Monday, 9 December 2019

Christmas is Coming...

   Indeed it is, and this year it's more than just Etsy that's keeping me busy. I decided to host my own Fantasy writing prompt list on Instagram so I've been playing with that every day in between making and packing orders. I didn't realise how much work it was going to be, BUT, with there being just one week left for orders on my Etsy shop, I'm liable to have more time to put into it, as well as finally finish the short story & illustration I've written for day 22.

   I'm publishing the short story in parts. Part 1 went up on my author page and on Wattpad on the 6th, with the next installment due tomorrow (10th) and onwards with the same intervals until the final part is posted on the 22nd. Make a start with a fun and unusual festive fantasy read, for free, right here!,-the-arkhamas-way

   Otherwise, there's also a sale going on in my Etsy shop until my UK deadline order date of December 17th. Get 10% off, free UK shipping and a free festive cuppa on all orders until December 17th.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Book Lover's Christmas Gift Guide 2019

Another gift guide, this time for the book lovers! Candles, teas and books, of course, but what about blankets, statement jewellery and book-binding workshops?
Show them you know them beyond a bookmark.

1 - Lauren Aston Designs super chunky throw
2 - A Bookish Flickering book-inspired tea
3 - Myth Of The Wild upcycled book necklaces
4 - Indie Books! - [shown: The Zi'veyn] - check out @KimWedlock @AnnaFoxWrites @apocalypsycho @ChloesChapters
5 - The Librarian Witch witch's cottage candle
6 - Literary Gift Company old books 60cm cushion
7 - Learn Book Binding beginner's book binding workshop

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Black Friday Etsy Sale!

It has started!

This is my biggest sale of the year - the discount might not be what most people expect from Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but every piece is handmade, and by most frameworks, I already under-charge. But, from today until December 2nd, head into Myth of the Wild and get:

20% off shop-wide
free shipping on all orders £30+/$35+/etc
free gifts on all orders

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

The Back-Burner

   Unfortunately, it's that time of year again, when I set my writing aside for Etsy. I made the decision more tactically this time around, however, and decided to put my book on the back-burner at an opportune moment in the story rather than when I simply can't spare the time to write and handle Etsy orders. It does feel a little premature because, if I'm honest, my shop is not moving at all right now, but I feel happier putting it aside on my own terms, and I have other projects I want to do before November gets here which this will give me the time to do.
   I've been given another tarot story which I'd like to get done before November 1st, or by November 11th at the latest. I'll be away for the first week of the month, so I can use downtime then to get it done if need be.
   I'd also like to write a seasonal short story, too, and I'd like to get a drawing done for it before I leave, and then the story itself can be poked at through November/into December.
   I also have some book art I really want to get done before December. My eyes are too weak to stare intensely at a screen drawing and then move on to writing, it's too much, so I decided to do what should hopefully only be a week's worth of work over three weeks instead, and use my writing time for that. With any luck, it'll be done by December.

   So I have a lot of things I can do with my time while waiting for sales to kick off. Assuming, of course, that they do.
   I confess that this has been the worst year I've ever had on Etsy, and with a massive financial earthquake earlier in the year, this has been the toughest I've ever experienced and it's brought me to tears more often than I'd like to admit. The only thing that's kept me sane has been the improvement I've seen in distribution of and response to The Zi'veyn. But that, unfortunately, barely covers a cup of coffee every month. Fortunately I don't drink coffee, so those pennies go into my savings, but all the same, it barely makes a dent.
   I've been in a pretty poor mood about it all lately, to the point of even dreaming about money problems. But I guess that's part of being an adult. I don't like to complain about it because I know others are in worse positions, but sometimes - like this morning on twitter - it just sort of comes out. Fortunately in a small, quickly-staunched trickle, but I'm ashamed of it all the same.
   Running a business all by yourself, while being a full-time carer and trying to start a writing career (which itself is an even longer, slower process, both in actually creating a single product and then convincing people it's worth their time), well, it's tricky, and even for someone with as sturdy a mindset as me, things can easily weigh. I have a lot of straw on my back - lots of it, admittedly, put there by myself - and it doesn't take much to break it.

   Either way, I'm doing all I can, and I also admit that I have been enjoying working on new pieces, but I'm also glad I'm almost done. My husband and I are going to The Netherlands next month - staying with his parents and seeing friends and family, so it's a cheap get-away, at least - and I'm looking forward to that week away from work and exercise. I'm seriously starting to feel worn down, but I'm also incapable of taking time off of anything without a good excuse (a good excuse in this case being there are no weights available to use).

   I promise my next post will be more cheerful!

Unique Woodland Gifts

   A quick update with last week's new pieces, all woodland themed: sika deer, red fox, barn owl, pine marten & silver fox (melanistic, as demanded by my husband).

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Unique Christmas Gifts for Animal Lovers 2019

   Excuse the desperate SEO title.
   I am so proud of myself. I was supposed to be making animals all year for Christmas stock, but I completely neglected forgot all about it. I was seriously kicking myself until a month and a half ago when I decided to make something I should have made long ago - custom miniature cat and custom miniature dog jar listings. Then that sort of spiralled into making and listing brand new things every week, with a crafting schedule. The plan has been to sculpt some things one week, paint them the next, and list them the next, which has meant that I've been splitting my week between sculpting new things, painting the previous week's sculptures, and listing the sculptures from the week before that, and that's been going on since mid September with an end goal of October 31st, before bringing out my Christmas/winter-specific pieces throughout November - and I've nearly done it!
   I've even started supplying the animals' presence in folklore and mythology on the listings again ^^ I chose 'Myth of the Wild' for a reason! Well, that, and because 'wild' kind of is a myth now. Fences don't keep nature out anymore, they keep it in.

