Saturday, 8 December 2012

The California visit was lovely; I got to wear short sleeves again and wear sunscreen and sunglasses while playing at the beach in the mornings and having fun with family in the afternoons.  Claudia loved getting her feet splashed by the sea and chasing the waterline as it rushed and receded (well, I did lift her when it rushed at us, but she did the chasing right afterwards).  As always, there just wasn’t enough time to do everything and see everybody, especially as afternoon naptime interrupted the usual routine we’d do during a visit.  Sorry to all my friends I didn’t have a chance to contact.
Writing has slowed to an invisible crawl this month – but will be renewed with a ferocious vigour with the work on my non-fiction book, Three Victorian Women in Asylum.  Well, it may be a booklet, rather than a book.  I want it to have a good impact without being too heavy for general public reading. 
Another rejection from Highlights Magazine.  Apparently, my writing was spot on but my timing was out and they couldn’t use it.  As prompted, I’ll keep trying! 
There is just not enough time to work on all my projects, but after my non-fiction book, this winter will be all about creating new works of art in the form of rings, polymer clay dragons, and other Seadrake Creations.  After talking with a designer in Long Beach who made the most amazing sea-inspired jewellery, I’ve fallen in love with lost wax casting.  I have a few other works to polish off and sell before I can buy any more equipment, but I’ll be posting my new items on the Seadrake Creations etsy shop, so do keep an eye out.  I’ve also obtained a beautiful morganite stone and two small pink diamonds that I’m planning on designing a gold ring around.  I can’t wait!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Better late...

