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References / facts

The internet is a great place to find information.

It’s an even better place to find distractions, confusions and outright silliness.

I spent a long time worrying about terminology, accuracy and even, in some cases, physical possibility when thinking about what I laughingly term my book. There is so much out there that the more I looked for information the less likely I was to actually get anything done. I’ve certainly had my eyes opened on a number of subjects … maybe some things I could have done with not knowing.

In the end I just had to say ‘sod it’ and get on with writing. I’m probably wrong on many counts. The damn thing is set in a future with impossible people so who is to say what may or may not be appropriate terminology.

History, real ancient history, is one of the things I have tried to maintain an air of versimilitude (you can tell I’ve not had a drink yet today). Having shelves of Egyptology books doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t go off-piste – once I get settled on the sofa it is often easier to go www rather than get up and look for the books I know have the reference that I half remember.

Shabtis

When I was thinking about what to call my experimental soldiers I found nothing that I was very happy with. I left it and left it, waiting for an appropriate word to bubble up from my subconscious. Eventually, looking at the line of Egyptian figurines on my mantelpiece I thought ‘Shabti’ and I was happy. The word has different spellings – shabti, ushabti, wushabti – and the little figures are generally reckoned to have been magical stand-ins in the Egyptian afterlife. The richer the deceased the more shabtis he would have and the better modelled they would be. There were worker shabtis and overseer shabtis of all types, all inscribed with the spells that committed them to answer on the part of their owner should he be asked to do any task in the Field of Reeds.

So many shabtis have been found that they cram forgotten cases in museums around the world and a quick search on ebay will always uncover entries for many ‘genuine’ examples but, to be honest, reproductions are cheaper and generally nicer looking unless you have very, very deep pockets.

In searching for a word to describe an army of the faceless and nameless to be sacrificed and used by their government owners then ‘shabti’ seemed to be the right one.

Gods

Once I’d decided on using a real word for my disposable soldiers then it seemed easy to include other Ancient Egyptian references in other parts of the book. Egypt became the backdrop to the relationship between Gihon and Dave, the sense of time and history seemed appropriate. The apartment they live in is one I would like to have but after taking 4 years to complete a mural in my own house I doubt I would be able to complete the decoration I’ve described.

I have an idea for one of the story beats to take place at a maskerade party where the main characters appear in costumes appropriate to the gods guarding their rooms. Just me having a bit of fun with the notion but when someone refers to Gihon as a hippo he is not being offensive, the hippo represented Set as he was finally defeated by Horus. And before anyone gets snarky about hints that Set had an unnatural interest in his young nephew well that can also be found in the Egyptian stories.

Trust me, you may never look at lettuce the same way again. That’s all I’ll say for now.

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Being female but not feminine

Growing up my parents probably thought of me as a tom-boy. I didn’t really go out, not very keen on rough and tumble. Not a tom-boy, just not really a girl. Ever. I used to dream that I would wake up and find out it had all been some mistake, that I really was a boy. Or, when I found out those nasty tricks that biology had in store for me, that at least I wasn’t fully female.
In the days before such things were discussed in public, at the back of my head, I think there was a very stressed trans (trans-something I had no clue) trying to express things that didn’t exist. This was at a time of 3 tv channels and the white dot (‘booooop’ would go the sound) at the end of the evening transmission so of course there was only the simple and obvious binary tyranny of male and female.
The time came and I woke up one morning and I bled. It was before I was 11, I’m sure of that. And because I was a glumly logical type I remember sitting and calculating how many days of my life I would spend bleeding. Course then I didn’t know about the pain and the moods. But I knew about feeling different, feeling wrong, feeling dirty and disgusted with this body that I couldn’t trust.
Let’s say the transition to woman was not one I embraced.
Thankfully, I guess, this was also a time before the invention of Photoshop and the more recent trends of what seems to be expected. In the halcyon days when Brut for Men was about as sophisticated as personal grooming got, before adverts about female topiary and being told how enjoyable periods should be I just kinda put my head down and waited for the forty years or so for it all to be over.
I didn’t want anything to do with boys. What use were they for?
Brought up to make do with the hand I was dealt it never once occurred to me that things could be different or even that should want to be happy.
I lost my virginity at 17. Lost is the wrong word. Decided to find out what the fuss was about is a better description. I met a friend of a friend. He was 21 so I figured he would know what he was doing and that was that. No mess, little fuss, no sense of loss. The earth didn’t move, but then I never expected it to.
25 years on and I’m on my 2nd husband (3rd if you count the one without the paperwork). I’ve had a number of experiences along the way – thankfully another affect of age is that things were less dangerous back then. I have to say, though, that I still don’t have the faintest idea of about ‘feminine’.
I’m still uncertain about clothes. Attempting to buy underwear that I am comfortable with (somewhere between strict function and frills and bows) can bring on panic attacks. I’m still convinced when I see myself in a skirt/dress that I look like a bad transvestite. I’m hopeless with shoes and make up is a foreign country to me.
What am I trying to say?
I present as female and I prefer men. Let’s face it, deep down I am lazy so I guess I’ve just got used to being me. I know there are probably labels for what I am, and if I was starting the journey now there may be other routes open to me that would make something of those labels.
If you see me on the street you might make an assumption about me. Have fun with that. x


