Friday, May 22, 2020

Cycling in lockdown

So today I went for a short cycle ride with my husband on quiet local roads with plenty of trees and grass. Social distancing wasn't a big problem, we just moved away from the pavement whenever we had to pass a pedestrian, which wasn't often.

We, however, were passed by a hearse. And a house.

Obviously, the wicked witch of the west had been extricated from under the house and was on her way to her final rest.

Truly, we are not in Kansas now.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Christmas Fairy

Angie hated present shopping. It was a nightmare when you had hardly any money and anything you could afford was totally naff. She decided to have a quick look round the shopping centre, because you never know, but then it was off to the Pound Shop to get something plastic and useless for everyone.

A large heavily decorated Christmas tree took up most of the space in the shopping centre. As she looked up from the ground floor, the angel on the top was just a circle of silver with pink dangling legs. It was probably a Barbie doll or maybe one of her lesser friends. Angie shrugged. Christmas was meant to be so magical but all it meant for her was a crappy toy to open and family rows all day that were even worse than usual.

She wondered if her Dad would come over, but after what happened last year she doubted it.

She took the moving staircase to the next floor. As she drew level with the Christmas tree fairy she could see its magic wand complete with silver star. The wings were softest white swans-down and moved gently in the air. They fluttered as the fairy turned her head with its silver crown, winked, and turned away again. Angie turned to look back at the fairy but by then she was at the top of the escalator and had to jump off quickly.

The top of the tree was out of sight at this level and the down-escalator was the other side of the store. She ran through the crowds of shoppers, drawing angry looks and a "Do you mind?" as she pushed past. Down the escalator, across the store through another mob of people, then back to the tree again. She looked up through its tinsel branches. There was no silver circle, no dangling legs. The fairy had gone. Disbelieving, she rode the up-escalator again but sure enough, the treetop was bare.

Angie shrugged. She must have imagined it. She had wasted all that time and she still had all her presents to buy. They would be a load of tat but she had to get something. She gave a deep sigh. Why was Christmas so miserable?


When she got home, Mum was in the living room with her feet propped up on the settee and a fag in her hand. "I've just sat down," she said. "It's egg and chips tonight; the chips are keeping hot in the oven. If you're doing yourself an egg you can do one for me too."

Angie went through into the tiny space that was her bedroom. The high window let in a little light, and there was just room for her bunk bed and her one book- and toy-shelf. Her clothes lived in her Mum's bedroom which wasn't much bigger but took a double bed. It used to belong to Mum and Dad but now he'd moved out. At least that meant that the rows had mostly stopped, except when Nan came over or Mum had a boyfriend staying. The current one, Steve, wasn't too bad. He didn't talk much to Angie except to say, "How was school then?" but he didn't hit her Mum or make her cry, and he didn't make her feel creepy like some of Mum's boyfriends had.

Angie wrapped the presents she had bought: some hair stuff for her Mum, a keyring for Steve, perfume for Nan and a bracelet for Auntie Jean. She liked the bracelet best. It was so sparkly it was a shame to have to give it away.

She thought again about the fairy. If only it had been real. "I could really do with three wishes," she said to herself.

"And you shall have them." The voice sounded faint and high, like bells or birdsong. Angie looked up at the shelf above her and there, perched on top of a Harry Potter book, was the fairy from the shopping centre. She smiled and waved her magic wand sending out silver sparkles that glittered and fell through the air. Then she spoke.

"You can close your mouth.”

Angie felt a small shiver go down her back. “How did you get here?” she asked.

“I flew,” the fairy said. “Now come on, I haven't got all day. What do you want? Oh, and you can't wish for more wishes or any of that crap.”

Angie had not known that fairies said "crap". "Can I wish that there won't be any rows on Christmas Day?" she asked.

"Well, you can." The fairy shook her wand again sending out red sparkles this time. "I wouldn't advise it though."

"Why not?"