Once again, I’ve left my blog far too late to update.  I don’t even want to look to see when my last one was… and after I’d pledged to spend more time blogging.  As usual with life, once things seem to get on course, a bulldozer of events decides to take me down.  I suppose having a toddler to look after, putting together my non-fiction book, starting a new jewellery business, learning new camera techniques, doing knowonder stories (although that has stopped until the new year as they have so many subs to wade through), working on my children’s book, doing three chapters for the Isabella anthology and setting up the new house was too much.  A blog just wasn’t going to happen.
So I’ve had to make some changes (more personal cuts).  For October, I focused on Seadrake Creations and the house (while being Mum of course!)  and I’m starting to relax again.  I’ve stepped back from the Isabella anthology but will refine my work I’ve already done and step in when help is needed on the publishing side.  Then, December is going to be just my non-fiction book and celebrating Christmas Dickens style (okay, well, maybe a bit of Elvis thrown in ;)
Seadrake work has been going well.  I had four commissions in October and my first two sales on etsy (pirate ring and sapphire with silver; see link below for pics)
My workshop is developing.  I’ve been using an eco-pickle.  For those who don’t know what pickle is, it’s a solution that jewellery is put into to clean up firescale after annealing or soldering.  It’s usually sulphuric acid and even ‘safety pickle’ has some very unpleasant chemicals.  After doing some online research, it seems that the census for the most effective pickle anyway is a solution of vinegar and salt!  It may smell like a chippy in the workshop now, but at least I’m less likely to burn my face off (cue scene from Westworld).
I’ve also been working on a line of medieval rings with traditional cabochon stone set in silver (anyone seen Kingdom of Heaven, they may recognize this ring).  I’ve kicked off this by first testing out the method with PMC silver and tourmaline (as in Pic above) but I’ve ordered the most beautiful rainbow moonstone to try it out with sterling silver.  Although, there was a debacle with an e-bay seller.  I like to use cheaper stones when I’m experimenting and then go with the nicer stones for final products, but now I think I’ll skip the cheap stone phase as I ended up with three unusable stones in a pack of five moonstones.  I don’t think I’ll use any of them for the rings I had in mind as the good stone I bought from a dealer is so beautiful, it outshines the others by far.
But to keep readers from yawning, here is a story that knowonder said no to:
Vampire Kitty
It was late at night when Nathan heard a scratching at the window – he knew it wasn’t the tree as it had been trimmed not too long ago. He also knew it wasn’t his friend Rob; Nate’s room was on the second floor.
Scratch, scratch, tap, tap.
Nate pulled the covers over his head and listened.
Scratch, scratch, tap, meeeoooowwwwww!
He jumped. Of course, it was a cat! Cats can jump that far, right? Nate went to the window and looked out. Two bright green eyes stared at him, their orbs were enormous and looked hungry. “Meeoooowwwww!”
Not being able to help himself, Nate opened the window. He didn’t know what came over him – he wouldn’t normally open the window to a strange animal, especially one with eyes like… Nathan shivered.
“Mmmbrrroowww?” she asked. Nate found himself nodding and leading her to the kitchen for some milk. She didn’t drink it, but looked at him long and hard as if she was reading his mind.
Nate didn’t want her in the house – his parents and little sister were sleeping soundly, not knowing that he’d let in a stranger. A stranger with claws and teeth. The black cat meowed again and Nate stumbled back to bed, asleep in an instant and dreaming.
In his dream it was very dark and glowing green eyes surrounded him. He was in a forest, trying to get home and there was meowing all around him.
He woke, drenched in sweat, with two similar green eyes staring into his. The meowing was loud. Nate rubbed his itchy neck, half expecting there to be scratches or bite marks. There were none, but he kept rubbing it anyway.
“Oooh kitty!” Renee’s voice shouted in her usual high pitch that only three year olds seem to be able to produce. Then Nate heard her running down the stairs to tell their parents. Nate smiled. Maybe he couldn’t say no to the furry intruder, but he was sure that his parents would.
He was wrong.
“Oh, you’re right Renee, it’s a beautiful cat. Where did you find her Nate? Oh, it doesn’t matter, she’s here now just like she should be.” Nathan’s parents both seemed to have fallen in love with her.
“Well you’re not fooling me,” said Nate when the family had left the kitchen (they had all just finished breakfast and the cat had again ignored her milk).
“Mrrrrow?” She walked boldly up to Nate and rubbed her head against his leg. It seemed like a normal cat thing to do and Nate relaxed just a bit. But then the cat jumped up on the table and did that staring again. Her large green orbs drilled into his like she was trying to tell him something important.
Nathan jumped. The cat had just sent him a clear thought. It was just one word, and it was surrounded with more feeling than sound, but it was clear. The skin on his arm started to prickle and goose bumps appeared. The cat really expected him to feed it. But he knew it didn’t really want normal cat food. As if it understood what Nate had been thinking, it jumped up on his lap and purred.
Nate sighed. “Right.” At least she hadn’t scratched or bitten anyone in the house yet. Or was she just biding her time? “If I feed you will you go away?”
The cat looked at him. One ear pricked up as if in thought, then she jumped down and sauntered away.
Nathan felt sure that if he didn’t find the right sort of food for her, she’d find her own; and it’d be something that he really didn’t want. He rubbed his neck again.
Later that day his dad brought back a bag of dried cat food. Nate was watching TV and Renee kept trying to turn the channel. “Ha!” she said as he turned his head towards the door. She grabbed the remote and turned the TV channel over to her favourite cartoon network.
Nate ignored her and followed Dad into the kitchen. Dad poured the dry food into a bowl. The tinkling noise echoed through the kitchen but the cat, sleeping on the table, didn’t stir.
“Huh,” said his dad. “I was sure she was hungry.”
“She is,” said Nate in a miserable voice. He supposed if the cat was going to try to eat any one of them tonight, at least it had better be him.
“We just need to find what she likes,” said his mum. “I’ll go to the market and get a range of food.”
When Nate’s mum came back she brought five different varieties of wet cat food. The cat’s ears pricked up, she sniffed each one of the packets, turned up her nose, then looked into Nate’s eyes again. She was looking very pleased with herself for some reason.
“Is it me, or is she getting bigger?” asked Nate’s dad.
Nate bit the inside of his lip. She did look bigger than before. Was there something in the house she was eating? He couldn’t see anything and the packets of food remained.
At bedtime, Nathan made sure the cat was locked in the kitchen. His excuse was that she could be with the food and still jump out the kitchen side window if she wanted out. The real reason was that he wanted to keep his family safe. From her.
Nathan couldn’t sleep. His room was right over the kitchen. When the cat jumped about or moved, he could hear her. When it was too quiet he got suspicious. There were some noises, then it went dead quiet. He heard a door creak open, then he heard soft thudding on the stairs. Finally, his own door creaked and a black furry head poked through. Long and sleek, the cat came in and jumped up onto the bed. She was even bigger now and licking her paws as if she’d finished a meal. She curled up, started purring, and went to sleep next to Nate.
Nate jumped up when he was woken up by screaming. Bright sunshine flooded the bedroom. Somehow, Nate had slept until morning and the cat was gone. “No, no, no,” he repeated as he rushed down the stairs. Renee was on the kitchen floor in sobs, but she seemed unhurt. “Bad kitty,” she said, pointing at the cat.
Looking down, Nathan saw a mouse. It was dead – but it hadn’t been killed like a normal mouse hunted by a normal cat. Two puncture marks were on its tiny neck. Nate was puzzled. One little mouse was hardly enough to feed that huge (and continually growing) black cat.
Then he looked at the packets of cat food. At first glance, they looked untouched. A little deflated, but not opened. Upon closer inspection, relief washed over him and he smiled. Each flattened packet had two small puncture holes just like the mouse. His vampire cat could eat normal cat food after all.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Inky Names

