Thursday, 30 April 2015

Decorating diary - Part 2

We're ahead of schedule!

Today, we managed to get (nearly) all the gloss done, and all the walls! (Apart from one alcove behind the bookcase; we can't face moving the books twice, so we'll wait to paint that bit until we move everything out for the new carpet fitting and do it then.)

There was a dodgy moment about half way through, though; the gloss colour was looking decidedly dodgy next to the ivory walls. We discovered that i) the gloss was reflecting what was left of the yellow walls and turning it a funny colour, and ii) the ivory emulsion went on light, then went through a dark beige phase (yeuck!) before it dried an even lighter shade than it went on.

In the end, it looked fine. I'm really pleased with it. Even Mr Squidge said it looked OK, and he'd been wittering about the colour choices off and on all day.

And guess what? It was his birthday - and he spent the whole of it painting.

I'll make it up to him.


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Decorating Diary - Part One

You might remember that earlier in the year, the Squidges welcomed a new arrival to the house; our stove.

Wonderful as it was to get it in situ at long last, there was a distinct knock-on effect. Namely the chimney breast needed repapering and painting, AND we needed to find a new carpet as the old hearth was about two inches larger than the new one we've had.

Now, what you need to know is that my dining room is called The Yellow Room. It's not from any illusions of grandeur on my part - I wasn't aspiring to make my humble abode sound like a stately home. ("Tea in the Yellow Room, milady?" "Don't mind if I do.") It's because when the room was decorated (about ten plus years ago - can't remember exactly) I was going through a Feng Shui phase.

I dabbled in Feng Shui for a while, but never took it seriously enough to really feel the benefits. The one thing I did take note of - because it was all pretty much common sense - was the use of colours in decorating rooms.

My dining room is north facing. As such, it is a terribly cold room. (Although not post-stove, I'm happy to say!) Using 'warm' colours - yellows, oranges, reds - helps to create the impression of warmth. So I decorated the walls bright yellow, to go with the yellow and orange checked curtains I'd found.

It looked a lot better than that sounds - honest!

Now, bearing in mind that the room was known as The Yellow Room, I faced strong opposition when I mentioned that I was thinking of changing the colour scheme. To something a bit more grown-up, a bit more dining-room-ish, a bit more...muted, maybe?

I wanted red. Just on the chimney breast, with red curtains and new red covers for the chairs.

Task one was finding the curtain fabric - I always take my colour scheme from the curtains, as it's a darn sight easier doing it that way than choosing a lovely paint and trying to match fabric afterwards. Red doesn't seem to be a colour that's too popular at the moment, so we were a bit limited in choice. Third time lucky though...

Task two - the right paint. Ivory. A nice warm tone that will help keep the chill at bay. Which is fine until you can't get the same shade in the emulsion and the gloss. We came pretty close - if you come to dinner when it's all done, you might be able to tell if you look closely.

The curtain fabric has a larger pattern than this sample;
this one will be used on the chairs.

Today, Mr Squidge and I sanded down all the woodwork. He is glossing the picture rail tonight, in advance of emulsioning the ceiling tomorrow while I gloss the skirting boards and radiator. Friday, we'll do the walls.

Baggsy I get to do the Redcurrant Glory.

Giveaway time!

To celebrate the publication of More Granny Rainbow, I'm giving away a copy on Goodreads. To stand a chance of winning it, all you have to do is click on the link...

Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

More Granny Rainbow by Katherine Hetzel

More Granny Rainbow

by Katherine Hetzel

Giveaway ends May 09, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Froggy Fiasco at the Book Launch Party!

Today, I held the launch party for More Granny Rainbow.

It. Was. Brilliant!

There weren't as many people there as I hoped, but we had a great time regardless. Books were bought, cakes - and teeth - were eaten, and frogs were counted.

