Friday, 31 March 2017

March: wasn't overly exciting



 [Note: WHAT has blogger done to my cute little pictures? They're all squished! And I spent so long on them!]

It's the end of March (almost), and while I've had this blog for less than one month, I've read enough to figure out that end-of-month recaps are apparently the way to go.

Excuse me while I search my brains for momentous happenings this month.

*scratches head*

I may have to resort to some creative lies for colour.

So!

I've been preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo! My WIP has the working title Three Sisters. (I will not keep that title. For some reason it makes me think of A Tale of Two Cities. Which I haven't even read.) You can read a bit more about protective older sister Billie here on Camp, if you like; I'll keep it short here and just say that I started with Beauty and the Beast (whatever it may end up by the time Camp's over). My cabin has been really welcoming - they found me through a comment I'd written on a GoTeenWriters article, too, which I thought was cool. :)

For my blog, I tried to write a few posts to have up my sleeve for April (hasn't worked so well). Because seriously. My official goal is 15k (I know it's low compared to some of you guys' goals... but if I aim much higher I give up once I get a few days behind). I hope to get 20k, though. And obviously I'm not going to have the time or energy or inspiration to write many posts.

Not a lot to report. My family's fine. We've had a heap of late (out-of-season) rain, which has been really relieving because summer was pretty dry and I was getting nervous (we use rainwater and I didn't want to go into the dry season with the tanks half empty).

I started a bullet journal - got all my ideas off Pinterest - and so far it's been pretty cool. I also toured a dairy farm, continued working on my tertiary education course (about libraries), and read less than I'd like.


I can't find enough good new books to read! (Recommendations welcome. I like twisted fairytales - magic's fine, but nothing too dark - and modern runaway stories - Gordon Korman's On the Run series is one example. But I'll read across genres; just no vampires, gone-too-far romance, things like that.)

Reread some of John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, and Jennifer A. Nielsen's Ascendance (False Prince) trilogy. Read the latest [last?] two of Melanie Dickerson's fairytale series, The Golden Braid and The Silent Songbird, because I'm always looking for fairytale retellings; this series is sometimes predictable and historically unlikely (oookay, a little more than sometimes) but can be a cute, fluffy medieval romance read without too much kissing (fine a lot of kissing but nothing further) or fairies (no fairies). I actually would have liked some fairies.

Rewatched Avengers and An Unexpected Journey. Watched The Force Awakens and Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Oh, and season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow (rated M for good reasons; I do not approve of all the content. But I adored Captain Canary!) (...too bad the kiss that established my OTP was promptly followed by Snart's death like WHAT.)

Music: I've been listening to Piano Guys, Peter Hollens (Mary Did You Know, Loch Lomond, Amazing Grace with Home Free - this one's awesome), Mission Impossible cover/medley by Piano Guys and Lindsey Stirling, and a Star Wars medley by Peter Hollens and Lindsey Stirling. 

Also (I'm not sure where to put this, but it's on YouTube, so here?) Studio C's comedy channel. My cabinmates recommended it and I binge-watched for about two days straight. Then I ran out of internet data. 

[Again with the squishing of my picture like I SPENT LITERAL HOURS DOING THESE. huh.]


Newsies: the Musical. I'd never heard of it before, but this was on several blogs.
Captain America: Civil War was already on my list... I've been putting it off because I DON'T WANT TO SEE MY BABIES FIGHTING OKAY.
Testament of Youth. Don't know much about this one, but I watched a YouTube trailer and it looks... heartbreaking.
Amazing Grace - I want to rewatch it because I don't remember it very well. (Also because I was not familiar with Benedict Cumberbatch or any of his work back then. Which brings me to - )
Sherlock season 4. I've read spoilers. From them I have concluded that Moffat thought we were too happy. Because [ killing Mary and having John blame and utterly hate Sherlock]? That isn't nice. (Although I look forward to seeing baby Watson... baby, uh... you know, I've quite forgotten her name... *wizard voice*)
The Lego Batman Movie. I watched three trailers and cried genuine tears of laughter. It looks like it might be better than The Lego Movie. (Which had... different humour to the kind I enjoy. But my young male cousins loved it.)

For Love and Honor, by Jody Hedlund. Micaiah's review is entirely to blame! :)

(Yes, there are a lot of movies here. and not a lot of books. as I said, recommendations welcome... and if there's a movie you think I should see, mention that as well.)