The season is changing and it's time to soon upload the historical novel.  In about five days, it will be on kindle (hoorah!) and I keep chaning my mind on what name to publish it under.  The traditional marketing ideal is that for each genre of book, there should be a different name.  My historical fiction name would be Elizabeth Drake, which I love (old family name too), but as I'm not publishing traditionally, I think I'll stick to my nearly established name of Holly Stacey.  If (emphasis on if rather than when) I ever get a traditional publishing deal, then I may branch out a bit and use a pen name.  But not now.  The pen name didn't do terribly well for Raven Wyrstone (The Howling Moon - although I love the book.

Okay, it's written in my blog, so I've got to stick to it.  No waking up at 2am and deciding to change again (the 2am waking is thanks to my lawyer troubles... still that one bit of paper is awaiting a signature).  Truly.  Sticking to the one name.  Except for the non-fiction on Victorian asylums.  That will be under H.E. Stacey...

Ah, and here is my kindle link for my YA urban fantasy -

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Solicitor Splats


We were supposed to exchange on Monday.  Our solicitor has been a dream.  However, all solicitors in the chain are meant to be in the office at the same time.  I’m sure someone is on holiday without having told anybody else.  Not only that, but they were all talking to each other two weeks ago and now… silence.  Number X in the chain is not available to anybody, solicitor or not.  All house moves are on hold.


Its crazy, isn’t it?  How so many people can have their lives on hold just for one phone call?  And what happens when one of them is hit by a car? Has a family accident? Gets a real flu?  The world shouldn’t have to come to a grinding halt.  The system is terribly flawed.  We are chain free – we don’t even have to wait for our house to sell and with a good solicitor, it’s taken eight weeks (and counting) for all the house checks to come through (that’s checks, not cheques, which they’ve been having no problems accepting).


So where does this leave us?  Boxes are strewn everywhere.  Poor Claudia has to eat in front of the TV (tough, isn’t it?) because the dining table is covered with boxes (and the cat… she loves boxes).  My projects are all on hold and I’m going absolutely stir crazy.  Still, we went out to Chappel Beer Festival last night and that was good.  A date night with beer (although I ended up on a rather nice medium-sweet perry) and chocolate – there was a chocolate stall!


