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.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Turunda & The Devoted Trilogy - World Building Prompts, Part 2

Last week I started compiling all of my prompt posts from Great Western Woods' #WorldBuildingQuest, focusing on the world of The Devoted trilogy (work on book three is underway, and book two, The Sah'niir, will be out in one week!)

#WorldBuildingQuest Week 2:

Day 8. Food
   A good, healthy diet of grains, meats and vegetables. Meat is not exclusive to the wealthy, though the variety available is more restricted. Game is common, however, as the forests and valleys are thick with deer, boar and jackalopes, if one is prepared to hunt on free land. Cider is easy to make, ale less so, but they're all widely available, while wines are slowly becoming available to a wider market rather than their previous restriction to those of higher status.

Day 9. Farmed Animals
   Cows and sheep; the typical animals. But it isn't too wide-spread, as game is so abundant. Poaching is a problem and it's handled harshly, but hunting remains the dominant source of meat, especially for the poor. The risks are worth it.

Day 10. Natural Predators
   If you wander into the wilds of Turunda, many of the creatures hiding in, behind or beneath the trees are a danger of one kind or another, but the most likely to cause harm is the raghorn - half deer, half wild cat. It's aggressive and considered a fine trophy for hunters. There is an annual raghorn hunt which will frequently result in injury, if not death - which is all part of the thrill, of course.

Day 11. Climate & Seasons
   Turunda carries a mild climate, mid-way between the equator and the poles. There is sufficient rain, being so close to the sea, and the surrounding mountains cast a rain shadow which additionally waters the soils. Neighbouring countries are largely the same, with the exception of Ivaea to the north which, due to that very rain shadow, is one third desert despite being only a little closer to the equator.

Day 12: Trade Routes & Travel
   There are plenty of roads connecting the capital to the towns and cities, whereas most villages are often a backroad away, but with game hunting being the primary source of meat, the mild climate making farming vegetables easy, and the abundance of water, people living in villages generally get by without the need to visit large markets as often. The markets feature more game and crops, but also spices brought down from the north, tribal curiosities (despite the fear and distaste for the tribespeople themselves) and finery that the poor can get by without. Travel is mostly by foot, then by horse, then cart or carriage depending on wealth and importance (and pomposity).

Day 13: Important Trade Towns
   Roeden and Whitemouth are important sea ports and deal with the trade from the smaller southern islands, while Emberton is crucial to the steel trade. Carenna, far to the north, though an unsavoury sort of place, is where the spices and tribal goods are first dealt with, as well as bleeding opiac and liquors into the broader market.

Day 14: Education
   It's not wide-spread and limited to the rich. Ordinary people have the option to either join the Temple and learn from the priests, or choose a trade and learn via apprenticeships. Life lessons are taught by parents or learned the hard way. Those who enter into the Hall of the White Hammer are given additional education, but they usually require a tactical mind to begin with, and those who enter the Arana must be quick-witted with a natural intelligence, and the ability to obey commands unerringly. Military requires less education. Mages who enter into the Order are given a broader education, regardless of background.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Turunda & The Devoted Trilogy - World Building Prompts, Part 1

   I've been more active on Instagram these past few months, and I've been focusing it on my writing, sharing character and world building information, resources, cover reveals and illustrations and anything else that fantasy book lovers might enjoy.
   Last month, the Great Western Woods podcast duo started a daily prompt list to help with world building. I wanted to get on board, and decided to share more in-depth details about the world of The Devoted trilogy rather than build something new, since I'm still working very much within this world (work has begun on the third and final book, and the second will be out on August 1st!)

   I'm going to gather up all the prompts and responses from this World Building Quest and share them all with you here over 5 posts. I'm also including some of my #FantasyWIPJune posts that I posted at the same time, if they're relevant. They were, otherwise, all posted in a thread on twitter ^^

   You can read chapters 1-5 of book one, The Zi'veyn, for free on Kindle, Kindle app or in your browser right here!
   It's also available on all Kindle stores, and from select Amazon stores in paperback (UK & DE Amazon ship across Europe). Book two, The Sah'niir, is available for Kindle pre-order and will be available for download on August 1st, when paperback is also released.

Day 1: Genre & Setting
   The Devoted is set in a fantasy, pre-technology world. I prefer pre-tech because it makes greed less tangible and more akin to obsessive survival. It's set within the borders of Turunda, the southern tip of the continent of Arasiin, and under the reign of King Thunan, 700 years after the extinction of the elves.

