July 2020 Bullet Journal

July 2020 Bullet Journal

Only 17 days late!  It took me a little time to find a quote I liked — I’d done the rest of the pages on the 2nd or 3rd, I think — so it’s a very delayed set of pictures.

It didn’t take a long time to create though, what with the not needing any extra pages thing; it’s not like I can go anywhere that might require more exhaustive info.  Strangely therapeutic though, it was the closest to enjoying mindless doodling I’ve come.  (I don’t much enjoy aimless drawing.)

And no writing-related things, because although it’s Camp NaNoWriMo — not that you’d guess, most of the emails have been about the Young Writer’s Programme — my writing progress, as you can see from the habit tracker, is distinctly spotty.  Uninterrupted writing time is hard to come by, even (especially?) when you’re trapped at home.

Colours again provided by the Zebra Mildliners, in particular the gold, smoke-blue and magenta pens from the Deep & Warm set.

If I was in any way organised, I’d already be considering what next month’s theme is.  As it is… well, maybe next time I’ll manage to share the pages before halfway through the month!

Does anyone else bullet journal?  I’d love to see your pages, so drop a link in the comments if you want to share.

Status Update July 2020 – Of Renders, Awards, and Not Writing

Status Update July 2020 – Of Renders, Awards, and Not Writing

A 3D image of a naked Alex Jaska, created by Pax Asteriae for their cellphone. (Not this image, obviously; this one's far too small.)

The bank’s sorted, although not without my getting angry. They say they locked my entire account — in the middle of a global pandemic — because I hadn’t logged into online banking in 6 months. Which I would have known, they say, if I’d logged into my online account. But I hadn’t. And they failed to inform me of this in writing so unsurprisingly I had no idea.

I am genuinely considering contacting one of the financial pages in a newspaper to ask if this kind of asshattery is considered normal. I’ve banked with the NatWest for a depressing 20 years (the same amount of time, funnily enough, that I’ve had this mobile number). I can’t see myself banking with them for another 5 now, let alone another 20.

Corporate stupidity aside, life continues much as normal, which is with a fair bit of work and not much writing. My wildly self-indulgent project named itself last night. Peculiar, given I can’t get actual projects to name themselves, but there we go. It’s called The Bastard and the Deep Blue Sea (and I can call it that because it’s wildly self-indulgent and no one else is gonna see it~) and I can even see how the cover will look. I drafted out the text layout last night.

Now I just need to write more than four and a half chapters, when work and home life will allow.

Thing is, I got back into the 3D work I used to do a long time ago, and it keeps distracting me. At least this kind of procrastination is productive, though. To your left there is Alex, one of the Radial main characters. I can now finally render fairly realistic looking versions of my boys. (And that is my new phone background!)

And, bonus, I can now render smutty pictures of them, which amuses me vastly.

The strangest thing about it is, even though it’s procrastination — you can lose hours without even realising just from tweaking skin settings and minutely adjusting lights — it’s a little like digital colouring for me: it forces me to think. The wildly self-indulgent project came about from a render I did for a challenge: I fiddled around, created a character, and suddenly he had a plot and back story and was demanding I write about him. (He may now have changed his mind on that.) A weird but fun post-Fourth Arc story for Radial turned up in my head while noodling around with one of the aforementioned smutty pictures of Milos and Alex.

And, slightly more weirdly, another render I did for that challenge was an Honourable Mention and won me $5. Which I was happy about not for the cash, but because I really enjoyed setting up that render. It almost came together by itself and the end result both came out how I’d wanted and rendered very quickly (not a guaranteed thing!) so I was on the whole very happy.

Not sure what to do with all the renders. I’m having fun creating pictures of Alex and Milos’s everyday life to a certain degree — there’s a sparring picture from the Fourth Arc, and one of Milos training with his long-suffering martial arts instructor (who turned out to look a bit like Sean Bean). I should probably add them to Patreon, free for the ones I already shared elsewhere, and maybe figure out a tier (or add a new one) for the smutty stuff. I don’t know.

So… not dead yet. Still coming up with stories, even if I’m still struggling to actually write. Even when I remind myself that no one else is gonna read TB&TDBS, sometimes I still freeze up. I’ll get over it soon, at least for that. And I’d like to be able to figure out where the story’s going for this intriguing Radial story that seems to start with an unexpected romantic getaway under the guise of work, and then actually turns into work.

