My debut fantasy novel, The Archguardians of Laceria, is now available in paperback, and in all ebookstores!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

An Apology.

   I can't honestly tell how many of you have noticed, but I must still apologise for being so distant lately. I've failed with Project 52 (though that doesn't mean I've given up), and I am hoping that I'll be back on track in April. Truth be told, I've been swamped. Not really with anything, but my head has been filled up with all kinds of thoughts and meanderings that have made it nearly impossible to function. The two largest things are a game (I know) and my writing.
   The game, either Oblivion or Mass Effect, it doesn't really matter, has rendered me completely useless. I was on the xbox for an entire day on the weekend - that might not seem like much to avid gamers like my boyfriend, but for me, an entire day on the xbox is quite extreme. I usually don't touch the thing in honesty. Maybe once a month I'll put it on, but lately I've been all about Oblivion. I started it a couple of months ago and never really got on with it (after seeing Skyrim, the graphics and voice acting really did seem very poor), but a few days ago I decided to do something in the game that had nothing to do with the main story line. Suddenly, I'm hooked onto it. When I'm upstairs, and should be writing, all I can do is either watch Seeg play Mass Effect, or sit restlessly wanting to play Oblivion. It's terrible. So there's that.
   And then there's my writing. I've not been doing that well sticking to my scheduele with actual writing, but I can't turn my thoughts away from submitting it. To date, I have submitted it to five agencies by email, one of which has already gotten back to me with an apology because now, suddenly, they don't take fantasy - all right, that's fine, hopefully I'll have more luck with the others who have said that they do - and I still have six to post preliminary letters to.

   Funny thing about that, though. A while ago I had a great idea. My book is set in a time of writing letters onto parchment with quills and wax seals - you know, the typical fantasy stuff. And following something I was told by my A Level English teacher (I think), I decided that first impressions count. I decided to write my preliminary letter in the form of a letter from one of my Mages' Guilds. I then decided that it was a stupid idea and scrapped the whole thing, but when it came to actually writing the normal preliminary letter, addressing envelopes and sticking stamps on them, I came to a screeching halt. I don't know if it's my way of putting it off because I'm scared of the volume of rejection I may well receive, or whether I genuinely believe it's a good idea again, but I decided to go back to my original idea.
   I spoke to the lovely Katrina of Katrina Alana, who sells gorgeous wax seal supplies (which, to be honest, I've been looking for a good excuse to buy for months now), and she gave me the shipping estimates (which I'm surprised at, they're a lot quicker than I expected!), and, long story short, I'm going through with it. I've found my seal (I decided to just get my initial for the stamp instead of a custom seal, since that's what they use in my book anyway, and it will keep the stamp valid for life ♥), I've found my wax, and I've found my parchment. I've even written the letter, though I'm not sure what to think about it.

   I'll grab a picture of it when it's all put together so you can all see it, because I'm quite proud of the idea. At the very least, they will remember my letter, or at least its appearance, better than others, and that might work in my favour, if only slightly.

   For now though, as I said, I am sorry for being so distant. Hopefully I'll have a Project 52 tutorial up this week or next week, but for now I fear I'm still quite pre-occupied. So I'll leave you with the picture of my bookcase once I tidied it. Yes, this is the bookcase tidy.

I never realised quite how bad it is. I think I'll head back up and try again :P

Until next time!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Etsy Favourite Feature

I'm running low on pages in my favourites! I've not seen many items about lately that I feel the
need to favourite and as a result, I'm slowly running out of things to include here! Don't worry
though, I have a few pages to go yet, but it seems that, as I wind down, there is a limit
on what I can find. Unless I go on a faving spree, which I'm surprisingly not that keen on!
I like to favourite things I simply stumble across. I don't want to search something then fill my list
with things that all look the same. I like to just wander across things, like these:

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Seller Feature: Fizzyclaret

   I was featured in a treasury list the other day. It was all right. Sometimes I'm featured in gorgeous lists that could make it to the front page, but have nothing in there that I would ever really consider buying for myself or anyone I know, and so I can find them a bit boring. Other times I'm in not fantastic-looking treasuries but which have lots of items in I could easily fall head over heels for given the chance.

   I can't really say which the treasury was, indeed I didn't even look long enough to see where in it I was positioned, like I usually do. Instead, my interest was captured by a group of little castle turrets coloured pink and white. I don't know what it was that drew me towards them exactly - it could have been the colours, it could have been the fact that they were so small, or it could have been the detail I saw even in that small thumbnail. Who knows.
   But I was then led to look into her shop. Oh. My. Goodness. That handmade shelf I was talking about a while ago that still needs to go up, this shop could populate it.

   The detail is so gorgeous, and they only stand at 2 inches tall! What really draws me into them are the leaves, the rooves (or, apparently, it's "roofs" now) and the flowers. I've used polymer clay for a few years now, and I don't consider myself to be amazing at it. My fingers are too big and get in my way. Or I think so, anyway. I'm quite heavy handed when it comes to little things. But the roses are so well made! And the marbelled rooves are so cute. And I also love that you can buy the houses as sets, or individually, but each house in the set looks different - different rose and leaf arrangements, and different roof shapes. It's so clever.

   Then there are these horses. The manes differ by either being extremely curley or more windswept, and the colours she chooses are exquisite. I love this white one - but that's partially because I'm also rather in love with white at the moment. I love the beads she uses as little bursts of stronger colours, and the little pin pricks for detail - but the shape and work on the face itself is perfect. It's not too much, but it itsn't too little, and while keeping a whimsical, fantasy nature, it also gives it the immediate recognition of its species. Plus the mane is to die for.

A little from the maker:

Do you make your own canes for the leaves?
Yes I do make my own canes for the leaves. I love the different colour combinations you can create when you make your own canes. I hope to experiment a bit more with them in the near future and make more elaborate and extravagant pieces.

