Tuesday, January 31, 2017

R.I.P. Skye

This morning we took our ratty girl, Skye, to the vet. We came home without her.

Her overall health was getting worse: she wasn't as active as she had been, had lost about a third of her body weight (around 100 grams) despite the fact we know she was eating, her fur had lost some of its colouring and she was starting to lose some of it, and her bladder control had become poor. On top of that, she'd damaged her leg recently, and we discovered a lump on her chest over the weekend.

Her lump was a cyst they could have probably removed, which was most likely caused by a hormonal shift; it's a regular thing in female rats of a certain age who haven't been spayed. But her overall poor health and weak state - which mostly seemed to just be age catching up with her - made her chances of surviving the procedure so slim it was decided we'd be better off putting her to sleep. After all, just the stress of the vet taking a small sample of the lump to check out what it was seemed to sap her strength, and I know from personal experience that having to have anasthetic takes a lot out of you when you're at full strength, and is even harder to deal with when you aren't. It hurts to do, but letting her go now saved a lot of stress and suffering for everyone, and was the kindest option. So, that's what we did.

We will miss you, sweet ratty girl.

R.I.P. Skye: August 31st 2014 - January 31st 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

January 2017 #TV Talk And #Movie Mutterings

It's time for this month's new to me movies post, which will contain movies from December too, since not only did I not watch many new to me movies during December... Or January, for that matter... But I had a lot of other stuff I wanted to post about, so I decided to just keep the couple of movies I watched last month to go in a post with this month's new to me movies. I had planned on there being more movies being reviewed, since I'd planned to watch all my new birthday and Christmas DVDs during January, but life happened, and I didn't end up doing what I'd planned to do.

Anyway...

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

OK...

Jingle All The Way 2 (2014 movie/video):
Though it wasn't absolutely amazing, this was a pretty good movie, with several funny scenes; a great one for lovers of holiday themed comedies, in my opinion. I give this movie four out of five stars.

Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever (2014 TV movie):
I thought this would be an entertaining movie. I mean, come on, it's a holiday movie where the star is an animal. But, to be perfectly honest, I thought it was rubbish. OK, there were a couple of entertaining scenes, but that's about all it had going for it. I only watched the whole thing so I could honestly say I'd done so, even though I was tempted to stop watching before I was even a quarter of the way in to the movie. I nearly gave it only one star, but - for the sake of the few scenes that actually were entertaining - I give this movie two out of five stars.

In The Heart Of The Sea (2015 movie):
I've read "Moby Dick" so was interested to see this one. It turned out to be a pretty good movie. Not absolutely amazing, but worth watching, in my opinion. As a warning though, it's not one for the squeemish, or for those with weak stomaches. Consider yourself warned. Anyway, I give this movie four out of five stars.

Stardust (2007 movie):
Now this movie, which I didn't realize at first was based on a book, I haven't read the book for. Although, after watching the movie, I now want to read it. I stumbled upon this movie by accident, having turned the TV on just right to catch a scene or two, which I liked the look of, and made me want to see when it would be on again, so I could watch it from the start. I've actually been meaning to watch this one since Halloween, but took a while to get around to it. I'm glad I did so eventually though, because I thought it was a fantastic movie. It would have made a great one to watch around Halloween, but I enjoyed it well enough when I saw it between Christmas and the new year. There are several scenes that aren't for the squeemish though, just to warn you. I give this movie five out of five stars.

The Last Dragonslayer (2016 TV movie):
I'm torn on this one. On the one hand it was a pretty good movie, with several entertaining scenes, and an interesting plot. On the other hand, they seemed to focus more on the comedy aspect, and less on the fantasy adventure, and I felt like they were so busy trying to be funny that they forgot everything else. I haven't read the book, so I can't say if the book was the same. However, I can tell you that I give this movie three out of five stars.

Ant-Man (2015 movie):
This was a really good movie. It was action-packed, and had several entertaining scenes. It's not one of those amazing movies I'm going to be desperate to watch over and over again, so it won't be making its way in to my list of favourites. But it was really good. I give this movie four out of five stars.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

My Reader Interview On Library Of Erana - #AmReading

I strongly believe that a writer should be a reader first and foremost, and anyone who has been following me for any length of time will know I'm an avid reader. For this reason, I participated in a reader interview over on the blog of fellow author, Alex Butcher, to give everyone a peek in to some of my habits and preferences when it comes to reading.

The interview went live on Alex's blog yesterday. So, if you'd like to read it, just click here.

When you've read my interview, take a look around. Alex has some excellent interviews on her blog - reader and otherwise - as well as other great posts. Plus, if you're a fan of fantasy with an adult theme to it, you may want to check out her books.

Friday, January 27, 2017

#Furkid Friday: Mollie The #Chinchilla On Organization And Home Repairs

Um... Hi everyone. This is Mollie the chinchilla.

The human caretakers have been doing what they call "organizing" a lot lately. Personally, what I call it is "annoying" (not to mention often noisy). I mean, how's a chinchilla supposed to get her beauty sleep in with all that moving things around, back and forth carrying things to various places, and all those bumping and banging noises that go along with it all? Chinchillas are nocturnal creatures... Don't these humans know the meaning of the word nocturnal?

Not to mention, there have been strange humans coming in and out poking around and muttering things that the human caretakers seem to understand, but which make no sense to us rodent types... Something about boilers and heating systems, and something else about windows. I don't understand any of it, personally. All I know is that the humans are making more noise than we like, and me and Maizie wish they'd let us sleep in peace.

A couple of strange humans even walked out with our freezer yesterday! I mean, sure, the human caretakers hadn't been using it for at least a little while. But we couldn't believe it when they just stood there and watched while two other humans walked out carrying it. Whatever next?

The human caretakers say hopefully it will all be sorted soon, and Maizie and I can get back to getting our beauty sleep in each day. But that's not much comfort, especially when they use words like "hopefully" when saying it.

