Changes Are A-Coming

This site has always been a labour of love – with all the ups and downs that go with that statement. Well shortly I shall be gathering help on that front, with opportunities for Lady M and Mre B to contribute as guest bloggers as the mood, wit and whimsy takes them.

For the most part it’s likely to be extra bits of fiction as we bounce things off each other, but who knows? This, as they say, could get rather interesting…

Are We Nearly There Yet?

I’ll be glad, as my grandfather used to say, when I’ve had enough. Of what? I hear you ask. You could probably take your pick of a number of things ranging from a non-stop day at work; the effort taken to not resort to blatant sarcasm with stubborn customers; or of seeing people I care for having a rough time. As of the time of writing, let’s just go with 2016 as an arbitrary measurement of sidereal time. It was with no small amount of amusement that I noted today’s date and thought: “Yay! We’re over halfway through until this year’s done and dusted!”

Surely, you say, this would have been a better post to write on June 28th (the 179th day of the year), rather than the 222nd? Well, I’ve been a bit busy, and don’t call me Shirley. I’ve just had to explain that reference to Lady M, but to be fair she has just taken some very strong painkillers. I’m just letting off steam; I figure I’ve earned it and seeing as I have my own soapbox I might as well use it. Lady M has also graciously volunteered me another in the form of contributor rights on her TWITT blog, and so you can expect some rather more pithily targeted observations over there from time to time as well.

What’s the worst that could happen, right?

Grumpiness and Preoccupation

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You may have noticed a bit of a slow down in posting of late, and if I put my hand on my heart it’s been because I’ve not really been feeling too motivated. There’s been an awful lot going on recently, on top of the recent winter bugs, and more than a little of it has been – well, personal and private.

Hang on a minute, I hear you say, aren’t you always writing about life events and emotional moments? Some of it’s pretty good reading, and you’re always going on about writing under your own name as transparency. You’ve talked about some pretty intimate and private things already, so why the sudden coyness?

Well firstly, being human, I reserve the right to change my mind. Secondly, I’ll usually only write about things when I’ve had a chance to work it out in my head first so that you get the edited highlights. Thirdly I’m pretty circumspect about other people’s privacy, and it’s this last area that has been taxing me somewhat. That’s because I have no problem talking about my health, past, sexuality, misdemeanours, plans, triumphs, and oddness – but I’m also wary of betraying confidences or broadcasting other people’s intimacies.

Frankly, there are a few people that I’ve been worried about for a variety of reasons. For some the worries have been health-related, where I have been concerned about serious ongoing conditions worsening. Others have been around work-related issues for people, and then there’s the generalised everyday relationship anxieties that always try to sneak into the mix, no matter how confident and committed you are.

Now, most of these worries are things that are either in hand, or are so out of my sphere of control that it doesn’t matter if I worry or not, but they are all issues being faced by other people that I care about. My coping mechanism has been to do what I can, where I can. Failing that, to distract myself with games and books and the company of people I love. Blogging about it has been fairly far down the agenda.

That said, this little self-referential grumpiness has reminded me that there’s more in life to write about. I have games, reviews, observations and silliness in mind. I also have interest from a number of people in more general articles, so I shall link to any of those projects as they come to fruition. Time to get busy again in the final push to the end of the year…

Visitor Statistics

Out of sheer curiosity, I thought I’d take a look at the visitor statistics for the site. Since adopting a more regular posting schedule we’ve nearly doubled the page views here since last year to 6754 as of time of writing.

This is a huge leap, and while it may feel small beans, it’s truly impressive considering this is mostly just me wittering away to myself in the corner.

Not only that, but the number of individual visitors for this year is only 300 short of the total number of page views for last year. 3360 people have been curious enough to come take a look around this year. Thank you all very much, whether you’re human, bot, household pet, or extremely unlucky extraterrestrial. What on earth are you all doing here?

For all that, there’s only been 30 (moderated) comments on the site. I’ve had a few on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and G+ where the links to these posts appear and it seems people are happier commenting there.