Like last time, I had a competition. You had to guess the number of frogs on the fabric to win. If you'd seen me, earlier this morning, with a jar of tiddlywinks, putting one tiddlywink on each frog  so I didn't lose count (any frog whose eyes I could see got counted!)...I'm amazed that someone actually guessed the EXACT number of frogs! But they did. Their prize is a limited edition copy of More Granny Rainbow which has a single coloured picture inside. There are only five copies like this - one was earmarked for Laura, who did such a fabulous job of illustrating for me again (Marmaduke's my absolute favourite in this book) and another three will be posted on Monday to the winners of the story idea competition I held last year.

...101, 102, 103...

I also had activities and props laid out on the tables for the children (and bigger children) to have a go at, which related to each of the seven stories.

Here's the post box I made for Granny Rainbow and the Poetic Postman. The cards could have a picture and/or words added and be 'posted' to Granny Rainbow. 

These are some of the posted results...My favourite? 'To Granny Rainbow. I like all your poshons.'

For Granny Rainbow and the Big Top Bother, you could dress up as a clown...

You could eat the teeth that the Tooth Fairy had forgotten to collect (Granny Rainbow and the Tired Tooth Fairy.) They were very fruity, and very chewy!

Marmaduke was getting up to no good in Granny Rainbow and Marmaduke's Mischief. (And yes, they are all socks I've knitted...)

Hubert the dragon flew in for a visit (Granny Rainbow and the Dragon Drama), though he didn't fancy trying any of Old Tom's blue honey (Granny Rainbow and the Blue Bees) - unlike some of the little people at the launch who seemed to like it quite a lot!

And there were lots and lots and lots of frogs! (Granny Rainbow and the Froggy Fiasco) These fabulous cake pops were made by Shell's Cup Cakes and Cake Pops - you can see more of her creations here. They were absolutely delicious.

An edible Froggy Fiasco!

Frogs featured quite a bit, as Froggy Fiasco is the shortest story in the book and the one I chose to read. 

The audience, listening intently!

And of course, I had books to sell. I took both Granny Rainbow and More Granny Rainbow, because I knew there were folk coming who had not yet met Granny Rainbow; although you can read the stories in the second book without having read the first, I thought maybe some would prefer to buy the first to find out what Granny's all about. I set up a lovely display...then my son arrived and rearranged it all. With mathematical precision. Just look at the steps on that bottom pile...

And people bought books - hooray! I was asked to sign quite a few...

And that was that. An hour later, done and dusted. More Granny Rainbow had been officially launched!

The one photo I forgot to take was my addition to the Wall of Fame at Delice Deli. You might remember it from the previous launch?

The wall has got a fair few signatures on it now, but there was just enough space to add something along the lines of 'And back for the second book too'. 

In fact, if any Loughborough folk fancy a read of either of the books when they drop into Delice for a coffee, lunch, or to purchase some of the fabulous produce on sale, then there are reading copies on the shelf and - even better - you can purchase a copy of either from them (along with several other local history titles published by Panda Eyes). How fab is that? An outlet for my books, in my home town. *squee!*

(And if you can't get to Delice or live far away, details of ordering by post are on my website.)

Huge thanks to everyone who came to celebrate with me - Granny's got off to a good start thanks to you!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Almost launch time...again!

It's time to send More Granny Rainbow out into the world! The launch party is this Saturday; the cakes are ordered, the props are being gathered, the books are in their box...all we have to do is turn up on the day shout 'She''s here!' Well, that and paint some lily pads on a box, find out all my hand knitted socks and make some blue honey... Intrigued? All will become clear in the post-launch blog!

It feels a bit strange this time though.

There isn't the same sense of excitement as I had with the first book launch. Perhaps it's just because there's been a lot of other things to think about recently, and it's just one of many things I need to do? Perhaps it's because I've already done it once before, so it's not quite such unknown territory?

It's certainly not because I'm not proud of the book! I reckon fans of Granny Rainbow will have just as much fun reading and sharing these new stories as they did with the first book.

Perhaps it's because I'm scared? Yep - I'm a little bit scared. Shouldn't be, but I am.

