Sunday, January 31, 2016

Braille Kindle style eReader in production (R/WP)

My friend, Louise, made me aware recently via Facebook that there's a braille Kindle style eReader in production.

I think it's a great idea, but a shame about the high price tag it will have.

That's right! Once again, technology that would be useful is out of my reach, because of a ridiculously high price tag. *frowns*

I mean, it took a lot of help from my brother, Carl, for me to get JAWS (my screen reader) the first time, and takes some saving to be able to afford the updates (which I don't think we should have to pay for, given that we pay so much for JAWS in the first place, to be honest).

I wish they'd learn that not all blind people can get funding for things like this, and most can't afford the things without help to do so.

When funding is actually given, you only get a certain amount of help to afford equipment, and it's based on what they actually feel you "need" to have (which is rarely everything you do need to do what you want/need to do on a daily basis). After that, you have to pay for it yourself, unless you can get family and friends to help you out.

In fact, I personally get no funding for equipment. Why? Because I'm not in full time education, so they don't have a school to send funding for essential educational equipment to, and being self employed means I don't have an employer for them to send funding to for essential equipment required for me to do my job. Officially with that last one they should consider me the employer, but they decided my disability money should be enough to cover everything.

Guess what? It isn't!

Not when they put such stupidly high price tags on the stuff!

I understand that it costs a lot to produce the technology... I really do! But I wish they'd learn that they'd make their money back easier - and possibly also quicker - if they were to sell the stuff at a price the average blind person can actually afford to pay, rather than a ridiculously high price most can't afford.

So... Like I said... Great idea, but shame about the price tag!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Furkid Friday - January 29th 2016

Hi humans, rats, other rodent types, and anyone else reading this.

This is Star the rat.

When the humans kept playing with the flashy thing last month, I had them take a photo of me. There were other things to get posted first, and my sister and I agreed to let the gerbils post before us because of Bilbo being sick, which is why my photo had to wait until now to get posted. But, at long last, here it is:


Aren't I just the most beautiful ratty you ever saw?

Of course, my sister, Skye, disagrees. But, she would!

If you're wondering, she was sleeping, and that's why there's no photo of her. Besides, she'd rather have cuddles and such than have the flashy thing pointed at her.

Oh, and my gerbil brother, Bilbo, is doing OK. He doesn't seem to be getting his strength and energy back, but he seems happy enough, and isn't sick enough to need medicine any more.

Squeak soon,
Star

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

#Writing Wednesday - January 27th 2016

Degu's Day Out and Snowball The Oddball Kobold are both now also available as paperbacks from CreateSpace and Amazon.

(Click on the book titles for the CreateSpace links).

So, that's two more of my backlist in paperback as well as eBook formats now. Just a couple more to go, and we'll be caught up, and then only need to deal with producing paperbacks as I complete new books.

By the way, I recently discovered that most of the books that I've made available as paperbacks are now available to buy from Barnes & Noble - along with all the eBook versions, which I knew they carried already. The only books that are available as paperbacks from CreateSpace and Amazon that aren't yet available as paperbacks from Barnes & Noble are the two titles mentioned in this post, and that's because it takes a few extra weeks for my paperbacks to become available at Barnes & Noble. But, this means Barnes & Noble now sell most of my books as both paperbacks and eBooks, which is great!

***

If you're a writer too, what kind of writer are you? Or, perhaps I should ask, what kind of writer do you want to be?

Either way, are you a generalist writer, or a specialist writer? The article I just linked to will tell you the pros and cons of both options, as well as helping you to figure out where you fit (if you're not sure).

No matter where you fit though, the most important thing is to be the writer that you are, not the writer other people want you to be.

*~WARNING: that last link contains strong language.

***

Are you upset about bad reviews? Well, try not to be!

These 6 qualities of bad writing are how a reader will determine whether or not they enjoy your book. The problem is, each individual reader will have their own thoughts on which is more important, which means that there is little to no chance your book will please everyone; even best sellers get bad reviews sometimes.

In other words... Bad reviews happen. There's nothing you can do to stop them. All you can do is write the best book you possibly can, and hope your book finds its way in to the hands of the people who will most enjoy it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Of tea traditions and lemon meringue pie (FD)

Are you interested in Chinese culture? Or, are you a lover of all things tea related?

If either of those applies to you, you may find these tea facts from Chinese culture interesting.

***

I made lemon meringue pie for the first time about a week and a half ago.

Well, actually, I should say "we" did, because Kelly helped, since seporating egg whites from the yolks isn't easy at the best of times, and is even more difficult when you can't see what you're doing. But still...

It turned out OK.

I'm not sure if it was just that the lemony stuff was too warm when we put the egg whites on top of it, or that my Dad's marmalade was too runny to be a good lemony stuff substitute, or both. Either way, the meringue sort of sunk down in to the lemony stuff, which meant that the meringue part wasn't quite right, didn't sit on top of the lemony stuff like it's meant to do, and wouldn't set properly.

I'm 99% sure it was something to do with the part where we added the meringue on top of the lemony stuff, anyway, since the bowl of egg white mixture seemed to be doing OK before that. Plus, some parts of the meringue that escaped being mixed with the lemony stuff did what they were meant to, and were looking like meringue should.

If you're wondering... The lemony stuff was warm because we cooked it a bit more to thicken it slightly, since my Dad's marmalade isn't as thick as most marmalade or jam... It's more of a fruit preserve kind of thing. Cooking it a bit more did help to thicken it up, but there was too much heat in it when we put the meringue on top, I think.

