Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday's writing related ramblings - January 28th 2015

It's time for Wednesday's writing related ramblings!

So, what's new when it comes to my writing projects?

I've finished writing a book called "Home Squeak Home" which I plan to pre-release soon; just as soon as I arrange a cover with one of my cover artists, and give it a final edit. There's no rush though, since it's not going to be officially released until April. It's a story based on the events surrounding when we got our gerbils, Bilbo and Baggins, who I've renamed "Sooty" and "Scamp" for the book, since I'm not sure where I'd stand on the use of names so obviously from "The Hobbit" and "The Lord Of The Rings" so thought it was better safe than sorry. Anyway, it tells the story of their introduction to their cage in our home after leaving the pet shop; all from their point of view. As I said, I'm hoping to be able to have it published officially in April, since I already have books pre-released to publish in February and March.

Most of my writing attention is now focussed on a series I've titled "Zeena Dragon Fae" - a four book series about a purple faerie dragon named Zeena, and her pixie friend, Saarik. Zeena is the only one of her kind to have mastered the magic for all the elements, and because of this is the only one able to free the four element fairies when their sister - AKA the fifth element fairy (the Spirit fairy) - kidnaps them out of jealousy. There's more to it than that, but I'm not telling, since I don't want to give spoilers. Plus it's a work in progress so I'm not certain of every detail myself yet. I have enough figured out that I was able to have one of my cover artists (Jacob Blackmon in this case) sort out covers though. Jacob's done three of the four for me so far. I also had him do this picture of Zeena for the top of the page for the series, which will eventually go up on my website:



That's all the news I have when it comes to my writing right now.

***~~~***

Whether you're a writer too, or prefer to just enjoy the work of others, check out the New (To Me) Authors blog. Chris makes it his mission in life to promote as many authors as he can, and share articles and links of interest to authors and readers alike.

If you're a writer, you may also want to head over to http://www.writing-world.com, where you can read articles such as Anne M. Marble's article on the art of descriptions, or Victoria Growssack's article on how to flesh out your writing with body language, and much more!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday's random mutterings: the new blog schedule

I've now had my blog public again for a little over a year. In that time I continued with the random posting I was doing while it was private. But I've decided to put a bit of structure in to my posts; especially since I blog about such a variety of topics.

I don't plan to post every day, but will be doing three regular posting slots each week:

Monday's random mutterings
As the name suggests, this will be a random selection of topics, which will include craft updates, reading and movie watching news, and various random happenings from the past week; even if it doesn't have anything more exciting than comments about how I spent most of the week - meaning the parts not taken up with writing, pet interaction and care, and various necessary tasks like eating, sleeping, and the dreaded housework - reading and knitting, the fact I'm about 16 books in to my 175 book Goodreads reading goal for this year, or how I still haven't got my snow (despite having been promised it for a month now).

Wednesday's writing related ramblings
This will be a post about my current writing projects, as well as any interesting articles I've found about writing (if any). My books are usually released on a Tuesday (unless I'm releasing them on a different day because of a date being important) and the Wednesday post won't replace the release announcements I always put up, but will give the release another mention, if there was one that week, while telling you about what else I'm working on. Of course, I expect there will be weeks where I don't tell you anything more than the fact I wrote a couple of chapters of the book that's my current work in progress, but I hope I can make them at least vaguely interesting.

Furkid Friday
Those who've followed my blog for a while will remember how I used to do these posts about what happened in the lives of the furry members of my family; often from their points of view. Well, I've decided to bring them back. They won't be the same without my Kero, but I'm sure he'd be pleased to know that his rodent family members are planning to do their best to give the animal loving readers of my blog their weekly dose of cute critters.

I mean, there will be other posts thrown in sometimes, like my book release announcements, posts for blog parties I sign up for, etc, but the three mentioned above are the planned regular posting slots.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Timelines of events in Canadian and Welsh history (LBE)

Time for a history lesson!

***~~~***

Canadian history timeline:

30,000–10,000 BC - Prehistoric hunters cross over into Canada from Asia.

Circa 1000 AD - Leif Ericsson leads a Viking expedition to the New World.

