You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2012.

Part 1 is here.  This part is as badly (i.e. not) edited as the first half, so the story might not make complete sense.


Amelia and Tom sneaked back towards the house.  Amelia was excited – her first day in the new house, she hadn’t even unpacked yet, and she was already involved in an adventure.  And she had thought that this was going to be horrid!

Tom held up his hand, and they both stopped.  Amelia was about to ask what was going on when she heard a sound.  There was someone in the house, she was sure of it.  She held her breath to hear better, and noticed Tom doing the same.  After a few moments they heard footsteps fading away, and they started breathing again.

They crept up to the window.  Amelia started to inch her head upwards to look in, but Tom grabbed her and pulled her down.

“Not like that.  Side first, otherwise he’ll see your forehead before you can see in.”  He twisted his head to the side and demonstrated, peering in at the very corner of the window.  Amelia followed his example.

Curtains filled her view.  By rolling her eye to the left she could see that they weren’t completely closed, and she moved towards the middle of the window.  Tom was doing the same.  There was a brief staring match as they argued silently over who got to look, but Amelia soon realised that she was the new girl here and moved aside so that Tom could look.

His eyes widened dramatically as he peered in through the tiny gap.  His mouth hanging open, he moved aside and gestured for her to look.

The room was completely full.  There was furniture, boxes, gizmos and gadgets covering every available surface – and that included the walls and ceiling.  There was furniture on the ceiling.  How cool was that?

All of that paled into insignificance when Mr Sutty returned to the room, though.  He was carrying a mug of something hot – tea, she supposed – and reading the newspaper.   He moved around the obstacles without seeming to notice them, winding his way towards the opposite end of the room.

Amelia half expected him to stop when he reached the wall, but he didn’t.  He just kept walking, turning himself sideways with no apparent effort.  He made his way to an armchair that was halfway up the wall and settled in comfortably.  His feet stretched out in front of him, he reached out absently, still reading the paper, and set the tea on the table beside him.

It stayed put.

Amelia took a step backwards, grinning widely.  Tom immediately took her place in the window, and his jaw, which he had just managed to pick up off the floor, replaced itself there.

After a moment, Tom looked round at her.  He twitched his head to one side and started making his way back towards the bench they had been on before.  Amelia followed.

When they were safely away from the house, he let out a huge breath.

“I don’t believe it,” he said, shaking his head.  “How is that possible?”

But Amelia was still grinning.

“When I moved here, I thought it was going to be terrible.  I thought I would never see my friends again, would never have the fun that I could only have at their houses.  But it’s going to be ok.”

Tom frowned at her.  “What does that have to do with Old Man Sutty?”

“Do you know what his first name is?  Because I do.  It’s Tim.  He’s my best friend’s uncle, and he’s a wizard!”

Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4 is quite entertaining sometimes.  They’ve done a skit about what would happen if all the pseudonyms on the internet were suddenly replaced by people’s real names.  Very funny.

The little bits of back-story and setting it up were as funny as the bits about the internet.  I particularly  enjoyed this:

“I don’t want her to vote if she can’t tell the difference between a preposition and an auxiliary verb.”

This could so very much be said by my husband.  Also this:

“Why is there a pen in this flowerpot?”

which is definitely my household.

How do you think the world would react if everyone used their real names on internet forums and so on?

With the Paralympics upon us, it seemed appropriate to reflect on the meaning of being human.

The Paralympic athletes are an amazing bunch.  They have missing limbs, spinal injuries, cerebral palsy, visual impairments, and intellectual impairments.  All of them are better at their chosen sport than I will or could ever be.

Back to the original point, nobody ever considers that they don’t count as humans.  That rules out humans being a specific shape, and a specific level of intelligence.

A species is usually defined as a group of living organisms which are capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding.  Nobody denies the humanity of people who can’t reproduce for whatever reason, so there goes the “member of the species” definition of humanity.

Whatever dictionary Google uses to power its searches defines “human” as

A human being, esp. a person as distinguished from an animal or (in science fiction) an alien.

which is a little circular, and not particularly helpful.  But at least we can be sure that humans aren’t aliens.

Some Christians have suggested that to be human is to have rational thinking, free will, moral capacity, or the ability to face our own death.  I would point out that we only got most of that after we ate that darned apple, and therefore either we weren’t human before that or that’s not the answer.  (Or the apple is a metaphor, but let’s not go there today).

Of course, the rational thinking argument is not totally the domain of the Christians.  Cognitive scientists like Daniel Dennett also cite reasoning with each other as a definition of being human.

Personally, I think it’s our ability to think about the future, to imagine new worlds, that makes us human.  Endless imagination and the ability to describe it to another – now that’s something.

In general, I find that having goals is a Good Thing.  It’s useful to know what you intend to do in a day, in a week, or in a month.  Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, but underestimate what they can achieve in a year.

I’ve been running some experiments and discovered that I can usually write 400-500 words in a day, given my other commitments.  Not all of them are good words, in fact many of them are not, but that’s not the point.  The point is that if I do that, every day, I could have the first draft of a novel written in half a year.  That actually boggles my mind, because I was expecting it to take several years.  Half a year?  That’s a goal I could get behind.

But here’s the thing.

Goals should not take over your life.

When I was away camping last week, I didn’t write anything.  Not one word, for six days.  I know there will be other weeks this year when similar things happen.  So maybe my novel will take a little longer.  And that’s ok, because writing a novel in half a year is not the be-all and end-all of my life.

Some people would say that this means I am not a “proper writer”, or not “passionate enough” or some such.  I laugh in their general direction.  Their mother was a hamster and their father smelled of elderberries.  If they don’t go away I shall taunt them a second time.  Or something.  This post is not written for them.

