Sunday, 5 March 2017

Na'zza and the Fruit

Here's a short video slideshow made from some of the rapid sketches I'd done during 2016.  The location is Birkenhead Park, and all but one of the sketches were done with an ordinary fine-line ink pen.  I used a small pad which could easily be tucked inside a jacket pocket for convenience.  When I describe the sketches as rapid, I mean it.  Many of them were completed within a few seconds.  I hope you all enjoy the video.  You can find my other videos by using the menu above, or at my YouTube site.

As I type this, rain is pattering loudly against the window beside me.  It's a sound I've always enjoyed; I find it strangely comforting and restful.  Rain has its own musicality.

The rain will also help to water-in the loganberry and thornless blackcurrant canes I planted in large tubs yesterday.  I also potted up two wall baskets with three tiny strawberry plants in each.  As they grow, these will happily dangle down and provide a splash of greenery on a garden wall as well as offer a supply of home-grown fruit.  Strawberries will grow well even on the smallest patio or veranda, and require very little care.  I grew them in our old garden and the hardest part was harvesting the ripe fruit before our Westie ate the lot.

Richard invented a new dinner.  He'd prepared the topping for pizzas before discovering we were out of pizza bases.  I'm not fond of them anyway as the bases make my tongue feel like it's been licking carpet.  What was he going to do?  Make elaborate cheese on toast?  Then his eye fell on a packet of na'an bread...   A purist might cringe but actually it tasted delicious.  I recommend it, despite the bread being floppy so you have to roll it like a pancake to eat it.  We name this dish piz'an, or na'zza - take your pick.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

75% Off The Artisan-Sorcerer Series

To celebrate the annual Read an Ebook Week, for one week only all four novels my Artisan-Sorcerer Series will be on offer at 75% off their usual price.  Make the most of this massive discount while you can.

Also on offer will be my other ebooks, at between 50% and 75% discount for one week only.

Remember to use the discount coupon on each individual book page.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Pockets, Paintings and Prezzies.


Presenting 'Art Gallery #3', which features my oil and watercolour paintings from 2016, plus a couple of drawings.  Not exactly a prolific output but in my defence it had been a busy time, what with finishing my fourth novel, Fabian, and completing my second NVQ Level 3 course.  This video doesn't include my sketches done in Birkenhead Park - they'll keep for a separate video which will appear eventually.

I hope you enjoy looking at the video.  If you like any of the paintings, you can purchase them via my online store, Spooky Cute Designs.  They come as quality prints, (framed or unframed), on t-shirts for men and women, greetings cards and a wide variety of items.  Payment is secure with PayPal, and international shipping is available.  Browse the store for further details.

Anyway, guess whose birthday it was in February 17th!  Richard gave me two wonderful art books:  Artists Painting Techniques, edited by Bob Bridle and others; and Van Gogh:  The Complete Paintings, edited by Inga F Walther and Rainer Metzger.  I've been an admirer of Van Gogh's work for a very long time, and this book features many paintings I've never even seen before so I'm really thrilled to be given this.  I aim to get to the Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands at some point, so I can see some of his work for real.

I've been on annual leave from my part-time day job for this week, and it's been a very enjoyable week.  I travelled to Southport to have lunch with my sister Evelyn, and we had a fun day browsing vintage furniture and china which we both have far too much of already.  I have beautiful china tea sets I've never used even once, which is a bit mad really.

I've been swimming several times, and took the dogs for a long meander through West Kirby sand dunes then around the marina and then into the village to see what's changed since we moved from there two years ago.  I also had walks round Prenton, Birkenhead, The Arno and Oxton, and finally got round to pruning the last of the roses in our garden.

I finished writing a short story.  Well, it's almost finished; it needs a tweak or two but the body of it is there.  So far it has the riveting title of "Cat Story".  This will change.

I fell in love with a lightweight coat.  It's a hybrid cross between a duffel and a raincoat, so it has toggles like a duffel but it's of a light yet showerproof material.  It's a lovely muted orange colour, with a white and navy stripy lining in the hood, and the hood's detachable, and the whole thing can go in the washing machine.  It has two big pockets.