What inspired your little houses?

I was mixing different coloured pieces of clay and I liked the way the colours started to blend into each other. I formed a little tear drop shape with a flat bottom and thought it looked a bit like a roof and added it to some light coloured clay and thus the little fairy house was born. I love to make little clay roses and added these to the house and I thought the finished piece looked so cute and decided to make some more. Now I'm addicted and can't stop making them.

Your colour schemes are beautiful. Where do you get the inspiration from for the colours you use?
I like to mix lots of different colours and then leave them in little coloured clay balls on a plate, then I select the ones that I think go well together for the item I want to make. I find inspiration for colour from so many unusual places such as brightly coloured paintings, my daughter's toys, flowers in the garden, walks in the woods, vintage patterned china, and websites such as which features so much amazing stuff. I find that my mood affects my appetite for which colours I use.

How long does it take you to create one little house? How about the horse?
My little fairy houses have several parts that are made seperately and each has it's own time frame. The leaf canes can take 20-30 minutes to make, the base of the house is quickest as I roll a long log of clay and cut it into pieces before baking each piece so about 5 minutes for this, mixing colours for the roof and forming the shape 10 minutes and then there is the roses to create that take about 5 minutes per house. Then there is the painting...etc. It all adds up and can take quite a while but I enjoy it so much and find it therapeutic.
My horse pins/pendants take a good couple of hours to create.

Do you have any tips for other miniature polymer clay users?
Keep experimenting to find your own style. Use different tools for different effects, add mica powder, silver leaf, textured items for patterned surfaces...etc, don't be afraid to try something new. It's important to find your own way with polymer clay so that you develop something that is unique to your style.

How about any tips for new Etsy sellers?
The hardest thing for new etsy shop owners is not being discovered. It takes months to get noticed, build up sales...etc but I would say 'stick with it' and the more work you put in the more you will achieve. I recommend making treasuries as not only do you promote others work but you introduce yourself to other people on etsy, join some teams and join in the forums. It all helps!

Do you make to sell, or sell to make?
A bit of both really. If I didn't sell anything I couldn't afford the materials to make new items and if I didn't make anything I'd have nothing to sell. I've always loved sculpting though and I would still sculpt, even if I didn't sell anything.

What are you obsessed with at the moment? A colour? A song? An idea?
2 things - the first being the song The Ghost Whisperer by Radiohead. To me this song makes me feel happy and relaxed and makes me think of summer. I'm then completely in the mood to create something arty.
The second thing is! I am amazed at the beauty of so many artists work on there and I love inventing my own boards and adding other people's work to them. I could spend days and days just flicking through pinterest.

Have a look through her gorgeous shop! The houses especially look gorgeous in terrariums and rockeries
Also follow her twitter for updates on new products!

Also I am aware I missed Project 52, I've been
putting together more preliminary letters to send
out to agencies ♥ I'll be back on track soon!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Stamps and Strings: Belle + Boo

   I recently placed an order with Belle and Boo on Etsy for a gift for my friend's birthday. It's such a sweet shop, the illustrations are just darling! I highly advise having a look around. The products are great quality, and they arrived really fast - but then again, I found out the seller was from my neck of the woods! I could have saved a few bob by just popping round and seeing my gran on the way in!

   But if I had done that, I'd never have seen the wonderful packaging that the items arrived in.
   There are two types of successful Etsy sellers. There are the sellers who have already got where they  hoped they would be and put no work into the presentation of their products - and on one hand, I can understand. If they're that successful then decorating every single package would likely take a lot of time and perhaps, if they were already that successful, not worth it, since they already got what they wanted from the seller - and that's fine, I suppose. I mean, we don't buy things for the packaging, we buy things for the, well, thing. But it can have a negative effect on a shop, especially an Etsy shop. Etsy sellers have put a lot of work and time into making their products, and it's a shame when that creativity doesn't spill over into presentation. But, that also means that when someone does take the time - especially someone with almost 13,000 sales - to make sure their items arrive in style, it's even better.

   Then there are the sellers who, like Belle and Boo do put the work in. It can make collecting the post from the floor at the foot of the door more interesting. Two packages arrived for me this morning, and I knew right away what was in each of them. One was a blank plastic envelope bag with no decoration, and by the weight and size of it I knew it was just some bubble wrap envelopes. If not for the recognisable shape and weight, it could have been anything I've ordered recently - both fun (gifts or t-shirts) and completely boring (clothing poppers or a screen-cleaning cloth). But the other package I identified right away.

   It can also make opening packages more exciting. I couldn't tear this open immediately because I wanted to grab a picture, which made me all the more giddy with excitement (yes, my life really is like that. I had chicken for dinner last night and I did a little happy dance). She used her own tape - tape available in her store - to seal the envelope. She then printed my address onto an image she designed specially for her envelopes, and even made her own "fragile" stickers. People who do this are amazing. It's so simple but customised "please do not bend", "fragile" and "par avion" stickers make me happy. On a package I received a little while ago from isavirtue, she had embossed "please do not bend" in gorgeous lettering on the front, along with a humming bird. I wish I'd been doing those features then! In truth, though, I'm a hoarder, and I've kept that envelope in very good condition. Even now, I know exactly where it is!
   Only one sticker on the front of that envelope isn't hers and that's the postage. I especially love how she continued the line of string from the duck on the return address label at the top to the string on the delivery picture with a pen. It's just a nice detail.

   I suppose I kind of expected these items to arrive nicely. I always think that people who make stationery - even specialise in it - and design their own images, especially like these, have everything they need to make their packages stand out. They clearly have the means to design, and probably to print, so it's wonderful to see people make use of things like that when they can. My stationery is more stamp and clay-based, and is also quite minimal for the moment, so I know I'd have a harder time to do this than others. But it still makes my day to receive a package that looks like this.

