Monday Musing… My Family

Today is sunny, with a little wind, but because it’s a Monday, it means I won’t see TOH and the children until after school. To be honest, I’m rather glad of it. Not because I don’t like my kids or my partner, but because after a weekend full of them, it’s nice to have some peace and quiet!

And that’ll change soon enough… so I’m making the most of it while I can.

I thought today, I would introduce you to my family. I think I posted about them before, but I can’t remember when, so it’s been long enough that I have new friends to introduce them to.

We’ll start at the top of the Pile: The Cats.

Why are you looking at us

Yes, I am a cat slave. The pair in the picture are brother and sister – the orange and white one is Gizmo and the tricolour is Cleo.

Gizmo is named after the adorable character in Gremlins because when he was a kitten, he had huge ears and paws, was the fluffiest thing I had ever seen and loved to eat. It’s the eating that got him to the size he is now (massive) and almost cost him his life (he had urinary tract problems a year ago and was in pet hospital for nine days)… not that that has put him off eating – he’ll eat anything and everything, including cardboard and plastic.

His favourite place to sit is on me, snuggled up under my hair. When he was a kitten he used to sit on my shoulder, actually under my hair, and he thinks he can still do it… I don’t have the heart to tell him that he’s too big to do that any more! I am his human, despite the fact that I got him for TOH.

Nicknames: Flump, Fatcat, GIZZIE!, Guzzleguts, Stinkycat.

Cleo is his smaller (but no less fluffy) full blood sister. We rescued her from her last owner who was using her as a kitten factory in a bid to make some money.  She came to us already pregnant and eventually had five kittens… they were rehomed together as a family, and Cleo stayed with us.  We think she’s been mistreated a little, because she is incredibly skittish and runs away from the slightest hint of danger (she even runs when there is no danger!)

Cleo’s favourite places to sit include on the front room curtain, on top of whatever clean washing she can manage, and on the loose material of TOH’s favourite lounging-around-in trousers. Like her namesake, she is beautiful and very demanding when she wants something. She is also very picky about the state of the litterbox; if it is not up to her standard she will find somewhere else to do her business… and as she shares it with Gizmo, that happens about twice a week if TOH doesn’t sort it out first.

Nicknames: CLEOPATRA COURT! Queenie, Sweetheart, Little One.

Yes, I know we are supposed to have separate litter boxes for them. we tried it and it doesn’t work. Gizmo used whichever one he fancied, so we had twice the problem.  You’re also supposed to have separate food bowls for them; we tried it… Fatcat just ate all his food before Cleo could finish hers, then when she wandered away (she’s a grazer) ate the rest of her food as well.

Okay then, from my Master and Mistress, we shall move on to… * drum-roll*

TOH (aka The Other Half )

Yes, he has a name, but I am not allowed to use it upon the inter-web. So get used to the acronym. This is he:

TOH and one of his favourite creatures...

TOH is an artist with all that goes with it – the mess, the tantrums and the up-and-down enthusiasm for his chosen profession. He was originally a Civil Engineer / Hydrologist, but after a series of job losses to do with his dyslexia and the economy  he decided to return to his one true love (no, not me, I’m second fiddle to this) – Drawing / Painting / Animation / Manga and Comics / Console Games; aka ART in all it’s myriad guises.

Just recently he’s become excited about ceramics. *rolls eyes* I foresee an awful lot of mess coming from this one…

Next up…

NOS (aka Number One Son) 

This isn’t the most recent picture I have of NOS – it’s from 2011:

2011-12-13 19.40.25

Unfortunately he’s managed to avoid being photographed  since then – and he’s changed so much! In this photo you see a cherubic, sweet, well mannered ten year old. He’s not like that any more – he’s 12. NOS has entered that scary time for all parents, the pre-teen years and is currently experiencing the joys of High  School and having his very first girlfriend (all together now – Ahhh).

What this actually means is that I have a confused man/child on my hands. He still likes cartoons, Pokemon and stuffed toys (I’m surprised he can actually fit into his bed with the number of toys he has on it still), but he also likes ‘Sexy ladies’ (his term), Top Gear and action movies. He’s also now the same height as me, which can make it difficult to discipline him,  as he is practising his ‘looming’ a lot. I know his ticklish spots though…

Last, but very much not least…

PT (aka The Princess Terrorist)

Getting a picture of PT is easy – I just point a camera at her. Here’s the latest one:

2013-05-04 11.03.26

She’s not so much the sweet, cute little girl any more (she was really cute when she was a baby, but don’t tell her I said that) mostly because she’s growing far too fast; you can practically see her grow overnight! She’s up to my chin and accelerating…

PT likes to dance and sing and be the centre of attention. In fact, she loves it so much that she’s done a video about our back garden for my blog… I have yet to edit it together, but as soon as I have, she’ll be appearing on your screens. PT is a diva in all things. She has to have her own way so much that it’s getting tiring saying “No.”
Having said that, she can also be very sweet and loving. She tells us that she loves us half a dozen times a day or more, is always up for a cuddle (despite being too big for my lap) and will do anything to make you happy when you are sad.

