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

Friday, 21 September 2012

KickStarter

   'Lo all. I've got something I really want to share with you today. It's something that's actually made me feel really good about people, and about creativity. I no longer feel like money can stop me from having good ideas.
   Some of you may have already heard of KickStarter, but if you haven't, then let me tell you about it.

   I was stumbling about on Facebook earlier today, and came across a post by Diesel & Juice. She makes wonderful illustrations of animals, some are premade, while some are custom, but all of them are just amazing. If I still had any furry little beasts I'd certainly solicite her services. But the post featured an image of her products as iPhone cases - something I hadn't seen in her shop yet.
   Well, I followed the link above the image, and was led to this page.
 
   The website, KickStarter, is a funding platform for projects (and can be used if you have a US bank account, but it is being extended for use in the UK this autumn). These can be used to create independant movies or pieces of art, or, as Diesel & Juice has done, a new line of independant (see: not mass produced) products. Etsy even has a page onthere.
   You work out how much you need - in D&J's case, it's $7,500. I've seen amounts varying between $4,500 and $1,000,000 at just a brief glance at the website. Note from the beginning, however, that KickStarter takes 5%, and the payment method (Amazon Payments) takes 3-5% as well, so you have to be sure that you can cover that amount as well as see the project through.

   Now, let me tell you the best parts: first of all, is that you can generally donate as little as $1 to a project. But you're not charged right away. It works like this: a goal is set up, for example $1,000. You use the page provided to talk about your work, and what the money will go towards. Pictures of the people or person behind the project are usually mandatory as well, for the same sort of reason that it's a good idea to have a picture of yourself on your Etsy About Page. You spread that page around on twitter, facebook, your blog and so on (but not in a spammy way). People see the link, go to the page, and are invited to read about the project, in much the same way I just presented the above Diesel & Juice page to you all.
   Anyone is able to donate, from as little as $1, and the project funding page can be seen by anyone, and is easily accessible through the KickStarter website, meaning that complete strangers who agree with your idea can also donate easily as well as pre-existing fans.
   But, the payment isn't taken right away. A deadline is set up with the target amount, and if that amount is not reached by the deadline date, then anyone who donated is not charged, and the person behind the project doesn't receive a penny. It's an "all or nothing" funding method.

   More good news for contributors: KickStarter has a reward system. In D&J's case, for example, if you donate $1, you will receive an email with a video she made featuring her happy dance, and an appearance by her dog, Diesel. If you donate $5, you will receive a decal sticker of Diesel in her drawing style and a hand written note, as well as the video. If you donate $15, you get an "at-a-glance" calander featuring one of her artworks, as well as the sticker, note and video - these go all the way up to $500, which includes everything mentioned so far, a custom piece featuring 2 pets, and an iphone case with that same custom drawing. As well as other things I've not noted.
   These rewards are chosen by the project leader, and work the same way as with donations: if the target amount is NOT reached, no donations will be taken, and neither will any of the rewards. This means that there is definitely something in it for contributors as well as for the project leader.

 
   There is of course another few ways that makes it so good: if you have a great idea but you just can't afford to try it, you can set up funding (provided that you have actually done some planning for the project, maybe even have a prototype or something) through KickStarter, and if people think it's a good idea, you will receive the funding for the materials, enabling you to make the piece/s at no cost to yourself, which will encourage people to work on much grander things than clay jewellery or stuffed monsters.
   It's also a good way to see if anyone's actually interested in your idea. If you're working on a new product or something, then it'll be a good way to see if anyone would actually buy it. If you don't get enough interest or enough funding, it's probably not worth it to try. If, however, you do get the interest and the funding, you've not lost out on much if they take a while to budge.

   It's a great website all around, and, looking at it, a lot of projects get the full funding (the $1,000,000 example I gave earlier was one such success). It can encourage people to try bigger things since money won't stand in the way as much, and donators gain from helping - both in the form of helping a new piece of art or product come to life, and in gaining physical goods for themselves.

