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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on December 31, 2013 in News

 

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Tree Lights and Happy Thoughts

Only a quick post today, as I promised to show you my wreaths. I couldn’t help snapping a few shots of the tree, too. I’m sure you’ll forgive the over-exuberance of color. What can I say? I love Christmas!

Editing-wise, you’ll be pleased to know two more books will hit the shelves in time for Christmas, and I’ve got two more to get out there next week. Wish me luck and speedy fingers.

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My home is so cheerful, it makes me happy to the very core of my soul, and that’s important, because when I’m happy I can move mountains!

Do you feel the same?

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in News, Sunday Feature

 

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Feeling Free on the First!

Hello, my dear friends. First of December – where has this year gone? It seemed more like a couple of hundred seconds than a couple of hundred days…

I’ve experienced so many ups and downs and so many changes. But none as significant as the last three months. The move to rural Ireland has not been the smoothest – and I moved quite a bit in my life (since I met my husband we’ve lived – not visited, but lived and worked – in eight countries so far) – and I can honestly say Ireland is the most magical place I’ve seen. Maybe it’s the leprechauns. Maybe it’s the numerous rainbows, or the gorgeous sunsets. Maybe it’s just me, or the people here – always happy to chat, and never in a hurry.

Look what I see out of my picture window. How could you not LOVE that?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALife is good, even when the world conspires against me. All I have to do is look out the window, or take a walk across the fields, and I’m okay with it all.

Talking about the fields… I always expected my fitness would improve once I start working, as in proper working, the land. So… it may be only bramble clearing for now, but it is hard word, and I feel it. Come spring, I’ll hardly spend a couple of hours indoors anymore.

An unexpected benefit of having so much space is that my creativity knows no bounds. It’s free. I’m free. And it’s the best feeling in the world.

Here are a few snapshots of my field:

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Grass weave – ok, I know I won’t win many prizes here – around my newly planted living willow hedge – all done by me

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Excess logs for the fire, which don’t fit under cover – all dead wood from around the field plus old fencing – courtesy of my husband, who isn’t letting me touch the saw

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It’s the first of December, but this snapdragon doesn’t know it.

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And finally, while clearing brambles for a secluded spot for a poly tunnel, I discovered a colony of wrens living in the far wall separating my field from the neighbours’. They told me off for disturbing the peace, but they happily accepted the food offering.

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I imagined this yogurt pot would do them for a few days. They almost emptied it in less than 24 hours.

For all of the above, I’m grateful every day! I feel blessed and lucky. Happy Thanksgiving!

 
15 Comments

Posted by on December 1, 2013 in News, Sunday Feature

 

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NaNo Bites the Dust and Other Seasonal Thoughts

I’ve come to the conclusion November is the wrong month for NaNoWriMo. I mean, I don’t know about others, but I’m not so perfectly organized that I lose all Seasonal Anxiety long before Christmas. In fact, the opposite is true.

santaFar back in the days when office work was my life and my family was an unimportant detail – sorry guys, you know it’s true, but you still love me – I used to be ready for Christmas by the end of August. I used to know what my kids wanted with some degree of certainty, and when I didn’t, I could just sit by their sides when they wrote the letters to Santa and… um… influence point out advantages of toys I’d already bought, wrapped, and stashed in a friend’s attic for last minute collection. Santa always agreed with me.

I’m not proud of how I acted but, in my defense, I was young, confused, and had been raised to believe a good career was the topmost priority for the modern woman.

No wonder I was feeling so displaced!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the days when I was chasing career advancement at (almost) any cost are long gone, and so is the nice income and security for what tomorrow would bring. You see, once I got a couple of my clients to communicate to my management how impressed they were by my quality of service, I knew I wouldn’t lose my job, unless I quit.

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Me, in my corporate days. Picture the hamster in a pin-stripe suit.

And quit I did, one day, when I realized I knew more about my work colleagues than my own husband and kids, and that team-building events were being organized outside work hours. It dawned on me I had become a willing slave.

So I changed the status quo. I began working for myself and taking in what my kids were saying (my husband will confirm I continued to ignore him, so he didn’t get a much better deal). I had far less disposable income, but I had time with my family. I had contact with the people who mattered to me. And we were happy.

The recession hit and I still considered myself lucky, because I was in control of my own life, and I was living it right, though in an unconventional way, if you judged it by society rules. I was there to teach my children how to cope with the day-to-day living, how to budget, how to save, how to cut back, and how to care.