Volunteering for a local comic-con. It's only in its second year, but I've never been to any kind of comic-con, so it will be a completely new experience for me. (It has steampunk, too, and dollhouse miniaturists, and a viking/medieval history group. And it's free. Pretty good, I reckon - especially if it could get big enough in the next decade to attract some big names. That would be excellent.)

And of course - Camp NaNoWriMo! *stresses and promises to plot next time* *like I promised myself last NaNo* *and the Camp before that* Okay, I don't plot.

That's about it for me! (I even managed to restrain myself from telling those creative lies.) Now I have to go catch up on everyone else's March wrap-up summaries. Instead of working on Three Sisters. Which I should be doing because it's April.

What cool stuff did you do this month? I'd love to hear! (And of course: Have you ever been to a serious comic-con?) And tell me, HOW STRESSED ARE YOU FOR CAMP? and if you're not, TELL ME YOUR SECRETS.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Bullet journal + Habitica

Halfway through March, I gave in to Crazy Me's pressure and started a bullet journal.

(I haven't explained about Crazy Me yet, have I? Maybe I'll write a post on her later. For now, let's just say she wants to attend a Comic-Con and travel to England and act and sing in musicals and meet famous actors like Chris Hemsworth and Benedict Cumberbatch. She wouldn't have anything to say to them, though. Also she's probably the driving force behind this blog, and she wishes I'd do those artsy photographs you other girls do. You know, the gorgeous artsy photographs? Those ones.)

I'd seen bullet journals on Pinterest. And ignored them. Because seriously, they're so... fabulous. Perfect. The writing is tiny and neat, the doodles are gorgeous. I couldn't do that.

Crazy Me put on the pressure.

Okay, so I liked them; the more I saw them, the more I wanted to do it; but I was discouraged at the same time. I'm not artsy and my handwriting is chicken-scratch and my doodles are more like scribbles.

 

 My Bullet Journal


But I did it. 
 


Probably not how you're supposed to do it, but I'm working on making it work for me. The point, after all, is organisation, not art. (Not that I'm criticizing those who have beautiful art - I want to encourage those who don't. Like me.) It isn't perfect, but I like it a lot more than I thought I would. I've even managed to get a leeetle bit artsy by getting ideas from Pinterest.

But now I have a problem: I used to write down to-do lists on scraps of paper, which I don't miss, but my 'collections' were scattered across notebooks, which I now have no purpose for. (And they're nowhere near full! *very upset*) I think this means I may not be able to justify such a large notebook collection in future... although I will need more for my future bullet journals!



While I'm talking about organising, there's another thing I use; this one is more for to-do lists and forming habits. 

Habitica 


Before I began bullet journaling (journalling? journaling?? spell-check doesn't like either!), I discovered Habitica. Its tag line is "Habitica - Your life the role-playing game". You make to-dos, daily to-dos, and habits; then when you tick one as done, you get gold and XP. With the gold you can buy armour and equipment, which can increase the rate of gold/XP you get ticking things off. Or if you tick what you've marked as a negative habit, you lose health.

I'd never tried anything like RPGing. I still wouldn't know how. But I find Habitica really motivating. I love ticking off lists, and this gives me 'rewards' for doing that. (Plus the site is clear and colourful and you get to dress up a little avatar.)

I was concerned that Habitica and my journal would double up, but they don't very much. The bullet journal is for organisation and a record, and Habitica is for motivation. So I'm keeping both for now.



Do you have methods for organising? Are you motivated by ticking lists, or not really? If you have a bullet journal, tell me! I'd love to hear any recommendations for collections or ways to improve it. :)



Friday, 24 March 2017

Mug cakes!

[I meant to write a blog post this week but I haven't - so I brought this one forward. It was meant to be a backup for during Camp. #oops]

As I said in my very first post, my new favourite thing is mug cakes. MUG CAKES. CAKE in a CUP and you eat it with SPOON. I don't know why I love the idea so much, but it's so cute.

And since this is the Camp preparation season, I figured it would be a great time to share a few recipes for a three-minute (roughly) cake that you can eat at your desk (or wherever you write). Because food = motivation. Especially rich food. And this lava mug cake is very rich.

(You will need a microwave. Or you could probably cook it in the oven - but I don't know how long for. You could work it out, though - this is in no way an exact science!)

All credit and everything to the blog I got the recipe from (the pictures, too).


