Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year - 2015 to 2016

It's New Year's Eve, and in a few hours time, people will begin to count down to 2016; exactly how many hours time it is until the countdown begins depends on where in the world you are, of course.

So...

If 2015 was a great year for you, then I hope 2016 is even better.

If 2015 wasn't a very good year for you at all, then I hope things improve for you in 2016.

Either way... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#Writing Wednesday: a look back at 2015

I decided to make today's post a look back on what's happened with my books this year. So...

In 2015 I:

*Published six children's stories; four stand-alone stories, and the first two books in my "Zeena Dragon Fae" series. This brings my total number of published stories to 37 (if you include the one published as part of the sci-fi and fantasy anthology last year).
*Published a short pet themed poetry collection, bringing my total number of published poetry collections to 6.
*Was able to get most of my backlist of books available as paperbacks, with a couple of others just waiting for me to get the proofs.

I also wrote several poems (a couple of which I shared on here, but most of wich you haven't seen yet). Plus, I have my next couple of stories in various stages of completion. The third Zeena book, for example, is currently starting its journey through the various re-writing and editing phases I put my books through before I let them out in to the big wide world to fend for themselves.

Not bad for a year's work, I think. Of course, I couldn't have done it completely alone. So, before I end this, I'd just like to say...

Thanks to my hubby, Kelly, for being supportive in general, describing covers to me when I need him to, putting up with my temper tantrums when things aren't going well with my writing, not yelling at me when I wake him up in the middle of the night to tell him I've just spotted a sale or review on one of my books, and letting me bounce ideas off him when I need a bit of help persuading my characters to do something interesting or exciting.

Thanks to Iggy for all his help with my books and their covers; especially the countless hours spent working on the cover files for the print editions.

Thanks to Jacob for his work on some of my book covers, and for all the times he's helped to spread the word about my books.

Also, thanks to anyone and everyone who helped to spread the word about my books, and/or brought my books... Be it the paperbacks or the eBooks... Especially if you also took the time to leave ratings and/or reviews for my books either where you brought them, on Goodreads, or both. Reviews help readers shop for books, which means they're very helpful to authors like me. In fact, anything you can do to help spread the word about my books is very helpful to me, and very much appreciated. So, if you did anything to help promote my books, left me reviews or ratings anywhere, or brought my books... Thank you!

Monday, December 28, 2015

TV talk and movie mutterings: 2015 holiday edition (FD)

Here's another post full of new to me movies and TV shows; this time with a Christmasy theme to it. So, grab your cocoa and cookies - or whatever your favourite holiday treat is - and enjoy!

As with the similar post from last month, I've not written very detailed reviews, but instead just given my opinion of the movie or TV show in question, so I've included links to where you can find out more about the movie or TV show, if you want to... Just click on the title of it, and you'll go right there.

So...

A Bride For Christmas (movie):
This one was a pretty good movie; perfect for those who enjoy a bit of romance in their holiday movies.

The Three dogateers (movie):
I thought this was a cute and entertaining movie, with some very amusing scenes; a great holiday movie for dog lovers.

Christmas Angel (movie):
I'm not sure how I feel about this movie. I didn't think too much of it at first, though there are some really nice scenes; some of them quite sweet or touching. Plus, it did have a nice ending. However, over all I wasn't too impressed with the movie, and found parts of it rather dull.

A Perfect Christmas List (movie):
Now this one I really enjoyed! Parts of it were amusing, parts of it were touching, and all of it was entertaining... This was a movie that was worth watching, that's for sure!

Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups (movie):
This was a really cute movie; perfect for watching as a family, though anyone who loves holiday movies about the magic of Christmas, and is a dog lover, will enjoy it, I think. I bet my Kero would have loved it...

Shelby (movie):
Another great movie, which dog lovers will really enjoy.

Saving Santa (movie):
This one was good, but not great. It had some amusing and entertaining scenes, and I loved the ending, but overall it was only an "OK" movie, in my opinion.

Toy Story That Time Forgot (TV short):
Great for fans of the Toy Story movies, and very entertaining in general; I really enjoyed it.

A Snow Globe Christmas (movie):
A wonderful movie in general, and a great movie to watch with the family around the holidays.

12 Gifts Of Christmas (movie):
This was a really nice movie, which fans of classic romances may enjoy. The plot is a pretty slow one, so if you prefer a fast paced movie - which you probably aren't if you're watching a romance, but you never know - this one won't be for you. However, if you're looking for an old fashioned romance with a holiday theme to it, you should watch this movie.

The Christmas Note (movie):
This was a great movie, but an emotional one. If you enjoy the sort of Christmas movie where you'll be crying in to your cocoa - not necessarily sad tears, either - this movie's for you. This really was a beautiful movie, which felt like watching some of the old style holiday movies, but with a few modern references that helped to remind you that things can be that way even amid the chaos and technology of modern times.

Angels In The Snow (movie):
A beautiful and touching movie; another I think is perfect to watch as a family around the holidays, and one which illustrates the point I was making in my post last Wednesday about spending time with your family before it's too late to do so.

Holy Night (movie):
I didn't really think much of this one. I usually enjoy movies like this, with toys coming to life and all that, but I just wasn't impressed with this movie, and struggled to remain interested in it.

The Night Before The Night Before Christmas (movie):
I actually was watching this one on the night before the night before Christmas, as it happened, which was pretty cool. Anyway, it was a pretty good movie. Not my favourite of the ones I saw this year, but entertaining and enjoyable enough, with a great message to it.

It's A Wonderful Life (movie):
Yes, that's right... I'd never seen it before. I've been meaning to watch it the last couple of years, but kept missing the showings. Well, this year I managed to get to see it. So, what did I think of it? Well... I thought it was an excellent movie, with a beautiful message. I can see why it's a favourite of a couple of people I know, and think everyone should watch it at least once. I'm not sure I'd call it a new favourite of mine, but - as I said - I think it's an excellent movie, which everyone should watch at least once.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Furkid Friday: Christmas 2015 edition (FD)

Hi humans, rodent types, and anyone else reading this... Merry Christmas!

