Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Submissions

One of my new year's resolutions for 2010 was to send out two submissions per week. Note that this doesn't mean two new stories -- on average I have to send out each story about ten times before it sells, and then I often try for reprint sales. But nothing's going to sell sitting on my hard drive, is it?

Well, two sales per week comes to 104 in a year. I haven't managed that, but today I sent off my 100th submission for the year, which is pretty good going and a personal record.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The solar system in my living room


Last month I made a (roughly) scale model solar system ready for a group of school kids visiting the telescopes - and then the visit got cancelled by bad weather. Ah well, sooner or later it'll get used.

Here at last is a photo of it.

The sun is far too small - it should be about 10 x larger. And then, anticlockwise from the sun, we have marbles for Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars (Mars is a small, red marble, and rather hard to spot.) At the back we have painted plastic footballs for the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn (Jupiter should be 20% bigger) followed by tennis balls for Uranus and Neptune.

The distances between the planets aren't to scale either. I was going to spread them out over 15 m inside the telescope dome, although that still leaves the planets too big. Really, it should be 4 m (13ft) from the sun to Earth, and 12 km (7.5 miles) from the sun to Neptune!

Monday, November 29, 2010

My story's up!

My story "Some Day My Prince Will Go" is up at Daily Science Fiction. Presumably it will rotate off the front page at the end of the day, but it should still be int he archives at http://dailysciencefiction.com/story/some-day-my-prince-will-go.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Locked Out

I had my morning all planned out: ten minutes yoga, breakfast, and then down to Santa Cruz to translate at the vet's for my friends, followed by popping into the Astrotur office to discuss Monday's group of visitors to the observatory. Then home to get on with the scale model solar system and writing.

The yoga went to plan. Then my husband asked for a lift to the next village to pick up a car. No problem - it's only a five minute round trip.

But when I got back, I couldn't get the front door open. I tried and tried for about ten minutes, but the key wouldn't turn at all, as though it were the wrong key. I checked my keyring, and it only had the one yale-type key on it. So, just in case I mysteriously lost the front door key instead of mysteriously loosing the back door key, I went around the back. No dice either.

Well this was great. My neighbour who keeps a spare key was away in Tenerife. My husband was heading up the mountain, but I couldn't call him because my mobile was in the house. I couldn't use a pay-phone because all my money was in the house, too. And so was breakfast.

By this time it was 9 am, and I'd promised to be at the vet's by 9:30. And I had no way of letting them know about my problem. Even after I found 1€ in the car, I didn't know their phone numbers by heart.

So I went down to the vet's and waited for them, all to aware that they had no way of contacting me if, say, the cat refused to be caught.

Well, they were only ten minutes late. So I translated, and then they bought me breakfast. After that, I felt a lot more optimistic and philosophical about the whole thing. I phoned my husband, and we worked out that probably his keys were on the inside of the lock, stopping my key working. Worse, his back door key was on the same keyring, so there was no point driving up tot the Roque to get it.

So we all trooped off to see my boss, and then back to my house to try to burgle our way in.

They couldn't get the front door open either. This was no surprise, but at least it confirmed I hadn't missed something obvious. (I'd have preferred to get inside, even if it meant feeling stupid.) The windows were properly locked. The front balcony was unreachable. So we went around the back.

The French windows onto the back balcony were open a crack to let the cats get to their loo. Theresa started climbing the walls, but quickly gave up, to my immense relief. It really wasn't safe, especially in that gusty wind.

We tried to borrow a ladder from some other neighbours. They said they'd seen on yesterday, but it turned out to be ours. In other words, the only way to get at the ladder was to get into the house first.

Meanwhile, the poor cat had sat through all this in her slightly too small cat basket, and my friends were an hour's drive from home. So, reluctantly, they left me to it, leaving me with a Jasper Carrot CD and some blank paper to pass the time. I think they felt a lot worse about it than I did.

So I went for a walk, then I went to a restaurant where they know me, and got a take-away pizza in time for my son getting home. We ate it listening to Jasper Carrot, and it wasn't long before my husband came home and got into the house.

No, I'm not going to tell the whole Internet how he did it. I'll just say that I was very relieved.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shaving Uranus

I'm busy making a scale-model solar system, for teaching primary school children. Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are marbles, Jupiter and Saturn are kids' footballs, and Neptune and Uranus are tennis balls. At first I planned to shave the tennis balls before painted them, but then I wondered whether it was really necessary.

I changed my mind.

Then I went down the local art shop to buy paint, since it's not something I've needed for ages. I explained to the salesman what I wanted, and he didn't snigger. So now I've got the right sort of paint to use on sanded down plastic footballs. Watch this space.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You don't need to apologise for being you.

I've been reading Chris Guillebeau's blog at The art of Non Conformity for a while, and it's frequently encouraged me to live a little more authentically.

Today's post is an absolute gem.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sort of

Well, I did it - sort of.

I wrote two blog posts (this is the third) and walked for an hour, but the "marketing" consisted of poking around the Internet trying unsuccessfully to match up unsold stories with potential markets. I didn't send anything off.

Better than nothing, but I'll never sell anything unless I send stuff out.

To Do list

I had a burst of creativity when I came back from El Hierro, but I've been remarkably unproductive lately. So here's my list for today:
1) Do some [bleep] writing for [bleep]'s sake.
2) Do some [bleep] marketing for [bleep]'s sake.
3) Get some [bleep] exercise for [bleep]'s sake.

And never mind the house. The dust rats will still be there tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Escaping to the End of the World

I've escaped! I left all my responsibilities behind and bunked off to visit a friend on El Hierro for a few days. So on Sunday I took the ferry out (just 12.50€ for a foot passenger) and I'm flying back late on Thursday afternoon. The ferry is almost as fast as the flight, because the ferry is direct, and the flight goes via Tenerife North.

As usual, getting away and seeing my friend has done wonders for my productivity. I've written the first draft of a story about a musician for a competition, and outlined another story about a comet. And I've also zipped around this little island getting material for my blog about it.

(Yes I know it's a bit daft to have a blog about an island you don't live on. So I'm a bit daft. Is anybody surprised?)

I've seen the little museum in Valverde (the capital) and found a couple of viewpoints and a chapel I hadn't seen
before, and I finally got to the visitors' centre for the archaeological site at Julan, only to find that if you want to see the ruins themselves, it's a four hour walk (90 minutes down, 150 minutes back up). I'm not really fit enough anyway, but it's an incentive to get fitter and come back. And I love the scenery here. If there's one thing better than looking at it from a car, it's walking though it.

Of course it's going far too fast. But I hope to fit in some work on my e-book before I go home.

However did I survive without a laptop?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Travel writing



The travel writing gig took a little longer than expected, but the site is now up at http://www.lapalma.co.uk/ I don't own the site: I just did all the "Insider Expert" bits.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Well, our son's room is painted.

