Breaking the Block



Blimey it’s been ages since I’ve written a blog post.

It’s not that I haven’t had things to say, or even occasionally five minutes alone to get my thoughts down. Well, actually, that bit’s not really true. There has been time this summer to knit and garden and read, but mostly only activities that don’t require much higher brain function.

But now the children have been back at school a whole week (and oh my goodness doesn’t a school week fly by compared to a holiday week?!) I’m just about starting to think straight.

The only problem is, when it’s been this long since I wrote a blog post, I have no idea what to say.

Shall I talk about the weather? (muggy and humid, oscillating between autumn at 7am to high summer by midday.)

My writing? (Just submitted an entry for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition again. Same novel as last time but revamped. But mostly I’m in a writing funk entitled ‘what’s the point?’)


Knitted Cat

Birthdays? (My son’s is in September – with a Lego theme for his party this year – so invites and paper mache pinatas have been the order of the week. And I hit the big one starting with a 4 in a few weeks. We were going to go away, but now I’m thinking of sneaking off by myself for a spa day. Autumn is too busy for birthdays.)

Gardening? (I’ve shoveled more loads of sand and soil than I care to count this week, as we revamp the front garden and add a flower bed and a pond.)

Reading? (I’ve just finished the Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner. Fast-paced, thought provoking.)

Knitting? Oh yes let’s talk about knitting.

I’ve had a creative summer. When I can’t write I must still create. It was Art in August two years ago and then loom bands and knitting.


Zumba Doll

This year I’ve discovered Alan Dart knitting patterns. Oh my.

It all began with my son wanting a jester. Then my daughter wanted a cat. Then I decided to knit dolls for my son’s teachers. And a zumba doll for a good friend. And now I’m knitting a koala bear.

Creativity where you can see the progress and everyone thinks it’s cool and no one says ‘I’ve always wanted to do that’. No wait, they do say that. In that way knitting is like writing, and both is there for the taking if you’re prepared to put in the effort.

So anyway, that’s me.

Now I’ve got the boring update out of the way (in rather a hurry as I’ve just spotted it’s time to collect children) hopefully the next post will be a bit more interesting!

Radio Silence

Never-empty Ironing Basket

Never-empty Ironing Basket

I’m sorry for my crapness at keeping up with the blog. I was going to blame the hot weather, or the never-empty ironing basket, or Wimbledon, or my latest computer game obsession (Forge of Empires), or the great books I’ve read recently (Holly Webb is awesome), or the new blog, or the fact I’ve started running again. But the truth is I just don’t have much to say.

I know, it’s a shocker, right?

I seem to be at peace with myself and life, even with it being only six days to the start of the summer holidays. I’m eating well, sleeping okay (when it isn’t hot and humid!) and writing when I can.

There are things I’ve thought about sharing on here – great blog posts on parenting or recipes I’ve discovered or the new KDP Amazon pages-read reports – but I can’t help but feel I’ve said it all before.

And the stuff that gets me really riled these days is all political and I swore I wouldn’t get into politics on my blog. It’s for things mostly writing or parenting related, although I know I stray off topic from time to time!

Hopefully I’ll come up with something to share. Maybe bits of the novels I’m writing at the moment. I’ve started a new series – called Will on the Water – about a girl raised on a narrow boat. If anyone has any direct experience to share, that would really help my research!

I might also do Art in August again, too, just so the blog doesn’t wither and die in the long vacation! At least there will be less ironing to do when the children aren’t at school!

So please don’t give up on me yet. I’ll try harder I promise!

Searching For The Next Novel Idea

A book of ideas

A book of ideas

I’ve decided to park Finding Lucy for now, as I need to start writing now to get back into the swing of things and the draft needs far too much analysing to write anything more on it yet. So today I ran through my scribbled list of projects looking for inspiration. I didn’t find it, even though the list is rather long!

Current Drafts:
Finding Lucy (needs too much work)
Bonds of Love (ditto, plus has overlap characters with Finding Lucy)
Annie and Phoebe (about a Georgette Heyer novel that isn’t in public domain, so a no go for self-publishing)
Dragon Wraiths part two (don’t have the energy to pick through the hot mess of the last few chapters)
Alfie and the Arch (don’t feel qualified to write kids’ fiction at the moment)

Pencilled in Sequels
Sequel to Two Hundred Steps Home (don’t have energy to re-read the 200k original to pick up the story thread)
Sequel to Baby Blues following Ben and Sharni (isn’t grabbing me, lots of cultural research required)

Totally New Ideas
The Pudding Club (an idea that floats around every time I catch up with my old colleagues – a novel or play written just through dialogue at regular catch-ups. Bit worried my friends will try out work out which one is them or take offence.)
Dad Starts Dating (a YA about a girl whose divorced parents start new relationships – based on personal experience; I worry I would end up offending my mum!)
Colony on Jupiter (YA? – one of the dream stories I actually wrote notes on rather than immediately forgot. A bit like the TV series 100, although my idea predates watching it, but where the space station is a functioning community with shops, school etc)

So far NONE of these is remotely grabbing me. I want to write something with a bit of pace; I’d love to write a series, to help sales and because I loved spending a whole year with Claire last year, and I’d love to write something fantasy/sci fi, even though that’s considerably out my comfort zone.

