Monday, 21 October 2013

November. Time of cheer and banging my head against the desk in frustration.

... And screaming down the phone that it's my weekend and work can live without me.

I'm trying again. Entering NaNoWriMo.

Admittedly I'm not very good at the whole deadline thing. But this year I have twelve days off work. Technically. Hopefully. Unless they screw with my shift pattern. I hope they don't screw with my shift pattern.

I'm trying steampunk. Probably the only time I'll research Victorian colour combinations.

I'm also trying MASSIVE PLANNINGtm.

MASSIVE PLANNINGtm is a new scheme which involves an awful lot of planning. I've already mentioned my character database. That is being used. My plot is being charted and tied in knots. And then cursed at, untied, and lovingly straightened out. I am using Microsoft OneNote (available for free or dirt cheap on android devices, and web-editable on the PC), so any notes I take can be seen and modified on any of my devices. I've also created a separate Reddit account purely for writing inspiration, by unsubscribing from the bullshit timeholes. If MASSIVE PLANNINGtm doesn't work, I'm getting my money back.

And I'm destroying the universe. Sorry about that.

Mike 'Destroyer of Tea and Biscuits' Barlow.

P.S. I really hope work doesn't screw my shift around until December. Problem is, I'm due one. I'm supposed to be being transferred to another part of the lab, but they delayed it. If I can make it to the 5th, I'm almost home free.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The hindrance with hermaphrodites, or, the problem with gender-neutral pronouns

... is that there aren't any in the English language. (He/Him/His is often used, but I see them as purely masculine).

Seriously, I have a species which breeds asexually, by budding off a child, and therefore has no gender distinction.

So how to refer to them in singular, since 'they' is most definitely plural?

I've always been of the impression that him/her or he/she is an abomination. Fine in a contract, but they do not belong in a work of fiction. I hear that Gary Jennings circumvented this problem by using him or her interchangeably. Although I consider this to be an effective workaround, I feel it doesn't actually help the issue.

(I, I, I, I'm being very egotistical today, methinks)

I recently read a terms of service (and promptly lost the damned site), which used 'xe' in place of he/she, and 'xir' in place of him/her (her/him always seemed more appropriate to me, being in alphabetical order and all). With very little extra research (thank you wikipedia. You may be too unreliable for academic papers, but you're good enough for me), I stumbled across this site, which rates the various proposed systems according to Ease of Pronunciation, Distinction From Other Pronouns, and Gender Neutrality.

It doesn't draw any definitive conclusions, but it certainly helped as a guide (it even has a table of usage for each system, and reproduces the first chapter of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland using each). It drew me to Spivak pronouns (ey/eir/em), which although were not rated highly, seemed to be the most understandable with no exposure to such pronouns (think they/their/them, it's basically singularisation of the plurals).

And so, ey/eir/em it is. I liked the aesthetic appeal of xe/xyr/xem (for science fiction it looks appropriately alien), but I have to think of an eventual standard, and fathomability to other readers. I mean, they're not all going to be me. I mean, I hope not.

Crikey that would kind of creepy. A Moon-esque scenario, perhaps? Or a future populated entirely of different versions of myself, à la Red Dwarf? NOTHING WOULD EVER GET DONE! Constant arguments, attempted one-upmanship, debating, and despite understanding that working together would be beneficial, no trust could be placed in the other for reasons of "that's what I would do in his shoes".

"But I'm YOU!"
"We're all me."
"Wait, does that mean I am you, or you are me?"
"Ow. Who lost a knife?"
"Oh, there it is."
"What was that for?"
"He would've done the same to me!"
"I've just set my hand on fire again. Or is it the first time, I'm not sure. Which of us is prime?"
"Fucking Spartacus."

Interestingly enough, 'à la' is actually a shortening of 'à la manière de' which, if my sources are to be believed, means 'in the manner of'. So it's English usage is correct. Although apparently it also translates as 'how to' (loved that show).

I'm going to sign off now, before things get weird.

Mike 9 (or is it 6? They really need to underline these post-its)

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

I have a fan. It sounds like a jet engine and I can't sleep with it on.

