Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas and looking ahead to 2015 (pt.2)

Well. This year has flown by and I can't believe we're already looking at 2015! Putting this year aside, there are plenty of books and events that I'm looking forward to next year, as well as some resolutions of my own.

I actually wrote about some of the books I'm looking forward to here (although, my own personal list has already grown so much - there are so many books, both new and old that I'm looking forward to hopefully reading next year!). I think it's going to be another good year for YA and books and hopefully lots of exciting things are in store.

I'm excited about MuggleNet's first expo, MuggleNet Live! 2015: Expo Patronum, which is taking place on April 18th, and I can't wait to be involved and meet lots of my wonderful and amazing MuggleNet coworkers.

I'm hoping for another YALC. And more trips to Fowey. I'm hoping for lots of great book events, and meeting bookish and writing friends.

I'm hoping to keep blogging regularly on here, and over at a new blog/site I recently started, YA Inspires (I'm still feeling the way with that one).

Writing wise, I'm hoping to send Treading Water out to lots more agents, to edit the contemporary I wrote this summer to a good standard, to rehash and rewrite the MG story I wrote for my dissertation this summer. And of course, I hope for lots of new ideas, and inspiring things, but also focus. I hope to continue loving writing, no matter what.

Most of all, I hope the year is happy and full of good surprises and nice things!

And that's it for this year. I'm going to take a blogging break until the new year. I hope you all have an AMAZING Christmas and a WONDERFUL happy new year! I hope you get everything you want in the new year and have lots of hopes and dreams for the year.

Thanks for reading! x

Friday, 19 December 2014

Merry Christmas and end of the year roundup! (p.1)

Wow. I can't believe it's under a week until Christmas day. I don't know where this month - and this year has gone. I've been rather absent from this blog in the last few weeks, and I apologise for that. I didn't mean for this to be my first post of December, but for various reasons I haven't felt like blogging, and I've been rather under the weather. But I'm feeling a lot better now and looking forward to Christmas!

Recently, I was wondering what have I actually achieved this year? (Yes, I've been feeling rather down). But, looking back at this blog and some of my writing projects, I realised that actually, yes, I have been rather productive, and on the whole had a good year. Sure, there have been really sucky things, but on the whole, it hasn't been a disaster!

First off, this blog - I've kept it up to date, and been able to get into a semi-good routine (that's slipped recently, oops!).  Among other things,

I've written about NaNo,
YALC, which took place in the summer and was amazing,
returning home to live in the countryside again,
a magical year with MuggleNet,
another trip to the Harry Potter studios,
A YA masterclass with Sarah Crossan and Julia Churchill,
and my beloved cat, Posie.

While I wasn't so good at blogging regularly at the beginning of the year, I've certainly got more into a routine this second half of the year - writing about countryside things and things to be grateful for! It's safe to say that it's certainly been a year full of twists and turns. It's funny isn't it, looking back on the year, and seeing what has and hasn't been achieved, unexpected things that have happened, and more. I suppose I have achieved more than I thought, and it's not all bad things.

Writing wise, I have revised Treading Water a couple of times, and got it up to a good standard. I've had good feedback on the story too. I've completed two full length first drafts (and a shorter one), and started at least two other things that I have since abandoned. I've written several short things and done lots of things for MuggleNet - plus I completed my MA.

And now, to celebrate Christmas and all that it brings. To eat lots of yummy food, spend time with people I love, do festive things, sing carols and catch up with friends.

I hope everyone reading this has a really wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year. Merry Christmas to you all - and thanks for reading over this past year!

One last post to come this year - what I'm looking forward to next year.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Writing, Little Things, and fangirling

Well, I've been a little quiet on the blog this week, and apologies for that. I hope eveyone's had a good week! I've been busy doing lots of writing, among other things. My non-NaNo draft is steaming ahead - hit 30k earlier this week, which I was delighted with, although I'm not planning on getting to 50k by the end of November. I'm surprised by how much it's taken over - I have got rather into it, more than I thought, and thus editing has taken a back seat (more than I attended). I will get back to that when I've finished this draft. Sometimes its rather nice to just work on writing something new from scratch.

This week has turned very wet, and bit chillier, which has meant the big winter hats coming out!  Today is a very wet and grey, which means hibernating inside and enjoying some comfort food.

Mockingjay came out this week, about which I was very excited and absolutely adored (despite a traumatic cinema experience). I am now addicted to the song, The Hanging Tree, from the film, which I can't stop singing.

And a trailer for Pitch Perfect 2 was released, and I am so excited!

So clearly, this week has been very fangirly.

Here are some things I've been grateful for:

Warm fires, 
Old friends, 
Catching up, 
Festive times, 
Rainy days. 

Have a good rest of the weekend everyone! 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Another magical trip to the Harry Potter studios!

This week I returned once again to London, but this time for CHRISTMAS AT HOGWARTS! Christmas at Hogwarts is the current special feature that the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter are running, which showcases - well, you guessed it, Christmas at Hogwarts!

Warning: this will contain spoilers for the tour and the Christmas special, so don't read on if you don't want to know! 

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Little Things

I didn't manage one last week - so here's an extra large one to make up for it!

Writing friends, 
Hot chocolate, 
Glue on fingers, 
Harry Potter, 
Christmas fun,
old friends, 
generosity and kindness of people, 


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

We will remember them

This week I have been in London again (and I'm actually going to be there again this weekend!). It's always a bit of a culture shock, especially after a few hermity days!

But I had a lovely day, hanging out with fellow writers, bloggers, and booky people, Emma and Cole. I'm already looking forward to the next trip - and hopefully Laura will be able to join us this time. I may have bought a few books in Foyles (ooops), and we drank lots of coffee and hot chocolate - perfect!

I have been busy writing, and creating - doing lots of crafty things at the moment, and I share them with you shortly (when I have time to write up a post!).

Otherwise, this week has been dominated, and rightly so, by remembrance. There has been the moving art installation at the tower of London, which I didn't get to see, but just from the pictures, I could tell it was breathtaking.

