Woe, betrayal, Dreamies, paste, teeth, Dreamies

Dear sympathetic visitors. Clawsewitz here.

Tortoiseshell cat sitting on the stairs

Over the last few weeks, I had got used to having my teeth felt every morning by hand. I had got used to the meat toothpaste being put on my mouth. I had got used to being shown the finger-mounted toothbrush and associating it with treats. BUT…

This morning all three were combined in a way I had not authorised!

Herm put paste on the finger brush and rubbed my teeth with it!

I miaowed twice in protest at this ignominy, but then Herm stopped and said Finished, so I calmed down because I know that that word means undignified procedures have stopped. Then Herm showed me the brush again and I got a treat twice for sniffing at it and being unconcerned because Finished had already happened. Then I got my breakfast at last!

These goings-on are very confusing and it was mysterious how well the whole thing went. It’s lucky I’m an exceptionally clever cat and already knew about tooth-feeling and paste and the brush, or I would have been distressed and blood would have spilled. It was also lucky that I was still waiting for breakfast, so was in a forgiving mood. It was also good that I got Dreamies because I love Dreamies so so much.

Don’t you think I’m so clever at training my human to give me treats?

General “Cleverest cat in the world” Clawsewitz

Tortoiseshell cat lying on a black bedspread

P.S. This all happened because some nurse (who was clearly a fraud because she put WET IN MY EARS) said I had gingervitis. Even though I am a tortie. Herm says I must have caught it from my common ginger daddy and not my tortie mummy. Anyway, the nurse said an adult cat probably wouldn’t tolerate tooth-brushing. Hah! She underestimated my ability to know all about things and be given treats! Herm is lucky to have me to train em about these things.

Incensed tortoiseshell cat, ears down, glaring face

Here I am after suffering the immense indignity. WET was brutally forced into my ears and then cotton buds scraped them to death. I barely survived.

Posted in animals, cats | Comments Off on Woe, betrayal, Dreamies, paste, teeth, Dreamies


One year and one day ago, a nice lady called Elaine pulled up to my building in her RSPCA rabbit van and took out a little cat in a cage. She handed the cat to me to take upstairs, came up shortly after me, met my mother just inside my flat’s front door cooing over the cat (who had just started to purr when stroked through the bars) and gave my hall a cursory glance before declaring it a fit home for an adoptee. “You can just tell.” In fact, we had to persuade her to stay around for more than a minute or two after I’d signed the adoption papers. (So much for all the frantic tidying my mother had helped with for the hours beforehand.) Elaine reassured me that she’d brought food and a litter tray so that I could take the cat immediately, and that there was no hurry to pay the adoption fee.

In retrospect, perhaps some of the above should have been alarming.

This was the beginning of the agreed trial week with my two-year-old tortoiseshell-and-white domestic shorthair, General Clawsewitz, née Cleo. I noted the date. It was the 13th of April 2014, a Sunday.

A tortoiseshell cat walking out of frame

The first photograph of Clawsewitz in her… I mean MY home

Clawsewitz, when let out of her carrier in the living room, checked the perimeter as cats will do in an unfamiliar place and promptly retreated under the sofa. This lasted until Elaine left. After leaving Clawsewitz a few minutes to let her decompress, I threw a Whiskas Chicken and Cheese Temptation under the sofa.

And that was the end of the shyness.

It didn’t take the full week before General Clawsewitz decided to stay. I’d booked a couple of days off work to settle her in, but they were scheduled for two days after the RSPCA dropped her round… two days early. (Again, maybe some of this should have been a warning sign.) I was worried about leaving her alone after only being acquainted for the latter half of Sunday, and called home from work on Monday to talk to her on the answering machine.

I was expecting to take charge of a miserable, potentially abused cat. Her body language in her mugshots on the website had been closed and unhappy. She had been in shelters for three months and an attempt at fostering her was unsuccessful because she wouldn’t suffer other cats to exist in her vicinity. She had found one home, only to be returned within a day by the woman who claimed Clawsewitz had given her “asthma” (probably allergies). I was quite fired up to coax a frightened little girl out of her shell.

Tortoiseshell cat lying on the carpet, not completely relaxed but not afraid either

Clawsewitz, just after she emerged from under the sofa and explored her living room

What I’d neglected to consider was that this was a tortoiseshell, the boldest and in-chargest of cats (“naughty tortie,” my vet friends knowingly remark), and that she was quite capable of ordering her own acclimatisation process. Plans to keep her in one room for a day or two, so’s not to overwhelm her, quickly surrendered to reality when she walked up to the door to the landing and, with the clearest body language, requested its opening.