I was going to say it's as hot as balls out there, but I looked it up, and it is some way off that. It's not everyday I get to think "Actually, how hot should balls be?"

It's 95°F/35°C, if you were wondering. And since it's only 80°F/27°C here, the comparison is invalid.

Being a cold weather person though, I might as well be walking on the sun.

It has been 1 year, 7 months and 8 days since my last post. I have seen 100 hour working weeks, 10am-6am shifts, moved twice and set my hand one fire at least once. I have been promoted, almost punched a coworker and bought a cast iron teapot specifically for my green tea. And a glass one for my black and red teas. And a tassimo machine. I have never drunk so much coffee.

And I haven't been able to write a single word. I've been tired, manic, depressed, poisoned, exhausted, elated, heavily caffeinated (I spelt that right first time. Slightly proud), giggly and have had insomnia related hallucinations. I am now, however, on a 4on-4off working week. Although to start with it was more 6on-2off, my work has since balanced out, and I have been appreciating the extra time at the weekends.

To cut an already abridged story shorter, I'm starting to feel more like my old, crotchety, sardonic self again. And as such, I've decided to start over with From The Ashes Part1. I'm not rushing head-and-arse first into the prose stage. I'm going to remove the chapters already up, and starting over.

In the beginning there was a database. And it was in a good, free OpenOffice format. Should anyone decide to use this (feel free, it's an amalgamation of ideas from across the web), I'd recommend making a copy for each story line. That way it shouldn't get too messy.

This is where I'm starting. I'm going to flesh out every character until I know them better than they could possibly know themselves. I've created a form to make it easier to follow (I thought about putting in drop down boxes and stuff, but then I thought "How difficult is it to type 'male'?") and enter.

This could potentially take months. But, however long it takes, my writing will be better off as a result. I'd imagine the more characters I fill out, the easier and quicker it will become. And once I've finished the characters, I'll need the tech, environments, cultures (this one I could probably do with starting now, along with species and the likes. It will help with the character creation); I might try for an extensive list of plot points, but who knows, by that stage the story may just flow out.

Anyway, onwards!

Mike 'myfaceismeltingohgodwhoinventedhayfeveriwantthemended' Barlow

P.S. It was this article from Writing Exercises which spurred me on to update my seemingly rather bare character profiles.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Happy 31st of November! I gave the month an extra day to give me better winter weather.

It failed. Roll on the 32nd.

Okay, November has been and gone, many moustaches have been brought to life and then mercilessly cut down in their prime (Cruel bastards. A moustache is for life, not just for Movember!), NaNoWriMo has finished, won by many inspired people. As of 23:59, 30th November, I had-

Seven thousand, five hundred and seventy eight words.

It goes by the alias of forty thousand four hundred and twenty two words short.

Yeah, this is going to become a regular thing for me. I've got the start, I can start like a champ (most of those words were over the first two days)... but I get distracted early on and forget which race I've entered. Marathon or hurdles? Won't know untisthatasandwich?

Anyway, I got distracted doing my best to be a buttock-clenching curmudgeon for the benefit of my employers, and in practise for old age. Any elaboration would be thoroughly unprofessional. So, to cut a long story short- .

So, since I'm the master of unfinished business, I've decided to declare this day, the 31st November, formerly 1st December, Monthmas. And my Monthmas resolutions include

  • updating my blog at least once a month (next Monthmas, formerly known as New Year's Day)
  • continuing with my current NaNoWriMo projects (that's three now)
  • Continuing with my other projects (eight others), which may be merged together as they grow
  • Increasing my vocabulary so I can insult people like my comprehensive English teacher, Mr Walker (glorious man)
  • Reading more (bring on the Kindle. I've decided I want one. Simply for the portability.)
  • Making more lists
  • Enjoying a final, content free, bullet point.
  • ???
  • Profit!
On another note, where the actual balls has winter gone? In blighty, the weather is unseasonably warm (this time last year, inch-thick ice, this year, warm and damp. Moist, even.)

