Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas with Family

It's three days until Christmas. Three days to get last minute present wrapping done, Christmas cooking finished, and music prepared to be sung at midnight mass. The last days before the big event. I've finally finished my present shopping and I'm ready to throw myself into the last preparations for Christmas Day.

It's been a busy few weeks of Advent as we've prepared. We've made over thirty salt dough angels. We've cooked dozen of biscuits and mince pies. We've even put the Christmas tree up in preparation for decorating it this weekend.

And now we're nearly ready to celebrate. Soon it'll be time to go to midnight mass and welcome in Christmas Day with carols. It'll be time to unwrap the presents that flow out from under the tree like a river. But what I am looking forward to most is being with my family and seeing them smile. I'm looking forward to giving them the presents that I've bought them, (and hoping they like them). And I'm looking forwards to the peace and happiness of Christmas Day.

Because it's nearly Christmas, I shall be taking a blogging break over Christmas week. See you all in the new year!

What do you look forward to most about Christmas?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Photos On The Go

One of the things I like about having my tablet is the camera function. It wasn't one of those things that I thought I'd use often, if at all. After all, I already have a fully functioning camera to take photos with, and a laptop to edit them on.

But I have found since then that having a camera on my tablet, and some photo editing programs downloaded for free, means that I can always have good looking photos, no matter where I am, without having to download the photos from my camera first.

Today I went down to the lake with my family and, not having my camera with me, I took some photos with my tablet before having the greatest of fun editing them. That's one function you don't have with a normal camera at least, the ability to edit your photos instantly.

And then there's the fact that it's easy to take self portraits with a tablet camera too. Whether or not they are good photos is an entirely different affair... Maybe there's a trick to this?

Do you take photos with a tablet or phone camera? What do you think of mine?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Next Big Thing

My friend Jeff Hargett from Strands of Pattern tagged me for the "Next Big Thing" blog hop. Now, whether or npt it's the next big thing I leave up to you, but it's certainly my next big thing. So without further ado, here is my next big thing in ten questions and answers.

1. What is the working title of your book?

The Crystal Tree. Originally it was called Song of Healing, Song of Hope and was part of a trilogy. However, for the second draft, I changed the name to something that now fits a bit better. Though I'm sure that it will change to something more exciting when I have a better idea of the story.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I've always been interested in music and, being a lover of fantasy, I also love magic. So what could be better than to combine them? I wanted to write a book where songs were magic for a long time before I wrote this. And then I got the idea of a tree made of crystal that is magic. Combining the two gave me the idea for this story.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

YA Fantasy. YA Fantasy is my favourite genre, and it just made sense that I write in the same genre that I read. All that magic and invented stuff. So much easier to write than the real world.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I...have no clue. I don't know that many actors to tell the truth, and I never thought about casting my characters before.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

As luck would have it I spent a while working this out in preparation for the second draft of this book. And it's hard work boiling down an entire novel into one sentence, but here it is:

A young girl saves her country from a vengeful, exiled magician by sacrificing her magic.

6. If you plan to publish, will your book be self-published or published traditionally?

I would love to have it traditionally published, and certainly, that would be where I would look first for publishing. But first that means finishing the book...

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I wrote the first draft for Camp NaNoWriMo, and from memory writing the draft took me around ten days, though I don't remember the exact amount.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I'm having a hard time thinking of this now. There are probably plenty of books I could compare it to, but I can't think of them...

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

After getting the initial idea, it was the discovery of Camp NaNoWriMo that inspired me to write this book. I had the idea and the Camp, and it seemed like the right time to write it. So I did.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, readers are interested in synopses right? So I'll share my freshly written one here.

Briar’s future is simple. She will graduate from the Academy of Song Magic as a song healer and spend the rest of her life working in a small country town.

However everything is changed when an exiled magician returns to the country of Kerr with an army, a thirst for revenge, and more dark magic than any magician has ever seen before, starting his war with an unexpected attack on the Academy of Song and taking Briar prisoner

With the help of some unlikely friends, including a griffin hunter who hates Song Magic, and a palm sized dragon, Briar must escape from Sachio’s camp, and then find the legendary Crystal Tree, the source of light magic and possibly the only thing that can stop Sachio's revenge.

As Sachio and his army move closer and closer to completely conquering the country, Briar must find the strength to wield the full magic of the Crystal Tree. But doing this will mean sacrificing her own magic... for good.

So, that's my next big thing. I'm supposed to tag people for this, but sadly I'm not sure who to tag. So, what's your next big thing? What fantasy books would you compare this to? What would you like to know more about with this book?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Feels Like Christmas

Salt Dough Christmas Tree Ornament
It's truly starting to feel like Christmas now. This week we've brought out our cook books for this year's baking, and we've cooked up a batch of salt dough to turn into decorations. The Christmas music is playing and we're planning our activities all the way up to Christmas Day.

Once we hit this time of year, when we're cooking and making things, and practising Christmas music, that's when I start to feel that we're getting close to Christmas, that it's actually coming, and now the days seem to be racing by and we fill our time with preparations.

Now that we've reached December and Advent, I've got my hands into all kinds of sticky messes both in craft and cooking. Our traditional Christmas music is playing non stop every day. Everyone's hiding secrets and presents, and beaming big smile. And I know that Christmas is really coming. It just feels like Christmas.

