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More about Windows 10 [Aug. 8th, 2015|03:02 pm]
Additional to my last post, here is a warning about the free upgrade to W10. It is free, but some bits and pieces will only be available at a cost. Strange things, like a DVD player, when there are numerous free third-party programs, and Solitaire (I'm looking at you, Pam!). Also, while it is free to upgrade from an older version of Windows, it won't be free if you're doing a clean install, if say you're reinstalling after a HDD failure or Windows corrupted or you're installing on a new PC. Here's a good article on the various ins-and-outs: http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2015/08/05/windows-10-charging/
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Windows 10 [Aug. 8th, 2015|01:30 pm]
So I took the plunge and upgraded from W7 to 10. I had to reinstall W7 a few weeks ago after it corrupted and I hadn't got around to reinstalling all the various programs. Upgrading now, while the PC was in a fairly bare state and with all my important stuff backed-up, seemed as good a time as any.

First impressions were fairly good. W10 is certainly better looking than the horrible Metro style of W8. Not far removed from W7 actually, but sharper, more colourful... Better for me than the poncy semi-transparency of Aero. Yeah, I like it. Then I discovered that getting to my story documents or photos or music files took some convoluted navigation. And every time I opened a file it was added to a quick access pane. All very fiddly and unnecessary.

Me: "This is shit. Where's the W7 disc?"

Then I found out that (perhaps because of that reinstall of W7 a few weeks ago) my stories, music, photos, etc., were not in a conventional path. After some jiggery-pokery I sorted that out, added the relevant folders to the quick access pane and turned off the 'recent files' thing. That's all good now. Better than it was in W7 actually.

The much vaunted start menu is a bit flashy and many are criticising it, but it is quite customisable and after some playing around with it, I have a set-up I prefer to W7's start menu. You can quickly scroll through it with the mouse wheel, and it just feels smoother and more pleasant to use. I don't have much use for facebook and twitter apps in the start menu so they've gone, along with the Microsoft Store tile, the calculator tile, and the One Note tile, etc., but the email tile is great. I love that!

I also love One Drive. It's like having Dropbox built right into Windows with massive amounts of free online storage. Very slick and reassuring. Particularly welcome since the service I was using till recenly started to crash a lot, leaving me at the mercy of remembering (or not) to periodically back stuff up to a second HDD.

It's early days yet, but I'm generally happy with what I've seen. Like all new things, it can take a bit of getting used to and requires a goodly amount of experimentation to get it how you want it. I remember hating XP and W7 for a while, so the fact that I can say I like W10 after just a few hours has to be a good sign.
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Two years? [Jun. 5th, 2015|01:47 pm]
I had a random thought today: when did I last update LJ? Turns out it was exactly two years ago, which seemed somwhat serendipitous. Or something. Anyway, I felt like I should write an update. Like, why did I stop updating my LJ?


I stopped LJ'ing because I stopped writing. Long time readers will know I was represented by a respected agent in New York. When I signed to him I really thought I'd cleared the biggest hurdle between me and a major publishing deal. Sadly that was not to be. And while I could live with the rejections from publishers, I couldn't get round the fact that this agent and I were not a good fit. I would send drafts of my WIP and his minimal feedback would leave me confused and irritated. Sometimes he'd ask me to rewrite a scene in a specific way, and then, when I subbed the new version, he'd ask why I'd altered it as he liked it just the way it was. Was he taking the piss or what? But then he probably thought the same about me. Clearly we were not on the same wavelength. But, y'know, it took years to land an agent. An agent with big names in his portfolio, names like Robert Jordan and James Ellroy for crying out loud. It's what every smalll-press writer dreams of, right?.I really didn't want to accept that this arrangement wasn't working.

At around the same time (2010/11) I had discouraging dealings with a couple of small-press publishers - one for a novella and another for a collection of short stories. The novella was called 'Lemon Man'. It was dropped by Morrigan Books because of some frankly stupid, contractual bullshit. In fairness, I should add that 'Lemon Man' was later published by Creative Guy Publishing, who were awesome in every respect, and I still feel guilty that I did so little to publicise the book. Proud of 'Lemon Man' as I was, especially with the foreword by the late Graham Joyce, I'm afraid I was already giving up by the time it went out. Sorry, CGP. Meanwhile, the short story collection 'Memory Bones' was published as agreed by Graveside Tales. But they never paid me the agreed fee beyond some unasked-for contributor copies.