Clawsewitz explored at her own accelerated pace, followed me and/or the treats around and stuck very close for the first week – even sleeping on my bed, something that died off in due course after she realised she didn’t have to leave, and is only recently coming back as she starts to grow closer to me at her own pace.

Three months in, Clawsewitz helped me write to the RSPCA to let them know how she was getting on.

Clawsewitz directed me in learning to stroke her correctly. She required me to sleep with one outflung arm so that she could tuck herself against it, pillow her head on my hand and have gentle strokes up her eyebrow lines. She stuck to this arm’s-length routine for most of a year, and I’d concluded she simply didn’t like being any closer, so it was a surprise a month or so ago when, apparently overnight, she suddenly invented sleeping on top of me. I quite simply woke up one morning to a cat curled on top of me and managed not to scare her off, which has prompted her to repeat the process many times no matter upon which side or back I happen to be sleeping, which I think is wonderfully clever and which my family could probably do without hearing about quite so often, thank you.

Tortoiseshell cat looking very smug in front of a stack of Felix cat food

Lest I forget, she point blank refused the cheap Sainsbury tinned cat food she’d had at the shelter, picked at it with preternatural pathos, and held out for Felix pouches.

This leads us up to the present day, and last night, the 13th April 2015: Clawsewitz’s adoptiversary and official state birthday. A cat-safe birthday party was thrown for the new three-year-old, with just two invited guests (my mum and brother, the latter of which didn’t make it) and low-key, cat-friendly proceedings. The humans had a meal of pasta, peas, sweetcorn and vegetarian sausage balls cooked by me; Clawsewitz’s visitor was well-behaved and spent most of the time measuring and sketching for one of the home projects she wants to do to the flat, outwardly ignoring Clawsewitz, who was unperturbed and approached her curiously as a result. Herm’s family is cat-savvy.

The cat had a ‘party game’ consisting of several of an extremely favoured brand of treat (Dreeeeamiiiies!) scattered underneath a tea towel laid out on the floor. This, alas, defeated Clawsewitz’s gigantic brainpower and she came to beg me for help so often that in the end I had to hold the towel up in a sort of tunnel configuration or she never would have managed to get under it. She is a bright cat. After that challenging mental exercise, she had her birthday meal of freshly defrosted tuna and ham. When Clawsewitz eats ham slices, she expects me to hold them up so she can tear strips off them. Distasteful as this is to a vegetarian, if I don’t do this, she drags them out of the bowl and deconstructs them on the carpet, which I don’t find ideal. Hands are easier to wash than carpets, quite frankly.

After a short television break to watch her gerbils, Clawsewitz retired to her radiator cradle and adopted a series of utterly ridiculous poses, which we were obliged to photograph in between eating banana slices with apple-mango yoghurt and cream. These photographs will be inflicted on you all as soon as Mum works out how to get them into Dropbox.

In what we thought was a neat bookend to the first year, Clawsewitz’s number one visitor (she finds human names and faces too hard to remember, so just numbers them) was present the day Clawsewitz took possession of her home and again yesterday on her birthiversary… not counting plenty of visits in between.

That trial week I mentioned? Well, I paid the adoption fee before it was up, so they don’t want her back, and the week’s been being sort of informally extended ever since. I’ve been stringing Clawsewitz along all year telling her it’ll be up at any moment and she will be sent back to the place she refers to as “the gulag” (Bolton cattery). Yesterday I told her her time was up and informed her that she could live with me forever if she wants. Her response…

General Clawsewitz, a tortoiseshell cat, blinks in her fleece radiator hanging bed

Awfully cute.

I think that’s a yes. But it could also be “I’ll have my treats now”.

Happy third birthday, you tyrannical little brat.

Posted in cats | 1 Comment

*blows dust out of keyboard*

written today over lunchtime

“Hey, you,” said the unearthly horror.

“Go away,” I said.

Its bristled, wet protuberance squirted a puff of foetid air into my ear. “I hunger,” it said in a voice like gravel scratching your best pie pan.

I slapped it aside. “You can’t have my soul or my dried fish.”

“I only wanted one of those things,” it wheedled, but I ignored it and focused back on the bushes.

There was a heavy whump beside me, followed by a series of quieter, rhythmic thumps on the ground.

“Go and bother the urchin girl before I carve a psalm or three into your filthy hide,” I said through my teeth, still not bothering to make contact with the acidic red pits it called eyes.

