When time is the enemy – manically juggling!

Well it’s true to say that I started 2018 on the ground running – it’s been an utterly manic year already and we’re only a few months in!

As with most people, I find myself constantly juggling. For me, working part time in a library, means juggling that with working full time as an illustrator, trying to find some time for writing and personal artwork, as well as home responsibilities, personal goals (particularly for this year – more details later in the year on that one) and having four huge wolfies who require a LOT of time and attention. I’m not called the ‘Mistress of Wolves’ for nothing!

Cover artwork by Antonio Javier Caparo.

But recently even I admit that things have been insane. Basically from November 2016 to now, I haven’t stopped. As the writing has taken a back seat, my illustrating has never been in more demand. After a couple of HarperCollins’s commissions and a hastily short deadline for Penguin Random House (for ‘The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’ by Diane Magras, published March 2018) and a few individual commissions, I happily signed up for a very exciting and MASSIVE commission funded by Oxford University and created by writer, self-publishing guru and Creative Thinking World Champion, Dan Holloway. Basically Dan has invented a brilliant new game, Mycelium’, as an amazing training tool and fun game to promote and expand creative thinking. To say its clever and inventive, like it’s creator, is a colossal understatement.

Dan Holloway is one of those rare people you only meet once in a blue moon, a true inspiration. I first knew of him as a fellow writer on the now defunct HarperCollins online writing site, Authonomy, then met him in the flesh at the second Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival founded by Debbie Young. Think of Elon Musk, Bob Dylan and Basquiat and you get close to how talented this chap is. He’s a huge brain, an amazing performance poet, writer and…well, in my opinion, a bit of a genius!

Mycelium final logo which will be on the back of each card.

Anyway, he liked my artwork and wanted me to create the visuals for this amazing game, starting with producing 50 images for the first playing pack of cards. I can’t reveal the artwork I’ve done for this yet, but will as soon as I’m able. 😉

So this is where the juggling really comes in, with time becoming an enemy that you’re constantly chasing.

The irony is that ‘chasing time’ has become a bit of a metaphor for my life, particularly at the moment.  Time has flown by so quickly and suddenly your life and life decisions are reduced down to a tiny window of opportunity in an alchemist’s grand experiment! Blink, and you’ll miss that window forever.

Although I’ve done allsorts of commissions and projects which usually take a month to complete, due to fitting illustration work in with a job etc., I’ve never done 50 images for one project before. Gulp! Being the idiot optimist I am, the deadline seemed reasonable, 60 days for 50 images and small images too. Easy, eh? Lol, well of course, me being me, I just cannot rush through anything crap so I created 50 folders, one for each image and trawled through countless books and the internet gathering inspirational images for each piece of artwork before drawing them. Once drawn, they then had to be inked up in permanent ink and then hand painted.

It really has been one of the most amazing, inspiring, varied and challenging commissions I’ve ever done and I have loved every second of it BUT…being such a perfectionist I should have known that creating 50 pictures in only 60 days just wasn’t possible. Unfortunately, despite my very best efforts of time pacing, doing the more complicated images first, I only really realised the sheer amount of work involved when I was already halfway through the commission! My juggling skills were put to the test and I’m afraid they failed me entirely.

For the last 60 days my four wolfies have not had much of a mum, my daily walks with them have all but stopped to just a few hours playing and exercising in the garden, my normal home chores have fallen by the wayside, my library job has, if I’m being honest, not had the best of me, I’ve been absent from all social media and friends and I’ve become somewhat of a stranger to sleep. But try as I have, to my own disappointment and for the first time, I missed my deadline. I was gutted, having worked so damn hard. Dan was wonderful of course and I’ve made sure I’ve rewarded that kindness with awesome images, but yes, I was several weeks late in delivering all 50 finished painted images and only finally finished them a few days ago!

So what do you do when time becomes the enemy, when juggling manically still doesn’t work?

