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Gail Carriger Giveaway!

Yes, I am shamelessly pimping This AWESOME contest so I can have more chances to win a copy of Changeless,  which is the second Parasol Protectorate book. Which I want.

Obviously.

Because it’s awesome.

The Future of South Africa?

There was a very interesting feature on Focus tonight. I know many of the people reading this are probably American / other Strange and Wonderful Creatures of the Last Days, so I’ll give you a little backstory.

We have had some serious problems with service delivery in many municipalities here in South Africa, which have not been addressed because, in many cases, the staff of the municipalities are simply not capable of delivering the services they are supposed to. Add in the corruption (you can buy a driving license for R3 000 (about $430) in some places), inordinately large salaries for municipal staff and a general attitude of ‘why fix today what can be fixed tomorrow, or next year, or never’ and you have a very, very bad situation.

In some towns there are potholes you can lose your car down in the main street.

Raw sewage is running down the streets.

In most of our towns the water is so unsafe that citizens have been warned not to drink it or use it for cooking.

In many of the townships, people have actually rioted, burning tyres and blocking off roads. Burning down clinics and libraries too, which I neither understand nor approve of (how do you think burning down the sites of the very, very few municipal services that are actually rendered is going to improve the quality of service delivery? Riddle me this. Plus: Library + Burning = Blasphemy)

Some towns have hit upon a solution of sorts, led by the South African Taxpayer’s Union. They stopped paying service tax to the local municipalities. Apparently they are allowed to do this, if they pay the money into a trust account with the intention of paying it to the municipality when the services the money is meant for, are actually delivered. Fair enough.
The municipalities did nothing.

The potholes worsened, the people couldn’t live with the stink anymore and they were just tired of having to offroad their vehicles in the CBD.

So they started taking the money from the accounts and using it to render the services the municipality was supposed to. They repaired their own roads. They started to remove the sewage. In short, they were putting the money where it was supposed to have gone in the first place.

This is apparently illegal. The government is now taking these people to court in order to force them to pay the service tax directly to the municipality. It’s going to the Constitutional Court.

Now there are three ways this could go. (Feel free to correct me, I’m not a lawyer, nor do I have any kind of special knowledge)

 

  • The courts find against the towns. They are forced to pay the service taxes. The municipalities completely restructure, hiring people who are actually competent instead of having their sole qualification being some kind of relationship (biological, matrimonial or fiscal) with the people deciding on appointments. Service delivery improves.
    For the record, I think pigs might fly before the last part comes true. Our government is much too focused on their kickbacks and their ‘comrades in the Struggle’ which, just FYI, has been over for sixteen years.
  • The courts find against the towns. They are forced to pay the service tax. Nothing changes. In a year or two we’re back at the same point, only this time it will be illegal before it starts. I don’t want to be here when that happens.
  • The courts find for the towns and the municipality changes its ways, working with the people. service delivery improves, all is well, crisis over, let’s all go home and have a beer.
    Again, not very likely.
  • Option number 3: The courts find for the towns. This would be a very interesting result, and as I understand it (remember, I am by no means an expert) there may be actual legal grounds for this verdict (since I’m pretty sure nobody in their right minds would expect people to pay for services that aren’t being delivered.)
    In any case, should this happen, then it would pave the way for other people to start doing similar things. Let us take a quick look at how this could run:
    At the moment, about 7% of income tax goes to the police force. Were they allowed, many people would take that off their taxes and pay it to a private security company that will actually do its job, since the police force is (for the most part, I know a couple of very fine Men in Blue, but they are the exceptions to the rule) either corrupt or incompetent or both.
    Another percentage (I don’t have the exact figure) goes to medical services. Many people would prefer to pay this part of their taxes to private, localized medical care facilities, which would in all probability deliver a higher level of service than we are currently receiving for substantially less actual money. (For example, in a private medical facility of any kind, if a person is on leave (not medical, just leave) for more than two years – yes, this has really happened – that person would be removed from the payroll, or at the very least have to go on half pay.)
    Electricity: We pay the municipalities to ensure that power is distributed from them (they get it from Eskom) to us. In many cases we don’t actually receive reliable power. It’s gotten to the point where, when I was working in reception, I had to say more than once ‘I’m sorry, Sir/Madam/Transgendered Individual, I can’t make a booking for you right now. No, sir, I can’t check whether we have space either. Load shedding, you see.’ And no matter where in the country they were calling from, they would understand completely. (Load shedding is a phenomenon where we would, without notification of any kind, suddenly have power outages of up to four hours.) Many people would take that money and put in solar power with a generator for backup, which has the other advantage of being green.
    We pay for our roads to be repaired, sewage to be treated and recycled, and clean water.
    All of which can be done on an each-town-for-itself basis by local co-ops.
    It can be done for less money by contracting privately, because then we wouldn’t be paying for Julius Malema’s flashy cars in addition to services we aren’t getting. (If you don’t know who Julius Malema is, be glad. Be very glad.)
    Now, can anyone see the problem?
    If we go through the list of services the government is supposed to be rendering in exchange for our tax money, and we remove the services we aren’t actually receiving…well. There will be virtually no money going into government anymore.

