Warning - Some posts may cause choking, spitting of beverage and /or a severe giggle fit. This advice brought to you by regular reader Louisa.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Blog Filler (or not having a subject to blog about, but blogging regardless).

I'm feeling fairly chuffed at the moment because this is blog number seventeen for this month. Not bad going, I reckon, as that means I have blogged for around half of the month. When I consider that January through April was pretty abysmal on the blogging front, I can definitely live with this month's blog count. I have a way to go before I am back to my previous form of blogging practically every day, but I'm on the right track. *grins happily*

Only.... (there had to be an 'only' here), tomorrow is June 1st, and that means BuNoWriMo. Erk. Something tells me that I may regress on my blogging progress this month. I solemnly swear that I'll try not to, but given my recent history on the whole writing front, I'd hazard a guess that June will be a quiet month for the Princess of Procrastination (well, for the blog page, not the person).

I am already doomed for tomorrow. Aside from the normal busy-ness that Tuesdays bring to my life, I also have the kids home from school because of the half term break (commiserations will be gratefully accepted). I also have a job interview tomorrow afternoon. While this is good news for me personally, it's not so good for BuNoWriMo. The job, if I get it, is only sixteen hours a week, but it is spread over three days, which will inevitably interfere with my BuNo progress. You would think that a four hour shift wouldn't interfere a lot with your entire day, but it does, and incredibly so. You still have to fit in your usual daily chores, and although the shift may only be four hours, you need to add an extra hour or so for travelling there and back. By the time you've done everything that needs to be done, the day is surprisingly over. And as for the day with the eight hour shift, you can forget it. Nothing's getting done that day, no sirree.

However, I am still confident that I can complete the target of 50,000 words by the end of June. Last November threw me huge curve balls with one thing and another, but I still managed to complete my NaNo novel. And I have two big advantages this time around. One, I KNOW I can do it, and if I did it once, I can do it again. Two, because this will be a sequel, writing the novel isn't as as scary a process as last time around. This time I already have most of my characters in place, and I know exactly what I want to do. Cardiffella was nuts to write as I really had no clue what I was doing, and yet here I am, editing like mad and hoping to sell the darn thing by the end of the year. Goes to show that you don't always have to have a plan when it comes to novel writing for it to work. It helps, yes, but it's not strictly required.

Or maybe that's just me.

The thing is, I woke up this morning with another idea in my head, so my BuNoWriMo novel may just end up being a journey into the unknown again. I won't know until I start it tomorrow. *shifty* I'm a nutter, obviously. I mean, I have a sequel pretty much worked out in my head, and BuNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity to write it, yet because I am me, I may end up doing something completely different.

Still, it's all part of the fun, right?

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Fairy Godmother's Handbook

Yes, all Fairy Godmothers have to follow rules, and they have a trusty handbook to refer to in times of need. There is also the Godmother Council, of which the Chief Fairy holds supreme authority over, and has the power to strip a Fairy Godmother of her abilities. 
No, I'm not going mad (mostly because that would suggest I was sane to begin with), I've just been working on my prologue for Cardiffella in the last week or so, and during the process I came up with the idea of a handbook for Fairy Godmothers. You see, my Fairy Godmother is a cat - a talking tabby cat to be more specific - and there had to be a reason why I had a talking cat in my novel. I've always known her back story, I just never figured out how I would explain it in the novel. As I began to type last week, the idea for a handbook popped into my head, and before I knew it I had a Chief Godmother, a whole court system, and a complete godmother history champing at the bit to come out of my brain. Mad, eh?

Anywho, seeing as I am writing the sequel next month for BuNoWriMo (Lordy, that sounds really scary now *snort*), it's probably just as well that I had the idea for the handbook right at this moment. My talking cat is set to appear in not only the sequel to Cardiffella, but several more books too. Suddenly my Fairy Godmother is not a peripheral character, she's the main character. Suddenly my interfering pussy is taking over the world (or my stories, at any rate).

Anywho, I thought I'd post up the first five rules from The Fairy Godmother's Handbook, but before I did that I needed to explain a little bit about what it was all about. Hence the ramble posted above. *snort* I'm toying with the idea of having a different 'rule'  included at the beginning of every chapter (not necessarily in any particular order). I'm not one for creating chapter titles anyway (I usually stick to the boring 'Chapter One' etc format) and I thought that using a rule to kick off each chapter might be a nice little gimmick. Thus I now present you with the provisional first five rules as printed in the official Fairy Godmother's Handbook, and endorsed by none other than the Chief Fairy Godmother herself.

Rule Number One - Only accept true damsels as clients; fake damsels, wicked widows, evil step-mothers and witches-in-disguise need not apply.

Rule Number Two - When performing one's duties, a Fairy Godmother must at all times remain ladylike and polite. Profanity, vulgar language and displays of temper are not encouraged lest they set a poor example to the client.

Rule Number Three - Always remember that the client is never right, and doesn't know what is good for them.

Rule Number Four - Never allow a client to expose themselves publicly. Remember, a true damsel remains covered from the neck down at all times.

Rule Number Five - Exercise is important. All clients should be encouraged to partake in some exercise on a regular basis. This will not only benefit the general health of your client, but also will also facilitate 'accidental' meetings with their prospective partners.

Of course, these rules are in the draft stage and are subject to change, but I couldn't resist sharing my latest spurt of insanity, not least because I couldn't think of anything else to blog about. I am being overtaken by BuNoWriMo at the moment, and can think of nothing else but my talking cat. I sense that I may be blogging about her quite Alot * in the weeks to come....

*Not a typo, I intended to type 'Alot'. For you to understand the inside joke, then I am afraid that you'll have to become a member of BuNoWriMo and read their page on Facebook. Not that I'm bribing you or anything, honest.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Dear Writing Mojo

Dear Writing Mojo,

I realise that it has been quite some time since I required your services, but I am currently gearing up to participate in BuNoWriMo, which is, as I'm sure you know, a rip off borrowed concept of the more widely known NaNoWriMo. In just a few short days I shall find myself invisibly glued to my laptop in order to write around 1800 words a day for the duration of the month of June.

Now, as I'm sure you'll remember, you serviced me greatly last November when I took part in the previously mentioned NaNoWriMo. You weren't always obvious with your mentoring - indeed, some days I suspect you escaped to the local pub for a bevvy or two - but for the most part you did your job well. By the skin of my teeth, I finished my novel with a final word count of 50,091. Yay!

This time around, I wanted to make sure that you knew what your actual requirements were, for when you are employed as a Writing Mojo, there are certain things that you must be able to do. For instance, you must be able to be around as and when you are required, preferably during daylight hours, and most especially when I am without my children.

That means no more trips to the local pub.*glares*

Next, I would require you to maintain full cheerleader skills for the entire month. An aspiring author needs a little pom-pom waving and verbal encouragement on a daily basis if she wishes to achieve her goal. For that purpose, I am providing you with full outfit and accessories in order for you to fulfil your cheerleader requirements.

Now, seeing as 'Mojo' is part of your title, I am also demanding that you take the form of one of my mojos whenever you are in residence. I am not going to be overly picky here and demand a particular persona for you, but if you would be so good as to take the form of Jensen Ackles, Viggo Mortensen, Gerard Butler, Ian Somerhalder, or that bloke from Spartacus: Blood and Sand, I would be suitably grateful. And if you combine both mojo and cheer leading elements at the same time, I assure you that I would be most demonstrative with my gratitude.

Next up is something that is crucial to achieving my BuNoWriMo Winner status. You must - I repeat must - be sure to punish me when I am slacking. If you were to find me playing Bejeweled Blitz, for example, a thorough spanking would definitely be in order. Indeed, nothing else would do.

And if you catch me procrastinating in any way on Facebook or HPANA, then you have my full permission to put me in chains and punish me in which ever way you deem fit (I would suggest whips, and maybe a little ice cream, but the choice would be yours, of course).

When it comes to the actual writing of my BuNoWriMo novel, I have a couple of other demands requests. Obviously I will have to include several pussy jokes in the manuscript - one can't have a talking cat in a story and not have pussy jokes after all - but I would humbly ask that you keep an eye on me in case I go overboard. It's never a good idea to overuse a pussy, as I'm sure you'll agree.