Well, I suppose all we can do for now is put up with it, and cross our paws that it really will be over with soon, and that no strange human visitors walk out of here with anything that belongs to us rodent types. I'm seriously considering biting anyone who tries to do that. I know we're not supposed to bite, but my rodent siblings and I have all agreed that biting would be acceptable if humans start trying to steal our stuff. Consider yourself warned!

Squeak soon,
Mollie

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

#Writing Wednesday - January 25th 2017

If you're an author, or even if you aren't, but are promoting the books of one, when you post any links to Amazon on your blog or social media sites, please try to make sure you're cleaning up your Amazon links.

Speaking of promotion - in particular authors promoting authors - fantasy author, Alex Butcher, has some new promotional opportunities available, which you may want to check out. Some are free, some cost, all are excellent opportunities for marketing/promotion.

Oh, and, by the way, if you're an author who spends time on social media, you should probably read these five mistakes authors make on social media, and avoid making them yourself. I'm pretty sure I don't do those things... Well, some of them I know for sure I don't do, and others I try not to do, and hope I succeed in avoiding doing them...

But... Anyway...

Why does your protagonist matter? Find out by reading the post I just linked to. Don't forget though... Antagonists are people too! Also, regardless of whether we're talking about your protagonist, your antagonist, or one of the supporting characters, if you need to get to know your characters more, you should check out the ultimate character questionaire, and have them reveal all to you as the questions are answered, so you can improve the reading experience of your fans by adding in some extra details to make your characters feel like real people. Oh, and don't forget your minor characters.

Speaking of all those extra details... Are you an underwriter who needs to flesh out your story? If so, here are the perils of being an underwriter, with some tips on how to expand on your story.

No matter what kind of writer you are though, here's a great post from one of the STORYSTORM gang on titlestorming... Just in case you could use some help coming up with a title for your work in progress.

Hey, are you bookclub ready? If so, great! If not, the post I just linked to contains some ideas for if you want to change that. Also, if you aren't, don't feel bad... I don't have bookclub questions/study guides for any of my books yet either. I may consider changing that at some point, but we'll see. In the meantime, any bookclubs out there can feel free to use this list of generic questions as prompts to discuss any of my books.

By the way, if you made some writing goals at the start of the year, and are already struggling to keep them, you may want to take a look at these tips to help you keep your writing resolutions, and these tips for tackling a new year of challenges
. Also, though I don't want to discourage you, please bear in mind the sweat and tears in writing... It takes work to turn a story idea in to a book fit to be read by others, so be prepared for that if you plan on writing a book.

Finally, if you want to write great fiction, stop using the "logical" side of your brain.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Of January 2017 #Snow And #Birthday Wishes

We got snow!


(Above photo taken from our living room window on the evening of January 12th 2017, when we realized the weather reports were actually right - for a change - and it was trying to snow ).

OK, it wasn't much, but it was snow, and that's what counts.

There was enough so I could go down and catch some snowflakes, which Kelly managed to figure out my phone's camera enough - with a little help from me talking him through it - to snap a photo of...


Catching Snowflakes

Hand held out to catch the snow,
While a bitter wind doth blow,
Making falling snowflakes swirl;
See them dance, and spin, and twirl!
There, for just a moment, in your hand,
The most delicate thing in all the land.


© 2017 ~ Victoria Zigler

So, anyway, I was really happy, because catching snowflakes is fun!

There was a bit more snow than you see in the above photos that evening. But we forgot how to work the flash on our regular camera (again) so it only showed darkness when we tried taking photos with it, we haven't got a new camera yet, and the couple of shots above were enough to kill what power was in my iPhone, since TapTapSee and Voiceover combined being on really eats up the battery power quickly (and the battery isn't great any more in general). So you don't get to see the evidence of that, I'm afraid. We really need to get that new camera... *Sigh*

But.. Anyway... YAY for snow!

It snowed a little more the following day. Not much, but enough to say it really was doing so. I didn't get photos though, because I was too busy catching snowflakes, and Kelly was sleeping.

OK, to most of you what we had would be considered a light dusting. I mean, there was only like an inch or so on the 12th, and there wasn't much more added to it on the 13th... Maybe half an inch? Plus, the days before had been all over the place weatherwise, so conditions weren't right for it to stick properly, and it was gone pretty quickly, especially in my immediate area (where the rough ocean and strong wind were combining to scatter salty sea spray over the area, melting the snow before it could come to much). But it snowed!

***

A couple of my online friends celebrated their birthdays around the new year. Those friends are Chris and Sarah, who celebrated their birthdays on December 31st and January 1st respectively.

Also, my Auntie Lizzie celebrated her birthday on January 6th, an online friend named Kevin celebrated his birthday on the same day, my Nan (Dad's Mother) celebrated her birthday on January 8th, and another online friend, Kati, celebrated her birthday yesterday (January 22nd).

So, belated happy birthday wishes go out to Chris, Sarah, Auntie Lizzie, Kevin, Nan, and Kati!

I know there are others, so...

If you celebrated your birthday recently too, or are about to do so, then I'd also like to wish you a very happy birthday. I hope it is - or was - a wonderful one, filled with all your favourite people, and all the good things you deserve.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

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

When I made the pumpkin pasties I mentioned in last November's post, I made more filling than I needed. Of course, then I had to decide what to do with it. Unsure at the time, I simply baked it in a pie dish, and then stuck it in the freezer. To cut a long story short, I ended up using it to make what I'm calling pumpkin filled yorkies, which are yorkshire puddings stuffed with baked pumpkin and cheese. They looked sort of like mini quiches, except with batter instead of pastry. I had them with roast potatoes and mixed cabbage as an unofficial Thanksgiving dinner (unofficial, because we don't actually celebrate it over here, but I had it on the day that was Thanksgiving in America). They were very tasty, if I do say so myself.