This is the schedule, including links to all new pieces already listed:

16th - 20th September: miniature dogs x 5
23rd - 27th September: miniature cats x 5
30th - 3rd October: wild dogs x 2 (+ St Bernard & new miniature korok)
7th - 11th October: big cats x4
14th - 18th October: miniature woodland animals x5
21st - 25th October: miniature birds of prey x5 (currently being painted)
28th - 31st October: miniature desert animals x3 (hopefully 4) (currently being sculpted)
1st - 19th November: Christmas & winter pieces x19

   I've also put together my order deadlines, both for standard orders for the UK and International, as well as the expected cut-off for custom orders. Custom orders means private requests, as well as the custom korok, custom dog, custom cat, and custom book flower listings. The date might change, in which case it will be announced on twitter and facebook, BUT, as long as you see the custom koroks, dogs or cats listed, custom orders ARE still open. If you're in doubt, however, by all means just get in touch. I respond daily (though I turn my phone off at 8pm GMT)

•❅• Standard Christmas 2019 Order Deadlines •❅•
UK: December 15th, 1pm
Everywhere Else: November 23rd*, 1pm GMT
Final posting date is December 17th, no exceptions.

•❅• Custom Christmas 2019 Order Deadlines •❅•
Worldwide: November 13th

If workload demands this date is changed (pushed back or forwards), this post will be updated. This applies to the custom book flowers, koroks, cats and dogs listings, as well as general private requests.

*Orders placed after this date will be processed as quickly as possible and posted out within a few days. There's every good chance it will reach you before Christmas if placed before December 1st

    Anyway, onto the pitch:

   Fantastically unique wildlife gifts for animal lovers - tiny animals in glass bottles! Available as necklaces, hanging ornaments or standing ornaments, they're easy wildlife gifts for grandad as well as for your sister! Perfect gifts for zoo keepers, gifts for conservationists, gifts for vets, gifts for pet owners - and I make custom pieces, too! If there's a specific animal you'd like, don't hesitate to get in touch and I'll give you a price! I also make custom dog ornaments - either of your preferred breed and colour, or even a custom miniature of your own pet dog! The same goes for custom miniatures of your own pet cat!
   Handmade in the UK with worldwide shipping. £1.50 UK shipping, $4.50 worldwide.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

New Etsy Stock & Sale

   I've been keeping busy since my shift in mindset a couple of weeks ago, and I've been making and painting new pieces for the past 3 weeks, with 4 more weeks planned before I focus on restocking the usual best-sellers. I have to admit, I am really quite enjoying it. That could be a novelty, but I'm embracing it while it lasts! The week before last, I listed lots of dogs, including a custom dog ornament, and last week I gave cats the same treatment with a few stand alone pieces and a custom cat ornament.

   This week I'm turning my attention back to wildlife. I listed an additional dog on Monday - a miniature St Bernard - and a new tiny red korok to join my permanent line-up, who is delightfully autumnal ^^ But from here on out, they'll be woodland and wildlife creatures, including a restock on some long-sold-out pieces like my African painted wolves.
   I have plans for all the creatures I want to have listed by the 25th of October, but I still have that final week of October that I want to create new listings for, but I've got no ideas for creatures. It seems a long way off, but I can preserve a lot of my writing time if I make creatures one week, paint them the next, and list them the week after that - which means I want to be making these new, mysterious creatures from 14th to the 18th and painting them 21st to the 25th. So I have some thinking to do.
   Which also means I already have this week's listings and next week's listings all painted, and the creatures for the week after that sitting on my crafting tray waiting to be fired ^^ Productivity!

Listing Schedule:
7th - 11th October: big cats x4
14th - 18th October: woodland x4
21st - 25th October: birds of prey x4
28th - 31st October: random animals I have yet to actually come up with x3-5
1st - 19th November: Christmas & winter pieces x19

I'm also currently running a small 10% off sale until Sunday 6th. 'Cause, y'know, Christmas is coming.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Autumn, My Heart

   It's remarkable how much calmer I've gotten since autumn set in. It's cooler now, the days are shortening, evenings drawing in, there's spice in damn near everything, and Hotel Chocolat have brought their autumn selection back - easily one of my favourites.

   I've learned a lot about myself this year, and there are two things in particular that have been crucial.
   First, I realised that, while I love Christmas, it's not Christmas Day I really care for anymore. It's December 1st to the 24th. It's the atmosphere, the food, the decorations, the music, the yoga under the tree lights on dark mornings. The reason that's important is because it quite suddenly takes the strain off of a single day to be 'perfect' - even though my idea of a 'perfect' Christmas has come to just mean 'tolerable', which in turn really just means my oldest nephew behaves for the hour he comes to visit (not easy for a 10 year old).
   By realising it's the 1st to the 24th that matter, it means that, if one day in those 3 weeks isn't particularly good, it's okay, because there are 23 more, and I have that much time to bring the year to a good and enjoyable end. It also makes Christmas as a whole so much less stressful.

   The second is understanding the awful misery I get in the summer - and why I feel so freaking good right now.
   Come June, I always begin to experience feelings of being trapped, that I live my life - my days, my weeks - by the same routine I have done for 10 years and that I have nothing at all to look forward to except more of the same. And it makes me angry on top of miserable because I know that it's not something I can change by adjusting my lifestyle. My mum isn't going to suddenly get better, which means that I must remain living at home and stuck indoors at all times until we're in a position to get help.
   The funny thing is, staying in has never actually bothered me - I was always an indoor teenager - and I never really notice it until the heat moves in. You might think "that's normal - it's because the weather's nice! You just want to get outside." Erm, no. I hate the heat. My ideal days are cold and rainy.
   It was actually my honeymoon that threw the whole matter into perspective.
   We had an unseasonal heatwave in England in late April/early May this year, and I remember feeling suddenly depressed, lazy, angry, and that I had nothing to look forward to and life was a dreary hole. Until I realised that, actually, I had my honeymoon coming up in two weeks in an amazing cabin by a lake, something I'd been excited about it since we booked it a year and a half before. Bang. What was I really feeling trapped by? What was really inescapable, day after day? Heat. When it's uncomfortably warm every single day and there's nothing you can do but sit in front of a fan in your underwear with no skin contact and 0 concentration or ability to get anything done.
   We went on our honeymoon and it was, genuinely, the best holiday I've ever had in my life, both for the company and location. And the heatwave had passed just beforehand, too, and I was feeling much happier until it set back in in July. And then I was miserable again until this month, when it began at last to cool down.