I know there are mixed views on all this, but it is important to remember. I don't want to go into it all or get political etc, but as someone who has friends/accquiantances in the armed forces, I think that it is important to not only remember those who gave their lives fighting in the past, but those who are serving now, which is what remembrance does. It is important, and I am glad that our country recognises it in the way that it does. I am currently getting my grandad's Second World War poems ready to hopefully publish them, and it is so moving to read through them, and try and imagine that boy of nineteen. So many young men, so many lives lost.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Little white lies.....

So, I wrote this epic post the other week about why I'm not doing NaNo, and all that jazz. And I'm still not. Not really.

I mean, I'm not OFFICIALLY doing it, not on the site or anything, because it doesn't work for me and I know I can write a draft and I don't want this to be a draft I cast aside. But.... I am working on something new. So I am unofficially doing my own version of NaNo. If I write at least 500 words of this day I will be happy. I am still editing another story, and I just unearthed another half finished draft I really want to finish, so I don't know if I'll prioritise this new project yet. The plot is still a little muddled too! But hopefully it'll begin to make sense soon.

BUT so far it is going well. And it's good to be writing something new, even if I am still working out many of the details.

I've slowed down in the last few days, but picking it up again now, and it's going well again. 

How is NaNo going for everyone?  Are you all still plugging away with it?

Friday, 7 November 2014

A cold chill

Well, I think winter is definitely here! This week was much colder than it has been up till now - hats, scarves, and gloves have been cracked out.

This was the deer I saw last week on my walk:


This week has been a mix of weather - wet and dry, but also chilly! It's been a week of lots of layers, and hats and scarves. I spent one morning this week helping to rake up leaves, and also set up a bonfire! Sadly we had the bonfire during the day, rather than in the evening, but it was on Bonfire Night so I think it counts! That bonfire smell is wonderful isn't it? And it certainly lingers!

Also this week, I received my MA results (with Merit!), which I was delighted with - and very relieved. Time to crack on with the real world now I suppose though....

I've also been writing some short poems, so here's another autumn themed one (although I suppose it's nearly winter now!):

Autumn Morning 
The ground is speckled with a thin 
layer of white, which glistens
in the morning sun. Outside, 
you can see your breath
form in the air and footprints
lie across the twinkling grass.
Webs hang between plants and branches, 
lit up and shining 
like twinkling lights
far away from here.

See you next week!

P.S. I've also been making some YouTube videos recently about books and things. Check them out!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Autumn (a poem)

Leaves are flying around,
Like confetti from a gun.
The sky is pale grey
and the tree tops are bare.
Wind rattles the window panes
and the air is a sea of orange
and brown. The leaves
Settle on the ground.
Crows dip and soar by,
Seek solace in the trees.
It is Autumn now, I think,
as the leaves swirl and fall.

November 2nd, 2014. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Little Things

Dragon flies, 
Crisp autumn days,
autumn sunshine, 
leaves dropping from the trees, 
Robins hopping about, 
Old friends, 
Birthday celebrations. 

So many things to be grateful for this week.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Clocks, Pumpkins, sunshine, and birthdays

I've been a little lazy with my blog posting this week, and everything's got a bit out of sync. Anyway, this week has been a busy, with exciting birthday celebrations and big MuggleNet announcements, among other things.

It's November now, and yet, yesterday, Halloween, I was able to sit outside, in the sunshine, and go on a long walk - in a t-shirt! I also saw one lone deer on my walk,which was quite striking really. The weather was quite unseasonal, and bizarre, and yet, wonderful. you know? Today, is a little autumnal, but then again, it is November now. I can't believe that it's November already. It doesn't feel like it should be yet! And yet, here we are.

At the beginning of last week, the clocks went back, which means that it gets dark very early in the evening now. I don't really like it getting dark so early - it's very disorienting and not very nice! I hate the long, dark evenings. And you forget just how quickly it gets dark. It's different in the country too. You notice it more I suppose. There are no street lights after all!

Many of the trees are looking rather bare now, with the winds that have made them drop their leaves and the landscape is beginning to look quite different.

Also this week, we had a mini AGA crisis, when we ran out of fuel - but luckily it was resolved after only a few days, and we were able to go ahead and celebrate my wonderful little sister's twenty first birthday! We had a lovely dinner party, with lots of pink and princess themed things, which was perfect and it was a wonderful night.

I even successfully made a pink, heart cake, which I was very proud of as I'd never made anything like it (though I didn't make the beautiful flowers on it).

Happy November everyone (and to many of you happy noveling - and good luck!). See you next week!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Little Things

Short post (and slightly late this week).

Autumn walks, 
Golden leaves on the trees,
Sunday lunch, 
Harry Potter, 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Why NaNo is great... but why I'm not doing it.

I wrote last year about the many reasons why I wasn't doing NaNo then and why it didn't work for me anymore. Those points still stand for this year. But as it's once again October and everyone starts talking about it again, I thought that I would expand on that post slightly, and write again about why I'm not NaNoing, but why I think it's a very useful exercise to do.

The thing about NaNo is that it is great for both getting first drafts down (and first drafts only), first time writers, and people who just want to write something once a year. It is a great motivation - I find that the deadline fear pushes me on, and it is a great tool to get you writing every day. After doing NaNo for seven years, the routine and feeling that you must write something every day (not necessarily 1667 words but something) has stuck with me and proved to be an important part of motivating me. I like to write something every day, and thanks to NaNo I do.

The other great thing about NaNo is that it proves to you that you CAN do it. That it is possible to write a draft of a novel. It is a great way to finish something and realise that you can do it. Rather than just starting things all the time and never finishing. I remember when I first did it, when I was seventeen (I think?), the realisation that I could finish something that was a story, a complete story, "a novel" and not a fanfic story (because I made a rule to myself never to write fanfic for NaNo) was a revelation. I didn't have to keep thinking one day, because it happened, and it was marvellous. I am always thankful to one of my school friends for telling me about NaNo - it changed the way I thought about writing!

