In April, I will be headed north to Telford to attend my first ever book signing. Alongside lots of other authors, I’m hoping to meet and see lots of readers.
There is currently a sale on tickets!
In April, I will be headed north to Telford to attend my first ever book signing. Alongside lots of other authors, I’m hoping to meet and see lots of readers.
There is currently a sale on tickets!
I’ve been thinking about this post for a some time now; particularly how to put into words. This is altogether nerve-wracking.
Well, here goes.
In July 2022, the Commonwealth Games will be just about to kick off in Birmingham. As such, this has inspired a multi-genre gathering of authors from across the world. One of them, just happens to be yours truly. A gathering that is scheduled for the heart of Birmingham, yards from the Floozy in the Jacuzzi, in the Birmingham Council House.
The journey, this bookish road to Birmingham, starts in Telford in April 2020.
That’s less than six months away.
How did this all start?
With a short story. And nerves. Lots of nerves.
I was ecstatic to be invited to Birmingham 2022, by fellow local author Martin Tracey.
I met Martin, in a pub. The Gunmakers Arms in Birmingham, actually; I was reading there, so was he. That was my first ever public reading-Postcards from Peace, Devan’s Halloween Story, I’ve never been so scared in my life-thanks to A.A.Abbott, her Tippling Tales evenings are brilliant, and well worth attending.
Immediately, as you can imagine, excitement and anxiety collided. This would be one a massive, historic, multi-genre event. A first for me. It was, and is, a huge step as an author, and Indie Author at that. I set about thinking; how could I make steps towards this big event, to raise my profile and actually reach people?
I have no idea if people read my books, unless I pester them! The dreams of having a fan-club, are exactly that. Being somewhat eclectic, the book back catalogue is somewhat diverse. There is most definitely something for everyone.
I thought about it, and took a chance. Was there an event, that I could do in the mean time? Turns out there was. In Telford; sooner too. A good opportunity to build a profile, and reach readers. This was Shenanigans 2020. The link for tickets is below.
There are a couple of locations, currently being investigated, for pit stops in the middle. Birmingham 2022, will hopefully be something of a homecoming, in that respect.
The key thing, the most central to all of this, are the books.
As I type, I’m preparing book seven. The teasers were done yesterday! This is my third instalment for the Peace Novella Series. All being well, this will be out there for everyone, by April 2020.
As an Indie Author, reaching readers, is a key. This means that reading and reviewing is incredibly important. That moment, when you randomly recommend a book to someone, helps that happen. Even if’s a one line review, even if you only add a couple of stars.
I spent this morning, having something of botanical, therapeutic adventure. It’s book release day; I didn’t want to stay inside and sit on my hands. A few days ago, whilst walking through the greenery around Sarehole Mill, I decided to plan a trip to Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Despite the fact that I’m a born and bred Brummie, I’ve never actually spent any time there, enjoying it. I remember going to a wedding reception, by the Arid Glasshouse and making a mental note to come back. It’s taken me few years, but I made it!
There wasn’t a concrete plan, not really. I had a thermos of tea, some lunch and a pair of walking boots. A class of kids-Year 2 from a local school-were also wandering around, so I made sure I was well off their radar. Their teachers, have my empathy. Not my school kids, not my trip. I carried on.
As I sit here and type, I’m actually creaking. Who knew, that such a gentle, aimless and ambling walk could have an impact?
Anyway. Using the map from the entrance desk, I did amble and quite aimlessly. Everything is labelled clearly, the information is presented concisely for everything. Better, in my mind, than most museums. I could spot Camellias-Dad has two in the garden-so I didn’t feel completely clueless. There were daffodils in dots and splodges, all very timely as we kick off with spring.
Whilst not a huge site, Birmingham Botanical Garden is best savoured slowly. It didn’t take long for me to take a walk around. So I made the conscious decision to sit, stare and take tea a couple of times. Least of all when three pea hens and a peacock were in the vicinity. Taking that one picture, the peacock more or less posed and looked me in the eye as though I was crazy. Even the pea hens shuffled around as though indifferent. I had hoped that the peacock might shake a tail feather to give everyone a display, but alas no joy. To sit, stare and sip tea was part of the deal for today’s adventure. To be completely immersed in greenery, to take stock and just absorb everything has been crucial this week.
