Desert Of Zin

The occasional blog of Alistair Bain – Writer, Husband, Father and Chief Techno-Arcanologist at the Institute of Giant Robots, Spaceships and Wizards. None of these positions pay well.

Never too early to get your advent calendar…

24th of October. Not too early at all.

I couldn’t help myself. It’s a classic Star Wars “Milk Chocolate Calendar” with “24 Festive Milk Chocolate Shapes”. And with a Death Star game on the back!

But really, IT’S STILL OCTOBER! I’ve been seeing the first wave of Christmas stuff in the shops since the end of September and I’ve resisted the temptation to scream “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK” at passers-by and shop assistants. You know, just because.

October 24, 2014 at 11:42 am | General | Tags: , , | No comment

Final Fantasy XIII-2 – Don’t judge me

I’m not playing this game. That’s not to say that I’ll never play the game in the future but right now, it’s not me playing this piece of… art. It’s the wife. We had a trawl though Game in Glasgow and came away with a few second hand games; Lord of the Rings: War in the North for me and Final Fantasy XIII-2 for Ruth.

I’ve had a go at War in the North and it’s not bad. It captures the Middle-Earth-iness well and, other than a bit of ropey voice casting, a few hours of gameplay is revealing a game that’s not bad. It’s not going to set the world alight but it’s certainly playable.

Then there’s Final Fantasy XIII-2. (I used to call it Final Fantasy Ex Three Two, for reasons that I can’t possibly explain other than I found it inexplicably entertaining to do so.)

It’s pretty. A very pretty game indeed.

I have no idea what’s going on. I’m watching it over Ruth’s shoulder and I’m finding it hysterical. Really, astonishingly funny. I’m sure it’s not meant to be.

I’ve just read all the preceding post to Ruth and the word she used was breathy. You know that kind of teenage almost angst? “Oh, my. What shall we do now? <sigh>” That make sense? And then there’s the music. Which is all breathy (there’s that word again) and self-important.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slating the game. I’m actually kind of enjoying it. Sort of. From afar. And I can see why it appeals to a certain kind of teenage market. And, despite having loads of things in my life that are both more pressing and more important, I can really see myself having a go at this nonsense. And really enjoying it.

October 8, 2014 at 8:39 pm | Gaming | Tags: , , | No comment

Luther Arkwright: Ascendent!

After a pretty heavy week of job hunting, and letting job hunting get me down, I discover this and my mood lightens.

Arkwright Integral, a new collection of Bryan Talbot’s The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire, is due for release at the end of October. AT THE END OF OCTOBER.

My copy of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright has seen better days and I’ve only ever read one issue of Heart of Empire but to get a new collected edition is now at the top of my list of future fun buying.

When I was first getting into comics it was 2000AD that was my particular poison. I also picked up larger print copies of Batman and The Punisher that did the rounds in the UK in the 80’s/90’s, but 2000AD was my passion. Although I’m sure I saw lots of Talbot’s work in that title, it was Nemesis the Warlock I remember the most when I took over art duties from Kevin 0’Neill on The Gothic Empire story and subsequently The Vengeance of Thoth and Torquemurder.

(I really must re-read the three volume Nemesis the Warlock at some point. It’s just spectacular.)

I picked up Luther Arkwright on a whim, recognising Bryan Talbot’s name, and initially I was a bit overwhelmed. It’s quite dense. There’s so much on each page. Even now, I have to be in a particular frame of mind to read it. But it IS brilliant.

September 26, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Reading | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No comment

All the writing, all the time

Or, a bit of writing, last night.

All set for writing

This was my impromptu “home office” set up last night. After Doctor Who was watched, and very much enjoyed, I decided to dodge the usual late night time wasting of GTA5 and do some ACTUAL WRITING. Yeah, I know. What an incredible idea.

(The oversized keyboard in the picture belongs to Aurora. It’s meant to save her from battering the laptop keyboard. And the laptop is Ruth’s old one. Turns out the “u” key is a bit temperamental. So, I thought, I don’t mind using the bright green oversized keyboard. That lasted about five minutes before I settled on not minding about a single temperamental key.)

A few years back I successfully completed NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, with my sci-fi masterpiece The Planet Of Snakes. Don’t go there. There is honestly nothing Freudian about the title. Nothing at all.

I’ve tried editing it a couple of time over the years with no real success. Last night was another dig at it. What I ended doing was starting a rewrite. There are some good ideas in the original version but it’s too disjointed to make a decent story out of. That is, an edit isn’t enough. So, not with a heavy heart at all, I’m embarking on a longer novel than the first attempt taking part of the structure and dropping anything the clangs. And there’s a fair amount of that.

On the first attempt last night I battered through 500 words in about a half hour. And after reading it, it was binned. Awful. Terrible. I didn’t want to fall into the old trap of writing loads that was later unworkable. Neither did I want to edit as I went as that’s the death of productivity. (Once I wrote a chapter. Six months it took me. I was really pleased after countless revisions. Unfortunately, I ended up being sickened of the story and it still lies abandoned.)