However, I'm working on so many different things at the moment that I don't see the point of committing, and I do not think that I have ever seriously gone back to a NaNo project and edited it.  And for that reason it seems like a futile exercise.

Reasons NaNo IS a good thing to do:
1. for first time writers,
2. for getting words down on the page,
3. for getting into a routine,
4. FOR FINISHING something,
5. and for knowing that YOU can do it.

Things to remember about NaNo:
1. It produces a first draft. Not a novel. It doesn't have to be perfect. It won't be perfect.
2. Don't send your draft to agents/publishers, it will need a lot of work.
3. Put it away after it's over for a while.
4. Don't worry about perfection or plans or what you're writing. Just write because you want to and you love the story.
5. It doesn't work for everyone.
6. Enjoy it!

Who's doing NaNo this year? Any thoughts/tips to add?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

And the winds came...

This week we've been experiencing the tail end of the recent hurricane that swept over Bermuda. It's meant that it's been very blustery and certainly weather for staying inside and curling up with a good book!

The weather has definitely turned more autumnal, and with that it's grown colder and very muddy! It's also getting dark rather early, which is a little depressing. But I suppose it's good weather for reading books and crafty projects. However, it makes it quite hard to leave the house!

As I've remarked before, it's nice to be back in the countryside for autumn and see it all gradually change.

Some of the trees are such beautiful colours too:

Have a good week everyone (and wrap up warm with a good book!).

Monday, 20 October 2014

Tips picked up at "Writing YA" masterclass

I mentioned earlier in the week that I had attended an event put on by Bloomsbury and the Writer and Artist's Yearbook called "Writing YA" with Sarah Crossan and Julia Churchill.It was a fantastic event, great to meet some fellow writers, including some of the writers from my SCBWI e-critique group - great to finally put some faces to the stories (even if my mind did go temporarily blank and forget who was writing what).

The evening was full of lots of useful advice, and I thought I'd gather some together here, together with some of the tweets by Ellie Gibbons, who works for Writers and Artists/Bloomsbury!

Sarah Crossan (author of Apple and Rain, The Weight of Water, and Breathe) spoke first about her own writing experiences and tips.

On voice, Sarah said that for YA novels, the voice needs to be immediate, and so she writes in first person, present. She also used several examples to show that the first pages of many novels either have lots of blank spaces, or use lots of questions or question marks as a good way to get into the story. The tone too should be informal, relaxed.

Of course, Sarah pointed out, that all these rules are made to be broken! 

One of the things that stood out to me however and really resonated, was the idea that all the ugly experiences we have give us unique voices, but these experiences have to be put onto something else (if that makes sense).
Sarah also suggested that teenager's voices are often unreliable, just because they don't know any different.

On story, Sarah said that you must remember that concept and story are very different. The characters need to grow throughout the story and get to a better place by the end.
Another thing that really resonated, was that the things that REALLY matter to teens are often the little things that we don't worry about anymore. The small things, which feel huge at the time.

Julia Churchill spoke after Sarah and gave some more general tips on submissions and the submission process. Julia said that she looks for SIX things in submissions:


Those were some of the highlights from the night! It really was a very inspiring night and filled with me lots of ideas, inspiration, and a new clarity - making me determined to get very focused again!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Little Things (6)

Another week has flown by, and we are very much in autumn!

Here are some things from this week:

Autumn leaves, 
Golden trees,
The writing community, 
Writing friends, 
Writing days, 

Friday, 17 October 2014

A Magical Year

MuggleNet celebrated fifteen years the other week. MuggleNet is a site that I’ve known about for a long time, and always used to visit for my Potter news. For Potter fans it’s a go to resource for news and information about the Potter world.

And then a year ago, I happened to see on Twitter a call for applications for journalism interns. And I thought, well, why not. I’ll give it a shot. Writing and Harry Potter – two of my favourite things. It would be perfect - I wanted something new to do, a new challenge, and I wanted to be develop my writing skills. So, I sent the email off and forgot about it. I never thought I’d ever be picked.

But a few days later a wonderful email dropped into my inbox. The email told me that I had been chosen as one of the interns. I don’t know how I managed to compose an email back that wasn’t full of OMG/I CAN’T BELIEVE IT/THANK YOU SO MUCH. But somehow I did (in fact, I think I underplayed it quite a lot).

And so the journey began.

I couldn’t believe that I was lucky enough to be a part of that amazing team and be able to write things that were posted on MUGGLENET itself. It was a dream come true, and very, very surreal. I threw myself in there, with plenty of enthusiasm and determination to do well.

And then, by December I received an email to tell me that I was being promoted to a full time staff member if I wanted it. If I wanted it - of course I did! Despite receiving the email so early in the morning, I was bouncing around delighted, because I couldn't believe it - I couldn't believe that they wanted me and I had discovered that it was something that I adored doing. And it was a bonus that everyone on the team was very welcoming, happy to help out with any questions, queries or issues, and lots of fun as well. I was a bit nervous of everyone at first, but soon settled in. It was a wonderful thing to be a part of, and it was amazing to feel part of the Potter world in a way that I never had before. And it was so good to be surrounded by people who cared as much as I did. I kept it to myself for a while, because I loved it so much and it was special and I just loved being a part of it. I was soon given my own MuggleNet email address, invited to my first staff meeting, and started helping out with some things for the upcoming site relaunch. And just like that I was thrown in in the most wonderful way.

Since then, the year has flown by, but it has been amazing and so magical. I have been able to attend the Studio Tour TWICE for the site, writing up a review about it, reviewed books, written countless articles, helped out with other projects on the site, and helped to solve that J.K. Rowling anagram she posted on Twitter, as well as other things I'm sure I've missed. I have made wonderful friends and over the summer even met Toni in person, one of the other writers who started at the same time that I did. I have been given a whole new world and I adore it. It's impossible to quite explain and describe all my feeling towards this, and how much I LOVE it.