   I've found myself sighing in contentment even though my days have gone the same way they have all year - in fact, I've had additional stress these past couple of months in particular. And yet, I find it so easy to smile. I spontaneously tell my husband I love him every hour rather than every four. I'm sleeping better, I'm less rigid in bed, my neck doesn't tighten up. The world is a brighter place.
   Because it's below 18 degrees.

   I've always said I'm a winter girl, but I don't think that's necessarily true. I am just absolutely not a summer girl. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is usually associated with the onset of winter, but it turns out that I genuinely suffer it during the summer. Fortunately (?) Etsy tends to slow down in the summer, so I have less work to do and subsequently less to focus on, and while it's not easy to sit and write in the heat (thinking, urgh), it's easier than a lot of other kinds of work.
   Now autumn has set in, my productivity is up, both on my writing, on Etsy and in my workouts. I'm also generally keen to do stuff now, and went out to Westonbirt Arboretum for the equinox with my parents (wheelchair accessible, yaaaay). There were leaves, cake and dogs. Good times.

   What's your favourite thing about autumn? Aside from pumpkin spice, Halloween or changing leaves.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

The Fantasy Fiction Formula - Book Review & Writer's Resource

   I recently read through The Fantasy Fiction Formula by Deborah Chester. It's the second guide I've ever used for writing, despite having been practising the craft for 16 years and having two published fantasy books. The first was Neil Gaiman's The Art of Storytelling course on Masterclass. I'd been terrified for so long of looking at any such thing in case it told me I was doing something wrong, and, let's be honest, no one likes to change their ways, and they especially don't want to re-learn things. But I found some bravery when an opportunity dropped into my lap on January 10th this year, and decided to try the course when I saw it in February.
   In doing it, I wound up in tears. I was basically already doing everything right. I was so freaking happy. And yet, at the same time, a little disappointed because I hadn't learned anything new aside from how to write short stories, which I'd never really tried before this year.
   So I decided I wouldn't mind trying another home course, and it came, this time, in the form of a book: The Fantasy Fiction Formula.

(I wrote a book review on Goodreads when I finished it, and posted it again on Insta, but I'm going deeper here.)

   The Fantasy Fiction Formula is well-written and presented in digestable chapters. Just what you would expect from a book. But in this case, one chapter doesn't necessarily cover an entire topic from start to finish - for example, the 'Dark, Dismal Middle' (eg everything between the opening and the climax) is covered in 3 chapters directly, with a couple of others with varied titles afterwards to elaborate upon a few details before sending you off towards the end of the story. If all of this had been crammed into one chapter, you'd never know where you'd be able to put it down and walk away (an indirect lesson, in itself, on the importance of chapters within a story). It would have been an overload of information. It's definitely better when done this way, with each chapter (or lesson) anywhere from 7-21 pages in length.
   Rather than try to cram everything into single, tidy chapters, one per subject, and then cut information out in order to keep it compact and friendly, you're given everything you need in reasonable, chewable chunks.
   There are also exercises at the end of each chapter to help you put into practice what you've learned, both practical and theoretical (writing and reading).

   The advice at the start is varied, and rather than being about the structure of story planning, it explains, briefly, the components of a story, as well as the character design, viewpoints and dialogue (all individual chapters), all of which make the story really move. Getting these latter points down is as crucial as a book plan, if not more so (looking at you, pantsers). Starting the book, too - the hooks and opening lines - is included here, then scenes, conflict and everything in between.
   It then also gives you the SPOOC structure which informs you, immediately, as to whether or not your idea or basic plot can actually work. I'll give you this one for free: SPOOC = Situation, Protagonist, Objective, Opponent, Climax. For my book, The Zi'veyn, the SPOOC is as follows:

Situation   -   When wild magic begins physically tearing the world to shreds,
Protagonist   -   banished warmage, Rathen Koraaz,
Objective   -   must find the only ancient relic capable of silencing or harnessing magic, including the disembodied force.
But will he succeed when
Opponent   -   Salus, mage-hating spymaster of the Arana,
Climax   -   arrives at the relic's resting place first?

   Once you get past this and into the lessons of actually structuring and writing your story, the advice comes chronologically. It talks of the 'Dark, Dismal Middle', and how to 'survive' it. Why 'survive'? Because it's arguably the hardest part. It's where the story can completely fall apart. Once you've set your character/s on their way, it's easy for a writer's interest to drop. Personally, I've never once actually suffered this, but that's in part because I plan meticulously. Not everyone does, but I find it prevents tangents and makes sure there's always something happening. 'Spinning plates', is the phrase used in The Fantasy Fiction Formula (and perhaps elsewhere; I'd never heard it before now).
   The book gives many solutions to keeping the story exciting throughout the middle to keep both writer and reader interest solid until the end. Because if a writer loses interest, the readers will definitely notice. There will be none of the lustre from the start and many will give up. A lot of young writers will find it useful - and while I've never suffered the need of it, I am not so brazen as to say I never will. In fact, I've had some concerns about the next book I'm writing after my trilogy, and these suggestions have helped me feel more confident about it.

   The advice that I paid most (conscious) attention to was that of writing the ending. I obviously have a lot of experience with the dark, dismal middle (have you seen my books in print?) and I've written the openings over and over and over again. And while I rarely give up on books, I have to go through a lot to actually get to the point of writing the end. So, naturally, I have the least experience in that.
   The Devoted trilogy has been a huge undertaking, with such a complicated plot and very involved characters, so I admit that bringing the final book to an end remains, even now, a concern. The last thing anyone wants is an unsatisfying ending. Even in reading these final chapters, I remain concerned that I won't execute the information properly. But the upside is that the straight-forward, 6-step plan for the climax of the book (anywhere from one chapter to five - it's always subjective) has shown me that I'm already on the right path. Every step, I'd already considered. The only thing I think I've picked up on that I would have done wrong if I hadn't picked up The Fantasy Fiction Formula is dragging it out. I feel like I would have been frightened of too much happening at once and tried to ration it, which, when it comes to a climax, is wrong. It's supposed to be intense, with a breather part way through (which I've learned is called a long sequel) to serve the part of 'The Dark Moment' - wherein the protagonist is allowed to be human, not heroic, and take in the scope of what's ahead of him/her and voicing (or internalising) their biggest doubts and fears.
   With this knowledge, I realise I already have all the components I need for a great ending - I just need to make sure I don't shy away from doing it, that I don't try to protect my characters, or make it 'easier' on the reader. The climax of the story is the last place you want to do any of that.