We’ll see how things go.

I’ll get around to sharing pictures of my bullet journal at some point too.

Banking woes. Basically, I’m fucked.

Banking woes. Basically, I’m fucked.

On the stroke of midnight 1st July, the NatWest locked my account. I found this out, also on the stroke of midnight, as a Kindle preorder failed to process.

On logging in to my online banking account, I found out this was to force me to give them my mobile number for 2-factor authentication – despite the fact that when I rang customer services last month to enquire when my replacement card would be sent, their system recognised my phone number.

They don’t actually have to take such a heavy-handed approach, but the NatWest will never not take up an opportunity to lock my account.  I can’t ring them now to complain, because my rolling PAYG contract, which I usually top up by £30 every three months in an O2 store because, surprise surprise, they lock my account when I do it online, has run out of money because, thanks to COVID-19, I can’t get into Nottingham to do it.  And now I can’t even top up online because… they’ve locked my account.

Additionally, I can’t just log in and give them my phone number because they’re demanding I use the card reader authenticator they sent me a decade ago, and have never once before required I use.  Since this was, y’know, ten years ago.  I have no idea where it is, so they said they’d send me a new one.

Four days later… no sign of it yet.

So yes. I’m fucked. I have all of £10 in my PayPal account, that I won on the Postcode Lottery of all things, that will go as soon as one of the monthly debits comes in.  I can’t access anything else.  In the middle of a global pandemic.  While I’m a full-time carer to a disabled person.

Because the NatWest have been, yet again, frankly stunning in their incompetence.

Although it shouldn’t be a surprise, coming from an organisation that once encouraged me to use a credit card to pay off my overdraft.

I’m at a loss, I really am.

Although I have a Ko-Fi, I always feel… weird and twitchy asking people for money – that kind of all-over skin-creep, like the thought of someone prodding tiny needles into your shoulders – and anyway, I had to step back from social media for my mental health.  I’m not about to return solely to beg for money.  That’s just insulting.

Let’s hope I can get it sorted by the 8th, or the home-delivery shopping I booked half a month ago (yes, it really is that hard to get delivery slots still) won’t be arriving.

(Incidentally: yes, I have contacted them by email. You can only do it through a contact form, and only once you press send does it say they won’t bother actually answering, but they thank me for the positive feedback. Because they’re an embarrassment.)

JuNoWriMo 2020 – Day 4

JuNoWriMo 2020 – Day 4

Raindrops keep falling on my cat
But that doesn’t mean I ought to wear her like a hat
Nothing seems to fit
‘Cause she keeps crawling off my
She keeps crawling off my head…

Yesterday’s word count: 50 

Didn’t have a great day yesterday.  It’s hard to write when your brain fights against you every step of the way.  It’s just a combination of everything and a healthy dollop of Writer’s Doubt on top of it.  Not Writer’s Block, but the sure and certain knowledge that every single word I write is absolute shit, no part of it is redeemable and the world would be a better place if I just stopped.  Again.

(A lot of people would agree with the last part of that.)

I keep telling my brain that I’m not actually planning on letting anyone see this story.  I fully agree that the world is a better place without my writing, but I’d like to be able to do it in the privacy of my own laptop nonetheless.  Hopefully soon it’ll agree with me and I’ll be able to write more than a couple of hundred words.  It’d be a lot more productive than dumping ridiculous song lyrics into my head every time I walk into the kitchen at any rate.  The above is an example of what I got when I went to use the oven.

I don’t even know why it can do that but not provide an even marginally coherent narrative.  Possibly because there’s only me in the kitchen, not me, a dog, a cat, three loud birds and my mother.  No, I can’t get away with writing in the kitchen.  The table’s too high (or the benches are too low) and it’s in desperate need of a tidy.

Well, no point in whining, even if there is only me here (and the crickets, of course).  It’ll either get done or it won’t, and it’s right now looking like it’s veering towards “won’t.”

We’ll see.

JuNoWriMo 2020 – Day 2

JuNoWriMo 2020 – Day 2

Day start word count: 564

Not off to a great start there.  Every time I sat down to write something either cropped up, or I got Told Things Very Loudly (no, ignoring it does not make it go away, it gets me shouted at instead).  However, today is a very empty work day: an hour and a half in total.  Bad for pay but good for writing… allegedly.  How that plays out in reality we shall see.

