The Trouser Legs of Time

2 Sep

Sometimes I find myself caught up in ‘what-ifs’, what Terry Pratchett calls the trouser legs of time. Not necessarily in a wistful way – sometimes in a ‘whoa, that would suck’ kind of way.

Let’s start with ‘What if I had studied harder at college and got better A level grades?’ 

Oddly, this one wouldn’t make that much of a difference. I got into the university I wanted and the course I wanted.

Which leads us to ‘What if I had made more friends at uni, studied harder, and slept through less lectures?’

I could have been a teacher for seven years by now! Weird. Also, I would never have met my ex.

Which leads us to ‘What if my ex hadn’t broken up with me?’

To be fair, I would be pretty miserable. I was devastated at the time, but our particular mesh of mental illnesses did not complement each other at all. Also, as a result of our breakup, I was at my mum’s house one day when a neighbour came over to ask if any of Mum’s children would like a summer job…

‘What if I hadn’t worked for the NHS?’

Then I wouldn’t have been on a Southampton City Primary Care Trust Christmas party that collided with a Southampton University Hospitals Trust Christmas party, which was largely insignificant except that I met my fiance that night.

These are just some of the ways my mind goes. Sometimes it can get pretty dizzying, considering all the possibilities.

Like, ‘What if I’d won more games recently?’

Then the table wouldn’t look like this:

Table top games

Orphen’s been on a roll lately

Currently reading:

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
“‘You wound us, Madam,’ said Calo. ‘We’re harmless as kittens.’
‘More so,’ said Galdo. ‘Kittens have claws and piss on things indiscriminately.'”

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë*

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

Hexed by Kevin Hearne*

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

Completed since 12/3/2014 (37)

Snuff by Terry Pratchett*
Persuasion by Jane Austen*
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett*
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie*
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Animorphs: The Invasion by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Visitor by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Encounter by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Message by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Predator by K A Applegate
For the Win by Cory Doctorow*
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett*
Animorphs: The Capture by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Stranger by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Alien by K A Applegate
Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Avengers Prime: Volume One by Brian Michael Bendis and Alan Davis*
I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin*
Catacombs by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough*
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan*
Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga by Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns*
Pawn by Aimée Carter*
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen*
Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter
Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan*
A Dance With Dragons Part 2: After the Feast by George R R Martin*
Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter
Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan*
Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan*
Mort by Terry Pratchett
“It struck Mort with sudden, terrible poignancy that Death must be the loneliest creature in the universe. In the great party of Creation, he was always in the kitchen.”

Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan*
“‘Percy,’ my mom said. ‘I give you my blessing.’
‘Be safe, brother!’ Tyson pleaded.
‘Enchiladas!’ Grover said. I wasn’t sure where that came from, but it didn’t seem to help much.”

Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
“The Operatives realized they were about to have a very hostile encounter with a very angry teacher- slash-possible-enemy-agent, so they utilized a number of highly recommended covert tactics.
1. Operative McHenry said, “Are you ready yet? Are you ready yet? Are you ready yet?” in rapid succession until Operative Sutton was, in fact, ready”

Hounded by Kevin Hearne*
“Monty Python is like catnip for nerds. Once you get them started quoting it, they re constitutionally incapable of feeling depressed.”

*First Read

Learning new things

5 Aug

In the face of my struggling computer, I decided it’s time to see what I can do to fix it up a bit, since buying a new one or paying for repairs is out of the question. So a few days ago I loaded up a video on Youtube and learned how to clean the fan. It was mucky but easy enough, and my computer now runs a lot more quietly and I don’t have a permanent heat rash on my left leg. Success!

I still need to work out how to speed the thing up though – can’t afford a new hard drive or anything. I also need a new battery and charger.

