Christmas in the land of cuts

St Leonards on Sea

The Christmas tree. Somewhat depressing

I shouldn’t complain, I really don’t have the right. I’m lucky in that I live in a country where I’m not in fear for my life because I’m of the wrong tribe, religion or ethnicity. I’m lucky in that I’m not starving or having to walk ten miles to get a drink of polluted diseased water. And I’m lucky in that I have a roof over my head, some food in the cupboard, and an occasionally loving cat to stroke.

So why on earth am I moaning?

Human nature, perhaps. No matter how well off we are we always think we should be doing better. Perhaps Santa, rather than doling out another what-have-you, should swap us around for a day or two: you go to bed, fall asleep and wake up in a village in the middle of Somalia. Would I cope? Frankly, no. I’d like – in a very Hollywood action movie sort of way – to think I’d cope, but realistically I’d be screaming in terror.

Anyway, enough about my weird fantasies and onto the picture. Admittedly it’s at night and raining, but it’s not much better in daylight. A few years ago there were loads of decorations and lights strung across the street as well as a splendidly lit tree. Now, most of the shops have closed and the powers-that-be either can’t afford more lights for the tree or they’re worried about the electricity bill.

It’s 2013 and the must have gift is a tablet (not the pharmaceutical variety) whilst there are more homeless than ever.

It’s 2013 and the cost of living has gone through the roof, the population is growing at an alarming rate, there aren’t any jobs and yet (oddly) the unemployment figures are shrinking.

What will 2014 bring?

<a href=””>Way of the Herbal Ninja: Using 17 Herbs You Already Have in the Kitchen</a>

Happy Solstice!

Earth - the pale blue dot.

Earth – the pale blue dot.

I get depressed on the summer solstice as the days begin to get shorter and the year winds down. Daft really, considering the summer solstice is in June, but I can’t help it. Conversely, on the winter solstice I’m a grinning lune! Yep, daylight is in short supply, but ever so slowly they’ll be more of it as the days begin to get longer. Peachy.

I could have put up a pretty picture of the sun over Stonehenge, but I thought the pale blue dot was apt. Taken by Voyager in 1990 as it left the solar system traveling at 40,000 miles an hour, the pale blue dot is where we live. All of us. All seven billion of us. There’s nowhere else to go, so let’s make sure our planet survives. Hmm?

Apt too is the following message from Carl Sagan.

Happy winter solstice!🙂

NaNoWriMo day one…

… and I’ve already thought of joining a monastery for the month.

Chuck Wendig has an apt post: The NaNoWriMo Dialogues: Day One, “So Not Ready”, but then he’s already a published author and has all the time in the world to … what am I doing?

This is worth a watch:

Back to the blank paper, then.



NaNoWriMo: nuts, bolts, bits and bobs

a space to work

a space to work

Prior to the ‘off’, which for me is in just over six hours, and because I’m getting antsy – as I really have no idea what I’m going to write – I thought I’d post about the various things that help make the next month passably passable. I’m writing on a PC.

No matter how you’re going to novel (a terrific verb) – be in pen and paper, typewriter, computer, or dictating (for those with a copy typist) – you need a space to do it. The above is mine, which is a wide corridor on the top floor. Occasionally I get interrupted by holler from below, or a cat demanding stroking, or someone wanting a bath. But mostly I’m on my own, which is good for thought. However, there is a downside: it’s easy to fritter. By that I mean the lure of the internet, or catching a quick snooze which ends up being anything but quick. Still, It’s better than retiring to the car – which I’ve done in past years – and certainly better than trying to write in a recording studio.

The next problem is software. There’s a lot of it out there, and it’s easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles. What you really want during NaNo is wordage, and that’s most easily achieved with a simple word processor. You don’t need a gazzillion fonts, or a corkboard, or a complicated file structure. You need to write. However, once NaNo is over and you come to re-write and edit, then it is good to have a corkboard you can re-arrange scenes on, and a file structure that’s easily tweaked without a major kerfuffle. Scrivener offers all this. It’s not expensive, and, if you get to 50,000 words and ‘win’, you get 50% off.