   All praise aside, I do have this to say: take it all with a pinch of salt. The writer of this wonderful guide has also presented a few opinions as though they're fact, and one in particular that rubs me up the wrong way is when she tells you not to use phrases like 'burst through the door'. Now, as someone who has been reading for 25 years, I've read that kind of sentence so many times, and never once have I thought "oh my goodness, they actually exploded as they stepped through the door?! What on earth happened?!" No. I think, "they stepped through the door with unrestrained fury/excitement." And I ask you then: which of the two is easier to read?

They burst through the door.
They stepped through the door with unrestrained fury.

   She lists it as a technical impossibility - which is hopefully the case - but at the same time almost seems to be mocking writers for using it and, worst of all, also implies that the reader is stupid enough to believe that's actually what happened.
   There's nothing wrong with 'bursting' through a door, 'slipping' into a room or 'storming' off. As I said: pinch of salt.

How I used it

   I'm not a slow learner, but I also know that, since I'm not a kid any more, I'm not as quick as I used to be, and because this information is actually important to my career - a career I intend to hone and live off of until I die - it sort of matters that it sinks in. So I only read one chapter at a time, I typed out notes and did the exercises, and then I wouldn't touch another chapter until 3 days had passed.
   A lot of the time, even if I felt like I understood (or it even struck me as stupidly obvious), some nuance of the information wouldn't hit me for a day or two. Then, once I felt like I'd gotten as much out of ruminating as I could, I'd move on.
   Then, once I'd finished reading the book, I started writing my notes up by hand into a notebook. This meant that the core elements were refreshed in my mind, and I had the chance to revise it all again and add some later points to earlier ones if I felt they would be better known earlier.


   If you think you know how to write, great. But pick this book up, anyway. It has everything you need - not tropes or things like that, but actual story structure. It helps you fill holes as well as prevent them from opening in the first place, and will set you on a much sturdier path.
   If you intend to get artistic or experimental, that's great, too - but you need to know the rules before you can break them, if just so you can defend yourself when you're challenged.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Custom Miniature Dogs & Cats; Etsy Shop Revival

   These past few months, I forced myself to set aside some time to work on Etsy. I only plan on keeping Myth of the Wild open for 2.5 more years, and this weekend I gave myself a goal culminating in a very nice Christmas in 2021. Yes, I'm thinking far, far ahead. But it's given me what I need to find some enthusiasm again, which is why I'm also doing more to promote custom pieces.
   I made a batch of dogs and cats - things that should sell a little easier than obscure wild animals like takin or ezo momonga - and while the dogs have been painted and are ready to list, I've already put together a listing for custom miniature dogs. Like the custom made korok listing, customers can choose between a necklace, hanging ornament or standing ornament, and then either tell me what breed/colour they'd like, or send me a series of pictures of their own dog and I'll sculpt and paint that instead. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's only going to be available until mid-November because, even with my shop in decline, it's too much to take on any custom orders once Christmas orders kick off.
   And yes, the cats are now at the top of my list, and once they're done, they'll get the same custom colour/'my cat' treatment that the dogs have.
   Either way, they should make unique Christmas gifts for dog lovers! (SEO is a thing) 
Shown: Border Collie, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, German Shepherd, Labrador, Cocker Spaniel

    I have more wild animals to come, and I'm working on restocking Pepes and even a few more baby murlocs for WoW fans, as well as the usual tiny foxes, kodama, koroks (including a new shape & colour) and Totoros, since those four are my most solid sellers.
   I'm going to try to really do my best this Christmas, and then keep up momentum. I've found ways I can squeeze Etsy work into my week without stepping on writing time, and it would be great for my eyes and my mind to do something that is neither book- nor screen-related more often, too. Custom orders certainly help with that.

   While on the subject of reviving Myth of the Wild, I should also mention something about Etsy and why my own work with it has declined.

   First of all, it's not that I don't enjoy making things - I do. But I loathe what Etsy has become. It doesn't care anymore about smaller sellers - if you're not one of the big sellers that pull in loads of money (for them), they don't care. They continue to advertise the sellers who don't need the help and ignore the rest of us. I've been there for 8 years now and I've seen its decline. Not only that, but they recently increased the fees - it used to be 3.5% taken from the sale of a product, and that was it. Now it's risen to 5%, and they now take 5% from your shipping fees too. Fees we're not supposed to be making a profit off of anyway, which leads many to have to charge more for shipping than they'd like to. Yes, 5% isn't much, but it adds up, and lots of people can be put off by shipping fees as they were before the rise. They also prioritise US sellers and leave the rest of us to muddle through with changes until 6 months have passed and they're rolled out to the rest of them.
   The trouble is, if I try to go elsewhere, I have to start from the ground-up. I already tried on Folksy and it came to nothing. I admit my heart may not have been in it, but aside from spamming my social media, I'm not really sure what I could have done - and I do that enough with my books.

   Secondly, yes, it's true, I would rather be writing, and when I saw my sales begin to decline a few years ago, I threw myself deeper into books rather than trying to keep it afloat. Writing is what I want to do for life. I never planned to open an Etsy shop, that just happened, but writing has been the plan since I was 12. And so, rather than fight to keep my shop alive, I moved deeper into what I really loved doing and began flourishing with that instead. I'm proud of my books, I'm proud of my growth and progress. Unfortunately, it doesn't pay. It doesn't come close to matching Etsy. I'd have to sell 12 copies of The Zi'veyn to make what I would from selling just one necklace, and it's a difficult thing to convince people to part with money for a book by an unknown author they may not enjoy, compared to purchasing a one-off item that they can see they already love by sight alone. And so, with plans for the future - even frivolous Christmas ones - I want to do better.