I’m obviously not particularly contentious, so perhaps I should start writing the occasional deliberately contrary post to see who I can tempt out of the woodwork. Or not; I’ve enough going on without manufacturing drama among those who “have read your blog”…

So there we are, a bit dry, but I’ll no doubt ruminate more nearer the end of the year. Good night, and may the stats be ever in your favour.

Professionally Foolish

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Warning: Rose Tinted Spectacles Engaged

One of the things I did when ill back in the early 00s was become enamoured of social media and blogs. I set up online journals and didn’t care who knew about it. I wrote caustically about life, illness, and the people who upset me, often all at the same time and with no regard for who it might hurt. It never even occurred to me that it would come back to bite me. This was partly because it was a relatively new medium of expression and there were few codified workplace sets of guidance, and partly because I was very ill.

It certainly did bite me in the arse though, largely because one of the people following my blog was my manager, and they didn’t take my blowing off steam lightly. It was one of those horrible self-sabotaging things that depression made so easy to do, and I must have been horrifying to manage at the time. As it was, it led to mistrust, stress and nearly the ending of my contract as we all fumbled around and tried to work through it. Things said in jest were taken seriously, and pain best kept private was broadcast to the world, and those were the good days.

I did at least learn from the experience – eventually – and it is what led to my resolving to blog under my own name, and to talk openly but carefully about topics as they wandered into focus. I wrote a while back about how, for me, blogging under a pseudonym just wasn’t an option, largely because it risked being a shield for my delusions and encouraged an imprecision of expression.

As long as I don’t mind writing as if anything I say could be splashed across the world’s news (technically a possibility, though I fear I’m not likely to have hordes of people interested in me), then this is where I can be Foolish in public while honing my professional skills.

These days there’s generally more awareness, or at least publicity, when things go wrong. I can see examples in news feeds every day of people falling foul of the interface between work life and social media, and sometimes encounter it in my day-to-day work. Fortunately these days it’s usually people coming to me for advice (which amuses me, given the history disclosed above), and if I can help people on either side of the ‘whoops’ moment then all my mistakes have some purpose and reward.

I may still call you a number of inventive names, but you’ll know it was coming from a place of bitter experience and my eagerness to spare your potential blushes.

This moment of whimsy brought to you by “she said what?”, ” he posted what now?” and “I thought they said they were sick?”

Guest Blogging

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I don’t think I’ve guest blogged for anyone before. I have written some opinion pieces for money before now, and a few of them have even been under my own name, but it isn’t quite the same. Being asked to contribute to someone else’s journey has a certain glow to it that is both flattering and a little bit scary, so of course I’ve leapt at the chance; wouldn’t you?

I know, a guest writing slot on my wife’s new blog is hardly a journalistic apotheosis, but I’ll tell you why this is such a big deal. The TWITT project is something that is very dear to Lady M’s heart. I haven’t seen her so simultaneously excited and daunted before, and her pride in getting this project started means that she is being very careful with her brand. My being asked to contribute speaks volumes about her expectations for the piece, and I can only hope that I can do as good a job as her previous guest writer.

So, there’s an item due for publication over on Lady M’s TWITT blog tomorrow that may amuse you. In it, I chew the fat about gender norms, as you do. I hope it fits the general tone of what she’s trying to do and sparks a few knowing nods if not a measure of debate. If nothing else it’ll pass a few minutes pleasantly for you, but I’ll be interested to hear what people think.

Of course there may just be resounding indifference, that’s always an option. I hope not, for my ego’s sake, but then I’m British, and we always like to start each sentence with an apology.

Cheering From The Sidelines

Lady M has been busy this week – just one way I can tell she’s on the heal at last. She’s been laying the groundwork for a little while for a project that is very close to her heart. It’s called Today’s Women In Tomorrow’s Technology, and as of this week the blog and twitter components have gone live.

At the heart of her project is a desire to inspire, guide, mentor and bring new and existing women together working in the Technology industry. She’s already gathering attention and support – and I think that in part it is a case of the right idea, at the right time, that is capturing people’s imaginations.

She’s asked me to write a guest spot on there in the near future – but don’t let that put you off. Go take a look, and engage if you like the ideas or want to be part of a wider discussion.

