Monday, 24 August 2015

Handmade books!

I love notebooks; I'm a bit of a one for seeing a beautiful cover and buying it, then saving it for 'something special'.

Like this one, which has still got Ani's story in it, in spite of the fact the story stalled...

Laura Buckland (who illustrated both my Granny Rainbow collections) has recently made handmade books as part of her uni course - and she's been selling them too. Look at these beauties!

(You can see more of Laura's creations and artwork on her facebook page)

I fell in love with the books, and asked Laura to make me one - monochrome cover and (of course) rainbow pages. I received it yesterday - and it's absolutely gorgeous! 

Lovely paint effect with added doodles on the cover...

A rainbow of pages

And a rainbow spine to hold them in place

Now all I need is a special project to fill it with...

Friday, 21 August 2015

Writing character... with LEGO

Thought I'd share with you a warm-up idea I used recently at NIBS, our writer's group. We were looking at building characters.

In the Squidge house, we love LEGO - it doesn't get bought quite so often as it used to now, but we are the proud owners of boxes of the stuff - some of it original 1950's that was passed on to us, some from when Mr Squidge was a kid. T has Bionicle and Star Wars sets, plus Mindstorms robotics... we could stock a shop.

And as any LEGO officionado knows, there are mini-figures.

We love mini-figures.

Just some of the Squidges' collection...

Favourites... Abominable snowman,
Lab technician (because I was one)
and Pierrot

Sure, we don't collect them quite so avidly any more - teenagers don't really go for them as much. And we're not in the toy shop so often nowadays, unless it's to buy Airfix paint, so I don't know which sets are current...

ANYWAY... we possess over 100 of these little figures, so I put 'em to use as my 'starter for ten' in the character workshop.

Basically, you had to pick out one of the figures and write something about them. Character sketch, mini-story about the mini-figure, description...

It was great fun. Between us we came up with a hippy guy, spreading lurve; a centurion who enjoyed killing; a genie who was 'imprisoned, trapped, alone'; a civil war re-enacter who liked things to be perfect; Frank, newspaperman and secret drag act artist; a cheerleader who worked hard to look perfect; a knight in a school play, and mine - a judge.

Here's the character sketch I came up with for him...

Frederick Maltby-Morvey the Third.
 - Looks over the top of his gold rimmed specs as he studies the miscreants and low life that were unfortunate enough to be standing in his dock.
 - Wig of horsehair hung down his chest. He remembered the early days, when there were just a few curls and a pointless tail at the back. How it had grown, almost as much as the weight of responsibility as he was appointed to High Judge and Executioner.
 - The gavel was an instrument dreaded by many - when he wielded it in court it restored order and punctuated sentences. How many times over the years had it slammed on the desk and sent men and women down? Too many to count. A few memorable occasions, but they all blurred into one nowadays.

So there you go - raid the LEGO box and get characterising!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

100 days of writing. Tick.

Yesterday, I achieved my target - 100 days of writing. Almost a third of a year - in words.

Not exactly pretty...but it does the job

I started back in April, inspired by a friend whose husband had made her a writing chart. I didn't think I could realistically go a full year, (as she is well on the way to achieving) so my chart stopped at 100 days.

Here's what I learned about my writing patterns over the last 125 days...

Overall, the ratio of writing to non-writing days on average is 4:1. (In June, I achieved a 6:1 ratio)

The longest unbroken stint of daily writing was 13 days.

It took 74 days to complete the first draft of King Stone.

The summer holidays were responsible for just over half of the non-writing days.

I tend to be able to write for 5 days comfortably and then need a break. However, more than a couple of days 'off' in a row and I get twitchy...

Having a visual prompt helps me to keep focused and reminds me just how much time I'm not spending writing.

Will I carry on? Definitely.

Here's to the next 100...

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Creativity, Squidge-style

Our summer hols have been more of a stay-cation than a vacation... especially after T's axe-ident which meant he wasn't able to get out and about in the first few weeks. (Pleased to report all is healing nicely).

Anyway, the Squidges have still had plenty of time to get creative, and there are a few summer projects to share with you...

1. The waa-waa box.

Apparently it's a technical term - honest; T was given a bass guitar effects pedal last Christmas from his uncle. However, said waa-waa box had to be built from scratch. Now we're not really into electrical engineering in this house, though Mr Squidge knows enough to get by. So Squidgeling T and Mr Squidge sorted out their resistors from their transistors, got to grips with a soldering iron and hey presto;

Doesn't look much on the outside...