Another thing is is innuendo. Once again, there has to be a certain amount of innuendo in this type of novel, but in order for me not to go crazy and include innuendo in every other sentence, I shall require you to nibble my earlobes at frequent intervals. The pleasure pain from these timely reminders should hopefully be enough to override any innuendo impulses that I may experience. *shifty*

Lastly, in order for me to truly succeed, my fingers will need to be in prime condition in order for me to type properly. As I'm sure you are aware, fingers that aren't in prime condition are liable to produce copious typos and spelling errors when one is writing a novel on one's laptop. After last year's NaNoWriMo effort - which I suspect had larger numbers of incorrectly spelled words than correctly spelled words - you really must make more of an effort this year. Suitable treatments for producing perfectly pliable fingers include massage and manicures, though my personal preference would be for you to suck on them occasionally. I really find that this type of treatment can work wonders on poor, overworked, and aching extremities.

If you could just confirm that the above suggestions are agreeable, I would be most grateful. I humbly ask that you reply as soon as you possibly could as I am anxious to get matters settled before the end of the month.


Tara Smith

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Writing Challenges

Hello all! A quick(ish) blog from me today, mostly because I have a ton of things that need doing, but also because I'm recovering from my trip to the dentist this morning (and the six injections I had to suffer through). *shudders*

The next few months look like they're going to be pretty busy ones. First off, there's the BuNoWriMo, which I briefly mentioned before. Like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), BuNoWriMo promises to be manic. My writer's group (The Burrow) are hosting their own mini version of NaNoWriMo (hence the 'Bu' rather than the 'Na' at the start), and it starts in less than a week. The month of June should hopefully see lots of lovely new novels written by everyone who participates. These novels will be written at top speed, whether by hand or by typing, and they all promise to have many typos and plot gaps, but that's part of the fun. *grins*

"Fun?" you say. Yes, fun! Because although I'm betting more than a few of us will be stressing like mad during the process, the beauty of the challenge is that the completed novel isn't meant to be perfect. You are supposed to write, write, write - and that's it. No reading over what you have done, no spellchecking, no going back to tweak something that bothers you. Just write. It's quite liberating, actually, because you don't really have time to doubt yourself.

So I'm asking anyone and everyone who reads this to think about taking part in BuNoWriMo. Yes, I'm talking about YOU! All you need is a slight leaning towards insanity, plenty of pens/pencils and notebooks (or a working computer), and the will power to let go of those annoying I Must Write This Perfectly habits. Oh, and a Facebook account, because that's where we're hosting the official group.

Moving on quickly, I wanted to let you all know about a short story competition that I'm also writing for. It's only open to UK residents unfortunately, but the prizes are fabulous, and include online help from a published author, book vouchers, signed books, and, most impressive of all, a meeting with an agent from a publishing house! How awesome is that? The host of the competition is the author Rowan Coleman, and you can find full details of the competition and the prizes right here. Incidentally, Rowan also hosts a fabulous mini competition on her Facebook page every Friday. You have to write a short story in 420 characters or less and post it as your status. It's fun to do, and it doesn't take long to write. I've participated for the last three weeks and had a ball writing for it. It's open to everyone, and I highly recommend having a go!

And while I write for BuNoWriMo and the above competition, I shall also be continuing with the editing of Cardiffella, and possibly working too, depending if any of my job applications are successful. I'm also going to try and teach myself how to build a website, because I have an idea that's been fermenting for some time now, and I'm about ready to give it a shot (I'm not saying anything more until I have it ready. Which could be never, seeing as I'm so technically challenged.*snort*). Summer's going to be crazy this year! *faints*

Anywho, that's it for today,  I'll catch you all soon!

Image is courtesy of our lovely honorary Burrow member, Joris, who produces beautiful images for both our writing group, and for individual projects. You can contact Joris at jorisammerlaan@gmail.com

Monday, 24 May 2010

You couldn't make it up....

So it's still absolutely sweltering here in Cardiff, and I'm sat on my sofa with my laptop warming my thighs and a big fan cooling my brow. I plan on sitting here all day; I have my blog to write, some finishing touches to my prologue for 'Cardiffella' to add, one more drabble to compose for next month's Burrow feature, and some notes to write up ready for next week's BuNoWriMo . Happy days!

I thought I'd ramble a bit today about my weekend, because it was one of those weekends where nothing seemed to go right. I don't know whether any of you are like me, but if you are I feel sorry for you. I'm one of those people that has things happen to them that would never happen to anyone else. You know, the stupid things that are so bizarre that they couldn't possibly be made up because nobody is crazy enough to think of those scenarios.

Take my Saturday - no seriously, take it. I had been looking forward to Saturday 22nd May for the last three weeks. Nothing spectacular was happening, you understand, just an arranged night out with the hubby at the local pub, but still, it's a night out, right? I rarely get an evening out with the hubby because trying to find babysitters for my kids is a bit of a nightmare. My son is easy enough to make arrangements for - he's almost fourteen so doesn't need looking after as such, and is happy enough to be left to his on devices. As for my daughter, though, that's where I hit the snags. Ellie's a bit, well, I don't know that there's an actual word for it, she's just Ellie.

We have a saying in my family about Ellie, and I seriously believe several people are actually scared of her. Not that she's an Insane Regan From The Exorcist type of child, it's just that she's demanding. Very demanding. Anyone calling at my house runs the risk of being Ellied, which can include anything from playing Monopoly for five or six hours, to listening to Justin Bieber's 'Baby' about a gazillion times. Me, I'm mostly immune to it. I can have a conversation with my daughter with half an ear (which is just as well because until I pluck up the courage to get my ears syringed again, I'm mostly deaf anyway), but other people aren't so well prepared.

To be fair, she's a well-loved child, and nobody holds the fact that they will probably have a headache after spending longer than half an hour with her against her, but it's pretty difficult to get anybody to voluntarily look after her without me being there as a buffer.

Anyway, I'd arranged babysitters for both of my kids a couple of weeks ago. Overnight babysitters, no less. Excellent! The weather turned crazy hot at the end of last week, and I thought 'Great, this is working out brilliantly!' Saturday night, child free, sunny weather, beer garden, the works!

See. this is where I went wrong, because nothing ever works out great for me, so I should never have jinxed myself by thinking otherwise. *rolls eyes*

Anywho, Saturday did indeed dawn very bright and sunny, so I took my kids to their auntie's house (only a two minute walk from me) and spent the afternoon relaxing in the back garden while the kids tired themselves out on the trampoline and what-not. I left just after 3pm, my son staying behind as he was sleeping over until Sunday. My plan was to walk home, grab a sandwich (in order to have some carbohydrates to soak up the planned alcohol consumption of later in the day), then take my daughter to my mum's house before coming back home to shower and stuff.

Now so far, I have to admit, this is not sounding in any way like it was a bad day, but trust me, I'm getting there.

So, 4pm arrives. I grab my daughter's overnight bag and my purse and leave the house , banging the front door shut behind me. Then I bang the front door shut again. And again. Several 'agains' later, I realise that my front door is never going to shut owing to fact that the lock is completely knackered. Of course, I sort of figured this out after the third or fourth 'bang', but you know what it's like, you keep on checking just in case it will miraculously work if you give it an extra hard bang. Well, you probably don't know what it's like, but you know what I mean. It's like when you lose something and you keep checking the same drawer over and over because, dammit, you know you put it there. Like it's really going to appear when you've already checked a thousand times already. It's madness, but you keep checking.

Anyway (Lordy, I love that word), Ellie is now seriously pouting because it looks like she won't be sleeping at nanny's house after all, and I'm 'f-ing' all over the place because I'm so wound up. I mean, seriously, the lock had to break now? It couldn't happen on a day when I didn't need to go anywhere? Grr!

Now, when it comes to DIY, I'm hopeless. Honestly, I can't even wire a plug - it's pathetic how inept I am. But I wiped my brow, cursed a bit more under my breath, and dug out the screwdrivers (and phoned the hubby for back up. I mean, come on, I'll get a screwdriver out and have a go, but lets not pretend I'll manage to fix it. *snort*). I took the lock off the door, prodded it a few times, took the back off the casing, prodded a little bit more, scratched my head, put the lock back together and screwed it back onto the door, called the lock a few choice names because it (of course) still didn't work, and kicked the door for good measure.

