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Serial quiz time

We’re all spending lot of time at home nowadays, so here’s a book quiz to help while away the time.

As per the title, these are books that are part of a series, and I’m looking for the author and the name of the series. All books are speculative fiction.

Series 1

Protagonist ‘finds’ lost things. He started off looking for a spaceship, but he’s really worried about the bike stole from his cousin and used to run away to space when he (protag, not the cousin) was sixteen. In book three, he’s looking for lost sheep.

Three book series, last one was published recently.

Series 2

Progatonist can’t remember much about her past before the pirates picked her up. All she knows is that she has a dragon tattoo that moves around her body.

A five-book series, the first book is nine years old now.

Series 3 (sort of)

Our protagonist can pick out things about what happens when a person dies. He’s used in cases where someone is murdered but they don’t know who committed the crime. This time he’s looking to find what happened to a young elven woman who was thrown into the river. Politics and murder at a leisurely pace.

Not a sequel, but a follow-on book using one of the minor characters from the first book. The first book is much-loved.

Series 4

Harry Potter meets the Hunger Games in this coming-of-age boarding school story, where students are dumped in a boarding school and they survive, or don’t.

Book one was out last year. Book two is coming soon, and it’s on my pre-order list.

Series 5

Our protagonist returns to the village of his birth, having failed out of university, already infamous because of his father’s betrayal in the army, and gets dragged into capers with his best friend. A light-hearted historical series where two young men solve magical mysteries, all based around a theme of food.

This author’s latest books aren’t part of this series, but these five books are part of the same world.

A couple of these are somewhat obscure. See if you can work out what they are.

Answers next week. Have fun.

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Let me be me

I grew up near Ned Kelly country.

Ned Kelly was a bushranger. This is an Australian term for a highwayman, a bandit, or an outlaw. Someone who used to rob people to survive.

Ned Kelly is famous—or infamous, if you like—for wearing homemade metal armour to protect himself in his final battle. More, he was considered a folk hero. A man victimised by the rich squatters in the area, and by the police.

Times change. People change. I have changed. My attitude to Ned has changed.

He and his gang were thieves and murderers. They stole cattle. They robbed a bank. They killed people. But it all started when he and his family were treated poorly by the police, so I have sympathy for him, too. I know the story isn’t that simple, and there would be incidents leading up to that whole first incident where he shot a policeman, but there was also poverty, racism, class and power imbalances involved.

Not that long ago I watched a television series—I can’t remember the name—about a stuntwoman and a rich young man who swapped in and out of each other’s bodies. I loved the show to start with. The stuntwoman was strong, with a good sense of self; she knew who she was and what she wanted.

Then, about six episodes in, while he was in her body, Rich Young Man (let’s call him Rich) started buying her clothes. Expensive clothes. Feminine clothes. For a girl who lived sneakers, jeans and t-shirts.

I used to love make-over stories where the rich man would come along and sweep the girl off her feet, buying her fancy clothes, changing her appearance, making her look like he wants her to be.

Times change. People change. I have changed. Nowadays, I find stories like that creepy. Controlling. Particularly when, as in this case, it’s supposed to be a romance. She’s gradually falling for him—as he is—while he’s supposedly falling for her but at the same time he’s trying to make her into a different person.

Having said that, I have no objection to anyone buying their partner clothes but have some respect for that partner and their likes and dislikes. In this case Rich ditched her old wardrobe and replaced it. Her original clothes were pretty good, by the way, with a smart, Asian chic. The clothes he replaced them with were totally not the person she was. Frilly, feminine dresses. Nor, might I add, did they suit her job. She does stunts, for heaven’s sake.

Yeah. Definitely controlling and there’s no half-way either. He doesn’t expect to change at all, but she’s expected to make herself into a different person.

I don’t remember finishing the series.

The girl being made over at the command of someone else is a common trope in many stories. Sometimes it works—I read one the other day where it did—but so often for me it’s a case of someone imposing their will on someone else. Oh, and it’s so frustrating when they throw out all the other clothes. Me, personally, I like my current clothes.

Around two years ago I got so frustrated by stories like this that I started to write my own story based around this very trope—where a rich main character ends up buying a whole wardrobe of new clothes for another character—but twisting it so that the reason they were buying the wardrobe was logical, trying to eliminate the creep factor altogether.

It was harder than I thought to come up with a good reason to do this. Like I say, times change. People change.

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Desirable residence, central heating

We’re in the middle of eating dinner when the heater kicks in.  (It’s the end of winter here in Melbourne, Australia—getting warmer, but not warm enough to do without the heater.)  An awful smell assails the room.

“What the?”

We go hunting.

First place, of course, is the windows and outdoors.  Something dead outside, or from the petrol station nearby.

Nothing.