And, since I'm here, I'll show you an envelope I made for someone recently that I'm quite
proud of! It's going in the post today and I have no idea how long it will take to reach
her but this could be quite fun ^^

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Etsy Favourite Feature

Happy Tuesday everyone! I apologise again for half-arsing the last Project day, so I'm gonna make
sure to get something good for this week. Just been a little swamped lately. But that's no excuse.
But in the mean time, enjoy these Etsy pieces that I dug up from my favourites!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Project 52: Dandelion Grenade

   I've been quite busy this week, but mostly I've been dealing with Lucky's passing. So I've not really had much time to make things for this week's project spot. So, once again, I'm going to cheat.
   I made a few tiiiny little figurines for Dandelion Grenade. The original plan was to make large, 3 inch figures, but after making 2 deer and a fox, I decided to scrap it. The fox came out well, but the deer did not. Then, the other day, while making some tiny bunnies for my new spring/easter vial necklaces, I thought I'd give a go at my other animals. I'm quite pleased with my fox, but the deer needs more work, as does my hedgehog, so for now, only three are available:

   I've got more in mind for them, but these were hard enough. I've not got the right fingers for detail so I tend to just get in a fluster. It also didn't help that I was watching Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow at the time of painting them, but I corrected the mistakes :P

   Next week I plan on having a proper Project 52 post. I'm thinking about making a tutorial for my fabric spoons. I've made a new shop, this time on storenvy, and I plan on putting up for sale the things I make during these tutorials, as well as other bits and bobs that don't fit in with Peaches and Pebbles or Dandelion Grenade. So that'll be up once I get some zig zag scissors in the post :B

   Also, you should all know that I finally did it. As promised in last night's post, I managed to get out a submission to an agent today. I emailed it out with my synopsis and my first 3 chapters, and while I probably won't get a response for a few weeks, and most likely a negative one, I'll update you all when that happens. So fingers crossed for me, please!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Flaws: Procrastination

   It's always good to be honest, especially with yourself. It's quite easy to lie to yourself, and even easier to start believing it. Sometimes they're little lies like you don't consider yourself to be able to do something - maybe speak in a certain accent - and then you believe it. Other times they're much bigger and much more damaging, like if you consider yourself to be unattractive or fat, or even stupid. These can honestly damage your outlook on not just yourself but everything you do. I've decided, in this case, that I'm going to be more honest with myself, and really look level-headedly at my faults. And unlucky you, I'm doing it right here.

   For this post, I've decided to focus on procrastination as my first flaw - though not necessarily my worst one. I've chosen this first because I've been falling victim to it a lot lately, and it occurred to me - both to write this post and that I've been falling victim - because I decided to just get on with something I'd been putting off only an hour and a half ago.

   I've noticed that I procrastinate a lot. And the more important something is, the more I'm likely to procrastinate. I think it's the same for a lot of people, but I'm not other people, I'm me. Therefore, only I know how often I procrastinate and if, in my opinion, it's a lot or not. And in my opinion, it is. I procrastinated with taking Sugar to the vet to get looked at when I first noticed her mammory tumor. I them procrastinated to take her to the vet to be put down. I did both of those with Lucky, too, the only difference was, I never took Lucky to the vet in the end. I should have, and I do regret it.
   I've also procrastinated, and still am, with getting Seeg's residency sorted out. He can legally work and live here without being a UK citizen, since the Netherlands is part of the EEU, or EEA or something...I think I'm getting it mixed up with a games publishing company...but either way, I know that he'll struggle to get a job without his citizenship, and I have no idea at all what happens with medical care. He has insurance but we don't know if that covers anything here - or rather, I don't know, and whenever he answers me he never sounds certain. But if the worst happens then we might have a problem. And you never know when an accident might happen. Be it me embedding the xbox controller in his head when he keeps making his character hit mine on Rayman, or be it him falling down the stairs (that sounds sinister; I can honestly say I have no intention or desire to push him down the stairs).
   And I've been procrastinating with working on my synopsis and cover letter for this first book.
   It seems that the more important something is, the more likely I am to put it off, but what's worse is that if it's something important to me, I'm even more likely.

   Like I said, I started thinking about this an hour and a half ago, when I finally picked up some paper and a pen and just started work on the synopsis. I'd tried it before, and managed about a page, and it wasn't very good. I don't know what happened today, whether my head was working overtime today, or if it wasn't working at all when I gave it my first and only attempt a few weeks ago, but I managed three, maybe four pages once it's typed up, and I think I've given all the necessary information an agent would expect from a synopsis. Though that's not to say it's perfect.
   But I finally did it. I've realised something that I have unfortunately "realised" several times this year already, and have also preached about a few times too. And it's simply not to put things off. Every time you say "I'll do it Monday", the pedestal gets higher. I've even made it into a typography image that I intend to make prints of to sell, but it looks like I'll have to get it tattooed onto my forehead (y'know, once I get the archaeopteryx on the back of my elbow and a dragon egg on my shoulder) so I don't forget it again.
   It also doesn't help that I've read from several sources that writing a synopsis is hard - possibly the hardest part of writing a book - and that I also know that getting Seeg's UK citizenship is probably going to either be expensive or take time and have a lot of restrictions on it. We intended to get it moving last January and it never happened. I then told myself this January (you see how fast that pedestal grew?) and now it's March and nothing's happened. It also doesn't help that I have little idea on where to start with it.
   And as for the r--Sugar and Lucky, it was a matter of worry that they may not pull through the operations (I already knew about mammory tumors months before either of them had developed them, and the subsequent consequences of both acting on it, and leaving it), and also a matter of money. Vet bills aren't cheap, but fortunately my dad payed for all of them except Lucky's initial trip to the vet. As for taking them both to be put down, I don't like waiting around, wondering if it's happened yet, and I especially don't like knowing that it will happen on a certain day. I wanted them both to pass away here, but it's a selfish thing to want, to prolong their suffering like that.