He decided to go for blue, and we chose paint that's supposed to cover with one coat. Luckily, the ceiling was already white, so we just had to point over the pink walls.

We put most of the furniture in the guest room, and the bookshelf on the landing, and got stuck in, all of us. This was the first time our son had painted walls, so his bit was a rather blotchy, but we'd expected that. the really nice surprise was that he did a lot more painting and a lot less moaning than we'd expected.

So we let the first coat dry, and painted over the blotchy bits. And that's when we realised that the white ceiling wasn't white. It was very pale pink, which looked like white as long as it was next to pink walls. Not now that it was next to blue ones.

So I dashed out and bought some white paint, while my husband took out the light fitting. We just managed to get all the painting done on Saturday.

Of course that meant that on Sunday we had to move the furniture back.

This wasn't simple. You see, the idea was to swap over the old furniture with the stuff from the guest room, so that there'd be more space for our son. But the original furniture in the guest room was now buried under our son's old furniture.

It took ages, but we did it, and our son will sleep in there again tonight (he spent last night on the couch.) That just leaves the light fitting, the curtain rail, and the curtains to do.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Decorating

We're giving our son's bedroom a makeover. It's had the same furniture, light-fitting, walls and curtains since we moved in. Since he was six at the time, and is now fourteen, obviously his tastes have changed since then. He doesn't want a clown light-fitting any more!

So in the past week, we've worked our way through his bookshelf, and given away two carrier bags of books he's grown out of (and made a couple of kids happy in the process). Tomorrow we move the furniture out and paint the walls.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Brakes!

As usual, I seem to be drowning in small-but-urgent things to do.

My friends in the north of the island have been adopted by an abandoned kitten. This is not much of a problem, except that a) they'd just booked a holiday and b) there's no catching the kitten to take it to the cattery and c) the neighbours are away too. So it's cancel the holiday (and they're exhausted), leave the weeks-old kitten to fend for itself, or I do it. Wonderful, it's over an hour's drive each way. But I'll only need to do it alternate days, and that'll be less tiring then the insomnia if I don't.

I got a small travel writing gig which I want to finish this week. So that meant a trip to Puerto Naos on the other side of the island, one of the few spots I don't often go (because there's another good beach just 10 minutes away).

So then the car brakes started squealing. Have I mentioned that this island is covered in twisty, steep mountain roads? Exactly the sort of place where squealing brakes takes all the fun out of travel.

So my husband spent the evening changing the brake pads or trying to.

It turned out that the last time I had the tyres changed, the workshop put the lug nuts on far, far too tightly. By the time Carlos got them off, most of them had broken threads. So it was rather late when he took the old brake pads with him to buy new ones (to get the exact model) and when the first two places were out of that kind of brake pad, everywhere else was shut. All he got was replacement lug nuts.

But he announced that the car was OK to drive.

I said, "Are you sure? I mean, my life insurance cover expired, you know."

But he was sure. Just as long as I took it easy.

So I went to see my friends in the north of the island the next day, driving s l o w l y and got nice clear instructions on cat sitting. In the evening, Carlos went to get brake pads from a shop that had ordered them in specially.

Wrong pads - they fit the current model of Toyota Yaris, not mine.

So yesterday I went to the other side of the island for my travel writing, driving s l o w l y , got my info, saw friends, and had fun. I particularly liked digging the first bit of the canal from one side of the island to the other, along with a five-year-old.

This morning the right kind of brake pads have arrived, and Carlos should finish the job. He'd better, because I'm absolutely NOT taking that car up to the observatory with dodgy brakes. For pity's sake, I have to drive back down about 6,500 ft to get home!

All good fun.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Paperwork Dragons

I should have done it years ago, but better late than never.

I've finally started the process of getting my English university degree registered in Spain. Actually progress to date consists of going to the government offices this morning and asking what I have to do. So far it's not as bad as I feared. If my subject (mechanical engineering) is on the list of EU professions covered by the 2005 agreement, I have to fill in a short form. If it isn't, I have to fill in a longer form and pay 91€. Either way, I'll need a sworn translation of the degree certificate. Ouch! That'll be about 100€ for perhaps 30 words! It's all the more painful because I could de a perfectly accurate translation myself in about ten minutes.

It took me a while to realise why sworn translations are so expensive. It's not so much the accuracy you're paying for. You pay them to take responsibility. The fees are so high that only an idiot would jeopardise their career for a bribe, so the government knows they can trust the translation.

Anyway, as my on says, it's a heck of a lot cheaper and faster than studying for another degree in Spain.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Superman's big sister sells fiction


Yesterday was a great day. In the morning I did my usual guiding job around Grantecan. It's particularly nice to show people around at the weekend. Since there's no engineering work going on, the duty engineer has time to do things like move the telescope. Yesterday, he took the brakes off in azimuth (the bit that goes round like a merry-go-round) and asked who wanted to move over 400 tonnes of telescope by hand.

None of the tourists took him up on it, so I had a go. It took a while to get it moving, because 400 tonnes means a lot of inertia. But the same inertia meant that once I stopped pushing, it carried on for over a metre by itself.

I felt like Superman's big sister!

And then when I got home and read my email, I found that Wily Writers had bought my story "Unreal Estate" for their issue on Urban fantasy – strong female protagonist. I believe it'll be out in September. Watch this space!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A grubby house

First it was a tum lurgy, and then I worked three days up the mountain instead of the usual two, and then it was a cough and sore throat.

One way and another, I've hardly done any writing and the house is grubby. And now I've got a friend staying, so I'm far too busy having fun to do any housework.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sizzling hot hell.

Well it's official. I'm going to hell.

Why?

Because I think human-made climate change is a fact.

See, "The Bible says that God is in control of weather, climate, epochs and ages of man." So obviously any talk of climate change is just "the hype and fear-mongering promoted by 'bodies' and 'bureaucrats' who simply want to steal from ordinary citizens through UN taxation in a one-world tyrannical government."

Never mind that the stack of evidence for global warming, which by now must be about the height of the Eiffel Tower.

And "every person who will not acknowledge His authority over their individual life...will be utterly destroyed by God's judgement."

So it's a good thing that I've got a "Get out of Hell Free" card.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Dancing Dwarfs

I'm annoyed.

The tickets for the dwafs were 21.35€ each, and I had to jump through hoops to get them. When they went on sale, the website sagged to its knees under the strain of so many customers at once, so it took about 10 attempts before I was able to buy them.

And then they emeailed me instructions on how to collect the tickets which were less than clear. Just “Collect them from the network of Caja Canaria machines.” (Caja Canaria is a bank.) So last week I went into a branch and asked what to do. “Oh you can't get your tickets here,” he said. “You have to go the branch in the middle of Santa Cruz. The machine's clearly marked, and it's really simple to use.”