With my suddenly not-burning-with-the-heat-of-a-thousand-suns computer, I decided I would spend some time playing Star Wars: The Old Republic again. SWTOR is an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) a bit like World of Warcraft, but obviously set in the Star Wars galaxy. You can play with two characters for free up to a certain

Dominion - tabletop card based games

Our layout of Dominion, complete with Kjarl and Fairlake’s hands

level, and although being a subscriber gets you extra stuff, it’s still plenty of fun. I played for two days solid and got up to about level 12, and I think you can go up to level 50 for free. You can choose your class (Jedi, trooper, empire etc) and your race (I’m human at the moment, my first time playing my main Jedi character was a Twi’lek) and whether you want to play on the side of the Republic or the Sith Empire.

I kind of want to play right now. Oh well. Stuff to do.

A couple of weeks ago the gang played Dominion for the first time – it started out seeming really difficult but then we got the hang of it and it was loads of fun. It’s a card based game where you have to …accomplish…stuff. Okay, it was a couple of weeks ago. I can’t remember how to play, just that I enjoyed myself, and that I won!

That changes the scoreboard (though just a little bit), so here goes:

Board games scoreboard

You may all admire how I forget what font I’ve used every time I update the table

Currently reading:

Mort by Terry Pratchett
“Mort tapped the stallholder in the small of the back. 
   ‘Can you see me?’ he demanded.
   The stallholder squinted critically at him.
   ‘I reckon so,’ he said. ‘or someone very much like you.'”

Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan*

Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
“The Operatives made contact with an asset who had firsthand knowledge of the Blackthorne Institute for Boys. The Asset was also privy to Joe Solomon’s private plans, the Circle’s secrets, and some of the most awesome-smelling soap in the world. The Operatives, therefore, tried not to trust (or smell) The Asset.”

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

Completed since 12/3/2014 (32)

Snuff by Terry Pratchett*
Persuasion by Jane Austen*
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett*
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie*
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Animorphs: The Invasion by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Visitor by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Encounter by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Message by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Predator by K A Applegate
For the Win by Cory Doctorow*
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett*
Animorphs: The Capture by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Stranger by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Alien by K A Applegate
Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Avengers Prime: Volume One by Brian Michael Bendis and Alan Davis*
I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin*
Catacombs by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough*
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan*
Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga by Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns*
Pawn by Aimée Carter*
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen*
Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter
Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan*
“‘My fatal flaw. That’s what the sirens showed me. My fatal flaw is hubris.’
   I blinked. ‘That brown stuff they spread on veggie sandwiches?’
   She rolled her eyes. ‘No, Seaweed Brain. That’s hummus. Hubris is worse.’
   ‘What could be worse than hummus?'”

A Dance With Dragons Part 2: After the Feast by George R R Martin*
Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter
“Operatives Morgan, Baxter and Sutton conducted a detailed search of the Gallagher Mansion, following the textbook grid pattern of detection. (They were sure about this because Operative Sutton brought along the actual textbook.)”

Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan*
Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan*
“‘Your mark was on the crates at camp. Quintus got his scorpions from you.’
   ‘Quintus . . .’Geryon mused. ‘Short grey hair, muscular, swordsman?’
   ‘Yeah.’
   ‘Never heard of him.'”

Branching out

11 Jul

In the interests of building up my copywriting portfolio, I’ve been working on starting a blog for my dad’s morris dancing side. I’ve been along to the last couple of dance evenings with my trusty notebook and less trusty phone to take some pictures and video with, and have been working on the graphics aspect of the blog – far from my specialism but an area I’m working on! Hopefully I’ll be teaching myself video editing too. Once I’m all set up, I’ll add that to my blog roll, so if any of my seven loyal readers are interested in morris dancing and folk music, you can learn something!

I am in the endgame stage of learning to drive, but I am keeping test dates and such things close to my chest to keep the pressure off myself. When I have my driving licence a fair few more jobs will be open to me – I already had one interview where I would definitely have got the job if I had my licence.

I continue to use Halo to help me on days when my anxiety is a bit out of control. It’s a little counter-intuitive – it has the opposite effect on my fiance, making him very tense – but it takes my mind off anything else and wakes up my whole brain at the same time. Eventually on multiplayer mode, though, I’ll end up getting frustrated with myself as my skills are…erratic, to say the least.