I don't usually cheat with the fruity part of a pie/tart by using jam or marmalade. I just had a jar of my Dad's marmalade left, wanted to use it, and fancied lemon meringue pie. So, I thought I'd cheat and use it. After all, it works for jam tarts, doesn't it?

Like I said, I don't usually cheat with it, but I have done it for jam tarts once or twice before, and it worked fine. But then, when I was doing the jam tarts, I didn't need to add anything on top of them, and could just leave them to cool enough to be eaten without you being burned by hot jam.

Anyway, it turned out pretty good for a first attempt, which is what it was, since neither of us had attempted anything with meringues before.

Plus, it tasted good... Not fantastic, but pretty good... It just wasn't going to be winning any prizes... Especially not any for presentation.

But, like I said, it tasted good, so I was happy enough with it, and enjoyed eating it, which is the most important thing, right?

It probably wasn't the best idea to experiment with my first attempt at making something. But, never mind.

Next time we won't cheat on the lemony part by using a jar of my Dad's marmalade. Hopefully then we'll do a better job of making lemon meringue pie. In the meantime, at least we can say we tried!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Furkid Friday - January 22nd 2016 (FD)

Hellooo everyone!

This is Baggins the gerbil.

My brother, Bilbo, got sick. So the humans took him away somewhere, and he came back smelling funny. I helped him get to smelling right again though... I gave him a good grooming session, and then buried him in sawdust. He smelled just fine again after that.

The humans kept taking him out of our cage to squirt things in his mouth. He didn't like that much, but said the sugar water they gave him tasted good, and that the sugar water combined with the cuddle time in the Mummy human's warm hands made it almost worthwhile... Almost!

Anyway, he got better, though he still slept a lot more than he used to, which I think is weird, and he didn't play with me as much as he did before he got sick. But he did at least do something more than curl up in a ball feeling miserable for a while, which I was glad about.

Also, while he was really sick, the humans couldn't get him to eat more than a few mouthfuls of something. One day, for example, he only ate half a pumpkin seed all day, and that was with a lot of coaxing. But then he started to eat, and sometimes even went up to the food bowl for his nibbles... Even if he did often run out of energy by the time he got to the bowl, and ended up taking a nap in the bowl.

Our degu brothers and I were really worried about him. I kept stopping my playing and digging to check on him, and our degu brother, Jacob, spent most of the time Bilbo was sick sat where he usually sits to talk to Bilbo, just staring in to our cage. One or more of our other degu brothers were often with him too. But Jacob was there almost constantly; he literally only left to take a short nap a couple of times a day, or run to his food bowl for a nibble (which he'd bring back to eat where he could watch for Bilbo).

We were all very pleased when Bilbo was well enough to do more than curl up feeling miserable, and Jacob was super happy when Bilbo found the energy to go and say "hi" when he started feeling better.

Except... This only lasted a few days, and then Bilbo got sick again, the humans started squirting stuff in to his mouth to try to make him better, and Jacob was back on watch.

It did help him a little. But my brother is very weak, and doesn't play like he used to any more. He does take himself for nibbles and water, but he doesn't do very much more than that, and he has to take it slow; it takes him ages to do anything these days, and he has to rest a lot.

I still love him though... Even if he doesn't play and dig with me like he used to.

Squeak soon,
Baggins

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

#Writing Wednesday - January 20th 2016

If you're an author, have you ever thought of doing a Skype visit with schools or libraries? Or, if you're a teacher or librarian, have you thought of inviting an author to do so?

Well, here are some tips to help you make your Skype visit fun and successful, and 9 tips to give a great podcast interview.

If you don't have Skype, worry not; there are also other ways to do it. You can use a regular phone to call someone who has Skype, for example, or use other types of similar software.

At this moment in time, I don't have Skype, personally, but I once did an interview by calling someone's Skype number with my phone, and - just so you know - would be happy to do so again... You just have to ask.

I'm also happy to do text interviews on blogs and such... Just so you know. Like I said: you just have to ask.

***

Here's a post containing some advice for authors, which is worth reading.

I also read a post recently about the 10 things that red-flag a newbie novelist. Now there's not exactly anything wrong with doing any of these in your writing... As it does actually say in the post... But if you can find a way to avoid doing some of them, or at least make sure you've put your own spin on them, it might help.

Always remember: it's important to remember that there's a difference between how you should write if you're writing fiction, and how you should write if you're writing non-fiction. In other words, whether or not you should show or tell depends on whether you write articles or other types of non-fiction, or write fiction. That's something all writers should remember if you want the reader to get the most out of your work.

Another thing that's very important is editing; whether you plan to self-publish, or intent to submit your manuscript to a traditional publisher. If you submit to a traditional publisher, you need your manuscript to look good enough that they'll see its potential. If you self-publish, you need your work to be edited well enough that your readers will be able to focus on enjoying your book (not to mention, be more willing to try other books of yours, and recommend you to their friends or family members). In other words, editing well is good marketing for you and your work. Also, bear in mind, this doesn't just apply to your actual book... You should also do all you can to catch every single editing mistake, and each little sneaky typo, in book descriptions, promotional posts, any letters or e-mails you send to anyone promoting yourself and your books, etc. After all, how can you expect people to be confident that your book is properly edited, if its description isn't?

If you do plan to go through a publisher, you may want to read this post on when authors should be suspicious first.