In time, we sold the business on and I welcomed the chance to do something with all my unfinished writing. I found a publisher and kept writing. I volunteered at the local theater, built props, made costumes, even wrote a play. I found time for myself and began learning to play the piano – another childhood wish I’d never found time for.

grabbing handStill, the costs of living rose and rose, and there seemed no end to this hike. We learned to live on little. And then I found self-employment carried severe risks. No, not in the way you’d think. I’ve never NOT had work. The opposite: I’ve not had more than a few days off since the beginning – less holiday than I was getting in the damned office. I had all the work I could do, and still it wasn’t enough. One minute, we had enough to live on, the next some other tax appeared that would draw our bottom line closer to absolute minimum. The Christmas presents became scarce, and I remember one year when all we had were ‘promises’ we made each other. We still have each other, and that’s a win!

The hit that flattened me came just this week. At the time i thought I still stood a chance to finish my NaNo project this month, and have it out by Christmas. Now, I’m sure I won’t. I just can’t get into it right now, because inside I am in shock. I’m sure in time all this will get sorted, and everything will return to some sort of normal, but that rational thought only occurs when the shivers stop. Illogically, I still hope bad things only come in threes.

A working family tax credit failed to materialize into our account. No matter, we said, we’ll talk to the right people, write to them. Response time: fifteen days. Ok. We need to be careful with what we spend for fifteen days. We can do that. If necessary, we can draw some funds from the business paypal account.

On Friday, Paypal sent me a notification saying I exceeded some EU-imposed threshold and therefore I couldn’t withdraw money from my account until I provided some paperwork. Paperwork which doesn’t exist in the UK, I might add. Any attempts to provide enough information to satisfy the bureaucrats in Brussels have so far proved to be unsuccessful. (As an aside, I had already spent five weeks fighting – and ultimately winning – this same battle earlier in the year. What changed? Who knows? The ways of the bureaucrat are intricate ones.)

So now we only had my husband’s pension to live on. Not ideal, but do-able, just, for a limited time. Only on Saturday morning we noticed his state pension didn’t get paid into our account. Blankness was the only thing in my mind at that particular moment. Complete blankness. Perhaps a glitch. Perhaps a trainee employee pressed the wrong button. Perhaps the planets have lined up wrong. Perhaps this year was just set to test us. I can honestly say it was my lumpiest, so far. But I didn’t let it get me down. I got up, dusted myself off and went on with life, hopeful things would get better. Now… Now I’m not sure I even want to get up anymore. Inside, I know I will. I always do. I’m built on some sort of bounce-back DNA not yet cataloged.

Whatever it was that caused this would be fixed, given enough time and finding the right people.

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But what happens in the meantime? Whichever way I look at it, the glass is empty.

And since I’ve had a lot of ponder-time lately, my mind keeps coming up with questions. How can it be possible, in this day and age, to leave a family of four people with two dependent children with no income? Let me repeat that: no income. None. How is it acceptable to give no notice when doing something like limiting an account? I guess there is a good reason for setting your European branch in Luxembourg, Paypal. What gives you the right to sit on my money, Paypal? And dear UK Government, how comes you find it fit to stop a pensioner’s only income – the one he worked for all his life – without notice, or at all, in fact? It’s his money, not yours.

Why does the choice to live your life with and for your family feel like a mistake?

My only hope is that tomorrow, when the ‘offices’ open for business, we find a real person to talk to, someone with a brain and who is capable of rational thought. And that it won’t cost us more than the credit we have on our phone. Otherwise, when the cupboards are bare and the last penny of our savings has fizzled out… Well, this could be a Christmas to remember!

~ Despite the rant above, it will be business as usual in my office. I have some editing to do and some authors to support. And I have a family to love, who loves me back. ~

broken baubleElla’s letter to Santa

Dear Santa, I could do with a real miracle right about now…

 
12 Comments

Posted by on November 24, 2013 in News, Sunday Feature

 

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Tales from the Roaring Water Bay #2.5

FIRST FIRE OF THE SEASON

FIRST FIRE OF THE SEASON

Time for a quick update (the proper tale is still in the draft stages). Busy is a disease, they say, and I guess I’ve caught it. I’m getting better now, and as soon as I finish another edit (tomorrow, with a bit of luck and a following wind) and one more later in the week, I’ll finally be able to start up my NaNoWriMo project properly. Yes, I’m doing NaNo for the first time. Why? Maybe because I’m crazy. But you knew that already.