Once again, I find that I have to thank Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling for so much. And of course the wonderful team at MuggleNet for taking me on and letting me be a part of all of this. So thank you all for such an amazing year. It's been incredible. It's amazing to be part of such a hardworking, dedicated, and enthusiastic team. Thank you for EVERYTHING. And I look forward to what's next and all the magical things to come.Here's to another magical year!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Country girl in the Big City

It's Thursday again - how did that happen?

This week has been a little more manic than ususal, i.e. I have had stuff on that menas being out the house all day and that means I am now exhausted! And unfortuantely haven't had much writing time. *sob*. I am wriitng a Christmas story though, which is very exciting, inspired by Stephanie Perkins' My True Love Gave to Me collection, which is utterly wonderful, in so many ways. If you want to feel Christmassy or just love Christmas, warm stories or brilliant writing, GO GET THIS COLLECTION NOW!

Anyway, that was not meant to be the point of this blog post!

On Tuesday I ventured out of my small country world, and up to the big smoke (i.e. London) for the first time in ageeeeees. It's always weird and stressful arriving in London and realising just how many people there are and that you have to go on the tube and things like that. And there are too many distractions,  like the new Foyles, where it is far too easy to buy too many books - not that this happened to me at all *cough cough*.

Nice as it was to have a change of scene, it was utterly EXHAUSTING and I couldn't wait to get back home again and SLEEP!

But, in the evening I was due to the attend a Bloomsbury Writers and Artists Yearbook masterclass, called Writing YA fiction - Breaking the Rules with author Sarah Crossan and agent Julia Churchill. The evening was fantastic, and really reinspired me, and gave me lots of things to think about. (Also, walking in, it was great to see some HP books in their bookcases.) It's always good to regather your thoughts and refocus. Now, I just need to get on and use that info. It was also wonderful to meet some of the scbwi people I know from my online critique group - great to finally put some faces to the names and stories, although I had a complete blank when meeting them and couldn't remember who had written what. They put me to complete shame, remembering exactly what I had written! Sorry guys. But it was wonderful to meet them and I was very glad that I had gone to the event. Sarah Crossan was also WONDERFUL. I saw her speak at YALC over the summer, and that was one reason why I thought this would be a great event to go to.

I'll try and write up some of the things that were said later in the week, but for now, I am going to try and crack on with some writing, grateful to be back in the countryside! 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Writing about writing...

Autumn has arrived and time seems to be flying by. I realised that although I call this a writing blog, I am blogging very little about writing - which needs to change! And so, I will try to write a little  more about writing, I promise!

Let's start with, where am I at the moment?

Well, I recently finished a draft that I had left languishing at 19k, and hit 50k last week and a very rough, horrible first draft, BUT at least I have a story to play with now. The words are down. Sort of. They just need some playing around with. But I'm leaving that for now, so that the ideas can simmer away in the back of my mind. So, I'm working on editing a draft I wrote over the summer, and getting that up to something decent. I made lots of notes for it, and although I love the thrill of the first draft, sometimes editing can be just as exciting, especially when you have lots of ideas of where to go and what to do. Luckily, I still love this story and want it to be the best it can be. I've just got a little way to go!

What else am I doing writing wise?

Well, I'm trying to write more regular blog posts on here, and I also started vlogging (I know, we'll see how that goes - lesson being learnt is that it takes FOREVER to upload things to Youtube. But it's rather fun).

I'm happy with my writing at the moment though. I had a brief phase in September after I'd handed my dissertation in, was exhausted, and unsure where I was going, where I doubted everything and could barely write a word or settle on anything. Luckily that black cloud seems to have passed, and I'm pleased to be really focused on something.

And I'm brainstorming notes for something I might start writing next.

The trouble is, when I start thinking about all the different things I want to write I start to panic, so I'm trying not to do that, and just staying focused on one thing at a time....

So tell me, what are YOU writing at the moment?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Little Things (5)

Following on from my post this week about autumn, thinking today about some autumn things.

That smell when you turn radiators on for the first time,
Raindrops on spiders webs,
Leaves crunching underfoot, 
Autumn sunshine, 
Warming foods, like bananas and custard, casserole, baked apples, 
Snuggling down in a warm duvet, 
Hot chocolate, 
Cosy books, 
Costume dramas, 
Wellies and raincoats. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

the things people leave behind

It is rather evident in my writing that I am obsessed not only with big houses, but with secrets and letters, desks, and forgotten things. So, when I found myself sorting out my mum's old desk the other day I didn't know what I might find. Of course as a child (and a rather nosy one at that), it had been once of those places that was forbidden, but so, so tempting. Otherwise, how else would you know what was really going on, or what was being written about you, or your siblings? I never really peeked (not really), but beginning to sort these things out, I did feel like that nosy, naughty child again.

Sorting out old things is always way more moving than I anticipate it to be. No matter how much you might be geared up to doing something, such as sorting a desk out, the reality of it doesnt' hit you until you're in the midst of it. After all, all these things have been kept for a reason, by someone who cared about them. It always feels like a strange intrusion to go through, even though they'll never be able to look at them again. It's hard sometimes as well to know what to keep. The temptation to keep every scrap of paper and every card just because of the handwriting and the acknowledgement that they once existed is too strong, especially for me, because I hoard an awful lot of stuff. And once you throw something away, you wonder if you should have done that. But you can't keep everything.

The past, family stories, and memories are all very well, but until you are holding something tangible in your hands it is hard to believe that any of it was ever real (something my characters often find in my stories).

And there's not only the cards or scraps of paper that you find, with handwriting that you want to keep just because it's the handwriting you recognise and remember and don't want to forget, but the objects too. The things that you don't know if they might have a story, some sort of tale to tell or if you're placing too much emphasis on it just because it's there.

And within all these things, you find letters, things hidden away. Letters from other people, thank you cards, or notes. It's an odd feeling, like you're intruding.