*  *  *  *

So that’s my family. I love them all and they support me in whatever I do. My children help me write books for other children,  read the ones I’ve written and generally make up my cheerleading squad. TOH provides emotional support and idea bouncing and the cats are very happy to keep me company while I write…

The VFX Protest – what does it mean to us?

As a writer of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror stories, I allow my imagination to come alive. I pride myself on making sure that my work is as cinematic as possible…

Hang on. Cinematic… what does that mean?

Let’s take a quick trip to the dictionary; just to make sure I’m using it in the right context:


adjective \ˌsi-nə-ˈma-tik\

Definition of CINEMATIC
: of, relating to, suggestive of, or suitable for motion pictures or the filming of motion pictures <cinematic principles and techniques>
So.  what I am trying to say when I use the word Cinematic, is that I attempt to show through words the pictures that I am seeing in my head as I write. I try to make sure that my descriptions of characters and places draw the reader into the story.
What has this got to do with the VFX Protest?
First, I need to sum up why the VFX industry is protesting.
While life is hard for a lot of people; the economy is down, no one has a lot of money, we’re all feeling the pinch etc, for those of us who try to make a living as a creative person, that’s normal.
Everyone in the world wants  books,  posters, pictures, magazines, comics, films, music, jewellery, clothes, cushions…- all the little things that brighten our day and make us feel a little better about our circumstances – and they want them as cheaply as possible, mostly because they don’t have a lot of money to spend on them.
Now I could rant about this all day and it wouldn’t solve anything.  This is supposed to be about the VFX Industry Protest after all.
Like everyone else, the VFX Industry is having financial problems. Several VFX houses have had to close down, putting people out of work. They do the work of gods (ie: creating worlds and creatures where there once were none) for as little as  the studios that hire them can get away for paying them. And while the film that they work on may go on to be a massive blockbusting hit, bringing millions of pounds in ticket sales to the studios, because they work for a fixed fee, the VFX Houses see virtually none of that profit.
What they are protesting about is the system they are forced to work in and they want to do something about it.  Fair enough say I and probably many of you will agree with me,  that their protest is a fair one.
However, the protest is being kept under wraps by all sorts of people who really ought to know better… and this was the straw that broke the VFX Camel’s Back – go on, I’ll wait for you to watch the video and come back:
While the Oscars was going on, the VFX community were picketing outside. Everyone else on the oscars got a decent amount of time to do their acceptance speech, but when the Life of Pi VFX team were picking theirs up, they got cut off barely 43 seconds after being handed the award.

That’s all very well, you say, but that doesn’t me anything to me, I don’t work as a VFX Artist and neither do you… well it should mean something.  Lets look at this in the most basic level. What would Life of Pi look like without VFX?

Photo credit: @tvaziri (

Essentially, without the VFX that makes the film so beautiful to watch, it wouldn’t be as ground breaking. It’s not just Life of Pi though. Without VFX, films like Avatar and the Avengers would be just people in costumes and paint… nowhere near as engaging.

Okay, you say. I can see that. But why are you getting worked up about it?

As I said, I’m a Fantasy/SF/Horror writer. I rely on my imagination and my skill with words to communicate what I see to my readers. But should those words be popular with enough people, some studio might say “Let’s turn this into a movie.” and that movie will be dependent on the VFX industry to bring it to life.

So yes, this problem will affect me personally in a slight fashion… and no, I don’t have any movie rights contracts up my sleeve.

Also, my fiance is heading into the world of animation and illustration – he’d love to work for the very industry that is having problems… The thing is, this protest and a similar one by screenwriters a few years back, are symptoms of a larger problem that I touched on earlier.

Everyone is having money problems. So those people in the position to spend money want to get what they need as cheaply as possible, and that creates the problem. Instead of paying artists/writers/animators etc, what their skills are worth in real terms, they negotiate it so that the artist at the bottom end of the chain (the one producing the effect) is getting paid pennies.

I touched on this myself when I tried to explain why I set my e-book prices the way I do… essentially I give myself a living wage, which in britain is the minimum wage of £5.40 (according to the govt) and work out how long it took me to write the book, multiply that by the minimum wage… gasp, have a heart attack and cut it from a couple of thousand to a reasonable figure that I could expect a reader to pay. It takes me longer to make money that way, but believe me, a price of £4.99 for a novel is better than one of approx. £5,000.

And that’s what the VFX houses have to do. They figure in their technology and software of course, but paying the artists who do the work and the technicians that do the coding is the biggest part of their price. Of course, they have to figure in overheads like energy and rent as well… if I did that, I wouldn’t be paying myself anything at all…

Everyone complains about their wages, but when you’re on the breadline and worrying about the food coming in, having to worry about your job as well… well, we can all understand that.

So show some solidarity with the VFX Artists – all they want is to be paid what their skills are worth. And if you go by the amount of money the studios rake in on heavily animated or CGI’d films, then their skills are worth a lot.