Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Late again

I was late to coffee again on Friday. Because I felt bad again… about not having much to report. I’m a terrible one for punishing myself about not doing enough, but this doesn’t achieve anything other than feeling more crap about myself. Now, I know we’re all at different stages in our writing lives, and maybe, just maybe I’m admitting (to myself, essentially) that it’s earlier days for me than I thought. (It’s faintly ridiculous to think I had nothing to report, since I wrote two short stories and a scene for the novel, plus whatever I’ve posted here!)

I do really want to write a novel – I can say that outloud now without feeling stupid or strange, or embarrassed or not deserving, which is huge progress for me. (It reminds me of the line in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere says ‘I was very angry with my father. It took $20,000 of therapy for me to be able to say that: I was very angry with my father.’ I know just what he means.) So yes, I do still want to write a novel, and I will, but I have to be in a little less of a hurry, I think.

At the beginning of the novel racers I got over excited and maybe a bit competitive with all the wonderful things that everyone is doing (and I love that I’m still over excited about all the brilliant things people are doing. I love that I can read my blog friends’ books and talk to my blogfriends about the way we’re all feeling and share the joy of different achievements: whether that’s finishing a chapter, or finishing a draft, or getting published). It feels an amazing privilege to have been allowed into your lives to share these things. This whole blog thing is just wonderful. And, sad (and Billy No Mates) that it may be, it’s incredible because I feel as though I’ve met people with whom I can genuinely be friends, despite the facts we’ve never met and that I’m out here in another continent.

When I started this race I said I just wanted to write, without constantly being challenged by my supercritical inner thoughts. In the past whenever I’ve said ‘I want to write’ it comes superglued to ‘but I’m not good enough.’ Admittedly, I usually keep this bit in my head. But I am finding the courage to say ‘I want to write’ and I’m attempting to have it superglued to ‘and I am trusting and courageous enough to try.’ Psychobabble? Maybe, but it’s working. Although the demon does still come into my head, I feel I am actually making some progress.

You know just in May I will have written somewhere in the region of 5,000 words for my blog (not all posted, but still thought about and written in a Word doc). In addition, I’ve written my article for my mate Carole every month; I’ve written emails home, and I’ve written one finished short story, and started two more. I am writing. Very, very slowly I’m writing bits of my novel (I’ve done one of those scenes this week too). These are my achievements, not necessarily the climbing word count I wanted, but this way is better.

I’ve often said I’m not sure that publishing is my desire: I’m sure in the long term it would be nice and maybe one day I’ll desire it beyond anything, but I do believe what I say about publishing at the moment because it’s simply getting ahead of myself.

Readers and fellow Novel Racers, I’m still in remedial class; I’m learning to write without those voices and that’s got to be done before I can write the odd 100,000 words. I hope I won’t cause you all to have a meeting and decide unless I’m positively, actively and definitely writing a novel, I have no business being here. Perhaps we could change the name to ‘Novel Racers (plus Remedial for JJ)?’ What do you think?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Taking regular breaks

It’s alarming how much time I have accumulated on Bejeweled: just the odd game here and there. (It’s just a cold, I could give up anytime I want).

The problem is that I can’t kid myself: Bejeweled keeps excellent records.

Just recently I’ve swapped laptops, and so I’ve reset those records. BUT the records still exist on the old laptop … I’ve just been to check them. OMG.

I have earned the title: Legendary jeweler
(Is this my skill, or the amount of time I’ve spent on the game?)

My best score: 1,379,550
(Yay, husband can’t get close)

Gems collected: 680, 945
(Shame they’re not real)

Biggest Cascade: x9
Biggest Combo: 94,408
Power Gems created: 19,408
Hyper Cubes created: 1,042
(blah blah blah)

This is where it gets a bit shocking:

Total Time Played: 130 hours 2 minutes. (OH MY GOD) That’s nearly five and a half days… (Really filthy, sailor type language ensues)

So I’ve been feeling quite sick about this. I mean, I know it wasn’t consecutive days (it wasn’t, honest) but really…

However, today, I was just having a quick game (of Bejeweled, obviously) before starting to plan my plot (which I still haven’t done this week) when I got a stonking, but stonking great idea in my head for a short story. I’ve written down the story so I don’t forget it.