This is Joshua the degu, taking a break from seeing what Santa Paws brought us to let you know how our atempt at catching him went.

We missed him again!

I don't get it... We had this great plan and everything!

Just in case Santa Paws saw Jasper's post from last week, and was brave - or stupid - enough to try the window we'd claimed we wouldn't be watching, my ratty sisters, Skye and Star, who can easily see the window from where their cage is - and like looking out of the window, anyway - kept a careful watch on the windows, while us boys watched the proper entrance.

Well, most of us did... Jasper and Jenks had heard something about Santa Paws and chimneys, so they watched the fireplace, even though it's covered up, so there's not really any way to get in through it. We all agreed it didn't hurt to keep an eye on it though... Just in case.

We had every entrance to the room where the gifts were to be left covered, and in doing so covered the main entrance to the building, since we can see the stairs that lead to the front door through the open living room door. Yes, it was possible he'd use another window to get in to the building... Unlikely, but possible. But the human caretakers assured us he'd be leaving stuff in the living room - where we live - so we knew he'd eventually have to come in there somehow.

So, we watched and waited, and then we watched and waited some more.

Nothing!

Not a glimpse of red suit or white fur, not a hint of the sound of jingling bells, nor a single sniff of the scent of a sweaty guy who had been spending a lot of time with reindeer, and had recently been eating mince pies and cookies... Nothing!

My ratty sisters are also absolutely certain they didn't see any reindeer - flying or otherwise - while looking out of the window. They insist there were no goats, wild boars, or any of the other animals we've heard of Santa Paws being associated with either. In fact, they say the only animals of any sort they spotted were the birds they see all the time.

Yet, there was a pile of gifts for us this morning. And, yes, they were left right where the humans said they would be.

I just don't get it... How is he doing this?

Even if we couldn't see him for whatever reason, we should have been able to smell him with our sharp noses, or hear him with our sensative ears. But, none of us could.

I tell you, this Santa Paws is one tricky dude!

Do you think his invisibility magic also covers his scent, and covers up all sounds he makes?

Or, perhaps, there's something in that magic powder of his that makes you forget you've seen him? Maybe we really did spot him, but he sprinkled his magic powder and made us forget we had?

Well, whatever the case, he does bring some great nibbles...

Speaking of which, I better go before my brothers eat my share.

Merry Christmas from me, and the rest of the rodent gang. We hope Santa Paws brought you what you wanted most this Christmas.

Squeak soon,
Joshua

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas everypony... The Empire is coming to town!

It's Christmas Eve.

The Empire is coming to town...




And ponies are dashing through the snow...




Merry Christmas everypony... May the force be with you this holiday season, and throughout the coming year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Put down your pen this holiday season (kinda R/WP and FD)

Since just before Thanksgiving, I've seen several posts giving tips on how you can squeeze in extra writing time amid the chaos of the holidays. However, while some of these lists are entertaining to read, I have some better advice for you... Don't!

In recent years, the holidays have become about gathering gifts while stuffing yourself with as many tasty food items as you can. Now, doing these things is all well and good, so I'm not saying not to do them. I am, however, saying that while you open gifts and eat as many mince pies and cookies as you can, you should remember that this isn't what the holidays are really about.

The holidays are meant to be about spending time with the people you care about, and showing them how much they mean to you. They're meant to be about remembering those less fortunate than yourself, and sparing at least a thought or prayer for their health and happiness, if not some of your time to actually help them out. What they are not meant to be about, however, is tricking your family in to doing something without you just so you can get in some extra writing time.

Don't get me wrong... I love to write, and I'm all for you writing when you can. But if you have to decide between spending time with your family and friends, or spending a bit more time working on your most recent writing project, you should go with the family and friends option; especially during the holidays.

If you have a few free minutes to write... Great! If not... Well, you can write later.

Don't try to justify your choice of writing over family time by telling yourself you'll make it up to them later. For one thing, time with them later doesn't make up for missing out on doing something with them now. For another thing, there may not be a later. Think how guilty you'd feel if you skipped out on family time this Christmas, only to find that one of the people who had wanted your attention doesn't make it to next Christmas. It could happen, you know!

So, ignore those tips for finding more time to write amid the chaos of the holidays, and instead put your pen down or turn off your computer or tablet, and focus on family time, or time with friends, this Christmas. After all, your writing will always be there, but your loved ones may not.

In fact, whether you're a writer or not, turn off your computer, put away your tablet, eReader, or whatever, and spend some time with your family and friends this holiday season. You don't have to spend every moment with them, of course. Unless you want to, that is. Just make them your priority.

And, if you don't have anyone to spend the holidays with, consider doing something to brighten the spirits of someone else who might be in the same situation, or bringing some holiday cheer to someone some other way.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday decorations 2015

For various reasons, we currently don't have very many holiday decorations. But here's our little tree...


Plus, a fun snowy scene I made in front of the fireplace with our decorations...


Though we don't have many holiday ornaments, every single one of them is special for some reason. For example: The slightly battered looking Santa with the candle in his hand is the first holiday decoration I brought myself, which I got my first Christmas after I moved out of my parents' place. The little birds hopping about in the snow were gifts from Iggy a few years back (I think about six years ago) and the snow itself was sent to me by Iggy too. The little purple baubles are part of the purple, blue, gold and silver decorations that decorated our Millennium Christmas tree, which I'd decorated in those colours especially to please my Dad. And the little glass angel is the one Kelly brought our first Christmas living here by the ocean, starting a tradition of us buying at least one new holiday ornament each year.

This year, our new holiday ornament was a Christmasy Cthulhu...


Cthulhu isn't usually a creature you'd associate with warmth and comfort, nor holiday joy. But I just couldn't resist when I spotted him. So, Cthulhu joined our holiday decoration collection this year, which is kind of fitting, since we're in the middle of a Cthulhu adventure in our roleplaying sessions at the moment.

We also had this purple stocking bunting made for us by my Dad's girlfriend, Cath...


...Which was really nice of her.

So, that's it for our holiday decorations this year. I hope you enjoyed seeing them, and thanks to those who contributed pieces to them... Like Iggy and Cath.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Frost Fair 2015

On November 28th 2015, there was a "Frost Fair" where we live.