Regardless of your publishing method of choice, you'll need to figure out who your target readers are. So, here are some tips for finding your target reader.

Last, but by no means least, here's a list of the top 50 sites for indie and self-published authors.

Monday, January 18, 2016

TV talk and movie mutterings - January 2016 (LBE)

We got a new TV at the start of the month.

It's not a big one, nor anything fancy, but the speakers of our old one were making popping and crackling noises (understandable, really, since we'd had the old TV for close to eleven years, and it had moved house and been in dusty rooms a lot during that time, which made me surprised it was still working). So, anyway, we thought it was time to get a new one. Besides, the Sky people gave us a pre-paid card that could only be used in certain places as a welcome gift, and one of those places was where we'd seen a decent TV for not much more than the amount on the card, which meant we only had a small amount to add to the price of the TV ourselves.

Like I said, our new TV isn't anything fancy, but it's actually a modern TV, and it's new, and doesn't make popping and crackling noises at us, so we're pleased with it. We had an interesting time trying to figure out how to work it in the first place mind you, but we got there in the end, and have been able to enjoy it ever since.

On the subject of TV related things... Here's another post full of new to me movies and TV shows. Some of these are actually the non-holiday related ones I watched last month, which is partly responsible for there being so many to post about already this month; hence my deciding to post this now, instead of waiting a couple more weeks.

Well, that was part of the reason. I also decided to post this now so as to include the information that Alan Rickman died... For the benifit of those who may have missed hearing about it. There are probably very few - if any - who haven't heard, but you never know.

Regardless of whether you knew already, or only know because I just told you, I'm sure you'll agree that it's sad news. I'm also certain that your thoughts are, like my own, with his loved ones at this time.

*Clears throat* Ahem... Anyway...

As with the similar posts from the past couple of months, 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.

Yes, I know I watch a lot of cartoons and kids movies... Don't judge me! I write for children, so checking out what's already available for them technically counts as research. Yes, it really does! What do you mean you're not buying that excuse? It's a perfectly valid one, and I'm sticking with it... So there!

Anyway...

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (movie):
Since I loved the first one, I was very eager to watch this one, and hoped it would be as good. It was!

Winnie The Pooh (movie):
This was a cute movie, which fans of Winnie The Pooh, and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood, will enjoy.

Tinker Bell And The Pirate Fairy (movie):
This was a great movie for fairy fans of all ages, as well as being an excellent addition to the Tinker Bell series of movies.

Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (movie):
This was a pretty good movie, with some very entertaining scenes. A great one to watch as a family.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water (movie):
This is an entertaining movie, which has all the comedy and crazy antics from your average SpongeBob episode, in one long movie... In other words, fans of the SpongeBob TV series will love this one!

The Theory Of Everything (movie):
I find Stephen Hawking to be a very interesting man, with a brilliant mind, and always enjoy hearing his theories on how things in the universe work. So I was eager to get a glimpse in to some of his life through this movie. I was not disappointed; it was a fantastic and very interesting movie.

Cinderella (movie):
This was another I'd been wanting to see for a while. I love fairy tale re-tellings, after all. As it happened, this was a really good one, with some fantastic - and sometimes amusing - scenes in it. I really enjoyed it.

Teacher's Pet (movie):
I thought the TV series for this was sort of entertaining when I saw it before... Not fantastic, but entertaining enough... So when I saw the movie about to start, I decided to watch it. Well, it was an "OK" movie, but the TV series was better. This isn't one I'd be in any hurry to recommend.

Dino Time (movie):
I love dinosaurs, so I was excited to see another dinosaur movie I could watch. As it turned out, it was a cute and entertaining movie. Not the best movie I've seen recently... Despite the dinosaurs... But an enjoyable and fun movie.

The Ant Bully (movie):
This was a great movie, with a wonderful message about how being bigger than someone doesn't make you better than them, nor give you the right to bully them.

The Book Of Life (movie):
Honestly? I didn't really enjoy this movie. It had some pretty good scenes, but overall I didn't feel it was all that great; for a movie so full of action, and scenes of violence, I felt it was actually quite dull.

Fungus The Bogeyman (TV mini series):
This one was sort of amusing... Though in a disgusting sort of way. I seriously advise against eating while watching this show, by the way, unless you have an extremely strong stomach. However, I could deal with that... I mean, I'd sort of expected it from what I'd heard about the show before watching it, and what else would you expect from a show about a bogeyman called Fungus? It was a bit more disgusting than I'd expected though. Also, it wasn't the best of shows. Not because of the grossness factor. No. My main issue with it was actually that it felt like they were more interested in having enough material to fill a certain amount of time than in making the plot move at a good pace; the plot moves too slowly, which made it difficult for me to stay interested in the show. Slow plots can work sometimes, but it didn't work this time... They'd have been better off cutting the runtime in half to keep things moving better.

Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles (web and TV special series):
This is a very entertaining - and often extremely amusing - Star Wars series, which is my favourite of the TV serieses I've seen for Star Wars so far. It's a must see for all Star Wars fans, in my opinion.

CSI: Cyber (TV series):
This one is far from being my favourite of the CSI TV serieses. Still, it is an interesting show.

Elementary (TV series):
I'm not sure how I feel about this series. On the one hand, a new and modern take on Sherlock Holmes is great, and I do like seeing new twists to things. On the other hand, it feels wrong having Sherlock Holmes amid modern technology. So, part of me is enjoying the series, while another part of me is struggling to accept Sherlock Holmes in a more modern setting. Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty good series. I think I'd be able to enjoy it more if I wasn't so used to the old Sherlock Holmes though.