1451 - The Iroquois Confederacy is formed.

1496 - March 5: King Henry VII of England granted John Cabot the right to 'seek islands and countries of the heathen towards the west, east, and north' sailing under the English flag.

1497 - May 2: John Cabot embarked on his ship, the Matthew, to explore the lands across the Atlantic, hoping to find a north west passage to the Indies and China. John Cabot and his son Sebastian were the first Europeans to discover Canada, landing on the coast of Newfoundland.

1534 - Jacques Cartier discovers the Great Lakes and the the St. Lawrence River.

1603 - March 15: Samuel de Champlain set sail for Quebec from Honfleur, France following in the path of Jacques Cartier to the St Lawrence River and Tadoussac.

1605 - Samuel de Champlain establishes the first successful New France Colony at Port Royal.

1670 - The Hudson's Bay Company established.

1672 - New France expansion into Canada under Louis de Frontenac.

1755 - Expulsion of the Acadians.

1758 - French power in Canada declines as the British capture Ft. Louisburg.

1759 - Battle on the Plains of Abraham.

1763 - New France is formally ceded to Britain; Pontiac Rebellion erupts.

1778 - Captain James Cooke explores the West Coast.

1783 - Loyalist refugees begin arriving after the American Revolution.

1791 - Constitutional Act establishes Upper & Lower Canada.

1812-1814 - War of 1812: American invasion of Upper Canada in the summer of 1812 centring around the Great Lakes and the Canadian frontier.

1821 - North West Company established.

1837–1838 - Rebellions against British rule in Upper and Lower Canada.

1840 - Act of Union.

1848 - Responsible government is won, first in Nova Scotia, then in Canada.

1866 - The Fenian Raid and Battle of Ridgeway.

1867 - Dominion of Canada was formed and self-government was granted to Ontario (formerly Upper Canada), Quebec (formerly Lower Canada), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

1870 - Red River Resistance; province of Manitoba is created.

1871, 1873 - B.C. and P.E.I. join Canada.

1873 - North-West Mounted Police ( Mounties) established.

1885 - Canadian Pacific Railway Completed.

1885 - North-West Rebellion (or North-West Resistance or the Saskatchewan Rebellion.

1898 - Klondike Gold Rush.

1899 - Boer War.

1905 - The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are created.

1914-1918 - World War I.

1916 - Women win the vote in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

1919 - The Winnipeg General Strike.

1929–1939 - The Great Depression.

1939–1945 - World War II.

1949 - Newfoundland joins Canada.

1950–1953 - Korean War.

1959 - St. Lawrence Seaway (major transportation route) officially opens.

1960 - Quiet Revolution: Rise of Quebec Separation Sentiment.

1967 - Canada’s 100th birthday; Expo 67 World’s Fair in Montréal.

1970 - October Crisis: political kidnappings, Ottawa suspends civil rights.

1970 - War Measures Act Proclaimed on Quebec.

1980 - Québec referendum on “sovereignty-association” defeated 60% to 40%.

1982 - Constitution comes home — with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

1987–1990 - Meech Lake Accord is put forward — and collapses.

1992 - Charlottetown Accord is rejected by a national referendum.

1995 - Québec referendum on sovereignty is narrowly defeated.

1999 - The new Arctic territory of Nunavut is created.

2000 - Clarity Bill outlines the terms of Québec separation.

2003 - Canada says “no” to joining the war in Iraq.

2005 - Former PM Jean Chrétien and sitting PM Paul Martin testify at the Gomery Inquiry.

2010 - Canada sets record for gold medals at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

***~~~***

Welsh history timeline:

1000 BC - Hill forts built during Iron Age.

500-100 BC - Celts settled in Wales.

43 AD - Romans invaded Britain.

78 - Romans conquered Wales.

100 - Irish raiders settled southwestern Wales.

500 - Saxons invaded Wales.

516 - Battle of Mount Badon stopped the aggressive expansion of the Saxons.

784 Saxon King of Mercia, built Offa's Dyke, created boundary between England and Wales.

1040 - First Prince of Wales, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, secured borders.

1063 - English invaded; Gruffydd ap Llywelyn killed.

