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Delijah's Writing Blog

Tag Archives: Victim #14

The 2012 500-words-a-day experiment: Final

The 500-words-a-day experiment ran from 19th January to 30th June, 2012. Originally it was a way to work daily on Victim #14 but it became something else along the way – yes, I am aware that there were four blank days early in February, but sometimes life sucks. Eventually blog posts became part of the deal, since they were writing about writing (note: in the graph, the blog posts before May are counted for the day they were published even if they were written in two different days, since I was not keeping track by then).

This is how the final result looks:

I threw all the numbers together today, and the final count is 161546 words for the whole period, 136902 of them in stories. Wow. I had not counted the whole until now XD” (This makes me remember that I haven’t updated my wordcount spreadsheet since forever, too).

The first thing that calls my attention when looking at this graph is that apparently I am not as irregular with the blog as I thought. Second, I think it is obvious that Victim #14 holds the highest word counts, with those two over-four-thousand-words days.

Some of the Inferno coursework is available [link], as is Autumn Lullaby [link], they are very short one-shots.

I wrote a very silly piece having Kim from Victim #14 meet Aaron and Masaharu from the Retriever universe that did not even get a title. It is a bit strange because I did it for laughs, but I’ve eventually written a lot in the Retriever universe [link] lately, during the experiment I developed Binary, which I did not finish until recently to be honest (more about the Retriever universe to come). I’ve told you about Lifequake [link] and I have mentioned Wren a couple of times [link] but never really ellaborated (*into the list*).

“Terazuma” is a background character in the Osaka Guardians universe [link]; he might not even be featured in the main series, but writing him was fun. Infatuation Trap was a free writing exercise that in the end looked nothing like what I had imagined, and that brought Hyakki Yagyō’s Satoshi [link] back to the front of my mind.

Evaluating the whole experiment I have learnt a few things about my writing and myself:

  • Is relatively easy for me to keep going with the daily-writing scheme when I have something I am actually enjoying and looking forward to work on everyday
  • I have revived a couple of old / zombie plotbunnies with interesting results, none or few expected
  • When I write things I am not convinced about, I don’t enjoy it and I find it more tedious than fun.
  • Even something I love can burnout me if I force it too much. Sometimes it is better to give it a break and come back with renewed energy. Writing Hyakki Yagyō felt awesome compared to the last 2000 words on Binary.
  • My brain is flexible enough to work on two stories / different verse on the same day. However, I need to either focus on writing or editing

In short: it was really awesome, but I am glad I stopped when I did to take a mental break when things became too much and writing too difficult and tedious. I am however wondering if I would have done better having a complete back-up plan and always a story to write without having to force my brain.

Also, there’s a short story lost somewhere in those numbers, I think it is camouflaged as a blog post. It’s about a doggie who makes a trip to the community trash can and brushes the heaven of a four-pounder…

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Inferno second update

Following up on my last temper explosion here [link], I took a deep breath and tried to reason with the teacher. I did try my best to be really civil and not argumentative. I got told that the course provides extensive material and that teacher’s role is to correct the given assignments so those pieces of writing are better, nothing to do with teaching the students to write better in general. However I got offered some critical feedback instead of the usual kind of feedback the course offers. I accepted, and you know what? Suddenly I am not the only one wanting critical feedback.

To be completely honest the material is decent, but not massive. Half of the prompts exercises are repeated, and the longest is just a bunch of ‘inspirational’ paragraphs from utterly random books. But really. Getting told to get rid of the adverbs? I’ve heard that before, tons of times, and for free (and do you know what? I like adverbs. But that’s another story).

Anyway. Current summary on my feelings towards the course:

  • Motivation levels: 0 %
  • Enjoyment levels: 30 %
  • Overall usefulness levels: 50 % (found the Lisa Gardner toolbox through it, after all [link])
  • Value for money: 20 %
  • Feedback usefulness: 10 %
  • Fun / Challenge: 10 %
  • Technical resources: we’re supposed to have a real-time chat on a forum. I know first years in university who can build you a chat room. As a matter of fact, I know that Moodle has a chat plug in… so hm… Let’s say 50% cause the page has not crashed once

I look back at the ratings and wonder if I am being too harsh, or whining. Dunno, don’t really care. Maybe the course structure is just not for me. I just know that on April 16th I was really motivated to work on Victim #14 and now I only open the files for the assignments.