Babar And The Adventures Of Badou (TV series):
I always loved to watch Babar when I was younger... Well, OK... I admit it... I also love to watch it now that I'm all grown up too, if I happen to see re-runs of it on TV. So, of course, when I saw there was a new Babar TV series, I had to see if it was any good. Anyway, it's really good, though not as good as the original. I'm not just saying this because of fond memories of the original either... The original really is better. However, having said that, as I already mentioned... The new one is really good too. To summorize: it's not as good as the original, but Babar fans may still really enjoy it.

Tip The Mouse (TV series):
I was originally only watching this one because it was on before ponies. I've discovered that it's a really cute cartoon though, and fun to watch. Tip is a cute little mouse, and I think the lessons he learns are great ones.

Harry And His Bucket Full of dinosaurs (TV series):
I love dinosaurs... Especially Triceratopses... So had to watch this one. It turns out it's a fun little cartoon series, which is entertaining, and sometimes also educational. There's not been that much learning about the dinosaurs in the episodes I've seen so far, which is a bit of a shame, but little Harry has learned some other lessons and skills, which is almost as good, and just as important. Plus, did I mention the show has dinosaurs in it? I did? Well... I really do love the dinosaurs...

Finding Bigfoot (TV series):
If you have any interest at all in the legend of Bigfoot, then this is a series you should be watching. It's an interesting series.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Furkid Friday: Bilbo health report

Hi everyone. This is Bilbo the gerbil.

I get tired very easy now, so I'm going to make this as short as I can.

I started to not feel too great the day after mine and Baggins' birthday; I was tired, and didn't feel like doing much. The following day I was worse, and had gunked up eyes and nose, as well as feeling really awful. So the human caretakers took me to see the vet.

That was not fun at all! Not only did I get pulled about by the vet, but I also had to have two rides in one of those taxi things. I hated the ride in it when we moved here at the start of last year, and having to ride in a noisy taxi when I was feeling so bad was pure torture!

Anyway, the vet gave them something called "aunty biotics" and showed my human caretakers how to clear the gunk from my eyes and nose properly without hurting me (since we gerbils are easily hurt by you giant humans). Then we came home, and I spent a couple of days with the human caretakers squirting nasty tasting medicine stuff in to my mouth (which I didn't like) as well as squirting sugar water in to my mouth (which I loved). Apparently the sugar water was because I wasn't getting enough fluids where I was too weak to make the trip to the water bottle.

I was glad when the nasty tasting medicine stuff stopped, but wish they'd continued with the sugar water, since it was very tasty. They stopped doing it when I managed to get strong enough to go to the water bottle and food bowl myself though... Pitty!

Anyway, I'm doing better than I was, but I still get tired very easy, get confused sometimes, and prefer to sleep more than anything else. The vet says that's probably my age though, since I am two now, after all!

Squeak soon,
Bilbo

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Important announcement for those following my blog via a Blogger account

Supposedly there was an e-mail sent out about this, but I never got it. First I heard about it was when I saw other people posting about it. However, I thought I should make sure everyone knew, so I went looking for the information.

The following is taken from a post on the "blogger buzz" blog that comes up on the Blogger dashboard:

In 2011, we announced the retirement of Google Friend Connect for all non-Blogger sites. We made an exception for Blogger to give readers an easy way to follow blogs using a variety of accounts. Yet over time, we’ve seen that most people sign into Friend Connect with a Google Account. So, in an effort to streamline, in the next few weeks we’ll be making some changes that will eventually require readers to have a Google Account to sign into Friend Connect and follow blogs.

As part of this plan, starting the week of January 11, we’ll remove the ability for people with Twitter, Yahoo, Orkut or other OpenId providers to sign in to Google Friend Connect and follow blogs. At the same time, we’ll remove non-Google Account profiles so you may see a decrease in your blog follower count.

We encourage you to tell affected readers (perhaps via a blog post), that if they use a non-Google Account to follow your blog, they need to sign up for a Google Account, and re-follow your blog. With a Google Account, they’ll get blogs added to their Reading List, making it easier for them to see the latest posts and activity of the blogs they follow.

We know how important followers are to all bloggers, but we believe this change will improve the experience for both you and your readers.

Personally, I think they should have left things alone, since people should be allowed to follow blogs how they choose to. But, it's not up to me.

If this change makes it difficult for you to follow me as normal, please bear in mind that my blog feed can also be accessed via Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Plus, there's a "follow by e-mail" option somewhere on the sidebar, so you can use that if you like.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

#Writing Wednesday - January 13th 2016

We're almost two weeks in to the new year, so it's time to return to normal routines. In fact, you probably should have done so a couple of days ago, if not before. It's also time for me to return to doing the normal Wednesday posts.

With that in mind, here are 10 habits of highly effective writers, and a few words of advice from an author who's been publishing for more than three years now, which will help you to get started on your writing journey, and - I hope - motivate you as you start working towards your writing goals for the year.

OK, so... Perhaps , like me, you tend to write shorter stories in general? Or, perhaps, you just want to try your hand at writing short stories? Either way, here are some tips for writing short stories to help you out.

Speaking of trying something new in your writing... Are you thinking of trying to write in multiple genres? If so, here's what you need to know before you do.

