Category Archives: Daily Waffle

I have a magic ring

the One Ring...

So mine is silver, has no inscription (that I can see), doesn’t make me invisible, and isn’t evil (I don’t think), but it is magic.

It’s a simple silver band that I got several years ago on a bit of a whim, but once I put it on my finger, I never took it off. There it sat, on the middle finger of my left hand, slowly gaining teeny scratches and dings from daily wear, developing in character. I became so used to it that I barely registered it. It was just there.

Then one day, back in May, I took the ring off to put on some handcream. I watched in slow motion as the ring slipped off the bedside table, bounced twice, and disappeared between a crack in the floorboards. There one instant, gone the next. Despite swearing, cursing, flashlights, bent hangers, special springy-clippy-grabby tools, and a lot of patience, the ring was stuck. Nestled lovingly in the dusty embrace of the floor joists, visible, but forever out of reach.

It is bizarre, but I felt bereft. This ring was nothing special, it wasn’t a gift. There was no sentimental meaning behind it, but I felt naked without it. So naked that I bought a replacement – when it came, the new ring was very very similar to the old, as you’d expect from the same brand, but it was a shade slimmer than the last. Plus it looked all new. Still, I started wearing it, and it is now starting to acquire the same marks of life of its predecessor.

Up till this morning I would have said I had gotten over the loss of the old ring. I still thought of it, now and then, sitting under the floorboard, waiting for me to move house (I decided to wait till then before I asked the landlord to rip up floorboards), but I had moved on.

Yesterday another favourite ring, one I have worn every day for the past decade since my great aunt died and left it to me, broke. As it can’t be mended till the new year, I rummaged through my jewellery box this morning looking for a suitable temporary replacement.

And there, sitting on the top, was the missing ring. Exactly as shiny and silver and slightly battered as it was the day it slipped out of reach.

I want to stress this – it is the exact ring that went down between the floorboards in May. Not a very similar ring. Not the replacement ring. The same. bloody. ring.

And no, I haven’t forgotten to tell you about how I spent last weekend using a crowbar on my floor.

I genuinely, honestly, seriously, have no bloody idea how this fracking ring got to be in my jewellery box. As far as I am concerned the ring that is now gracing my right ring-finger IS STILL UNDER THE FLOORBOARDS. I have wracked my brain, trying to think if I ever brought a spare. I have gone through receipts, and I never brought a spare, certainly not a spare I then wore long enough to develop marks, then took off and forgot about. And it wasn’t exactly hiding in the depths of the jewellery box – it was sitting right on the top. Smiling at me. Saying “hello there old friend, I’m back. Wear me?”

There’s only one conclusion. I have Borrowers. Or the ring is magic.

Not sure which I’d prefer.

September

September is hitting harder than it usually does for some reason this year. It has nothing, and everything, to do with what time of year it is, anniversaries, birthdays, my health, the health of family and loved ones, and getting older and depression and moving on with life, and planning for the future and…

Nothing scary. Nothing new. I’ll be fine. I’m just going to take the next week or so and treat myself gently. My gut feeling is that this will mean epic levels of hermitting, chocolate, bad movies, and radio silence on social media. Or it could mean epic partying, and chocolate, and wine, and crazy levels of blathering on social media. Or some combination of the above.

Just send mugs of tea, hugs, and fluffy kittens.

Love you all :)
Cxxx

In which I share things about Dyslexia, blogging, and publishing

I have had this post sitting in my drafts folder since 2007. Every now and then I would take it out, noodle around a little, then put it back because it just wasn’t right. I touched on it briefly, but never went into more detail (though I strongly urge you to go through the comments on that post, because they make some interesting points).

At the Gathering recently, I got talking with a sort-of-sister-in-law (one of my sister-in-law’s sisters to be precise) about how her eldest was doing at school. He’s a bright kid. Funny. Interested in how things work. But his teachers said he might have dyslexia, and not surprisingly it had really knocked his confidence, so they were working to get him back up and running, and she asked if there was anything age-appropriate I could recommend him to show him he wasn’t alone (Maggot Moon was top of the list).

And this is what prompted me to finally publish what I have been trying to say for so many years.

Firstly, a little background
Dyslexia affects around 10% of the British population, and each of those is affected to differing degrees. The brain of a person with dyslexia works differently to others – not better or worse – just different. It is a bit like a motorcar and a motorcycle: they are both powerful vehicles to get you to your destination, but they need different skills to ‘drive’ them. Each person has to work out, through trial and error, what coping mechanisms work best for them.

And this is a little snap shot of how it affects me.

This morning I tried to spell ache, a-k-e. For a fraction of a moment I couldn’t see why spell check had underlined it in wiggly red. I have never in my LIFE tried to spell it that way before. But this morning, my brain had to grasp at the rarely reliable phonetic method because I had a momentary fritz.

It has been this way since I started school. One memorable report card said “her spelling raises the eyebrows”, and my handwriting wasn’t much better. But no one ever even thought to say “dyslexia” because I read VERY WELL indeed and was in the top set for everything. I didn’t fit the profile. And I taught myself tricks, to watch out for words I couldn’t spell, and to memorise how they SHOULD be spelt. My spelling might have been shocking, but I got better very quickly once I was told how a particular word should be spelled (and I am not going to admit to how I just spelled “spelled”).

To this day I cannot spell business without sounding it out in my head busy-ness. Management (which autocorrect just fixed for me, by the way) is man-ag-e-ment.