This post is written for those people who love writing, who want to write, but who also have a life outside, in the real world.  To them I want to say: You Are Not Alone.  Set goals if you want; write when you can; but do not worry if you don’t write every day.

Dragging myself back to the point, writing a novel is too much of a long term goal for me.  Things change, new oportunities come up and steal my time, and I find it difficult to maintain interest if the end of the project is in many months time.  That’s why I have decided not to set the goal of writing a novel in half a year.  Or even writing a novel.

That isn’t to say that I won’t be writing a novel, of course, but writing the novel is not my main goal – writing is.

I’m back from camp.  I’m intending to write something sensible this afternoon.  If you are seeing this message it means I didn’t get around to it.  So I present to you this picture, instead.

One from waaay back in the archives this time.

Write a story where the moon is falling out of its orbit (your reasons may vary).  What will the people of Earth do to solve the problem?

(My answer to this was “prop it up on really long stilts and build a city below it because in its shadow is the only safe place to hide from the radiation now that the atmosphere has been destroyed by the entry process”.  I think I was 12 or 13 at the time.)

Write a story about a vampire who is fine with natural light, but is allergic to artificial light.  A sort of anti-vampire, if you will.

Bonus points if you can reverse some of the other vampire traits (stakes, garlic, blood drinking, etc) in a believable way.

Not sure exactly where this is going yet, though I have a vague idea, and it kind of cuts off in an odd place due to having to go on camp rather than finish it, but here we go:


When Amelia Inglefield moved into her new home, she expected to be disappointed.  She’d left her friends and her school behind, and moved from a beautiful house in the countryside to a flat in the city.  It was going to be hell.  They had to share their garden!

When the car pulled up behind the mover’s truck, Amelia refused to look out of the window.  It wasn’t until her parents opened the car door and made her get out that she first saw the house.  It was part of a long terrace of huge white houses, with ginormous sash windows and balconies.  Looking through the ground floor windows she saw the hugest room she’d ever seen.  The ceiling had to be four times her height, easily.

“This is it?” she tried to sound uninterested.  Her parents exchanged glances.

“This is it.  We’ve got the whole of the ground floor, and access to the garden out the back.  You’ll like it, you’ll see.”

“Mmm, I suppose.  Can I go explore?”

“Sure.  You can even go in the garden if you want, but make sure you don’t annoy anyone else that might be out there.”

Amelia wandered off, glad to escape the unloading.  Packing everything up had been such hard work.  She poked her head in all the rooms as she went through the house, but without furniture the only ones she could identify were the kitchen and bathroom.  There was a door from the kitchen leading outside, and Amelia opened it cautiously.

The garden was in huge! It ran all the way from one end of the terrace to the other.  Amelia couldn’t decide whether to be glad of so much space or horrified at the number of people who she would have to share with.  She set off to explore.

She was only a few houses away from her own when she caught sight of a boy sitting behind some bushes.  Biting her lip, she hovered uncertainly for a moment before going over to him.


“Shh, be quiet!  Are you trying to get me caught?”

Amelia blinked.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, “what are you doing?”

The boy looked at her incredulously.  “I’m trying to find out what’s in Old Man Sutty’s house, what does it look like?”

“Old Man Sutty?  Who’s that?”

The boy cocked his head on one side and frowned.  “Everyone knows who Old Man Sutty is.  You’re not from around here, are you?”

“We’re moving in today.  Number 6.” She pointed back over her shoulder with her thumb.   “I’m Amelia,” she added as an afterthought.

“Tom.  Look, we shouldn’t be stood here talking about this, he might hear us, and then we’d be for it.”

Tom led her off further into the garden until they reached a bench.  He threw himself down on it and looked at her.

“So, Amelia.  Nice name.  Where you from?”

“A little village called Shawford.  It’s really nice there.  I miss my friends already.”

“Hey, it’s nice here too!  And there are plenty of people to be friends with.”

Amelia sighed.  “Sure.  So tell me about Mr Sutty?”

Tom grinned.  “It’s really strange.  He hardly ever leaves the house, but sometimes when people try to talk to him he doesn’t answer the door.  And he sometimes has the oddest things delivered.  But nothing ever leaves.  There has to be like a million things in there by now.  There can’t possibly be room for them all.  My theory is that he’s a smuggler, and there’s a secret passage that he uses to get all the stuff out through.”

Amelia was skeptical.

“So you’re trying to peer through his windows to what?  See if there are piles and piles of random things?  Why can’t he just have removed things while you’re at school?”

Tom waved a hand negligently.  “I’m home schooled.”

“Really?  That’s cool.”

Tom wrinkled his nose.

“It’s a pain sometimes.  Nobody to mess around with in lessons.  I do get to learn some fun stuff though.”

Here’s the second random idea from the archive:

Write a story where men and women are segregated so much that they are literally from different planets*.  You’ll need a believable reason why this has come to be.

* Inspired, of course, by the title of a certain book about Mars and Venus.

I’m off camping with the Brownies for a few days.  I had intended to write some posts in advance and schedule them, but I’ve been doing so much prep for camp that I’ve not had time to do them – or rather, I had to make a choice between writing fiction and writing blog posts, and the fiction won.

Instead, I’ve fished out some random ideas from my ideas folder, ones which I either decided were impractical or which have been in there so long that there’s not much chance of me ever looking at them again.  Sometimes both.

I’ll be posting them one a day until I’m back from camp, in the form of writing prompts.  There will be a (virtual) hug for anyone who writes me a little story about any of them.

Here’s today’s offering:

Write a story about the chaos which is caused by the north-south polarity of the Earth reversing.  Bonus points if at any point one of your characters has to “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow”.

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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