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Friday, 29 January 2016

More Lyre Playing Shenanigans.

Can't even begin to tell you how pleased I am that the band Pilgrim liked this cover I worked out of their great song, Son of the Trees.

The fun effect was pure luck, achieved because I had the camera tilted up into the sun to get the Persoonia tree, Ygdrassil, into the picture behind me.

To hear the original song, and the rest of Pilgrim's fantastic album, for free, go here.

And this is a teaser for their new album.  Andyroo calls it "Death Gurdy"  I call it marvelous!


Sunday, 24 January 2016

A Thundery Dog Walk in the Bush.

I've been doing a nature challenge on Facebook this past few days.  Seven days of sharing time you spend in nature each day.  Easy for me as I do it all the time, just had to take a camera along.

This morning we woke to the sound of thunder and rain.  I wish you could smell with me how alive all the eucalypts are after their lovely drink!

We took our dogs for their usual morning walk and I took my little snappy camera along to take some pics.

Tuppy blotted her copybook by having a go at a Boxer out there recently so she's on a long lead until we can sort out her issues a bit better.  She can be a snippy little so and so.  I don't think she minds, actually.  She has more of a steady boundary with the long lead, and I think she feels calmer.  We do too.  Excitable beast that she is, she is a bit of a bugger for suddenly dashing off if she hears or smells anything interesting, so we can relax more as well when she is on lead.  The long lead is a good compromise.  She loves it that daddy comes for walks every day now he is on his looooong holiday. Rosie and I do too!      

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Making of the Cover Art For "Freya and the Hairy Goddess."

I'm writing and posting this on Thursday because my computer has been behaving a bit oddly and I don't want to miss posting tomorrow.

Starting tomorrow for four days, Freya and the Golden Bear, the first book of this series, will be free for kindle from Amazon.  Go for it!  Have a read!  What have you got to lose?  It's a wild adventure full of interesting friends and foes, and should make you laugh too.  I certainly wrote it to be light and funny, and by all accounts it hits the spot.  

The second book of the series, Freya and the Hairy Goddess, is now available on Amazon as well.  My first readers tell me it's as if the first book never ended, except that the two stories do stand alone.  I'm not a big fan of cliffhanger novels, I'd rather give you your money's worth with each book.  So, if you enjoy the first one you've got for free, which I'm sure you will, do buy the second one too.  :)       

I was a good little artist this time and remembered to do some progress shots for the art work, so here goes.  There were a few pages of sketches done first.

Some were me working out how I wanted the cover to work.  The first idea wasn't quite right.  Too much of the giant vulture went onto the spine and back cover.  I tried some very different ones but kept coming back to the snow vulture.  I'd had that image in my mind for ages and knew it could work, I just needed to change the way the three figures interacted with each other and the required cover format.  

So I kept sketching.
Until I hit on the right one.  See the bottom left drawing?  Oh yeah, that was it!

So it got played with some more. Note the studies of vulture feet down the right hand side.  :)

And I spent some more time getting Freya and Dinna just right.

And then it was time to go for the actual canvas, already base-painted with blue, and to draw it one more time.  Actually it was drawn twice more, because I decided my backing blue was too dark, and I got the positioning of the figures a bit wrong, so I over-painted the backing again and redrew it.  
Then I began to line in some colour. I was aiming for most of the scene to be in blues and whites to let the main features really stand out and yet allow the text to be easily visible, so I needed the white feathers to be outlined in a slightly darker blue to bring them out of the white and blue background just enough to show up.

So, then it was time to block in some white. 

I'd drawn a kind of topknot on the vulture but decided it looked too much like angry Bigbird, so I changed it into a full ruff type thing around the head, which looks way cooler.

I also had the neck bare of feathers, and therefore pink, at one stage, but it looked hideously... well... the best word to use here is probably,"phallic," so that had to go too!  :D  

And so I just kept fiddling and layering till I had it how I wanted it. I was deep into art space by then and forgot to take more photos as I went!  Whoops!   