“She’s awesome,” the unearthly horror said. It did not move. The thumps continued. My target had gone by now.

I stood up in one graceful motion and kicked the abomination in the rear. It was worth the time I spent later sewing the trouser leg beck together.

Posted in black dogs, Profusion, writing | Comments Off on *blows dust out of keyboard*

Poem: Dissection

Young Baskerville’s foray into meta-poetry or satire or something. (© 1999)


by Herm Baskerville, 1999

Settle down, class, please. The lesson has begun.

The poems we will be dissecting today will look
Like this one. The poems we have in school
Have been pre-killed to avoid distress, and are preserved
In formaldehyde. And if anyone feels faint at the sight
Of alliteration, you may go outside.

You can get the necessary instruments from the tray
At the front. You need one poem, one white tile,
One scalpel. It doesn’t matter if, like this one, it is a little blunt.

Let us make a start. We haven’t much time, so I suggest
That we go immediately for the heart of the poem.
Watch, and make a small incision here, between
Verses three and four: just there will do.
Yes, that’s fine; try to make the cut as neat as mine.
And try to keep the punctuation
On the white tile, and not on the floor.

Pay attention, please. Notice the neat form of the simile,
Just peeping out from behind the extended metaphor.
Here we have the colon, and further down,
The semi colon. Can anybody guess
What this is? Yes, it is an internal rhyme.
And here is the inner or hidden meaning, visible
If we just hack our way through the outer meaning.

Oh, there’s the bell.
Quickly put everything away. Just tip the pieces
Into the bin. If you haven’t had the chance
To open up your heart, it doesn’t matter.

Terry Pratchett said he liked this. So did my English teacher, but let’s keep the credit to the one who inspired my love of writing rather than teaching a curriculum optimised to suck the life and colour out of it.

Posted in creative, poetry, writing | Comments Off on Poem: Dissection

The one word I taught my cat that's more important than her name, and it's probably not what you think

My cat recognises several words thanks to consistent usage: “Clawsewitz”, which is her name; “dinner”, which means yummy wet food is incoming; “hot”, which means keep off the hob; “come”, which means saunter over here if you feel like it; and so on. But there is one word I deliberately taught her that is more important than every one of the previous, and that’s “finished“.

It means “I’ve stopped doing mean things to you. You can relax.”

Teaching this word or phrase is simple enough if you’re logical and consistent. Whenever I clip my cat’s claws, or run the hoover, or do any other necessary but offensive tasks, the last thing I do is say “finished!” and immediately behave normally towards her. No apologies; don’t follow your cat in distress if it goes off to sulk; just be your usual self, whether in your case that means benignly ignoring the cat, giving it a pat on the way past or smiling and talking to it. Your cat picks up cues from your body language almost as well as a dog does, and the message you want to convey is “what? Oh, that’s over and done with. I’ve forgotten about it already*.”

(Sometimes I give her a treat at the same time as “finished”, which works if your cat’s food-motivated, but do not use it as a bribe to get your cat to come back if it runs away. Just toss it in the cat’s direction and be unconcerned. If the cat needs to get some distance after a procedure, then that’s what the cat needs. You’re creating a feeling of safety and chasing the cat will undo that.)

Terminology? I use “finished”, but you could use “all done” or “it’s over” or anything you like, as long as you use the same words each time and it’s audibly distinct from your other commands (cats have great hearing but in my experience they’re not as wired to listen to words as dogs are).

Why do I say this is the most important word you can teach? Well, cats do not understand “horrible but necessary”. The concept that anything might happen that is not concordant with the cat’s wishes is pretty much unthinkable to a cat, and being captured and put through indignities is pretty confusing, even if there’s no significant discomfort involved. Even after the bathtime or flea-combing or dew-claw molestation or carpet-hoovering is over, the cat will be upset and uncertain that it can trust you again. After all, there was no warning before you suddenly turned evil. You could do it again at any time! You are the enemy, and an arbitrary, capricious one at that, and you must be evaded!

This is why you need a clear disconnect. Your “finished” command, backed up with appropriate body language, signals a definite end to the stressful horrible things and a return to business as usual. This is a lot less upsetting for the cat than ending the encounter on a guilty, overcompensatory note (“my human is upset; now I know I should feel awful about this process”) – or, even worse, on an angry note when the yowling devil claws its way out of your arms.

You must, of course, be truthful. No chasing after the cat. No turning the hoover back on to get a spot you missed.

