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.

 

Creative Goals: 20 – 26 January 2020

I’m actually enjoying having goals set out.  It gives me that odd feeling of accomplishment when I achieve them.  That’s why I tend to work towards smaller goals: if I announced big ones, I’d end up panicking and fail on everything.

I love my brain chemistry so much.


Writing

  • Finish the second chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story.
  • Start the third chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story (trying to take it steady).
  • Actually make an effort to try to come up with some names this time.  It might be easier now the characters have started sharing some more of the plot with me.

Reading

Short as ever.


Misc

  • Assemble a playlist for Singer/Songwriter.  It has all of two songs on it right now.  This is my favourite goal for the week, even if it does mean I’ll have to listen to some mainstream pop for Marcus’s song.  For the record, the last time I listened to the radio, Panic! At The Disco’s Mona Lisa was in the charts.  I stopped listening after an hour and a half, because I’d heard all the same songs at least three times by then…
  • Really, truly draw a sketch of Marcus this week.
  • 44 hours of day job this week.  I’m already 4 hours over the limit I’m supposed to be working through no fault of my own, so this time it better not change.
  • Actually manage to boot up my desktop PC.  It hates Windows updates and knows how to hold a grudge.  No featured images until that’s back up and running!

Fingers crossed for continuing small successes.

And by the way… the Spotify playlist for the story is right here.  Here’s hoping it expands / adjusts as I (slowly) add to it and fiddle around.

I’d love to center it but… yeah. WordPress.

Accountability: 13 – 19 January 2020

Accountability: 13 – 19 January 2020

An odd week this week.  At one point I wilfully forewent an easy afternoon in favour of a solid five hours of work.  Made me very glad I now finish at 6pm instead of 9pm…

It’s also been a week of random research, mostly into the Cornish language (Kernewek), since Blake’s surname was voted to be Saint-Ives, and dokkalfa usually have the surnames of the city or town they first registered.  Mostly I was trying to find a Cornish word for ‘elf,’ except there doesn’t appear to be one.  There’s ‘ælf’ cropping up a few times in place names, but those are the same across the country.  Of an actual folklore term?  Not a sign of it.  The closest I could find in terms of folklore-closeness was the ‘Small People’ (pobel vean), and then got ranted at by Blake in my head, because it turns out he’s a bit touchy about only being 5’6″…

I recommend a Google Maps stroll around St. Ives though, it’s a beautiful place.


Writing

  • I have indeed finished the first chapter of Singer/Songwriter. Draft zero (a term coined by my awesome friend Anika Daniels, whose website I would link if she had one) is on Patreon.  One day I’ll figure out the WordPress/Patreon link so it can look slightly better than Patreon makes things.  Why can’t you have more formatting options, Patreon?  Why?
  • I have also started the second chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story, so that’s a win too.
  • I have, however, so far failed to come up with any kind of useful name for it.  I’ve not really had the time nor the spoons to think about it, to be honest.  I’m terrible at naming things.  There’s a reason Gabrys is still called Gabrys a few years later…

Reading

  • I finished The Ritual.  I didn’t start until Wednesday or so, but after that I couldn’t put it down.  It has very short chapters, which makes the reading experience slightly peculiar: at 85% of the way through the book, you’re on Chapter Sixty-Five.  I can’t remember reading a book that wasn’t disturbingly massive epic fantasy or sci-fi that has so many chapters before.  Considering I read it in lieu of watching the movie, I’m now very confused about how they managed to make it a movie in the first place.

Misc

  • Bad cellphone photo of a drawing of a brown-haired dark elf in grey T-shirt and black suit jacket.My strawberry Shiba Inu is still only a head, so a fail on that front.
  • Sorry Marcus.  I drew and coloured Blake instead.
  • 38 and a half hours of day job instead.
  • Bonus round: I listened to a lot of indie music on Spotify too.  Technically for research, but I’ll always have a soft spot for it.  I tried listening to indie rock too, but whoever curated the Indie Rock Playlist has funny ideas about what’s indie: it contained, among others, The Hives, Franz Ferdinand and The Kaiser Chiefs.  Apparently to some people, indie means instead not American, which is depressing.
  • Bonus round part 2: figured out and fixed an issue with WordPress and cron jobs.  Basically, if you schedule posts and they keep missing their posting times, it’s because WordPress only runs a cron operation when someone visits your site.  If no one visits your site *cough* then it won’t run.  There are plugins to fix it, or you can get technical and fiddle with its specialised settings in cpanel.  As I’m lazy these days, I went for the plugin.  This post gets to be the guinea pig!
Creative Goals: 13 – 19 January 2020

Creative Goals: 13 – 19 January 2020

The first week of this has been, unexpectedly, a success!  Admittedly I didn’t write enough goals to really stretch myself, but then, writing too many for the sake of it would be a demoralising waste of time, so it’s swings and roundabouts.