~

I’ll use this coming week to catch up on all the un-posted reviews, and then it’s write-write-write all the way to the end of the month. I was planning to edit and publish this new book in December, but I’ve taken on a(nother) new author whose work I like, and he’s on a tight deadline. I guess my book can wait.

~

SUNRISE

SUNSET

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Ok, let me give you your Roaring Water Bay picture, taken just before the worst storms for thirty years hit. Amazingly, I haven’t lost my internet connection, or power supply – which is way better than I would have had in the UK, so YAY! for Ireland and DigitalForge, the internet supplier. Thank you, guys. You rock!

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MY PIER - TINY BUT PERFECTLY FORMED -  COMPLETE WITH JETTY AND RUSTY GATE

MY PIER – TINY BUT PERFECTLY FORMED – COMPLETE WITH JETTY AND RUSTY GATE

 
14 Comments

Posted by on November 3, 2013 in News, Sunday Feature

 

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Tales from the Roaring Water Bay #2

 

Hello from the Roaring Water Bay. You’ll be pleased to know the wind has dropped somewhat and my life has settled into an almost relaxed routine.

As soon as I open the door to let the fresh Atlantic breeze in, early in the morning, I’m met by my personal trainer for the first round of morning exercise…
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That’s Kit, who still hasn’t learned to put both his ears up, even after eighteen months of trying.

And then the usual routine of waltzing between towers of boxes looking for the all-important computer cable or the specific Playstation game, or the right screws for the right set of cupboards can begin.

Today, for example, it took the two grown-ups of this household about half hour to split a pile of wood into two identical stacks that would build two identical bookcases. See my thinking here? Bookcases = books out of boxes and onto shelves, which would make the house look instantly tidier. Anything that would make the house look tidier is a good thing by this stage, trust me!

Another twenty minutes were squandered on finding the bag of screws. Yes, we bagged them, in a vain attempt to keep things easy to sort out. Ha! At least we finally found the glasses and the cake tins…

It took another hour to figure out where all the pieces went (the bookcases are pine, and the wood is solid and fits together very snugly), and then… and then the fun started. Eventually, we had screws in each and every spare hole.

Only one problem: there were no screws left for the second bookcase. Only wood.

At this point we stood in the middle of the room, kicked over the mountain of curtains in frustration, and called for reinforcements. Our daughter pulled her nose out of computer games for long enough to skip down the stairs and straight to the right bags of screws. It didn’t take her two minutes!

Then she held out the bag we’d just emptied to show us its label: Computer Table. Ah. We hadn’t read the label. Explains why we’d run out of screws after the first bookcase.

So, fifteen minutes to take out the wrong screws, ten minutes to put the right ones in, and another twenty to assemble the second bookcase, plus another ten for scr… I’m not writing it; take your mind out of the gutter!

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Ta-da! In just over three hours we had two bookcases assembled, a teenager who now uses every opportunity to poke fun at her parents and a bad case of fed-up-ness.
Tail between our legs, we decided to go outside and attempt to piece together the remaining shreds of our dignity in the company of our two dogs.

The view is still beautiful. It wasn’t sunny, but it wasn’t rainy either. And the dogs adored us as long as we kept throwing balls or Frisbees. It’s a miracle our arms are still attached at the shoulder. Tired, we slunk inside for a brew and a sit down.

Tomorrow we start again.

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~

On an unrelated, but somewhat upsetting topic, I now ceased to admire two people I used to think the world of. They’re off my pedestal because, whilst I do agree with and even encourage aggressive marketing tactics by indies (if the big boys do it, why shouldn’t an individual?), I hate seeing people cheat. Use all you have to get yourself known, but you’d be shooting yourself in the foot if you deceive. No one likes a con artist. Believe me, these people’s books have just come off my TBR list.

http://zonalert.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/the-fiverr-report-on-melissa-foster-fake-reviews-fake-awards-fake-everything/

Otherwise, editing is good. I’ve even managed to read a couple of books for reviews, and I’m writing articles for a few sites. Not exactly writing a book, but writing nonetheless. Slowly but surely, I’m settling. I still feel this is a good place for me.

What about you? Are you in the ideal writing place? Do you dream of one? What would it be like? Share. I’d love to know. As for buying reviews, what is your opinion? Is it worth it, in your view? Is it a good use of time and money?