Womens' clothes so often forget about practical things like pockets.  Well, technically it is the womens' clothes designers who forget about these things.  This is why women are usually seen clutching a bag - not because we've (necessarily) a fixation with bags but because our clothes have no pockets.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Fanart and Blue Roses

Character sketch of Teil
Snowdrops are about to come into bloom in my garden.  I love snowdrops; they're such simple little flowers but so delicate and pretty.

Other spring bulbs are pushing through, too, and this week the 2016/17 catalogue for David Austin roses dropped through the door.  Our garden has an old rose which is under threat of removal; it's got one more season to buck up or it's out of here.  Last year it didn't flower even once.  In a small garden like ours, there's no room for plants that don't perform.

When we moved house, I had to leave behind a few favourite roses, including my beloved Rosa Mundi, (which is listed on page 50 of the catalogue), which I'd like to replace.

A week ago I was admiring a bouquet which included several royal blue roses.  They looked wonderful!  Unfortunately a Google search quickly revealed that these had been dyed, and the nearest to 'blue' roses are really only lilac shades.  That was a bit disappointing, so hopefully some genius at tinkering with DNA will find a way to let me have true blue roses soon. 

Since my last post, when I listed my goals for this year, true to plan I've taken up swimming again.  It felt so good to be back in the water!  It's been about two years since my last swim, so I decided I'd be pleased with 10 lengths.  I actually swam 26 lengths of the 25m pool so I must have been fitter than I assumed, probably thanks to our exercise bike.  Since then I've been back twice each week, and intend to keep the activity as a regular part of my life.  I'm not technically good but I find swimming relaxing.  The sessions are designed for lane swimmers not paddlers, which suits me fine.  The water can be chilly though!  It's ok once you get going but those first minutes can widen your eyes a bit.

Richard's been on annual leave this week.  This has been his first paid holiday in his entire life.  He was always self-employed previously, of course.  Now he's set aside his old 'Richie Tattoo Artist' persona and works for someone else, doing something entirely different, not only is he happier in himself and more relaxed but he's enjoying life much more.  During his self-employed days, if he took a day off it meant he wasn't earning anything, and days off were often used up repairing tools or preparing needles for tattooing with, so he felt as though he never really got a break from working.  All that is behind him now, and he is very glad.

So on Monday morning he looked like a kid whose birthday had come twice - seven whole days of well-deserved holiday time awaited!  Now he and the dogs are worn out.  He's taken them to Liscard, New Brighton, Moreton, The Arno, Birkenhead Park...  When they came back from hurtling up and down West Kirby beach, all three of them - man and both dogs - were zonked out on the couch for most of the evening.

I've had quite a number of emails from readers wanting to know more about Teil, who features in Fabian: An Artisan-Sorcerer Story.  Teilhard St Clair is a silversmith and talented designer of jewellery who enters into a business venture with Fabian.  As the son of Mel ap Tewdwr,  Teil is bound to hold a few aces up his sleeve.  Teil will feature in the fifth novel, Morgan, but obviously I'm not going to give anything away about that yet.  Meanwhile, here's a character sketch of Teil done on coloured paper using china pencil and a couple of watercolour pencils, keeping the palette very simple.

If anyone wishes to create more fanart based on the Artisan-Sorcerer Series, I'd love to see it.  The drawings I've seen already are great fun, and I love that some of you feel inspired to create your own art based on the characters.  So long as fanart - or fanfic for that matter - remains non-profit making and the Artisan-Sorcerer Series is clearly identified as the source of the ideas, then feel free to create.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Goals for 2017

Since 2012, I've created a list of annual goals which I aim to achieve within the following twelve months.  This is one way to keep track of the progress of various projects and it's a bit of self-entertainment.
Mallard; oil on canvas; Adele Cosgrove-Bray; Dec 2016. 

My goals for 2016 were:-
  1. Publish Fabian;
  2. Finish the NVQ Level 3 course;
  3. Write more poems and short stories;
  4. Create more art and photography.
 My fourth Artisan-Sorcerer novel, Fabian, was published by Middle Eye Press in paperback and ebook formats back in September.  Readers learned more about everyday life within the Artisan-Sorcerer household, but were also given  much more insight into the magical, spiritual side of their lives.  Fabian himself faces life-altering and life-threatening situations.

