Wednesday, May 31, 2017

#Writing Wednesday - May 31st 2017

I'll kick today's post off with this list of seven essential skills you need to become a writer. If you're a writer, do you have all of those?

Do you write fantasy stories? If so, you may want to check out these tips for putting weapons in fantasy.

Regardless of what genre you write in though, beware of the curse of the backstory.

Finally, here are some tips on how mindfulness can be applied to writing, and how it can be useful in battling writers' block.

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 2017 #TV Talk And #Movie Mutterings

It's time to take a look at what I watched in May.

As with the previous posts like this one, just click on the titles to go to a page where you can find out more details about the movie or TV show in question; the title links will usually take you to a page on IMDB.

Don't forget: I watch things across multiple genres, as well as for different age ranges, so you should always check before viewing to make certain something is suitable for the intended audience, especially when children are involved. IMDB will usually provide this information for you, but you'll have to look elsewhere if you can't find it on the page I link to.

OK... On to the reviews!

Rogue One (2016 movie):
I really enjoy the Star Wars movies, so was excited to see this one. I wasn't disappointed. I mean, it wasn't a mind-blowingly-amazing movie or anything, but it was really good. Not my favourite of the Star Wars movies, but not my least favourite of them either. Kelly seemed to feel the same way, and I've had similar comments from some friends I know have seen it. Anyway, I give it four out of five stars.

Suicide Squad (2016 movie):
I'm not sure if I would have bothered to watch this one if Kelly hadn't got himself the DVD. I'm glad I watched it though, because it was a very good movie: action-packed, and often quite entertaining. It isn't a new favourite or anything, but I really enjoyed it, and think most people who enjoy superhero movies, or action movies in general, will enjoy this one. Kelly absolutely loved it, and would give it the full five stars, I think. Personally, however, I give this movie four out of five stars.

Captain America: Civil War (2016 movie):
I know I wouldn't have watched this one if Kelly didn't get the DVD. Plus, I thought as I started watching it about the fact I hadn't seen the other Captain America movies. Never mind. Anyway, it wasn't too bad of a movie, but it wasn't great either. I thought at first it was me... Maybe even at least partially because I hadn't seen the previous movies... But Kelly felt the same way. It felt like they just threw all the elements together that they needed in order to move the story from point A to point B, with no consideration for how well it was done. Others may disagree, but that was how we felt about it. Anyway, I give this movie three out of five stars.

It's Me Or The Dog (2005 TV series):
Despite how long this show has apparently been running, it's only recently I discovered it. Regardless, I find it to be an interesting series, and would recommend it to anyone who has a dog, or plans to get one in the future, since you'll get excellent training tips, which really do appear to work very well. I give this series five out of five stars.

I also watched more of the episodes of NCIS I'm trying to catch up on. Of course, Mollie and Maizie are glad I'm doing so, since they're huge NCIS fans, even though I'm told they shouldn't be. I read somewhere recently that chinchillas are meant to prefer quiet and soothing things. I don't have a link to the article, but it said something about how chinchillas needed the kind of thing you could put on for a toddler, and have a good chance the toddler in question would fall asleep to it. Yeah... I think someone forgot to tell Mollie and Maizie about that rule.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 2017 #Vegetarian Friendly #Food Themed Thoughts (FD)

Earlier this month, Kelly and I went out for a meal with our friends Lorna and Andy (the friends who took us to see and fetch Lilie) to a nearby pub-style restaurant. It's called "The Crown" and is along the seafront near the old part of town. Anyway, it's a really nice place. The staff is friendly, there are several vegetarian friendly options on the menu, and the food is absolutely delicious. Several places around here now have water bowls near their doors for use for dogs, since dogs are allowed to be with you if you're sitting outside. This place goes one step further though, and is one of the few places around here where dogs are actually allowed inside, so it gets bonus points from me for being so animal friendly. Lorna and Andy said they've been there several times now, and I can see why. I'd certainly be happy to go there again, that's for sure!

We started by sharing some fresh bread, as well as some veggies and twice-baked chips (fries) with things to dip them in... In my case tomato ketchup and a humus dip they make themselves. Then it was on to the main course, which I can't remember the full details of. I know mine involved asparagus, kaƱiwa (which, if you don't know, is a fine grain that's a relative of quinoa) as well as a couple of other bits of chopped veggie, a slice of freshly toasted bread, and eggs though. Plus I had some more of those twice-baked chips to go with it, because I just couldn't resist. My dessert was churros - which, for the benifit of anyone who doesn't know, is a kind of Mexican dessert that I think sort of tastes similar to a sugary doughnut - with rhubarb compot and custard. Like I said, it was very tasty, and I'd happily go there again.

Meanwhile, at home...

A few weeks ago, I tried out a recipe I'd found for asparagus-mushroom melts. It sounded like a perfect recipe for me, because I love mushrooms, think cheese on toast is great, and was looking for some different ways to use asparagus. Well, it was; it was very tasty, and I really enjoyed it. A little tip though: if you're having it for dinner, rather than just as a lunch, you want to have something else with it, because it's perfect for a light lunch, but I don't really feel it's filling enough to be a dinner on its own. I tried the same mixture in a tortilla wrap (instead of on toast) another day though, and found it to be a little more filling that way. Just something to bear in mind.

