In honour of the Day of the Doctor (happy 50th Anniversary!), I’m posting up one of my stories. I may have posted this before, but I couldn’t find it on a quick search back.
No fezzes in this story. Even though fezzes are cool.
In honour of the Day of the Doctor (happy 50th Anniversary!), I’m posting up one of my stories. I may have posted this before, but I couldn’t find it on a quick search back.
No fezzes in this story. Even though fezzes are cool.
Guilt is a weird emotion, isn’t it? Right now, I’m feeling hugely guilty and it’s for the most remarkably stupid reason.
Due to the problems I’ve had with headaches and my eyes this past couple of weeks, I’ve forced myself off the PC at home in the evenings as much as possible to give them something of a rest. The knock-on result of this is that my writing has suffered a two week hit in productivity.
I’ve got some of it done, so it’s not a complete loss, but I’m nowhere near at the output I need to be to meet deadlines. I’ve emailed my editor for Project: Carpark to explain my pitiful little plight and he’s unsurprisingly very understanding and for that, I’m hugely grateful. However, the guilt remains. It’s a combination of setting myself targets and failing to achieve them and my pathological need to be on time, I think. I’m good at feeling guilty about stuff, I suppose.
Frequently, I’ve lamented the difficulties of juggling a full time job and a family with the pressures of writing deadlines. This last two weeks has been insane in regards to that juggling act. My eye problems, meetings at the Son’s school, arguments with the Ex Husband… I haven’t got home before 8pm any night this week and I’ve had enough now. Fortunately, the only thing on the cards tonight is an hour at the gym, so I’m looking at getting in for around 6pm. Much better.
Didn’t sleep terribly well last night due to the gale force winds. Where I live is on a street that acts like a wind tunnel in high winds and I woke up on about four separate occasions due to bumps and thumps and other noises that serve to wake you up briefly and then fail to let you squish back up to Morpheus. Stupid night time noises.
Himself is away this week, camping in the Lake District. Yes, you did hear that right. Camping. In the Lake District. In October. This is because Himself is Not Quite Right In The Head. This means that I have the entire bed to myself, but still, naturally, sleep on the very edge, taking up as little space as is humanly possible. See? Guilt. Refusing to let me take more of the bed than is absolutely necessary.
I’ve also had guilt this week in the form of worrying about the Son’s revision (as previously documented). An overload of guilt. ENOUGH!
I’m going to check the finances and contemplate treating myself to a half-decent new laptop to use for writing, in better lighting than my PC which sits in a dark and gloomy little corner. When Himself drags his carcass back from the Lake District, I’ll utilise his Man Skills to swap my desk with his as he’s right next to the window which is eminently preferable for writing during the weekend. (It’s also right next to the radiator, which makes it a more appealing place to be in the winter – last year, I was writing whilst wearing gloves and a scarf). What I wouldn’t give for a bigger house and a room I could call my study…
I have a laptop. It’s about seven bajillion years old. I don’t think I’d turned it on for something like eighteen months. I fired it up and after it had installed every update known to man, moved along with all the celerity of a slug tied to a fifteen tonne weight. The left shift key fell off years ago and whilst the shift function itself still works, it’s a bit temperament. The ‘D’ key is decidedly non-compliant to my will. It keeps freezing. Frankly, it’s a bit archaic and just a tiny bit rubbish. So I need to treat myself. The problem with this, of course, is that it comes down to a new laptop… or my possible holiday to Finland in February. I’m not convinced I can afford both at this time. We shall see. I shall shop around and consider my options.
(And before the floods of ‘buy a Mac’ come pouring in, that’s not going to happen. I’d dearly love a Mac, but it’s so far outside my price range that it’s not even remotely amusing).
Buying a new laptop means that I can write in a warmer, brighter area of the house and it means that I won’t put quite so much strain on my eyes. Good heavens, I’m doing something for myself!
It’s been a difficult couple of weeks.
I’m kind of proud that I enjoy very good all-round health. But over the last two weeks, I started getting worryingly regular migraines. Then the migraines turned into just the visual disturbances bit. I was sensible and made an optician’s appointment. I haven’t had my eyes checked for about ten years anyway, so it was an all-round thing.
I had a series of eye tests, including a couple I’ve never experienced before such as the puff-in-the-eye glaucoma test. That one may not have been quite so bad if the guy administering the test had said ‘this is what will happen’ first. As it was, the scene was me sitting there innocently, followed by ‘PUFF!’, followed by me swearing very loudly and crossing perhaps half the shop.