What will happen then, I wonder?

Check this out!

The awesome overwhelms!

The Death Of Publishing

 

P.S: I have long bright red nails now! Oh, the joys of having a beauty technician living with me!

The problem with First-Person POV

So, I’m working on a Book. And it is an awesome book, if I do say so myself.

6 000 words as of ten minutes ago, and I’m really having fun for the first time in years (anyone remember the famous Why writing is like an abusive boyfried post?) It shows, too.

The problem, of course, is that I’m writing it in first person POV. Which in some ways is fun. I get to be much more inside my character’s head, show a lot more of what  they’re thinking. And since if I don’t show a little of what’s going on Rue might come off as cold and unfeeling – which of course she is, but that’s not her fault – showing more of her feelings is really, really important.

The ways where it’s not fun is the bloody action scenes. You know them , they’re the ones I suck at. Truly. And now I’m finding out that in first person I suck even more than usually. It’s like Ubersuckfest!

Contrary to what it might sound like, I am not actually whining about this. It’s a challenge, is all. The book is still growing, even though at the moment it’s sort of growing from behind, since there’s a bit I decided needed to be written right at the beginning which I’m busy with now.

The point of this post is actually to ask you, the Mighty Internet, the following question: How do you cope with the parts of writing you’re really bad at? And; have you got any advice for writing good action scenes?

I bow to the wisdom of the Great Google

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 GW400H535 (1) As you may know, I’m writing a book. A book about – you guessed it – zombies.

And I realised that – like most people – I really have no actual idea about how one would go about surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.

And so I went to Google, and I said unto them : Please give me a link, a link to a place where there will be people of wisdom and grace, who will help my poor silly self know things.

And Google said unto me: Go here. It’s awesome. These people actually know things. Plus, you’ll have fun. Just go, already and stop bothering me, mm-kay?

And behold, I obeyed the Mighty Google. And indeed, I am having fun. Lots of fun. And already I know things! For example, in a panic situation, your local supermarket may very well be emptied of food within an hour.Gun shops are also a favourite target.

So go here. Whether you think the zombies are coming or not, here you will have much, much fun!

Ye Olde SF!

Now, about books. There are a lot of people recommending books out there. Which is good! I love me some book recs. But, and here’s the thing: there are very, very few (at least, that I could find) recommending books that are, not to put too fine a point on it, old.

Which is not fair! There are some great books out there that are old! Heinlein’s books are old! Asimov’s books are old!

Now you may say to me: ‘Bee, everyone already KNOWS about them. They’re famous!’. To which I reply: Not true! There’s an entire generation of readers growing up now who might never hear of them. And if they did hear  of them, they might not know where to start.