1066 - Normans invaded; King Harold of England killed; Marcher Lordships established on Wales' borders.

1215 - Magna Carta signed.

1276-1277 - First Welsh independence war.

1277 - Treaty of Aberconwy signed, ended war; Edward I began building castles.

1282-1283 - Second Welsh independence war.

1284 - Statute of Rhuddlan ended war; Wales incorporated into England; new counties created.

1301 - King Edward I bestowed title "Prince of Wales" upon son, Edward II.

1349 - Black Death swept across country, 40% of population died.

1400-1410 - Third war of independence led by Owain Glyndwr against England.

1402 - Laws passed prohibiting Welsh from gathering, holding office, carrying arms and living in forts.

1410 - King Henry IV supressed Welsh rebellion; the long war against England ended.

1455 - War of Roses began in England.

1485 - War of Roses ended; Henry Tudor (Henry VII) became first Welsh King of England.

1536 - Henry VIII enacted Act of Union; began dissolution of monasteries.

1563 - Bible published in Welsh language.

1642 - Civil War broke out in England.

1644 - The Battle of Montgomery was the first battle during Civil War in Wales.

1651 - Battle of Worcester ended Civil War; Charles I executed; Charles II exiled.

1750 - Industrial Age began; Wales became largest producer of iron and copper in the world.

1800 - First of great Welsh canals built.

1811 - Wales became non-conformist nation, broke with the Church of England.

1831 - Merthy Uprising sparked by workers in debt; troops brought in, more than 24 citizens died.

1839 - Rebecca Riots occurred, toll gates destroyed in protest against high fees.

1850's - Coal fields in South Wales developed.

1867 - Great Reform Act gave vote to male householders; Welsh Liberal Party formed.

1891 - U.S. passed McKinley Tariff, caused severe financial blow to Welsh industry.

1900-1903 - Strike at Penrhyn Slate Quarry longest labor dispute in history; 3000 workers walked out.

1913 - Explosion at Senghenydd's Lancaster Pit killed 439 miners.

1916 - Lloyd George first Welshman to become British prime minister.

1925 - National Party (Plaid Cymru) founded.

1934 - Explosion and fire killed 266 miners at Gresford.

1955 - Cardiff became capital of Wales.

1966 - Slag pile collapsed on school at Aberfan, 144 children and teachers killed.

1977 - National Party (Plaid Cymru) founded.

1978 - Welsh Act introduced in favor of government assembly for Wales.

1979 - Welsh Act defeated.

1984 - Year-long miner's strike virtually ended coal industry in the country.

1996 - Sea Empress grounded off Wales in heavy sea, spilled over 18 million gallons of oil.

1997 - 1997 Referendum passed, gave Wales assembly in government.

1999 - Tony Blair, British prime minister, opened Welsh national assembly (first self government in over 600 years).

2001 - Thousands of sheep tested positive for foot-and-mouth disease were slaughtered.

2004 - Fox hunting in Britain (including Wales) outlawed by British government.

2005 - Charles, Prince of Wales, married Camilla Parker Bowles.

2007 - Snow storms caused schools, businesses to close, over 500 people trapped in cars; smoking ban for all enclosed public spaces went into effect.

2008 - Last deep mine, the Tower Colliery in South Wales, closed; customs officials recovered 22 million counterfeit cigarettes in container from Dubai.

2010 - Unemployment rate in Wales higher than any other home country at 9.2%; Cheryl Gillan became first woman to hold post of Secretary of State for Wales.

2011 - Prince William of Wales married Catherine Middleton.