And then the plinth on the bottom of the door fell off.

Seriously, I kid you not.

Hubby arrived and basically did exactly the same as me with regards to cursing, taking the lock off and fiddling a bit with it, and putting it back on the door again. When it still wouldn't lock, he gave his professional opinon; "I guess it's f****ed then.".

No kidding.

Then  a little light bulb went off in my head. I phoned my sister-in-law and asked her to house sit for me for the night. I mean, I have deadlocks and bolts on the door as well as the normal lock, so it's perfectly safe and lockable from the inside, but I couldn't leave the house empty unless I wanted to invite half of Ely to help themselves to my stuff (and to be honest, you don't have to invite half of Ely to take your stuff, they just do it anyway). Thankfully, my sister-in-law, being the star that she is, agreed. Disaster was avoided, yay!

I was running late by now, though, and my plans were seriously scuppered. I'd had everything worked out - drop the daughter to my mum's house, go home, blast some music, have a vodka or two, shower, change, titivate etc etc. Instead, as it was now 6pm, I had to make do with changing my top, slapping some lippy on, sticking my head upside down, and spraying half a can of hairspray onto it (CFC free, of course).

The bus was, of course, late, but it eventually arrived and I dropped off my daughter. All I had to do was jump on the next bus - any bus! - and make my way to the pub (hubby was already there, smart man that he is). Of course, despite Cardiff Bus advertising 'a bus every five minutes!', I waited twenty minutes before one actually turned up. And another of course, the bus was full of people who were already tipsy after drowning their sorrows because of the disappointing results of Cardiff City's big game at Wembley. As if that wasn't bad enough, two stops after I got on (you know where this is going, right), one of Cardiff's resident nuts came aboard and decided that of the ten or so available seats, he'd pick the one next to me to sit down on.

I spent the next ten minutes getting to know the window extremely well, while Nutter 's sweaty thigh tried to get acquainted with my twitchy leg. Ugh. *shudders*

And what do you know, the guy got off at the same time as me, and I soon realised he was heading for the same place too (it wasn't that hard to figure out, because the stop I got off at only really has three options for your destination; the doctor's surgery (which was closed), the cemetery, or the pub. Okay, the Nutter's a , well, nutter, but even I knew that it was unlikely he wanted to spend Saturday night with a bunch of dead people).

Anyway, I hung back a bit a waited until the guy was a few minutes' ahead, then started walking again, and finally - finally! - I got to the Promised Land (er, the Culverhouse Cross pub). And it was only 7.30pm!

So I did manage to have my night out (which was fab, by the way), but it sure took a long time getting there (or felt like it). Oh, and to cap it all, my daughter ended up back at my house anyway. About half an hour after I left her she decided she didn't want to sleep at nanny's house after all, so Bampy brought her back home and my sister-in-law ended up babysitting as well as house sitting. So, in a funny way, I was sort of lucky that my door wouldn't shut.

It's a funny old world.

Oh, and hubby put a new lock on the door yesterday. It only took three hours too! *snort* It's not that hubby is inept, because he's not, it's just that my house is really awkward. Nothing is as it should be, from wonky walls, to strange-sized doorframes and lop-sided wall sockets. I swear it was custom built just to annoy me....*mutters*

Friday, 21 May 2010

I iz Taffin' again....

Whassup, peeps? I is 'aving a bangin' day today! First ov all, itz bluddy BOILing yer in the Kair of Diff, itz unfriggin'believable how 'ot itz got in the last two dayz like, innit? I mean, it was bluddy rain, rain, and MORE rain a coupla dayz ago, but now itz like, I dunno, a bluddy foreign country or sumfink.

At the moment I iz sat on the sowfa and typing this yer blog like, with sum moozic blastin' in the background. Me doorter is bopping around like the Mini Disco Diva that she iz, and I iz tappin' me foot along to Lady Gaga. Issallgood, innt?

P-P-P-Poker face, p-p-poker face....

Anywayz, while Lady Gaga (digitally) warbles in me lugholes, I thought I'd squeeze a blog in. I've bin busy all day today, spending lotsa time and 'avin' lotsa fun wiv me very amoozing pussy. Now, if you've bin paying attenshun - and I 'ope you 'ave -  you'll know that me amoozing pussy is not anyfink rood like, itz just me furry little friend. *reads last sentence* That's still a bit innuendo-y, ain't it? What I ment is me pussy is me furry little literary friend, cos my pussy is called Muse and she is like a characta in me novel. 'onestly, you is all filfy-minded peeps, ain't ya?

Anyways, coz I 'ave to add, like, anuvver ten fousand words to me novel if I wants to submit it fer publishin', I needs to like add quite a bit to it. There's a coupla new charactas to squeeze in, and some scenes need a bit of lengthenin' like, but a good free fousand words is gunna come from the prologue. And this is where I've bin having fun wiv me pussy. See, Muse is a fairy godmother, and she's like a recurrin' characta. Okay, she's not a recurrin' characta as of yet, coz me novel is the only book she's in like, but me novel is book one of a planned series, so eventually she'll be a recurrin' characta, see? *nods*

So, today I've bin puttin' me pussy threw her paces. She's been reminiscin' on her previous cases, see, and itz in order to flesh out her characta. You see, there's nothin' better than a fleshed out pussy.

And that's anuvver fing; today's bin bangin' becoz I've bin innuendo-in' all day long, coz innuendo is like the best fing since sliced bred, innit? You could be 'aving the worst day evah, but as long as you get a bit of innuendo in, everyfing just seems a little bit betta, don't it? Youknowzitmakezsense!

In ovver Itz Bin A Bangin' Day So Far news, I'm chuffed to beans becoz me networkin' is definitely paying off. I've now got almost two hundred more Facebook friendz than I 'ad three weeks ago - thatz like, more than double what I 'ad before! Sweet! And everyone is like, so nice! I 'ave to admit, this adding and accepting new friends fingy is so addictive, itz like, I dunno, choclut or sumfink. I loves it, I do, I loves it!

Lastly, there is one more reason I is 'aving a bangin' day, and that's BuNoWriMo. Now, I know that reading 'BuNoWriMo' might make you fink "what the 'ell is that?", and 'onestly, I wouldn't blame you becoz, well, unless you is psychic, you won't have a bluddy clue what I is talkin' about. See, BuNoWriMo is basically NaNoWriMo, only wivout the 'Na' bit at the start (and wiv 'Bu' there instead). Now, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which is like a worldwide fing that 'appens in November, and 'as peeps from all ovah the planet attemptin' to write a 50,000 word novel in firty dayz. Itz bluddy manic, I can tell you, but lotsa fun too. The only reason I had a pussy to play with today is because of NaNoWriMo, so I loves it, I do, I loves it.

Anywayz, my writers group is doin' itz own version of NaNoWriMo, and coz we is called The Burrow, we like altered the name like, innit? We iz gonna attempt a 50,000 word novel in June. Now, this is where me recurrin' pussy comes into play, coz I is gonna write the sequel to my original NaNo novel for BuNoWriMo, and the provisional title is gunna be Beauty has the Beast (nuffink like an innuendo-y type title, is there?), and will once again be set in me home town, the Kair of Diff (that's 'Cardiff' to anyone who ain't familiar wiv Taff speak). I like, can't wait to get crackin' on it, so I iz like totally buzzin'!

If anyone would like to participate in BuNoWriMo, I'll be like posting details and stuff when I knowz more, and we will like advertise and stuff on our Burrow Facebook page. It's gunna be crazy, but fun, and the more peeps who take part, the betta!

I'll keep you posted on BuNoWriMo, but in the meantime I needz to go back and have sum more fun wiv me furry little friend, so I'll catch you all later! Byez fer now!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Dear Word....

Dear Word,

I have already had experience in doing battle with you, and have rambled extensively about your many annoying quirks, but today I am laughing at you. Ha! Ha ha ha! See, I'm laughing, and it's no mere chuckle, oh Irritating Adversary Of Mine, oh no indeed. It's a full on, laugh out loud, stomach-aching, almost-choke-to-death, big old belly laugh.