But a) I worry that straying from the stye of Class Act and Baby Blues will be a mistake (although I can’t give Class Act away, so there isn’t much to break) and b) I’m really not sure I have the imagination to pull it off without plagiarising something. It’s no coincidence that my characters are loosely based on me: my biggest fear is stealing someone else’s idea/style/world. I found it happened a lot with Dragon Wraiths, whereas it was easy to imagine the settings for Class Act and Baby Blues.

I feel like when I can’t decide on a new book to read, which ironically is also a problem I’m having. I have three or four good novels half-finished on the kindle and have reverted to the failsafe of Harry Potter just to keep reading. It feels like I poured all my creativity into loombands and knitting and art in August and now I’m empty (and have RSI!)

Arrgghh. Writers out there, where do you get your ideas from when you’re stuck? How do you choose your next project? I have been working on old manuscripts for so long I’ve forgotten how to start something new, and I’ve never started something without a glimmer of an idea from a dream or a character or an idea how the story ends. Maybe it’s time to get an early night and hope I remember my dreams!

Art in August Swansong: Crazy Cat Lady

Mummy and kitten

Mummy and kitten

I know art in August is over, but I found a great tutorial for knitting easy cats and have gone a bit cat crazy. Well, I’m a writer so it’s allowed, especially as hubbie won’t let me get a real cat.

This is the link to the tutorial. I knitted mine flat on 4.5 needles with a random guestimate at rows. They’re rather cute. Might have to let my hands recover now, though, that fluffy wool (especially the black, after I ran out of the beautiful red) is a horrid nightmare to knit, particularly for a newbie.

Back to work on Friday hopefully, although have picked a cold so maybe a day in bed with lemsip and a Harry Potter book might be in order!


First cat from the tutorial

First cat from the tutorial

Gorgeous soft kitten close up

Gorgeous soft kitten close up


Art in August #31 – Knitted Cat

Knitted Cat

Knitted Cat

And so August comes to an end. My eternal thanks to Laptop on the Ironing Board for coming up with the Art in August challenge; I credit it with enabling me to survive the school holidays with some of my sanity intact (although, now the end is in sight, I seem to have entirely run out of patience!)

I thought I would end with another knitted toy, this time one of my own design (translation: I made it up.) Stuffed with the proper hollow-fibre filling (from a sacrificed pillow) it’s quite soft and cuddly, even if it does look a bit miserable (maybe because it doesn’t have any whiskers, as my daughter pointed out.)

It’s been nice to blog daily again, too, although it has made me wonder how I managed to write and blog every single day last year. I must have had a screw loose! 😉

Hopefully I’ll be back to writing in a week or so, after I’ve reclaimed my house from the marauding invaders (we have extra next week, as people with jobs go back to work and need childcare. I must be crazy!)

I will be working on my fifth novel, Finding Lucy. I’d love to finish it by Christmas, but I haven’t looked at it since I went into labour with my son, nearly four years ago, (where did those years go?!) so it might be Christmas 2015. I’ll keep you posted.

Art in August #30 – Knitted Bunny

Wonky Brown Bunny

Wonky Brown Bunny

My summer obsession with loom-bands leant itself to me trying knitting again. I tried ‘knitting’ using the Rainbow Loom but just ended up with a hot mess, so I convinced my daughter she wanted to learn, so I could get some needles and wool. Five quid later, hubbie reminded me we have buckets of wool and dozens of needles in the loft that used to belong to his Mum. Doh!

I have done basic knitting before – wobbly, colourful scarfs mostly – when hubbie went through his Man Knitting phase (his knitting ended up six foot wide, because he didn’t know the stitches spread after you cast them on). But knitting has never really appealed because it takes soooooooo long.

The thing about making things from loom bands is that nothing I created took more than a couple of hours. I have the attention span of a small child. Novel-writing aside, none of my creative endeavours take more than an hour or two. Some abstracts I’ve added to, spending hours on them in total, but each time I stopped it ‘looked’ finished. Knitting, not so much.

(Wo)man Knitting

(Wo)man Knitting

When my loomband creations started crumbling though (and I’d made as many dragons as I could cope with) I decided to look for knitting tutorials. I came across this ‘simple’ bunny tutorial, made from ‘just’ a square.

It took about four hours and terrible hand cramp to have something vaguely resembling a square (I didn’t have the same amount of stitches as I started with!)