"Wishes have side effects. The smaller the wish, the smaller the side effects. Now for a big wish like that, I might have to make you or your Mum seriously ill, whereas if you just wished for fewer rows, I could get your Mum too drunk to start anything, although it wouldn't stop your Nan arguing with your Auntie Jean."

I might have guessed, Angie thought. Fairies turn out to be real and they're no better than the rest of my crappy life.

"What can I wish for then?"

The fairy flew down and settled on the bottom bunk next to Angie. She fluffed out her skirts and looked up with a confidential air on her face. "I can do favourite foods, better presents, and slightly better moods especially if alcohol is involved."

"That's a bit limited."

"Take it or leave it. Or wish for something bigger but you might not like what you get."

Angie sighed. She was used to having to settle for things. "Can we have trifle, and no Brussels sprouts, and a nice present." It would be better than nothing.

"Done!" the fairy said with a smile. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you." She waved the wand sending rainbow sparkles throughout the room. "I'll even throw in a little bit of happiness as a free gift."

"Free gift? But I'm not paying you!" Angie said.

The fairy looked embarrassed. "Ah. About that. All those times you put a tooth under your pillow for the tooth fairy and you didn't get anything back, that was me. Times were hard and I knew you'd blame it on your mother. Now there's been a complaint and the Fairy Counc- Let's just say, I decided to make it up to you. You'll get your wishes. Have a nice day!"

She flew up and out the window, which Angie was sure she'd left closed. All the magic seemed to leave with her and Angie was left with nothing but a heap of badly-wrapped presents and the sound of her mother calling out, "Are you going to do those eggs or not?"


Christmas Day dawned bright and cold. Angie was awake and into her Mum's room before she remembered that she was supposed to knock and wait. Mum and Steve were both asleep; he was snoring gently.

"Mum, is it time to get up now?" Angie shook her Mum's shoulder gently.

Her mother stirred and grumbled. "Go back to bed. It's too early."

"I'll make you a cuppa tea, Mum," Angie said hopefully. To her surprise, her mother said, "Oh, all right then. But don't wake Steve. He came in late."

Angie's feet were cold on the kitchen floor and she shivered. She put tea bags into two mugs and added the hot water, leaving the tea to stand just like her Mum liked. Then she carried the tea carefully into her Mum's room.

Her Mum sat up, took the tea, and smiled. "You're a good girl, Angie," she said. "I know it's been hard for you lately but Steve had a bit of a win last week so I think you'll like what you've got from us. Auntie Jean's bringing trifle, too. I know that's your favourite. I think we're going to have a good Christmas this year.”

“What about the sprouts?”

Her Mum laughed. “You and your sprouts! Iceland were out of them so you're let off this time.”

Angie heard a sound she recognised. "Did you hear that, Mum? It sounded like little bells." Or fairy laughter.

"Oh, you! You're always imagining things. I'd have thought you'd be big enough now to know better. Still, it is Christmas. Snuggle under the duvet with me and when we've had our tea, we'll get up and start making the dinner. We've got some cabbage we can have instead of the sprouts."

Angie pulled a face. Still, two out of three wishes wasn't bad. Maybe there would be a bit of magic around this Christmas after all.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

I am fine

My only sister died at the beginning of this year.

It was a big shock at the time because she hadn't been ill, but I'm getting over it now.

I'm absolutely fine as long as no one talks to me about death. Or sisters. Or hot tubs, gardens, garden centres, charity shops, carveries, Costa coffee, presents, Alice in Wonderland, decluttering, dogs, chihuahuas, NCIS, hair dye, or Brighton.

As long as I don't catch sight of the weeping pear tree she gave me, or the soap dishes, or the pouffe. Or the wrapping paper I bought for Christmas covered in little dogs.

Have you read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine? It's a great book.

Eleanor Oliphant is fine and I'm fine too. Absolutely, perfectly, completely fine.

Thank you for asking.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

I did it again

Another successful Nano!

Honestly, looking at my record you'd think it was easy and a foregone conclusion that I'd reach 50k but every single time it feels like a huge challenge and in no way certain I'd win.