Your cat may never enjoy procedures like claw-clipping, but that’s not the goal of the “finished” command. Of the cats I’ve known, all of them have quite reasonably hated the clippers and most made an almighty fuss at some point in the process. Teaching “finished” doesn’t help much with that (if there’s interest I could write a future post with a few tips that will). The ending, though, changed completely. Our former cat Piper gradually wound down his post-pedi pique procedure from running out of the house, to leaving the room, to jumping down from the counter, to taking a token step away and then returning to his usual begging for food.

Take a step into your cat’s mind and you’ll find that, never mind the ‘aloof’ image commonly ascribed to felinity**, your cat needs things to be logical and make sense. Cats can and will adapt to all manner of stupid things their humans do, just as long as they know what’s what. “Finished” means safety, and that’s why it’s the most important word you can teach.

Note to people with proper pets: There’s no reason the above advice can’t be applied to dogs too.

* Cats instinctively understand pretending things never happened. They do it all the time, right after they embarrass themselves.

** Which makes no more sense than their reputation for being graceful, unless you actually believe the cat’s “I meant to do that” face after it slides sideways off the counter and takes a towel and half the drying-up with it. Everyone used to think different human cultures from theirs were inscrutable; then we got to know them and found they weren’t, they just did slightly different things with tea.

Edit: My mum points out that she was the one who taught me this, from my earliest days growing up with Golden Retriever puppies. I barely remember anything from that young, but looks like I was brung up right…

Posted in animals, cats, dogs | Comments Off on The one word I taught my cat that's more important than her name, and it's probably not what you think

So, don't use iThemes Security aka Better WP Security.

In my experience, iThemes Security, the module formerly known as Better WP Security, is kind of terrible. Significantly, it doesn’t uninstall cleanly and will lock you out of your own site at the drop of a hat.

Before I fully got rid of its screwups (and I’m not even sure I have, completely), I had to muck around in phpMyAdmin and drop two database tables it created. (These can be spotted from their prefixes, which will be something like itsec or bwpsec.) From help threads it seems much of the time you’ll also have to delete whatever lines it’s added to your .htaccess and wp-config, also manually, but in my case I didn’t find anything I needed to remove.

On paper it does look like a desirable mod to have; if you do use it, at the least I recommend against activating any of the file- or folder-renaming functions. Pretty sure those are what screwed me up…

Posted in web | Comments Off on So, don't use iThemes Security aka Better WP Security.

Mac tips: How to change your default editor; make MacOS always use LibreOffice, TextMate, Notepad++ etc to edit documents or code

If you have installed a new editor like LibreOffice on your Mac, you may have been given the option while you installed it to make it your default. If you didn’t take that up – perhaps you only wanted it as default for certain doctypes, or perhaps a certain office suite stole the default back – you can change it manually.

“Open With…” does not work globally

You might find instructions to open the context menu (right-click) on a document, go to “Open With…” and tick the “always open with” checkbox. This friendly checkbox is a LIE, my friends. In fact this option is pretty much useless: it only changes the editor for that particular file.

Going through “Get Info” works

This method changes it for ALL files of that type.

Open the context menu (right-click) on the file and, instead, choose “Get Info”. You’re looking for the options with the heading “Open with:”. Choose your preferred editor from the list and then hit “Change All…” to apply this to all files with this extension.

You will still have to do this separately for every different file extension – .doc and .docx, .html, .shtml and .xml, for example. Still the only solution I’ve found.

MacOS screenshot showing the "get info" dialogue box with default file editor options highlighted

Posted in computers, mac | Comments Off on Mac tips: How to change your default editor; make MacOS always use LibreOffice, TextMate, Notepad++ etc to edit documents or code

Riddles are shiny.

(Reposting this old piece so I can more easily find it. One line tweaked to make it generic.)

I found a fragrant pebble;
When I smelt it, out he came.
He turns quite green with envy
If left out in the rain.

I could trade him in for silver
Or beat him ’til he’s thin;
Reduce him to a third
if I boiled him in a tin;

But cruelty’s corrosive
So I treat him as a friend,
In hopes that I’ll be hearing
A purr there at the end.

Posted in dragons, poetry, wordplay | Comments Off on Riddles are shiny.



Pony with ridiculously short legs, a horn, and feathered wings, using her ultimate attack

Mayflower, the shortest-legged pony in the UK, uses her ultimate Crataega Operandi attack – Equipulchritude.

So this is, um, Mayflower the (real) Shetland pony using her ultimate attack, which is coincidentally similar to Problem Sleuth’s.

