Slightly Irregular Conformity

Photoshop Challenge

I’m not quite back at work yet, so have been pissing about on the internet a little more than usual.  Today, that involved deciding to tackle a photoshop challenge on fark.com – something that I’ve looked at a lot but never had the balls (or software) to contribute.

The challenge was to ‘shop this image, and here is my result:

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A compilation of:

New Year, New Art

Resolution time!  Only I’ve always sucked at them, so I’m not even starting.  What I’m doing instead is expanding my journal, and playing with the digital scrapbooking supplies I’ve got stashed away.

To help, I’ve signed up for a couple of weekly art journal prompts, which I’ll probably only do a few of before flitting off to something else.  That’s how I roll, and I’ve given up feeling bad about it.

In the meantime, the first prompt from Journal52 arrived in my inbox this morning: your word for the year.  Generally I draw a complete blank, but I had actually been mulling that over for a few days.  At any rate, this is what I’ve come up with:

2016-01-02 J52 Week 1

Credits:

Embellishments include pieces from various kits:

  • Prompt tag is by Tempus Fugit, whose website has been locked down, so unfortunately this is a shout-out rather than a referral
  • Brushes include Typographic Grunge Brushes by Scully7491, which might just be my new favourite brush set
  • Splatter was created with a brush set designed by C130

I’m determined not to put any pressure on myself to stick with this challenge, so there may only be this one spread put together, but I had fun doing it.

Ithaka Rising – the best kind of sequel

I finished a book this week – number 19 for the year.  Interestingly (well, to me anyways) is that it was the second in a series, and I’d finished the first one 363 days earlier, also the 19th of the year.  Patterns where there are no patterns shouldn’t entertain me this much.

Anyway, I wrote a review for it, because I want to be able to start sharing stuff that I love, and because I want to be able to figure out how to articulate things better than ‘this book was nice.  I liked this book.  You should read this book.’  Because that’s how most of my mental reviews go.  Bollocks to that.  I need to reassure myself that I can think a little deeper than that.

I’m not a fan of Goodreads, but I’ve found a relatively young book-lovers site called Leafmarks, so I’ve been using that track what I’ve been reading.  Now, I’m going to make more of an effort to review as I go, because authors need to know that they have fans.  To that end, I’m putting the review here as well, because I can.

Ithaka Rising (Halcyone Space #2), by LJ Cohen

Derelict, the first book in the series, came out last year, and became one of my favourite discoveries of the year.  This, book two, picked up the story and continued with just as much enthusiasm.

When Jem realises that his brain injury isn’t going to improve, he takes matters into his own hands and disappears, leaving his brother and friends to try and find him.  What follows is as much a journey of discovery for them as it is for him, and they realise there’s much more at stake than Jem’s chances at recovery.

The science and technology in this world is easy to come to grips with, and the politics take a back seat to the emotions and loyalties of the main characters.  Each of them have changed after the events in the first book, coming together in what feels like a natural progression, and it’s interesting to see them figure out how to work together.

The pace and tension seem really well-balanced, and it was hard to put this down between one chapter and the next.  Jem’s condition fascinated me, and I hope it’s expanded on in the next book, along with Barre’s relationship with Halcyone itself.
The ending made the story seem like a chapter in a much larger saga, and I’m already looking forward to the next part.

Verdict: 5/5 and an impatient wait for the next installment!

(Posted to https://www.leafmarks.com/lm/#/books/1315860)

2011-03-31 – New Orleans

I have a giant collection of fanfic, smooshed together into one big fat Alternate Universe, where I can pick and mix to my heart’s content.  This is an extract, which I feel like sharing for no particular reason.  Elizabeth is from the Highlander universe and is Immortal.  Detective Reilly is borrowed from Sinners & Saints.

Beth tapped the steering wheel, staring out at the noon traffic. New Orleans, as patched and battered as the city was, was growing on her. It reminded her of Venice, for what that was worth.

