Monday, 22 June 2009

Elle, AFK

I spend too much time at this computer, I know I do. My writing is online, most of my friends are online, the games I play are online. It's easy to break up the day with cyberspace.

But today I've been out most of the day. Being social. And none of it was planned.

This morning I waited for my SIL (Sister-In-Law) at the school gates to walk back down the street. She wasn't going home, but asked me to buy a pint of milk for her other half who was waiting at home for a new fridge to be delivered. No problems. I bought the pint and dropped it in... and stayed for two hours. And not for the first time.

It's been a while since I made a new real-life friend. Most of the mums at the school gate are simply not on my wavelength and my social life rarely strays beyond that. I don't go to pubs and clubs (too noisy), I don't have a job and my hobbies are solitary.

But SIL's partner is a real gem, we get on really well. He laughs at my jokes and in turn makes me laugh. We can talk about intellectual stuff, but also inane drivel. I had worried - a little - that he put up with my company, after all, family is family and sometimes it's best to grin and bear the annoying relations. But no, today he actually said that we were friends.

After school I picked up a gaggle of small girls and went back to their house to drop three of them off - the fridge was still on its way - and stayed another two hours. SIL, A and I had a blast. It's been more than a while since I felt I could just drop in somewhere and feel welcome. And that's as much a problem in my head than an actual fact, but today I was happy, laughing and social.

And you can't ask for more than that.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Against The Night

I'm listening to winamp as I'm writing this, and a guy called Jason Webley. In the last few years his music has become somewhat of an obsession. The first song I heard was Map . I came across it whilst browsing myspace and I listened to it on repeat for about two hours. It wasn't just his voice - which, by the way, is gorgeous - but the lyrics and music.

Map starts off with an instrumental intro that is swooping, sorrowful and spine-tingling. Then his voice kicks in. I walked across a continent where children did not bat an eye when made to watch their mothers die, they left the bodies by the sides of roads. Quite clearly, this is not a song bowing to the usual tropes of sex, lust and whatever other tripe most songwriters come up with. No, this was deeper, evocative and strange.

Then after this lyric She grew cold and softly said: I am not your lover, I'm just the map you used to find them his voice does something beautiful, it swoops and soars. I was lost. Cellos, violins, oboes and in the background, what sounds like a xylophone. The mix is heady and enticing. It was only an introduction to the genius of this man.

One of the next few songs I discovered through the miracle of the interwebs was Dance Whilst the Sky Crashes Down , which is, as he has been known to say: "The most cheerful song I know... about death!" And cheerful it is, with a jaunty rhythm and the European sound of the accordian, and in the background some percussion instrument. And again, fantastic lyrics: When the stakes are high, best to play the clown . His sense of humour shines through here, the song is dark but not melancholy.

And then a third song completely turned everything around. Eleven saints . A song that begins And if my cat looks scared, it's because it knows it's not going to heaven. Pure silliness. It's hard to believe it came from the same artist, but it has Webley stamped all over it; genius lyrics, great melodies and that voice of his. Eleven saints is a collaboration between Jason and Jay Thompson. This sense of fun was confirmed when browsing through youtube, most of his songs on youtube are not serious, there's a cover of Hey Ya, a slightly altered version of No woman, No fly and The Sneezing Song. Which is best sung by six year olds. This is a man with a song for every taste.

And he's fabulous live. I saw him in some pub in Manchester, in all his bottle-shaking, foot-stamping glory. But Jason is a man who is accessable. After the show I had a chance to briefly talk to him. He's truly a lovely guy.

And the song I was listening to when I started this blog post? Against the night. Soothing, beautiful and well worth a listen.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Happy daze

Today is a good day. I have finally cracked the fantasy plot that I've been stressing about for days (weeks) on end. So now I have something to work with. I've got some decent characters, a Big Bad for them to rail against, and a reason for them to be working together and journeying into the unknown. Well, sort of, still more work to be done on that. But at least now I have something 'with legs' and I can build on that.