Friday, 6 September 2019

What it Takes to Successfully Work From Home

   By now, you all know I work from home. I've run a jewellery business for 8 years (8 years?!) that I built myself and have run by myself ever since. And once I started publishing my books, well, that's a business, too. Just like Myth of the Wild, my books require marketing, budgeting and time management - especially when I'm trying to juggle them both.
   Working from home is no easy thing - it sounds it, what with zero commute, comfort, toilet breaks whenever you want them and no one breathing directly down your neck - but that's exactly why it isn't. It's too comfortable, there are so many more distractions, like the washing that could be folded up (even though it'll be fine where it is for a few more hours) or trimming the garden hedge (which could also wait for a few more weeks), and no one around to keep you on task. It's also easy to start late or finish early because there's no clocking in.
   But there are other reasons, too - ones you've probably not considered. So if you're planning to work from home, or have just started, take a look at this guide for how to work from home efficiently.

Planning and Preparation
Planning and preparation are two of the most vital aspects of working from home. You need to be on track and aware of what the day ahead is going to hold and how you’re going to push through with the stack of work that needs to be done. When you’re alone and working from home, there’s not going to be someone else there to do that stuff for you.

Avoid Work Creep
Work creep is the name given to the experience of having your work creep into your regular life. It’s a problem that many people experience when they work from home. It’s better for your work and certainly better for your personal and social lives if you keep a clear division between your work life and your personal life. Don’t let that work creep get the better of you. 

The Right Tech
You need to have all the right technology in place if you’re going to work from home. That means a good computer, a keyboard you love and a wireless mouse for Mac, as well as anything else that your job requires. The last thing you want is to be sidetracked and set back by poor or inadequate technology in your home office.

A Solid and Consistent Routine
   Having a good routine in place for your work is really important. You don’t want to get distracted by your phone or that book you’ve been reading. These things are all around you when you’re working from home and there will be no manager breathing down your neck telling you to get back to work. You have to be able to manage your own workload without any outside input. Set yourself work times, and don't forget to factor in your breaks. You might think that you're getting more down without them, but you're not. There's a reason for mandatory breaks in the workplace, and it's not an employer's good will. Productivity and efficiency drop after a while, and workers, whatever they're doing, need a break to breathe and recharge. You'll get just as much work done with a couple of breaks in your day as without, but you'll be a lot happier, too.

Comfortable Furniture
   Finally, you need to think about comfort. It’s important to feel comfortable and at ease in your home office. If you don’t have comfortable furniture that you enjoy using day after day, you’ll eventually start to feel those aches and pains and then you’ll be distracted from your work. That’s exactly what you don’t need, so be sure to pick out comfortable furniture for the home office. Find something with lumbar support. But also remember that too much comfort can drain energy levels and dull your work. An office chair, not a cheeky arm chair!

Working from is certainly no walk in the park, so you shouldn’t underestimate just how tough it can be. If you’re unsure of what it’ll be like for you, give it a trial run for a short period of time before committing to it on a full-time basis. This will give you a better idea of what you should expect and how it’ll be for you.

Monday, 2 September 2019



It counts.

     Before heading into the post: I've set up a monthly author newsletter which includes a free 7-page short story for subscribers, and I wrote a post recently on my author website which summarises my mistakes in self-publishing and what I've learned from them - and, subsequently, what other soon-to-be self-published authors need to keep in mind.
   Now, onwards...

    I spent the first day of autumn at the North Somerset Bird of Prey Centre's open day, outlining my month's book plans. It's nice to get out of the house, into some fresh air and around lots of animals I wouldn't usually get the chance to get so close to. I also admit that, while I hate people - I really hate people - it's a great opportunity to observe lots of different age groups, enthusiasm levels and general behaviour, which is something I seriously miss out on when I'm home all the time as a carer (though that in turn gives me plenty of opportunity to write). I also held a 3-week-old baby rat which made my month already, held a peregrine/aplomado falcon who did a great job in the flying display, and flew a barn owl. It was the best open day of theirs that I've been to. Sadly, also the last of the year, but they'll be open again on the first Sunday of March (I think - check out their facebook page for up to date into and thousands of amazing pictures).

   Otherwise, I admit, I'm struggling. I'm grounded in the trilogy, after a few weeks of doubt and feeling like I'd lost sight of things after 2 long books already, but now it's Salus who is causing problems for me. He's exhausting. And while his circumstances change in book two, they change again in book three and he should be more enjoyable to write, but he just seems to trail exhaustion behind him. Whenever I have to write him, I completely deflate. I love him, I do, but the shadows around him are thick and stifling, and that means I'm a lot slower to get anything done when he comes around. But, better that than plowing through. I want to portray him in the best way I can, and if it's not coming naturally because of all of that, I have to slow down. Sub-par villains are unacceptable and I refuse to do less than my best.

   Other than that, I'm pretty happy with how it's progressing, and I've been reading The Fantasy Fiction Formula ('cause now I'm not ascared of learnin') and discovering a few ways to improve my work, but also that, otherwise, I'm doing a surprising amount right. My confidence in my skill is rising, and even further after a recent talk with an editor. I've started up an author newsletter, my Instagram is surprisingly alive (with bookish things), and my website is updated occasionally, but only with worth-while things (free short stories, writing tips and book promos, all of which are rare as it is, simply because of the work required to do them - it isn't neglect!)

   I have a few other exciting things lined up for this month, and a few things in the pipelines for possible reveal next year, but nothing I want to talk about until I have a solid foundation. As the old duck said: don't tell people your plans, show them your results.