Lol, I really wouldn’t recommend what I have done several times now, drawing in bed on a light-box until 4 or 5am when you suddenly realise that it’s getting light outside and you haven’t slept at all!

The only thing I can think of to help pace your time, when you have an insane amount of things to do and no time to do them in, is, to be honest, create a detailed colour coded weekly schedulebreaking your time into 2 hourly chunks, giving yourself time to eat, do chores, do housey things then back to work. As daft as it seems, it really helps to organise you and maximise productivity from each time period. I’ve also started using an alarm clock set in hour or 2 hour slots, trying to finish one section of work in that time frame before the buzzer goes!

I’m seriously not complaining here, I’m very thankful for all the work I get especially as I don’t advertise and do recognise that it’s far better to be incredibly busy than to have time on your hands, but once, just once, I wish I really could stretch the space/time continuum! 😀

On a personal note too, I’ve spent the last year climbing Everest and trying to stretch time to achieve my goals. So yes, as much as we are powerless to stop the march of time, perhaps a healthier more mindful approach to the passing of time would be more beneficial to us all. As clichéd as it is, we only have one life and it flies past so damn quickly that we owe it to ourselves to take stock and really notice what is happening around us.

Mindfulness has been a key word that has entered the zeitgeist in the last few years, but the principles behind it can be applied to every area of our lives. As an M.E sufferer (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) it’s a very important concept that helps us to regulate our condition and pace ourselves and the daily tasks we do.

As someone who has been overweight for most of my adult life and has decided to make a permanent life change at last, having committed myself to losing weight and getting fitter (my Chris Pratt Challenge) – mindfulness plays a key rolebeing aware and present in thought over everything you do. Being mindful of everything you put into your body so there is NO mindless snacking, everything is focused on, thought about.

The same too with life and time. Being mindful of your life, of each passing day, each hour, each minute, making you more aware of the choices you make, of the time you are using, of the time you have left.

Don’t sleep walk through your life. Be mindful of it.

So yes, being mindful and applying that to this commission also helped, particularly latterly, in making sure that the work I did was not only the best it could be but that I was working as productively as possible in each timed slot.

In an age of such mindlessness – Trump bigotry & idiocy, Brexit xenophobia & lies, political cruelty, government corruption and inherent unfairness – being mindful has never been more important!

❤ xxx

 

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Battling the Great ‘D’!

The Great ‘D’ – depression.

I’ve battled with this nasty bottom dweller since I was a teen, not just the usual teenage angst but something fundamentally more serious and frightening. Well, it’s true to say that I have been struggling again these last few months.

The problem with depression isn’t merely the ‘being down’, the negative thoughts, the brain paralysing fears and paranoia’s and the black pit of despair, it is also the straight jacket, the feeling of having your hands and feet tied whilst being asked to continue with ‘normal’ daily life. A total impossibility. Depression is a paralyser of creativity, ideas, ‘normal’ cognitive function, it skews and sours everything.

There’s that awful word again – ‘normal’, as when you’re in the grip of depression you feel anything but normal, you imagine your head enlarged, a sign scrawled across your forehead, a big pointy neon sign following you around. Did I mention paranoia? You feel out of control, scrutinised, attacked, beaten, bruised, defeated all at once. It’s the sensation of speeding in an open top car at 110mph with no seat belt while the driver wears a blindfold, yet at the same time feeling as if you’re stuck neck deep in treacle – unable to move, to progress, to do anything. It’s debilitating.

It’s such an insidious condition. I’ve known it’s been creeping up on me for the last few months, that sinking feeling as life’s little or big crisis’s become increasingly more difficult to deal with. None of us can stop life being damn hard, from bad things happening. But when you have depression, you are completely incapable of dealing with them. You become instantly overwhelmed by the smallest thing, and completely smothered by anything larger.