It's the feeling of excitement buzzing through the air as we talk about the big event, the music, the smells, the fun and the laughter, the traditions kept up every year, the craft and the cooking that says Christmas to me. We're hunting the three wise men, and eating biscuits, and waiting for the day. It feels like Christmas to me.

What says 'Christmas' to you? Does it feel like Christmas is coming yet?

Monday, December 3, 2012

On NaNoWriMo and Second Drafts

It's three days after the end of this year's NaNoWriMo and I'm sitting here thinking about writing. This past month has been a good one writing wise. In one crazy, writing filled month, I've done more writing than I've done in any other month of the year. And I have plenty of good material now.

I'll be the first to admit, not everything I write in November is any good. Maybe even less than half. But inside the bad writing, the spelling mistakes and the clunky prose, there's a spark of a good idea, that something that got me writing in the first place.

There might not be a workable novel yet, but the ideas are there, and I certainly have a starting place for a good second draft. Now, at the beginning of a long summer break, might be the best time for me to get going  and to start working on the second draft of one of my novels.

So it's time for me to put away my NaNoWriMo writing and let it sit and stew for a while. And it's time for me to choose a novel from another NaNoWriMo session. It's time to break out the notebook and the coloured pens, and it's time to get planning, pulling out the hidden gems in the last draft, and creating a plan for the next one. And then it'll be time to get writing.

One of these days I'll have a draft that I'm proud to show everyone. It's just going to need a bit of work, that's all. And with a whole summer ahead of me, and a year of writing behind me, I think I might finally be able to have a go at doing this.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dusting Off the Abandoned Blog

November the 30th and the writing madness that is NaNoWriMo is coming to an end. Around the world writers are finishing up their novels and emerging from their literary worlds to see if that mythical thing called 'real life' still exists.

Me, I'm finished, and suddenly I remember how much I've neglected this poor blog over the past few weeks. While I've been typing madly, this abandoned blog has been sitting here gathering dust and waiting for me to get my head out of the clouds and back into the real world where it belongs.

So, it's time for me to dust off my blog, and remember my patient blog followers, whom I abandoned without a word of warning, and remember how it was that I used to post regularly. And how to write blog posts instead of novels...

Well, at least with Christmas coming up, and so many things happening around then, I'm sure to have plenty to write about. But for now, I am back, and I'm ready to blog once more.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why NaNoWriMo is Making Me More Productive

It's that crazy time of year again, where hundreds of thousands of writers sit down to write 50k words of a novel in a month. Some write more, some write less, but everyone's sitting down to write. Or not write as the case may be.

For me, NaNo goes a bit like this.

I sit down at my desk and pull open my lap top. Hang on, I can't write when my desk is such a mess. So I close the lid of the lap top again and tidy the desk. There, now I can write.

But what about the stuff on the floor? Now that my desk is all nice and tidy, shouldn't I make sure that the rest of the room looks just as nice? It'll only take a few minutes and think how much better I'll be able to write with a nice clean room. So I scurry round and clean up.

Mmm, what's that smell wafting out of the kitchen? I follow my nose out to find one of my sisters baking. "You can help if you like," she said. Soon we're concocting muffins and brewing coffee. There's plenty of time to write later.

Goodness, is that the time? I've spent so long eating muffins and drinking coffee that it's time to make dinner. Oh well, writing will have to wait until after dinner now. This really has been a busy afternoon!

Now, what shall I get done today? Maybe I'll redesign my blog. Or I might teach the cat how to play the piano. Maybe I'll actually get some writing done. Who knows...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Outlining to November

Now that it's October, NaNoWriMo is well and truly on the horizon. And that means that writers around the world are getting their novel outlines ready for the big day. That includes me. Normally I wouldn't be thinking about my novel yet, or preparing anything. I'd be sitting back, letting the planners plan, and waiting for November 1st to roll around so I could start pantsing my way through my novel. But not this time.

No, this time I've decided to have a go at being one of those planners myself. This time I want to see if taking the time to plan before November will leave me with a better, more coherent story at the other end of the month. And so, like every other NaNo planner, I'm working on an outline of my novel, hoping it'll be ready in time.

Of course, I've never actually planned anything before. Always before I've jumped in feet first and made everything up as I went along, which is exciting, and very fun, but not really that good for having a solid plot by the end of things. So I don't actually know a lot about planning at all.

Which is where my new favourite writing book comes into it. I've been reading K.M Weiland's "Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success". I've never much liked the idea of outlining before, but this book has definitely helped me find a style of preparation that I actually like.

With the help of this book, I'm working out my plot by writing out every idea I have in a notebook, and allowing myself to come up with every sort of ridiculous idea, and finding the good ideas among those. I'm even starting to get an idea of my characters by just writing down everything I think about them. With this style of planning, I think I'll definitely have a good idea of my plot before November.

I can't say I'll come out of this knowing every scene, every character, every event, or even every chapter. The pantsing side of me doesn't like the idea of that. But I will hopefully get to November and have a good idea of where my plot is supposed to go before I start. And maybe, just maybe that'll help me have a not quite so completely rubbish first draft.