Bonus: Day 1 of FantasyWIPJune: Does your WIP have a Creation myth?
Vastal and Zikhon were the sole gods. Vastal created elves and humans for extra company, but Zikhon grew jealous and sought to destroy them. Vastal fought him off for centuries, but when the faith of the dominant elves dwindled, Vastal weakened. Zikhon slipped through her defence and destroyed them all. Only the humans' love for her gave her strength enough to protect them. And so only the reverent humans remain.
According, at least, to Craitic belief.

Day 2. Draw Your Borders
   Sea and mountains define a good deal of Turunda's land. The mountains are vast - the Pavise range in the west belong largely to Skilan, while the eastern Olusan belong to Ivaea who neighbour along the northern border. Doana lies to the east, and Kalokh to the north-west, above Skilan.

Day 3. Find Your Water Source
   Turunda's water sources largely consist of the Emerald River, which stretches across a good deal of the south east from its source in the Wildlands, while the Northrage in the north and the White River in the west supply the rest.

Bonus: Day 3 of FantasyWIPJune: Hierarchy. Who's in charge?
The Crown - the king and his council, who then control the 4 authorities: the Arana, the Order, the Hall of the White Hammer, & the military.
But, being banished and all, Rathen doesn't really recognise their authority anymore...

Day 4. Establish Your Capital
   Kulokhar, its namesake from the three elven spiral towers, which translates into 'Ebon Star Rise'. This is where the king's palace is located, as well as the mages' Order, the White Hammer's headquarters, as well as the Arana. It lies close to the Emerald River.

Bonus: Day 4 of FantasyWIPJune: Culture(s)
Turunda is a loose mix of English and Scandinavian culture, but the wind tribes are my favourite - they're not material people and get by on what they need, either trading for or making it. They're inspired loosely by Tibetan Buddhism.

Day 5: Survey Your Landscape
   It's low-lying and largely forested, with three major rivers carving through to distribute fair water to support the forests. Mountains to the east and west capture much of the rain, keeping the country verdant. There are also a few dales, meadows and fells, with limestone scowles to the south.

Bonus: Day 5 of FantasyWIPJune: Describe Any Location
The Wildlands - dense, overgrown, truly wild forest of eastern Turunda. Thick with creatures of legend - näcken, askafroa, kvistdjur & many more. Hlífrún's throne. It's a dangerous place to venture. Even more so if you catch the huldra's eye.

Day 6: Natural Resources
   Wood is Turunda's largest resource, along with clay, while stone is sourced from Kalokh and Ivaea where necessary.

Bonus: Day 6 of FantasyWIPJune: Religious Beliefs
The most wide-spread is the praise of Vastal, though the distinction between her Faces is neglected, and the caution of Zikhon (see Day 1). Elemental tribes worship elemental deities, and those with their god's favour can mimic their powers.

Day 7: Sapient Species
   With elves extinct, humans are the dominant species, while the forests are also riddled with wild, sentient creatures. The most commonly spotted are the ditchlings, who go so far as to venture into towns and villages and steal from washing lines and kitchen windowsills. There are also näcken, kvistdjur, vittra, etc ❤ There is only one huldra per continent, and she rules over the forests and its creatures.

Monday, 1 July 2019

The Sah'niir, Book Cover Reveal

I mentioned in my earlier post that today was the day for my book cover reveal, and I wasn't lying.
After a few weeks of work, straining my eyes and becoming really quite sick of drawing, I've finished!!

   It's not the greatest cover in the world, and I still think that The Zi'veyn's is better, but they will both do. It's immensely satisfying to be able to say that I made the book and the cover. But there is a reason that professionals are hired, and I would never turn my nose up at them. But while my budget consists of biscuits and pocket lint, there's not much I can do but practise and hope that my own efforts will do for the time being.
   Tools: Wacom Intuos art, Paint Tool SAI, photo reference (of my husband again :B) and much trial and error.

   But, ultimately, I am very proud of it, and it had a better first attempt than The Zi'veyn's originally did.

   The book itself will be released on Kindle & paperback one month from today, on August 1st, and pre-order links will be available very soon!

