Thursday, December 29, 2011

The best bit of Christmas

The best bit of Christmas is the wrapping paper. Ask Rufus.

He did also get a toy hamster that makes the paper in the box rustle enticingly when it's turned on.

Bonnie scratched her face over her eye and gave herself an eye infection. She's had the Cone of Shame on all Christmas, poor little thing.

I hope you all had a Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Christmas Fairy

I don't often put fiction up, but I thought I'd do a voice recording for you. The text of the recording is over at Podbean and you can see it here. I'm sorry that the recording levels go off every so often. When I tried to re-record the duff parts I ended up deleting everything so in the end I had to let it stand!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

It's that time again

Caught Cheating

It's time for the Bad Sex Awards again; you can read passages from the winning author over at The Guardian.

I'm wondering whose point of view the episodes are written from and thinking that they might be entirely appropriate in context. Guterson was lambasted for his use of coy phrases even though within the book he explains that
(those were the quaint, prudish terms of her girlhood)
It's such a matter of individual judgement and taste. I wonder if the awards put authors off from writing about sex because it's difficult enough anyway, without someone looking in judgement over your shoulder as you type.

There's always the worry that readers will think that what you're describing is your own experience. I'm reminded of Rachel in Friends who suggests toes as an erogenous zone and then backtracks with, "For some people" and fools no one.

So I can't decide if the Bad Sex Awards are just a bit of fun, or harmful to writing. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Appearances are deceptive

Rufus being loveable 
I came downstairs this morning to find a dead mouse on the doormat. The inside doormat. That's inside a house where the cats are shut in at night so all doors, windows and catflaps are closed.

I can only think that little darling Rufus brought it in yesterday and hid it somewhere. Possibly still alive. *shudders*

Cats. Don't you just love them?

Such a sweetie

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm done

Rufus helping me finish my writing this morning
I wrote 50,000 words this month. It was drivel but I'm fascinated to see where my story took me and what my preoccupations are and were. This year, I really wrote entirely for myself and some parts were great fun.

I did feel like giving up more than once though, and I owe many, many thanks to everyone on Twitter who encouraged me to keep going! Richard and jj in particular, but there were others and I thank you all!

Monday, November 28, 2011

What a waste of money!

Every state school in England is to receive a new copy of the King James Bible from the government – with a brief foreword by Michael Gove, the education secretary, to mark the 400th anniversary of its translation.
from The Guardian.

Why not a complete works of Shakespeare instead? Not that that would be any more accessible to the 4 - 11 year olds in our primary schools, so I hope they're not included in the Biblefest.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A little light relief

With thanks to @akasylvia

Address Is Approximate from The Theory on Vimeo
"A lonely desk toy longs for escape from the dark confines of the office, so he takes a cross country road trip to the Pacific Coast in the only way he can – using a toy car and Google Maps Street View."
The original is here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How many words do you need?

Man with book sitting in chair

One recent Booker prizewinner's book is only 160 pages long. That's around 40,000 words.

So, a Nanonovel is more than enough at 50,0000 words.

Of course, it does help if they're good words, arranged in a spiffing order. But let's not sweat the small stuff while we're doing Nano or we'll never get there.

Oh, and the book in question is being nominated for the Costa Book Awards. Does the Guardian get an award for the most unreadable headline ever?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

How to increase your word count

Writing Thesis

The point of Nanowrimo is to write a lot, then come back and edit it later. Lots of people have trouble with this because they want to edit now. Editing as you go is fine if it doesn't stop you writing but as soon as I get into editing mode my productivity drops. I need to get the story out there first, then tidy it up later!

The secret is to deal with your inner editor. Some people send him or her on a virtual holiday but I've got a better plan: I pit my inner procrastinator against my inner editor. My inner procrastinator is strong and wins every time!