   Also, I am, of course, working on Etsy. I only plan to keep the shop open for two more years, three at most if my other plans are delayed, but I'd like to go out with a bang, and I have Christmas this year to prepare for anyway. But, rather than do what I'd prefer and make animals that appeal to me, I've opted to make some that might actually sell, so I have lots of domestic dogs and cats to paint! And remember: custom orders, including the custom korok listing, are only taken until mid-November due to the amount of general orders. If there's anything you'd like, get in touch in October, because I may have to stop accepting them as soon as November 1st if business is higher than anticipated.

   That's all for now. I will be back.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Turunda & The Devoted Trilogy - World Building Prompts - Presenting Turunda['s maps]

Penultimate installation of my Great Western Woods' #WorldBuildingQuest compilation, bringing together all my prompt question answers from Instagram to one convenient place, introducing the world of The Devoted trilogy.

Read chapters 1-5 of The Zi'veyn, the first book of the trilogy, for free on Kindle, Kindle app or in your browser right here.
Buy The Zi'veyn and book two, The Sah'niir, from all Kindle stores for £2.49 each, and in paperback from select Amazon stores. UK & DE Amazon ship right across Europe.

[#WorldBuildingQuest Week 4]

I originally planned to put the entire presentation on here, but I changed my mind when I realised that that tidy post was better suited to my author website. It doesn't really offer anything I've not already covered in the previous compilation posts, but if you're interested in the full introduction, check it out here ^^
Otherwise, I'm using this post to go over the other creative aspects of The Devoted trilogy.

   Unsurprisingly, in a story that involves a lot of travelling, experimentation and inevitable destruction and upheaval, I needed a map to keep track of things. It started as a rough drawing of the continent (shown below) since multiple countries are mentioned and at war, and then a zoom-in on Turunda itself, on lined paper in ball point pen. The necessary locations were marked - Rathen's home, the capital city and a few forests and rivers, and then a few towns and villages dotted along them or nearby.
   As The Zi'veyn came together, more locations were added and others were named, either through the characters passing through, an off-hand mention, or in one of Salus's reports. These two maps are those of The Zi'veyn.
   The locations grew further during The Sah'niir, and further still during Hlífrún, though the latter was more a point of naming some of the more obscure forests or some location within them, and for obvious reasons, I'm keeping those maps, and those of book three, private until the two books are released.

   To make book-ready maps, I scanned in my paper copies and drew over them in Paint Tool Sai (£20) with my tiny Wacom Intuos Art tablet (£80). I actually used the continental map first, and rather than draw around the original map of Turunda, I blew up the continental map and redrew Turunda from that. At a glance, the two paper maps seemed to fit. I discovered otherwise after scanning and trying to overlay the original on the digital drawing. It took some juggling, but I fit everything in where it should be. It just took a little rotation here and there.
   Drawing the forests and mountains took time and a few references (such as Djekspek/Herwin Wielink's), but I got there, and it came together to look rather good, I think! I'm proud, at any rate.
   As for labels, I originally only named and marked the places relevant to the story, but my husband complained that a few places were mentioned and not labelled, so I added them in once The Sah'niir was completed. It started to look cluttered, so I decided to add even more to off-set it. It sounds stupid, but I think it worked. I named passive locations like Banmar Dells, Sotwolds and so on, and made those labels quite light, then labelled every settlement and separated the dots of cities, towns and villages with different hues and sizes: cities are marked by big, solid dots; towns are marked by big, light dots; villages are marked by small dots. The only settlements labelled for each book are the relevant ones, however, but every single dot has a name and a purpose. They may not all be mentioned, and may never all be labelled, but they're all there.

   Various countries display different cultures - the same is true of our own world, of course, even those who are close neighbours. Skilan, Turunda and Kalokh all embody quite similar things, a mishmash inspired by both England and Scandinavia (ie that which is most familiar to me, and that which appeals to me). The Scandinavian traits, however, are far older than the English ones, and it shows in the wildlings.
   Doana, Qenra and Ithen, however, are of more African influence, and moved north into Arasiin centuries ago near the end of their empire's expansion. Since then, though, they've become a quiet, peaceful people, and Doana are especially watchful.
   Ivaea and Kasire have similar cultures of horsemen on the plains, with the deserts in the south uninhabited but for a few scarce wind and earth tribes. The humans across the world were subjugated by the elves, who equally had their own cultures and ideas which the humans inherited, and they never cared to live in the deserts. The various elemental tribes carry their own cultures and inhabit those places the elves had no wish to, rather than live under their subjugation.
   Which brings me to the creatures. They're all inspired by various folklores and inhabit the appropriate places, such as the crocotta of Ethiopian folklore found mainly in Ithen, while the wildlings are wide-spread wherever there are forests and, in Turunda, are inspired largely by Scandinavian folklore, and a little bit of Cornish. I had great fun researching them and giving them general personalities. I love my huldra, but, if I'm honest, I think it's between the ditchlings/Arkhamas and the askafroa for my favourites. Where magic is used among them, it's of a whole different kind, revolving instead around nature and symbiosis than anything in their blood.

   Creating cultures can be a tricky thing, because it does of course impose itself on day to day life within the world itself. If you go too far with it, it has the potential to become a cumbersome read - some writers can get away with it, but I think it's well beyond my abilities. But, if you put in too little, it can become difficult to distinguish between different peoples and between worlds, be it various worlds you've created, the world another has created, or the one we live in. There has to be something there, and the very least is the variation in spelling, pronunciation, or the formation of names (of both characters and places). The tribes have some of the thickest cultural details, and I've shaped their names around the elements they worship. The wind tribes, for example, I've tried to give airy names with few hard consonants, while earth tribes have much harder and more abrupt names.

   Which also lends itself to the creation of language. The elves are extinct, but given the nature of the story and inclusion of a historian among the main cast, I needed to create them as though they were still wandering the streets. They were generally difficult because I had to show their culture and their language in a more passive way - the reader won't learn about them simply through observation like they would the humans or wildlings - which meant small but relevant tidbits rather than a full history lesson (though I'm sure Anthis could have happily hijacked the book with a history lesson, as he is wont to try to do). Using their ruins as landmarks and reclaimed settlements, and their language in some settlement names and surnames, I think I've managed to get it across without being tedious, alongside the general theme of the story, of course, which involves closer looks at some such places and Anthis's professional studies and...erm...other things...