“You’re right.” Director Watts sounded like he was quite over the entire conversation, and she couldn’t blame him. Her report had been brief and to the point: there was corruption in the Marshal office in the city, but it was spread over every department of every law enforcement agency, so the Marshals were nothing special in that regard. With the firepower she’d run into over the previous week, and the heavy-handed approach they’d resorted to, she was keen to make her boss understand what a futile mission it would be to bring the city back to being lawful. It was definitely out of her hands, at any rate. “I’ll pass your recommendations on, for what good it will do.”

“What’s next?” She asked, rubbing a hand over her eyes. It had been a tough week, and the thought of spending a few days driving was both exhausting and appealing. At least no one would be shooting at her.

“How long has it been since you had a break?” Watts asked.

“Dunno. Nine months or so, I think. Not since Delaware, at any rate.”

“You’re burning out.” He told her briskly. “Go and sleep for a week.”

“What? You’re concerned about my well-being?” She snorted. Watts seemed to think she was a soldier, nothing more. The opinion suited her, so long as it didn’t overstep the boundaries of their agreement. Until she told him she wanted furlough, she would go where she was sent, and no questions asked. In return, he kept her file as obscured, outdated and misleading as possible.

“I’m concerned with how many people have ended up dead since you got there.” He said archly. “They might have been shooting first, but the body count is too high. You can either take my advice and take a month, or I’ll suspend you.”

“Thanks.” She pulled a face, but didn’t really mean it. A holiday would be nice. Delaware seemed like years ago, and even that hadn’t been much of a break. She’d spent most of it staking out a dive in the middle of nowhere, only to get pipped at the post by a bounty hunter. Maybe a few days in a decent bed would be nice. Maybe she could skip home and surprise Jonathan. It felt like years since she’d gone back to Europe, and something about New Orleans had her missing the atmosphere there.

“Minimum of a week. Go somewhere quiet and sleep it off.” Watts hesitated. “You’re a good marshal, Fenton, no matter what else you have going on. Just make sure you’re not losing sight of what you’re doing.”

“I’m doing what I’m told.” She replied. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

“Right.” He didn’t believe her, but that was fine. She didn’t trust him much either.

She sat up; Detective Reilly was leaving the precinct.

“Minimum of a week, got it.” She said. “I’ll call you when I’m ready.” She hung up and climbed out of the truck. They’d come through the previous week by watching each other’s backs, and by agreeing that being shot at by the same people made for a good reason to co-operate. It was something to bond over, she thought wryly as she waited for him to approach. She could at least say goodbye before heading off.

“How’d it go?” He came to a halt a few feet away.

“The boss is not pleased.” She shrugged. “Take a month off or get suspended, I got to choose.”

“Lucky you.” Reilly grinned faintly.

“You?”

“No choice. Suspended.” He glanced up at the precinct. “If I show my face there for any reason in the next week, I’m getting a parking warden uniform.”

She laughed, imagining his six-foot-three figure arguing with housewives over parking tickets.

“So where are you heading?” He asked. “Going to stick around for a bit?”

“Hell, no. This city has made it pretty clear she’s not a fan of me.” She shoved her hands in her jacket pockets. “I’m out of here tonight. Maybe off to Mexico for a bit. Prop up a bar somewhere and reflect on the choices that have made me such an appealing bullet magnet.”

“Mexico, huh?” Reilly raised his eyebrows. “Sounds pretty good.”

“You want to come?” The words were out before she’d thought about them, and she winced inwardly. As nice as he seemed to be, she always travelled alone, for good reason.

“Seriously?” He regarded her with an interested expression. She shrugged, trying not to read too much into his expression. After the tension of the last week, expecting a bullet in the back of the head every time she got out of the truck, she could do with a distraction. What better way than spend several days drinking with Tall, Dark and Smouldering?

“Sure.” She glanced at her truck, not quite able to meet his gaze. “Unaccompanied, defenceless woman on her own in a shithole bar in a foreign country? I’d be crazy to not take some protection.”