   Like I said, the more you think about doing things but keep putting it off, the harder it's going to be to do. It took a lot for me to be able to pick that pen and paper up today, but I managed a pretty good stand on my synopsis (still needs to be redrafted to a presentable state), and I even wrote my cover letter! The cover letter itself can be printed out and posted tomorrow! Though...I'm sure I'll find an excuse not to do it. Some sort of "I need to make sure it's perfect" eventhough I won't do any more work on the letter between now and printing it. I'll tell you all now, and myself, though I'm sure I won't listen, tomorrow is never too soon to get your dreams going. In fact, neither is today, but the reason I'm saying "tomorrow" is because it's 21:46 right now and the post office is shut...actually, you know what? Spur of the moment decision, I'm going to grab the addresses and the names of the people from my yearbook who haven't specified their genres and have also not left a webpage, and I'm going to post them out tomorrow. I made a sale so I can get some stamps when I go up to post the package tomorrow.
   Honestly, I know I go around giving advice to people but I rarely take it myself.

   I'm not great at rounding off posts (as you may well have noticed) but I'll end it with the point I've mentioned a few times: if there is something important that you need to do, don't keep putting it off. It's important, either to your, or to someone else. The sooner you get to it, the sooner it'll be done and you won't need to worry anymore, and the sooner you can turn your attention to something else and maybe sleep a little easier.
   And if you don't know where to start, find out. Open google and do a search. Honestly, it won't be that hard. The more you think on things, the bigger they get, the more horns they grow, until they're flying around and spewing fire and you don't have a chance in hell of tackling it and getting the upper hand.

   I can't help thinking I should write myself a letter...there's an idea! Anyway, peace out peeps. That concludes the first of my posts of flaws. More are sure to follow.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Snail Mail

   It's something that seems to either be catching on, or had never truly died. I mentioned previously how I used to always send letters out to random places when I was little, just so I could get post myself, and in truth I still have that little part of me somewhere - though I don't send the letters anymore, I always hope for something exciting.
   Well I was browsing through several blogs today and found that most of them had posted their addresses or PO Box addresses to receive such things. I'm not going to do that, but it's certainly an attractive idea. Letter writing is an art, really, especially with the internet. Finding things to talk about on paper that you haven't spoken of online. In truth I see very little. But on the other hand, it's not what you say, it's that you say it. I said once to Patience that typing is quite easy - I can type an email that would cover a printed page in about five to ten minutes (provided I had things to say) since one word takes a second or less to type - but when you're writing by hand, everything takes longer. And as a result, the things you say in letters must mean something to you, and you can really get to know someone through that method, by seeing just what's important enough to them for them to spend a little while writing about it.
   This is also what stops letters spanning pages and pages, and what also allows me in particular to just write and write and write until there's nothing but a wall of text obscuring any background that may have once been behind it. I suppose it also makes it easier to blog.

   In truth I have no real reason to be saying all of this, it's just an observation, but there are some truly wonderful blogs out there either entirely dedicated to mail, or who are heavily influenced by it. And it's wonderful to see.
   I did once consider pen palling with someone, but I never got around to writing that first letter. I may well still, but this time I'll do it rather than talk about it. Especially given that she is in a country so far away from me that it would make it all the more interesting. Cultures vary so much that it's insane sometimes!

   Have any of you got any pen pals? Or do you accept snail mail through your blog?

Etsy Favourite Feature

Yay, another feature! I love these. I have trouble sometimes, getting people to respond before my
unspoken deadline - most people manage it, but sometimes my post is delayed a day or two, so I've
started sending out messages to eight people rather than four, and I do it based on first-come
first-served. Fortunately, it's been nice and quick this time though ^^ Enjoy!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Rest In Peace Lucky.

   We've been expecting it for a little while now, but I will be honest, it did still surprise me.
   She stopped eating a few days ago - I'm well-versed in animals enough to know what that means. We tried to get her to eat something, and to drink something, but she always just turned her head away. She was quite cold all the time, too, so I often took her out of her cage and wrapped her in a blanket. In the old days, she'd always just climb right out almost instantly, but she didn't anymore. She just lay there, all bundled up.
   I've always said I'm an animal lover, but I've found that I'm a selfish one. I didn't have the guts to take her to the vet to have her put down, and I hold myself personally responsible for that. Seeg forgot about making an appointment, but I purposely didn't say anything. I wanted her to pass away here, with us. Whether that was the right or wrong thing to do, I honestly don't know.

   She's not been the same for a few months. She and Sugar both always used to lick our hands - something I've never known that specific animal to ever do, having had five males a few years prior - but after the operation to remove her mammory tumor, she started nibbling instead - I do mean nibbling, not biting or even chewing. It never hurt - she never meant it to - and never once did either of them ever draw blood. Except when they tried to jump out of the bath, but that was with their claws, and it was by accident. They weren't balverines.
   But we've watched her slowly deteriorate from what the vet suspected to be a stroke. She wasn't given any meds because none of us thought it right. In truth I didn't expect her to last long, but she lasted a month or two longer than I thought, and for an animal that lives two to four years, it's not bad.
   But over the past few days, she's only gotten worse. She's been spoilt, too; she was unable to eat hard food - she still tried, though - so we bought lots of cat and dog food pouches for her, soft natural food that had the vitamins and minerals she needed, and gave her softer treats. She's been unable to climb since about January, so I'd moved her hammock from a hanging position to the bottom corner of the cage, but still hooked in place so it wouldn't move and she'd stil be able to get out of either the inside of it, or underneath it.
   I do think that most of this helped her to last longer, and we did do our true best for her, but we knew she'd have to go sometime, like everyone and everything else. Nothing and no one lasts forever.