Fair enough, but parking in Santa Cruz during the bajada is a nightmare. It's difficult at the best of times -- 21st century traffic meets 16th century street plan – but during the bajada, the two main car parks get taken over for stages and a funfair. But I got a bad feeling about this, and felt it would be pushing my luck to leave it any longer. So __I parked at the north end of town and walked in under the blazing sun.

I found the ticket machine easy enough, and the instructions were simple. Just swipe your credit card through. The one you used to pay for the tickets.

Oops. I was pretty sure that the card I used for the tickets was the one that had expired. I'd cut it up and thrown away the pieces a week ago.

Well I tried the other cards. Nope. Nothing doing.

So Í queued at a counter and asked who I should talk to about this. And they politely pointed me at another queue.

It was a slow queue. But when I got to the front, the young woman was charming, and said, “It's odd that your new card didn't work. They usually had the same number.” So she phoned my bank, who said that it would be because the new card had a chip and pin, and the old one didn't.

So I had to go to my own bank (more walking in the blazing sun) and queue again.

The nice young woman talked to her boss, and drafted a letter which said that I was the owner of such-and-such a card, since expired, which had been used to pay so much to Caja Canaria for tickets on such and such a date.

Then I had to go to the theatre ticket office, and present my ID and the letter from my bank. And they gave me the tickets.

Total elapsed time, almost 2 hours. But I grabbed the chance to buy a ticket for the carro (a religious theatre play for the bajada).

And I went home with a thumping headache, carrying the tickets in triumph.

That wasn't the end of queuing. They were unnumbered seats – first come, first choice. So we had to get there good and early, and parking was going to be insane. Luckily they laid on lots of extra buses.Shortly after 5 pm on Thursday, we were debating how long the bus might take to get to our house from Fuencaliente, given that it was due to leave at about now. We didn't have to allow time to get to the bus stop, because it's right opposite the house., but we decided the sensible thing would be to get to the bus stop pretty soon. So I packed bottles of water for the queue, and went to the toilet.

There I was, doing what nobody else could do for me, when Helen yelled, “BUS!”

So we all poured out of the house – me last, obviously, and we actually made it.

Of course the bus couldn't take us right into town. The street was blocked off to make space for the huge queues to see the dwarfs. So we got some nice, healthy exercise.

And then we joined the queue.

Well, first we had to find the right queue. People were already queuing for the second performance. And then we waited for an hour. At this point, my son regretted leaving his Nintendo behind in the rush for the bus.

And then we had to choose our seats pretty quickly. My bad, I went up the stands nearest the door.

And we couldn't see the dancing floor properly! The stands were arranged so you could see the main stage, but the dwarfs don't dance on that. They dance in the middle of the areana, closer to the stands and lower down. (The numbered seats were a separate stand in front of the stage.

I couldn't believe it. We'd paid 21€ each and we were going to see the tops of the dwarfs hats, nothing more.

Then the people in front of us decided they wanted to see what they'd paid to see, so they stood up.



At that point, the people right at the back started yelling for everyone to sit down. It took a while to get the message through, but eventually they did sit down, and 99% of us saw better.



OK, the atmosphere was good, but does that look like a 21€ view to you?

And that arena sits about 5,000. 5,000 seats x 6 performances x 21€ is 630,000€.

Like I said, I'm annoyed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pandorgas



Last night's pandorgas were lovely, but tiring. I had to park well south of town and walk in. On the way, I fell in with someone I know, and took some photos of her gorgeous little niece. I was so late I began to worry that I'd missed the whole thing, but when I eventually I found the parade, it wasn't even halfway along its route. The lead pandorga was the world cup, which of course drew enthusiastic cheers.

So I got my photos, and cut through to the sea front to get out of the crowd. And then I headed home. But I bumped into two of my brothers-in-law, with their respective families, including my lovely little great nephew, who's two. Cue for more photos. And then the pandorgas came past again. And at the tail end of the procession, my teenage niece posed for photos with one of the pandorgas, and the people carrying it say, "Oh keep it. We're going home." And I wound up taking it home, at about 1 am.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Hacked Climate Emails

Remember those hacked emails from the Climatic Research Unit in East Anglia? Parts of the media yelled for the top of their lungs that this "proved" climate change was all a hoax.

The Independent Climate Change Email Review just reported:

"We find that CRU was not in a position to withhold access to such data or tamper with it," it says.

"We demonstrated that any independent researcher can download station data directly from primary sources and undertake their own temperature trend analysis".

Writing computer code to process the data "took less than two days and produced results similar to other independent analyses. No information from CRU was needed to do this".

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10538198.stm

In other words, the researchers at East Anglia didn't lie and couldn't have lied if they'd wanted to.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Thrones and telescopes


The huge, once-every-five-years fiesta has started here. The main focus of the fiesta is that the statue of the Virgin Mary comes down from the village of Las Nieves down to the capital of Santa Cruz for a month.

The statue itself doesn't come down for another two weeks, but normally it sit on a silver throne, and on Sunday, they brought the throne down to Santa Cruz in procession.

Well, I say procession, but it's more like a mile-long party. According to the local authorities, 72,000 people turned out! More details, and photos, on the blog about La Palma.

On Monday morning I had a tour guiding job, showing people around Grantecan, the huge, new telescope. They have an insurance policy for the visits which strictly stipulates "No under 12's." I'd been warned by my boss, the IAC who run the site, and the telescope manager that I had to enforce this and check ID if I was in any doubt.

And there was a 9 year old who wants to be an astronomer when she grows up, crying with disappointment.

Oh ****! It brought back my pain and fury at not being allowed to watch the Apollo 11 landings on TV at school lunch hour. The TV room was packed with kids who, I was sure, only wanted to be there because we weren't normally allowed to watch TV then, so they only let the kids in the top year in. And I wanted to see it so much!

The duty person at the telescope was very sympathetic, but pointed out that he could lose his job too.

Oh thank goodness my husband works at the Italian telescope! I told that she'd have to stay outside, but promised I'd try to get her into another telscope afterwards. I knew my husband would be sympathetic, and thank goodness, he was able as well as willing. So after an hour's work I was paid for, we took her around the Galileo for free. I was pretty tired afterwards, but it was well worth it to see the way her face lit up.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

6 Months Down...

It's halfway through the year. On my two-submissions-a-week schedule, I should have submitted 52 stories by now. I've actually made 51. Pretty good, especially since I only managed 50 submissions in the whole of 2009.

52 submissions to go this year.

I'd better get on with it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

Well, I've guided two tours at the Roque, started the paperwork to re-register my son at the same school (yes, I'm still his mother, yes, I've still got the same ID number), picked up a small travel writing job (yay!), repotted a bunch of plants, submitted three stories, handed in my tax return and written several thousand words of fiction.

Phew!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My Easy Good Deed

I went into the chemist this morning, to buy a first aid kit to keep in the car (best way not to need one.)