For the last three years, on the last Saturday of November, residents have enjoyed the coastal winter season, the Frost Fair, reviving a grand European tradition stretching back to the middle Ages.

We hadn't realized they were making it that there was a "Frost Fair" on the last Saturday in November every year, since we'd missed having anything to do with the tree lighting in the past couple of years, or we might have arranged to go. But the parade passed along the seafront in front of our building, so Kelly grabbed the camera to get me a few photos of it.

I don't think we got it all, because, apparently...

With over 200 participants, drum troupes, circus artists and characters including Jack Frost, the Snow Queen in her winter coach and a host of figures from literature, mythology and folklore, the parade is larger than ever, building on the huge interest and acclaim from previous years to deliver what we like to think of as the best dressed and most magical winter pageant in the whole of the county.

But, anyway, here's what we did get of it:



Sorry if the quality isn't too great... The photos were being taken through a rain splattered window on a frosty day, which makes it difficult to get good shots even with the best of cameras, and our camera isn't an amazing one to start with.

Later in the evening was the local holiday light switch on, but I hadn't been paying enough attention to know what time it would be, so we missed going to it. Mind you, with this bit of a chest infection I have, standing out in the rain just so I could be there when the holiday lights got turned on would have probably been a stupid thing to do anyhow, so it's probably for the best that we didn't go; I've so far managed to stop this chest infection from becoming a bad one, and it would be nice to keep it that way, after all.

But, anyway... It seems this event now kicks off all the holiday celebrations around here, including the opening of the ice rink (which is only open through Christmas and the new year)... Just like it used to until some time in the 1980s, I believe; I'm not sure why it was stopped then, but I'm glad they decided to start it up again.

Yes, iceskating is only an option around here from the end of November until the start of January (November 28th to January 5th in the case of this year). But then, iceskating isn't as big of a thing over here as it is in some other countries. Most people have never even tried it. Yes, seriously. And those who have tried it, have only done it a few times in their entire lives.

I'm one of those who hasn't done it. I've been rollerskating before... On both quad skates, and rollerblades (inline skates). But never iceskating. I don't know if my ankle could take it if I was to try now though... Probably not.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Random ramblings - December 20th 2015



No, they aren't my decorations in that picture. They're in the window of a nearby store. Kelly took the photo for me a few weeks ago, since he knows I like to have photos of those kinds of things to share, even if I can't see them myself.

Anyway...

There's less than a week until Christmas. Can you believe it?

This year has zoomed by, hasn't it?

I did try to slow the world down, but it didn't work, and another year is almost over.

So, what are your holiday plans? Are you ready for them?

I'm ready, and any cards and gifts I'm sending are already with people.

In the past, I was making cards, but it was becoming difficult. With my lack of sight I need help, and Kelly has arthritis in his hands that makes it difficult for him to do fiddly things, as well as to write with a pen for long. I don't send to everyone I know. In fact, I have quite a short list compared to the one I used to have. But it doesn't take many cards for Kelly's hand to start hurting; especially if he's had to help me make them.

Anyway, the plan was to use up the last of the handmade cards I have (since I had leftovers from last year) and then send cards via MoonPig, or Funky Pigeon, or something. Except, with everything that's been going on lately, we got behind on our schedule, so would have needed to have a long card writing session in order to get all the cards sent out when we wanted to send them. So, I mostly just went straight to plan B. Apparently that was a good thing though, since those who have gotten them seem very pleased with their MoonPig cards.

***

It's been really cold here. We even got a bit of snow!

OK, it wasn't much snow, and it didn't stick around, but it's better than last year, and still early enough in the season that we could possibly get more. YAY!

In the meantime, I've had some awesome storms to listen to.

It's great being able to curl up on the sofa, or in bed, and listen to the enormous waves crashing against the pebbles of the shore as though determined to pound them to sand before Winter ends, while the wind howls as though a pack of wolves is competing with an ice monster for domanence over this land, and the rain lashes against the windows as though desperate to come in to escape the chaos.

I'd still like some decent snow though... Maybe I'll get some this year? *Looks hopeful*

***

I finnished the other blanket I was knitting during the second half of November. So, here's a photo for those who want to see it:



I'm now in the process of making a doll. I have no idea what I'm going to do with the doll once I've made her, but I thought it would be a fun project. I'll worry about what to do with her when she's finnished.

***

It was my Mam's birthday yesterday (December 19th).

So... Happy birthday, Mam!

***

Speaking of birthdays...

My birthday gift from Kelly finally arrived!

It's not his fault it took so long, nor the company's fault. It was due to issues with the post office; I spent several weeks alternating between waiting for the package to arrive, and calling the post office to find out why it hadn't arrived, while struggling to keep my temper with them for telling me different things every time I called them.

But, anyway... It finally got here last Tuesday. Or, I should say "they" finally got here last Tuesday, since it's a pair.

"A pair of what?" I hear you ask.

A pair of Cthulhu slippers, that's what!

Yes, Cthulhu as in the monster from the H P Lovecraft stories, and the Cthulhu roleplaying game that's based on them.

And here they are:

Friday, December 18, 2015

Furkid Friday: Santa Paws is coming

Hi there humans, rodent types, and anyone else reading this.

This is Jasper the degu.

The human caretakers say it's just one more week until Santa Paws comes, so my rodent siblings and I are working hard on a plan to catch him. We're hoping we'll finally do it this year.

There are eight of us, and we're all older and wiser than we were last year. At least, we say we are... The Mummy human says that, while she agrees on the older part, the wiser part is debatable. How rude! But, anyway, there are eight of us, and there's only one of him. Well, he has his reindeer, but I'm told they aren't involved in doing anything other than pulling the sleigh Santa Paws carries the toys and nibbles around the world in.

OK... There's only one way in or out of this place, unless Santa Paws wants to climb out of his sleigh while it's hovering outside the window, several floors up, which would be both stupid and dangerous. All our cages have a clear view of that entrance, so we're coming up with a plan to catch him as he comes in. As long as at least one of us stays awake, we should catch him this time, right?