It looks like this:

Inner Editor (IE): That's terrible grammar.
Inner Procrastinator (IP): I'll deal with it later.
IE: This story isn't making sense.
IP: I'll deal with it later.
IE: Didn't she have green hair in the last section?
IP: I'll deal with it later.

You get the picture. The hardest part for me is going to be shutting up my inner procrastinator when November is over and I need to edit!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Back up!

Common Computer Backup Methods Common Computer Backup Methods

If you're doing Nano don't forget to back up your work!

Now follows an advertising break:
I use the free program Dropbox, which saves your work online and on your computer so you don't have to do a separate backup.

If you fancy trying it and use my link, we both get extra free storage space online. So if you fancy it, you can try it here.
Whatever method you use, don't forget to do it. There's nothing sadder than writing thousands of words only to have them all disappear forever.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sentenced To Read

Book swapping

I'd forgotten about this but back in July there was an article in the Guardian about offenders being offered the chance to join a reading group instead of going to prison. If you remember, there's been another scheme sentencing people to church instead of jail. Personally, I'd prefer the reading group, although my first preference would be to not get in trouble with the law in the first place!

At least encouraging offenders to read gives them the chance to think for themselves, which isn't the point of church.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Do you fancy a calendar showing hot librarians, all of them male? It's in aid of the It Gets Better project which encourages LGBT teenagers to look forward to a better future if they're suffering bullying at school.

You can see a slideshow here and buy the calendar here.

I wonder what Mr Hedgehog will think if I order one?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Madness Has Begun

It's Nano time, so if you're doing Nano maybe you should be writing instead of reading this!

I'm still waiting for the Nano widgets to be available, and for the forums to be able to take you to new posts, and for the site to let you delete inactive buddies. They've had eleven months and massive donations but as always November has taken them by surprise. I wish the site was as easy to use as Ravelry, which is currently my second home. (I'm fairyhedgehogg over there.)

If you're doing Nano, you can find me as fairyhedgehog, and I'm always happy to have new buddies! If you're not doing Nano, well done! You may have made a good choice there!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The soup conundrum

According to a study in Germany there's no real difference between reading a paper book and reading an ebook. But there is, I tell you, there is! If you're trying to eat lunch while reading a paperback you have to hold the printed book open with one hand but if you're reading on a screen, you don't. So for eating with a knife and fork, reading online wins. For sandwiches, a paperback is good. But for reading while eating soup...

Which do you prefer? Print or screen?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

All Hallows Read

Neil Gaiman has proposed a new tradition: give a scary book to someone at Halloween.

I like the idea of giving books, although I'm not really into being scared. I've avoided "It" and "Silence of the Lambs" and "The Amytiville Horror". I prefer my fiction light and even fluffy. But there are a few scary books I'd be willing to give.

The Graveyard Book by Neil himself starts rather scarily: "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." It's a great book and not too scary for adults seeing that it's aimed at children. Suited me fine!

Various other websites have suggested books but no one has mentioned Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr. I found that book haunting; a magic pencil brings to life whatever is drawn with it. The drawings only come to life in dreams but there's a growing and sustained air of menace. Once again, it's written for children so it's about what I can handle as far as horror goes!

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen got a mention. I enjoyed the beginning of the book when it looks like it's going to be a Gothic horror tale, although I found it disappointing when it morphed into a standard romance tale.

Dracula by Bram Stoker is another classic. I don't think the later parts of the book stand up as well as the beginning, but I recommend it if only to see where the vampire genre started.

And finally, I'd recommend Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen if you like your horror funny. If you liked Sean of the Dead, this is the one for you. I found it too gory for my taste but I still enjoyed it.

So, what are your recommendations for scary books for this Halloween?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fed up with Facebook?

There's another new alternative to Facebook: Diaspora.

The big advantage is that it's independently run and that it doesn't demand your "real name" or your gender. If you choose to set your gender, you have a blank box to fill in so you're not stuck with only male or female.