Are you preparing for NaNoWriMo? Have you read this book? What writing books would you recommend?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Of Blogging Breaks and Surgery

Before surgery
It's hard to think that it's been nearly two weeks since I last wrote a post. My unannounced blogging break was due mainly to the fact that I had wisdom teeth surgery a week and a half ago, and I've spent the time recovering from that.

Having surgery and being in the hospital for the first time ever was exceedingly interesting, and very different to anything I could have imagined before. The hospital gown was frankly comical. It was like wearing a sack, kept closed with ties. And the hospital staff were nice, talking to me the whole way to theatre, explaining the process to me, and generally keeping me very calm.

Coming out of the anaesthetic was more like waking up from a sleep than anything else. In fact, I'd even been dreaming before that. And then I had to spend the next quarter of an hour reminding myself how to swallow, and how to tell the nurses that I was in fact perfectly alright. Though the constant taking of my blood pressure was annoying.
After surgery

And after that, I proudly dressed myself, even down to tying my shoe laces, which felt like such an achievement, and headed to the lounge to dribble custard down myself as I battled with a numb face. And then it was off home  for a week and a half of soft food, and armchair rest. Which included impersonating a pumpkin as my face swelled, wearing an ice helmet to combat the swelling, and talking non stop from the moment I left the hospital.

Now, the stitches are coming out, and I'm back to normal.While I can't say I enjoyed the experience too much, it's certainly been interesting. And I am now very thankful for the power of chewing. How I miss solid food!

Photos thanks to my Mum.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back to the Bush

Throughout the winter my family and I have been running on out treadmill inside, while outside it's cold, often rainy, and certainly not nice weather to be out running in. And the treadmill has been good. We've enjoyed training on it.

But there came a nice day this week, where the sun was shining and the air, if not exactly warm, was at least not too cold. And we decided to venture out to have our first run in the bush since autumn.

I'd forgotten how it felt to run through the trees, with the sun warming you, and a breeze keeping you just cool enough. I'd forgotten how you breathed in the smells of the bush as you ran. I'd forgotten how distance didn't seem to matter when you were running with a group of sisters. And I'd forgotten how good it felt to be outside and running through the bush.

Running on a treadmill is great for keeping up your fitness during the cold months. It's good for running when it's too wet to go outside. But it still can't compare to running through the beauty of the bush, with your family around you. Somehow, running with other people around you just seems to complete the experience.

It's still not warm enough to do this every day. It's not light enough to resume getting up and running first thing in the morning either. But there the promise of more bush running to come. And I can wait, however impatiently, for the time when we'll be out there every day, running down out secret bush tracks.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Importance of Being Elvis

When your last name is Elvis you get to expecting interesting things to happen because of it. I doubt many people I meet forget my last name, and it's not like I really have to tell anyone how to spell it. But sometimes the name of Elvis gets my family into some interesting situations.

My Dad is a primary school teacher. Earlier this year his school was putting on a concert. All the classes were involved. And the teachers decided that they were going to join in and do an act themselves. They chose to do a song. An Elvis Presley song. And who better to get to play Elvis than, well, Elvis. My dad, Mr Elvis, was voted in to play the part of Elvis Presley.

And, being my dad, who has a great sense of humour, he laughed and agreed to play the part. He learned the song, much to the surprise of the other teachers, who expected him to only mime. But, as my dad said, what's the point of just miming, when you can actually sing the song.

On the night of the show, Mr Elvis donned his blue rhinestone jumpsuit, fitted on the wig and sideburns, pulled on the oversized sunglasses, and became a school super star as the all singing, all dancing, Elvis Presley.

My mum has written the full story HERE, and, as an added bonus, she's got an audio file of my Dad, Elvis, singing Elvis Presley's Blue Suede Shoes. Please come and share the story of my amazing Dad.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Running and the Art of Perseverance

I have to confess, I haven't run in five weeks, due to injury and general laziness. And that means that the level of fitness I've worked so hard to build up has all but vanished. I struggle to make it past one kilometre. And it's very discouraging to be watching my sister and mum run 5km when I'm struggling so much.

It'd be so easy to give up, to say 'I can't do that.' I could just turn my back on running and forget even trying to build myself up again into a 5km runner. It's very tempting to do that. After all, it's going to be hard work. It's going to hurt. I couldn't go through all that getting fit again.

Well, those are my excuses anyway. So why am I back on the treadmill, persevering with running, puffing and sweating my way past 1km? Why am I bothering to try again? Because I want to run.

The key to perseverance for me seems to be to want to do it, to be willing to push past the hard beginnings to get to the good stuff beyond, whether that means getting on the treadmill every morning and struggling to run further each day, or writing through the difficult beginning parts of a novel. I want to be that 5km runner again. I want to finish that novel, and it's that want, that caring about getting to the end that pushes me on. This is why I persevere.

What make you persevere? Have you got any stories of times when you've persevered, even though it's been hard?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Guest Posts and NaNoWriMo

Since first participating in NaNoWriMo last November, I have fallen in love with the NaNoWriMo events. From Script Frenzy in April (no longer running unfortunately), to Camp NaNoWriMo in June and August, I've been in everything. And I've certainly written plenty of posts about my adventures with these events.

So when I was asked if I'd be a guest poster for Jeff Hargett's August is Awesome theme month, I knew at once what I would write about; my favourite challenge.