I queued behind an old lady with a crutch who was clearly feeling down. She was just telling the assistant that it was taking her forever to get over her fall.

Several years ago, I broke my ankle. I remember feeling it was taking forever to get better, and I really sympathised. I remember down days.

The assistant said, "Well, go for a stroll in the sunshine, now that you can. I'm sure you'll feel better."

"Where to?" asked the old lady. "I don't really see the point."

I said, "What you need is a handsome young man to chase after. That would make it a lot more fun."

I was hoping to make her smile a bit, but no. She absolutely creased up and cackled with laughter. "Me? A handsome young man? Yes that would be fun!"

And she was still giggling as she left the chemist's with a new spring in her hobble.

I seem to have done an awful lot of good for ten seconds effort.

Monday, June 21, 2010





On Sunday I continued my walk around the island, from Montes de Luna to Los Canarios. Unlike previous sections, this part of the path doesn't run through villages, criss-crossing the main road. It goes through the lonely middle of nowhere, and I wasn't sure whether there'd be mobile coverage. Walking alone seemed like a bad idea. Not that there was any particular reason to expect an accident, just that twenty years of working with computers has given me a lively respect for Murphy's Law.

Helen and Theresa got up indecently early and arrived at my house before 9 am, so that we could start before the day got too hot. I fed them bacon sandwiches and coffee, and we got to Montes de Luna by 10 am.

Previous sections of the path have been anything between main road and goat track. This was the roughest bit yet: very steep goat track, heading up behind the first house of the village, and up, and up, and up, until we'd climbed 200 m in about half a kilometre. It made a great cardiovascular workout for three large ladies. It wasn't sunburn that made out faces red.

We found fresh dung on the path in several places, and had a ribald conversation. It definitely wasn't sheep, goat, dog, cat or human dung. It looked rather like horse manure, but none of us could imagine a horse getting up that track.

Black skeletons of bushes dotted the mountainside. Last summer's fire had obviously swept through. A little higher up, we found scorched pine trees, recovering nicely. Canarian pines have evolved to survive burning for anything up to six hours.

At the top of the big climb we saw the burnt-out remains of somebody's summer house. Poor things! It was completely wrecked. But they were rebuilding; someone had stacked a pile of breeze blocks and roofing slates beside the ruined back wall.

And that explained the dung. The most practical way to get building materials up that steep, steep path would be a donkey or mule.

After that the path was relatively level, and soon became a track, which was much easier going.



After some kilometres we came across a tiny statue of the Virgin Mary in a niche in a pine tree. And just past that, the track had been washed away. Presumably that happened when the winter rains arrived last year. Since the vegetation had been burned, that end of the island suffered a lot of small landslides. There was no way you could have got a car past, but we managed it on foot easy enough.

The track carried on. It was all very pretty, but we started to get tired, and we were all glad when we reached the crossroads (crosspaths?) with the trail down into the village of Los Canarios. When we got there, we found a restaurant, and my husband and son joined us for lunch. We had the fresh fish, and it was awesome.

If you're looking for food in Fuencaliente, we all recommend, Restaurante La Era.

30 km down, 129 to go.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Green Eggs (hold the ham)




My son had a school project on cabbages. So I bought all the different varieties I could find to be photographed, and we asked everyone in sight for recipes, and an elderly neighbour let him photograph his gardening tools.

So far so good. But it's nice to have something nobody else has got in their project, isn't it?

Well, I was looking through "How to Fossilise Your Hamster" for teaching ideas, and I found an experiment involving red cabbage.

First, boil chopped red cabbage for at least 10 minutes and save the water (you can also eat the cabbage). The water will be purple, of course.

Then fry an egg. When the white just starts to lose its transparency, drip some purple cabbage-water over it. The egg white turns green.

Huh?

Well, the chemical that gives red cabbage its colour is very sensitive to acidity. Tap water is pretty much neutral, so the water from boiling the cabbage is purple. Egg whites are alkaline, so it turns green - but you can still eat the egg, and it tastes quite normal.

You saved the rest of the cabbage water didn't you? Right, share it out between four glasses.

  • Add nothing to the first one.

  • Add baking powder to the second. This is slightly alkaline, so it should turn lavender.

  • Add lemon juice or white vinegar to the third, and it will turn red.

  • Add laundry detergent to the fourth, and it will go lurid green, and then evil yellow. Don't even think about drinking this one.






Who'd a think it?







Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The biggest and Bestest


Sometimes my life contains far too much laundry and cooking and mopping floors. And sometimes I get to be really jammy.

Today I was jammy. I spent the morning being trained to guide visitors around the biggest and best telescope in the world, Grantecan.

I used to work at the William Herschel Telescope, when that was the biggest in Europe, so I'm used to big telescopes, but Grantecan is something else. If you took the telescope out of the dome, there'd be room for a full-sized tennis court on the observing floor. And when that huge telescope moves, it's completely silent (whereas the 25-year-old Herschel rumbles like a purring dragon.)

When Spain first announced that they were going to build it, they had trouble finding collaborators, partly because people didn't think Spain had the technology to make a go of it. Somebody, somewhere is saying, “Nyar nyar na nyar nyar.”


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Las Ledas to Mazo




This morning I carried on walking along the footpath around the island. I started in Las Ledas, where I stopped last week, and walked up to the summit of Montaña de las Breñas, where you get an amazing view. Then I carried on along the path to Mazo. I had planned to get to Montaña de las Toscas, that's the southern end of Mazo, and I wanted to get to the farmers' market before it shut at one, so I detoured into the village half a kilometre earlier.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's been a busy week.

I decided to do a bit less routine cleaning, and a bit more decluttering, since the decluttering should last a bit longer. I started on the messy shelves in the hall, got enthusiastic, and spent hours on it. I've even ordered some more shelves, which should arrive in about a week.

I went to a funeral on the other side of the island. It was all the sadder for being totally, jaw-droppingly unexpected. But I'm glad I made the effort.

It made me very thoughtful, and I know I'm not the only one. The only conclusion I've come to is that it's important to seize the day and not drift along. As Steve Jobs said, "Live each day as if it would be your last and one day you'll certainly be right."

And the next morning I got an appointment for my routine mammogramme. Since mum died of breast cancer, I find it hard to keep mammogrammes in proportion. It's not that I'm a nervous wreck, you understand, just that I get the odd icy finger running down my spine. Getting the appointment just after being so forcibly reminded of human mortality was not ideal, and I had to remind myself that plenty of people had far, far worse problems, and the chances were that there was nothing t worry about anyway.

I was still rather down when I went to my yoga class that evening. We started normally enough, with stretches. Then the teacher started talking about mantras.

Mantras mean different things to different people. In this case, you repeat a specific sound, which a) helps you concentrate on what you're doing, rather than worrying about whether you have enough onions to cook a frittata for dinner and b) creates physical vibrations which massage a part of your body -- the part that vibrates depends on the sound.