A special mention, goes to Alison Levey, who made me smile today. A couple of days ago, she posted an image of a Magnolia. I happened to read the name as Lionel Messi. Yes, the footballer. I forget now, the proper name of this plant. It struck a cord today, whilst I was adventuring. In walking through the memory garden, I saw a sign in the boughs of a pink Magnolia. I read it as Lionel Messi. In the image above, the white magnolia does cover the pink footballing one in the fore-ground; it genuinely made me giggle and out aloud.
I nearly missed this, but on the way out, I found the Japanese Garden. I’m glad I did too. This is a pocket of serenity, that I might have otherwise missed had the universe not nudged me to head out of one of the glasshouses. This garden is tucked away, and there is just something about it; even the air is different.
Carefully observing, I was wandered in, and there were three red camellias sat in water feature. Whether they were put there, or landed there through serendipity I don’t know. There is a sign, that details how in Buddhism and Shinto, fallen blossoms are a sign of the transience of life. That really did strike me; life is too short, to sit back and not smell the Magnolia. I edged in and I found this one. A Saucer Magnolia. Something was ringing, and for three seconds I had no idea where the sound was coming from. Then I realised it was the chime sat in the middle, caught by the breeze.
There was just something about that moment that felt almost ephemeral. I don’t have any other words to describe it.
I’m glad that I went, even if the gardens are half asleep. I want to go back and see the rose garden in full bloom. I do think, that when the whole thing wakes up, it will be even better.
Was something of a nice experience. Not too far away from the centre of Aylesbury, this pocket of greenery is a refreshing place to adventure. Especially as the snowdrops were out in force and a reminder that the seasons are changing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many and in the same place. There were a handful of hellebores that I spotted too.
It was however a little early for Daffodil valley to be in full bloom, perhaps next time. The rose garden is also on the list for next time. I had to use my imagination to think about how it might look. My own roses are also asleep still, so there is nothing wrong with being hopeful.
There was certainly a lot of walking. My sister and I covered most but not all of the wellie walks on the first winter weekend. We’d done the most pragmatic thing and worn our walking boots. Oh, I how resisted splashing in puddles. There were only one or two, but plenty of mud to negotiate.
The walking was done slowly, and lunch was taken in the Stables cafe. The whole thing was done slowly; it was important to let everything sink in, to enjoy being in the middle of nowhere and take stock. I do think, that if we’d thought about it, we might have joined in with the kids orienteering that was signposted. There;s a wonderful serenity, a tingly peace and quiet in the air, that feels very immersive. Even going to the Aviary feels as though you are stepping into a different universe.
This is by far my biggest adventure to date. I went to Iceland. Generally, I am very fortunate to have wing-people. Be it siblings or friends. This, this was very different. I did this by myself, much to the amusement of some. Why there, it’s so far away; do you know how cold it is there, Punam?
An amazing CPD opportunity arose, where by I could meet fellow Psychology teachers from across Europe. This was a conference that happens every two years, and I rather fancied making an adventure of it. It’s not that I don’t adventure alone, I do. Just not so close to the Arctic circle.
I’m glad that I did. Iceland is beautiful, Reykjavik is phenomenal. I also met some fabulous like-minded individuals. The camaraderie within the teaching fraternity really is second to none. If you are a Psychology teacher, go find the ATP and also EFPTA; you won’t be let down.
There was a bit walking on this trip, in doing the Golden circle tour. The double waterfall was one of the most soul-tingling experiences ever. I stood there, really quite mesmerised. There a couple of geysers, one big, one small. I will never, ever, complain about rain here in Britain. Icelandic rain comes down in King-size sheets and does more than drench you. Thank goodness, for a Birmingham Blue-coloured hat that Mama F had crocheted for me. I stood between two tectonic plates, walked passed the dunking pool of unmarried mothers. That was really quite sad and eerie.
The secret lagoon. What do I say? An experience beyond words. It makes me smile as I sit here writing about it. Must have been what two, three degrees, but stepping into that water. That was something beyond magic, I tell you.
This was by far the trip of a life time. Scared the living daylights out of me, whilst giving me butterflies, but I did it. I was very lucky, to have met up with friends and colleagues; this did do something to help me get rid of the nerves.