The veggie quiche I made recently with asparagus as one of the veggies was plenty filling enough. It contained asparagus, spring onions, and mushrooms. I was really glad I'd made enough to freeze some for another time. Actually, I do that a lot with things like quiche. Mind you, since I'm mainly cooking for one, due to me being the only vegetarian in the house, there are several times when I end up with leftovers to freeze for another time. It's easy to just make the amount you need for one person with some things, but other things are just easier to make in bigger batches. It's no big deal though. In fact, I like having leftovers to freeze, because it means a potential quick meal for me in the future, without me needing to resort to grabbing take-away, which is a good thing for many different reasons.

Another quick recipe I tried recently was this one for loaded avocado quesadillas. It was nice, but I still prefer cheese to avocados. Like I said though, it was nice; it was a nice change, and a good quick meal option.


Sally has recently been sharing some great cook from scratch recipes on her blog, which you might want to check out.

Also, don't forget: you can find more recipes - most of them vegetarian friendly, and some even vegan friendly - on my website's recipe section, as well as in previous "Food Themed Thoughts" posts.

Friday, May 26, 2017

#Furkid Friday: Maizie The #Chinchilla On Keeping Your #Pets Cool This #Summer

Hi everyone. This is Maizie the chinchilla.

The warmer weather is starting to happen more often, so I wanted to take a moment to remind you that your furry and feathered family members need you to think about them in the heat. Some of the scaled ones do too. At the very least we - and by "we" I mean all animals, be they furry, feathered, or scaled - need a shady spot to rest in, and plenty of water to keep us hydrated, especially in the heat of Summer.

For some animals, however, this is not enough. Chinchillas, for example, have fur that is so thick we can't tolerate higher temperatures at all. For us it's even more important to take steps to make sure to keep us cool.

In short, regardless of the species of your family members, it's important that you do what you can to stop them becoming too hot, and watch for any potential signs that you aren't managing to keep them cool enough. If you don't, you risk them becoming very ill, and possibly even dying, which I'm sure you don't want.

If you're not sure what to look for, or are concerned for any reason, you should contact your vet immediately.

Just bear that in mind, OK?

Squeak soon,

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#Writing Wednesday - May 24th 2017

I managed to get "How To Trust Your Human" finished and pre-released via Smashwords during this past week. I do have the files to do the paperback version too, but for some reason I can never get CreateSpace to let me pre-release books, even though I'm told it's meant to be possible (it keeps insisting any date more than 24 hours in the future is invalid). Yes, I could use a different release date, I suppose. But I like having the dates match. At least I have the files ready though, so I can "hopefully" get the paperback version sorted quickly after the release date. The official release date is July 3rd 2017, which not only gives plenty of time for it to be available for pre-order via retailers like Barnes & Noble and iBooks, but also gives me plenty of time to organize all the promotional stuff that goes up around the release date, in between my attempts at sorting other projects while training my new puppy, Lilie. Or, perhaps I should say, "being trained by my new puppy, Lilie." *wink*

As I said, I will, of course, be working on other projects while Lilie and I are training each other, like the adventure story I've been slowly working on all year, for example. I'll talk about those more another time though. In the meantime, here are a couple of writing related links for you. I only have a couple this week, but hope you find them interesting.


"Beta readers: who are they and what do they do?" Whether you're a reader or an author, if you've found yourself asking that question, you should read the post I just linked to.

If you're a writer, don't give up hope that someone will choose you. That post is aimed more at those who plan to take the traditional publishing route, I think. But the message about not giving up hope when your dreams take a long time to be realized is an important one for all writers, not to mention everyone who has a dream that has yet to be realized. Also, here's an important message for those of you who are writing to get rich. Remember: Having lots of money isn't the only way to be rich.

Monday, May 22, 2017

14th Wedding Anniversary

Today is my 14th wedding anniversary.

How did that happen?

It doesn't seem like it's been that long. But since it's now 2017, and I got married in 2003, It obviously has been that long.

I say this often, but I'm not sure how Kelly's put up with me for all these years. I'd have gotten sick of me years ago, but he's still here. Not that I'm complaining, of course.

Anyway, we rarely do much to celebrate our anniversary. We do something to acknowledge it, of course, but we don't make the big fuss a lot of people do. We don't feel the need to do so. We show each other in little ways all year that we love each other, so we don't feel the need to do something spectacular to prove it when our anniversary rolls around.

I'm glad to be able to say I'm celebrating being married to Kelly for 14 years though, and hope I get the chance to still be celebrating our life together in another 14 years... At least!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A #Dog Themed Announcement

The title sort of gives it away, but I'll say it anyway: We're getting a puppy!

I'm not sure how we came to start discussing the idea of getting another dog - though I'd wanted another dog for some time when we finally ended up discussing it - but we decided back in November that we wanted another dog. But first we needed to get the work done around here. It's now about as done as it's going to get. I mean, all the stuff is unpacked and organized, and the workmen aren't needing to be in and out of our place all the time. If we wait for there to never be any work to get done, we'll never end up getting a dog though, so we've decided the time is now.