Well, I've discovered the shocking truth. Due to the recession, Old Man Winter has been victim to cutbacks, and laid off. Mother Autumn will be taking on his responsibilities. It's sad, but Old Man Winter has taken to unemployment hard, and has hit the bottle. After apologising to the bottle for his violent outburst, he drank its contents, and defrosted.

I will post more chapters later, but for now I need to wind down from work.

AKA Master of Loose Ends
AKA Crotchety Bastard
AKA Just rediscovered the 'Tags' section on blogger.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Et voilà! Je reviens! No I don't speak French.

I only speak English, double Dutch, gobbledygook and pretentious twat.

It's been more than a year since my last post. Apologies for that. Explanations will arrive shortly. To give you a clue to the outcome, I'm sat on a very uncomfortable chair at a train station in Devon, typing on a netbook, wearing one full length stocking (as hilarious as it sounds), and a sleeveless vest. Fortunately I'm wearing clothes over them otherwise I'd look a tit. And be arrested for indecent exposure (I always said I was terrible at photography... *cricket*).

I just realised what year it is. I was about to start my story much further back than my last post. Much, much further back (Zounds! When a man doth love a woman verily...).

Shortly after my last post, I grazed my leg whilst carrying out a formerly wheeled bin from work to the skip (I say formerly, it was supposed to be a wheely-bin, but the wheels disintegrated), when a gust of wind blew said bin into said leg. Specifically my varicose vein-riddled leg. At first, this graze amounted to nothing. Then myself and my housemates looked after a dog whilst her owner went travelling. This dog suffered terrible separation anxiety. Over the period of two months, while we were at work, she damaged half our doors, ate 1 extension lead, 6 pairs of shoes (I'm UK14/US15... I can't just pop into a shop to get more), 1 umbrella, 1 stressball (the housemate whose brother owns the dog suddenly needed it), the rear droplinks of a Mk2 Ford Mondeo, 1 bicycle helmet and 1 pair of bicycle gloves.

When I sit down on a sofa, my long legs often means, in the presence of a coffee table, I have to slightly cross them to best utilise the space available. Dog with separation anxiety proceeded to repeatedly stand on the graze in an ill-conceived attempt to jump onto my lap-but-not jump on (she was a bit pillar-to-post). The next day the healing graze broke down, bled out (ruined a pair of trousers), and formed an ulcer the size of a two-pound coin.

In a typical manly/pseudo-northerner fashion, I looked at it, washed it, found the biggest plaster I could, and pretended to the nagging voice in my head that would heal over again. It still hasn't. The next month, in increasing pain, I went to see a doctor (the way her eyes suddenly widened suggested I should have made an appointment sooner), who looked at it, swabbed it, checked I wasn't diabetic, put a temporary dressing over it, and sent me to see the nurse for a proper dressing. The nurse recommended compression, so I was prescribed a class II compression stocking (below knee), and told to wear it pretty much all the time.

The pain certainly prevented me from feeling creative and my mind became a little addled. By February, it had still not healed, so I was signed off work for a month to keep it rested and elevated. By now I was mixing my painkillers for best results.

A few months back I was eventually seen by a specialist who recommended a different dressing (a 'short-stretch' compression bandage), and surgery to remove the varicose vein feeding the ulcer (stagnant blood. Delicious). I had an ultrasound scan which revealed a varicose vein the entire length of my leg. The vein is so big that my operation last month only closed off half of it. I have to go back for the rest in a few weeks (when they get round to giving me an appointment). As a result of the operation, however, I now wear a full-length compression stocking (colour- nude. The black one is on order. I declined the lacy band around the top), which is strapped around my belly by the wonder product that is velcro. The most uncomfortable thing I have ever worn. I've started wearing vests so that the strap doesn't scrape my skin off my belly.

Anyway, the long and short of it is, after a year of having a crater in my leg big enough to sit the largest coin England's currency has in it, I haven't been in the mood for communicating in general. Apologies for that. I have barely been writing, which is the main reason I bought a netbook.

Also, my shift pattern has changed at work. I now work such an awkward shift I leave at 18:30 and get home (20 miles away) at 23:30. I can no longer hop on the last bus direct to my home town, I now have to travel to the nearest town to work, and wait a few hours for the next train home. Winning.

