On The Allotment

It’s been a while since I mentioned the allotment, so here goes. It’s May and all is looking good. I’ve got all the digging done, bought a new strimmer and pretty much got caught up on everything.

Back in March I planted the onions and spuds. You can see both are coming along nicely now, along with the garlic planted in the winter.

Last weekend I put the brassicas in that huge net cage. I forget just what varieties, but there are cabbages for all year round and some cauliflowers too. I put in a row of red cabbage in its own mini tunnel. I’ve almost finished the pickled red cabbage from the year before last and want to make some more this year. It’s a tad salty but really tasty and apparently good for you.

The rhubarb is coming through thick and fast now. Thanks to the chooks in the garden we’ve been eating a lot of rhubarb and custard. I’ve also made a load of rhubarb jam which is much nicer than it sounds.

I do think the rhubarb is through a lot earlier this year though, a sign of the climate perhaps. I’m sure it’s too warm for the time of year.

In the tunnel, the beans and the rest of the brassicas are ready to go out and the chillies, aubergines, tomatoes and cucumbers are ready to plant in the raised beds. There is spinach, lettuce, Chinese kale and chard to harvest, lots of it. Carrot seedlings are poking through and I’ve sown a whole load of salad crops. It looks as though I might actually be on top of things this year.

My Office, Writing and Waiting

This is my office. Mostly it’s used for working from home, though you can see from the whiteboard and the notice board that it’s meant to be for writing. You can’t see from this picture but there is a second desk with a printer on it and a large set of shelves (I made both incidentally, along with a storage box and a filing cabinet, all from an old double wardrobe and a few planks) filled with reference and writing books. There is also a picture rail, recently added, to show my WotF certificates (we all like a pat on the head). Out of sight, on the other wall, is a Best Allotment 2012 certificate (my finest hour). That notice board on the right was an old pallet and a battered old cork board.

I rarely write here. Usually I write downstairs on my PC, between bouts of procrastinating (damn you Bethesda Softworks and your addictive games!). Since Covid I’ve associated my office with work, but I’m slowly trying to shoehorn myself back in there. It is my house after all!

I’m going to try to put a few hours writing in over the weekend, see if I can’t make myself stay in the office, you never know.

Either way, I’m still editing that novel. I’ve plotted another, roughly, and I’m writing a short while the novel stews in the back of my head. I’m two scenes into it, out of about eight. I’ve had a cold lately though, or hayfever maybe, perhaps both, so it’s been slow, thick headed going. It will get finished though.

At the moment I’m still waiting to hear about the story that got into the final round of that anthology (I’ll maybe make that a bit clearer at some point, depending on how it goes), and the 1st quarter results of WotF are due imminently.

Editing Novels and New Glasses

Editing a novel takes much longer than you think. I’m currently putting my first draft through Ken Rand’s 10% solution. That means doing roughly thirty or so passes through it. This particular novel weighs in at around 180k words and in the last week I’ve managed to do one, yes one, single, solitary pass. The full edit will take a while, especially with the odd inconsistencies I’m finding as I go, plot holes and the like. Still, that first pass took almost two thousand words off, so the writing will be tighter at the end, whenever that might be.

Between passes, besides procrastinating, I’m plotting another novel and trying to shake a short story or two out (you know when you get half an idea and it won’t quite come out of your head?).

I have seven shorts out there doing the rounds. One is in the final round (oh, yes, I’ve been emailed and everything), so keeping everything crossed!

Writers of the Future quarter three is not open yet, they’re running late because of their gala, quarter one results are late too. They reckon another couple of weeks. I’ve already got my story for quarter three sat here waiting for them to open the door.

All this while I’m breaking in a new pair of glasses. They are a stronger prescription. I hadn’t had an eye test since 2018 because of Covid. My old glasses had been well and truly sat on, stood on and those little rubber bits that sit on your nose had long vanished. The new ones are nice and straight, the little rubber bits are all there and they are as uncomfortable as hell. I can’t seem to find the sweetspot at the computer either, that bit where I’m close enough but not too close. Reading books is fine, but the computer is going to take some getting used to.