You first tried to defeat me with your army of red and green squiggles, but I found ways to avoid conflict. Ignoring is a good defence tactic, after all. Then you sent me copious Fragment; Consider Revising Missiles, but once again, I was able to deflect having mastered the intricate avoiding manoeuvres that are Ignoring, Sticking Up The Middle Finger, and Poking Out Tongue.

You'd have thought you'd have learned your lesson by now, but you had to keep trying, didn't you? For the last six weeks we have been engaged in a sporadic battle of headers and page numbers. Each time I thought I'd made a breakthrough, you'd sneak up and steal the advantage from me. Oh, you're a clever adversary, I'll give you that.

But not as clever as me.

Well, not as clever as my friend at any rate. *shifty*

You see, Oh Wily Word, I decided that our skirmishes needed to come to an end one way or another, and so I enlisted the help of the Facebook Fusiliers. All I had to do was request help, and help arrived. In the form of innuendo, no less (which is the best kind of help, don't you agree?).

And so, my defeated adversary, I have you licked. The Battle for Headers and Page Numbers is at an end, and it was little old me that was the victor.  So there.

And if you don't want to see me doing the victory dance (which includes shouting 'Yes!' repeatedly in an orgasmic manner, and hula-ing with the invisible hula hoop), then I suggest employing one of my favorite war tactics - that of ignoring. It works a treat.

Not that I'm gloating or anything....

Actually I am.

Nuh nuh nuh nuh nuuuuuh!


Tara (I beat you, you sucker!) Smith

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Tales of the Unexpected

I was supposed to have blogged two days ago about the similarities and differences between my worldwide friends, but Thursdays are iffy days for blogging, mostly because I usually have company all day. I figured I wouldn't worry about it and blog on Friday instead, no sweat, right?

But yesterday was a strange day. I had no inkling that it was a strange day until around 7pm, but it was a strange day all the same. I followed my usual Friday routine of getting up, making packed lunches for the kids and seeing them off to school. Then I ventured into Canton (the nearest decent place to grocery shop) and stocked up on the essentials for the weekend before returning home and giving the house the pre-weekend tidy up. I managed to quickly write my status short story for this week's challenge (a new thing I've been participating in which requires you to write a short story in 420 characters or less and post it as your Facebook status every Friday).

So far, so good. I mean, I was running late, but that's pretty normal for me so I wasn't worried. I figured I'd catch up with the rest of the online stuff when I got back from the school run. I had my blog to do, I'd planned a little more networking on Facebook, and I wanted to drabble for my writer's group.

But then the day became strange. One minute I was fine, the next I suddenly nosedived into a pit of paranoia and panic. I have no idea why this happened, and I didn't have any of the usual warning signs. It was weird.

Many of you know that I have been suffering with depression for the last five months, and the depression has been the cause of my long absences from not only blogging, but the internet in general. Through trial and error, my doctor finally prescribed me something that, much to my surprise, appears to be working, and my episodic depression seems to be talking a back seat most of the time.  A couple of months ago I was a basket case most days, whereas now I am mostly back to normal. I managed two weeks without a large 'dip', and the dip only lasted a day instead of much longer.  That was last week, and I remember thinking how pleased I was to have gone fourteen days without turning into Mrs Cry Baby.

But yesterday my inner It returned. Now usually I have a day or two's warning; I feel a bit off - still able to function, just not quite right. It's awful, because I know I'm heading towards a really bad day, but at least I know it's coming and I can prepare for it somewhat. Yesterday's re-emergence of It was completely unexpected. The only warning I had was that I was blocked when it came to writing, but because I have always had these blocks I didn't recognise it as a warning sign. By the time I'd put the kids to bed I was antsy. An hour later and I was climbing the walls.

What followed was a couple of hours experiencing a mild panic attack, and a night mostly spent trying to get to sleep, but failing abysmally. I don't know whether it's nerves or something, but when It comes to visit, I spend half the night needing to pee (sorry if that's too much information).

Anyway, I managed to fall asleep eventually, only to be woken up by the 6:30am alarm for my hubby. I knocked it off and within the space of about thirty seconds was deeply asleep again. But then the alarm went off again because I'd hit the 'snooze' button instead of the 'off 'button. My few minutes of deep slumber were cruelly ended and suddenly I was wide awake. Isn't it odd how you can be so deeply asleep one minute, and wide awake the next? I knew I wouldn't get back to sleep again so I got up.

Of course, now I am exhausted and will no doubt fall asleep at some point during the day (if my kids allow it), but on the good side, It seems to be largely absent, so her visit was only a short one this time around. She left just as suddenly as she arrived. Odd, that - but I'm not complaining.

Anyway, that's today's ramble for you. I may yet get to that blogging about my worldwide friends thingy, but I now have this foible where I tend to avoid things that were triggers or reminders of my It moments, so it's not looking likely. It's definitely a Stubborn Thing rather than a Logic Thing, because I know that blogging was NOT a trigger for my inner It visiting, but logic never comes into play when I am playing host to It, so I've given up trying to to reason with Stubborn Thing because I know that I'm never going to win.

And here endeth today's blog thingy.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Random Blog Thingy

I didn't get a request for today's blog. *pouts* Therefore I have no idea what I'm going to type - just so you know. It's not a disaster as such, because at least half of my blogs started off with me typing and hoping I'd get inspiration in the duration. Still, a request would have been nice.

I could tell you about the two things I did to my blog page the other day, I suppose. That will fill a paragraph or two, yes? The first thing I did was add a flag counter. It's interesting to see where my readers come from, definitely. I had a rough idea anyway, partly because I obviously know where my regular readers come from, and partly because I had another counter installed ages ago. But the flag counter is way cooler. I know, for example, that I had somebody from Belgium pop by the other day. I don't think I know anyone from Belgium, so if you come back, reader from Belgium, please say hello, it would be nice to meet you! The same goes to the reader from Italy; I'd love to interact with an Italian, mostly because I would love to emigrate there. I've not travelled far in the past, but I spent time in Italy as a schoolgirl, and I absolutely loved it there.

Most of the other flagged countries came as no surprise. Columbia, Austria, Australia, The Netherlands, Norway, America and, of course, the UK - I have buddies from all of those places, and the majority of them have posted here from time to time. It's still very interesting though, no question.

The other thing I did was change my blog template. I'm not sure that I like the new background, but the black was getting boring for me, plus a few of my friends had mentioned having trouble reading the text, so I thought a change might be nice. Whether the background will stay like this is another thing, we shall see.

Am I boring you yet? See, this is what happens when you don't give me a request. *wags finger*

Let me see, what else can I ramble about? So far there are *scans the page* four paragraphs (and an odd line). That's not nearly long enough, oh dear me, no. I shall need to at least double the length for it to be enough to satisfy me. *nods*

I could tell you about my day, I suppose. About how I only just about escaped with my life after venturing into my son's bedroom in order to clean it. How a tiny attic bedroom can take an hour and a half to clean is beyond me, but then again it is occupied by my almost-fourteen-year-old. There aren't a lot of toys any more, just two small tubs of bits and pieces, but the toys have been replaced with about a gazillion media discs, which my son seems to think prefer to be spread out all over the room rather than neatly put away in their cases.  I had a pile of discs about six inches tall, with a mixture of Wii games, PS2 games and DVDs  making up the numbers. After collecting the various discs from all over the floor/desk/under the bed/TV stand, I then put them in three piles according to disc type. So far so good, but then I had to collect all of the covers, which, as per the discs, were to be found anywhere and everywhere. By the time I finished sorting through them (finding x amount of odd socks, some pyjamas, a pair of jeans, two plastic bowls, three empty juice bottles, and an empty tube of haribos in the process), 45 minutes had passed. *mutters darkly*

Of course, I was left with odd discs with no covers, and odd covers with no discs. That's a given when it comes to my son (and my daughter, for that matter). It drives me nuts! It's not as though I don't tell them to put things away when they're finished with them. I swear I spend half my life yelling at them to look after their stuff. *mutters again*

Anywho, after dusting, polishing, vacuuming and changing the bedding, an hour and a half had passed, and I still had the rest of the house to do. I have small house; as well as the attic bedroom (which is small in itself), there's my bedroom, my daughter's box bedroom and the bathroom on the upper floor, and my living room and the kitchen downstairs. Barring the kitchen (which I had to leave until after the school run), I cleaned the rest of the house in less than half an hour. That's two bedrooms, the bathroom, the living room, and the hall, landing and stairs. All dusted, polished, tidied and vacuumed (according to need) in a third of the time it took to clean ONE room. Honestly, my son needs a good talking to. Again.

