Thursday, January 29, 2009

My First Sale of the Year

Hurrah! Alien Skin want to buy my story "Designer Genes" for their April/May 2009 Issue. It's only a flash piece, so it's not much money, but it's a great start to the year, especially since it's a magazine I really like.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The first book I picked up at work this morning gave me a bit of a shock.

Book cover in Cyrillic

How was I supposed to classify that? Some years ago, I learned the Cyrillic alphabet (a long story), so I tried to sound it out. "Snekmro-phomo-memrucheskee camalog zvezd." No help there.

I tried looking inside.
Book title in Cyrillic

"Spektro-photo-metreecheskee catalog zvezd." Spectro-photometric Catalogue Something-or-other. OK, so catalogues go under "Table and Data Books" - 522.0212. So far so good. But putting it in the database was going to be slow going. I didn't have a Cyrillic keyboard. All I could think of was to use the word processor to "insert symbol" one letter at a time, and then cut and paste.

And then I tried the next page:
Book title in English

I think tomorrow I might have a coffee before I start putting books in the database.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Father Christmas was kind enough to bring me a new camera lens: slightly telephoto (just right for portraits), large maximum aperture (for shooting in low light, and for throwing the background out of focus), and macro capability (it'll focus so close that I can fill the frame with a postage stamp). By my standards it was a lot of money, and I've been disappointed that I've had so little time to play with it.

Without the temporary job, I'd have had plenty of time to play, but no money to buy it. Typical.

So when I went to Fuencaliente last week, to photograph the animals being blessed, I took it with me.

And it wouldn't work. Every time I tried, I got an error message "F--"

Which is about what I said. Thank goodness I had the two zoom lenses that came with the body.

The new lens wouldn't work at home either. I didn't have time to look for the manual just then, as I have to do most of the cleaning and cooking at weekends. And when I finally had time to look, I couldn't find it. I spent hours not finding it.

I began to get worried. If my shiny, new lens had broken, I had to get it back to the shop while it was still under guarantee. On the other hand, I wasn't used to it, and maybe I was doing something dumb. Definitely a time for the old software engineer's standby - RTFM: Read the Manual.

I didn't have time to look for the manual just then, as I have to do most of the cleaning and cooking at weekends. And when I finally had time to look, I couldn't find it. I spent hours not finding it.

Yesterday my husband had the brilliant idea of looking for the manual online. And this afternoon, I found it (at
for anyone with the same problem)

And the lens is fine, thank goodness. That's the error message for when you're trying to use a silly aperture. I set to to automatic aperture, and took this photo of a Christmas tree bauble that doesn't seem to have made it back into storage yet.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

No BSFA award for me.

I just found out that I didn´t make the shortlist for the BSFA 2008 award for non-fiction. Ah well. I'm still chuffed I got nominated.

And maybe one day I will win it. You never know.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yesterday's drive to Barlovento was very nice, even though we didn't go for the best of reasons (see previous post.) We got to the local police station, and found it shut. So we popped into the bar and had a coffee and a nibble. Then Theresa remembered that the insurance firm had given her a photocopied list with all the phone numbers for all the police stations on the island. So I tried the mobile, and got no answer. Great.

So I asked the waitress, and she said he was usually to be found the other end of the village. We'd got about two yards outside the bar when the policeman drove past.

We ran after the car. He must have seen us because he parked. I was amused to see he looked exactly like an American Sheriff in a TV programme - the genial sort, fortunately. It was no big deal for him, but he took all the details and said that he'd produce the report when requested. After all that driving, it only took about ten minutes.

We went to the accident site for some daylight photos (see Helen and Theresa's blog). Then it was on to Franceses, to feed their cat who was very pleased to see us. Meanwhile, I spent ten very happy minutes taking photos of the almond blossom in their neighbour's garden.

And then we drove all the way home in time for a late lunch.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The best laid plans...

So I finished my day's work and waved Helena and Theresa off. Then at half-past nine, they phoned to say, "HELP!"

There they were, driving peacefully towards home, when a sizeable rock detached itself from the side of the cutting and leapt towards them, screaming "Banzai!" It bounced on the other side of the road and rolled to a halt just half a metre in front of the bumper.

Of course, Theresa jammed on the anchors. Of course, she couldn't stop in time, and it went crunch.

So I phoned the insurance who arranged the breakdown lorry. Rather than go home to the middle of nowhere, car-less, I suggested that they come here. We have a perfectly good guest room, and they´d be close to the workshop and hire car firm.

So I excavated the guest bed. Eventually they got to Santa Cruz with the breakdown lorry, and I fetched them home and fed them. We got to bed at 1 am.