I usually have lots to enjoy and look forward to this time of year, as I get really swept up in the big sports tournaments, but this has been an AWFUL year for British sports!

That might be the least geeky thing I will ever say on this blog. But you can totally be geeky about sports – my middle brother is, though he probably wouldn’t use that word to describe himself.

Currently reading

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen*

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter
‘“You know the undersecretary,” Mr Mosckowitz was saying to Anna Fetterman as we danced past, “is really directly under…the secretary. So really I’m just like the secretary, but…”
“Under?” Anna guessed’

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan*

A Dance With Dragons Part 2: After the Feast by George R R Martin*

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Completed since 12/3/2014 (24)

Snuff by Terry Pratchett*
Persuasion by Jane Austen*
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett*
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie*
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Animorphs: The Invasion by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Visitor by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Encounter by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Message by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Predator by K A Applegate
For the Win by Cory Doctorow*
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett*
Animorphs: The Capture by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Stranger by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Alien by K A Applegate
Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Avengers Prime: Volume One by Brian Michael Bendis and Alan Davis*
I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin*
Catacombs by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough*
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan*
Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga by Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns*
Pawn by Aimée Carter*

*First read

Running through tarmac

3 Jul

Time is speeding along while nothing much changes at Casa Lexicon. No job is forthcoming, and now I can add jobs I’m overqualified for to my list of jobs I’m being rejected for, having broadened my search.

Following the death of my sister-in-law in a traffic accident last year, the trial for the man who caused the accident was last week, and he was found not guilty. My fiance has really struggled with the run-up to the trial and the trial itself, and it’s impacted his mental health and job performance, which is Bad. He’s expecting a warning of some sort next week.

So, yes, basically everything continues to suck.

In nice things, however, the weather has been beautiful for most of the last few weeks, and Floydie is enjoying indulging his sundog side. I’ve been cutting myself off internet time a little bit earlier so I can read more.

I’ve discovered the Percy Jackson series thanks to Orphen’s recommendation (and lending me the books) and am hugely enjoying them so far. I’m also watching Star Trek TOS for the first time in the order it originally aired, and it’s awesome – I had no idea I’d enjoy it this much. The Naked Time, which is the fourth episode, is entirely too much fun.

The gang are hoping to start playing games again soon, and hopefully I’ll get a job one day!

This post is all over the place.

Currently reading

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen*

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Pawn by Aimée Carter*

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter
‘The Operative was able to neutralise the immediate threat to the operation by feigning severe mental distress – which was easier than she’d thought, since she was feeling both distressed and mental.’

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan*
‘He looked like an evil male model, showing off what the fashionable college-age villain was wearing to Harvard this year.’

A Dance With Dragons Part 2: After the Feast by George R R Martin*

Completed since 12/3/2014 (24)

Snuff by Terry Pratchett*
Persuasion by Jane Austen*
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett*
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie*
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Animorphs: The Invasion by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Visitor by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Encounter by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Message by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Predator by K A Applegate
For the Win by Cory Doctorow*
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett*
Animorphs: The Capture by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Stranger by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Alien by K A Applegate
Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Avengers Prime: Volume One by Brian Michael Bendis and Alan Davis*
I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin*
Catacombs by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough*
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan*
“‘I am the Mother of Monsters, the terrible Echidna!’
I stared at her. All I could think to say was: ‘Isn’t that a kind of anteater?’
She howled, her reptilian face turning brown and green with rage, ‘I hate it when people say that! I hate Australia!'”

Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga by Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns*

*First read

Underground, overground, wombling free

25 Jun

That title works equally well for what I did on most of my holiday and also for the fact that I’m watching a lot of tennis lately!

We got back from the Isle of Wight a week and a half ago, and since then I’ve been running through quicksand a bit. Last week started out with a day of panic attacks that stopped me from functioning basically for the entire week, though I did have a great meeting with my Prince’s Trust mentor on the Tuesday. He agrees that finding a job is actually the first step towards building my business, so I can stop worrying about money so much, so that takes some pressure off.