***~~~***


Sources:
http://www.datesandevents.org/places-timelines/09-canadian-history-timeline.htm
http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/a-timeline-of-important-events-in-canadian-history.html
http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/europe/wales/ukwtimeln.htm

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Top tips for writing animals with human characteristics by Jennifer Gray

The following was originally posted on http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2012/oct/02/writing-tips-animals-human-characteristics

~~~***~~~

"Jennifer Gray, author of the Atticus Cattypus Grammaticus Claw stories, which feature a loveable rogue cat based on her own pet, shares her tips for writing animal characters"

***

Animal characters demonstrate the full range of human characteristics. They might be kind, brave, greedy, cruel, selfish, ambitious, shy, confident, lazy, clever, hardworking, independent, fearful, resourceful or just plain silly. They may have particular attributes, like being able to talk! Just like humans, they will undoubtedly have to overcome obstacles in the course of the story. And they will probably learn a lesson or two along the way.

So how do you persuade your reader that it's perfectly acceptable for a bear to stop for a chat, normal for a toad to be hauled up before a judge, par for the course for a hamster to secretly sort out classroom crises, or a spider to write messages in its web (or for that matter for an increasingly cuddly cat to help humans catch a gang of magpies thieves), without resorting to that overused resource, "magic"?

1. Keep it real. Well, almost
What are the animal's perceived characteristics and reputation? This is a good starting point and can take you in all sorts of interesting directions. Is the animal really like that? If so, does it change? Set up conflicts for the animal to resolve. For example, what would make a cat compromise its independence – a chance of a permanent home maybe? Or you might prefer a reversal: a cat that isn't lazy but a workaholic, one that isn't a carnivore but a vegetarian. Play with stereotypes. A third alternative is to exaggerate the animal's known characteristics: the vicious feline with razor sharp claws that rips rats for a crunchy brunch.

2. Inhabit their world
Your animal character might be doing something amazing like saving the world from evil geniuses or something terrible such as plotting the downfall of humans; they might just be heading out for a picnic on the beach with the family, but at all times he or she has to be both credible and appealing to the reader. What makes them tick? What do things look like from their point of view? What are their perceptions of their surroundings, of other animals, and in particular, of humans? Get into their heads and look at the world through their eyes. Try writing a few scenes to test their voice. There's lots of comedy potential to be had in their different take on life. Atticus, for example, although he wants to go straight, will practically sell his soul for sardines. Ultimately, although they have human traits, the fact that animals come at things from a different angle is what appeals about them to readers of all ages.

3. Throw in some surprises
Challenge your character with some unexpected events or the arrival of an unwelcome visitor and see how he or she reacts. What characteristics do they display? Try giving them some unusual personality traits that you might not associate with a particular animal and see if it suits them. A marmalade-eating bear is utterly memorable.

4. Be clear how your character relates to humans
Their interface with the human world is probably the most difficult aspect of your animal character to get hold of. How do they do things? Do they communicate and, if so, how? Personally, I don't have any problem with talking animals, but it can be hard to convince. The more common formulation is that animals can talk to one another and understand humans, but humans aren't blessed with the same insight. Children are way more tuned in to the idea of animals as sentient beings than grown ups are, so letting your readers in on the secret when some of the (adult) human characters in the story don't get it is heaps of fun. Meanwhile your human characters reveal themselves by how they respond to the animal. Remember, they too can change!

5. Don't explain anything!
Whether you choose to let your animal talk to humans, like Toad and Paddington, or communicate in more subtle ways, like Humphrey, Charlotte and Atticus, you need to be clear, confident and consistent in your approach. Don't pause to explain. If it's well written, and your animal character oozes charisma, we'll buy it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Charlie Fletcher's top reasons why we need stories

The following was originally posted on http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/aug/05/top-ten-story-tips-childrens-books-charlie-fletcher

~~~***~~~

"The author of the Stoneheart series and Far Rockaway reveals his top 10 reasons why we need Vitamin S: the power of Stories."

***

Smart people try and tell you that what makes us so successful as a species is thumbs, those nifty opposable digits that let us grip tools and make stuff.

They're wrong: what makes us the most successful – and dangerous – species on the planet is the fact we tell stories. It's how we communicate, it's how we make sense of the world, it's how we learn, how we teach and it's even (and here's the kicker) how we cheat mortality: storytelling is how we project what we know and feel forward in time, way beyond our life-span. The hardware that was Will Shakespeare is long gone, but we've been downloading the software he created, all his stories, ever since.

We are not just the tool-users: we are Story Machines. We run on what I call Vitamin S: the power of stories. Here's my unscientific and entirely personal list of ten benefits you can get from liberal and regular doses of Vitamin S.

