Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Friday, 10 June 2016

Feature & Follow Friday

The goal of Feature & Follow Friday, hosted by AlisonCanRead and Parajunkee, is to increase blog followers and make friends. There's also an optional post prompt to join in with.

Here's how it works, (copied off AlisonCanRead's page) :-
  • You leave your link and thumbnail in the linky list that links back to your post prompt.
  • Once you have your post up and linked, visit other posts and tell them hi. The point is to FOLLOW them not just comment.
  • If you see a post that just hit it to the moon, or just want to show appreciation to a fellow blogger friend, COME BACK AND VOTE for them on the linky list to show some appreciation.
  • The person with the most VOTES gets chosen as the next Feature (you can be chosen every 90 days unless we are in need of features)
  • It is required that if you participate that you have to follow the FEATURE. It is a big no-no to participate and ignore the feature. They are the special snowflake in this little blizzard.
  • As a participant it is up to your discretion on how you want people to follow. Please post RSS, GFC etc if you have a follow of choice.
Specific RULES
  • Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts (if you can find it, unlike me!!)
  • Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say “hi” in your comments and that they are now following you.
  • If you are using WordPress or another CMS that doesn’t have GFC (Google Friends Connect) state in your posts how you would like to be followed FOLLOW as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don’t just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don’t say “HI”
  • Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don’t just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don’t say “HI”.
PS. I can't find the code to add the Linky links to this post!  If anyone knows where it's hidden, please let me know.  Meanwhile, use the links on AlisonCanRead's and Parajunkee's names at the top of this post to navigate to their pages and so take part.

The Post Prompt Bit:  What is your all-time favourite book?

What a question...  I've enjoyed so many!  I truly don't have one particular favourite.   There a novels which I've re-read several times and will probably read again at some future point.  These include Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited and Anne Rice's Armand, but this list could be extended considerably.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Fabian Revealed!


Here's the first look at the front cover for Fabian: An Artisan Sorcerer Story.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Moths, Artists and The Needle

Lime Hawk Moth
This lovely lime hawk moth was found snuggled against our garden wall.  I'd been doing a spot of weeding when I saw it, and so I went back inside for my camera.  Pretty, isn't it?  I don't think I've seen one of these before, though we have had other types of hawk moths visit our garden.

Anyway, watching me watching it was the blackbird which often rummages through the plant pots and forget-me-nots in the borders.  As I walked away, intending to put my camera back in the drawer where it usually lives, I saw a dark blur in the corner of my eye.  And that was the end of the moth.

Speaking of finality, Fabian has now been edited and the process of formatting has begun.  I've been looking at roughs for the front cover, which obviously has to continue the theme already established by the Artisan-Sorcerer Series.  So, we're now looking at publication date of July/August, if all goes well.  I've already started putting together a few notes for the 5th novel.

Richard's enjoying his new job, which he says is a million times less hassle than being self-employed.  The downside is that he has to leave the house at 5.30am to travel to work on time.

At his latest diabetic assessment, the nurse gave Richard the good news that his insulin levels can now be reduced steadily, over a period of several months, and if this is successful then he'll be able to use tablet-form insulin rather than the twice-daily injections (plus tablets) which he currently relies upon.  He looks forward to waving goodbye to the needle.

I'm looking forward to doing some of The Wirral Open Studio Tour again this year.  Over 50 artists and craftsworkers will be displaying their creations, many in their own studios, between the 11th and 12th June.  For details of who is exhibiting and where, check the website.

Walking Out to Hilbre, oil on canvas, 2016.
After last year's tour, I toyed with the idea of exhibiting my own work but there's not enough of it yet to make it worthwhile.  Taking a work-related NVQ Level 3 course has devoured a huge proportion of my time - hence the delay with Fabian.  I'm now on the last lap of that, which takes the form of a Maths Key Skills Level 2 course (and which began on Friday 13th last month, which amused me).

Anyway, here's my most recent painting - not a great photo, as the flash has bounced off the wet paint and washed-out some of the texture of the sand, but you can get the general idea.  This was based on a photo, taken years ago, and the people walking out to Hilbre Island are actually Richard and my sister Hazel and two of her 'kids' who are now 30 (or thereabouts).  Time flies, hmm?

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Book Review: City Stories

There is a small but positive book revew of City Stories here, a collection of fiction and poetry by members of Riverside Writers which I edited and contributed to.

Riverside Writers now have a new website here.  Since moving from West Kirby to Oxton a year ago I haven't been a member of the group, but I'm pleased to see they're doing well.

Pick up your copy of City Stories for FREE here.

Two Galleries, a Picnic and a Twiddlemuff.

Richard modelling a Twiddlemuff
Recently we had family here, and after sharing a meal which Richard had cooked we all went to the Open Exhibition at the Williamson Art Gallery.  The range and quality of paintings and photography on display is very encouraging, and should surely attract serious interest from the art world as a whole.  There was a wealth of emerging talent on show.  You've got until the 8th of May to see it.  Treat yourself.

My sister Evelyn was full of her adventures in New Zealand, of course.  She had a great time there, and even got to visit the Weta Workshop, which I'm quite envious of.  There's a photo of her posing amongst shrubbery with a troll from The Hobbit.  She brought me back a weird egg - not a real egg, but one you're supposed to soak in water for 48 hours before it hatches into a kiwi, which then will continue to grow if you keep it in water.  40 hours later, the egg has developed a flaky, scabrous appearance but as yet we remain sans kiwi.