With Wimbledon going on, I’m probably not going to have time to take part in this month’s pictonaut challenge – I had an idea about an inverse fairytale but now the world shall never know!

Many games were played whilst we were on holiday – I think there was only one night where we didn’t play, and we half watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture instead. Holy homoerotic subtext, Batman!

So, here’s the table as it stands:

Now Orphen and I are lagging behind

Now Orphen and I are lagging behind

We also played several rounds of Pandemic, which is really hard. You play co-operatively against the game, trying to save humanity from four diseases, which you can name yourself. We had:

  • The Zombie Apocalypse (of course)
  • Stupidity
  • Yawning (we wanted something contagious)
  • Floyditis (After the dog. Symptoms include drooling, obsession with my fiance, excessive waggliness, awful farts, and inappropriate boners)

We played three times, and although we did get better, we never progressed past curing one disease. We got Yawning once and Stupidity once. We never eradicated it though. We must continue playing until we improve!

Currently reading

A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin*

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen*

Catacombs by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough*

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
“From stone’s point of view the universe is hardly created and mountain ranges are bouncing up and down like organ-stops while continents zip backwards and forwards in general high spirits, crashing into each other from the sheer joy of momentum and getting their rocks off. It is going to be quite some time before stone notices its disfiguring little skin disease and starts to scratch, which is just as well.”

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan*

Pawn by Aimée Carter* (I thought it was by Ally Carter when I picked it up, but it’s still really good!)

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter

Completed since 12/3/2014 (19)

Snuff by Terry Pratchett*
Persuasion by Jane Austen*
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett*
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie*
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Animorphs: The Invasion by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Visitor by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Encounter by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Message by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Predator by K A Applegate
For the Win by Cory Doctorow*
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett*
Animorphs: The Capture by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Stranger by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Alien by K A Applegate
Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
‘“Did you mail a picture of your penis?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Would it make it better if I said I was mailing pictures of someone else’s penis?”
I’ve thought about that question for fifteen years and I still don’t have a good answer.

Avengers Prime: Volume One by Brian Michael Bendis and Alan Davis*
“Thor, if they made a greeting card which said: congratulations to you on your army gathering skills…I would buy you one” – Tony Stark

I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

*First read

Off on Holiday

7 Jun

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, six people and a dog shall set sail for the exotic climate of the Isle of Wight, which is approximately 15 miles away from where we live. I’ll be gone for a week, and have nothing much to say right now, but if I don’t update for more than a week WordPress sends me cranky notices about posting targets, so I thought I’d let it know.

Have a great week, gentle readers!

Currently reading

A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin
‘”A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.”‘

Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Catacombs by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Completed since 12/3/2014

Snuff by Terry Pratchett
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Animorphs: The Invasion by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Visitor by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Encounter by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Message by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Predator by K A Applegate
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
‘”I don’t get about much,” said the tree.
“Fairly boring life, I imagine,” said Rincewind.
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been anything else,” said the tree.’

Animorphs: The Capture by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Stranger by K A Applegate
“I have gym next period. At any moment I might suddenly be swooped away to another planet, but in the meantime I have to go play volleyball.”

Animorphs: The Alien by K A Applegate
‘“Where are we going? Ing? Ing-ahng-ing. That is a very satisfying sound.”
“Yeah, everybody loves a good ‘ing.’”‘

Review – ‘For the Win’ by Cory Doctorow

29 May

Wow, I finally finished it.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

As you can see from my reading summary at the bottom of my posts, I’ve been reading For the Win since back in March, just before I started blogging again. It’s been quite a ride.

For the Win is different from any other book I’ve ever read. It has a large cast of main characters, many of whom are people of different nationalities and races, and the story slowly draws them together to form a movement.

Right away, Doctorow introduces the concept of gold farmers, people (usually teenage boys in developing countries) who gather gold in MMORPG* videogames and sell it on to rich people who want to level up fast and have lots of in-game wealth.