It does allow you to connect your account to Facebook and I have very mixed feelings about that. And it's still in alpha, so likely to be buggy.

It's interesting to see what they're doing though so if anyone wants an invitation, let me know and I'll invite you over. You can email me at - I wouldn't put your email address in the comments here, it will be harvested by spambots!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Books for under a quid

I've got two more books I want to recommend by Lexi Revellian. Torbrek and the Dragon Variation and Trav Zander are available for the Kindle at only 99p each, or 99 cents if you're in the US which is even more of a bargain!

As I've come to expect with Lexi, they're very easy reading and draw you in with a gentle humour. I cared a lot about her characters and loved the villains especially in the first book. The feel of the stories is generally upbeat and there's a fair bit of romance. There's also a kick-ass female lead in the first book although we see less of her in the sequel.

I ended up taking my phone to bed so I could carry on reading them and I was disappointed to reach the end.

One tiny caveat, the scenes aren't always marked off with white space, which can be disconcerting. It was a minor flaw in two otherwise wonderful books.

If you like your fiction to take you into another world I can't recommend these highly enough.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


We were at a 60th birthday party yesterday and it was held in the local adventure playground. What a brilliant idea! There were lots of families with children but it was us over 50s that had the best fun: we almost monopolised the zip line! I went on it 6 or 7 times and I was the only one to fall off. It was amazingly good fun.

If only we could have adult adventure playgrounds instead of gyms I'm sure we'd all be much fitter!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I got the job

I'm currently feeling stunned. I got a phone call today to say that I was being offered the job as Deputy Leader at the local after-school club. I'm having trouble taking it in.

Thanks to everyone who sent me your good wishes for the interview, both before and after.

For some reason, I feel like I need chocolate.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Job interview

Tomorrow I have an interview at my local primary school for a post working in their After School Club. I have to carry out a 20 minute group activity with some children, and have a twenty minute interview. I'm nervous.

It's a big step forward after being at home ill for so long. I really want to do it - I love working with children and families and this is even better than a teaching assistant's job. I hope I'm up to it. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Church is as good as jail

Luther Memorial Church

Offenders in Alabama can be sentenced to attend church as an alternative to jail, according to this article.

Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? And how can they suggest that belief in God makes you more moral?

Or have I missed something, and did this originate in The Onion?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Computer woes

Romeo, Romeo, WTF Romeo?, after William Powell Frith

I've just had phone call about "my computer" telling me that it's infected. OK, right.

Me: Which computer?
Foreign-sounding Guy On Phone: Do you have a computer?
Me: If you don't know if I have a computer, how can you tell me it's infected?

That elicited a load of gobbledegook about viruses from my address - both my IP address and apparently my street address. OK again.

Eventually I said I don't own a Windows computer (I'm a naughty little liar, I am) and he hung up.

It hits hardest because my poor little laptop is off at the manufacturers after completely reinstalling Windows didn't work. It kept freezing even as it was updating Windows. I miss it.

Edited to Add:
Thanks to Richard for this link about the scam:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Just for me!

The very talented jjdebenedictis has drawn a picture all for me! It's got a cat and a robot in it and it's really cute. You'll have to pop over there to see it; it's at the end of this post.

Thank you, jj! You're the best!

Friday, August 26, 2011

I did a silly thing

I didn't know it was a silly thing; I thought that setting my laptop to "hibernate" would save power. Only there's a "known issue" that Windows Vista can't cope with hibernating and hangs. The trouble is, the issue wasn't known to me. So I hibernated, then I tried to restart the laptop and it hung. And kept on hanging. By the time I'd done a number of power resets (ie pressing the power button until it turned off) I had buggered the disk and the computer was working like a slug on Prozac, only not so fast or so reliable.

I've now spent two or three days reinstalling all the Windoze updates, after resetting the laptop to factory settings. I've got all my data. I'm reinstalling my blog reader and my Twitter program and all the other bits that I need. I've nearly sorted out the font size issue. What I haven't got is my bookmarks or any idea of what I've been missing for the last few days.