I did have some sadness too. I actually looked at the coach seat next to me, and there wasn’t a sibling or someone significant there to elbow. That is another story, I guess.
Apparently, Glastonbury is magic. An interesting hypothesis, that I decided to test out. This was effectively my four day summer holiday. On my list, was the tor, the abbey, chalice wells and also the Goddess temple. This was a time to reflect, rest and colour my soul. This was also an adventure that I wanted to make the most of.
Getting to my digs, seeing the Tor was something of an experience. Its quite imposing and my immediate thought, was how the flip to get up there. Luckily, the taxi driver told me the safest route. Taking it, I realised that it wasn’t easy getting up there. I’m not the fittest of people, so taking it slow was key. That was rather important.
Journeying up the Tor is a process of reflection. You also meet interesting people along the way. You all have the same aim, to get to the same place. Part of me felt as though I was channelling Chaucer on the ascent. I did move slow, I took my time to savour it. Getting to the top, I was met with people greeting the sun. There is magic at the Tor, something beyond words. I did struggle making the climb, and I was aware of my own capacity. I made that climb, I got to the top, no matter how much I swore as I walked and wanted to give up. At the top, there is so much to take it, to survey what is before you.
Coming down, is a different feeling and leads you to Challice Wells.
The Abbey, is something out of this world. There is absolute magic in the air there. I spent hours there, absorbing it all. There is the alleged grave of King Arthur. Though I don’t think I felt his magic there. I felt the magic of people.
The tree. Oh, my, the tree. I think it was a Maple, but it is a magic Maple. The only tree in 35 acres that was so vibrantly red. Standing there, it was breath taking, it was grounding and a process of meditating. There was just something about the tree, it’s beauty and being a force of nature.
Talking of power. The Goddess temple. Go. Absolute serenity, with the essence of the divine. I felt such calm, such power, I couldn’t possibly type the exact nature of it.
As I sit here, I have Adele singing ‘set fire to the rain’ on loop in my ear phones. This is the summer of 2017, and I am having a rest. I’m not very good at having a rest; school and counselling training form a big chunk of my life, then there is the allotment, writing and occasionally I go on adventures. So when school ended about two weeks ago, I took the conscious decision to not fill my diary. This is time for a full stop.
From August 2016 until now, there has been a lot going on. Work has been busy, there have been lots of students; I have spent my working days, prepping, marking, teaching; doing my day job to the best of my ability. Alongside that, I have also been at night school and undertaking a two-year level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic counselling. That’s two fairly big plates and spinning all the time. I had forgotten just how demanding a degree-level course was, and it has been ten years since I got my Psychology degree from Aston University. Training to be a counsellor and a being a Psychology teacher are at two different ends of a spectrum
Anyway. The first year of the diploma ended in July, but school continued for a bit. When it did, I wasn’t going to go around spinning plates this summer. I was and am, going to try and have some down time.
Whilst the plot hasn’t had the best year, it has had some therapeutic value over the summer.
For example, the growing stash of homebrew. I didn’t think that I would do much homebrewing or any other preserving for that matter. Only for blackberries to catch me by surprise and appear abundantly on the allotment. I have made blackberry wine before, I made some last year and added plums and currants. This year’s experiment is purely blackberries with some cinnamon and star anise thrown in. I had been given some plums by a plot neighbour, and only today the must made from them has been transferred into a demi-john.
I have seen lots of fellow allotmenteers start to worry about blight warnings. This can be awfully demoralising, and when you have been working hard to maintain a crop, it’s awful to see it decimated. There are less than half a dozen plants on my plot, but I have harvested lots of green of tomatoes. I think that we currently have all of one red marmande tomato! I wasn’t too convinced by the crop of Roma tomatoes. I do believe however, that there was just something not right about this year’s growing season, least f all because of my own reduced productivity. The tomatoes that have been harvested have been used alongside apples and fenugreek to make a green tomato chutney. There has been less playing with the preserving pan, and to return to that was actually really nice. I have yet to make jam, though Mama F and her sister did borrow my kit to make some blackberry jam. Making Jams, jellies and chutneys is actually really nice; it is a form of mindfulness, I guess, but more on that later! The batch of chutney now needs some time to mature and mellow; hopefully, it will find loving homes.