I'm not going to share any more details of the plan on here, just in case he's reading this. But, we're sure it's a great one.

Wish us luck!

Squeak soon,
Jasper

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What's on your holiday menu this year? (FD)

After I queeried the lack of food being mentioned in Jeanie's posts about the December holidays - which you can find in my looking ahead to December holiday posts, here, and here, if you want to read them - Jeanie wrote this post, in which she talks about some of the tasty foods she and her family enjoy during the December holidays.

So... I was just wondering... What are your family's favourites for the holiday season?

Tell me below, or tell Jeanie in the comments section of her post.

And, remember: if you need more recipe ideas, there are plenty of recipes that would be good for the holidays among those on my website's recipe section, including things like traditional wassail, banana-nog, sweet mince pie filling, and a variety of cakes and cookies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wednesday's writing wordage - December 16th 2015

Read this post if you're thinking of becoming an author.

***

So, you have your story ideas from PiBoIdMo... Or, perhaps, just from general idea generation. Now it's time to research your concept to find out what's already been done, and give yourself the best chance possible of making sure your book will stand out from the crowd, and that your new twist really is a new one. But, don't forget, even while thinking outside the box, you still need to set some limits, or you'll never get your book done.

Most importantly though... Find what works for you. Even if that means writing out of order.

Also, you should always remember Jen's editing tips... Slow down! Your book takes as long as it does to finnish, and rushing it will only ruin it for your readers, which is not something you want happening... You want your readers to enjoy reading your book. Surely it's worth taking a bit longer than you'd hoped to get it out in order to achieve that?

***

Need an illustrator, or cover artist? Jacob Blackmon is your man! He specializes in fantasy themes; he does work for Paizo on a regular basis, for example. But Jacob doesn't only do fantasy and roleplaying artwork... He does other stuff too. You can see some of his work on his DeviantArt page, as well as by looking at some of my book covers, since he's one of my cover artists.

Marc Curlee is also a great artist, who would be happy to help out where he can. His work is generally more suitable for adults, and not child friendly. But if you're looking for an artist to do covers for books for older readers, Marc's your man! You can check out his DeviantArt page to get an idea of the kinds of things he does.

Both Jacob and Marc can also be found on several social media sites, such as Facebook, for example.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Blue Reef Aquarium revisited

Kelly and I went back to the aquarium to see the reptile room last Thursday. We also grabbed a couple of photos of some of the other animals we didn't manage to get usable shots of last time.

Like this lobster...


Angelus the Angel shark...


And the great white shark who'd been swimming about over our heads in the tunnel...


Anyway...

In the reptile room they had animals like this turtle...


These White Tree Frogs...


A Green Iguana named Kieth...


Some beetles...


A Royal Python named Bruce...


Another Royal Python named "The Professor" who we didn't get a photo of, and several other more camera shy reptiles, such as a Boa Constrictor, some Bull Frogs, and an Emperor Scorpion.

We would have handled some of them... The ones it was OK to do so with... But we were much too early for a reptile encounter, and by the time we'd had a wander around, and then been for lunch, I was too tired to be up for going back the same day. But, hey, at least we saw the reptile room this time.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Seeing Eye Dragon

I know many of the people who read this blog are interested in learning about my life as a blind author, and how I cope in a sighted world; from doing basic tasks, to learning to use modern pieces of technology like iPhones and EeReaders.

If you're one of those people, why not pop over to Seeing Eye Dragon, and follow the discussions about accessability of gaming and modern technology for the visually impaired, and the other trials a blind person faces when navigating a world made for sighted people.

There's not much on the site as yet, since it's new. But what's there is worth a read, in my opinion. Plus, it's all from the point of view of a blind person, who has been visually impaired since birth, blind since early childhood, and gaming almost as long.

So, go check it out, and feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts on any of the posts; the opinions of sighted people on these topics are welcomed too, after all.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Furkid Friday - December 11th 2015 (FD)

Hellooo everyone!

This is Baggins the gerbil.

The weather is colder, and my brother, Bilbo, and I have been putting on our Winter weight; just like all those animals in the wild, who are preparing for food to be scarce, and - in many cases - hybernation.

The human caretakers insist we don't need to worry about it, since food for us won't be scarce like it often is for our wild relatives at this time of year, but we aren't taking any chances.

Besides... The nibbles are very tasty, so it's really difficult to resist the urge; especially when our instincts are telling us to fatten ourselves up ready for the cold months ahead. I mean, could you resist a bowl full of your favourite nibbles? Not to mention the offer of things like Cheerios and cheese on top of those things? I didn't think so!

Anyway, the Mummy human says a little extra fat won't hurt us, and that - when Spring comes, and we slow down with the eating again - we'll soon get the extra weight back off with all the digging we do.

In the meantime, if we find ourselves suffering the food scarcity our wild relatives often have to suffer during Winter, Bilbo and I know we'll be OK. And, if we don't... Well, like I said, the nibbles are tasty, and I agree with the Mummy human that we'll soon get the extra weight off when Spring arrives.

Squeak soon,
Baggins

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Wednesday's writing wordage - December 9th 2015

To be honest, my writing's been pretty slow lately. I mean, I've been writing, but my writing projects aren't progressing as quickly as is normal for me right now. They are progressing though... Slowly.

Mostly this is due to a combination of the upcoming holidays, and things going on in life in general to make it more difficult to get my writing time in. But it's also because I felt I needed some time to step back and focus on other interests a little. Sometimes you need to, you know?

So, I've been a bit more relaxed than I should be on my deadlines and goal setting recently. But, there's progress, and that's what really counts, right?

***

Would you like some publicity for you and your books? If so, check out these places for author interviews!

They could be an excellent oppertunity for you - or one of your characters - to be interviewed, or for you and your books to be featured on someone's blog in some other way.

Having those posts to mention when they go up is also a good way for giving yourself a reason to put something on your prefered social media sites, without you having to resort toauthor spam.