1. Empathy enhancement
Dragon Shield by Charlie Fletcher
When you read a book or hear a story, you do this interesting thing of rubbing alongside the minds of both the narrator and the characters. You walk a mile or more in their shoes and you come to experience things through their eyes and feelings. This develops empathy, that sense of feeling with someone (unlike sympathy, which is feeling for someone). It enables the development of "Theory of mind", the capacity not only to ascribe mental states (like beliefs, intents and wants and so on) to oneself but also to go on from that to realise that other people have beliefs, wants, and intentions that are often different to ours. This is a Good Thing.

2. Creative muscle building
Reading or listening to a story is not a passive thing; it's active and creative. You participate, you don't just sit there and consume something pre-packaged. The words are cues that stimulate your brain into making images in your head. Input Vitamin S and your brain becomes a mini movie studio with unlimited resources. The more you exercise that capacity, the more creative you become.

Seeing someone else's filmed version of a story just isn't the same thing: people whose day jobs involve them wiring other people's brains up to monitors (they do exist) have noticed that watching a movie or a TV show kind of flatlines brain activity. There's a reason we say we are "vegging out" in front of the telly. In technical terms it actually impedes cognitive development and decreases brain connectivity, whereas reading fiction increases it.

3. World ownership
Following on from point two: do the creative work in your own head and you are taking ownership of the stories. They become part of the fabric of who you are. I – like you – am Spartacus. But I'm also Scout Finch and Davie Balfour and Phillip Marlowe and Jane Eyre and David Copperfield and Bilbo Baggins and – on my best days, Granny Weatherwax or Sam Vimes.

4. Time travel
Vitamin S can take you anywhere in time, from the earliest days of pre-history to the moment before the heat death of the universe. Historical fiction helps us understand where we came from, while Speculative Fiction allows us to imagine where we might be headed – or even where we might like to get to.

Speculative fiction is not necessarily great at producing precise roadmaps to the future, but it is good at waymarking potential directions. Imagining futures is important, because if we don't have that sense of direction and intent, the only thing we can be sure of is that we'll end up somewhere we didn't plan to be.

5. Magic making
Read a book and you're a willing participant in a magic trick. I'm badly paraphrasing Alan Moore here, but a magic spell is the right words in the right order leading to a change in consciousness: exactly what good writing achieves.

6. Strong language
Charlie Fletcher, Far Rockaway
Speaking of the power of the right words in the right order... I'm not sure about doomsayers who warn language and verbal skills are threatened as we inexorably turn into a bunch of screen-poking digital grunters, virtually social but mumblingly inarticulate back in meat-space, but stories expose us to other people's ways of expressing things, and in doing so builds our own store of language and keeps it fresh.

It's just not fair to leave that poor Will Self to do all the heavy lifting in this area: there are great underused words out there that we should be keeping alive, like jobberknowl, or bumbershoot, or even fletcherizing. Which is something to chew on...

7. Joining the escape club
There's something refreshing about escaping the tyranny of daily life and getting lost in a story, but it's not only that it takes you out of yourself. Well-crafted Vitamin S has a beginning, a middle and an end. That coherent shape is not always apparent in the real world, where we're always in media res, too committed to the wood to step back and see the trees.

This kind of escape isn't about irresponsibly running away: it's about trying on a different set of perspective goggles.

8. Fun
Story is a form of play. I think play is something we forget to do enough of as adults. Play keeps the mind loose and limber, and young in all the good ways.

9. Thinking dangerously
Reading outside the box and pushing yourself outside your normal comfort zone can have tremendously good effects. For example, a while back I read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow because I wanted to see if it would be good for my kids. Turned out it was good for me too, and raised my consciousness about all sorts of things like the surveillance state and fanned out from there.

10. Silo breakout
This last one's a personal bugbear: forget wild swimming, wild reading is where it's at. Wild reading is picking a book you might not like and giving it a go, because Story not only takes you out of yourself, it pushes you beyond your comfort zone. Nowadays that's more important than it used to be, because the digital world really likes to pigeonhole you so it can fix you in a specific set of marketing crosshairs.