So it'd be towards the end of 2011 that I went on a writing sabbatical. A sabbatical that morphed by mid-2012 into the realisation I had given up for good. Blame the agent, blame Morrigan Books, blame Graveside Tales. Those guys managed to suck the last drops of positivity out of me. Except in some ways I felt they'd done me a favour, because it was kind of nice to not have that pressure us writers put on ourselves. The writers among you will know exactly what I mean. Those misgivings you have at the end of a day when you contributed nothing to the WIP. It was when I was no longer having thos emisgivings, when I stopped caring, that I knew the fat lady had sung.

Family and close friends would ask when I would write again. And I would say "Never, unless..." When I sent stuff to my agent, I would get not just his thoughts, but also the detailed feedback of an assistant named Kirsten. Now, Kirsten and I were very much on the same weavelength. She totally got what I was trying to achieve and her feedback was never less than encouraging and insightful. If Kirsten said something was not working, then I knew it was not working. Better still, she would always come up with a solution. And so, on those occasions I was asked when I was gonna write again, I would reply, "Never, unless Kirsten emails me to say, 'Hey, I am now at another agency and want you to be one of my clients!'."

Because I knew I was 100% safe from that ever happening. As clauses went, it was pretty goddamn watertight.

Except it wasn't. In October 2014, pigs flew. I signed to the Waxman-Leavell Literary Agency (I know! You couldn't make this shit up, right?) and for the past few months, under Kirsten's expert guidance, I have given the WIP a good overhaul. 'The Human Zoo' is once again a novel I am proud of. It still needs the all-important nod from Kirsten, but I'm confident that with maybe a little tweaking it's ready to go out to publishers. In the meantime, I have a head full of ideas and several thousand words typed up for Book 2.

And that's it, really. That's why I abandoned LJ and facebook and took two years to come back with this post. Because I was sulking and now I'm not.

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Wednesday [Jun. 5th, 2013|11:40 pm]
It turned out that the gunman lurking around outside Heather's school was a pest control officer. False alarm.

Still struggling with a bad back, although it really is a lot better than it was. I'm hoping to take Pip a walk tomorrow. I'm getting a bit antsy cooped up indoors.

Here's  a pic from a couple of weeks ago, when the family Stone visited the animal sanctuary attached to Fletcher's Garden Centre. We went to get some shrubs and heathers for the back garden.
130519Barn Owl, Fletcher"s
I adore barn owls.

Lots of new books on the way. I knew about Graham Joyce's The Year of the Ladybird, but I learned on Rachel Green's LJ that Iain Bans's The Quarry will be out in a few weeks too. Knowing it will be his last will make reading it a bittersweet experience. I may have parted company with his space operas but his contemporary fiction is always a treat. And while on Amazon I saw Terry Pratchett has a new title on the way, called A Slip of the Keyboard. It's a good job my birthday is in July. :)

Pre-ordered the new Sigur Ros album Kveikur direct from the band's website. Hopefully they get more of my pennies than if I went to iTunes or 7digital.

Bought Dungeon Siege III in a Steam sale as it is a top-down RPG similar to Torchlight and Van Helsing. I have just completed Van Helsing and am in the mood for more of the same.

The Apprentice made good TV again tonight. 
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Monday [Jun. 3rd, 2013|05:12 pm]
For the past week my life seems to have revolved around a painful bad back. Thankfully Heather was home for half-term so I didn't have to worry about Pip getting her walks.

No walks means posting a pic that was taken a week or two ago.
Heron in Queens park, Longton
We often get a heron visiting the park. It's great to see these solitary fishers but I suspect they come around springtime to prey on the newly hatched ducklings, which ain't so great.

Heather had a scare today. Coming out of school, a guy standing opposite the school gates raised a shotgun and pointed it at the kids. Everyone was ushered back inside and the police called out. A man has been arrested, that's all we know as yet. I'm scared, relieved, depressed, angry. 
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Sunday [May. 26th, 2013|09:26 pm]
We ventured out to Milford Common. We usually walk a few miles around the woods and over the hills, which is all part of Cannock Chase, but Heather came down with a cold (and her friend Lily probably wouldn't have been happy walking either), so we contented ourselves to find a nice quiet spot a mile from where we parked the car, have a picnic, eat ice cream and doze in the sun.


Got back about four of the afternoon clock and dusted down the barbecue to cook chicken thighs, burgers, sausages and rice in the back garden. And it still didn't rain! I believed our barbecue was a cloud magnet but this afternoon proved wrong. Hurrah.
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Wednesday [May. 22nd, 2013|10:49 pm]
Had to be up bright and early this morning to walk Pip and be back in time for a sales guy from British Gas, who came to give me a quote for a new boiler. £2750, which is only a grand more than I was expecting! My expression must have told him he was wasting his time as he gave me the price, then folded his ;laptop, made his excuses and left. I was grateful he didn't try any hard sell as that would have been adding insult to, well, insult. The quote includes over a £1000 worth of labour. It is a one-day job for one man, so quite how BG justify a thou is beyond me. Mind you, £80 of that is to take away any waste they make. That's big of 'em, isn't it? Oh, and that price includes giving me a £300 trade-in on my old boiler, so the full price should be £3k. Sorry to bang on but...sheesh, they're taking the piss, aren't they.