Dh is back on his 'at-work' week. so he's out of my way all week. Dd1 has now left school, but she's been at the boyfs all day so I've had some much needed head-space. Still waiting for my open uni pack to come through, or rather the second pack as the first seems to have gone awry in transit. Also awaiting some money that usually comes in monthly but it's been over five weeks. Bit of a bummer, I was counting on that to pay for Ds's cinema trip next week.

Still, the sun is shining and the kids are not beating each other up that much so I'm a happy bunny today.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Bored. Frustrated. Irritated.

Three words that sum up today perfectly.

One of those days where every little irritant is a big irritant, where I have more energy than ideas. Where the ideas I do have are too nebulous to pin down and every person in the house seems to be on a mission to annoy me. It's been dh's 'off-work' week and so he has been here all the time, dd1 has now all but left school and she has been here almost all day. I've had not a minute today where there hasn't been people - or the damn barky dog - around me.

Headspace. I need some, I didn't get any. Hence I am cranky.

And I'm still unable to write anything, which isn't exactly helping either. Or is not being helped by the headspace. Bah.

yours, the moody bitch.

Monday, 15 June 2009

At the Mela

We went to the Mela yesterday, when I say 'we', I mean me and the two younger girls. I'd never taken them before, although I'd been several times with dd1 and ds when they were tiny. It hasn't changed much, but I think it has got bigger. It has also changed locations, the first few times I went, it was in Lister Park, but moved a few years ago to Peel Park, which I like because it's within walking distance.

We set off in a good mood and dh gave us a lift to the top of the park. He couldn't go any nearer because one half of Lister Lane was closed. As we walked down to Peel Park some numpty who must have assumed the road closure did not apply to him drove past up. What the numpty hadn't realised, was that the white car behind him came fully equipped with a siren. Note to numpty driver, best not ignore road signs when being followed by an unmarked police car. Oh, how I laughed.

At the park the girls were distinctly unimpressed with the dancers on stage, dd3 was more bothered about going in the playground, and by the fact she had sunscreen in her eye. Not good. Fortunately tissues and cold water sorted the eye and we made our way towards the pond. There was a tent with a single cello playing, and whilst that was beautiful, it didn't hold their interest either. So we walked up the very steep bank to the top of the park where the main action was.

Several stages, a field full of stores, charities and activities. There was plenty to do and see (and buy) up there. We spent a little time looking at the Lord Mayor's Parade tent and spoke to a woman on stilts but soon the girls wanted to be off. It was then we found 'The Hive'. A set of tents with a bee theme. Neither child wanted to learn how to do a waggle dance, nor to make a bee kazoo, but were tempted into planting a couple of seeds and making a flower picture with grains of coloured rice.

Finally I gave in and we went to the 'top playground'. Peel Park has two. The 'top' one is for smaller children and is less busy. The 'bottom' one has more to play on, and far more children in it usually. After that, they went on some sort of enclosed inflatable thing. I think it was supposed to be a pirate ship, but beyond that, I couldn't say.

By this point the crowds were getting to be a bit much for them and it was with cheerful faces that we decided to visit my Grandma who lives close by. All in all not a bad day out.

Friday, 12 June 2009

How Quickly Time Runs Through Our Fingers

It's Friday again. Well, just into Friday, we're talking minutes and half hours. I haven't blogged for days. Partly because I've been busy and partly because I just couldn't think of anything. This post would have appeared before midnight had I not spent two hours catching up on the latest episodes of Carnivale and Six Feet Under (series 4) , both of which I'm watching on Virgin Media's TV Choice service. We're up to episode 10 on each now. I do love a good drama.

I'm having problems with the Summer Of Fantasy thing. I don't read fantasy, I don't write fantasy (not writing much of anything at the moment) so why I signed up for it, I don't know. I'm in yet another of my all too frequent writing crises. My Dad actually suggested that if I find it so hard, why don't I stop, try something else? That's a toughie. I've always written, since I was small. It used to be a lot easier. Then I began to take it seriously and now it's hard. It's a confidence thing, a perfectionist thing, a pressure thing.

It doesn't help that I can't plan a novel. I find it far easier to simply start writing and things will happen as I type. Characters appear, the story untangles and somewhere by the end I know what it's all about. That wouldn't be a problem, except that from there I ought to take all the elements and edit the hell out of them before rewriting the whole thing. That's not something I've managed so far.