...but it's spaghetti junction on the inside.

There were a few teething troubles when they tried to connect it to the amp, but after a bit of playing with the balance knobs, the bass sounds brilliant - all ready for WBV Rock Club in the new term.

2. Airfix.

Another Squidgeling T project - a model of a Type 45 Destroyer. It's yet to be finished, but there are, I'm informed, some VERY fiddly bits on this one, so it's taking a lot more time to put it all together.

The official Airfix desk

3. Extending the tree house.

When the Squidgelings were one and three, Mr Squidge decided to build a tree house in our pear tree. Fine, says I, just make sure it has a retractable ladder so they can't climb up without us. We ended up with a shaped platform and roped sides which looked a bit like a boat. And a retractable ladder which cunningly folds in half as it's lifted. (Hooray for engineers!)

Pirate 5th birthday party on The Jolly Knickerbocker Tree-house Ship.
(Squidgeling T is on the platform, second from left...)

Thirteen years later, and it's time for an extension. T drew up the plans (floor space long enough for a bed, walls, ceiling, a solar panel for the TV and a cat flap) and he set to work with Mr Squidge. Again, it's not quite finished, but it's coming together.

Squidgeling T, nine years later, cutting the old ropes away...

The new platform takes shape

4. The electric violin.

Squidgeling J plays her normal violin with an electric 'pick up' through her amp - but after borrowing a friend's dad's electric violin for a production, she decided she'd like to build herself an electric violin of her own. Except it wouldn't look like a normal violin. The core would be wood, but the shape would be cut from acrylic and lit with LED's. Plans were laid for the building of a prototype; various bits arrived in the post, wood was hewn, acrylic was cut - and it all came together yesterday. Granted, some bits are still sellotaped on, other bits need a few tweaks, but it worked!

From this... this!

It looked like a violin - albeit a funky one - and this morning, Squidgeling J tuned and played the protoype. In fact, I think she only put it down to eat her dinner...

5. The King Stone.

I'm not able to help much on the technical side of the aforementioned projects (Mr Squidge has been kept VERY busy!) so I  have used the time when the rest of the family was in the garage/garden/their bedrooms to work on the second draft chapters of my WIP. I am up to Chapter 10, and tomorrow will see my one hundredth day of writing since I began my 100 days challenge. Hooray! Here's to the next 100!

So - got any summer projects of your own to share?

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Family Time

This weekend has seen the first real family time for the Squidges since the holidays started.

Friday night, I went to the dogs...literally. As in greyhound racing. My mum was 70 a couple of years ago, and I knew she'd always wanted to go to a proper greyhound races - it's the only sport she likes. So for her 70th, we promised her a night at the races. Her birthday's quite late in the year, so we planned to go the following summer, but unfortunately mum had some health issues last year so we had to wait until now to make good the promise.

I told Mum and Dad from the start they'd each be given a fiver to lay bets - no more - as the tote takes bets from as little as 50p. We'd see at the end of the night who'd won the most...or perhaps it should be who'd lost the least! Mr Squidge was allowed the same amount, though I'm sure he cheated and justified at least three extra pounds for himself...

I chose not to bet, as the licensing laws are quite strict about not involving children; if we were seen to be 'advised' by the kids, (as in 'which dog d'you reckon might win? OK, I'll stick a quid on a place') or they handled tote tickets (even spent ones - go figure!), we could be asked to leave. So for the Squidgelings and myself, it was going to be a purely paper-based exercise in trying to pick the winners.

We had a great time - the birthday girl won about £3 over her original £5 stake, so ended the evening on a major high! Even T said he'd never seen his granny so excited before! Dad and Mr Squidge lost a few quid each, and on paper... T was our 'winner', but I'm sure it was just because most of the winning dogs seemed to come out of trap 6, so in the end he stopped looking at times and statistics and plumped for the same trap number in every race!

Saturday, the Squidges took to the Cloud Trail. This is a lovely cycle and walking route in Derbyshire, and Mr Squidge came up with a roughly circular 10-mile route. The weather was lovely, the going was (relatively) flat compared to some of the rides we've been on in the past, and it was great to be out together.