Posted in animals, artwork, web | 1 Comment

The BEST new telly format EVER enGENDERED.

Inspired by @spellingwitch2’s (understandably) furious tweets about “Bridalplasty”, the new TTLY AWESOME show on E!1, I have come up with the next killer format.

@Suitov: @spellingwitch2 I’ve had an even greater idea!1! It’ll be called Last Trans Standing. The winner gets their gender reassignment paid for! #
@spellingwitch2: @suitov OMG. If they hear that they will probably take you up on it. That’s more like a medical procedure though. #
@Suitov: @spellingwitch2 Yes it is, but don’t worry, the challenges will be so humiliating that only the truly self-hating and shameless will win. #
@Suitov: @spellingwitch2 And to make sure we show no semblance of sensitivity, the presenter shall be a drag queen! I will elevator-pitch this now!1! #

This consititutes my official claim to this idea which is an AWESOME idea and this blog post is PROOF that I thought of it first! It is © FOR EVER and I want 50% royalties when it is made and subsequently inevitably voted the best telly format ever engendered.

1 So ttly awesome, in fact, that E! Online’s own link to it doesn’t work, or else I would supply it. A related page.

Posted in gendaargh, media | Comments Off on The BEST new telly format EVER enGENDERED.

Godmoders and Fun (feat. back-and-forth with David from @OngoingWorlds)

So I was idly tweeting with another online writing enthusiast, David Ball of Ongoing Worlds

David: (to someone else about a different writer) I think he’s got multiple characters in his head
Herm: Oh boy do I know THAT feeling. :)
David: Do you have multiple personalities? Or do you just mean you write about lots of characters? Or are they both the same thing?1
Herm: My characters are a lively bunch, but when it comes down to it, everyone is certain who’s the writer and who the puppets. :)

David: Have you ever known a player who uses his name for the character? I always thought that was weird.
Herm: Not as such. Known people, self included, who use character names as their screen names. Can be warning sign but not always.
Herm: I knew one guy who invented a race of super-elves and used the species name as his handle. He also really thought he was one.
David: Haha let me guess they were better and much more powerful than normal Elves? Was he a god modder?
Herm: He tried so hard not to be a powergamer while his immortal psychic swordsman interacted with everyone else’s humanoids… ;)
Herm: He was a good writer and a good friend for a while but he just couldn’t play a human. When he did, it BECAME an immortal elf.
David: oh god! He should have read my article about god modding https://ongoingworlds.wordpress.com/…

David: So what’s the different between a god modder and a powergamer? Is it just a different term for the same thing?
Herm: Yes, as I understand them. But I’ve seen others say “godmodding” to mean “writing another’s character w/o permission”.
David: Ahhh, good point it does also mean that. Maybe i’ll do a follow-up article to distinguish the two

By which time I’d already decided to do a bloggy ramble myself.

First off, and tangentially: maybe it’s just because I’m an old-timer, but we always said “godmode”/”godmoding”, not “godmod”/”godmodding”. I always assumed the etymology2 was “someone whose character is overpowered to a degree inappropriate to the setting – like using a God Mode cheat on a video game”3. Possibly the urge to rhyme won out in popular parlance. God-mod. Mod-nod-plod-oddsbodikins.

I say I say I say, what’s personal, enjoyable and best done in private?

Of course you can be a good writer and also have the powergaming flaw, just like you can be a nice person but incredibly obnoxious when you’re with more than two or three people. Some of us are naturally more suited to solo writing: after all, the protagonist or antagonist of a novel can be comparatively overpowered without tripping the same Mary Sue alarm in the reader, and without having to worry about discourtesy to the other writers.

So, if writing about immortal planet-building elves is your bag, and more importantly if it’s your only bag and not shared by your friends, perhaps it’s best bagged in private. That way you can use both hands and it’s less messy.

All the same, if someone really wants to play with others, I won’t say they shouldn’t. (It helps if they’re into it with the right reasons or attitude, which I’ll cover later.) But that does come with a certain expectation of communication, cooperation and gentlefolkly behaviour towards all writers involved.

Be chivalrous.

Communication is a perennial problem in roleplaying games and I can’t offer any advice beyond the obvious: do it. Do lots of it. Chat around the roleplay; chat about things you liked or didn’t understand. Make yourself approachable and encourage questions or requests from others. And act on what you hear.

