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Friday, 30 January 2015

Minicorns and minirats

Firstly, this is the little sweety I've been making for my good friend's little girl in far Tasmania.  

She's from a pattern by Ahooka, but she looks a bit different because I used bigger yarn and hook, I crocheted only into the backstitch which changes them a bit, and I also decided she needed a more feral mane and tail than the original.  She is just like a cheeky little pony, peering out of that wild forelock.  :)

I'm totally chuffed with her, and I think her sparkly purple eyes from Suncatcher Craft eyes are the perfect addition.  I love those extra special craft eyes!  They really bring out the character of amigurumi critters.

I'll be sad to put her in the post, but know a certain little girl will love her to bits.

So, what other news?  Here is the baby magpie who has been here for at least a few weeks.

The nest was up in one of our high trees.  I'm sure there were two babies in it, cared for by our somewhat tame Maggie and her extended family,  but then there was only one, on the ground too early.  I suspect there may have been a nest raid by one of the Currawongs who come by.  I'm supposed to love nature but I don't love Currawongs.  Mean, sneaky things they are!

She can hardly fly at all, but her family are still caring for her, with a little help from us to top her up without messing too much with her natural nutritional needs.  I'm hoping she can make it to full fledging.  They have an older baby in the family too.  It must have been a good year for them to feel they could raise two nests in one season.

Here is a video of a male Maggie singing, in case you've never heard one.  They are truly beautiful carolers.

Our grapevine out the window here has had another visitor who is less welcome than the tiny Silvereyes... a rat!  Only a baby one.  Still, we all know what one rat in sight means!   I chased it away but it soon came back, cheeky beggar!  Time to turn over some tin and such with the Labradors.  They are excellent mousers and ratters.  At least it's a fast death!  

The tomato plants are now covered with netting because the birds were getting them all, but I took this pic just before covering them up.  Tomato triffids!

They are more than head high.  The Labbies love the ripe cherry tomatoes.

Here's Tuppy having a rare snuggle with her Daddy. She is rather like a lot of cats in that she gets overstimulated with too much touch, so it is nice to see her choosing to hang around for some loving.

After that she had to do a nice 'calming signal' yawn though!  :)

They're all different, aren't they.  Rosie doesn't mind a cuddle but won't initiate it, and in contrast, our two GWPs were total touchy-feelies.  Always had to be touching you somewhere, or even better, snuggled right up to, or on top of you!


 I miss it, I must admit, but you have to take dogs as they are, just like people, and my Labbie girls are equally good company, just in a slightly less clingy way.  


Sunday, 25 January 2015

Final book cover for Land of Fire and other news.

Here it is!  What do you think?

The Proof is on its way.  Should be here by early in Feb.  This book publishing is a game of patience for sure!

In the meantime, I've already started on getting Freya and the Golden Bear ready for print.  It goes a little quicker each time I do it, so the manuscript is half done after only one session of messing with formats etc. I also have to twiddle the front image a bit as is a little wide for the printed version, so I might cut Hagar off the front and put him on the back instead.  We'll see.

In more writing news, I've hit the 82 000 mark for my current novel, Bunyip Dreaming.  I can stop at any time now and it will be a more than respectable size, but it's not ready to end just yet.   It wants a sequel too!

Chicken Soup for Satan has passed its second reader test with a great response! So chuffed!  I think, for me, the novels become reality when they are first read and enjoyed by someone else.  The other stages are nice to achieve, but it is that first acid test that counts!  Now, what the heck do I put on the cover for this novel?  I have a couple of ideas but nothing has gelled for me yet.  Will definitely have to involve a white German Shepherd, but not sure how or what else yet.

I'm still working on the artwork for the preteen novel, Dog Slobber.  I've just been working on a drawing of two Bassetts running in the water.  That was a bit of fun.  :)  Illustrating went on the backburner for a few weeks as I worked on these two little dudes for our great nephew and 'great nephew to be' in Kentucky, USA ready for the baby shower. 

They're from a pattern by Stacey at Fresh Stitches.  I love her stuff because you crochet into the back stitch only and it is much easier on my somewhat sore and stiff Lymie hands. I crocheted the eyes just to make absolutely sure the babies will be safe with them.

My patient girls were doing a bit of tandem tail wagging as I walked by.  I love how they are such friends as well as mum and daughter. 


Friday, 23 January 2015

Rush hour at the birdbath and other twitcher moments.

