Yes, the time has arrived! To celebrate the date I was supposed to be born, all my m/m romance stories on Amazon are free for today only! Just click the button below to be taken to my author page.
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.
I was a 10-month baby. Apparently I was so comfortable I just didn't want to be born, and because I was so small the doctors refused to believe that it was 10 months. Yes, they apologised after the fact, when I was delivered with lots of hair, fingernails so long they had to be immediately trimmed and zero amniotic fluid left.
One weird side effect of this is I have no idea what star sign I should be considered. I mean, I was supposed to be born in July. I was just... well, lazy. What am I? Cancer? Leo? Who even knows any more? I'm the soggiest fire sign ever, that's for sure.
So to celebrate this most unceremonious of events, you get the bonus* of two sales: one on my actual birthday of the 15th of August, and my unBirthday on the 15th July! You can pick up all my books on Amazon for free on both these dates and help me celebrate the day I should have been born as well as the time I (eventually) was.
See you on the 15th!
* You may disagree with that choice of words.
It's funny really. All these years of desk jobs and writing and the most I've ever had is a little twinge or two, soon gone again. Hell, I've been doing this job for eight or nine years now and I've been fine.
Four months of 10-hour days doing little more than pointing and clicking?
Bang. Pain down all my fingers and my thumb, that goes all the way up to the elbow. Even just typing this has made my first knuckle and my little finger start to tingle. Even daily chores have become, well, a chore (not that there's a snowflake in hell's chance of getting out of them), so I've had to order* the Instrument of Torture up there in the right hand corner: an RSI / carpal tunnel wrist brace. It kinks up at one end because it's got a metal bar in to stop me bending my hand down — which is now at war with my arm because apparently I bend my hand down way too much.
It may only be psychosomatic but I feel like it's starting to help already. I finish work in less agony than usual, although my thumb's been getting more painful. I suspect it's trying to compensate for restricted movement elsewhere. It's likely to take months, however, and it does make typing very awkward — I never realised how much my hand moves around the keyboard, although it's probably good practice for writing in its own way.
At least now I have an excuse for my dismal failure of Camp NaNo, I guess.
* I haven't visited the doctor about this, because it's a six-week waiting period for an appointment. I just know Repetitive Strain Injury when it bites me.
And that is that you get a much more cohesive conversation with Paypal (albeit eventually) over Twitter. You even get the same customer service rep every time.
I mean, I wouldn't need to have discovered the only way to have a sensible conversation is via Twitter versus via email* if someone hadn't decided to sign up to Paypal using my email address, and if Paypal didn't allow them to set up a bank/card account without needing to verify their email, which would have stopped the whole debacle in its tracks.
Which, in this day and age and with Google's bizarre "the dots aren't important" approach to email addresses, you would think would be a standard approach but apparently not. Unfortunately, the dots are important to quite literally everyone else, because I can't shut down this peculiar attempt at identity fraud because they omitted the dots in my account.
BUT! Apparently this person with the remarkably lax approach to personal and financial safety (they used my account to sign up for something else as well, which contained their full phone and address...) can't receive payment until they verify their account, and since they can't verify their account... I suspect their cunning plan is depressingly easily thwarted.
Or possibly it's all a big scam, albeit perpetrated by the world's worst scammer.
Either way, if you need to contact Paypal, Twitter is a great approach.
* I had a problem with my account maybe ten years ago and Paypal were the most spectacularly unhelpful entity ever. Email, phone, nothing worked. I just kept getting the same badly-cobbled-together form responses again, and again, and again... until they (eventually) asked for a notarised fax of my passport.
I can only assume they thought a photocopy of my passport signed by a lawyer would be an inconvenient and relatively expensive thing to obtain (think £20 per signed copy at the time). Unfortunately for them, I worked in a solicitor's office. I just asked a lawyer to sign it and then sent it from a machine that conveniently printed "_______ Solicitors" at the top.
It was resolved within a day.
...Haven't I used that as a title before?