It’s for this reason that I’ve neglected my own lovely blog for so long. I’ve found it virtually impossible to get the energy to blog anything this year and have been utterly incapable of following any of my friend’s wonderful blogs. Every time I saw one of their blog posts pop up on my emails, it just stayed there, accumulating with all the others along with hundreds of emails, probably thousands now. 😦

So, a huge apology to any and all of my friends if I’ve been a bit weird of late. I’m usually a great one for doing a ‘swan impression’, appearing in control, the effortless gliding swan, while in truth the legs are peddling manically beneath. That’s me to a T – so busy trying to convince others and myself that everything is okay, that I’m my usual social, bubbly, happy self, when the reality is anything but that. It’s exhausting and a dreadful ‘Catch-22’ cycle, one I find almost impossible to break. Perhaps it’s a confidence issue, but I’m just so used to putting up a front, the happy exterior that I don’t seem to be able to let that slip and allow people to see me down. Reality bites.

I think the only time in my life that I’ve really ever broken down and cried in public was at my friend’s funeral. So, to anyone who suffers from depression, whether you put on a brave face like me or are able to be open and honest about it, you have my heartfelt sympathies. It sucks. And to anyone who knows someone who is struggling, please be patient with them and if they appear okay, look a little closer. No-one builds a wall better than someone battling depression, we’re experts at hiding from the world, our friends, ourselves.

At the moment, I admit I am drowning slightly. Life worries are weighing heavily and those worst dark impulses are louder than ever. So, trying to be positive and drag myself out of this cycle, I have promised myself to try and list 5 things every day that are positive or make me happy, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant.

So here goes:

  1. A notable and prestigious writer has approached me to do a fantasy map commission for her amazing books. I am both thrilled and honoured.
  2. I have a lovely meeting of my gorgeous fellow Grimbold authors and friends at my place this Sunday for a big BBQ. I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to this and what a light in a dark tunnel it’s been.
  3. I am perpetually thankful for the family that I do have. I love them all dearly.
  4. My four gorgeous doggies bring me laughter and light every day.
  5. Despite my job being terribly low paid, I do absolutely love it and love the people I work with.

There, 5 things to be thankful for. If you are struggling with any kind of depression, mental illness or anything else, then please take the time to breathe, look around you and find 5 things that make your life better/easier/happier. It’s so so easy to be swamped in a negative mire and forget to look up and really see what you have.

I will also try to blog again and when I can (without beating myself up anymore), read and support my lovely friend’s blogs…it may just take me a little time.

Take care and remember to be kind to yourself as well – you can’t help others if you’ve fallen yourself. ❤ xxxx

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Distant Worlds – Welcomes Sammy HK Smith!

This is the third post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Grimbold Books are also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles will be priced at only 79p/99c across Amazon platforms. Check it out guys, awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our third author interview…the galactically cool…

Sammy HK Smith

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Sammy, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Oxygen canister and mask, Food replicator (a la Star Trek), my husband’s collection of tools (he has so many!), some sort of weapon, chocolate.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

Bumbles my lion teddy bear (don’t laugh!), my wedding and engagement rings, photograph of my grandparents, my favourite pair of bum-minimising jeans!, my baby boy’s first teddy bear, Logan-bear.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Go it alone.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  • Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey – beautifully written and exquisite fantasy that shows love in all its glory and with no limits.
  • Geomancer by Ian Irvine – the first fantasy book to truly blow me away. Mr Irvine’s worldbuilding is some of the best I’ve ever come across.
  • White Mountains by John Christopher – the first sci-fi book I read and loved as a child.
  • Rhapsody – Elizabeth Haydon – high fantasy with strong plot and well-executed story. Ok, the love aspect is a bit hackneyed, but it’s a guilty pleasure.
  • Shadowfall – James Clemens – I can’t explain why I love this book so much, but I do. Gods, magic, politics, treachery, betrayal… it’s amazing.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

  • August and Everything After – Counting Crows. I know all the words to every song on that album. Adore it.
  • Come Find Yourself – Fun Lovin’ Criminals
  • Hello Nasty – Beastie Boys
  • 1989 – Taylor Swift
  • The Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Water. I’d like to survive for as long as possible!