You should definitely be bored by now, so I guess I'll leave it there. And let that be a lesson to you! If you don't want to read about housework and changes made to blog pages, then for pity's sake give this poor blogger a subject to ramble about. Who knows what'll be typed up next unless someone comes to the rescue....

One last request?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Mixed Mutterings

I'm on day six of my requests now, and today's going to be the trickiest one so far. I needed a request, so I posted a Facebook status asking for suggestions. I immediately got three, and, because the whole point of this request thingy is that I don't get to choose, I updated my status and started a poll. Whichever subject had the most votes would be blogged about today. Sounds fairly simple, yes? That's what I thought, at any rate. Only when I went to check on the progress, it appeared that the most votes went to an option that I hadn't even thought of - namely, blog about all three suggestions.

My three suggestions were jelly (or jello to my across-the-pond buddies), Monty Python, and insane friendships. As if that wasn't tricky enough, I also had votes for chocolate and coffee. So today's ramble is going to be even more rambling than it usually is, and that's something I thought wasn't possible. *snort*

So, where do I begin? I guess I'll go with chocolate first, seeing as that is something I have mostly given up in the last five months, and is something that almost everyone loves. Now you can get all kinds of chocolate - white, dark, milk, nutty, toffee etc - and you can spend as little or as much as you choose, depending whether you buy the corner shop bar or the box of Thornton's-I-Have-To-Many-Calories-For-You-To-Even-Contemplate-Deluxe-Extraordinaire. As with many things, I prefer the cheaper option. Offer me a couple of 15p Freddo bars (I'm still mourning the increase from 10p to 15p a couple of years ago), or a box of Thornton's, and I'd typically go for the Freddo bars. I think it's mostly because Freddo bars make me feel like a kid again (although they seem terribly small now compared to 25 years ago). Thinking about it, ALL chocolate bars seem tiny now. Okay, I'm a lot bigger than I was at six years of age, but I'm still pretty sure that Mars bars are about half the size they used to be....

Anyway, from chocolate to coffee, because that seems like a natural progression, yes? It might not seem that way to you, but it does to me. At least it seems the most suitable leap when compared to the other subjects. Actually, I'd thought of jelly being next, but I have an actual link to another topic for that one, so I'm saving it till later. I know you wanted to know that.

So, coffee. I enjoy a cup of frothy coffee as much as the next person (unless that person is allergic to caffeine, of course), but I'm not dependent on the stuff. I'll have a two or three cups a week, but I'm more of a tea girl. But when I do have coffee, my absolute favorite is a cappuccino - preferably with plenty of chocolate sprinkled over the top (Ha! See! That's how I leaped from chocolate to coffee! I'm not mad at all!) Of course, Starbucks is the best place to get said cappuccino, but the nearest Starbucks to me is a half hour bus ride away, so not really practical. I've tried the homemade ones, but they're just not the same. Plus you don't get to have them in a spiffy Starbucks mug ,unless you want to pay £10 for one (or 'borrow' one when it has accidentally fallen into the back of your daughter's buggy) *shifty*

But yeah, I can see the attraction of coffee, especially because it has the ability to make some people very hyper, with the added bonus of not having to drink alcohol to get that way. Then again, some people mix their alcohol with coffee, and then they turn absolutely bonkers.

Which leads me very nicely to Monty Python. (See! I do have a plan to get from one topic to another!)

I adore Monty Python, though I'm by no means an expert. Of course, I could probably say ten things off the top of my head if we were playing the word association game and the prompt was 'Monty Python', but I'm not so knowledgeable about them that I can quote entire scenes word for word.  What I do know, is that practically everyone on the planet has heard of them, and most people have a favorite quote. I'm actually torn, because I have favorite quotes from two of their best movies - Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Life of Brian. I love both movies, but I think Grail might just have the edge. Brian may possibly have my all-time favorite movie quote ever - "He's NOT the Messiah! He's just a VERY naughty boy!" - but Grail is just a roller coaster of laughs from beginning to end. From the coconut-wielding party of 'questers', to the slightly dubious minstrel; from Castle Anthrax to the Knights of Ni; from shrubberies to the 'it's just a flesh wound' arm-less guard, it's pure hysteria for the entire duration. I haven't watched these movies for years, but talking about them now makes me want to watch them right now....

Of course, Monty Python were years ahead of their time, in my opinion, and their humor never seems to date. Some comedies lose their sparkle when watched a decade or two after they were first broadcast, but Monty Python's strain of alternative comedy is just as funny now as it ever was, and continues to draw new fans. I think a lot of it is due to the fact you can just tell this group had lots of fun while they worked. The rapport between the Pythons was as obvious as it was infectious; you simply couldn't watch them without at least giggling, though I'd wager that full-bellied laughs were (and are) the usual reaction.

The fondness and obvious connection between the Pythons brings me very nicely to the subject of insane friendships. Now, I'm not talking about your average friends here, I'm talking about the people that you'd never have thought would be in your life. I have good friends from different 'areas' of my life. I'm still friends with several of my school buddies, and we still see each other and reminisce fondly about old times, at the same time creating brand new memories to reminisce upon in the years to come.  I have friends who are ex-colleagues from various jobs, and when meet up we still have a blast. Then there are the friends that are actually family members, both from my side and my husband's. But I'm not talking about these friends, much as I love them. I'm talking about online friends.

It really is insane how we can click with people that we will probably never meet. I had the good fortune to meet up with several of my online friends almost two years ago, but until we all land that magical publishing contract, this is unlikely to happen again any time soon. My online buddies are spread worldwide - literally, so meeting up with them is mostly a pipe dream. Yet although we've only ever spoken to each other online, I'm about as close as I can get to them as I could be. My very first two friends I met online were Ana and Corvis (Corvis is a nickname, and although she now uses her real name, she will always be Cor to me). Ana and Corvis.... wow, I don't know how to explain our incredible friendship without rambling for at least 10,000 words, and I'm pretty sure nobody wants to read 10,000 words about people they've never heard of.

As briefly as I can, I'll try to explain:  Ana + Corvis + Tara = Evil Triplets. Evil Triplets love Lord of the Rings,  Harry Potter, and speaking in asterisks. Evil Triplets would quite happily spend all day role playing LotR and smacking the lames (the lames in question usually tend to be Harry, Hermione, Ron and Dumbledore from Harry Potter). Evil Triplets drink plenty of beer, vodka and rum as often as they can. Evil Triplets love 'borrowing' scripts from movies and putting their own (usually insane) spin on them. Evil Triplets share the bond of being unable to stick to one username on HPANA. And Evil Triplets all share the same dream; TTTing across New Zealand. That would be 'The Two Towers-ing across New Zealand', which translates to touring the fabulous landscape that formed the backdrop for the lovingly made Lord of the Rings movies.

Of course, with Ana hailing from Columbia, Cor from Chicago, and me from Wales, we're not real triplets (quite apart from being different ages), but I've never felt so connected to anyone as I do with these two. I remember Cor phoning me a couple of years ago - for the very first time - and we talked for around three hours. I don't think I've laughed so much in my entire life (though I think Cor almost died when she got her phone bill, partly from shock, and partly because her lame (er, not Harry et all, but her husband at the time) almost killed her. We just jelled (which I know should be 'gelled', but I need to get onto jelly. *winks*).  I really love all of my online friends - and I have a lot - but Ana and Cor are my soul sisters, most definitely.

Now, speaking of jelled *coughs*, how about that jelly? Lovely jubbly, wibbly wobbly jelly. There's a lot you can do with jelly. *nods wisely* Not only can you bribe your kids with it (be good and you can have some jelly for afters!), you can have food fights with them (nothing like flicking copious amounts of jelly across the room), you can make alcoholic shots with them (vodka jelly anyone?), and apparently you can put it on your hair if you're a synchronized swimmer (so Tami informs me. Tami also asked me how to get rid of said jelly after it clogs the drains too, but I really have no idea, sorry Tami!) And to add to all this, the lovely jubbly, wibbly wobbly jelly not only tastes good, but is so rubbery and pliable that it has almost limitless possibilities when it comes to non-eating activities *nudge nudge wink wink* ifyouknowwhatImean. Youknowzitmakezsense.