I also tried a slightly adapted version of the butternut squash risotto recipe that Deanna posted ages ago. She'd posted an instant pot version of the recipe more recently, and it sounded tasty, but I don't have an instant pot, so I checked out the stovetop version. I left out the wine, because we never have alcahol in the house. Also, the stovetop version doesn't mention garlic, but the instant pot version does, so I added some. Plus, I only used cheddar cheese, and stuck the whole thing in the oven for the cheese to brown a bit before serving. If you haven't tried it, you should do so, whether you use one of Deanna's exact recipes, or my tweaked non-alcaholic version, because it's very tasty. I bet it would work well with other members of the squash family too, including pumpkin.

As I mentioned last week, one of my goals for 2017 is to get out more, and as part of that I'm making a point of going out for breakfast or lunch at least once a week. There are several cafes and things within easy walking distance of where we live. I mean, we live right above one of them. All of them do something that's suitable for vegetarians, though some have more choice than others. Some even have some vegan options available. Anyway, since I'm doing that, I'm also making a point of trying different things they have on their menus - especially when it comes to those places that try very hard to cater for vegetarians (and sometimes also vegans) - instead of having the same thing all the time. The place we live above is especially good for this, since they have a large choice for vegetarians and vegans (as well as several options for people like my hubby, who actually eat meat) and are good about telling you what's in something so you can be certain of what you're eating. Not to mention, their drink selection is excellent too, so I can even mix things up a bit when it comes to that. I won't bother mentioning everything I try, but if I come across something worth mentioning... Like the fresh mint tea from the place downstairs, which is fantastic... Or it's a new place I try, I'll give it a mention.

***

Don't forget, you can find more recipes - vegetarian and otherwise - on my website's recipe section. There are even a few vegan ones on there too. If you're wondering, the reason there are some that aren't vegetarian friendly on there when I'm a vegetarian, is because my hubby isn't one, and says he never will be. It would be great if we were both vegetarians, but I'm not going to force him to become one... It's something that should be the choice of the individual.

Friday, January 20, 2017

#Furkid Friday: Skye The #Rat On Being #Thankful For Human Caretakers Who Help Aging #Rodents (FD)

Um... Hi everyone! This is Skye the rat.

Me and my ratty sister, Star, are coming up for two and a half years old. Two and a half isn't extremely old for rats, exactly. Rats will often live to be four years old. But two and a half isn't young for a rat either, and we're starting to feel our age creeping up on us.

Of course, we try to hide it. But the human caretakers have noticed that neither of us can get about as well as we used to, and we're sleeping more than we did when we were younger rats.

Star started to show signs of it first, but it seems to be a slower progression for her than it is for me. For example, Star can still climb, though she's not as fast as she used to be, but I can't any more, and only hurt myself when I try. Mostly this isn't a problem, but where our food bowl was required a bit of climbing from us to get to. We were great at climbing until recently, so the human caretakers didn't worry about it. But then they realized I was hurting myself whenever I tried to climb up to the food bowl. So, do you know what they did? They moved it for me. Now it's down in the bottom of the cage where we don't have to climb at all to reach it. In fact, we can now access both food and water without going far from our wooden ratty house (which we didn't used to sleep in much, since we always liked our hammock more, but we do use now, since I can't climb to the hammock any more, and Star rarely considers it worth the effort it takes her to do it).

Also, I'm really slow with getting about in general, so Star - who can move a little faster than me, even though she's slowed down to what she was too - can get to the human caretakers for special nibbles, where as I struggle to do so. Luckily for me, the human caretakers have realized I'm having a hard time, so they come to me, and make sure to distract Star for long enough so I can get some special nibbles too.

I don't like that I'm feeling my age enough for the human caretakers to take notice. But I am glad they've tried to help by making it easier for me to get nibbles from the bowl. I'm also glad they don't make me miss out on special nibbles just because I'm struggling to come get them... I'd hate to miss out on tasty things like cheese, cheerios, and raisins, just because I'm getting older and less mobile, so I'm glad we have such understanding human caretakers.

Squeak Soon,
Skye

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

#Writing Wednesday - January 18th 2017


Hey, guess what? "Ulrike's Christmas" is now available in paperback!

I hadn't expected to be announcing this until at least next week, since the combination of several non-business days because of Christmas, the New Year, and the handful of bank holidays they insist on having around those dates, combined with the postal strikes around Christmas, made me think there would be more of a delay in the proof arriving than there was. But I'm not complaining.

Anyway, you can buy it from CreateSpace and Amazon already, and will soon be able to buy it from the other places that carry my paperback books too, such as Barnes & Noble, etc. If you click on the book's title in the first paragraph of this post, it will take you to where you can buy it directly from CreateSpace. Alternatively, you can search for it on your prefered Amazon site, or wait for it to become available on Barnes & Noble, or request that your favourite bookstore or library order a copy (if they're one of those who will order books published through CreateSpace).

***

Are you an author too? Are you on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you may want to take a look at these tips on how to get real on social media, and these on connecting with readers. These are tips I'm trying to follow myself. I'm good about the retweeting/sharing parts, and I'm getting in the habit of using hashtags, but need to work on the part where I just post random stuff from my day so people can connect with me as a person. It's not that I don't want to do it, it's that I either get busy and forget, or I feel like I have nothing to say that will seem interesting to people. Most often it's the latter, to be honest. I mean, are comments about the weather and what I had for breakfast really interesting to my followers?

Anyway...

Whether you're on social media or not, if you're a writer who finds you're struggling to finish the first draft of your current writing project, you might want to take a look at these tips for finishing off that first draft.

Alternatively, if your trouble is finding ideas, and your excuse for struggling to find them is being busy with work or other commitments, check out this post about how to STORYSTORM while you work.

Regardless of your progress in your current writing project, however, you may find this post about how to create unforgettable characters worth reading. Plus, this post containing tips for forging a hero group is a useful one to read if your story contains a group of characters who need to work together. Oh, and speaking of when you have a group of characters, here's a great post that will help you out with making sure there's a job for everyone in the party.