Fingers crossed we get a phone call today… Fingers crossed that nothing is mortally wrong with that solicitor!

Saturday, 1 September 2012


Despite having put all projects on hold for a few weeks, I thought it might be good to post the introdution to my Three Women in Asylum book.  In fairness, it was written while waiting for my train home.

Also, as the book will be dedicated to Isabella, a girl from the late Victorian Era who helped guide me back to Borthwick, I've posted the photo of 'The Dreamers' who I'm writing about for the fiction anthology.


 As an archaeologist and children’s author, it may seem strange that I’ve decided to write a book on women in asylum in the Victorian Era.  Stranger still when my archaeological focus has always been early Medieval.  Having excavated with several rescue archaeology teams, I had occasionally come across Victorian archaeology – it couldn’t be missed although it was almost always taken for granted and discarded.  The answer is very simple.  When I was a MA student in York, my class was led to the Bothwick Institute to look at medieval city plans.  They were truly amazing, but what caught my eye the most and what lodged deep into my psyche, were the photographs on the wall.  At the time, Borthwick was located on the premises of what used to be Clifton Hospital – the North Riding Mental Asylum.  The photos were on inmates, women who were deemed to be insane. 

            I knew a little of what Victorian asylums were like – they had a reputation, along with prisons, as being places of unrest.  Suicides were common and recovery rare (or so I thought at the time).  Women who were postnatal depressive, who were mourning the loss of a young child, who may have miscarried, were almost always sent to an asylum.  Not a very healthy way to grieve.  Not only this, but these women were lumped in with maniacal and suicidal dangerous women; those with lunacy in the family.  Melancholia seemed to be the number one problem with women in asylum, followed closely by ‘mania’.  With so many mental illnesses clumped together, it was hardly a recipe for recovery.

            I wondered then, and for over a decade afterwards, what had happened to these women; what was their confinement in an asylum like, and were they ever released?  It wasn’t until I was writing for a fiction anthology based on a Victorian portrait of a young woman who looked pregnant that I was finally tempted to research the Clifton Hospital records.  Writing for the anthology brought back those eyes, staring at me through their protective glass.  Young unwed women of pauper backgrounds like the one in the photograph I was writing about were often sent to the asylum and the babies whisked away to orphanage or workhouse.

            And so, halfway finished with a fictional short story, I ended up booking a train to York.  The Borthwick Institute had relocated since I’d been.  At the time of writing, it was located at the main university’s campus library. The photos I’d seen before, now packed away; only one lonely image of a Clifton Hospital patient remained, pinned to the notice board, watching me research.  I enjoyed the moral support. 

            I started with the female photograph album and then moved onto Female Patient Admissions, then to Female Case Studies.  Each tome offered thousands of names, their origins, their history and family, sometimes their address.  One thing was certain, by the time I’d read through their case, I felt like I knew them.  On my first day of research, I kept reading entries of women who’d spent a lifetime in asylum.  Their reports went much the same, about four entries per year from Dr Nicolson, who I also felt an affinity for (I was saddened to learn that he’d spent years in the same role, only to become an alcoholic and dismissed from service because it was discovered he’d married and had a family outside the hospital; something that was against the rules).  When I’d read the final entry, ‘patient died in the presence of the ward nurse,’ I’d often feel like crying.  My second day of research yielded much happier results as most of the women I’d read about ended up ‘cured’ and discharged.  There were so many women, youngest having been 16 and many up to their 60’s.  One woman was so bereaved when her doctor husband died, she was suicidal and distraught.  She’d constantly told Dr Nicolson how she and her husband ‘were ruined’ and how she was ‘lost’.  Finally, two of her good friends wrote to the commission and requested her release.  There were no more notes, but I hoped that they were looking after her well.  Of her adult children, there was no mention.