But, whatever you write, and however long it is, here's how to ask the right questions to keep people reading.

Hey, have you ever thought of using the zodiac signs to inspire character development? It's a great idea, if you ask me.

Oh, and... If you're wondering... This is how to get your book on a bookstore shelf when you're self published.

Finally, always remember... the "Aha" and "Hmmm" moments are both equally important. So, if you're currently dealing with a "Hmmm" moment, don't let it get you down; you can work through it to the next "Aha" moment, because that's what writers do!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Of dolls, resolutions, storms, and birthdays

I don't do new year's resolutions.

The first year I was allowed to stay up to see in the new year, my brother, Carl, told me about how people generally made new year's resolutions. I'd just turned nine at the time, and he'd just turned ten. After explaining what a new year's resolution was to me, he asked me if I was going to make one.

"I'm going to resolve to do better at doing what Mami and Dadi say, when they actually say to do it," I replied.

"That's silly," he said. "You're supposed to make important resolutions, like being more healthy and that kind of thing."

"If I can't make the one I want to make, I'm not making a resolution at all," I vowed.

So, here's a question for you: since I don't make newyear's resolutions, have I kept that resolution I made at the age of nine for more than 20 years? Or does the very fact I made it mean I broke it the moment I made it?

Either way, I haven't made one since.

Sure, I've had some goals I've set for things I want to achieve by a certain point in the year, or things I'd like to have happen that year. But not once have I made an actual resolution on new year's eve.

Other than my writing and reading goals - which I already told you about in other posts during this past week, so won't repeat here - I don't really have any goals for this year though.

How about you? Did you make a new year's resolution this year? Or, a list of life changes, or goals for the year?

We're nearly two weeks in to the year now, so... If you did... How are you doing so far? Have you kept to the resolution? are you managing to take the steps you need in order to make the life changes stick, or reach your goals for the year?

***

I finnished the doll I was making around Christmas. So, here she is:


I brought a little hand held sock loom to try and make some knitted socks for myself, but I couldn't work it. It was too tricky to do without being able to see what I was doing, and all I achieved was a lot of frustration and a tangled piece of wool. So, I decided that wasn't for me, and am going to use the wool I have in some other way.

***

The weather continues to be extremely stormy, but no more snow has shown up.

I'm a bit disappointed by the lack of snow, since I really do love snow. But at least the storms are great to listen to, and you should hear and see the ocean... It's been really rough!

In fact, here are a couple of photos of it, so you can at least see it. This wasn't one of the worst times either... Just an idea of an average view of the ocean in the past couple of months...



***

It was my Auntie Lizzie (Grandma's sister)'s birthday on January 6th, and my Nan (Dad's Mother)'s birthday on January 8th.

Nan certainly won't read this, though there's a small chance Auntie Lizzie might. But I'm going to say it to them both anyway... Happy belated birthday wishes to you, Auntie Lizzie, and Nan!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bookish babbling: looking back at 2015, and ahead to 2016

After how amazed you were when reading my post about the 50 things reading challenge last week, I feel I should warn you to be prepared... If the contents of that post amazed you, this one will do so even more. So, read on, and do believe your eyes.

Ready?

My Goodreads 2015 reading goal was originally to read 150 books, and then I increased it to 200 books around April.

As it happened, I reached the 200 goal in August of 2015, and actually ended up reading more than 300... I read 344 books.

Yes, you did read that number correctly!

That's without the books I re-read, which I sometimes do with favourites in general, and often do with audiobooks, since I like to have an audiobook on when I go to sleep, and my collection of eBooks is considerably larger than my collection of audiobooks, so I often run out of new audiobooks to listen to. I never count re-reads on my reading challenges and reading goals though.

Anyway, if you want to see the full list of the books I read during last year, and find out how I rated each one, check out my list of books read in 2015 on Goodreads.

You can also see my year in books, and see the stats like how many pages I read total, and how short and long the shortest and longest books I read in 2015 were.

Now it's time to set this year's reading goal.

Despite having read nearly 150 books more than my goal for last year, I'm still going to stick with a goal of around 200 books for my 2016 Goodreads reading challenge; I'm going with a goal of 216 books this year. I'm doing this because I prefer to keep the goals doable, and potentially beat them by a large number, rather than be stressing over having not reached the goal as I'm nearing the end of the year.

Since I read more than 300 books in 2015, and around 290 in both 2013 and 2014, it's an achievable number for me, while still allowing for potential periods of less reading time for any reason during the coming year.

I'm hoping to make a large number of those books ones I've had on my to read list for some time; especially those I've had copies of as eBooks for absolutely ages, but have left sat on my Kindle waiting to be read, while other books took my attention. I won't be exclusively reading books I've had for ages, of course, but I'd like to make a decent dent in that pile, and have those books make up the bulk of the books I read in 2016. A reading challenge I've signed up for on one of the groups I'm a member of over on Goodreads should help with that, since the whole point of the challenge is to read books you've had on your to read list for more than three months. The challenge only runs until March 31st, but I'm planning to continue doing it - but without checking in to post the titles I'm reading - after the challenge officially ends, so as to get through some of those books that have been so patiently waiting for their turn to be read.

I'm also going to be doing the A-Z book title reading challenge, which is to read a book with a title that starts with each letter of the alphabet. They do this one every year, and the challenge always runs from January 1st to December 31st.

So, how many books did you read in 2015? And how many do you hope to read in 2016?

