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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.

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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.'”

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

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

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

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

A Risky Situation

14 Mar

So this afternoon my friend John came round to play. I acknowledge this makes me sound like an eight year old, but that’s what happened! This was booked about a week in advance and was much anticipated (by me, not sure about John).

We got snacks, and then sat and played Spartan Ops on Halo IV for about an hour and a half. This involved a lot of swearing (although not quite as much as usual for either of us), a lot of dying, and I lot of me saying ‘Heh, killed HIS ass’ which is sort of a misquote from one of the Southern Vampire Mysteries books.

Halo’s one of my favourite games, although as with all video games, my performance is patchy. Very patchy. I win matchmaking games (where I’m playing against people I don’t know) sometimes, and then another day I’ll lose so thoroughly that some twelve year old kid will send me a kindly message saying “Get the fuck off Xbox and never come back” which is, y’know, flattering. Twelve year old gamers are Lovely, y’all.

Star Wars Risk: Clone Wars Edition

Star Wars Risk: Clone Wars Edition

After a period of Spartan Ops, where we played together, we were now ready for something a bit competitive, so we broke out the Star Wars Risk (hence the post title – see what I did there?). I ended up playing as the Republic, while John took control of the Separatist armies.

We set out slowly, each taking one or two territories from each other per turn, and then I slowly started to make inroads into his territories. I built ships and used them to capture vast sections of the galaxy from the Separatist Scum, while trying to ignore the steady progress of Darth Sidius up the Order 66 trail.

When it seemed like three quarters of the galaxy was mine, disaster struck – Darth Sidius reached the top of the trail, and John declared Order 66. Sidius came out of the closet of evil, and announced that the Jedi had betrayed the Republic. What followed was a massacre. John rolled an eight sided die for each of my territories, and if he rolled two or higher, he got the territory and the troops on it.

I ended up with two territories. Down from about 25.

Nonetheless, my two territories, side by side in the Colonies, fought back. Dathomir and…somewhere else…managed to retrieve three more territories before being attacked by a massive onslaught of Imperial forces. After all, all it takes for evil to conquer is for good women to roll snake eyes.

All in all, it was a great afternoon, even if I did lose catastrophically.

All three of my books are still ongoing, plus one more. I’m going to add in random quotes I picked out, because I like quotes. Ask my friends. They’ll be all ‘archaic form of Big Brother!’ and then you’ll know.

Ongoing Books:

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

Snuff by Terry Pratchett
“He heard the voice of Feeney saying, more frantically this time, ‘What are we going to do commander?’
And Vimes blinked and said, ‘Everything!‘”

For The Win by Cory Doctorow

Terrier by Tamora Pierce