So here I sit. On a metal bench at an empty station, wearing a single 'nude' coloured full-length stocking under my clothes, listening to the rain patter on the corrugated steel roof above my head. Actually that's a lie. I have a second, knee-length stocking beneath the full-length stocking.

Who decided 'nude' would be a colour people wanted to buy? It's worse than beige. At least beige suits certain things... like old chevy pickups... If I were to paint a car 'nude', it would be vandalised within the week. On my leg it looks like someone has thrown it up prior to me wearing it. Actually, 'vomit' is probably a more apt description. If I wanted to wear shorts, what the actual balls would go with it? I have black shoes and boots, and brown trainers and boots. 'Vomit' does not go with black. Black. The saviour of many a fashion disaster. Black, which goes with everything. Except 'vomit'. Brown? Vom 'n' brown. Opening the sluices at both ends. Just what I wanted to step out in on a hot Indian Summer's day.

While I'm ranting, the weather in Devon is currently- 'Perpetual Precipitation Preoccupying People Permanently. Parkas Persistently Percolating'. It rains so much here it required an alliteration (I managed to use 'percolating' without referring to coffee. As pleased as I am with myself, I suddenly want a stove-top percolator). Last year, a gigantohunormous freeze after such downpours left ice an inch thick across the pavement.

As a pseudo-northerner (North Lincolnshire), I've seen such ice before, can deal with it, and found it very amusing the reaction in the south of "What in sod is this?". Some people I work with had never seen such a harsh winter. They were skidding along, falling on their arses, and sometimes walking in the middle of the road to avoid the ice. As the self-proclaimed 'Polar Bear of the South', I shall hereby reveal my secret.

Stamp. If you use your entire foot to propel you instead of just your heel or ball, you get much more traction. If you suck at this, YakTrax. I do have a pair, but the ice turned to slush for the remainder of a very disappointing winter before I could use them.

The other option is develop a skill in delegation. Send others into peril and remain toasty warm at home.

Anyway. I'm going to try to engage myself in NaNoWriMo this year... I have already started, and I intend to utilise the time waiting for my train. It's going to a be a struggle, and I may find myself with yet another unfinished project, but not trying is the first step toward failure. Admittedly, I've found many, many other varied and lengthy paths toward the same destination, sometimes hitting concrete with a thud (as with my recent attempt to get back on a bicycle after 15 years. Rib spasms are not fun), but at least I get to take a glimpse at the success of others. And sometimes pass a bakery. I'm very easy to please ("IS THAT A SANDWICH?!" I don't watch much Friends, but that line stuck in my head).

Anywho, without further ado, or maybe a little more ado as is my wont to waffle. At least part of chapter one of The Tower. It's fantasy, yes, because real life baffles me so. "No I have no idea what it is that I'm doing that is illegal officer, but I'm sure you're about to tell me" (NEVER say that if you're ever in a similar situation, and we shall never speak of this again). "If you wanted me to do it, why didn't you say? I don't speak fluent sarcasm, I have to use a phrasebook" (not true). "Calling me up every hour for results isn't going to make the bacteria grow any quicker."

I'm no good with people. Can't understand them. I want a dog. ===============================

It was called 'The Tower', although it was not a tower according to popular preconceptions. There were no windows to shed light on the long, damp corridors, no spectacular views over all of Creation. There were no balconies, no guttering, no rooftops, slated, tarmacked or otherwise present to direct the rain elsewhere. In fact the only thing a passer-by could see was a steel hatchway, just big enough for a small lorry to sink into, in a sea of concrete. The remaining sixteen stories were below ground. The students who dwelt within referred to the Tower instead as the Pit.

Those who dwelt within where referred to as 'Tower Magi', though they were not the Magi of popular preconception. They did not, usually, conjure balls of flame, or, usually, speak with gods. They did not wear extravagant clothing or predict the birth of royalty, or wander around healing the unfortunate. They were called 'Tower Magi', because many people, even those who had met one, still felt shivers at the term 'Necromancer'. The name suited the masters perfectly. There were only ever thirteen necromancers, the students did not hold the title, and many never would. Every necromancer in the Tower had a student they would teach in preparation to replace them when the time came. Nobody knew what would happen if the number of necromancers fell too few, or grew too large. The older masters had no intention of finding out. The other magi were students of simple magic, usually other diving arts such as bibliomancy, many did not learn magic at all and were in fact privileged history students.

