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Books, books everywhere

1 Jun

There is so much I want to read at the moment, and so little time.

We moved house lately, and we no longer have our dog, which is a deeply sad story that I can’t bring myself to tell. Writing that sentence alone brings a lump to my throat.

I should be writing more, but I’m finding work exhausting still, and I keep getting ill (combination of many people in quite a small space, air conditioning, and fatigue) so my novel hasn’t been touched since I started at my job.

On the bright side, I have so far (according to my record on Goodreads) read 47 books this year – granted, about 15 of them are Animorphs books so about four should really count as one, but I raised my reading target to a hundred books by the end of the year. I have a strong contender for next year’s book of the year already, but The Bloggess is releasing another book later this year, and there be a lot of time twixt here and new year, so it’s all to play for. I mean, read for.

The gang (the least ‘street’ gang in the world) have lately been playing a lot of Sherlock Holmes related games, and Orphen has taken a massive interest in Risk Legacy lately. If you haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t), Risk Legacy is sort of like a Risk tournament. You play about 15 games in total with different objectives each time, and the game gets ‘scars’ from previous battled. Orphen has written a very impressive bit of back story for the game, and we’re all really enjoying it so far.

We hope to break into RPGs soon (I’m pretty sure RPGs are a type of weapon, but I refer to roleplaying games as we’re not much for actual violence), starting with the Firefly RPG. I’m going to be gamesmaster, which should be interesting since I have NO IDEA what I’m doing even after I’ve nearly finished the guide. Anybody got any tips?

Luckily, Kjarl has a work friend who’s going to help, and he’s even going to GM our first session. I’ve only ever done online roleplaying, so this is something new, exciting, and gratifyingly nerdy.

This was a pretty comprehensive catchup post. Thus it ends.

Researching hate

1 Nov

For just the tiniest smidgen of my novel, I needed an idea of how racist rallies work. I’ve never been to a protest of any kind (although I walked near one once; there were about five people waving placards in Southampton city centre – I think they were protesting the Iraq war) so I didn’t/don’t know how they really work. My character is hearing the protests from a distance, so that didn’t matter too much.

What I did need to know was what sort of slogan would be chanted at a protest with a racist objective. So I delved into the dark places of the internet. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did find a strong urge to vomit. I found a blog with horrible jokes about Muslim people, dehumanising and disgusting, and further posts from the same blog explaining why Muslims weren’t as good as other people and violence against them was totally justified.

Then I stopped researching for the day and went to take a shower.

It absolutely horrified me that in 2014 there are people who think some people are better than other people just because of the colour of their skin or the god(s) they worship or don’t worship. For a milder example, I would probably not get to be president of the United States because I am an atheist.

Also because I am English (and female, but I think we’re getting there on that one. Slowly).

Eventually I gave up, and it’s not something I want to research again. Sometimes it would be easier to bury my head in the sand completely.

It's a threeway! ...tie for gaming victory

Kjarl and I are quite the detectives

 

Currently reading:

Harry Potter y la Cámara Secreta by J K Rowling

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

The Magic in the Weaving by Tamora Pierce

The Story of the Jews  by Simon Schama*

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen*

Sagittarius Whorl by Julian May

A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris

Completed since 12/3/2014 (62)

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
Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan*
Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
Hounded by Kevin Hearne*
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Shirley by Charlotte Brontë*
Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
Hexed by Kevin Hearne*
Hammered by Kevin Hearne*
Tricked by Kevin Hearne*
The Great Cat Massacre: A History of Britain in 100 Mistakes by Gareth Rubin*
Bridget Jones’s Diary: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding*
United We Spy by Ally Carter
The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid*
Trapped by Kevin Hearne*
Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë*
Mastiff by Tamora Pierce
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
Perseus Spur by Julian May
Hunted by Kevin Hearne*
Sisters by Barbara Mortimer*
The Martian by Andy Weir*
“I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientists are known for.”