Random comet questions: Sammy, as well as being an awesomely talented writer yourself, you are also a multi-tasking police officer, soon to be mum and the Creative Director and Co-founder of uber-cool publishing house, Grimbold Books, and it’s imprint, Kristell Ink!

How do you manage to juggle so many different and contrasting areas of your life?

Good question! Sometimes I don’t think I do manage to successfully juggle stuff, but then my friends politely remind me that I’m human and therefore allowed a day or week off now and then! I like being kept busy, and because I love our books and authors, it drives me on to want to help them (and us!) succeed. Small baby steps,I guess! I’m very very lucky to have a supportive husband who doesn’t mind me beavering away online late at night as well!

Have any of your experiences as either a police officer, soon to be mum or publisher informed your own creative writing?

Absolutely! Not so much with my fantasy novel, but I guess you can say that was spurred on by escapism…I haven’t met any dragons at work…

Definitely with my soon-to-be-released novel, Anna. The book is about strength of a woman, degradation, rape and abuse and how we, as humans, react differently to scenarios. It’s ok people saying ‘well I wouldn’t do that, I’d fight back and scream’. I want to actually make people think ‘would you, would you really?’ It’s proven that the amygdala side of our brain works on the 5 F’s – fight, flee, freeze, flop, friend – and so we wouldn’t necessarily react in the way we think we might. I set Anna in a dystopic world because, well, I love dystopia!

As an author-friendly UK publisher who focuses on quality, what are you looking for in new authors/submissions?

Enthusiasm, team spirit, a good social media/online presence and obviously, great work! It’s a hard industry and it doesn’t matter if you’re signed to a big publisher or a small publisher, there is an expectation for you to market yourself and your work. We work very much as a team as well and support one another across the board. It’s a very ‘co-operative’ focused set up.

We love working with new writers and if there’s a submission that isn’t quite publication ready but we love it, we’ll often work with the writer to polish it up.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Anna is graceful, Anna is meek, Anna submits. I am not Anna, but I must pretend to be her to survive.

Anna is a literary dystopian tale described as a cross between ‘The Road’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. A story of identity and strength in the face of abject humiliation and abuse, Anna explores the similarities between human nature vs nurture.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Reading, sleeping, and writing. 3 things I’ve barely got time to do at the moment!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Vast varying cultures (inc foods!), Scenery and landscapes, Our beautiful sky on a clear night Animals/Wildlife, Chocolate.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Government, War, Famine, Religion, Spiders.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

I honestly don’t know. Maybe if I could take my loved ones with me, but if not, I doubt it. I’d miss too many people! Also, I’m a bit of a wuss and love my creature comforts…

What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

In my personal life, I regret not telling my Nanny how much I loved her more. She knew (of course) but she was the most important female figure in my life and I wish I told her just how inspirational I found her.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Songs of Seraphina – Jude Houghton (Tenebris Books) – my first choice is the beautifully written YA split worlds novel by Jude. It’s simply gorgeous. The prose, the stylisation and story, everything. The first time I read this novel I wanted to *be* one of the characters, and nowadays that doesn’t happen to me often! Fantasy that has the charm of Lewis, but the intelligence of Pullman and Gaiman. Breed – K.T Davies (Fox Spirit) – Full of twists and turns, this is clever fantasy with a fresh voice. It follows the ‘quest’ story, but instead makes it original and new. Magic paradoxes are great fun too… The Sun Shard – Rob Bayliss – Epic fantasy tale that I found was written in a very unique voice. It felt quite ominous in places and as though a bard or storyteller was weaving through the scenes. So this gets on the list for unique stylisation and great worldbuilding. Under My Skin – Zoe Markham (Carina) – Described as re-imagining of Frankenstein, this is one I bought recently and read almost in one sitting. YA/Gothic with bits of fantasy and even sci-fi nods, I was really impressed as to how Zoe brought all the genres together. It’s wonderfully written. What The Town Knew – C.W.Farley – I first read this on the author’s blog as they released sections bit by bit. Not my usual genre of choice, but written in the second person tense it drags you into a world of domestic violence, murder, broken relationships and lies. It’s simply excellent.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Read and write what you enjoy and love, not what you think other people want you to do. Passion shines through. If you get knocked down, get straight back up and keep going. Times are hard for writers, but persevere and push.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