* * * * *


Microwave Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 small pinch salt
4 tablespoons white sugar
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Melt the butter in a coffee mug. Add water, vanilla and salt and stir until smooth. Add sugar, cocoa powder and flour and stir until all the lumps are out. Cook in the microwave for 30 seconds. If you want less "lava" and more cake you can cook it for 10 seconds more. 
...Variations:
- Peanut Butter Lover. Add 1 teaspoon peanut butter.
Chocolate Covered Berry. Add 1 teaspoon raspberry or strawberry jam.
Gimme S'More. Add 10 mini marshmallows and a sprinkling of graham cracker crumbs.
A La Mode. One scoop of ice cream and you've got yourself a rockin' dessert!
Caramel Lover. Add two square caramel candies.
Mint To Be. Sprinkle with mint baking chips or crushed up candy canes.
Nuts For Hazelnuts. Add one teaspoon of Nutella. Oh, baby!
Chocoholic. Add a handful of chocolate chips or pieces of a chopped up candy bar.
* * * * *

So there you have an incredibly unhealthy, gooey, seriously chocolate cup of cake. 

Note: when I made it, we decided that 2 tablespoons of butter, 4 of sugar, and 2 of cocoa sounded like a leeetle bit much considering we'll put that much cocoa and a cup of sugar (double) for a whole cake. And this is only a tiny cup-cake mug cake. I cut down the cocoa to one and a half tablespoons... and yet there is no way I could have eaten the whole cupful of mug cake.

Which brings me to another point: younger siblings. I have four. They all wanted my mug cake. We ended up each getting a spoon and taking a scoop (we went through a lot of spoons, because they all wanted second helpings, and we don't do double-dipping). 

After all that chocolate, I thought I'd try something a little more delicate. Honey mug cake (all credit to the blog I got it from, here - again, picture included). 

* * * * *
Honey Mug Cake

Yield: 1 mug cake
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 minute 15 seconds 
Ingredients:
Mug Cake
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 medium egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp self-raising flour, see notes
  • pinch of salt
Frosting
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 4 tbsp icing (confectioners') sugar
  • (optional) runny honey
Directions:
  1. Add the butter to a mug and melt in the microwave for around 10-20 seconds.
  2. Add the honey, egg and vanilla and beat with a fork until combined.
  3. Add the sugar, flour and salt and beat again until fully combined and smooth.
  4. Cook in the microwave for around 1 minute 15 seconds to 1 minute 30 seconds (depending on your microwave power), then allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. Meanwhile, to make the frosting, add the butter and icing (confectioners') sugar to another mug and use a fork to cut the butter into the icing sugar until it reaches a clumpy texture, then beat with the fork until fluffy, around 1-2 minutes).
  6. Spoon the frosting into a small piping bag or a ziplock bag fitted with an open star or plain round tip and pipe a swirl onto the top of the cooled cake.
  7. (Optional) Drizzle with extra honey and serve immediately.
Notes:
  • If you do not have self-raising flour, substitute with plain (all-purpose) flour and add ¼ tsp baking powder.
  • Don't fancy drizzling the honey? Just add between ¼-½ tsp runny honey to the frosting to taste. Hey presto, honey flavoured frosting!
* * * * *
This one did take a little longer and does contain egg. I admit I couldn't be bothered making 'frosting' (is that 'icing' in American??). I just ate the cake, although I could have simply put honey on top. 

...correction: we ate the cake. Six of us. Although when everyone had had a 'dig' with their spoon, I took the remnants and ate them myself. Because it was quite nice, and smelt of hot honey. 

(That's another thing! These get HOT, and stay hot for ages. But you're big kids. You can deal with that.)

Hopefully I've inspired you to try your hand at a mug cake - they're so delightfully gooey! - and hopefully a mug cake is sufficient motivation to jolt you out of those sticky (that was an accident honest) spots in your Camp journey! (and besides what's camp without food?) (not that I've ever been on an actual camp)

Do you have a particular food to help you through Camp, or just while you're writing in general? And please tell me if you end up making a mug cake, I'd love to hear! :)

Monday, 20 March 2017

Coming up (way too fast): Camp NaNo! (and what I'm up to with that)




https://d1jd05nlktukgt.cloudfront.net/assets/camp_logo-e8deafda6bcc5574e54da9c596dbf6b6.jpg
(Sorry Camp NaNo people for using your picture I hope you don't mind!)
 


Camp NaNoWriMo is in - *checks calendar* - less than two weeks!