I didn't mention our plans before - though it was one of the things I was thinking about when I said at the start of this year that there were plans for this year that would take up a little more of my time - because I was going to make the announcement as soon as I could give you proper details, and had a date for when we'd be bringing the dog in question home. In a sense, this is what I'm doing now. Although, it's rather closer to the date to bring her home than I expected it to be, since it turned out she became officially mine less than a week before she was ready to leave her Mother and siblings, I'd only spoken to the breeder the day before, and all this was only officially arranged last week (though I've been bringing dog supplies home every so often for months now). But, anyway...

I'm calling her Lilie (pronounced like "Lily" but spelled L-I-L-I-E instead) and she's coming home on Tuesday May 23rd 2017. She's a West Highland White Terrier - like Kero was - and I got to meet and cuddle her this past Tuesday.

Here's a photo of my first cuddle with Lilie:

She appears to be a real cuddler, which is just fine by me! Also, I think she already likes me, since she cuddled with me like that the whole time we were there, and protested to being taken from me when it was time for us to leave. Actually, if I could have done so, I'd have taken her home immediately, but she was a few days away from reaching eight weeks at that point, so it wouldn't have been right to do so.

Anyway, I also briefly cuddled her brother (she has a sister too, but I didn't cuddle her) and met her Mother. The Mama dog (Dixie) is a sweetheart, and the woman we met with when we went to see the pups last week seems to be a very nice woman, who clearly loves Dixie, and obviously cares where the pups end up, since she insisted on seeing us interact with the dogs before she would agree to let us have one of the puppies.

Before anyone says anything: Yes. I considered adopting an older dog instead of getting a puppy. In fact, I almost adopted a three year old that was "some kind of terrier" earlier in the year. I also considered getting a different breed. But I ultimately decided I wanted a Westie puppy. So, that's what I'm getting.

Like I said, we're picking Lilie up on Tuesday. Our friends, Lorna and Andy, are generously providing transport to us. They took us to see Lilie last week, and are taking us to bring her home. I'm really grateful to them, since we don't have a car ourselves, and transporting Lilie by train and taxi would have been quite an ordeal for her. Plus, would have meant I'd have needed to miss out on being with her on the journey home, since guiding me while dealing with a most likely scared and confused puppy would have turned the thing in to quite an ordeal for Kelly too (and it wouldn't have been much fun for me either). This way we get a pleasant car ride, and everyone can focus on being relaxed and happy while we bring our new baby home.

When I came home, smelling of dog, I let Mollie and Maizie (chinchillas) and then Joshua (degu) check out my hands. I wasn't too concerned about Joshua, since he's met dogs before, but I wasn't sure how the girls would react. I was right about Joshua; Joshua didn't seem to notice - or care - that my hands smelled differently (I guess he's learned to trust me enough over these past months that just the fact it was my hand was good enough for him). Mollie and Maizie were a bit more interested, and gave my hands a good sniff, but were ultimately more concerned by the fact the hand initially didn't contain food than what I smelled of. I'm hoping they remain as unconcerned when Lilie comes home.

Anyhow, I'll tell you more about Lilie in a couple of weeks, and should have more photos to show you then too. I certainly plan to have more photos, anyway. I've already warned her she's going to have to get used to the camera. *wink*

Oh, by the way... Kelly saw this interesting-looking house on the way to go see Lilie, so made sure to be ready with the camera on the way back to get a photo for me to show it to anyone who may be interested. So, here it is:

Friday, May 19, 2017

#Furkid Friday: "Wait! Did She Just Say #Dog?"

Hi everyone. This is Mollie the chinchilla.

The human caretakers are up to no good again. I should have known! I mean, things had calmed down around here. Sure, there are still plenty of noises from humans working outside. But things have been quiet inside, and the human caretakers had been behaving themselves. Like I said, I should have known that meant they were up to something.

They've brought some new stuff lately. We stopped paying much attention, since they weren't even willing to share the wood they brought... They just stacked stuff on it. It's like they don't even know how good wood is to chew! Humans!

Anyway, as I said, we stopped paying proper attention. Or, my chinchilla sister, Maizie, and I did. Our degu brother, Joshua, on the other hand, seemed more interested. He especially seemed interested in certain items, which he told us afterwards looked suspiciously like the kinds of things human caretakers provide for dogs.

If that wasn't enough, we heard the human caretakers talking about dogs a lot recently. I mean, we thought we'd heard the human caretakers say something about a dog a few times over the past couple of months. But nothing seemed to be happening, so we thought we'd imagined it. But now we know they're talking about a dog. Plus, as I said, Joshua is pretty convinced they've brought some dog stuff.

We think they might be planning to get one. Either that, or one is coming for a visit. We aren't too sure which.

Joshua, who says he's met several dogs in the past, doesn't seem concerned either way. Maizie and I, on the other hand, aren't sure how we feel about this. We don't know much about dogs, and haven't actually met any, so we don't know if Joshua's right not to be bothered, or if we should be worried.

Is there a dog coming? Is Joshua just acting tough, or does he really know enough about dogs that we can trust him on this?

I just don't know!

Squeak soon,

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

#Writing Wednesday - May 17th 2017

Great news! The paperback version of "Catching Snowflakes And Other Poems" is now available from CreateSpace and Amazon, and will soon be available from a couple of other retailers too, such as Barnes & Noble, for example. Click on the book's title to go to the book's page on CreateSpace.