   We got a lot of pictures of the two of them when they were fine, though, and my favourite is them standing in the bath with a little rubber duck. And while there's nothing more I'd like to do than share that picture here, there's very little that will get me to actually do it.
   I absolutely despise almost every reaction I get to people finding out their species. People conform so much to stupid stereotypes, that if they knew anything about them it would turn their world upside down. I had considered just telling you all now, but the pain is too fresh for me to even pretend to listen to stupid comments about it. I will tell you all in time - and some of you may already have either found or figured it out - but not yet. But I will say this: they genuinely are wonderful animals. The only small mammal I've ever known - and I've had lots of different ones - that hasn't spent its life hiding under hay or in a little house and running away if ever you went near them. No, they all slept in the open.
   In fact, their cage was at the foot of the bed (problematic sometimes, they'd pull the cover through - all of our duvet covers have massive holes nibbled out of the bottom corners) and I always used to sit at the end of the bed to do my writing. After a week or so of me doing this, both of them would climb to the top of the cage and lie down on the shelf at the top, press themselves against the bars and either sleep there, or watch me with sleepy eyes. The only other place they'd sleep was their hammock - again, in full view.
   And they were both so different, Sugar and Lucky. Sugar was quiet, and if ever you opened the door, or made even the slightest noise or movement, she'd wake up. Lucky, on the other hand, as I have told you, would sleep through being poked and jostled. Sugar also never really did anything strange. Lucky would climb to the top of the cage, stand on the top shelf and grab the top bars - then she'd lift her body up and climb clumsily as if they were monkey bars. And she only had one way to turn and it was a straight 180 degree turn by repositioning her little hands. She was insane, and it was hilarious to watch. She never fell, either. She'd go from one end of the cage to the other, then back again.

   No, I've been lucky with these wonderful little critters. They've made me so happy. I got them from my sister before they were fully grown, she had them a week and didn't want them anymore. I was more than happy to take them from her, and I'd have had them two years if they'd both lasted until April, but you can't always help that. I remember walking to her house - the first and only time I'd been there - and carrying them home in a giant hamster ball. I already had three cages of different sizes here. She kept them in a hamster cage - too small if they were fully grown, too small already, really - but I put them in what was a 3-storey hamster cage. When they got older I had to seperate them, and one of them would go in that cage - it became a 2-storey cage then because they were too big. I eventually moved them into a larger one when there was room for it. Lucky managed to open the smaller cage twice. I can only guess she threw her weight against it. I came upstairs one evening to grab something, then I felt something small lean on my foot, I switched the light on and there was Lucky - out of the cage - looking up to me as if to say HELLO!! She did it again while I was sleeping. I had to tie the doors shut!

   They were both the best little animals. Maybe in the future, you should all consider them. But, maybe get males. They're less likely to fight with eachother, and they don't have mammory tumors.
   I'm still quite upset, so I'll draw this to an abrupt close. She was the greatest - they both were. Animals are so important in my life. Everyone should have something furry - or scaley if you prefer - to hug.

   Rest in peace Lucky. Sugar's up there, and so are lots of boys. If Sugar hasn't snatched
Chedder up yet, go for him. He's a big softy. Love you princess.

Blog Tips: Pictures Side by Side and Adjusting Picture Size

   Once again, a very simple problem people have. Like I said in the previous post about linking images, this one may also come down to preference. Perhaps some people want to put the images side by side on MS Paint and upload them as a single image, even though it has the same effect as what I'm about to show you. Others like to take lots of images and rotate them a few degrees and arrange them or overlap them to create some sort of mood board. These can look quite cool, and, understandably, individual images can't be linked this way, and so links are posted beneath them.

   But for those of you who want to be able to arrange your pictures in an easier-to-view format, I recommend the following few steps. I will say now, though, that if you intend to make these images links as well as put them side by side, make sure you turn them into links first, unless you want to edit the HTML for that instead.

   First of all, upload the images you want to use using blogger's image uploader. Don't mess around with the "left; right; center" buttons. These have nothing to do with it. I always set mine to centre, so I keep it selected to that as default. I upload all the images I want, and then I switch to the "Edit HTML" tab instead of the "Compose" tab. There are two different HTML layouts pictures take, and I've had both so far. So I'll show you how to do it for each. First of all, the most basic and common HTML on blogger for uploaded images. In the image below I've highlighted in blue the end of the HTML for the first image, and the beginning of the HTML for the second.

   I wanted them side by side, so I selected the close div of the first image and the open div of the second and deleted the lines. This then put the </a> of the first image and the <a of the second image next to eachother, and if they're not, make them so. The below image shows highlighted the single space that separates the two images. This is not necessary, but because in this case I'm having two rows of two images, I've put the space there because there is an equal space between the two lines. It just seems neater.

   Press "preview" and make sure you're happy that they line up well. Sometimes I've found that two images I'm using don't match in height enough and I end up removing the images and rearranging them. If you're happy, move on and do the same for the rest.
   The image below shows the first highlight as the end of the first image and the beginning of the second. The second highlight, the close and open div line, shows the end of the second image and the beginning of the third. As you can see, I've deleted the empty line that was between the </div> and <div and have them directly above and below eachother. The highlighted line in the below image marks that the images will now begin on a second line. Don't delete this highlighted line, if you want the pictures on another row though, or it won't work.