My birdbath.  Early morning on a hot day, and all the local birds want a drink at once.  First is a mostly-grown baby Magpie, then Mama.  Then a pink and Grey Cockatoo arrives, there's a Red Wattle bird, and then the piratical Rainbow Lorikeets move in.  Mama Magpie gets offended and goes around trying to shoo them off by pulling tails!

The Rainbow Lorikeets are what I had my camera out trying to film.  They are introduced from the Eastern states to here in Western Australia and taking over a bit, but we mostly don't see them up here in the hills. They've been hanging about here on and off for about two weeks now, the noisy buggers! Our local birds hate them, and I'm sorry they're here, but I can't help liking them for their cheeky character and full-on attitude, especially the kamikazi way they have a bath, which was what I was trying to capture.  I only managed to catch one at it, but at times there are a dozen or more all splashing madly and getting themselves so wet they can hardly fly afterwards!

Mr Bronzewing Pigeon thinks he owns the birdbath and he has a go at seeing them off but they soon put him to rights!

This is the view I get out my window here at this time of year.  The tiny Silvereyes after the tiny grapes.  You can hear their sweet, "Peep peep" calls as well.  I love the Silvereyes.  So very small, and yet tough and adaptable. In some places in the world they migrate vast distances.  Hard to believe when looking at them!

 I've painted a Silvereye once, to use as the logo for our Druid Seedgroup that we named after them.  Amazing what you don't see until you actually render something in paint.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Bard Lube

I think I need this!  :D

Where I write

Freya and the Golden Bear was written on a typewriter, Land of Fire was partly written while in a hammock on one of the best verandahs ever, but all my writing is now done in front of the computer.  (Apart from what I do in my head as I go about the rest of my day!) 

This is my corner of the magic cottage we live in: 

  I guess some writers might find all this colour and mess distracting, but I don't. I find it cheerful and inspiring.  This is the wall on my left shoulder as I sit here.  It is mostly my art, photos, and inspiring notes and quotes I write for myself, plus one vintage book plate I found of a Lab who looks just like my Rosie, and two misty scenes by a British artist called John Wakefield.  They are so evocative and so unlike my own country of bright light.

Those are some of my Amigurumi friends that sit there to keep me company.  I also have my dogs, who are usually either on our bed that it just to my right here, or under the desk on the dogbed, or behind me on the cool floor.  This pic also has my dear departed Buffy in it as well as the two Labbie girls.  

Mr Fitty Kitty, Cyrano, spent so much time with me, sitting and lying all over my desk in uncomfortable fashion, that I made him a bed on the table that is between me and our bed so he could sit with me in comfort.      

     Yes he's a fat kitty, hence his nickname of Fitty, short for fat kitty!  He's a rescue cat and like a lot of rescues, he never misses a meal in case the next one might not come along!

This is my view out the window.  It's only into the grapevine that we have growing out there, but at some times of the year I can see the tiny Silver-eyes hopping about eating the tiny grapes that grow on it. A few times I've even seen a little mouse on a cheeky daylight mission after the same grapes! In winter when the vine is sleeping, I can see out past the bare canes to the tops of the Marri and Jarrah trees. It's enough of the outside that I don't feel trapped, but not so much that it distracts me from my writing for too long.

Of course, if I turn around I can see all the rest of our living space!  It's one of the advantages of living in one room. I've never been one who needed silence or alone-ness  to write.  In fact when we've lived elsewhere and I've had a lovely room set up just for my art and writing, I've ended up working at the kitchen table!

Where do you write, make art or do your craft?  I find it fascinating, all the different places people sit to find their muse!  So do other people, so much so that there are whole sites on the subject!          

Friday, 16 January 2015

Still wet!

Phew, just finished doing the inkwork on a little picture for the back cover of Land of Fire, ready for the print edtion.  It's Bu, the character-filled dog from Muspelheim, for those of you who've read the book!  She's supposed to be some sort of Buhund ancestor, but I picture her bit more like a Karelian Bear dog.  

Here's the pencil sketch.  That weird yellow effect is from my lamp that I work by, but I liked it so I left it:

I've put her at the bottom of the page so I can wash the rest in reddy-orange to match the front cover, then add the blurb in Gimp.  I hope!

Here she is in ink with my trusty quill pen.  I must say it's a bit nerve-wracking to be using bulletproof black on something that matters so much to me. I know, I know, in a disaster I could redo the drawing and start again, but working at such a small scale you never quite get the character the same twice, and I love the character I've caught here!  