Plus, I now have a cover for the story that was inspired by my degu, Joshua, and the story itself is now in the editing phase, so I "should" be announcing a release date for that one in the near future. The title for it is "How To Trust Your Human" and I'm hoping for a late June or early July release.

After that I'm planning to go back to working on my pirate adventure story, which I had planned to be releasing this Summer, but know I won't be releasing then after all, since it's nowhere near ready at the moment. I'm hoping to have it done in time to release it towards the end of this year instead, but not making any promises at this point, just in case. I mean, it shouldn't be a problem to have it done by the end of the year, but... Well, you never know, do you?


If you write too, how's it going? Are you making good progress with your current writing project? Or, have you been sitting there, trying - and failing - to get words down on paper (or screen) for who knows how long? If it's the latter, try these ways to warm up the writing muscles, or these ways to recover from writing burnout, or these key strategies on pushing back your mental brick wall, and hopefully one of the tips in those posts will soon have those words flowing properly again. Also, don't forget this belief, that might also be a writing trick: "All stories are about people, even if they aren't people."

Monday, May 15, 2017

#Fantasy #Book - Legends of Windemere: Ritual of the Lost Lamb by @cyallowitz

Dark times are waiting for the champions in

[caption id="attachment_19966" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Cover Art by Jason Pedersen[/caption]

Death is a blessing that the Baron is not ready to bestow upon his new toy.

In the chaos surrounding the Spirit Well, Luke Callindor has disappeared and the only clue the psychic scream of agony that Dariana cannot ignore. Knowing that a journey to Shayd will result in their ultimate battle, the champions have devised another way to rescue their friend. With permission from the gods, Nyx has begun the Ritual of the Lost Lamb. It is a long and exhausting spell, which is made even more difficult by a new threat that is out to make all of the Baron’s enemies suffer.

It is a race against time where every minute lost brings Luke Callindor one step closer to a fate worse than oblivion.

Grab it on Amazon!

Add it to your Goodreads ‘To Read’ List!

Excerpt: Audience Granted

Having said her piece, Nyx gnaws on a hunk of jerky and sips at a waterskin while the others discuss her idea. She refuses to admit that she is having second thoughts about breaking a god seal even with permission. The last time she accomplished such a feat was by accident and resulted in her magic being sealed for days. Nyx shudders at the memory of feeling so many lives ending at her hands and takes a sloppy drink of leathery water to steady her nerves. The result is a full body convulsion of disgust and a hacking cough as the liquid goes down her windpipe. Flicking a green beetle off her shoulder, the channeler impatiently paces in a circle and wonders why the others are taking so long.

The hairs on the back of Nyx’s neck rise and her arms become covered in goosebumps as a pulse of energy ripples through the clearing. She is about to ask her friends if they feel anything, but stops when she sees that they are frozen in time. The half-elf’s heart pounds in her chest as she fears that the Baron is about to attack. More terror seeps into her mind when she expects to turn around and find Luke’s tortured body dangling before her eyes. Not wanting to be caught by surprise, a flaming disc appears in her palm and hums as she searches for the source of the powerful spell. The snap of a twig to her left causes Nyx to hurl the fiery circle, which splits into a swarm of deadly copies that would destroy any normal enemy. Against the ebony platemail of Gabriel, the discs puff into balls of harmless smoke that remain hovering in place.

“Your friends have agreed to your idea,” the Destiny God states, ignoring the mortal’s amusing attack. He removes his black cape, which becomes a vague chair for the nervously bowing channeler. “Now, this is unique. In fact, it is quite unheard of, which is why I am granting you an audience. The Law of Influence says I cannot get involved, but nobody has ever asked for permission to do something like this. Needless to say, all of us are very curious to see how all of this plays out.”

“I want to unseal the Ritual of the Lost Lamb,” Nyx politely requests while she takes a seat on the cape. An enchanting warmth rises from the cloth and she nearly falls asleep from the blissful energy that infects her body. “This is the only way to save Luke without marching into the Baron’s territory. We both know that is what he wants. With the forbidden ritual, I can gather my little brother’s residual energy and bring him home. None of us will be at risk since it’s a combination of a summoning and teleportation spell.”

“Strange that you know about a spell designed by channelers. Especially since it has not been used since the ancient Race War,” Gabriel says with a nod of his head. Urging voices in the back of his head causes the god to hum with his mouth closed, the spell jolting the sources of his rising irritation. “The Ritual of the Lost Lamb was taken from mortals before my time, but I understand the reason it made the gods worry. Such a thing could be the first step into summoning a deity against his or her will. Possibly even stealing immortality. Though I believe times have changed and we should reconsider the sealing.”

“Time is also running out,” the channeler replies, shying away when the powerful deity stares at her. A flickering realization that the Baron’s power might be on the same level of Gabriel gives her the courage to meet the man’s piercing eyes. “I apologize for sounding like I’m rushing you. Yet, it has been said that the gods and goddesses have no concept of time since you exist forever. That means I have to push even though I want to speak with respect.”

“In other words, you want a decision now.”