 

So here’s a first book recommendation. You might want to have a look in second-hand bookshops because I’m pretty sure you won’t find it in a new bookstore.

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Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Anson Heinlein.

 

Now, anybody who knows me will know that I am a rabid RAH fan. Really. I bite. The way he used words, the almost conversational writing style, and most of all, the man’s ideas…well. Let’s go with awesome and leave it at that, mmm-kay?

 

What is this story about, you may ask, fear in your eyes.

Well, I’m going to tell you.

A bunch of young people are out on a Solo Survival exam. Simple concept, really. We drop you on a planet, with any equipment you choose to take. If you’re still alive when we pick you up, you pass. If not, you fail. Except they never come to pick them up, and the students eventually band together and try to survive.

NOW do you see why I like it? Because it’s AWESOME!

It would be classed YA, if YA existed when this book was written, so no worries about any of the weirdness of his books for older readers.

 

Do yourself a favour and read it. You won’t be sorry.

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My Humble Opinion Says: Read This NOW!

I thought I would write a review, so as not to be a total embarrassing Supernatural fangirl on the internet.

 

Oh. Wait. I’m reviewing The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. huh. I guess you’re out of luck then.

uk-demons-cov

  Review

I first became aware of Sarah Rees Brennan’s immense awesomeness through the Harry Potter fandom – specifically underwater Light, which was hilarious, and also made me cry my little heart out. (She took the fanfiction offline when she became an Officially Published Author, which is very sad, but also very wise.)

Here’s a rough and spoiler-free summary of The Demon’s Lexicon:

Nick and his brother Alan are quite used to living on the run - Nick keeps his favourite sword under the sink and a magic talisman under his school uniform. Everything was going well – as well as things could go when you were being hunted by magicians and demons, your mother screamed when you touched her and people kept trying to make you read things – until the arrival of Mae and her brother, who happens to have a demon’s mark.

Suddenly Nick’s world has gone all topsy-turvy. Magicians know where they are, Mae is omnipresent and incredibly annoying, and Nick is starting to suspect that Alan might be lying to him about some very important things…

 

the Verdict:

Read this immediately. It’s sad, and hilarious, and really really fantastic. You won’t be sorry. The story is good, the premise is original, and the writing reminds me of a slightly darker but just as funny Terry Prattchett.

Also reminds of Supernatural (yes, I know, I am sad, sad, sad) in a very good way.

 

There you have it. Fangirling over.

 

People Can Be Seriously Weird Sometimes

So, on Saturday morning at 08:00, Albert’s mother and her hubby rocked up at my house without so much as a text to say they were coming. Now if she had just come to see Rees (who is her grandson too, obviously) I would have been pissed but I would have understood. I would have made an effort, anyway.

But no. They had been kicked out where they were staying, and had been sleeping at the cop shop for two nights. Now what they wanted was a shower.

Seriously?

I mean, who rocks up at their son’s ex-girlfriend (who’s had nothing to do with him for almost a year and is now living with her PARENTS) ‘s house at 8AM and asks if they can use they shower? Are you kidding me?

We let them use the shower. We even gave them breakfast. And then we spent the rest of the day hoping they didn’t come back and ask for a place to sleep.

She didn’t even look at Rees!

More Pictures of Rees-Nicolas

These were taken a bit closer to his actual birth (within two hours, I think). As you can see, he was much less pretty then.

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Not nearly as pretty as here, for example. Even though here he’s still a little yellow.

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And now, he is much bigger (I’m having a struggle producing enough milk to feed him) and so terribly handsome!

My gran died quite suddenly last Tuesday. She went into hospital on Sunday with tummyache. On Monday she was a little better, on Tuesday afternoon she was much worse, and on Tuesday night before we could get there, she passed on.

We  had our differences – many of them – but I loved her to bits.

 

She was a great lady and will be greatly missed.

 

RIP gran