Sunday 17th June, 2012

Well, I guess you may notice a few changes around here. And I owe anyone who wandered in here in the last three or four days an apology for constantly meddling with the site design. What happened? Well, just my usual “here’s a good example of how not to do it”.

For the last two, or maybe even three, years, I’ve been using the Graphene wordpress theme [External Link]. If you follow the link, you will notice that it doesn’t really match up with the way the site used to look. That’s because I tinkered quite a lot with the underlying stylesheet and some of the functions. Because I do these things in my half-a**ed manner, I didn’t bother with a child theme. Where there have been updates, I just copied and pasted code over. Up to last week.

On Thursday evening I thought “You know what? I’ll do this properly. I’ll make a child theme and update Graphene to the latest version and it will all be perfect.”

My current answer to that involves swearing. There was something about the way the parent Graphine stuff was put together and / or the way I put together my child theme alterations that meant the changes that can be made in the WordPress GUI (the casual customisations) overrode almost all of my child theme. On Saturday, I gave up fighting the set-up and called it a day. I probably should have asked the developer for help (he’s probably a lovely person and it was probably a simple fix) but I decided I’d had enough. I’m now eleven years away from my computer science degree and I have no interest in working to keep up my skills.

So, after much playing around and trying on new themes for size, I’ve landed on the current one. This is the free Platform theme from PageLines [External Link] and all the modifications in layout and colour have been achieved with the WordPress GUI (yay!). Which means I won’t have to tinker with CSS and php. It’s far from perfect and I’m missing a few things extra to what you can see:

  • I’d like a Google+ link button up there with my Facebook and Twitter links.
  • I’d like links to work in the front page / archive pages.
  • I’d like in post images to show in excerpts.
  • I’d like a slider again so I can promote the online fiction, just in case you guys are actually paying attention to the fact that I, you know, write.
  • I’d like to be able to do different types of post.

But, I have my two columns, my excerpts on the front page and archive pages (you have no idea how few themes do that, comparatively speaking), the chance to use promotional boxes (see the bottom of the page) and it’s free. Also, I could do all of the stylistic modification without messing around with child themes and in other people’s coding and formatting. If I were to do that, I’d probably find a way to get everything I wanted. I could even get some plug-ins to patch a few of these things up. But, frankly, I can’t be bothered. After all, I just spent about fifteen hours over four days sorting out this much.

So, what else is there to tell you? There have been a few tweaks to the contents. I’ve added a “The Pack” page for the dogs with Finn’s page now being a child of that. Rosie’s (child) page will appear this week. The Gens was getting back up and running, right up until I got distracted by the website. We find out tomorrow evening if I can pick it back up again where I left off. I didn’t get any more weeding done but I did get that door waxed.

I’ve been good and took my dad out for a Father’s Day lunch – along with my sister (who’s birthday is soon, so “Happy Birthday!” and my niece – and then out to see Snow White and the Huntsman. My short review: it was never quite as good a movie as it could have been, the controversies / logic flaws (dwarves stand in for dwarves played by taller actors, women must be pure or damaged, lack of religion) were fairly obvious, and there’s a strong Princess Mononoke [IMDB: External Link] influence. Oh, and it has Chris Hemsworth in it, who is quickly becoming a new crush.

Sunday 10th June, 2012

Rosie

Rosie - New Hellhound and Pink Princess

Oddly enough, I have another long weekend this week. However, this one is to do with the new house-mate (see left), not the Queen of the United Kingdom. I have two days off work and then working from home for the rest of the week to help her settle in. I don’t suppose I have much chance of getting distracted by DIY (although I’ve already done an impressive amount of weeding – for me – and had help putting up a door) as I’ll be too busy cleaning up after Rosie. I hope to get the door waxed in-situ some time this week.

Thee won’t be a Rosie page turning up this week, though. I’ll be sorting that out that for the week after. This week, I have a language blog post scheduled to come out on Wednesday morning. I also hope to get some work done on The Gens.