So I know where I'm failing as a writer: discipline, plotting and editing. That's a start. And a little self-assurance would be good too. Maybe what I really need is just to throw all the instructions out of the window and just write. After all, I've written four and a half novels during NaNoWriMo, it's the rest of the year I struggle with.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Things Your Brain Can't Process

It's the season of birthdays here at the hovel, I have three in just over three weeks. dd2 was 8 a week or so back, dd3 will be 6 this week and ds has his 14th birthday a fortnight today. And something occurred to me. Dd2 was born on a monday, so was dd3. So why are their birthdays this year on Thursday and Tuesday? Surely they should still both be on the same day of the week? I puzzled over this all afternoon. I still don't get it. Dh said that when dd3 is 8, her birthday with be on a Thursday too. I'm still no wiser.

Some things just do not make sense to me.

I'm rather tired today, last night dh went out with his sister and her partner, dd1 went over to babysit for my gaggle of nieces. They didn't get home until 3am. Dirty stop-outs! Ds and I spent a happy evening drawing maps on the back of wallpaper and watching 'Signs' I didn't know it was about aliens because I'd missed the beginning. The suspense was really getting to me. Still, ds is an avid alien fan and we enjoyed the film. So much so that he watched it at his father's place today. He informed me that it's about the miracle of things coming together as much as aliens.
That's me told then.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The Morons Of Flannoria

For days I've been wavering between the several different ideas I have for The Summer Of Fantasy. Surreal fantasy based on an island far removed from the normal laws of physics? 'Proper' fantasy with dwarf characters and a real world? But today I had a splendid idea. It's off the wall, wacky and so strange that it may just work. And it will be a blast writing it.

For 2007 NaNoWriMo I had already begun a novel but it wasn't setting me alight. It was tedious and self-important, no fun at all. With November almost half over and my wordcount sitting at 12k I did something radical, risky and worrying: I started over. With just 17 days to write 50k I was worried that I'd really done it and that 2007 was going to turn into another 2005 where I crashed and burned with very little to show for it. Instead I started a novel called 'The Haunting Of The Orc And Dragon'. It started with no plot and I threw everything I had into it. Wacky characters, jokes, a lot of banter. I crossed the finish line grinning. I hadn't written a novel in 30 days, I'd done it in 17. I felt fabulous.

It may have been written very speedily but HOTOAD (as it appears in my documents list) is probably my favourite work. I can reread it even now and find myself laughing (and correcting mistakes, it has never been properly edited). Bel, Figgis and Theresa are three creations that refuse to play nicely, I know that if I attempted to create another three for a light-hearted fantasy romp, the originals would take over. So why bother? In HOTOAD Figgis ran a gaming club, he and his friends would happily spend hours in the lands of fantasy, and the novel he wrote as part of the plot is exactly the sort of thing that I ought to be writing. So what if I steal his Lands Of Flannoria, use the alter egos that Bel, Figgis and Theresa may have have concocted for the gaming club, and start from there. The characters I love in a new setting.

Why the hell not *grin*

Friday, 5 June 2009

Persisting It Down

What happened to the nice weather? With the sunburn barely faded we seem to be back in the land of precipitation (oh how I love that word, it means 'stuff falling from the sky', I know they mean wet stuff, but it always conjures up images of random objects dropping to earth. There's a fast show sketch there somewhere).

And I have a summer cold. (yeah yeah, lets get the swine flu jokes out of the way - best one I heard was this: First we had Mad Cow Disease, then bird flu and now swine flu... oh my god, it's farmageddon! )

It's all my fault, I take full responisiblity for this meterological change. Why? How? Simple: I stocked up on suncream. So yeah, blame me.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Blank Page

So today is the second day of world-building. Yesterday was landmass and geography, today is beasts and fauna. Great, except I haven't started yet.

Have spent all day stuck between the Dwarf story and the surreal bus-crash. I think I'm actaully going to go for the Dwarf story. Which means more world building, a lot of culture-building and quite a lot of thinking up Dwarf names. Or I could just use an online generator. But I'm not sure if that's cheating, just a little bit.