He laughed; she was about the most capable non-military person he’d ever met, and they both knew it. “When are you going?”

“I have to check out of the hotel, then I’m free as a bird.” She looked past him, up to the precinct steps. “I can be gone in an hour, but I’m guessing you’ll have to pack your beauty case. Give me a call when you’re ready to go.” She turned to the truck.

“Hey.” He was looking at her curiously. “Are you serious? You want to go to Mexco?”

“I feel like being a tourist. I feel not not waving a gun around.” She swung on the driver’s door, keeping her face blank. “Pike if you want, but I’m heading out tonight.”

Without waiting for a reply, she got into the truck and started it up, catching a glimpse of a disbelieving shake of the head from the detective.

“What the holy fuck?” She muttered to herself, pulling out into the traffic. She must have a concussion or something. Inviting a random stranger on a bender? And a cop, to boot?

Still, she thought, he seemed like an okay guy. And when he smiled… well, there were worse things to look at over a tequila.

Staring at angels

Writing prompt response – in answer to a #PromptsAndCircumstance prompt by the awesome Bliss Morgan.

“the only way out is through us

——–

The angels looked impossibly perfect, their wings curled around their bare arms, their robes dropping seamlessly to the floor.  One was green marble with silver eyes, the other black marble with gold eyes, watching the boy crouched on the floor.

“You cannot be here.”  Their voices echoed around the tiny chamber, breathless and terrifying.

“But I am here.”  The boy replied, his voice small.  There was a smear of soot across one cheek, and his rags suggested he’d been wandering through the caves for hours or more.

“You cannot be here.”  Their expressions didn’t appear to change, but he realised that they weren’t angry, they looked sad.  He stood up slowly, shuffling across the dusty floor to peer at them closely.

They were stone, but they spoke.  He touched one; it was cold and solid, like the marble tiles lining the bath houses, but it moved, sliding away from his touch.  He drew his hand back hurriedly, wondering if he should apologise.

“You must leave.”  Their voices were perfectly in sync, the sound of dry leaves being blown about, and he swallowed.

“I don’t know how.”  He glanced behind him.  “They left me here.”  They’d done more than that – they’d dropped him down a hole and slammed the lid, laughing at his terror.

“They left you for us.”  The angels agreed, their wings separating slightly.  Beneath them, they each clasped a sword, point down.  The boy shuffled backwards carefully, trying to move silently.

“I don’t know why they did that.”  He said nervously.  “Why did they do that?”

“You cannot be here.”  They didn’t seem inclined to say anything else, and he dropped his head.  He was thirsty and tired, and hopelessly lost.

“I don’t have a home to go to.”  He muttered.

“Yes, you do.”  They laughed, the sound of glass shattering.  It wasn’t cheerful by any means, and the boy hitched a sob, trying to look brave.

“Where is it then?”  He challenged, pulling his shoulders back.  They mimicked him then, pulling their shoulders back.  Their wings unfurled above them, grazing the ceiling, before settling behind them.  They held the swords out, points to the floor, and tilted their heads slightly, away from each other.

“The way out.”  They chorused.  “The only way out… is through us.”

He stared at them, trying to match the vision in front of him with the words of the priests, the stories of angels leading lost followers to their tribes… but he had no tribe and no family.  And these angels didn’t seem friendly.  Maybe the priests made them sound nicer, so people would listen.

He turned away.  The chamber was sealed; he’d fallen in by a steep channel from the catacombs above.  There was no escape, even if they were telling the truth.

“What home do you mean?”  He asked, his curiosity giving him courage.  They didn’t answer.  He cast another look around the chamber but if offered no solution.  The dust was thick in here, and his thirst was getting the better of him.

After the rough way he’d been thrown down the hole, and the rumbling monster he’d run from a whole level up, he was almost beyond scared.  And so thirsty…

He squared his bony shoulders and looked from one to the other.

