlude...

L xxxxx

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Voodoo Hoodoo: World Morality v. Subculture - Commission on the Status of Women, United Nations headquarters, New York, 4th-15th March 2013

In discussion with a family member the other night over world news headlines about women's rights, attacks on women, and cultural differences where women are viewed and treated differently to here in the west, an interesting observation came up.

Do fans and practitioners of the BDSM subculture perpetuate and endorse the other religious practises and cultures existing in the world, where women are traditionally submissive, controlled, considered to be 'property', often victims of violence (or worse) and unquestioningly have to obey their husband's every whim?

Can you stand up and defend the promoting of BDSM as a 'lifestyle choice' and on the other hand judge cultures unknown to you as 'inhuman', 'misogynistic', 'anti-women' and 'violent'?

I'm curious. Because it seems to me that there are cultures where sadomasochist behaviour is so much the norm that it is not even a fetish. The culture or religion dictates the status quo between men and women, their rights and roles in marriage. To have an equal marriage would be considered an aberration.

The same storylines exist around BDSM and these different cultures - there is a marriage contract; the woman is consecrated to serve her husband; she does not question his authority; there will be rigid discipline and perceived wrongdoings should expect punishment - otherwise the husband is not seen to be fulfilling his own role. She will not look at other men or permit men to look at her, by dressing according to her culture's rules and regulations. She knows what is expected of her from birth onwards, because she is a woman. Not out of choice, or by browsing the latest trends marketed online or in Ann Summers. She submits herself to her fate within her own culture. Sometimes, unfortunately, it ends in her premature death.

How do practitioners of BDSM as a lifestyle choice feel about news stories and the world awareness of women's rights issues in other countries and cultures? Those cultures live your role-playing 'fantasies' as the daily norm. Would you convert to such a lifestyle full-time? Or is the only reason you participate in BDSM the fact that you have the freedom to walk away should you choose - in other words, that you are not in actual permanent danger - your hobby is not 'the real thing' which would be the same as what you see and read about in the news?

Because to me, it seems that the only part of BDSM which involves 'empowerment' is the ability to say, in some form, no.

Or if you are Peter Griffin, to say banana.

I'm still seeing posts and comments on other threads from fans of the current BDSM trend that returned in fiction last year, defending what they describe as 'a beautiful thing, the same for those involved in it as relationships are like for people who only do vanilla'.

Have you considered that BDSM itself is only the 'vanilla version' of what other cultures have practised for thousands of years, and still adhere to every day? Is it just a bit of spice in a safer lifestyle you would rather preserve, than live out permanently as part of a patriarchal religion or culture?

Are you the patriarchal religious and cultural equivalent of Star Trek cosplay fans?

I'm not judging anyone here personally. I think there's a pervert out there in the world to match every other little pervert and let's leave them to get on with it, in the consenting privacy of their own waxworks dolly dungeon. What I'm curious about is how you feel about the media chasing of world issues regarding women's rights and agendas. Are you on the fence? Do you support women's rights? How does it make you feel about your own lifestyle? Do you consider those cultural practises regarding marriage and the treatment of women also to be 'a beautiful thing' in their own right, and in the same way that you defend BDSM, do you think that western cultures 'should not judge what they haven't tried/aren't involved in'?

How do you deal with it, with women's rights issues and domestic violence statistical reports topping the news so much of the time?

The Mothers' Union has been gathering evidence to present to the Commission on the Status of Women next week at the United Nations in New York (4th-15th March 2013).

During its first ever session, all the way back in 1947, the Commission declared as one of its guiding principles:

“to raise the status of women, irrespective of nationality, race, language or 
religion, to equality with men in all fields of human enterprise, and to eliminate 
all discrimination against women in the provisions of statutory law, in legal 
maxims or rules, or in interpretation of customary law.”

That statement was made 66 years ago. Women's rights are not a new issue, nor a quick-fix one.

It concerns me that the west, having preached and promoted good moral conduct and equality for much of this time, are now rapidly heading the other way - towards promoting the cultures through sexual and relationship practises (openly and in the media) that focus on inequality and the suppression of women, including violence towards women.

In other words, we are not winning the battle for women's rights. We are playing for the other team.

If you are one of those BDSM subculture fans, maybe think before you comment whenever a discussion thread comes up. What you enjoy in your own time is up to you. But what else are you endorsing, promoting, and adding to by joining the conversation in the world of media issues and the way the world perceives women - their battle for rights and equality on the world's stage? If you had one of the women who had escaped one of these repressive cultures in front of you, or she was the commenter before you in the thread, what would you say to her personally, defending your interests? How would you judge her for her opinions? How would you view yourself, if you were in her shoes?

That's if she has any shoes... ;)

L xxxxxxx


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