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!

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!



Diary Challenge: 5th – 18th September 2011*

So, I missed a week, again! This doesn’t bode well, does it? I’m far behind, slacking on my blog updates, exam is looming only 1 month away, can I really finish this year long diary challenge? 

You know what? I think I can. It’s not too late. It’s only September. I’ve got 3 and a half months to pick myself up and pull this thing off. The whole point of this year was to develop good writing habits, to spend a little time writing outside of the madness of November, and to generate some ideas. There’s still a long way to go and a lot to be gained. It’s not over yet.

But I am a week behind on the blog now so we need another double challenge to catch up. This week I want 7 scenes. They can be about anything you like but I’ll provide some optional prompts at the end that I plan to use. For each scene you write you then need to go back to the blank page for last week and write the same scene again as experienced from a different point of view. Here come the prompts:
Monday: scene involves a hero and a villain (obvious one to start with)
Tuesday: scene involves an adult and a child
Wednesday: scene between 2 friends, but one has a secret
Thursday: scene involves an animal and one of the POVs must be theirs
Friday: scene involves someone who thinks they’re alone, but they’re not
Saturday: write one scene in the 1st person, then again in the 3rd person omniscient (oh yes, let try the literal interpretation)
Sunday: finally, write a scene involving 2 characters who want the same thing, but don’t know it.

That’s all for now! See you next week (hopefully!)

*FYI – this post was written on Monday, it’s just being posted late because I’m in France and couldn’t get on the wifi at the hotel!

Diary Challenge: 27th-3rd July 2011

I think it’s fair to say that I’m behind. So far behind that I just started last Monday’s challenge this morning. Is it bad? Yes. Is it the end of the world? Probably not.
Still no official word on Camp NaNoWriMo starting on Friday, but the buzz on the ML forum is that it’s definitely a go and it’s the same drill as NaNo Prime so I’m working on the principle that I’ll be noveling from Friday so only need 4 challenges this week. I also need them to be easy ones so I can catch up, and what’s easier than free writing 🙂

The challenge this week is to do four pieces of free writing. The prompts are as follows: hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades. You can do them in any order you like. In fact, if you’d rather do wands, coins, cups and swords that’s ok too.

Then on Friday it’s time to write a novel! No, I don’t really think I’m going to write 50,000 words next month. There’s a tiny chance I’ll manage it over 2, but I’m not putting any bets on it and I’m not going to push it. Ben and OU come first. I am responsibility’s bitch 🙂

That’s all for now!

Diary Challenge: 13th – 19th June 2011

Hi everyone. I’m still behind on the challenge for this week having managed only two so far – contemporary and fantasy, but I’m ready to catch up and I’m hoping to post what I’ve done. This week I’m having another break from the format with a different week long challenge I came up with myself.

Character tag

This week we’re writing another continuous story, but this time instead of jumping genres we’re jumping characters. On day one write something from a character’s POV in the first person. On day two switch to someone else the first character interacted with in their scene and give them their own first person scene, and so on. Hopefully you get the idea 🙂

Next week I’m hoping that there will be some more details for the upcoming, brand new camp NaNoWriMo, and maybe we can do some planning, but if not it might be something inspired by the great fire of London. Confused? You won’t be 🙂

Diary Challenge: 3rd-9th Jan 2011

Happy New Year! I started my diary challenge today and I’ve completed today’s task already. I did it at 2 in the morning last night after returning from my parents’ party so I’m not sure it made sense, but I started, and that’s what’s important. I found the A5 page limit a real challenge and only just squeezed my story onto it, but I was a bit too wordy at the start. I have to remember that the point is to get something down, not to write something polished. It can get longer in edit if it needs to.

Now it’s time to think about new week. It’s the first full week of the challenge, and it’s the first full week of the year, so in honour of all things new next week will need a brand new character. If you’re doing this with me make sure it’s a character you like because you’ll be working with them all week. Here’s the challenges starting from Monday:

Monday 3rd Jan – Description Challenge

Describe a brand new character to work with this week. They can’t be from something you’ve already written/roleplay character etc. The point of the exercise is to make someone (or something new). Any race, any genre!