untitledSammy in her own words…

Ahhh, you’ve probably realised I’m quite a ‘straight to the point’ person with my responses to this interview, so here goes: I’m a full-time detective in the police, part-time uni student and soon-to-be first time mummy. I live in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside with my very patient husband, 14 cats and 2 dogs. I write in lots of genres, but my favourite is fantasy and sci-fi. My debut novel ‘In Search of Gods and Heroes’ is a mythological and metaphysical multiple POV story of gods and mortals set over three worlds. It even has a talking cat… If you like complex characters, dragons, twists and turns and rather unlikeable protagonists, this might be the book for you! I co-run Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink and love to read and promote new authors and writers. I’m inspired by all things, positive and negative, and believe that through literature and stories you can help heal the deepest hurts.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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ISOGAH Digital CoverBlurb:

Buried in the scriptures of Ibea lies a story of rivalry, betrayal, stolen love, and the bitter division of the gods into two factions. This rift forced the lesser deities to pledge their divine loyalty either to the shining Eternal Kingdom or the darkness of the Underworld.
When a demon sneaks into the mortal world and murders an innocent girl to get to her sister Chaeli, all pretence of peace between the gods is shattered. For Chaeli is no ordinary mortal, she is a demi-goddess, in hiding for centuries, even from herself. But there are two divine brothers who may have fathered her, and the fate of Ibea rests on the source of her blood.
Chaeli embarks on a journey that tests her heart, her courage, and her humanity. Her only guides are a man who died a thousand years ago in the Dragon Wars, a former assassin for the Underworld, and a changeling who prefers the form of a cat.
The lives of many others – the hideously scarred Anya and her gaoler; the enigmatic and cruel Captain Kerne; the dissolute Prince Dal; and gentle seer Hana – all become entwined. The gods will once more walk the mortal plane spreading love, luck, disease, and despair as they prepare for the final, inevitable battle.
In Search of Gods and Heroes, Book One of Children of Nalowyn, is a true epic of sweeping proportions which becomes progressively darker as the baser side of human nature is explored, the failings and ambitions of the gods is revealed, and lines between sensuality and sadism, love and lust are blurred.

Book Blurb for Latest Book – Anna:

There is an old lie: dulce est decorum est. In a post-apocalyptic world where societal regression has left women branded like prized chattel, one woman fights for the only thing she has left: herself. Stripped of her identity she becomes ‘Anna’, a persona she adopts to protect her true self, and she must learn to accept the loss of everything and everyone she ever loved in the war that tore the world apart. Anna is gracious. Anna is submissive. But Anna is also strong. Kidnapped, raped, and forced into a subservient role by a man who claims to love her, she watches people turn on each other for food, for fuel, for sex, for status and, for fun. Strength comes in many forms, and ANNA tells the story of one woman who becomes someone else in order to free herself.

***

Thank you. Congratulations, Sammy, you are survivor! A passing Starfury and its pilot, Kara Thrace, have honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Perseids and the pursuit of time.

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So, September has drawn to a close and with it, the last glimpse of hazy summer days of green, full of the flutter of butterflies and the promise of warmth, long before the trees shed their leaves in time for the frosts of dark winter, I find myself pondering the meaning of time.

I find myself staring at the calendar, October…really? Where did the year go?