   I can't realistically see any way that I would use the website, personally. I wouldn't know what sort of projects would be worth asking for funding. The only thing I can really think of would be to self-publish my writing, and if I was going to do that, then it would all be Grumble Cave Monsters-based. I want to take my real writing to agencies and do it the old fashioned way.
   There are, of course, restrictions on what can and can't be used as a project for funding on the website, and, given the amount of money that you could get your hands on, there are a lot of guidelines - but if you have an idea, and it seemed outlandish, like a movie, it no longer is.
   Bookmark the website. You never know when you might get a great idea. I certainly have.


   Thank you, now you may go about your business.





Thursday, 20 September 2012

Writing Again.

   I know I blather on a lot about my writing, and about how much I want it and how much I'm trying to juggle with it, but I had an epiphany a few days ago: writing isn't hard.
   The last time I wrote anything was July 22nd - I've not written anything for 8 weeks, according to my log book, and I've also missed 8 weeks of pictures (it's a Wildlife Photographer of the Year diary, so I'm going to enjoy those 8 pictures while writing this). But, back around the end of July, I realised something: if I continued to work on the second book of my trilogy as I was, there was a chance it would never get published. If the first book was never signed by an agent or published, then there was the chance I'd waste 4 more years writing things that wouldn't be likely to be published in the coming few years, so I would also postpone any possible success by 4 years because I'd not have written anything new. Fortunately, a new idea came to me around that time for a new book, and it was an idea I was very excited by. I figured the time was right to put the trilogy to one side (I plan to keep the trilogy and its plans safe and try again in a year or two - I'm going to continue to send it out to the agencies I've not gotten around to yet, and I'm hoping that the release of the Hobbit might peak an interest in fantasy novels) and try something new.

   I put together a vague plan for the idea I had, and over time I elaborated it to make it an almost fully-functioning plan. But then I got distracted by the idea of Grumble CaveMonsters, so the plan was never finished. There's one detail near the end of the story I'm foggy on, but I've learnt that once I start writing and get to know my characters and my plot, those foggy bits get cleaned up by themselves, long before I reach them.
   I stopped work on this not-quite-finished plan about 5 weeks ago to put my full force into my new shop. Since then I've barely written anything but an interview with VividPlease and a few not very interesting blog posts, but this morning, I had my epiphany.
   In my head, I've built up this idea that writing is hard, that I need to be in a certain mood, and that any number of things will keep me from doing it. This has been building up since around February, so it's been there a while. This morning I realised what a load of rubbish it was, I remembered how I used to write about 4 to 6 pages a day every day for a few months straight before going back to 2 pages, and how it would be the only thing I'd do in a day. I might be looking after my mum now, but I have time to myself in the evening, and more than enough to fill 2 pages.


   For once, I put all my stupid thoughts to one side, picked up a pen, grabbed some clean paper, put it down and ran to the bathroom to wash my hands (my hands have to be smooth and clean so they glide across the paper smoothly so I can keep up with my train of thought - I'm weird, I know), came back again and just started to write. I managed 3 and a half pages this morning, and I'm going to do a lot more tonight. I've just started the story, my characters, as empty as they are at the moment, are coming along very well, and I'm already fond of the story.
   I have one habit that I do have trouble with, though, and that's the TV. Once that thing is on, it's on. If I was watching something, it's very difficult to turn it off and write. Instead, I end up watching more and more things. If it's a series, I'll plow through the disc. I can make it through 3 Bleach discs in an evening and have nothing to show for it. Yes, there's lots I can do with the TV on, I can make jewellery, I can make monsters, I can make stuff, I can paint, I can brainstorm - but I can't write, and out of all of that stuff, that's the most important thing I have to do.

   But a few days ago, I started to write again, and I have to tell you: it feels awesome. I forgot how nice silence can be. No noise, nothing to distract me, just my pen and my paper. I forgot how nice it feels to slide a pen across paper, how nice words look in blue ink, how free my mind feels when I'm writing, even with a plan. The beginning of my plan is the most elaborate, so I do have framework set up, but despite that, I still feel so free.