Then our rooms.  Maybe it’s dirty shoes.  Although believe me, it has to be truly bad to smell like this.  Then Sherylyn’s art bag.  She has been known to bring back lemons and grapefruit from classmates and forget about them till the next week.

Nothing.

“It’s kind of musky,” I say.  “Possum?”

We had a possum in the ceiling once.  It smelt a little musky.  But believe me when I tell you the smell of possum is nothing to compared to the smell of possum urine.  That is a stink you never forget and even once you get rid of the possum it takes months to get rid of the urine smell.  Months!

Incidentally, possums are a protected species here.  You don’t actually get rid of them.  You pay the pest control man to find out where the possum is getting in and out, then they put a one-way door on the exit, and go around the rest of the house blocking off any other possible entry points.  They come back a few days later to block off the exit altogether.  Assuming the one-way trapdoor has been triggered and the possum is now establishing a new home in your garden, of course.

They also put down rat bait, because as cute as possums may be, they bring rats.  Having possums in your ceiling means you’ve also probably got rats.

Yes, well.  Now we know that—and we know just how bad possum urine smells—we get the whole house checked every six months.

But the last check was only a few of months ago.  And it’s certainly not possum.

“Tomcat?” We keep the windows open, and neighbourhood cats have been known to jump in through the back laundry window.

No.  Not that smell either.

The smell has died down by then, so we go back to dinner.  Maybe it was a truck going past.

We have floor vents for the heater, and the heater is thermostatically controlled.  Half an hour later the heater kicks in again.  So does the smell.

It’s coming through the vents.

“You know what it smells like,” Sherylyn says.  “Mouse.”

I’m taken back to days in the country and mouse plagues through the stored wheat.  Of course it’s mice.

So now I have visions of this family of mice, in their cosy, centrally-heated home, living the high life while we struggle to work out how to get rid of the pests in the middle of a lockdown.

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Jargon

I’d just finished making notes on a work meeting I’d had. It contained a lot of jargon.

“We can pull from the [redacted] up to every fifteen minutes but if we do it too often the company will throttle us and force us onto overnight push feeds.”

After which I went out to get some lunch.  Sherylyn was in the kitchen watching a demonstration video.

“That’s a lot of puddle in the middle,” she murmurs. “I’d be stretching that out.”  And a little later, “Which piggy is he using?”

It’s a jargon-ridden life, that’s for sure. Sometimes I’m surprised we write even semi-coherent novels. 

Speaking of novels, we have just hit 50,000 words on the first draft of the novel we are working on. No, not the only novel we’ve been working on for the last 12 months (progress has been slow during the pandemic), that’s put aside waiting for some distance. We always like to give our novels time between drafts if we can. This is a new one, and the writing has been faster.

Usually, if a story we’re writing makes it to 20,000 words it’s a goer (more jargon, or is that slang 😊), although we do have one or two novels sitting above that waiting for either more input or a final ‘under the bed you go’ decision, but if it’s 20,000 words we generally keep writing. 

When a story gets to 50,000 words however, we finish it. Even if we don’t like it when we’re done. Even when we hit that dreaded middle-book slump—around the 60,000 word mark for us—we’ll push through. This one has been fun to write so far, and so much easier than anything else in the last two years. Maybe one day you, too, will get to meet Augustus Aurealis.

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Something positive

Image of milky way

Here on the blog I do try to vary the subjects and not always talk about the pandemic but you can’t ignore life, and for all of us at the moment COVID-19 has certainly had a big impact on our lives. Most of it has been disruptive.  We, personally, have been lucky in that way. We are fed, we are employed (although Sherylyn is retiring), we are relatively protected and so far our family has been safe.

Like many, that doesn’t mean the pandemic hasn’t affected us. From a writing point-of-view we struggled, and we’re only really getting back into it now.  Plus it has changed our life in some ways.

That change hasn’t all been bad.  My savings have increased.  Increased a lot, in fact, which has made me realise just how much I was spending on things like eating out and other non-essential items.

Best of all, my priorities have changed. What was important before is less so now. Being alive is important. Being—relatively—healthy is important. Having a roof over my head and food to eat is important. As for the rest, chill, as they say, and take what comes.

It’s incredibly freeing.

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Loki

Loki image courtesy of Disney Plus
Loki image courtesy of Disney Plus.

Disney released Loki in June. We held off for a month and a bit—until the whole series had run, but that wasn’t deliberate—then we caved. We wanted to see it, and Disney Plus offers a month-by-month subscription.

So we succumbed.

Only to discover our television is too old to get Disney Channel.

Not a problem.  Let’s plug the PC into the smart TV and watch it from there.