The grass will only need another cut, maybe two before it’s growth stops for the season. Mushrooms and toadstools sprout like Autumn flowers from every nook and cranny, pushing their heads through the thick carpets of acorn and horse-chestnuts that seem to litter our garden. I’ve managed to pick a few highly exotic looking pink toadstools which I can’t identify in any of my nature books, with billowing tops like frilly edged bolero skirts!

A few fleeting Speckled Wood and Small White butterflies still linger in the margins, their brief lives coming to a close soon, but delighting in the odd sunny day we still have and the harvest of Autumn fruits to feed upon. Only a few blooms still remain, the odd rose, some Michaelmas daisies, but mostly the garden looks barren now compared to the riotous colour that has dazzled us through spring and summer. Now the golden hues of Autumn are the palette of the day, beautiful in their own right, but a reminder that winter is coming. Time is passing.

I’m not just thinking of the literal meaning of passing time – minutes, hours, years of our lives ticking away as surely as those grains of sand in an hour glass, grey hairs appearing, wrinkles creeping or deepening, a paling of the skin, a yellowing of the eyes, spots on hands, or gravity working it’s inevitable magic. But the abstract form of time as well. Is time our friend or our enemy? A steady hand who guides and follows us through the ups and downs of our life? Enriches us with the experiences we share, that shape who we are? Or a nasty bully snidely reminding us how short our brief lives actually are, no more than a fleeting spec in the cosmic soup of the universe and how many precious years we have wasted…and how few we have left in which to achieve our dreams/goals? Time – friend or foe? I’m not sure where I fall on this one.

Certainly, like so many of us, I’ve always felt myself doggedly pursuing time, much like a hamster stuck on a spinning wheel, trying to cram far too much into every 24 hours and cursing myself when I couldn’t achieve the impossible. Most of our lives are spent in this endless juggling game – juggling jobs, families, life, and the stresses and workloads inherent with them, then trying to squeeze anything else in the few hours left, such as writing, creating or …er…breathing!

My reason for this ‘timely preoccupation’ is simple. Not only was last year the first time I unexpectedly found myself with nothing but time on my hands, and it was not been a welcome companion (thankfully I am VERY busy now and manically juggling things again), but this year is proving to be a pendulum of highs and lows.

From working a very full-time and responsible job, which certainly clocked in excess of 50 hours a week, not counting work on weekends and evenings, after 16 years of juggling my job and constantly chasing time, my body suddenly said, “NO!”. Yes, there were a lot of factors involved in it, and yes, I should have received support and didn’t, especially when I asked for it. Stress and overwork can have devastating results if left unchecked, a year later and I am still struggling to regain my health fully. The last two years have undoubtedly been the strangest and most traumatic years of my life, but as I was looking back over this lovely summer I remembered an event I witnessed nearly two months ago that kind of put things in perspective for me, as well as bringing as smile to my face.

I was fortunate to see one of nature’s true spectacles, through my own somewhat scratched and blurry glasses. I speak of course, of the annual event of the Perseid meteor shower which hurls its cascade of dust and small rocky particles across our atmosphere every summer (July 23rd – August 20th 2014), with the peak usually falling around August 11-13th. The Perseids are named after the Greek deity, Perseus, whose constellation they appear to come from.

I’d been having serious insomnia problems again, and ended up going downstairs. It was August the 12th and I remembered the Perseids were happening, so with my white wolves and a warm fleece, I snuggled in a chair and gazed up at the clear heavens. Living out in the sticks has its definite advantages, no light pollution. Not only do we have the most amazing sunsets here, uninterrupted across the fields, but the skies here are the clearest I’ve seen for miles around. Seeing as my wobbly legs and dizzy head prevent me from standing and gazing up without toppling over, the chair was a great idea. Wow! Apart from the few faint streaks I saw whizzing through the sky, I was amazed by three blazing fireballs, really bright, and only forty minutes or so apart. Truly spectacular!!!