That's all for today... Until next time... Stay safe and warm!

Monday, January 16, 2017

January 2017 #Roleplaying Ramblings

Technically this post should have been done last month, and been for December 2016 instead. But I had so many other things I wanted to post about first, that I'm only now able to find a free spot to put this post up, despite actually having written it last month. It's been sitting in my blog's dashboard waiting patiently for a chance to get published since about mid December.

Anyway...

I killed a dragon!

I am Clover, dragon slayer... Fear me!

Yeah... Something tells me I'm more likely to get a chuckle if I have my character walk in to an inn and announce that during a game, rather than the looks of fear and awe I'd like. Why? Well, the name Clover doesn't exactly inspire fear, and she's a halfling (roleplaying's answer to a hobbit; three feet tall and weighing 31lbs). Still, it almost sounded impressive.

Plus, I really did kill a dragon!

OK, OK. I admit it, Kelly's elven druid did some damage to the dragon with a flaming scroll of some sort, and Carl's gnome sorcerer did some damage when he threw fireballs at it. But my halfling ranger did the most damage (even if you don't include the damage the dragon took when it met the ground as it died). Plus, most importantly, her arrows were what brought it down, and she dealt the killing blow, so to speak (technically killing shot, since it was an arrow, but you get the point). So I did have a little help, but I officially killed the dragon.

That ended the adventure, since it was called "The Dragon's Demand" and it's difficult to worry about the dragon's demands when there's no dragon to be making any, as I'm sure even the non-roleplayers among you can appreciate. So we're all heroes, because we saved the nearby town from kobolds and a dragon. We even did it without any of our party dying, which is an added bonus.

Go us... We're awesome!

Anyway, at the moment, we're not continuing to game. I think the others would kind of like to continue, but they won't do it without me, and I don't want to right now. I'm not saying I won't in the future. I mean, the characters are pretty cool seventh level characters with some magical items now, after all. Plus, roleplaying is fun. I'm just kind of feeling like I need a break from it right now. So we shared out the treasure from the end of the adventure, and will maybe take these characters on another adventure at some point in the future. But not right now. Right now there's no roleplaying. Not for me, anyway. Of course, if that changes, I'll let you know.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Spell Out Your Country #Reading Challenge From The Last Quarter Of 2016

I'm a little late posting this, because I wanted to post my 2017 goals first. But, anyway...

During the last quarter of 2016, one of the groups I'm a member of over on Goodreads had a reading challenge to read books for the letters that make up the country you live in. Since I live in England, in the United Kingdom, that meant I had to read books for the letters that made up the letters in either "England" or "United Kingdom" or both. I decided on both, because I thought it would make it more of a challenge for me.

They were quite flexible about the rules for it, and said you could use either the title, author name, or both. But I decided to only use titles, since I read a lot - as anyone who knows me will agree - so figured I'd finish the challenge quickly anyway. As it turned out, I only just managed to complete it before the end of December 2016. But I did it, and that's what counts.

So, anyhow, here's what I read to spell out the name of the country I live in...

England:
E ~ Enchanted Castle by Chrissy Peebles
N ~ Night of the Giant Everything by R.L. Stine
G ~ Gods in the Machine by Marilyn Peake
L ~ Learned Counsel and the Three Bears by Max G. Bernard
A ~ An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott
N ~ Not Just a Witch by Eva Ibbotson
D ~ Don't Scream! by R.L. Stine

United Kingdom:
U ~ Unpredictable by Lady Jenniviere
N ~ Never Ever by Gita V. Reddy
I ~ It Came from Beneath the Sink! by R.L. Stine
T ~ Thin Air by Michelle Paver
E ~ Esmerelda by Frances Hodgson Burnett
D ~ Dr. Maniac Will See You Now by R.L. Stine

K ~ Kaylyn the Sister-in-Darkness by Barbara G. Tarn
I ~ I Believe in Unicorns by Michael Morpurgo
N ~ nightfall in the kingdom of winter by Andy Young
G ~ Geek with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir
D ~ Defenestration by Matthew W. McFarland
O ~ One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson
M ~ Marginaliens by Philip Gross

Friday, January 13, 2017

#Furkid Friday: Maizie The #Chinchilla Turns 1 (FD)

Hi everyone! This is Maizie the chinchilla.

Guess what? It's finally my turn to have one of those birthday things! You know what that means, right? Special nibbles!

Of course, the human caretakers gave special nibbles to my chinchilla sister, Mollie, too. They said it's only fair since they gave me some when she had her birthday back in October, and it's best to do it that way because we share a cage. Well, to be honest, our other rodent siblings get special nibbles when birthday things happen too, because the human caretakers say it isn't right to give to one of us rodent gang if the others aren't having anything. But whoever is the one actually having a birthday gets an extra special treat, if you know what I mean. That's what I'm saying Mollie was included in. I don't mind though. I mean, Mollie might not be my littermate, but I love her as if she was.

Anyway, the human caretakers are usually really careful about how much nibbles we're allowed each day. But when a birthday thing happens, we always get a little more than usual, and it's either something we don't get often, or an extra helping of something the human caretakers know we absolutely love. Cereals are popular with all of us. We chinchillas especially enjoy the raw oats you humans use to make yourself oatmeal. I guess the human caretakers realized that, because they made today an oatmeal day for me! They also threw in a few raisins, which is something they don't do often.

That was my breakfast time nibbles... I wonder what special treat they've planned for my dinner time nibbles?

Squeak soon,
Maizie

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

#Writing Wednesday - January 11th 2017

Alright, now that Christmas - or whatever else you might have been celebrating - is totally over, we've welcomed the new year, we're done with the posts reviewing 2016, the holiday decorations have been taken down, and we've finished discussing my goals for 2017, it's time to return to our regular Wednesday posts, complete with a selection of links and articles I've gathered over the past couple of weeks, which I hope you will find interesting, and maybe even useful. So... Enjoy!