Don't worry if yours is a much smaller number than mine. Most people I know don't even read close to 200 books in a year. That's absolutely fine though. It doesn't really matter how many books you read in a year, as long as you get some pleasure from reading the ones you do read.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Furkid Friday - January 8th 2016 (FD)

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

This is Jacob the degu.

My gerbil brothers had one of those birthday things two days ago. They are now two years old. The human caretakers gave them a new gnawing block and some Cheerios for their birthday.

At first the rest of us complained that they were getting things and we weren't, which we didn't think was fair - birthday or not. But then we realized that the human caretakers planned to give us some Cheerios too, which made us feel better, because we got included.

My degu brothers and I will be having our turn for one of those birthday things in a couple of months time. We're going to be three years old. I wonder what the human caretakers will get for us?

Squeak soon,
Jacob

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Gerbil pals turn 2

Today is the 2nd birthday of our gerbils, Bilbo and Baggins.

I know... Goes by so quickly, doesn't it?

Anyway, I just thought I'd do a quick post to say...

Happy 2nd birthday, gerbil pals!

#Writing Wednesday: A quick look ahead at 2016

I wanted to give you a glimpse in to my plans for the coming year when it comes to my writing. The trouble is, I don't plan too far ahead when it comes to my writing projects - or anything else, to be honest - so all I can tell you for certain about the coming year is that, at some point during 2016, I plan to do the following:

*Finnish and publish both "Zeena And The Mermaid" and "Zeena And The Phoenix" (books three and four in the "Zeena Dragon Fae" series respectively).
*Get the last few books already published as eBooks out in paperback, and arrange for new books to be made available as paperbacks as soon as possible after the eBook releases.
*Publish a new poetry collection.
*At least start writing some of the stories I have ideas for, and publish them as they're ready.

That's as much as I can give you, since exactly what gets published, and when, will depend on what gets written, and when it's ready. So I can't really say what will be written and published in 2016 at the moment... Apart from the rest of the "Zeena Dragon Fae" series, and the poetry book I mentioned, but I can't even give you guaranteed exact planned publication dates for those at this moment in time.

Right now, the third Zeena book is in the re-writing and editing stages, I've got almost enough poems to consider it enough for a collection, the fourth Zeena book is just scribbled ideas I plan to start working on in the next couple of weeks, a story about a rabbit I hope to have done in time for Easter has had its first draft written, and the proofs for two of the books from the backlist of books already published as eBooks that need to be made in to paperbacks are on the way to me.

Beyond that... I have a long list of ideas - some more detailed than others - and just need to get the stories written down.

Please bear in mind though, that it sounds much simpler put like that than it really is... I love to write, but there is actually a lot of work involved in turning an idea in to a story people will "hopefully" enjoy reading. Mostly it doesn't feel like work to me. Sometimes, however, it can feel like more work than it is. Especially if things like SAD set in; which is actually more common than you might think. So, if you're one of those people struggling to feel motivated this Winter, check out these 7 ways to beat the Winter writing blues.

Plus, there's the cover design and creation to arrange with whichever of my cover artists is working on it. Not to mention the rather fiddly - and often frustrating - job of sorting the covers for the paperback versions of my books. All this stuff takes time, and sometimes it can take more time than we originally thought it would, which is why I won't give publication dates out until the last minute, and why I can't tell you exactly what will be achieved this year.

I hope this post gives you some idea of what I hope to achieve with my writing in 2016 though.

Monday, January 04, 2016

The 2015 50 things reading challenge

One of the groups I'm a member of over on Goodreads had a challenge where you had to read books for 50 things.

I put a *~pass~* on a couple of them, because I couldn't complete them for obvious reasons - or, the reasons should be obvious when you see which ones I did it on. Other than that, if I haven't listed a book for that one, it means I ran out of time to find a book for it. Mind you, there are two I'd have really struggled to find books for anyway, since I don't count re-reads, and I always finnish books I start. Well, there was one I didn't once... Because I had to give it back to the person I'd borrowed it from before I was done with it... But it bothered me so much I ended up buying a copy and reading it a few years ago, and since then I've always made sure to finnish books I start.

Anyway, here are the ones I read:

1) A book with more than 500 pages
American Gods (American Gods, #1) by Neil Gaiman

2) A classic Romance
The Professor by Charlotte Brontë

3) A book that became a movie
The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2) by Rick Riordan

4) A book published this year
The Revelation of Louisa May by Michaela MacColl

5) A book with a number in the title
One Thousand Lollipops by Emma Laybourn

6) A book written by someone under 30
The Silver Shawl (Mrs. Meade Mysteries #1) by Elisabeth Grace Foley

7) A book with non-human characters
The Haunted Circus (Astro's Adventures, #9) by Susan Day

8) A funny book
The Butterfly That Lost A Spot by Rosemary J. Peel

9) A book by a female author
Fledgling (Afterlife, #1) by Katrina Cope

10) A mystery or a thriller
The Secret Room of Kaatu Temple by Susan Srikant

11) A book with a one-word title
Anne by Carmen Stevens

12) A book of short stories
Clarence. The Snake from Dunolly by Susan Day

13) A book set in a different country
The Shiny House by Trevor Mountney

14) A non-fiction book
Emotion Amplifiers by Angela Ackerman

15) A popular authors first book
The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett

16) A book from an author that you love but have not read yet
Warlords of Llantatis by Dominic Green

17) A book a friend recommended
The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1) by Marie Lu