It’s hard to achieve a work-life balance sometimes when work is constantly shifting goalposts and life likes to bite me in the arse, so I think I’ll stick with the narrow goals and hope one day I can stretch to expansive, demanding ones that won’t then result in a breakdown. You’d think it wouldn’t take me so long to know my limitations, but there we go.  I’m not a fast learner.

This year I’m also going to try to remember to start adding content to Patreon again. It’s a bit difficult because I don’t think there’s really anything I can imagine anyone wanting to pay for, so I guess I’ll have to try to figure that out somehow.  I’d say it’ll be a challenge, but it’s not one I’m willing to add to the to-do list yet!


Writing

  • Finish the first chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story.
  • Start the second chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story (see what I’m doing there?).
  • Try to brainstorm some potential names rather than keep calling it ‘the Singer/Songwriter story’.

Reading

Short list again for the week.

  • Start The Ritual by Adam Nevill.  I’d wanted to see the film, since I like the actors in it, but apparently the book’s better (when isn’t it?) so I’ll read that first.

Misc

  • Finish felting the little strawberry Shiba Inu I started last week.  I’m not good at felting, but I really enjoy stabbing things repeatedly.
  • Actually draw a sketch of Marcus this week.
  • 26.5 hours of day job this week.  We’ll see what that looks like by next Sunday.

See?  Straightforward.

Hopefully.

Accountability: 6 – 12 January 2020

Accountability: 6 – 12 January 2020

Sketch by Pax Asteriae of dark elf Blake

One of the joys of writing modern fantasy is the things my characters complain about. Milos occasionally rails against R. A. Salvatore books (though not by name); Blake has just informed me he doesn’t think ljusalfa really count as a minority because, thanks to Tolkien, everyone fawns over them. He says Tolkien clearly was hanging around places he shouldn’t in an unsavoury manner.

As you may be able to guess, my Singer/Songwriter characters have named themselves. Blake (pictured right) is the songwriter dokkalfa; Marcus is the singer ljusalfa. I disagree with both names, but then, I disagreed with Milos’s too and look where that got me. At least I got my way over his surname, but who even knows what his original surname would’ve been if his parents hadn’t moved to London?

It’s my first week of accountability, so let’s see how things went…


Writing

  • I finished and posted the short story I wrote for Story-Bat’s Secret Scribble Santa.  It’s called Wintertide Gifts and, thankfully, the recipient seemed happy with it.  (It’s also straight, which was very odd to write; kept writing ‘him’ instead of ‘her’ and luckily only failed to catch it once, so thanks to site owner Ashielf for the read-through!)
  • I’ve not finished the beat sheet for the Singer/Songwriter story, but I transcribed my notes into Scrivener and arranged them into where they should be for the beat sheet, which has given me a road map to around 1/3 of the story as well as helped me figure out what the overreaching arc needs to be.
  • Bonus round!  I’ve started on the first chapter!  Life being what it is, actually being able to write it has proven difficult — I think I used up my supply of luck getting the gift story finished to be honest — but at least I’ve started.  I’m currently 1,341 words into it (and Marcus has upset Blake already).

Reading

  • Finished Into The Deep and very much enjoyed it. I’m not often a pirate fiction fan for some reason, but the relationship between hapless Lamark and Yuvie the merman was adorable. I haven’t settled on what to read next.  Probably one of the ones I started and then put down last year.

Misc

  • Xmas decorations down!  It took, as expected, quite a long time… and then they had to be packed and stacked into the garage.  Seem to have accumulated two extra boxes of them somehow…!
  • Sketch a picture of Marcus.  Nope.  But I do keep looking at my sketch of Blake and being amused.  I may enjoy drawing grumpy dokkalfa more than I ought.
  • I’ve done very little gaming.  I started playing Breath of the Wild on the Switch, but again it’s not something I got uninterrupted time for.  But I started, which is more than I expected.
  • Finished up with 43 hours of work.

Goals for next week coming tomorrow!

Creative Goals: 6 – 12 January 2020

Creative Goals: 6 – 12 January 2020

I’m going to try something different this year: accountability posts for projects I’m working on.  I’ll post a new one for the week each Monday, and each Sunday I’ll compare what I’ve done with what I’d hoped to achieve.