Of course the Tower didn't stop at its base. Beneath the Tower lay the sprawling maze of decrepit tunnels and tombs of the Catacombs, where hundreds of people, students, mentors and archaeologists alike have walked in and failed to return. The slowly rotting oak and iron doors at the entrance had since been shut and chained as a result of these disappearances. Aluna La Croix was not concerned with the lost, as she delved through the archives held with the catacombs. In her hand, as she searched, was another hand, severed at the wrist, yet still determined to shuffle the papers she was reading. The hand was found amongst the remains of the hallucinating young gentleman who had fought the last revenant plague, and had died a pitiful and horrifying death. The hand was not his own, and records suggested he had in fact won it in a game of poker, why it was bothering her now was beyond her comprehension.

Rolling up the scrolls, she put them, with a little resistance from the severed hand, into a map case and pushed it through the small hole in the wall leading to the next room. Behind her were two badly damaged skeletons. They had been sealed in this room many centuries, for reasons long forgotten. Now the only way in or out was a gap in the ancient wall which had been opened up, perhaps by time, and was barely large enough to squeeze even her own diminutive frame through. Exhaling as much as she could, Aluna pushed herself through, wriggling when she became stuck, and breathing only when she had reached the other side.

The hand had followed her since she stumbled across the Delusional One's sarcophagus, where it had remained motionless until she was close enough to leap onto. Aluna was spared embarrassment thanks to her being alone in the catacombs, though she had no idea how far her rather panicked scream had travelled. She was solving that problem by wandering for a few more hours until anybody who could have heard had forgotten. It appeared not to be malicious, just mischievous, with a sense of humour as warped as one would expect from a severed hand.

Aluna was short, barely three inches over five feet in height, and slender. She was underweight to the point of being flat-chested and gaunt in the face. Add to this her clean shaven head and the burn scarring up the left side of her face disguising her facial structure somewhat, she was often mistaken for a boy in his early teens. She didn't care. Her weight kept the Baron out of her head. Baron Samedi preferred more buxom women, though for some reason he still frequented Aluna's mind despite her shortcomings.

She struck a match against the craggy wall and lit a cigar while she pondered the nature of the hole in the wall. The wall itself was limestone, like much of the catacombs, but was considerably newer. It was obviously intended to keep the unfortunates in the room. At the other side of the sealed room had been a solid ebony door, which appeared to lead down to a lower, unexplored level of the catacombs. The door itself was hanging off its hinges, whatever it was hiding had broken through long ago. Whatever had broken the door was probably the cause of the damage to the wall also.

Aluna sighed. Her master would probably want to hear about this.

“Hear about what?” A well spoken voice pounced on her from the darkness, followed by a gloved hand wafting the smoke away from the immediate breathing space. George Sampson, former GP and Number 2 of the thirteen stepped out into the light of the torches.

“Do you really want me to say, or do you already know? Seeing as you're reading my thoughts.” Aluna took a long drag of her cigar.

“Surface thoughts only. I was rather hoping for an explanation as to why you are crawling around in an area which students are prohibited from entering. As well as how you entered without removing the chains from the door.”

“A girl's got to have some mystique, doc.”

“Then the first explanation will do.”

“Tr- sorry, Master Rowles asked me to find some manuscripts. He said they'd be in the archives.”

“Mr Rowles is aware of the restrictions. The Catacombs are off-limits to students. Have you found what you were looking for?”

She held up the scroll case as a response.

“Then kindly make your way back to your master.”

As she moved past the doctor to leave, he put his hand on her shoulder.

“One more thing. You have a bad habit there,” he pointed to her cigar, “the smoke contains hydrogen cyanide, amongst other components.”

“The Baron likes them. Either I smoke them or he smokes them for me. Not big on his manners or free will, the Baron.” She stepped past him and walked as calmly as she could until she had reached her third corner.