I have now completed all modules for the NVQ course.  All that is left now is for me to do the Key Skills Maths, which I am not looking forward to tackling as I loathe the subject.  Ok, I'm hopeless at maths.  That's why I hate it - because I can't do it.  Having said that, I co-ran a business for 21 years and you can't achieve that without having a modicum of accounting skill.  Maybe there are two kinds of maths - real-world maths and the stuff you learn in school but which you never, ever use again, like decimal fractions or long division.  Having left high school some Aeons ago I've totally forgotten how to do any of this stuff.  Oh well, I will just have to de-identify with hating maths and knuckle down and finish the course.  ASAP.  ASAP with bells on, even.

Friday saw Richard and I at the Walker Art Gallery for the Pre-Raphaelites "Beauty and Rebellion" exhibition, which I highly recommend.  I had loved the PRB's work even before I went to art school in Liverpool, some 25 years ago.  While there, amongst the other extra courses which I took,  I earned Grade A with GCSE Critical Studies in Art & Design.  The course work for this included a detailed study of an optional artist or art movement, and I chose the PRB, focusing on Edward Burne-Jones's work.  Here in Merseyside we are fortunate to have many PRB paintings and other works on public display and I've viewed these many times other the years.  The "Beauty and Rebellion" exhibition features some of these familiar favourites but there were a great many paintings that I had never seen before and so it was truly a feast for the eyes.  The exhibition runs until 5th June, and is well worthy of the £7 entrance fee.

Eyes still dizzy with the glories of the PRB, and with inspired fingers itching for my paints, Richard and I found a sunny spot in St John's Gardens for a picnic. It's hard to credit that this pocket-sized garden used to part of open healthland where people hung their washing.  There's no trace of that now, but it is a green spot in the midst of a typically busy city centre and the pigeons and lone herring gull which kept us company were happy to help clean up anything edible which came their way.

Two new Hubpages await, for those who might like to read them!  It's been ages since I added anything to my Hubpage site.  This is where I post my non-fiction articles, which cover a broad range of subjects ranging from my efforts at making a frog pond, a visit to Hilbre Island (a place which features in the Artisan-Sorcerer Series), to a description of my time working at Pretty Ugly Pottery.   These do a nice job of supplementing my living as a writer. 

The two new Hubpages are about activities for dementia sufferers, and How to Make a Twiddlemuff.  So now you're probably wondering what on earth a Twiddlemuff is.  It's a muff, (or a tube), of soft, warm fabric,  which is decorated with all kinds of stuff to twiddle with.  They are made for people with advanced dementia, who often find them soothingThe photo at the top of this post shows Richard modelling the Twiddlemuff which I knitted.  Now, I'm no expert knitter.  Far from it, actually.  I only know one stitch!  Yes, I know I could have looked up other stitches on YouTube 'How To' videos...  My point being that Twiddlemuffs are easy to make.  Anyway, here's one I made earlier.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Puzzles, Pirates and Paper.

Adele Cosgrove-Bray puzzle on TheJigsawPuzzles.com
Peacock King Jigsaw Puzzle
While you're waiting for Fabian, the fourth novel in the Artisan-Sorcerer series, to become available - and it is coming soon! - have a play with this on-line jigsaw puzzle of the Peacock King, who features in the forthcoming book.  (The image is in much better focus on the jigsaw site).

One year ago, we moved to this house.  It's incredible to realise that this little anniversary has arrived already.  Moving here was one of the best decisions we've ever made.  We're both still in love with the place.

Last Saturday we scraped off old wallpaper in the dining room, up to the level of the picture rail.  Recently we had some repairs carried out on one of the walls in that room, and now the new plaster has had plenty of time to dry out properly.  Sunday saw me unravelling the mysteries of how to hang 7ft strips of patterned wallpaper without getting it in a glorious knot, tangled round the stepladder or stuck to the wrong bit of wall.  By 3.30pm I'd managed to do three-quarters of the room, and decided to finish it off next weekend as I was feeling pretty finished off myself by that point.

The pattern is an embossed leaf design, all curving fronds and arching stems.  It can be painted but right now it's snow white, bringing to mind a huge Elvish wedding cake.

I'm still working away on my NVQ course, and thankfully the end is steadily drawing closer.  My tutor has said I'll have finished the entire course by September at the latest.  I'll be glad to reach that goal if only as this will free up much more time for creative projects which have had to take second place to the demands of the course.

On February 29th, I gave a talk on Wirral pirates and smugglers.  The private audience really enjoyed it and kept me talking on local history for longer than I had anticipated.  I'd illustrated the talk with photos of some of the places mentioned in the talk, such as Hilbre Island, various tunnels and caves, Mother Redcap's notorious tavern, The Halfway House, (demolished now, more's the pity), and the Wallasey-born privateer Fortunatus Wright's dagger.

The research for the talk will probably find its way into my writing.  I've already featured the Hilbre pirates and smugglers in a couple of short stories, namely Spanish Jones and Seagull Inn, (the latter being featured in a Hadley Rille Books' anthology called Ruins Terra).  The River Dee selkies, who are descendants of Spanish Jones himself, feature briefly in Rowan but more heavily so in Fabian.

 Daffodils, snowdrops and crocus have all come into flower at the same time.  My crocus seem greatly reduced in number, so maybe transplanting them from my old garden to plant pots for the new garden wasn't particularly successful.  Once the garden wall has been re-built, I can begin working on the border which runs alongside it, which I want to broaden.  There will be plenty of room in that for new spring bulbs.  It's lovely to see these vibrant splashes of colour as winter receeds.