Still Alive

You might be forgiven for thinking that perhaps I had died and decided that in this new state of unliving, I would abandon my blog. This is, you will be ecstatic to hear, not the case. I have been busy with a death that doesn’t belong to me, the following despicable family behaviour, a job, a new car (it has GT on the back!), moving house, trying to get internet, and making my beta readers cry.

Yes, finally, the third book in the NEXUS series is (kind of) finished. I started writing it as soon as I finished Temple of the Sixth and set it aside time after time to write Kira, Acts of Violence, and Kira Part II, but at last the most abused book I’ve worked on is nearly ready. It still needs a bit of rewriting and then editing and proofreading, but it’s not too far off now. Hopefully.

Trip To Space

After this stop-start, stop-start, I hope at least the next two books will come quicker and smoother, but thinking about other projects is what got me into this four year crawl in the first place, so let’s ignore that for now.

So, sooner or later I’ll be posting again with a synopsis and release date…or just a cover. Or a rant about another film.

Last Word Proofreading

Fountain Pen

I am now a proofreader! Proofreading hither and thither. Mostly hither.

I’ve been doing bits of proofreading for friends’ businesses for some time – press releases, website articles, comic books, a non-fiction book – and finally realised that I could (and should) make a living of it. I’ve been writing since I was a child, and that writing and editing taught me most of what I needed to know about the English language – even if I don’t always put it to good use. Editing my own work sharpened my eye when it came to other people’s because, as we all know, your own work is the hardest to edit and proofread.

So, driven by the knowledge that I had both the eye to spot errors and most of the language skills necessary, and by a soft spot for telling people they’ve made a mistake, I went to the Society for Editors and Proofreaders to start a handful of grammar and proofreading courses.

I completed the courses with the knowledge that I can proofread anything that’s thrown at me – unless it’s a specialist subject, in which case you can throw it elsewhere. And my last tutor was impressed with my eye for detail, so there!

So now I have a brand new button at the top of the website that leads to my brand new proofreading website with links to my brand new proofreading email address. It isn’t particularly well written, but it is well proofread.

Last Word Proofreading.

A&Me: Another 6 Hours With Death

 

Accident and Emergency

You may – or, more likely, may not – remember that I spent six hours in A&E last September due to passing out twice, hitting my head, tearing/straining a jaw ligament, having a seizure, etc. Those six hours were among the worst of my life. A doctor laughed at me. The receptionist sent us somewhere we weren’t meant to be and then told us off for going there. The other receptionists stood gossiping and ignoring us while I sat in my wheelchair throwing up and being held in so I wouldn’t fall out with the dizziness. The triage nurse was an a******. They all assumed, without basis, that I was drunk.

I vowed never to return to A&E; I’d rather lie on my bedroom floor and die. So, last Tuesday – December 23 – I ventured back to A&E. Not entirely by choice. So here’s my whine story:

For the past 8-10 weeks, I’ve been fairly unwell: weak; dizzy; easily exhausted; I lost 7kg in about 5 of those weeks; I’d wake up with the room spinning and my heart hammering. So after a few weeks of feeling back to normal, last Monday night I woke up with my heart fluttering as though I were nervous about something. I went to the bathroom only to find myself becoming light-headed and tunnel vision creeping in. After discovering that splashing cold water on myself didn’t work, I lay down on the (very cold) floor so that I wouldn’t hit my head this time when I passed out. Luckily, doing so caused all the unpleasant feelings to abate.

The next day I went to the doctor. She decided, after an ECG, that I should go to A&E. I considered not going, but the feelings of the previous night were just the feelings that I’d hoped to avoid by never going to a hospital again, so there didn’t seem much point if it would only happen again.

This time, I had to go to the hospital in Letterkenny, Ireland, because I live in the Republic and therefore am not covered by the NHS even with my UK passport. Ireland’s healthcare is similar to America’s – though not quite so bad – in that you pay through your teeth for everything (including a €100 fee for needing A&E). But thankfully, a few days earlier, my medical card had arrived, meaning that I wouldn’t have to pay.

Letterkenny turned out to be vastly more pleasant – if that term can possibly be used for a hospital visit – than the A&E in Altnagelvin, Derry. The doctors and nurses seemed to care about me and even treated me as though I actually existed! Though the entire thing turned out to last six hours, just like the first time round, it didn’t feel like it. Several nurses asked me questions throughout the wait, and took my blood pressure, and even turned on the TV for us and came around with tea and biscuits. Unfortunately, one also took my blood. That resulted in me lying on a bed with an oxygen mask, shaking violently all over.