In extreme cases, yes, that may even mean making your precious character behave out-of-character in order not to distress another writer who may have some personal issues of his/her/their own. (If you’re a good roleplayer who can think on your feet, even this can be avoided very easily. “Suddenly Cecil dropped his fork and had to stop talking for a moment.” Done.)

The writer I mentioned earlier on had a degree of my own social impairment and didn’t grok that. It was overridingly important to him to be true to himself, and his characters were too personal to him for an accommodation like that to be thinkable.

I think a lot of roleplaying etiquette problems stem from people taking either their characters or their writing skills over-personally.

One of the two of us is real. On balance, I don’t think it’s the guy with the wand of fireballs.

I’ve recently been involved with a fan roleplay for the first time ever. During that I’ve come across people with different opinions about how a character should behave. The person playing that character reacted in a very upset fashion to criticism along the lines of “I think that was out-of-character for him”, describing it as the most hurtful thing it was possible to say to a roleplayer.

I don’t agree with that. Between two fans of a series, what is in or out of character in any uncanonical situation is a judgement call, and just because one of the two fans is actually roleplaying the character in question, their opinion doesn’t override that of someone else who likes the series. Of course, where one person’s opinion does override the other is in the course of that particular roleplay – the character from the series ‘belongs’ to each of you, but the fan iteration of him is being played by one of you, and that’s who has the final say about whether he ends up hanging from a bridge.

If you feel the game is wandering so far off track that it’s no longer enjoyable for you, the other choice is to leave as amicably as possible, which the other player ended up doing. Their parting comments, although expressed fairly politely, were what caused that strong reaction from the player who felt accused of OOCness – and that strong reaction caused alarm bells for me.

As well it might. I’ve been guilty of the same.

Lessons can be learned. Blame can be shouldered. (With a smile!)

I’ll take a fairly recent example. The vast majority of what I write and roleplay is original fiction, not fan stuff. When someone described a character of mine as (paraphrased) an arrogant know-it-all, I was very upset. Now, this could be an understandable reaction from a writer who had been trying to play the character as approachable and humble as well as highly intelligent: after all, essentially the comment signified that I’d failed to do this, which was a straightforward failure in my writing skills.

But being honest, I couldn’t separate that from feeling hurt more personally. The character in question began as a bit of silly wish-fulfillment – a villainous Gary Stu, if you will. I’ve developed him over years into something I, while trying not to be presumptive, think is much more of a rounded and realistic fellow than he used to be, complete with healthy differences in outlook from his writer’s. But still, unlike other characters of mine where I would take criticism of their personality flaws with humour and often agreement (and even secret glee that I as a writer have expressed those flaws well), with this one character there’s still that bit of personal resentment that insists my friend is criticising me.

But it’s a childish bit of personal resentment, and it’s wrong.

It’s not that I think the character’s perfect – indeed he’s deliberately far from it – but I suppose arrogance is an accusation that hits close to the bone for me personally. My upset was understandable, certainly, but it was wrong. And it needed putting in its place. After a bit of weeping and angsting and canvassing my other friends saying “Do I really write Suitov as arrogant, baw haw?” I got over it. I’m still not sure if I accept the criticism as it was stated, because the collective feeling was far from unanimous, but when I write the character now I bear it in mind. With any luck, Suitov is less likely to be taken as arrogant these days than he was before.

A point to all of this. I know I had one.

Pairs of things.

Authors do take their characters personally, that much is obvious, but it’s (a) not a positive trait and (b) not an immutable fact. Nobody is stuck with a thin skin. Part of playing with others means, to put it brutally, jolly well blowing one’s nose and growing a pair. Whether breasts, balls or whatever secondary sexual appendages we neuters get to have, when you play with others you will either end up growing a pair of something or you’ll always fail to fit in anywhere without upset.

If you don’t want criticism, you can always write your novel, send it off and then prepare yourself for the possible shock of your life when you hear back from the slush pile editor. That’s cool. Many people work best that way. Writing solo is a different kind of writing, as we’ve covered above.

But, if you’ve chosen to roleplay with others for fun, you will need to accept the basic tenet that fun needs to be had by all writers involved.4 They’re not there to carry you or stroke your ego. They’re not there purely to set up really cool lines for your character to say.5 You’re all there with the aim of forming a kind of gestalt lulz machine, cranking out fun and jollies for all in the vicinity.

Happy pretendy funtimes.

To finish with, I could do a lot worse than to link you all to the legendary article entitled Internet Drama and You. Even if you just skimmed my lengthy post here, I urge you to read Wade’s in full. It’s funnier than this one and it’s written by another Deadpool fan. If that hasn’t yet convinced you to read it, it also has ILLUSTRATIVE PICTURES. Come on! I mean, pictures!

