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Monday, 29 June 2015

30DaysWild - Week 4

   I've been enjoying 30DaysWild, but I admit that my enthusiasm has dropped lately simply because I've had other things on my mind. My art exhibit in Slimbridge's WWT centre is being set up in 2 and a half weeks, so I'm trying to make sure I've not forgotten anything, I also have my Multiple Sclerosis Society raffle starting on July 1st so I've had a few things to do for that, and, as you'll see below, I've also been a bit busier with my book.
   But I still have yet to fail to do anything for 30DaysWild. I may not always have a picture to show or a story to tell, but even taking time out for a quiet and uneventful walk can be a really good thing to do.

   On June 22nd I showed the tree stump cake I made my dad for Father's Day. It's far from one of the best cakes I've made as far as photographs go - it looked better in person - and, to be fair, I have also made generally better-looking cakes. But he loved it, I was pleased with its outcome, and it tasted great - that, at least, was something I knew I wouldn't get wrong!

   June 23rd saw the announcement of my upcoming raffle to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, an MS charity that helped my mum and my family when she was diagnosed all those years ago, and have continued to offer their support over the past 23 years. Tickets go on sale on Wednesday the 1st July at £2.50 each

   On June 24th I took my mum out for a stroll around the park behind the house. I didn't bring my camera because carrying that bulky thing while pushing a wheelchair isn't a trial I fancied at the time. I took some of Aduna's Moringa bars with me so we had a nice, healthy and delicious snack while we were out. It was quite a nice day! But pushing the wheelchair in the heat of the sun gets old very fast. Still, she enjoyed it!

   I took my writing outside of June 25th and enjoyed my favourite snack combination of all time: tamaryokucha tea and a Trek raisin and oat flapjack. It's very specific, but those two come together to make an amazing combination with subtle flavours and textures, and when you've got a snack like that, it's easier to relax, I find.

   On June 26th I participated in #GoGadgetFree, stepping away from the computer and games consoles for a full 24 hours, and substituted my workout with plans from magazines rather than DVDs. I also did a little extra work on my raffle - I was hoping to be able to offer some digital prints of woodland watercolour paintings with each ticket to ensure everyone who buys a ticket gets something for it, but it took me a long time to get around to it. I finally did it, though, and have ended up with a fox, a badger and a rabbit. I'm hoping to be able to add a deer to it soon, but with tickets going on sale on Wednesday, I'd better get a move on!

   On June 27th I wrote outside again and, at last, finished writing my book, and on June 28th I just went for a walk. I was so focused on the 27th that it was just mental, and I admit that that day's 30DaysWild post focused more on the writing than on the fact that it was done outside, at least I made an effort. There wasn't much more I could have done, in truth, because my mind wouldn't shut down that day, and that's quite a nice feeling when you've been struggling for so long to truly focus on something important to you.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Writing Complete

   I took my work outside again yesterday for 30DaysWild - there was a soft breeze and the cloud hid the sun, so I'd expected more people to be outside because, while it was still warm, it was bearable, but it was in fact almost silent. I was coincidently sat beneath the pergola rather than on the grass this time, too, so I was sheltered from the occasional shower, so perhaps everyone else had simply seen the weather forecast.
   Anyway. That's not the point of this post.
   After far too long - about 2 and a half years - I've finished writing my book. It's not complete because now comes the long and tedious task of revising it - reading it a few times, tweaking things, adjusting things, removing and outright rewriting things. But the bulk of the book is, finally, done, and the story now exists in its entirety. It just needs a thorough polishing.

   It shouldn't have taken me as long as it has, but there are other things that pull my attention away from writing. My blog and my shop, for example - I love them both but they can be quite demanding, and when October comes along, so do the Christmas sales. By mid-October my shop takes up all of my time and I have simply no room for anything else. How I've managed to participate in NaBloPoMo every November is a mystery to me.
   It makes me kind of sad because, while I love my blog and I love my shop, my writing is what matters to me the most. It's the only thing I've wanted to do since I was 12 years old and it's not changed or wavered in the slightest. My shop is a hobby - a lucrative one that I see no need to put aside - and my blog is an enjoyable hobby, too, and, I hope, informative for others. But it's also a good way of trying to simply make my presence known to the world and hope that, somehow, it might help my book in the long run. An immediate representation of who I am, because, in order of business importance, after the book comes the author themselves.