Sorting my mum's desk I found all this. It's a weird feeling. It's something you feel that you want to do, you need to do, but once you start, it unleashes so much, and part of you wishes that you'd left it there forever, preserved, just the way it is.

We also came across a bunch of my granny's letters and poems, which again feels like an intrusion, something very private, but also something left behind. Again it's that thing of trying to unite the person you knew, and in the case of grandparents, someone elderly with the young person in pictures and letters and writings.

It's a draining exercise, but also rewarding, and fulfilling in an odd way. Moving too.

But I suppose, there is a reason why people love archives, and looking through someone's papers or writings.It's funny too because this is something that I'm very much exploring in the book that I'm editing at the moment - in it the main character discovers things from her Gran's past, and - well, I won't say more as I'm still editing, but that theme is very much prevalent.

Desks are funny things aren't they?

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Autumn Notes

Wait, was yesterday Wednesday?

I’ve completely lost track of the days and time recently, which perhaps is a luxury, but also rather disconcerting. 

It's funny really, when you're in a town or a city, the seasons just change. It happens, and sure you notice it, but not in the same way. It's difficult to put my finger on just what it is that is different, but there's something. 

It's the first autumn that I've been at home in six years? And before that it had been five years - except for the odd weekend here and there. It's different though, when you just come back for holidays, weekends, or "special occasions". Then everything is special, exciting, different, if you know what I mean. You just experience everything in a flash, a clip. Now, things are different - you see everything in a constant stream, like a panorama or something. It's nice to see it change slowly, and then all at once (I'm sounding like a quote from TIFOS now, sorry John Green. Oops). 

But you see the gradual changes as well as the quick ones  -such as the leaves all slowly turning brown, or all whizzing by the window on a particularly blustery day, or the continual rain falling down. 

The evenings are getting darker now, the dark drawing in and even some of the afternoons are dark and gloomy. The wind is getting up too and from my window I can see it whipping through the trees. 

It's welly weather, and dashing out in between rain showers, and huddling under duvets in the evening - although having said that, it's not all that cold yet - and bananas and custard, warming food eating weather. 

Suddenly everything looks bare, like the facade of summer has been taken away, stripped away, leaving this,almost as if summer was nothing more than a shimmering illusion, just something to fool us for a while before it's gone again, and we're left waiting for it to come back. For now, we're going to have to find some autumn things to focus on.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Little Things (4)

Autumn has really come now. The temperature has dropped quite a lot. But it's a gorgeous day.

Dew on the grass,
Sitting outside in October, 
Long autumn walks, 
Fresh autumn days, 
Cosy duvets, 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Harvest Celebrations

This week saw the harvest festival celebrations take place. Having always been away over the last few years when it took place, I hadn't been to our local, village one in a while, so it was nice to go again. The service was followed by a lovely bring and share lunch.

It is now October and it is clear that the seasons are changing. It is still unseasonably warm, which means shorts are just about still an option, but it's definitely changing.  Today is rainy and glum. The leaves on the trees are slowly changing, becoming golden and orange. While I bemoan the passing of summer, and wish that it could stay a little longer, the colours of autumn are something wonderful.

What else to say?

I can't believe that it is already October. I don't know where the time has gone - where did September disappear to? It is quite unbelievable.

The nights are already beginning to draw in much earlier, and later this month the clocks will change, and we will be cloaked in darkness from late afternoon.

You definitely notice, and I had forgotten quite how much, the seasons changing in the countryside more noticeably, and I like that. I like seeing it all change, much as I'm reluctant to admit that it's now Autumn!

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Little Things (3)

Feeling better this week, and today is the harvest festival celebrations! (post a little late this week, due to the harvest festival celebrations... sorry).

quiet autumn walks, 
the endless energy of toddlers, 
afternoons playing with trains, 
bright, sunny mornings, 
bonfire smell, 
blackberry and apple crumble and custard, 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

An Autumn Chill

As autumn begins to creep in, I find myself beginning to think more about paints and crafts and getting my paint stuff out again to mess around. I am a summer girl, but there's something about the prospect of hiding away and being able to just write and create that appeals to me.

It has grown chilly over the last few days, and although it remains sunny, and pleasant to be outside, there is a chill that wasn't there before. A chill which requires jumpers and socks and all those sorts of things. I think that it might be time to retire the shorts away, sadly.

There's this smell, this feeling in the air - one that's difficult to describe and pin down. The smell of autumn - a crisp, freshness that has arrived in the air.

Meanwhile, there's lots still going on - including a bumper crop of apples - lots of cooking ones, so there'll be lots of stewed apples and crumbles coming up. Yum. There are still plenty of blackberries on the hedges as well, so I was trying to collect some of them as well. We also have a BUMPER crop of potatoes - about six sacks worth (at least), which is quite something! I think we're going to be living off potatoes for the next few months! And, the cows were all TB free, which was good!

I've been thinking about how this will be the first autumn in five/six years that I will have spent at home, and not in the city. It'll be strange, but I'm looking forward to it. It's nice to be in Sussex for an extended period of time - one that's not broken up by school/uni!

Today, the sun is shining, although there's quite a chill in the air. I'm enjoying walking down to the woods most days to see how the trees slowly become autumnal....

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Little Things

This week I've been feeling groggy and horrible thanks to a cold, and a bit sorry for myself. Even more important to remember the little things!

Heinz Tomato Soup,
Dew on the grass,
The smell of rain,
Sunny September days,
Late afternoon swims, 
Coffee and Alohomora!,
Online community. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

After the Rain

Another week has slipped by, and this time I've been in a cold induced state. It's so miserable having a cold and feeling so groggy and bunged up - especially when it is so warm outside! I'm feeling a little better today, and hoping to enjoy the weather a bit more, but still so frustrated at just feeling so unable to focus on anything.
Today, it remains warm, and there's that nice, after the rain feeling outside. Things feel a little fresher, but are already warming up. Clearly we're being treated to an Indian Summer (yay)!