1 I could deal at a bit of length with the similarities and differences between dissociative identities and being a writer, but that’s not the topic of this post. I know some multiples number among my friends, so as a courtesy to me, no flaming David for his well-meaning curiosity. :) (Or, frankly, anyone.)

2 Yes, I do theorise uncontrollably about etymology. For someone lacking a classical Greek and Latin education, I’m weirdly interested in the epidemiology of words. I put this down to two of the racial flaws I took at character creation, “Half English Teacher” and “Half Geek”, which infused my genes with two hefty doses of pedantry. Come to think of it, even as a toddler I wouldn’t say a new word until I knew how it was spelled.

3 Wikipedia has more about God Mode and debug modes. Even modern video games use this term sometimes. The command console in Oblivion, for example, toggles god mode with “tgm”.

4 But not necessarily all characters involved, of course. (Sorry, Weft.)

5 There’s an element of that, of course, but Crowning Moments of Awesome, Snarkitude or Being the Universe’s Butt Monkey are there to be shared – appropriately, according to character type. Two badass characters in play means two characters who both need to be given scenes that express their badassery.

Posted in personal, web, writing | Comments Off on Godmoders and Fun (feat. back-and-forth with David from @OngoingWorlds)

The Kettle Chronicles: the Black Dog by I. S. Morgan

I may or may not be working my way through Wikipedia’s list of Black Dogs in popular culture. Regardless, I read this book recently.

The Kettle Chronicles: the Black Dog by I. S. Morgan has a hideous cover, which it proceeds to defy by not only not sucking, but also being quite a charming little book.

This is a historical story (I hesitate to call it a novel, it’s so short) set around a spooky event in the Suffolk town of Bungay in 1577, popularised at the time by Abraham Flemyng’s pamphlet entitled “A Straunge and Terrible Wunder”. (This pamphlet is real. I own a modern copy.)

Flemyng, let’s be clear, was a churchman with a Christian axe to grind. Though he was not present in Bungay on the Sunday in question, when loud thunder accompanied the deaths of two of the congregation, nevertheless he wasted no time in reporting the attendance of a diabolical black dog and dressing the whole thing up as an expression of God’s wrath. Of course. This sort of thing always happens in out-of-the-way places that Flemyng’s London-based target readership have probably never visited.

However, the pamphlet also makes its way back to Bungay itself and is duly read out with great relish by pub landlords all over town, and soon half the congregation is claiming that they did remember seeing a black dog…

The book follows Captain Richard Brightwell as he investigates the affair on the orders of the area’s bishop. The book itself was supposedly compiled with the aid of notes made by Captain Brightwell’s attendant scribe, John Kettle (the titular Kettle Chroniclist, and another character based on a real historical figure). Also present are a manservant, Humphrey, whom one could reasonably accuse of slyness – all in a good cause, of course – and a gentle seven-foot-tall mute monk named Augustyn, sent along to act as bodyguard and general human shield.

The Kettle Chronicles: The Black Dog is a short book with a lot packed into it. The writing style is eccentric and works rather well, I think, but Your Mileage May Vary. The historical references are both slyly applied and explained by endnotes (the automatic numbering of which seemed to have undergone some form of MS Word fail in my edition).

Of course the central mystery is concerned with the supposed Black Dog, whom the locals know from legend as a “shilly-shally” named Black Shuck, and who is usually more likely to accost people on lonely roads and give them a scare than to burst into churches and wring the necks of two town feoffees.

The storyline takes in both mundane and supernatural events. The tale, including its frequent humour, is focused on the human characters’ interactions with the denizens of the town.

There is a romantic subplot. This manages to be portrayed slyly and not boring, and does not dominate proceedings. It’s not really necessary either, other than a bit of human interest.

A short, obscure book, but one that definitely belongs in my tiny collection of Black Dog and ghost dog literature.

Posted in black dogs, books | 2 Comments

On writing/RP, sexual subtext and pairings.

My Hobby: Wryly smirking at people’s obsession with homoromantic subtext, while writing three major male characters who are exceptionally guilty of it.

(To be fair, one doesn’t realise it and would be appalled if he did, one is above caring about such things, and the third describes himself as omnisexual but is really just foul. With him it’s not so much subtext as nobody believing a dog is really chatting them up.)