A bit delayed, but better than never; we have glads! Appearing a lot like Roman candles, they have burst into bloom all over the plot in a riot of colour. I don’t dig them out, and let them be. May be, once I have cleared the plot, I might consider sinking some more next year. It never ceases to amaze me, how colourful or abundant they are. They also attract a lot of fuzzy bottomed bumbles, so having them on the plot for them is doubly useful.
All that any would be suitor needs to worry about, is investing in Diamonds; I can grow my own beautiful flowers, and petrol station flowers are never crossing my palms. So may be just by my bulbs and things, that would work yes? You’ll have do your own weeding, mind.
I started off, saying that I was having a rest; that there were no adventures planned. In some part, that is true. I am very fortunate to be within a stone’s throw of Sarehole Mill. Something of a landmark and a beauty spot, the mill is said to have inspired J.R.R.Tolkien. Whilst I am not a real hobbit-the last that I checked-taking a walk down to the mill was something of an adventure. I’m glad that I did, that I wandered around by the Mill Pool-the mill still works-and even sat in the tearoom with a cuppa and tea cake. There was something magnetic about the place, and no wonder that Tolkien was inspired by it.
I had taken my notebook with me, thinking that I might sit there and write. I ended up taking pictures so that I could write about it later; I could imagine a protagonist stood musing his existence whilst looking at the mill pool. I made a note on the ‘to write’ list, and have plans to write when my brain feels like it. You can’t see it very well in the photo sadly, but there is actually a veggie patch outside mill. I remember seeing raspberry canes and rhubarb; there is all an apple espalier that overhangs a door. I’m not the only would be ‘obbit, that likes gardening.
Having a rest, will hopefully give both my brain and my soul a rest. There are no concrete plans per se as to what I shall do over the summer.
I have re-discovered my colouring books, I had forgotten just how much I enjoy this. I must have sat there for hours, with my pencils, fineliners and fibre tips just not thinking, but just colouring. I cannot describe the sensation, but it does feel as though you are floating away as you feel your attention span loosen out and become aware of your breathing, your heart rate; all occurs whilst your mind empties.
As a well as colouring, there are books to write and to read.
In terms of writing, there are three, no wait, four separate notebooks/folders waiting to be looked at. But no mojo. Whilst colouring completely empties the mind, writing requires that it is full and with all sorts; for me, the day dreams have to be in full techi-colour and able to flow through my inky pens. It is only when my pens have a mind of their own, that I am able to write, commit things to paper. I don’t type and write. I write it all out in notebooks, it feels a more soulful in analogue rather than doing it via digital.
Having nothing to write, makes trying to rest a little difficult. You, I know that I, feel as though I should be doing something. Trouble is, the impetus, the drive is not there. Waiting for it to come back, the ideas to come back, is a trifle disarming. It is also unpredictable, and I have no idea when it will come back. I don’t want to call this a ‘writer’s block’, not in the least. There is no congestion-as it were-no back up, that needs a wiggle, or a flick to let it pour. Just no material to set a spark to, that oxygen might then fuel.
I can’t write anything at the moment, that doesn’t mean that I won’t in the future. In the last two years, I have written three books, and have another scheduled for release in Spring 2018. Whatever happens next, is the next phase, the next chapter; what will be, will be. I don’t want to force it; I am great believer in things-creative things-happening organically, spontaneously, to make your soul zing and may even a smile appearing on your face. I am going to sit on those four books, and let them appear when they are ready. Trust, me, when they turn up, make themselves known, I will tell you.
I’m not writing anything, so I will read. I am currently two thirds of the way through the Malbry Cycle by Joanne Harris. Alongside that, I have the Hannibal Quadrology, written by another Harris. I have only made a small dent in ‘Red Dragon’. Now both of the Harrises have written anthems for my doomed youth. I read ‘Blackberry Wine’ and three out of the four Hannibal novels during my A-levels. At 33, I am having a literary renaissance by making my way through Ms.Harris’s back catalogue and taking on Hannibal once again. Then I have lots of other random stuff-George Eliot, Virgina Woolf, Gustave Flaubert and lots and lots of historical fiction-on the ereader to also look at. There is no shortage of works to read.