Y'see a friend remarked when I expressed a little concern over how few people seemed to be able to come to the launch party, that they didn't think there'd be a problem because people now know me and are bound to turn up and buy the book.

As an author, as much as I would love to believe that, I really don't feel that I can take that for granted. Perhaps if my name was J. K. Rowling or Chris Riddell or that of any one of a host of other successful authors, I'd feel more secure. They are pretty much guaranteed sales - aren't they?

To date I've sold around 240 copies of Granny Rainbow in just over a year, which I've been told is pretty good for what is effectively a self-published book. (I shan't be living in luxury just yet.) However, not every single copy will have found a fan. And that's alright. Reading is a subjective matter - we all have different tastes and Granny will not suit some children at all. So not everyone who bought or received a copy of Granny Rainbow will want to buy More Granny Rainbow.

But I do know there are some young (and not-so-young) readers who love Granny Rainbow and will want to hear what she's been up to. If that translates into a handful of sales, I shall be happy. If it translates into ten, fifty, a hundred or more, I'll be even happier... But the best happiness of all is having just one person come up to me, having read the stories, to say how much they've enjoyed them.

That? Priceless.

So, I'll be launching Saturday, whether there are few or many present, and we will celebrate the world of Granny Rainbow again, not hoping for sales but for satisfied readers.

I trust they will let me know if I deliver.

(If you can't get to the launch but would like to order a copy of either of Granny Rainbow's books, head over to the website for details. I will send them out as soon as I can after the launch.)

Sunday, 19 April 2015

I've been followed...

Last night, I was followed home from the pub.

*cue dramatic music and mood lighting*

It's not as bad as it sounds - honest!

Mr Squidge and I, having packed both kids off to scout camp for the weekend, decided after a day out to see 'A Little Chaos', Alan Rickman's new film. (Film was great - not much chaos in it, but plenty of intrigue and court politics and the most amazing costumes...)

We stopped off at the pub afterwards (remind me to choose my pubs more wisely - I reckon I was about 25 years older than most of the clientele, and had far, far too much skin covered up to fit in) where I was served a small glass of wine, but in a very large glass (Why is that? So they only have to stock supersized glassware for the serious boozers? Or is it one size fits all for small, medium and large quantities?)

Anyhoo - after being totally creeped out by the guy standing at my shoulder, who couldn't wait to claim the shelf we were resting our drinks on when we made moves to leave, we walked home. (Past, I hasten to add, the chippy which was shut. At eleven o'clock!)

We don't have far to walk home from town - about ten minutes or so. Halfway along the main road, we were approached by the most gorgeous cat, who we fussed before carrying on.

He/she followed us.

All the way home.

Looking into every driveway he/she passed, as though saying 'Is this it? Is this the one?'

Now as a cat owner, I know that cats have a territory. I also know, from being accompanied down the street by our Timmy, that there comes a point where they say 'Woah! No further! Alien territory!' For this little cat, there was no such limit; he/she kept following us, invited him/herself into our house when we opened the front door, and made themselves at home.

(Sorry - can't keep up the he/she! It's a he from now on, with apologies of it turns out to be female!)

I decided to persuade the cat - a beautiful grey tabby with orange splashes on his face - to follow me back down the road, working on theory that if I took him back to where he started following us, he might recognise where he was and go home. He did follow us, and after a toilet stop (the cat, not me) he sat down and seemed quite content. I decided to leave him there and walk home.

Four houses further on - I had a shadow. He followed me all the way home again, still checking driveways, seeming more nervous now. He invited himself in a second time, plonked himself at my feet and proceeded to purr whilst grooming himself.

Mr Squidge and I had a discussion. It was far too late to contact a vet/RSPCA to see whether this little beauty was microchipped. So we took a couple of pictures, posted them on a 'lost and found' page for the town, then popped our guest into the garage with a bed and litter tray until the morning.

Today, we've had a couple of possible leads for the cat, but none have borne fruit. We have been good hosts - offered breakfast and dinner - and although after 24 hours the poor puss is very keen to get out, we've decided to hang onto him until tomorrow when we can get him to the vet to have him checked for a microchip.