Orion Arm by Julian May
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch*
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë*

*First read

An endless round of interviews

27 Mar

When last we met (it totally counts as meeting if I write and some of you read and one of you comments, right?), I was geared up for an interview in Salisbury. That went well – I got through to a second stage, which meant I had to compile an email communication – and I’m still waiting to hear back. Meanwhile, I have another interview lined up, this time in Southampton. I keep getting interviewed, so I guess my CV is well written. I’m a CV badass!

(If you’re American, a CV is a resumé, FYI)

Meanwhile, I had my first appointment with my Prince’s Trust mentor on Monday, so the process of organising my business plan begins. Ooh-er.

First of all I need to organise a portfolio of my work so far. That means I need to find my work so far. I also need to purchase my domain name and build my website.

I worry, though, about conflict between my forthcoming business and any jobs I may get. What if they won’t let me freelance? The Prince’s Trust won’t approve the business without proof that you’ve run it for a little bit.

So, anyway, it’s all go in Pipland.

Settlers of Catan - image from the Settlers of Catan website

Settlers of Catan – “I’ve got wood for your sheep”

Sunday saw holiday planning with my friends and also a bit of a marathon gaming session. We played Ticket to Ride (congratulations, you now have that song stuck in your head), which I lost after dramatically failing to…well…win. This game showcased a very poor level of knowledge of North American geography among well educated British people in their late twenties. (“New Orleans, where are you? Oh. I was looking in the North.” etc.)

We played Settlers of Catan twice, but I can’t remember who won because it wasn’t me. I think my friend John won. I lost. Both times.

This losing streak has got to stop, people!

Settlers of Catan is an excellent game, with elements of chance and skill and the opportunity to say “So, are you saying you’ve got wood for my sheep?” and also lots of saying:

“What do you want? Wheat?”
“Two wheat”
“To woo”

Because we all like to sound like owls when we trade for resources.

I haven’t managed to do much reading over the past week, always disappointing. Here are the scores at the moment:

Currently reading

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

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

Terrier by Tamora Pierce

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

By the Pricking of My Thumbs  by Agatha Christie

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Completed since 12/3/2014

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

So basically I started a load more books instead of finishing the ones I was already on. Way to go, me! I’m taking a slow day today because I sometimes underperform in Friday afternoon interviews due to tiredness, so maybe some reading progress will be made!

(I acknowledge that this blog post is all over the place)

Novel Progress: 39012 words

Ticking along

19 Mar

I have a job interview tomorrow – this will be my ninth or tenth since I was made redundant back in November. I interview well, so my odds should be pretty good, right?

Only I’ve interviewed well every single time, and still nothing. If I don’t get this one, next week I’ll start searching for a stopgap job to tide me over until I either get a job in marketing or am ready to launch my own business. Back to retail, yay!

In the meantime, I continue to tick along, searching for work and working on  my novel (although I haven’t written anything since I started blogging again). I’m finding more time to read since I started writing about reading. This is good, as I’ve definitely gotten slack in my levels of reading actual books, instead getting through vast amounts of fanfiction (usually Castle and The Mentalist). I’m going to start working my way through the classics I haven’t read, with help from my local library.

So, to round out this post about nothing, here’s my book progress:

Currently reading

For the Win by Cory Doctorow
On translation from Chinese to English: The intonation. He was always getting it wrong. He’d say, “I’ll go aggro those demons and you buff the cleric,” and it would come out, “I am a bowl of noodles, I have beautiful eyelashes.” But he was getting better.’

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

Terrier by Tamora Pierce

Completed since 12/3/2014

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

A New Beginning

12 Mar
Avast, me hearties! I be a scourge to bloggers everywhere! - Speaking pirate dog

My dog Floyd does not usually look like a pirate, but this one made us laugh so we kept it. Picture (minus caption) by Venture Photography

Hello, gentle readers.