            So how did I get to just three case studies?  As I said above, there were thousands of entries in the handful of years I wanted to focus on.  1889 was the date I was primarily after, as the photo book with the patients’ images was set to that date.  I first looked through the photos, picked out about five and then started hunting for their records.  Of those, three had such telltale signs of postnatal depression, broken heart and bereavement that I felt those were the women I should focus on.  It was difficult not to be swept up in every story and I would strongly urge anyone interested to spend just a day reading up on these women at Borthwick.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Borthwick Inklings

At the moment, I’m typing at York Rail Station, waiting for my train.  It’s a good thing, I think, that all the stores close at 5:30, museums are locked, and I’m given a chance to do some more work.  I’ve just finished chapter 2 of my Women in Asylum book and I’m excited about delving deeper into my notes to write up more.  Although, I am limited on time as the staff here won’t let me plug in as the plugs are ‘untested’.  I’ve about half an hour of juice left in the machine!

It was good meeting up with a friend last night (when I was supposed to be writing) and having a pub dinner was especially tasty!  So, with the request made to me on the night, I’m ‘blogging more frequently’.  Michelle, this is for you :-)

So I may not have mentioned the non-fiction book I’ve been working on.  To be fair, I’m not sure how far I’m going to take it.  I was bewitched by the photographs of Victorian patients in the North Riding Mental Asylum about 12 years ago and now I’m finally following up on the research I’ve always intended on doing.  I spent all of today and half of yesterday in the Borthwick Institute, looking up case files from 1887-1889 of some of the female patients. 

I wanted to focus on post-natal depression, and I think I found a few, but as it was all labelled either ‘melancholia’ or ‘mania’ it’s difficult to tell even when the put the ‘supposed cause’ on the file.  The case notes have given clues into the lives of these women, but my favourite must be the woman from Whitby who was convinced her husband was lost at sea (he wasn’t, but she was looking after three children, the youngest being only three months).  She made a full recovery in a matter of months and also learned some fine needlepoint on the journey. 

Not all the entries were so uplifting.  One girl was in for ‘loss in love’ and ended up dying in the asylum having spent every day absolutely listless and in despair.  It’s hard not to feel an attachment to each woman in the case books – reading each entry from the point of admission to the point of release, death, or relocation ends in either jubilation at a full recovery or extreme melancholia when they don’t.

On other projects, here is a brief update.  Blood Tide is halfway re-edited.  I’ll pick it up again after the move and it WILL be ready by Christmas on Kindle.  I’m still writing for Knowonder and they’ve been fabulous.  My Cornwall tales seem to be going over well, and some of my other stories are rejected so I don’t always get it right, but I’m getting the hang of what works and what doesn’t.  Lillia and Rose is still going but slowly – I don’t want to rush this one and I’m working on writing it out by hand so I can really savour it.  Again, jewellery work is on hold until the move is finished and I can prep my new workshop.


More later…

Saturday, 4 August 2012

some random updates is my latest children's story for knowonder, and my favourite so far :)

Ah, the baby is out with husband shopping for food, the cinnamon rolls are rising in the oven, I’ve done the washing up, put on the laundry, managed to brush my  hair and pour a coffee.  I’ve not drunk the coffee… it’s now stone cold, and I expect I’ll have the baby and husband come in any second, put a stop to my writing, and any chance of updating my blog (until baby has afternoon nap in which I’m actually meant to be tidying up the allotment).

Things have been manic.  As my friend Kirsty says, “Yes, it has everything to do with having children.”  So it’s not just me being disorganised (is that me relieved or worried?)  But I just can’t help myself.  I’ve been doing more writing now, having given Wyvern Publications a limited amount of time while I focus on my own work (after three years of helping other authors, editing other manuscripts, and learning things about PDF that I never knew I’d need to know, I’m now looking at getting my own work out and about).