I’ve been reading Tony Buzan’s “The Power of Creative Intelligence” and he says "Surprisingly, whole-brain thinking demands that if you are going to be fully and truly creative, you must take regular breaks.” I knew this all along.

“Think about it: where are you when you come up with those bursts of imagination…those great fantasies and daydreams?” He then lists 12 places/times where your mind is relaxed, and okay, none of them specifically mentioned ‘Bejeweled’ but the principle is definitely the same.

So there.

And it’s the second time this week. The same thing happened on Monday while I was playing Bejeweled, and I wrote down the bones of that story too.

All the time I have been worrying about procrastination and not being motivated to use the time available to me and there I was doing what I needed to do: to allow both sides of my brain to talk to each other…

I went back this morning and reread some of my early blog. All I wanted to do was write: I hadn’t set amounts or totals or goals, I just wanted to write because I need to. I don’t honestly know if I need to be published, but I do know I need to write. Every Friday I feel disappointed in not having done more novel, but I am writing and it is all I wanted. I have got to give myself a break… So that’s another game of Bejeweled, for me then.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tagged by Hesitant Scribe

Okay, I’ve been tagged by Hesitant Scribe. These are the rules:

1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.

2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.

3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.

4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

One On millennium eve we had a party at our friends in Manchester. We spend every New Year with them, but for that year we got sociable and invited a group of people. We had to prepare some games, songs, and information as part of the ‘entertainment’ through the evening. One of the games we had to prepare was to write a secret about ourselves that no-one in the room knew about us. I had to phone my mum in a panic because I couldn’t believe there was a single thing about me that I hadn’t told either husband or best friend. My Mum suggested this: a great great cousin of mine was serving as a maid below stairs when she was made pregnant by a young man who went on to become Prime Minister.

Two I am the world’s fussiest tea drinker. Friends quake at the thought of making tea for me: others, (husband) tells me to make my own ****** tea. I have to have a large mug (though not thick pottery and not poncy cup and saucer). Teabags should be ‘builder quality’ and not (on pain of death) ‘one-cups’ (NOT ENOUGH TEALEAVES) or anything purporting to be ‘good quality’: builder’s blend only, please. Water must be poured on boiling, preferably freshly. It must brew for four minutes, and then just the right amount of skimmed milk should be added. If you try and get away with brewing it for less time and adding less milk to make it the right colour, I will know because a) the opacity of the liquid will be wrong, and b) it doesn’t taste right. If you forget about the tea brewing (while you’re on the balcony having a fag, husband) you cannot just add more milk to make it the right colour, because then it will be cold, and it has to be hot enough to slurp through my mouth!

Whilst I recognize that I have virtual friends trembling at the thought of ever making me actual tea I won’t ever tell you it’s shit. However, if you are kind (and brave) enough to offer me a cup of tea, pour it out and then tell me you’ve poured it out, and would I like to finish it myself?

Three I have two degrees, both of which I loved doing but which are …uhm, useless? I have a hankering to do another degree – but mostly so I can make lots of stupid jokes about the Three Degrees: When Will I See You Again?

Four I have reverted to an adolescent crush and love and adore any music in which Stephin Merritt has had a hand, which include The Magnetic Fields, Future Bible Heroes, The 6ths, and The Gothic Archies. My favourites … No, sorry it’s just not possible to say, but the album 69 Lovesongs is beyond my description includes the classics ‘A Chicken With It’s Head Cut Off’, and ‘Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits’ He writes beautiful poetry and beautiful music. Please tell me I’ve converted you.