It just reminded me how small my problems are, how vast and beautiful the universe is, how we never truly know what is out there or what life will throw our way and how precious time is…every single second of it. As precious as air, as rare as love, and totally priceless. Every second counts. It doesn’t matter if you think you’ve messed up the last few years, or want to re-run the last fifty years, it’s never too late to make the most of the time you have, every day, every moment of it.

Life is beautiful, don’t let worries or the daily grind make you forget it.

😀

http://youtu.be/KQlOAXF4T60

http://youtu.be/vTXA5gYWtXs

For more meteor showers coming your way, here are some dates for the next of nature’s spectacles! 😀 xxxx

Thanks to Meteor Watch for this: http://www.meteorwatch.org/

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My Writing Process Blog Tour

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A couple of days ago I was very kindly nominated by multi-talented fantasy author, Kate Jack http://kateannejack.wordpress.com/ , to participate in the ‘My Writing Process Blog Tour’. A HUGE thanks to Kate jack for her nomination.

I’m always fascinated by authors’ writing processes and the journeys they go on to get to where they want to be, as no two authors are ever alike. Each process, each story, each journey is unique to each writer.

So, with that in mind, here is my writing process:

What am I currently working on?

Several projects. Firstly, I’m finishing off the re-worked version of my epic fantasy, White Mountain, due for re-release later this year. Then, I’m also writing the sequel, Race of Shadows – Book 2 of my Darkling Trilogy. I feel like a fantasy seamstress at the moment, weaving all these different threads, plots and sub-plots together! In addition, I have written and am now busily illustrating my very first picture book for young children, The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile, a really sweet little story with a twist, that shows that a little determination goes a long way!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Genre is a funny word, meant to clump and pigeon-hole work together for the ease of classification. I love the term magic-realism, as it conjures up ideas of dreams and mythical adventures set in our modern world. So, although my work would be classified as fantasy, specifically epic fantasy, I still cling onto the concepts of magic-realism. Lol, I digress…

Well, every author’s voice is unique, regardless of the different influences that affect us. Ultimately, only we can tell our stories and each of them will carry something different as a result. I’m sure every author thinks their work is unique and I’m certainly no exception. For me, I wanted to defy certain fantasy conventions and give them a fresh twist. Why use other author’s invented people’s when I can have my own? My dragons are fyrrens, my dwarfish equivalents are dworlls, there are no elves in any of my stories only historical references to a defunct ancient culture of aellfrs. I have witches, oracles and wizards (magus) and of course my own unique inventions like wargols, fire-wolves, dark mytes, gorrgos etc. Also, most stories for children and young adults adheres to the set formula that to interest young minds all the main protagonists must be young too. I never understood that set mentality as some of my favourite tales growing up involved older characters, stories of Merlin, magic, Gawain and the knights of the Round Table; 33 year old Hobbits and ancient wizards; the Snow Queen, the White Witch, Aslan, the dragons of Pern, Beowulf, Siegfried & Brunhilda from the Volsung Sagas, none of these were children. As older characters, they had a depth to them, a life lived, experiences that would mould them and influence their choices. Having said all that, Gralen, my dragon, my be 1364 years old but he’s every bit as immature as I am!

Why do I write what I do?

Because I love it. I’ve been writing stories almost before I could even walk properly. It’s something that has always come as second nature to me. But writing is hard, insular, often un-rewarding, full of doubt, frustration, annoyance at yourself. No-one would willingly subject themselves to it, unless it was it a passion and something they simply HAD to do. For me, being creative in some way is like breathing, something that sustains and lifts me. At intense periods of my life when time and everything is being squeezed, if I don’t write or draw at least something, it actually makes me depressed. It’s something I need to do to stay happy and balanced.

How does my writing process work?