Today my post is live on his blog, Strands of Pattern. In this post I'm telling the story of my first ever NaNo event. I'll meet you there.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Friend and Teacher

I’ve been sitting here for a while, trying to find the right words to form this post. It seems an impossible task though. How can you compress a friendship of four years into a single blog post?

Ian was my piano teacher for four years. And he was the choir master who invited me to join his choir. His was the blind man with the fantastic sense of humour. But he was so much more than all of this too.

He was the generous man who offered to give me and my sister piano lessons for free because he wanted to teach us. He was the man who gave up his time, even when he was sick to teach us every week.

Ian was the person who consoled me after a disappointing exam result, who believed I could do things, even when I wasn't so sure about it. It was he who encouraged me when I made the same mistake over and over, when I couldn’t master a piece at all.

He was the man who told funny stories about himself, like his proud story of the one time he drove a car. A dodgem car. Or the time he helped another blind man find his tram stop, without ever letting on he was blind.

Ian was the person who always made life fun for the people around him. He brought smiles, laughter and kindness wherever he went. He was a special man.

And he was more than just a choir master or teacher to me. He was also my friend.

Last Friday we said goodbye to this man forever. There won’t be any more lessons with Ian, no more jokes. He’ll never tell another funny story to me, or sit outside my exam waiting to hear the results.

Ian, I will miss you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Camping Again

July has simply flown away. I don't know where all the days has got to. But with the approach of August comes the approach of something else, something very exciting. August Camp NaNoWriMo! Yes, I'm gearing up for the start of more NaNo.

Having NaNo in two months so close feels a bit strange. Only a month in between camps in which to res and recover and prepare for next camp. But at the same time it keeps the writing streak going longer. And certainly, by the end of this camp I'll have plenty of novels to work on before November.

NaNoWriMo has helped me get plenty of first drafts out already. It feels like all I am doing is drafting sometimes, but I'm also experimenting. I'm learning more about novel writing by actually writing. And, despite what it feels like, I'm working on the finished novels, slowly and surely. Certainly though, I think after this camp, it might be time to learn more about the editing side of things and make some of these novels all pretty and shiny and finished.

But for now, there is August Camp. Anyone else joining me on the virtual campsite for next month's challenge?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Success on the Knitting Front

A few posts ago, I talked about my dream of knitting clothing. I'm now one step closer to that goal. My first project towards this goal was to knit a hat for one of my sisters. It looked pretty simple. Surely even I could have managed that with ease

Or not as time after time I cast on stitches only to undo my whole piece of knitting two rows later. Despite my best efforts, it didn't seem I could actually get past those first couple of rows. The project lay on my desk for the most part, waiting for me to take yet another stab at it.

When I finally did get past the moss stitched edge, the rest of the hat suddenly came together. I knew what I was doing and the knitting project became fun. I worked and worked, determined that this would be a project I'd actually finish.

And now I stand one step closer to knitting large projects like my Mum. And my sister has a nice warm hat to wear with her nice warm cardigan. Success!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Zoo Trip of Failed Photos

A trip to the zoo is a big deal for us, an event that sometimes doesn't happen for years at a time. But once it's planned, there's a frenzy of activity and planning for it. Picnic stuff is essential, entertainment for the car as we travel, sunscreen, and of course, cameras. Mustn't forget the cameras. Of course we have to take a million photos.

But photography, in my case, never goes to plan. I stand next to the cage, camera at the ready. It's the perfect shot. I hold my breath for a second, press the button and...the animal has moved.

Try again. It's a koala. That's not going to move out of the shot. This time I'm certain of a beautiful picture. Or not, as my hand jiggles and the photo comes out fuzzy.

No luck with the rest of the photos either, as the animals move, or my hand shakes, or the sun's simply in the wrong spot.

Occasionally a good enough photo miraculously appears among the many bad ones, fluky shots not captured through any skills of my own. Obviously being able to take good photographs is not one of my skills. But then, why worry about taking good photos, when I can have a bunch of bad ones, and a great time spending a day with my family?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Returning from Camp NaNoWriMo

With the end of June has come the end of Camp NaNoWriMo. No more evenings spent madly thumping the keyboard in an attempted to write down a novel. No more days forgetting that there is a world outside of novels. No more talking to my characters and getting annoyed when they run away with the plot.

Thanks to Camp NaNoWriMo I've met friendly writers from all around the world. I've finished a new novel, and I've collected my winners badge on the last day. I've thoroughly enjoyed my month of novelling madness.

Now I'm back, and ready to get back into real life again. Which means I'm back to blogging, crafting and drawing again. And planning for next month's August NaNoWriMo, in which I do it all again!

Did you do Camp NaNoWriMo? What did you spend your month doing? Anyone planning on joining me for August?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dreaming of Knitting

I have a dream of being able to knit clothing. Every day I watch Mum sitting there with her wool and needles, creating a masterpiece of a cardigan. And every time I wish I had the skills and the patience to make one for myself.

Not being a skilful knitter however, the goal of knitting myself a cardigan seems to be far off at the moment. I've never attempted anything so large, or so complex before. So, it seems I need practice before I can pick up my needles for that project.