I sometimes do author spotlights too, but I don't generally publically advertise my willingness to do so, since I prefer to have read at least one book by an author before I do a spotlight post for them, and usually only spotlight authors of books I've enjoyed. Some may not like that I do it this way, but I do it because, while I want to promote other authors' work, I want to know that I'm promoting something that deserves it; I'd hate to think I was sat here singing the praises of a book, only to find it was one of those books with so many editing issues it looked worse than my first drafts, or something like that.

I also sometimes post things for authors I've read if they're doing something for a book release and want people to post about it. But, again, I prefer to have read at least one book by the author in question before posting anything for them.

Speaking of featuring authors and their books... Madeline Reynolds is doing a feature on her blog right now where she's giving a mention to various holiday themed books on her blog this month. And, guess what? My book "The Forgotten Angel" got included in the list... It was holiday book recommendation #4. Check out her blog for more great holiday book recommendations.

Monday, December 07, 2015

A Fall scavenger hunt (FD)

Though Winter is wrapping its iron grip around the Northern Hemisphere now, this post is all about Autumn.

Most people love Autumn; especially those of us who can see the beauty of all four seasons.

The sound of dried leaves crunching under your feet as you take your morning walk, the smell of pumpkin pie baking on a chilly afternoon, the feeling of excitement as you prepare to go out trick-or-treating on Halloween night, and all the other things the season has to offer.

What's not to like?

To celebrate Autumn/Fall, and all the harvest themed holidays that go with it - as well as the foods associated with them - one of the groups I'm a member of over on Goodreads had a reading challenge that was a Fall Scavenger Hunt.

The challenge ran from September 1st to November 30th 2015, and all you had to do was to find and read a book for an item on the list. You even got to pick your own level for your challenge.

These were the challenge levels:

1-3 Books: Colorful Leaf
4-6 Books: Crisp Apple
7-9 Books: Indian Corn
10-12 Books: Pumpkin
12 + Books: Pumpkin Patch

And this was the List:

Pumpkin Pie A book that has a character who bakes or cooks
Hay Rides A book that has a tractor or horses in it
Scarecrow A book with a scary villain
Falling Leaves A book that has a character that falls in love
Apple Orchard A book that has woods or trees in it
Football A book that has organized sports or a game in it
Corn Maze A book with lots of twists and turns
Bonfire A book that is heartwarming
Giving Thanks A book you are grateful to have read
Candy Corn A book that you devoured, or couldn't put down
Trick-or-Treat A book that has a character that wears a costume or disguise
Haunted House A book that has a scary house or building in it
Turkey A book more than 450 pages in length
Cranberries A book less than 300 pages in length
Sweater Weather A book that has cold weather in it
Orange A book that has orange on the cover
Pinecones A book containing a character that has many "layers" or is hard to understand
Oktoberfest A book that has a drinking or party scene
Popcorn A book that has a battle or fight scene
Cornucopia A book that has an odd mix of characters
Gourds A book with yellow and/or green on the cover
Marshmallow A book with a character that is a big "softie"

Of course, I joined in, though I didn't do the ones with cover colours, for reasons that should be obvious. Yes, I could have asked Kelly to help with cover colours. But I decided not to bother; I usually just don't bother to do parts of challenges where colours of covers are involved.

Anyway... Here's what I read for the ones I did do...

Pumpkin Pie: The Story Girl (The Story Girl, #1) by L.M. Montgomery
Hay Rides: Wyvern (Wyvern Trilogy, #1) by John H. Carroll
Scarecrow: Balance of Fate (Delver Magic, #3) by Jeff Inlo
Falling Leaves: The Professor by Charlotte Brontë
Apple Orchard: Chronicles of the Nocturnal Forest (Stories of the Fairy of my Dreams, #1) by Vanessa Kings
Football: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Corn Maze: RENOVO by Geoffrey Wakeling
Bonfire: Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye (The Baby-Sitters Club, #13) by Ann M. Martin
Giving Thanks: The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld, #41; Tiffany Aching, #5) by Terry Pratchett
Candy Corn: Throne of Vengeance (Delver Magic, #2) by Jeff Inlo
Trick-or-Treat: Super Sporty Short Stories Signed, Anonymous by Ellie Firestone
Haunted House: Pathfinder Legends — Mummy's Mask #1 The Half-Dead City by Paizo Inc.
Turkey: Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Cranberries: Yoikes (The Cloud Brothers Short Stories Book 8) by James Field
Sweater Weather: Till the Dark of Winter by Kate Trinity
Orange: ***Pass***
Pinecones: The Golden Road (The Story Girl #2) by L.M. Montgomery
Oktoberfest: Witch Winnie The Story of a "King's Daughter" (Witch Winnie, #1) by Elizabeth W. Champney
Popcorn: Sanctum's Breach (Delver Magic, #1) by Jeff Inlo
Cornucopia: Trolls Fly by Night by Suzanna Stanbury
Gourds: ***Pass***
Marshmallow: The Wacky World of Silly Willy Winston - an ordinary pet with extraordinary adventures by Donna Maguire

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Finding simplicity in this modern world of chaos (FD)

Do you sometimes find yourself longing for those days when things were simpler?

With all the shiny new types of modern technology, and the apparent need to always be rushing around, it can often be easy to become over-whelmed, and difficult to find the time to slow down and take a good look at the world around you. Not to mention how tricky it can be to find some quiet time amid the hum of machinery, buzz of traffic, and roar of voices, all competing to be heard in this chaotic modern world we live in.

It's even worse this time of year, when every company that exists is fighting to get us to make their products our choices for Christmas gifts for our loved ones.

So, here are some tips for getting control back, and for finding some simplicity and quiet time amid the chaos.

First of all, here are 9 steps to take control of your day, which will help you with juggling the multitude of tasks you need to fit in to your day. Deanna has plenty of other posts that you might be interested in too.

So, how can you live simpler in this modern world? Well, here are 7 tips that may work for you, and here's a list of five tips you can use to start living a simple life.