“All right.”  He nodded once, like a merchant closing a deal.  “Through you.”

Still, he hesitated.  He could hear his heartbeat in his ears, a fast yammering that threatened to give away his nerves.  He took a step forward.  The angels drew back.  Another step, another sliding shuffle as they kept the same distance between them.

Scowling, he dashed towards them.

Their wings spread, quicker than he could see, and before he could utter so much as a startled squeak, they’d gripped an arm each, drawing him in and wrapped him in stony feathers.

There was a blur of movement, and the angels settled back to their positions, wings wrapped around their arms, shielding their swords.  They rippled slightly and went still, returning to stone, and the room was silent.

So many waifs and strays to send home.  They wouldn’t have to wait long before the next one.

Keeping Your Strands Together

When Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau decided to call their information system the Web, they really nailed it.  There are an uncountable number of threads, criss-crossing in near-infinite ways.  Some of the visual representations of the whole of the internet are mind bogglingly beautiful, and I can’t quite get my head around the actual vastness of this big, untouchable universe.

Which a long-winded, semi-poetic way of saying that it’s big.  And these days everyone is quick to claim their own piece of it.  Between blogs and social networks, and millions of comment threads on news threads, everyone has a presence – and even if they don’t, there is enough information about a person that fairly accurate person-shaped hole can be created for them (seriously, how many information do gushing new parents post about their offspring – full names, dates, birth weights, everything up online for anyone else to -see- harvest).

So for someone who can get quite cheerfully obsessed with order and organisation, the web presents a worrying problem: how do you keep track of where everything is, and how do you link it together cohesively?

Flickr for photos, which comes with groups and communities… WordPress for journals, which comes with groups and comments… Facebook for interaction with family and groups…

Only, for every recognisable big name, there are a host of alternatives.  Sure, WordPress is open source and one of the best-known sites, but Blogger has the might of Google behind it, and extra integration with Google+.  Facebook has every member of your family signed up, but G+ has much better controls for who sees what (even if I don’t utilise it nearly as effectively as I should).

So I’m a little stuck.  Is there any one site that can be all things for all people?  Google seems to be close, but since they’re good at closing down much-loved services there’s a hesitation to go loading an entire online presence onto them.

Besides which, is it a good idea to have everything in one place?  Do I want my family to know what kind of fanfic I can get into if I’m in the right frame of mind?  Worse – do I want _anyone_ who knows me in real life to see what kind of original fic I could inflict on the world?

Maybe a fragmented online presence is safer for everyone.

IMG_0693

The only web I could lay claim to – and even it was built by someone far more talented than I am!

September!

So August has come and gone, and with it, the BlogsOfAugust challenge that Mike Elgan co-ordinates.  The idea is that you concentrate all your blog posts on your G+ stream exclusively, to prove it can be done, and done well.

I decided to give it a go on a whim, because that’s how I do most things.  It was a bit intimidating, since the calibre of the repeat performers is several steps above where I place myself on the scale of things, but I’ve struck it lucky with my circles on Google and everyone is really supportive and friendly.

I managed about four posts, I think, but it was probably four more than what I would have recorded here, in all honesty.  It wasn’t that I scared to share my thoughts, but the dead opposite.  As soon as I was reading what everyone else was putting out into the world, I got hit by a bunch of different ideas for writing – actual creative writing.  Mostly of the loose fanfic kind that I obsess over, but it’s writing anyway.  So instead of waxing poetic all over a willing audience, I started banging out page after page of utter Mary Sue drivel that I keep re-reading, tweaking, and generally overcongratulating myself on.

And then… I found a new-to-me fanfic space that spurred me to ditch the Mary Sue.  For the first time in forever, I’m actually writing something that I might be inclined to share with an audience.  I’m not sure my progress is actually related to the blog challenge, which I’m fairly sure I scraped through with a C+ at best, but the confidence boost has been great.