The sight test was OK – the optician (who I think may be about twelve) said that my distance vision was beyond perfect (‘better than 20-20’, he said, although I thought demanding an exact ratio may have been too much) and he gave me the tiniest corrective prescription for reading and computer work (I kid you not: the prescription is 0.25 on each eye).
Then came the kicker.
‘I don’t want you to worry, but…’
Nobody wants to hear this. His concern was that I might have a retinal tear. He told me, without changing his expression, that he needed me to come back for an urgent dilation test. (Wait, isn’t that gynaecology?) ‘Monday, if you can manage it,’ he said. ‘You won’t be able to drive for about three hours after.’
‘Woah, woah, Doctor Eyes. It’s not that simple! I live fifteen miles out of town. The only way I can get in is to drive! The earliest I can manage is next Saturday.’
A concerned frown. ‘I’d really rather get it done quickly.’
So, no pressure.
After much flailing around, the Ex Husband said that he would bring me home. Home from work early, on the bus, have the test and he’d bring me home. Solved. Went in on Monday, had the eye drops, no problems identified… BOOSH. Sorted. Less time on the PC if you please, Mrs. Cawkwell (which brings a bunch of new problems). Stood around outside the opticians with pupils the size of Saturn, looking like I was stoned out of my brain, and couldn’t see anything properly for three hours.
But was grateful to the Ex for bringing me home. We get on fine, he and I. The Son is the key thing we have in common, of course, and whilst that ensures we stay in contact, it also sometimes causes friction. Let me explain.
The baby bit was easy.
The Son is embarking on his GCSE years, as I’ve said in the past and last night I ended up caught in the middle of an ongoing argument between him and his dad. It’s one of those areas where it’s hard to put forth an opinion because I can see both sides of the story.
Here’s the problem, in the easiest way I can put it.
The Son comes home from school. If he has homework, he always does it straight away. But as of yet, the volume of homework is tiny to non-existent. On the other hand, he’s only been back for what – four weeks? I predict that come the start of the Christmas term, the homework will start increasing. Once he’s done his homework, he plays on his computer, or watches TV or any of those other things that fourteen year old boys do.
His dad is under the impression that he should be revising. Something. Every night. And that he needs to spend less time on the computer.
Last night, I was pretty much shouted at by the Son’s dad about the problem. It wasn’t personal; he knows it’s not my fault particularly, but I think he needed to let off steam. The Son and the Ex Husband rub one another up the wrong way all the time, which results in the kind of arguments I used to have with my own dad. I find this really strange, because my relationship with the Son is completely the opposite. When we have disagreements, we talk it out.
Anyway, the Ex Husband shouted at me for a bit longer and I agreed with a number of his points, but did try to play devil’s advocate on others. I’m a great believer in compromise. Yes, I agree he should do a little more revision, but on the other hand, the school will be giving them revision tips soon. No, I don’t think he should be doing it for hours every night. Yes, he does spend a lot of time on his computer. No, I don’t think confiscating it is the way forward, but it’s certainly useful as a threat. Yes, no, no, yes.
Then the Son came downstairs and we left.
We left his dad’s to go to the gym (‘I’m glad you’re taking him to the gym, he’d never do anything otherwise’ was the parting shot) and got in the car. The Son sat there in stony silence. I said to him that I had nothing more to add as I was sure he had listened to everything that had been said. He grumbled his acknowledgement and told me that he was angry. And he was. Unfortunately for him, he’s like me. When he gets angry, he starts getting upset with himself, perhaps because he’s not yet reached an age where he can properly articulate what he wants to say. At least, not with his dad. With me, he can talk about his feelings more easily.
The best thing he said throughout the conversation was this.
‘The worst thing about when Dad gets angry at me? Is that I know he’s right.’
Bingo. Those were the words I needed to hear. Jokingly, I told him that he should never admit to his father that he knows he’s right, but we had a good, very positive conversation about ways he can change his behaviour so that everyone is happy.
Whilst at the gym last night, I was chatting to one of the trainers about various things and because I was wearing a Warhammer t-shirt, the subject came round to model building. He has this kit that his granddad has had for years and has always wanted to build, but doesn’t really have the capacity to do it. The trainer said he and his brother had had a go, but neither of them are model builders – would I know of anybody who liked building stuff?