A long time ago, in a galaxy…pretty damn close, a lady with barely visible eyebrows started a blog, wrote on it for a few months, then let it dwindle into obscurity because apparently people with dogs don’t have time to blog.

Since my last post, nearly three years ago now, I have been made redundant, been unemployed for two months, found a job, had said job for 14 months, got made redundant again, and have now been unemployed for going on 4 months.

My first redundancy gave me plenty of time to work on my novel, but somehow this one has not. My current word count is 38187, so it’s slooowly coming along.

What’s really prompting me to start blogging again now is that I’m enrolled in the Prince’s Trust Enterprise scheme, which aims to help people aged 18-30 set up their own businesses. I have attended an introduction meeting and a four day course, and am on my way to setting up my own copywriting business in a few months – the timing depends on whether or not I get a job in the meantime.

I plan to blog about where I’m up to with my business plans, and I will also set up a professional blog and portfolio when the time comes. I’m a little on the nervous side! What’s weird is the last time I posted on my blog I knew absolutely nothing about marketing, and now here I am trying to make a living with it. (I just wrote ‘loving’ and then giggled to myself)

I also plan to open up the focus of this blog to include general geeky things like video games, table top games, and TV shows that I’m enjoying, so I have more to write about – I’m also going to include goings on with my theatre group as the Chameleons is a big part of my life these days.

I’m going to start keeping track of what I’m reading again, but I’m only going to write one review per post and just list the rest, as it was the dauntingness (shutup, it’s totally a word WordPress YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME) of keeping up with myself that probably stopped me blogging in the first place. Floyd’s not really to blame.

So, to kick things off, I am currently reading:

A Dance With Dragons: Part I by George R. R. Martin

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

For The Win by Cory Doctorow

Once I finish one I may even review it!

So, what’s going on with you guys? Any books to recommend that I read next? Any sage wisdom on running your own business or finding a job?

Progress

13 Oct

My aims for this year that I may or may not have expressed during the course of this blog (ten months, ten posts – must post more often!) were the following:

  • Complete first draft of my novel
  • Participate in at least one writing competition
  • Blog weekly

What I have achieved as of today:

  • Roughly 21% of the first draft of my novel
  • About half a short story for a writing competition
  • An average of one blog post a month.

Clearly I am amazing. On the other hand, it has been a tough year and I haven’t given up! I’ve still been writing away, tucked in around my long work days and obsessive gaming and internet use, and my novel has carried on. I’ve spent the last four days gearing up towards killing someone (in the STORY!).

I’m pretty good at killing off fictional people. You don’t want to be acharacter in one of my stories, the mortality rate is horrendous.

This is Not Me (honest)

So, here are my aims for the rest of the year:

  • Hit 30000 words on the novel of doom (I keep typing ‘nobel’ instead of ‘novel, are my fingers telling me to aim higher?)
  • Complete the short story and enter it into a competition
  • Blog at least once a week so you can all marvel at my progress (all maximum of 30 of you). Maybe if I blog more I’ll get more readers! This will make my poor wee ego happy.
  • Use parenthesis less when writing blog posts
Novel Progress

0 Words
100,000 Words

Get a progress bar at DollarTimes.com

Inspirations 3 – J K Rowling

22 Sep

 Figured it was definitely time for another inspirations post. So, J K Rowling. You might have heard of her, I believe she’s a bit famous.

As with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels I was a reluctant reader of Harry Potter. I was all ‘rar, hype hype hype not going to read it what kind of a name is Harry Potter anyway?’ only I might have used punctuation in my thinking. One day when I was about 13 my Dad was moving in with my Stepmum-to-be, and they had gone on a moving van run to my Stepmum’s house, leaving me behind. I was bored. Very, very bored. I didn’t have much experience of being bored. All the packing was done, most of stuff was moved, and then I saw a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone  and I went ‘FINE, whatever’ in typical teenage fashion, picked it up and stomped over to the couch to read it.