I Read Your Blog

If there’s a phrase that puts me on edge these days, its someone that I’m talking with face to face suddenly saying: “I read your blog.” There’s often a pause straight after. There’s usually a slightly guilty look on their face at the time, because they’re about to ask a question about some of the more personal information that I’ve posted here.

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Keep Calm and Use the Konami Code

Sometimes there’s a carefully neutral expression, akin to the one I used to wear as an IT Systems Administrator when in conversation with someone while I was wearing my “I read your email” t-shirt. It can feel that either phrase can be an implicit threat at the same time as a helpful acknowledgement. It is often not until we get to the next sentence that it becomes apparent which way the conversation is going.

These days it’s usually one of three topics: my gaming write up pages, my mental health posts, or allusions to my love life. Well, there’s also one person who picks me up on the WordPress app’s ability to “autocorrect” my apostrophe usage to interesting effect occasionally (looking at you here, Lady G).

In each case I’m usually doing a lightning fast fight or flight calculation. This often manifests as my responding with an “oh yes?”, or possibly a more drawn out “yeeeesssssss?” if there’s something in the tone of the original comment that rings mental alarm bells. More often than not, the next sentence is generally supportive, or picks out a turn of phrase that has put a grin on their face.

These last ones are, admittedly, some of the nicest conversations. That’s because I get to see someone’s joy as provoked by my writing. That’s a huge ego boost, and particularly helps if I’m having a doldrums day. (Sir S was the most recent of these, telling me of the sheer joy he got from recognising himself in the blog – there’s always one 😛 )

To date, the other topics have either prompted grimly supportive statements like “you know you can talk to me about anything”, or semi incoherent reassurances along the lines of “if you’re happy, we don’t give a flying f**k”. I await with interest the day someone tells me, to my face, to lighten the hell up – and engages in a long and in-depth discussion without a look of terror or utter confusion on their face.

Well, there’s one Dangerous person who does, but he’s usually very, very drunk at the time and shows no subsequent sign of recalling the conversations afterwards. This may be a blessing in disguise.

I wonder how many other bloggers encounter this. Many people blog under an assumed name or title of course, but there are many who, like me, blog under their own name. Is this sense of trepidation when talking directly to your audience just a figment of my overactive imagination, or something we all struggle with (even if only briefly?) What approaches do you adopt when the virtual and real worlds coincide?

And Now, The Liebster

Liebster Award Logo and RulesI mentioned this the other day, but I got nominated for a Liebster Award – and given that I have an unexpectedly free Sunday afternoon and it’s raining out there, I suppose this is as good a time as any to do something about it!

The Liebster is one of those congenial collegiate mega-like indicators used as a good excuse to highlight people who you think could use a little more attention, and its rules seem to fluctuate generally from time to time. As this seems to be more down to personal preference than the dictates of the Elders Of The Internet, it appeals to the more anarchic elements of my personality – but I’ll aim to satisfy most of the goals on the list.

To be honest, I feel a bit of a newbie, because it’s the first time I’d ever heard of the Liebster (although a quick wander across the search engines of choice soon educated me on the many, many, takes on this award.

In any case, thank you to swtswtsue for the nomination. I’ve been following her blog a relatively short time – but that’s mostly because she’s only been writing for a while. Go have a look and enjoy a very genuine person’s thoughts.

So, the way this works is that there are eleven questions she’s asked – once I’ve answered them, I’ll pick out some people who I enjoy reading and who probably won’t mind the extra attention and post some questions for them too. Who’s ready for a Q&A session?

Q: What is your absolute, without-a-doubt favourite movie of all-time (and what is it about this movie that makes it your favourite?) Yeah, I know.  That was sneaky  😉

A: Oh, starting with the tough ones. It depends on my mood. For the longest time it was the film Aliens, which had a near perfect mix of action, horror, suspense, and dark humour that hit my teenage self between the eyes like a hammer. I still have a soft spot for that film, even if these days I’m more likely to reach for The Nightmare Before Christmas or Guardians of the Galaxy.

Q: How long have you been blogging?