Last week’s update, in case you missed it, was Alex and Conn’s Second Date. Alex being the Alex Jones from the world that currently shares the same name. As I said last week, if you fancy knowing more about the Alex Jones’ world, there are some blog posts on the other end of the link I just gave and there is currently one other story still available on the Internet. Dog Handler was published in Title Goes Here:, (Web) Issue 1.9 which can be downloaded from the web editions’ page [External Link]. It is set after Second Date but shouldn’t otherwise give anything away about what happens in the new story.

Sunday 27th May, 2012

Well, you may have noticed the Strong Women: Perverted By Choice post go up on Wednesday. (And if not, why not?) As I’ve seen The Avengers (Avengers Assemble, here) recently, I rely heavily on it for examples so avoid the post if you don’t want to know what happens. Not that I deliberately set out to spoil things but, you know, examples of character strength here.

It’s another one of those weeks with not much to show for it. I’ve done a bit on The Gens, which suggests that big idea is back up and running and otherwise been waiting to hear back from attempts at short story rehoming.

On the good side, there should be a few non-site-diary updates over the next month. I’ve got some notes for another language-orientated post and, in a fortnight, Rosie comes home. So, expect to see a shuffle around with Finn’s page and a new page for Rosie soon! (To avoid jinxing their meeting, I won’t be putting it up until at least a week after Rosie’s come home.)

Sunday 13th May, 2012

The first draft of my latest short story (current working title “An Honest Woman’s Child”) has been finished this week. I’ll be picking it up again next weekend. I’ve just been reading through some of The Gens stuff and I think I may actually be picking that up again this week.

You may have noticed a number of changes to the site this week. I’ve published a language related post and put up a language page. This also resulted in a bit of restructuring and then some slightly prettier (to me at least) adjustments to the layout. Anyway, returning to the language blog stuff, I think I have enough notes for another one (at some point) and I also may have the notes for another writing related one. Let me know what you think of “The Building Blocks” and the reshuffle.

Sunday 1st April, 2012

Welcome to April – and April Fools’ Day. I’ve been caught out by a few minor pranks but thankfully only in reading online things where no-one could see or hear me scream. I can be pretty gullible so I try to avoid passing anything along news or gossip wise until I’ve made it to the 2nd, just to be on the safe side. The theory being that online conversation will have given the jokes away in that amount of time. (Although, here in the UK, we’re supposed to come clean at noon.)

Yesterday, I published a post I’ve called Let’s Talk About Sex (apologies to Salt’N’Pepa). It’s partially in response to a recent Cracked.com article [5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained To Hate Women: External Link] – and to a few online responses I’ve read since. But it also came up at a time when I’ve talked over the idea of sexuality (by which I mean the why of sex as oppose to the what) with a few people. Each of those conversations were different, and some actually about the animals in our care rather than human beings, but they tied in with the ideas that Cracked had put in my head. Once I’d had the chance to let it filter through.

I’ve also finished the first draft of a short story connected to the Alex Jones / 25 Ways To Kill A Werewolf world. I haven’t decided whether it will live or die – in terms of being edited and rehomed, or left as it is. If I decide to let it live, I’ll be doing a redux version of the Order of Play post. I have a few other bits and pieces in the same world still floating around my head and I’m wondering whether to look at them or go back to other projects. On the back burner (the “one day I’ll get back to them” pile), I have the partially written Three Guineveres (or The Gens) that I can’t seem to get back into, A Granted Wish that didn’t fit into the short story I tried to shoe-horn it into, and Longest Night that I’m considering rehashing (again) in an attempt to salvage something out of my first attempt at long-form.

Finally, I’ll probably be missing in action next week. Dydd Sadurn nesaf, ‘dw i’n mynd i Gymru i siarad Cymraeg. I imagine by this time next week, I shall be hiding under a bed in the hostel dormitory wibbling because I’m not allowed to speak English and I don’t know enough Welsh to talk for Britain as I usually do. I’ll be gone from Easter Saturday to the following Saturday. Anyway, I can’t guarantee Internet access, so I figured there’s no point promising to make any updates to the site. See you in a fortnight!