18) A Pulitzer prize-winning book

19) A book based on a true story

20) A book at the bottom of your to-read list
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1) by Rick Riordan

21) A book your mum loves
Firebird (Potters Series, #1) by Iris Gower

22) A book that scares you
The Z Chronicles by Samuel Peralta, Hugh Howey, Jennifer Foehner Wells, David Adams, Christopher Boore, Angela Cavanaugh, Peter Cawdron, Ann Christy, Stacy Ericson, Deirdre Gould, Kris Holt, Theresa Kay, Lesley Smith, Will Swardstrom, & Geoffrey Wakeling

23) A book more than a 100 years old
Lady Susan by Jane Austen

24) A book you read based entirely on its cover
*~pass~*

25) A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t
A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

26) A memoir

27) A book you can finish in one day
Claudia and Mean Janine (The Baby-Sitters Club, #7) by Ann M. Martin

28) A book with antonyms in the title
White Witch, Black Curse (The Hollows, #7) by Kim Harrison

29) A book set somewhere you always wanted to visit

30) A book that came out the year you were born
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (Hitchhiker's Guide, #4) by Douglas Adams

31) A book with bad reviews

32) A trilogy
Emily Of New Moon (Emily Of New Moon, #1) by L. M. Montgomery
Emily Climbs (Emily Of New Moon, #2) by L. M. Montgomery
Emily's Quest (Emily Of New Moon, #3) by L. M. Montgomery

33) A book from your childhood

34) A book with a love triangle
Villette by Charlotte Brontë

35) A book set in the future
Star Minds Next Generation by Barbara G. Tarn

36) A book set in high school
Southern Fried Wiccan by S.P. Sipal

37) A book with a colour in the title
The White Princess (The Cousins' War, #5) by Philippa Gregory

38) A book that made you cry
Kristy and the Snobs (The Baby-Sitters Club, #11) by Ann M. Martin

39) A book with magic
The Outlaw Demon Wails (The Hollows, #6) by Kim Harrison

40) A graphic novel
*~pass~*

41) A book by an author you have never read before
Revan (Star Wars The Old Republic, #1) by Drew Karpyshyn

42) A book you own but never read
The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #3) by Rick Riordan

43) A book that takes place in your hometown
Dream Catcher (Potters Series, #2) by Iris Gower

44) A book that was originally written in another language
Chronicles of the Nocturnal Forest (Stories of the Fairy of my Dreams, #1) by Vanessa Kings

45) A book set during Christmas
The Christmas Mouse by Susan Day

46) A book written by an author with your same initials

47) A play
The House of Atreus by Aeschylus

48) A banned book
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

49) A book based on or turned into a T.V show
Charlie And Lola: I Will Be Especially Very Careful by Lauren Child

50) A book you started but never finished

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Celebrating the holidays 2015 (FD and LBE)

OK, I told you about the rodent gang's Christmas on Friday. Now it's time for you to hear about mine.

We kicked off our holiday celebrations this year by watching the Frost Fair parade.

Then, on the same day we went back to the aquarium, we were lucky enough to catch a performance in the shopping center in town by some of the local children. I love listening to children singing - whether they're in tune and doing a good job, or not - so we stopped to listen for a bit. As it happened, these kids were doing a fantastic job; it was obvious they'd put a lot of effort in to getting ready for their performance, since they sang beautifully together, and were all in tune and everything.

Anyway...

We used to put up our holiday decorations on December 1st, but I broke from tradition last year, since I was missing Kero too much (he always got so excited when the decorations went up). So we changed it to doing it near to the Winter Solstice instead. This year, we put up our holiday decorations on Friday December 18th.

I've not been feeling too great lately, and we've always prefered the quieter celebrations anyway. So, I spent most of the time leading up to Christmas Day watching holiday movies and TV shows; sometimes by myself, sometimes with Kelly. We watched some non-holiday related movies and TV shows too, but I decided I'll tell you about those later this month.

So that we did something to celebrate the Winter Solstice - since we didn't want it going by completely ignored, but weren't feeling up to doing anything much - we ordered pizza and cheesy garlic bread on the 21st, and added a desert as a special treat. I'd never ever had ice-cream cake, so that's what we had. I'm not a big chocolate cake fan, but they only did a chocolate version at the pizza place, so we grabbed it anyway. It was pretty good, though we're both pretty sure I'd have liked the vanilla version more. Kelly didn't mind though, since he loves both ice-cream cake and chocolate cake, so he was more than happy to be the one to eat most of it. He ended up eating most of the pizza too, which I'm also positive he didn't mind, since he absolutely adores pizza. The menu wasn't the best plan given my issues with having too much dairy, but I enjoyed what I ate of it, so... *shrugs*

Hey, it was the holidays. I'm sure there's an unwritten law somewhere that clearly states you should eat too much of things you know are bad for you around the holidays. *wink*

On Christmas Eve we did most of the preparations for what we were having for dinner, and then did the final preparations and the cooking of it all on Christmas Day. There were roast potatoes, roasted parsnips, carrots, sprouts, my homemade holiday stuffing (which is cranberry and herb stuffing, if you're interested) and cranberry sauce. Plus, I had a butternut squash and sweet potato mash as my meat substitute. I'd planned to make it a bit more Christmasy by adding cloves to it, but discovered too late we were out, so I added a little ginger instead (since it was the only Christmasy thing I had in the herbs and spices cupboard that I felt worked for a savory dish; all the other stuff I had in there that I considered to be Christmasy were things like cinnamon and nutmeg).