Today we learnt that Scotland voted to stay with us (thank you, what a relief), but we're also waiting on another result here - the result of the cows' TB test. Fingers crossed.

So, the end of the summer and the beginning of the autumn means that things have to be wrapped up in the garden. My sweet peas, which are still producing flowers, are also beginning to produce seed pods.

After a little bit of research, I decided to pick these and hopefully store them until next spring, when I'll be able to plant them out again - and keep my fingers crossed that they will produce just as good sweet peas then!

Eurgh, I'm off to eat some Vitamin C and keep feeling sorry for myself. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Little Things

My last two posts have got me thinking.

Most specifically about little things, all those little moments that always make everything worthwhile. They're the moments, the tiny little things that you might take for granted, the things you miss if you don't stop for a while, and think listen, appreciate. I think I've posted about this before, and there's a wonderful poem somewhere about stopping to think and watch (I've posted it before - in fact you can read it here). There is even a magazine The Simple Things, which I love, and often treat myself to it.

Anyway, I try to do this. Try to stop and watch, listen. But sometimes its so easy to take things for granted.

Anyway, in honour of this, I'm going to try and post once a week about the small things that I have noticed/been happy about/grateful for that week - the little things. Whatever comes to mind. And please, contribute your own!

This week's little things:

Beautiful sunsets and skies, 
The sun streaked with pink, purple, and orange,
Still, September evenings, 
Dew on my bare feet in the mornings, 
Tea and laughter, 
The smell of sweet peas, 
Coffee with friends, 
Alohomora! on a Sunday morning, 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

View from a Straw Bale

I never know which time of year I prefer more: when the woods are full of bluebells, or now, when the stubble fields are scattered with straw bales. The two times of year frame the summer, my favourite season, although spring isn't far behind.

Mournful and poignant though this time of year can be, as summer turns to autumn, and new things are considered, and that back to school feeling settles in everyone's stomachs, nothing beats a good straw bale, especially the large round ones, onto which you have to take a run and a jump to hop. The dog tries to scramble up too, sometimes he's successful, and other times he stalks away, ignoring my calls, refusing to try again, as if he didn't want to be up there in the first place. Oh little dog. He's so silly.

There's something rather wonderful about the scratches on your legs, and just being able to sit atop a bale and view the world.

And of course then there's the fun of trying to get the bale to roll over.

When we were little, we would sit on the top, and wait for the bale to be pushed, with us on top, and this was better than any other game we could have played. My dad would park his pick up so that we could climb straight out the back onto the bales, and he pushed several together, which caused hours of endless fun. Of course, this is something I know not many people will have been lucky enough to do, but oh, it's the best. Nothing beats it.

Nothing like the simple things, hey?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Dew, alone days, and flowers

Days alone are so full of hope and the expectation of what could come and different ways to be filled. There is nothing nicer than padding around by yourself, taking in the morning, the sunshine, drinking coffee, and thinking everything that the day brings.

There is nothing nicer than wandering around the garden, the dew still on the ground, clinging to your shoes, with the sun breaking through. It feels like it is going to be a beautiful day. The odd burst of colour breaks through in the flower beds, reminding me that maybe summer is not entirely over.

My sweetpeas are still thriving - I've even got a speckled one now:

I love seeing what the garden produces. There's all sorts, and I wish I was good with names, but I'm not, I'm hopeless. But I love all the different colours, the shapes, and smells. Although many things have ended for the year, there are still some wonderful smells and colours out there, and that is wonderful to see.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Fat Hen and a last summer burst

Wow, another week has just flown by, and I don't really know where it's gone. How can it be just over a week since I handed my dissertation in? And nearly a week since I returned from Exeter?

Time has this uncanny knack of doing that, of just flying away.

Anyway, since dissertation hand in, it's been a return to life with a bang.

I spent most of Wednesday pulling up a weed called fat hen (trust me, it really does exist). It is something that they used to use in Tudor times, as a sort of precursor to spinach. It kind of died out when spinach became popular. If you search it, there's surprisingly a lot about it out there - including a recipe for fat hen souffle! We pulled all ours up, which took all day. It was surprisingly satisfying though - especially when you managed to get a tough one out! By the end of the day, the vegetable patch was looking a lot less weedy, which was good!

The day before that I ended up helping my dad fix the windscreen washer on his Land Rover. I say helped - he needed someone to push the button every now and again as he couldn't do it all at the same time. Still.... a fun afternoon! We had to pull the whole dashboard off too (lots of screws), which was one of those jobs that was easy enough to pull it all off, but putting it back on and finding which screws went where was a little more challenging....

We had a last burst of summer this week, but it appears to have disappeared again just as quickly, which is rather sad.  So, I suppose Autumn is getting ready to stay, although I'm still holding on for another Indian summer....

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Rory's Story Cubes

Okay, everyone - I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with Rory's Story Cubes. I've only had them a few days, but I am addicted.

I've been aware of these for a long time, and always been tempted to get some. Then, I attended a workshop with the wonderful Liz Kessler back in May and she used them, and I was even more determined to get some because I thought they were awesome. Yet, I've only just actually purchased some, after seeing them once again in Waterstones, on a whim and a kind of well, I've finished all my studying now...

In case you don't know what they are, Story Cubes are a game designed to spark imagination and stories. There are nine dice in the original set, and each side of the dice contains a different image. The dice must be shaken and then a story constructed by connecting the images. There are no rules except for the story to begin with 'once upon a time...'. Of course, even this rule is flexible and the cubes can be used in all sorts of ways, not only to spark children's imaginations, but for writers and writing exercises.

I have found that using these really wakes up my brain and makes me think in a different way about things. I like being able to scribble down a little story about aliens, fairies and torches. There is hundreds of combinations of images and stories to create.

There is not only the original set, but expansions too - including actions and voyages, and smaller sets enchanted, pre-historic, and clues, all of which can be mixed in to any of the sets. I got enchanted with my original ones, thanks to a special deal. It's great to be able to mix the cubes up and get all sorts of quirky stories.