Tuesday 4th Jan – Dialogue Challenge

Your new character needs a friend or companion. Write a conversation between them to show a bit about each of them and their relationship.

Wednesday 5th Jan – Scene Challenge

Put your new character in a scene that shows them doing something ‘in character’. Maybe their a thief, so in this scene they’re going to steal something. Or they’re a princess and have to go to another ball to try and find prince charming. You might like the scene to tie into Saturday’s challenge somehow.

Thursday 6th Jan – Dream Challenge

This one is always going to be the same. Write something based on a dream. Give that new character a rest a give yourself a couple of days to muse over your looming flash fiction challenge!

Friday 7th Jan – Poetry Challenge

The poem can be anything but should be inspired in some way by something about your character. It could be about them, it could be something they would write, but it doesn’t have to be as obviously linked to them as that. Just use something from your character to help get you started and write what you like.

Saturday – Flash Fiction

Can you guess what it’s going to be? That’s right, a super short story starring that character you’ve been fleshing out all week!

SundayPotluck Challenge – novel idea

I’m not sure how well this will work, but the challenge is to take everything you’ve done this week and think about a much longer story your character could be in and do a brief outline.

And that’s week 1. We’ll see how that goes. That’s it for now!

I survived

Or ‘How to do NaNoWriMo with a 4-month-old baby’

My advice: Don’t! It’s impossible. They wriggle and cry and demand attention and somehow they know when you want to do some writing. They tire you out so much that when they do finally get to sleep you can’t even think about writing and have to go to bed.

Does that mean you can’t do NaNo? Of course not. I just recommend doing it without your baby whenever possible. My most productive writing times where in the Sainsbury’s coffee shop while my mum took the baby to do the shopping with her. This was good, but I was still left about 12K behind with only 2 days remaining and I was starting to worry that I might not be able to do this after all. It took all night and falling asleep while typing a few times but I just scraped through at 7am on the last day :). Then I went shopping for fabric for a jedi robe, but that’s another blog post. I was tired, but triumphant. Huzzah!
So, to anyone who has ever done NaNo with a baby, I salute you. To anyone planning on it (you mad mad people, but all wrimos are mad really) make sure you get a good support network in place before hand, and be prepared to do a lot of writing while tired!

Step Wars II (or should that be V?)

It’s time for the results of test 2. Ben has been pretty good tonight so I haven’t had to do much walking other than a quick trip to the Chinese for tea. The WWM counted around 2,000 steps. The iPod is a little behind it with 1,850, while the super cheap one has been overly generous again and given me 2,700 for the night. So, according to my new one I’ve managed 10K today! Yay me :). OK, it’s actually closer to 7K, which is good because that’s my step target for the day, but bad that there’s  a massive 3K difference between my step counters over the course of the day.

So far it’s looking like the WWM and the iPod are equally good, but there’s still the problem of the missing steps when pacing with the baby, so I’ll just have to wait until the next restless evening and see if we can’t get one of these things to count them for me:)

Step Wars

I usually use Nintento’s Walk With Me to keep track of my daily step count (I get £1 for my piggy bank if I make my daily target), but I’ve noticed that despite walking up and down the house with a fussy baby over and over again I don’t seem to be getting any credit for those steps. So I’m trying an experiment. Yesterday I bought a cheap pedometer from Argos which I am wearing today along with my Walk With Me. Since I don’t know which is the most accurate and the reviews on the Argos website suggest that the pedometer is over sensitive, I’ve also activated the pedometer function on my iPod Nano to get a third reading.

This morning Ben and I went for a walk into town to see my mum and have a coffee. The WWM is usually good at this kind of continuous walking so I did a comparison when I got home. WWM counted around 5,700 steps while the iPod counted around 5,600 steps, which is pretty close. I’m glad they agree. The super cheap pro-fitness pedometer, however, has credited me with a massive 8,000 steps for my little jaunt into town and back. Good for my piggy bank perhaps, but not so good for that left over baby belly. For test 1 the WWM and the iPod are winning.

For test 2, Ben and I are spending the afternoon at home and I’ll be working at the computer. I’ll reset the counters and see how they all do with smaller bits of movement. Good luck to our competitors, let the test begin!