Now, when you hear the word "frugal" you probably think of minimalist living, where you have only the bear essentials. That's not the case though. The simple fact is that being frugal really means being sensible, not living beyond your means, and thinking seriously about whether you really need something or just want it to keep up with the joneses, so to speak. So, to help you out, here's some old wisdom for modern frugal living, and 16 ways to save money and live frugally.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please bear in mind that not all of the tips in the above links will work for everyone. Take the ones that will work for you, and disregard those that simply aren't an option in your case. In other words, find and follow your own path to living more simply and peacefully amid the chaos of this modern world.

What about my own tips? I'm sure you'd like to know what advice I'd give myself? After all, isn't getting my opinion on things at least a part of the reason you're reading this post? Surely you come to my blog to get my opinions on things sometimes? I thought so! OK... Here are my tips for finding simplicity in this modern world of chaos:

1. Schedule some "you" time every day.
This is the most important one, in my opinion. Everyone needs some "you" time. "You" time can be time to do anything that's just for you and relaxes you. Whether that's a daily meditation, a quiet cup of your favourite beverage sipped slowly with no interruptions, or something else. Doing this will give you an oppertunity to recharge, so to speak, and will make facing the rest of your day that bit easier. If you want to go with meditation, there are plenty of guided meditations available online, or you can buy a CD or something. To get you started, check out the daily meditation challenge that Deanna is doing... Click here for day 1!

2. Make a "to do" list, and mark those items that are priorities.
Either first thing in the morning, or before you go to bed the night before, figure out a "to do" list for your day, and make sure to circle or otherwise mark those items that are priorities so you can get those done first. Or, if you write the list on a computer or tablet, rearrange the list when you're done so that you put the most important items at the top of your list, then you can just work your way down it.

3. If you run out of hours in your day, don't panic.
The whole point of marking the most important items on your list is to make sure you get the ones that "must" be done completed. If the less important ones don't get done, it's no big deal. Stressing over not having done them isn't going to help anyone, so don't do it. If they're things it's important you do soon, mark them as priority items on tomorrow's list, otherwise just add them to the list again tomorrow and try again to fit them in.

4. It's OK to say "no" sometimes.
One of the biggest causes of stress is when you take on more tasks than you can handle. So, if you don't have the time to do it, say so. It's better for you to disappoint someone from the start, than to either get so stressed out you have a melt down, or rush the job and not do it properly. Alternatively, if it's something you really want to do, but you have a lot going on right now, ask the person if you can have a longer, or more flexible, deadline to work to.

5. Keeping up with the 'Jones' isn't essential.
Just because everyone else has the new must have item, doesn't mean you have to have it. This especially applies if you don't really have the income to support the buying of the new must have items every time they come out. But, whether you can afford it or not, that doesn't mean you have to buy it. Think about whether you really do want or need it, avoid impulse buys, and always choose functionality over fashion.

6. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and if it is then see if it can be fixed before throwing it out and buying a new one. Also, bear in mind that leftovers make good meals, jars and containers can be used for other things once their original contents are used up, and plenty of people are happy to take second hand items off your hands if they're in good condition. Also, bear in mind that it can be a lot easier to not only keep your home tidy, but also find things when you need them, if you don't have to navigate piles of clutter. So, clear out your clutter, and arrange proper places for things to get put away, and then remember to put them away in their proper places when you're done with them. It might be a lot of work initially, but it wil make things a lot simpler later on... Trust me!

7. If you can, make it yourself.
This especially applies to food, but not exclusively. More often than not, it works out cheaper to make things yourself. Not to mention the fact you can be sure of everything that goes in to your meal if you make it from scratch. Of course, you may not feel you have the skills to make everything from scratch, or it might be time you don't have, and that's fine. However, in most cases it doesn't take much more time or effort to make things from scratch as it does to use the store brought version. So, if you can do it yourself, you really should; it will save you money, and it's healthier. Plus, I happen to think that homemade food usually tastes better. At the very least, buy things to make meals at home, rather than having take-away all the time.

I'm not saying I do a great job of doing these things, but they're the tips I'd give, anyway, and they're things I try to do.

Have any tips of your own? Share them below.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Furkid Friday - December 4th 2015

Hi humans, rodents, and anyone else reading this. This is Bilbo the gerbil.

I have a couple of new photos of me and my gerbil brother, Baggins. So, here they are...

This one is Baggins:


And this is me:


Aren't we just so super cute?

Squeak soon,
Bilbo

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Wednesday's writing wordage - December 2nd 2015

NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo are over for another year. So, how did you do? Did you reach your NaNoWriMo goal? Did you manage to come up with a list of 30 ideas for PiBoIdMo? Or, if you set your own goals for either of these, did you reach those?

Whether you did reach your goals or not, I hope you had fun with it, and continue working on your writing.

With that in mind, here's a post with some suggestions for ways of finding story ideas to help you out if you still need a little help with getting inspired, as well as a reminder to notice the grapes.

So, you have your story idea, and now it's time to breathe some life in to it... Starting with your character. Is your character the kind who will be noticed and remembered? Throw your characters a dinner party, and decide if your character is the kind of guest who people will remember or not. If not, think of how you can change that.

But what if it's your story idea that's not working quite right? Simple! Just work with it until you can make it work!

Oh, is it non-fiction you write? If so, here are some tips on generating ideas for, and actually writing, non-fiction books. The tips are officially aimed at writing non-fiction for children, but would generally work well regardless of the age you're writing for, I think. So, you can just as easily use them if you write for adults.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Of trams, metal sea creatures, and birthdays (FD)

Trams still run in some places, you know. At least, they do for tourists.

Kelly took this photo of the one that runs in hastings:


Fancy a ride?

***

At the end of July, when we had a visit from my brother, Carl, and my Mam, we spotted a metal sea serpant of some kind, as well as a great 3-D chess game. I found out later - thanks to Iggy, if I'm honest - that not far away should have been a couple more metal sea creatures. So, while waiting for everyone to look in shops at the end of September - after our trip to the aquarium - Kelly and I went looking for them (since we weren't interested in the shops).

We found two...

A metal Octopus:


And a metal seahorse:


***

Kelly's sister, Sherry, celebrated her birthday on November 22nd. I'm late with this one, and I actually doubt she'll see this, but I'll say it anyway... A belated happy birthday to you, Sherry!