A: I started back around 2001 on a simple journalling site that I honestly can’t remember the name of. At the time, I was recently diagnosed with depression and was battling with self harm, and made the mistake of both writing openly and letting people at work know about it. Yes, I know: when I’m ill, I’m the dumbest smart guy in the room. After that, I shifted to Livejournal which allowed me to set multiple permission levels and be a little more careful with who was reading it. I took a few years break, because Reasons, and then started this blog at the tail end of 2010 when I started writing professionally. Wow, time really has flown…

Q: What kind of impact has blogging had on your life?

A: It’s been both a useful tool and a pain in the arse, frankly. It’s been a great way to blow off steam, to rant and rave, and to be more introspective too. The enclosed echo chamber can be dangerous though for certain moods, which is why I try to vary what I write about, and to use this site for other things such as the gaming and writing. I’ve used my blogs to talk openly about my journey through depression and Bipolar wobbles, as well as my diabetes and weird and wonderful emotional life, and having it as an outlet has helped spread the load away from family, friends and professional counsellor. It must be working, as my ex-wife described me recently to Lady M as the sanest lunatic she knows.

Q: So far, what has been your greatest triumph in life?

A: My daughter, The Charleesi, who has grown to become a talented and formidable young lady. A slightly less fluffy answer has been my recovery from self harm and the rebuilding of my life from the lowest ebb possible.

Q: What is your dream job (and why)?  I know, I know.  I did it again.  😉

A: Being a well-known published novelist; a dream I’ve had since being knee-high to Jimminy Cricket. The paid writing I currently do is a really big step in the right direction. To be honest, my current combination of writer and library work is pretty sweet, despite the pay.

Q: Favorite band?  (I know I’d have trouble with this one so I’ll allow you 3, haha.)

A: Queen, Foo Fighters, Professor Elemental

Q: How would you describe your personality?

A: Quietly laconic

Q: What is your favorite thing (personality trait, talent, physical feature, etc.) about yourself?  Yep, you guessed it – and why?

A: This is a very hard question because I struggle to acknowledge anything positive about myself a lot of the time. My deadpan sarcasm, writing and drawing all generate the odd moments of accomplishment when people say nice things. In general, I’m rather pleased that people tend to listen when I talk, and that I take responsibility for what I say and do.

Q: How do you feel about medication (mental illness-wise)?

A: Oh gods, it depends on the mental illness and the severity of what you’re dealing with. For depression in particular it’s a bloody useful band aid until you can get to the real healing that comes with talking remedies. By and large, work with your doctors and therapists, and if they give you medication, bloody take it. At the same time, educate yourself on its intended and side effects so you can work in partnership with the health professionals.

Q: What’s your favorite personality trait in others (what draws you to certain people?)

A: Humour, definitely humour, followed by geekiness, and a filthy mind in no particular order.

Did you enjoy answering these questions?  I sure hope so!

A: Took me a while, yeah, pleasant enough.

And now, eleven random facts about me:

  • I draw and doodle on pretty much every blank and not so blank piece of paper that comes to rest in front of me.
  • I am usually a lot less confident than I appear.
  • For the first six or seven years of my life, I was 80% deaf.
  • I really like the taste of butterscotch.
  • I judge people by how they treat books.
  • I prefer to cook my own meals because I’m a fussy eater.
  • I’m normally nocturnal, but force myself to keep largely to my partners’ active hours to maximise time with them.
  • My favourite colour is purple.
  • I still flinch at unexpected physical contact, but I’m a lot better at hiding it these days.
  • I get bored very easily.
  • One of the few things that anger me is someone not owning their issues or mistakes.

And now: the nominations:
Well, actually, no – at least not yet. I’m composing this on a tablet, and have been for a few days, so I’ll finish this in the morning with an edit and proper links to go with a further set of questions.

See you soon

One Of My Players Made A Thing

I’m all for encouraging people to write, after all I make things up for a living and like to share the misery. One of the players in my Monday night game has started an in-character diary blog, so I said I’d ramp up her anxiety levels and share it with you all here.

Her Blog is called RPG Storytelling – and I’ll add it to the list of links on the right in a bit – the specific bits about her experience in our campaign start here

Have fun!