STORYSTORM started on January 1st 2017, and there have been some great posts as part of it. Like this one about how to mind and not mind when it comes to your writing, and story ideas. Or this one on how autocorrect and typos can inspire you, or this one on how a change of perspective can spark a story idea. Even if you didn't sign up for STORYSTORM, the posts are worth reading (don't worry if you didn't sign up... I didn't either, but I'm still reading the posts).

Anyway...

Are there any immortal beings in your current work in progress? If so, these seven tips to writing immortal characters may be just what you need to make them believable.

Immortal beings or not, here are some tips for creating tone through dialogue.

There are all sorts of rules when it comes to things like spelling and grammar, as you no doubt know. Now, most of them are sensible ones you should pay attention to, or at least have a really good reason for breaking. Sometimes, however, there are rules that are, quite frankly, kinda dumb, and you can feel free to ignore those. Here's an example of three such rules.

Every writer has their weakness. You know? That one thing you know you need to do differently next time, or not do at all, but still do it anyway. Regardless of what yours is, here's a post with some tips on how to sort out the weaknesses in your writing.

If one of your goals for this year is to get serious about marketing in 2017, you may want to read this article. Of course, there are other things you need to be doing when it comes to marketing too, but that's a great place to start. Another post you may want to take a look at is this one on internet marketing. Plus, this list of marketing ideas, and this list of 20 ways to get yourself out there as a writer, may give you some suggestions on things to try.

Remember, fellow authors, don't burn yourself out! Just bear that in mind, regardless of your writing goals for 2017.

Oh, and... Speaking of writing goals - or resolutions - for the year... Here are six tested tips for keeping your writing resolutions. I agree with the tips, though I disagree with something that was said in the post about publishing. The post says you can't choose whether you get published, so that's not a valid resolution, since you can't be in control of it. But that's not entirely true. If you're going down the traditional publishing route, sure, the choice as to whether or not you get published is out of your hands. However, if you self-publish, you can control when your book is published, and publishing your novel by x date is actually a valid resolution. Just saying.

Anyway... Last, but not least, for those of you wondering how you can show support for an author friend or family member, here are some ways you can support the author in your life.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Other 2017 Goals

I had only one goal for 2016 that wasn't related to either my reading or writing in some way. Funnily enough, that goal is the only one I didn't do as well with as I'd hoped I would.

The goal was to sort out the shelves so we could unpack the boxes we've had packed since we moved in to this place in February 2015. Well, technically they've been packed longer than that, since we got the stuff packed up while waiting to move, so they'd been packed since the January at least. But I think you get the point.

Like I said, this is the one goal I didn't do well with in 2016. We did make a start with it, though I admit that wasn't until near the end of the year. But we only got maybe half way through the task before 2016 came to an end. As I'm sure you can imagine, finishing the job is top of my list of goals for 2017, especially since the boxes had to be moved for the shelves we've got to go up, which means the boxes are currently in the way. Not so much in the way that we're falling over them, but enough so that them being where they are is annoying me. This is good though, in a way, because them annoying me will give me plenty of motivation to finish the task so they can stop doing so.

Also, at the start of this year some time, we're having some work done on our heating system. Maybe even a complete boiler replacement. Our heating system isn't too bad, but there's room for improvement, and it hasn't been replaced for a while. On the one hand this is great. On the other hand, it means a day... Or possibly a couple of days... Of workmen to deal with. Still, as I said, there's room for improvement, which means it will be a good thing in the long run, so I'm not complaining.

There are also a few other things that need doing in this place, but most of those are tasks that are the responsibility of our landlords. Those tasks would have been done by now, but our landlords got some new repair guys who turned out to not be doing their jobs, and now their new new guys (yes, I did mean to write "new" twice there) are trying to catch up with the long list of jobs the landlords thought were getting done, which weren't getting done after all. While they do that, we'll work on trying to get the ones that are our responsibility done. Like sorting the curtain rail for what is now our bedroom, so we can finally put the curtains up in there.

I know there are areas of my daily life I should set goals for too. But I'm finding that part difficult. It's not that I don't know what goals I should set. I do. It's that when I write them down they seem vague and formless, and I immediately wonder how I expect to know I've achieved them when I'm not able to make it clear what will be required to do so. So then I just delete them. Does that even make sense? Anyway, I'll come back to those when I can get them clearer in my mind. The general gist though is that I want to break some bad habits I've aquired, return to some habits I used to have that I've let slip (like daily meditation) and introduce some new good habits I wish I had. Hopefully, even if you don't get a detailed daily life goals list, you'll see signs of some changes in my life as the year progresses. Changes that will, I hope, be positive ones.

So... To summarize...

Household goals:
*Finish unpacking and organizing the things that have been in boxes for way too long.
*Get the jobs done that are our responsibility to take care of. (I can't control what happens with the jobs the landlords need to do, so I'm not officially including that on my goals list).

Personal goals:
*Start meditating daily again.
*Attempt to break some bad habits I've gotten in to, and try to replace them with some good ones I wish I had, or used to have and want to have again. This especially applies to exercise, and the fact I should start making some effort to go out more.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

2017 #Reading And #Blogging Goals

Yeah, I know most people were posting these kinds of posts last weekend, but I had other things I wanted to post first. Besides, we're only about a week in to the new year, so I'm not that far behind.

Anyway...

I set a reading goal of 216 books for 2016. I ended up reading over 300. 317 to be exact. So... Yeah... I read quite a few more books than my goal for the year... Again!

If your reading total for 2016 came nowhere near mine, please don't feel bad for not reading as many books as me. People read at different speeds, and of course the length of books needs to be taken in to consideration too. Not to mention, other commitments you may have in your life will influence the time you have available for reading. What I'm basically trying to say is, it doesn't matter if your total for the year was nowhere near mine, because the important thing is that you are getting some reading in. It's more important for you to be reading something, and enjoying the act of reading.