Sunday 11th March, 2012

Well, I continued the series on Women’s Roles in Fantasy Fiction (and in the real “Middle Ages”) with Women’s Role Models: Generals. There are two related site “innovations” this week. I’ve now put a short section at the end of each of the related posts so that it’s easier to jump between them (if you, you know, actually enjoy reading them) and I’ve shuffled my site categories slightly to allow an easy jump to the group of posts from the menu on the right (and here). The end is in sight with the final post in the series planned for Wednesday this week.

Which also means that now is the time to nominate a subject for me to waffle on, or request an expansion on something I’ve already covered, if you’ve enjoyed my attempts at blogging.

The redrafting on 25 Ways To Kill A Werewolf continues. I’ve got everything marked-up on paper and I have six more to get onto the computer. Further writing may resume soon, particularly as I’ve had some werewolf related ideas. I suspect there will be a brief short story (or two) detour before I make it back into the world of my Gens.

In rugby news, Wales beat Italy (woot!), Ireland beat Scotland (but it looked close for a while) and Alain Rolland is not scared of controversy (France – England, England won) – this being the referee last mentioned with respect to the World Cup and the France – Wales game (Sunday 15th October, 2011). This week, he gave a yellow card to an English player for something that was technically a penalty. Well, pending any comments from the various rugby boards as to whether they agree with the ref’s call. Again, Mr Rolland’s biggest problem was being put in a situation where his impartiality can be questioned. He should be banned from refereeing any international match with France playing just as he is not allowed to referee an international Ireland match. Not because I believe he’s partial but because it will cut down at least half of the griping. Seriously, the related comments spoil my enjoyment of the game more than his actual calls do!

In life off computer and tv, the boiler was fixed on Monday – so, yet again, I have heating back in time for the weather to warm up. Having worked outdoors three days out of five last week and having been enjoying the summer-like weather today, I can safely say I wouldn’t have frozen to death if the boiler hadn’t been under warranty. On the other hand, I’ve been a sight more comfortable than I would have been without it.

Sunday 12th February, 2012

Yesterday, England beat Italy in Rome (in the remains of the snow) and the France-Ireland game got called off due to a frozen, or soon to be frozen pitch. The temperatures were in minus numbers and things did not look good when they took the heaters away. As far as I know, the fixture has yet to be rearranged but people expect it to be the first weekend in March. Wales play Scotland this afternoon.

So, yes, the low temperatures continue. In my case, that just means things have been freezing up again most nights and the snow hasn’t actually cleared. It did try to snow again in the week but it didn’t add much. It did make getting to work interesting as the sites I work at are not exactly well travelled. There were a few instances of ice (or, at least, slush) skating in the car. Because the surface has freeze-thawed a number of times, Finn is not finding it quite as much fun as last weekend.

In terms of what everyone else gets to see, I’ve posted to the blog on world building again: Women’s Rules in Fantasy Fiction. It is facetious in that it’s intentionally oversimplified. The idea being that, generally, people will say I need a female character and assume that covers everything rather than aiming for any complexity. (In the defence of the rare book that actually does that, the other characters aren’t actually that complex, either.) I’m building a back-log of posts in a series on this with the next due to be posted mid-week. I would be lazy and work on them more slowly but I have some “free” time and I may not have that when I get round to the later posts. Please let me know what you think of them.

This all came out of discussions with Dylan Fox [External Link] about The Three Guineveres (which I’ve also managed a small amount of progress on, this week). Although not a “medieval Europe” fantasy, it does rely heavily on inspirational material that made it through the period – and some of the character traits of my Guineveres reflect this perhaps a little too much. The debate was basically a how to tone it down in the first instance so that it didn’t upset the modern reader without loosing the somewhat old-fashioned plot and associated character traits. Has it worked? Well, if it ever makes it into print (electronic or otherwise), you’ll be the first to know.