All of this never held me back because, honestly, I thought this was how everyone did it. “I before E except after C” made no sense to me because every single word has to be fixed in my brain. Standard patterns and tips that made sense to my classmates didn’t help me in the slightest.

“Separately” is another word I cannot get right no matter how hard I try. I just cannot seem to get my head to spell a word that sounds like “sepEERRate” as “sepARRRRate”. Though I might have finally found the key to the word – pirates.

I love writing and reading but I cannot play scrabble or anagrams because a word is a singular entity to me. It isn’t made up of letters that can be mixed up, taken apart, and put back together again in another order. I love word searches however, because I am looking for a pattern I recognise that is buried in a jumble – which is essentially how I see all language.

Numbers, though, are still my nemesis. Numbers dance on the page and don’t stay where they should be. Numbers are incomprehensible. Bizarrely, I quite liked algebra – make numbers into letters and – ah-ha! I know how to conquer letters! It often takes me three or four times to dial a number correctly, which is a problem when I have to dial five or six people I don’t know on a daily basis. I say in my brain “I want to press three” and I press 9 or 7. It is worse when I am tired or on a phone I am not used to. Adding things up on a calculator can be interesting. If I try it three times, I’ll almost certainly get three different answers.

As for writing down phone numbers… Oh, that is sheer hell! I will say back to you “0207…” But will write down “0270…” On particularly bad days I will even read it back to you as “0207…” There is no fix for that.

I have to say I have made my peace with the written word. I enjoy the written word. I can’t read aloud well at all – I stumble and stutter and that is a whole other post – but I love stories. I blog. I write stories. And I have made myself a career in publishing… You can’t get much wordier than that! In no way has any of this stopped me doing things I enjoy. Would my schooling have been easier if it had been recognised at the time? Who knows – I can’t exactly claim it was hard for me. I am very, very lucky, because my particular quirks haven’t impacted my life to any significant degree. I have worked with people where that is sadly not the case. Yet it is sometimes as easy as printing forms on yellow/off white paper. Or voice-to-text software. A smile and understanding goes further than you could possibly imagine.

If you’re curious, go to the Dyslexia Checklist (what we used to use when I was doing social work) and work through the list. Answer “yes” more than nine times, and you could have a dyslexia-type problem.

For the record, I’m currently rocking a 15.

(Please note, this is NOT an official diagnostic tool. It is just a simple screening test we could administer easily in prisons. If you think you/a child might have a problem, go to your GP, the school, or the British Dyslexia Association for proper assistance).

I see people… Pretty people…

I am getting back into the writing groove (sort of) and I am determined to keep the novel going forward. It is inching its way slowly onwards. Part of that inching is to really get the character list pinned down and to work out, at least roughly, what happens.

Now, most of what I have written in the past has been sci-fi/fantasy and whilst I have had an idea in my head roughly what characters look like (hair colour, skin tone, eye colour at a push, tall/short etc), I have never felt the need to have an actual image of each character. It’s just not how I see people, or characters – when I read, I don’t have a photo in my mind of what they look like. I simply have the feel of the person. Ask me to describe someone I’ve met and know well and I can’t do it. Yet I know without a doubt who that person is. And that, up till now, has followed into my writing.

The current WIP however is set very much in the real world and, for some reason, I have found myself needing a physical image to build the characters around. I still know clearly in my head the feel of Bob, and his characteristics, mannerisms, and how he interacts with the world, but central to it all is a photo of Bob. Strange, and a little weird for me to get used to writing this way, but that’s how it’s flowing this time around.

To facilitate this, I have a folder of character bios in Scrivener with a mug shot for each character. These are mainly images I have found on the internet and gone “oh, that’s Bob!” or Lizzie. Or Sarah. Or John. Some are famous people, others are just random people. I just spent a merry ten minutes uploading these images to a private board on Pinterest so I have a quick and easy way of checking character info when I am away from Scrivener (i.e., at Wednesday Writing each week on the iPad), and it was quite an eye-opener to see them all spread out in once place.

I noticed a few things in particular:
1) I have a thing for brunettes. Most of my characters are brunette. There’s one ginger chap, a blonde guy, and a blonde girl. That’s it. The rest are various shades of brunette/black. Huh.
2) They are reassuringly of diverse ethnic backgrounds. It’s a small group, but they are not all white. I didn’t do this consciously either, it’s just how it worked out (go me!)
3) For the male characters, I seem to have gone for lots of actors (and one rugby player).
4) For the female characters, I seem to have gone primarily for non-actors.
5) They are all stupidly attractive. I really need to get some ugly/more normal people into this book!

And it is point 3 and 4 which really caught my attention. I seem to have no problem of taking a picture of Michael Fassbender and going “that’s Stuart” and building the whole Stuart character. The one photo becomes STUART’S photo. Nothing of Michael Fassbender, or the characters he has played, carries forward into the character I am writing.

I cannot, however, seem to separate the image of a female actor from the characters she has played, and so I can’t write my own character. I would love to have a character who looked a little bit like Tamara Taylor for example, because she is beautiful. But I can’t. Any character I try to write immediately becomes a really bad copy of Camille Saroyan in Bones.

I don’t know what conclusions to draw from this. I am sure there is a whole branch of some -ology which can explain our relationship to faces and actors and the characters they play and gender and identity… (ooh, that does sound fascinating!) but I don’t have the answers. It just struck me as interesting, that’s all.