On losing

I have a theory why online auction sites are so successful, as compared to regular online retailers. Auction sites allow you to win. And winning feels nice.

Think about it: shopping in and of itself makes us feel good. The buyer’s remorse comes later, of course, but at that moment you hand over your cash and take possession of that object that you have coveted for who knows how long, your body gets flooded with all manner of feel-good hormones. (Come to think of it, one could probably consider buyer’s remorse the hangover that occurs when one come off the high produced by this particular naturally produced drug.)

But auction sites take it a step further. Even before you hold that coveted item in your hands you get to experience the unsurpassed joy that’s produced when the message flashes across the screen that you have won the auction.

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On Losing the Plot

Not literally, mind you. Mostly because I haven’t found it yet. The darn characters keep changing on me, and I can’t seem to make up my mind about the setting. Regarding the latter, I’ve decided to go with the old adage of ‘write what you know’, so the first act is now moving to South Africa. (Act 2 and 3 will, by necessity, be located in exotic locations I’ve never visited, but I’ll just make that up as I go along.)

But in any case the novel will get done in its own time. I’m for all intents and purposes withdrawing from NaNoWriMo 2014. I’m over fifteen thousand words behind schedule and am at present suffering from severe stare-at-a-blank-screen-syndrome. I’ve been trying to write every day since returning from my conference last week, dutifully opening Scrivener, staring at my notes, but since Sunday I’ve only managed a little over two hundred words.

I suppose it’s still possible for me to finish. Three thousand words a day would do the trick, but at the moment I just don’t have any words to write. As I said, I’ve lost the plot.

To start with, my conference was really good, but while I went there for ideas and inspiration, all I came back with are questions I do not even begin to know how to answer. Not academic questions, to be clear, but very distracting personal ones, about where my life is going (or not going), what I will find when (if) I reach my destination, whether I’m even on the right path to start with…

As if that wasn’t enough, I came home to the news that a good friend and former colleague had passed away. I’m going to her funeral in an hour, but it still hasn’t hit home that she’s gone. We’ve lost touch the past couple of years as she moved to a different school and I left teaching entirely, but I’m incredibly sad at the thought that she is gone.

So writing is hard at the moment and NaNoWriMo is just not that much of a priority. It’ll pass, but for now I’ll just let myself feel what I feel, and meanwhile I’ll keep staring at the screen hoping the words come, however few they may be…

On false starts, birthdays and changing one’s mind

Man, I’m out of practice with fiction writing.

NaNoWriMo is going quite well, word count-wise. Day one started with a bang, well, actually not, as I started writing at midnight and the wife was already in bed, so I kept it quiet. But it started well with me exceeding my quota in the first day. The following few days saw me missing my quota, though it was still a vast improvement over last year where I couldn’t start writing until day four.

I reached both the five and ten thousand word milestones only two days behind schedule and was all set of a 5k-Sunday which would have put me back on track and in a good position to build up a lead for the three days I’ll be missing when I attend a conference from tomorrow.

Then I hit a snag. Click here to find out more.


I blinked, and suddenly we’re at the end of October. I’ve no idea how this happened. Wait, I do. I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at the school again. It seems even though I’ve been gone for almost two years now, I still know more about what goes on there than anyone else. At first it was gratifying to know I’m still needed, but it’s reaching the point where I’m starting to wish they’d learn to figure stuff for themselves. I suppose I could have left them detailed written instructions and made sure all the curriculum and policy documents were available and easily accessible from a central location in both printed and digital format…oh, wait…I did!

Every time I visit the school I’m just strengthened in my resolve to not go back to my old job. But I’ll do a proper rant about that later.

Because just now I need to focus on NaNoWriMo, which is a mere seven hours away in my time zone. I’m nowhere near done outlining for the new novel, but at least I already have a brief synopsis. Go give it a read, why don’t ya!

This post gets better once you click here. I promise.


I just missed a couple of posts, and then I missed a couple more. And I realised the world didn’t come to an end so I skipped a couple weeks, and still the Earth did not fall off its axis. But it’s a dangerous road to get on to start thinking this way. It gets much too easy to convince oneself that it would be okay to quit entirely.

Thing is, I did get to thinking, and questioning why I do this (blog, that is). Of late blogging has become a bit…mechanical for me. I got into a schedule (which is not of itself a bad thing) and all of a sudden blogging consisted only of figuring out the next review, or song title challenge, or whatever, and I never just write a post anymore because I read something or saw something or thought or felt something and I wanted to write about it.

