Sealing up the workshop’s eaves (by )

I keep moaning about how the workshop roof leaks, causing rain to drop down on all my nice tools and supplies. But that's not the only problem with the workshop roof!

The workshop is basically a set of walls, with the roof resting on top. The roof is a large, flat, box with the bottom open (exposing the rafters that give it strength), slightly larger than the outline of the walls. The rafters rest on the tops of the walls, and the roof hangs slightly over the walls.

As you may have guessed if you've been following that, this means there's gaps all the way around the edge of the roof. Howling winds blow through them. These holes are enormous at the ends of the building, where the roof overhangs further; twenty centimetres high and occupying most of the length of the walls (interrupted only by the rafters themselves), but I've pinned up sheets of plastic to temporarily block them until I get around to cutting lots of rectangles of wood to properly cover them with.

Along the longer walls of the building, the gap is more like a centimetre, but again more or less the entire length of the building (which is somewhere around ten metres).

And the worst part is, the rear wall is close to a row of trees, which are covered in ivy. And the ivy has found the gaps and keeps oozing its way into the roof.

Evil ivy oozing in through the eaves

And as well as being faintly disturbing, the ivy also drops foul grime down onto my stuff.

Ivy drops foul brown stuff on all my things

So, although stopping the roof leaking is a long-term project I work on when I get entire days to spend building the ladder to get up there, I've been fighting the ivy when I've just had a few hours here and there. I've been cutting bits of thin wood (left-over cladding) and nailing them in place over the larger holes, and then liberally applying left-over bits of sealant to all the edges (I suspect the ivy attacks a gap if it sees light, so hopefully this will make it lose interest). The black marks on the ceiling are damage made by ivy I've torn out:

Sealing up the eaves 1

There's no less than three different colours of sealant there - two different cartridges of brown "frame sealant", one light and one dark, and some leftover bits of white stuff from the bathroom! Unbelievably, it looks miles neater than the mess of cobwebby, grimy, ivy that was there!

I have to climb right up into the eaves to get most of the gaps, however. This picture is not particularly clear, but there's a thin plank of wood that I've nailed down to the top of the wall in order to cover the two-centimetre gap between the top of the wall and the vertical wooden beam at the back, then I've run sealant all around all the gaps and joints:

Sealing up the eaves 2

I quite like working with sealant (I've been sealing gaps in the bathroom, and replacing existing manky mouldy sealant - and doing it neatly, unlike the ghetto job I'm doing in the workshop), and it's nice to think that I'm keeping out all those draughts and grubby plants! I want to properly seal all the gaps in the workshop - and then introduce an extractor fan over the welding bench at one end, and an air inlet vent at ground level at the other end, with a small heater under computer control so I can regulate the temperature and keep the humidity down in here!

I've also started varnishing a bit of scrap MDF that, I have realised, is exactly the right size to make a shelf to go over my workbench (not the welding bench, the one where I have the column drill). That will give me a place to put loads of things that currently sit ON my workbench for lack of a shelf. Also, I'll be able to fit a decent light to the bottom of the shelf; right now, when I work at the workbench, I cast a huge shadow over whatever I'm doing.

Aspiring to be Creative… (by )

I have been working my way through the Writers and Artists Yearbook mainly lamenting that I am just not set up to be a conventional author - something we already knew. I'm too generalist, I am never going to settle for an area or one specific genre.

I think perhaps the closest I could get is saying that I am a blogger!

But one of the things that is starting to bug me with the book, if not with life in general, is this idea that we can't aspire to be creative. The main examples are Sheakespare and Neil Gaiman in the book. Neil apparently gets away with it as he is a genius and the same goes for old Will but that 'we' are not.

Well I'm sorry but 'we' or at least me are that creative. I never knew I wasn't supposed to be, I am by nature as I mention frequently A Jack of All Trades and I pride myself on picking up these new skills and trying new ways of doing things. I also get bored and projects stagnate if I don't do this (this does not mean I have to start lots of new projects though - before I realised what was happening this was the tendency).

To me Jacks are not less good than Masters - never ever and their works can be outstanding. But they don't sit in a rut, lay back and enjoy the easy way, they get on and find the next thing that is needed or interesting.

First off lets take Sheakspeare - he was a good imaginative writer and was represented to me at school as someone to emulate now for me what I saw was a guy who made his money by writing the equivalent of Eastenders most of the time with a bit of Dr Who thrown in. But he also worked on other things because of rich people liking him and a good fertile idea brain that could come up with new stuff.