“That would be best, sir.”

“Sadly, I cannot agree to your terms.”

“I haven’t made any terms.”


Need to catch Legends of Windemere from the beginning? Then click on the covers below!

You can start for FREE . . .

[caption id="attachment_17422" align="aligncenter" width="202"] Cover art by Jason Pedersen[/caption]

Or grab the $4.99 ‘3 in 1’ bundles!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen 3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen


Also Available in Single eBooks:

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

[caption id="attachment_16988" align="alignleft" width="200"] Cover Art by Jason Pedersen[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_18052" align="alignright" width="200"] Cover Art by Jason Pedersen[/caption]

Interested in a new adventure? Then grab your Kindle & dive back into the world of Windemere! Don’t forget an apple for Fizzle.

Author PhotoAbout the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Late Birthday Post For My Hubby (FD)

I forgot to mention the other day that it was Kelly's birthday at the start of May. So, a belated happy birthday to him.

Also, a belated happy birthday to anyone else who I didn't say it to.

Back to Kelly's birthday though, since I have some photos of his birthday cards to show you. Here they are:

We didn't do much to celebrate, because he didn't want to. We just ordered pizza (because that was what he wanted) and had some cake (because you have to have cake). He seems to have enjoyed his birthday though, which is all that matters.

Friday, May 12, 2017

#Furkid Friday: New #Photos Of Joshua The #Degu (FD)

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

The human caretakers were playing with that flashy thing of theirs again, so I have two new photos to share with you.

Here I am on my wheel:

And here I am taking a Shreddie - which is one of my absolute favourite kinds of cereal - from the Mummy human:

The human caretakers were trying to get a shot where both me and the Mummy human were holding the Shreddie at the same time. I was too quick for them though. I like to grab my nibble and run off to eat it in peace. So this was the best they could get.

Anyway, both of the above photos were taken at the start of this month, in case you want to know when they were from.

I hope you enjoyed them.

Squeak soon,

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

#Writing Wednesday - May 10th 2017

Are you an author who is on Goodreads? Then check out these six ways for self-published authors to use Goodreads to network. I haven't tried all of them yet, but I can tell you for a fact that I have found a couple of readers via Goodreads. Also, if you find the right group, interacting with fellow readers on there can be fun. Although, if you're anything like me, it can also cause the list of books you want to read to grow rather long, due to all the excellent books you hear about. But that's sort of the point, isn't it?


Here's an interesting post that discusses what the inciting moment of your story is, and why you should care. Plus, here's another interesting post that discusses The “Sweet 16” First Lines of Your Manuscript. In other words, the elements needed to make your first page one that will get the reader interested enough to want to read on.

When it comes to your plot, coincidences are sometimes fine. On the other hand, an obviously contrived plot is not. So, with that in mind, here are six ways to identify a contrived plot.

When it comes to your characters, you want to make them believable. So, to help you out in that area, here's a great post that discusses the top five character pitfalls, and how to avoid them. Also, here are three ways to write a character you hate, in case that's something you find yourself struggling with.

If you already have all that covered though, and have reached the editing phase with your book, here's a post with advice on How To Proofread Like A Professional.

Now it's time to move on to writing your book's blurb, with some useful tips on how you can generate more book sales with a keyword-powered book blurb.

Lastly, I'll leave you with this advice on creating the time and space you need to write your best work.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Counting #Sheep, Or #Dragons, Or Whatever

Counting sheep is a mental exercise used in some cultures as a means of putting oneself to sleep.

In most depictions of the activity, the practitioner envisions an endless series of identical white sheep jumping over a fence, while counting them as they do so. The idea, presumably, is to induce boredom while occupying the mind with something simple, repetitive, and rhythmic, all of which are known to help humans sleep.

Although the practice is largely a stereotype, and rarely used as a solution for insomnia, it has been so commonly referenced by cartoons, comic strips, and other mass media, that it has become deeply engrained into popular culture's notion of sleep. The term "counting sheep" has entered the English language as an idiomatic term for insomnia. Sheep themselves have become associated with sleep, or lack thereof.

The effectiveness of the method may depend upon the mental power required. An experiment conducted by researchers at Oxford University, though not involving livestock as the object of visualization, found that subjects who imagined "a beach or a waterfall" were forced to expend more mental energy, and fell asleep faster, than those asked to "simply distract from thoughts, worries and concerns."

~From Wikipedia

I'm sure you're all familiar with the term, and how counting sheep works. But I grabbed the above information for the benifit of anyone who isn't, since I've learned not to assume that all popular cultural references are as well-known in other countries as they are in the one I know them from, if you know what I mean.


I've not mentioned it much in recent months, but, as anyone who's been reading my blog for a long time will know, I often have trouble sleeping. I've tried all the tricks that are meant to help you sleep, and have found that the repetitive mental exercises like counting sheep actually do work sometimes. At least, if the cause of my insomnia that night is just too much going on in my head. It's sort of like how focus on your breathing helps you get started when it comes to meditation.

Except, one night back in January, the sheep started bleating at me as they jumped, and it was getting on my nerves.

So I tried counting other things, and ended up counting dragons.