My plan then, is to start small and work my way up. And so I am starting with a hat for my youngest sister, Gemma-Rose. Made with odd balls of left over wool, it's going to match her Neenish Tart cardigan made by Mum.

And from there, who knows what else I might attempt? Maybe one day I will at last work my way up to creating my own piece of perfect clothing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Something Worth Writing About

It's strange. Normally I love blogging. My mind is usually buzzing with ideas for blog posts, and sometimes I'm even organised enough to schedule some. But in the past week, I've neglected blogging. One blog post in a week, on the wrong day! Clearly something needs to be done.

The problem is that I've been centred on one thing, writing. And in particular, Camp NaNoWriMo. Every spare minute is filled with glorious tapping of keys as a novel appears on the screen before me. Oh, I could say a lot on the subject of Camp NaNoWriMo.

But this is not entirely a writing blog. And my followers aren't all writing people. Clearly, I can't bother you all with writing post after writing post. No, something must be done.

I have nothing to say, so I'll have to go out there and do something. Maybe I'll go and knit a hat for my sister to go with her new Neenish Tart jumper. Or I might draw something. Maybe I'll even get around to filming my sisters singing Disney. But I'll do something other than writing. Because what's a blogger without subjects to blog about?

Do you ever find it hard to think of blog posts to write? What do you do when you haven't done anything worth writing about?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Writing With Friends

Camp NaNoWriMo is flying ahead. I've written thousands of words, and I'm really enjoying myself during this month. In fact, I think I'm enjoying myself more this month than I did in November. Which made me stop and think, why?

The main difference between Camp NaNoWriMo and NaNoWriMo is actually something I've done. I got involved in the forums, and that has made all the difference.

Writing in November, it was me, and my family. I had all my sisters and my Mum doing it. But apart from them, I had no contact with anyone in the NaNoWriMo world. I avoided forums like the plague, and stayed in my own little world, the embodiment of the solitary writer.

But this month, I took the plunge. I commented in a few forums, and suddenly, I've made a million friends. It's filled with writer who love writing! Not surprising, but very exciting. I have a group of friends now who will word war with me, rejoice when I have a great writing day, share excerpts of their novels with me, and laugh and joke with me.

And it's changed my whole camp.

It's fun. It's motivating. And it's good to know that there are other people, other than my family and blogging friends who are cheering for me, and for whom I can cheer.

So, from this I have learnt an important lesson. Writing is so much better when you have writing friends.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Creativity Breeds Creativity

The first week of Camp NaNoWriMo is over, and I'm starting to notice a strange, but encouraging thing. Being creative makes you more creative.

Since planning my novel for Camp NaNoWriMo, I've been struck with ideas for another four novels, plus I've got many, many ideas for the next rewrite of another book. This is the most ideas I've ever had at any one time. Being creative has given me a rush of ideas.

My theory is that being creative opens up the creative part of your mind. You're thinking creatively, so you're ready to have more thoughts, ready to be hit with more inspiration. And once you start, those ideas are (hopefully) going to keep flooding in.

So my advice? If you want to be creative, go out and start thinking creatively. Because being creative makes you more creative.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

PicMonkey: Replacing Picnik

Picnik used to be my favourite online photo editing site. Even without a premium account, it had some great features, and with a premium account, it was fantastic. It had features for collages, adding text, touching up your photos, adding frames and special effects. And I loved it.

But then Picnik was bought out by Google and because part of Google+. On investigation, it wasn't even worth joining Google+ for use the program, because the collage feature, the most important in my eyes, wasn't there.

My beautiful blog header
Which left me with a dilemma. What was I to use for making collages now? How was I supposed to make beautiful collections of photos without Picnik? Searching for another site didn't bring up anything useful. There were plenty of free sites which allow you to edit your photos, but none gave you to option of making a collage.

Then, Mum introduced me to a new site, called PicMonkey. It's got virtually all the features of Picnik, plus a few more, and, most importantly, it's got the collage maker I wanted. Obviously, this was a site to explore.

On checking it out, I found so many options it was hard to decide what to use on my photos. PicMonkey has so many ways of making your photos beautiful. My Camp NaNoWriMo novel's cover was made on PicMonkey. My collage blog header was made on PicMonkey. And my Facebook cover photo was also a product of this site.
My Facebook cover photo.

I'm not sad that Picnik's gone any more. With PicMonkey around, I have all the photo editing options I could possibly want. I am perfectly content.

Have you used PicMonkey before? What do you use to edit your photos with?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Winter Running

The cold weather has set in now, and the mornings are dark. For the Elvis Running team, this means no more early morning runs. It's just too cold and dark, even for us.

Does this mean the end of running until the warmer weather comes in spring, bringing light and motivation with it? No! The Elvis Running Team always has a plan up their sleeves. Our plan for Winter Running? Running indoors, on a treadmill.

It's very different from running outside. There's no beautiful scenery to look at as you fly (or pant) past. There's no fresh, cold, clear air, to suck into your tired lungs. There's no way anyone else can run with you, puffing out words of encouragement and promises of drinks breaks.

But, we can run. And it's warm. And I can finally start reclaiming some lost fitness after six weeks of being ill. And it means that we can run all the way through winter, right up until the warmer weather. Treadmill running is different, more solitary, but still good. It's all running.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo Begins

It's the very first day of Camp NaNoWriMo. I've got my outline (yes, amazing for me), my writing buddies, my fingerless gloves (perfect for writing in cold weather), and my home made book cover. I can't wait to get started!