The Son adores building things. I put the two to talking and the next thing you know, he’s earned himself a little pocket money by agreeing to do something for someone else. It’ll keep him off his computer for a little while at least and sort of counts as D&T revision. Two birds, one stone.
When we came home, he was much, much brighter about the whole thing. He did a page of questions in his GCSE Maths revision book and I put my teacher head on and marked it for him. We ate dinner and watched a film together. He put his computer on for about two hours tops. It was perfect. He knows now that the key to keeping his dad happy is to simply do what he asks. He’s going to make an effort. I appreciate that and I know how hard it is for him. He hasn’t yet connected the dots to realise how important these two years are. He’ll get there. Pushing him isn’t the key.
So yes. The baby bit was easy.
The Son will be fifteen years old in February. This week brought with it something of an epiphany. It sounds kind of crazy but this week I realised that after nearly fifteen years, my life is suddenly my own again. And I have forgotten how to be me and not a mother. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly the kind of person who went out all the time before he put in his appearance.
Children had never really featured in my Grand Plan. The idea was there in the corner of my thoughts that I might quite like kids some day, but I never expected it to happen when it did. He was a surprise in all ways. His control over my life started the day he decided to turn up two months before his due date. A little tiny thing, weighing in at 4lbs 6oz, this minuscule human being had me where he wanted me the moment I untangled all the machines he was attached to and held him. I absolutely fell in love with him.
Of course, I had been completely expecting to have a girl so the poor boy had no name for the first three days of his life. Poor little Male Infant Watkins.
Being premature meant that he had an extended stay in hospital. The paediatricians estimated six weeks. He came home two weeks after he was born. Tough as old boots, he was and still is. In his ten year school career, he’s been off sick three times in total. I am blessed that he is so healthy. All around me, other mums have to take time off with their poorly kids, or they have long term conditions that require management. In that sense, I have had it easy. I have admiration for the mothers of more than one.
I get asked if I’d ever wanted more kids, and the answer is yes, I would have, but after y’know, both me and the Son almost died the morning he was born, I think I will just appreciate what I have, thanks.
Every year has brought new challenges, but every day has been a joy. He’s grown up into a bright, intelligent, funny young man. I am proud of his manners; of the fact you can take him anywhere, of his wicked sense of humour and in the last week, the fact he’s eagerly joined the gym with me. And it’s that which made me suddenly realise I’m free to do anything I like at the gym. For fifteen years I’ve put off going to classes, or the gym because I have had him to care for. Now he comes with me, or is perfectly fine by himself for an hour. His dependence on me hasn’t just gently ebbed, it’s retreated like a stampeding buffalo.
It’s a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it feels good to be in control of my own life again. On the other, it tugs at my heart strings watching every step he takes moving him ever further away from my circle of influence.
Being a mother has been the best, most rewarding job I have ever had. There have been times when it’s also been the most terrifying. I look at him and I’m pretty satisfied I’ve got him off to a good start. He’s just gone into Year 10 (that’s the 4th year to us old-timers). In 2015 he will sit his GCSEs. This is the first time in his life that I have no control, subtle or otherwise, over the outcome. I can encourage revision, but what will be will be. Now THAT is scary.
Wouldn’t swap him for anything though. He’s my life. And I suspect that even when he’s in his twenties, that is how it will always be.
And I’m glad.
Let’s talk a little about Project: Carpark.
The first thing you need to know about Project: Carpark is that it is not a story set in either of the Warhammer worlds. It’s an original baby, with original characters. But the world in which it is set is boggling my tiny, tiny brain.
When I first got the writing gig with the Black Library, a few people said to me ‘it must be easy to write in an existing world’. Wrong. It’s actually pretty complicated. For a start, the world has ‘edges’. Boundaries. A set of rules and regulations of things that already exist. Writing within the confines of an existing universe is a lot harder, I think, than people might realise.
A lot of people write Warhammer fanfiction. A lot of it is exceptional. But a lot of it doesn’t colour in between the lines of the world as it exists. It goes over the edges with cheerful abandon. And that’s absolutely fine – it’s why fanfiction exists. To shape the world around your story, not the other way around. You are writing within guidelines that have been in place for a long time and if you stray even a few feet from the edge, someone somewhere is there to gently pull you back in. (Or possibly drop-kick you back in depending on who it is).