So yeah. I really need to find myself some motivation…

Is fun, because if you look at my wordcount (oh, yeah, remember the 500-words-a-day-thingy? It’s still going on) I seem to be super effective lately:

But motivation? MIA. Although I have to say I don’t regret having taken the course. Gives you a perspective of what to expect from “professionals” and gives me a writing credential ^^

Police Techniques

I’ve had some comments about the police in Victim #14 maybe being on the slow side, not being imposing, not connecting the dots… They act in a very different way from what we are used to see in crime shows.

Today I am going to share with you an actual document from the Strathclyde Police Department that was pushed past my letterbox a few hours ago. It refers to ‘an incident’ that might have happened just in front of my window a few days ago (I was in Edinburgh that day, so unfortunately I can’t help). about a month ago when I was at work so unfortunately I can’t help

How’s that for passive-aggressive questioning techniques?

  • ‘An incident happened’. No clue what, but considering that the person you are to contact seems to be part of the Police Professional Standards… police brutality? Maybe the reflective vest reflected someone too much? Haven’t really heard anything.
  • The incident happened a whooping six days month ago. It could be that they dropped by and I was not home – doubtful, I have spent most my time here except for Saturday morning. I mean over a month and I get a… letter… now?
  • Telephone: 07 means a mobile number. I hope the poor guy turns it off at night or he can leave it at work.
  • You’re welcome. Sorry I am unable to help, else I would use the chance to question you back…

Typical Scottish: Kilts and Tartans (Victim #14 Research)

The most famous Scotsman costume is indeed the kilt – not to be confused with a skirt, it might get you punched if some whiskey has been consumed. The correct name for the whole thing is Scotland attire, Highland attire or Highland dress, but many times it is just called ‘kilt’.

The kilt is usually worn in formal occasions, like weddings – rent-a-kilt seems to be a good business around here, and if the whole party rents from the same store, the groom goes free. That seems to be a common offer. The formal attire can be worn with different jacket styles and each has a different degree of formality. The correct way to wear a kilt involves showing some knee. Pulling the socks the whole way up is considered a huge faux pax.

Here are the parts of a general dress, with an Argyll jacket, that I worked very hard to draw. Please don’t die laughing. I chose the Argyll jacket because it’s the most versatile and because it is the general area the McFarlane clan is from. Furthermore, the Argyll jacket is typically worn with a standard white dress shirt and tie, and Kim likes ties.

Apparently, the kilt is becoming more common in the last few years. I can say I have seen guys wearing it with hiking boots and sweatshirts (and some traditional Scottish pubs have it as uniform). The legend goes that “true Scotsmen” don’t wear anything under the kilt. I have never asked, but expert sources say that it is to the wearer’s discretion and the chances he gets to moonshine someone. If you ask me, it probably should depend on the weather.

These are formal kilts from a store in Glasgow:


 
Townband in Helensburgh, a small town close to Glasgow:

 
Yours truly stalking guys wearing kilts in Edinburgh, for your viewing pleasure the sake of information:


 
The pattern of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours is called a tartan. Each pattern is associated with a clan, and each clan has several patterns (ancient, modern, hunting…). I chose the Modern Black & White Modern MacFarlane tartan for David and Terry, and damn it was hard to reproduce XD. You can read more about the McFarlane clan and their different tartans here [link] and see the traditional McFarlane tartan on the McFarlane booklet cover [link].

 
Finally, here is a fun video on how to correctly wear a Highland attire. Notice that the guy is wearing boxers, but that might have had more to do with Youtube TOS though XD. I also leave you access to a booklet with the maker’s preferred format for linking.

These guys also have a fun booklet full with pictures and funny details that you can download for free from their website [link]

Highland dress remixed from [link]

Victim #14 – Scenery (4)

Here is the last scenery post for Victim #14. It is a bit more random than the previous one, since basically it is random things that I want to show you.

First, I am not sure that I have mentioned this, but they drive on the left side of the road. I keep trying to remember if it is shown in the James Bond movies that the cars are… well, the other way around.


Selective perception is a funny thing. I had never noticed this monument to the fallen during the Korean War (click on the picture for bigger) the first couple of times that I went to the Necropolis before I started writing this, and when I was for the third scenery post [link], I used another entrance. This time, however, it almost punched me in the face as, you can imagine.