And on that note, I think it might be wise to stop. So I shall. Feel free to imagine all sorts of jelly-inspired non-eating activities, I know I will.

Next request?

Monday, 10 May 2010

Magnificent Mojos

This request buisness has been pretty good for my writing mojo. After successfully blogging for two solid months, then being pretty good in December (I managed to blog 15 times, which when I think about how mad December was, is not bad at all), I virtually disappeared. This is blog number eleven of 2010. Bad. Very bad. Anyway, as I was saying, this request malarkey is great, because it appears that by having someone suggest a topic for me, it has actually pushed me into writing regularly again. Okay, so we are only on the fifth consecutive day now, but my blog count for January was a big fat zero, while February only had one blog posted for the entire month.

Moving on.

My fave NaNo novel illustrator, Ana, came up with her second topic suggestion for this round of requests, and as usual, she has picked something close to my heart. Namely mojos.

Now, I have blogged about mojos before. In fact, I seem to remember saying that my 'Mojo Moments' would be a semi-regular blog topic. *coughs*  My first Mojo Moment was way back in my first week of blogging, and was all about my ultimate mojo, Aragorn (of Lord of the Rings fame). I rambled extensively about the advantages of being hot, dirty, and owning a big sword. Good fun for all, I would think. I think I forgot all about my intention of blogging about mojos semi-regularly after that (forgetfulness is one of the banes of being a procrastinator), until about seven weeks later.

The madness of November (NaNoWriMo anyone?) ended on a surprising high when I not only managed to blog almost every day (I missed once), but I also managed to complete the 50,000 word novel challenge that I had been suckered into by my good friend Tami (Confessions of a Watery Tart). What better way to celebrate than to blog all about the mojo that is Dean Winchester (a.k.a. Jensen Ackles) of Supernatural fame?  I got to insert plenty of innuendo into my post (always a good thing), managed to include several increasingly hot pictures of said mojo, and was also able to use copious amounts of asteriskisms, which are quite possibly my favorite things in the world. *fondly remembers asteriskisms blog post* [/shameless self-plugging once more].

Anywho, after only a mere *shifty* six months, here I am blogging about mojos again. Okay, so far all I have done is ramble about my previous blogs and added links (shameless plugs) to several things (mostly because I'm still strangely impressed that I can actually do this kind of thing without stuffing it up)  but I'm getting to new stuff, I swear.

My Mojo Cupboard is pretty full, I have to admit. Accompanying Aragorn the Hot and Dean the Droolworthy are more than a handful of gorgeous hunks that, as far as I'm concerned, were put on this earth for the purpose of making me (and several million other women) drool. Yes, I know that's a bit shallow.... Tara, these men are people too, not just eye candy! They are talented as well as hot, and would probably be insulted if they thought people only liked them for their looks.... but honestly, the whole point of mojos is that they give visual pleasure (at the very least) to hoards of women all over the world, and are unavailable, thus safe to fantasize over. Yes, they're intelligent, talented people who are more than just merely good -looking actors (or fictional characters, as the case may be), but when we fantasize about our mojos, we aren't imagining how sexy they would be if they were working out a quadratic equation.

And lets face it, mojos are perfect fantasy material. I'm pretty sure that there isn't a single perfect person, be it male or female, in the world right now. Everyone has faults, no matter how nice they are. But mojos are perfect. They always look perfect, always act in the way that you love, and sometimes wear sexy lingerie just the way you like it *coughs* Find me a man like that in real life and I'll eat my laptop. And this is why we love our mojos. It's pure escapism, fun, and a little bit naughty to have private droolfests over people we are never likely to meet in a million years. And quite honestly, I'm pretty sure that most of my mojos, while publicly holding themselves aloof, are privately a little bit chuffed that they bring so much pleasure to women all over the world. At least, I like to think so.

I suppose I can't finish today's blog without having a proper Mojo Moment. I've rambled a fair bit already, but haven't actually mentioned any of my other mojos. I could wax lyrical about Mr. Darcy, or perhaps enthusiastically witter away about Johnny Depp, but I think I'm going to go with Ian Somerhalder. Mr. Somerhalder stars as Damon Salvatore in the American TV series The Vampire Diaries.

Now, I've blogged before about my TV addictions, and this series is another habit that I have. I'm not one for vampires in general; I can't stand anything to do with Twilight, and the phenomenon that is True Blood has completely passed me by. To be truthful, The Vampire Diaries is not that great; the plot is contrived, the characters predictable, and the overuse of music with moody overtures can be a bit, well, overused. But I'm a sucker (no pun intended) for a bad boy, and Damon Salvatore is truly a bad boy. He treats women like dirt, traumatizes his brother on an hourly basis, and thoroughly enjoys himself when he is in full vampire mode. But as with all bad boys, you know that deep down (very deep down with this one) lies a poor wounded little boy lost. *sighs in Scarlett O'Hara fashion*

Okay, it's a fantasy, I know. Real-life bad boys are rarely soft and cuddly on the inside, but if you were paying attention, you would know that the word 'fantasy' is the key here.

As I said before, The Vampire Diaries is not fantastic. I think I would have given up on it a long time ago if it wasn't for the character of Damon. In fact, I already did give up on it last year. I watched two or three episodes and decided that it wasn't my cup of tea at all. Then the crappiness that is British TV at the moment forced me into looking online for other viewing pleasures, and I decided to give the series another shot. If nothing else, I can hit the mute button and freeze frame all the Damon scenes (especially the shirtless ones), right?

And don't roll your eyes at me, because I know you do that too (or at least I hope you do....)

Ahh, I loves me my mojos. *sighs happily*

Next request?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Don't Blow Your Top!

Day four of requests (which I'm thinking about extending to a full week rather than five days, by the way), and today's topic was suggested by my good HPANA buddy, Auriga. I'm going to immediately warn you that I have no idea what I'm going to end up typing here, because the subject that was given to me was the recent events concerning the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland  (I had to copy and paste that one, I can't say it, never mind spell it).

I've visited the mostly trusty Wikipedia and read up on a few things, but seeing as Wiki tends to use lots of big words that, like the Eyja -thingy volcano, I can neither pronounce or spell (nor understand for that matter), I think I can safely say that what you won't be getting today is a clear and concise blog post. But honestly, that rarely happens anyway, so I'm not overly worried.

Apparently, the Volcano Now To Be Called 'Eyja' To Avoid Further Typos, while causing localized problems for the inhabitants of Iceland, has done little more than cause a few hiccups for several airlines. The cloud of ash that is still being emitted from Unpronounceable Eyja is spreading across international airspace and causing highly inconvenient interruptions and cancellations to flight traffic. I say 'little more' because although the media is rushing to report these delays and giving doomy predictions of dire consequences, nothing terribly bad has actually happened yet.

I mean, yes, the effects on importing and exporting, if affected in the long term, will cause all sorts of economic problems, but it's hard to get worked up about it when so far all it has done (for me) is cause a slight delay in receiving the goods I have ordered on eBay. That may sound like I'm being incredibly dim, or perhaps burying my head in the sand, but living in a world where we keep hearing all sorts of reports of a Serious Nature, but rarely have to deal with them coming to pass, maybe you can see what I'm getting at.

Remember the panic of 1999? The whole world was in chaos as we counted down to the new millennium. Employment from the End Of The World Is Nigh placard company surely sky-rocketed, and the media was in competition for the Who Can Report On The Millennium Bug Most Often trophy. Doomy people everywhere were convinced that at the stroke of midnight, the world would spontaneously combust, or something equally catastrophic. And what happened? Well, apart from a few computer glitches, pretty much nothing. Very anti-climatic. Not that I wanted the world to spontaneously combust, you understand, but a few bells and whistles here and there might have been nice.

