Cough Cough Splutter

I went off sick last week for the first time in absolutely ages. It’s something I didn’t think about when I was in school; I just wasn’t ill very often. Then I became a parent and suddenly I couldn’t be off sick because I would still have to look after my son. I’ve had all of about five days off sick in total since then – three of which were in the first year.

So while I was stuck in bed, head spinning, I got paid (as normal), and realised something. I have no plan to get out of my overdraft. This is a terrifying realisation to make, even if we’re only talking about £500. You’d think I wouldn’t have a problem making that back over time, but somehow in all of the last few months I’ve managed to get to the end of my money before the end of my month.

It’s a story repeated all over the place – we’re taught how to earn money, but not how to spend it. We’re given access to credit but not the education to use it wisely. I’ve been in debt since I was twenty. Now twenty-five, that might not sound like such a big problem, but I am making slightly more than the minimum payment on three credit cards and I can’t get out of my overdraft. If I don’t figure out how to spend less and earn more, I’m going to be in trouble should any sudden expense occur.

I’ve also left off the single biggest issue with my current circumstances, which is also the reason behind my wanting a different job: cash flow. I have to purchase things for the company, then claim the expense back. This severely affects my cash flow. It has also resulted in my spending more money on my credit cards to keep going.

Step One is more difficult than it sounds: don’t spend money. I will have to curtail all non-essential spending until I have a small cushion to get me through the month. This leads nicely into Step Two.

Step Two is: get organised. It’s a lot easier to do something when you have a plan. That means preparing lunch so I don’t buy it, not snacking, and *sob* no buying books. Replacing essentials is going to be the most I can do. What happens when I mess up? Next step.

Step Three is nice and easy: don’t kick myself for failure. It’s going to happen, but sticking as closely to the plan as possible is how I’m going to succeed. I shouldn’t try to be perfect; this process is not only about getting myself out of debt, it’s also about instilling good financial habits.

Step Four should help with that: allowing myself set rewards.  At predefined milestones, I will allow set nonessential, totally sanctioned spending. This will vary in scale and type, and will hopefully provide enough motivation to keep me on the straight and narrow.

The plan (which will get an operation name as soon as I come up with one), will be managed by a spreadsheet and will get a funky logo and everything.

Step Five: Identification. Money I spend for work, which will be reimbursed, will be spent on the prepaid card I have. The initial float is my own money; subsequent top-ups will be effectively the company’s. This way, I should be able to avoid laying out my own cash.

Step Six: Minimisation. Where I do have to spend money, I need to account for it. Not necessarily with the military-style precision of accounting software (with which I am very familiar), but at least on a spreadsheet. This will be kept constantly up-to-date, so that I can glance at it at any point in the month and know where I am financially.

Inspiration (but still not enough writing)

Work has been driving me up the wall lately. If I’m not dealing with complete idiots asking me to send them the same information every time something references it, I’m being ranted at about things outside of my control – by people above me in the chain.

Get me out of this place. I like my colleagues, but the management and the customers are something else altogether.

I’ve actually made some progress on my non-fiction writing in the last couple of weeks – planning and drafting parts of a grammar guide. I’m not sure whether I will make it to full book length, but if I don’t I can always publish as a web guide. Just as soon as my web hosting provider tells me how to upload a site I’ve created without them.

The next step is to work some more on the fiction, but I’ve been distracted lately with job-hunting and CV-updating. I’m on the fence as to whether or not to look at going to university. I’m pretty sure my other half would prefer me not to, but the wall I come up against degree-less is making me rethink.

In other news, I did some baking at the weekend, for the first time in ages. Lemon meringue pie – pastry was tasty if not even, lemon filling was perfect, and meringue was a flop. It doesn’t help that I don’t actually like meringue, but the other half adores it so usually persuades me.

After a great deal of thought, and a few false starts, I’ve settled on a format for The Bridge: episodic serial. I will write a four-chapter story arc, in a season of 20-24 episodes. Planning has commenced for season one; wish me luck!

Coming Home

I drove my car for the first time today since leaving for the Isle of Man on Friday last week. My sister found me a car to drive while on the island, and while I’ve no complaints about a free car (less the cost of some diesel), coming back to the comfort and familiarity of my own vehicle was absolutely glorious. So too was the standard of driving – even though I often complain about the quality of driving here in Derby, I had honestly forgotten how bad it was on the island.

Aside from that, I was strongly reminded while there of the massive inconvenience of the road closures – for those not in the know the Isle of Man hosts road racing on the TT course twice a year. When the roads are closed, there is a single access route across the course for vehicles. Given one set of parents resides inside the course and the other set outside, we went back and forth numerous times throughout the week.

On the other hand, we were able to enjoy the familiar comforts of our childhood home – various unique takeaways, sweet shops, and of course the local ice cream – Manx dairy is far superior to the homogenised stuff you get over here in England. While I wasn’t able to partake of my favourite greasy pizza, I did return to our favourite restaurant – only to be disappointed when the epic lamb in red wine wasn’t available.

I take it as a useful lesson in the danger of too much reminiscence – having something to remember is more important than experiencing the same thing again.