The wizards at Literature and Latte (the makers of Scrivener) have recently come up with another tool so useful I’m surprised it hasn’t caused a revolution. Scapple is … Oh, I’ll let them tell you:

Scapple is an easy-to-use tool for getting ideas down as quickly as possible and making connections between them. It isn’t exactly mind-mapping software—it’s more like a freeform text editor that allows you to make notes anywhere on the page and to connect them using straight dotted lines or arrows. If you’ve ever scribbled down ideas all over a piece of paper and drawn lines between related thoughts, then you already know what Scapple does.

At $14.99 Scapple is ridiculously cheap and I’d use it NaNo or not.

If you fancy a more traditional mind-mapping program the open-source Freeplane is very good.

And then there is timeline. Every tale has a timeline and story arcs. Aeon Timeline lets you create a complete timeline (BC-AD or fantasy) for your story including multiple arcs, multiple characters, multiple locations, etc. It then allows you to zoom in and see what’s happening at every moment during your story. It sounds complicated and, to be honest, I haven’t entirely got my head around it. However, I think that once I have grasped it fully it will be invaluable … probably. It’s $40, and there’s 40% off if you’re a NaNo winner.

YWriter 5 was created by novelist Simon Haynes to help him write. Besides being a published author –  the Hal Spacejock series – Simon is a a programmer. YWriter is a very good solution to a lot of the problems you come across writing a novel. But, as with Scrivener, there is a learning curve. It’s entirely free.

Page Four. I’ve been using it for ages. It’s like a paired down scrivener though it’s as expensive.

Writer’s Cafe is a suite of programs designed to help you write. I’m not entirely convinced. $40

Liquid Story Binder is another product that some love. I’ve never got on with it. During NaNo it’s 50% off and costs $22.98.

Storyist is for Mac only.

Q10 is a beautifully simple word processor that is both forever free and perfect for NaNo. It’s small, fast and makes concentrating on writing a breeze.  You can also run it from a USB stick, so it’s perfectly portable.

Personally, I’m going to use Scrivener (without its bells and whistles), and Scapple (utterly brilliant). I’m also going to carry a copy of my novel along with Q10 on a USB stick as a ‘just in case.’

All of the paid software has a demo version available that lasts past the end of November and into December. What you use is obviously a personal choice, but take it from one who knows. Write during November; put the result away for at least a few weeks without reading it and then examine, tweak and organise, re-write and edit it later.

All the very best to those of you embarking on the NaNoWriMo express. Have a great time and enjoy it!

See you on the other side.🙂


NaNoWriMo 2013

Once more into the breech

I wasn’t. I really wasn’t going to do it. Yet when push comes to shove NaNoWriMo is not only a huge amount of fun, but it’s quite cathartic too. And cathartic I could do with.

‘Yeah, thirty days of bubbling hysteria. How can that be cathartic?’ I hear you ask. Well, I can’t claim to have a definitive answer. But to me, coming out of it on December 1st with 50,000 plus words in hand … is as peachy as winning the lottery. Almost.😉

If you’ve always thought there was a book in you that ‘one day’ you’d get around to writing, then DO IT! It’s not too late to sign up.

I’ve been doing NaNO since 2006, and whilst it’s true that some years have been better than others, I’ve managed to ‘win’ it more times than I’ve failed. And even when I’ve failed I’ve still come away with a worthwhile experience. I only wish I lived in San Francisco, where they have a core of lunes who get together on a regular basis throughout the month. Then there’s the ‘Night of Writing Dangerously‘, a write-a-thon I’d give my eye tooth to attend. Ah well, a garret in St Leonards will just have to do.

What I think I’ll do is post what I write, warts and all. HERE

Paltry advice for newbie bloggers.

Although I’ve been blogging for a while I don’t seem to have got the point, yet.

