Juggling Deadlines

Been a little quiet recently. A combination of the shock of going into schools for the first time (which I will write about in itself), combined with the sheer number of deadlines that I’ve had to write to, both academic and fictional.

So, what have I been up to?

First there was the Black Library submission. For those of you who don’t know what the Black Library is, it’s the publishing house that deals with Games Workshop publications, be it Warhammer and Warhammer 40k fiction or rule books (at least, I think it deals in those since you buy digital editions through them, as well as physical copies). They opened up their submissions window over the winter, from early December to late January, calling for short stories about the Deathwatch. So, naturally, as an aspiring author I submitted something. We were supposed to submit a brief overview of the plot, as well as a short extract of the best part of the story. Whilst I will not post the plot here (because spoilers!) what I will do is post up the extract that I sent them:

As soon as the door to the waste processing plant opened, an acidic smell filled Inquisitor Ralos’s nostrils. She felt like gagging, but the need for focus outweighed her discomfort. The signal emanated from this place, like a psychic beacon calling out to her. It was here.

Captain Fervo and his Kill-team had already fanned out and secured the opening, covering both the door that they had entered through and two corridors that split off to the sides of the entrance room. The room was dark, dimly lit by a single glow-globe against the opposite wall, and accompanied by the dim sounds of machinery whirring and clanking in the distance.

“Fervo, take your team and scout the building, I require time to divine our next course of action.”

“Yes, Inquisitor,” Fervo replied, rallying his squad’s attention. They immediately split into two, having done so on so many occasions before that it came as second nature.

The two trios made their way down the narrow corridors. They were quite spacious, but designed for the use of regular humans, rather than the hulking mass that a Space Marine occupied. Captain Fervo led one team down one corridor, whilst the other three managed to squeeze through the opposite corridor. Sirenus’s heavy bolter ammunition supply scraping against the ceiling periodically as his group made their way into a larger, more open room.

Inquisitor Ralos had sat down before the Space Marines had made their way down the corridors. Captain Fervo had come to trust her sight and did not question her instructions leading to her solitude. She brought a small deck of cards from a coat pocket and tossed them into the air, cards immediately separated and dispersed around her, forming elliptical patterns around her body with a faint trail of blue, psychic energy. At the focal point, the Inquisitor sat, eyes closed and totally calm. Centred.

In the distance, the pair of Space Marine teams had started to diverge, Fervo and his squad heading for the old workers’ quarters whilst the rest headed towards the core processing plant. The level of light towards the core processing plant had dimmed even further now, the heightened senses of the Space Marines coming into their own in the difficult conditions, however the corridor had opened up wider to the relief of Sirenus. Darkness enshrouded the Space Marines, but the rhythmic whirring of machines grew louder, drowning out even their own heavy footsteps. For Fervo, the opposite was true; light levels heightened, but the whirring was almost dimmed into complete silence, only the sounds of their heavy footsteps remained.

Inquisitor Ralos reached out and grabbed one of the tarot cards floating about her, a lightning reaction catching it perfectly mid-flight. And another. And finally a third. She brought them up and looked at what she now held, the remaining cards still orbiting her form. Her eyes widened.

The call over the vox was almost synchronised. Ralos and Sirenus screaming down the channels simultaneously.


Second was Opening Lines. Opening Lines is a BBC Radio 4 show that showcases first time writers and opened submissions around a month later than the Black Library window. I had a lot more freedom with this as it was not set to a specific universe, so I went ahead with my own. However, it had to be suitable for a wide audience of all types and all ages. It also had to be between 1900 and 2000 words, so as to fit into a short window on the radio should it be selected as one of the three to be read out live on air. Again, I will not post the entire story, nor the plot (because spoilers!), but I will say that it is set in my cyberpunk universe and follows a corporate security agent named Renée (who may be seen later on) on a typical night in Neo-London. If it doesn’t get published on the Opening Lines website or read out on air, then I will post it up here. However, until then I’m going to keep everything quiet. You’ll just have to wait and see!

Unfortunately now I am working towards an academic deadline. My teacher training course has assignments too, unfortunately. Whilst not nearly as enjoyable as writing fiction, it has to be done and it shouldn’t be too difficult. Work never ends 😉

Weekend Mathematics Article and Personal Updates!

It’s that time of the week again. I will be writing on calculations and mental mathematics today, but first I need to get some personal stuff off my chest. If you want to skip me crying all over my keyboard, click here to go to the maths.

