2014 Challenge – January: The Awakening

The challenge for this year is to publish a piece of writing here on the 28th day of each month. This piece was written during ‘Vampire week‘ of the original diary challenge, and was the result of the flash fiction prompt from 29th January – the awakening of a new vampire. The diary version was about 300 words long and took about 30 minutes to write. The story I am presenting here is what it turned into after many, many hours of rewriting and editing*. Thanks and many hugs to Markie for being my beta reader and for taking on editing duties.

So here it is: “The Awakening”, by Kathryn Leigh Keating

Hope you like it :). Right, well that took ages. Better get cracking on February’s offering.



*unless you think it’s rubbish, in which case I totally knocked this out in an hour so I don’t find your disapproval soul crushing, honest…

The Witches: solitaire mode

Many of you know this about me, but for those of you who don’t, let this be my confession. I am an avid gamer. Give me role play, board games, Guild Wars, etc, every night of the week and I would chuck out the TV now. Except I need the TV for guitar hero so I take that back…. But the point is I love games I thought I’d try and blog more about them this year. Markie and co are having a board game night at the office tonight and someone had to stay home with the munchkins so I figured I’d crack open my Christmas present by myself.

So this is me trying out the 1 player option on this game. First of all, I like that 1 player is referred to as ‘solitaire adventure’. It makes it sound more like an intellectual pursuit to be relished in a rare moment of solitude, rather than the option you’re left with when you don’t have any mates to play with, so well done on not making me feel like a loser there :).
Now to unpack the box and set up the board…

Then pick my character. I shall be Tiffany, and because I’ve got the collectors edition I’ve got the groovy pewter model. Yay!

Game set-up was pretty straight forward. It took about 10 minutes with reading the instructions and popping all the tiles out, so easy enough to get started. And now I should probably play the game instead of messing around with the camera…

Game play
Turn 1. The aim of the game is to solve problems that occur in locations on the board. Each person’s turn has 3 phases:
1 – place next problem tile
2 – move witch
3 – refresh cards

So I draw a card each turn telling me where to place the next problem marker. If there is already a problem there the location goes into ‘crisis’ and It have put a crisis marker there instead. But it gets trickier. If I have to place a crisis marker I also have to draw another location card, potentially place another marker, and keep doing this until I pull a free space. When the crisis markers run out it’s game over, so technically if you were especially unlucky I guess you could lose without getting to make a single move, by my reading of the rules. I’m not quite that unlucky, but after the first hand I’m starting the game with 3 crisis markers in play and only 7 left between me and defeat. I hope it’s not too hard to get rid of these things.

On my go I get 2 moves. If I land on a problem tile I can role my dice to try and solve it, and I’ve got some nice booster cards to help me. The cards in this game are very nice. Rather than have many different cards there is just one deck that is multifunctional. They have locations for problems, bonuses you can get to your problem solving by playing them, and some of them double (triple??) as broomsticks for getting around the board quickly. To solve problems you get 4 d6 and have to make the total on the problem tile. Pretty common method in this sort of board game, but in this one you get to roll 2 dice before you decide if you want to add any of your bonuses or run away, then you roll the second 2. Seems pretty neat, though my first 2 problems only needed 7 and 11 which was easy to get from 4 dice without spending any of my cards. It will be interesting to see where it starts to get challenging.

Turn 2: Spoke too soon. Nearly got taken out by a 12 and picked up 3 cackle counters. Cackle counters mean your character is going ‘Black Aliss’ and you need a nice cup of tea and a chat with another witch to put you back on the straight and narrow and ditch the counters. Since I’m playing ‘solitaire’ I’ll need to get to Granny Weatherwax’s cottage to have tea, or I’m 2 cackles away from Black Aliss and -1 point in the all important final tally!

Turn 3: ‘Problems’ in this game have 2 difficultly levels. Easy and Hard. The hard problems are, well, I suppose it goes without saying that vampires are a bit tougher to deal with than sick pigs. I now have a Black Aliss counter, representing a permanent -1 to my end score, and am once again thankful for the blessing of solitaire mode sparing me the embarrassment of failure amongst company. You know, except for the part where I’m blogging about it…

Turn 6: had a couple of turns of not solving and problems and going back and forth for ‘tea’ and now realise that I’ve only got 3 turns at the most before the game is over. The length of the game is set by the number of problem tiles since you HAVE to place one every go. To ‘win’ the game I need 30 points. I have 7. Actually 6, I forgot about Aliss. I’m not sure this is doable since easy problems are only worth 1 or 2 points. I would have to take out 5 big bads to win at this rate, but that’s the only viable tactic so we’ll give it a shot. First move is a success taking out Duke Felmet for 5 points. Such a shame the second move got me another Black Aliss curing a fever only worth 1. I only need 19 points now though.