I can't recommend these highly enough - they're transportable, fun, can be used as a game with lots of people, by yourself, simply as a writing exercise, or to break a writer's block. They're great to get thoughts flowing and a way of just writing. 

You can buy these cubes on Amazon, in Waterstones and here, as well as lots of other places. Does anyone else use these?!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Return to the City

I am returning once again to the city. Thankfully not for good – just a few days, a brief trip to hand in my dissertation and see some old friends. But it feels odd. That back to school feeling remains, partly due I suppose to the prospect of handing in my dissertation and also the long journey. 

In many ways, it has been a blissful summer, pottering around, writing, enjoying the sunshine, reading, fresh fruit and veg, and all that. Even the dissertation has been enjoyable (most of the time). So it does very much feel like that has come to an end, not helped by the rainy, gloomy days, and the oncoming cold, which make it seem very autumnal and wintery. Despite that, I am still in shorts. 

It is strange to be in the city again. 

Everything moves much faster here, and there are lots of people, milling around. I like that I can walk to cages and shops, but it doesn’t feel right anymore somehow. It is time to say goodbye to five years in this place, time to start afresh, a new life, something different. 

It’s certainly time to return to the country. My dissertation is all handed in now, goodbyes have been said, and that part of my life is over. It's mad to think that it's been five years there. And now, the unknown waits...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A funny back to school feeling

Does anyone else get that? That funny back to school, end of the summer feeling, that just fills you with dread? I'm not even going back to school - university or anything this September, and yet that feeling is still there. There's just this feeling in the pit of my stomach, the feeling of dread that the summer is nearly over, and that once again there are so many things I never did, so much time that has passed and I don't feel like I have achieved anything at all. Which is absurd - but there are so many things I wish I'd done.

But the nights are already getting longer, the days are getting colder, and it feels like summer has once again slipped through my fingers.

So many dreams, so many ideas, plans.... that didn't happen.

Do you know the feeling?

I know that September is often nice weather wise, but I still feel like I've missed something. I don't know what.

But, I discovered today that the plum tree, just as the damson tree, is absolutely laden with plums, so that's nice - lots of yummy plums to eat! And our tomatoes are ripening, which is rather exciting. I do love this time of year, and all the wonderful things you can pick in the garden.

But I just want to hold onto summer a little longer.

Friday, 15 August 2014

That Autumn Feeling

Autumn seems to have already arrived, even though it's only the middle of August. I woke up this morning to a crisp chill in the air, which is suited more to October than August. It's already getting darker earlier, and it makes me sad to think that summer is over. I want to cling on and not let go. It was easy to believe in June, July, that the hot weather would go on and on forever. I feel like there are so many things I meant to do that I didn't, so many things I thought I'll leave that till later.

With the apparent early change in season, it means that the fruits and everything are early. I already picked some blackberries (!). And as I mentioned before, the plum tree this year is absolutely laden with plums - I don't think that I've ever seen so many on it before! Yesterday I made some jam and stewed fruit - the stewed fruit turned out okay, but I have yet to taste the jam. It seems to have set (major achievement), so I'm hoping that it tastes okay!

We are also inundated with courgettes, as well as tomatoes and cucumbers. After waiting for them to grow for months, there's always this momentary panic of what on earth do we do with all of this?! I am planning on making some courgette cakes, as well as some quiche (always yummy and something I have yet to do this summer, shock horror).

It is harvest time as well, and there is nothing nicer than walking through a field that has just been harvested, and smelling the straw and sitting on the straw bales. Plus, there are about ten deer that we keep seeing in one of the fields, which is lovely.

In other news, First Time Farmers has started again on Channel 4, which is always an entertaining watch.

I hope summer makes another brief appearance at some point.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Flower Show, Plums, and Moles

Another week has flown by, and I can't really believe that it's August already! There's lots of exciting things happening this month, including exciting book releases, weddings, and dissertation hand in! And of course, summer continues!

It was the flower show last week, which of course we dutifully attended - and even entered a few things! We won a third place for our cucumbers, which was exciting! Talking of which - we are entering into that time of the summer when we are faced with an abundance of fresh fruit and veg (which is super exciting. I love summer). At the moment, it's lots of cucumbers, courgettes, plums - and more.

I'll have to crack out some of my favourite courgette recipes soon, including soup, cake, and quiche!

The damson plums are thriving too - the tree is bending over with the weight of the plums:

So I guess it's nearly time for some jam making too!

Lots of sweetpeas still growing too.

Oh, and the moles. We don't often have moles, but they've taken over the lawn and there are huge holes everywhere!

Finally - here's a little dog who seems to think chairs/seats etc are for him and doesn't understand the concept of SPACE:

Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Little Lost Hen

This week in countryside life, the hot weather continues, and there's a runaway....

So this week, the big news of the lane, and indeed the village was the rogue hen living in the hedgerows. No one knows where this hen has come from, it doesn't seem to belong to anyone, and against all odds it seems to have survived (so far) being eaten by a fox (although we haven't seen it in the last few days).

It's been funny, because people have seen it, and then discussed it and it's been the topic of the week. I've seen it a couple of times, and I couldn't really believe what I was seeing, just because it seemed so odd and unusual.

Well the mystery persists.... and maybe we'll see it again, but I fear the worst....

In other news, the flower show is coming up. I failed to get my entry form in on time so won't be entering anything, but it's always good fun.

My sweet peas have gone mad as well, thanks to the hot weather. And we also have lots of cucumbers, courgettes, tomotoes, and even grapes!

In local news, sadly the Eastbourne pier caught fire yesterday. Horrible pictures of the destruction, but looks like they saved some of it!

Just a short update this week - need to crack on with the disssertation....

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Thunderstorms and Village Fetes

Yet again the days seem to have disappeared in a summer haze. It's been baking hot recently, which has been wonderful and has felt like proper summer - but it hasn't been quite so good for productivity! Both the dissertation and the writing have slowed right now, but I guess maybe it's good to have a bit of a break from time to time. As always, I'm still pondering ideas and scribbling notes.