Lately, and Getting Back to Routine

   After six months of constant and changing work, my massive to-do list has finally come to an end, and on Thursday last week, I finally made a start writing book three of The Devoted trilogy! The cover for The Sah'niir is finished, proof covers have arrived, and I'm in a position, at last, to make its reveal later today. I've also sent out six copies of my Camp NaNo project, Hlífrún, out to beta-readers to find out once and for all if the book makes any sense on its own, or if readers will be in the dark unless they've read The Zi'veyn, and I've also made revisions to the beginning of that very book to try to improve the opening and grasp more attention. Which I then sent out to 14 literary agents. If I never mention it again, it's because it was a miserable failure.

   This is the first time I've had a regular writing/daily routine since October. Back then, I put the almost-finished Sah'niir to one side in order to keep ahead of Christmas Etsy orders. Then, when I got back to it after Christmas, it only took me two weeks to get it finished before 6 weeks of proofing and editing began, then I got to work planning out the third book. Between that, I worked on a couple of short stories for Frenone's tarot book project before making the spontaneous decision to write Hlífrún, which I did in 3.5 weeks, flat-out. That was then edited and proofed, and then I returned to planning the third book, alongside working on the cover for the second, updating The Zi'veyn, its cover and its maps, preparing new agent submissions with a fresh and far more accurate synopsis of the entire trilogy, a much improved cover letter, and gathering every detail each individual wanted. So it has been a very busy six months, indeed.
   Now, however, it's all smooth-sailing. I have no other side projects left. It's just my book, and my shop. I hadn't been stressed out by any of it because the deadlines were either months away (and still are, though I've long since completed my part), or self-imposed without repercussions, but suddenly it feels like I can breathe more easily.

I'm so proud of my digital art growth:

   I'm hoping to blog more often now that I have more manageable time, too. I've been pretty active on Instagram, but I'm certain I can bring a lot of that over here, too, and while my fitness has been pretty steady, the fact that I no longer change it up every month leaves less to talk about. But I'm still going at it with 3 months of resistance training, using the same programs as I outlined last year (v1, v2 & v3) and I've improved drastically. Case in point: when I first started in March last year, I was deadlifting 3x 10 12.5kg. A year on, I was deadlifting 3x 12 25kg. And just 3 months after that, I'm now lifting 35kg. It's one of the things I love about resistance and strength training (aside from the fact that your heart stays in your chest, not your throat, and that it's a much more manageable workout in a heatwave) - tracking your progress is so very much easier. Physical change aside, I can see myself getting stronger faster than anything else, and that is incredibly empowering.
   That said, today I'm starting Core de Force again for a month. My focus in training months is muscle gain. My focus this month is fat loss. Which means it's going to suck because I have to keep a closer eye on what I eat and eat less (muscle gain requires a calorie surplus, fat loss requires a deficit).
   Still, it's only 5 weeks, and the last time I did this I actually went for 9 weeks and stopped seeing any fat loss after 5.5, so I know that I'm running it for the optimal amount of time, then I can run back to my weights. Also, in my increasing strength *flexes casually* I finally bought a new barbell. My beginner's one, a £35 20kg Women's Health barbell, was absolutely great to start with - padded and straight-forward - but the bar itself is in three pieces and screws together, and while that's fine for the weights that come with it, I started to worry when I bought a bigger plate. I wasn't really comfortable chest pressing 25kg, knowing that the bar could break and fall on my head. So I bought a big York one, along with another 10kg plate. Which frees up my old bar for lighter weights and standing upper body moves, while opening up the possibility now to lift up to 45kg. And with a far more reliable bar, I'm much happier buying even more plates in the future.

   Hopefully I'll be back with regular posting soon. Otherwise, I'm still very much alive on twitter, and my Instagram page is full of book info! Creative info, not technical updates.

Friday, 28 June 2019

7 Ways To Monitor Your Health

   It's remarkable, really, that it's only in today's age that people are really starting to pay attention to their health. I don't just mean eating right and exercising (nor am I talking about herbal remedies, spiritual cleansing or other unproven and baseless 'cures'). I mean prevention and awareness, in ourselves and others.
   Those of you who have been here for a while know that my mother suffers from secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. It's true that there are diseases out there that no amount of preventative measures can ward off, it's the way of the world and we just have to try to get by. But there are a great many things that can be staved off simply by taking care of yourself. There's a lot of hype at the moment about 'self-care', but a shocking number of people use 'self-care' as an excuse to binge-eat, get lazy and generally do themselves more damage. For a fit and healthy individual, starting the day with a doughnut and milkshake just once a week isn't going to do anything terrible for you. That's what self-care is about. But for people who are already lazy, sedentary, and have a poor diet, that's just piling it on. In their case, 'self-care' would be better equated to a walk outside on a lovely day (or perhaps in the rain - don't knock it until you've tried it. As Billy Connolly said: there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes).
   But we're not talking about that kind of self-care when it comes to physical health, longevity and quality of life. We're talking about keeping an eye on the things that matter. "They seem like such a faff" - if you shrug them off with an excuse like that, your health can't be very important to you. Once it becomes standard practice, a regular part of your weekly or daily routine, you won't even notice the few minutes it takes to get it done.

