Monday, 10 October 2016

New Stuff, Old Stuff and Geese.

Cadi; chinagraph & watercolour pencils.
I passed my maths exam!  Thank goodness for that, as this means the final section of my NVQ Level 3 course is now complete, and all I have to do now is wait for my certificates to arrive.

I'm glad to see the end of it, as the course took up far more time than was described at the outset - the better part of two years, in fact - and involved a disproportionate amount of writing for a course which was supposed to be largely vocational.

Anyway, thanks go to Knowsley Community College tutors Helen Lea-Smith and Paul Byatt, who guided me through the course.

That's enough courses, thank you.  I've done one job-related course after another for the last five years, including a previous NVQ Level 3.  Enough is enough.

Rapid ink sketch of Canada geese.
If you're in Birkenhead Park and see a woman trying to sketch whilst holding onto two Jack Russells who're itching to walk further on, that'll probably be me.  I've been gradually filling a pocket-sized sketchpad with super-rapid ink drawings of ducks and geese.  Birds don't stand still unless they're asleep, and even then they seem to keep one eye open. 
Geese grooming; 10B pencil.

My sketches aim to capture the birds' movements rather than much detail.  If I'd wanted accurate details, I'd have taken photos.  I usually use an ordinary ink pen designed for drawing, but here's one sketch where I used a 10B pencil instead.

These geese were sitting on the lake's shore, grooming their feathers in the sunshine.  They'll be getting ready to fly off to their warmer winter sites in South America soon.  Quite a number seem to stay all year round, however.

I've also been sketching a few of the park's old trees, the gnarlier the better.  I haven't decided what I'm going to do with all these sketches yet, beyond making a video slide-show of them at some point.

I bought some new clothes!  Having rummaged through favourite but increasingly derelict woollens whose once-pristine forms had slowly devolved into shapes more suited to some uncertain species of simian humanoid, I figured it was time for a wardrobe update.

Now, usually, if I go shopping with the intent to buy clothes I come back home with absolutely nothing.  Last Saturday I arrived home with an armful of new outfits, including some lovely autumn/winter woollens.  Now I need more clothes hangers.

Eagle-eyed visitors to this website will notice some new pages in the menu bar at the top of the screen.  I've added pages for my art and cryonics, and also 'free stuff' which lists links to some of my Hubpage articles on writing and philosophy, plus some poetry and fiction.  More links will be added to these pages in due course.  Meanwhile, feel free to explore.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Newness, Neighbours, Novels - and Bruises!

Fabian: An Artisan-Sorcerer Story out 09.09.16
I can now announce that the fourth novel in the Artisan-Sorcerer Series is now available in book shops the world over, in both paperback and ebook formats.

I hope you all enjoy Fabian, and will consider writing a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble or your blog or social networking site.  We indie authors can always use a bit of help, you know!

I'm already developing ideas for the fifth novel.  I already know how it's going to end and who is going to die.  I'm not quite sure how our heroes are going to arrive at that point yet, but it will come.  The process is like daydreaming.  I toy around with an idea and allow my imagination to go anywhere it wants to, sometimes prodding it along a little with 'what if' questions but not trying to force ideas in any specific direction as that tends to limit creativity.  In this way, I end up with a flexible plot outline without having written even one word yet.

There has been a huge increase in webtraffic here, so I'd like to extend a warm hello to you all.  Please feel free to leave comments.  All comments are screened to prevent spammers from making a nuisance of themselves, but other comments are most welcome.

There's also been a big surge in traffic to my Hubpages.  I plan to add new material to that site very soon, and so I encourage readers to keep an eye on it.

Richard and I have new neighbours.  They began the process of renovating their house before we moved here in March 2015, and it's been a huge project.  Apparently, nothing had been done to their house since the 1950s and so they had to rewire, replumb, repair and replaster interior walls, install central heating plus a new kitchen and bathroom, install new windows and doors throughout, knock down a sagging garden wall...  You get the picture - we had the noise; lots of it!  The young couple seem really nice.  They have a new baby girl and a little boy who's around four.

As yet the garden wall hasn't been replaced, which means our two little dogs keep running into their garden.  They knew this would happen and they're ok with it.  Poppi even invited herself into their house yesterday, as their back door was open.  New fencing is due to arrive soon.  Once that's been installed they'll be able to collect their own dog, a Westie - and you know I love Westies! - which is currently staying with their relatives.

Richard had nasty fall this week, though he readily admitted it was his own fault for standing on an office chair - the type with wheels - rather than put one of our stepladders to good use.  He had wanted to reach down a book from a high shelf.  Well, the chair went one way, he went the other way and landed on a folding table which promptly folded, taking both him and a stack of hi-fi gear crashing to the floor.  From downstairs I heard an alarmed yell, followed by a short series of crash-bang-wallops, then a loud groan.  So from the bottom of the stairs I called out, "Are you all right?"  No, he said, and so I hared it upstairs and found him a bit dazed but already slowly clambering to his feet.  Anyway, other than for a few mustard-yellow and purple bruises, fortunately he's ok. 

Monday, 5 September 2016

Fabian: 4th Artisan-Sorcerer Novel out 9th September!

