All told, not a bad week.

Had a very strange experience this week:  A 2-mile run without any hills.  The most significant incline was the street up from the riverbank in Inverness to my hotel.  Of course, the lack of hills was compensated for by the howling wind and driving rain.  But still, it was flat!  Most unusual.  My body was prepared to meet the usual array of ridiculous terrain it's used to and, after the 2 miles was done, felt somewhat let down.  Turns out it likes running up hills!  Go figure.  Still, running now extended to 6 miles, so the preps for the half-marathon in June are progressing nicely.

Not a lot of writing done this week.  Spent a good chunk of time away from the Rock in Inverness learning about the project I appear to be leading for work: the Carbon Management Project.  Apparently, the Project Sponsor (liaison to the Senior Partners and securer of corporate funding and backing) has shifted to the gentleman who was the lead, so the role of Project Lead has fallen to me.  That PRINCE2 training will come in handy after all!  Instead of writing urban fantasy, I'm now writing the Carbon Management Plan instead.  Some cynical types out there might say that the two are actually quite similar, but I'd have to disagree.  The CMP will contain far more graphs, bullet points and cross-references to tables in spreadsheets than the Magnificent Octopus will.  (That's not the title of the book, by the way, I'm just a huge Blackadder fan).

So, I'm now Mister Carbon Reduction.  Never saw that one coming.  At last I've got justification for my "Stop Printing Out Every Damn Email" campaign!  I can legitimately shut down people's computers when I reckon they're not using them, enforce draconian power management schemes on their Desktops…  Next stop, world domination!  I knew the goatee would come in handy.  Wonder if VillainSupply.com still sell volcano lairs.  This is also an excuse for education.  I'm almost never happier than when I'm learning, be it which areas of SharePoint don't work the way they should (excuse for rant at Microsoft's incompetence here – if I've got 15 identical meetings, with the same agenda, why the hell shouldn't I be able to have the same people attending automatically?  That's done on purpose?  I've got to add them all manually to each meeting?  Well, I can see that being used real heavily now.  Muppets.) or about good practice in project management or IT service provision.  I like training courses that make me work.  Hell, if I'm going to be away from home I need something to do during the evenings.  There's only so many times I'm prepared to go to the cinema alone, only so much time I can eek out a dinner for one in a busy restaurant.  So I'm PRINCE2 certified, have my ITIL Foundation and Service Design certs and will, by the end of next month, have my ISEB Green IT cert.  And I'm being very green about going on the course – minimum flying, taking the train and bus, walking as well.

Anyway, that's a crying baby to deal with.  I now return you to your regularly scheduled internet.  If there was a point to this post, I can't see it.  Hopefully do better next time.

Posted via email from Claytons in the Far, Far North

The plot thickens (#amwriting)

Right.  Several key things fell into place this weekend.

For instance, I now know why my villain is doing what he's doing.  I know why my lead character can do what he can do (although he doesn't know as yet) and I resolved the problem I was having about giving him access to certain powers.  It's playing the long game but it is, in a way, all down to a scene from the BBC comedy "Episodes".  Matt LeBlanc (actor) is explaining to Stephen Mangan (writer) why he should make changes to a character and, as reasons go, it's a good one.  "When you're up at 4am trying to think of a storyline, you'll wish you'd done this…" or words to that effect.  Can't remember the exact quote.  So I'm going with it.  The main character will have powers, just not yet and certainly not Dresden-esque wizardliness.  Book 2 or 3 and who knows…
So now all I've got to do is patch the plot holes, fill in some scenes and I'm ready for editing round 1.  That makes it all sound so easy.

In other news, Being Human is still one of the best shows on TV and looks to be spawning a spin-off.  Becoming Human, red-button straight after the main show, is the story of a 46-year old vampire trapped in the body of a 16 year old boy.  He was in last night's episode and the eagle-eyed amongst you will recognise him from the CBBC show Young Dracula.  So he's a little typecast already.  Head over to the BBC Being Human website and check it out.  I doubt you'll be disappointed.  Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a superb movie (even if the sea serpent is a little familiar to anyone who's played Tomb Raider: Legend.  Think London, folks), much better than Prince Caspian.  Like Stardust, they took the essence of the story and changed it to make a better film.  All credit to the casting folks, the kid they had playing Eustace Scrubb was absolutely spot on.  My kids and I now eagerly await The Silver Chair.