Anyway, the last week has seen has subjected to plenty of thunderstorms as well as hot weather. The thunder and lightening was at times a little alarm, but also kind of spectacular to watch. At one point the storm was right above us! One downside was the lightening lighting up my whole room at night. It's been very stuffy as well, and even with the windows wide open, it's felt very hot and uncomfortable.

Still, there's nothing quite like the beautiful summer days and the clear blue skies, and lying on the grass reading and writing. It's always easy to forget that the summer is completely full of days like this. These are the type of days I write about in my stories, and Treading Water is full of hot, stuffy days.

In other news, it was the church fete on Saturday, which meant an afternoon of tombola, hoopla, bowling for the pig - and the wheel of fortune (and much more!).

Here's the wheel in action:

It went down a treat!

Oh, and the bees are back - what joy. Although, luckily the storms cleared this swarm a bit:

Anyway, have a great week and enjoy the sunshine. I'm currently desperate to go windsurfing again, or maybe paddleboarding, so maybe that will happen this week - fingers crossed!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Sweet Peas and a Heatwave!

I really don't know where the time is going - it's racing away from us! I mean, how did we get to this point in July already?

Around here, things are blossoming and everything's very green. They're predicting a heatwave over the next few days, and already the air feels much hotter.

This is what summer should be like though - long, lazy days, with outdoor theatre and cinema, late evening visits to each other's houses, lying on the grass, eating outside..... These are all elements that make up summer, in a rather nostalgic way.

It's church/village fete season as well, with our parish one coming up this Saturday. Rain is predicted, but hopefully it will hold off. We're hoping to bring out the giant Wheel of Fortune that I repainted last summer:
repainted wheel of fortune!
Although, we're still debating the best way to play the game! Also at the fete will be all the usual games such as the tombola, hoopla, and much more. It should be a good day (if the rain holds off!). 

In other news, my first sweet pea flowers have blossomed (and they smell great).

Hopefully it's the first of many, many flowers.

Just a quick update - I'm meant to be cracking on with my dissertation, although it's very hard to sit inside and work when it's nice outside! Oh well - if I get some done this morning, I'm going to sit and write outside this afternoon (and swim!).

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

YALC Recap!

This weekend saw the inaugural YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) take place as part of the larger LFCC (London Film and Comic Con). This was the first time that anything like this had taken place in the UK, so I and so many other people were unsurprisingly very excited! There have already been lots of recaps, but I thought I'd do my own anyway, with a few pictures.

The weekend itself was absolutely manic and so crazy, as the con was part of the larger LFCC. This meant that there were huge queues to get in, and inside, lots and lots of people, a noisy and very, very hot hall. Luckily the Book Zone was at the back of the hall, and things were a little quieter there! It was also very exhausting, with lots of queueing, standing about etc, and I was out late both nights seeing other friends - I managed to make it through the weekend, and collapsed in exhaustion when I got home Monday!

There was so much going on each day though, it was hard to know what to do - there were panels, workshops, and signings - lots of which clashed, and so lots of choices had to be made! The panels and signings I went to though were really great. The whole event was really awesome and there were so many awesome people there, all full of enthusiasm for YA, which was INCREDIBLE. I hope this do this again, it was the best.

While I was there, I was also able to meet lots of wonderful people, including my awesome CP Laura (and we got to hang out lots! Yay!), Cole, Emma, Catherine, as well as a fellow MuggleNet writer, Toni! I also got to hang out with one of my school friends, Katie, which was great. It was also wonderful to say hello to the lovely Liz Kessler who I met at the Fowey Festival!

This was the Book Zone, with an awesome wall of books, as well as a table of free goodies!

 Lots of publishers, as well as Waterstones, had stands and they were selling books (something I took advantage of, of course! Although I did get home and think, I thought I got more than this... maybe I should have...). Hot Key Books were there (and I love them, they were so friendly and great). They were giving out We Were Liars samplers (which I've already read) as well as awesome hand stamps with quotes from the books, as well as posters and tote bags!

As well as managing to get a couple of free books (!) I also picked up plenty of bookmarks, posters, badges, and posters!

"be a little kinder than you have to"

Onto the events themselves - on Saturday, I attended two panels: "It's the end of the world as we know it: the ongoing appeal of dystopia" with Malorie Blackman (!!!!!), Patrick Ness, Sarah Crossan, and James Smythe. This was really great, and everyone on the panel made really interesting points about dystopia and were so funny and great. I also attended "Superfans Unite!" with Rainbow Rowell (!!!), Lucy Saxon, Andy Robb, and Tim O'Rouke. This was another great panel, with lots of Harry Potter chat (yay!). 

Sunday, I attended "How get published" with Phil Earle, Sally Green, and Ben Horslen. I also went to "Crossover: not just for kids" with Matt Haig, Anthony McGowan, Nick Lake, Meg Rosoff, and David Maybury. It was a really thought provoking panel - and at times rather controversial (in a good way!). Lastly, I went to "Sisters doing it for themselves" with Tany Byrne, Isobel Harrop, Julie Mayhew, Holly Smale, and Sarra Manning. Another really good, and brilliant panel that made me think a lot!

There were other panels and workshops that I was interested in both days, but I ended up doing lots of queueing for signings and stuff, and it didn't work out. It's always hard to know at these things what to focus on.

I managed to get lots of books signed - as well as buy lots. Here's some pictures (all the authors were LOVELY so it would be boring if I wrote that as a caption for each one!):

Natasha Ngan!
excited to read this!

picked this up from Hot Key as well!

Can't wait to read this one too!

I was SO excited to get this!


Holly Smale!

picked up this short story!

excited to snaffle a free copy of this!

 Phew! That's a lot of pictures! All the authors I met were SO SO SO lovely and keen to have a chat, and were all so friendly, I loved them all. I've got lots of reading to do!

Let's hope this happens again - it was awesome.