I read it from cover to cover, enjoying the characters, the story, the quirky names and the humour of the whole thing. I seem to remember that Dad had actually bought it for me for Christmas but had forgotten to give it to me (he does that sometimes 😀 late presents are kind of cool). I went on to acquire Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, reading them in one sitting as well. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire hadn’t been released yet, and so began my period of eager waiting. This is the first time I can remember where I had to wait for a book to come out; most of my reading were already completed serials or standalone novels up to that point.

Me waiting for the release of HP4…I might actually have had less hair

 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the first time I stayed up until midnight to go and buy a book. It might even have been the first time that a book was released at midnight and shops stayed open to wait for it. It was very exciting – most of my family was hooked by now, and my Dad took me to the supermarket to join the long queue of people waiting to buy. We got home at about 12.45am and I finished my first read through by about 5am. I was startled by how much more grown-up this was than the previous books, but it made a lot of sense with the characters growing older. At this point they were just a little bit older than me. The scene with the trial of Barty Crouch Jr. terrified me, it was so intense – now that’s good writing! To make a scene (not even a violent or traditionally scary scene) that intense is remarkable. 

I queued up at midnight with Dad again to get Order of the Phoenix. This one didn’t appeal to me as much, although it was still awesome. Angsty Harry was just far too angsty for my liking! I still stayed up all night to read it.

I actually didn’t do the midnight queue for the sixth book,in fact I think it had been out a whole week before I read this one. By this time I was 19, so had dramatically overtaken the characters in terms of age. I think I might even have paced this one out and read it in more that a day.

For the final book, a group of my friends decided we would go and do the queuing thing – no supermarket this time, we wrapped ourselves up in warm clothes and at about 11pm we wandered into Southampton, bought some kebabs and chips (an important part of any late night city venture) and joined the queue outside the big Waterstones. We stood there. Drunk people ambled around us, and the police and decided that we warranted some protection, so a couple of coppers hung round as well. Som drunk guys shouted ‘RON DIES!’. The uninitiated stared. Our feet hurt.

I am the best artist ever. Click to embiggen.

Totally worth it.

Finished the book around 7am, and then fell into an uneasy sleep. Woke up an hour or so later, raised my ‘wand’ arm and shouted ‘PROTEGO!’ because I dreamed that I was surrounded by Death Eaters.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is scary, intense, in tents (see what I did there?), and so brilliant.

Rowling’s more than a writing inspiration – she shows that you can work your way up from having nothing and become one of the richest people in the world. She takes an interest in politics and doesn’t forget her roots. She’s generally amazing, and one of the few celebrities I would love to meet.

My writing definitely looms towards being dark, but Rowling’s writing reminds me that you can combine dark with the light.

British author Joanne Rowling was born in 1965 and is the author of the famous Harry Potter series. She started writing the series as a single mother on benefits and became a multimillionaire within five years. She supports numerous charities and has made considerable donations to the Labour Party in Britain.

Ending the Silence

31 Jul

Hi everybody,

It turns out that so far I am a Bad Blogger – I haven’t posted since we moved house, with was five months ago! The thing is, to blog about writing, you need to be doing some writing, and if you’re stuck in a writing dry spell, you’re not going to be blogging about it, as blogging is, well, writing.

All with me so far?

Good, because apparently my computer isn’t – almost crashed the gorram thing trying to insert my demotivational lolcat.

Anyway, here I am, blogging at 1.35 on a Sunday morning because I need to stay awake long enough to make sure I’m not going to throw up again (I always seem to be vomiting in this blog, very peculiar, no? Granted, some of it’s verbal vomit) and I wish to make it clear that I have not dropped off the face of the novel-writing planet. The Unknown is still very much in the works – I cleared 17000 words a few weeks ago, which is when I last took some time off to work on it. I have this coming Thursday and Friday off work for writing, so hopefully I’ll make a leap forward then. 20000 words here we come! Go team Pip!

At this time of day I am my own cheerleading squad.