Finally, I'm away to Inverness as part of the NAFC's Carbon Management Plan, learning about the tools and opportunities that are there for us to grab.  Spending carbon to save it.  See?  Back to the long game again.

Finally, finally:  Doctor Who (not quite) Lego.  Roll on April!

Posted via email from Claytons in the Far, Far North

Music to run to, Urban Fantasy protagonists, other assorted stuff. #amwriting

I'm back in training for the Simmer Dim half-marathon.  Yes, it's not until the end of June but when you start the year as heavy as I did, training's got to start early.  In the first three weeks of the year, thanks to the rowing machine and a crash diet, I've managed to shift enough weight to get back out running and build up my dodgy left knee in the hope that it will last until I've got those 13-odd miles under my belt.  However, the actual running is, to me, pushed into second-place by the music I'll be listening to while following that white line up the hill.

Back in Kent, I had an hour's drive to and from work.  In this time I could listen to entire albums, huge swathes of audio books and radio comedy.  When we moved to Shetland I swapped that commute for a 7 minute jaunt to the other side of the island.  Seven minutes.  That's hardly long enough to bother loading a CD.  This kind of balances out by the drives we make when we go south to visit relatives – six hours in the car needs a lot of music but it has to be stuff we can all agree on listening to.  So now the longest time I get to listen to my music is when I'm running and this makes the choice very difficult.
Do I go for something with a repetitive, steady beat that matches my footfalls but wouldn't necessarily be what I'd want to listen to for pleasure?  www.audiofuel.co.uk supplies playlists of this very type, complete with coaching voice-over at strategic moments.  I was using their 2-hour long-run programme to train last year and it worked very, very well for me.  But I wouldn't stick the CD on in the kitchen for pleasure.  It's very much music that is designed to do a job.
Do I go for a fantastic album and fit my feet to the beat where possible?  This is what I've been doing with Avantasia's "The Metal Opera" and I apologise to residents of Gulberwick who may have heard me singing random lyrics as I jogged past.  When you find a section that works, it's fantastic – I found one of those about 8 minutes into "The Seven Angels" (it's a long song and I'll be requesting it on ButeFM's Request Friday until they play at least part of it.  Follow them on Twitter – http://twitter.com/requestfriday – and let's make it a mission).
Usually I stick my iPod onto the "Jogging" playlist, which contains a huge amount of very random stuff.  Marillion's Incommunicado works well, I can just about make it up the hill to that one, Steve Oumiette's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" from Guitar Hero 3 is a real blast to run to, as is Eddie Murphy singing "I'm a believer" from Shrek.  The assorted Doctor Who theme tunes work as well.
All of this is good right up to the batteries fail and you're left with a mile to run with only your thoughts for company as happened today.
Anyway.  This got me thinking about the book I'm trying to write, specifically about the main character.
Urban Fantasy.  The Dresden Files, Greywalker, werewolves, vampires, ghosts.
Which is easier for people to get behind:  A main character with powers – the eponymous Harry Dresden, Lestat (if anyone remembers him these days) taking on the supernatural on a level playing field – or a main character who is, to all intents and purposes, a normal human being – Dean Winchester, for example.  Should a normal character develop some powers, reveal some hidden aspect from his or her past, "just know" some vital supernatural stuff?  Y'see, I'm coming at this from the normal point of view and I'm having to fight my fingers on the keys to stop him from suddenly turning out to be a 6th level wizard.  Obviously not a 20th level wizard, but definitely not a 1st level wizard, they're just cannon fodder.  "Oh, let's see.  I'll use a magic missile on the orc.  That's 1d4 damage." *rolls a 1*.  "Bugger.  I'll get on with rolling up a new character now, shall I?"
The problem with the powered character is that this immediately ramps up the powers of the antagonists, whilst the problem with the un-powered character is that he's got to have other ways of dealing.
This is the battle I'm facing at the moment.  I think I'm winning, time will tell.
I'll leave you with a quote from somewhere in my manuscript:
"If all of this is real, everything you've seen today, then what else is real?"

Posted via email from Claytons in the Far, Far North