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Wednesday 30 October 2013

It's a Cat's Life

There are a lot of cats around these parts. I've no idea where most of them live, but they seem to spend their time making themselves free with everyone's gardens, ambling across the roads, sitting on walls and fences, and just generally hanging around doing not a lot.

They would do well to learn from the cat featured on the Mail's site today. 'Graham' sets out each morning for the local pet store, where he waits to be admitted at opening time, then spends his day checking out the fish, hamsters and cat toys. The pet store welcomes him with open arms, not least because he's having a positive effect on sales. He is, in effect, a member of the marketing department. I do hope they give him a Christmas bonus.

Monday 28 October 2013

Weather Woes

There are certain clues that tell you when you've had an extreme weather event. Police signs announcing that a normally tranquil and well-behaved country lane is closed might provide a hint, particularly when coupled with fallen branches and a thick layer of leaf sludge. But I think perhaps the clearest indicator so far would have to be the seagulls swimming on the cricket pitch. I'm keeping a careful watch for passing dolphins.

Good luck to everyone caught up in the storm.

Friday 25 October 2013

Gingerbread Display

Look, I know it's early, but I just had to blog about Selfridges' Christmas window. I know, it's only October, but it's impossible to resist. It's made entirely of gingerbread! Well, excluding the cotton wool snow, and the Golden Syrup tins, and the model train set trees, and ... oh, you get the point. It even has a Golden Syrup river with a paddle steamer trundling along it. It's a Christmas scene you can eat, could it get better than that?

It's also as good an excuse as any for me to remind you that there are a couple of Christmas window stories in the Christmas library of the Quirky Tales website. Alas, they're not edible, but they're fun anyway.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Slumped Sponges and News Hacks

Tuesday evenings won't be the same now that Great British Bake Off has finished. Still, at least there'll be no more tears and breakdowns over slumped sponges and soggy pastry - I do get so emotional! We've watched every episode and, whilst every contestant won our hearts, I have to admit to rooting for the youngest, Ruby. 

That puts me at odds with the news hacks and tweeters and trolls, who really took against her. They were cynical about her tears, accused her of flirting with Paul Hollywood, and even the normally mild-mannered Raymond Blanc had a go at her for being too thin to enjoy food. He did apologise later, but seriously, RB, I'm surprised at you.

Throughout the series the contestants have been nothing but supportive of each other, helping each other out when disaster has struck, and forming collective sobbing huddles at elimination time. It's refreshing to see a gentle TV competition without any of the modern nastiness, mind-games and general backstabbing. Shame the commentators don't seem to get it.

Anyone for cake?

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Time Shift

We're trialling a new schedule in our house. We're starting the day earlier and ending it later in order for he who fixes the computer to build up more flexi-hours. Today is the second day of the new regime and I'm not convinced. It's true that by ten o'clock I'd changed the beds, cleaned the bathroom, done the washing, the ironing, downed two cups of coffee and cleaned the kitchen, but now, when I should be sitting down to some serious writing, all I can think of is curling up in bed and going back to sleep.

I've heard of writers who work through the night, going to bed at four in the morning and rising at midday. As a distinctly non-morning type of person that regime has a certain allure, seeing as it misses out morning altogether. Or would the afternoon just become morning, and the evening just become afternoon, and ...

Stronger coffee. That's what I need. Stronger coffee with a side order of paracetamol. And while I'm at it, I might just shift all the clocks an hour forward.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Recommended Reading

I had to chuckle this morning when I checked my email. Lurking amongst the usual invitations to enhance various aspects of my anatomy, reduce others, open my bank account to assorted con artists, and many inducements to spend money I don't have on things I don't want, was an email from Amazon with a list of books I might be interested in purchasing. Top of the list was Lucky Dip.

I'm not sure if that's a pass or a fail on their part. Clearly they have a fairly accurate measure of my tastes, but at the same time their software failed to pick up on the fact that I'm the author of the book. Either way, thanks for the plug Amazon!

Monday 14 October 2013

Lucky Stars!

Lucky Dip has a five star review! I'm sorry, for those at the back who might not have heard: LUCKY DIP HAS A FIVE STAR REVIEW!