He was a cross genre specialist; romance, horror, tragedy, comedy, fantasy, stories within stories, complex story arcs and sub plots galore and sometimes all in the same story. Of course I didn't know what any of this was called as a teenager it was all just 'books'. So this was my first model of what an author should be.

Then came the Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird, An Inspector Calls and so on at GCSE's but these were often one or two of the only works of the authors in question had written. And all seemed to me to have been written specifically to get so socio-political issue over.

Then A'level I was doing 4 A'levels - only one that touched on stories and they were of course all the old Greek and and Roman sagas and here I saw something of an attempt to record history and natural events before science gave us other ideas of why things might be happening. Or they were a way of people to feel emotional release such as the Tragedies and Comedy sets of the Greek theatre - these were there to cause strong emotional responses, to invoke a sense of lose and love and pride and fear and to then bring everyone back up with the ending fun of the comedy.

These narrow forms existed for specific reasons but I never thought that you would be stuck in just one - in Rome and Greece you often wrote plays and poems and sagas again you were a generalist, a cross genre writer.

Now during my A'levels I also did a short course in creative writing which I would attend at lunch times and here we would go through a different area each week pretty much and I would do the exercises produced by the teacher (who I have forgotten the name of 🙁 It was at Havering Sixth Form College though). And I loved it!

I got on well with all the different writing tasks producing poems and beginnings of stories and slices of life and what have you. Of course my GCSE English teacher had already introduced me to Response Writing which I still use to kick ideas off. The only thing I really struggled with was making short stories - I always saw what the story could be - it always wanted to grown into a novel or maybe three!

But I wasn't hooked up on genre - I wrote scifi, fantasy, horror, romance, comedy, thriller, crime, articles on life and science, and my old fall back poetry.

She sent what I produced off to various comps and submitted others to newspapers and they were all being accepted and winning something and I was amazed.

I was working on two main novel ideas at the time The Crystal Singer which has basically been adapted to The Punk and changed into scifi rather than the scifi-fantasy it had been - I may still write the original version but it would be for young adult.

The other was a vampire origin story involving dark matter and a judicial system that believed suffering was worse than death and so create the Forever Criminals (with the dark matter of course!). Each criminal had their own story and one of them should not have been there at all - a teenage girl who was a floppy sparkly veggi type who got caught up in it all by being empathic and thinking that in not trying to stop all suffering she was responsible for it. It was primarily a love story between her and her jailor a cloned cyborg.

The other criminals were more interesting and were products of their societies in many ways bar one termed as The Elephant Man who was a true sociopath.

I had more notes than story and bad biro sketches but I was working on it for about an hour before bed each night until boys and exams got in the way.

The creative writing teacher got the badly spelled printed on tractor paper first few chapters.

I prepared myself - by this point I had observe that most people in the group were writing 'serious stuff' and were taking some sort English A'level. It was at this point the concept that some 'genres' were more respected than others began to creep in. I had handed in a scifi story about Vampires - something which at the time didn't really exist Ultra Violet appeared on t.v. at about the same time and Blade and other films were just appearing.

The Teacher turned to me and said, 'this has the potential to be a best seller.'

The words didn't really sink in and I continued to potter on it though a bit more earnestly - my aim was to get it published before my 18th birthday - hahahahahahahaha. It is sitting in a box upstairs I found it in some A'level notes. It reads like a teen novel to me to be quiet honest and it is not finished and of course I only have the badly spelt version on tractor paper that is turning all yellow.

But she thought is was good and I've had stories I wrote at 14 published in the last few years - I just sort of corrected the spelling and sent them off realising that though I wrote them as introductions to novels they pretty much stand alone as short stories.

What I remember though is that she thought the novel had potential from a professional point of view but it was the poetry she loved and she told me not to read Plaith. She felt it would destroy my poet voice which was just emerging, it was too near and may well have just become a clone.

So yeah basically I have always been a mix and match type writer and even artist to be honest. Writing and Art were put on the back burner whilst I was at Uni as there was simply too much to do. I still wrote though, I found a floppy the other day with the title 'Stories for Alaric'. Early on I would write him a chapter of a story/short story and save it to floppy go to college and then email it to him.

