Monday, 29 September 2014

New Fighter Fish - Shimmer

The tank I mentioned in my last writing diary now has a resident. Shimmer is a female fighter fish, and is probably between six months and one year old. She's white, with iridescent blue highlights on the fins and tail. As it's her first day, I didn't hassle too much with photographs. The best I got was this one:

White female fighter fish by an anubias plant

I also took a few videos, which I'll likely put together later in a setting-up-a-tank video series. But here are a few still shots from them. The last shows how blue her tail can look as she moves:

White female fighter fish with light shining through her

Back view of white female fighter fish, with her tail shining bright blue

She's generally settling in well. She's clamping her fins a bit (not so much in the shots, but other times), which is usual after a scary day moving to a new tank. She's really enjoying picking off little critters from the driftwood and plants, so I can recommend spending a little extra time on setting up a proper soil-based planted tank. It's not that my previous fighter tanks were bad, but this one is much more awesome for the fish.

In about a month, I'll introduce amano shrimp. The place I get my fish keeps the fighters in with other fish, so I've had a chance to see how she deals with tankmates. She had some very tiny fish in with her and was ignoring them, which is a good sign for being a tankmate-friendly fighter.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Story at Strange Horizons

A cartoon bird

My story "Never the Same" is up at Strange Horizons. It's a science fiction mystery. I wrote it about the time I started my cozy mystery novel, so it's a play on some of those tropes... but in a less cozy way.

Also has birds and terraforming!

Never the Same

Friday, 29 August 2014

Writing Diary: If Sales were Fishes

I've sold two short stories. "Never the Same" (science fiction mystery) to Strange Horizons and "After the Rain" (folkloric fantasyish) to Lackington's Magazine. In addition to the titles rhyming, I noted my last few short story length sales have been in the format of "Y the X". This isn't because I title all my stories that way... it's just what sold.

All this means I'll need to write some more short stories. With different titles.

The other result of selling stuff is I have money, so I got a little fish tank for a fighter fish. It'll be a few weeks at least before the fish, as it takes time to get the bacteria in the tank going. But here's a photo of what it looked like soon after I planted it:

Aqua One Aquastart 320 with wood and plants

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Cockroach Invasion (Video)

Baby cockroach on an egg boxA common question raised by my bio is, "Do you really keep cockroaches?" As though it might be a quirky thing I invented just for the bio. Yes, I really keep cockroaches. I started with one cockroach (Sparkle), then got two (Ash and Gem) and this time ordered five (but I have eight). Mostly because I used to have a community fish tank. Now I don't, I'm filling that space with cockroaches.

Other things people often ask:

What type are they? Madagascar hissing cockroaches. (There are several species called this, which interbreed, so most likely they're a bit of a mix.)

What do they eat? I give them dry stuff (fish food, cereals, nuts, seeds) and fruit/veg (most stuff, except they don't like cucumber and I avoid irritant things like onions and chillies). Sparkle was an odd one, in that he'd only eat dried food (and wouldn't eat if it'd been moistened). Most of them like their fresh stuff though.

What are they called? I've named the one bigger nymph. They're called Pancake, because they're unusually broad for their length. My guess is Pancake is a bit older, as they're hanging out on their own more and look less nymphy.

Do you breed them? No. Cockroaches breed a lot, being cockroaches and all, so that's a lot of babies to handle. A lot of people also have reptiles, so feed unwanted babies to those... but I don't have space for lizards.

How do you avoid breeding? Keep males and females in separate tanks. For the batch this time, I'll split them as they get a little bigger, then sort out their final tanks when I know what they'll be.

Do they get lonely (when kept in a tank alone)? No. Cockroaches live in colonies, but they're not attached to each other like bees and ants. My biggest concern with the new babies is they're rather small and the weather's hot, so they'll help retain moisture by staying together. I won't be splitting them until they grow a bit (except Pancake, who'll move after some settling time).

Why?!!!!? They're clean, friendly and easy to keep. They tame well and live about as long as a hamster (in approximate ages, my previous ones reached four, one and a half, and three). I love their little antennae!

Can I see them? Here's five minutes of my cockroaches being cockroaches...

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Writing Diary: Cozies and Blog Future

Cozy Mystery

In my self-publishing roundup, I said I was going to write a cozy mystery. This has begun. My basic concept is the fairy godmother of a small English village investigating murders. Her wife is a retired toothfairy, as the somewhat more science-oriented (in a teeth kind of way) helper. It's going to be so cozy you could turn it into mittens. Apart from the horrible murder, obviously.

In a bit of synchronicity, I went to see Agatha Christie's play The Mousetrap recently. This had been booked prior to the decision to write a cozy. Christie's work is really my model, as I like the whole thing where everyone's got a secret and many people have a motive. That said, I've been reading a whole bunch of cozies from Amazon, to get a feel for the modern genre. I think lighter themed stories often get overlooked when people talk diversity, but there's a whole lot of women with strong friendships going on in the genre, as well as a lot of older protagonists. It's a little weak in other areas, but it's a good basis for building a story I'm happy with in terms of the characters.

Short Stories

I'm getting along with the short story writing. I'm not necessarily writing the most saleable themes/styles at the moment, as I'm getting back into the groove. But you never know. I do sell those write-what-I-want stories sometimes. If not, I'll switch over to something a bit more traditional later.


I'm unlikely to be posting a lot of new content on the blog for the foreseeable future. I'll post writing updates and things related to my writing. Maybe a few photos and art things here and there. But the longer content - especially the science and diversity content - is basically done for now. The blog clearly isn't interesting people outside of a few friends. It also takes a long time to write out the longer posts. I can't really justify that time. It'd be different if the blog was new... but when it's going nowhere after six years, it's time to acknowledge it's a time-sink rather than doing much good.

I do want to keep posting a bit though, so people know I'm around and what I'm doing. I'm also trying to post more reviews on Goodreads, as I think that'll help other authors out more than recommending them on my blog. You're welcome to follow/friend me there if you like the reviews.