Apparently it's true that it's the repetitive exercise rather than the sheep, since I tried other things too, with similar results; some nights it works wonderfully, other times it doesn't. There appeared to be no pattern as to which things I counted would or wouldn't work; as long as I could imagine identical ones jumping, flying, walking, or floating by - depending what was appropriate for the creature, or object, in question - it seemed to be fine.

So, I just thought I'd let you know, in case you don't like sheep, or your sheep start annoying you with their bleating too, that you can count whatever you like when trying to sleep... Sheep, dragons, or whatever. There's no guarantee it will work, of course, but at least you now know for sure that you aren't limited to counting sheep, so can add some variety in to your counting exercises.

Also, meditating, or doing something else potentially relaxing, shortly before you try to sleep, can often help if you have trouble sleeping too. Again, it's not guaranteed, but it's worth trying.

Actually, as you probably already know, when it comes to things that are meant to help you sleep, they all work sometimes, but aren't guaranteed. After all, if they worked every time, nobody would suffer from insomnia, would they?

Of course, the big question now is... What do sheep count to get to sleep?

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Just Catching You Up On Day To Day Life - May 2017 Edition (LBE)

(The above photos were taken on April 18th 2017, and show a view of the ocean from our two living room windows on one of the many nice days we've had recently; the windows are on the same wall, so the view isn't all that different from each of them).

We've had a lot of nice weather lately. It hasn't all been beautiful weather... There have been some storms... But it's been sunny a lot, though not hot. But we haven't been able to get out and enjoy it much, because things here have been... Well, I suppose the best word for them is eventful.

So, what's been going on around here?


The landlords finally got a repair guy who not only showed up to do the job, but also actually did some work while he was here. This was a great improvement on their old guys, who either didn't show up, or didn't do much when they did show up. So, the new repair guy replaced the flooring in our place that had been damaged when we had that issue with the bathroom flooding over a year ago (yep, the landlords have been battling with repair guys for that long). He also replastered the bathroom wall, which was damaged during the flooding too. We were really pleased with it, and thinking he was almost done in the bathroom, so would be able to move on to dealing with other issues. We weren't alone in that thinking... He was thinking the same thing. I mean, all he hasn't done in there that he was meant to do is paint over where he had to do the plastering. Well, there's the matter of the radiator I think should have at least some of its pipes replaced, but nobody seems in any hurry to deal with that, since they seem to think there's no need to do anything while it works just fine, so I don't suppose I can count that.

But, anyway... Then the cracks in the ceiling of the hallway below our bathroom appeared again, and bits of ceiling fell down.

Yes, you did read that right... Some of the ceiling in the hallway downstairs fell down.

Of course, as is often the case, it decided the middle of the night was a good time to do it. We weren't all that surprised, since we'd noticed the cracks a couple of days before, and made the repair guys and landlords aware of them, and the repair guys were actually supposed to come take a look a couple of days later. But still...

Um... You may have noticed my use of the word "again" just now? Well, the thing is, the hallway ceiling fell down before, during the flooding incident that meant we needed a new bathroom floor.

At the time it was assumed it was the flooding incident that had caused it, which had been caused by a combination of a flexi-hose bursting due to having been installed wrongly (it had a twist in it, which isn't meant to be the case) and the overflow pipe for our boiler not leading all the way outside as it's meant to. Both issues that have since been dealt with. The hallway ceiling has also since been replaced, and the hallway redecorated. Perhaps it was due to the flooding that the ceiling fell down originally. Yet it was suspected there was some other issue, since signs of damp had been appearing in the hallway again. It was hoped replacing our boiler - which needed replacing anyhow - would solve the issue. apparently not. I mean, replacing our boiler was a good thing from our point of view (this one works better for a start). But judging by the fact the ceiling fell down again a few months after our boiler had been replaced, and water was clearly still dripping from somewhere, that obviously didn't solve whatever was causing the problem.

To cut a long story short, it was then assumed there was a leaky pipe that had been missed during the boiler replacement or something. But when the plumber came to find and fix the pipe in question, there was no sign of any leaky pipe. Water was still running down - the bucket for our mop was, and still is, being employed to catch it, and "hopefully" stop it causing any more damage - but it wasn't coming from any pipe as far as the plumber could see.

The new theory after that (yes, another theory) was that the water was somehow running down the inside of the wall from the roof, though nobody's sure how it's doing so even when there hasn't been rain for several days. So the landlords had guys out to put up scaffolding over the past few days, and will be sending a couple of guys up to check out the roof soon... Probably this coming week. Hopefully they manage to find and fix the problem. If so, it will be just a matter of waiting for things in the hallway to dry out well enough for it to be redecorated (again). Also, we'll be able to have our bucket back. Although, I think I'll give it a wash when I get it back, since the water dripping in to it isn't the cleanest, and I don't fancy mopping our floor using water from a bucket as filthy as ours is becoming. In the meantime, I'm trying not to think about the fact our almost new bucket - which we only got a few months ago - is getting rather filthy, and looking far from new.