So if I've missed something scintillating that you've said, feel free to let me know. Otherwise, have a good August Bank Holiday weekend and whatever you do, don't hibernate.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fiction reading makes you more sociable

Reading fiction increases your social and empathy skills according to an article in the Yorkshire Post.

I can't find any mention of a control group, or of a before and after test, or anything that would establish cause and effect. But hey! Why waste a good headline just because there are no facts to substantiate it! And don't we all want to believe that having our nose in a book is actually good for us? (Well, I know I do!)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I've levelled up!

I have brand new hearing aids free on the NHS! And they have volume controls! Yay!

As a truly bionic person I have now offically levelled up!*

Apparently not everyone is in love with their hearing aids. I can't understand it - I haven't got good hearing in one ear now, even with them, but it's a bloody sight better than it would be without them. So yay for being a cyborg!

You can see my previous aids here.

*Thanks to Lily-Razz for that phrase.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Confessions of an animal junkie

If you've been following this blog then you probably like animals (well, cats anyway!) and you may well have met Phoenix in the comments. So then you're sure to love her new blog where you can read about all kinds of animals and even get her to post pictures of your own beloved pets! And then we can all enjoy them!

Confessions of An Animal Junkie is here. Why not give it a look?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just wrong

It's a real rifle. It's making a point. Only I don't happen to agree with the point it's making. The UK has managed to stay relatively gun-free and we don't have civil unrest.

Oh, sorry, yes we do. I'm not sure putting guns in people's hands would have improved the situation though.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Do you know how hard it is... take a decent photo of the cat that's lying on your arm?

He makes typing a bit tricky too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's funny...

Comic from

...because it's true.

Thanks to my older son for finding this.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Funny but telling

More funny gay marriage placards are here.

It's easier to make the point when you use humour. Some of the slogans aren't exactly Safe For Work.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Not a winner but...

Well, I didn't win anything in the Clarity of Night contest but I did make it into the forties club (people who scored 40 out 45 for their writing). So I'm very pleased, especially as reading through the other entries I could see so many whose work I really admired.

I've realised that the stories that worked best for me were the ones that managed to read like smooth prose (with or without dialogue) and didn't feel rushed or compressed, even though they only had 250 words to work with. I especially liked Old Kitty's story, which also made the forties club.

Aerin Rose won the Readers' Choice and Simon Kewin got an honourable mention. JaneyV and Precie were in the forties club. There may be other names you recognise if you pop over there and look! My entry was here in case you're interested.

There's something about a writing competition that fires up my creative streak.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Life before Google

This is my absolute favourite of the Chuck & Beans comics. Before the internet we had libraries with encyclopedias, newspapers and books and sometimes even helpful librarians but even so finding something out took a lot of effort.

I love technology.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Lexi Revellian is currently offering a special price on signed paperback editions of Replica and Remix. I recommend both books, so if you want to get them now is a good time.

You can find the offer here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Where do cats sleep?

In the same place as an 800lb gorilla*.

Rufus prefers to sleep in whichever seat I've just vacated then complain when I come back and want to sit there too.

Bonnie prefers to be left alone to choose her seat in peace.

*You don't know where an 800lb gorilla sleeps? Wherever he likes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's International Sh*tty First Draft Week

... over at The Intern's blog. The asterisk is hers not mine, apparently it represents
all the ways in which first drafts are the very opposite of shitty: they can hold flashes of inspiration, stretches of brilliant writing, and scenes that got cut not due to shittiness, but out of necessity

dissection of article

Other writers will be baring their shitty first drafts and there will be prizes! Let me know how if you share one of yours!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Spit don't swallow


Research with athletes suggests that:
  • Gargling with a sugary liquid helps athletes perform better especially if they don't swallow
You can't fool them with saccharine either. Their taste buds might be fooled but their brain isn't - apparently we have carbohydrate sensors in our mouths that are independent of our taste buds.