I have been in a huge Charlaine Harris kick for the last few months – I read the first three Sookie Stackhouse books, then I read them again, then I got the fourth and fifth books, and then I read all five again, and then I got the sixth book and then reread all six…repeat up to the 11th book, when I finally ran out. This has resulted in me not doing any writing at work. Now I’m on Star Wars books. Since I have more than 70 of these, I’ll have to try and divide my time more evenly. Here, I shall provide a chart. Because I can.

When I say ‘my time at work’ I mean on my breaks, not during my actual work time!

Ok, to tell you the truth I made the statement ‘Because I can’ with no idea whether I actually could, and now I am insanely proud of myself.

Anyway, look, the point is, I shall write more, be a better blogger and we shall all be in awe of me. Deal?

I have fallen out with my progress bar code, does anybody know a decent one?

Setbacks

4 Feb

So, I hoped to do quite a lot of writing this week. I made good progress through to Wednesday, despite feeling somewhat lurgy-ish. I managed to get another 1000 words done, which was awesome. Sadly, my lurgy grew to a Super Lurgy of Doom, culminating in me going home sick Thursday morning and throwing up Thursday evening.

My concentration and co-ordination are off – this can especially be seen  when I play Halo as my average score in Slayer has dropped from 16 to 3 (I dealt with this enormous setback by mostly playing Assassins Creed II instead).

So, yes, no writing. On the plus side, I now know where my novel is going next, and I’ve also chosen a short story to do that I started writing in 2009 and forgot about, but found in my most recent writing notebook while I was writing on Wednesday evening. It could possibly fit into Dark Tales, so that opens up another competition with a reasonable deadline.

For the moment, I’ll be needing to focus on getting better, then packing to go on holiday and then move. Hopefully by Sunday I might be able to try writing again.

Novel First Draft

13006 Words
START
END

Competitions

1 Feb

As I stated a few days ago, I’d really like to enter at least a couple of competitions this year. So where do I start? Google’s always a good bet for just about anything (except ‘where did I put the TV remote?’ – you’re on your own with that one) so I typed in ‘writing competitions UK 2011’ and found this rather excellent site with a list of competitions. A quick look over has given me the following possibilities:
Writers’ Forum

I know from my creative writing course-mates that Writers’ Forum has quite a decent reputation. They have a new competition every month, with decent prizes – £300, £15o and £100. The problem with writing contests is that they tend to have an entry fee. This one is £6, which I can easily afford if I’m only entering two competitions per year. This one’s quite a strong possibility – there’s no set genre, so I could write whatever I like.

 

Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook

The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook is the essential guide to getting published. It contains publishers details, editors details, and tips from published writers. You should really update it every year but my one is from 2009 – sadly it’s not a cheap book. Anyway, they have a competition too, but I’d say it’s pretty much impossible at the moment – the submission deadline is the 14th of January, and I don’t have much time. I’m supposed to be packing to a) go on holiday, and b) move. I also appear to be coming down with a cold. This sucks, because the prize money’s awesome.* It also has a week’s residential writing course as a prize.

Cazart

I don’t know much about these guys. They seem more of an online creative writing community to me than competition based, and the entry fee is around a third of the possible winnings by the looks of things. If I was writing solely for the love of it, I would enter this, but as it is I really would like wider recognition as a writer and also money.*

Challenge Writing

I would actually love to enter this one. the prizes are good and the entry fee goes to a charity that I would support, Women for Women. I am therefore a bit gutted that it closes on the 11th of February – I definitely won’t have time to produce a decent story before then. Hopefully this one will come round again next year, and I’ll be able to hop on board.


I guess that leaves me with the Writers’ Forum competition, unless anybody else knows of any other competitions? Any suggestions on what I could write about?

 

*It does come across in this post that I’m fixated on money. This is mostly because I am very poor and require money to put food in the mouths of my hungry fish (and my fiancé and me, but hey).