  Next is watercolour, but I need to make sure the ink is very dry before I start messing about with watery paint, so that's it for today.

Outside right now, I can hear the router going.  Andyroo is cutting out the soundboard that he glued to the frame of my Anglo-Saxon Harp/Lyre yesterday.  He called me out to see it with all the clamps on it and I had to take a photo of it.  Every clamp we have was in use!

In other writey news, I sent digital copies of Chicken Soup for Satan out to my usual first three readers.  Very exciting when my work finally gets an audience other than me, and since I don't show it to anyone or even talk about it much  till I am sure it is ready, I am always rather trepidatious by the time it actually goes out there.

So far, one person has finished reading it and says it is very enjoyable.  Despite the title, this is a rather light and fluffy story that moves along with a quick pace, just right for those times when you don't want to read anything too heavy. My reader is already asking for a sequel, and I must say the main character would be great to write into more stories.  I like him a lot!       

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Anglo-Saxon Lyre/Harp

I'm currently getting one of these built for me for a late birthday present.  An Anglo-Saxon Lyre or Harp.

How cool is that? 

I'm beyond excited!  Andyroo is currently waiting for special glue to join the soundboard to the frame, and then the next stage can be started, but for now it looks like this:

I would also like to point out the cuteness of said husband! I'm doubly blessed!

The instructions for making my Lyre come from Michael J King, who is a very talented instrument maker and luckily also has plans for those of us who can't yet justify owning the magnificence of his finished works.
I'm looking forward to learning to play this amazing instrument. I have trouble these days with pushing hard enough on a guitar fretboard, and this might just be the alternative I've been wanting.  Also, I'm a Bard, right?  What Bard doesn't have a harp?     


Friday, 9 January 2015

About Freya and the Golden Bear

The character Freya Fjordrider began as a persona for me in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism).  I chose the name Freya because I'd recently moved into a household of Pagans and begun to discover the Gods other than the Christian God, and Freya of the Norse Pantheon was the first Goddess who came to my attention. 

I chose to add Fjordrider to my name because I then owned a little mare called Sherry.  She was buckskin, and Fjord horses look similar (though are golden or cream duns).  She was actually a Part Arabian and not really very Fjordy at all!  I'd like to own the real thing but not many Fjords in Oz, even now.  Sherry was a fiery, opinionated little lady, who never walked if she could prance, or trotted if she could instead canter sideways.  I adored her and she was mine till the day she died.  Anyway, she was close enough to a Fjord, so Freya Fjordrider I became at SCA events. I think I was about 22 then.

This is Sherry and I at a camping event we had held at our place. On one of the days, we had a Quest, and Sherry and I had been charging about through the forest pretending I was a bored immortal. If questers encountered me, they had to work out that I needed to be entertained in some way in order to be convinced to give a clue to them.  It was heaps of fun.

By the time this photo was taken, Sherry was a bit over it, as you can see from her expression!  You can just see the somewhat tired ears of my dear heart dog, Keech in the bottom left of the photos too.  She and her sidekick, Sam, were a little tired of traipsing back and forth through the hills as well!  For so many years it was we four together.  Me, Sherry, and those two dogs, Keech and Sam.

 Anyway, at some point the character of Freya Fjordrider, in my head, became louder, wilder, and stronger than my SCA persona, or I, myself, ever was.  By the time I was stuck at teacher's college, knowing it wasn't the right place for me but determined to stick it out till I got my degree, she had become a bit of an icon for me.  What would Freya do, I wondered to myself in certain situations. Generally be a lot more outspoken and have a lot more fun than I was having, I usually decided!

So, in those teacher's college years, and on into the time I spent as a bad relief teacher and then as a better youth worker, I wrote that first novel, Freya and the Golden Bear. The more I dressed and acted as something I wasn't, crushed myself into a mold I was never made for, the more important it was to spend time writing Freya's adventures. All my formative years of reading Robert E Howard's Conan books, and all those Asterix Comics, stood me in good stead, as Freya and her bad-tempered horse managed to fight their way out of every situation I put them in.  I think she somehow also channeled Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat, another of my early favorite characters.  

I had a ball with it!  I wrote it on a little orange manual typewriter that my Grandmother had given me as a present way back when I'd first decided I wanted to be a writer.  Often I'd be sitting right by my potbelly stove on a cold winter night, typing away madly, with the typewriter on a milk crate and me sitting on a low footstool, the better to be right by the fire and warm as I wrote.  I remember I was deep in the middle of some exciting scene one time, when a log fell out of the open door of the fire, and I jumped right to my feet and was all set to fight off the invaders, I was so adrenalised.  I was very glad no-one but the dogs was there to see me do it!