Painted rhino at Trentham Gardens
I love this! It's a near life-sized jobbie made of ceramic or resin, and stands proudly in Trentham Gardens. Pip was bemused by him. She ran at him barking only to veer away with her tail between her legs, until she got far enough away...when she turned and ran at him again, only to veer away, etc etc. Silly pooch.

Completed a game called God Mode with 100% of the Steam achievements unlocked. Would never have done it without some gaming buddies, in this case Oli and Miron.

The Apprentice was good tonight. By far and away my favourite progamme on TV. I love watching supposedly highly-qualified, successfu,l bright young things make total tools of themselves. Does my blue-collar soul proud, it does. 
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Tuesday [May. 21st, 2013|09:25 pm]
Hello, LJ., Long time, no see, blah blah blah. Fact is I've been slacking off a lot lately - I've been slow replying to emails, reading blogs, forums, etc, so it's not just you I've neglected. What I have been doing is playing games and chatting to a friend on Steam. It's what I needed and, although I don't believe in God or Fate or any other construct you care to toss my way, it does seem as though I was in the right place at the right time to do a lot of good in somebody's life. Almost like it was meant to be, y'know?

Anyway, I'm back. *waves hello*


Watched this little fella (or lady) down the park for several minutes as he nibbled his way through several nuts he had stored in the tree. The squirrels are generally tame and will feed from your hand, although I can't get as close these days as Pip scares 'em off.

I like Tuesdays. Jill has the day off work so we generally go for a walk around Trentham Lake or visit Stafford. Today it was the former. The weather was grey and drizzly but we enjoyed the fresh air and the coffee. Pip did too. The fresh air, that is, not the coffee. The abundance of fluffy ducklings and goslings at the water's edge added an aah factor.

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Sunday [Apr. 14th, 2013|11:37 pm]
Pip came home from the vet at midday. Sadly she is stuff having diarrhea. It's rather horrible, but what else can we do? She's on antibiotics, eating a paste to stiffen her stools, and we are feeding her the best food for a dog suffering an upset stomach. We are locked in a cycle of cleaning up mess, bathing her and changing our clothes, only to turn around to find she's had another accident.

Stoke lost to Man United, 0-2. We are three points shy of the relegation zone. Talk about sliding down the table. They're in bloody free fall.

Played F1 Race Stars and enjoyed it more than ever. Also Angry Birds Space and an adventure game called The Cave. This last title could have been a classic but the repetition is truly staggering. I'm enduring the tedium to complete it, but what a shame. 
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Saturday [Apr. 13th, 2013|09:04 pm]
I haven't been in the mood to update for a few days, but I can assure my friends that I have been reading your posts, even if I have not commented. Good to see some people are keeping the faith and still using their LJs.

So, it's been a funny old week. Pip recovered from last weekend's tribulations only to come down with diarrhea again yesterday. I took her the vet this morning and she has been taken in for more treatment and tests. Poor pooch. I think we're gonna have to experiment with specialised foods to find something that suits her better. It's quite possible she has a bug of some sort but I suspect she's also developed a sensitive tummy.

Music. I've been listening to OMD's new album, English Electric. It's similar in tone to Dazzleships, which without me googling came out in about 1983. Or yesterday, it feels like to me. Sunny pop songs sitting alongside avant garde, Kraftwerk-esque tracks. Not as accessible as the first post-reunion album, History of Modern, but I'm sure it will grow on me. I haven't got around to listening to the new Depeche Mode album yet.

I was telling Heather I had bought the new OMD LP from iTunes when she stopped me and asked what an LP was. So I had to explain vinyl and 7" singles and 12" long playing records, and how they had songs on both sides. She looked at me with amusement as if I was talking about museum pieces. I could never go back to vinyl (or even CDs), as I love the convenience of downloading music, but I do miss that feeling you got when you put a new record on the turntable and then settled back to scrutinise the artwork on the cover and read the sleeve notes and lyrics. Getting a new LP was an event. Yeah, I miss that.

Other stuff. I've been gaming with friends, mainly Serious Sam 3 (again!) with Olivier and a racing game called F1 Race Stars. Such games are just the ticket when your brain is in freewheeling mode, which mine is right now. But Heather will be back to school on Monday, signalling the end of our Easter holiday, and I want to cultivate the writing habit again. That's my intention anyway. Hm. The road to hell and all that.  
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