    When it comes to health, prevention and early detection now enjoy almost the same prominence as actual cures. This, of course, makes sense - if you can stop a condition or illness from developing, or identify it early enough to intervene before it becomes severe, quality of life can be preserved and outcomes are improved. While seeking cures for conditions will always be important, prevention and early detection are now considered to be of paramount importance.
   For most people, achieving the goal of “prevention” is rather straightforward. Most of us know the basics of maintaining good health: eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing weight, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and ensuring we are mentally active. However, early detection is a little more difficult - especially as many health conditions can remain asymptomatic for years or even decades.
   Thankfully, modern medical knowledge has provided an answer in the form of comprehensive health monitoring options. While these monitoring options should never be a replacement from seeking advice or treatment from your doctor, they can provide a helpful insight that allows you to keep tabs on your health and identify any possible issues as soon as possible. Below, we have detailed seven different ways that you can monitor various aspects of your health that you may want to try, starting with…

Heart Rate Recovery After Exercise

   Your “heart rate recovery” (HRR) is a measurement that reflects how quickly your heart rate returns to normal following exercise - ideally, your heart rate should increase when you are working out, and then begin to decrease as soon as you are at rest. Studies have shown that a poor HRR can actually be an indicator of heart attack risk, so if you exercise regularly, checking your HRR is always worth doing. Here’s what you need to do:
  • When you have finished exercising, you’ll need to check your heart rate. You can do this with heart rate monitoring devices, by consulting a fitness tracker if you use one, or just by counting each beat for one minute (or for 30 seconds and then multiplying the number by two).
  •  Note down your first reading, and then wait for two minutes before taking your heart for a second time.
  • To establish your HRR, you need to subtract the second number from the first. For example, if the reading that you took immediately after finishing exercise was 130, and your second reading two minutes later was 65, then your HRR would be 65 (130 - 65 = 65).
  • If your HRR is below 55, then discuss this with your doctor.

“Finger Prick” Blood Screening

   “Finger prick” blood screenings are exactly what you would expect: blood screenings that can be conducted using a very small amount of blood. This means that there is no need to visit a medical professional for a blood draw; the tests can be purchased online and then completed at home, with samples then returned by post and results following a few days later.
   However, it is important to note that finger prick blood screenings should only be used for monitoring purposes - to keep an eye on health indicators such as cholesterol or to check vitamin absorption, for example. If you feel unwell or suspect you may be experiencing a health condition, then always discuss this with your doctor; and if you do opt to undergo a blood screening, always discuss the results with your GP.

Sexual Health Check-Ups

   When it comes to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, it’s always helpful to ensure you and your partner are aware of the potential signs of infection, especially as the symptoms for men and women tend to differ - and some people experience no symptoms at all.
   How often you should undergo an STI depends on your circumstances. If you are not sure how often you need to be tested, your doctor will be able to provide a recommendation for frequency that is suitable for you.

Blood Pressure Monitoring

   As a condition, hypertension (or “high blood pressure” as it is better known) is, for most people, relatively straightforward to manage. However, hypertension significantly increases the risk of other, more concerning health issues, including a higher risk of blood clots and heart disease. Symptoms of hypertension include headaches, fatigue, a fast heart rate, chest pain, or a “pounding” feeling in the chest neck or ears - but for many people, the condition is entirely asymptomatic, so much so that hypertension is often referred to as a “silent killer”.
   As hypertension can be so difficult to identify, regularly monitoring your blood pressure can be very helpful. There are two different ways to do this, the first of which is to buy an at-home monitor. If you do choose this option, always look for a monitor that is approved by the British and Irish Hypertension Society to ensure accurate readings. However, if you’d prefer not to buy your own monitor, then check local chemists, gyms, or even your GP surgery to see if they provide access to a monitoring machine without an appointment.