Anyhow, once we're certain they've sorted out whatever problem is causing the dripping water, we'll arrange to get our shower sorted. We don't want to do it before the issue is fixed, because getting the shower sorted involves putting more tiles in the bathroom around the bath, and then putting up the shower rail and curtains. We don't want to do that and then find that fixing the problem with the water means they have to be pulled back off for the workmen to access anything behind the wall, or whatever. OK, so if they do have to do that then the landords would pay for it to be redone. But it's a lot less hastle all round if we just wait. The landlords are pretty sure they won't need to do anything in our bathroom, since it looks like the water isn't coming from our bathroom after all. But we're not taking any chances.

The other repair issue the landlords are trying to sort out is the windows. One of them has dropped in its frame, so - though we can open and close it with little to no difficulty - it's lower down than it should be in its frame, and looks as though it might fall out at any moment. We've been assured that it won't do so, but we do worry that it will, especially with how much of a problem that would be given that it would drop a few floors on to a busy street. Another window has shifted in its frame too, but in this case it's a different style of window, so has created a different problem, and won't close properly, though it opens just fine. They did send someone to look at the second window recently, and he cut a piece out of the frame to get it closed. But that didn't actually fix the problem, and we were just back to the same issue the next time we tried to close the window. Not to mention, all the windows either weren't properly sealed when they were put in, or whatever was used to seal them hasn't lasted well while being battered by the storms you so often get in coastal towns, because wind comes in through gaps that shouldn't be there, and brings rain with it sometimes too. Not much of either gets in, but it's still something that needs to be dealt with before it becomes a worse problem. Plus, it's kind of pointless improving our heating system if the heat's just going to be escaping through gaps like that. Anyway, hopefully their new guys will sort the problems out. The new repair guys have started looking in to what they need to do for the windows, so that's a good start. I'm guessing - and hoping - they plan on sorting the windows while they have the scaffolding up. It would make sense, rather than having to put it up again later, since there's no way they're reaching the outside of the windows without it in this building.

For our part, in between trying to fit day to day tasks in around the workmen/repair guys, Kelly and I have been sorting out the shelves and such. We now finally have the last of the shelves sorted, and the boxes of stuff unpacked. OK, so some of the stuff isn't properly organized on the shelves, so we'll need to properly organize those things. But it's all unpacked and on the shelves, and most of it is properly organized. It only took us a little over two years, that's all. Haha! Anyway, part of the reason for the delay in actually organizing the stuff is that I was out of the special tape for my braille label machine, and most of what still needs to be organized is DVDs and audiobooks, which we want to label as we organize them, so I can find the one I want without help. I do now have more tape, since I ordered some recently, so we have started getting them labelled. The thing is though, we're quite behind on doing this task, so there are a LOT to label. Anyway, I'm hoping to have it done by the end of this month, as long as I don't run out of tape before I finish. Mind you, unless they suddenly get a stock shortage of the stuff, it only takes a couple of days to get some new tape, so we may be able to finish by the end of the month even if I need to put the project on hold while waiting for more tape to arrive.

In other news...

While sorting the shelving, we moved things around a bit to take best advantage of available space, so had to buy a new coffee table, because ours didn't fit well where we needed it to go. The new one still has a bit of a gap either side of it, but it's the closest fit we could get, and is at least a better fit for the space than the old one was.

We also grabbed two more fans, since the way we have things arranged now meant we needed them. We don't have air conditioning - most places in this country don't - so we need fans when hot weather hits. Every room has two now, with a third in the living room, because it needs it due to having two South-facing windows at one end (the ones the photos above were taken from) and the kitchen at the other. Plus, the living room is where we have Joshua, Mollie, and Maizie, so two of the fans are positioned so they benifit from them the most (though they do also help to keep that end of the room cooler) with the third set up where we can benifit from it the best while sat either on the sofa or armchair, or if we're sat at the dinner table.

Speaking of preparing for warmer weather - and in the interests of making sure you're totally up to date on what's been going on around here - I needed new Summer pyjamas, because I had to retire most of my old ones last year. I do still have a couple of pairs of good ones, but they're long-sleeved ones, which I get too warm in when the weather starts to warm up. So I brought two new sets with short-sleeved tops. One has a plain black top and black bottoms with butterflies all over them. The other one is a grey set with a rabbit on the top and stars and moons on the bottoms.

Oh, and we thought we'd need to replace our tumble dryer recently. Luckily it turned out the fuse had just blown in the plug. Even more luckily, I know how to change fuses in plugs, so it was only a matter of a few minutes to solve that problem. Annoying, but cheap and easy to fix.

So there you go. Now you're all caught up on what's been going on around here. Not exactly exciting, but certainly eventful, and it's been keeping us busy, that's for sure.

Friday, May 05, 2017

#Furkid Friday: A #Chinchilla's View On So-Called Bad Nights (FD)

Hi everyone! This is Maizie the chinchilla.

The Mummy human tried to sneak off to bed early one night recently, leaving the Daddy human to feed us. She said something about the night before being a bad one, which we don't understand... It seemed like a pretty good night to us. I mean, we'd been up playing for most of it, while she was lying in bed, so we should know best. But she won't listen, insists it was a bad one, and says this bad night made her really tired. Whatever!

Now, personally, though I do like when the Mummy human feeds me, I don't really mind too much who feeds me, as long as I get my nibbles. My degu brother, Joshua, is willing to accept the Daddy human too, though he does seem to trust the Mummy human more, and takes from her best. But my chinchilla sister, Mollie, on the other hand, has a problem with anyone but the Mummy human feeding her, and kicked up a fuss about this change to her routine.