Checking to make sure the doctor was no longer watching, she thrust the scroll case toward the ceiling, tapping a stone, then another. With a soft rumble to confirm she had touched the correct stones, a rush of fresh air entered the room. Walking forward revealed a door had unveiled itself in a previously unbroken wall. It stuck out like a vagrant at a formal party, a modern pine folding door with chromed sliders and handle. She pulled it open and stepped into a meadow.

The meadow itself was an idealised version, perfect tall grass, with perfect red poppies and wild flowers dancing to a perfect breeze of perfect temperature. The sun was neither too dull nor too bright, and the sky was an impeccable azure with nothing but wispy cirrus clouds to break the blue. The meadow was surrounded by craggy old English oak trees which had a mossy patina and occasionally ivy growing up the trunk, without strangling the tree. In the centre lay her master staring up at the sky, smiling.

“Trevor?” She slowed her pace as she neared him.



He giggled and rolled over to face her. “Mmmyes?”

“Are you high?”

“Definitely. Scrolls?”

“Right here.” She tossed to case over to him. ===========================

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Sunday, 1 August 2010

Mad Cows and the Summer of Glove

It's been a miserable summer so far, hasn't it? (For those experiencing coiderably better weather than me, the answer I'm looking for is yes). I went to Brighton for a couple of days with a friend, and it nothing except rain and blow a gale during the day, and bake during the night. Of course, this meant we had to keep the windows open to stay cool, and in Brighton, the gulls are at their most active at night. One actually landed on the sill and screamed into our room.

I'm amazed at the inanity of the news about our new prime minister and his (mixed result) foreign diplomacy. A few days ago I heard a wonderful news report on the radio- Our Prime Minister enjoyed a hot dog with the Mayor of New York City. The Mayor had mustard on his, whilst Cameron had his plain.

My first thought was "Great, they're human. When they start eating human hearts and devouring placentas, then give me a call. Until then, FIND SOME NEWS!"

My second thought was "Only mustard? No onions? No other embellishments? What kind of American is he?"

I could picture the follow up to that award-winning story- "We discovered a Cabinet Minister enjoying a full English breakfast at his local cafe. He enjoyed his eggs over-east, and sprinkled black pepper on his grilled tomatoes."

Before I present chapter 5 (which has actually been ready for some time, I just haven't been bothering to post. Don't worry, I've already slapped my wrist), I will furnish you with yet more information about myself. That way, when I'm famous, I can hold a jousting tournament to see who wants to write my biography badly enough.