Now, where did I put that novel?

Editing, Milestones and Donations.

I am up to my neck with editing. Just lately I’ve written two short story first drafts and I’ve been sat on a novel first draft for ages, almost two years in fact.

I finished it during the first lock down, back in 2020, and have just opened it up again to pass a fresh pair of eyes over it. It weighs in at just under 190K words, 50 chapters in all. It’s pretty good, but definitely rough around the edges.

My first pass is to give it a quick spelling and grammar check, making rough notes as I go. I’ve been at it a week and have got about a third of the way through. Once this bit is done I intend to give it the Ken Rand 10% treatment, as well as pruning my own way. I’m hoping to have it done, and those two shorts ready, one for the next quarter of Writers of the Future, by the end of April.

It’s a good time for editing. When editing you can switch off the creative side of your brain and just follow the rules, so you can do it when you’re tired. This week I am very tired. It’s my daughter’s birthday next week. She would have been 24 years old, but she will, alas, be 14 forever. It’s one of those times when I don’t sleep much and when I do I dream things that stop me wanting to go back to sleep anyway. I’ll be fine after next week, I always am, until the next missed milestone, special day or trigger.

Still, a good time for editing, and I’ve got lots of it to do, mostly on autopilot.

Well, at least no one is dropping bombs on me. Which reminds me, that Red Cross Donation link is still there waiting to be clicked, and don’t forget the Disasters Emergencies Committee.

Donate to the Red Cross Ukraine Appeal Now!

I’ve not said much lately, to be honest there’s not much to say. Just turn on the news, the world seems to be speaking for itself.

I don’t usual do charity, I’ve always been of the opinion that if you give to foreign aid then you give foreign governments the excuse they need to neglect their own people. Someone else will do it.

Sometimes though, such as in the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, there’s just nothing else you can do but try to help.

This war is one such time. Click the link to the right, it’s big enough, you can’t miss it.

Or this one:

Donate to the Red Cross Ukraine Appeal Now!

That is all.

Builders and Energy Prices

It’s whinging time!

First whinge, builders.

Wow, what a few weeks. I’ve been looking for a builder to do some work on my house. I live in ex-council semi-detached house. Now ex-council houses are well known for being well built, if a little lopsided in places, but this one was a bit weather worn when we first bought it. That was 21 years ago.

What I initially required was a simple repointing of the chimney and some of the gable end, the pointy end of the house, and a bit of rendering to cover over someone else’s botch job at the back of the house.

So far I have had three builders give me a quote. One I had to chase on the phone just to come look at the job, a second told me I needed lime mortar, a third told me I didn’t. One told me the whole gable needed doing, the whole front of the house, most of the roof too. One told me it couldn’t be done yet because it’s too wet and cold, March at the earliest, another said he could do it next week. The prices ranged from £3800 to £5500. The most promising neglected to say that his price didn’t include the scaffolding, which should cost about £300 (his price, not mine) but has yet, after a week, to get back to me on that. He’s supposed to be calling me today, but hasn’t so far.

Just what the hell am I supposed to make of all that? Do builders have special phones that only work at random intervals? Do they all wear special contact lenses that show different things?

Admittedly they do all offer pretty long guarantees, ranging from 10 – 20 years, and none of them want any money upfront, which is a good sign I suppose. I’m just not certain what actually needs doing.

Bearing in mind that, at the moment, I can afford to have the work done, and that it should never need doing again in my lifetime, in the end I have decided to have the whole front and gable end done, along with the chimney, that bit of rendering and the bottom course of tiles re-bedded on the roof. I have another builder coming today to give me a quote, that will make four. I await with bated breath what he has to say.

Second whinge, Energy Companies (and other profiteering parasites in general).

I got an email from my energy company (who shall go unnamed, like hell! It’s Scottish Power, who are about as Scottish as Napoleon Bonaparte), telling me my fixed tariff is coming to an end and that, to avoid being having my first born child eaten alive by rising energy prices, I should agree to a new tariff right now.