You've probably heard of Camp. I know a lot of you people in the young-Christian-writer blog circles will have participated before. Katie Grace - a wonderful teen writer and blogger - wrote a post called 5 Reasons to Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, which you should definitely read if you haven't already. (Again, if you're in those particular blog circles, you've probably already read it!)

But I thought I'd do a bit of an informal post. More of a chat, really. (Or a ramble. That would be more accurate.)

I thought I was set for Camp. I logged on, tried to get through all the mail I never read from last Camp, commented on a cabin-finding forum, and created a project. A superhero story, actually - I was going to branch into a new (for me) subgenre. I was - and still am - so excited about those characters.

They turned out to be the problem.

I have too many. Seven, eight? superpowered teens (no superstrength, I have to add - and only one can fly) and I wanted to get inside the heads of every. single. one. They all have awesome stories I want to tell, insecurities I want to explore, downsides to their powers I want to exploit. (Did I say exploit? I meant... protect them from.) And I couldn't do all that in one coherent story.

Sooo... I have plenty of other stories I've written a page of and not had time to work on further. I guess I'll pick one and officially change my project. But I'd like to make it a not-too-serious story... I want to be able to use the dares forum this year. ;)

Oh, and while the comment on the cabin-finding forum didn't work out, a lovely writer from over at GoTeenWriters invited me to her cabin, so that will be awesome (thanks, Sarah!!). I'm very relieved... I was not doing random cabin assignment again!

How's your Camp preparation going? Smoothly? Or have there been hiccups? What's your project? Have you found a cabin yet? I'd love to hear!

Friday, 17 March 2017

A piece of writing from me

I don't have any profound words of wisdom today (surprise, surprise), so I thought that - since I'm a writer - I should share some of my writing with you. 

*deep, panicked breaths*

Before I can chicken out, here's a quick standalone piece (250 words, I think?).




On the Hill of the King, Ella knelt beside her son. 'Here.'
He reached for the kite, hesitated, and drew his hands back. 'What if I break it?'
'You won't. I'll help you.'
He took it gently, reverently, unsure. Against the hillside and open sky he looked very small, very young. He held the kite up to the sky. 'For my father.'
Ella unwound the string. It knotted once, twice, and she eased it smooth with gentle fingers. She looked over to her son.
'There's not enough wind.' His bottom lip trembled. 'It won't fly, will it?'
'It will fly. For your father.' She lifted her face to the sky, to the wind. 'Please,' she murmured. 'One last time.'
The wind filled the kite. The string hummed under the tension. His face alight with sudden hope, the boy threw the kite into the air. It shot up like a startled bird, and he ran to claim the string. Ella passed him the spool and wrapped her slim hands around his boyish chubby ones.
For a moment the kite soared, fierce but contained. The spring-scented wind circled the boy's head, blowing his hair like the fine, fading grass around them.
'Here.'
The boy took the knife and looked at it a moment, then sliced the string.
With a bound the kite rose. Ella put her arm around her son's shoulder and pulled him close as they watched it go, unleashed, into the empty blue. A red shape, a spot, a speck, and gone.
At the foot of the Hill of the King stood a crowd, bunched, heads bowed. But no one set foot on the grass of the tomb but his family.



Maybe one day I'll write the rest of the story, but for now I prefer the way it is.

I wanted to share this because - well, it's hard to be a real person online, especially when you go by a pseudonym. Hopefully reading some of my work has helped you to feel like you know me a bit better, and I hope you enjoyed it! :)

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Ideas from history - characters and events that NEED a story



So as a writer, I float around Pinterest a bit. 

*shuffles paper aggressively* Fine: a lot

But I see things sometimes that really intrigue me. For example, these historical happenings and characters that need a story. NEED. (It doesn’t have to be a novel. A short story could do it.) 

(Okay, these characters might not need you to write a story about them. *deep breath* Complete confession: it's me. I'm the one who needs you to write a story about them. I want to read those stories. Without, selfishly, having to write them myself. But they also deserve a story. )

A warning: I have tried to reference these. The references may not always be accurate. These may well be legends (for example, Alwilda). Don’t base historical fiction off my notes without checking first!!

Another warning: history is not always pretty. This is not my fault. I have tried to only put the good stories here, but if you dig deeper you may find they’re ugly further down. Sorry.


