Friday Catch-up: Exams, writing and getting crafty

Hello, my lovelies!

I thought it was high-time I gave you all a personal update…

I’ve been trying to support my eldest with her first set of ‘big’ exams. In Scotland, these are called National 5s and they are roughly equivalent to GCSEs.

In truth, there hasn’t been much to do in practical terms (my daughter is one of the most hard-working and organised people I have ever met), but the subject has loomed large over the household and, being a soggy over-emotional kind of parent, I empathise with her deeply and will be very happy when they are over!

LandandSea
Land And Sea by Iona Mackenzie Laycock

I’ve also been trying to get a better work-life balance (ha!) and took a day off last week for a rare day out with my lovely mum.

We both love craft and have dabbled in a variety of different projects and materials over the years. We went to the Knitting and Stitching show in Edinburgh and wandered around in a happy daze, discovering interesting new things and stroking the beautiful yarn, threads and materials on offer.

We also took a workshop with textile artist Iona Mackenzie Laycock, which was brilliant. Iona showed us a technique involving a hot iron and pearlescent acrylic ink to make a ‘layered landscape’ picture. Iona was really nice and it was lots of fun to be in a real-life class (I do most of my learning online these days).

It also reminded me how important it is for me to do other creative things which are just for fun.

Speaking of fun, I finally sent the first draft of the new book to my agent, and have spent the last week happily writing on an old project. It’s a slightly different style and genre to my other stuff and feels like a wee holiday!

I also finished episode #15 of The Worried Writer. If you haven’t listened yet, all the shownotes and episodes can be found at worriedwriter.com or you can subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.

elizabethbuchanI’ve been reading lots, too, and highly recommend Elizabeth Buchan’s I Can’t Begin to Tell You.

It’s set during WWII in Denmark and London and focuses on the SOE/Danish Resistance. I finished it at the beginning of the week and I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m also looking forward to reading Catherine Ryan Howard’s, Distress Signals, which came out yesterday.

I have been following Catherine’s blog for ages and was thrilled to speak to her last year for The Worried Writer.

 

 

So, how about you? Read any good books, lately? Seen any wonderful films? 

 

 

 

Friday Five: The Feeble Edition

Argh! It’s the end of the week, already!

I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed and feeble this week, so this Friday Five is all about trying to combat that.
owlpattern2

1. New knitting project. Knitting is definitely good for stress-relief and the repetitive action helps me to think through story ideas, too.

This owl pattern and yarn combination is super-cute, but the yarn itself is making me cross-eyed. I’m getting used to it, though, and the pattern is nice and simple, which is what I need at the moment!

 

 

2. I’ve been giving myself plenty of reading time (as I know that will help me to ‘refill the creative well’, as well as being an enjoyable escape from my own head) and I really enjoyed The Lie by C.L. Taylor and Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.

3. Easing out the post-deadline kinks with some yoga. I’ve been saying ‘I must do some yoga, it’ll do me good’ for so long, that I (finally) got sick of myself and actually did some. Hurrah. I’ve been following the 30 Days of Yoga on the  ‘Yoga With Adriene’ channel on YouTube and I really like her down-to-earth, approach.

amandapalmer4. I don’t think I have a number four, unless you count walking lots and listening to podcasts.  Oh, I know! I’ve been listening to Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking: How I learned to stop worrying and let people help
audio book and it’s really good.

5. There is no number five, either. Feeble, see?

 

 

Quick reminder! If you want to be in with a chance of winning one of two signed copies of The Language of Spells, sign up for my mailing list here and I’ll put your name in the hat! 

Shiny New Things

2015 has got off to a cracking start with some Shiny New Things…

First off, BBBITWIO* has given me an iMac (his ‘old’ one!) and I’m a wee tiny bit excited. Meep!

imac_small
Quite apart from the fact that my PC had become a bit temperamental (the screen flickered with irritating regularity and it took FOREVER to start up/shut down), I’m also now able to use the Mac-only collaging/brain-storming software of my dreams… Curio.

Plus, my lovely Mum and Dad gave me a colour printer to replace my old black-and-white, so I’ll be able to print out pictures for my paper-and-glue book collages (as well as other crafty projects) – yay!

In other news, I’ve** moved this website over from wordpress.com (free blogging platform) to wordpress.org (self-hosted). Hopefully, you won’t see any difference or have problems with the new site, but please shout if I’ve inadvertently broken anything.

Also, if you were kind enough to follow my blog using the RSS button, you may find that you have to re-subscribe to continue getting the posts by email. Sorry!

While I’m on the subject of subscribing to things… I now have a mailing list. If you would like to receive an (occasional) newsletter from me with book news and recommendations, exclusive content and giveaways, please consider signing up here.

I promise not to share your details or clutter up your inbox with too many emails.

Thank you!

* Best Big Brother In The World: It’s Official

** My use of ‘I’ in this paragraph is somewhat misleading… Please replace with the more accurate ‘my wonderful husband’.

 

 

Pretty things: Beastie Brooches

A couple of weeks ago I had a lovely day in Edinburgh with my Mum. We saw Marcus Brigstocke at the Fringe and Neil Gaiman at the Book Festival, and had a wander around the West End Craft Fair.

This brilliant craft market runs every August and is well worth a visit. Mum and I have been many times before so there were plenty of our old favourites to see plus, as always, something new to fall in love with. This year, my heart was swayed by Linda Lovatt’s Beastie Brooches.

Linda mixes copper (with a verdigris finish) with broken china, buttons and beads to create quirky pieces like this ‘Love Birds on a Cup Handle‘.

birds on cup handle

And ‘Listening to the Nightingale‘:

listening to the night

She also makes ornamental assemblages which are a wee bit bigger and more complex. I’m thinking about treating myself to one when I get my first royalty cheque!

Craft: Easy lace scarf

sock-yarn-pics-023

I’m at the discovery stage of my WIP, which involves lots of staring out of the window, thinking about my book while I’m watching TV or when other people are talking to me (sorry!), making a book collage, a soundtrack, and doing lots of free-writing.

The last bit is the most important. I call it my ‘zero draft’ because it’s not even cohesive enough to be called a ‘shitty first draft’.

I love this stage. It’s exciting and highly creative, and it’s the perfect time for a knitting project. I like having something to do while I’m thinking (there’s a reason ideas come when I’m in the shower or driving), and it has to be something simple and repetitive so that my mind is free to roam. This ‘one row lace scarf’ pattern from Give Me A Purl is perfect.

I’m making one in a lovely green-blue sock yarn and 5mm needles (you use bigger needles than usually recommended), and it makes a lovely stretchy scarf. You can use any type/weight of yarn, so it’s good for stash-busting, too.

[Image Credit: Beautiful sock yarn from RedBarnYarn]

Tutorial (redux): Vintage china cake stand

I used to run a craft and homewares blog and my lovely mum created this fab tutorial for it. I thought it should have another day in the sun, so here it is.

Vintage china cake stand

By Jennie Hughes

Do you wander around your local charity stores picking up
the odd pretty, but mismatched, china plate? Beautiful ceramics and bone
china are so enticing, but what do you do with them? It’s not sense to
keep them stashed away in a cupboard, and an entire un-matching dinner service
takes some chutzpah to carry off, but what about a pretty cake-stand?

Read more