Speaking of perception, this is a neat trick with light. Since Scotland is a cloudy country, the buildings seem to have been built to reflect the sun if directly hit. It makes the streets look brighter, even when there’s just a bit of sun (just check the sky XD).

Coatbridge, where David lives, feels like the most boring place on earth. I mean… “Sunnyside”? Really? I think you are trying too hard and clinging to… that one sunny day a year.



Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where the wounded heroes are treated. The entrance marked in red is the ER.


Also, this has nothing to do with anything but I think it’s worth pointing out that most of the Chinese population do not have accents. We’ve become used to the “Chinese accent” through movies and series, but a great deal of the Chinese Scots originally come from Hong Kong, and they have been speaking English all their lives.

Finally, I composed a map with the main locations that appear in the novel. I hope you like it / find it useful.

S – Cambridge Street
C – Coatbridge
D – Dumbarton
G – Glasgow City Centre
N – Glasgow Necropolis
I – Glasgow Royal Infirmary
P – Partick
Policeman – Pitt Street Police Station
V – Victorian house (approximate location, I don’t want anyone suing me!)

Okay, I lied. There’s something else here, a spoiler map! Location of the mobile phone towers that were used to triangulate the Calligrapher’s during his call [link]

Now, remember that I am moving out soon, is there anything else that you’d like to see before I leave? Last chance-ish to ask for pictures!

Glasgow Police Museum (Victim #14 Research)

I got struck with a bit of “must do something” on Saturday so I decided to head out. I had a few pictures to take for the Victim #14 scenery post I still owe you and there was a Japanese restaurant I had not tried in that area (should have gone to the Italian. That should give you an idea of how successful said Japanese restaurant was). Anyway, I went the Glasgow district known as Merchant City to visit the Glasgow Police Museum. (Note: you can make some of the pictures bigger by clicking on them).

Glasgow Police Museum is a exhibit about the history of the police department, which contrary to what the English claim, is the oldest in the UK, dating back to 1779. It is a small exhibit manned by retired policemen and I was lucky (or unlucky) to be the only visitor at the time. It has two wards, one with memorabilia and history panels and another one with a collection of police uniforms throughout the world.

Glasgow Police Department was founded in 1779 by the merchants, tired of petty thefts and robberies, but it was not until 1800 that it became a public force after the passing of the The Glasgow Police Act (and thus got funding to pay the poor constables). The original duties of the police were:

  • Keeping record of all criminal information;
  • Detecting crime and searching for stolen goods;
  • Supervising public houses especially where criminals frequent;
  • Apprehending vagabonds and disorderly persons;
  • Suppressing riots and squabbles;
  • Controlling carts and carriages

In 1819 Lieutenant Peter McKinlay was appointed as ‘Criminal Officer’ which made him the first Glasgow Detective. Two years later, he was provided with an assistant and so the Detective Department was created. The duties of a Criminal Officer were

  • Keeping records of all the crimes committed within the City;
  • interviewing every person detained on a criminal charge
  • Keeping records of criminal descriptions.
  • Aditional duties like take reports of broken street lamps, keep records of prisoners’ meals, enter details of Police Court trials in the Magistrates Books, inspect cells and interview an average of 30 prisoners a day…

If you know anything about North American History or like me have watched / read too many Westerns you might have heahd of Allan Pinkerton and the Pinkerton detectives. His father trained with the Glasgow Police.

The Police department suffered an all-time low during the First World War as 300 policemen joined the army, so 400 reservists were called.

By 1932 Glasgow Police had eleven policewomen to deal with cases involving women and children. The time’s Chief Constable recommended to increase the numbers and the promotion of one of them to Sergeant. Thus in 1933 the first woman, Jean Malloy, was promoted to sergeant and then to Inspector. Eventually she was awarded the British Empire Medal for distinguished service.

The gentleman who showed me around was a retired police officer, who explained to me how when he joined (in the seventies) they had to hide their batons AND the cord, else they would come across as too aggressive. Keep in mind that the UK police is not armed at the moment. Only a few carry taser guns in designated occasions (huuuge emergencies or sport matches).