Game over: 22 points. Losing an action to a tea break and a complete lack of broomstick cards to take me to the hard problems made it impossible, but I think I’ve worked out some better tactics for the next time. It is a fun game though there are some challenges to playing solitaire, such as remembering all the steps by myself, deciding how to interpret rules without anyone to discuss it with, and keeping the crises under control. It would be interesting to play with some other people and see how multiplayer compares :).

So that’s how I spent my Friday night. Time to tidy up the game and go to bed. TTFN!

New year, new challenge

Another January 1st, another chance to set random targets and challenges that may or may not get done, but setting them is at least a start, right? Last year I never got round to doing a January blog post so 2014 is already one up on 2013 :).

So what shall I do this year? One thing is set already. In October I’m starting my MSc, which I will be doing along side working and being mummy to a young family so will have very little time left for my usual pursuits like writing and my eternal quest to progress from ‘novice’ to ‘intermediate’ in my artistic skills. Hence I’m going to have to cram as much of that stuff in between now and September as possible!

I have a lot of things I’d like to do during the year, but at our traditional New Years gathering last night I asked Markie if he thought I should do another blogable challenge like the epic (and actually still ongoing) diary challenge of 2011. He suggested I post some of my writing on my blog. Well, challenge accepted, Markie. I will post a minimum of one piece of writing a month to be published on the 28th day. It could be short stories, scripts, or maybe even the start of a novel. I’m not sure yet, but I shall be delving back into my writing diary and seeing what gems are in there that can be polished up for public display.

I will be doing other stuff that I may blog about along the way, but consider this to be The 2014 Challenge so please pop back on the 28th and feel free to hunt me down on Facebook or Twitter for a good telling off if there is nothing here!

Hope everyone has a fab 2014, and let me know if you’re doing any challenges of your own!


I’ve been doing stuff!

So I haven’t posted on my blog for ages. OK, I post the other day, but that was a post I had written ages ago and had just saved as a draft, so it doesn’t count. I haven’t actually written anything on my blog since NaNoWriMo. I didn’t even do the traditional New Year post of stuff I planned to do. That probably wasn’t a good start. But I have been doing stuff!

1) I’ve been drawing

Quite a few sketches and a couple of RPG character portraits. I’m still not great but I am practicing and I think I’m getting better.

2) I’ve been sewing

I have designed and cross-stitched some Steampunk buttons from scratch.

I also have a Steampunk coat in progress (thanks to Claire for the fabric!), though motivation is slightly lacking since I currently have nowhere to wear it. As soon as someone invites me to a Steampunk party I’ll be right back on the case!

3) I’ve been knitting

I learned how to knit (like a needed another hobby) and I made the kids a penguin.
I’m currently knitting a Nightmare (perhaps I should call it a Knitemare?) and I’ve ordered some yarn to make a top for myself over the summer holidays. I have not yet mastered the art of crochet but it’s next on the list!

4) I’ve been playing the ukelele

I have been strumming away on some hits from Glee, Linkin Park, RHCP, and some nursery rhymes for the kids. I still cannot play well, but I’m willing to say I can play it a little now. But I’m not posting a video to prove it 😛

5) I’ve been writing…a little…

This is the one I feel bad about. I haven’t finished the last book. I haven’t finished the diary. I started out the year quite well with editing but then got distracted with other writing things that didn’t work out. I’ve not written any short stories. I’ve tried to finish a book I started a while ago, and I’m struggling. It’s not sounding so good.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. I have learned I really write best when I have an outline, and from now on I’m going to stick with that. I’ve tried a few times to just write with a basic idea and see what comes out and it’s safe to say that mostly unusable rubbish comes out. I guess I’m just someone who needs to plan. I’ve also learned that I need to focus. I have a lot of hobbies and I’ve tried doing schedules and rotas to fit them all in but I just end up procrastinating if I don’t feel like writing on writing night, or I’d rather be drawing on crafting night. This is the road to unfinished projects and too many hours on Facebook. So from now on the plan is focus on one thing, do it, finish it, move on! The philosophy is a bit trickier with something big like a novel. I’m not really going to put all my other hobbies aside for months while I write a book from start to finish, but certainly I think one big project at a time is enough. If it’s not working then fine, ditch it and move on, but don’t leave things unfinished with the hope you’ll get back to them one day!

And I should blog more. Not because I think the whole world should be very interested in me failing to finish my projects, but because a bit of public accountability can be motivating :). So the next thing you will see on here is my Nightmare. That’s what I’m making, I will finish it, I will post it, and then I will move on.