I know how hard it was for us when Timmy went missing (a whole week, shut inside the house of a neighbour who had gone on holiday. Apparently he only ever pooed in her bath though.), so I hope we can reunite this little one with his owner soon.

I'll let you know how I get on.

UPDATE: 'Misty' went home yesterday - he must've been looking for company and food as his owner was unfortunately taken into hospital. He lived about four houses down from where he started following us...

Friday, 17 April 2015

New Project Blues...

*sings* 'I got the neeeww pro-ject bluuues' *blows mournfully on a harmonica*

It's a long time since I started a new, big, writing project; probably four years or more. That's when StarMark and Rurik were really rough versions of their current forms.

But with Rurik now on the editing trail, StarMark due for publication later this year and More Granny Rainbow due for launch next week, that means I can get on with starting something fresh and new. I've got some ideas in the pipeline, but have focused recently on Ani's story as my novel project, with something for another RASSSA anthology and a collection inspired by a couple of Word Cloud competitions on the side.

Ani's story. I think it has great potential, but it keeps getting so far and stalling. 

Because I'd forgotten just how hard it is to start from scratch on a longer project; I ended up feeling quite down about it.

After an email chat with a fellow writer (you know who you are!), I realised that Ani's story was stalling because the theme I wanted to portray is too close at the moment to something I'm struggling with in real life. My friend also told me - very wisely - that this story will be written at the right time if t's meant to be, but perhaps now is not the right time. As a result, Ani went on the backburner.

Instead, I looked at Puzzle Piece. I reckon there's a fascinating story to be told after that starting scene, so I gave it a go. In three days, I wrote three chapters. 

And stalled. Again. Why? It was getting too complicated, too quickly.

I've often said that I have problems when I can't 'see' the complete story. StarMark began life as a definite idea - I could see Irvana and I could see where she started and where she would end up. I didn't plan everything out in detail before I wrote it, but I could see the stepping stones to get Irvana from A to B. Whereas with both Ani and my first attempt at Puzzle Piece, I don't seem to have any stepping stones at all - just a yawning chasm between two steep banks.

What I've written for both, I'm unsatisfied with. I know I'm supposed to allow myself that s****y first draft, but seeing myself write rubbish in this first instance is frustrating the heck out of me. I can't sustain the distinctive voice of Puzzle Piece. I can't figure out the motivation for certain actions Ani takes. I can't see the woods for the trees...

So what do I do?

I could fall back to writing short stories again, but that's not helping me to practise the complexity of a novel storyline. Or I could plough on with one of the novel ideas, getting more and more frustrated because neither is turning out how I want it to.

It all feels terribly daunting at the moment. I am writing literally pages and pages of words each day - scenes, conversations, twists and turns - but with no real idea of how it is all going to hang together. Or if it will really become something worthy of calling a novel.

And I keep asking myself 'How the heck did I do it before?'

I have resigned myself to simply playing at the moment - exploring the world of Puzzle Piece and capturing random scenes with a view to seeing what they add up to eventually. I have pledged with a couple of other writing buddies to write something every day for 100 days, so I'll have plenty more words by the end of that time.

They just might not make much sense...

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Hoovering Angels' Wings

Yes, you did read that right. Hoovering - not hovering - angels' wings. That's what I've been doing today.

Let me explain...

A couple of years ago, the church I worship at went through a time of reordering. We took out the old organ and choir stalls to give us a much more flexible front worship space, as well as giving the entire church building some much needed TLC after over 125 years of hosting a community.

Before the reordering, we had various hangings in church; these were taken down and stored until such time as the stonework dried out (it was all power-washed to show off the beautiful colours of Swithland stone) and they could be effectively cleaned. One of the hangings was always referred to as The Three Angels.

Three Angels

Now, there is some dispute about exactly who is on the banner. The central figure is holding a lily, so it has been assumed by some to be a representation of Mary, after whom the church is named. (Although again, we're not sure which Mary the church is named after...mother of Jesus? Magdelene? Mary of Mary and Martha fame?)