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in News, Sunday Feature

 

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Tales from the Roaring Water Bay #1

It’s 15.45 and I’m gazing out over the cliff at the Roaring Water Bay. Why did the Irish call it that? I can’t see any roaring water. In fact, the only roaring around here is the result of the gentle coastal breeze. The North Atlantic seems pretty peaceful from where I’m standing, in the doorway of my picture window wall. Just a few white horses – tiny, compared to what I’ve seen on the North Cornish Coast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve had the keys to this sweet little place since Tuesday lunchtime, and so far all I’ve managed to achieve is to honour a couple of work-related commitments and carve some narrow navigation paths through the house.

Did we bring too much stuff over? Hell, yes! We’d rented a van for three days (one trip), and ended up having to extend the lease for the rest of the week. That should give you an idea. On top of that, there’ll be a third trip, in our own truck and trailer. Some things will have to be tied down on top of the trailer, too.

Will it all fit in? Hmm… Maybe. If we buy a shed or two… large ones!

What does the house look like? Here you go:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took this pic not three hours ago, as soon as the storm passed over – and I mean storm! – and just after I put some towels in the wash. Notice the blue sky? It was black all morning. Then, within ten minutes – the wind dropped and it’s solid sunshine. I could get used to this!

I waved hubby off at the first gate and closed it behind him. I watched him stop the van before the second gate, across the field, and get out to open it. Then back in, drive over to the other side, stop, get out and close the gate again. Two down, two to go. On he went over the hill to gate number three. At least I know we won’t get many cold-callers or Jehovah Witnesses here. No traffic noise at all, other than the ferry to the islands around here.

Camera at the ready, I tried to keep my hand steady as the wind did its best to make me believe I had developed Parkinson’s overnight.

Just a bit of wind. I knew it would be windy. It’s a top-of-the-cliff location, with water on three sides – what else could I expect?

Oh. Washing machine stopped. 2.14 and my first towel is on the line. Horizontal. I have a little think and decide that between the wind and the direct sunshine, the lot would be done in about an hour. Sure, the line looks like it’ll snap any minute now, but all I need is sixty lots of sixty seconds. Surely, it will last that long.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2.16 and I managed to tether a thin hankie alongside the towel. The towel is hanging by one of its pegs by now, looking like escape is its dearest wish. I reconsider my scant knowledge of physics and rearrange the towel in such a way that it’s almost doubled over. There’s no let-up in the wind, the darned thing is still horizontal, so it should stay on the line even without pegs, shouldn’t it? Just in case, I give it three.

2.22 and it’s time to hang the rest, or I may as well stand out there in the yard for the whole hour, holding towels to the wind. It takes all my strength and all the pegs in my pockets, but finally they’re all up. I decide I’d better err on the side of caution, and I nip inside to rummage through drawers for more pegs, but not before counting the items on the line – see? I’m not stupid. I am capable of foresight. Fourteen, ranging from hankie to full bath sheet in size.

2.26 and I’m staring at eight towels. The wind buffets me and I skip forward a few steps before I catch myself and dig my heels in. I’m not going to be blown about by any type of breeze, Atlantic or not! I’m not a weakling!

A quick scouting session in amongst wild rose bushes overgrown with nettles and old ivy and lichen-covered ruins unearths five of the six missing items. Ok. Not bad. I can work with that.

Back to the line, and by 2.33 I have them all lined up nicely, untwisted, and re-pegged with about one peg every couple of inches. That should hold them. On disentangling the bath towel, I discover the hankie. It’s already dry. Yeah! I like this. I shove it in my pocket and pause, one foot on the doorstep, to re-check and re-count my washing. Thirteen items.

Nothing to worry about; I’m not superstitious.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHappy, I walk inside and click the kettle on. As I drop the spoon in the sink, movement at the edge of my peripheral vision makes me turn on the spot. Whack! The bath towel smacks hard on the kitchen window. In the next moment the whole washing line, complete with towels, disappears from view. It’s gone!

I rush outside, coffee forgotten, to discover all is not as bad as previously envisaged. My washing was not blown away. It has merely been blown about on the gravel. It’s all still there, thankfully. The line simply snapped in the middle.

Decision time: do I attempt to re-attach the line or do I shove the lot through the machine once again? It takes me two minutes to realise that I should attempt to dry them regardless. Wet towels don’t smell that good after a while, dirty or not. So, fix the washing line it is, then.

2.39 and I’m standing in the middle of the yard, looking at two halves of a washing line that will never meld together, no matter how much I wish they would. Ah! But I’m sure I packed a new coil of washing line. It’s in a box, somewhere.

