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 as 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.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Newness, Neighbours, Novels - and Bruises!

Fabian: An Artisan-Sorcerer Story out 09.09.16
I can now announce that the fourth novel in the Artisan-Sorcerer Series is now available in book shops the world over, in both paperback and ebook formats.

I hope you all enjoy Fabian, and will consider writing a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble or your blog or social networking site.  We indie authors can always use a bit of help, you know!

I'm already developing ideas for the fifth novel.  I already know how it's going to end and who is going to die.  I'm not quite sure how our heroes are going to arrive at that point yet, but it will come.  The process is like daydreaming.  I toy around with an idea and allow my imagination to go anywhere it wants to, sometimes prodding it along a little with 'what if' questions but not trying to force ideas in any specific direction as that tends to limit creativity.  In this way, I end up with a flexible plot outline without having written even one word yet.

There has been a huge increase in webtraffic here, so I'd like to extend a warm hello to you all.  Please feel free to leave comments.  All comments are screened to prevent spammers from making a nuisance of themselves, but other comments are most welcome.

There's also been a big surge in traffic to my Hubpages.  I plan to add new material to that site very soon, and so I encourage readers to keep an eye on it.

Richard and I have new neighbours.  They began the process of renovating their house before we moved here in March 2015, and it's been a huge project.  Apparently, nothing had been done to their house since the 1950s and so they had to rewire, replumb, repair and replaster interior walls, install central heating plus a new kitchen and bathroom, install new windows and doors throughout, knock down a sagging garden wall...  You get the picture - we had the noise; lots of it!  The young couple seem really nice.  They have a new baby girl and a little boy who's around four.

As yet the garden wall hasn't been replaced, which means our two little dogs keep running into their garden.  They knew this would happen and they're ok with it.  Poppi even invited herself into their house yesterday, as their back door was open.  New fencing is due to arrive soon.  Once that's been installed they'll be able to collect their own dog, a Westie - and you know I love Westies! - which is currently staying with their relatives.

Richard had nasty fall this week, though he readily admitted it was his own fault for standing on an office chair - the type with wheels - rather than put one of our stepladders to good use.  He had wanted to reach down a book from a high shelf.  Well, the chair went one way, he went the other way and landed on a folding table which promptly folded, taking both him and a stack of hi-fi gear crashing to the floor.  From downstairs I heard an alarmed yell, followed by a short series of crash-bang-wallops, then a loud groan.  So from the bottom of the stairs I called out, "Are you all right?"  No, he said, and so I hared it upstairs and found him a bit dazed but already slowly clambering to his feet.  Anyway, other than for a few mustard-yellow and purple bruises, fortunately he's ok. 

Monday, 5 September 2016

Fabian: 4th Artisan-Sorcerer Novel out 9th September!


Paperback:
ISBN - 13:978-1534973329
ISBN - 10:153497332X

Ebook:
ISBN - 9781370368495
ASIN - B01LLIIVAK (for Kindle)

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Old Friends and Big Vegetables.

Left to right: Adele CB, Freddie, Sharon and Adele H.
The last time Freddie, Adele, Sharon and I all had lunch together was when we were still in high school, so when Sharon suggested a get-together we readily agreed, and it was a fabulous day.  Here we all are, in the photo, ready to dine at the Oxton Bar & Kitchen.

As teenagers, we all lived in Lowton, a small village in Lancashire.  Life revolved around school, Lowton Youth Club, listening to music and the usual teenage preoccupations.  Adele's recently bought the house she grew up in, Freddie lives just outside Nottingham, while Sharon lives in Orange County, America, where she works as an artist.

We had great fun catching up on news, of course.  After a good lunch, we meandered round the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum then returned to my house for coffees.  Naturally my dogs joined in the fun, being spoiled for choice by having three extra people to demand cuddles from. Adele didn't particularly want her ears washing but Emily is a determined Jack Russell who remains wilfully oblivious to social etiquette.

Last weekend found me enjoying the small Flower and Vegetable Show in Birkenhead Park, which consisted of one marquee housing displays of prize-winning fruits and vegetables grown locally, and another marquee and several stalls mostly selling crafts.  There was also a stage, where a lone musician strummed his way through a selection of popular contemporary songs.  It wasn't a huge show but entrance was free, and hopefully in years to come it will gradually develop into a bigger event.  It certainly seems to have the potential for that.  Perhaps if the organisers combined efforts with local artists, who are already fairly active at public displays of their work, then the event would draw a broader crowd.  I still say it's a shame that the annual Wirral Show folded after running for 33 years.

Progress on proofreading Fabian continues.  A publication date should be set soon - mid September, perhaps?  It really won't be long before you can read the novel, now.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Leaks, Crumbles and Thieving Magpies

We're still waiting for a bloke to fix our boiler.  It went off and wouldn't relight, which it's done a few times before - something to do with water pressure dropping inside the boiler, which can be fixed by twiddling a button which usually doesn't do a bloomin' thing, (apart from when the bloke twiddles it, when it behaves instantly).

So this time he had a proper look at it, and got it working temporarily while he ordered a valve which he said was missing. It worked for a day then conked out again.

He put the valve on and it was supposed to be fixed. "But it might leak a bit," he said. I got home from work, went to see what he'd done, and ran for a bucket. So we called him back. "Oh, there're two washers missing," he said, only they come in bags of fifteen, "so you'll have a lot of spares." Ha ha ha. So now we're still waiting for a bag of washers to arrive at his suppliers, (does he mean via eBay?!!), and the bucket's still in use. It's only a tiny drip now but enough to soak the floorboards if left.  And still no hot water....!! Thankfully our shower's heated independently.

 Anyway, here's a photo of our cherry tree (above), laden with fruit which we harvested before the local bird population could devour the lot. There're plenty left for the birds at the top of the tree which our ladder couldn't reach. Richard made cherry and rhubarb crumble - the rhubarb's grown in our little garden too.

I was amused by a magpie doing its utmost to steal a shiny solar powered lamp - which doesn't work anymore - which dangles from the top of a clematis arch. The magpie pulled and tugged it this way and that, trying with all its strength to break the wire holding the lamp onto the arch. It even managed to wrench the lamp upside down, but still failed to snag its prize. This went on for about ten minutes before it flew off in a huff, squawking in frustration.

Our garden, July 2016.