To date this hasn’t really been a blog; it’s more a collection of musings and bits and pieces I’ve come across. It’s higgledy-piggledy in the extreme, and though that’s not a bad thing for a personal – slip it under the mattress – journal, it’s pointless as far as a public blog goes. People want surety from a blog: that what is said will amuse, or instruct,  or have gravitas, or, at the very least, have a point. Congenerous (belonging to the same genus – as all of us do) doesn’t yet have a point. Why? Because it’s too higgledy-piggledy: like my mind, apparently.

So, rule number one should be: have a point. Don’t be seduced by everything that’s shiny – unless of course that is your point. Confused? Yep. me too.

Rule number two: Categories are not tags! This is something I’ve been aware of for a while, now, but to begin with I really wasn’t sure. I have far, far too many categories and at this stage it’s going to be a royal pain to remove them. But remove them I must. Use as many tags as you like, but the fewer categories the better. At present I have thirty, and a bunch of sub categories. I should have used tags but I didn’t know I should have used tags – daft. It’s no wonder I’m so confused!

Rule three should really be rule one, and is obvious: don’t plagiarize: EVER! You wouldn’t like it if your writing appeared under someone else’s name in their blog, would you? No, you jolly well wouldn’t. Quoting attributed snippets within quotation marks is fine, but never claim it’s yours.

Rule four: take photos of every interesting thing you see as you never know when one will inspire an idea for a blog. Most of us have phones with cameras and you can get great free software for tweaking your snaps (I use and Gimp).

I’m sure – as eggs are eggs – that there are a lot more rules of thumb to bear in mind, though at present I can’t think of any. Finally, you really should read Lynne Truss’ book on punctuation: ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves.’


It’s available in all good bookshops and on Amazon and Kindle, though I think it’s best to get the paperback as mine came with a punctuation repair kit.🙂

Oh, and Croit says hello. He’s a very happy chappy as his cousin is in, and on the cover of, the book.

Happy blogging!

A startling conclusion

I was on my way back from the shops last week when I stumbled across a box on the pavement outside a closed charity shop. It said: ‘Free – Help Yourself.’ I had to wait my turn as a woman with a shopping trolley had her head in there. Still, she left a few trinkets of which my panda was one. I say ‘my panda’, but he’s really a very self aware, shy, stoic beast. We have yet to become firm friends. Let me introduce you to Croit.

Croit, my panda.

Now, it might seem daft to you to have a panda as a talisman, and I’m sure most would rather have a 24 carat gold thingummyjig. But each to his own, eh?  I too am lost at the bottom of a writerly cardboard box, and I’ve come to the conclusion that having Croit as a talisman is a good thing – at least, it can’t hurt.  That he’s a panda is neither here nor there, though I won’t tell Croit that.

Remarkably, on the very same day I found Croit in the charity shop ‘free’ box I made the determination that I wouldn’t write a jot unless I was going to submit it for publication. Of course, this blog doesn’t count. This blog is my mind’s way of venting stuff. Some occasional good stuff, I hope, but stuff nonetheless. Stories, short or otherwise, are now for submission. That said, seeing as I’ve already got more than thirty shorts under my belt some of those will be appearing here. Pleiades is one.

My other new determinations are:

  1. Do the washing up in a timely manner.
  2. Hoover them dust bunnies outta my crib.
  3. Write two shorts for submission by 30th.
  4. Take Holy Lisle‘s ‘How To Think Sideways – Ultra‘ course.
  5. Release another album.

As I write it’s numbers three and four that are most on my mind, which is a good thing as I have the attention span of a… oh! Look! Shiny thing!

There comes a time when one needs a bit of help to clarify thought, and hone in on what’s important. The course: How To Think Sideways (HTTS), might just be the key that sets my aberrant writer’s brain back on the tracks… so to speak. Sheesh. Of course Croit’s going to help, though he hasn’t actually agreed yet.

Wish me luck! I know Croit does… don’t you mate? Hmm?

P.S. anthropomorphism rocks!