I'm going to be tracking my novel writing progress on my 'NaNoWriMo events' page, if anyone is interested in following my journey through this challenge. I thought about making a whole separate page for Camp NaNoWriMo, but wasn't sure whether I should. What do you think?

So, here we go. Thirty days of novelling mayhem. Wish me luck, speedy fingers, and plenty of inspiration.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Redesigning and Blog Headers

As part of the organisation I wrote about earlier, I've changed the whole look of my blog. See, for some time I've been wanting to make a collage blog header, like the one Mum made. Except that she used Picnik, and that's gone now.

But the other day, we discovered PicMonkey, which is very nearly the same as Picnik, does collages like Picnik, and is perfect for making blog headers. And, on a side note, you can make collage facebook cover photos too.

So, I have a new header now. And, I've changed the background to match. If I were clever, I'd be able to work out how to make my own backgrounds. But I'm not that clever yet. Maybe in the future.

If you want to find out how to make a collage blog header, visit my Mum's post. And if you want to see how to make a collage facebook banner, see this post.

What do you think of my new header? And how do you think my newly designed blog looks? Are you one of those clever people who can make their own backgrounds?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Preparing for Writer's Camp

There's one week left until Camp NaNoWriMo starts. One more week to prepare plots, get to know characters, and steel myself for the mad dash of a month that's staring me in the face.

This is my first Camp NaNoWriMo, my second novel-in-a-month challenge, and the only time I've had sufficient time to actually plan any of my novel. In fact, I've had nearly a month of planning time, and surprisingly I've put it to fairly good use.

Because here's the thing. I'm not a big planner. I like to follow where the story leads when I write, mainly I think because I get lazy and planning's not as fun as actually getting in and writing. But I want a story I can revise and pull into some sort of shape, not one that needs several complete rewrites, and, as this month's novel is the first of a trilogy, I need to get things working right before August. Because in August, I write the second book in the series. So, I pulled out a battered old notebook and got to scribbling.

Normal planning methods, or what I think must be normal planning methods, never seem to work with me. I start out with a basic concept, but I can't plot straight from beginning to end. And so I ignored the plot, and worked on the easy bit, characters. Working out characters gave me scenes. And scenes soon led me towards a plot. A plot that actually seems to fit together well, for me at least. It's very basic, with no more than a sentence or two telling me what the plots points are, but this leaves me with plenty of creative elbow room. And it's the most complete plot I've ever come up with.

But the battered old notebook is filling up with other plot ideas too, not just things for the fantasy trilogy. Someone once said that creativity breeds creativity. Well, in my case, planning one book has led to finding another four or five prospective plots to work on. I've got ideas buzzing around my brain, and my pencil's getting worn to a stub from noting down ideas.

Maybe I'll just have to write faster during Camp NaNoWriMo and get a start on another novel. Only then, which to choose? Oh the problems of being a writer!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blogging Days

Everywhere around the blogosphere I see people who have special 'days' on their blogs. One day might  be a Funny Picture Friday. Another might be a Worst Hairdo Wednesday. And on these days, they write on these certain subjects, like a theme day.

The idea of having certain days for posting on certain subjects is very interesting. By having a theme day, you'd never worry about what topic to write on, and your readers would know what days their favourite kinds of posts were posted on.

But then, what if you didn't want to post on that topic? What if you got to Worst Hairdo Wednesday and suddenly came up with a great post about that crazy paper mache model you made of your favourite book cover but you couldn't post it because it didn't fit with the theme of the day?

 So today I have a question for you: What do you think about having subject days on a blog, and, do you use them?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo Art

It has become a sort of tradition for me to draw themed art in the lead up to a NaNoWriMo event. I drew some NaNoWriMo art last November, and some Script Frenzy art this April. Now I've been doing some Camp NaNoWriMo themed art, almost as preparation for the coming event.

It being a virtual writer's camp, of course we must have some camp-like equipment, including torches and books for reading in the dark.

In this picture, I wanted a more campsite like feel. The basic make up of the pictures is very much like the official Camp NaNoWriMo web badge, but mine is more like a tent, and less like a book.

I wanted my third picture to continue the camping theme, but without the tents and moonlit night. And what says camping more than a pocket knife? And so I invented the Swiss Army Knife: Writer's Edition. Don't ask how the torch and coffee cup fold in. They just do.

So, those are the pictures I've got so far. I have no doubt I'll add to them as we draw closer to the actual event. I can hardly wait for it to start!

Is there anyone out there who has decided to take the challenge with me? Would anyone like to join my cabin? We have three empty beds if you'd like to join me at Camp NaNoWriMo.

What says 'camping' to you? Do you have any funny camping stories? Anyone coming on this virtual camp with me?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Changing Over

So, I finally gave in. I switched to the new look blogger. And I have to confess, I was very reluctant to do so. I liked the look of the old blogger, with it's colourful pages, and easy to find buttons. I liked how it was easy to find the settings page at a glance.

But for weeks a little sign had been starting me in the face. "The old blogger dashboard will be removed in coming months. Upgrade now."