Well, that’s the plan anyway 🙂

Those ‘Grey’ book thingies

Yes, it’s a post about ‘those’ books. You must have heard of them. You must have seen stacks of them on display in your local bookshop. You must have people on Facebook or twitter commenting on them. You might even have read them. It’s fine if you have. I know people who have read them and thought they were great. I also know people who have read them and thought they were terrible. As I type this* the first instalment has received 2,657 5-star reviews on Amazon. It also has 1,875 1-star reviews. Not only is that impressive polarisation of readers, that’s an impressive number of reviews! Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has only racked up a total of 1,358 reviews on Amazon and that was published 12 years ago. So, love them or hate them, people are reading these books. And when everyone is reading something it’s natural to want to see what all the fuss is about. So my first thought was ‘I shall read them’!

Me: But you won’t like them.

Me: I know, but once I have read them I’ll be able compose ranty blog posts about how poorly written it is and complain at length about it to strangers on the internet.

Me: Why?

Me: Because it will make me feel smug and superior because my writing is better.

Me: Really? When did we outsell Harry Potter and get a movie deal for one of our books? I must have missed that. Who are they getting to play Devon?

Me: Umm…

At this point I back out of the internal dialogue and figure wasting any time or money reading books I am simply not going to like is not going to give me any bragging rights. It’s just going to make me the idiot who bought three books I wouldn’t like and wasted precious time reading them just because ‘everyone else on the internet was doing it’.

But this whole 50 shades fuss has been going on for a while now. I can’t let it bypass me completely. So, in the words of Rastamouse, I can ‘make a bad t’ing good’. Instead of reading the Grey books I will use the time to read three classic books that to date I have never found the time for. I have selected the following books:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’, because I’ve watched a lot of Holmes but never read any, and it was written by a Sir!

Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’. It was a toss up between this and Dracula. This won purely because we own a copy :).

Alexander Dumas’s ‘The Three Musketeers’. Because swashbuckling was cool before ninjas, pirates and vampires were.

I think I’ll see how I get on with those and maybe find another 3 books to read if I’m ever tempted again….



*I actually wrote this post some time ago at the height of the fad, but for some reason I didn’t post it, so I’ve just updated the figures and I’m posting it now. I still have to read those classic books after all!



NaNoWriMo 2012

It’s December, which means my 8th NaNoWrMo is over, and I am a…

NaNo Winner bagde

Yes, last month I wrote 50,271 words of ‘Homunculus’ (see my profile for synopsis and horrible excerpt), secured my 7th Nanowrimo win, and wrote 139 more words than last year :). But last year I got to 50,132 words, closed the document and have not opened it since. This year will be different. I went into November with a rough chapter outline and an ending in mind. 50K took me to about half way through that plan, so I shall write on through December and I shall reach the mystical realm of ‘the end’. So look out 100,000 words, because I’m coming to get you!

Homunculus – 50,271 words and counting…



NaNoWriMo 2012

NaNo participant web badge

It’s that time of year again! Time to write a novel. It’s fair to say that November has snuck up on me this year, what with small people and my degree just finished. I have only the bare bones of a plan, but that’s better than nothing :).

This year is a first for me. I’m doing sci-fi! And not ‘Pixies in Space’ space opera type sci-fi. Proper sci-fi. And how can you tell it’s proper sci-fi? It’s got robots in it. Still not convinced? OK, the robots have neuromorphic chips! You can’t tell me that’s not sci-fi enough :). This month I will be writing ‘Homunculus’. Part thought provoking psychological discussion on the nature of consciousness and free will, part CSI:Space. And I should probably be writing it instead of blogging about it, so TTFN!

The Ultimate Geek Dad Card

Due to travelling back from YAPC::NA poor Markie missed his first Father’s day as a daddy of two, so I thought it would be nice if the kids and I made him a special card. I do a lot of homemade cards and I don’t usually write blog posts about them, but I’m pleased with how this one came out and there are some nice elements you can involve young children with, so I thought I’d do a little ‘how to’ guide in case you fancy having a go with your own kids for the geek in their life :).

you will need:
1 sheet of A3 white card
3 sheets of A4 coloured paper/card of choice
1 sheet of White paper
A selection of geeky stickers
Children’s art supplies (finger paints, crayons, paper, etc)
Craft knife

Basically this card will look like a laptop when finished. Mine looks like a MacBook Pro, just because that’s hubby’s laptop, but you could make it look like any computer. Just adjust your colours accordingly.


