22 March 2017

Shucks, I've done it again.

I've managed to leave it six months without writing anything on here. It can get a little embarrassing, when I think about how many times I've thought 'oh, I could write a post today.'

Oh well.


Seems to make sense, with life going on, that a lot's happened in mine since I last wrote here. The biggest of these to me is that I'm no longer engaged - and not in the sense of the engagement having been fulfilled; it was cancelled. That was a very sad blow, and in a moment all the plans I had made to live and die with this one, specific person were dashed away to nothing. That was in October. A couple of weeks ago, we would have been our third anniversary. Yes, I got drunk.

Though things could be worse. We are still friends; it wasn't some argument that came between us, just a matter of personal make-up that came to light, which left incompatible in a pretty fundamental way. One has to be philosophical about it: it sucks dicks but it's just the way life goes.


2016 claimed a number of friends of mine and of my family, and two uncles. There isn't really much I can say about it though, which itself feels bad.

My uncle Robert, I knew well. He died of various metastatic cancers, and didn't really have a chance. My other uncle - my father's sister's husband - I didn't know, even though I knew about him. I guess I can excuse myself to an extent by saying 'well, they lived at the other end of the country,' but there was the phone, and Facebook, and even I could have thought about writing a letter now and then.

The thing with it all is that I'm spending all too much time contemplating my own mortality these days, and that's not a good mental position to be in. Too preoccupied with death to live? Bad idea. So I've been watching Andromeda and Xena and reminding myself that life is for the living.


I've still been writing plenty, and have even managed to bring some projects to their conclusion:


I swore to myself, like a million years ago or something, that I'd take part in NaNoWriMo. Every year I wanted to, every year I silently wimped out at the last moment. Welp, it just happens that NaNoWriMo is November, which comes right after October, at the end of which this break-up I mentioned before happened. Oh yeah, I needed the distraction.

So I actually did NaNoWriMo. Fucking nailed it.

Not that I think the novel I wrote for it ("The Child Factory") is all that good, but I posted it on Facebook as I was writing it, and one or two people seemed to enjoy it. I might polish it up and publish it properly, but I'm not completely sure how much I want to.


I also finished the second part of The Force of the Gods, and have published it now - as an eBook, paperback, and an audiobook (see below). It follows on from Journeyman, picking up six months later, but it's really quite different, in some ways that I'm rather proud of. As I was writing it I was thinking 'this is crap this is crap this is crap i am a fish i am a fish...' but when I got to editing it, I saw for myself how many little nuances of weirdness there were in the story that made it something that, now, I'm quite proud of.

If I can say that about my own work.

I've also started work on the third (and final) part of The Force of the Gods, which will bring it round into being a complete novel. Hopefully 2017 will by much kinder to me than 2016 was, and won't make a four-month project take nine months.

There are a few ideas I've been having for writing projects after FotG III is done, and I'm going to try and get some more notes down on those as I'm working on other things.


A couple of my friends are badly dyslexic (and, actually, so am I), and expressed interest in reading the novels I've done so far, so I thought it would be a good idea to do an audiobook - partly for them, and partly for general release, alongside the ebook and paperback releases.

Well, it was hard work. Very hard work: as a listener, one might not realize that for every hour you hear of an audiobook, there's been maybe two hours' recording and three hours' editing. Five hours' work for every hour you hear. But I did it, and then I did it again; both parts of The Force of the Gods so far completed are out as audiobooks too, and knowing that I actually just swallowed my frustration at it and got it done makes me proud.



I've not actually been doing an awful lot of radio stuff recently, other than the odd piddling around with the cat's whisker I made or winding a couple more earpiece voice coils.

No - as a music lover and general nerd, I've been kindling my interest in... 

...Tape Decks

It started last year when I found a copy of Tubular Bells at a charity shop I volunteer at, and had nothing to play it on, and no money. After some time, I got my hands on an old Walkman, and a couple of tapes, but I really wanted something to record on.

A short time later, an ITT SL 35 Automatic portable cassette recorder (c. 1973) turned up at the charity shop, and I bought it before it went out on the shop floor. *bang* I have a cassette recorder. But it needed some repair work, and I had no service manuals and no particular idea about it except the roughest knowledge of electronics from when I was at sixth-form, and that the turny things are supposed to turn. Well, I figured it out eventually, and managed to get a replacement belt for it and get it working. And it's actually surprising how well it works, considering it's billed up as being nothing more than a dictation machine.

One afternoon, around a couple of weeks after finding this thing at the shop, the man who does PATs mains electricals handed me a vinyl case with a silvery front panel sticking out. 'Take it home,' he told me, 'or it'll just go in the bin.' I took it home and got it out. A National 401S portable open reel deck (c. 1966), with some obscure European plug on it. It was in need of some serious repair, and for a few months I was wondering if I'd be able to tackle it, but eventually I did figure it out and managed to make it work. Only problem was that it can only take reels upto four inches, and reels that small are really hard to find.

And then around November, having a little more money, I bought a Miny on eBay, for around £15. Early sixties, rim-driven, kiddies' toy, really... but a really amazing testament to how simple tape tech really is. I don't use it, really, and didn't buy it thinking I would. I just thought it would be cool to have one.

And then I decided to stop dicking around, and ordered a hi-fi deck from a house clearence on eBay. A Technics RS-263US (also about 1973) with all the bells and whistles from that time - Dolby circuit, high bias for chrome tape, memory wind, whatever. Doesn't sound like a brilliant machine when I describe it, but plugged into my hi-fi, the sound is far, far better than people give tape credit for. Now I've been using this deck for a few weeks, I've bought quite a few old tapes, and will be buying blanks whenever I see them. Never know when I might want to record something myself...

So, playing with these machines over the last... probably around a year or so, by now... has actually taught me quite a lot about how the circuitry works inside, how the transport works, everything. I wouldn't say I'm upto par with a pro, but now I can confidently say that I can just about repair a tape deck. The only problem is, of course, now, that I'm at risk of just buying decks whenever I see them...

Computery Shiz

A new version of Windows 10 came out. Yay adverts. Wotevz.

But seriously, some of what's going on in W10 is cool. Some gets on my tits, and some doesn't matter. People on the tech blogs need to chill their beans about things: I've seen them rant about phone cases, one guy even did a review of a USB car power adaptor. I mean... these people are being paid to write tech blogs, and all they can do is car power adaptors. I wouldn't, personally, pay them in washers for pulling stunts like that.

I got a new computer. A nine-year-old Sony VAIO VGC-LN1M. Picked it up really cheap, when I was looking for an HD TV to plug into my laptop when I watch films, and bugger me if it doesn't turn out to be a total top-of-the-line box from its day. All I had to do was provide a hard drive and some RAM (which I literally have a basket of spares of in my room) and fire it up, and I found it to be so high-specced that it actually stands pretty well against my laptop... which is from last year.

I also got a new phone, which I'm really glad I did. Splashed out and bought myself a Lumia 950 W10 phone, and cannot believe how people didn't go crackers when it came out. 4K screen, 4K video camera, 20MP camera, 4G mobile broadband, good processor, 3GB of RAM. £260-ish. It's a good phone (I'm totally unconcerned with the "app gap"), and with Continuum (using the aux HDMI input on my VAIO) is a worthy adversary to any of my other machines - including my i5 laptop. If MS do come otu with a Surface Phone that scales up to full desktop W10 and can run x86 software, I'll probably not bother buying any more laptops.