Plus, it will be my Grandad's birthday on December 4th. Now I know there's no way he's going to see this post, but I'll still say it anyway... Early happy birthday to you, Grandad!

If you had your birthday recently, or will be having it soon, then a very happy birthday to you as well!

Oh, yeah... I had my birthday too. Which reminds me... A huge thank you to anyone who sent me cards, gifts, or birthday messages via Facebook or text message. I really appreciate every single one of them!

I spent my birthday being a kid. It wasn't planned that way. The original plan had been for us to go back to the aquarium to visit the reptile room (though it would have just been Kelly and myself this time) and then have food out. But I've been feeling quite run down lately, and wasn't feeling up to an outing. So I ended up spending the day watching Disney movies and a few cartoons, while eating chocolate Ready Brek, pizza, and cake. Ready Brek, for those who don't know, is a kind of oatmeal with extra vitamins, which is actually designed for children, but I love the stuff. Besides, it's a good thing for me to have with my anemia issues, and the fact the main extra vitamin it has in it is iron (bearing in mind, oatmeal is great for that in the first place). Yep, that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it, LOL!

My birthday cake wasn't anything fancy... It was just a lemon cake our local bakery makes, which I'm quite fond of. But I enjoyed it, and that's what matters. Anyway, here are a couple of photos of it:


I didn't get many actual physical birthday cards, but here are some photos of the ones I did get:


The cards were from my Dad and his girlfriend Cath, my Nan, my Grandma and her little dog Jayde, and Rita and Karma.

Mostly I got money (most of which I've already spent on books). But I also got some nice sock yarn from Iggy. Plus, Kelly brought me the Pathfinder ponies rulebook and a pair of Cthulhu slippers. The slippers haven't arrived yet, but that's not Kelly's fault... Postage delays are behind it. They're on their way though.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

TV talk and movie mutterings - November 2015 (LBE)

We figured out how to make the audio description go on for the Sky box, and - even better - they've improved it since I last had Sky, because it now appears to stay on until you turn it off in the settings; it used to turn off if you changed the channel, or turned the box off. Well, OK, my Mam helped us figure it out. But it works now, so it doesn't really matter who made it work. Of course, it's still hit and miss as to whether the show has it or not, like it was with my freeview box, but that's the fault of the people making the shows, not Sky.

Now, if I could only get audio menu navigation too...

Actually, a little birdy told me that may be something that happens in the not-too-distant future... I hope that's true!

Anyway...

Since I've watched a few new to me movies and TV shows recently, I thought I'd do a post to tell you which ones I've watched, and what I thought of them. Only "new to me" ones mind you... I'm not mentioning re-watched favourite movies, or Tv shows you already know I enjoy watching.

I've not written very detailed reviews, but instead just given my opinion of the movie or TV show in question, so I've included links to where you can find out more about the movie or TV show, if you want to... Just click on the title of it, and you'll go right there.

So...

Maleficent (movie):
I loved this movie! I mean, I've always liked the Sleeping Beauty stories, but I just love this version! It's great getting to see the story from another point of view, and learn what made the wicked fairy so wicked. Not all fairy tale retellings are done well, but this one is, in my opinion.

In To The Woods (movie):
This is one fairy tale retelling I wasn't so impressed with. It's not Disney's worst movie, but it's certainly not their best either, and - quite frankly - I didn't think much of it. I mean, it was an OK movie, but far from being a great one, in my opinion.

Extinction: Jurrassic Predator (movie):
This one was absolute rubbish! I was all excited about a new Jurrassic Park type movie, and couldn't have been more disappointed. Not only were we an hour in to the movie before anything more exciting than a dislocated arm happened, but when we finally did get some dinosaur action it was pathetic (not to mention, over so quickly you'd have missed it if you blinked). On top of that, whoever was in charge of the movie sound effects obviously knows nothing about jungles; even if the presence of a bunch of bickering humans wasn't enough to have the jungle animals feeling threatened so going quiet, the presence of dangerous predators like the dinosaurs certainly would have been. Yet, during the entire movie, birds and insects were happily tweeting and chirping away in the background. I may not have noticed that had I not been so painfully bored, but I was... An hour of just listening to a bunch of supposedly grown men and women bickering will do that to you. I'm glad I saw this as part of the Sky package I was already paying for, because if I'd spacifically paid to watch it, I'd be demanding my money back! Oh, and... Not being able to see has nothing to do with how little I enjoyed the movie. Kelly watched this one with me, and thought it was rubbish too.

The Boxtrolls (movie):
Now this is one I wouldn't have been able to enjoy without the audio description, so I'm glad we got it working, since I would have missed a great movie! I mean, it's not out of this world amazing, but I really enjoyed it; it was sweet and touching, as well as being entertaining.

The Good Witch's Wonder (movie):
I think the movies in this series are great, and this one was no exception. That is all!

Muppets Most Wanted (movie):
This was a pretty good movie, which fans of the Muppets will love. It's exactly what you'd expect from a movie with the Muppets in it: entertaining, and often amusing. Not my favourite Muppet movie, but I did enjoy watching it.

Annie (movie):
This wasn't a bad movie as such, but it's certainly not the best of the Annie movies. I've seen - and loved - both the 1982 and the 1999 versions, and this new one is nowhere near as good.

Tinker Bell And The Legend Of The NeverBeast (movie):
This was an entertaining and sweet movie, with an excellent lesson in it about not being too quick to judge.

Frozen (movie):
I absolutely LOVED this movie! I'm not sure what it was in particular that made me love it as much as I did, but I thought it was an amazing movie, and could have quite happily watched it again immediately after finnishing it the first time. In fact, had I been watching it on DVD instead of on Sky Movies Disney, I might have just hit "play" again the moment it was finnished! Actually, if I'm honest, I've already watched it twice, despite having only seen it for the first time a couple of weeks ago; when I saw it was about to start the other day, I couldn't resist!

The Librarians (TV series):
I've only caught a couple of episodes of this show, but enjoyed what I've seen. Kelly's seen more of it than me, and appears to love it. I can see why. I won't go as far as to say it's one I'd consider a new favourite, but it's worth watching, and I've found the episodes I've seen to be enjoyable and entertaining. There are supposed to be some movies too, but I haven't seen those.