Five I am the official family photographer. Because I love textures, I collect them via photography. I use these as the wallpaper/desktops on my computer. I give family and friends discs of them in the mistaken belief that they think they are as wonderful as I do. Here are some examples:

Six I have another childlike ‘thing’ to admit to. I love the colour orange: I discovered this while I was at art college (prior to the second useless degree). My ‘office’ which is actually a dressing area with a table and mirror, has been ‘decorated’ with collections of orange things so that I don’t have to look at myself in the mirror. Maybe a visual would be good here:

Seven When I was ten I did a summer school in ballet. My parents were approached to ask if they would allow me to audition for the full time ballet school. Phew, good job my folks said no, and proof positive that you can’t tell at ten what puberty is going to do to you! I still love to watch all dance: particularly contemporary dance. Highlights have included Pina Bausch, Matthew Bourne’s Play Without Words, Mark Morris, Nederlands Dans Theater 2, ooh and lots of others.

Eight I am a perpetual worrier. I worry about everything, and if I haven’t got anything to worry about, I invent something.
Well, it looks as though everyone's been tagged for this already. If you haven't been 'got' then consider yourself tagged and please let me know.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I admit defeat...

Oooh I am feeling rotten today. Maybe that explains my inertia yesterday?

I got a sore throat last night, and now I'm headachey, snotty, achey.

And I'm just a tad fed up with the hole in my foot.

I will come back when I feel fit and well.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I am a Libran after all

Maybe I’m not decisive enough to write a book.

Making my mind up is my problem.

How many characters are too many? Can the sister do the job that the best friend was going to do? Or should I use both? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having both or only one?

(Note to authors: A reader should never have to keep a ‘who is who’ list, tucked inside the front cover. They only realize this on page 56 and then it is too late.)

The writer in me has no experience on which to base any decision. Even when my head has chosen the way to go, it starts to uhm and ah all by itself. Again.

So I start to wonder if I’m telling the right story.

Can I do this?

When I am not doing it, I know I can do it, but when I begin to do it, I doubt myself.

I am pondering with abandoning my novel, and starting again… something different.

Maybe my demon has reinvented himself because I won the last battle. He has come back as Indecision with a question mark of Confidence.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Over excited shouty warning

I am VERY over-excited.

My flights are booked for a surprise trip to the UK. Family in the UK have some paperwork needs doing BUT … AND... the airmile (can’t-be-too-fussy-with-when-you-go) tickets are BOOKED and coincide with Caroline’s launch! How exciting is that? I am SO excited.

AND, and as a bonus, the launch is in Manchester, WHICH is WHERE my best, BEST in the whole world, friends live, SO I GET TO STAY WITH THEM AND SEE THEM ALL TOOOOOO.

And, it just doesn’t stop, does it? I also get to go to those British gems: Primark, Tesco clothes and Ethel Austin (I am just so classy).

I’m going to have to go now, because I can’t say anything without being shouty.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Plastic Surgery

I apologise for my absence of a few days, but I am feeling a little sorry for myself because on Monday I had plastic surgery!

Well, I went to the plastic surgery department at one of the local hospitals. I had the deeply uncool procedure undertaken of having a verruca lasered out/off my foot. I had tried but failed to bazooka that verruca, then skin specialist lady at the hospital had tried but failed to give it frostbite, three times this failed.

Then I said ‘let’s burn it’.

‘Okay,’ skin specialist lady doctor said, ‘but it hurts; the injection of local anesthetic hurts. It really hurts’. I don’t know how much bedside manner training they give to their doctors here in Thailand, but it’s an interesting approach.

‘I’ve had babies;’ I said ‘it can’t be as bad as that.’

‘It really hurts.’

So I took husband (who isn’t remotely autistic, but who is very funny, clever, sexy, supportive and didn’t faint) because I was scared, even though I knew it couldn’t hurt as much as having babies.

‘OooOOWWwwww, owwWWWWWWWwwWWW.’

‘AaoooooowWWWwoooowwwww. It IS worse than having babies….’