Ah, yes, but last time we did that we weren’t using our one-and-only HDMI cable for the sound bar we had attached to the television.  (Our COVID gift to ourselves because we found we were watching a lot more TV and the native sound was awful. It’s an old TV. 😊)

Let’s get a new cable.

Just one tiny problem. We’re two days into a snap lockdown and we only have five reasons to go out for anything. Some of us might consider an HDMI cable a necessity, it’s not.  So we ordered one online and settled in to wait.  It’s coming on Tuesday.

Today, we decided to watch Loki on the PC, anyway.

How was it, you ask?

Well, the first episode I thought we’d made a mistake and wasted our money. 

For those of you who felt the same but chose not to go any further, it gets better. A lot better.

It took a day, but we watched all six episodes, and I’m looking forward to series two.

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It ate’nt dead yet

Credit for the title, of course, goes to the one and only Terry Pratchett and the amazing Granny Weatherwax. Thank you Sir Terry, and Granny, for that immortal line, “I ate’nt dead.”

In science fiction we often take household objects and extrapolate from what is annoying about them to how they might change in future.

Take the mobile phone. You have to carry the phone around. You leave it places. You forget where you put it. And then, when you do find it, it’s running out of battery. Battery life has improved out-of-sight since the first phones but you still have to charge the phone regularly.

So, extrapolating from the first brick phone—and haven’t we all seen the Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps trailer, whereGordon Gecko gets his brick phone back—to the modern mobile, where do we go from here? Well, there’s the smart watch. That saves us carrying the phone around, but we have watchphones already. Where can we go next?

Phones built into our bodies, maybe. Our body powers the phone, the signal received wirelessly in the jaw and sent to our ear, sound picked up and sent in a similar way.

What about cars? Some of us spend a lot of time commuting. Self-driving cars are coming and I want one. Think how much you could with the time you spend driving.

Science fiction writers think about obsolescence as well. What do we do now that we might not do in the future?

Cleaning? Please. Let the bots begin. Food delivery? Yes, more bots.

Along the way we lose some things. Usually the new thing is better, or more effective. Firearms have replaced swords. (Some might argue this is not a good thing. It’s easier to kill with a firearm, and more hands-off.) The motor car has replaced the horse and carriage. The ball-point has replaced the fountain pen and is now being replaced in turn by gel, felt-tip and other pens.

I was in one of the last classes in primary school where you graduated from pencil to fountain pen when your writing was good enough. Sadly, ball-point pens replaced that a couple of years later, but I loved my fountain pen.

Another tool, or rather technique, that has become almost obsolete is shorthand. This has largely been replaced by voice recordings, transcription services and voice recognition. It’s not dead yet, but gradually being phased out.

I didn’t learn shorthand at school. Sometimes I wish I had, and if I had learned it that I had kept it up. There are so many ways I could use it at work. Meeting notes, research, taking down instructions. Right now I would find it really useful.

Interestingly, shorthand isn’t new. Forms of shorthand were used by the Roman Empire, and in Imperial China.

Maybe shorthand will be around longer than I think.

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If you liked The Untamed

We found another wuxia c-drama we enjoyed. We binge-watched it like we did The Untamed. It’s called Word of Honor and comes highly recommended if you enjoy those types of shows.

Seriously loved it.

There is a certain similarity between the two shows, and we’re now convinced that all wuxia is about greed and revenge. 😊 

Sherylyn also says we should add in Handsome Siblings to the list. We both enjoyed that as well.

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Lockdown

Sadly, not where I am, but where I’d like to be. We’re stuck at home, it’s winter, cold. I’d rather be somewhere warm, near a pool.

So we’re back in lockdown. Not such a trial for us, as it’s pretty much same-old, same-old. I feel for  those who can’t work, like the casual workers, and small businesses, especially without the safety net of JobKeeper. What’s scary is that it only took one person and an out-of-state quarantine muck-up, and suddenly 85 people are infected. This virus moves fast.

I have to say that JobKeeper was good for those who couldn’t work during the big lockdowns, but outside of that the Federal Government has been mostly missing in action for the whole pandemic. Sometimes I seriously can’t tell if they’re simply incompetent, or if it’s because our PM, who is waiting for the Rapture, thinks this pestilence is part of The End and is letting everything go as a result. So glad for the state governments right now.

Until the lockdown I had been going in to the office to work two days a week, and for the first time in a year I’ve taken the train. What is it with the younger men? It’s compulsory to wear a face mask on the train. All the women do, the older men do, but few of the youths and men up to their thirties. Is it a macho thing? Do they think they’re immune?

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More busy

Status–getting to the end of this busy work time.

As soon as you think that another busy time comes along, but right now I’m feeling there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, we all know what that light signifies, don’t we? An oncoming train.

Had a really good weekend writing, at least. The best in months. Very happy with what we produced.

I’m off to finish another prototype.