After that it was kindly photographed by Andrew and it was time to open Gimp to get the cover finalised.  What do you think?  I wanted Freya and Dinna's bravery and teamwork to stand out on the cover.  I hope they do, and I hope it encourages you to want to read the book.  It was so much fun to write, and I'm sure you'll find it so if you read it.  :D




Monday, 18 January 2016

Messing Around on the Anglo-Saxon Lyre Again

This is the silly tune I wrote for my book character, Freya Fjordrider.  It's a dialogue between two people sitting outside a tavern watching the world go by.

Usual provisos involving amateur status of musician.  :)

Quality of the video is a tad low since it was taking forever to load at a better quality.  The internetz was feeling a bit crappy. But, it looks and sounds ok.  The background noise is wind in the trees, and that was always going to be there!

I'm late getting this up due to video-loading slowness, and it's time for dinner,  so that will do for today.  Friday I'll tell you about a free offer on Freya.  :)    


Thursday, 14 January 2016

Anniversaries, Margaritas and Cats.

It is mine and Andrew's 19th Anniversary of being together, today.  Last night we went all the way to Cottesloe Beach on a date to celebrate.

The sea was so obliging.  The water was calm and beautiful.  We had our first swim in ages, then got changed into our glad rags and went up into the Indiana Teahouse.

This pic from here

This photo by Marc Russo
It's a bit of an institution in Perth.  It must have been built before the rules came in to protect the beaches from building, so it holds a very special place, being right on the water as it is.

We had a table right by the windows but someone seated closely next to us had strong perfume on, so we moved.  Always a risk when you go out with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. (Thanks again Lyme disease, for all you've done for me!) Ah well, we liked our second table better anyway!

The view was to die for.  The atmosphere of the restaurant was lovely. We didn't go silly, but Andrew did have a margarita. 

And we got to watch a couple right in front of us get engaged. It was so sweet and very  fun for a pair of old crusties to get to see young love in action!

As the sun set the view got even better.

The colours!  The colours!  Made my little artist heart happy!  We are rather sunset deprived up in the hills because the sun goes behind trees very quickly, so this was just wonderful.

After very nice main courses and a shared yummy desert, we pottered along the shore-front.  

Then it was time to head all the way home again, to where our dogs and Cyrano were very glad to see us.  The dogs had been over visiting Grandma, so they were ok, but kitty misses us when we go out too.

 Do you think he will achieve total roundness as he gets older?  He assures me it is all fur.  A fat kitty is fine by me.  No bird hunting!

I also feel rather celebratory because my ninth book, Freya and Hairy Goddess, is up on Kindle now, and will be available in print form soon.  There will be a special offer on the first Freya book next weekend, so I think I'll launch this book and announce the offer at the same time next Friday.

Do you think I should have a big party when I publish my tenth book?  Won't be long now.  I just have to edit Heroic Plans.  Think I will do that and get it up and running before starting to write the sequel to Land of Fire. I have a feeling that particular story might take quite a while to write!      

Other stuff this week.  We've been to one small fire call-out this morning, and twice this week we went out painting H's on the road to mark hydrants and power poles for our Brigade.  The easier they are to find, the quicker we can fill up and get back to a fire.

It's kind of fun pottering about the local roads in the trusty Light Tanker.  Amazing how much of a friend that vehicle has become.  I love Land Cruisers.

Don't tell our lovely Mr Whippy the Commodore that, though.  Mr Whippy has been a true-blue, reliable car for us all along.  It's not his fault that he replaced our creaky old Cruiser, Bruce, and he's a hell of a lot faster and more comfortable!            

Monday, 11 January 2016

Horses I've loved: Mono

It's odd. This horse was only in my life for a few years. Not sure if it was two or three all told, but he was so important to me that my relationship with him has coloured what I looked for in every other horsey relationship since.