Because there’s a market, there’s a supply, and so sweatshops form in India and China and other countries where bosses work the gold farmers into the ground for limited pay. There’s also people hired by the game companies to combat the gold farmers. In response, a character named Big Sister Nor and her friends start organising a union.

In theory, it’s a young adult novel, but I don’t think I could have stuck with it as a kid – there’s a lot of economics talk in there, which would have probably caused young adult me to zone out completely. However, as a somewhat-older-adult, I learned more about economics from this book than I have in the rest of my life.

The book focuses largely on the intersection between economics and labour rights, and Doctorow has taken a bold step in setting large amounts of the novel in Asia, with most of the book written from the Asian characters’ perspective. He paints vivid pictures of Dharavi, a poor area of Mumbai that is one of the largest slums in the world, as well as life in urban China. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of research that went into this story, written by a Canadian-British man.

Doctorow writes from the perspective of a Muslim girl, poor Chinese boys, a Jewish American boy who wishes he was Chinese, and all have their clear voices and all are believable and sympathetic. Oddly, the character I struggled most to relate to was the one main guy who was actually an American adult man. Though probably not that odd actually, since I’m a British woman.

I’m struggling to word this review in the same way I struggled at first to get into this book – it’s kind of too big for me. Read it. And Little Brother, too. Cory Doctorow has lots of worthwhile things to say.

*For those not in the know, an MMORPG is a massive multiplayer online roleplaying game such as World of Warcraft.

Currently reading

A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin

Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Catacombs by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Animorphs: The Stranger by K A Applegate

Completed since 12/3/2014

Snuff by Terry Pratchett
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Animorphs: The Invasion by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Visitor by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Encounter by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Message by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Predator by K A Applegate
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
Animorphs: The Capture by K A Applegate

Timetabled Writing

19 May

In the last couple of weeks, my friend Nemmie has been coming round on Wednesday afternoons for a scheduled writing session. It’s actually been really productive for me – the first week I wrote the entire first draft of the story from my last post, and the second week I wrote the second and final thousand words for A Grave Situation, the story I wrote about in ‘Bitten by the Writing Bug’. Nemmie is becoming better at producing more words as well.

Hopefully we’ll be able to keep it up. It’s my fiance’s birthday this Wednesday, so rather than writing with Nemmie I shall be entertaining said fiance’s parents while lamenting not having the money to buy him a present or take him out somewhere nice.

Not to worry though, because in two weeks, courtesy of our amazing friends, we’re off to the Isle of Wight on holiday. This is very exciting, and I’m sure I shall chronicle the adventures of Six People and a Dog when I come back.

In the meantime, however, I’m working on the second draft of A Grave Situation, which is taking shape quite nicely as I transfer it from my notebook to my laptop. This is usually the stage where I try and add some detail, cut out the adverbs, and laugh at the spelling mistakes spawned by not paying attention.

For today though, I must focus on preparing for yet another job interview tomorrow.

Currently reading

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin

Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Catacombs by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Animorphs: The Capture by K A Applegate

Completed since 12/3/2014

Snuff by Terry Pratchett
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Animorphs: The Invasion by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Visitor by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Encounter by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Message by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Predator by K A Applegate

Inexplicable – Response to May Pictonaut Challenge

14 May

‘What now?’

‘Stretch your left leg up to your head, and grab your foot with your right hand.’

I looked at the valley far below me, aware of how uneven the rock was beneath my feet. ‘Why?’

‘You know why.’

Not entirely true, but I nodded anyway. I closed my eyes and took in a few deep breaths, pushing my fears out of my mind. I stretched my leg up and grasped the sole of my trainer with my right hand, pushing my left arm out to the side to keep my balance. I never expected my years of gymnastics training to bring me to this place.

I stood on a rock, maybe five feet across, balanced on the edge of a mountain. Far below me, mist coated a mountain lake, hiding the blue water with billowing white.

‘Good.’ The voice in my ear was male, amused.

‘How long do I have to stay like this?’ I asked him, trying to sound (and feel) calm.

‘As long as I say.’