   I knew I would feel something when I finished writing it - I wasn't sure what because I couldn't remember how I felt when I finished my last book - and it didn't disappoint. There was a strange sort of satisfaction, but a vaguely empty one, and it's a really unique feeling. Like saying goodbye to a friend for good, and yet never having met them. I know that sounds cheesy, by the way. But the story is finished; the characters and world not likely ever to be revisited.
   But I also feel victorious at the same time - this was something I did recall from the last book, but not as intensely this time around. Last time: I wrote the book, read it through with lacklustre, tweaked the first half and submitted it to fantasy literary agents. It was rejected and, in hindsight, I'm really not surprised. I finished writing the book and I'd considered it done; revising it was an after-thought and I think that was a big part of what let it down. This time, however, I've done it differently. Each time I finished writing a chapter I sat down and read it through to spell check, make sure it made sense and tweak bits. I had every intention of reading it through again from cover to cover once it was finished, but by reading each chapter individually I cut down the work I have ahead of me now because I know there are less tweaks and spelling corrections to be made.

   So while I feel a sense of accomplishment, I'm fully aware that I'm not finished yet. In fact, the light at the end of the tunnel has only just sparked into existence. It's still a way off. With with the summer holidays around the corner and my synaesthesia, I've finished at the worst time of the year. If I'd finished back - or forwards - in January, I would have 6 months of virtually uninterrupted time to work through it, which would be far more than enough. Now, however, I give it two weeks before the noise starts in the field behind my house when GCSE students get out of school early to revise for their exams. They're the noisiest people and thy're out there at all times of the day and night with no respect for those living around them. They shout, they scream, they swear and they play their awful music very loudly for everyone to hear. My synaesthesia responds to music a little too actively which means my head is awash with colour, and when that happens, I haven't a hope in hell of concentrating on anything important. But, for once, rather than stress myself out with it and try to work through it angrily and, ultimately, unsuccessfully, I'm going to put it off.
   There are a number of big changes I need to make to the book and I know they shouldn't take me more than a fortnight to do, so I plan to make these changes whenever the opportunity arises over the next 2 months, and in the far more numerous times that I'm too distracted to do so, I will simply brainstorm the layout of my next book, prepare my shop for Christmas and try to take casual time out for myself, I guess. Once October gets here I won't have a moment to breathe.
   Then, when school returns in September, I'm going to read like there's no tomorrow before Christmas can jump in the way. Then, with any luck, I'll finish revising the book by the middle of October and be able to write the synopsis, cover letters, queries and so on between Christmas sales and start sending it all out in January, by which point I'll have certainly started work on the next book.

   That's the plan, at least...

Saturday, 27 June 2015

30DaysWild - Day 26 - GoGadgetFree

   Yesterday I took advice from the #30DaysWild newsletter and participated in #GoGadgetFree. I don't have an iPhone or any gadgets like that, but I pretty much live on my PC. I work on it, I game, I manage my shop, I waste time; pretty much everything I do is computer-based, and when I'm not on the computer, I'm using a games console either to - you guessed it - play games or watch DVDs, usually as background noise while filling orders from my shop.
   So on one hand, with no smartphone and no internet on my laptop, leaving the house ultimately means leaving everything behind, but on the other hand, I still have a lot to do in prep for my exhibit, my Mutiple Sclerosis charity raffle that starts on Wednesday, planning for my next book and so on that leaving the house isn't much of an option at this point, even on weekends when it's not fully my responsibility to look after my mum anymore.
   But I did it. I stepped away from the PC (even despite World of Warcraft's recent patch), I left my shop, and aside from anything that could be done on paper, I left my book, too. I watched no TV, no music, nothing. I just sat down with my watercolour paints and put a little more work into the raffle, I wrote out and developed ideas for my next book, I even replaced Ripped In 30 with some strength and HIIT workouts from magazines, which, I admit, were far less fun without music.

   I have tried things like this before and never has it gone this well. Yes, I did feel like I was missing out. I get extra exercise by running up and down the stairs to check on the PC - checking messages, sales, double-checking orders and researching things - and a number of times I dashed to the PC only to find it switched off. So I wrote down everything I wanted to look up so I could do it this morning instead and then returned to what I was doing.
   And for the most part I did enjoy it, but I think it was, in part, because not using gadgets is novel now, rather than the other way around. And while that is sad, it's the way the world works. I like my background noise while I work, even if it's just Stargate which I've seen a thousand times - I spend my time while that's on shouting at Jackson, until about season 6 when he suddenly develops a sense of humour and, from season 8 onwards, shouting at Colonel Mitchell instead. Or Avatar when I shout at Katara or Korra depending on which Avatar I'm watching.
   And I like having the internet immediately on hand to look up anything I might need to know whenever I need to know it (no iPhone, but, like I said, I'm at home all the time). For example, the square bits on top of castle walls are called merlons. If not for the internet I think that is a fact that would have niggled at and eluded me for a very long time because, unless you know exactly where to look or the librarian happens to have knowledge on such things, finding that kind of information would have been a real trial.
   And, let's face it, I like video games. I like to throw the world away and step into a new one, even if in one world people salute me and in others they spit at me. Because it's harmless fun that allows you to either switch off your brain or increase its activity depending on what you choose to do, and I love it - as long as there's some element of fantasy or science fiction!