I leave the washing where it is and rush inside, poking holes in the towers of boxes, dragging lidded containers in the middle of my pathways, digging for gold washing line. No washing line. Where did I put it? I gawk at my man-made maze of boxes and decide I am homo sapiens, a creature of moderate intelligence. I can improvise. I can adapt. I can come up with solutions.

By 2.48 I remember seeing a coil of towing rope weighing down the lid of a box of tools. Yes! Towing rope is designed to withstand far more than washing blowing in the breeze.

I cannot move the rope without risking to lose the lid off the box which seems full of electrical cable and other water-damageable items. It’s still dry inside the box, a good sign after that mighty storm, but it won’t still be dry if the lid blows off. So, the tow rope stays.

2.52 and I’ve managed to find a way to unravel just enough rope to replace the broken washing line, and still leave the rest in place. Best of all, it’s not become a tangle, which is what I was concerned about. Phew.

I tie the end of the rope to the far end first (the highest point of some unrecognisable, long-ago-rusted farm equipment) and bring the length to the hook on the house wall. It’s just enough to reach the hook and be pulled taut by the sheer weight of the rest of the coil of rope which is still sitting on that box of tools. See? Clever!

Ah! The hook was meant to take rope the thickness of a washing line. Not tow rope. Hmm… I can perhaps use some of the old, snapped line to tie the rope to the hook.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2.58 and I have the tow rope stretched across the yard, not as taut as I’d like it, but high enough to hang things on. Now all I have to do is unwind the twisted washing off the old line and peg it on the tow rope. Easy, right?

Wrong. It’s 3.01 and I realise pegs were not designed to go on tow rope. I dive back inside and have a search through the boxes of supplies. By now, there are no more paths around the house. Just a jumble of half-open boxes and items of various descriptions thrown around everywhere.

I find them by 3.04. Not bad, hey? My old-fashioned jumbo-pegs which my kids had used to make forts out of blankets and sheets – yes, I knew I’d packed them.

I run outside and begin the arduous task of untwisting towels and re-pegging through twists of tow rope any-which-way I can, until the lot is fluttering in the wind as before, horizontal once more.

I dust off my hands and head back inside to my cold coffee. It’s 3.14 and I’ve won this battle!

I go back in to get a sun-lounger. Ten minutes later I’m back out, worried the washing has attempted to do another runner. It’s all still there. I touch the towels. Dry. All dry. Yes! I knew I could do it! I can get a good load washed and dried in less time than it took me when I used a tumble dryer. I’m loving this!

~

The new Sunday Feature, Tales from the Roaring Water Bay, will replace the classic newsletter-type articles I posted before. It’s been brought about by this insane need I feel to write. Honestly, since I arrived in Ireland, I’ve barely had a few minutes without wishing I could just sit down and write.

Of course, that feeling may be borne by the fact that, to me, anything is better than unpacking a whole house-full of stuff, but in all honesty I’ve been thinking about writing seriously again for a while.

I’ve re-scheduled my waking hours to allow for the bulk of my time to be spent on editing and writing, and only a tiny amount of the leftover minutes to be squandered on social media and promo tasks. For example, of the hundred Facebook groups I’m in, I’ll only keep 10-20, and only if they prove their usefulness. I’ll also set up a separate page for posting promo for other authors, as my own timeline is important to me, and I wish to use it for showcasing my own books.

The blog will receive a makeover. I’ll keep the book reviews and author shout-outs, and weed out all unnecessary articles. The content will be much more suited to indie authors – examples, resources, pep-talks, etc, will all find their way in there. I will set up a separate page for book reviews, like a catalogue of titles I’ve read, with ratings and links to the full review elsewhere in the blog.

So far, I’ve thought of the following topics – of course, they’re likely to shift, according to popularity or urgent requests from friends and fellow authors and bloggers:

Book Review Monday

Teaser Tuesday

Author Showcase Wednesday

Indie Resource Thursday

Cover Love Friday

Understated Values Saturday

Tales from the Roaring Water Bay Sunday

~

procrastination

And you know those wip progress bars on the right hand side? Expect them to move, week-on-week. Procrastination is a word I have removed from my vocabulary. 

Is there anything I’ve missed? Any topics you’d like to see? Let me know in a comment, below. I’m still open for suggestions.

 
12 Comments

Posted by on September 15, 2013 in News, Sunday Feature

 

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