We’re also mid-move.  Still waiting on one mortgage (or re-mortgage) but the company changed the rules half way through our application and have asked us to re-apply and pay more fees (which I am assured by our financial advisor he’ll get back for us).  I’m sure everything will pan out fine, but home isn’t home anymore, it’s become a building site.  Not to mention, I can’t get over how much builders make.  On a per-hour basis, it’s looking mighty fine – I think doctors get less!  So, maybe I’ll stop this writing lark and pick up some tiling equipment (as that seems to need less start up items than the rest of the building choices, lol).

Oops, rolls out of the oven now (nearly missed it!) and coffee still stone cold but now half finished. 

Right, where was I?  Ah, just a writing update (curses, the door is opening and I’m needed for baby-pushchair retrieval)…

Okay, now, where was I.  Writing.  That’s it.  I’m halfway done with the latest edit of Blood Tide (followers will know I’ve been reworking this novel for the past two years) and I’m hoping to (truly) get it up on kindle before Christmas.  It will be my first time using the kindle upload pages, although I’d like to do the same with The Faerie Conspiracies.  I’m not even going to look for an agent for Blood Tide – it has dialect and therefore is risky.  Agents aren’t taking any risks.  Main publishers aren’t either.  There is a revolution in the publishing industry and it’s been easier than ever to self-publish.  Agents are in dire straights, but still need authors, who no longer need them.  The average self-published author makes $10,000 a year from their writing (this is an average, about half will not, according to recent survey, make more than $500, many won’t make their money back if they’ve paid someone to do it for them).  But have a look at the kindle book Memory of Snow by Kirsty Ferry – you’ll find some excellent fiction just at a click of a button.

Aside from editing Blood Tide, it’s been all about keeping up with the quota of stories needed for, who’ve been amazing to work for.  It may have taken a few months longer for the re-launch, but the wait was well worth it.  Lillia and Rose, my latest children’s novel is going more slowly than I’d anticipated, but I don’t mind.  I’m enjoying taking my time over it.  I’ve also been sending some submissions out to various paying anthologies.

With the house move on hold, most of my jewellery making has been on hold too.  But I have got a workbench sourced (second hand kitchen top) and some more tools for cutting and soldering.  I’m keen on working with some traditional techniques for a set of medieval rings that I can take to the next Oyster Fayre. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Colchester Medieval Fayre (formerly known as Oyster Fayre)

The Medieval Fayre was a wonderful experience and for the first time in costume, I set up as Seadrake Creations.  The chainmaille jewellery got a good amount of attention, as did the pure silver rings (one woman was kind enough to buy three at once! I gave her a very good discount). 

A couple of things made themselves known to me.  The first was that people don't like to make purchases when they are cold and wet.  The other is that I think I'll be targeting my work more towards authentic period items and less 'inspired by' items. 

Next on the list of things to make will be medieval cloaks (two as I bought way too much material at the fayre) and two medieval (1350's to be exact) hoods.  My tent is large enough to have a changing room and cloak rail after all.

I met some fabulous people and picked up a few commissions - I also learnt a bit more about various PLIs and the best way to start expanding my little business.  As one other trader said, 'I started so my trade would pay for my beer.'  So I'm starting small and having my creations pay for material (not that I don't like beer too).

Next fayre might be The Fairyland Trust Halloween Market... more to come!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

May Inklets

It’s so nice to get paid to write children’s stories.  It’s easy to just get caught up in the ‘get published’ mode, sending submissions out to anything that ends up in print, so when payment comes… WOW.  If anybody has a good children’s story, check out as it’s still accepting stories and pays very professionally for them. 1 June is when the website re-launches and all the new and wonderful stories will be featured; a story a day.

As for other markets, two short stories have been sent out to Chicken Soup for the Soul, who are constantly producing excellent books.  It’s a good market to capture, so fingers crossed, I’ve got it right.  If not, I’ll keep trying. 

The WIP (Lillia and Rose) will be drafted by August and then it’s the next couple of months for revising and sending out to agents.  It’s really coming into its own and I’m loving getting elements of Viking lore into the story (as the main character’s father is a historian… well, he has an MA in folklore and history, but he now works as an accountant in the city, so much for formal education).