Star Wars Rebels (TV series):
I love Star Wars, so it's no surprise I've enjoyed the episodes I've seen of the new Star Wars animated series. I did enjoy the Clone Wars version more though. Not that there's anything wrong with the Rebels one... I just thought the Clone Wars series was more entertaining. Still, this one is good too, and we're both enjoying it.

Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (TV series):
This one is amusing, and fairly entertaining, but not as good as the other Star Wars cartoons.

Marvels Guardians Of The Galaxy (TV series):
This one is not very good. I haven't seen the movie, but I've watched a couple of episodes of the TV series now, and honestly didn't think much of it. I've seen worse, but I've also seen a lot better. It's one of those I'll watch if there's nothing better on, but I'd never go out of my way to watch it.

Monsters Vs. Aliens (TV series):
I've seen the movie version of this, and loved it. But I don't really think too much of the TV series. It has its moments, but it's nowhere near as good as the movie, and is another one I'd only watch if there's nothing better on, to be honest.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (TV series):
I grew up watching My Little Pony 'n Friends, so when I learned there was a new My Little Pony cartoon, I just had to check it out. Call me a big kid if you like, but I think it's really sweet, and have enjoyed the episodes I've seen. I'm nowhere near as obsessed as I was as a child, since my love of horses is now just a love of them, not an obsession with them. But I'm still enjoying feeling like I'm young again while returning to my childhood love of watching ponies. Besides, I love how they make a point of changing things just slightly to make them horse related. Like when they say "anypony" or "everypony" or how they live in places like "Canterlot."

Our Little Family (TV series):
I like learning about how people with disabilities overcome those issues to function as "normally" - for lack of an alternative word - as possible. I don't know if it's because I have a disability of my own, or if the simple curiosity and nosyness most humans are filled with is the only reason for my interest... Maybe a bit of both? Either way, I started watching this show, and am finding it interesting so far.

Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet (TV series):
I like to watch vet shows... Even if they often make me cry when the outcome for some pets isn't good, or when an animal has gone through a rough ride but things are finally looking up for them. So far this one seems to be a pretty good vet show, and it's nice getting to see a vet caring for more than just cats and dogs.

Loch Lomond: A Year In The Wild (TV documentary):
This is a very interesting documentary; great for animal and nature lovers in general, and especially worth watching if you're someone interested in Scottish wildlife in particular.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Furkid Friday - November 27th 2015

Ummm... Hi everyone. This is skye the rat.

It's been really cold and stormy here, so the humans gave us extra hay to put in our house.

Even more exciting though... They've started wearing those cuddly things called "robes" or "dressing gowns" a lot, and they let us crawl in to the sleeves where we can get all nice and warm, but still have some space to play a little if we like.

We've all tried to grab on to the fabric of those robe things to take some back for snuggly bedding, but the humans are being mean and won't let us for some reason. We think this is incredibly selfish of them. But, I suppose they kind of make up for it by letting us climb inside the robe things, and by giving us nibbles.

Only kind of, mind you!

Squeak soon,
Skye

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Looking ahead to December holidays - part 2

What are you thankful for today?

If you're in America, chances are you're celebrating Thanksgiving today, and don't want to think beyond that. If that's the case, have a very happy Thanksgiving, and feel free to come back and read this tomorrow. If it isn't, then please read on. Mind you, since you're here, you might want to just read on anyway.

Anyway, if you're not already thinking about your prefered December holiday - be it Christmas, the Solstice, or whatever - you're going to need to start doing so soon.

Last week, as you may remember, I told you about Jeanie's first post on this supject, which was about cards and gifts. Now she's done her second, which is all about decorating for the holidays, and which can be found by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday's writing related ramblings - November 25th 2015

The following books of mine are now also available as paperbacks from CreateSpace and Amazon:

Toby's Tales, book 4: Toby's Games
Toby's Tales, book 5: Toby's Special School
Zeena Dragon Fae, book 1: Zeena And The Dryad
Zeena Dragon Fae, book 2: Zeena And The Gryphon

(Click on the book titles to go to their CreateSpace pages).

So, that's 37 of my 42 already published books available as both eBooks and paperbacks; just four older books, and the new degu book, to get the proofs for and make available. Those five will follow as soon as they can be arranged; most likely early next year, due to how close we are to the end of the year now. After that, it will just be a case of arranging the paperback versions of each new book as I publish it.

These 37 books are available as eBooks from Smashwords, Apple iBooks, Barnes &
Noble, Kobo, and a few other eBook retailers that Smashwords distributes to, as well as being available to order as eBooks via many libraries that support e-lending. They are also available as paperbacks via CreateSpace and Amazon, as well as being available to request via bookstores and libraries who order books via CreateSpace.

Well, most of them are. Some of them may not have reached some retailers yet, since it can take a couple of months in some cases. Though they are all most definitely available from the retailers I actually named. But, anyway, they're available in a format that should work for you whether you prefer to read physical books, or have a spacific eReader or reading app you prefer to use.

And the rest will be soon too!

***

If you're a writer too, how's your own writing going?

November is almost over. Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo? If so, how are you doing with that?

For those participating in NaNoWriMo... Is your novel coming along well?

For those participating in PiBoIdMo... Are your ideas still flowing? If not, remember that observations and daydreams can be great for inspiring ideas. Not to mention, random comments that others consider strange, are normal for a writer, and can also be great inspiration for stories. Despite being blind, I know for a fact I've had that "yes, dear," look a lot... You don't always need to be able to see in order to know someone is giving you funny looks... Just saying!

***

Regardless of the software you use, if you're a writer too, make sure you take the time to learn to understand the tools of your trade... Especially if you're new to using your chosen software. After all, knowing the basics of how your software works wil help a lot with both editing and formatting.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Battle Abbey - part 2

OK, here are the rest of the photos my Dad took at Battle Abbey. At least, the rest of the ones I plan to share.

If you missed the post with the first half of these photos in, go here.