This time I started with no plot in mind, just "sequel to a previous Nano where the MC ends up with the wrong person. Make sure they end up with the right person this time".

It's easier writing in an existing world because there's a lot you don't have to invent.

It's harder writing in an existing world because you have to remember details you've already invented.

The story didn't end how I'd intended but now I know what I wanted to write.

There's a lot of rubbish in both stories but I reckon I could merge the two into one decent novella-length story if I put my mind to it. The question is, can I get the motivation to work on it without the challenge of Nano? Word count is so easy to measure and there's a real buzz from reaching the right number every day. I'm not sure how to motivate myself now.

All suggestions welcome!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Trans women are women.

Speaking as a cis woman, I want to say firmly that trans women are women.

I admit that it took me a while to understand this and I’ve had to broaden my definition of women a bit to reach that conclusion, but it seems ridiculous to define “women” as “cis women” and then say that trans women aren’t in that group (by definition). We can just as well define “women” as “people who know they are women” and trans women fit right in there.

There is no one “true” definition of a woman , as humans we choose how we categorise the world. It’s a bit like poor old Pluto: first it wasn't a planet, then it was a planet, now it's a dwarf planet, and many scientists think it would be useful to categorise it as something else instead. The lump of rock orbiting the sun hasn't changed but we define it differently according to what is most useful.

It’s most useful to broaden our definition of “women” from “assigned female at birth” to something that embraces everyone who feels themself to be a woman.

Trans women are women.

For me, that is “the truth”.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Is it that time already?

Last November I wrote about the "novels" I'd written during Nanowrimo but at the time I was in the middle of my story and didn't know how it was going to go. It turned out to be one that I had a lot of fun with, so I'm adding it to my list of Nano stories.

2017 This Planet Has More Dangerous Wildlife Than Australia
A survey team has vanished from a new planet in mysterious circumstances and the follow-up team face dangers from the indigenous life, including carnivorous trees. The two main alien races are in an uneasy truce and one of them uses only colour and gesture to communicate.

Think octopuses, only on land. I had fun with this one.

Now it's time to think about what I want to write this year. October will go by far too fast!

So far, I've updated my spreadsheet where I keep track of my progress. It's important to get your priorities right.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

I was lying awake the other night with my thoughts whirling, and decided I needed a more positive frame of mind.

I thought back to my counselling days, and how children were being taught the main emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. The only one of those that is really positive is happiness, and that seemed to be selling us a bit short. Surely there must be as many positive emotions as negative ones? I tried thinking of all the positive feelings I could.

Not all of them fit neatly into a single English word but then why should they?

Here are some of the ones I came up with:

  • happiness
  • satisfaction
  • competence
  • doing something that matters
  • complete absorption in a task (what's sometimes called "flow")
  • euphoria
  • peace
  • comfort
  • affection
  • amusement
  • hilarity
  • being among friends
  • enthusiasm
  • delight
  • excitement about something you like
  • feeling accepted
  • feeling validated
  • feeling valued
  • feeling loved
  • enjoying cuteness (kittens!)
  • feeling like you're floating away among the stars and your body doesn't exist any more
  • mastery
  • curiosity
  • the feeling you get when you learn something new
  • the feeling of a lightbulb moment
  • the feeling you get when you do something you didn't think you could do
And then I fell asleep.

Which ones did I miss?

Monday, November 27, 2017

I Did It

I finished my Nano “novel” today at just over 50,000 words and typed THE END.

50,000 words of science fiction poured from my fingers onto my screen this month.
The quality is... indescribable but don't mind that, just look at the number of words! So many words!

I have a purple bar and access to a lot of “prizes” that are mostly money off writing tools that I don’t want to use. I suppose I also have bragging rights.

I just feel tired.

Other years I’ve been so happy to make it past the finish line. This year, I’m glad I wrote the story and found out what it was about and how it ended but I’m not sure what to do with it now.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so flat at the end of NaNoWriMo.

And now I've got no excuse for avoiding anything I don't want to do. Maybe I need to do another challenge in December.

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.
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