Smear Tests

   Smear tests are designed to help prevent cancer from developing in the future by monitoring for changes in the cervix. Women in the UK are advised to attend regular smear tests every three years (or every five years if between the ages of 59 and 64); however, research has indicated that one in four women do not attend.
   If you want to monitor your health as well as possible, then attending a smear test when recommended will always be the right choice. If you have any concerns about the test, then speak to your doctor for reassurance, or browse through the #SmearForSmear hashtag on various social media platforms to read smear test stories that can help ease your mind. It is not as awful an experience as popular media would have you believe.

Self Examination

   Sometimes, the best thing that you can do to monitor your health is simply to conduct regular checks on certain areas of your body and to look out for any potential changes. For women, monthly breast checks are very beneficial and can help to identify early signs of breast cancer; for men, regular testicle checks for any signs of lumps is important when seeking to identify testicular cancer.
   In addition to the above, regularly checking your skin - and, in particular, checking any moles have not changed - is recommended. You can also check your fingernails for any dark spots, particularly if the spot appears to originate at the cuticle.
   If, when checking any of the above, you notice any changes or symptoms that are a cause for concern, then speak to your doctor as soon as possible. There can be benign reasons that are responsible for most changes, but it is nevertheless important to seek your doctor’s assistance.

Eye Tests

   As one would expect, eye tests are incredibly useful for checking the health of your eyes and your vision - and should always be attended for these reasons alone. However, a visit to an optician is actually an opportunity to check far more than just your eyes. For example, opticians can identify signs of a range of health conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, and even arthritis; so an eye exam should be considered health-beneficial on multiple levels. For most people, eye tests are recommended every two years, though you can arrange an appointment if you feel that your vision has changed in the intervening period.

Monday, 24 June 2019

The Zi'veyn For Free (and book two imcoming!)

   YES, The Zi'veyn is available for free download across all Kindle stores once again, readable on all Kindle devices, or on the free Kindle Reading app on all tablets, smart phones, laptops, PCs and Macs! And this is a big one, because the first few chapters have been revised based on feedback, and the maps have also been improved drastically! And, in five and a half weeks, the second book of the trilogy, The Sah'niir, will be released!

   I've prepped the files for The Sah'niir, everything has been proofed, edited and prepared, and I finished work on the book cover. It went much smoother this time around. I've just ordered proof copies of the cover itself, and then I'll put together a proof copy of the book. Assuming all goes well, it will be fit for release on August 1st, one year after the release of The Zi'veyn.
   To download your copy of The Zi'veyn, either visit your regional amazon or Kindle store and search 'The Zi'veyn', or click one of the links below for the most often visited stores:

UK   •   The Netherlands   •   US   •   Canada   •   Australia

   And, if you're not sure, you can read the improved first five chapters for free right here! These chapters will always be available for preview on your device, or can be downloaded as a free Kindle sample to your ereader or app for easy reading on the go. As for the free book, The Zi'veyn will be free on Kindle from Monday 24th to Friday 28th of June.

Friday, 21 June 2019

The Value of Telling Your Story

   Why do I write? There are so, so many reasons. Aside from the simple fact that I fell in love with it after first seeing The Fellowship of the Ring at 12 and then promptly reading all the books before the second film came out, I've come to love it only more as I've grown older. It might sound pretentious, or overly spiritual, but it has helped me to 'know' myself. I can recognise, through everything I've written - recurring themes, character traits, values, etc - what it is that is truly important to me, what disgusts me, what I won't stand for, and the ideals I want to share with the world. And in putting it out there, giving each of them names and faces, I'm better able to face up to the things I don't like about myself, and perhaps come to love them. Failing that, I know at least how to handle them. Case in point: "I'm 'Salus'ing again."
   But it also helps others. For many, it's just entertainment, but every now and then I'll write a character and a friend will just say "I can't count how many times I've felt like this, but have never been able to put it into words." Aside from 'Yay I'm doing something right!', I also begin to think that there's a lot more power in words than you would think. And it isn't limited to books, either, but to blogs, forums and community.
   'The pen is mightier than the sword,' and all that. As this guest post from a friend of mine outlines:

   There is a well-known quote attributed to Cormac McCarthy: 'each man is the bard of his own existence.'
    Throughout the course of our lives, all of us accumulate a wide variety of stories of all different types. Some of those stories are of a tragic nature, while others are uplifting. Some are funny, and others contain practical wisdom. Life is, to a large extent, about the stories we write (figuratively as well as literally), the stories we accumulate, and the stories we share with others.
   And yet, many people choose to hold their own stories back and hide them away, instead of sharing and telling them. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to share and tell your own stories, instead, be it in the art of prose, or the freedom of blogging.