Anyway, I've always taken it to be a tapestry of three angels, because there are four wings; one for each of the figures standing side-on, next to the central figure who has two wings.

As a child, the tapestry captivated me. I wasn't interested in the remarkable needlework of Stella Edwards, the lady who made it in the 1960's. And it is remarkable needlework. The base fabric, a sort of black/green satin depending on the light, with gold and silver lurex threads running through it, measures roughly 5' x 6' (1.52m by 1.90m ...ish. I work better in imperial than metric!) and the stitching covers a vast amount of that area. The base of the lily is felt, but everything else is embroidered with tapestry wool in shades of green, gold, orange-brown and off-white. The stitches are so even - just take a look at these close-ups...

The little 'flowers' are the patterns made by the
lurex threads in the base fabric

I always loved the angel in the middle, because I thought she was beautiful. Still do. The angel on the right came a close second, especially as she had a lovely face (shame about the green hair) and a patterned dress. The poor angel on the left - the one with the wonky face and dodgy hairdo, who always seemed to be admiring the other two - always got my sympathy vote. I can remember thinking, as a short, black-haired, bespectacled 8 year old, that she'd ended up with a bum deal in the looks department. But I was slightly happier that she'd been given a decent dress to make up for it...

See what I mean? 

I love this banner so much, I took it as my inspiration for a flower arrangement back at our 'Fabric and Flowers' Flower Festival in 2008...

Three lime-green 'angels', 'holding' a central lily,
with glass and gold nuggets on a black background

Personally, I have missed having the angels hanging in church - though you do get used to the fact they're not there, if that makes sense? They've been a part of St. Mary's almost as long as I have.

Anyway, today I hoovered them. Sixty-odd years of accumulated dust and a few cobwebs sucked up by the vacuum... Unfortunately there are a couple of problems; I noticed some small holes in the base fabric and a handful of stitches which have perished, but the banner is in remarkably good condition otherwise.

I reckon it's good to hang for another sixty years at least...

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A Rainbow Jumper

A while back, in a lovely little craft shop (Crafts Cornucopeia) where my sister lives in Belper, I bought myself some wool. Not just any old wool - this was rainbow wool. King Cole 'Riot' Double Knit, in the shade 'Fab', to be exact.

Such a gorgeous blend of colours

I'd got a lovely pattern in mind - a ballerina cross-over cardy-style jumper (so it didn't have that fiddly belt you used to have to thread through a hole in the seam) - but the sizing kept going wrong. Now I'm a loose knitter usually, but I could not get the tension right on the pattern I was trying. And unfortunately, this wool is a bit of a pig to pull back; it's got quite a smooth, shiny finish but the wool content means that it goes fluffy when you unravel wrong knitting.

So I found a new pattern. A short bolero jacket with cabled neckline. (As well as a wrapround cardy waistcoat and a circular waistcoat...when I see a pattern I like, I buy it!)

It's the strangest construction I've ever knitted before - but I like a challenge. I can't wait to see how it looks when it's finished...I don't think it'll be ready for the launch of More Granny Rainbow, but I'll do my best.

Haven't got lots of time for knitting, y'see.

I have the launch to organise of course...also a dining room to decorate (although finding a colour and the respective new curtains to go with is taking me longer than I'd hoped)...a couple of short stories to bash out so that my idea for an adult short story collection might bear fruit...Rurik to edit (picked him up recently and saw SO much I can do to improve that book)...and Ani to get to grips with (as she's causing me some headaches and I can't seem to push through them).

Oh - and life. All the normal, everyday stuff that has to be done to keep house and family ticking over...

Thank goodness I'm not knitting a sweater dress.

Friday, 10 April 2015

She's here!

More Granny Rainbow arrived this afternoon - all 300 of her! Even the cat was interested...

Roll on the 26th April and launch day!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

A little bit of flash - A Sixpence, Shells and Champagne

Just a little piece of flash, created when I selected a sixpence, shell and champagne cork from prompt items used for an exercise at a NIBS session. 