I wrote down all the ideas in note books and margins and since having Jean I have been pottering at the writing stuff in a similar way though with added blogs. I unpacked more boxes yesterday to find a photo album for a talk with the cubs and found yet more note books filled with ideas and stories and poems. I am now facing the issue of the small bookcase I have for notebooks is not big enough for all the note books :/

I often worry about this and my almost career but Al thinks I will simply do a Stross and have loads of stuff to publish all at the same time.

Neil Gaiman himself says in the Yearbook that he can't tell you how to become a cross genre author. I think you probably either are or aren't and a lot of ares get lost and never make it. He established himself in one area first it is true so he had a fan base to shift around with him. I on the other hand get a few short stories and a few poems published a year and distract myself with deciding to write a song or draw a picture or make a papier mache space ship or make a discworld cake or workout a new irrigation system for the garden or reconstructing the first amphibians...

But you know this has somehow become my work - I'm already booked for two festivals for the craft stuff and last year was insane!

My blogs are mainly what I have been writing on and it has been peicemeal but then daily I am getting comments on old articles or posts on here saying they are useful and helpful (real ones not the spammers) or huge long rants disagreeing with my view point (though mainly that happens to Al's technical posts). And I am finding people writing to me for advice on stuff I wrote 4-5 yrs ago to do with the web which surprises me.

I confess the blogs are often badly spelled and a bit patchy mainly due to that writing in between playing with babies - talking of which I just need to go and rescue the bin!

One clean baby later...

I digress my main issue was that several of the articles in the Yearbook say we can't aspire to be like Neil Gaiman but I am doing just that. For a start he one of the few with a CV that looks like my todo list.

I don't want to be Neil Gaiman nor a copycat clone but I do find him inspiring as he has done stuff I want to do. Like me watching the TED talks of the scientists I admire I watch interviews of authors I like - some are boring - Neil is not. He is good at capturing his audience in person which helps.

I personally feel a bit more comftable with the idea of Cross Genre authors now as it is at least being admitted that they exist which pre the 2007 flood when I was looking before - it was not. Cross Genre at all was looked down upon as if people only read one type of thing ever.

I wonder sometimes if other people really do not have high levels of creativity or weather it is just that they believe they do not. Thinking and creativity are skills that need to be used or they begin to rust but even if they are unrecognisable under all that rust you can always clean them up!

This is one of the reasons that I am running WoPoWriMo again this year. Talking of which I need to go and prod some guest bloggers for their articles!

Mary is 2! (by )

Mary and Jean playing on Mary's 2nd Birthday

Mary was two on Monday - she spent most of the day in nursery with her friends who made her a lovely card complete with scribble signatures 🙂

When she came home she opened her card from Uncle David and Aunty Michelle and the one Jeany had made her with a little drawn birthday story in it! Then there was one present from Al's mother - a ball pit which both girls had much fun with.

We sang Happy Birthday in four different languages - English (all of us), Lojban (Daddy), Polish (Mummy - or what I cold remember of it), and French (Jeany).

Due to Dad being ill and me having med issues too we have posponed the official celebration ie the party until the 16th of Feb.

Writing and Stuff… (by )

I did a lot of things last year like readings and festivals and what not but I realised I'd lost the time to actually write and draw. And that all my blogs and sites were in various states of disrepair. Some never recovered from the flood in 2007, some didn't recover from periods of no internet that subsequently happen, the last of which was me tipping coffee on myself and the laptop at the end of August.

There is also the issue that for 18 months after having a baby I just appear to function well below par and everything just takes me longer to do.

But I decided to try and get my writing stuff back on track - I submitted about 6 pieces of work last year, 3 got published, one won a prize and two got rejected and that was it.

SO I thought I spent last year trying to finish old projects off and barely dented the list but I discovered just how much material I really do have! It's time to start submitting.

But during November whilst sitting at the first NaNoWriMo meet I realised I've forgotten stuff I did know and the industry has moved on! I haven't really had the time or ability to focus on trying to get things published since before the flood - just a few bits a year basically. Main thing that has happened is I have some how ended up taking off as a crafter and poet for events with the help of twitter and two not well kept blogs, plus being the sort of person who ends up in conversations with people.

I tried not to just 'disappear' whilst pregnant which was excessively hard as we had no car until just before the birth and the last trimester I could not get up to the bus stop even using the crutches.