   I love writing. I want to do nothing more with my life but write. I want to create worlds and discover the people and creatures that live there, and the forces at work. I don't even care how stupid or pretentious it might sound, because if you don't understand what I mean, you've never written before. Sure, I "create" the characters, but as soon as a face has formed, they already have their own personality for me to discover - but I'll elaborate more on that with my How To Build a Story posts I have planned. I've got about 5 of them ready to go, but I refuse to post them until I'm satisfied that I have the rest of them finished first.


Anyway, I've wasted enough of your day with my rambling. I just feel so good. Remember that you can still get 10% off of Grumble Cave Monsters (which is already at 25% off as it is) with the code GoodMorning until the 26th. I just wanted to tell you all how happy I am right now <3



Saturday, 15 September 2012

Making Sorbet Without a Machine

   I love sorbet. I do. I love it more than ice cream. It's so much more refreshing, so fruity, so creamy - I love it. And up until two days ago, it never occurred to me to try and make it.
   After a quick search, it became evident that I needed an ice cream maker to make the stuff. Well, I don't have one, and probably never will. A candy floss machine is higher on the list, and at the top is a basic blender. I don't want to have to get on the bus for a smoothie.
  But after a few minutes more on another search, I found it was possible to make sorbet and ice cream without a machine - the only difference is apparently texture.


   Well, I had a look at some of the recipes, and they all called for the same things, so I figured that whichever recipe I picked, it would go right.
   Except, I have a habit. Seeg came downstairs while I was in the midst of making the sorbet, and he said he didn't have much confidence. I'd have been upset at this if what he had said next wasn't true. "You have a habit of 'following the recipe', but leaving out one or two things because you think it won't make a difference if it's there or not, or you'll do things differently because you think you know best." Guilty on all counts.
   And that's also exactly what I did this time.
   Looking at what the recipes called for, and my limited knowledge of food properties, I figured there was a chance that, once "set", it would end up as just frozen fruit, and would thaw to slush. So I decided to add cream.

   This was a risky move for me, because as Seeg implied, it would go wrong if I messed around with it. And it almost always did.
   Except this time. Yes, for once, my uneducated guess worked to my benefit. The sorbet did not set frozen, and neither did it thaw to slush. Instead it took on a moussey texture while it was setting, and the following morning it had become firm, and after putting it in the fridge for 5 minutes, it was of serving consistency, and was creamy and delicious.


Ingredients
1 1/2 - 2 cups fruit (thawed from frozen, freshly picked, or store-bought punnet)
2 cups water
1 - 1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup double cream



 
Method

   Heat the water and sugar in a pan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. This will form a thin syrup. I added a little bit of golden syrup to mine, but I don't think it made a difference. Once it's dissolved, leave it to cool. I'm very impatient, especially when trying new things, so I put the pan in the freezer for about 10 minutes or so. I don't know how long it was, but when I took it out it was about room temperature. It was fine both times I've made this sorbet.

   While the syrup is cooling, using a food processer, mix the fruit into a fine puree. This won't necessarily take long. I think it took about 1 minute for me.

   Once the fruit is puree-ified, leave it to one side and whisk the double cream. I used an electric mixer. I've mixed double cream by hand enough to last me a life time now. It doesn't need to be completely thick and whipped, to be honest I don't really know that it needs to be whipped at all, but I wasn't comfortable pouring unmixed double cream into the mixture. I felt it would defeat the object of why I put it in in the first place. So mix it about half way between unwhipped, and whipped (whipped meaning forming peaks). If you go too far, I really don't think it'll matter. I mixed it more the second time around than the first and the outcome was the same.


   By now, the syrup should be ready, if you put it in the freezer. If you were patient, you can leave and do other things, but don't let it freeze.
   Once you've got your syrup cooled, add the fruit puree, then pour it through a mesh sieve into another bowl. The sieve will remove all the seeds and anything else. Some seeds may well get through, but it's no big problem if they do. Using the back of a spoon, press through the sieve to squeeze out the remaining juice, then discard the sieve's contents.

   Using the whisk again, combine the syrupy fruit with the cream. It will start to pale in colour. If you mixed the cream too far, it will just take longer to mix the cream with the fruit. Once the cream is successfully blended with the fruit, and it's all one, lumpless colour, transfer it to the container you're going to freeze it in.