They May Help Someone Who Needs It
   Life can be pretty tough, and all of us are bound to face more than our fair share of hardship, frustration, irritation, and confusion, along the way. Part of what that means is that we are all looking for answers to a wide array of questions, and solutions to a wide array of problems, as we go about our daily business.
   If you had a particular experience in life that was difficult for you and that you dealt with well, or moved beyond, sharing your story surrounding that particular event or issue might make all the difference in the life of someone out there who really needs help at this exact moment. Some communities exist specifically in order for people to share such stories, and so to help and support each other. Shift MS, for example, serves this role for people with Multiple Sclerosis, and those who care for them.
   Whatever your specific experiences and challenges of life, never assume that they are irrelevant or worthless. They might contain vital answers for someone else.

Storytelling Allows You To Reach A Deeper Level
   It's a truly wonderful and quite unconscious way of really getting in touch with yourself on a deeper level. Few of us really know ourselves - not just how we would react in certain situations, but how we each work in general. This is, in large part, due to the hectic lifestyles we now lead and the workaholism of us millennials. Not giving ourselves a chance to stop, breathe and think - even face our worries rather than distract ourselves from them - leads to all kinds of issues like depression and anxiety, all because we don't take time to know ourselves.
   We are all mysterious, even to ourselves, on a variety of different levels. Our emotions, dreams, impulses, and thoughts, largely seem to well up out of the unconscious without much input from our waking minds. One of the great journeys that we are all on in life, as a rule, is the journey of self-discovery and enhanced self understanding. The attempts to fulfil the charge of the Oracle of Delphi out to 'know thyself'.
   Storytelling allows you to really get in touch with yourself on a deeper level, and to unravel your own inner mysteries. This is especially true when you sit down to write your own stories, and particularly when you write fiction. This includes fantasy. There’s something about letting your ideas and inner worlds flow onto the page without censorship, that can bring a lot to the surface, as well as making worlds and characters more relatable and dimensional. 'Writing what you know' is an important part of story-telling. How can you tell a compelling story that readers will invest their heart in if it's entirely made up?

Connect And Spread Enjoyment
   Good stories make life a good deal more interesting and fun. It's a general truth - that’s why the film, TV, and fiction book industries are so massive and there is always new talent striving to get noticed (speaking of which: keep an eye on my author website for news on the second instalment of The Devoted trilogy - it's out on August 1st!)
   When you make a special effort to record, create, and share your own stories, you make life more interesting in general for yourself and potentially for all those you interact with. More than this, though, is that when you share your stories you also connect with others on a deeper level. They get to know a bit more about you, you get to know a bit more about them, and you share in meaningful experiences together. And that’s a valuable thing.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

The Zi'veyn - Illustrations

   I'm working towards the end of my 6-month to-do list, and I'm finally winding down. I've managed, even, to do a little work on some illustrations, too!
   I showed Petra & Eyila throughout Inktober last year, but I was never happy with the vague colouring, so when I started experimenting with pencil drawings and digital colouring, I decided that the original pencil drawings were ideal practise material. It was perfect for renewing my interest in drawing, so I've actually been at a few others, and drew a new piece recently with Father's Day in mind, of Rathen & Aria.
   I still love drawing with pencils, and colouring them digitally. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I love doing them, and how they turn out - and, most importantly, because it's different to anything else that lands on my twitter feed, I'm not constantly comparing myself to other artists I follow and adore because it doesn't compare at all. It's unlocked a lot of freedom; I no longer feel shackled to what I consider to be 'proper' art.
   I'm happy with my doodles ^^ if you don't like them, it doesn't matter. They're not made for my books, it isn't a new career I'm pursuing, it's just fun.

A Father's Heart; A Soldier's Means



Wednesday, 5 June 2019

A Brief Guide To Getting 'Fit' - And What That Actually Means

   There is so much varied information around the topic of getting fit that you can be forgiven for not quite knowing where you stand, let alone where to begin. The truth is that, in order to get in shape, you need to first have a clear idea of what that actually means - and even that is something which a lot of people struggle with. We’ll look into that shortly, but for now it’s also worth noting that if you want to get fit you are going to need to keep to the basics, focus on what really works, and adopt a keen sense of patience. If you can do that, and follow some of the guidance in this article, you should find that you are able to get much fitter in no time at all

What is 'fit'?