I was worried I might smell cooking flesh (bacon?) but she had a little sucky machine that whooshed all the crackling smells away.

So now, I’ve got a hole the size of the Isle of Wight in my foot.

I am hobbling, so my back hurts where I’m walking funny, and my leg muscles are grumbling about the hunchback like gait I’m inflicting on them.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Autistic spectrum

I wrote some time ago about one of my theories that puddings are an impediment to world peace. I mentioned a couple of other theories at the same time, one being that I believe all men appear somewhere on the autistic spectrum and Ms Melancholy has requested further information on this subject.

Before I post the results of my research, I feel the need to state the nature of my qualification on this academic theorizing. I am eligible to present the results of my findings, having read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” and having watched “Rainman.” Finally, I have relationships with various males, all of whom manifest definite signs of autism. This is the extent of my academic qualification (unless you count a Classics degree and a Fine Art degree. But, I should also declare that Husband has been campaigning for me to return my degree certificate to my first university since he claims I remember ‘bog-all’ about the subject and fail to give him any help in pub quizzes on matters relating to Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece!)

When I started preparing this research, I thought I could profile 4 adult men and two children. But the evidence for my argument has proved so overwhelming that I have only the space to profile two adult men. We’ll call them Man1 and Man2.

Neither of these men has ever been diagnosed by anyone except me. Both men look like regular, normally functioning men from the outside. They are very bright, intelligent men who hold down high profile jobs. And yet there are indisputable autistic tendencies discernible.

“Some islets of particular skills or abilities or knowledge”
Man1 and Man2 are excelling in their fields. Did you know that the name ‘idiot savant’ was originally applied to the autistic syndrome? ‘Idiot’, needs no explanation, but ‘savant’ comes from the French verb savoir, ‘to know’ which refers to the extraordinary skills of some autistic people.

“Pre-occupation with particular objects”
Man1 has an abnormal preoccupation with all things music. He has secret and not-so secret stashes of cds all over the house. Please see small sample pictorial evidence, right. He has embraced the Ipod, but nonetheless demonstrates extreme emotional dependency on hoarding cds and purchasing secretly. Fifteen years of mouldy and unreadable NME (New Musical Express) magazines had to be pried from his possession because they were unreadable. Man1 was saving them because he might “need to look something up” one day.

Man2 exhibits interesting ‘total immersion hobbies’. This requires that he regularly discovers frenzied passions for new hobbies; he swears they are life-long obsessions and purchases all the equipment. He throws himself into each new activity: golf, scuba diving, skiing, etc.

“Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her ‘own world’”
Man1 spends many hours compiling cds for his friends. He plans this very carefully and writes out draft play-lists and then neatly (in his serial killer handwriting) copied-up final versions. See pictorial evidence.

Man2’s latest hobby has required less financial output than his usual pursuits: origami. Please see pictorial evidence. He demonstrates extreme anxiety when he discovers he is out without small or medium squares of foldable paper.

“Abnormal perceptual experience and failure to develop speech beyond a very limited level”
Wives of Man1 and Man2 have reported an almost complete inability to communicate face to face. Both men resort to sending emails and sms messages, even while sitting next to wives on the sofa during a film, or in offices along the landing.

“Appears not to hear you at times”
Oh, come on, how many men do you know to which this doesn’t apply?

Friday, May 11, 2007


Not really.
Just thought I'd update you. Jungley tummy bite is looking okay! Hopefully I am not having spiders.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Blah Blah

Properly pooped.

Get yourselves over to Maht's blog to read the short stories competition entries. There are stories there I wish I'd written!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Insect inundation

I’m having a creepy crawly crisis.

Last week I trod on a grass hopper in son’s room. It was dead already, but it went crunch and I didn’t like it.

I keep seeing geckos in the apartment. I try to be cool about these because they are much more frightened of me than I am of them (do you wanna bet?)