It was pure luck that I came across him.  I went to visit a friend who took me to the place where she was having riding lessons, and I got to ride this old rodeo horse.  As an English-style rider up to then, as most Aussies are, I just could not believe how it felt to ride this Western-trained horse who had buttons I didn't know horses could have, and who had a rocking horse canter that blew my mind.  (Not the half-crippled crawl that some western pleasure horses do now, but genuine, traveling, easy canter that would get you a long way without tiring you or horse.)

Anyway. I still had Chubby but I just connected with this plain bay horse so much, and I guess mum thought I would be growing out of Chubby soon, so she came and watched me ride Mono and agreed to buy him.  I was so happy.

Looking at the first picture I have of him, he was far from a happy horse himself.  He had some real issues, some of which resolved with our gentle ways, and some that he never let go of.  I never cared.  I don't think you do when you are young, or maybe it was pre-internet horse ownership, where you didn't feel like every moment with your horse had to be perfect all the time or you must be failing as an owner. :)

I have the cheesiest grin in that pic. I just loved riding him, tense upside-down neck, fussy mouth with badly-adjusted pelham bit and all.  That coat I am wearing, by the way, is the corduroy and fake lambs-wool one that I loved so much I had to be periodically caught and forced to take off so it could be washed.    

Mono did have problems, no doubt about it, the sort that so many older horses develop as they get wiser and experience more things, not all of them fun even if for their own good.  He hated to be caught, but that was resolved the first time we put him in the paddock and he realised there were pigs on the property next door. He walked the fence line as far away as he could get from them, and when I went to call him, he came running to be caught and after that he was never a problem.  :)  We never did manage to get him sand drenched with the nose tube, though.  He'd have fought to the death over that one!  He did get much better about loading and floating.

Over time, his expression softened and all the tense upside-down muscles in his neck loosened. He became truly the most beautiful looking horse I have owned. Not pretty or flashy, he just had the kindest, noblest, loveliest face of all.  I wish I had more (and better) pictures of him.

He had come from a cattle station up North.  I never knew his breeding but assume he was mostly Thoroughbred with a dash of Waler, as most stockhorses were in those days.  His full name was Monomeeth, which I was told was local Aboriginal for 'Agreement'.  Never found out if that was true, but he did like to get on with you (except for over certain things he considered life and death).  I remember writing a very smooshy teenage-girl style poem all about something along those lines.  Oh dear, I cringe to think of it!  :D    

With his background of being a roping horse, and the fun games my sis and I would play with our horses in the paddock round the sprinklers, we got very good at pony club games.  He and I and one other horse and rider combo always came neck and neck in our age group at the novelty events at the end of each pony club ghymkana.

This is us at the Prince Phillips games. That's where all the best Aussie pony club gamers get together and compete in teams each year. Look at Mono's lovely head and sweet expression!  Look at my unlovely, unsweet expression!  Heh.  That girl next to me, I didn't like her much.  She was bossy, and I think she was trying to boss me around when they took this pic.  :)  

Mono was hogged (mane cut very short) in this photo, and I generally did keep him hogged.  It was the done thing for geldings in Western riding at that time, and it really suited him as it showed up his lovely neck and shoulder.  Man, was it easier than the fussy little braids they do in Western now too!

After a bit of time of joining me in my pony club shenanigans, his injuries kind of caught up with him. He was already 14 when I got him (I think) and he'd had a hard life.  The lady who'd owned him before me took him back and swapped him for another horse, who deserves a story all his own.  After that Mono was lent to a very nice lady who cosseted his joints and took him for gentle trail rides, and eventually he went back to his old owner and lived there as a retiree for a few more years. He was buried right there at home with his also-elderly paddock buddy, put down on the same day so they wouldn't miss each other.  I was so lucky that he had such a loving person to watch over his aging days.  Adult Tina would have done the same thing, but teenage Tina was a bit of a prat, as most of us are at that age.  I wanted to do more than Mono could do, and though I loved him, I could only have the one horse, so that was that.