   Put it in the freezer, and for the first 2 hours, be sure to mix it briefly ever 30 minutes to prevent crystallisation - I don't know if this will happen because the cream seemed to remove any trace of that happening for me, but I mixed it anyway. After the first hour, you might see it start to take on a moussey texture on the surface. If you mix it when this has happened, then the moussey skin will be made more obvious, but it will disappear with a little more mixing.
   After the first 2 hours, leave it alone and it will freeze nicely.


   Let it thaw for 5 minutes in the fridge before serving. It'll be easier to serve up this way, and easier to eat.


   I'm dead proud of how this has turned out. I didn't expect it to go well, but I'm so pleased with it, and I'm surprised how well the picture came out too. I'm happy with that, and all! :D


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Destroy This Journal Competition Update

   We've started to receive entries for the competition now - remember that it ends on September 30th, and there is definitely more than enough time to start an entry. They could take you a couple of hours, days, or weeks! See the competition page for info, including prizes. It's not a difficult competition. Just switch your brain off and see what happens!
   Also, a baby monster from my new shop, Grumble Cave Monsters is also up as a prize! How about that!

Example Baby Monster Plush



Monday, 10 September 2012

Grumble Cave Monsters


   Grumble Cave Monsters is now open. There's a 25% off introductory rate live until October 1st. You can get an additional 10% off of this with the code GoodMorning. I'll be adding new listings over the next couple of days.
 



Sunday, 9 September 2012

Grumble Cave Monsters - Opening Monday!

   Yes, that's right, I've finally got the shop together. I had hoped to have put a preview post together sooner but I've been completely swamped lately! I also hoped to have some tutorials up by now, too, but along with the business, my parents have also gone on holiday for the week so Seeg and I will probably be busy doing different things to normal.
   But, I've finally found the time to show you all what I've been working on!

   My original plan was to open on October 1st, but after remembering how long it can take for anyone to actually see new shops and for that first sale to finally arrive - that fact joint with how much work I'd already managed to do for the shop - I decided I was ready to open my shop early.


   I still have 3 monsters waiting to be made, but I managed to put together one monster more than my bare minimum to open up with, and I've photographed them today. I'm really on top of things this time, I've got my boxes ready, I've got my shop name ready, I've written my listing descriptions, my policies, my About page (I think) and my shop info. I've just made some Mini Moos for product tags/business cards (along with some new cards for Peaches and Pebbles), and while I don't have them yet, I feel I'm ready for business.

   I've copyrighted the name and designs, and I'm raring to go! I've more or less got my prices - which will also be discounted as introductory/christmas sale prices, and will change to full price at the beginning of January. Keep your eyes open tomorrow for an opening announcement post with the link and a special discount code for the first few days!



Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Free Giveaway Agreement Form

   Heads up everyone, while the $30 giveaway I won mid July has still not been fulfilled, and recalling one giveaway I myself hosted in the past where I am quite certain the prize was never sent, I put together an agreement that giveaway hosts can send the prize donators before going through with the giveaway.
   It's not really binding in any legal way, but a promise is a promise, and just because a lawyer can't necessarily scare someone into fulfilling this, fraud is fraud, lies are lies, and broken promises are broken promises all the same.

   The Giveaway Agreement Form is a short and simple one, but it's to the point, as I'm sure you can see from looking at the form itself. It is a Google Document that, upon receipt, the prize donator is asked to copy the full document into a word pad of somekind, add their full name, shop name, and email address to the bottom of it, and then email that copy back to the sender - the giveaway post. I've written it in as direct and specific way as I can, hopefully leaving no loopholes.

   Have a read and bookmark it for the next time you host a giveaway. It won't necessarily stop the fraud, but it should work in scaring off individuals who were not planning on shipping the prize, and hopefully either convince them to change their mind, or not go through with the agreement or the giveaway at all.


PS. With any luck, content will start reappearing
here soon. I've been super busy, and probably will
be for the next week and a half at least, but I've not
forgotten you! I promise! ♥ I have some
tutorials planned, too!