Of course it's had a lot of revisings, this book, but as I've polished it, I've always tried to maintain the energy and rough humour of it. I think I've managed that.  It's for sure the funniest book I've written yet, and also by far the rudest!

The latest book I'm writing is about as serious as anything I've done so far. Not by planning, it's just how it's worked out.  I do wonder if perhaps my next book will be a revisit to the world of Freya Fjordrider, just to really loosen my writing up again.  She has plenty of land left to rollick over yet!



Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Loving where I live

It's easy to love this place.  I feel very lucky to live here.  Our cottage is very special.  It was designed and built by an artist and his family, with their own hands, from the very laterite (coffee rock) that is all around us here.  It made up of warm brown, orange and cream stone and reclaimed timber and windows. It's full of character and soul.

It's easy to be an artist here, and a writer. My paintings are set off beautifully against the uncovered stone walls and those same walls and old windows end up in my works all the time. 

It's not always convenient, because we pretty much live in one room, but we love it and it's perfect for Andyroo and me and our pets. We have my mum just a walk away across the property.  We are surrounded by trees that I love. We have space to breathe.

We've done some much needed work on it to make it more comfortable, and in the process we've confirmed that we're a fantastic team at even quite big projects, like the time we hired scaffolding and completely insulated and lined the (up to then) plain corrugated tin roof. I've yet to look up at the beautiful pine ceiling we now have and not appreciate it, because we did it, and it's mellow and non-toxic,  and it fits in with the cottage just right.

That's me looking my very best while cutting the endy, fussy bits of wall boards!  This pic always makes me smile.

 We did it! Right to the top!


Anyway, I got to thinking the other day about how we live in places, and we love so many aspects of them, but we generally only photograph them from the usual angles, and yet some of my favorite views of our magic cottage are little ones, glimpses I only get through the trees.  So, I took my camera out and took a few pics, just in case we ever move!

This is a view I love, up through what was our horse shelter. No horses any more.  Maybe I'll talk about that one day.  I certainly never thought I would be without a horse in this life and it's meant big a change of thinking for me!  Anyway, I like this view at this time of year, when our pet Hydrangea, Pompom is flowering and being set off so beautifully by the coffee rock walls.

When I sit at that window up there to crochet or do art, I can look down this way and see the birds at the horse trough that is now a birdbath.  In the old days, I could see my horses too, but the birds are a pretty good substitute. 

This is a view of the south side of the cottage, one we only recently got back because we demolished a crappy shed that had hidden it from this direction for nearly twenty years. I love this view!  It's very fairytale!


By the way, that's our vegie garden there too.  My tomatoes are now twice that height and have got to the stage they always do at this time of year, where they have reached the tops of the tripod bamboo stakes and then go bonkers and grow in all directions because I don't know what to do with them!

We've been happy in other places, and I'm sure we will again one day, but for now we are very, very happy to be back here, the place where I've lived longest of anywhere, and where thinking like a creative person is easy-peasy!   


Friday, 2 January 2015

Favorite music to write to: Missy Higgins

When I write, I like to have music playing to help me keep focused. I tend to find that I do best with stuff that hasn't got too driving a beat, so I keep a special itunes folder of gentle, medieval or folky tunes called Music to Write To and I let that shuffle around.

Way back when, before I discovered shuffle, Missy Higgins' album, The Sound of White, was one of my favorite albums to write to and it is still in my shuffle list now.  Her music is beautiful and evocative.  I love to write to it.

Missy is an Australian musician, and so talented.

The feel of her music creeps into my writing at times, I know.  Sometimes I read back and feel it there.  Sometimes, hearing a song like Ten Days as I'm driving or working about the place, can bring back a feeling of when I was writing a certain part of one of my books, and I have this weird sensation of being both at my computer, and yet in the story, and hearing the music, all at once, and yes that feels pretty strange.  :)

This video clip for The Special Two, I love it. It reminds me of Lily's house in Land of Fire, though that house is actually based on a party I went to once.  It's such a clever video and so somehow Australian. I love the somewhat wistful feel of it, and the way it is all shot in one go, and just how casual and cool Missy is.  She is a true laid back Aussie.  :)