I think I’m not built to be a blogger, not in the modern sense of the word.  I liked the original, simple web-blog idea, where you just slapped your thoughts up to see if anyone else agreed.  I don’t have a message for the masses, and the idea of building an audience is quite terrifying, so I don’t think this particular blog is ever going to amount to much more than an extension of my private journal.

So, I think I’m going to semi-retire from blogging.  I’ll use this space for answering prompts, but anything vaguely important will be on G+ – Mike’s challenge has convinced me that I don’t need to panic about exposing my limitations to people I admire.

Blogs of August

Most of my social interaction takes place on other people’s posts over on Google+ (you know, that so-called ghost town that seems to be populated with the most eloquent, interesting ghosts in the universe).

There is a challenge there called Blogs of August, where you temporarily shift all the things you’d normally post to your blog, to your Plus stream instead.  And since I’m too scatterbrained to figure out where to dump my random bits of stuff, I figure I’ll give it a go.

For the next month, assuming I have a months’ worth of things to share, it’ll be found on my stream, which can be found here.  I admit, I’m a little nervous at the idea of actual people seeing my actual posts.  I think I might actually be the only so-called blogger in the world who is actually scared of having an audience…

Sand in the Wind

Sand in the Wind?  Seriously?  I’m not poetic, and I don’t understand where these blog titles come from.

I guess it suits where I’m at right now: scattered.  Mood, inspiration, inclination – everything is all over the map.  The bits that haven’t spread all over the place are still waiting to be thrown up into the wind, I think.

I don’t know where to spread them.  Some people manage to comparmentalise themselves quite well: one blog for this, one for that, a tumblr over there for other bits and pieces, and the core of their interactions tucked neatly under Facebook’s umbrella.

I don’t think I can do that quite as well.  It turns out that all my habits, all my interests, everything I like or dislike – that’s me.  One big mishmash of random things, held together with a dreary sarcasm and an overfondness for punctuation.

Instead of throwing it all in different directions on the internet, I need to try and hold it together.  I like music and I like photography, but if I write about one, I’ll end up writing about the other as well, and then where should it go?  The music blog or Flickr?

One of my problems is that I’m very easily paralysed by choice.  I distro-hop on a whim, not a week after deciding that I’m perfectly happy with my setup, and then spend whole weekends tweaking and changing, only to revert back to the original a month later.  If I have the option of spreading photos over six different sites, I’ll end up not posting anything anywhere, because I can’t decide which is better.

Enter the kneejerk: everything stays together, in one place, just like it’s all stuck together in my head.  Or something.  Having it in one place makes it less likely that I’m going to lose it.  Who knows, I might actually churn out some words that are worth repeating, and it’d be nice to be able to find them again.

Stolen from… me

I just posted the following entry to Blogspot.  But I’m a good definition of ‘indecisive’ so I’m hedging my bets by posting it here too.  Because I can, and I tend to do a lot of things just because I can…

It’s winter here, and I can’t decide if I’m suffering a case of winter blues, or if there’s something serious behind the endless second-guessing that I’ve been doing lately.  I have a horrible suspicion I might be brewing a midlife crisis a few years early, but I’m still hoping to wake up one morning and discover that I’ve just been winding myself up.

I’ve been self-medicating with music.  Rebuilt my old MP3 player – surprised to find I know how to use a screwdriver and watch a tutorial on youtube, and even more surprised that it actually works with Banshee – and have been dragging it around everywhere.  The side effect of that is the Other Half never knows if I’m listening to him, or whether I’m having a fit or just dancing to something he can’t hear.

At any rate, I’ve been buying up old albums from bands that I always intended to love: Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden etc.  I seem to running about two decades behind the rest of the planet, which is fine by me.  Means I have another decade of being Bieber-free, at least.

I’m not entirely sure why I feel the need to put the same meaningless words in two different places, especially considering the book I’ve just started (Bad Faith, by Ben Elton) is a scary reminder that I should probably keep all my thoughts to myself.

Maybe I just need to know that I’m not just talking to myself.

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