By the end of the trip, we'd added another 3 miles onto the total distance, because where we'd hoped to get off the Cloud Trail, we couldn't. The most interesting bit of the ride was the Swarkestone Bridge, an ancient bridge that used to cross the marshes and is the longest stone bridge as well as the longest inland bridge in England.

Oh - and the track that was about six inches of clear ground, bordered by brambles and nettles...and the 'Udder stuff' ice cream, eaten overlooking Melbourne Lake. We were four very tired Squidges by the end of the ride...

And today, it was a different kind of family time - a church family event. The curate who's been with us for the last couple of years is moving on to her first post, so it was an opportunity to say farewell to her and her family before they set out for pastures new. A bring-and-share lunch for 70 in a marquee in a garden... with sunshine, laughter, and a few tears... A different kind of family time, but no less important.

So all-in-all, a good weekend.

Have I done any writing, apart from this blog post? Nope. Am I worried? D'you know what? I don't think I am.

I've been having too much fun to think about it.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Down at the bottom of Biggin Street...

Loughborough - like many town centres - has a lot of charity shops. And most of them have at least one shelf given over to second-hand books. Apart from WHSmiths and Waterstones, they're the only places you can get your hands on physical books, unless you include certain market stalls that either trade paperbacks or sell on discounted wholesale stock.

My favourite place for second-hand books was the Age UK bookshop-cum-coffee shop. It was somewhere I'd pop into on the way back from town - have a mooch, perhaps pick up some children's books for the school library or something a title I'd heard of but never read. And equally, it was where I sent books I'd finished with.

Maybe a couple of months ago, the shop relocated; it moved to premises at the bottom of Biggin Street.

I've been meaning to pop in for a while - it's not too far out of the way - but today was the first opportunity I'd had, coupled with the fact that the kids had had a bit of a book clearout, topped up with a few I'd read and finished that could be recycled.

The new bookshop is even better!

It's a fabulous little place! Light, airy, clean, with much more space to move around than the old shop, and spread over two floors; downstairs is non-fiction and children's books, upstairs is fiction paperbacks and a few hardbacks. The books are all in really good nick - a bit different to some of the tatty and dog-eared copies I used to buy back in my uni days from the book-house. (Literally - it wasn't a shop. It was a house filled with books!)

There's also a table and chairs upstairs, so you can actually sit and read. Though as the manager remarked, it's a bit warm up there at the moment and the window can't be opened - they're waiting for a fan to be delivered.

I took in probably a dozen books - and walked out with four!

Delighted to have my very own copy of The Last Hero now - I borrowed it from the library some years ago - as there are very few Discworld books I don't have on my Pratchett shelf. Now there's one less!

The others are a bit of an eclectic mix - an historical and a couple of chick-lits, but at £11 for all four books, (Last Hero was £6 - more than I'd normally pay, but this copy is pristine) I can afford to try a few different genres and authors without breaking the bank. And if I don't like them, they'll just head back to the bookshop for someone else to discover.

I hope the shop does well in its new setting - not just because of the charity it supports - but also because second-hand shops offer a much broader range of titles than the average big chain bookstores, at least in my town. (Might be different if you live in a city with supersized branches of Waterstones and the like)

So if you're passing the bottom end of Biggin Street in Loughborough and fancy a good book, drop in

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Random Writers - Anthology the Second!

The Random Writers have done it again... 

They enjoyed writing the stories for A Seeming Glass so much, they decided to put together another collection, Something Rich and Strange: the Past is Prologue. Fourteen surprising, moving and compelling tales, weaving the next steps in the telling of famous events and stories from Greek myth to English folktale, via fairy tales and real historical events. 

Here's a taste of what you can expect...

A group of researchers open a door in the present day that has been closed for centuries - and should have stayed that way. In 1840s Ireland, starving children face desperate measures to avoid the crisis consuming the land. A visitor to 19th Century Japan learns what it takes to fan love to life. A girl struggles to rise above the walls that surround her in Georgian England. In 7th Century Britain, a scribe translates the true value of a legend. 

The cover artwork is by Mat Sadler, a fabulous illustrator, and features a scene from Shell Bromley's story, Walls.

I've a story in this anthology too - it's called Gold, and builds on a rather familiar Arabian folk tale, shifted thousands of miles to the West. The Wild West, to be precise...

As with the previous launch, there will be blogs and flash fiction on the Randoms' site leading up to publication date, which is hoped to be around the end of this month.

Keep your eyes peeled!