Well, I did it. I hit that 'upgrade now' button. And at once I found myself lost in the new, white dashboard with it's multitude of drop down menus and sidebars.

Exploration only made me more confused. I was trying to look at my stats, so how did I end up in the settings? Where did I go now to change the design of my blog? Which button brought me to the 'new post' page? I struggled to figure it out.

Despite my struggles however, and my reluctance to like the new look, I have finally given in and admitted it. There are some good points to the new look and layout.

I like the white, fresh look it has, uncluttered and spacious. I love white space on my screen. I love how much easier it is to put pictures in my posts than it was before, and how I can change the size once the picture's on my screen. I like how you can see your stats without leaving the dashboard.

It's not easy for me, getting use to what amounts to a whole new site. But I'm  managing. And I'm finding that there truly are things to like. Now, if I could only stop getting lost in all the buttons and tabs...

Have you switched to the new Blogger? Do you prefer the old look or the new? What do you like best about the new Blogger look?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shiny New Projects

There's something wonderful about a brand new project, whether it is writing, drawing or any other kind. In my case, it's a writing project, the novel I'm planning for Camp NaNoWriMo.

I can see it in my mind, every word perfect. The characters grow naturally and perfectly. They act like real people, with real emotions. The story will stay with readers long after they've closed the book. Everything is tinted with a golden glow.

That's how I imagine a new project.

Of course, I know that once I get into the writing, the characters will refuse to behave. They'll refuse to act properly, and they'll steer the plot off course. My writing won't do justice to the story in my mind, and I'll waffle, hunting for and missing the right words. The novel will become an almighty mess.

But, I still have that image in my mind, the goal I'll work for. And I'm excited to start writing, getting into the rocky regions of the first draft. Because I know, out the other side sits the perfect story, surrounded by it's golden glow, and that's what I'll work towards.

How do you feel when starting a new project of any kind, not just writing?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Organising the Blog

So, as you've probably noticed by now, I've done a little reorganising round the blog. There is now a lovely neat row of pages across the top of the blog, each one containing blog posts of different subjects. Also, the cloud of labels in my sidebar has shrunk.

The reason for this sudden burst of organisation started with the realisation that I've written over 150 posts. That's a lot of posts for people to wade through, looking for posts on a certain topic. Even my labels wouldn't help people very much.

It was time, I decided, to change that.

Fast forwards a few days, and, with much effort and labour I'd relabelled every single blog post to fit under certain headings. If you look in my sidebar, you'll see that the number of post labels has shrunk dramatically.

Also, a new row of pages had sprung up. There's now a page for my writing posts (page still waiting for me to add the rest of the posts), a page for my art and craft exploits, especially my doodles. There's a page for my blogging posts (anyone want to know how to make a blog button?). And there's a page for my adventures with the NaNoWriMo events.

The NaNoWriMo events page is the page on which I've written all the information about my experiences with those events. There's the projects I worked on, how many words I wrote, and the badges from each event. Plus there's links to the events if anyone wants to join me.

So, that's how my blog stands at the moment. I hope to add new pages soon, with the rest of my blog posts on them. I will definitely update the pages I've already got as I write new posts. And I'm fairly confident that soon people will be able to find all my posts with ease. Reorganising a blog is hard work, but it is worth it.

Have you had to reorganise your blog? Any pages you'd like to see on my blog? Any tips for reorganisation? I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll already know that I love the NaNoWriMo events. I completed NaNoWriMo last November, and Script Frenzy this April. Now, a new event looms close on the horizon: Camp NaNoWriMo.

Camp NaNoWriMo has only been around since last year. It's exactly the same as NaNoWriMo, except that it takes place in June. Oh, and in August. Camp NaNoWriMo runs two sessions a year.

Well, as soon as I heard of this, I knew I just had to sign up. After last year's NaNoWriMo, I can't wait to race through 50,000 words again. I want to sit at my desk every spare minute, racing against the calendar. And this is novel writing. Much as I enjoyed Script Frenzy, I am a novel writer at heart.

So, I'm plotting a new story, washing my writing gloves and packing my bags for Camp NaNoWriMo. Anyone else care to join me?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Essay Disaster

Saturday evening. Two days before my essay was due. Sure the essay was fine. Hadn't I spent the whole week working on it? Dad'd probably point out where I'd started a sentence with 'However', chuck in a few 'that's and it'd be done. Ready to send.

Well, that's what I thought...

Dad looked up from the computer screen. "This essay's great, but it doesn't quite answer the topic. It's a discussion, not an exposition."

My heart sank. Not right? Didn't answer the topic? But I had one day! One day before it was due! I'd never manage it. And, as Dad explained my essay's shortcomings, I started to feel that this was the essay that would fail. I could never fix it so fast.

"It seems like so much work," I sighed when Dad had finished. "I don't know where to begin."

"Don't worry, I'll help you." Dad grabbed a handful of paper, his tablet pc and a pen and headed for the table.

The hours passed in a blur as we pieced together a new essay from the bones of my old one. Under Dad's explanations and our combined research, the essay was looking possible. By the time I headed off to bed, I had a plan, resources, and drive. And the essay looked more than possible. It was probable.

Sunday disappeared into my computer as I cut up my old essay and remade it, wondering all the while, would I finish it in time? Evening came, and Dad gave my essay one final read through.