It's an intriguing article.

Friday, July 15, 2011


[Minifig 16/365] The Doctor And Amy Pond In Canmore, Alberta

Someone has noticed that doctors need people skills. It took long enough.

Let's hope that the idea gets over here sometime soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Delightful surprise

I had a delightful surprise in my letter box a couple of days ago: Wayne Pollard, the creator of Bo's Cafe Life, sent me an advance copy of his book I'm not out of work, I'm a writer which collects together many of his cartoons. It's great to have a physical copy, although I drew the line at taking it to the doctors with me. I thought it might be embarrassing to be laughing away in the waiting room.

I always smile at the jokes; sometimes I laugh out loud. It's a little luxury every day. And now Wayne has added in some interviews with people in the writing world who offer good advice to writers - still in the same amusing style.

Why not pop over there and have a look?

Oh and Wayne, if you're reading this, thank you!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Children reading in the Brighton Branch

Today I went into a school for the first time in three years and helped children with their reading.

I loved it.

Quick reminder

The Clarity of Night Elemental writing contest is now open. The entries are limited this time so you might want to get yours in soon. I have!

Monday, July 11, 2011

tl;dr version: I can drive!

You may remember my ear problems before my holiday. Because my GP thought it might be Menieres disease she wasn't happy with me driving so I haven't. But today I saw a consultant who said:

  • It's not Menieres disease
  • It's probably a one-off
  • Could be caused by a virus or a faulty blood vessel
  • Need to exclude a very unlikely benign overgrowth of nerve in the ear - will need MRI scan
  • Get hearing aid adjusted toot sweet - if more hearing returns they can turn it down
  • Can drive
  • Can swim
  • Check balance before cycling
  • Look all round when crossing roads

So, I'm back in the action!

It's such a relief to be able to drive. The deafness is a nuisance, especially as there's no guarantee that turning up my hearing aid will help. But I will find a way to cope!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Sci Fi book voting

What's your favourite science fiction book? You get the chance to vote here.

Out of the ones on offer mine were: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and Enders Game by Scott Card. (I hate Card's politics but I loved the book.)

What are yours?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More things to do in France

  • Go to a Fest-Noz - a Breton outdoor dance festival. It's free, the locals are friendly and you get the chance to join in. It's a bit like line dancing but in a circle.
  • Go to another one the next night - this one with bonfire. 
  • Walk to the local market and haggle. (I didn't mean to haggle, I just started to walk away, and the guy offered me two euros off. Who'd have guessed?)
  • Eat too much.
  • Visit the standing stones.
  • Swim in the pool. 
  • Paddle in the sea.
  • Remove sand from crevices.
  • Make a bookmark, a phone cosy, two spectacle cosies, a hat and a shawl. I made most of the hat while waiting in the car to get on the ferry home. It was a L O N G wait.

I didn't want to come home.

Monday, June 27, 2011


We're back! I had a great time after all, despite being totally deaf in one ear. It made understanding the French rather more interesting!

Good points:
  • Lovely clean flat with a view over the heated swimming pool
  • Right near shops, restaurants and a pretty beach
  • Wonderful food including chocolate mousse to die for. Holiday calories don't count.
  • The abbey at Le Mont Saint-Michel was fun to explore and gave me ideas for children's stories
  • The Isle Des Moines was picturesque and we walked for miles. (Yes, this is a good thing!)
  • Colourful streets in Vannes and a wonderful museum with a roomful of medieval pictures. I'm a sucker for medieval art; I love the way they paint a close-up scene and then in the background there's a whole other story going on.
  • To be continued...
Less good points:
  • Rain
  • More rain
  • Raining again

It's a damned good job we came prepared with raincoats and umbrellas. 

Eventually the sun came out and left us with only one bad point: no internet. Ye gods how I missed all of you! What have you been up to while I've been gone?