You readers could really help me by posting reviews of my work on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or other online stores, or on your own blog.  The amount of promotion a site like Amazon gives to all writers directly corresponds to how many reviews they have, and so every additional review is important.

The fifth in the Artisan-Sorcerer series will probably be called Morgan, and I've recently begun work on the first draft.

My second goal for 2016 was to complete the NVQ course, and this has been achieved.  The complete list of my newly gained qualifications is:-

1) Federation for Industry Sector Skills & Standards:  Advanced Level Apprenticeship in Adult Social Care.

2) City & Guilds: Level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care (Adults) for England (Generic Pathway).

3) City & Guilds: Level 3 Certificate in Preparing to Work in Adult Social Care.

4) City & Guilds: Level 2 Award in Employment Responsibilities and Rights in Health, Social Care or Children and Young People’s Settings.

I also had to take City & Guilds: Functional Skills Level 2 in both maths and English, as this is a standard requirement of the course.  The English was easy for me, as I've supplemented my income through writing since my early twenties, when I was employed as an editor and then went on to write freelance.  However, maths has never been my subject - in fact since infant school days I've thoroughly loathed the subject and did not relish the prospect of this aspect of the course.

Sometimes, though, you've just got to deal with necessities and so, applying a spot of rational thinking, I analysed my dislike of the subject and figured out that a large part of why I don't like maths is because I'm not much good at it.  

Ok, I reasoned, so maybe if I did this course I'd get better at maths and so alter my habitual reaction to the subject.  I needed to pass this exam and so my reaction was not useful, and I'm not one for hanging on to anything that's useless, (unless that item is interesting in some other respect).  As things turned out I had a great tutor in Paul Byatt, who's other career is that of an actor, and to my genuine surprise I passed the exam first time. 

Since 2012, I've completed 16 work-related courses.  Enough's enough.  I don't intend to undertake more for the foreseeable future.  I want more time for creative pursuits.

My third goal for 2016 was to write more short fiction and poetry, but due to the sheer volume of writing involved in completing the NVQ course this simply didn't happen.  I wrote all of 2 poems and no short fiction at all, (as I was busy writing then editing Fabian).  This badly needs to change!

My fourth goal was to create more art and photography, and some of the results of these activities can be seen by scrolling through the images used to illustrated this blog.

So, here are my goals for 2017:-

  1. Write a minimum of one short story per month;
  2. Write a minimum of one poem per month;
  3. Write the 1st draft of Morgan;
  4. Paint, draw & photograph!;
  5. Take up swimming again.
I used to swim twice each week, every week, and enjoyed the exercise.  West Kirby swimming baths was on my homeward route after work, and so the activity easily fitted into my schedule.  Since moving house I've not been swimming at all, and want to change that.  It's fun, it's good exercise, and even though it will now require a special journey, rather than simply calling in as I pass by the pool, I'm sure it'll be well worth it.

One last comment - whatever you're doing, enjoy your year.  😊

Further Reading:
Goals for 2016
Goals for 2015
Goals for 2014
Goals for 2013
Goals for 2012

Friday, 25 November 2016

Writers, Shops and Disgruntled Diners.

Rapid sketch of moorhens; 2016.
I'm enjoying a spot of annual leave this week, which began with a lively and well-attended writers' event at Bebington Library on Saturday the 19th.  This featured members of Wirral Writers, Bebington Bards, the 3Ls Creative Writing Group and Riverside Writers.  I'm no longer a member of Riverside Writers due to constraints of time, but I had been invited to join in anyway.
Due to there being so many writers and poets wishing to read, a strict time limit was imposed and so the audience only heard half of my 1,600 word story, Fame, which is about an obscure, ageing rock singer who has turned up on Facebook.  It's a story about reminiscing and unachieved ambitions which still tempt.

My sister Evelyn came to the library event, and afterwards she and I travelled to my home with my friends Tim and Nigel, where we all socialised for a couple of hours and caught up on news.

I've been generally tidying up the house.  It is now half dusted.  I'll admit I'm no lover of housework, but on the other hand I can't abide a mess.  The garden's bugging me now, as the roses and a few shrubs need pruning back ready for winter but it's either been raining or I've been busy with other things.  Weather permitting, Richard and I plan to blitz the garden between us at the weekend.