Sadly, what they didn’t do was diagnose what’s wrong. Another ECG showed nothing (the GP’s reading, which said something about an anomaly, went missing somewhere between the reception and the triage nurse), the chest x-ray showed nothing, my blood showed nothing (except that my potassium is back to normal). The doctor wondered if it might be TB for a while, but she must have ruled that out because she never mentioned it again.

So, after six hours and another blood-related ordeal, I was given the choice of being kept in over Christmas with a heart monitor, or coming back some time after Christmas to be fitted with one for 48 hours. I chose the latter.

And that is the story of why I’m no longer allowed tea or coffee.

Batman

The Root of Evil: My Attempted Murder

Wednesday. It was a muggy, grey evening. I’d settled down with a home-made juice, hoping to be a little healthier than usual. Before my turkey and chips. I was going to play some Deus Ex and then watch a film. And then my assailant struck! I was covered in red. I was vomiting red everywhere. I was dizzy and light-headed. I was dying!

Beetroot!

That or chard. Or tomato. Or one of the other 5 or so fruits and vegetables in the juice. But I think beetroot. It did, with malice aforethought, enter my person and try to induce anaphylactic shock.

It’s probably just as well it was a juice, as it was thrown back up quickly and easily, and the red colour let me pretend it was very serious. Even so, about 60% of my body became bright red and itchy, parts of my face swelled, I overheated, I threw up, the light-headedness required me to lie down on a nice cold floor, I threw up some more, I had to lie down again before I passed out, then I threw up some more. For just a few seconds, I felt tingling in my tongue and thought it was upgrading to full-blown anaphylaxis, but thankfully it went away and the hospital was unnecessary. I think I’d rather suffocate than go back there anyway.

So raw beetroot appears to be some form of Kryptonite. Sadly, I didn’t sleep well even after that, and wrote about six words in the entirety of the next day. So although I’m perfectly fine again, don’t let that stop you feeling very sorry for me. It makes me extremely glad not to have a peanut allergy, or something like that.

Anyway, I’m a writer, so it’s my duty to write about experiences like this, and if that leads to sympathy and hugs then that’s how it has to be.

The Short Goodbye

It’s the end of an era. It’s the closing chapter. It’s game over, man! Game over! It’s…a really good analogy that makes you feel sad even though you don’t know why yet.

For about…I don’t know, say two years, I’ve shared an office two or three days a week with Uproar Comics, Startacus and Troll Inc. Now we’re being unceremoniously kicked out of said office. Our new room is a dank little hole in the ground with little natural light, and it ain’t big enough for the four of us.

Thus, Uproar and Troll Inc. are departing for greener pastures. Gone will be the geeky cross-room conversations about films, games, TV, and what makes a superhero. Gone will be the awful puns, the amusing arguments, the snort-riddled giggling (leading to more laughing and points on the snort-o-meter). Gone will be my friends.

Through our proximity, I have shared ideas, been inspired, laughed a lot, received work, donated work, helped, been helped, learnt, and been shot at with Nerf guns. Until the end of the day, there are about 25 of us in the office, and I’d like to call a good chunk of them friends. The social anxiety…thing…agoraphobia, whatever, in me knows that’s a lot more than someone like me can generally hope to have. And the fact that I could be in the midst of that many people and not want them to f*** off quickly says more about them than about me.

We’ve known for only couple of weeks that we’re being kicked out of the office, so we haven’t had a lot of time for the fact to sink in, and to prepare. Then again, things don’t tend to mean as much to other people as they do to me, so I’ll wrap this up quickly and get back to writing something worthwhile.

I don’t like change. I didn’t like it when Troll Inc. came in. I didn’t like it when Startacus came in. I didn’t like it when Uproar came in. I liked the quiet. I wished they had found somewhere else to go and left me on my own in the office. Now, in the quiet of an empty office, I wish they’d stay.

But it’s not all gloom. Well, it is, literally speaking, because there’s just one small window at the top of our new office, but Startacus will remain with me in our new little dungeon. So the laughing will continue, just with fewer voices. And no snorts.

So, apart from hauling computers and desks around, there’s only one thing left:

Danny, Gio, Heather, Holly, Jonny, Michael ‘The Beard’, Ruth, Ciaran, Richard, Andrew, Marcus, Jim, Emma, Gavin, Thomas, Ryan, Felix, Tom, Lewis, music one, and the other few I don’t know the names of… Goodbye.

Cam, Eoin, Philip…we need a new coffee machine.

Reminiscence and Ranting Ramblings

I was awake until about 3am thinking and ranting to myself. While Kira decides what she’s going to do next, here is a diluted version of my ramblings:

Somewhere around this time in 2007, I was leaving college with a shiny HNC. Unfortunately, that was the highest qualification the college was allowed to give us for the course – Interactive Computer Entertainment (ICE) – even though it was, according to the lecturers, a degree-level course in terms of modules and other terms I didn’t understand. But anyway, I had one. With distinction. That’s a lie. We could only pass or fail the course, but I got plenty of distinctions in the individual assignments, so it’s a lie I will perpetuate in a self-important manner.