So I thought it's time to get organised and made lists and lists and more lists and Al got me a wall planner which we've put up in the library and I ordered Writer's Magazine and News again and got a free Writers and Artists Yearbook with it which was something I was aiming to get anyway - the last one was 2007 and the Childrens 2008 (again basically pre-flood).

My main plan came out something like this:

1) Get Alaric to extract that novel I wrote for the Terry Pratchett Prize a few years ago (the laptop died just as I was editing the 86 000 word story). Finish editing it, send it to friends to edit and send to publishers.

2) Type up The Drs Wife (everytime I start trying to do this something happens like the house gets flooded, or the computer dies (we are talking multiple computers here). Once typed up, edit, send to friends to edit and send to agents.

3) Sort out the 5-8 books (not sure how fat to make them!) that I have written for Punk's universe - sort their blogs, edit, send to friends to edit, do art work and self publish - but possibly not before I have finished each set of books (there are two series now set in the Punk's Universe The Punk and The Godex not to mention the graphic novel and film script both of which aren't finished).

4) Submit 10 or more pieces of shorter works, flash fiction, shorts and poetry a month.

5) Spend up to £10 on competitions a month.

6) Finish illustrations and submit various children's books via agents and direct (depending on how long an agent getting takes).

7) Sort out The Little Books of Poetry - these are children's books but there is no point in trying traditional publishing for children's rhyme - they don't like it as it isn't easy to translate nicely. Not a problem - The Little Book of Spoogy was downloaded over 100 times when I put it out there for free for three days and once I took it down people came and asked when it would be avalible again 🙂 There are a lot of these books with the poems already written and I have been recording audio and stuff too.

8) Sort out blogs.

9) Apply for Science writing stuff.

10) Create several arts, crafts and cooking books (both self pub and traditional depending on if anyone will take the brief) plus tutorials for etsy.

And it is sort of working - I have submitted 6 things so far this month and yes I realise I am running out of month but it is a start. I have signed up for another days writing retreat to help me finish the last bit of The Godex Trilogy and we scheduled Alaric time to extract my novel.

And that is were it has gone a bit wrong 🙁

We assumed that it was the bit were the power jacked into the laptop that was broken as it was on the wonk anyway but when he tried to do his technical wizardy it failed 🙁 So we have a quote for almost £200 from a data recovery company we know are good and are waiting to try something else a friend has suggested before we try and find that sort of cash 🙁

Now I hear you all crying - why didn't you back it up?

Well the laptop was on it's last legs so the port to plug a USB key in would no longer work. So what I was doing was a) printing out a hard copy just incase and b) emailing it too myself and c) Al was backing it up with his tech voodoo.


This didn't happen for the novel as it was written incredibly quickly as the deadline loomed and I really really would have loved The Terry Pratchett Prize - out of all the things you can win for writing I wanted that one and it was the first time it had been avalible - so I wrote like a mad thing.

It was written at a point when we had no internet so I could not email to myself - we had no car and no spare cash for bus fairs and then the food to use free restaurant WiFi. Our printer died as I tried to print out the first couple of chapters and we had no way to replace it and Al was away doing lots of extra work trying to get our finances back on track so... he didn't get to do it's latest back up.

And WHAM! Me the paranoid saver lost her novel and didn't get to enter the comp and now may even have lost that novel and some photos for ever.

I now have a dongle, I am now in walking distance of a library etc... but I wasn't then. But this has put a crimp on my great plans for this year.

On the other hand I have been updating my blogs and have all the hand written story and notes and the printed back up for The Drs Wife. It will just take me longer to actually get something out there that is all - also part of me is worried that if I start working on that novel again something will happen to stop all my writing in it's tracks again. I'm still going to try though because I sort of don't know how to give up.

Oh and as a cross-genre generalist I am screwed for making money but I have found were I am going wrong with the drawings - I'm not an artist! I'm an illustrator and cartoonist! Dad will be proud - cartooning is something he should have done! Much better than that arty stuff.

Stegi the Fimosaur (by )

I ment to mention before that I have an image/picture/photo thingy in the Stegosaur Gallery over on Art evolved 🙂 I only managed to submit two pictures last year. I normally draw my entries but have been known to enter cakes, textiles pieces and fimo - this is an image of one of my fimosaurs. I made these to show to a museum who decided they did not want to run them in the gift shop, so I have taken photos of them in the hope of turning them into something else - maybe a web comic or some such.

So I am very happy to have it on Art Evolved.

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