Start by folding the A3 card in half. This is the base for the laptop and you’ll be sticking everything onto this. You can use smaller card if you like but the smaller you make it the less room you’ll have inside for your little geeklings’ contribution.

Next get a sheet of A4 card for the cover of you laptop. This should be decorated with as many geek culture stickers as you can get your hands on. This is a nice bit for kids to help with. I placed the Apple logo and the ‘happy Father’s day’ letters and let Ben put the rest of the stickers on. Once you’re happy with it you can stick it on the A3 card and put it somewhere safe, because the next bit might get messy.


For the laptop screen you need a piece of artwork from your little darlings. We did finger painting. Ben loved it. Elliott had no idea what was happening but I managed to get a hand print out of him. The possibilities are really endless here depending on how old your helpers are, but that’s for them to worry about and you to provide materials for. The screen is very much their bit of the card. If your little geekling is too young to contribute you could decorate with family photos instead :).


Stick your piece of artwork to the left hand inside of the card, then using another bit of coloured card cut out a frame to make the casing for the laptop screen. Mine is 1cm think at all sides except the bottom, which is 1.5cm. Stick it over the top of the picture and that’s another bit done!


Finally you need a keyboard for the laptop. To make mine I got an Apple keyboard off google images and used photoshop to rub out the letters that were on it. Then I printed it out and wrote my own message on the keys. Alternatively you could make your keyboard out of square stickers, or you could find a fun keyboard themed font and print out a message. Whatever you use, you need to stick you keyboard/message onto the last bit of coloured card, then stick the whole thing onto the righthand inside of the A3 card.


And now it’s done! One collaborative geek-parent appreciation card :).


And one messy child. Sorry about that.


Diary Challenge: reflection


My constant companion in 2011

2011 is over and 2012 is well under way. Last year I set myself an ambitious challenge.  I bought myself a page-a-day diary with the goal of writing every day and filling each page with some scene, story, conversation, etc. I can now officially reveal that I did not succeed at my challenge. Around 100 pages of the diary are still completely blank. Between work, University and my active toddler I just didn’t manage to pull it out of the bag in the end.

But I didn’t fail. I never gave up. The diary was not abandoned half empty, it just has gaps. I kept on going for the whole year, kept posting challenges even when I was miles behind and had no hope of doing them. I carved out time in my day to write and tried to form good habits. I came up with new ideas. Even though I didn’t write the 365 pages I set out to fill last January 1st I still spent the year writing. So in a way I think I still won.

So what’s next? On January 1st this year Markie asked me if I had any New Year’s Resolutions. I told him no, but that I have a theme for the year. That’s right, no fad diets or unused gym memberships for me this year. I’ve got a whole theme! The theme is ‘finishing’. I want to finish a book. Not write a new one, but pick up an old one I’ve left on my hard drive and jolly well give it an ending. I want to finish editing something so someone else can read it. I want to finish my degree so I can finally graduate. And I want to finish the diary challenge. I have 100 blank pages still to go. So perhaps I shall look silly sitting in coffee shops scribbling away in my 2011 diary, but I carried it everywhere with me for a whole year and I don’t plan on stopping until every page is full. Then I’ll really be able to say that I won the diary challenge.

Good luck for 2012 everyone. May we all finish something we started this year.

Diary Challenge: 26th December – 1st January 2012

It’s the last week of the year, and so the last week of the challenge! As it’s the last week it seems fitting to have a proper challenge (even if it is being posted late). So, this week the theme is ‘endings’.

Monday 26th December – description challenge

Describe a character who is at the end of their story. Maybe it’s a great hero who’s finished their adventure, or finally got the girl, or a villain who’s been defeated. It could be anyone. Just think about what their story might be and how it might have changed them from the beginning.

Tuesday 27th December – dialogue challenge

Write a conversation between two or more characters who are saying goodbye.

Wednesday 28th December – scene challenge

Write the final scene of a story. Tricky one, but probably easier if you write the ending to one of the novel ideas you’ve generated over the year.

Thursday 29th December – Dream challenge

Write something based on a dream. Hopefully you’ve got one weird or inspiring dream left in you!

Friday 30th December – Stream of consciousness

Do some free writing around the theme of finishing something.

Saturday 31st December – Flash Fiction

Write a piece of flash fiction entitled ‘the end’. It can be about anything.

Sunday 1st January – pot luck

You don’t have to do the 1st of January, but my diary has a page for that day so I think I should fill it. And so we will go full circle and the challenge will be the same as last 1st of January. Write a piece of flash fiction called ‘New year’s resolution’.

And that’s it! The last diary challenge. Next week I’ll report on how I got on, and look forward to what next year has in store!