"You've got it," he said finally.

I grinned, relief flooding through me. It was done, thanks to my genius Dad.

So, this was my blogging break. What have you done this past week?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Brief Blogging Break

I am 'waving' goodbye for now

Much as I love blogging, I am curently forced to take a brief break. If anyone has noticed the lack of posts over the last week or so, it is because I've been working on a couple of large university assignments. While one is finished, I am still hard at work writing the other, which means I haven't the time to write blog posts right now. So I'll say goodbye until next Monday, when I should hopefully be back. In the meantime, I'll still be floating around the blogosphere, just essay writing, not post writing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How To Become Intelligent (Or Not)

Charlotte with her new glasses

Charlotte was short sighted. She couldn't read projector screens. She couldn't read subtitles. She couldn't even read computer screens properly. Clearly it was time for a trip to the optometrist.

One trip later, and Charlotte's glasses were ordered. Now perfect sight was just a few days away. If she could last that long...

"Our rice pudding has a stick in it," Gemma-Rose declared one night, talking about a stick of cinnamon.

"Oh, I want a stick of celery in my pudding," Charlotte cried enthusiastically.

Everyone stared at her. Celery? Since when had we ever put celery in our rice puddings?

"Let's hope your glasses make you more intelligent," I said. "At least you'll look more intelligent with them on."
Charlotte without her new glasses

And so on for the rest of the week. Her favourite excuse became, "Oh, I'm blind as a bat you know. I couldn't possibly see that."

Today, another trip to the optometrist resulted in a brand new Charlotte. New, snazzy glasses adorned her nose with, "special glass to cut down on glare." A brand new, red glasses case came with the glasses, "because red ones go faster."

Has her glasses made her more intelligent? Well, I'm sorry to say she's still going round making random comments about celery. I suppose she'll just have to be the nutty professor instead of the intelligent individual. I can live with that.

This post was written with much encouragement and full permission by Charlotte herself.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Swords and Bows

I love weapons. Swords, bows, knives, anything remotely fantasy connected. I love them all. It might have something to do with the fact that I love writing fantasy novels.

My fantasy characters are so lucky. Somehow they all seems to end up with amazing weapons, and all end up knowing how to use them. I am frankly envious of my characters, who learn how to fight with a sword, or shoot with a bow and arrow. It just seems so unfair!

The closest I can come to this however, is imagining I have these awesome weapons. Which then brings up another problem. Which weapon would I choose to have?

Swords are always dear to me, with their showy sounding fights. A good sword fight is always welcome in a book. Plus you can always have a legend involving a sword, or have one with fancy engraving on the blade. Knives are fun too, especially throwing knives. I'm not so sure about spears though. And axes are definitely not my style.

No, out of all the weapons, I think I'd be a bow-girl. These weapons are so graceful, and very practical. You can defend yourself long range, and pick up a roast for dinner at the same time. Plus, there's something very elfish about bows.

What weapon would you chose to have if you could have anything? Would you have an old fashioned weapon like a sword? Or a more modern weapon like a gun? Can you suggest any other weapons that could be used in a fantasy story?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Magic, Minstrels and Script Frenzy

I've written several posts about Script Frenzy so far this month. I've talk about what Script Frenzy is, what I've been writing, and how I've been writing. I've posted about what scripting program I'm using and I've even posted some Script Frenzy inspired art. However today I want to share the news of my triumph. Yes, Charlotte and I have written our 100 pages of script.

It's been so much fun writing a script. Magic and Minstrels, our musical, finished up with 89 pages and a lot of laughing. Somehow, every script writing session had to have a laugh or two in it as the characters went from one hilarious situation to another.

But that's not our only project. We also started writing a TV series based off the Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton. We've only just started the first two episodes. What about the rest of the series? Is it fated never to be written?

No! We've got plans for the rest of the month, plans that involve much, much more script writing. Fr Brown is quite safe while there are days in the month. We could stop writing...But we won't. Because we love it. Script Frenzy, the page count is going to rise.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Write Together

In an earlier post I talked about Script Frenzy and how Charlotte and I are co-writing a musical. To make our script writing last until 100 pages, we've also started writing a TV series, which give us two scripts to work on. Two scripts means we can both write at the same time. And two writers means a 'write in'.

Writing is almost always a solitary occupation. While Charlotte and I write the same script, we don't work on it at the same time. It's the same with novels. Always we write on our own. And that can get a little lonely.

We found the solution to this problem however. This afternoon, armed with music, chocolate and two laptops, we sat down to have our very first Script Frenzy 'write in'.

Out fingers flew over the keys. The sounds of two tortured keyboards filled the air. Somehow, the knowledge that someone else was working just as hard as me spurred me on to work harder, longer and better.

Together we worked of hours, hardly noticing the passing of the time. Two hours solid work past in the blink of an eye. Two hours I never would have worked through on my own. A marathon of writing, made easy by the fact that there was another person writing alongside me.

Writing together makes things more fun. Script Frenzy will fly by as long as I have Charlotte working alongside me. Write ins are amazing fun, and so productive. If you want to get a heap of work done, work with someone else. It's amazing what you can do.

Do you like to write with another person? Do you find it easier to concentrate and get more work done? Or do you fine it distracting?