Which all sounded pretty good.

And then we started with the sheep mantra. Basically, you go "baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" like a sheep, and everyone does it at their own natural breathing rhythm.

So we started. If I'd started first, I might have been able to concentrate on my own sound. As it was, the baaaaaaaa-ing started while I was still filling my lungs, and I got the giggles.

Everyone else was meditating, so I tried to giggle silently.

It was like school. The more I tried to stop, the worse it got. The giggle got steadily more hysterical, and every time I thought I was getting it under contral, I'd hear another "Baaaaaaaaa!", or the teacher would giggle from watching me, and I'd be off again, giggling helplessly.

This wasn't fair on everyone else, so I left the room until I could act more like an adult.

When I went back, people were talking about how the mantra affected them, and they'd all found it relaxed their throat wonderfully. I apologised profusely, but they didn't seem that bothered. And the teacher said laughter is also very good for you, with a ton of health benefits.

Well, I certainly felt better. In fact, I hadn't realised how tense I was until I wasn't tense any more.

And today the mammogramme was perfectly normal.

Now I just have to make my first ever batch of meringues for my son's school's Canary Day party. Finger's crossed.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The footpath around La Palma


Because I'm slightly nuts and seriously unfit, I've taken it into my head to walk all the way around the island (in easy stages, of course).

Luckily there's a long-distance footpath to follow, the GR 130, all nicely marked.

I want to do the southern half first, because it's flatter. (Please note, flatter, not flat.) I hope to be a bit fitter before I tackle the seriously steep bits around the north of the island. Since it's a circular route, you can start or finish wherever you fancy. the guide books all start the walk in Santa Cruz de la Palma.

Going south from Santa Cruz, you start with a really steep slope up to the Concepción headland. No thank you. Wimp that I am, I started at the viewpoint on top of the headland. Then I walked though El Porvenir, San Pedro, San Miguel and Las Ledas. Almost all of it was on back roads.
By that time I felt tired, and it was time to go home for lunch. So I did.

About 4 km down, 155 km to go.

Yup, I'm definitely mad.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Electricity Prices in Spain and Rumour-mongering

Apparently there's an article going around the Internet that Spain's economic troubles are entirely due to its green energy policy producing "sky-rocketing" power costs. I live in Spain. I just dug out my old electricity bills and worked it out. Over the last five years, the cost of electricity's gone up by 7%. That's 3% more than inflation. Not ideal, but hardly "sky-rocketing."

Spain's economy is struggling. We have a large budget deficit and 20% unemployment. But the energy policy has little or nothing to do with it. We've got plenty of other problems.

Spain's been hit hard by the drop in foreign tourists. Since Spain is sunny, it's the most popular holiday destination in Europe. This year they've mostly stayed home, due to the banking crisis. Plus there's the banking crisis itself. Then there's the linger-term problems like too much paperwork and a lot of public holidays. We've also had more storm damage and forest fires than usual in the last few years.

Basically, the "facts" quoted in this article are fiction.

Someone seems to have worked out that you can sow a lie into cyberspace, and then deny all responsibility if people find out the truth.

I'm sure it's much easier to spot lies and wonky logic when it's something you disagree with in the first place, but most of the really la-la land stuff I've seen seems to support the far right, usually the American right wing. You know, like the lies and lies and lies about the British NHS and Obama being a Muslim, and "sky-rocketing" electricity costs in Spain and so on. Or that Muslims will make up the majority in Europe within 20 years (only if the women have about 20 babies each, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8189231.stm)

And perfectly nice people repeat this stuff in good faith, and make decisions based on junk data.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Circus



We finally made it to the circus for the last performance. It was a bit pricey, and we arrived at the last minute, so we didn't get good seats, but the performance was fantastic. My son particularly enjoyed Spiderman.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Walking



I didn't go to yoga last night or Monday because -- how shall I put this -- I had an upset stomach and I'd have had to hand round clothes pegs for everyone's noses. But I felt well,and I fancied some exercise, so I went for a walk. I thought I could gas the bumblebees instead.

La Palma is a walker's paradise. There's a network of official hiking trails which are fairly clearly marked, and the GR130, which goes right around the island, passes near our house. So I had a nice little walk along that. Not the whole thing, of course, since the whole thing takes a week, even if you're a lot fitter than I am. I just strolled along for an hour or so, taking the odd picture with the compact camera, and it was very nice too. For one thing, most of the wild flowers are in bloom. I think this is wild carrot, which grows all over Europe.

And now I'm seriously wondering whether I could walk the whole path -- in easy stages of course. I'd need lifts, so I didn't have to walk back to the car every time, and I'd need to be fitter before I tackled all the steep hills in the north of the island. But I have a sweet-natured husband, and there are buses, and by the time I've walked around the south, I'd be fitter.

I think I'll do it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Rainbow


My son dashed out, late for school.

Then he dashed back.

I said, "What have you forgotten?"

And he yelled, "Fantastic rainbow outside the front door. Grab your camera, Mum!" And he dashed back out.

Thanks, Love.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The zoo






I made time to go to the local zoo with my son this morning. It's a very small zoo with no lions or elephants, but we had fun.

And the peacock was actually displaying his tail! With his back to us.





I managed to get around the front and grab a quick shot, but he stopped the display before I could get the wide angle on to record his full glory. I did manage to get a detail of his tail as he walked through a patch of dappled light.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Fiesta de la Cruz


Last night was a local fiesta, so I lifted my nose from the grindstone long enough to go and take some pretty pictures.

The plan was to go to Cruz de la Pavona at the top of the hill and work our way down past the crosses, with my husband driving. That way, as we joined the traffic jam above each cross, I could leap out with my camera and create a masterpiece for the blog.

How do you make God laugh?

You tell him your plans.

The police stopped us and breathalysed my husband. No problem - he's an adult and acts like one.

The area around Cruz de la Pavona, at the top end of Breña Alta was packed with people. My husband was so busy not driving over pedestrians that he went past the turn off to go down the hill past the usual run of crosses. After that, it had all been converted to one way down the hill. That wasn't too bad, because there are crosses that way, too. But as we went down the single track, we met two cars coming up. Just to be clear, this is a track that the police are sending people DOWN, just like every year.

But normally you give way to traffic going uphill, so we backed. Until the car behind us wouldn't back any more.

And then the driver got out of the car coming uphill to insult us. Never mind that he's going the wrong way, we have to reverse over the car behind us. I wonder when he bought the road?

In the end he reversed, and he didn't have to go very far at all. It was only after we'd driven on that the penny dropped. The guy going uphill was on the back road to avoid the police. I really, really hope they found him and breathalysed him.

And then we realised that I'd forgotten to go for petrol. We sat in the queues past the crosses watching the gauge drop, wondering if we'd be walking home.