Wish me luck!  I’ll need all I can get.  As my status report at the top of the JuNoWriMo spreadsheet says… Get on with it!

(Some light killing of noisy neighbours may need to occur first.)

JuNoWriMo 2020!

JuNoWriMo 2020!

I’ve been in need of some motivation lately.  I have a lot of projects sitting barely started or half-finished (and I mean a lot), and I desperately need a push to get a few of them completed.  So when I saw about JuNoWriMo a couple of days ago, I… not so much leapt at the chance as I dipped a toe in its vague direction.  I don’t historically have a lot of luck with extracurricular NaNo experiences (and I’m increasingly struggling with the main NaNoWriMo event due to the complete absence of uninterrupted writing time I get) so I’m a little wary of this.

But at the same time, a kick up the backside to get Singer/Songwriter finished (and maybe even titled, who knows? certainly not me) would be a great help.  It’s not like Blake and Marcus aren’t trying to progress through the plot without me or anything…  (No, really.  They’re getting further through the book than I am.  This might help?  But it probably won’t.)

So here I am, announcing with a certain degree of trepidation that I’m taking part in JuNoWriMo.  Feel free to ask me how my writing is going (my comments are always open; empty – seriously, even the spam bots have given up – but open), and feel equally free to yell at me if I’m not making progress.

Now I suppose I better start writing…!

Current word count: 0

Current chapter: Four

June 2020 Bullet Journal

June 2020 Bullet Journal

After neglecting my poor bullet journal for a few months, a sudden burst of energy came over me and I actually managed to produce this month’s pages!

I’d actually intended to use this theme for one of the previous month’s filler pages (since it’s been a while since I last did it… so much for it being able to help my ADHD!) but I started doodling it on the month page without thinking, then it kind of ran away with me.

Why pink?  Good question.  It’s because just over six months ago, I selected all my colours for each month on my year-at-a-glance page.  It seemed like a smart idea at the time.

Pax Asteriae's year-at-a-glance spread for their bullet journal

There’s June, looking all… pink.  Handily, I have some Tombow ABT pens that match up almost perfectly with the Zebra Mildliners I created that spread with, so that worked out quite well in terms of colour range.

It’s only simple this month, because I don’t think I’m going to be needing a weekly planner, all things considered.  I might add something more writing-related than my usual tracker though, since it’s JuNoWriMo and I’ll be using it to try to make a serious dent in my Singer/Songwriter story.  Maybe even find a title, who knows?

…Of course, I’d have started making that dent if I hadn’t spent a couple of hours working on this.  I had intended to do this yesterday, but life does like to get in the way a lot for someone who barely gets to leave the house.

If anyone has any great ideas for writing-related spreads I’d love to see them.  Failing that (since I know it’s all crickets round here), if I find any good ones I’ll edit this and add them for future reference.

I Did A Thing (which means m/m romance novella The Solstice is now available for preorder!)

I Did A Thing (which means m/m romance novella The Solstice is now available for preorder!)

I should have been writing, I know.  I've got a whole bunch of things, not just Marcus and Blake, waiting for some love and attention.

The cover of The Solstice, an m/m romance novella by Pax Asteriae

One of them, though, is The Solstice, one of the Tales from Rosgarde I started writing in preparation for NaNo.  It took a... little longer to finish than anticipated: I completed it around midnight at New Year.  Quite aptly.

And now, in an uncharacteristic fit of optimism, I edited it and published it!  Well, set it up for preorder.  It comes out Friday 22nd May.

It was going to be Amazon exclusive, like the others, in order to be enrolled in KDP Select, but with the backlash against Jeff Bezos' news that he is now a trillionaire (!!!) I know quite a few people are now avoiding Amazon.  So, to everyone's dismay, I dusted off my passwords to Kobo Writing Life and Smashwords and logged into Google Play Books, and it's now available to preorder from there too.

Do I imagine queues of people desperate to preorder?  Not on your life.  And it's currently giving me a headache because it means lots of links on book pages instead of one or two, and Smashwords never actually gives you the links to the pages for their expanded distribution just to be awkward so I can never track down a link to Apple Books / iTunes / whatever the hell they're calling themselves now.

