Thursday, November 16, 2017

NaNoWriMo in All Its Glory

I was asked on Quora about previous Nano novels, and looking back I realised I've had a very chequered Nano career. I’ve got a lot of finished (but mostly unedited) stories and a couple of unfinished ones and the quality really varies.

2004 The Coven.

A group of would-be witches get in over their heads and need help to get one of their own back from an alternate reality.

Mostly very bad, but with odd flashes of “where did that come from?”

2006 Another Way

A quantum computer becomes sentient.

Probably one of my favourites of all my books. It has a lesbian couple as the main protagonists, and two bedroom scenes. Mind you, one is a quarrel and one is a pillow fight, but still.

2007 Missing

A young child goes missing and his sister tries to rescue him with the help of her professor.

Very badly written and unresearched on police procedure. A few nice moments with the kid from his point of view.

2008 Magic Time

Three children go back through a portal into an earlier time.

Unfinished and probably just as well. I think I got 24k words before I ran out of steam.

2009 Space Escape

Something about rescuing sentient animals.

Even looking at the draft I can’t make sense of it. Not one of my better efforts.

2010 The Silver Flute

Claire falls through into an alternate universe where science is masquerading as “magic” and she finds a flute that is the key to opening the doors to other worlds. Will she fall in love and stay in the new world or return to her own? And how?

A very messy book but it’s my favourite because I loved the characters of Claire, the journalist with the temperament of a librarian, and Rhea, the innkeeper she falls in love with. Although it’s technically finished, Claire ends up with the wrong person and I want to rewrite it to the ending I really want.

2011 Timeless

A Mary-Sue character gets abducted by time travellers and after adventures in the future sets up her own rival time travel agency. With a cast including a clapped-out AI, blue and grey humans and an annoying cousin.

An OK story. As usual some fun parts and some less so.

2012 Saving Space Through Tessellation

When Sylvie's father is kidnapped from a secure science lab, her life is in danger as much as his. Can she escape from the confines of her school with the help of her two friends and rescue her father, who is being held on another planet in another galaxy?

Includes a man in a crocheted chicken suit and a random penguin. (It was just after Random House and Penguin merged. I really thought they should have chosen the name “Random Penguin”.)

It’s a bit of a schoolgirl romp and I had fun with it. It's also my favourite of all my titles.

2014 Marked

When Amy inherits a country cottage from her Gran she also inherits a mysterious book which turns out to be cursed. In trying to remove the curse, Amy sets free a demon who places his mark on her. Can she get rid of the mark before she succumbs to its power and becomes possessed by the demon?

Unfinished at 28k because I took the book in a direction that didn’t work. Not one I want to go back to.

2015 Twisted

Em's difficult home life makes her an obvious target for anyone looking for disaffected youngsters. A shady group who claim to be exploring a distant planet recognise her potential and enlist her for her science background. But what is really going in with the Asimov Foundation?

I don’t remember much about this one which is a bad sign!

One year I tried editing instead of writing. That didn’t go well. Some years I just didn’t write at all.

This year I won't know how well it's gone until afterwards. At the moment I'm putting off writing my story by blogging instead. At least I've written every day so far, except for a pre-arranged day off. Tomorrow is another day off. I ought to get onto my story now and stop playing online.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Worst Story


This is how I'm keeping track of my word count. I've got two days when I know I won't be able to write so I'm trying to get ahead as much as I can.

I'm already at the stage of using up a lot of my preplanned plot, and feeling that this has to be the worst story ever.

My aliens look like large blobs of jelly, with many eyes on stalks around the top which are in constant movement. They  have complete rotational symmetry so they have no front or back; they have tentacles round their middles and stumpy legs. They can’t hear and they communicate by flashing coloured patterns over their skin.

I also have another set of aliens that look like Wookies, and the ones that look like crickets but are the size of a large poodle. The latter are companion animals to the Wookies, sort of.

It all seemed so logical at the time.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Day three of Nano

I've had three reminders to donate to Nano so far, so that averages one a day.

It was the constant demands for money that made me give up after 2015 and not write at all last year. This year I don't know if I'll donate because my main support is on Quora and Ravelry and not on the Nano forums which are well-nigh unusable.

I love the creativity of Nano but it's a pity that it's being turned into a mostly fund-raising event.