But as it turned out, we made it home, and I got my photos after all. More of them at http://lapalmaisland.sheilacrosby.com/

Sunday, April 18, 2010

An Interview with Hank Quense

Today for a change, we have an interview with another author. Hank Quense is, an American author of humorous and satiric fantasy and scifi stories. We'll be discussing Fool's Gold, his novel about the Rhinegold myth.


Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born a long time ago, married my wife, she gave birth to two daughters. I left my day job to write stories, my daughters gave birth to five grandkids. That's all that's important.


What have you had published?

Over three dozen short stories and articles on fiction writing. One novel (this one) and a collection of 20 previously published short stores called Tunnel Vision. Recently I self-published a book on fiction writing called Build a Better Story.


What's Fool's Gold about?

It's a retelling of the ancient myth about the Rhinegold. Instead of taking place during the Dark Ages, my version takes place in the future and has aliens instead of fantasy creatures.


What's the hook for Fool's Gold?

My book blurb says it best:

A Ring of Power? That is soooo yesterday. Now it's the Chip of Power. It's the newest thing around and it produces laughs.

Aliens, ancient gods, humor, beautiful Valkyries, heros, conniving nobles, betrayal, greed, incest, a magical gold horde; this story has something for everyone.

This book is only retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth that is set in the future and is a humorous scifi tale.


Do you have a favorite characters from this story?

Fafner. He's an alien from the planet Zaftan 31B. I love Zaftans. They aren't evil as we humans understand the term, but they think quite differently than we do. They think treachery and assassination are social skills.


How do you go about creating one of these bizarre stories? Is there a process you use? Or do they just pop into your head?

This version came about while I was writing a spoof of the original Rhinegold myth. It occurred to me that this would make a great space opera. It took me several years of thinking about it, off and on, before the story finally gelled in my mind. Others usually start with a character, a bizarre one. I get him into a ridiculous situation then figure out how to save him.


Is there a message in the story?

If there is, I didn't deliberately plant it there. I think readers can take a number of messages from the story. It all depends on there psyche, their upbringing and their personality. Everyone will get something different.


What is the best review your book received? Or your favorite?

"Fool's Gold by Hank Quense is another terrific story written by an incredibly talented and FUN writer. Hank's characters and twists on tales we've heard before takes us down the unbeaten path into the hilariously crazy workings of his mind. And it's a twisted one at that!" That one came from Nanci Arvizu.

In your stories, many of your characters are aliens or dwarfs. Do you dislike normal characters?

Using dwarfs and aliens means I can address sensitive issues without the Political Correctness Police raiding my home. For instance, I wrote a spoof of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, one of the most anti-Semitic plays ever written. I cast Shylock as a dwelf (half dwarf and half elf). In my story I can treat him in an decidedly anti-dwelf manner and it comes off as humor, whereas Shakespeare's play is considered hateful. Here's another reason. In my most recent stories, elves are thuggish and larcenous. They belong to large gangs called "families" headed up by a Godmother. If I described a nationality of humans this way, I'd get sued by lawyers for defamation. Somehow, I don't think the elves will drag me into court.

Does reading your stories have any possible side-effects?
I'm glad you asked that because there are precautions that should be taken by readers. First, check with your doctor to determine if you are healthy enough to take part in spontaneous laughter. Second, if you are suffering from a contagious disease such as the flu, wear a mask to limit the spread of airborne germs when you laugh out loud. Finally, no one should read my stories while driving a car or operating heavy machinery.

How can the blog readers learn more about you and your stories?

My website http://hankquense.com has a lot of stuff about me and my stories and my writing. My blog http://hankquense.com/blog has several new posts every week. I blog about my books, the characters I create, life in modern times, book reviews and even an occasional rant.

Tunnel Vision is a collection of twenty previously published humorous short stories. It has plenty of laughs in it.

Build a Better Story is a book on fiction writing. It describes the process I use to develop a story.

Here is a fun trailer to watch.



Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy birthday Helen




We hosted my friend Helen's party last night, because they could sleep at our house, but we couldn't sleep at theirs. So I cooked quiches and they bought sausage rolls, and we ordered a cake.

I thought the cake sounded a bit expensive, but what the heck, it was a special occasion. When I collected it, I found out why. I'd asked for a cake for 5, but the phone line wasn't great, and they'd heard "15"! Oh deary me, whatever shall we do with the extra cake?

We all clubbed together to get Helen a boxed set of DVDs, but I wanted to get her a little something extra. In the end we bought her two bags of cement, because they still have lots of building work to do on their house. Since it was too big to wrap in paper, I decorated it with a rose.

And then we played video games.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Underpants

They've just switched off the analogue TV here, so of course there's been a scramble to get digital TV going, in spite of the fact that we were all warned about this months ago.

My husband installed an old lady's Digibox, and told her that the beer and nibbles she provided where payment enough.

So she went out and bought us presents. Our son got some underpants. Here's the fun part: the brand is "ASSMAN" (yes, really) and it actually has, "Underwear" printed down the front. Presumably in case you get confused and dry the dishes with them or something.

It was still sweet of her.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Yippee!



Untied Shoelaces of the Mind just bought my story "The Circle Line" for their next issue. So that's me doing the happy dance.

Monday, April 05, 2010

My New Year's Resolution

Like several of my writing friends, I find that I sell roughly one story for every ten submissions. The more I submit, the more I sell. The secret to steady sales is lots and lots of submissions. As soon as one market rejects a story, I send it off elsewhere - in theory. If they buy it, they usually want it exclusive for a while, typically 90 days. I wait until that's over, and I start trying to sell reprint rights - in theory.

Last year I aimed to send off 8 submissions a month, which would come to 96 in the year. I managed 50.

This year I decided to aim for two a week. And as of today, I'm slightly ahead! In 13 weeks, I've sent off 27 submissions.

I think two things are helping. One is the shorter time scale. Last year I kept getting to the 29th of the month with only two submissions sent out. Then I'd try to catch up, of course, but usually it was too late and I did too little.

New Year's Day was a Friday, so my submission weeks end on a Thursday. This year I get to Wednesday and realise I have to catch up - and that's only two submissions, which is much easier. The other is that I have every Thursday on the wall calendar marked with the number of submissions I'm supposed to have made so far, so I can see how much I've fallen behind. That's a great motivator to NOT fall behind.

39 weeks to go.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter

Holy Week is a big thing in Spain, with lots of photogenic, religious processions. And this year I managed to miss the lot.

Partly it was the weather - it drizzled and rained constantly for the second half of the week. Mostly it was a combination of laziness and business.

I used to edit two of my blogs -- the ones about the island of La Palma and El Hierro -- at the Blogger site and then squirt the files up to sheilacrosby.com. It's called FTP publishing, and Blogger will stop doing that on May 1st. I had a choice between giving Google control of all my files, or moving to another platform.