Well, today is short and sweet, that map isn't going to draw itself and Dwarf culture isn't going to invent itself either.

And no snarky comments about how Tolkein already invented Dwarfish culture. Dwarves with beards for crying out loud! On the other hand, I could simply make up a whole new species, it certainly worked for the hobbits... how about catmonkey humans?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Sunshine, more plotbunnies and 'other parents'

It's been a glorious day here in (not usually) sunny Yorkshire. The sun has blazed down, skin has reddened, souls been revitalised. After yesterday's trip first to Emsley Farm where we fed sheep, goats, pigs and chickens and then to Yeadon Tarn, where we spent several more happy hours wandering around with the kids (four adults and seven girls aged 9 months to 10 years) today has been only a little less busy. Today we had two adults and six kids (aged 5 to 10 years) and we all trooped off to see Coraline, a film much awaited round our house.

Coraline is a film by Neil Gaiman about a little girl who crawls through a small door in the living room of her new house and finds herself in another version of her life. It was dark, and gloriously Gaiman, and obviously a little too scary for the youngest of our party, who spent the second half of the film sat on his Mum's knee. I thought it was a fabulous film, filled with weirdness and oddness and those sort of jangling elements that tell you that something is not right, not right at all . And it has dancing mice and flying dogs. You really can't ask any more of a film. Much recommended for those slightly older than five.

So, more plotbunnies. The Summer Of Fantasy is upon us and I ought to be world-building. It would help if I had settled on a concrete idea. Yesterday's idea of The Isle Of The Moon In The Summer Sky has not disappeared but been joined by two others.

Firstly a sort of post-apocalypticish world, technology stripped back to its basics, the world scraping a living in the wreckage of its former glory. Not sure what the story would be there but it's a possibility.

The second is more Tolkeinesque. It's about dwarves (dwarfs?), and to be more precise, the female of the species. I don't buy into the theory that even dwarf ladies sport beards and most of dwarf courtship is determining which genitals lay underneath all that armour - but it's rather amusing to read stories with that basis, thanks Mr.Pratchett . I think a society where the men outnumber the ladies by a considerable ratio would be an interesting concept to explore. Thanks again Mr. Pratchett, you did a fabulous job with the Mac Feegles, who I think are much closer to how a dwarf society might function. The trouble with this idea is that it's not only strolling into Mac Feegle territory, it's possibly laying itself wide open to getting itself waylaid by Rob Anybody and ending up being fanfiction with the title 'A Kelda's Story'.

Perhaps then with the most nebulous of today's ideas, although again, it's an idea that has been floating around my conciousness for years. I think Vampires are the misbegotten half-breeds of two similar but very different Elf races: Dark Elves that live underground, and Winged Elves, that live high in the canopy way above the normal tree villages of your common or garden Elf. Somewhere in this house I have a notebook that has pages of stuff on this. I may just have to dig it out.

Monday, 1 June 2009

All Is Not LOST...

At the moment I am reading a rather good book called The Philosopher's Apprentice which is all about genetics, philosophy and love. Well, love seems to crop up quite a lot in it. None of that sparked off the idea, but the beginning of the book is set on an island idyll and that did seem to strike a chord.

Lost things, where do they go? Keys, umbrellas, cats... I know for a fact that in the last ten years I have lost some pretty odd stuff that has never turned up. A small wooden statue, a smoking pipe, a cordless phone handset. Where did these things disappear to? I haven't the foggiest idea.

What if there was an island full of lost things? And what if a bus was to crash on it? My my, is that a plotbunny taking its first breaths? And as I was thinking these things, I was looking up at the blue summer sky and a half-moon hung there looking other-worldly and strange.
The Isle Of the Moon In The Summer Sky Quite a mouthful but I like the sound of it. And it's not like it can't be revised - probably will be.

And the best thing? The Summer Of Fantasy is coming up on Stringing Words , and if this isn't fantasy, then I'm not sure what is. Even if it is bereft of Hobbitses.

And before I sign off, a little bit of music. Today is the birthday of one of my favourite artists. Jason Webley is a musical genius, dark and beautifully morbid. I heart his music muchly. Anyway, Happy Birthday Jason!