Couldn't I just submit through Apple, now they've finally opened their registration to us plebs without a sainted Apple device?

No.  Because Apple couldn't run a piss-up in a brewery, if that archaic and ridiculous sign-up process is anything to go by.

So Smashwords it is, for that anyway.

And what else?

Well, there may be a paperback on its way too...  I really can't imagine anyone buying it, but I felt like having fun.  (And yes, I really do consider formatting fun. 😀 )

So now it's just a matter of waiting, and then pretending I didn't Do The Thing because this always strikes terror into my little withered heart.

Such fun.

So if you like your m/m romance with boys who're angry, arsey and quick to fall in love, it's a short read, it has smut (ooooh) and it'll be relevant maybe once a year or so. Who knows.  Maybe if I write more of the longer Rosgardian stories, it may one day warrant a page of its own...

Because If You’ve Not Written A Novel In Lockdown You’re Just Not Trying

Because If You’ve Not Written A Novel In Lockdown You’re Just Not Trying

(Or: why applying your life to other people’s is a moronic thing to do)

I keep seeing people complaining about how unproductive they’ve become, writing-wise, since the world went to shit and entered lockdown some five or six weeks ago.  That it’s difficult juggling working from home with a home life that suddenly decides it’s going to intrude at all kinds of random times (usually while they’re working) and fitting both the motivation for and the action of writing into all that.

So let’s try a little thought exercise.

Continue Reading

Health & Life Update

In short: even in these pandemic-ridden times… no, I’m not dead.

My desktop PC went off due to a Windows update and has so far declined to turn back on again.  Currently eyeballing a mini-PC replacement, but the one I’d wanted is no longer available… and the one I want would come from Hong Kong, so I worry it’d get stuck in Customs with the global health issues just lately.  Shouldn’t do, but some Arax Pitta face masks went into Customs and never came out.  They were ordered before the outbreak, ironically, but probably hit Customs as the virus gained traction so… I suspect someone in Customs now has some fancy grey masks they didn’t go to the effort of buying.  (I bought replacements that didn’t come from overseas.)  A new PC is much pricier than a set of masks.

My mental health took a nosedive at the start of last month and has yet to recover.  For various personal reasons I can’t see this improving in the foreseeable future.

My physical health has started to decline further.  My main issue is a congenital hip disability I’ve (unsurprisingly) had since birth.  Ironically, the issue isn’t when I walk, it’s when I stop.  Standing still and upright for any length of time is painful; doing the recycling is agonising.  Sitting is no longer quite so great either: sitting for work yesterday put it slightly out its socket for most of the day.

Annnnd last night’s dream involved an all-girl pop band that turned into a group of eldritch horrors with long, glowing snouts and fantastic hearing.

It’s been an interesting time.

And on the subject of ‘interesting’ and ‘not dead,’ I’m not so much self-isolating from the coronavirus as I am just… going about my normal day.  I already work from home, and because my hours can change overnight I always get my shopping delivered.  Just livin’ that prepper life, apparently, only I’ve never felt the burning need to stock up on excessive amounts of loo roll.

We have two sets of neighbours: one to the side, one behind us.  The ones behind us have sent us xmas cards three years running now.  The ones beside us I’ve seen only once, a couple of years ago, when she came round to ask if we needed her to prune the hedge between properties — and she only did that because I’d already cut down all the overhanging leaves, which were a good three or four foot over my drive and shedding leaves over my mother’s car.  Aside from that, they mostly sit in their back garden chain-smoking and making it impossible to do anything in my back garden without needing a respirator, the stench is that bad.  Which in the current climate at least looks less weird, I guess.

They both know my mother’s disabled; today the ones behind us came round to ask if there was anything they could do to help.  Not seen hide nor hair of the ones beside us since the aforementioned meeting.  …And a good thing, really, because my mother’s desperate to chew them out over the incessant smell and the fact they keep driving over our drive’s drop kerb — which has a section of normal raised pavement between theirs and ours, so aside from being plain rude it’s also illegal.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Other than that it’s business as usual.  We already have plenty of hand sanitiser as my mother’s nurses weren’t always… reliable about using the sink (yes, really; one in particular never washed her hands unless prompted.  She was promoted, presumably out of harm’s way because her beside manner was atrocious) so we had to make it easy for them.  It’s just been a matter of using it even more often.