  • I have a tea cupboard. No matter if I'm running out of food, this cupboard is always well stocked with nearly ten varieties of tea, both leaf and bag. Lots of Twinings, and lots of Whittards of Chelsea (that store will be the death of me). I've just furnished the cupboard with three tubs of their instant teas so I can make ice tea without the fuss of steeping leaves in cold water overnight.
  • I heard once someone say that sarcasm was the first line of defence for the insecure. Not so with myself. It's about the third line. My first line is the moat I dug around my house on money pilfered from my neighbours. I'm so close to being elected MP.
  • Yesterday someone said "If Mike doesn't know the answer, then there probably isn't one." It's amazing how much bullshit people will accept as truth.
  • On a related note, I study Kung Fu. Specifically the Path of the Bull. It's a rather verbal style that leaves a nasty smell.
  • My housemates and I had a lodger who left for the Middle East recently. When I told him I was going back up to t'North, he said "say hi to Meadowhall for me." Taking his word probably more literally than I ought to have, I did. 27 of the 30 shopkeepers I bothered talking to didn't know who he was, or why he wanted to say hi. The other three smiled, nodded and said "bye now" in a rather condescending tone.
  • We have a cow a few hundred metres behind the house who won't shut up. I'm not bothered by it, but she wakes up my housemates at 4am. Lovely.
  • The reason I'm not bothered by it, is because I can sleep through anything. I slept through the largest earthquake Lincolnshire had suffered in living memory, my housemates having a party, and my own alarms, including my housemates shaking me to tell me to turn my bloody alarms off. My parents tell me that when I was very young, I slept through fireworks displays, and feeding time at the Howler Monkey enclosure at Twycross Zoo.
  • This week I've been asked strange questions, most notably- "Are you German? Because you look German." (by a Spanish girl I had been speaking English to).
  • I've also learned something- the separation bags we were forced to use at work because we ran out of regular bags for the samples, burn very quickly. We discovered this when a new girl set fire to an alcohol wipe and dropped it in a tub full of said bags (accidentally, of course. At least, I didn't hear her manical laughter). The flames were three feet high in 12 seconds.
  • My work place is going to force me to wear a beard net. Beats shaving, I suppose.
  • I comb my beard. Everytime I have to check to make sure I'm not about to erradicate a new species of tiny monkey that may have spontaneously popped into existence while I wasn't looking.
  • In front of me now, is my computer. Oh, and a jug of iced tea, my phone several letters, bus and train tickets that really need throwing away, scraps of paper, a plier-mulitool, a can of second skin, and for some reason yet to be discovered, a can opener.
  • Everyone has an OCD. Mine is picking up slips of useless bit of paper, and tearing them into perfectly straight, ever shrinking strips of paper. Then, I stack the strips to make sure they are as straight as they could possibly be. Then, after all that effort, I tear them into confetti. The neatest damned confetti you'll ever see.
  • My feet are UK size 14, US 15 and EU 49. I have to go downstairs sideways, otherwise my gargantuan feet don't fit on the stair properly, and at speed I slip.
  • I own 5 stainless steel mugs for the sole purpose that no-one can break them unless they really want to.
  • I suffer what The Times called 'Bibliomania' (when they were pointing how easy it was to make up a random mental illness based on the newest version of the DSM). A few days ago, I walked past a bookshop, thinking- "You've got plenty of books, you don't need any more. Just keep walking." And I did, I sailed past the bookstore. I was really proud of myself, until I stopped for a coffee and realised I had in my hands a bag with the bookshop's logo, and three books inside. I didn't even realise I'd been in. Oops.
Any way, onto Chapter 5-

Load of bollocks. Taken down for a complete overhaul. 9th July 2013

And so- there it is. Chapter 7 is still half way done, because it is being written from scratch rather than being mostly amalgamated from paragraphs written during my 'write whatever pops into your head' phase. It also introduces The General, mentioned in chapter 3. Although he's an old character to me, I'm having trouble fitting his personality into the setting, in the way many people complain about having nothing to do when they retire.

Ah well, until next time,
Mike 'pleasegoddontlettherebeanotherfireohchristIshouldnthavesaidthatcanIsmellburning' Barlow

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Half a year later...

Like a badly edited plot jump in a made-for-television movie, I return!

I can't put my finger on what's going wrong with chapter 3. Perhaps the characters are moving too fast.

On the bright side, I started writing again! On the flip side, the first thing I wrote was the murder of my favourite character thus far. I watched as the body was hidden in the ship, but I didn't see how they died. It ruined my mood, I'll tell you that much for free.

Talking about free information I figure it's probably about time I posted some trivia about myself. Consider the following embarrassing information an apology for losing myself in a thought. That's the trouble. I'm useless with street names, so it takes me a little while to get back to reality.