In 1975 the Glasgow Police Department Disappeared and formed the Strathclyde Police Department [link] instead.

Shortly after leaving the museum I ran into a parade, which allowed me to take some pictures of the actual police without looking like I was doing anything dodgy.


Glasgow Police Museum [link]
1st Floor 30 Bell Street
Merchant City, Glasgow
G1 1LG

Opening Hours:
Summer (1st of April-31st of October, including bank/public holidays): Mondays-Saturdays 10am-4:30pm and Sundays 12pm-4:30pm.
Winter (1st of November-31st of March, closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day): Tuesdays 10am-4:30pm and Sundays 12pm-4:30pm.

My 500 words a day experiment (3): Victim #14 is done

Mixed feelings. After 85455 words, 26 chapters (+ a prologue and epilogue), and 86 days of writing (from Jan 19th to April 14th, minus four days), the first draft of Victim #14 is done and there is a blank in my mind. Like static on tv, only in my brain. Nothing much to say, except that rewrite starts on Monday. For now, have a few graphs with word counts on them.



I owe you a scenery post, and depending on how long that one becomes, I might break it up in two, and make one about the (in)famous kilts on all its own. Catch you then, stay tuned for more Scenery and the bonus of the decade: Google maps with locations for all the main events!

London Trip Outcome

While I owe you a couple of posts about Victim #14 (how exactly did we get to 80,000 words over there?? I mean… oh, well, we’ll leave it for that post), I am going to talk about something completely different now. As some of you know, I made this little parabolic jump to London for about 46 hours to attend a L’Arc~en~Ciel concert [link] (hey, look who learned the html code to open links in new tabs!), and aside coming back with a lot of merch and shiny things from the concert itself, my bookworm self got a few rewards out of the trip.

The first one I found while I was rummaging a bookstore in Glasgow airport. It is a booklet about the McFarlane Clan. Actually it is an overpriced 30-pages brochure that does not even talk about the McFarlanes until page 15, but I just had to get it. I chose David McFarlane’s name for Victim #14 from a list of common Scottish names and as a little bit of an inside (okay, private) joke, and I really laughed when I realised that there is a monument to some Duncan McFarlane in Glasgow Necropolis, but according to the book, Loch Lommond area is exactly the area in which the ancient McFarlane clan thrived. Who knows, David could be the descendant of a chieftain or something!

The second one I went hunting for (and well, I don’t know if I have ever mentioned? Sense of directions of mine? None. My ability to get lost should be a superpower or something). Anyway, after taking the wrong turn a couple of times I managed to find my way to Ripping Yarns [link], a lovely little bookshop in Highgate. Yes, they had bookshops in Greenwhich where I was staying for my two-day trip, they probably even had the book I was after, but that was not the point. The point was that in Ripping Yarns I could get what I wanted directly from the source, Weird things that customers say in bookshops by the lovely Jen Cambpell [link], who was kind enough to sign it for me ^^. Weird things that customers say in bookshops [link] is a collection of scary but terribly funny quotes of customer / bookseller interaction. You can get a sample here [link] and here [link] and then go buy the book here [link] unless you can be lucky like me and go meet her ^^

Cause this copy is mine and only mine, has my name on it (even if you don’t see it ^_~) and almost made miss my underground stop XD

Research Book Review: Killer Catchers

Book: Killer Catchers [link]
Authors: Andy Owens and Chris Ellis
ISBN: 978-1-84454-503-2
Number of pages: 293

Not sure where to start with this one, so I shall quote the back cover description first:

The murders in this book will chill you to the bone, but the techniques used to solve them will astound and reassure you in equal measure.

These murders are described separately, in 14 chapters with… interesting names. Consider that the tagline of the book is “Fourteen true stories of how Britain’s wickedest murderers were brought to justice”.

  • Ten minutes of madness
  • An imperfect murder
  • Psycho-trap
  • Life after death
  • Ashes to ashes
  • Will the real Mr. Platt…?
  • No place to hide
  • 96 hours of carnage
  • Murder for money
  • The Saturday night strangler
  • Guilt on a slide
  • False confession
  • Murder in Jersey
  • Murder Inc.