So... As I was saying... I posted my December book reviews post last week, but if you want to take a look at all the details for what I read in 2016, you can do so by going here, and checking out my year in books. You never know, you may find one you'd like to read.

By the way, as I mention in the monthly review posts I started doing on this blog, the format reviewed may not be the format I actually read, so please disregard the format. Also, I read across multiple genres and age ranges, so you should always check if a book is suitable for the intended reader or not, especially if children are involved.

Anyhow, I did consider making my reading goal larger this year, but I have a few things I'd like to achieve this year that will most likely result in less reading time, so I'm not going to do that. Instead I'm setting a reading goal of 217 books. Some of the things will be ongoing, so if I find this year that those things take away less of my reading time than I expected, I may up the reading goal by more next year. We'll see. Either way, my reading goal for this year is 217 books.

My other reading goal for 2016 was to make a point of reading some of the books I've had on my Kindle for ages, since I've had some of the books waiting to be read ever since I got my first Kindle a few years ago. I knew I'd end up reading several newer books too, and would probably add books to my to-read shelf on Goodreads as fast as I read others. But my aim was to focus at least a large chunk of my reading time on those books I've had on my Kindle the longest. Well, I did an okay job with doing that. Not as well as I'd hoped, since shiny new books kept catching my attention, but I did get a reasonable sized chunk of the books I've had for a while read in 2016. I plan to continue trying to focus at least a good chunk of my reading time for 2017 on getting those older books read too. I'm hoping to do as good of a job as I did in 2016, if not better. I'm joining the reading challenge one of the groups I'm a member of over on Goodreads is running for the first quarter of 2017, which is to tackle the books that have been on your to read shelf for three months or longer, so that will hopefully get me started with it... It worked last year, anyway.

I also did the A-Z book title reading challenge the same Goodreads group does each year. I completed 2016s challenge before the year was half over. You can see my post about finishing it here. I'll be doing the challenge with them again this year, and will post when I'm done. Let's see how many months it takes me this time.

OK, now for the blogging part...

You may have noticed that the way I do my blog posts has changed slightly over the past year or so.

I'd said in early 2015that I was posting a random post on Monday, a writing one on Wednesday, and a "Furkid Friday" post on Friday. Well, the Wednesday and Friday posts have continued as planned, though with some tweaks to the titles to make use of hashtags. But I started seporating the Monday ones in to more spacific topic based posts in late 2015, and since that seemed to work well, continued doing so throughout 2016, with hashtags being introduced at some point during the year. This generally resulted in me having enough to say to cover more than one extra post a week, hence the addition of posts on Sundays, and sometimes other days too.

In 2017, I plan to continue with my current blogging schedule of posts about random things on Sundays and Mondays (the topics of which will be determined by what I want to share), posts about writing related things on Wednesdays, and pet themed posts on Fridays, with the odd post on other days if I'm getting too long of a backlist of things I want to post about, or if I want/need to post about something on a spacific day. I'll also continue to make use of hashtags in the titles when possible/appropriate, in hopes they'll do their job and improve visibility for my blog. They might not do much, but it's worth a try, right?

By the way, if you click on a link in any of my old posts and it either doesn't work, or takes you to somewhere that's obviously the wrong place... Sorry! I did think about going through my old posts and checking the links. Loads of people recommend doing so. But I've done over 3000 posts, many of which contain links (often several links). I mean, I did over 200 posts last year alone. So, as much as I'd love to make sure all my old links are working for you, I can tell you now that it's not about to happen any time soon. Sorry, but that's how it is. Quite frankly, just the thought of checking so many posts makes me want to run away, whimpering in distress, with my Metaphorical tail between my legs. So, like I said, sorry, but you'll just have to try the link, and if it doesn't work, Google what you were looking for or something.

Anyway... To summarize...

Reading goals:
*Read at least 217 books.
*Focus at least a large chunk of my reading on those books I've had waiting to be read for longest.
*Complete the A-Z title reading challenge.

Blogging goals:
*Continue to post writing themed posts on Wednesdays.
*Continue to post "Furkid Friday" posts on Fridays.
*Continue to post about other things on Sundays and/or Mondays (preferably both).
*Make use of hashtags in post titles, in hopes of increasing post visibility during social media shares.

Friday, January 06, 2017

#Furkid Friday: Baggins The #Gerbil Turns 3 (FD)

Hellooo everyone! This is Baggins the gerbil.

Guess what? Guess what? Guess what?

I'm having one of those birthday things today!

I'm three human years old today. For gerbils that's like being an old man. I'm not ready to slow down just yet though, and am still enthusiastically playing and digging, just like I've done since I was a very young gerbil.

Well, there was that time I slowed down for a while when I was upset about losing my gerbil brother, Bilbo, last year. But that didn't last long. Plus, even though I miss him terribly, I try not to think about that. I can't help it today, of course, since it would have been Bilbo's birthday today too. But I'm trying to enjoy my special day, despite not having my brother here to share it with me.

The human caretakers are doing a great job at helping with that, since they've already given me a special birthday nibble. I'm also pretty sure I heard something mentioned about cheese being on the menu later, which is the best news a gerbil could get on his birthday, if you ask me. Of course, if they want to throw in a frosted Shreddy or two, or maybe a berry, that would be just fine with me, and would certainly go a long way to helping me enjoy my special day... Just saying.

Squeak soon,
Baggins

P.S. I really do miss you, Bilbo, and wish you could be here to share all the great nibbles with me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

#Writing Wednesday: Looking Ahead At 2017

It's a whole new year, and I suppose you're wondering what's to come for me as an author this year?

Yeah... About that... Guess what? So am I!