The rest of Christmas Eve was spent watching movies while drinking cocoa from one of my Christmas mugs. I have two Christmas mugs. One is the only one left of a pair we got with pictures of toys and holiday ornaments on them when I spent the Christmas before we got married in Canada, and the other is one with a tactile reindeer on it. I was using the toys one. I don't have a photo of it though, so those who are curious about what it looks like will just have to stay curious, or try to imagine it... Think old fashioned toys like toy soldiers and rocking horses, and a couple of candy canes and baubles.

Anyway, we spoke to family and friends at various points over the holidays, and exchanged cards with many of them too. Here are some photos of the Christmas cards we've gotten this year:


I happen to know we have at least one more on the way, which didn't make it in time for Christmas, nor in time to be included in this post. I'll post photos of it - and any other late cards we may get - in one of my "random ramblings" posts.

As for gifts...

I had chocolates and sweets, of course, as well as some Scottish shortbread in this cute Scottie dog shaped tin...


I also had a boxset containing seasons one to eight of "The Big Bang Theory" on DVD, a great Beatrix Potter audio CD collection that's 23 disks, and in a really cute tin...


Plus modeling clay, scented candles, a few baking supplies, bandaids with cute pictures on them (since I'm always cutting myself on something, so my Dad figured at least if I'm covered in bandaids they'll look cute this way, which I thought was funny) and a stuffed animal keyring of Twilight Sparkle from the new My Little Pony cartoon...



Twilight Sparkle is my favourite of the ponies from the new My Little Pony show.

Then there was my deer...


He's actually a Brown Deer, not a Reindeer, but I'm calling him Prancer anyway. For one thing, I got him from my brother, Carl, and both of us love the holiday movie "Prancer" and always have, so it seems appropriate. For another thing, in the movie, Prancer has trouble with his leg, and because of how he was put in his wrapping, so did this deer when I first tried to stand him up. So, the name felt appropriate.

I had some cash too, which - knowing me - will probably end up spent on books.

Anyway, a huge thank you to everyone who sent us cards and/or gifts, or even just took a few moments to wish us happy holidays in any shape or form... Whether it was "Happy holidays" or "Merry Christmas" or even "Blessed Yule" or something else entirely that you said. I hope you had a blessed and merry whatever you celebrated too! :)

No, I didn't get my snow for Christmas. Plenty of great storms to listen to, which was nice. But no snow. The Winter isn't over yet though, so there's still hope for more than that light dusting before Spring. And if not... Well, the little we got was still more than last year, and it's better than nothing.

Anyway...

We didn't do much to see in the new year... We never bother to do so... But I did have a one-off Ponyfinder game on the afternoon of new year's eve with my Dad, my brother Carl, and Carl's girlfriend Tory. Which I suppose you could count as doing something special for the new year. Either way, it was something I'd been eagerly looking forward to since we decided at the end of November we'd be doing it. Tory doesn't usually roleplay with us, but since she's even more obsessed with ponies than I am, she was eager to join in with this session. It was great fun too!

I also had cake... Lemon cheesecake to be exact. Plus, I made a spinach and vegetable quiche for dinner on new year's day.

And that, in a nutshell, was how I spent the holidays this year.

Well, actually, it was in a blog post, not in a nutshell, if you want to be technical. *Wink*

Friday, January 01, 2016

Furkid Friday: a very rodent Christmas 2015 (FD)

Hi humans, rodent types, and anyone else reading this. This is Jenks the degu.

Well... That Santa Paws may be too sneaky for us to catch, but I tell you what... He sure delivers! Look at all the great nibbles he left for me, my degu brothers, our gerbil brothers, and our ratty sisters:


Here are close up shots of some of the stuff:


Obviously that's all of our stuff put together, and some of it's for us degus, some of it's for our gerbil brothers, and some of it's for our ratty sisters. It's a great haul though, don't you think?

My ratty sister, Star, certainly liked the cranberry tree treat Santa Paws left for my ratty sisters to share...


...So did Skye, when Star let her have some of it. There's no photo of her though - either with or without a treat - since she was feeling shy that day, and hid whenever the flashy thing was pointed in the direction of the rat cage, which isn't all that unusual for Skye, who has always been a shy little rat.

Anyway, we degus loved our carrot and dandelion treats so much we wouldn't let the human caretakers take the time to hang them up on the sides of our cage, but instead just grabbed them and started munching...


...Lucky Santa Paws left four of those things. Does that guy know us, or what? Since we insisted on grabbing a treat each, the humans had to remove the plastic clips from the top of them when we'd let go of the treats for long enough, since we wouldn't let them be used to hang the treats up, and the humans didn't want to risk us eating them.

Yes, I know there are four degus, but only two photographed here... Two of us were hiding with our nibbles, and wouldn't come out while the flashy thing was around. We weren't the only ones...

Our gerbil brothers loved their berry drop treats too, but were reluctant to be seen eating them in a photo. In fact, Baggins didn't even want a photo taken of him. Bilbo was willing to allow Christmas photos to be taken of him, just not ones where he was obviously enjoying a nibble... Even if he wasn't far from the food bowl...


In short, we rodents loved our nibbles from Santa Paws, and all agree that he's welcome to come again whenever he wants. He doesn't even need to wait until next Christmas... Really!

Squeak soon,
Jenks