Heron watching the water; 2016.
I've been out most days, walking my dogs and doing a bit more sketching in the park.  Some of the results are shown here - all very rapid sketches, taking no more than a few seconds to do.  With the moorhens, I added a touch of colour later on; they look more like cartoon moorhens than real ones, but I like 'em.

Richard and I arranged to meet after he'd finished work at 11am, and so we had a walk round Liverpool One, which was very quiet whereas Church Street and Bold Street were densely crowded.

We had lunch in Wetherpoon's.  I had to ask for our mugs of tea to be filled properly, as they were handed to me barely 3/4 full.  I had the cottage pie, which was nicely done but of modest proportions.  Placing a mini gravy dish beside the small pie dish set on a bigger plate and served with a spoonful of frozen peas did not fool me into seeing this as a full-sized meal. Richard ordered the All-Day Brunch, which turned out to be one fried egg, two small slices of bacon, a spoonful of baked beans, a sausage and a few chips.  This meant that my diabetic husband needed to immediately go to the nearby chippy to get more carbs to stop him from going into a hypo. We won't dine with this company again, which is a shame as they used to be good.

We headed into St John's Market, which looks a lot smarter and brighter than it used to, and crowds of people were browsing the main area.  The old-fashioned market stall section has been given a complete overhaul and has its official re-opening today.  However, most stalls remain vacant.  We got chatting to a total stranger, a man who was obviously thinking along the same lines - the place looks good but where have all the traders gone?

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Castles, Celebrations and Ducks

Boathouse, Birkenhead Park.
Saturday, 19th November will find me at Bebington Library, Wirral, when along with other writers I'll be reading one of my short stories.  The event starts at 2pm, so if you're in the area do come along.

It's absolutely ages since I took part in a similar event, and I've yet to decide which story I'll be reading.  I've so many to choose from!

I had my hair trimmed on Saturday, then decided to go for a walk round Birkenhead while I was there, reasoning that I'd be able to have a look for some new jumpers for the coming winter without hubby helping - which translates as him enthusing over monstrosities which only a neolithic troll might perceive as stylish. Great idea!  So I walked into the very first shop I came to, and who was the first person I saw?  Yes, Richard.  He was at the counter, buying the latest in Joseph Delaney's Spooks series.

We both really enjoyed the Spook's Apprentice series, but didn't take to the film at all.  The film's plot is quite at variance from that of the novel series, even allowing for the requirements of a very different medium.   Anyway, each to their own.

October 31st was our 20th wedding anniversary, and to celebrate we had a three-course meal at the Oxton Bar & Kitchen.  I did take a couple of photos but they are awful.  We both look quite forlorn in them.  My brother Eric said I looked like I was crying, when actually I was enjoying Parkgate ice-cream served with hot chocolate sauce.  I  posted the photos on Facebook if anyone can be bothered to look for them.  Anyway, in all truth we had a lovely meal.

Birkenhead Park.
Over the last year or so, I've been doing a series of rapid ink sketches around Birkenhead Park.  Many of these are of the ducks and geese, and the sketches have to be rapid as birds never seem to stay still for more than a few seconds.  There are also some studies of trees, looking at twisty shapes.  I've some photography of the park, too, (such as the photos in this post).  I'll probably turn the best of the project into a YouTube video eventually but I'm also toying with ideas for a small number of themed paintings - oils or watercolours, or maybe both.

Birkenhead Park Lake
Richard and I enjoyed a day out in Chester, which is one of our favourite places.  I sometimes toy with the appealing idea of moving there when I reach retirement age.  Richard laughingly says he'll not move house again unless it's when he's in a pine box, but I've always had itchy feet.  I love this house, though...but there's a world of lovely houses out there waiting for discovery.

I went to see my friend Tim's second exhibition of model castles, which was delightful.  This time he'd decided to show some of his gorgeous toy theatre collection, some of which he's had since he was a boy. 
Click on the photos to view them in a larger size.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Quotes from "Fabian: An Artisan-Sorcerer Story"

Here are a few short quotes from Fabian to tempt your appetite...

Grief is a weird thing; it hides beneath the surface and rises like a shark from the depths of your soul when you least expect it.


