Those three little words that mean so much…

Sorceror. Runs. Fast.

Or maybe fire.danger.dragon.  Or even

The amazing site assigns a three word phrase to every 3mx3m square on the face of the earth.  Designed partly to help people who have no official address and no way of getting one, such as those who live in shanty towns or very remote areas, it also has the wonderful side effect of generating catchy and memorable phrases which one day might replace memorising GPS co-ordinates.

Browsing around Dublin for example, I found union.trades.metals in Stephen’s Green and exam.sweat.plank near Trinity College.

Further afield, by guessing against the available words, is a little South of Indianapolis, and nice.warm.breakfast is in a part of Russia that looks distinctly chilly.

Here are some more great possible addresses:


So tell me, who wouldn’t love to live at funny.banana.vibrates?


(I should note that I have no affiliation with, I just think they’re great)

© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Image courtesy of hanciong.


Book cover design tools and inspiration

I found two delightful tools today that have made me very happy and inspired a project.

Obviously one of the parts of a professionally packaged book is the cover; despite the famous saying, it’s got to look just right to inspire someone to pick it up/click on it in the first place to find out what lies beneath.

And it’s not enough just to have a breathtaking design, it also needs to be appropriate to the genre, to the story, and to your brand which you’ve already established or are trying to build.

So I went looking to see if I could get some insight into what kind of patterns book covers follow; colour, layout, font, all that sort of thing.  One of the tools which I came across is called ImageSorter (does what it says on the tin basically).  I won’t link to it here since I’m not certain where the authoritative source is and I wouldn’t like to point someone to the wrong place accidentally, but if you search for it there are many available mirrors.


What this allows you to do is to take a folder full of images, potentially thousands, and sort them by colour.  Now, this is a pretty cool ability, but who among us has thousands of book covers already saved?  (hands down in the back there…)

I started by saving off thumbnails one by one, but lost interest after about the eighth.  I knew there had to be a better way, and indeed there was. have amazingly made their covers available to download, in a series of massive zip files.  I downloaded part zero of seven, and extracted archive zero of one hundred, and it contained 9,999 covers.

Feeding this into the ImageSorter gave this quite attractive and impressive (although not obviously useful) result:BookCoversZoomed

Each of those little rectangles, in case it wasn’t obvious, is one of the 9,999 book covers, appropriately sorted and organised into its colour location.

There’s a lot of potential to this; I’m clearly just scratching the surface at the moment, but the cool thing even right now is that given any particular cover, I can see where it would fall in this chart, and hence see what other books look similar, to get an idea of what kinds of subconscious associations it would trigger.  For example, if you look at the lower left quarter, it’s pretty clear that a green book with a red stripe is going to fall into that distinctive little cluster, which if we zoom in…


You’ll be bang in the middle of dictionary country, surrounded by Tom Clancy, Greg Bear, and Jeffrey Archer; The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and a goodly selection of gardening and cookery books.

I’ll keep building on this and see what other jewels it contains.  I’m expecting some pretty awesome results.  The next step will be to see if I can attach the name, author and/or genre information to the thumbnails to build a few differently pivoted submaps.  I will keep you posted.

Live in the when?

I was searching for a quote today – maybe someone who knows it will read this and can tell me, because I couldn’t find it – about how people perceive time.  The concept was that we are rarely ‘in the moment’, because we live our lives in a little cloud of moments around the present time.  Not necessarily that we’re dwelling excessively on the past or daydreaming about the future, but there’s a whole swarm of other times that we need to be aware of just to get through the day.

The simple process of going from one place to another requires sufficient planning and anticipation to know that the future which involves us staying where we are is different from the future which involves us being in the other place, then deciding we prefer the alternative future, and taking steps to change the reality we live in to bring about the preferred vision of the future.

Yes, that may be a rather ornate way of describing the process of deciding to go down to the corner shop, but whether or not we think about it, this is what’s going on.