Of course, the threat from the Eyja volcano is based on scientific studies and what-not, so the warnings carry a little more weight. The most concern seems to be about Eyja's bigger (and easier to spell ) sister, Katla. Apparently, Katla has some serious activity every 80 years or so, and is over a decade overdue for another seismic event ( does anyone else see innuendo in that sentence?). Another apparently, is that the last three times Katla has exploded, it has been following an eruption from Eyja. Oh dear.

You see, Katla is Eyja's evil big sister, and an eruption from her could be about ten times as catastrophic when compared to her younger sibling. Wiki informed me that while not technically classed as a 'Supervolcano' (so no blue lycra or a red cape on this baby), Katla has the potential to cause all sorts of bad things when she erupts. Of course, they don't have any idea of when she will erupt, only that she will at some point. They also don't know how serious an eruption it will be, but are dutifully reporting the worst case scenario so that the world will be prepared.

The scary thing is, a huge eruption from Katla has the potential to drop the climate worldwide (don't know how this works, the techy stuff went over my head). Apparently (my fave word of the day, apparently *snort*), it was an eruption from a supervolcano that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. *nods* So, the impression I am getting from all these doomy and gloomy possible scenarios, is that if and when Katla has a seismic episode, it could potentially cause the planet to slip into another Ice Age. On a scale of one to ten on the Worldwide Panic Scale, that's definitely at the higher end.

So what does this mean for us? That was the question Auriga posed when she suggested today's blog topic. Well, to be honest, I don't really know. I mean,  I'm slightly more clued up than I was yesterday, but I'm still largely befuddled by the whole thing. In the simplest of terms, if Eyja continues to spew up tons of ash, it will continue to disrupt airline traffic in the foreseeable future, which will have a knock on effect on world trade and the general economy. This is bad, no question, but quite likely the least of our problems if big sister Katla decides to follow in her sibling's footsteps. If Katla starts erupting, we are quite possibly doomed. Doomed, I say, doomed.

Unless you work for the media, that is, because if you do, you will have a field day.

Next request?

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Science Fiction Double Feature

Third day in a row for blogging, and third request coming up....

I just love the fact that my friends know me so well. So far I've had Ana pick a subject that was probably the easiest thing to blog about in the world (at least for me), then Leesh picked HPANA, my favorite internet home. Today, I get the awesome Rocky Horror Picture Show courtesy of my fellow Burrower Leanne. Honestly, my friends are just fabulous....

Anywho; Rocky Horror. *sighs happily* Where do I even begin? This movie is like Marmite (a yeast extract used for cooking, spreading on toast etc) - you either love it or hate it. Obviously, I love it (the movie, that is,  not Marmite, can't stand the stuff. *shudders*). The thing is, it's not just a movie; the Rocky Horror Picture Show is a feast of delights best served with a group of friends, plentiful alcohol, and feather boas. And that's just for when you watch it at home - if you're wanting the full buffet, the theatre experience is what you should order.

I'd be fairly surprised if you haven't heard of this cult classic, but for the RHPS Virgins out there, I'll give a brief description (which probably won't be brief at all seeing as I love to ramble). A young and wholesome American couple, Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) stumble on a spooky castle when their car breaks down in a storm. They enter the castle to ask for help, but get much more than they bargained for.

Initially they are greeted by the butler, Riff-Raff (the sublime Richard O'Brien). Riff-Raff is not your ordinary butler by any stretch of the imagination. He has the suit, but that's about it. Coming complete with hunchback, pasty skin and stringy white hair, he's not someone you'd normally bump into in a stately home. Brad and Janet are plainly wary of this strange butler, but it's only the first of many surprises. They are soon hit with three more dodgy looking characters.

We get to meet the host, one Frank N Furter, (affectionately known as Frankie). With full stage make-up, a curly hair-do, a basque, and endless legs encased in fishnet stockings, I'm guessing Brad and Janet were more than a little shocked by Mr Furter. Me, I loved him. Tim Curry played the role to perfection, and being a tall man, the suffering he endured in the scarily high platform shoes he had to wear must have been crippling. Not to mention his eyes, which by the end of the film look redder than a hot poker.

The other primary characters are Frankie's two sidekicks, Magenta (the frizzy-haired maid) and Columbia (not really sure what role she had in the household, except as the on-off girlfriend of Frankie [and Eddie, but that's another story]).

Keeping up with me? Good! By the time we've met the primary characters, we know that this movie is going to be a little different (though honestly, if you hadn't worked that out from the opening credits, you deserve to be shocked by the movie's content). Oh, and did I mention that it was a musical? No? How remiss of me!

Moving on.

Now that Brad and Janet have met the members of the household, they are properly introduced. In ordinary cultures, this might be a handshake, a few words of greeting, or maybe a formal bow or curtsy if you are meeting the upper classes. For Frankie and his gang, a proper introduction means scaring the life out of your unexpected guests by belting out the classic Best Way To Freak Out Your Guests song Sweet Transvestite. With lyrics including I'm just a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania, and I see you shiver with antici.... (very long pause).... PATION, this is probably my favorite song from the movie. This scene also includes the hugely popular song The Time Warp, which even RHPS Virgins should be familiar with.

Frankie takes his guests (who by now have been stripped to their underwear and given lab coats to wear, as you do) to his laboratory where he has been working on making his man (with blond hair and a tan *winks*). Frankie's playmate is the 'Rocky' of the title, and though he doesn't say much (I don't think he says anything at all, actually), he is vital to the plot. Yes, the movie does have a plot, albeit a zany one.

I could go on and on here and guide you through the entire movie, and I would have a blast doing it, but I'm pretty sure this blog post is already too long, and I still have things to say. So I'll skip over the part where Frankie manages to do some naughty *coughs*  things to both Janet and Brad, and how brother and sister duo Riff-Raff and Magenta have a closer relationship than is strictly allowed between siblings, and I'll even gloss over the bit where Meatloaf randomly appears riding a motorcycle and kitted out in the very best from Leather R Us. I should probably mention, though, that most of the household are, in fact, aliens. From the transsexual planet of Transylvania, no less (see, this is why you need to pay attention to the song lyrics *winks*).

By the by, my son, when he was about three, managed to stumble into my living room one evening while I was hosting a Rocky Horror night. He coined the phrase 'Lipstick Aliens', and honestly, how perfect a description is that?

Anywho.... moving on again. I promise I'm almost done now, I swear.

The best thing about this movie (quite apart from the men in drag, the feather boas and the 'interesting' song lyrics (toucha toucha toucha meee, I wanna be diiiirty.... thrill me, chill me, fulfil meeeee, creature of the night.... *hums*) are the parts where the audience join in. You can do it at home, but it's definitely better when you're watching a live show [/ extra innuendo]. In order to participate properly, you need to dress up as one of the characters. I went for Magenta (the frizzy-haired maid), mostly because I already had the frizzy hair and basque (the two most important things), and also because I really love her character. When you are fully dressed up a la Rocky, you need a trusty bag of accessories, which include a newspaper,  water pistol, dried rice, and toilet paper (amongst other things).

Now you have your outfit and your props, you are almost ready. You need take nothing else with you except a good memory, because as with all the best audience participation movies, you have lines to remember. There are too many to list here, but there are many gems throughout the movie, and it is these ad-libbing extras that give you the thrill of the full Rocky Horror experience.

And when you're done throwing toilet paper and dried rice on the people in front of you, and you have finished yelling 'Vice' at the stage, you are in great spirits to move the night forwards; namely to a nightclub, accompanied by a couple of hundred basque-wearing, make-up plastered Frankie look-a-likes. Awesome!

If you fall into the 'Love It' category, I'd highly recommend seeing the show live. If you aren't brave enough to don a basque and fishnets (and that includes the guys - especially the guys), you can throw on a lab coat and a wee bit of eyeliner and probably get away with it. But if you are brave enough, go do it! It'll be the best night out that you've ever had, I guarantee it. And who knows, maybe you'll meet your very own personal love-slave. But not Rocky, because he's already taken (by several Lipstick Aliens, no less).

Next request?

Friday, 7 May 2010

HPANA Rules!

Today's request comes from one of my newest online buddies, Leesh. It's sort of fitting too, because the topic she suggested was HPANA - the very first internet home that I adopted - and also the place where I originally 'met' today's requestee (that's not a real word, I know, but you know how I like to make up words).