So with 500 words written and abandoned I started again. But with the same approach I’ve taken with the few works I’ve actually finished. I one and half hours I wrote 382 words. But good words. I took my time, checking that what I was writing was actually worth being committed to the screen.

382 words. Not much. But 382 words more than I’ve written in a while.

September 21, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Gaming, Writing | Tags: , , , , | No comment

Doctor Who: Time Heist

I didn’t post about this last night because, you know, it’s not like the land will fall into the sea. Or if it will and I’m too late to avert it, then I’m sorry. I know, I know, it was a surprise to me too…

Last night we had the 5th adventure (5th? It can’t be. Not already. Hold on… Deep Breath, Into The Dalek, Robot of Sherwood, Listen… Time Heist. Wow, I can’t believe we’re that fast through the eighth series already.) and it was another good one.

I like the faster adventures that don’t just devolve to 30 mins of running around ending with the sudden, but not unexpected, use of the magic stick sonic screwdriver. Also, we’ve had an increase this season in the character development of Clara, which can only be a good thing. She was the Impossibly One-Dimensional Impossible Girl and now she seems like an actual Companion. We see the Doctor through her eyes, which is an important job of the Companion, possibly after looking pretty and screaming on cue.

Peter Capaldi continues to impress. I always thought highly of him before and I’m content that the Twelfth Doctor is in safe hands.

Oh, and no spoilers. Just in case you haven’t caught up with it yet.

September 21, 2014 at 11:21 am | Watching | Tags: , , , , , , , | No comment

Wreck it!

One of the countless benefits of having a child is being able to watch kids films without having to justify it any way, shape or form.

Although I’m not sure what my justification was before Aurora came along. Oh, yeah, I didn’t need to justify anything. That’s right. 😉

Wreck-it Ralph. Much better on a second viewing.

September 19, 2014 at 11:19 am | Watching | Tags: , | No comment

So much to paint and so little time

A friend of mine, Greg, handed in part of my birthday present this morning. My birthday was last month. 39. Moving on…

So, he’s a big fan of Mantic Games and invested, reasonably heavily, in their kickstarter project for Deadzone, a skirmish scale table-top game involving plastic/resin/metal toy soldiers. My particular poison is Warhammer 40K but I haven’t played in about a year. Too many unpainted models and so little inclination to get them finished. The title of the post isn’t quite accurate. Still, that’s all aside. Greg got me some Deadzone miniatures. I suspect he got them as part of a particular stretch goal that justified his spending more to get other things. That might not be the case, but I know Greg. 🙂 It’s a relatively safe assumption.

But let’s not shoot him down in flames. After all, I’ll happily accept his gift of more miniatures to paint and play with. Oh, yes. Thank you very much sir. 😀

So, this being a fresh blog, let’s start a to-do list.

  • Assembling and painting Deadzone miniatures: Forge Fathers and Enforcers.

A good start. I’ll count them up and get an idea of what I’m working with. Then stick a few blurry photos of my painting attempts up here.

September 19, 2014 at 9:34 am | Gaming | Tags: , , , , | No comment

State Of The Al

(I’m using Aurora’s oversized green keyboard for this post. It’s not as easy as you’d think. :) )

aurora's-green-keyboard

I know it’s popular to review things at the end/start of every year and as loath as I am to share these days – have you noticed the tumbleweed blowing across the site this year? – perhaps it’ll do the ol’ noggin some good to commit things to the blog.

Writing

It’s the ever-present elephant in the room, isn’t it?

Writing last year has happened in fits and starts. Still more than the previous year, but nothing finished to a standard I was happy with and nothing submitted for consideration. I have, however, attended the last Glasgow Science Fiction Writers Circle meeting of 2013 and I’m thinking it’s a good idea to keep going. I know a few people who regularly attend and they’re the good sort. Next meeting is Tuesday the 7th of January. If I get something finished in the next day or two I might submit it for their review process. They don’t seem to have anything currently set for that day and I’m tempted to do something for this month’s submission theme for Crossed Genre Magazine. The theme is food. I have an idea. If I can get the bones of it done tomorrow, as Aurora is at the in-laws tomorrow and I don’t yet have a shift for work then I’ll let them have at it.

And, I was going to forget, I had created two e-books this year. That was exciting. The process was pretty straightforward and I have it in mind to do a few more, of greater lengths, this year.  Given inspiration and time, of course.

I keep meaning to promote the bloody things but there have always been reasons not to. Often these reasons are fear and doubt. It’s amazing how much anxieties stop you from achieving what you want, isn’t it? More on that later perhaps.

But what’s the worse that can happen if I push my own work? People wont like it. Oh, well that’s a shame. However would I cope? ( I really should have enclosed those last sentences in a < sarcasm > tag, eh?) I’m fully aware that i don’t write stories that everyone would like. That’s fine. I don’t like a lot of what passes for popular these days anyway.