I sighed and tried to block out everything else, focusing on keeping my core strong. The valley in front of me was very beautiful, with rugged mountains springing up around the edges of the lake, dusted with snow at the tops. I might even have enjoyed visiting there, but not even yoga is fun under duress.

I had an earpiece in, and at the other end was the man who had my sister.

Taking deep, even breaths, I tried to block out thoughts of Lily. She was 15, and all I had.

‘That’s enough.’

I jumped. So much for my inner peace. Stiff, I lowered my leg, giving it a little shake. I crouched on the rock, waiting for my next instruction. My fingers brushed the rough stone, cold against my skin.

‘You can go back down now. Stay at the Neptune Inn tonight. I’ll be in touch in the morning. Until then, we’ll be watching you.’

We? I fought the urge to ask out loud. Until that moment, I had thought my tormentor was working alone.

As I stuck my arms into my coat and gathered my climbing gear, my bones felt lined with lead. One person was bad enough, but with others I didn’t think I would ever find my sister alive.

***

I was dreaming of my parents when the phone rang the next morning. It wasn’t a nice dream; they were zombies, but it was good to see their faces anyway.

I flailed to find the phone, my legs tangled in the duvet, and found the handset at the same time as I fell out of bed. I brought the phone to my my ear, keeping the cacophony of swear words in my head to myself, and grunted ‘Hello?’ into the phone.

‘Good morning, Miss Grant.’ The caller was too cheerful to be legal. ‘This is Jenny at the front desk with your requested alarm call.’

‘I didn’t – ‘ I stopped myself. I didn’t order an alarm call, but maybe my tormentors did. ‘Thank you.’

‘No problem, Madam. Have a great day.’ She hung up.

‘Not gonna happen, kid.’ I got to my feet, assessing the damage as I kicked my legs free of the duvet. Aching muscles from the previous day’s mountaineering efforts, and a handful of forming bruises from my fall out of bed. This was not going to be a good day.

My last good day had been three weeks before. I’d had a decent time at work, and when I got home I found Lily had cooked us dinner. She’d been experimenting in the kitchen lately, becoming quite the little chef. The spaghetti had been delicious, and after dinner we’d watched one of our Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs while eating jelly babies.

The next day when I got home from work, Lily was gone.

There was an earpiece on the dining table, and a note saying to do everything I was told or Lily would die.

I never expected that what I would be told to do would be so ridiculous.

That first day, I had to stand in the middle of my home town, Greenford, handing out leaflets informing of the impending apocalypse.

I’d had to do a grocery shop, buying junk food and travelling everywhere by cartwheel without being kicked out of the shop.

I’d emptied my bank account travelling to different countries and performing meaningless tasks, and now I was in a British-style inn in Switzerland, longing to see my baby sister again.

I’d expected our tormentors to take my money for themselves, not force me to fritter it away on junk food and travel. I kept asking why, but the man I spoke to didn’t answer, just ordered me on with a smirk in his voice.

I lifted the hated earpiece from the bedside table and slipped it into my ear. It crackled to life.

‘Good morning, Dayna.’

I said nothing.

‘No need to be grumpy. This morning you’ll be getting the 11.05 train to Paris. Look for somebody you know on the train.’

‘I’m not sure I can afford the train fare. ‘ I whispered, throwing my clothes into my bag.

‘Sure you can. We’ve sorted out a loan for you. It’s in your account already. Gonna be a bitch to pay back though.’

‘Fine.’ I decided to leave my new climbing gear behind, as I couldn’t carry it as well as my necessary things. Maybe the hotel would send it on for me. I checked my watch; I still had plenty of time for breakfast before my train.

***

I stood in a line of impatient commuters, surrounded by the smell of cigarettes and leather briefcases and coffee, slowly boarding the train.

‘Who exactly am I looking for?’ I whispered, mindful of the eyes and ears around me.

‘What was that, Dayna?’

‘Who am I looking for?’ I replied, out loud this time. Someone behind me started muttering in French about the crazy English.

‘You’ll see.’

***

I walked the whole way to the back of the train, peering into strange face after strange face. When I ran out of train I turned back, knowing that I hadn’t checked the front two carriages as I’d doubted whoever it was I was looking for would spring to paying First Class.