They'd insisted she put a sixpence in her shoe.

For luck, they said.

She'd need it...She'd done everything else.

Old was the dress from two-years-ago season. A little frayed at the cuffs, but still sharp at the collar. New, her shoes. Sturdy and stout, for the miles she needed to walk. Borrowed? Her sister's fur coat: mangy fox and smelling of mothballs. Blue: her fingers, thanks to the thick snow. Snow, in May. Who'd have thought?

It was as unlikely as this match.

The tiny chapel, barely big enough for the two of them and the priest, coated with seashells and stones from the coast. A labour of love...and she wished, from the bottom of her heart, to feel something of that for the man standing beside her.

When it was done, his ring hanging loose upon a finger shrunk with cold, they toasted their new future with champagne, the cork exploding like a bullet from the bottle, lost in the gooseberry bushes.

Married. At sixteen, to a man ten years older than her father.

As she eased the sixpence out of her shoe, moist with sweat, a perfect circle imprinted on the sole of her foot, she hoped - wished - yearned for it to be true.

For it to bring her luck.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Friday's the day!

This Friday, I'll be taking delivery of 300 copies of More Granny Rainbow! Hooray!

I ordered fewer copies this time - mainly because my spare room's not big enough to store another eight boxes of books on top of the three I've still got left of Granny Rainbow. Of course, for the self-pubber, that means a slight increase in price per copy; unfortunately it also means an increase in the price I charge the reader. BUT if you buy direct from me, you'll still be paying less than if you buy via a shop.

I will make sure there's a pre-order button (and offer!) up on the website by the end of this week, with copies posted to arrive at the beginning of May.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

A Tentative Launch Date...

More Granny Rainbow is still at the printers at the moment... but I am hopeful the books will be ready by the end of the Easter holidays or soon after.

That being so, I've tentatively booked a launch date, the 25th April. Stick the date in your diaries, as there's going to be another party! I've asked Delice Deli to host it again, as although there are some accessibility issues (we use the upstairs room), the Delice team are so good and, I found out recently, going to stock Panda Eyes books!

This means that there is going to be a shop in Loughborough selling both Granny Rainbow and More Granny Rainbow! *squeee!* As well as lots of local history books, too - that's actually Panda Eyes' speciality... I'm a bit of oddity for them, really.

I'll be sending out invites once I've confirmed the books will be ready in time; if you fancy coming, do drop me a line. For those who can't get, I'll be posting a Paypal button over on the website soon, so you'll be able to pre-order books which I will mail out on the Monday/Tuesday after the launch. (Some special people will get theirs pre-launch...)

Exciting stuff!

Now all I need to do is sort out food, activities, helpers...

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Deleting Problems...

So, for the first time, I've decided to delete a blog post. If you've been following the Scribbles for a while, you might remember it - all about the baubles I was knitting before Christmas.

For some reason, this post has attracted a heck of a lot of spam interest. About shoes.

I have no idea why.

Was it the title that triggered something? ('A Strange Addiction' - later changed to 'A Strange Compulsion')

Was there something embedded in it that created spambots to select it? If so, I have no idea what or how, because I'm not teccy enough to work that out.

Was I just unlucky?

Either way, it's that post that led me to (unwillingly) add a filter to the comments, to avoid the plague of spam comments that was clogging up my inbox.

Thing is, it doesn't seem to have made a difference to how many times the spambots are trying to hit the post. As a result, I've seen my hit-rate climb, but it leaves me with a sense of frustration because the hits aren't genuine. I would rather have tens of hits a day of genuine readers than apparently high numbers generated by a machine. The Scribbles is not about number-crunching - never has been. It's about engaging with you, the reader.

Hence the blog post has been deleted. I've kept a copy of it, but you won't be able to see it any more.

Whether it's enough to stop the robots, I've no idea. They might just pick on another post instead...but I'll deal with that when - if? - it happens.