By comparison, Project: Carpark is set in a world that’s partly of my own devising (cryptic, I know, but y’know. I’ll explain more when I’m allowed to). So that means I can bend the world in which it is set to fit the story I have to tell, right?
This story requires some alarmingly careful world building, but it’s world building with certain constraints. Let’s put it this way. I have to be exceptionally careful with the geography and it’s starting to become a hindrance. In the middle of writing a scene, my brain will suddenly go ‘wait, is this actually geographically right?’ Then I have to check. Then, as I am wont to do, I get distracted by something entirely unrelated and the next thing you know I’m attempting to bake macaroons and the writing’s forgotten.
Which isn’t to say that I’m not enjoying the freedom of my ‘own world’ – there are certain elements of it that are great fun to play with and the characters are evolving nicely. Of a core group of six main characters, I now have four in place and am about to bring in the fifth. The fifth will be fun, because her impact on the other four will be highly entertaining.
Not for them, though. My laugh is an evil laugh.
Now that I’m working on the edits to Project: Loophole as well as writing Project: Carpark, the other thing that’s happening is the division of time. I have to juggle a full time job, writing a novel and editing another, along with my own personal need to ensure I have ‘me’ time. Tuesday night, for example, is now officially my ‘day off’ from writing (although I will still bimble through and do the odd edit here and there). Tuesday night is SW:TOR PvE night. Massively therapeutic. I’m starting to get something of a rhythm going: an hour on Carpark, an hour on Loophole, another hour divided between them both then Me Time. (All timings are approximate and are subject to change at the management’s whim. Please keep your arms and legs inside the blog at all times and remember! No flash photograph!)
Project: Carpark is now about 2/3rds into first draft completion and I’ve realised that the story I want to tell is probably twice the size of the planned word count. Again, this isn’t an entirely bad thing. I’ve adopted a slightly different approach to this story, which is to get the core of the story written and then go back and ‘pad’ out the world and surroundings accordingly. It’s actually working rather well for me. I’ve also broken my ‘linear’ rule and am writing out of order. I’ve found that if I’m struggling with a particular scene, I’ll simply put a placeholder in and jump forward to another scene.
If this sounds haphazard, don’t be fooled. My draft document is full of comments and mark-ups. It will all slot together. Like a jigsaw puzzle.
It will. Slot. Together.
[Insert boundless optimism here]
I have a pretty eclectic playlist. I love music and enjoy nothing more than singing along at the top of my voice on the way to work in the mornings. My car is my space and I’m at my happiest when bellowing my lungs out to whatever is the flavour du jour.
Singing is my personal chicken soup for the soul. I love to sing and am almost always listening to music in one form or other. Streaming Soundtracks is my writing companion, the radio is usually on at work, or I have my headphones in. Not singing along is the toughest thing ever!
I couldn’t pigeonhole my music tastes at all, because I have everything from classical to heavy metal on my playlist, taking in an entire spectrum of film music, musicals, pop, rock… it’s all there. So for an insight into my mind, I hit shuffle play and hereby list you the next five tracks that iTunes picks, along with a little explanation.
Daft Punk – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
I really like Daft Punk and I’ve never quite been able to say why it is. It’s… different, I suppose. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger is one of the Son’s favourites, so that’s why it’s on the playlist. Not exactly something that’s easy to sing along to due to the robotic nature of the vocals, but you know, I can pretend to be a robot instead.
Eagles – Take it Easy
One of my top five songs, this one. It’s a girl, my lord, in a flat-bed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me is one of those lines I like to belt out at top volume. The Eagles are easily one of my favourite bands, taking up no less than three places in my top five (admittedly one of them is Don Henley by himself). I missed an opportunity to see them play live and regretted it forever.
Street Dogs – State of Grace
The Street Dogs came to my attention on a return flight from Chicago a few years ago when we were sat directly behind the band. As it was an overnight transatlantic flight, I didn’t sleep so spent a lot of time prowling up and down the aisles. I got chatting to the band’s lead singer in the kitchen area and he was a really nice guy. We talked about music (naturally) and I promised faithfully I would listen to some of his stuff when I got home. I did. And I’ve never, ever regretted it. Delicious blend of punk-folk-rock. Green Day-esque. Probably falls into the category of angry music, but I like it and so does the Son.