I didn't know then what I know now, which was that I would never have exactly that relationship with another horse in my life.  In our later days, I could ride him out into the bush bareback, no bridle, no halter.  He trusted me and I trusted him, and to think you wanted to do something was to have him do it.  I thought you could have that with most horses, if not all, but that's just not true.  My horses ever since have all been taught to have the same 'buttons' Mono taught me about and I always strived for the understanding I had with him, but apart from one other horse, who I will tell you about one day, I have never had it the same again.  You just don't.  Some horses you meet are just special.  Special to you, even if to others they might not be.  You just click, and when you do, well, after that it just isn't the same if you can't get it.

I only had Mono for a few years, but he taught me things that shaped who I was as a horse-person ever after.  He also gave me some of the most fun riding years of my life.  I was very lucky to have him. 



Friday, 8 January 2016

My First Fire...or Should I say Fires!

The first one was fairly small and well attended, which is a good thing.  Power lines hit and broken down by the top falling off a big tree.  Poor old thing! Think it lost most of the canopy it had left.

Thanks to Nikki for taking some of these pics.

We had to wait for the power guy to come turn off the power to the cables that lay on the ground.  There were lots of us poised to go in and put out the fire that was left.

 I did get to wield a hose for a bit!

And got to drag hoses too.  Yes, I was the shortest person on the fireground.  Think we can take that as read in future.  :)

I like this one of Paul.  Paul is from Arizona. You hear a lot of accents in the fire brigade.  :)

Any thing smoking over there?  Nope.  Anything still smoking over there?  Nope!

I know I'm grinning like a fool instead of looking all serious and businesslike, but I am just so hella happy to be out being useful.  To come from ten years of just trying to survive Lyme Disease, and then four more recovering, to being an active volunteer firefighter is just an amazing feeling.

We were all serious and concentratey when heading out, I promise you, but on the way home it was a pretty good feeling too!

That's Elton and I with Andrew in the back of the 1.4 heading back to the station.  Sawyers Valley turned out seven people and had to leave a couple more behind. I am so proud of our little brigade's dedication.

It's all very serious, really.  We're just happy to be doing our bit, but it is pretty dire in Western Australia right now. Today we woke to the news that a little town, Yarloop, down south pf Perth had been burned almost totally to the ground overnight. 95 houses and most of the public buildings. Hardly anything is left.

It is a doubly sad thing for my family because my Great Grandmother, who lived to 108, lived most of her life in a little wooden house in that sweet town.  The taller blondie there is me, with mum, sister Jen and Nanny Smith, at her front gate.  Andrew and I went through the town only a couple of months back so I could point out her house to him.  She made the most amazing scones and sponges in her woodstove in her cosy kitchen, and she still had feather beds.  I think now the house will be gone.  So sad.   

I was glad to hear that all the people have now been accounted for and no lives were lost, but all the same, how will this town recover from such a disaster?  What was a town is now acres of twisted corrugated iron and the odd brick chimneys.  I know we have always had bad fires here, but in recent years it has just been nuts.  

Even as I type this, there are still fires starting everywhere and we went out to a lightning-started fire in the bush in Sawyers Valley earlier today.  No pics of this one but I feel pleased to be that little bit more experienced.  It was called in early and we got it out before it had a chance to get away amongst the miles of bushland that is out there.  I think I'm done for today but Andrew is primed to go back out as the lighting strikes continue.

What did we do before we joined the Fireys?  Felt helpless, I guess.  I'm glad we can be proactive now.

I had other things to talk today, but I can't think what they were now.  Like most people here, my mind is all on the fires.  Keep safe everyone!              

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Beautiful Art and a Little Song

This is my Christmas present from Andyroo.  It is an original acrylic on canvas by local artist, Nicole Lawrence.