Nevertheless, I now have over 7,000 words written. It's been a tough one today. I wrote before checking any social media using mostly ideas I'd planned out over the last month and some I came up with on my bike ride yesterday.

Then I went out for a cycle ride hoping to come up with some more ideas but today that just didn't happen.

I'm going to be running out of preplanned ideas soon. I wonder what I'll do then.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Am I even a writer?

I usually call myself an “amateur writer” because otherwise I think people will assume that I plan to make money by writing. Nope. It’s a hobby.

Strange, because I don’t call myself an “amateur crocheter” even though I don’t plan to make money from it. I’m pretty good at crocheting - clearly not an amateur!

I’m not an amateur pedestrian, driver, or cyclist either; I’m just any one of those three at any time.

I wonder when “writer” got to mean “someone who makes a living at writing”. Or maybe it didn’t and it’s just me.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

It's that time again

The clocks went back today and the evenings will be dark now. We're getting into firework season and the cats will have to be kept in early. Xmas approaches and I've already missed overseas posting dates.

Only three days left to NaNoWriMo

Last year I ignored it and the year before I tried editing instead of writing. I didn't feel I gained much by either strategy. So this year I will again attempt to write a 50k word story in a month. Go me!

I have characters, a world, and some sort of shambolic plot. I also have aliens, lots of lovely aliens. I mean what's not to like?

I've looked back over past efforts and I liked bits of what I'd written. I have a particular fondness for the scene with the chicken suit and the random penguin.

I will never be a professional author because I'm not willing to put in the time and discipline needed but writing is my hobby and it's the chance to really get into it once a year.

I haven't made it to 50k every year I've tried so it remains a real challenge, and this month I'm starting a new volunteer job with Beanstalk, as well as having a lot of family commitments.

No one ever said it would be easy. Wish me luck!

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Fall

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.”

Not here. Not now.

The wind whips leaves from the trees
In showers of red, orange, yellow.
They carpet the ground with softness, damp and yielding underfoot.

Horse chestnut trees scatter their spiky husks,
And here is a conker:
Round shiny treasure like polished mahogany
Sitting abandoned on the soggy leaves
But not for long.
Children will take it to its new home.

Now the rain comes
Sideways in the buffeting wind.
Head, neck, trousers cold and colder
As we run for home.

Later we look out through rain-flooded windows
Hot tea in hand
At the October storm that is stripping the trees
Naked.

What else will fall?

Autumn is not a gentle season
In England
Now.

Friday, September 30, 2016

I just keep levelling up!

It might not look like much, but that little device takes sound direct from my phone or laptop, increases all the bits that I need louder, and puts it straight into my hearing aids by bluetooth!

In effect, it turns my hearing aids into headphones. Which is fantastic! Because normal headphones just aren't compatible with hearing aids.

I can watch YouTube, even if there is someone else in the room not wanting to watch it too!

I can't wait to ring up all my friends to see how the phone part works. The gizmo needs three hours charging before first use. Three hours is an awful long time.

Friday, June 10, 2016

How much to pay for bionic hearing?




I realised half-way through that I've written this post for myself, to help me sort out my thoughts, so please feel free to ignore it! Although if you have any thoughts I'd be very happy to hear them.

My hearing aids just aren't good enough and the NHS can't do any better for me, apparently.

My hearing is good for deep sounds but drops sharply for higher pitched sounds, especially in my right ear which suffered a disastrous hearing loss five years ago. The sample audiogram above gives you some idea, the differences between that and my own audiogram are that I have normal hearing in both ears up to 1,000 Hz, and that my right ear drops off more precipitously than on this graph.

The area between 2,000 - 4,000 Hz is the most important for understanding speech and this is the area where I have a rapid drop in hearing.

Digital hearing aids work by dividing the sound into chunks and turning them up individually. The level of fine tuning possible depends on the number of these chunks (called "channels"). A single channel would turn everything up and down; two channels would give you bass and treble.

Eight channels, which is what I have, gives you some ability to turn up the higher sounds selectively but the channels work across the whole frequency range, including the sounds that I don't need to be enhanced at all, so the fine tuning for speech isn't particularly fine. That means that I have to have some sounds too quiet because their neighbouring sounds would be too loud if that channel was turned up any more.