If a person worships money as their god and devotes all or most of their time and energy to its accumulation, feeding the spiritual with only fragments of their energies, then the spiritual will starve. Wealth in itself presents no obstacle to the spiritual. On the contrary, financial independence can bring freedoms which would otherwise remain beyond reach. And mastery of the material world is an often-overlooked facet of mastery of the self. There is no place in our Order for those who pretend to be an Adept when they can't even pay their own bills.


For all those years, she had ached for the future. So much time had been spent imagining how life would be, how events would unfold, how perfect everything would turn out in the end if only she kept hoping it would be so. And here she was, once again wishing things were different from reality. Another bushel of 'if only'. She had lain down in the bright green pasture she'd longed for, only to find it had plenty of thistles and cow shit of its own.


The creature's front paws plunged deep into Jason's chest. A thinly rasped scream tore through his rigid paralysis. Raw agony convulsed his arching spine. He could not believe he could endure such pain and still live. He was going to pass out. Silver and red flooded his bulging eyes. Tiny veins in his eyes burst. Then Jason knew what attacked him. This was no flesh-and-blood animal which had somehow slunk into his locked and bolted bedsit. This beast was an astral-dwelling fiend; a hunter with the mind of a man who could travel anywhere and assume any shape. A shape-shifter. A werewolf.


Louise felt an invisible fist slam into her solar plexus. Spiny psychic suckers plunged into the inner-most cortex of her nervous system. She cried out in pain as she felt her energy draining swiftly away, as if the life of every orange-red cell was ripped out of her. She flailed her arms, trying to hang-on to something solid, but her sence of balance swung wildly off kilter. She lurched fowards, cracking her forehead against the edge of the table as she crashed to the floor. Her chest was a needling spike of pain. Her heart was struggling. 

 "Fabian, enough. Fabian, I said stop. Stop it!", screamed Bethany Rose. "Stop it, or I'll stop you myself!" 

Use the links at the side of this page to purchase your copy today.

Monday, 10 October 2016

New Stuff, Old Stuff and Geese.

Cadi; chinagraph & watercolour pencils.
I passed my maths exam!  Thank goodness for that, as this means the final section of my NVQ Level 3 course is now complete, and all I have to do now is wait for my certificates to arrive.

I'm glad to see the end of it, as the course took up far more time than was described at the outset - the better part of two years, in fact - and involved a disproportionate amount of writing for a course which was supposed to be largely vocational.

Anyway, thanks go to Knowsley Community College tutors Helen Lea-Smith and Paul Byatt, who guided me through the course.

That's enough courses, thank you.  I've done one job-related course after another for the last five years, including a previous NVQ Level 3.  Enough is enough.

Rapid ink sketch of Canada geese.
If you're in Birkenhead Park and see a woman trying to sketch whilst holding onto two Jack Russells who're itching to walk further on, that'll probably be me.  I've been gradually filling a pocket-sized sketchpad with super-rapid ink drawings of ducks and geese.  Birds don't stand still unless they're asleep, and even then they seem to keep one eye open. 
Geese grooming; 10B pencil.

My sketches aim to capture the birds' movements rather than much detail.  If I'd wanted accurate details, I'd have taken photos.  I usually use an ordinary ink pen designed for drawing, but here's one sketch where I used a 10B pencil instead.

These geese were sitting on the lake's shore, grooming their feathers in the sunshine.  They'll be getting ready to fly off to their warmer winter sites in South America soon.  Quite a number seem to stay all year round, however.

I've also been sketching a few of the park's old trees, the gnarlier the better.  I haven't decided what I'm going to do with all these sketches yet, beyond making a video slide-show of them at some point.

I bought some new clothes!  Having rummaged through favourite but increasingly derelict woollens whose once-pristine forms had slowly devolved into shapes more suited to some uncertain species of simian humanoid, I figured it was time for a wardrobe update.

Now, usually, if I go shopping with the intent to buy clothes I come back home with absolutely nothing.  Last Saturday I arrived home with an armful of new outfits, including some lovely autumn/winter woollens.  Now I need more clothes hangers.

Eagle-eyed visitors to this website will notice some new pages in the menu bar at the top of the screen.  I've added pages for my art and cryonics, and also 'free stuff' which lists links to some of my Hubpage articles on writing and philosophy, plus some poetry and fiction.  More links will be added to these pages in due course.  Meanwhile, feel free to explore.