I'm a bit of a control freak. I decided to move it over to Word Press during Easter week, while I had a little more time. It wasn't as bad as I expected. With a bit of help from Helresa publishing who host my website I got the heavy lifting done in a couple of days. Of course there were still lots of other bits and bobs to sort out, like putting the links back, and making it look nice. I'm not 100% happy with it now, but it's a working blog again, and reasonably tidy.

I spring cleaned the utility room, too. Not much fun, but it shouldn't need doing again for quite a while.

Best of all, I spent a day with my friends in Franceses. My goodness, I'd forgotten how much fun it is to have fun!

And now it's Sunday night, and I'm wondering where the week went.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A morning's escape.

Bananas being irrigated Bananas being irrigated



Instead of being a good girl and getting on with the translation, I snuck out this morning. I intended to go to Playa Nogales, but I wound up in San Andres y Sauces, mostly just mooching around with my camera.

Goodness, it was fun!

My friend Helen had told me that from the big bridge at Los Sauces, you could see banana plantations that had been flattened by the storms this winter. So I went.

The bananas look a mess, but they didn't photograph too well. On the other hand, I did get a nice view of San Andres from up there.

San Andres from Los Sauces bridgeSan Andres from Los Sauces bridge

I also got a nice view of the narrow lane that winds down the bottom of the ravine under the bridge. The one I'd always fancied driving along. I had some free time, so why not?

And I did. The lane goes through banana plantations, and I got a nice backlit photo of irrigation, and this one of cut banana stems. See, bananas aren't trees: the stem is the base of lots of leaf stalks, one inside another.

Cut Banana stemsBanana stems

Monday, March 15, 2010



I finally finished an embroidery, even if it's only a little one.

I used to do a lot of cross-stitch, and I have several kits waiting to be sewn. And now I realise that my eyes are getting older, so it seems like a good idea to try to get on with it.

Except that I'm busy.

So I've taken to doing a little while I sit in the car waiting for my son to come out of school. It works. The pig is finished.

And what they say is quite true. That ear is definitely not a silk purse.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The flea market

This morning I popped down to the monthly flea market, mostly just for a change of scene after a couple of days spent catching up with domestic stuff. It was fun. My son didn't find any second hand video games he wanted, but he did get his German sausage - there's a stall that does what you might call deluxe hot dogs, and he's a huge fan. I got some CDs (mostly Queen) and incense.

I should come up for air more often.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Going Bananas!


I finished the rush translation job and decided that I'd earned a morning off. So I went off to Tijarafe to see the banana museum.

I had trouble finding it, but it was a lovely, sunny morning, and the old part of the village was nice, too. I stopped to ask an old lady directions, and we had a nice chat, and I found the museum with her help.

Well, it's a pleasant enough little museum, and I'll blog about it in due course. And I found some other nice little nooks and crannies to photograph. But the highlight of the morning was the church. I popped in on general principles, because a) I was there, b) most old churches on La Palma are pretty and c) it's the oldest one on the island (which was in the text I'd just translated).

I got a big surprise. The test I translated said, "It has been restored, enlarged and altered on several occasions." They weren't kidding. One nave is 15th century, and the other looks like it was built in the 1960s. and the most amazing bit was that the two look good together! (There are more photos on the La Palma blog).

Mostof the morning had gone by then, so I headed back towards the car. I stopped onthe way to photograph a nice old balcony with an old woman on it. As I got closer she waved at me, and I thought perhaps she was annoyed at being photographed. But no. It was the old lady who'd given me directions to the museum and she wanted another quick chat.

I feel I've come up for air.

Of course I should really have stayed home and caught up with cleaning the house, but I'm getting on with that today.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Thought About Health Care

Thinking about my limited knowledge of different countries health care, I suspect that the crucial thing isn't whether a country's health care is privately-funded or state funded. Nor, I suspect, is it crucial whether the hospitals themselves are run by the state or private business or the Martians.

I think the really vital thing is whether the politicians get the same care as the rest of us. Since they'll take good care of themselves (obviously), that means they'll take care of everybody else in the process.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Why would anyone prefer to be scared and miserable?

I made the mistake of trying to tell an American email friend that practically everything the US media say about the British health service is simply not true.

They do not throw out premmie babies.

They do not throw out old people.

The do treat you for cancer if you're old.

They do treat overdoses.

They don't have a spending cap per person.

I know this because I've lived it.

And then there's the stuff you can find on the Internet in about 5 minutes. Stephen Hawkings is British, not American. Brits live a year longer than Americans on average.

Of the bits I can check for myself - not trusting journalists or politicians of any party - everything the Republican party says about the British health service is a lie. EVERYTHING. This doesn't prove to me that the democrats are right about health care or anything else, just that the Republican party is full of liars.

Here's the answer I got. (Hang onto your hat.)

"I will never, ever in my entire friggin life understand whites. Sheila, if a baby is born as much as 3 months early, the child is given every chance medically possible, without regard to expense. Many don't make it, but they're given the chance, not tossed in the waste can or whatever Euros do. I have 3 elder in my father's longhouse who are centenarians. Most of the people where Shirley works are in their 80s and 90s, and all of them still go out, still party, still love to live. We live far longer than most euros because the US is the top in medical care, not Amsterdam-health-care, not hitler's health care where he had the elderly dragged from their homes, then the disabled, and then the jews and christians and killed to enrich himself. Please note that wealth Canadians come her for care.

The death toll comes from the preemies dying, from Hispanics who lived under socialized health care dying when barely in their 50s, from Native Americans who are allowed to die under socialized health care here.

I had an operation and had to have it. Had I not, i could have gotten gangrene from a botched operation a STATE (socialized) hospital. I went to the best, Geisinger, a private hospital. It cost 37,500+ dollars and someone who took an interest in my need forced the state to pay most of it. Had it been up to the socialized health care we have (AKA welfare) I would have died.

Tell which of my family should be lost first? the dems are going to get half the funds from the elderly, the disabled, and as two famous American nazi families were the ones to put him in office--Kennedy and soros--I can foresee a time the Jews will also be dragged off. But us red niggers will go first. the dems always dreamed of a day they could do that. Why else did they destroy the homes of the Navajo elders? 27 died because of it. 9,000 Tarahumara died, and nothing was done. 15,000 Tohono--I have friends on the border who impoverished themselves to save them from the PORI in Mexico, to no avail. How many Moskitos Indians died and the dems castigated Reagan fort helping them? How many dead redskins will it take before the europeans running the show here are happy?

How long? Life is sacred in any religion but not where these creeps can make a buck. Money is the name of their game, not life, not helping people."


I was surprised for several reasons and not just at the breathtaking rudeness or lack of logic. He's scared, and the savage verbal attack follows from that.

I'm used to people blanking out bad news. As in, "Lump, what lump? I certainly don't need to get the doctor to check out this lump." People sometimes prefer short term happiness to good information.