  • I greet every magpie I see. Not because I'm superstitious, but because it's polite. I also greet sparrows, blackbirds, robins, wrens and other species of crow. Not geese though. They greet me. LOUDLY. On the topic of birds, at the front of my house there is a sparrow which sometimes perches on the bay windowsill and watches television for a few minutes. I call it peeper. At the rear of house a house marten sometimes hovers in front of the patio doors and looks in our fridge when we open it. Sometimes I take out a block of cheese and wave it in front the closed window.
  • I moved into this house in November last year, and I'm still living out of boxes. I have more stuff than furniture. As a result my personal space is an absolute mess.
  • Last month I talked to myself with a Liverpudlian accent. Still not sure why.
  • I'm a fire marshal at my lab, and my colleagues accidentally start fires on an almost daily basis. Usually when all the marshals are so far away that by the time we reach the incident, it's been dealt with. I think I taught the little pyromaniacs well.
  • Upon purchasing a bottle of spirit, I drink half the bottle within the week, and then forget about it for a month or two. As a result my 'collection' always looks bigger than it actually is.
  • I can build my own computer (if I had the money), but still refuse to buy a digital camera. I have three 35mm cameras- 2 SLRs, one from the 80's and one modern, and my pride and joy, a Yashica Electro 35 GT rangefinder with lens kit (these stopped being made in 1984, but my dad tells me he bought it before he was 30, so it's a mid-70's camera). I used to fiddle with it when I was a kid. My father gave it to me shortly before I went to university. It's still the most beautiful machine I've ever laid eyes on.
  • My beard currently extends my face by several inches, and refuses to be neat. The resulting look would make an 1850's gold prospector proud. People stare when I try to drink a cappuccino, because most of it ends up in my moustache. I gauge drinks by how many napkins I'm going to need to drain my facial hair.
  • I actually like some Uwe Boll films as low-quality cheese, but am still too ashamed to actually buy one.
  • I tried ordering my DVD collection in alphabetical order of the hexadecimal code of the colour of the sleeve. After several hours working it out, I crammed them all in boxes, and I still can't work out where everything is.
  • I'm concerned that some of my characters represent certain individual aspects of my own personality. As a result, I struggle to make them appear normal, because I myself do not have 'middle ground' emotions aside from abject apathy. I've been trying to instill a sense of ambivalence in each one.
  • I've considered giving up talking altogether. I often see myself as an educator, but my advice is usually met with disdain and mocking. From my friends.
  • I once bought an item from a store because I didn't know what it was. I took it apart and to this day I am none the wiser. The copper wire came in handy though.
  • I occasionally buy dragon fruit because they look wonderful, despite finding their flavour to be lacking... in anything.
  • My party trick is picking apart smells until I can work out the ingredients. I do it with stews. It's also how I find the herbs and spices aisle of an unfamiliar supermarket. It's considerably more difficult since I developed hay fever.
  • It takes me five hours to wind down before I can sleep. Which means I have to start the moment I leave work.
  • Alcohol has the exact opposite effect on me to which I expected. When I am tipsy, I am considerably more alert than after taking caffeine. Of course, the coordination still suffers somewhat.
  • I wander around in the winter without a coat. My favourite response to the hoards of thin people who ask 'aren't you cold?' is 'No, I'm fat.'
  • If I'm not paying attention when walking in my town and get lost, I work out where I am by the most prevalent species of crow. I actually scolded a pair of jackdaws for ruining my system and nesting in magpie territory.
  • I understand when people reassure me that everybody talks to themselves. What they don't understand is that I debate with myself. And on more than one occasion had a blazing row with myself.
  • It's 23:12, 23°C in here, and I've just realised why I'm so warm... I haven't taken my raincoat off yet.
  • I can believe it's not butter. Really.
  • I'm addicted to a dried produce store called Julian Graves. I struggle to walk past them. They make the best bombay mix.
  • Last time I shaved, I used up a full battery on my clippers, and blunted an entire pack of razors. Shaving is expensive when your facial hair is made of spring steel.
  • I tried making my own moustache wax, partially because I want to curl it into handlebars, partly because I'm fed up of eating my facial hair. It turned out to be more wax than I had hoped. Trial and error will eventually ensue.
  • And finally- I laugh like a hyena. Which is odd, because my voice is quite low. I was particularly embarassed by this whilst at school and started laughing silently. People wondered if I was epileptic.
Okay, onto the chapter. Phyllis is still my best character here, but the bridge scene seems... odd. I think perhaps it is too fast.

"Nowhere near the editing stage" he said. Just at the 'starting again from scratch' stage. Taken down for a rewrite. 9th July 2013
And a bonus chapter! Chapter 5 still needs a little tweaking, but it generally fits.

Everthing I post is pre-edit. I don't believe I'm anywhere near the editing stage yet.

Anywho, I must be away. G'night.

AKA Mr Magpie
AKA The Bird Man of Ivybridge
AKA Big Mike