Ahem... OK, well, here's what I've got so far:

*The paperback version of "Ulrike's Christmas" is currently in production, and will hopefully be available by the end of January 2017... Or maybe some time in early February 2017. Depending how long the proof takes to get to me, and assuming there are no issues when the proof arrives, of course. Great news for those of you who prefer a physical book.

*I've got a little stack of poems I plan/hope to add to in the next couple of months, so I'm planning to release a new poetry collection some time in 2017. Exactly when will depend on when I feel like I have enough poems for it, and decide which of them I want to use as the title poem, so I can't give you even an estimated date at this moment in time. All I know for sure right now is that a new poetry collection will be released at some point in the not-too-distant future.

*I've got a couple of stories I've made a start on, and several ideas trying to get my attention, so I plan to work on those - beginning with the couple I've already started - and will publish them when they're ready. What will be finished first, and how many stories I finish and publish this year is currently uncertain, so I'll have to fill you in on details about that as the year progresses and potential release dates become a reality. Not having old stories to rewrite in between the writing of new ones any more, means I'm not ahead of my publishing schedule like I was for the past couple of years, so 2017 will see less releases from me than previous years have. Not because I'm not continuing to write at least a little each day, but because I've only got new material to work with, so you need to give me time to write it, and then to get it ready for publication. Anyway, I'll give you more details about the stories when they're closer to completion.

*I need to spend a bit more time on marketing. I've got a few ideas I'm toying with, so you'll hopefully see my attempts at doing more when it comes to marketing my books in the near future. How many of these ideas I manage to do anything with, and how successful these attempts will be is anyone's guess, but that's always the case, so I'm going to try not to become discouraged if they don't work as well as I hope they will. The point is, I know I need to do more when it comes to marketing, and I'm going to try my best to do so.

So, there you go. That's what I've got planned for 2017. I know the plans are a little vague, but it's all I've got for now, I'm afraid. Still, it's a starting point, which is better than not having any plans at all. Right?

Monday, January 02, 2017

Tori's December 2016 #Book #Reviews (LBE)

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

As with the previous posts like this one, the format reviewed may not be the format I read the book in. Also, please remember to bear in mind the fact that I read across multiple genres and age ranges, and you should always check suitability of content before reading, especially when children are involved. Finally, if you want to know more about the book, or the author it's by, simply click on the book title, or author name, to go to the appropriate Goodreads page.

OK...

The Girl with the Cat Tattoo (Cool Cats, #1)The Girl with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I enjoy a good romance from time to time, and I love cats, so I expected to really like this book. Except I didn't. It starts off really well, but I found my attention wandering by the time we were maybe a third of the way through the book, with only the odd scene here and there holding my interest enough to stop me finding it dull, and the ending was only an "OK" sort of ending. So, a cute read, but not one that will be making it in to my favourites any time soon.

Geek with the Cat TattooGeek with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I only read this one because I read the first in the series, and like with the first book, I thought it started off great, but did not continue as well.

Thin AirThin Air by Michelle Paver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Michelle Paver's previous ghost story "Dark Matter" is the only ghost story to seriously scare me, so when I heard she was doing another, I was eager to see if she could manage it again. Did she ever! The well-rounded characters, amazing descriptions, and fantastic writing in general, all combine to make a story that had me huddled under my blankets with shivers running up my spine.

Tri-Pizza-Tops (Kittysaurus, #2)Tri-Pizza-Tops by Judge Kludge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Like the first in the series, this is a fantastic book, which combines real dinosaur related facts with a very imaginative and exciting story. The plot is extremely creative, while still being thought out well enough to be believable, and the characters are likable and easy to relate to. There's more obvious fiction and less potential fact in this one than in the first, but that doesn't spoil it. Actually, it makes it a fun read where you're always wondering what will happen next. The only reason this one doesn't get the full five stars that book one got, is because the ending was too sudden; I hate cliffhanger endings.
*NOTE: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This fact has in no way influenced either my opinion of the book, or the contents of this review.

DefenestrationDefenestration by Matthew W. McFarland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was a pleasant, though somewhat slow paced read. Most of the characters are well-rounded, though I don't feel I know enough about Adam, who I would have thought was most important for us to be familiar with, considering most of the story is told from his point of view in one way or another, so knowing more about him would have made getting inside his head easier. Anyway, it was interesting learning more about all of the characters as the threads of their individual stories were woven together as the story progressed. Also, though the plot moves at a slow pace, it doesn't move so slowly that you feel it drags or anything like that, and the pacing feels right for the story.
*NOTE: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book, nor has it had any influence on the contents of this review.

HeartlessHeartless by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a difficult one for me to decide on a rating for. On the one hand, this book was excellent, with a pleasing mixture of whimsical characters and plot elements that will remind you of the Alice In Wonderland story, and make this a perfect read for fans of that particular book, while also being a wonderful story of one girl's attempts to be more than just a lady forced in to a loveless marriage she doesn't want, in a time and place when a proper lady shouldn't have dreams of running a bakery. On the other hand, there are a few places where the plot felt like it was starting to drag a little, and a few times when I struggled to understand why a character made the choice or comment they did, since it felt more like something that was done to make the plot move in the direction the author wanted it to go in. Thankfully, however, neither of those things happened too often, so I did mostly enjoy the book.

I Believe in UnicornsI Believe in Unicorns by Michael Morpurgo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautifully written story, which is a perfect one for encouraging a love of books and the stories they contain.

Enchanted CastleEnchanted Castle by Chrissy Peebles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It feels like the story hardly started before it suddenly ended. I get that this is the first in a series, but this book felt more like the first couple of chapters of something longer, rather than a book in its own right, which is a shame... It had the potential to be a five star read. If this was one of those serialised stories some magazines used to do, it would be worthy of that five star rating.

EsmereldaEsmerelda by Frances Hodgson Burnett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The ending was really nice, but the rest of it was a little dull.