But this guy's refusing to hear good news. State run medicine isn't automatically dreadful medicine. What's so terrifying about that? Why would anyone prefer to be scared and miserable rather than well informed and less worried?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Los Indianos

Author and friend in Los Indianos, Santa Cruz de la PalmaAuthor and friend in Los Indianos, Santa Cruz de la Palma

In Santa Cruz de la Palma, the highlight of Carnival is Powder Night - Los Indianos. This commemorates the people who emigrated from La Palma in the 1940s to 1970s and especially those who came back rich.

An Elegant Lady, Los Indianos, Santa Cruz de la PalmaAn Elegant Lady

Anyone can join in the parade. You just dress up in white, maybe have a suitcase full of Monopoly money, and for some reason throw vast quantities of talc at each other.
When I say "vast", the town hall gives out something like six tons of it to people in the parade, and one supermarket was selling 25 kg sacks.

A Not-so-Elegant Lady, Los Indianos, Santa Cruz de la PalmaA Not-so-Elegant Lady

When I lived in Santa Cruz, you could follow the progress of the parade by the cloud of talc drifting above the four-storey buildings on the route. Once the parade finishes, there's dancing in the street (of course) and a fun fair, which my son loves. Not surprisingly, we had a great time.

Batucada (percussion) in Santa Cruz de la Palma, Los IndianosBatucada (percussion) in the Plaza España

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Beautiful Poem

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
He Knows.
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Beautiful
Rowdy
Prisoners.

Hafiz, an Iranian, Sufi poet from the 14th century.
(I found this on Chris Guillebeau's blog, The Art of Nonconformity)


Loathsome Alyce sold to Wily Writers

Wily Writers has just accepted my story "Loathsome Alyce" to be published later this month. So I'm doing the happy dance again.

A Great BBQ and an Amazing Sunset

A glorious sunset over PuntagordaA glorious sunset over Puntagorda

Yesterday I set off for the almond blossom fiesta in Puntagorda. When I arrives, I phoned my friends in Franceses to see if they were in the village too. Well, they were, but at their friends' barbecue, so we agreed to meet up later.

Before I'd even left the car, they phoned back with an invitation to the barbecue. So I went, and I had a great time.


Chairs and shadows at sunsetChairs and shadows at sunset

And we had the most wonderful sunset. It even cast these lovely shadows on the walls of the house. And once the sun itself had disappeared, the sky looked very like the surface of Jupiter.
(The photos of the Almond Blossom fiesta are up at A Small Rock in the Atlantic.)

The surface of Jupiter?The surface of Jupiter?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yippee! I've been nominated for an award

I've been nominated for the BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) award for best non-fiction with “How to Burn a Chicken – Using Astronomy for Worldbuilding” (which appeared in Escape Velocity, vol 1 issue 2)

The list of nominations is at http://www.bsfa.co.uk/Forum/tabid/61/forumid/109/threadid/17502/scope/posts/Default.aspx

Of course this is just a nomination. I'm not even on the shortlist. But I'm still grinning.
I just wish I knew who to thank.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I've done it again.

I have a bad habit of biting off more than I can chew. Then I find myself whirling around at warp speed nine, trying to write blogs and e-books, translate, teach, and still be a half-way decent housewife and mother.

Of course this doesn't work, because there are still only 24 hours in a day. I wind up stressed and snappy, and usually unproductive.

Over the years, I've frequently sworn that I'd stop, and do one thing at a time like a normal, sensible person. The catch is that I'm neither normal nor sensible, so that doesn't work either.

Then I tried analysing it. Do I perhaps keep myself terribly busy to avoid facing problems? Nope. Don't think so. I'm stressed, not depressed. Believe me, I've had depression, and I know the difference.

Is it cock-eyed optimism? On some level, am I think that if I really hope and believe, suddenly there'll be 100 hours in a day?

Nope. Or I'd probably believe in The Secret too.

I've finally admitted the obvious. I bite off more than I can chew because I'm greedy. I want the novel and the websites and the e-book and the clean house. I want it all, and I want it now.

And if I don't watch out, I'll give myself indigestion.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Goodbye Bloody Big Hole



We moved into this house seven years ago. The previous house went with the observatory job, so we had to leave there, even though the builders hadn't quite finished this one. So we moved in on new year's day, 2003, with my husband constantly saying, "Don't lean on the banisters, the glue's still wet."

We didn't have any heating either, which wasn't a serious problem here. All the same, it's nice to have the option, and we'd planned to have a fireplace in the corner of the living room. The only catch was that the kits we liked only had models for fitting against a flat wall. So we ordered one, and it took a while, but a year or so later, my clever husband adapted it to fit in the corner where we had the hole going through to the chimney.

This looked better than the hole on it's own, and it was great to have the fire on cold nights, but the hole was still there, clearly visible behind the fireplace. And since we had plenty of other projects to do, it stayed that way until December. Then my husband talked to a friend who's a builder, and worked out how to do it. The top photo is when he'd just put up the guides.


Then he added plank-shaped bricks, to create the shape. This was quite tricky, because they needed cutting to shape, one by one. Since he got flu in the middle, it didn't get finished by Christmas. And what with the flu, recovering from the flu, partying, and projects always taking longer than expected, it was mid January before his friend came and did the rendering. And then we had to wait for it to dry before it got painted. But at last here it is, looking very professional.

I don't think I'm going to miss the hole.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It gets better!

My story, "The Dodo Dragon" will appear in the anthology "War of the Worlds: Frontlines" by Northern Frights publishing some time this year.

I'm going to try for 100 submissions this year. Four down, 96 to go.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Two of my stories are on the web

What a nice start to the year. "Thrice upon a Time" is at Afterburn SF and "Screamcatcher" is at Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.

Now I'd better get busy and submit a ton more.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

In Spain, the Three Kings bring the kids their presents on the morning of January 6th. And the stinking cold turned into flu at midday on the 5th. It was so bad that I decided that a) I couldn't drive safely, and therefore b) the Kings weren't getting any more help from me. I collapsed into bed with the usual aching joints and head

I wish I'd thought to take my temperature. As I got into bed that night I had a shaking fit. Not shivering, really shaking, like the time I had hypothermia years ago down a pothole. I spent the next day alternately getting up and making myself useful and having naps. And the next day, I managed to stagger to the shops for a missing present and to deliver it.

But by Friday my sore throat had got so bad that I completely lost my voice. I couldn't even croak. I had to write down notes to the family. At least that got me some sympathy, which was good because I started the day feeling as though an imp was rubbing my throat with a freshly cut chili. By evening it felt like a volcano.

This morning it was back to the imp with the chili, and I felt a little brighter. I updated the blog about La Palma, and then I wrote my son a note to get him to phone up and order a takeaway lunch. To my astonishment, I found myself writing an update to i-make-this-stuff-up. Yippee! It's the 9th, and I finally wrote some fiction.

And now, I'm going to send off a submission if it kills me.