E S Posthumus – Kalki
Picked up on ESP when someone queued them on Streaming Soundtracks and have been hooked ever since. Orchestral pieces, some of which I understand have been used in film trailers, adverts, that sort of thing. This particular track I like very much indeed and cite it as the soundtrack for my Star Wars: The Old Republic Sith warrior theme tune. :
John Williams – The Imperial March
Hah! That’s shuffle play for you! Clearly picked up on my Sithy thoughts and responded appropriately.
John Williams. Empire Strikes Back. Favourite film composer, one of my favourite films. ‘nuff said.
So there you go – just a brief insight into the way my musical mind words. Just for the record, here’s the next five on the shuffle playlist:-
Phantom of the Opera (film version) – Journey to the Cemetery
Barnum – Original London Cast – One Brick at a Time
Jimmy Ruffin – What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
Iron Maiden – Hallowed Be Thy Name
Christina Aguilera – Candyman
I love the contrast. Nothing like a bit of variety.
Right, off to sing quietly under my breath so as not to disturb people in the office. Can’t wait for hometime and my own car so I can resume top volume squawking.
This is one of the best bits of advice I ever got at LRP.
If you’re not happy, change something. If you’re still not happy, stop doing it.
Well, on Thursday, I had one of those ‘down on myself days’, where I kept complaining about myself. I have painfully low levels of self-esteem (no, really?) and sometimes that manifests in the worst way possible. The ‘I need to buy some new clothes but I won’t go into clothes shops for fear they’re staring at me’ way. Long term effects of playground bullying are no fun. Don’t do it, kids. But given my current ‘up’ mood, I turned that negativity into positivity. I picked the Son up after work and about two minutes after he got into the car, turned to him and suggested we drop into a local leisure centre and see what activities we could do together. He was quite keen. That startled me, but also pleased me.
I used to go to this particular leisure centre when he was about six, doing the ‘Body Balance’ classes. I loved Body Balance. To this day I can’t tell you why I stopped going. It was a weird class though, had the most bizarre effect on me. The last bit was always a ‘stress-relieving relaxation’ where the instructor turned the lights in the room out and we closed our eyes and did the whole concentrating on breathing thing. The music she played varied, but there was one bit that just… got me. Every time I heard it whilst being all relaxed and chilling after the session, I would just cry. Buckets. Not even unhappy crying. Just a release of tension, I think. Even now, I can’t hear that particular bit of music without tearing up. Someone on the interwebs took that bit of music and attached it to a bunch of utterly glorious space images. It just moves me.
So anyway, this leisure centre is no longer council run and I have to say… what a good thing. It has a completely different air to it now. Active Life is a community project and I cannot help but admire that. For two years, they’ve been investing every penny of profit back into the place and it shows. The dance studio is utterly glorious and they are buying new equipment to replace the old, inherited from a disinterested council stuff. So I stroll in, indicate the Son and say ‘so… here’s the deal, we both want to get fit. What can we do?’
The lovely lady on the front desk showed us the obligatory forms and paperwork, then took us on a tour round the place, including the X-Bike studio, where they run virtual rides from a projector. Utterly brilliant. ‘There’s several instructor-led classes,’ she said. ‘They’re hard work, but fun.’ The tour was great and I cannot stress enough how excellent the customer service in this establishment is. Bigger places could do with taking a few tips.
So because I am the kind of person who has to strike whilst the iron’s hot, I signed myself and the Son up for an instructor-led X-Bike session this morning. At 9.30am. After checking that the Son actually knew what ‘Saturday morning’ was, of course.
My goodness me, I’m unfit. I didn’t get particularly out of breath – I’m not that bad, but oh god, my legs now feel as though they are made from sponge. I happily admit that I couldn’t keep up with the whole class. It is only thirty minutes, but it’s thirty minutes of solid workout. I feel good and energised (and spongy) and although I couldn’t manage all of it, at least I now have a goal. We’re going back tomorrow for the gym induction and I’m going – by myself, which is the hardest bit – but the staff make me feel so comfortable – to Zumba on Monday.
Best thing of all, of course, is that the Son thoroughly excelled and enjoyed it hugely. Having him to go with means that there’s more of a chance I will go as well. It’s brilliant: something we can do together, motivate one another with and generally bond over. So I’m changing something. I’m swapping the sitting around doing nothing lark for getting into the gym and doing classes and burning off that stress.
Oh – and utilising the Dulux ‘reds’ colour chart?