Not made writing any easier though, things have stalled a little, at least as far as actual words-on-page go.  Ideas?  They’re still bubbling along, including one loose end that might now be less so, and handy really because I couldn’t work out why my thoughts kept returning to it.  Obviously it wasn’t entirely daydreaming…

All in all, things have been just… meh.  Here’s hoping everything — and I mean everything — blows over soon.

Creative Goals: 3 – 9 February 2020

Creative Goals: 3 – 9 February 2020

Somehow February has already started to feel long, and that’s before we get to the extra day.  The RSI of doom has returned, and appears to be carpal tunnel instead (numbness in fingers and I keep dropping things and getting angry with myself).  Wrist braces everywhere.  I found an old blog post where I talked about the symptoms I’d had before; I’d actually forgotten it’d become so bad, to the point where my thumb was going numb and I had pain all the way up to the elbow.

Wrist braces are a pain in the backside to wear, but I don’t want things to become that bad again, so I’ve had to go back to wearing one all the time as well as changing the way I sit when I’m working.  Hopefully I can get things as fixed as they’re likely to get soon…

At least it’s the incessant click-click-click since my day job is very mouse-heavy, and it’s not writing that’s the problem…  Now it’d just be nice to get some time to actually do some.


Writing

  • Finish chapter 3 of Singer/Songwriter for real this week.  (Work allowing.)
  • Start chapter 4?
  • Really could do with a few more titles, before the only one I have sticks by mistake.
  • Start the Twitter hashtag games I want to play for the month.  This month they’re: #LGBTWIP, #aNovelRomance, #LGBTQwrites and #SmoreWords.  I have a hell of a time keeping up with even one or two, so this should be interesting…
  • Work, home and inspiration allowing, maybe start on an idea for the Story-Bat Valentines Wordfest, which has an interesting prompt this year.

Reading

  • Actually finish the book, fingers crossed.

Misc

  • 44 hours of work this week.  (Already starting 4 hours above the cap…)
  • Find the time to reboot the Virgin Media hub, since we’re getting the fantastic download speed of 10mbs right now.  But it’s Virgin Media, so you can’t expect your expensive fibre internet to actually work properly, can you?

So it’s a week heavy-ish on the writing, but we’ll see what happens with the work hours.

Remember kids, it’s only finger-wagging over your work-life balance if you’re choosing your hours, not your employers!

Accountability: 27 January – 2 February 2020

It’s been a tough week, honestly.  I failed on so many of my goals, which doesn’t help when my mood’s already pretty low.  I deliberately set myself little to do, but between work and home life I failed to achieve even that.  I’m hoping next week will be a bit better, but honestly I can’t see that happening either.

At least my desktop PC started up this week!  If I get time (insert hollow laugh here) I’ll add in the various header images all the previous posts are missing.  Unfortunately, the mini-PC I had my eye on to replace it is no longer available, so I’m stuck with this one for a while longer.  Ahh, Kingdel, please start selling your powerful i7s again!


Writing

  • I haven’t finished the third chapter of Singer/Songwriter.  I’ve barely made a dent in it.  In hindsight this may be for the best, because I had Marcus park in the Maid Marion Way car park, but he’d probably be better off parking in the Lace Market one.  While I didn’t actually mention where he parked, the location determines describing the scene.  The difference in appearance of Nottingham coming from two different locations is… noticeable.
  • Therefore I haven’t started chapter 4 of Singer/Songwriter at all.
  • I did come up with another potential name, but… might have forgotten it.  I was nowhere near a notebook, my phone, or anything else for that matter at the time so it was kind of inevitable really.  If it was any good I’m sure it’ll come back to me.

Reading

  • I haven’t had the time to read…

Misc

  • Day job: initially 40.5 hours.  Final total: 48.5 hours.  But that work-life balance, right?  The one that’s given me carpal tunnel.  (New wrist braces came on Friday.  I have new ways to sit to keep my forearm level and not twisted.  They’re uncomfortable.)
  • PC booted up yesterday, so little victories!
  • I’ve almost finished my bullet journal for February.  The important stuff, like the weekly calendars, is all done.  It’s just drawings now, which I’ve not had time to do.  I might post the pages if I have the chance to finish them…
  • Unfortunately (for me) I haven’t had the time to tidy my desk either.  It still looks like a bomb’s hit it.
  • No time = no sketches.