I've been a quiet lately, mostly because I've had the Horrific 'Flu (tm) that's given me a still-lingering cough, ridiculously bad sneezes and regular thumping headaches. Not really conducive to doing very much. Annnnd honestly I still feel like a poorly-reanimated corpse, which is proving fun.
BUT! Despite all that, I've finally got off my backside and started editing (again) the story occasionally known as Gabrys, and occasionally as The Prince's Last Whatever The Hell It Was. ...It needs a better name. I think it's working better for it, although who actually knows? It's slow going though, especially as some chapters needed at least half of them rewriting, which means braining, which is proving awkward with the headaches and having to fit it in between work.
So this is mostly just an update to say, I'm not dead even if I feel like it.
And that this round of editing is very almost proving fun. But only very almost.
Google decided to mark all Weebly-hosted sites as 'dangerous' this morning. Weebly keep trying to downplay it and say it was only a small percentage of the sites, but it certainly didn't look like it from where I was sitting.
And how do I know it wasn't a small percentage of sites?
Their own site editor was blacklisted along with everyone else's site.
It's not a big deal for me. I mean, who the hell even comes over here, right? But I felt bad for people whose businesses relied on their site working well, and whose customers might not be savvy enough to know how to get around the massive, threatening red screen Google puts up. People do freak out at the big threatening screen and probably don't have the day job where you go "oh fuck, the cookie's expired again" — i.e. me at least once a week.
They've shrugged it off so flippantly as a "false-positive that adversely affected a certain number of sites" but for those people who rely on it to make a living? I'm sure all that lost revenue is not so easily shrugged off.
It's definitely 'flu. And not even the fun kind that lets me drift gently away and hallucinate very, very gay stories. The last time I had it was when I realised the Rose Queen was male, not female, and suddenly there was so much more plot...
Not a luxury I've got today. It's been ten hours of work, and then another ten tomorrow, and eight after that. There may be questionable decisions made but... well, I can't go dropping 28 hours' worth of shifts because I'm ill. I don't get sick pay (this was mooted maybe five years ago? and vanished without trace for, I suspect, fairly obvious reasons) and I don't fancy their chances of finding cover for all those hours at short notice. I'm sure they'd try, and I'm sure for some of the people on one of my shifts extra hours would be welcome, but... there's a big chunk of money to miss out on just because I'm occasionally vomiting my guts up and I haven't slept properly in two days.
A friend and fellow writer challenged me to write 5,000 words of smut a week. The mutant death cold from hell put paid to that. Nothing makes you less inclined toward writing smut than every sneeze being so hard you think you'll eject several teeth and possibly a tonsil.
To be fair, I'm seeing a distinct lack of her contacting me with what she's written, soooooo...
I've come down with a cold, somehow, despite having not left the house since Saturday. I feel like I've ingested sandpaper and my throat won't let me forget it.
It's the kind of time I always seem to end up inflicting suffering on my characters...
ETA: tongue ulcers and an itchy roof of my mouth; stress-based illness rather than a caught one. Arguably better? Could do without the ulcers.
From the start of the new year, with a couple of breaks, I've been using Duolingo to learn Japanese.
Or rather, currently, it's relearn Japanese.
A long (long) time ago I used to take Japanese night classes, which I enjoyed a lot. It was weird, because I'd spent seven or so years studying French (you get no choice, sooooo...) and somehow I learned more Japanese in a year of night classes than I had in those seven of French.
I've been feeling a little... adrift, I guess? lately, so I figured I'd take it up again. It couldn't be any worse than the disastrous time I tried to learn German on Duolingo, right? (I spent one year studying German at school; again, I had no choice. It and I didn't get along, to put it mildly.)
And no, it isn't. And in some ways it's better, because I've learned a bit more kanji on sight, but currently... yeah, we're on a par. Except for the times I was taught too well and ended up arguing with Duolingo about just how polite you need to be in certain situations (it can be quite rude). And my irritation that some of their language is only what you'd get when stepping into a high-end department store (not joking). And that it doesn't explain the difference between important things — the most fun was hearing "shichiji juunanapun" for 7:17 which is... 七時十七分. You see those two characters that look exactly the same? That's because they are. There are two ways to say seven: shichi and nana. Absolutely none of this is explained in the app; the only reason I know are my night classes, which are thankfully coming back as I study.