So, rounding off the week is a bout of delicious paranoia. Wonderful, I know, but we’re old friends; we’ve known each other for about 10 years now.

And you know what? I wish we didn’t. I wish paranoia would stop calling me up, contacting me on Skype, walking up to me in the street as if we’re best friends or peering over my shoulder whilst I work. It’s annoying. More than annoying. This time, paranoia is here to let me know two things:

1 – I’m utterly useless. So, apparently the January crowd on my course (it’s split so that the first wave join in January, then the second wave are added in March and finally the third wave are added in June) is for people who have not done an A-level in Mathematics. It feels like Paranoia (who we will capitalise now like a proper noun as he has, by now, taken on a human-like form. And yes, it’s a he, because I’m also obviously a man-hating feminist who believes that anyone bearing a Y chromosome should be enslaved. Obviously) is holding this sentence up to my face and laughing hysterically. Am I really so crap? As someone who did both an A-level in Mathematics -and- an A-level in Further Mathematics, this is really weighing on my thoughts. Heck, I more than just did an A-level in Mathematics; I managed to get an A grade whilst also managing crippling depression, insecurities and identity issues. It was a metaphorical cake-walk that only took up a relatively small percentage of my brain power to do, though Further Mathematics required more than I had available and I would be interested to see what I would get now that I am (mostly) over these hurdles. So why the hell am I in the “you haven’t done an A-level in Maths” group? Why am I not in the March group of people who have done an A-level in Maths? Am I so useless that the University feels that I need to be put in the group where I am, quite clearly, above the mathematical par? This isn’t just me being big headed, this is what I’ve observed. But am I? I feel like I’m trying to prove myself to myself in class, commenting on things that don’t necessarily need commenting on and asking questions that I already know the answer to in order to look intelligent. Like I’ve considered more than just what we’ve been shown.

2 – That leads me on to the other piece of paper that Paranoia is holding up to my face (he is a total bastard) which reads “everybody hates you. Even your instructor hates you. Because you’re an annoying little self-important ‘princess’.” I get the feeling that, because of my behavioural patterns derived from point number 1, my fellow trainee teachers hate me, as well as our instructor. I get the feeling that they think I’m aloof or self-important or that I am trying to prove that I am better than them (which is totally not me. I would never go out of my way to put other people down, having been bullied myself for the entirety of my days in primary school, and for two years afterwards as well). I’m really scared that my above feelings are making me do things that I would not normally do and that these are the first impressions that I’m making on what will be my peer group for the next 21 months. I feel as though I am going to alienate myself through no fault of my own, but because Paranoia is repeatedly punching me in the stomach and reminding me that I’m useless and everyone hates me.

This has me in a slight panic, so I’m going to go radio silent for the next week in class. I will speak when spoken to and no more. I can complete this work. I can complete this work with ease. I am learning from my time here and, as it is funded by the government, it is affordable (I get nothing from parents and couldn’t do a full time job alongside what is a pesudo-full time job) and preferable to spending another 3 months in Spain, going insane in a different way. It’s just… I have these thoughts in my brain that I really need to get rid of. Emotions: such a love hate relationship I have with them.

Anyway, that’s enough of that. Time to do some mathematics.

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia. The 4 basic numerical operations!

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia. The 4 basic numerical operations!

This is a maths article first and foremost, so let’s get down to the nitty gritty of calculations. I want you to ask yourself how many times every day, on average, you do mathematics. Got a number in your head? Good. Well, that was once at least, so we’re making progress. Here’s the part where I tell you the truth: it’s likely a larger number than what you just thought of.

The four basic mathematical operations are addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I’m hoping that everyone reading this knows the basic premise of what these do. This isn’t calculus, this is simple mathematics. The first things that we learn and the cornerstone of everything to come. Basic arithmetic is incredibly important, and I can’t stress that enough. Arithmetic is used when we go shopping (fun!), when we order lunch, when we tell the time, when we cook, when we withdraw money from the cash machine, when we pay rent, when we gamble (well, those who do it), when we play any board game involving dice. I think you get the point I am trying to put across. We use arithmetic in our day to day lives and don’t even consider the fact that every time we do so we are doing maths. We take for granted how easily we can add two numbers, or multiply basic values (or at the very least estimate, another important mathematical skill), but over the past week I’ve had to look in detail into how we do it, and thus how to teach it to primary school children who have not learned how to do so yet. We start with counting. Addition is simply counting. Subtraction is reverse counting. Multiplication is repeated addition and division is repeated subtraction. It’s all linked.