 It had been on the wall in a local cafe, and every time I went in there and saw it I loved it more.  Now it is on the wall right next to me where I can see it as I write and when I go to bed too.  It's called, "Leap of Faith."  I love everything about it: The beautiful tiger, the choice of colour and the complex layering of it, and the sense of peace it imparts.  We all need to take leaps of faith at times, and Tiger is important to me for another reason too, but I'm not saying why.  :)

Well, it's been a few weeks of not novel writing, and it seems that creativity is starting to build up and pour out of my ears.  Yesterday I spent way too much time recording and making a video for a little song we came up with.  In the SCA they call it filking when you take a song's tune and change the words.  Is that what they call it in the real world? At any rate, we filked a lovely lazy tune by Dean Martin called, "My Rifle, Pony and me," and turned it into a fire brigade song.  I really enjoy playing the original song on my guitar, but once we got the idea of filking it, we couldn't resist it.

Here's the original:
And our version, with usual proviso that I'm no professional singer.  It was nice to hear how much better my voice sounds with a good microphone set up, though, thanks to Andrew!

I'm not much of a movie maker either.  Ah well, we'd already spent more than enough time on it by the time we got it up to Youtube and I realised I hadn't noticed the extra title thingy there at the start.  :)

The chookies were out for a quite while yesterday and since it was hot, they had a good time burrowing the in the damp soil under my pet Hydrangea that lives just under our south window. On hot days, I make them a similar cool spot in their chook dome, but they made their own yesterday.

Going to be a few more hot days this week. Poor chookies, they're the only beasties we currently have that can't come into the air conditioning with us.  You can't housetrain a chook!

In writing news, I still have a couple more chapters of Freya and the Hairy Goddess to final edit, and after that it is formatting time for both kindle and print copies, and then once I know the final page numbers, I will need to get the cover finalised.  Still, it won't be long now till Freya rides again. :)  


Friday, 1 January 2016

Short Blurbs and Brave Firey Mothers.

Fireys this morning was fun. Mum came along, since she missed the Sawyers Valley Volunteer Bushfire Brigade's Christmas Party on Tuesday.  Today they were planning on having another little get-together to use up the spare food left over from the sumptuous nosh we had on Tuesday, so we suggested she come along and meet some of the members.

Not only did mum come along, but she agreed to gear up and ride in the 1.4 with us when we went out!  How cool is that?  Good on you, mum!  She's going to join as a social member, which they jokingly told her means she has to come to *every* party.  :)

First we took the two vehicles up to the local shops and did our checks up there for a bit of PR (to see if we could get any new members!) and then we went out into the bush nearby and checked the site of a fire from the week before, which came very close to the Sawyers Valley townsite. I was very glad to see that this venerable old gentleman, the Jarrah tree I call the Faraway Tree, was saved on the day, though the fire came within metres.  Many thanks to the PAW and Volunteer firefighters who saved it!

Nikki, my fellow lady firefighter (and inspiration) got this fantastic shot of one of the helitacs over the bush on that day.

By the way, the Christmas party was fun.  Lots of good energy.  Rather reminded me of those neighbourhood parties we sometimes went to as children back in my young days.  Ah, those long, long ago days!  The kids had lots of fun climbing on the old truck, and all squeezing into the cabs of the new ones too. There were all ages there.  It really is a community Brigade.

This is the newest member, a third generation Firey, in his special PPE, made for him so he can be like Dad and Grandad.  He was so proud to wear it at the party.  The cuteness!

This afternoon I've been working on a short blurb for my newest Freya book, Freya and the Hairy Goddess.  They're always tricky because you want to get people interested, but I don't love it when the back of a book tells you too much about the story, so I try to avoid that.  As it stands right now, it goes like this:

Freya Rides Again!

As wild as ever, Freya and her evil horse, Dinna, join old friends and new in an adventure that takes them rampaging across the frozen wastes of the far north. This time, it's a quest to save the Goddess of a people she once knew only as myths. Along the way, she gets to do lots of fighting, has plenty of fun, boinks a few likely blokes, and gets into a bunch of shenanigans as only Freya knows how.

Over-the-top, funny, rude, bloodthirsty Sword and Sorcery for almost all of the family... or perhaps not! 

What do you think?  Does it make you want to read the book?  The Freya books really are a bit rampant, so if you have tender sensibilities, stick to my other titles.  They're much gentler.  :)