We went away for the bank holiday to Kanchanaburi (a two hour drive in good traffic) and our room was full of ants. They seem to have lost their purpose a bit and wondered indiscriminately about our table top.

We went elephant trekking in jungley undergrowth and something fell down my top and bit my tummy. I squidged it between fingers to kill it before I looked to see what it was (I'll never make a Buddhist) … I couldn’t tell what it was after my hysterical squidging episode but my tummy is red, itchy and sore. I’m afraid it might hatch spiders.

I got totally and utterly bitten by mosquitos by the river Kwai and now every single bit of skin is red, swollen and itchy.

Then … THEN, I come to post about my weekend by the Bridge over the River Kwai and this …. THIS ... is what I see on my laptop:

Friday, May 04, 2007

I've been outed!

My friend Carol, who I’ve coyly referred to as C on my blog has outed me in my comments to Today is for writing: she called me ‘Jen’ because that’s who I am. (Then she apologized and said she’d got confused – she's easily discombobulated, bless her.)

I’m fascinated by the notion of naming and identity. We do it as writers, don’t we? And bloggers do it too, to not be identified, or to be free to write without judgement.

I thought a lot about names and identity when I started my blog. When I signed up to the novel racers there was already someone on board with my name, (Hello Jen at spiralskies!) so rather than let it get complicated I created an alias, JJ because they are my first two initials.

That’s complete bollocks. I was too shy to say ‘here I am, this is me…’

But over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking of identifying myself. I have no reason to be anonymous – I no longer feel scared/shy. I can see why people who are blogging about their jobs invent an alter ego – Zinnia Cyclamen, (I am so jealous of your name, it’s sooooo utterly fabulous), and Ms Melancholy because professionally they need anonymity. Then there's someone's real identity, like Caroline Smailes and Kate Harrison who are both blogging as a communication tool but I don't fit into that category either. Feeling brave now I realise with what I’ve revealed in my blog, it wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to track down the real me. So why worry?

We talked to a friend today who has just got married and so has changed her name. She’s married relatively late, so she’d been with her name for 40 years. She got confused by a name she saw on a sign up sheet today until she realized it was her new married name. I remember worrying after I got married that the people who knew me only as Jenny Beattie didn’t know who Jenny Stevens was. She was part of my identity – I had been her for 25 years – and I worried that they’d never understand me if they had never known her.

Now, as I sit and look at that name: Jenny Stevens, I can hardly remember who she was, like someone I once knew.

One of my favourite name things is that game where you discover your porn star name. Mine is spectacular (I think). The game's been around for ever, but just incase you don’t know how to do it; you take the name of your first pet you ever had as your first name, and your mother’s maiden name as your surname:

That makes my porn star name: Honey Layzell, but you should probably still call me JJ.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Stampy footed fool thinks about maths

THANK YOU to everyone who left me lovely messages about my measly 500 words.

‘Tis true I was disappointed, BUT I also wrote my article (nearly finished) and my website report for meeting today.

I think it was more to do with maths:

disappointment + arguing children = opportunity to beat oneself up

Husband said I was a fool to publicise that yesterday was about writing. But I think he is wrong (I may be a fool, that’s true) but had I not said publically that I was writing today I would have managed 5 words. I persevered because I had to report back which meant that I managed to write 495 more words.

I do worry that my posting yesterday has precipitated many visits to opticians all over the UK. Sorry.

I am off to my meeting now. I will sit on my hands and I will tape up my mouth with elephant tape so I do not volunteer for anything…

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Today is for writing

I am going public to say that today is for writing and that's what I'm going to do. I will come back and report what has been done.

Please harangue me if I don't.


Oh bollox, bollox. bollox.

I wrote my article for this month, I wrote my website report, and then I wrote a total of about 500 words of novel. Pathetic.

Am I telling the right story? Am I the wrong storyteller?

Not feeling good; feeling distinctly wibbly wobbly. Hopefully no-one will notice this since I have written it very small.