At the very front of the train, I spotted something so familiar that my throat closed.

‘Lily?’ Her blonde hair curtained her face, her forehead pressed to the dirty window. She was alone, and fast asleep.

I dropped to my knees in front of her, ignoring the new bruises I was sure to be collecting and throwing my bag aside.

‘Lily,’ I took her by the elbows and shook her. ‘Monster, wake up.’

She didn’t stir. My shaking dislodged a piece of paper from her lap, which fluttered to the floor. I picked it up, hands shaking, and unfolded it. It read:

‘She’s fine. You’ll never know why we did this, but you deserved it. Tell anyone and it happens again.’

I screwed up the paper, rough edges cutting into my palms, and hauled myself into the seat next to my sister. Crying, I pulled the sleeping teenager into my arms, and watched the Swiss countryside roll by until I drifted into sleep.

This story was written for The Rogue Verbumancer’s May Pictonaut Challenge, and is probably not the positive, happy story he expected. The picture prompt was this image:

Creative writing challenge image

 

(Also, I stole Princess Burlap‘s name, because I’m a thief like that. Her dog says I have to pay royalties, but I won’t be obeying)

Lazy Farmers

8 May Carcasonne

Sunday saw another gathering of my friends for the purpose of playing games. It started out as a plan to play tennis on Monday and somehow became a plan to play board games on Sunday. We made plans with just over an hour to spare, so commenced a spree of showering and getting dressed. My friends are like-minded, hence three of us being in pajamas at 1.30 in the afternoon.

We kicked the afternoon off with cookies, crisps, and a game of Shadows Over Camelot. Shadows is a nifty game because you play together against the game itself. This was only our second game, so we’re still taking it pretty easy on ourselves – we tell each other what cards we’ve got, and we haven’t introduced a traitor into the mix yet.

It took us maybe 20 minutes to go back over the rules. The first time we played it took about 45 minutes to read the rules, and we were still a little confused, so make sure you leave plenty of time the first time you play.

It’s an excellent game – we found the Holy Grail, retrieved Excalibur from Avalon, did…something with Lancelot’s armour, got defeated by the Black Knight, and kicked some Pict butt, all the while fighting the siege engines gathering around the walls of Camelot.

Shadows Over Camelot

Shadows Over Camelot

We then moved on to playing Carcassonne, which is a game where you build the board as you play. On your turn you place a tile, and then use little wooden people, called ‘Meeple’ to collect points.

Knights stand on cities, robbers stand on roads, and Meeple become farmers by lying down in fields. Because that’s what farmers do.

To quote Kjarl, after one of his Meeple fell down: “Can’t stand! Too lazy! Must…become…farmer!”

There’s an odd sort of psychology to how people keep their playing pieces when not in use:

meeple

 

Carcasonne

A very tidy game of Carcasonne

Our first game resulted in a very tidy map, and I won! It was very exciting. I like to win. A little more than I’m proud of.

Pride comes before a fall, as they say, and my fall was in our second game of Carcasonne, where I dramatically came last. Fairlake took the lead by one or two spaces, with Kjarl and Orphen right behind, and Fairy and I way, way back.

We moved onto playing Settlers of Catan, and the game was pretty even most of the way through, then all of a sudden Fairy had a bunch of cities. We carried on battling for some time, but then Fairy built a road, took the longest road card, gained two victory points, and won.

The thing is, she wasn’t actually just trying for the longest road. In her own words: “I want to make it long but also have something come out of it.”

There may have been some giggling. Some very mature giggling.

So, here are the scores on the doors:

Kjarl needs to up his game

Kjarl needs to up his game

The next time I post will be a short story I’ve written with a picture prompt; I’ll link back and stuff at the bottom.

Currently reading

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin

Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Catacombs by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Animorphs: The Encounter by K A Applegate

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Completed since 12/3/2014

Snuff by Terry Pratchett
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Animorphs: The Invasion by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Visitor by K A Applegate

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