Writing Stuff

#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!

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.

Stack of multicoloured envelopes shared by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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.

All this just from considering crocheting a small cloak

I reckon Lirio is probably good with a crochet hook.  Not immediately — at least, not immediately for crochet, I’m sure he probably instantly devised four inventive methods for murder with one — and that lack of immediacy would rankle so much.  He’d always had a talent for picking things up quickly, although, again, mostly in the field of murder, so to struggle would be a nasty, unpleasant feeling and Ais would’ve found half-started projects being hurled past his head on a regular basis.  (“Please stop trying to kill me, love.”)  Lirio’d quit it, start it and quit it again four times in the space of a day, but having nothing else to do would drive him to keep trying (and failing).

In the end, it’d probably be Ais introducing him to someone he knows who could teach Lirio that’d turn things around (and make home life much safer for Ais again).  ‘Cause not only could they teach Lirio to crochet properly, but they’d be the spouse of one of the people who gut fish on the harbour, which gets Lirio a job to get him out the house and utilising his knife skills again, and probably precipitates his little … well, I guess it’s a detective business too.

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