Being as how my own orientation points strongly towards the siblinghood and bromance side of things, while I’m not above flirting with the idea (especially for laughs!), the relationships I really want to write about are complicated, banter-filled, occasionally fraught or downright confusing to both participants and onlookers, but never all-sex-all-the-time.

That being said, do note what I’m very carefully avoiding denying outright, and therefore please don’t take this as a cue to stop speculating or indeed writing slash fic, because that would just be no fun at all.

That’s not to say some of my characters don’t enjoy happy, normal romantic-sexual relationships too. Suitov is seeing Jaina, and Paraskive is cougaring (she’d slap me for that, and quite right too) a delightful postman toy boy named Alisander. One of these relationships will end badly owing to Suitov being, well, honestly, pretty bloody idiotic for a supposed genius, and the other may be strained when their island is put under martial law, but we’ll see. And among my backstory and minor characters, of course, there are plenty of successful hetero, homo and even xeno relationships. (Instarrian boys loooove them alien womens. Quite often for a price.)

There’s the added complication of pairing roleplay characters up. If you pair yours off with someone else’s, and they’re infrequently around, it can cause frustration and slow down a plot. If you pair one of yours off with another of yours, it can become a bit like brainwanking, restricting the opportunities for other people’s characters to engage with yours. I don’t have an easy answer for this one. I sometimes write an NPC partner in for a character, or make it explicitly asexual or celibate, simply to avoid having to write too much about romance.

Posted in asex, writing | Comments Off on On writing/RP, sexual subtext and pairings.

Lax morality! Faithless rakes! The continuing adventures of Geek Boy and Waggypants!

In which (three short updates) we see a little glimpse of Young Suitov’s values. Wait, he has what now?

Suitov was currently standing at the top of the steps, in the early morning light, raking the gravel of the driveway. This was accomplished without touching it physically. When one is fifteen and a new mage, one tends to do things the flashy, inefficient way for the sake of it.

One Dog Night continues. (I really need to find a better name. They’ve been together for, what, a couple of days now, and the story’s continuing for at least another couple.)

N.B. There is an overlap of a sentence at the end of some posts. That’s just to do with where I break off writing. Will be fixed in a final edit.

Posted in black dogs, Profusion, writing | Comments Off on Lax morality! Faithless rakes! The continuing adventures of Geek Boy and Waggypants!


Via Article_Dan:
Get Lamp: a documentary about text adventure games (aka interactive fiction)

Looks cool. AND as part of that project they’ve made a video for MC Frontalot’s nerdcore track, It Is Pitch Dark, which is all about Zork and similar Infocom zaniness.

Text games are so frotzing cool. I mean, I’m crap at ones you can’t finish in a sitting, and do not mention that FRIGGING Babel Fish puzzle, but they’re great. In the past I’ve even tried my hand at writing a few in Inform 6 (sadly these died in a hard drive crashycrash episode, except for a few copies of the compiled games that may still survive somewhere).

Posted in gaming | Comments Off on >GET LAMP

Not everyone likes the summer… especially not Winter Lords.

“You look ill, Rige,” Lottir understated.

“Really? Where does it show?” asked Lord Suitov of Applestone, who was sweating bucketfuls, trembling slightly, breathing so hard he was almost panting, and apparently undecided about whether or not to throw up.


Just about universally requested by my readers, when I asked what I should post more of, were fiction excerpts. That made me happy, so here you are.

In this one we get to see both more of Suitov as a young man, and more of the drawbacks of those atavistic Nordic genes of his.

It’s not particularly hot here at present, but I’ve had the image of… well, what he does at the end… in my mind for a long time.

Posted in Profusion, writing | Comments Off on Not everyone likes the summer… especially not Winter Lords.

Sensible advice on introducing pets.

I sent my father some advice on introducing a dog to new cats with no bloodshed. This is actually quite straightforward to accomplish, and you can get the general gist from my abstract:

The cat’s unshakeable belief in its own inherent superiority, and ability to convince the dog of the same in the face of overwhelming evidence, is one of the reasons it is such a successful parasitic lifeform. The cat seeks to displace the dog’s benign mutualism for its own ends without the host’s knowledge.

I recommend Hillaire Belloc’s exhaustive treatment, a classic for anyone interested in the subject. Meanwhile, in the realm of speculative fiction, many of the terrifying parasitic alien lifeforms in Neal Asher’s novels are rather reminiscent of the cat or its passenger-cum-co-conspirator, Toxoplasma gondii.

Posted in animals, dogs | Comments Off on Sensible advice on introducing pets.