   If you didn't #GoGadgetFree this weekend, try it soon. It's summer so there's plenty to do outside to get into nature and have fun without technology! Take a day to become more aware of the world around you. Even if it doesn't stretch beyond a family picnic in your back garden.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Writing With a Taste of Spring

   Today I worked outside. The sun was behind the clouds so it was bearable, and I could actually see my laptop's screen! I was out there for some time and I wheeled mum outside onto the decking so she could enjoy it too, and I had my ultimate favourite snack combo - no, not chocolate cake and hot chocolate, so I supposed it wasn't my favourite favourite, but it's my favourite healthy combination: Trek's Oat Raisin protein flapjack and tamaryokucha green tea. It might sound oddly specific, but the two go together so well that I never have one without the other. Together they taste like spring, really mild and earthy - it might be summer, but I don't care!
   So I sat outside on the grass beneath the overcast sky and worked on my book for a couple of hours before coming back inside when it started to rain and playing World of Warcraft. New patch and all that!

Urban Fruit

   Your 5 a day is important, it ensures you get fibre, healthy carbs and energy, not to mention a whole host of necessary vitamins, and should be made up of different fruits and vegetables every day - the bigger the range of colours, the better.
   The trouble is that fruit can go off quite quickly. It's easy to forget about it. Some fruits last longer in the fridge, but if you're like me, you don't always know which, or how to tell when fruit is ripe. Some fruit is purposely sold before it's ripened so that it will last a little longer, but, as I said, you can't always tell. The sam goes for veg, but I think that they may well last a little longer.
   But it can be disheartening when you forget about your fruit once in a while because you get tied up with other things and forget about the fruit bowl. Who buys 5 a day every day? Very few. You're more likely to buy a bag of apples to last you the week. But forget for 2 days and you're going to end up with rotten apples. Unloved and forgotten.
   My point is that getting your 5 a day is easy enough, but storing it is another. Fresh fruit is delicious and so nutritious but it's also difficult to keep fresh and inviting. So what can you do?
   Well, there are a lot of options, especially lately. It's getting easier to get your 5 a day without these kinds of concerns, and, best of all, these methods haven't been tainted by preservatives! And because healthy foods are finally starting to get the limelight they deserve, there are so many options that there's something for everyone. I wrote about nakd a while ago - twice - but they contain nuts and dates and because of this they certainly don't appeal to everyone. Some people are put off by the texture, the nuts themselves or just the look of them. They're missing out, of course.

    But then there is Urban Fruit. Quite simply: baked fruit. Goodness is sealed in, no preservatives are added, but there's no risk of bruising, bursting or squashing making them easier to eat on the go, and the bags are sealed for freshness. the fruits' lives are prolonged because of the lack of moisture.
   Just like nakd, Urban Fruit's deliciously heathy and wholesome fruit snacks are ready to eat on the go. Toss a 35g packet in your handbag, gym bag, coat pocket, whatever, and you've got a reliable, healthy source of one of your 5 a day without worrying about fruits bruising or rotting. I always get paranoid about an apple bruising in my bag, getting knocked about on my admittedly infrequent travels, and that's what stops me from bringing fruit out with me. But it was easy to bring a packet of mango - not only a large and cumbersome fruit, but also difficult to eat since you have to 'skin' it (this is what I said to the man in the shop last week) - to the WWT centre in Slimbridge last weekend when I was scoping out the plinths for my upcoming art exhibit.

   Each 35g bag counts as one of your 5-a-day and comes in at about 100 calories making them easy to add into a calorie-controlled diet because you know exactly what you're getting rather than guessing from one type of apple to another. There are also 100g bags available that are perfect for sharing and are around 300-350 calories - some of them are just larger bags of small bags of fruit, while others, like Tremendously Tropical, contain a small selection of different fruits like mango, pineapple, banana and coconut. And while the fruit doesn't look as vibrant as it would have when fresh, the taste is absolutely not compromised, and each packet is so satisfying!

   The fruits are wonderful to take on a day out for a healthy snack just in case, but Urban Fruit is also fantastic to bake with! Yes, I know, trust me to take something healthy and make it a little less so, but I made a wonderful baobab and strawberry cake using Urban Fruit and Aduna! It was experimental - while I already knew that baobab cake works gorgeously, I didn't know how pre-baked fruit would do. I was concerned the strawberries would dry up and turn tough, but in fact they softened and added a wonderful burst of flavour to the delicate baobab sponge.

   You can find Urban Fruit in a number of supermarkets like Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose and so on, and are also stocked on Amazon and are a convenient part of Boots' 'meal deal' so you can pick it up with a drink and a sandwich for less! It comes in Magnificent Mango, Smashing Strawberry, Perfect Pineapple, Superberry Blueberry & Blackcurrent, Awesome Apple & Pear, Brilliant Banana and Cheeky Cherry - don't you just love alliteration?

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