Here's the complete prompt list. The hosts were building their own world together at the time, and using this very prompts list themselves to outline it. They're a great range of questions to ask yourself while building your own, and I will be referring back to it when I move on to make something new.
I would add economy too, though. It's a good idea to establish the currency within your world, but an even better idea to establish the economy - knowing what costs what helps to establish reasonable rewards for bounties (be they the hunter or the hunted), individual wealth and its social impact.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Turunda & The Devoted Trilogy - World Building Prompts, Part 4

Penultimate installation of my Great Western Woods' #WorldBuildingQuest compilation, bringing together all my prompt question answers from Instagram to one convenient place, introducing the world of The Devoted trilogy.

Read chapters 1-5 of The Zi'veyn, the first book of the trilogy, for free on Kindle, Kindle app or in your browser right here.
Buy The Zi'veyn and book two, The Sah'niir, from all Kindle stores for £2.49 each, and in paperback from select Amazon stores. UK & DE Amazon ship right across Europe.

Day 22: Magic!
   Magic is born in the heart, in a third ventricle which itself is a left-over trait from the elves, and a result of cross-racial breeding. The magic joins the blood in that upper ventricle on its way out of the heart through the aorta and is pumped through the body. One's strength is dependent not upon the magic within their blood, but their resilience - their body's ability to contain, process and utilise it. One with low resilience but high magic will, ultimately, be a mage of lower ability. One with high resilience and lower magic will be either just as powerful or more than the former. One with both high resilience and high magic will be more powerful. One with extremely low resilience may not be accepted into the Order at all, as their magic would be too weak to use.
   Before their extinction, magic was cast effortlessly by the elves. Humans, however, are 'impure' in their magic and create signs with their fingers to help focus their thoughts and the commands to make up spell chains. A spell to create a chair, for example, will consist of multiple signs to determine its size, weight, material, colour, design, and strength. A spell to create fire will consist of signs to cover the size, colour, temperature and liveliness. A practised mage can create signs at the bat of an eye.
I'm using some of these gestures for the front cover of book three. I spent 20 minutes sitting in front of a camera recording my fingers making all kinds of shapes. I do not envy mages. It is hard.

Day 23: Technology
   Technology is basic. They're just discovering the use of fish oils. Magic reigns supreme, but it isn't trusted. It's only a matter of time, now, before someone discovers something that will begin to level the playing field...

Day 24: Medicine & Science
   Medicine consists of salves and basic medicines, but it has all progressed beyond lobotomies. Broken bones can be reset, fevers broken, and many ailments cured. But plagues will still get ahead of them far too fast, cancer will always win, and amputation is a frequent resort. Magic among the Order cannot be used to heal, largely due to its perception. Viewed as a tool, its use is limited. The tribes, however, perceive magic as a living thing, and so rather than force magic to do what they want it to, what few magic-wielders there are among the tribes use their magic *alongside* other knowledge to help the magic do what they want it to. It's often effective - but it's a last resort. If a salve or poultice will do, they will use that instead.

Day 25: Weaponry
   It's a sword and sorcery tale, and a sword and sorcery world. There are swords, arrows and magic abound. War still includes the use of siege engines and war machines. Magic is, by far, the most deadly, but mages of the military wing are usually used to fight opposing mages while the two conflicting non-magic militaries have at eachother. The mages are there on both sides, ultimately, to protect their militaries from the magic of the other. Petra gets special mention here: as a non-mage and a duelist, she carries an arsenal about her person: an arming sword on her hip, daggers at her back, and a bolas that comes in unfortunately handy.

Day 26: Historic Wars
   The Arishan War was a costly and bloody civil war in Turunda centuries ago that came as a result of the Crown keeping heavy secrets from its people. Royal decrees that came out of the blue were the first clue, and as they gradually oppressed certain classes of civilians, those civilians began to fight back.
   The Red Nest War, a dictatorship rising from Dweron in the south almost one hundred years ago, was put to its end by the actions of one man in Turunda, tricking the advancing military into stealing poisoned grain. When it worked, others did the same, and the military was decimated overnight, sending the dictator fleeing.

Day 27: Social Change & Revolution
   The Arishan War leveled the playing field and put the Crown in its place. Without his people behind him, not even the king has any power.

Day 28: Natural Disasters
   Mount Tolendra last erupted a about 150 years ago, casting a cloud of ash over Turunda from the north-west that had a disastrous effect on crops and disease. Floods have occurred, and earthquakes, but nothing in documented human history has been very severe. Yet.

Day 29: Other Historic Events
   The elves had suppressed humans prior to their sudden disappearance, supposedly at the hands of Zikhon due to their waning belief in Vastal, and upon their sudden disappearance seven hundred years ago, humans were elevated overnight. Some elven cities were destroyed, others abandoned, others taken over, and after a number of civil wars among themselves, order was eventually established when people rallied behind the figures who proved they could build them a future. Those individuals eventually became kings.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

It's Release Day! And...

The Zi'veyn's birthday!

   Yes, one year on from the release of The Zi'veyn comes book two in the trilogy, The Sah'niir! I said yesterday that I wasn't as excited about it because it's the second book of a trilogy and so not technically a new story, but I could barely sleep last night and woke up ridiculously bouncy today, so I guess I was more excited than I'd thought!
   Kindle is available right now, and paperback should follow in a day or two! And, as promised, here's a sneak peak of The Sah'niir, with the prologue and first five chapters viewable for free on the Kindle app, Kindle sample, and in your browser, for those weirdos among you that like to look at the second or third book of a trilogy before picking up the first. Yes, they really do exist. No, I don't understand the logic, either. I don't think there is any.

   Be sure to snap a picture of the book or your device with it open and tag me!
@KimWedlock on both twitter and instagram!
Don't underestimate how badly I want to see!!

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Book Release Tomorrow!