   Now, another HTML layout is a little longer, but the results are the same. The only reason I'm bringing it up is because there's a smal factor that is in this uncommon one which can play about with spacing and put the lines further apart. If you find "1 em" with or without spaces in your image HTML, and it is affecting the spacing between the lines and images, change the 1 to 0 so that it says "0 em". This should correct the problem.
   Below is a preview you're probably all familiar with that shows the end result of this minor tweaking:

   This is the method I use to arrange my Etsy Favourite Features. This is just my personal preference, but the only tutorials I could find about positioning images next to one another suggested using a table or graph, which created unwanted blocky lines that I couldn't get rid of. This is a much simpler and effective method, and enables me to make each image an individual link to its individual Etsy listings.

EDIT: Adjusting Blogger Picture Sizes

   You may well find that not all of your pictures are the same size. Rather than using the 'small' 'medium' 'large' options that appear when you click onto the picture, you can return to the HTML and target the 'width' and 'height' coding which comes just before what has been added above. Height may not be present in all codes, and if height is, width may not be. In this case, if you want to adjust the height and it only offers width, just replace 'width' with 'height' and change the number to 250 - just to get you started. 
   Choose just one factor to adjust - either height or width - and delete the other. The reason for this is that if I start to adjust the height but don't adjust the width, the picture will stretch upwards. If, however, only height is shown (whether because 'width' was never there to begin with or because you deleted it), then by adjusting the height, the width will automatically scale with it. The same goes if you work only in 'width' and remove 'height'.
   I usually only adjust the height setting because I find it's the more commonly present factor in the coding, but if you prefer to adjust the width instead, you can change 'height' to 'width' and put in a number as I said in the first paragraph.
   I use a lot of images from Etsy, and not all of them are the same shape and size, and it can be a bit unsightly. However, by deleting 'width' and adjusting only the 'height' of the shorter image, I can match them. The simple way to do this is to look at the numbers provided under 'height' and 'width' of the picture you're trying to match the size of. Whatever the height option is of that image, I copy to the smaller image. If only width is available, I work that way instead, or change 'width' to 'height'.
   It may turn out then that you've made both pictures a little too big to be on the same line together even if you adjusted to coding shown above to put them side by side. In this case, just decrease the number for both images until they fit. You may be decreasing by 10s, or you may be decreasing by 1s. It depends on the finished size you want.

   I hope this is of use to someone!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Project 52: Dandelion Grenade

   I'm not sure if I'm cheating now, but I told myself that if I spent a week working on new products rather than making general things then it's perfectly ok for me to do this, so this week, I present to you the beginnings of Dandelion Grenade! Notebooks, notecards, brooches, necklaces, and soon there'll be some writing sets and stationery gift sets! The jewellery will have their own listings for each design once I have enough stationery - since it was intended as a stationery shop - but if I did it now, it would seem a little mixed up. I have plans for smaller notebooks and bookmarks but they need more work and money first of all!

   I also designed my logo and I'm looking for someone to draw the lines with a tablet. I have one myself but I seriously don't have the patience anymore to use it. I've already talked to someone about having it carved into a stamp, but I still need a digital logo for banners and advertisements. Anyone interested? I'm low on cash at the moment but it's a simple enough job, I think.

   I'm quite happy with the way the shop is working out now. It's going to take a little more building - as you can see, it doesn't even have a banner yet - but I have high hopes. But Peaches and Pebbles still comes first. I've made a few sales lately and a few that may still happen following some enquiries, and I've rephotographed a few things, like the envelope necklace, and I've made the necklaces and rings available individually by colour as opposed to the buyer needing to state which one they want. And then I also made the necklace available in parcel brown, which is wasn't before.

   I've had some new ideas for Project 52. I'm loving it. I know this is only my second week and I'm cheating this time, but I already feel a greater desire to make things - to share it with you! I love making things as it is, but I have even more motivation to do it now because of this blog. I've got the motivation to finally do some tutorials that I've pinned, to make my own, and to make some things I've intended to do for years - a full sized Hammerthyst for example, from one of my favourite games, Fable 2 (Curse you Molyneux). It's such a great feeling.

   So with any luck, next week I'll have some proper project pieces. I have a few items in mind that I want to both make and make tutorials for, but they will take me more than a week to plan out, so they will be a little while yet - but they should be quite fun! For me, at least.

Hope Mass Effect 3 turns up tomorrow...

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

It's here...

Bonus celebratory coupon code down there somewhere, too!

   I was just about to start my exercise while watching Ice Road Truckers, when the doorbell rang. I've been expecting a few parcels lately, and both Seeg and I have been hoping that Mass Effect 3 N7 has been shipped sooner than its release date (it hasn't), so I didn't exactly run to the door, but when I saw the shape of the parcel the post man held out to me, along with some dull catalogues because I placed an order with a website once, my face just dropped. I don't know what he must have thought, but my heart was pounding. I took the parcel, then ran upstairs (I thanked him and shut the door, of course) and began trying to open it.
   Seeg was already in the room at the time, but he just watched me struggle. I was shaking with excitement, which was why it took me so long, but he just sat back and let me do it. And there it was. Two years of work, right there in front of me.

My book had arrived.

   I still can't believe it even now. And I'll tell you something that's really stupid as well, when I lifted it out of the box, and I opened the book up, I just started crying. Quite a lot. Not just a tear, but properly crying. I had been concerned for a few days that the font may have been too big, but it's about one size bigger than what I usually find in hardback books, so it's fine. It's quite heavy as well, it's just wonderful. My cover is unimaginative - I don't have one so I just went for filling it dark red and used a white font. On the back where the blurb should be it just states that it's the first ever copy of the book, and when I finished it.
   I'm so happy to have it - so happy. My dad never really knew much about the book, in truth I thought he never really cared since he never asked me about it, but he couldn't stop himself from smiling when I showed him the printed copy. He just kept staring at it. Seeg is the first in line to read the completed thing, then him, and then one of my friends.