Well, I had a look at their new tariffs. There were four available, all pretty much the same, two green, two not, two for 24 months and two for 12 months and all two and a half times what I am paying now. After swearing at their website for a while and then finding myself unable to get through to their customer services, I decided to ignore it. My tariff doesn’t run out until the end of February anyway.

I got another email from them yesterday. This time it said if I didn’t choose a new tariff I would be put on their standard varaible tariff, which they helpfully listed alongside my current tariff, so I could see just how horrible it would be. It is indeed more than I pay now, by about 20%, much less than the 250% on their fixed tariffs. It could go up by perhaps 50% in April, but is capped at that and would still work out much cheaper.

People, including governments, are calling this an energy crisis. In conclusion I can only think these people are the profiteering parasites they resemble.

Back Ups

I know, it’s been a while again. I’ve been busy, sort of. I’ve done a load of world building, then done it all again after my USB stick decided to fall off the perch. Yes, yes, I know, I know. A programmer should know better and this one is now practicing grandfathering his backups. I my defence the USB stick did fail and absolutely corrupt all my work just when I was backing it up. So I ended up with a really nice back up of all the corruption. Unfortunately I hadn’t been keeping progressive backups so I had nothing to fall back on.

Now I have backups everywhere!

David Farland (Dave Wolverton)

David Farland (Dave Wolverton), the coordinating judge for Writer’s of the Future, and award winning author and all round good guy, has passed away.

I took the WotF online workshop last year and Dave was an instrumental part in it. He seems to have gone out of his way to help upcoming authors and has paid it forward to the extreme. I didn’t know him but he has awarded me many Honourable Mentions over the past few years and just a quarter ago my first Silver.

If you haven’t read any of his work, then go find some, you’ll learn a lot.

Writers of the Future Results, Ear Infections, Covid Jabs and Xmas

I’m still here and still kicking. My head is fine, well in the mental sense anyway. Physically it is bunged up still, but getting better.

Why is it bunged up? Well, mostly due to an ear infection which has left me sleepless and in pain for a week and a half. It’s all but cleared up now, with the help of some antibiotic spray. The spray has vinegar in it as an antiseptic, so I’ve been a bit stinky for a while too. I’ve never had an ear infection before, not that I can remember anyway. My daughter used to get them all the time as a child. Now I know how much they hurt.

The infection was barely clearing up when I gat a text from my doctor to go have my Covid booster. My son was invited to make an appointment a few weeks ago but the nearest place he could go was miles away. That all changed as soon as the Prime Minister declared that they were going to get us all jabbed before January.

I must say, our NHS has done a great job in rolling out these vaccines. Within a few days vaccination centres were popping up all over. We both got them done at our GP’s clinics.

Now I’me full of cold, probably from the booster jab, along with a sore arm, but don’t let that put you off getting one. I’d rather have a cold than end up in hospital.

Anyway, the sore ear, the sore arm and the bunged up head and snotty nose have stopped me writing for a few days. I’m also back working from home so there’s all that confusion in my head about whether I’m at work or not when I sit down at the computer.

Well, my last official day working was yesterday (and I got a Xmas bonus too), so now I can sit down and crack on.

Just a quick reminder of where I’m at. Since my last post I’ve finished a short sci-fi story, submitted a couple of stories and started world building a fantasy story. I’ve had the results from Quarters 3 and 4 of The Writers of the Future competition, a straight rejection (sort of expected) and a Honourable Mention, respectively.

I’ve submitted to this year’s Quarter 1 already and the fantasy I’m world building, or perhaps the sci-fi that I’ve already done a first draft for, will be my Quarter 2. I am leaning more to the unwritten fantasy though, it feels good in my head and I’ve got plenty of time until the end of March. The world building is about a third of the way through and I’ll get a bit more done tonight. I have Xmas Eve to myself. My daughter and her fiance are taking my son out to the movies, so I’m at home alone for the best part of the evening.

I should get plenty of writing done, but I’ve been left with an awful lot of food, chocolate and alcohol.

Merry Xmas, or whatever flavour your season is (I’m an atheist, I’m just here for the twinkly lights and the booze).

Oh, and the chickens are still laying, though they do look a little oven-ready (it’s moulting time).