Once upon a time the internet was a free-ish place. Now, not so much. Nowadays it reads you and plays you back to yourself. Check into the same websites with and then without Private Browsing turned on and see what a difference that makes: Amazon will suddenly not offer you options exactly like the ones you last browsed, other websites will stop showing adverts for things you recently looked at and become much more random.

Speaking of random, I joined The Random Book Club while I was at the Wigton Book Festival. Try it or something like it: wild reading will bust you out of the comfortable and unchallenging silos the digital masters have prepared for you, and let you tour the wider horizon beyond their increasingly controlled domain.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Yua And The Great Wizard Hunt - officially released

"When Yua the talking West Highland White Terrier fails to stop his master, Gwydion, from being wizardnapped, there’s nobody to help him look for his lost wizard. That is, until he meets Lattie; a small girl with a big heart, and a secret she didn’t even know she had.

Why was Gwydion wizardnapped? What is Lattie’s secret? Most importantly: can a small dog and a little girl answer these questions and rescue a wizard all by themselves?"

That's the synopsis for my latest book "Yua And The Great Wizard Hunt" which is officially released today!

I don't usually put detications or anything in my books, but this one is dedicated to my beloved Westie, Castellan Keroberous. Kero was the inspiration behind Yua, and died soon after I started writing this book. So I felt it was right to deticate it to him.

Anyway, you can buy the book from Smashwords in all formats they offer, as well as from many other ebook retailers.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Random ramblings - January 15th 2015 (FD)

It's been over a month now, and my tooth still hurts!

I'm waiting for a hospital appointment to go and have it out - and my upper wisdom teeth, which came through with cracks and have broken (one worse than the other). It should have just been fixable without doing that, but it's got a couple of fillings in it that mean attempts to sort it will probably just result in the tooth breaking and needing to be pulled, so we might as well skip to pulling it out. But, of course, it can't be straight forward... Being anemic means I have to go to hospital to have it done in case I lose too muchh blood and end up needing a blood transfusion. That shouldn't happen, but better safe than sorry, right?

Anyway...

The dentist says the appointment with the hospital will take as long as it does, and to remember that hospitals have waiting lists.

Well, duh! *Rolling eyes*

I've dealt with hospitals enough in the past that I don't need telling about that, thanks!

I was kinda hoping that knowing I was in pain would make the dentist tell them to hurry it up as much as possible.

Apparently not.

*Sigh*

I'd go to Accident And Emergency, but I know from the radio that if they decide your case isn't urgent they'll just send you home these days. I'm not sure of full details, but it's something to do with how far behind they are on the time it takes to see patients. The whole thing sounds stupid to me, to be honest. I mean, doctors and dentists take ages to see you, and if it's not so seriously urgent you have no choice you're not allowed to go to Accident And Emergency to be seen... So, you do what? You just have to suffer while they take who knows how long to see you? Sounds to me like having their paperwork look good matters more than the patients these days.

In the meantime, a combination of pain killers and camomile tea is bearly keeping the pain in my tooth to a level I can tolerate; bearing in mind, I have a very high tolerance for pain as a rule.

I've been eating a lot of oatmeal and mashed potato; soft foods aren't quite as painful to eat.

***

The rats needed a bigger cage than the one we got them, so we ordered them one about two and a half weeks ago.

When it arrived it was broken, so we arranged to have it picked up, and a replacement sent out.

After several phone calls, we FINALLY got our replacement yesterday!

The girls love it... But then, it's a little more than twice the size of their old one, so why wouldn't they?

***

I got "Isabelle's Runaway Racehorse" pre-released. So, now I have three books already pre-released for this year:

"Yua And The Great Wizard Hunt" is coming out next week. It's a story about a talking West Highland White Terrier rescued by a wizard when he was thrown out by his old owner, who later teams up with a little girl to find and rescue the wizard who took him in.

"Rodent Rhymes And Pussycat Poems" is due out in February. This one is a short collection of poems for and about my rodent gang and Cara the kitten.

"Isabelle's Runaway Racehorse" is due out in March. It's the story of a racehorse who becomes jealous when another horse moves in to his stable and takes some of the attention from him. He decides to run away in search of a home where he'll get the same attention he used to get before the new horse came along.