Where do I begin? Well, I should probably start by mentioning that yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my joining one of the most popular Harry Potter fansites on the web. I don't know why I chose this particular site - it wasn't the first 'hit' from google when I originally decided to type in 'Harry Potter' in the search bar. I think I was attracted by the simple layout more than anything (me being one of the most computer inept people on the planet). I'd only been actively using the internet for around three months when I joined HPANA, so a simple format to navigate was a must.

I initially ventured into the canon discussion areas, where I dived straight in and posted a theory about one of the characters. I don't know how it happened,  but eventually the topic became so popular that it became one of the elite 'pinned' threads. Nobody was more surprised than me, let me tell you. Anyway, a few months after joining, I gained a bit of confidence and began to explore the site. Up until that point I hadn't ventured much further than a couple of topics, and I really only posted in one or two.

Then I clicked on the link for Fan Fun - and opened up a whole new world. For the first time in my life, I discovered fan fiction. I seriously had never heard of it before, and it wasn't long before I became addicted to several of the ongoing fictions. It was only a small leap between reading and writing fanfic, and that's how I started writing again.

I've always loved writing, but in the years filled with stressing over bills, working horrible shifts, and bringing up a family, I sort of forgot my dream of one day being a novelist. Now I freely admit that my first fanfic was truly atrocious. Honestly, I look back on it now and cringe at how badly written it is - the plot was mediocre, the structure was terrible, and as for spelling and typos.... well, you probably get the picture. Nevertheless it proved strangely popular, despite its failings. Buoyed by the fabulous comments that I received throughout the posting duration, my brain started connecting my serious HPANA self to my fanfic madness HPANA self. I decided to make my original theory - that was still going strong in the discussion forum - into a fanfic.

And so the dream truly became solidified in my head. My second fanfic was probably my most popular story on the boards, and nothing I have ever written since has ever surpassed it. I've written three complete longer length stories, am still procrastinating over another three, and have numerous short stories under my belt, not to mention my 15,000 word novella that doesn't fit in either the 'short' or the 'long' category. They've all been fun to write, and when you compare my initial work to my later stuff, I firmly believe that I have improved a hundredfold. It's definitely a brilliant way to hone those writing skills.

Now onto other stuff, because as much as I love HPANA for giving me back my writing mojo, I also love it because I have made a ton of friends on there over the years. Every member of my writer's group, The Burrow was originally a member on HPANA, and it is on that site that we first connected (The Burrow as a name loosely inspired from our Harry Potter roots). I don't think I'll ever be able to express just how grateful - and proud - I am to be a member of this group. These people are fantastic in every way possible. They encourage my writing, they are enthusiastic about everything, they give honest feedback, and most importantly for me personally, are just the best friends you could ask for. A few of us managed to meet up in 2008 - no mean feat when you consider we are all from different countries - and it was astounding how well we got on together, it was like we had known each other for years. Which, of course, we had, but only in an online way. That's pretty incredible. The picture, left to right, is Jess, Leanne, Tami (Confessions of a Watery Tart), me, and Mari (The Giraffability of Digressions)

Besides my writer's group, I also have a bunch of other fantastic friends on HPANA, mostly my readers, and also other authors from the site. Prior to The Burrow, I was a member of another group, also a writing group, but perhaps not as serious. The NCWC (or Non-Comedy Writer's Club in its full dress) was crazy fun, writing challenges, glomping, poking and all sorts of other things rolled into one. We eventually vacated HPANA and moved to our own closed forum, and although we aren't nearly as active as we used to be, we have all remained the firmest of friends and still have a fond laugh for Barnbledore (a cross between Albus Dumbledore and Barney the Dinosaur) and the Fart Button. Good times....

Of course, now that the Harry Potter books have long finished, and the movies are almost done too, the participation on HPANA has dwindled a fair bit, but we still have that lovely community that, for all its smaller size, is still as addictive and fun as it ever was. I'm still making friends on there, even after five years, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I'll always have a soft spot for Harry Potter, but I believe that it is HPANA that will inspire the fondest memories for me in the years to come.

Don't forget, first person to post gets to have control over me for my next blog post!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Clothes Woes

So I asked for some blog requests yesterday, partly because I'm trying to blog a little more often but have been mostly clueless when it comes to picking a topic, but also because I had such fun when I did them before. Six months ago (wow, six months? It's been that long?) I did a full week of requests, with most of them being a little bit silly, but all of them being great fun to do. My first request this time around came from my good friend (and personal illustrator) Ana, who asked me to ramble about the fashion industry's predisposition to promote the idea that if you aren't skinny, then you aren't worth dressing nicely. Well, they weren't the exact words she used, but that was the gist of what she meant, I believe. I get a bit wound up on this subject, so Ana picked a good subject for me to ramble about....

Now, I'm a big girl, and always have been - it's just not in my genes to be slim. Even when I have been within my healthy weight range, I still had more wobbly bits than Mr Blobby. I've recently lost quite a lot of weight and am hoping to ged rid of some more before the summer arrives. And when I say quite a lot of weight, I'm talking stones here, not pounds. Well, obviously I have lost pounds, because that's how we measure our weight loss, but you know what I mean. Anyway, my almost-but-not-quite-three-stones weight loss (39lbs for you non-Brits out there) is great, no question, but if I walked into a clothes shop right now, I would be still be sniggered at by the snooty sales staff if I ventured toward the Trendy Section.

I've dropped two sizes, but I'm still a size 14 (well, on the bottom at any rate, my boobs push me into the size 16 bracket up on top). By the by, for my American friends, my size 14 is your size 18, and to my European buddies, that's a 44 (according to Wiki, at any rate).  I'm still around 20lbs overweight, and even if (when, Tara, when!) I reach my goal, I figure I'll only drop one more size. And do you know what, that still isn't considered the pleasing form for fashion designers out there. It makes my blood boil!

Fashion designers create clothes that generall only look good if you are skinny enough to squeeze through prison bars, and have boobs the size of ping-pong balls. And as for hips, well.... if you're unlucky enough to have hips that will actually allow you to give birth naturally, then you obviously don't need to wear fashionable clothes, do you?  What was that, madam? You wanted something nice to wear for your daughter's baptism? Here, have some shapeless trousers to disguise those roomy hips, and a lovely tent to drape over your bountiful bosom. No, I really wouldn't advise anything else, you're just not the right shape for it, dear.

*smacks Miss Stick Insect Sales Woman*

Even when you're shopping for every day clothes - you know, your basic t-shirts, jeans, that type of thing - you have to face the Mannequins of Doom in the shop windows before you can buy anything. Those awful mannequins that quite frankly are a wee bit scary. Look at me, Wobbly Shopper, I'm made of plastic, have freaky eyes that follow you around the store, I stand in strange poses that real people would never in a million years really do, and I'm just a little bit of an oddball. But who cares, because I'm SKINNY! Ha!

Or maybe it's just me who thinks that? *shifty*

And then we have the 'specialist' clothes stores and catalogues, catering to the needs of women everywhere who are bigger than your standard waif. These stores still use those Mannequins of Doom, and the catalogues use models that don't appear to have any extra wobbly bits at all. I'm betting they make the models' clothes in 'normal' sizes for the photo shoots, and then manufacture the masses in 'grotesque' size. I say 'grotesque' because, having ordered from a few of these catalogues myself, I have experience in recieving items that looked quite nice in the catalogue, but in reality looked like granny's least favorite flowery housecoat.

It stinks, it really does. I'm fairly happy with my size at the moment, even though I could do with losing a bit more weight. But all those fabulous clothes out there are still out of my grasp. Women are supposed to have curves! Why aren't there clothes out there that celebrate this? The whole conception that you have to be stick-thin to be beautiful is disgusting. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and every one of them has the right to feel beautiful, whether they are a size 6 or 26. 

So as far as I'm concerned, all you snotty sales staff and fashion designers can stuff it. *nods* I'm not skinny and I never will be, but if I want to show a bit of cleavage in a sexy top, or wear a little skirt that highlights my long (and yes, slightly wobbly,) legs, I will. You don't have the right to tell me what I can and cannot wear.

And as for you, Mannequin of Doom, I'm watching you. Plastic Fantastic you may be, but I'm the Real Deal. So there.

Don't forget - first person to post has to give me a topic for my next blog!