Women’s Roles in Fantasy Fiction

This post is based partly on email conversations with Dylan Fox [External Link] about one of my works in progress, The Three Guineveres. In re-jigging the Arthur / Guinevere material and trying to make a workable version of my own (the movie credit would read “inspired by”), I’m wandering into some difficult areas that could give the reader the impression that the fictional character’s thinking is my own – and as it’s not … Continue reading

Sunday 29th January, 2012

Well, I finally remembered to put something up here. I think we can safely say I haven’t done anything that would interest the website audience in the intervening period. (3 weeks; I’m a terrible correspondent; sorry)

It’s traditional to excuse oneself when you’ve been caught in the wrong, so here we go:

  1. The desktop computer has had a fit and died. Which will only get me so far as most people realise that being a certified geek (I have a somewhat dusty degree in Computer Science and Environmental Management, which should tell you everything you need to know about my approach to “IT”) I have a laptop / back up computer. And multiple back-ups in the sense of storage of data. I am damn near paranoid about losing files. However, the laptop isn’t set up the way I like for things like website / blog posts, drawing, reading comics, learning Welsh and Internet banking. So, yeah, I’ve been sulking for 3 weeks. No, I will not grow up and get over it, dammit! I will, eventually, buy a motherboard bundle that will run my hard drives and move off the laptop for the strenuous stuff.
  2. I’ve been working hard at paid work. Actually, while I’ve got a lot of reporting deadlines and plenty of manual work to keep me going during Quarter 1, I’m not doing as bad as I thought. I’m only drinking alcohol at weekends and the odd evening (I type as I sip at my Balvenie), so I’m not doing as badly as last year when I was dreaming of a sip from about lunch time. That makes me sound alcoholic, doesn’t it? Move along…
  3. I’ve been spending more time than is probably healthy playing games on Facebook I’m not supposed to admit that one, am I? Fine. I give up. I’ve just been lazy. As usual.

I have managed to restart the writing. I’ve done two thousand words or so on The Gens, or The Three Guineveres (working title) – more specifically the second part / middle selection, tentatively nicknamed “The High Queen”. I’m bouncing official section titles off of Dylan Fox [External Link] and I suspect that things are going to change significantly if The Gens gets completed. I’m also using Foxie to straighten out some of the World building, so some of that may eventually make it to the site – especially if I make use of the same rules for something else.

Redrafting of 25 Ways to Kill A Werewolf is currently on hiatus. I’m about 40 percent of the way through that – if actual wordage reflects amount of work required. As my runs-through-without-external-input tend to be quite skeletal, it’s quite a lot of putting meat on bones, to continue the analogy, by adding more detail and explanation. I forget, especially on long works, that the reader can’t read my mind as well as my words.

Advance warning: Next weekend marks the start of the Six Nations. Expect rugby talk, if only in the form of bemoaning the score!

Sunday 8th January, 2012

Three Dragon Eggs

Three Dragon Eggs

So. How do you like the first drawing I’ve done “free hand” without a background photo to work from? These are three decorative eggs kept in the house. The little brown striped one is made of agate and started the whole “dragon’s egg” thing off. I gave it to my niece and we’ve been keeping it in a little nest, waiting for it to hatch ever since. The blue egg is ceramic and a Christmas present from Jen this year. The black and grey one is some kind of rock with fossils in. I’ve had it a number of years and I forget exactly what it is. The information was filed away in the back of my brain but got lost at some point with all the moving and changing of jobs that I used to do. At some point, I will be sorting out a better nest (i.e. prettier) to go on the hearth (which doesn’t have a fire, but the thought is still there).

Yes, both Jen and I know it’s all ‘tend, but we like looking to see if they’ve hatched yet, anyway. Like any tall tale, fairy story or imaginary game, it’s the possibilities – the “what if”s – that keep us entertained and coming back. And it is possible to dress it up as a responsible adult thing to encourage. Not only is Jen using her imagination but she is actually learning some grains of truth – just as we do from tall tales, fairy stories and other imaginary games – because a real egg needs particular care and attention to be able to hatch and the closest things to real dragons all come out of eggs. (Fine, I’m reaching a bit far, here.)

And it’s fun. Did I mention that?

Anyway, the picture isn’t perfect and I didn’t work it all out properly but it’s good enough to share. Unlike those short story ideas I thought I’d have a crack at over the holiday period. None of them kept me coming back after the first paragraph. It could, of course, just be that I’m not in the mood to write but that doesn’t explain why the ideas themselves are just not working out. I’ve distracted myself with some reading – some of it research for my Guineveres idea – but really do need to get back in the flow, if only to prove I can. Time to start acting on some of that research, I guess!