Now, this should be a fascinating experience, not just because executive dysfunction is a bitch to work with, but also because my work schedule will wander off at any given point with either no warning or next-to-no warning, which makes planning things difficult.

Still, we won’t know if we don’t try, right?


Writing

  • Finish a short story I’m doing for the xmas story exchange at Story-Bat.  Seems a bit late, you say?  I didn’t sign up to the exchange myself, but someone else hasn’t received a story so I’m trying to step in.
  • Finish the beat sheet for The Singer & The Songwriter, the currently lacklustre title of a Radialverse story about a ljusalfa pop-rock singer whose label introduces him to a grumpy dokkalfa songwriter — and then springs on them both that they’ve now got to pretend to be engaged, to boost both their profiles.  I’m using the excellent Romancing The Beat by Gwen Hayes.
  • Bonus round! Write the first chapter of The Singer & The Songwriter.  This one is a distinct MAYBE.

As an aside, lacklustre titles are dangerous.  Any title is dangerous, because familiarity can make it hard to shift…


Reading

Short list, this one.

  • Finish reading Into The Deep by Amara Lynn, which I’m 21% of the way through right now.

Misc

  • Take down xmas decorations. This has to be done today, and it took me several hours to put them up without any help at all. Taking them down, which I’ve already started (and been doing for a couple of hours; still not completed) is proving painful.
  • If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll find the time to sketch a picture of Ljusalfa Singer that I don’t absolutely loathe.
  • If I’m really lucky, I’ll get undisturbed time to play a video game! Like Death Stranding I’ve had since launch, or Anthem, or Borderlands 3.  Or pretty much any of my Switch games, only one of which I’ve played, or…  *sigh*
  • 41 hours of day job this week.  Possibly more later in the week, there’s no way of knowing: last night the 7th was a 1-and-a-half hour working day.  This morning it’s an 8-and-a-half hour working day.  See?  No way of knowing.  *wiggles fingers*  As an aside, that could have very easily completely fucked up my food delivery also coming on the 7th — which I have to have delivered, because these regular short-notice changes to my schedule stopped me from having the time to go and do it in person.

So we will see how this week goes, and how this accountability thing goes, and how the short-notice-day-job thing goes.  Even if I am a little miffed that my nice writing day tomorrow is now a less-nice but better-paid incessant-working day, here’s keeping my fingers crossed for a productive week.

And at least I’ll no longer finish work at 9pm!

New Year, New Site

New Year, New Site

I realised last year that I was finally outgrowing Weebly (while I was trying to make the site do something it wasn’t designed for, sooo…) and needed to move to a WordPress environment.  I had a look around at the recommended hosts, decided paying £120/year for a site when I make less than a tenth of that by selling books was lunacy, and went with Namecheap, who I already host the Notts NaNo site on, ~£30 being infinitely better than £120 etc.

Annnnnd then spent a day failing to get anything done because I’d had to do something initially that the site then didn’t like, borked the site totally and in the end had to contact support to get help. (Thanks Nina from Namecheap, you were really helpful – and patient!)  Now – when I have time, at least – I can work on getting the things onto the site I’d originally wanted.

And sort out the colour scheme a bit.  It’s a little… academic-looking.

Had fun getting the free ebooks on, mind (both Rescuing The Princess and The Solstice, the New Year’s one that took bloody forever)!  WordPress does not like odd file formats, but that’s why there’s a cpanel and file access.  Might need to let me know if they stop working though, since it was a sneaky-sneaky way of doing it.

I’ve not got much to say today to be honest.  Debating whether to copy across old blog posts or not.  I suppose… new year, fresh start?  Let’s try to make it better than last year!

Happy new year, everyone.  Here’s to the Roaring 20s!

#aNovelRomance Prompts – Alex & Milos

#aNovelRomance Prompts – Alex & Milos

I did the #aNovelRomance interview prompts on Twitter with Alex and Milos for quite a while, and these can be found beneath the Read More on the bottom... not least because they really do like to argue.  Even within the constraints of Twitter, they became quite long and these have been edited for clarity, so slightly longer still.  Also I recommend checking out the hashtag: the characters people share are so varied and interesting!

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Gametee’s Deck of Many Destinies

Gametee’s Deck of Many Destinies

I'm a big fan of GameTee, a UK tabletop / video game merch company run by two sisters.  They consistently come out with some of the most attractive and inventive products you can find, from game-related pin badges to dice and handmade scented candles, and they do Kickstarters for their newest products.

This is one of their Kickstarters: a D&D-based deck of cards that can be used for anything, from game outcomes to in-game, uh, games.  It has uses outside of D&D too; personally, I bought this for use with my NaNo group, since my tarot deck is very sarcastic and takes no prisoners.  (I guess that's what you get for buying a deck from The Works...)