   This means nothing for my career, not really. I'm not making it available to purchase on lulu or anywhere else - I did it for me, and only for me. To have a physical thing to show for all my work, aside from a poorly-kept ring binder and a memory stick. No, this does nothing for my career, but it does a massive amount for my confidence. Everything that was posted this morning about it still matters, of course, but I have renewed confidence now.
   It's an amazing feeling, to just hold the book. I can hardly put it down. I look at it and I just need to feel it. I always felt kind of ameteurish whenever I read the writing on the laptop or handwritten on paper. It just seemed so far from a real book. I used to email the chapters to Seeg, then I'd give them to him when he moved here, but I always felt a bit shy and stupid when he read them. But now that it's been printed, it's been bound, and it's sat all nice and new in front of me, I truly feel I've accomplished more than I thought. I mean, I wrote a book. It's finished, it's in front of me right's just...right there.

   Sorry, I know I sound a little bit high or something but I assure you I'm not. I'm just so excited. So excited. I have to get this cover letter and synopsis written asap. I have to get this moving.

 Hell yes. Feel free to use the code Trilogy for 15% off of either of my shops for the next few days to celebrate. The discount will be bigger when I get an agent ;P and I've just added a new envelope necklace!

When It Comes From Someone Else

   It's funny the effect things can have when someone says them. Even when it's something you knew as a fact even before they said it, once someone else says it, it can change the way you look at things.
   I knew when I started my book that a trilogy would be a lot less likely to be picked up as a debut from someone, because if the first book flops, the entire trilogy probably will. It's too risky for an agent to bet on. Agents don't get paid until the book sells. They are employed by the writer, and it's their job to sell the book to publishers, and if it won't sell, they will have wasted their time and their money on it. They're professionals, they can look at writing and they know if it will flop. Some aren't as good a judge as others, but at the very least it means that they deem it to be too big a risk.
   Yes, sometimes risks pay off. Something might seem too daring for other people, but for others, it's just daring enough. JK Rowling is a reference I hear a lot of - I'm getting quite sick of it actually, so I'm not going to repeat it. But the point stands that "risk" does not mean "hopeless" or "unpublishable". What it means is that I have to present my work in the right way, to convince these people that it's a risk worth taking.
   But, I stray from my point. I knew before I started the trilogy that it would be less likely to be picked out as my first published work than an individual, stand-alone book. That's not because perhaps the stand-alone book is better - I already have some plans, and a title - it's just that if it fails, not as much has been lost. But I contacted someone a little while ago regarding writing a synopsis, and whether I should write the synopsis for the single first book, or for the entire trilogy, since that's what I'm really selling.
   But when they got back to me, they gave me the information I needed, and in good detail, but they also reiterated what I just told you: that a trilogy stands less chance of being picked up as a debut. Now, less chance does only mean less chance. Brent Weeks' debut was the Night Angel Trilogy - though, I'm not kidding myself. His agent and publisher clearly took a risk - a risk which paid off. But at the same time (I've not read the trilogy, but Seeg has; he says I wouldn't like it because it's too gritty), I've been told that it truly is an amazing trilogy. I know for a fact that while my trilogy is good - and I have to toot my own horn - it isn't that good. It just isn't. My first book is good, but I don't know if perhaps it's too slow - most first books are, you get to know the characters and the world, their lifestyle, and then you see it turned upside down, and at the end you find out why. No, my second book is where it kicks off. Fights, black magic, undead, and you finally see other races aside from humans, including one that was previously unknown to exist in their world, evolved from Elves (no, not orcs.)
   But to get my second book out there, I need to get my first out there first.
   They then proceeded to tell me that my trilogy stands a better chance of being picked up if the books can stand up on their own. I regret to use this as an example, since it's been used to death, but Harry Potter truly is a prime candidate for this example. Each book follows the same plot, but in the first few books, that plot is in the background, more so in some than others. Each book can be read on their own. I'd prefer to read them in order, but you don't have to. I'd also say the Discworld Series would be the same. But at the same time, these are not trilogies, they are collections, and that stands differently. In a collection, there may be the same subplot, or it may just be in the same world, but in a trilogy, iit does follow one plot, with other subplots in each book.
   I tied my first one off well enough - you find out who is behind everything, and why, and how. You find out some massive secrets that were unknown to most people alive, and while you can clearly see at that point how the trilogy will end - because most trilogies end this way anyway, but also because the characters themselves say so - the whole tale isn't completely ruined. It's still worth reading. But I'm not sure at all that my books could stand on their own. And that's shaken me a little bit.

   What I'm trying to say, albeit unsuccessfully, is that I already knew most of this (though I hadn't actually thought on the whole stand-alone book thing), but when someone in the profession actually told me those things themselves, everything became more real. It also felt evenmore hopeless, and I knew that if I just sat around thinking about it for ages, it would probably put off my submissions for another few months.
   So I did the only thing I could do: forget I was told it. Instead I just decided to continue as though I had figured it out on my own, and I picked up the plan for my second and current book and rearranged things, following ideas I'd had earlier that day, and work I'd done on the bad guys.

   My confidence has been shaken. But at the same time I know that if I don't push through it, the wall will get harder, and taller, until I can't get around it. I'd continue the trilogy, but may never send it out. Yes, this is just how easy it is to make me doubt myself. No, my writing isn't award-winning standard, but I'm confident that my story is gripping, and that my characters are strong. I'm going to go ahead and keep drafting my synopsis, I'm going to work on my cover letter, and once I've beaten my printer into submission, I will send those, along with any chapters requested, to all the agencies who may just take me on.

   I'm rambling, but I need a few fingers crossed :( not for success, but for me to pluck up some more courage and truly get it moving. Writing is the only thing I want to do. I want nothing else in a career, that's it. And it's all in my hands. I just need to remember all of that.