Beginning of a Hero (Legends of Windemere, #1)Beginning of a Hero by Charles E. Yallowitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a well-written book, with believable and well-rounded characters, and an interesting and exciting plot.

Learned Counsel and the Three BearsLearned Counsel and the Three Bears by Max G. Bernard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An entertaining little story.

Aurora's ChristmasAurora's Christmas by June Burns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The lesson in this book is a great one, and this has the potential to be a beautiful Christmas story. However, her little brother's behaviour on Christmas day wasn't believable for a child of five, and the message of the lesson was verbally shoved down her throat, with only brief glimpses of situations that would have had the potential to show her what she needed to learn, rather than Aurora being allowed to figure it out for herself. Also, the ending - though touching for Aurora's actions - was in need of a bit of work to feel believable. With some work, and more use of the "show, don't tell," way of thinking, this book could be a five star read, but it's not there yet.

BookElves Anthology Volume 2BookElves Anthology Volume 2 by Jemima Pett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an excellent collection of festive tales, which are even better than those in volume one of the Book Elves anthologies.

A Boy Called ChristmasA Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a sweet and imaginative story, which is a perfect holiday read for the young and young at heart.

FREE: A Christmas CarolFREE: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a pretty good dramatization of the classic story. Perhaps not the most amazing version of it ever created, but certainly an enjoyable version, which I consider to be well worth listening to.

Christmas Crumble: An Agatha Raisin Short StoryChristmas Crumble: An Agatha Raisin Short Story by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This isn't a bad story, but there's not much mystery solving going on, which is a bit of a disappointment.

One Dog and His BoyOne Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautiful and touching story, which dog lovers will adore.

nightfall in the kingdom of winternightfall in the kingdom of winter by Andy Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This isn't a bad book. In fact, it's a weird kind of story, with the potential to be wonderful too. But I feel like too much was left unanswered. The big question she's supposed to be answering is whether or not she should be opening the doors, and I'm still not entirely sure what the answer to that question actually is, let alone how she found herself in the position to need to answer the question in the first place.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Celebrating The #Holidays 2016 (FD)

First of all... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

If 2016 was a bad year for you, I hope 2017 is kinder to you. If 2016 was a good year for you, I hope 2017 is even better.

We don't really do anything to see in the new year. I mean, the new year approaching always gets me to thinking about both the past and present, and reflecting on both. But we don't worry about being up to see in the new year, and don't usually bother to do anything special on either New Years Eve or New Year's Day. If you did though, or are planning to later, I hope your celebrations went/go well.

We used to make a big fuss for both the Winter Solstice and Christmas, but these days we've toned it down a lot. We now do small private rituals on the evening of the day the solstice falls upon (usually December 21st, but not always; the date sometimes shifts a day or so either way, depending on how the planets align), then we do something to celebrate Christmas (even if it's not much). For 2016, for example, we had our friends, Lorna and Andy, over for a Christmas Eve tea, which we ate the leftovers from on Christmas Day while watching Christmas movies, and then we cooked our Christmas dinner on Boxing Day.

Our Christmas Eve tea consisted of mince pies with squirty cream, a jam and cream swiss roll, a chocolate log, and some shortbread, served with whatever everyone wanted to drink, which was tea for Lorna and Andy, cocoa for me, and coffee for Kelly, just in case you're interested. Oh, and Christmas dinner was roasted parsnips, garlic and thyme roast potatoes, a root vegetable mash consisting of carrot and sweet potatoes with a bit of butternut squash, sage and onion stuffing balls, sprouts, cranberry sauce, and vegetable gravy (it was for me, anyway, Kelly didn't have all the vegetables I had though, and had pigs in blankets as part of his dinner, which I obviously didn't do, what with being vegetarian and all).

Now, on to the presents!

On the sixth day of Christmas, my friends and family brought for me,
6 audiobooks.
5 Hello Kitty themed pressies.
4 random gifts.
3 Hershey Bars.
2 DVD boxsets.
A penguin, and a box of toffee.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. *wink*

Here are photos of most of it...

Four Hello Kitty plush toys, and a Hello Kitty mug:


My penguin plushy, an Olaf the snowman plushy, three of my audiobooks (CDs of children's stories; two bedtime story collections, and a collection of Womble stories), my DVD boxsets (a boxset of the "Goosebumps" series that used to be on TV, and season nine of "The Big Bang Theory") and my "Frozen" DVD:


(so,, I don't have to wait for Sky to be showing "Frozen" so I can watch it again now, haha!)

Not pictured are the audiobooks that were audio downloads I picked out myself, a handy gadget my brother got me to make chopping vegetables easier, my Hershey bars and box of toffee, and the vouchers I have from a very good friend who's organizing a special zoo experience for me (which I'll tell you more about when it happens).

Last, but by no means least, here are some photos of our Christmas cards:


I didn't get a white Christmas again this year. We had some awesome storms, and Christmas Day itself didn't have the nicest of weather. The weather wasn't the worst we've had, but it was rough out there. At least it wasn't one of those Christmas days where it feels like Summer... Those are only supposed to happen in the Southern Hemisphere, not up here in the Northern Hemisphere. Like I said though, I would have liked snow, but we didn't get any. I can't say I'm all that shocked. Still, it would have been wonderful if I'd had snow for Christmas. Never mind.

Anyway, despite the lack of snow, it was a really good Christmas. Not just because of all the great cards and presents either. Although, I am grateful for those, so thank you to those who sent me stuff. Also, thank you to those who sent me holiday messages one way or another. As I was saying though, it was just a nice Christmas in general. 2017 promises to be a better year than 2016, and the promise of that helped, I think.

I hope you can say the same, both about the enjoyable Christmas, Winter Solstice, or whatever you celebrated, and the promise of a good year to come. Although, I suppose we won't know for sure what kind of year 2017 turns out to be for us until we reach the end of it, and can look back on the events that happened throughout the year. Still, I hope there's no sign of a dark cloud on your year's horizon so soon, and that none appears.