 

Creative Goals: 27 January – 2 February 2020

It’s only taken a month, but I finally grabbed the Easy Content Template plugin for WordPress.  Previously I was opening up old posts and copying the stuff across… then I remembered it’d be much, much easier to just, y’know… set up a template.

Hey, sometimes I can be efficient.

Just… not often.


Writing

  • Finish chapter 3 of Singer/Songwriter.
  • Start chapter 4 of Singer/Songwriter.
  • Try to come up with a couple more potential names for Singer/Songwriter…  I struggle with naming things, can you tell?

Reading

  • Actually finish this damn book!

Misc

  • Day job: working 40.5 hours a week.  Check for the total on Sunday!
  • Maybe get the PC booted up this week?  Fingers crossed.
  • Finish setting up my bullet journal for February. Yes I know I missed the entirety of January, shhh.  It’s planned in pencil, it just needs inking in.
  • Tidy desk.  It’s looked like a bomb’s hit it for weeks now and it’s irritating me… but I only really sit here to work, so I’m usually distracted.
  • Try to manage a couple more sketches.  I miss drawing.

Again, it’s not a list of goals that’ll set the world alight, and I’m already starting to get stressed by the Singer/Songwriter story – not because I don’t know what to write but because, thanks to my home life and variable working hours, I don’t have the time to sit and write.

I got a finger-wagging month or so ago because I wasn’t Writing Every Day and Publishing Every Month and did I really Want To Be A Writer?  And I’m really happy for them that they aren’t a full-time carer in full-time employment with all the fun of their own full-time disabilities as well, but some of us need nice, quiet alone time to be able to think and write.  I already know from NaNo that if I try to write in 5-10 minute bursts, I end up having no fucking idea what I wrote previously.  Yeah, I can edit it later… but then it’s twice as much work as actually writing it properly in the first place.

So… y’know, should anyone get the random urge to go dictating ‘advice’ to people, have a little think.  And if someone’s trying to work, care for someone and also has days when they can’t stand upright for longer than ten minutes without crippling hip/back pain (but still has to do all the cooking, cleaning, recycling/bins etc.), sneering at them and telling them it’s not an excuse is, possibly, not the best argument you can make.

If something works for you, great!  Fantastic!  I hope you keep on at it!  But writing is not a one-size-fits-all gig.  Don’t try to demand that it should be.

Accountability: 20 – 26 January 2020

It’s been a week that feels a little like swimming through treacle.  Time has gone quickly and at the same time had much the same feeling of pace to it as the average garden snail on a particularly aimless day.  I’d say I need a holiday, but aside from the fact it’s only January, I think we all know what I won’t get to have at any point in the foreseeable future…


Writing

  • I did indeed finish the second chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story.
  • And I have indeed started the third chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story, although progress is slow because Life.
  • I came up with… well, all of one name so far, but it’s one name more than I had at the start of the week.

Reading

  • I haven’t finished the book yet.  In part I haven’t had time because of work, everything I have to do at home and trying to write, and in part because it feels like a very long book…

Misc

  • Bad cellphone photo of a drawing of a blond-haired Caucasian elf in a pink T-shirt and a fur-collared denim jacket.There’s been a little progress on the playlist, but not by much.  I’ve enjoyed listening to lots of different music though, and adding things I particularly enjoyed to my likes to re-listen for suitability later.
  • I did actually manage the picture of Marcus!  It came out not as hideously as I’d expected it to be when I started.  (I also discovered at a very inopportune time I only have one white-fleshtone Kurecolor marker, so I should have probably done it with Copics instead…)
  • 47 hours of day job this week.  The reason I’m tracking this is that we had an Edict at the end of last year about how everyone should only be working 40 hours in order to maintain a Good Work-Life Balance, and thus no one would be allowed to pick up any shifts beyond this without manager approval.  …But I don’t pick up shifts. A Good Work-Life Balance is only if they’re not desperate to fill out shifts, apparently.
  • I finally managed to boot up my desktop!  …And the day after, there was another fucking Windows Update and I’ve not been able to start it again since.  Thanks, Windows.