I know that mathematics is not for everyone. Some people find numbers difficult, but may weave the most wonderful poems or create spectacular sculptures and paintings, so I’ve come up with 3 basic strategies to improve basic numerical skills that I have used through my life, considering that this is the cornerstone of mathematics, the foundations of the mathematical manor (and we all know what happens when you build a manor on shoddy foundations. It involves lots of costs and crumbling). You don’t even have to pay for this, it’s like witchcraft!

1 – Number games. Looking at the clock. It’s 23:05. What can I do with 2, 3, 0 and 5? Well, I can make 10 (2 + 3 + 5 + 0); I can make 0 (2 * 3 * 5 * 0 or 0 / (2 * 3 + 5) or 2 + 3 – 5 – 0). You can also introduce more complex operators into this number games if you’re bored of the basic 4, such as factorial or indices. I’ve done this myself since I could tell the time (which I believe I learned at about the age of 4(?)) and it really helped me grasp and manipulate numbers, even from a young age.

2 – Find a hobby that uses lots of arithmetic. For me, this is Warhammer 40k. Those of you who know me will know that I tend to theorycraft a lot. What happens if a unit of x fires at a unit of y? How many Guardsmen can I swamp the board with in 1500pts whilst maintaining tactical viability? What’s the average MEQ kill rate of Warp Spiders? The best part about this one is that it can be enjoyable. I love crunching the numbers to work out how streamlined I can make lists and how much I can expect a unit to do on the tabletop; it’s an extension of a hobby that I have loved for years. This has really helped me work out more complex multiplications (17 times table? That’s a unit of Striking Scorpions! 19? That’s Warp Spiders) and even juggle fractions in my head (1 boltgun shot from a Battle Sister will kill 1/9 Space Marines (2/3 to hit * 1/2 to wound * 1/3 to get through the armour save), so you need 9 to kill 1. This is probably the one that has helped me the most, because where the first was an idle action that I did when I looked at the clock, this one was an activity that I sought out in my own time. A suggestion for if you want a hobby with slightly more advanced mathematics would be AD&D dungeon creation. GCSE level circle theorems used to be a necessity for DMs!

3 – Practice. The most boring of the three. There are plenty of resources out there (don’t feel like an idiot for doing Primary level activities. I’m doing them as part of my teacher training and I don’t feel like an idiot for doing so!) to help with number skills. Use them. However, headbutting a wall until it falls over will leave a headache. The two above methods are akin to bringing a climbing rope and a rocket launcher to the wall first.

I’m just throwing ideas out there for this. Basic arithmetic is everywhere in our lives and is, in my opinion, an essential skill; an undervalued skill. As always, you can choose to try it or not. I was notoriously lazy as a child and lacked motivation for anything academic, so this was merely my way of getting around the fact that I never wanted to do anything. A shorter mathematical article today, but I am not madly in love with the idea of basic arithmetic. I may be a sub-par mathematician, but I’m slightly above basic arithmetic. Mainly because I’m a Warhammer 40k and tabletop RPG player. Got to have the best stats and everything has to be perfect!

The BIG One…

Well, it had to come at some point and this has been skulking in the shadows for too long. This post may end up being long, so I ask for patience and hope that you can bear with me. It is an important one, after all, and it had to come at some point. It refers to many personal issues as well, but I feel that nine years is long enough to keep everything bottled up inside.

So, I shall first start talking about a few things in the past. My pieces of creative writing will be the first call. Many of the pieces that I write feature female protagonists and/or important female characters. I prefer writing female characters and feel that modern media definitely has a sexist bias, so I will do my part to bring back the balance. Next, tabletop role-playing games; whenever I take part in one I will often opt to play a female character. In video games, the pattern remains constant, having played through Dragon Age (Origins and 2), Mass Effect (all of them), Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (1 and 2), Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft, The Secret World, Wildstar, Fallout (3 and New Vegas), Borderlands (1 and 2), Saints Row (2, 3 and 4) and even multiplayer games such as Garry’s Mod, Killing Floor, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament (all of them) all as female characters. Suffice to say, that’s a long list. But why?