My bunny doesn’t look much like the video (it’s stuffed with cotton wool sheets rather than stuffing, so I couldn’t sew on the arms), but I can see me trying again. I love cuddly toys so I’m more likely to persevere with a toy than a jumper. Besides, then I can use all the funky wool I used in my petite version of Man’s Knitting (hubbie’s looks like this but ten times the size).

I’d like to try crochet, too, but all the loom-banding seems to have given me RSI in my right hand, so I don’t think that’s a good idea. Besides, in a week I’ll need to get back to writing novels so, unless I have a protagonist who likes knitting, my new hobby will have to wait.


Art in August #29 – Wonderful Warwick

The Fabulous Georgians

The Fabulous Georgians

We had an amazing day at Warwick Castle yesterday. It’s the first time any of us have been and we didn’t really know what to expect.

The Horrible Histories added so much flavour – the actors were superbly in character it felt like being in a permanent play.

We managed to squeeze in the opening of the portcullis, the sword in the stone play, the trebuchet and the jousting. Unfortunately torrential rain drove us away before the eagles, and we didn’t even get to walk around the castle grounds, but that just gives us plenty to look forward to next year!

I decided to take my ‘big’ camera – my Canon 40D – which I rarely use these days, since the £200 repair bill last time my son went near it. I’ve forgotten how squinty-eyed it makes me, how much I want to photograph everything I see, and how hard it is to capture the perfect picture.

Jousting Dark Knight

Jousting Dark Knight

I left it in automatic mode most of the time, because my attention was on the children rather than light and aperture settings. For the jousting I hoped that would mean at least some half-decent pictures. Unfortunately I hadn’t taken into consideration the rope bisecting my view. Pretty much every picture has a rope in perfect clarity, with blurry jousting knights behind… Sigh. I’d have been better off using the iPad, or just enjoying the spectacle.

Never mind, I managed to get one or two nice shots (out of 156!) and next time I’ll know to sit where the rope isn’t in my way, or leave the camera at home and enjoy the day! 🙂

I feel like we’ve finally had our summer holiday, now we’ve made it to Sea Life and Warwick Castle. Doing both trips within a few days has taken its toll though (or I was stressed about going and now I’m fine) because I slept for twelve hours when we got home. After a couple of nights of only getting two or three hours’ sleep, it seems incredible.

Thank you to hubbie for taking care of the dog, the kids and himself, while I slept almost non-stop from 6pm to 6am!

Art in August #28 – Skull and Cross Bones

Skull and Crossbones

Skull and Crossbones

Quick post this morning as we’re leaving for Warwick Castle in four minutes (ahem, or we’re meant to be. I’ve been making picnic for an hour and I’m still in my PJs eating my breakfast.)

This skull and cross bones is copied from the front cover of Zac and the Dream Pirates by Ross MacKenzie and was drawn using FS Paint. The slight cut off on the left is because I’ve edited out the header bar…

Art in August #27 – Dragon Eyes

Dragon eye

Dragon eye

I found a new free art app for the iPad, called FS Paint, which I had a lot of fun with today. As an app it’s a little rough around the edges, something that’s put me off paying for the full version, but the benefits outweigh the clunky format.

For a start, this one allows colour choice, which is nice after Fingerpaint and KidsDoodle, where colour selection is random. There are a range of brush types, sketch, shading etc. The shading effect is in a criss-cross cross-hatch style which takes a bit of getting used to, but can get some nice results.

Of course my first attempts had to be dragon-themed. I’ve always wanted to draw dragon eyes, but have never managed to capture the life and sparkle. These are not perfect but, for first attempts, I’m pleased. It’s great to build up layer by layer.

This is a subtle drawing app that I feel has more to give with practice. Expect to see more!


Art in August #26 – Daughter’s YouTube Tutorial Art

Proud of her robot

Proud of her robot

Today’s Art in August is dedicated to my amazing five-year-old daughter who, inspired by Mummy painting Elsa from a YouTube tutorial, has been drawing from tutorials for the last four hours.

I have never seen her concentrate so hard and work for so long at something without input from Mummy and Daddy. Not only has she focussed and chatted along to the videos, she has produced some excellent pictures.

When no one was watching she didn’t get frustrated at mistakes and, on some of the videos, there were even other children doing the drawings too, so she could see others making errors.

My daughter tells people that when she grows up she wants to be an author and an illustrator. In fact, she will tell people she already is both of those things, because she makes books and illustrates them (I believe in visualisation).

Concentrating hard

Concentrating hard

But today is the first time I’ve seen her really work on her drawings, rather than producing endless pictures of (very cute) cats.

YouTube tutorials are amazing. Children take instruction from strangers much better than family members, or mine do anyway.

And after four hours of drawing with a permanent marker, wearing her best party dress, I think she made one small mark on the table and none on herself.

My little girl is growing up and I am so very proud.

Shout out to the following YouTube channels:

  • DoodleDrawArt
  • DoodleKat1
  • Artist Rage
  • MNMarcel