Now that I’ve been thinking about it, I know where to start. Let’s see, there are 14 chapters, each describing a murder. Well, out of those 14, seven could just been written as: ‘DNA techniques developed and the guy was caught’. The average crime in the book takes about 10 years to be solved, needs hundreds of detectives and in the end nothing happens except that DNA techniques identify the culprit. The actual investigative techniques are… lacking. It’s like watching an episode of the Forensic Files [link], but the thick Brit English makes you feel that it is being narrated by David Attenborough [link].

I bought the book hoping to catch a glimpse into the actual Great Britain investigative process. Police in the UK is rather different to the police anywhere else – for starters, regular cops are not even armed. As a source it proved not to be as useful as I hoped, but I had a good time reading it. I was very amused with something that the authors kept repeating: first, they would describe the murder, and leave out an important detail; later, they would reveal that detail as if it was already known to the reader. For instance, you get told that a victim was strangled and burnt at the beginning of a chapter, and only halfway through the fact that she was sexually assaulted is mentioned. This happens a lot through the book, with suspects having to be tracked down when they had never fled, sexual abuse occurring during the crime, or robbery on top of the murder. All told about a page or two after the main event was described. I own up to having backtracked a time or two to check if I had missed something. I was also amused at how much the words ‘lesbian affair’ were repeated when the victim of one of the murders was bisexual.

For a book written in 2008, however, I missed a mention or a chapter about the recently-deceased Colin Ireland, who in the early nineties murdered gay men in London [link] in a murder spree that looked right out of a horror movie script. Instead, it focused on sixties and seventies’ murders that got solved many years later – DNA again. It makes you think that no crime was ever solved before the ‘invention’ of DNA profiling. Thus, the techniques used to solve the cases seem to be either “advances in DNA” or “plain luck.”

I did enjoy the book though, a lot. I am not completely sure why. The style was more that of a yellow press article after another than of a serious journal research. I would have loved more focus on the actual policemen and detectives’ point of views, which was what I was after when I decided to get this book. It did give me pointers for bumping Victim #14 up a couple of times and that was good enough (is fun, though, I hoped to have it for the early stages of planning, and got lost in the post, so I needed to contact a very helpful Amazon seller who sent another one. Thank you, helpful seller). It shows how doggedly determined some detectives are and how sometimes their will alone manages to trigger the solving of the case.

All in all, true crime in a naïve style that takes down the impact of the events a notch or two. Only one complain, and that is a 100% personal appreciation. I really really hate the expression “Murder Inc.”. It should be staked through the heart and buried. End of story.

Webcomic attribution: xkcd [link]
Disclaimer: I don’t care much for Star Wars. I however love the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

My 500 word a day experiment (2)

It is day #59 of the 500 words experiment [link] and I just hit the NaNoWriMo magic number, 50000 words. Technically, if I were following the actual progressive count I should be at 29500 today. I guess I am not too good with limits XD

Sometimes Victim #14 flows better than others. Yesterday I struggled to write 500 words during the evening and then I had a random boost of productivity and reached 1200 in an hour after midnight (I count “awake” days and not “natural” days). Today I got my first 500 in under 20 minutes. It makes me proud that even if I am going through harsh times – again – I am managing to keep my wordcount most of the time, with only 4 days missed until now, and all due to serious circumstances, not random procrastination

Here’s the progress until now:

Upper graph is the cumulative wordcount, with the blue bars being the actual increment my writing has every day and the dark yellow line the 500-word-a-day trend line. Lower graph shows the amount of words written per day in green. Blank days are the days in which I did not write at all – apparently this is an all-or-nothing thing?

While this is way far off than a random NaNo day wordcount, I have to say that during NaNo the only thing I do aside from work is writing, and in this case I am doing my research as I go along and doing lot of reading, both on research and on the side. NaNo projects are usually pre-researched and pre-outlined or don’t need much work on those fronts during the actual writing process – even more this NaNo, with zero Internet around!

I am absolutely in love with the Amazon marketplace and the cheap books I can find there. Even when one of my last orders got lost in the post, it was promptly replaced and I have it here. It is good to have a reference on actual murder investigations in the UK. Some things will have to be added in the revision, but now that the book is here – even if a month late, I can incorporate what it teaches me into the ongoing investigation.And what the hell, Victim #14 is fun to write.

Meanwhile I fend off evil plotbunnies that want to distract me and consider enrolling into a Strathclyde University short course or two…