Lol, it’s very ad hoc. I’m dreadful with set timetables. For the last 15 years, I’ve had to juggle writing with a very full-on full-time job, not easy at the best of times. Basically I write whenever I can, but try to ensure that I do something every day, no matter how small. Boy, I WISH I was more efficient and much quicker! Many of my friends write directly onto their laptops and computers. Me? Nope, I’ve always got to do things the hard way. For me, I just HAVE to write it first, the old-fashioned way. First on countless note-pads – scribbling key scenes, dialogue, narrative pieces, snapshots and overviews of a plot. Next, I connect the dots, start to write it out fully, adding and refining those rough scenes. Then, it’s typing it up on the computer, editing as I go until I have a rough first draft. After that, the exhaustive process of re-working, re-drafting, edits, edits, edits must begin. I must have edited White Mountain at least 100 times before it was even seen by another person. Perfectionism is my blight, it means you are never truly satisfied and that you have to be SO careful not to overwork something. The plus side, is that your research will be so in-depth, that it gives wonderful credibility, back story and realism to the world you create, no matter how fantastical it may be.

*****

So, that’s me, the creative nerd and messy perfectionist! 😀

Right, time to pass on the baton…a very tricky task given how many amazing writers there are out there – you’re a talented bunch don’t cha know! 🙂

So, after much head scratching, here are my two nominees, both of them absolutely terrific and talented writers and great bloggers too! :

Will Macmillan Jones http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/

Susan Finlay http://susansbooks37.wordpress.com/

Please check out their blogs, full of fantastic posts and all sorts of treats! 😀

 

 

46 Top Websites to Promote Your Book for FREE

Some very helpful tips and websites here for promotional opportunities, some of them you know well, others perhaps not. Check it out folks – how to promote your book for free!!! 😀

Savvy Writers & e-Books online

Book Store Stand out Against Thousands of Books

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Added June 23, 2013:

Dear Reader:  This list of websites, which we compiled in March 2012, grew in the meantime to almost 100.  Please visit our two new blog posts with even more possibilities to announce your work for free:

http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/50-web-links-to-let-your-book-go-viral/

http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/part-2-45-more-websites-to-promote-your-book/

All three blog posts are officially copyright registered.  To link to our blog posts, and let your own readers know about these websites, please use the RE-BLOG link on top of this page. Thanks!  Please learn about re-blogging here:
http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/re-blogging-vs-copyright-infringement/

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Original Article from March 11, 2012:

1. Goodreads
Use your free membership to promote yourself and your books. Reviews are essential and reviews on Goodreads site help your book to really stand out to millions of visitors.

2. Wattpad
Wattpad has experienced explosive growth since its inception and has become the world’s most popular destination to publish and…

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Dodging boomerangs, celebrating and passing 6,000!!!!

Strange how life throws boomerangs at you periodically.

You get something really great that happens to you and then you get a bunch of obstacles and unforeseen difficulties that get in the way.

How did Dickens describe it? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

It’s just life, eh?

Recently I’ve had one of the best days of my life, my wonderful book launch at Octavia’s Bookshop www.octaviasbookshop.co.uk a little over a week ago, which to my utter delight was a complete sell out! Yes, we sold out of every book in just over an hour!!

Then, despite wanting desperately to publicise and promote my novel and all the wonderful things that have happened, I’ve been struck down this week by severe migraines and sickness! Ughhh…I found myself saying “I don’t have time to be ill!” But of course, your body has a way of saying, “STOP!”

I hate being ill as we all do and I never, never take time off work…but have spent the last few days curled up in bed with the curtains drawn, like some oversized dormouse. Ughhh.

Juggling life, work and stress is tricky at the best of times but throw in illness and it’s a kicker.

So, it is with total unbridled joy that with a bag of frozen peas on my head, I popped onto the computer and saw that my beloved little blog has passed the 6,000 visitors mark!!!

I am SOOOOOOO thrilled and delighted and genuinely touched by all the amazing support I’ve received from friends and strangers a like!

Thank you to everyone who has dropped by this little blog to say hello, to hang out for a while, or just to whizz by. Whether you are frequent visitors or one-time passers-by, thank you, thank you, thank you!

I won’t share my migraines, but I’ll happily share the LOVE!!!!!

Thank you guys! 😀 xx