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Current reading

I love reading. Reading is about one of the best pleasures in life.

As a tiddler I was a bit slow on the uptake, regularly thought of as ‘nice but dim’. Then, after being kept in what was euphamistically called a vertical class for a year (quick ones from lower down, slower ones from older year – you can guess where I was from) the penny seemed to drop. Either that or they bowed to the bleeding obvious and let me put a pen in my left hand instead of making a complete hash of things with my right.

After that I lived in my head. In the long pause between the invention of the wheel and the internet there were things called books and, if you you were a bit odd like me, comics.

I love comics – literature and art combined – what’s not to like?

Anyway, along with other distractions I am having great fun catching up on Sandman. If you’ve never read Neil Gaiman I just can’t recommend him enough – books, comics and now even scripts for Dr Who. Uncanny vituosity can be found in bookshops, comic stores, Twitter (@neilhimself) and at http://www.neilgaiman.com

Sandman cover

Sandman - The Sound of Her Wings


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On not appreciating what I had

A few years ago now I started to feel ill and began the merry-go-round of doctors, tests and – needless to say – problems at work as I went through phases of just never seeming to wake up.

Symptoms: fatigue, thirst, nausea, pain in joints, sweats, burning skin, itching, loss of concentration, insomnia, increased irritability. Did I say fatigue? Oh and forgetting words at work! It was so frustrating. If I could get to the end of a sentence I couldn’t remember the …. did I say fatigue?

And what seemed to bring all this on? I had hit forty and joined a gym. I had bought a pair of trainers that corrected the pronation in my ankles and could run for the first time like ever without pain. At the point of going to the doctors I had been at the gym 3 times a week and was running at least twice a week. Not doing anything mad, I’d just gradually built up over time in an attempt to correct the damage of years of neglect. The week before I had a bit of a collapse when my legs just didn’t seem to want to work any more I remember that I had never felt so good and everything seemed to be going well – I was happy at home, work was good and I’d gone from being over a size 16 to being an easy size 12.

Test start and questions are asked, given my age and the fact that I had lost about 2 stones in weight (total weight loss ended up at 3 stones) diabetes was an early contender. But no, I’m not diabetic … just glucose intolerant. Two months of tablets for this mystery intolerance and I’m back at the doctors feeling no better just to be told that “oh no, glucose intolerance has no symptoms, that was just what we found.”

Nearly 2 years in all to get a diagnosis of M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or whatever is the current fashionable description). Nothing really very scientific, they just tested for everything else and when it was proved not to be Cushings, or Addisons, or a pituitary tumour, or anything else that might have been treatable we ended up with M.E. as the last man standing. The only thing was not seriously suggested was anaemia and I had begun to think that could have been highly likely with the amount of blood that I lost in the process. It was a good thing that I have always been vaguely interested in medicine and have absolutely no shame about collapsed veins and bruises on my arms.