Pirate princess Alwilda
5th century AD, Scandanavian princess called Alwilda. Her father tried to marry her to Alf, prince of Denmark. Alwilda didn’t want to so she and some female companions dressed as men, stole a ship, and sailed away. Met some pirates who needed a captain and they elected her to be their leader. Together became so infamous that Prince Alf was sent to stop them. When their ships met he captured her and she was so impressed by Alf’s skill that she revealed herself as the princess, agreed to marry him after all, and eventually became queen of Denmark. 

(She's considered semi-legend or even full legend. But you’re writing fiction, so...)

Discovered on Pinterest (Tumblr via Pinterest, really, as happens a lot) and ‘researched’ on Wikipedia (such reputable sources I have!)


Young Caesar kidnapped by pirates
25-year-old Julius Caesar – before he became Caesar like you think of – was kidnapped by Cilician pirates. They said they’d ask a ransom of 20 talents of silver. Insulted, he made them raise it to 50 talents. In the 38 days it took to raise this sum, he joined in the pirates’ games, ordered the pirates around – for example, commanding them to be silent while he slept – and wrote poems and speeches. Any pirates who didn’t listen when he performed these he called ‘illiterate barbarians’. 

(Now for the not-so-cute bit: He also promised to crucify them. Sure enough, the first thing he did once the ransom was paid was to raise a fleet, which raided the pirates and burned their stuff. The captured pirates reminded him of the times they played games together on the ship, so Caesar relented. And cut their throats. And then crucified them, because he was a man of his word.) 

You can Google this – there seem to be a few references. 


Lady Death, sniper

Lyudmila Pavlichenko, ‘Lady Death’. Ukranian/Russian; female sniper. Germans bombed Kiev University, so she joined as a sniper (instead of a nurse), joining a total of 5000 female snipers in the Russian army. She had 309 confirmed kills and rose from private to major. For more details there are facts on Wikipedia, but I preferred the artist’s version that I got from following a Pinterest link- it’s much more personal. Probably more inaccurate, but ‘personal’ - it talks about why she made that first shot (her 'spotter' partner got shot) and about her husband (probably met her as her 'spotter'? and once he got killed she went pretty dark). 

Things that were surprisingly around at the same time
This one is copied directly from – well, Tumblr I guess, but I found it on Pinterest.

“Victorian England: 1837-1901
American Old West: 1803-1912
Meiji Restoration: 1868-1912
French pirvateering in the Gulf of Mexico: ended circa 1830
Conclusion: an adventuring party consisting of a Victorian gentleman thief, an Old West gunslinger, a disgraced former samurai, and an elderly French pirate is actually 100% historically plausible.”




19y/o violinist turned ship surgeon

1838, John Hanchett joined the Henry as surgeon (before that he’d been studying violin in Paris). During the four-month voyage to Launcestion his diary mostly says ‘Very hot’ (and variations on that); but as a surgeon he drew a tooth, bled patients, and challenged the second mate to a duel over an oatmeal poultice. 

I don’t know, there’s something about the thought of a nineteen-year-old violinist challenging the second mate on a ship to Van Diemens Land (Tasmania, Australia) to a duel over his duties as a surgeon – specifically, the oatmeal poultice – that just sounds like a story. 

References: taken direct from the Maritime Museum in Hobart, Tasmania. 


Nancy Bentley, 6y/o Navy mascot

In 1920 six-year-old Nancy Bentley was bitten by a snake while playing outside; she wouldn’t have survived the trip from Port Arthur (Tasmania) to the nearest town with a doctor. So her father rowed her out to the HMAS Sydney docked at Port Arthur Harbour. Unfortunately, King’s Regulations and Admiralty Instructions forbade women on board a naval ship, and officially the surgeon wasn’t there to treat civilians. So Nancy was enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy. 



The navy surgeon treated her snake bite. They gave her a uniform. Her injury was listed as occurring “while skirmishing in the bush”. The Sydney took her to Hobart, where she received further medical treatment, then the entire crew took her to the cinema and gave her chocolates.




Her enlistment, if you can read it, says she was engaged “until fed up” and discharged eight days later as “required by her parents”. They had to cross out ‘boy’ to write ‘girl’... and she was only 3 feet 2 inches! (I suppose she was only six.) Her conduct record says she was “exceptional” in her seaman’s duties. It was 21 years before the next female was enlisted in the navy. 

Reference here.


 
 So! 
These are just a few historical/legend characters or events that made me think of stories (which of course I will not be leaving my Camp novel to investigate, absolutely not). Use as you wish, and tell me in the comments if you do! I'd love to hear.