And, I have plenty more books planned!

One of the books I've been working on is almost ready to be pre-released; it just needs the final edits and a cover.

My main focus with writing now though is on the four book series I'm working on about a faerie dragon named Zeena. I'll tell you more another day though... Probably when I've completely finished the first book in the series.

I say "my main focus" because I dare say I'll do bits and pieces towards other books while working on that series. After all, I usually have a few things on the go at once.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chris Bohjalian's ten ways to avoid writer's block

I'm not having any issues with writer's block these days; I've got a head full of ideas, all waiting their turn to get written down. But, for the benifit of any writers who follow my blog and aren't so lucky, here's something I got in a Goodreads newsletter e-mail today: Chris Bohjalian's ten suggestions for avoiding writer's block.

***

1) Don’t merely write what you know. Write what you don’t know. It might be more difficult at first, but – unless you’ve just scaled Mount Everest or found a cure for all cancers – it will also be more interesting.

2) Do some research. Read the letters John Winthrop wrote to his wife, or the letters a Civil War private sent home to his family from Antietam, or the stories the metalworkers told of their experiences on the girders high in the air when they were building the Empire State Building. Good fiction is rich with minutiae – what people wore, how they cooked, how they filled the mattresses on which they slept – and often the details you discover will help you dramatically with your narrative.

3) Interview someone who knows something about your topic. Fiction may be a solitary business when you’re actually writing, but prior to sitting down with your computer (or pencil or pen), it often demands getting out into the real world and learning how (for instance) an ob-gyn spends her day, or what a lawyer does when he isn’t in the courtroom, or exactly what it feels like to a farmer to milk a cow when he’s been doing it for 35 years. Ask questions. . .and listen.

4) Interview someone else. Anyone else. Ask questions that are absolutely none of your business about their childhood, their marriage, their sex life. They don’t have to be interesting (though it helps). They don’t even have to be honest.

5) Read some fiction you wouldn’t normally read: A translation of a Czech novel, a mystery, a book you heard someone in authority dismiss as “genre fiction.”

6) Write for a day without quote marks. It will encourage you to see the conversation differently, and help you to hear in your head more precisely what people are saying and thereby create dialogue that sounds more realistic. You may even decide you don’t need quote marks in the finished story.

7) Skim the thesaurus, flip through the dictionary. Find new words and words you use rarely – lurch, churn, disconsolate, effulgent, intimations, sepulchral, percolate, pallid, reproach – and use them in sentences.

8) Lie. Put down on paper the most interesting lies you can imagine. . .and then make them plausible.

9) Write one terrific sentence. Don’t worry about anything else – not where the story is going, not where it should end. Don’t pressure yourself to write 500 or 1,000 words this morning. Just write 10 or 15 ones that are very, very sound.

10) Pretend you’re a banker, but you write in the night to prove to some writing professor that she was wrong, wrong, wrong. Allow yourself a small dram of righteous anger.

***

Originally posted at https://www.goodreads.com/questions/12236-what-s-your-advice-for-aspiring-writers?utm_source=MadMimi&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Author+Newsletter+-+January+2015&utm_campaign=20141217_m123631035_Author+Newsletter+-+January+2015&utm_term=writer_27s+block

Friday, January 09, 2015

2014 holiday photos, part 3: a rodent christmas (FD)

It's time for the rodent gang's Christmas photos!

All the rodent gang got peanuts (in shells for the rats and degus, but not for the gerbils as they were struggling with them; too big for the little guys). Now this degu is ready to find out what's in the packages with the rodent gang's names on them:
I think it was Jasper, but I'm not 100% certain. Regardless of which of the degus it was though, he came to wait patiently there as soon as we mentioned sorting the gifts, and stayed put while we unwrapped the degu package and showed him what Santa Paws had left them.

So... This is what the degus had for Christmas:


Here are the degus checking out their new toy:


The degus love the treats; we were able to get shots of all four of them enjoying them:


This is what the gerbils had for Christmas:


Here's Bilbo enjoying one of the treats:


That's the only gerbil photo we have, because neither of them would stay still long enough for a shot of one of them checking out the wooden carrots they got, and Baggins was so excited that taking a photo of him at all was impossible; he was bouncing about all over the place, and we could hardly keep track of where he was!