Ahem! Excuse me for shouting. But it puts a bit of a spring in your step to receive such lovely feedback. Thank you so very much! I'm so happy you enjoyed the book, and I'm delighted to have another member of the Bentley Appreciation Group, or BAG for short.

Saturday 12 October 2013

A Week of Dinos and Apps

It's been a busy week, which is my way of excusing myself for not posting more frequently on the QT blog. Firstly, I have finished the Dino 101 course. I'm happy to report that the half point I dropped near the beginning of the course remains a solitary lonely figure, well, partial figure, and that I spent a good deal more time studying for all the subsequent tests. One of the many things the course taught me is that I don't know very much at all, so watch this space for details of the next course I'll be signing up for.

Having completed Dino 101 I turned my attentions to the third book of the Boldre Wood Trilogy. After my slight hitch with the Card Index app, I made good progress, taking extreme care of course not to inadvertently press any of the disaster buttons. The plan is more or less complete, but the story is complex and the ending may need minor adjustments, so I've begun to rewrite the story according to the new plan and I shall make final decisions about the ending when I'm closer to it. All in all, I'm pleased with its progress, though I could really do with sitting down for a fortnight, uninterrupted, no internet, no phone, no TV, no birds in the garden, no shiny things, just to get the whole thing written while the ideas are fresh in my head. I believe I've mentioned before on this blog how easily I can be distracted.

So the message for the coming week is Focus! By the way, did I mention I bought a new Terry Pratchett book ....

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Undo! Undo! Undo?

Aaargh! I had just completed my 54th card of my plan for Billy 3 using the Cardboard Index Cards app when ... disaster! I hit a wrong button - I don't even know which one! - and the whole layout was rearranged! There was a moment of utter silence, followed by a pained howl and a frantic search of the menu and help options. I couldn't find a button that would restore it to my original order, and there was no convenient Undo button. How can such an app not have an Undo? Everything has an Undo. It's an essential function for incompetents like me. I suspect there is an option somewhere but in my panic I wasn't able to find it.

Thankfully I had taken several screenshots as my plan progressed, so I've managed to use the pictures to re-order the cards manually, but now I'm terrified of accidentally catching a button and sending my plan into disarray again. Perhaps I ought to nip out to the stationers and buy some old fashioned index cards, some pins and a corkboard. Though I've noticed they don't have an Undo button either.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Planning the Planning

I have been attempting to formulate my plans for the third book in the Boldre Wood Trilogy. I've created several documents which now add to the general confusion of my Boldre Wood directory, I've scribbled copious notes in assorted notebooks, most of which I will never find again, and I've spent many hours puzzling and imagining. None of which has really moved me any further forward. It was obvious I needed a plan for tackling my plan.

Knowing the value of my Samsung tablet, I decided to investigate appropriate writing apps. Firstly, there aren't that many or, maybe I should say, there aren't that many good ones. My tablet came with the excellent S-Note, which allows me to handwrite, type, draw, and import pictures, pdfs and charts. It's hard to find anything that offers more. But what I needed was a way to move my ideas around which, whilst not impossible, is not straightforward with S-Note.

I eventually uncovered a rather nifty app that allows you to create index cards, in different colours if you choose, that you can move and swap about however you please. I think this might be the answer. I've begun by noting on separate cards scenes that must feature in the book. Once I have them all, or at least a good portion, I can begin ordering them. After that it's just the simple matter of rewriting the book to suit. (Cue slightly disturbing hysterical laughter.)

Screenshot taken from the app's page on the Google Play Store

The app is 'Cardboard Index Cards' by Lean Self, and is available on the Google Play Store. They also do a 'Novels' version, but I'm unclear how it differs.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Down at the Front

My search for strange homes received an unusual boost today from the BBC's newsite. They have a feature on the work of artist Alex Chinneck, who has created what can be best described as a house whose frontage has slipped. It's that simple, though I'm sure it wasn't! The facade of the house in Margate gently slopes down towards the road as though lowered like a blind. I love it, though I do wonder where you'd end up if you tried to go through the front door.
Alex Chinneck has more examples of his work on his website, plus additional images of the slippy house named 'From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes'.