After this it’s just a question of scale – maybe you prefer the future where you went down to the shop before lunch, and you make that happen.  Or maybe you prefer the future where you do something a bit different with your life.  You can make that happen too.  There may be some more steps involved, so you’ll need to create the reality where those steps have already happened, but if you keep changing the future a little bit at a time, there will be a day when you find yourself in the future you designed, or at least one which resembles it in meaningful ways.

Which brings me back to the quote I was looking for.  There are a lot of quotes out there about ‘living in the now’ which hail it as the optimal way to live.  I’ve never really understood why.


© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Image Credit wiremu1998152014


Proprioception is a great word.  It literally translates as ‘sense of self’, but it’s not some kind of abstract ‘self’ as an individual.  It is a fundamental physical sense, just like one of the five we’re taught about as children.  It’s the sense that tells you where the parts of your body are even when you can’t see them, so that, for example, you can reach behind you for something out of sight.

I saw an amazing documentary when I was younger that had a huge impact on me.  It’s called ‘The man who lost his body’, and it’s about someone who lost his sense of proprioception, and learned to work around it through pure determination.

The ability to overcome obstacles through sheer strength of will has been a fascination of mine for a long time.  Thinking back, I wonder if watching this documentary was where that fascination started.  It’s something I envy – I don’t posess that kind of determination myself, although I’ve been known to make a working replica using a mixture of motivational techniques and bloodymindedness.

Which brings me back to a different ‘sense of self’ – the sort of self that goes with self-image, self-esteem, and self-determination.  Does a high level of motivation require a strong personal identity?  It seems plausible; after all if you’re not even sure who you really are, how can you be certain what you really want?  How can you be so certain that you are willing to sacrifice less important wants and needs in the pursuit of a single goal?


(With thanks to A Writer’s Path, who reminded me about proprioception.)



Stupid rules

I (re-)read 50 Years of Stupid Grammar by Geoffrey K. Pullum today and I still love it.  I love the angry, yet well-structured logic (it reminds me of David Mitchell on QI, with the highest respect to both of them), and I love how passionate he is about his subject.

I discovered the Language Log blog while on my honeymoon in Thailand, at about 3am local time the day we arrived, when I was completely unable to sleep despite having been awake for some uncounted hours at that point.  My shiny new husband was sound asleep and snoring in the other part of our suite, and I was curled up with my laptop on the sofa geeking out about language.

Why, yes, that does represent a microcosm of our relationship, why do you ask?

I made a determined yet futile attempt to catch up on their backlog, but these days I just dip in and out as the mood takes me.  I still have a couple of articles pinned to my quick access toolbar, and I’m pretty stingy when it comes to that piece of prime real estate, so that will tell you just how much I value them.

In fact, over time, they converted me from a staunch but closet prescriptivist into a kinder, softer, more rational way of being.  I’ve always loved language, but they helped me to fall in love with it all over again.

I’m not going to spoil the ending for you; if you want to know how, you’ll just have to go read it yourself.

The trouble with muses

I did some writing today, on “The Girl in the Black Lace Dress”, otherwise known as the flash-fiction-that’s-not-so-flash-any-more and is actually about 3,350 words and not quite done yet, although the ending is looming.

It would have been finished by now, but it my muse decided to wander into racy territory today.  There was always going to be a certain amount of that, just because of what the story is about, but apparently I wasn’t going to get away with lip service.  (No pun intended 😀 )  Cue me, on my tiny tablet and fold-up Bluetooth keyboard, trying to write this steamy scene in the café at work, while my co-workers milled around.

And then, just as we were getting into it, my muse got spooked and ran off, leaving me sitting there slightly dazed and hoping no-one had been reading over my shoulder.

I have a feeling tomorrow will be the day I finish that story.

Not much of a clue what I’m going to do with it then; I couldn’t quite say even what genre it belongs to.  It’s probably a bit steamy for straight-up modern fantasy, but I would imagine it’s too tame for the dedicated erotica markets, and it’s clearly far too long for any kind of flash fiction at this stage.  I’ll have to muse on that some more.