Maybe I have been one of the lucky ones, there was a neurologist in the area who ran and M.E. clinic so I got onto a management program and have also found a sympathetic ear at occupational health. I know I could be much, much worse off.

I still work. I have had to reduce my hours but I do still have my job. The people I work with are quite understanding, they are used to seeing the zombie in the corner and know that some days she just can’t make it in. The people I work for say very little. What can they say? Though I never wanted to have the words said it seems that I am now protected by the disability discrimination act (that sounds so wrong and potentially unfair to those with more ‘real’ disabilities).

I am now low sugar, low fat (high cholesterol was the news flash last week), low/no caffeine, and low dairy (oh, but increase the cheese because of risk of osteoporosis – can you see a problem with that?). I’m still on the tablets for glucose intolerance. When asked what the point was of taking them I was told that it was to avoid diabetes in the future and that I couldn’t come off them unless I lost a lot more weight (“Hang on”, thought I, “you said the weight loss was part of the problem …”).

I am also now quite low on fun.

None of my symptoms have actually gone away, they just come and go mostly according to stress/excitement. Going for a night out and having a laugh can cripple me the day after. Bad news can set me off. Making the effort for social interaction definitely takes it out of me. Strangely enough the gym has been one thing that has kept me going, I have just had to learn the exercises that cause me problems and work around them. I can manage a massive 6 – count ’em – 6 lunges in total and can now skip for 1 minute before knowing I will collapse later in the day. I no longer attempt to run any distance. In contrast I seem to be able to do sit-ups, push-ups, some planking and punch like anything with no apparent ill effect.

I’m not certain but I might be one of the few M.E. suffers who kept their gym membership and users time off work to see a personal trainer. Odd though it might seem this is the only time I get encouragement to try and see what I am still able to do. I may no longer be losing weight (how all this started in the first place) but my body fat has gone from 29% to around 22% so for a forty something woman with a sedentary job that’s not too bad.

Wikipedia have a cracking article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronic_fatigue_syndrome It scared the daylights out of me when I first read it, now it’s like an old friend.


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Isn’t this fun?

Whoever inventing blogging deserves the Nobel Prize for Procrastination.

So far I’ve spent a couple of hours looking at themes and mostly twiddling with things I’m not quite sure about.

Have I read the tutorials and gone through the walkthoughs? Course not. I’ve always worked in IT and mostly worked with men (or, they were ‘mostly men’ at any rate) so am still at the stage of thinking what happens if I click on this …

And I know I am just talking to myself. That is actually my intention until I’ve worked out how I want to say things.

At least the cat is happy, she loves sitting next to me and watching what I’m up to.

Eric the Cat

(Im)moral support from Eric the cat


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Gene Bomb?

Not a poor spin off from the band in Scot Pilgrim vs the World but an idea I’ve had kicking around for years. The problem I’ve discovered is that, as time has gone on, one by one I’ve seen similar things appear in films and books. Is this an example of the great shared unconscious at work or just the amount of shit I must have read and forgotten about as a youngster leaking back out through the grey matter?

I’ve no idea.

Finally, a couple of years ago I decided I must try and get it out of my head. Not for any great reason but to say that I had finally done it.

Since then I have found numerous distractions and discovered just how hard it is to write creatively when you spend most of your days with conversations along the lines of “Have you tried switching it off and on again?” (Don’t laugh, someone has to do it.) I’ve also developed ME and quite often have long spells of not being able to remember the start of a sentence by the time I get to … somewhere or other.

So. Gene Bomb. A book set in the future after the collapse and recovery of society. A book about four people who should not exist, certainly should never have met, and definitely should not do many of the things I have difficulty writing about. A book with the random grammar that came as a free gift with a comprehensive education.

Maybe this is going to be the correct format to weave the different strands of the stories of the living Shabtis.

Maybe it is just going to be a load of self-indulgent wank.

Somehow I think I know how it’s going to turn out. 😉