Sounds that you can barely hear take longer for your brain to process by about a second. This means you need people to speak more slowly. There are so many situations where I'm struggling.
  • on the phone
  • with children
  • with any background noise
  • anyone not facing me
  • anyone on my right side
  • most tv programs
  • can't wear headphones
The speaker for my aids is behind the ear, and the sounds travels by tube to my ear. This isn't great for feedback. It means that I can't have my right hearing aid as loud as I need even without the complications of the different channels. Private hearing aids can have the speaker in the ear.

I am looking at private hearing aids with 12, 16, and 20 channels. They are expensive. I mean really, very expensive. Like, six or seven bicycles, or a couple of foreign holidays.

The problem is that you're not just paying for a fantastic piece of kit but you're also paying for the service you get over the next three or four years. Which is bloody good service, I have to say, if the initial consultation is anything to go by.

The dearest aids cost 30% more than the cheaper ones. (Not the cheapest. They don't have enough channels to make a real difference to me.) I'm not sure how to decide what level I need.

At least I get over 60 days to try them out and if they don't help I can return them. I'd like to think I wouldn't need to. It would be so nice to hear properly again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Sphinx: a flash fiction morsel

You are standing on a vast sandy plain that extends in all directions. In front of you is a Sphinx on a stone pedestal. The Sphinx has huge claws and a smug smile on its face. It is looking directly at you.

You can not go East. You can not go West. You can not go South.

North is the Sphinx.

You approach the Sphinx.

"None shall pass," says the Sphinx.

"Hang on," you say. "I thought you were supposed to ask me a riddle and let me pass?"

The Sphinx sighs. "No one ever gets my riddles and I've got indigestion from the last traveller. Go away."

"That's not fair," you say. "Ask me the riddle and let me pass."

"What's brown and sticky," the Sphinx says.

"A stick," you reply.

"Wrong, it's toffee," the Sphinx says.

"How was I supposed to know that?" you say.

"You weren't. Come closer and let me eat you."

You can not go South. You can not go East. You can not go West. To the North is the Sphinx.

You are carrying:
a ball of wool
a bar of soap
a bar of chocolate
three cherries
a cloak


You use the ball of wool on the Sphinx. Nothing happens.

You use the bar of soap on the Sphinx. Nothing happens.

You use the bar of chocolate on the Sphinx. The Sphinx reaches out to take the chocolate but you pull back at the last moment.

"If I give you this bar of chocolate, will you let me pass?"

"What sort is it?"

"Hotel Chocolat 82% Ecuador single estate."

"Give it to me and you can pass."

You hand the chocolate to the Sphinx.

You go North.

The Sphinx speaks without looking up from the chocolate. "On your way back, bring us some antacid, will you? This is going to wreak havoc with my digestion."





Friday, March 04, 2016

Don't Ban the Hobbits!



Yesterday a friend of mine was thrown out of a pub. Not for being drunk and disorderly, or for starting a fight, or for peeing into a pot plant instead of the loo. No, he was slung out for having bare feet.

That hit a nerve so I started looking for a campaign for people to be able to wear whatever they like and found that Amazon Fashion is running one, or so it says. "Wear whatever you want" it proclaims, as long as it's stylish. Does anyone else see the contradiction right there?

There are so many unnecessary rules about what clothes are acceptable and where, starting but not finishing with our feet.

I wear men's wide leather trainers to keep the irritable nerve in my foot for acting up. In many schools trainers are banned. Mine are black and well-polished so I can get away with them under trousers if no one looks too hard but I really don't see what it matters to anyone what I have on my feet.

Not wearing a bra is also unacceptable, if you're a woman that is. Even young girls just coming into puberty have to wear "training bras" which suggests to me that many women wouldn't wear them unless they were "trained" to do so. Men with "man boobs" are exempt, because the rules are inherently sexist.

They're not just sexist against women. Men are expected to wear suits and a tie to an office job, although the tie seems to be more optional these days. Could my husband wear a skirt to work? I think HR would have a quiet word with him if his boss didn't get to him first. There are many places where a man wearing a dress or skirt risks insults at best and injury at worst.

I just don't understand why. Why can't we all wear whatever we want and leave other people's clothing choices to them?







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