ISBN - 13:978-1534973329
ISBN - 10:153497332X

ISBN - 9781370368495
ASIN - B01LLIIVAK (for Kindle)

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Old Friends and Big Vegetables.

Left to right: Adele CB, Freddie, Sharon and Adele H.
The last time Freddie, Adele, Sharon and I all had lunch together was when we were still in high school, so when Sharon suggested a get-together we readily agreed, and it was a fabulous day.  Here we all are, in the photo, ready to dine at the Oxton Bar & Kitchen.

As teenagers, we all lived in Lowton, a small village in Lancashire.  Life revolved around school, Lowton Youth Club, listening to music and the usual teenage preoccupations.  Adele's recently bought the house she grew up in, Freddie lives just outside Nottingham, while Sharon lives in Orange County, America, where she works as an artist.

We had great fun catching up on news, of course.  After a good lunch, we meandered round the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum then returned to my house for coffees.  Naturally my dogs joined in the fun, being spoiled for choice by having three extra people to demand cuddles from. Adele didn't particularly want her ears washing but Emily is a determined Jack Russell who remains wilfully oblivious to social etiquette.

Last weekend found me enjoying the small Flower and Vegetable Show in Birkenhead Park, which consisted of one marquee housing displays of prize-winning fruits and vegetables grown locally, and another marquee and several stalls mostly selling crafts.  There was also a stage, where a lone musician strummed his way through a selection of popular contemporary songs.  It wasn't a huge show but entrance was free, and hopefully in years to come it will gradually develop into a bigger event.  It certainly seems to have the potential for that.  Perhaps if the organisers combined efforts with local artists, who are already fairly active at public displays of their work, then the event would draw a broader crowd.  I still say it's a shame that the annual Wirral Show folded after running for 33 years.

Progress on proofreading Fabian continues.  A publication date should be set soon - mid September, perhaps?  It really won't be long before you can read the novel, now.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Leaks, Crumbles and Thieving Magpies

We're still waiting for a bloke to fix our boiler.  It went off and wouldn't relight, which it's done a few times before - something to do with water pressure dropping inside the boiler, which can be fixed by twiddling a button which usually doesn't do a bloomin' thing, (apart from when the bloke twiddles it, when it behaves instantly).

So this time he had a proper look at it, and got it working temporarily while he ordered a valve which he said was missing. It worked for a day then conked out again.

He put the valve on and it was supposed to be fixed. "But it might leak a bit," he said. I got home from work, went to see what he'd done, and ran for a bucket. So we called him back. "Oh, there're two washers missing," he said, only they come in bags of fifteen, "so you'll have a lot of spares." Ha ha ha. So now we're still waiting for a bag of washers to arrive at his suppliers, (does he mean via eBay?!!), and the bucket's still in use. It's only a tiny drip now but enough to soak the floorboards if left.  And still no hot water....!! Thankfully our shower's heated independently.

 Anyway, here's a photo of our cherry tree (above), laden with fruit which we harvested before the local bird population could devour the lot. There're plenty left for the birds at the top of the tree which our ladder couldn't reach. Richard made cherry and rhubarb crumble - the rhubarb's grown in our little garden too.

I was amused by a magpie doing its utmost to steal a shiny solar powered lamp - which doesn't work anymore - which dangles from the top of a clematis arch. The magpie pulled and tugged it this way and that, trying with all its strength to break the wire holding the lamp onto the arch. It even managed to wrench the lamp upside down, but still failed to snag its prize. This went on for about ten minutes before it flew off in a huff, squawking in frustration.

Our garden, July 2016.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

New Ebook Covers

New covers for four of my ebooks are now available.  Here they are:-

The image on the cover of Dark Tides  comes from one of my photographs of West Kirby beach.  It was a late summer evening and the tide was coming in, which is why there's a snaking rivulet of water over the shadowed sands.  Tides come in fast there as the Dee Estuary is very wide and flat, so there's nothing to slow the flow of water.  When we still lived in West Kirby I'd walk my dogs on the beach regularly, and we often go back with them now we're in Oxton, which isn't very far away.

This cover uses one of my photos of the seaward side of Hilbre Island, where the Irish Sea pounds against the red Bunter sandstone rocks.  The rock pools around Hilbre and Middle Eye are always fun to explore.  You have to watch your footing, as the rocks are covered by slippery seaweed plus cockles and barnacles, but it's easily worth the effort.  Take binoculars if you want to see the seals basking on nearby sandbanks, though they sometimes swim around the rear of Hilbre and poke their heads out of the water to stare at human visitors.  You're more likely to see them this way if there are very few people around.

The ship's mast comes from my photo of the replica Golden Hind which was moored at the Albert Dock Village in Liverpool. 

The image here comes from a series of experiments in a photographic darkroom, probably dating back to my art school days, though it could have been done at a photography course I did a couple of years later on.  I'm not sure now.  Anyway, it was created by placing a crystal necklace on a sheet of light sensitive photography paper and exposing it to light.  The ragged line separating the black and pink areas is literally the torn edge of the photography paper.

This ancient, gnarled tree stands in Stapledon Woods on Caldy Hill, Wirral.  I've so many photos of the woods.  I hope you enjoy this YouTube slideshow video of some of these photo:-

Tuesday, 28 June 2016