In theory, you can divine from anything... but when you're in a café it's a little hard to work from flocks of starlings, and I'm not sure the art of reading coffee foam is as venerated as tea leaves.  And for all that writers tend to be a sceptical bunch, you'd be surprised at how popular the tarot deck was for asking questions about plot holes.

Which is (partially) where this comes in.  I didn't just buy it for my NaNo group, but as a handy prompt tool for writing, to sit alongside the tarot cards, the Storymatic cards (which I'll admit I did buy just for my NaNo group) and my Story Dice (which I keep misreading upside-down; I thought a flame was a dragon).

Not that I've used it for that yet...  I mostly used it to ask whether I should attempt Camp NaNo (a very emphatic no with the Ruin card, and sage advice too as I think I've completed it all of once, finishing The Reconstruction of Kirill) or whether I should continue with drawing (a tentative yes with the Knight card), and whether I should work on a story that's just started forming in my head (an enigmatic yes).

The thing with these cards is, they pretty much ooze quality.  The card's nice and thick, well-backed and solid-feeling.  The reflective side is incredibly reflective: I showed them to writing friends last Saturday and they were startled too.  For reference: the bright blue highlight in the photos is my old Nokia phone cover... which was around a meter away and about a foot below the edge of the desk.

These are seriously nice cards.  GameTee's products are always so nicely made so the high quality shouldn't be a surprise, and yet when you handle these cards you're surprised again by just how fantastic something as mundane as a set of cards can really be.

As an aside, they also go beautifully with their purple metal dice.  Just in case you needed a little encouragement one way or the other.

PO Box Alternative for UK Writer’s Newsletters

PO Box Alternative for UK Writer’s Newsletters

I’d complained previously about how EU privacy laws and US anti-spam laws involve having to publicise your address on every email newsletter you send out, even if it’s your home address, or risk a fine of $42,530 per email under the US’s CAN-SPAM Act or a max fine of €20 million or 4% of your global turnover, whichever’s higher, under EU rules.  That giving out my home address per-email would be a breach of GDPR is a bit of irony, I guess.

While I can see the logic, kind of, it’s… not something any LGBT person feels safe doing.  Nothing like hanging a big sign over your door and yelling “hey, here I am” by handing out your home address willy-nilly, right?  I’m only a writer who barely sells a couple of books a year, not a massive company like Facebook who, incidentally, have already begun appealing their £500,000 fine over Cambridge Analytica, not something I think l’il old me could get away with.

The advice most often given on sites is “get a PO Box.”  Unfortunately, it’s advice usually given by American writers who have a massive range of variable prices for them, ranging from as little $34/year (£26) for little ones in small towns to ~$150-200 (£115-154) for larger areas.

In contrast, a Royal Mail PO Box in the UK if you travel out to pick up any mail yourself; you’re screwed if you don’t live near an accessible delivery office is £270 ($351) a year.  If you want them to forward your mail on to you, it’s £342 ($444) a year.

So… bearing in mind my stunning book sales, that is… well, bluntly, it’s one hell of a rip-off.

So I figured that was it, I’d just give up.  As the Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock said, “If at first you don’t succeed, quit, quit at once.”  (Pretty sure Homer Simpson is the more memorable version.)  It’s galling though, when everyone bangs on about how ‘every author needs a mailing list’ but it’s out of your reach because of pricing and privacy issues.

Well, I can’t remember what I was irritably Googling last night, but I remembered the whole thorny problem and eventually stumbled over UK Postbox, a non-Royal Mail PO box with a wide variety of plans including crucially, one that gives you a PO Box and only charges you for the mail you receive (£1.20): they open it and scan it for you (£1.20 per letter) and you can decide if you want it forwarding on to your home address.

As it’s priced per letter it could easily add up to be expensive if you were expecting a deluge of post, but as I suspect that at even ~£2.40/letter it’ll be under £12/month, the Pay As You Go tier is the best for me.  There are other prices available, as well as other services (you can pay to have a fancy London address, for example, should your audience be more on the snobbish side) and on the whole it beats having a Royal Mail PO Box.  Particularly as, with the price of petrol (or indeed frequently-extortionate public transport costs, depending on where you’re going and how) I don’t think I’d actually be saving money on fetching the post myself.

Unless I suddenly become massively popular and end up needing a proper PO Box, but if that ever happens then I’d hope the book sales might, just might, cover it.

Until that day so distant on the horizon it might as well not exist… at least this is another thing now out of the way.