I need to read, I want to read; as with colouring, with gardening, it’s time to submerge my soul into what makes it zing.
Last but not least, my thanks to waltons! They very kindly sent my Spike and Drusilla the scarecrows. There was never any doubt in my mind as to what they would be named.
Right, colouring, reading, watching Bones, Angel, Buffy or Star trek….all options on doing nothing…..
Go find a body of water, the horoscope said. Go somewhere near the seaside. The universe kept on signposting adventures, a getaway, a chance to take stock.
I headed to Lake Garda.
This is the second Italian Lake I have visited, with Como being the first. The lake is pretty, the town where we stayed was lovely and it was fabulous opportunity to have a some down time.
I also turned one year older and thirty three is a the same age as a certain other someone with whom Easter is associated. I didn’t and won’t dwell on the age, the getting older. The silver bothers me, but I’ve been going grey since I was sixteen and I won’t always carry off being a brunette or raven haired. Yes, silver, and not grey. I have so far resisted dying the barnet; not sure quite how long this non-compliance with social norms will last. Silver hair doesn’t make me so marketable…I guess.
Anyway. This adventure!
First there was Verona.
This place piqued my interest from the Shakespearean angle. There is the balcony that (allegedly) inspired the poem behind the play ‘Romeo and Juliette’ so every where you see I heart Verona and ‘City of love’. (The cynic in me, took heart from the story about the merchant, who jumped the bandwagon with this is Juliette’s balcony, come have a look) I thought that was Paris, but anyway; I didn’t feel the love for the love. Verona, yes; beautiful, lots of shopping and culture at ever corner. I couldn’t help but think that that Romeo would have needed drainpipes for the balcony though. I’ll be damned if I’m shimmying up towards any balconies for a Romeo and anytime soon. The neighbourhood watch would be rather displeased to say the least!
Then there was the city of canals. Being a born and bred brummie, this was going to be interesting. Birmingham has more than Venice, we also have James Brindley. So you know, tough competition.
And this is where I felt the love. This is somewhere I would go back, and with someone special when he turns up. The Grand canal from the Realto Bridge is epic; the sheer size and the life that exists on the canal is pretty damned amazing.
As for the pigeons.
Seriously, they are low flying. Dodge them.
I recall Venetian masked balls…ahem as it were. I bought one, as you can see; it’s not sparkly or has half a bird attached to it but when in Venice. Then there was Venetian glass. Again, this is meant to be pretty epic. I frequented pen shops in both Verona and Venice, and felt like a kid in sweet shop. I feel as though my pen collection is not yet complete. There was window shopping of the Parker Sonnet in matte black, just to see what the deal was. But for now, that would not be entering the writing implement collection.
Venetian Glass plus pen and notebook was going to happen. I kid you not, I sampled a glass nib and I nearly keeled over. But I like my nibs and pens metallic, so I found one that I liked. Rather than being a cartridge/converter pen, this glass stemmed pen is a proper old school dip in well sort. The notebook is covered with the seal of Venice; a lion with a book. Two motifs, that I can only my best to appreciate. No idea what I might write inside, but it will all come in time.
Was a very interesting adventure, and by the water.
Hello, allotment, I have missed you. I have missed the grapes getting ripe, and being plucked from the vine. I have missed cutting the last of the roses, all of the glads are now done. I have missed you and quite a bit.
Today, after what feels like an age, I have made it to the allotment to see what is happening and what I might do next. Ordinarily, as this time of year, I would be thinking about or will have planted garlic. I haven’t got that far yet.
Over the last few weeks, things have been a little unsettled. Time has been challenged, stretched, I have been battling against cramped head space with lots of things competing for my attention. I have had lots of reports from Mama F who has helped keep things in relative check on the plot. To be honest, not a lot has fruited this year, so she’s just been overseeing it all. I don’t think this years lack of productivity has made things easier.
Going today, was case of taking stock. Taking a moment, to breathe. And when your shoulder feels like it is going to fall off as does your arm as adrenaline and cortisol drag you through a stress response; that is quite difficult.
Why do I mention that?