To be honest, I’m kind of concerned that my breakthrough “giant snakes” novel will be well received. I’m not sure the world is ready for giant snake fiction. Perhaps, just perhaps, the world IS ready.

;)

Work

I’m going to have to do something different this year.

At the moment, work is an issue. And I’m talking about the lack of it.

I do care work for an agency, filling in where required across Glasgow for a variety of other organisations. Often they have asked for me to return, which is brilliant as it shows I’m not totally useless at the job, but there just isn’t enough work to go round. With the slashing of care budgets for vulnerable people there are less shifts to cover and I can imagine they are snapped up by their own staff with an increased eagerness before they are farmed out to an agency. Don’t get me wrong, despite the lack of work the agency are a good bunch but there’s only so much they can do.

This week I have one shift. It’s a day shift, which is always a winner, but it’s split between two service users across north-east Glasgow. A shift or two a week does not do much for the home financial situation. And as Ruth only works part time, earning barely enough to cover the bills, it falls upon myself to magic up work from somewhere.

Have I been applying for new jobs? You bet your arse I have. As yet, not even an interview but as I increase the rate I’m sending out my C.V. and application forms, something has to break. As long as it’s not me.

Today I’m cautiously optimistic but with no reason to be while yesterday I wasn’t optimistic in the slightest with many reasons not to be. Go figure. Where there’s life, there’s hope.

Mental Health

This is always fun… :)

Life is good today. The first day of the year has gone well. So far, 2014 is a winner!

The first half of the year was patchy, with small ups and downs littering the months. The latter half was a different bag entirely. After Ruth left her job in the Whitench Centre the mood in the flat IMPROVED DRAMATICALLY. Okay, so we’re even tighter for funds than we ever have been but I’d rather that than have her in the bloody place any longer.

I’ll only say of the place that it’s a badly managed shambles and the management committee are a disgrace. They have stumbled from one poorly thought decision to another. It’s a shame as the place has so much potential. But I’ve said more than I meant to.  Heh.

Also, Alan McWilliam, my arch-nemesis from Whiteinch Church is on the committee. No small wonder it’s a shambles.

On that note, Whiteinch Church. Four years since our unceremonious departure from that cult. I had a wobble that lasted about a week at the end of November, the anniversary of the whole bloomin’ thing. It’s not good that I’m still dealing with the fallout from leaving there but it IS good that it only lasted a week.

Anything else?

I’m not sure. I dare say that once this has been posted to the blog something else will occur to me but that’s all for now.

I suppose I AM positive for the future. Isn’t that the best any of us can ask?

Right, I’m done. Can I have my keyboard back please?

January 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm | General, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | No comment

Crossed Genres Magazine

While I remember, having mentioned it in yesterday’s post, there’s a monthly periodical called Crossed Genres. It’s in a DRM-free electronic format and a subscription – electronic only – is $15. You get three stories a month, all in that month’s theme.

While the three stories are published month by month on their own website, you do also get two compilations per year. And I do prefer reading fiction away from my computer screen. I tend to be too distracted to give it my full attention, so the portable electronic editions are worth it.

Also, and this is important, they pay their authors. So a bit of investment in that kind of genre periodical is something I can’t let pass. I’ve read the last two issues and the quality is pretty high.

If you like your genre fiction give it a try. Even in our current cash strapped times we can shill out what equates to less then a tenner for a 18 short stories over the course of a year?

December 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Reading, Writing | Tags: | No comment

So, I’m off this week…

With Christmas and Aurora’s birthday within days of each other it’s a damn fool idea to worry about what shifts I can scrounge from my current employer. As much as they’re a decent bunch, care work only has so much appeal. Less so when I’ve been working elsewhere for the lest two weeks and have quite gotten used to the golden fleece that is full time work, 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. Ah, yes. You don’t really appreciate it until you’ve been working back shifts in Kirkintilloch with an hour and a half travel home, returning shortly before midnight. And you wonder why few people want to do those shifts, eh?

So what? I hear you cry, the echo resonating across time and space…

So, while finances are tight, with money always being an issue, especially in these times of austerity, I really can’t find myself overly worried about leaving my availability open while there are other things to do.

But it’s not all Christmas and my daughter turning four. Oh, no. I think to myself, “Hmm, there’s a story needing edited, others needing finished, and I actually have some time to write!”

Steady on Bain, you handsome fool you. How can writing be achieved when you’ve just reinstalled Guild Wars? Rookie mistake, sir. Rookie Mistake!

In reality, there are always stories needing editing or finished. Like that’s ever going to change. Heh.

I do have something on the go, that’s needing done by the end of the week.  Remember the ghost story I might have mentioned before? Well, it stopped being a ghost story. And, realising that Crossed Genres magazine are looking for stories with the theme of Runaways, I’m editing it *again* in order for it to fit. Fortunately it’s a very light edit. Which is handy as I’m getting sick of the story and I’m gagging to get a move on to something else.

December 23, 2013 at 5:40 pm | General, Writing | Tags: , , , , | No comment