So... Here's what the ratty girls had for Christmas:


The girls love their new toy:
(I think the first two are Star, and the third is Skye, but they were moving about and climbing all over it so much we couldn't get decent shots, nor keep track of who was where).

They really love that toy; they play with it a lot!

We couldn't get shots of them with their treats, because they decided the treats were special enough that they had to hide in their house to eat them; we could hear them nibbling, but they were completely out of sight.

We did get these two photos of Skye earlier in the month though:


And this one of the girls sleeping together in their hammock:


"Don't take my photo; I've had enough!"


Fair enough.... I guess we're done then, LOL!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Nan is 87 today!

We once again interrupt these holiday posts for yet another special announcement:

Today is the 87th birthday of my Nan (Dad's Mother).

She won't see this blog post - unless Dad does when a message about me writing the post shows up on Facebook, and he shows it to her somehow - but I'm going to say "happy birthday" to her on here anyway.

So... Happy birthday, Nan!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

2014 holiday photos, part 2: cards and gifts (FD)

We got lots of Christmas cards:
A huge "thank you" to everyone who sent cards! :)

And, look what Santa left us:
Kelly's stocking was full of chocolate, mine had some chocolate and some natural licorice in it, and the rodent stocking contained some wooden sticks for them all to get their teeth in to (rodents need to be able to gnaw on something, and these packs of sticks are an ideal option that's safe but fun for them all).

Around the same time as the Christmas card from her and Karma arrived, I got this card from Rita so I could see what she'd been doing with the gluing together of paper towels that had been used previously with paint, which she'd mentioned loads of times on her blog:
I'm not sure if you'd consider it to technically be a Christmas present, but I'm including it in this post anyway. Besides, it was very thoughtful of Rita to send me it... Thanks, Rita! :)

And my brother, Carl, sent me a camel:
His name is "Camella" (pronounced "cam-ay-lah") because Carl and I decided as children that was a good name for a camel, so every camel since then has been called Camella.

I also had some money, and an audio copy of "The Lady of the Rivers" by Philippa Gregory. I don't have the others in the "Cousins' War" series, but the book - though listed as being the 3rd in the series - is the first chronologically, so the fact I don't have the others yet isn't a big deal; I can still go ahead and read this one without missing anything important.

My ratty girls, Skye and Star, were technically Christmas presents too, even though I'd had them over a month by the time Christmas arrived.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Bilbo and Baggins are 1 today!

We interrupt these holiday photo posts to bring you a special announcement:

Today is the 1st birthday of our gerbils, Bilbo and Baggins!

Happy 1st birthday, gerbil pals!

Monday, January 05, 2015

2014 holiday photos, part 1: decorations and edibles (FD)

First, here are some photos of the various Christmas tree ornaments, which I had hung up here and there (since we only have a small tree, so they don't really fit on it):


Next, here's the little display I set up on my desk with my Christmas teddy that plays "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" and some battery powered candles:


Here's our little Christmas tree:


A close up of one of the birds I got from Iggy a few years ago, sitting in our little Christmas tree:


This Santa was the first holiday ornament I ever brought myself. I got it from the post office when I went to mail cards the first Christmas I moved out (which, as it turned out, ended up being the Christmas I spent in Canada).


This is the crystal angel ornament we brought the first year we moved to where we currently live:


Here's the sledding penguin ornament Kelly and I made a couple of years back... The penguin was very happy to be able to have fun in the snow Iggy sent us:


Kelly and I made a new decoration this year. I got a kit to make a polar bear decoration among the craft items I got for Christmas last year, so we made it this year. And here it is:


I also made some homemade leek and chestnut purses...
I'd had some a few years ago that we got from Asda, but they cost a lot for just a few, so I thought I'd save some money by making them myself. Besides, home made is always better! I didn't have a recipe, so just made it up. They contain grated chestnut, finely chopped leek (lightly fried before being put in the pastry purses) and cheese.

They were very tasty, if I do say so myself... Something I'd consider making again for sure!

The home made double chocolate brownies were very tasty too...