First Mollie refused to take the nibble from the Daddy human, and wouldn't even go near the bowl until he'd walked away from our cage. Then she started up an alarm call, and wouldn't stop until the Mummy human came out to give her attention.

The Mummy human said she might as well have stayed up and fed us in the first place. I say it serves her right for trying to get away with doing something like that. I bet she won't be in such a hurry to do it again any time soon.

Bad night indeed! Lazy human is what I call it!

Squeak soon,

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

#Writing Wednesday - May 3rd 2017

In case you missed Saturday's post... My new poetry book is FINALLY out!

By the way... Thank you to Alex and Kevin for posting about my book's release. Also, thank you to Chris The Story Reading Ape, and anyone else who shared their posts and mine, for helping to spread the word too. Finally, thank you to those who brought the book, or who plan to do so in the near future.

OK... So... "Catching Snowflakes And Other Poems" is out a few weeks later than planned, but I just about got it published before the end of April, so at least I managed to release it in the month I planned to... Even if it was the end of the month rather than the start of it. Plus, I actually now have a book released this year... YAY!

I have a few poems I didn't include in the collection, because they're spacifically pet themed poems. I'm keeping those aside to put together another pet themed poetry collection at some point in the future. Exactly when that happens will depend when I have enough poems to make it worth publishing. Right now, I don't.

I'm still working on my pirate adventure story. Progress on it is slow though. Part of this is due to having several other things going on, and part of it is because I got side-tracked with a story about a degu, which was inspired by our remaining degu, Joshua, is coming along very well, and will end up being published first, despite having been started after the other story. It wasn't intentional, it just popped in to my head, and ended up being written first. Now it's worked out that the degu story is almost finished, while the pirate story is a long way from being done, so I figure I might as well start sorting things so that the degu story can be published as soon as it's ready. Then I'll return to working on the pirate story.


If you're writing a story of your own, don't forget to add tension to your story. It may make your characters hate you, but it will make your readers love you, which is what you want. On that note, here are seven ways to hurt a hero, which may help to inspire you. Also, if it's young adult fiction you write, here are some tips for writing a YA novel.

Oh, and today is my blog's 11th anniversary. So, happy bloggerversary to me!

Monday, May 01, 2017

Tori's April 2017 #Book #Reviews

It's time to take a look at what I read in April.

As with the previous posts like this one, if you want to know more about the book, or the author, click on whichever it is you want to learn more about, and it will take you to the appropriate page on Goodreads. Clicking on my rating should take you to my actual Goodreads review for the book in question.

Don't forget: the format I've reviewed may not be the format I read. Also, please remember that I read across multiple genres and age ranges, so you should always check if a book is suitable for the intended reader, especially when children are involved. Sometimes reading the book's description on its Goodreads page will be enough for this, but other times you may need to check elsewhere to figure out the genre and/or recommended reading level.

OK... On to the reviews!

Little Town on the Prairie  (Little House, #7)Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Not my favourite of the series, but still an enjoyable and fascinating read.

These Happy Golden Years (Little House, #8)These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another fantastic and fascinating addition to the series, which was enjoyable and entertaining, as well as being beautifully written.

The First Four Years  (Little House, #9)The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I wasn't as impressed with this book as I was with the rest of the series. The story felt rushed, and was missing the poetic imagery present in the words of the earlier books. The introduction mentioned that this book wasn't published by Laura herself, even though the rough manuscript for it was written by her, and it shows.

Fatemarked Origins: Volume I (The Fatemarked Epic, #1.5)Fatemarked Origins: Volume I by David Estes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
An awesome addition to the series, and an interesting look in to the pasts of some of the characters.

Truthmarked (The Fatemarked Epic, #2)Truthmarked by David Estes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
An amazing continuation of this epic adventure, with excellent worldbuilding, a fantastic cast of characters, and a plot that will keep you on your toes.

The Rose and the Mask: A Beauty and the Beast RetellingThe Rose and the Mask: A Beauty and the Beast Retelling by Victoria Leybourne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautifully written and enjoyable take on the Beauty And The Beast story, which I found to be an excellent read. This book will appeal to fans of fairy tale retellings in general, and fans of the Beauty And The Beast story in particular.

Hope Everlasting: A Dystopian Sci-fi Novel (The Variant Saga Book 3)Hope Everlasting: A Dystopian Sci-fi Novel by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm absolutely loving this series! The worldbuilding is amazing, and it has a great cast of characters. Also, the writing itself is great too.

Notes from a Small Dog: Four Legs on TwoNotes from a Small Dog: Four Legs on Two by Sue Vincent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I fell in love with Ani via her blog posts, and fell in love with her all over again while reading this book. This is a well-written - not to mention, often entertaining - read, which anyone who loves dogs will enjoy.

Burning BeliefBurning Belief by D.J. Farrington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book had an interesting plot, but the story was spoiled for me by an irritating cast of characters who spent most of the book insulting and swearing at one another.

Voyages (The Gift, #1)Voyages by Richard Sutton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A steady paced and interesting read, with some great characters and an intriguing plot.