Over and out.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Etsy Favourite Feature

 Another feature. I still love going through my favourites for this. I don't go on faving sprees,
ever, but somehow I always seem to have lots of new favourites and I have no idea where I
accumulate them from! But I do enjoy sharing them with you. So enjoy the latest lot!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Blog Tips: Pictures as Links in Blogger

   You'd be surprised at how few people get this. I've seen big blogs who still post individual pictures, then place links beneath them. This might be preference or it might be requested by the people who own the picture, but I have a habit of clicking on pictures I like, if it's a product. This might be because I spend a lot of time on Etsy, or because I make sure my images are links when necessary, but I often find myself clicking pictures on other blogs, expecting to be taken to Etsy listings, but I just end up being taken to a larger version of the image.

   This is how you do it, and it's so simple that it's unreal - but, as always, this is what works on blogger.

   Upload the image you wish to use in your post as you usually would. Resize and position it as you desire. Once you've done that, you want it to link. I find blogger to be tempramental from time to time, so you might want to continue on and write a few words beneath the image if you intend to continue the post beneath, or just go ahead and finish the post first. Either way, you don't need to, but I do it because once or twice in the past, I've ended up with all the writing afterwards being linked too.

   Click the image in your "compose" window of your post which will highlight it and then click "link" at the top, as you would if you were linking text.

   Chances are, the picture will have moved a smidge and deselect itself, which is what I think turns people away from trying again. Just click it and then click "link" again. Hey presto, the link window's popped up. Just put the link to the desired location in the appropriate box and save it. That really is it.

    I know some of these things might seem stupid, pointless, or even obvious, but I'm writing them based on observations I've made from other blogger users - both big and small blogs do this.
   If you've taken several images and arranged them in a nice way on MS Paint and uploaded them all as a single image, then this is, obviously not doable, but I may also point out that I'm also shortly posting a quick tip for positioning images side by side in blogger. Again, it's simple, but I still see people arranging pictures side by side in MS Paint or listing images instead. Again, I understand it's preference, but I will also say that when I was trying to figure out how to do this, the only tutorials I could find told you to use a graph or a table and it was both complicating and not what I wanted. So with any luck, I've helped someone with this. Each of these posts relate to problems I've had with blogger and either had to find help in forums through lack of tutorials elsewhere, or I had to just figure it out myself.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Project 52: Fabric Origami Heart

   This is the first post of my Project 52. I decided a few weeks ago to give it a try, and I also figured it was a good opportunity to create some tutorials, so that's what I've done this week.

   It's a simple thing really. I had some pretty fabric scraps and lots of paper strips, and after posting the tutorial for origami hearts, I figured there was some way I could do it with fabric. There were obvious problems, but I managed around them well enough. Fabric obviously doesn't stay folded the same way paper does, and the edges also fray, but all things considered, it's simple enough.

   The main method for putting the heart together is here, but there are a couple of alterations, detailed in the below image, but I'll talk you through the steps first.

You will need:
Needle + Thread

Method (see below for picture method):
1. Take your fabric and sew it down to the paper. I did it by hand, but it can easily be done with a machine and it would be a lot quicker. You don't need massive sewing skills to do this - I can barely repair a rip.

2. Follow the steps from the original origami paper heart tutorial up to and including step 8.

3. Thread your needle with a nice amount of thread. You won't need lots, only about half a metre at most - but even then you can easily rethread it after a few inches. It's not difficult. The below image shows a white paper heart. This is just as reference for this step. Your actual heart should be covered in fabric and should, in fact, not even show the white paper. The paper is there purely to keep the creases. This whole thing could be done without paper, but I lack the patience to try it without. I also lack a sufficient number of pins.

4. The white paper heart below shows dotted lines. On the right of the heart, they have been dotted along the newest folds. The left shows the same thing but on the back of the flap those folds are on. Thread along these lines. The picture beside the paper heart shows my own fabric heart at this step - the edges are frayed, which obviously shows the need I had for using a paper heart for reference. This image and the second pink fabric heart show the stitchings.

5. After this, that's the sewing done. Continue onto step nine. However, the fabric has thickened the paper, which makes it likely that only one side will fold down well at this point. Try folding down both sides and see which lines up better. From the few hearts I made with fabric, I found that folded one way, the front of the heart was shorter than the back, and the other way the front was longer. This is what you want. Fold it so that the front is longer than the back where the two corners are supposed to meet.

6. Fold the two edges down as in step eleven. You may well notice that the heart still doesn't want to stay closed. What I did at this point was squash it between books. My bookcase is packed with books - so many that I had to start stacking books on top of others, and then more than that that I now have to stack them in front of my other stacks. Fortunately, I have a deep bookcase. I took a nice big hardback book (an atlas, yay) and put the hearts in the middle of it. I made sure that the corners were folded down and that the heart was completed before completely shutting the book and stuffing it back in the book case. The next day, I took it out and it stayed shut, and the corners stayed folded.

7. You can obviously still write a message inside.  You could sew a piece of paper to the inside and write a message on that, you could write a message directly onto the fabric, or you could stop at step 4 so that you've folded the square, draw a light line around the edges of that square, open it back up and embroider a message there instead. I may well try this. Once you've embroidered your message continue on with the other steps on both this tutorial and the original folding and you'll have a lovely sewn piece.

Another way you can help to keep the heart together is by sewing a small popper to the inside of the heart. Just make sure you sew the popper to the shorter corner then match the other part of the popper up first or it probably won't work. I saw that from experience. Also make sure the popper is the right way around.

I may well try this again and embroider a message onto it. I'll post back here if I do it!

And so concludes week one of Project 52. Expect more next Friday.