So I thought some more, and I decided to change things a bit. For the foreseeable future I’ll be taking a step back. I’ll try to still post at least once a week, but I’m not making any promises. I’m going to allow myself to only post when I feel like it, just for a while.

I’m suspending the Song Title Challenge for the rest of the year – I’ll decide in January whether it’s coming back or not. Meanwhile, comments on all old challenges are still open, so you’re welcome to participate in any one of those. As for reviews and Percussive Etymology… You’ll see ‘em when you see ‘em.

Anyhow, I need to focus on NaNoWriMo now. I’m still figuring out the ins and outs of the new novel, but I’ll let you know once the synopsis is up and I’ll be posting excerpts as well as the month (and word count) progresses.

I hope the uncertainty does not drive you bonkers. Thanks for understanding.

(P.S. Bonus points if you got the title reference.)

Hopping Blogs

So, there I was, casually strolling through the blogosphere, when a ruthless predator pounced on me. He claimed that he wasn’t pouncing, but hopping, and that it was actually a good thing, and now I have to pounce hop on other people as well. I tried to explain that I don’t hop, only hit stuff with hammers, but he just giggled like a maniac and hopped further, oblivious to the mayhem and destruction left in his wake.

So now I have to hop; blog-hop, that is. As today is Heritage Day in South Africa, I suppose it’s only proper that I tip the hat to my countryman, 23thorns, for conning nominating me to participate in what’s apparently called a World Blog Hop. This one specifically is for creative types (didn’t know I was one of those), and 23thorns has no shortage of creativity. Not many people, for example, can write a thoughtful post on parenting inspired by Jeremih’s song Birthday Sex (I very nearly used that song for the Song Title Challenge birthday edition) that also has you rolling on the floor from laughter.

As is customary with these things, there are questions that need be answered:

1. Include a quote that you like.

The pen is mightier than the sword

Okay, okay. That’s way too easy, isn’t it? Actually my favourite writing-related quote is from the novel Snuff by Mr Terry Pratchett:

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Song Title Challenge #65: Spoonman by Soundgarden

It’s time for this week’s Song Title Challenge.

Write a short piece of fiction, around 300 words, using the song title as your story title but don’t listen to the song.  You can pick your own genre or use the one suggested to me.  Remember to link back to this post so I can find yours.

If you would like to suggest a song title for a future post, you can do so from the challenge page.  You can also leave a suggestion on the Facebook page.

Stuff are supposed to come in threes, they say, so I’m giving you the third and final children’s story suggested by bumblepuppies: Spoonman by Soundgarden. Read at own risk.


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A Piratical Tale

Ahoy there ye lily-livered, yellow-bellied landlubbers! It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. To celebrate, I’ve laid aside me hammer and me cutlass and took up the weapon said ter be mightier than either and penned ye a tale of a pirate lass with a heart so black, ole’ Blackbeard himself was afeared o’ her.

Piqued yer curiosity? Then read on, matey!

Percussive Etymology – Rule of Thumb

It’s time again for Percussive Etymology (now sporting its very own header, courtesy of the wife). In this fortnightly feature my trusty hammer and I will explore the origins of one of the many quirky phrases contained in the English language.

Percussive EtymologyThe continued positive response to this feature truly warms my heart. Following the brass monkey shenanigans I have been inundated with suggestions of other phrases to mutilate explain, and even a specific request to once more debunk a popular fallacy regarding the origins of a particular expression. While mythbusting was not part of my initial plan for this feature, I acknowledge that I can provide a valuable service to the linguistic sciences by making this small addition.

In that vein we will today address the expression “rule of thumb”, suggested by Misha Burnett. (By the way, Misha recently published the final instalment in his Book of Lost Doors trilogy, The Worms of Heaven. Why don’t you stop by his blog and give it a look?)

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Song Title Challenge #64: The Magician’s Birthday by Uriah Heep

It’s time for this week’s Song Title Challenge.

Write a short piece of fiction, around 300 words, using the song title as your story title but don’t listen to the song.  You can pick your own genre or use the one suggested to me.  Remember to link back to this post so I can find yours.

If you would like to suggest a song title for a future post, you can do so from the challenge page.  You can also leave a suggestion on the Facebook page.

As I’m celebrating another year I’ve managed to not join the choir invisible (you can congratulate me in the comments, though if you really want to make my day, take part in today’s challenge) I’ve picked my own song. I googled song titles containing the word “birthday” and settled on The Magician’s Birthday by Uriah Heep. Given the occasion I allowed myself a few extra words.


The Magician’s Birthday

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