   'Getting fit' is a phrase which, in itself, might not mean much to you at all. Or, at any rate, it is something which you will find varies a lot, and you need to be able to get a clear idea on what it is that you mean by it if you are to know what to do. If nothing else, this gives you a specific goal to work towards, which in turn will absolutely make it much more likely that you can succeed with whatever you try to do. So what is it that you might mean when you say that you want to get fit?
   For some, 'fit' means getting into shape - or, in other words, looking good naked and clothed. If this is the kind of goal you are aiming for, you will focus on a mixture of muscle training to sculpt, and cardio & HIIT to blast fat - the combination of which is the most effective. Diet and adequate macro levels (appropriate amounts of protein, fats and carbs) are also crucial here - it's all too easy to eat too little and significantly hamper your results.
   Alternatively, for some, 'fit' means simply being healthier within their body, in which cast cardio may become more prominent, though lifting weights is still proven to be key to a longer, healthier life with its links to bone health.
   And, for others, it just means feeling that their body is working more efficiently and pushing it to see what it can do. In which case, HIIT and cross training might be for you.
As you can see, what you want will affect what you need to do, so it’s a good idea to be clear on this as soon as you can, so you know what direction you need to move in.

Finding A Plan

   First of all, it is also important to note that if you are usually sedentary, any exercise will yield results to begin with. Naturally going from not moving to moving will burn more calories and challenge both your body and co-ordination. Therefore, you don't need to start with anything too crazy. However, over time, the results will slow and your body will adjust, meaning that you will need to start branching out and looking for the things that work for you. But also remember that part of what makes something work for you is enjoyment. If you hate a workout, effective or not, you're going to struggle to stick to it or give it the level of power it needs (a consistent jog compared to scuffing your feet as you go), and you'll struggle to get the results. This is where changing your workout every 1-2 months is a good idea. Through this process, I tried a lot of different things and discovered a love for kickboxing and weight lifting, having tried dance, Pilates, barre, kettlebells, rebounding and so on.
   Knowing what to look for is important here, so try to find plans which have a decent increase rate - that require more effort every week or so - but not so much that you struggle with it too much. Also be on the lookout for plans which are specifically designed to work for the goal you have in mind. If you can do that, you should be able to find a plan in no time, and it’s something to think about as early on as you can. Having a good plan is essential to getting fit in good time and without causing yourself too much strain.

Hiring A Personal Trainer

   If you have never had a personal trainer, it can be hard to appreciate just how valuable they can be. The truth is that a personal trainer is often the key to ensuring that you keep at it, that you are doing all the right things to get where you need to go, and that you're doing them correctly. They will know the exercises you need to do, how long you need to do them for, and be able to advise on what to supplement your workout with, how to eat and everything in between. This is all the kind of information you need if you are to succeed because they can defend you against the usual pitfalls - over-training, under-eating, or even the opposite: working out at a lower rate than you think you are and eating more than you think. If you are thinking of trying to find a personal trainer who can help you, check out OriGym - for more information. You should find that there are some things there which are hugely important to consider, wherever you seek one.


   News flash: this doesn't mean cutting carbs, fats, jumping onto fads or celebrating when you feel hungry for a straight 2 hours+
   'Diet' actually just means 'general eating habits' - and it's most important to note that 1: you can't out-exercise a bad diet, and 2: food is fuel.
   As long as you are not eating properly, it doesn’t altogether matter what exercise you are doing or how much of it you are doing. You need to therefore make sure that you are aware of what a good diet entails, and this is a tricky area for many people to look into. Nutrition varies massively from individual to individual, so it is hard to find globally universal facts which you can take on board. Take a look at BBC Good Food for their guidelines on balanced diets for men and women for some ideas which might help.
   In general, however, you should aim to eat plenty of whole foods, with 35-40% of your diet coming from complex carbs. If you can do that, you will be doing what you need to keep healthy. Bear in mind that if you want to build muscle, you might want to increase your protein a little, but you don’t even need to do that much to see results. All myths aside, the optimum amount of protein to consume while trying to build muscle is about 0.75g per 1lb body weight (1.5g per 1kg). Any more than that has proven redundant. As long as you get your diet right, you will find that you get fit much sooner - whatever that means to you.