Hopefully that idea will stay in my mind as we embark on not overeating or drinking alcohol for the duration of autumn. More specifically, we are to eat healthily and exercise as much as possible until at least the other half’s birthday, at which point we will permit ourselves some congratulatory liquor.

In fairness, both our waistlines have significantly expanded since moving in together a couple of years ago, to the point where we can both be described as fat. When your own, otherwise flattering, boyfriend tells you that you have unsightly rolls of fat, it’s time to do something about it.

I don’t yet know how this will affect my writing, as I have no idea whether hunger pangs or a clear head will prevail. Something tells me that it’s going to be a close call – I love my food and alcohol, but the drive to make something of my writing is a strong one.

The Week of the Website

I started knocking together a website for myself using html and css last week, and of course it’s grown into a behemoth with pages for my CV, my portfolio (not my job history), my skills and more.  I’m happy that I can showcase my (recently refreshed) coding skills, but it’s a little worrying that I can do all this and still not work out how to post it to my web hosting service. I can get the files on, but I have no idea how to make them readily available.

Given the amount of time I spent referencing w3schools, I decided to take a look at my Codecademy profile – and promptly launched back into the Python track I abandoned a few months ago. It’s reminded me of two things:

  1. My love of language learning isn’t going to go away; and
  2. There is surprisingly little you need to remember about programming languages.

I’ve also been beavering away at the PRINCE2 reference, which has naturally led to the question: “could I write a program to handle these inputs?”

Given that PRINCE2 comprises an awful lot of documentation, I think the company (and anyone else) could benefit from my doing it. The only real question is, can I actually do it? Just because I can visualise a nice clear browser-based application doesn’t mean when I come to code it that anything will work.

Manx as the hills, yessir

Having spent the last week in the isle of man, visiting family and collecting my son, I’ve had a wonderful break from work. Less wonderful is my break from writing – three hours on a ferry is great for productivity, as are two hours on a train. Less helpful is the time spent with family, everyone determined we get out of the house and do things. *shudder*

With the roads being closed, it forces you to acknowledge how useful it is to have many different roads going in the same direction, though admittedly that may have been by design as the tt course was first laid out over a hundred years ago. The locals must have captained for roads to be paved in such a way that there was an easy route in disturbed areas.

Family time – the normality of being alone together – is something that’s nice to share with people you don’t live with any more.

Getting new ideas is par for the course as a writer, but there’s still not much as annoying as being struck with a new idea and no way to get it down. The most irritating of these situations is when the materials are present and you’re not allowed to use them, namely late at night when you’re awake and your partner’s asleep. Even worse than not having a notepad around. Or a pen.

The Bridge

The Bridge – First Look

What do you do when a tear appears in the fabric of reality? Investigate, of course. That’s how Kari met a man who swears she looks exactly like his wife, and can describe far too much of her life history for comfort. What’s a girl to do but use her nerdy interest in popular physics to find out how he got here and why he seems to be getting ill?

She just knows the answer to all her questions can be found at this tear – which her new friend is calling The Rift. He’s into naming, even insisting that he got here by – get this – walking across a bridge. As if. Of course, there might be a small issue with getting him home, as the army has moved in. Looks like they’ll have to learn how to sneak past trained soldiers, as well as how to recreate technology Kari’s never heard of but is commonplace in Martan’s home… Apparently her counterpart is an expert at this stuff.

Reading Material Choices

So I’ve reached the point where I have no posts in reserve – and I need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

I’ve had a spate of ideas this week – including some impressive opening scenes. The fact that my current reading material (Shifter Romance) seems to have strongly influenced most of these suggests that I may need to be reading fantasy in order to write it. On an ongoing basis, I mean, rather than in general. This stunning conclusion also ties in to the knowledge that two weeks ago I was reading different things (an Old Kingdom reread) and it seems to be the result of that most taboo of subjects: the female menstrual cycle.

Let’s be clear; I’m not talking about PMS or the actual functions. I’m talking about the hormonal balance’s cyclical shift from day to day in women between the ages of 13 and 60. It’s taken me until this year to work it out, but my self-esteem fluctuates massively based on the time of the month. My mood swings low (as low as was fairly consistently at the age of 17 – that was a bad year for me), then up to slightly happy, then low again. Outright joy seems to be limited to short bursts during the general positive stage.

The way I’m feeling, of course, has a big influence on the things I want to read at any given time, as when I’m low I really don’t want to be trying to focus on something big and serious. When I’m low, I want to be reading pick-me-up humour and happy endings, hence the preponderance of romance. During that light uplift, I can focus on the workings of another world, but as soon as my mood plummets again I have to drop it.

The website I have half-heartedly been building since I bought the domain has been decidedly neglected of late, with my web focus having mostly been on the TiddlyWikis. Having uploaded them this morning, I now have no excuse to keep ignoring the site, which I really need to spend some time standardising. I may just create a ‘page under construction’ message for everything until I’m happy with it. Assuming I’m ever happy with it. Deciding what’s going to be included is the hard part. Should I put things like progress bars, or should it be sample chapters? Should I create the Runic bookstore or wait until there are a certain number of titles available?

The questions will all be rendered moot, however, until I decide the most important thing: will I do this myself or pay for someone else to do it?

The next item on the agenda is the big backlog of books on my to-read list. See you next time for a rundown of what, when and why.