First, I am a feminist. A rather blunt way of putting it, but I see modern media and sigh. Protagonists are often male and women often play unimportant roles or that of the damsel in distress, a prize for the hero. Many films and games include female characters predominantly as a love interest for the protagonist with little more purpose other than that of an object, something that is acted upon as opposed to taking action itself. Fortunately, literature may offer us some measure of comfort beyond the fringes of modern media, though sexism and misogyny still run rampant within the pages of many books. I will not delve into my views on such matters, as this would be material for an entire article or two or three or ten. This is not the article I wish to write today.

Secondly, I am a male-to-female transgender. This is the main thing that I have kept hidden for years, kept hidden from people even to this day. True, there are a few people who are already in the know, though I was incredibly selective at first with who I told. First were my housemates last year, a very accepting fellow and a female-to-male transgender who I will forever be grateful to for helping me come to terms with it. Then, close and trustworthy friends, then part of my family, then some more friends, now everyone. This ties in with the first point I made about what I have done in the past; recreational activities have always been a means of escapism for me, a way for me to be who I feel I am at heart. I went so far as to lie to my family to cover up this truth for years. People always though that I was obsessed, some would go as far to throw the word ‘addicted’ into the mix, with video games. Perhaps when I was ten years old, the obsession theory had some truth; I enjoyed video games a lot and played them as much as I could, though that would also bring the parental limitations that were in place into consideration. You know what they say about the forbidden fruit, after all. The truth of the matter, however, was that I craved the possibility of being who I wanted to be as I grew up. Society largely shuns what I am, much as they used to shun homosexuality, and how they still do in parts of the world. I could not just come out with it and expect everyone to act responsibly concerning my life choices; not at the age of sixteen and finally in a school where I had friends, where I was not bullied every day and where I finally felt comfortable. By thirteen I found myself uncomfortable with who I was, fourteen saw me start to explore my real identity through the means of the internet. By sixteen I was sure, but it took me until I was twenty to fully come to terms with it and start telling people. When I say that this is my closest guarded secret to date, I mean every word of it. Now, however, I feel that I am prepared to reveal this to all of my friends and anyone who may read what I post. If you think that this makes me some sort of abomination, or if you’re one of my friends and this changes your perception of me for the worse, I don’t want to hear it; you’re probably in the wrong place.

Thirdly, this technically makes me a lesbian. Some people are probably thinking that I’ve lost it by now, or think that this post is a joke or an attempt to troll (I could name names, but I won’t). Gender identity is independent of sexual orientation; just because I have come to terms with my identity, associating as a female, does not mean that my orientation will suddenly change to match. You can imagine the confusion that this may bring to some. I’m glad to have made friends this year, however, who are accepting and understand. It was really helpful to be able to just get it all off my chest, if only to perhaps a dozen people total.

Suffice to say, my years at University have not exactly been smooth sailing. I graduate in a week and a half from posting this and I am just glad to be leaving with a piece of paper on top of my debt, as opposed to just a debt. Of course my hatred and complete incapacity for computer science was a major contributor to my difficulties, being a computer scientist who can’t write code (translation: do half of their degree) is rather harrowing, especially when the person in question is used to high grades; scraping by was not only stressful, but also degrading. Nevertheless, I would be a fool if I were to say that this was the only reason; I re-sat my second year because of my issues, proving to be sufficient extenuating circumstances for my University to give me another shot. Turns out all it did for me was land me an extra year in debt as the outcome was the same with slightly better grades as I had still not really come to terms with it until the end of the last academic year. This year at least I passed the majority of my modules quite handily, only failing one where I did not do the coursework which happened to be worth 40% (I thought it was only 25%!), though I managed to get 60% in the exam. Unfortunately, 60% of 60% is only 36%, and therefore a fail. Oh well, I passed the year, I will graduate and I am happy for it. The best years of your life will be at University? Perhaps, but also bear in mind that this may not necessarily be the case. I have personally hated most of my time at University and I will not have many fond memories of this place. Happy to be returning to Brighton in the foreseeable future!

So, that is all I really wanted to put out there for now. Serious post, I know, but I felt that I needed to put it out there. As I post everything I write on my Facebook page, some of my friends will likely see this so it will be interesting to see what, if any, kind of response it will garner there, as well as here from people who have not known me for years in person! I wonder if any of them will read it at all.

But damn I’m good at hiding proverbial skeletons in my closet. I really need to go into politics.