   Ohhh my goodness. The Sah'niir comes out tomorrow.
   I confess, I'm not actually quite as excited as I was when I released The Zi'veyn a year ago because The Sah'niir is the second in the trilogy, which means marketing isn't as straight forward - but I am excited. It's another book under my belt, after all, and I'm releasing The Sah'niir on The Zi'veyn's first birthday! I'm hoping to get the third and final book ready for August 1st 2020, but I don't honestly know how practical a plan that is. I'll try, though, but I'm not rushing anything. It should be out by winter 2020, though, and I'm working on getting Hlífrún (which falls between The Sah'niir and book three, as a stand-alone) out for summer 2020, if all goes well.

For now, though, The Sah'niir.
Kindle pre-order (£2.49)
(or search 'The Sah'niir' on your preferred Amazon/Kindle store)
Paperback will be available to purchase once live.

   Those who have read The Zi'veyn are aware of the sheer-faced cliff the story was left hanging from. The Sah'niir picks up a few weeks later, with the exception of the prologue. I've heard it said that if anything in the prologue or the epilogue was important, it would be in the chapters themselves, not added on 'as an after-thought'. I agree in many cases, and even my own prologues and epilogues move like that. I use them more like a passing glance through a window. Some people walk past a house and habitually peer in, just like some people read prologues and epilogues. Others continue on their way, satisfied with the world as it is, just like some people don't read prologues or epilogues. And that's just fine. I think you're missing out if you don't, but it's preference and I do follow the above idea: if it's important, it'll be in the book itself. Though they're never details that are 'added on as an after-thought'.
   I will also say, though, that I really, really enjoyed writing The Sah'niir's prologue.

   If you're one of those weird people that like to read part of the second book before reading the first, just to test the waters, there will be a free preview of the first 5 chapters of The Sah'niir (including the prologue) available to read as a Kindle sample or browser window once the book has been released. You weirdos. 

Turunda & The Devoted Trilogy - World Building Prompts, Part 3

Continuing my compilation of Great Western Woods' #WorldBuildingQuest, on world of The Devoted trilogy.

Speaking of which, erm, the second book, The Sah'niir, well... 
it's out tomorrow!!!

Paperbacks will be up in a day or two, otherwise you can pre-order it on Kindle right now to download on release!
And get the first of the trilogy, The Zi'veyn, for £2.49 on Kindle!
Or read the first five pages of The Zi'veyn for free on Kindle, Kindle App or your browser right here!

#WorldBuildingQuest Week 3:

Day 15: Law & Order
   Bailiffs deal with their own bailiwicks, according to royal law. On the larger scale, the guards handle the day-to-day - catching and deterring thieves, watching for anything untoward, and doing general guardy-stuff. Not all of them are above being paid off, which happens most frequently in Carenna. The inquisitors of the White Hammer deal with higher crimes that require investigation and carry a higher threat - organised crime, lynching, rebellion, trafficking, etc. The Arana deal with covert issues.

Day 16: Government Structure
   The Crown, led by the king, consists of a number of advisors, and each significant branch of authority (White Hammer, Arana, Order) have their own liaisons to the Crown, who are responsible for ferrying back and forth the Crown's commands and the authorities' reports. It's not a perfect system.

Day 17: Family Groups
   As standard. Elderly often live with their children and grandchildren, especially in the smaller villages where housing and work is sparse. There is always a man of the house, and in the event of a husband's death, the woman is expected to remarry to support her family.

Day 18: Gender Roles
   Women are expected to clean, sew, look after children, but despite the need for a man of the house, they are able to work, and in some cases even join the army, as long as their skill is evident. They will never progress high in the ranks, however. Women are seen as inferior, which leaves a lot of room for a woman to take advantage of being underestimated. This means that women are ideal for the Arana, because they can easily uncover secrets. They're also good for lower ranks in the White Hammer so that they can infiltrate, much like among the Arana, without being suspected. In the Order, however, woman are as equal as men in the ranks, as magic doesn't stem from physical strength. They can be soldiers in the military wing, they can be preservers in the preservation wing, and they can be scholars. A good deal of women choose to pursue a career as a preserver, which is more impressive than a scholar but not as demanding as a soldier, and puts them out into the world where they can walk tall and publicly defy general ideas of women walking with their heads bowed.

Day 19: World of Work
   Apprenticeships are given out at young ages. Children often follow in their parents' footsteps because it's easy, it's at home, and they've already been exposed to the trade. However, many will still go out looking for something else so they might earn themselves a better life for themselves, or for their own family.

Day 20: Class Divides/Social Mobility
   Rich & poor steer clear of one another, and towns and cities are segregated. But the poor are not restricted on where they can go, with the exception of the richest districts and the royal grounds. In theory, both the rich and the poor could visit the same tavern. It's taste and price that keeps them from doing so. While it will be difficult, there's nothing stopping a poor person with skill in a trade from elevating. However, it's unlikely that someone of low birth would ever be hired in the palace as even the lowliest servant, nor as a noble's stablehand. But, if they worked hard enough, and their son followed in their footsteps, the son may well have even better prospects.

Day 21: Religion/Belief Structure:
   The Temple teaches Craitic belief, and praise towards the goddess, Vastal. While it teaches goodness and light, for some, it's nothing more than a means of securing a kinder road in the afterlife.
Then there's the Sulyax Dizan, translated from elven into 'Guards of the Apocalypse', who act upon a prophecy from Craitic belief dictating that the elves were destroyed by the God of Death, Zikhon, when their belief in Vastal waned so much that she weakened and was unable to hold him back from her children. The Sulyaxists believe that a lesser god, Vokaad, will be able to find a way to shield the world from Zikhon's rage should belief in Vastal inevitably wane among humans in time, but to do so, he needs souls of various value. Sulyaxists kill ritualistically and are gifted with a rudimentary form of magic, but it fades and results in increasing withdrawal symptoms, provoking them to kill again. A ceremonial dagger is used in each killing, along with a ritualistic phrase. Without both of these, a soul will not go to Vokaad.