The best of it is the Duolingo app itself, which veers wildly between being unnecessarily difficult. Yes, I now know how to say "I am from the UK" and "I am British" but most would just use the latter unless you're being super-specific, in which case the listener will be backing away slowly anyway; I also know two ways to say "my name is ______" and I'm assuming one is informal while the other is formal, but I've only ever learned the formal before and there's no indication the other is informal. I know "watashi no namae wa Pax desu" is more of a mouthful than "Pax toiimasu" but honestly, I'd rather not be rude to total strangers...
The most bizarre thing is the way it's tried to cram this information into my skull. I thought we were doing pretty well, but one update later and you get these gems:
Because I frequently mistake vegetables for a number, you know?
I know very soon now we'll reach the limits of my education and I'll be stuck with their obscure methods of teaching, but I really hope my teacher gave me a good grounding in the subject (enough that a question from a friend had me looking up whether a corpse was 'iru' or 'aru' — to which the answer is apparently both, depending on quite how respectful you are or how ambulatory it is) that it won't matter too much.
I don't recall running into 'zero' at all in my classes. I suspect it's only handy if you're spelling out a number very specifically, but there are a lot of other ways of saying things for that...
Also, fun fact, my teacher was Mr. Hair. 'Hair' in Japanese is 'kami.' 'God' is also 'kami.' My teacher was 'Mr. God.'
We used to do a thing on our local NaNo website called Storymatic Mondays. (I saw 'we,' I mean 'I' because I'm the one with these stupid ideas.) The basic premise was I'd randomly draw cards from my Storymatic deck, post the pictures on the site and people could use them as prompts.
Got to... March? I think? last year and gave in. They were a hassle to take pictures of, a hassle to edit and no one did 'em anyway.
We decided to do them again this year (or rather, I'd do them again this year) so, in a (partially successful) effort to procrastinate, I bought a tiny 20x20cm photo tent. Not a huge 80x80cm one like my other one (it explodes open if you're not careful; I did not know this the first time I opened it) but just a neat little plastic one.
It has made life so much easier. It's got a circular hole in the top for a camera (or, after I discovered the paltrygeist has apparently had the smaller tripod's screw unit away, a well-balanced cellphone), multiple coloured backdrops and two sets of LEDs along the top edges. I could just leave my phone on the top, swap out the cards and take the pictures without a problem or waiting for decent lighting. So somehow I ended up taking 68 photos. Which takes me well into next year. I guess at least keeping up isn't going to be a problem. And because they were all in mostly the same place and the phone never moved, editing them was surprisingly simple.
It's just posting them all in Wordpress that's taking forever, even with a template doing most of the heavy lifting. I've just completed May.
At least this year it won't be hanging over me, I guess.
In other news, I finally started replaying Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. It took a while for the controls to come back to me (although the Quick-Time Events came back so fast I had to check I was pressing the right buttons... after I'd pressed them) and I'd forgotten how very bloody it was, which is fantastic. Also how very brown, but games really were back then. *cough* Gears of War *cough* It's as phenomenally camp as I remember though, particularly when Jack came out the water on a beach like one of the Dead or Alive girlies. Graphically it's both held up well and held up atrociously — the sparse scenery does it no favours, particularly given it's even sparse by Halo 1's standards and that was on the original Xbox, but the combat is fast and flowing and big-name enemies are nicely animated — but I'd never, ever say no to a HD remake. (Hear that, Platinum? Please!) I feel like I should be picking it up again quicker though.
You can check it (and me) out over here: https://www.twitch.tv/paxasteriae
No mic though. I don't have one that works with the Xbox One and... frankly no one needs to hear everything that happens in this house, which is all you'd hear.
Shredding some bad guys with the dimmest cyborg in gaming — I'm not joking — is doing wonders for clearing my head.
Asexual, aromantic, and transmasc non-binary. No, I have no idea how I ended up writing romance either.