This morning we got to the workshop just as they were unloading the poor van. It looked fine from outside, and the mechanics were wondering what the fuss was about.

Then Theresa opened the bonnet, and they all went, "Ooo. Nasty."

Of course they can't give a sensible estimate until they've taken it to bits to see how much internal damage there is. They did say that we should talk to the insurance firm about getting the town hall to pay for the car repair.

Obviously I was going to be very late for work. Ah well, I could sort that out later. So we phoned up the insurance people, and they say we need to go to the local police in Barlovento to complain officially.

Barlovento is an hour's drive away. On the other hand, it's could easily be worth 1,000€ to my friends, so we're going, and they´ll babysit later so I can make up the hours at work.

Buggerlit millennium shrimp!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Great News

...and we interrupt our regular programming to bring you a news flash.
BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) preliminary 2008 award nominations for non-fiction includes:
"How to Burn a Chicken – Using Astronomy for Worldbuilding” by Sheila Crosby (in Escape Velocity, vol 1 issue 2)
I haven't been able to confirm this yet, but the unconfirmed report made my day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Blinding Flash of the Bleeding Obvious

Yoga is never going to get easier.

The whole philosophy is that you do as much as you can, and then a bit more. Even if I get good enough to cross my ankles behind my neck, I'll always be trying to touch a spot that's just outside my reach.

Of course I could always make it easier by settling for what I can do already, but then I won't improve. And you know, the main reason I wanted it to get easier was so that I could feel I was improving.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Our son was getting obsessed by video games, so over the Christmas break we insisted that he was only allowed limited time on the computer.

He promptly started drawing - of characters and scenes from his favourite games. But the first few were good, and they're getting better and better. This is Hyper-Sonic and friends with the Chaos Emeralds. (Apparently in the game they're called emeralds whatever colour they are.)

Friday, January 09, 2009

New Year Goals

Christmas is finally over, so I suppose it's time for New Year resolutions.

Every year for about ten years, I've resolved to lose weight. And every year I get heavier. So it's time to try something different.

Last year I tried a new approach to writing fiction, and it worked really well. I set myself a daily quota, and once that was achieved I relaxed and gave myself permission to forget about it.

So that's what I'm going to try with my waistline. Instead of watching my weight, I'm going to do some aerobic exercise and some stretching every day. I'm also planning to eat more veg and fewer biscuits, but that's a little harder to adapt to the new philosophy. Whether or not I get thinner, I should definitely get healthier.

I'll review progress at the end of March. That's long enough to get some idea of whether it works, and besides, that's when the temporary job finishes, so I'll be changing my lifestyle then anyway. I cuurently weight 95.5 kg (ouch!). Watch this space.

I've started by abandoning the lift in favour of the stairs at work. Impressed? You should be. My office is on the 6th floor.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Just finished reading "The Heretic"

This is only the second Bernard Cornwell book I've read, and I loved it. OK, so it wasn't particularly deep, but I was rooting for the hero and the plot zipped along like an express train, which is just what I wanted.

The hero is Thomas, an English archer tootling around France in 1347. Since this is during the Hundred Years' War, it's not the healthiest place to be. He's trying to find his French cousin, Guy, before Guy can find him first and kill him. He's fallen in love with a heretic (who's not such a heretic after all) and saves her from burning, so now the Church is after him as well. And meanwhile, his liege lord expects him to find the Grail.

I really ought to re-read it to study the technique, but here's one thing I noticed in passing. As Thomas's friend Robbie rides towards a monastery, one of the archers with him says, "We'll kill him, then the rest won't be no trouble."

Robbie snaps back, "You'll kill no one."

That exchange makes Robbie look good. Without it, at this point they're just a bunch of brigands raiding the countryside. This was probably normal behaviour at the time, but it doesn't endear you to modern readers, at least not this one.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year

And a very happy new year to both my readers.

I'm still feeling very tired, but after three and a half days at home, the muddle's receding. The house is cleaner and tidier, most presents have been bought, and I've even got a couple of extra meals cooked and frozen. A friend made it over from El Hierro just in time for new year, so I actually took time off from my hamster wheel and went out to see La Cumbrecita for the first time in years.

I haven't had time to set goals for 2009 yet, but I have got as far as totting up my writing achievements for 2008. I made 94 submissions, and sold 7 short stories. I thought I hadn't done much writing, but I made 148 posts to the blog about LaPalma and 173 posts to this blog. More importantly, I wrote almost 25,000 words of my novel and five short stories. I know some people write half a million words a year, but that's still a heck of a lot better than I thought.

I also got quite a few bits and bobs done around the house, like varnishing the bannisters (at last) and decluttering the utility room.

So now I just have to plan 2009. At this rate I might just conquor the world by 2015.