Well, that’s my stress response. First thing first, I’m okay. If I wasn’t, I would say. It’s all a bit implicit, rather than explicit. There is some anxiety invoking issues that my brain and body don’t really like. Explicit, in that whilst I feel okay and am coming to terms with recent challenging events, there is something implicit that is not helping and would rather I had horrible pain from time to time. Not all the time, but occasionally and it’s rather irritating as you ordinarily take thing head on and do them to the best of your ability. But we have plan! The idea is to work through these concerns, get a balance; feel a little more congruent and use the allotment to do that. The allotment has always served an additional purpose beyond plot to plate food; it contributes greatly for me in terms of maintaining positive mental health. It is something that I have always promoted, that gardening, horticulture, pottering on the plot has a positive effect on mental health. I would be daft to not practice what I promote.
That is why I have a picture of a blank bed. I am aiming to sort the plot out over the autumn and winter months, change the second half of the plot; nothing was cultivated this year in that area and it has effectively become fallow.
We have had some produce to cheer me up. The above chillies and garlic have met their fate in the base for tonight’s dinner which is prawns in a masala. The base is simple enough: garlic, onions, ginger with carom and cumin are sauteed. Tomatoes are added to this, as well as the contents of a masala box and both fresh and powdered coriander.
The video can also be viewed here
As well as liking the allotment, I am also a fan of star trek. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the original series and it’s impact upon modern contemporary culture has been huge! As teenager, I remember watching ST: TNG as a precursor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer; that was the height of my Thursday nights. Subsequently, voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise followed. I might even find myself watching the extension of the franchise with the new one pencilled in for next year.
There is the most tenuous of links between Star Trek and Horticulture. I remember watching Neelix growing tomatoes in a cargo bay, there was Keiko the botanist and at one point Janeway and Chakotay end up on a planet where they have to grown their own food. On a more contemporary level, we have had a certain British Astronaut growing seeds in space; so this whole thing is not entirely without foundation.
It’s funny, even though they were on the poster, I don’t remember seeing Picard, Janeway or Archer….
I did hear a certain George Takei; I heard but did not see, as he was delivering one of the paid talks and I didn’t book any. He sounded lovely!
It was months ago, that I decided to put a star trek convention on my list of things to do. After all, I had already gone to an Angel/Buffy one, it made sense. Lo and behold, I saw this advertised! Naturally, I had to go along and see what it was all about.
The first part of my journey had mild fury as the trains from hobbitland to the centre of town were not running. In true persistent fashion, I hopped onto the rail replacement and made it to the NEC all ready to go. My first thought? “Wow, how many red shirts are there?” Some of which were in the queue for Costa, which rather amused me. If you are in Command, you may need a strong Americano.
As with the buffy/Angel con, there was loveliness in being with like minded people. For the record, I am a blue shirt. (Trainee counsellor, psych teacher, I think that qualifies….) The highlight for however, was this. Being sat in the Captain’s chair in a replica of the TNG enterprise.
Yes, it was as cool as it looked. (no, no one is trying to beam in to my right, it just looks like that…)
Do I look nervous? I was trying not to pull faces.
I was kindly invited by the Nuneaton Federation of Allotment Associations to their meeting and to talk briefly about preserving. This was my first proper public engagement (beyond the blog) and it was rather exciting to be asked along and share my learning experiences.
What you see above is the photographic evidence of myself, Petal-she is there!-and my preserving pan. There are also yellow tomatoes there, I had also taken along some courgettes, Petal’s Potted Preserves and a couple of books too. I think this helped, especially as I waved around scotch bonnet, declared it was lethal, yet had pots of scotch bonnet chilli jam for sampling. It was really refreshing actually, to see people sampling and enjoying the preserves that are documented in the books.
It was really good fun to meet the allotment holders; there were a number of different allotment committees present from across the Nuneaton and Bedworth area. I spoke about how preserving was a creative way to use your produce when you can’t give away your courgette glut for love nor money. Plus, the only limits to what you can jam, jelly or chutney were your imagination and what you grew. This was a really good experience! I really did enjoy talking about Petal’s preserves. (Petal is the avatar,remember?) It reminded me of how the allotment community is very good at sharing, at learning from one another and helps both people and produce to grow. I certainly would not have got as far I have today without the help and guidance of other plot holders.
Petal-and me-have had our first experience of doing a talk; who knows, there might be more!
(if you want to be part of that journey, hit the contact page, and get it in touch!)
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