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I saw the doctor who said there are two main things that could be causing the deafness, tinnitus, nausea and vertigo: labyrinthitis or Meniere's disease. She thinks it's not labyrinthitis because of the deafness and tinnitus but the patient UK leaflet said that this could be a feature.

Not that it matters because the treatment is the same: Stemetil for the nausea and vertigo and put up with the rest. When I'm taking the pills the room doesn't bob up and down when I walk, so that's a win!

I think I'll go on holiday anyway and take it easy. I've an overnight sleep on a boat but Stemetil is used for seasickness too, so I'll be fine. Probably.

One thing is off though: my Beloved and I were going to see Mamma Mia live tonight, and I can't cope with loud noises in the ear that is still working. It was our anniversary treat and now we have to find someone who wants our tickets.

I'm not going to let this get me down. I can still have fun. We won't have internet though so I'll miss all of you!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh dear

I woke with the sound of breaking glass in one ear - it was extreme tinnitus. The ear otherwise is totally deaf (and that's usually my good ear).

I feel dizzy - walking is interesting! - and slightly sick. I'll be seeing the doctor at lunchtime.

We're booked on a ferry to France on Sunday night for a week in Brittany. We have holiday insurance but I don't want to miss the holiday. On the other hand I'm not sure I can travel like this. Oh dear.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So much goodness in one post!

Holly Lisle's knitted cat
Today we have writing and knitting and cats all in one post. All that's missing is chocolate!

It's not actually my post though. You may know Holly Lisle who writes books and teaches writing; well she's not well and was forced to spend a day lying down. So she used the time to make an adorable knitted cat, fully poseable, and useful as a character in her writing. I'm impressed. I've only tried crocheting small animals and it's hard! You can see more pictures here.

Oh, and while we're talking about adorable cuteness, have you checked out Lily-Razz's blog? She has all kinds of cute things, mostly that she's made but you might also like this post starring a fluffy kitten.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Favourite Films

La Géode de nuit

What are your ten absolutely favourite films? I saw this meme over at Caroline Smaile's blog and I enjoyed reading about her choices and why she likes them. I'm not sure I can say I have ten favourites but there are some films I've watched and watched and others made a big impression on me.

Films I've watched more than once:

1. Avatar. I saw it twice and I'd have gone on seeing it every week if I could. I loved the eye-candy scenery and I felt swept away to another world. I think the 3D helped but for me it was just a wonderful film.

2. Robin Hood Men in Tights. When my sons were little we watched this so many times I lost count. It's fun and lighthearted and I enjoyed their enjoyment.

3. The Princess Bride. I liked the beginning more than the later parts but the humour was wonderful, especially the part where the hero is fighting left-handed and so is his opponent. I don't usually like sword-fighting scenes!

4. Saving Grace.  A woman saves her finances by growing weed. I love the scene in the village shop when the two shopkeepers have taken weed by mistake and are out of their minds on it. "She's a lovely, lovely woman, in a lovely, lovely house..."

5. Kinky Boots. The story of a shoe making company that turns to making transvestite shoes. I loved the discomfort of the guy who didn't like gays or transvestites when he was forced to face up to his prejudice. Plus it was funny.

6. Fifth Element. A bit sexist for my taste but I love the sci fi effects and Bruce Willis... well he's Bruce Willis. *fans myself*

7. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Pure escapism. Party on dudes!

Other films I enjoyed:

8. The King's Speech. Not one I'd normally choose but so well done and I loved the spiky relationship between the King and his therapist.

9. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I love Michael Caine when he's acting well as he was in this. Plus I loved the twists and turns.

10. Shrek. The first one was very funny. "Do you think he's compensating for something?"

I also enjoyed Monsters Inc, and The Incredibles. Do you notice a theme running through this?

I'd love to hear about your ten favourite films, either as a comment or a blog post!
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