From here, I went into Incubation, which is basically an office run by a company called NORIBIC, for start up companies. I was going to make games! Computer games, obviously. There were two of us, and neither of us could program, but that didn’t matter. The course coordinator, who was a programmer, told us to get on with the 3D side of and he would do the programming for us when it came to it. For the purposes of this rant, I shall call him Dick, which is a completely random name, and certainly not chosen for reasons that shall become apparent.

So we got to work creating. We would make a demo of one or two levels as proof of concept, and try to get funding with it. Then we needed programming. We had characters animated, but we needed them to walk about. We needed scripted events. So we asked nearly every day for about three weeks, until finally Dick came to ‘have a look’. By this time I had blindly stumbled my way through some of the programming and got some switches and whatnot working. He looked at this code and all was well, apparently. He then went to have a look at the built in code to see how he’d go about doing what we needed.

He stared at the code. He stared at the code some more. He drummed his fingers and stared at the code. He sipped his coffee and stared at the code. Then he said, ‘I don’t know what any of this is’, and walked out. And that was the last we saw or heard of Dick concerning our programming.

So that was that. All that time. All those months. It must have been at least a year we were working on everything, and Dick pretty much destroyed it in one move. We could have perhaps found a programmer from somewhere to do what we needed done, but we let ourselves go into a downward spiral of crappy game ideas that only postponed the need for a programmer, and then my partner disappeared to Belfast without a word and I never saw him again.

In hindsight, I realise I was the only one taking it seriously. He was only there to feel like he was doing something with his life, without actually doing anything with his life. So I don’t know what would have happened even if Dick hadn’t exaggerated his skills and willingness to help.

So I’m left with dozens of 3D models I can’t use for anything, and that no one else can use because they had to be so low poly in order to not crash the crap game engine we were using, and questions of ‘what if’. We worked on three games in the time we had, and two of them would have been pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. But it wasn’t to be.

At least the memory of Dick led me to the memories of the ICE course, and how much I enjoyed it. I went from knowing just about nothing about game design to being one of only six people to pass the course, getting distinctions and merits left, right and, on occasion, centre. Mine became the name most called out in class when people were in need of help, rather than the lecturers’. And perhaps the thing that raises a smile most when I remember it: the music assignment. I put together a music track for our main music assignment and when the lecturer heard it, he told me I wouldn’t even get a pass. It was too late to change it, so I just submitted it. Then came the day we had to go and collect our assignments. I went in expecting the fail he told me I’d get only for him to ask to shake my hand, and give me the only distinction that he’d given out that year. Apparently the write-up that accompanied the music track changed his mind. And now…I am a writer.

Anyhoo, luckily for all of you, some unfortunate news while writing this has ended my urge to write anything or rant any further, so…bye.

Depreciation of Appreciation

I was lying in bed the other night, and happened to start thinking about my six hours in A&E not long ago. I was thinking about how absolutely awful that light-headed, sick feeling is, and found myself thinking about it so much that it started to actually manifest.

So, of course, I stopped thinking about it and immediately felt better.

In turn, that got me thinking – when I should have been sleeping – about how much you appreciate things right after being unwell. Think, for example, about the last time, as we’ve all experienced, that you were lying in bed and started to feel sick. You eventually have to get up and run to the bathroom to throw up. It feels quite unpleasant, but usually, the moment you’ve thrown up, you feel better again. You go back to bed. And that bed you take for granted the rest of the time has never felt more comfortable.

I lay there attempting to feel like that. Yes, playing Assassin’s Creed had annoyed me, then I’d got annoyed at myself for going to bed so late, there’s no heating and the house isn’t insulated so it’s cold, blah blah blah. But I was lying in my nice, comfortable bed, listening to a gentle breeze against the window, the ticking of my clock. My health is fine, I was getting up in the morning and going into an office filled with friends, and there’d be lots of laughing and joking, and so on.

So it wasn’t difficult to find myself appreciating in that same way you do in the minutes, hours, or sometimes days after being unwell.

Then I fell asleep. Then I woke up the next morning and forgot all about it and went around as normal.

So why is it that when things are bad, we can appreciate the time when they get better, or think longingly about when they were, but when things are good – or even just ok – nothing is good enough? And it seems that, as time goes on and we have more and more, we appreciate less and less.

Wouldn’t we all feel a lot better about ourselves, each other and our situations if we just appreciated things?