The Colchester Oyster Fayre is getting closer and closer… my list of goods for sale is growing. I’ve now got pirate bags and pouches in treasure map print.  Not very medieval, but as I’m in the ‘pseudo-historical’ section, I figure I can stretch things a bit.  It was fun using my 1940’s hand cranked singer sewing machine (so there’s historic for you ;)

Ooh, and my tent for the fayre is ENORMOUS… I never appreciated just how big it would be (I finally had a chance to test it out at Grange Barn) and it’s too big to have the canopy up.  It will be an excellent place for friends to chill out at after competing in the archery tournament.  I’ll be pimping up the back to have sheepskin throws and a couple of blankies for ‘medieval crash-out’.  I doubt I’ll have time to paint the panels before the fayre, but I aim to have a full woodland up, with golden ink Shakespearean fairy quotes and maybe some Tennyson (or at least Mallory).

I’m still not happy with my website.  I’ve uploaded some new photos but I need to re-photograph many of the items with my ‘new’ second-hand manual zoom Nikkon (thank you amazon marketplace!) so they look a bit more professional.  The website keeps being uncooperative.  I’m no tekkie and my computer doesn’t like updates, but I’d really like to put a more personal and woodland spin on the website.  I may attempt to bribe a friend into helping me update it.

And finally, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for my friend and fellow historic fiction writer Laura – her book is with an agent who’s just asked to view the complete manuscript!

Friday, 30 March 2012

inky edits

Things have once again been insane and manic, but good fun.  I’ve been doing more baking at home, which has made my taste buds very happy (but the washing up has been a real chore). The house is a tip (or is that just me because I see so much of it every day?) despite my constant cleaning.  I wonder how my Grandma Betty always kept the house in perfect order.  She always was a bit of a Doris Day (and practically perfect in every way).

Knowonder is developing well and the 1 June launch looks to be all good to go from what I’ve been hearing (so hoorah for new uploaded stories!) and I’ve been able to get my 3 stories a month sent in.  I’ve also been accepted as one of their team editors, which is wonderful.  I edited my first three assignments last night and I’m now getting the hang of how to use the submishmash programme.

My first every Chicken Soup for the Soul story entry has been sent out.  ‘Hysterically Historical’ was based on my Tudor dancing group (not to worry, names were changed, but the wiggle wiggle dance does make an appearance). My plan is to do every submission I can for them as they pay well (with a 3-year wait for payment and publication if accepted).

Next port of call for subs is Highlights Magazine, something I used to get as a child and enjoyed reading.  Hopefully, it will be something I will enjoy writing for!  Of course, all this does take its toll on time and having only two hours a day when Claudia is asleep, means the housework does suffer (as I said earlier, the house is a tip).

So… while the writing front has been busy, the ‘find and agent’ front has been non-existent.  If history has taught us anything, it’s that fighting on more than one front at once will weaken the attack.  So, it’s write, write, write for this year, and agent will be reserved for when I don’t have so many submissions to send out.

All in all, hoorah for paid submissions!!!

Monday, 27 February 2012

kno inky updates

Huzzah! It seems that knowonder! has made some fabulous changes and instead of paying $10 per story, it’s paying up to $50 per story which means I can relax about sending out overseas subs via pricey snail mail. And… stories go up on 1 March.

I’ve also made motions to re-start writing for as I had stopped in 2009 to get Wyvern Publications off the ground and running.  Now that we are about to publish our 9th title (and 10th before Christmas) the team will be focusing on publicising titles already up and I’m taking a year out of editing so I can work on my own books.
With two regular paying markets taking my work (one fiction and one non-fiction) I do feel a bit more confident about calling myself a professional writer.  I had been feeling pressure about bringing more funds into the household and although I won’t exactly be earning a high salary (or even minimum wage…) I can at least know the groceries are covered!

Which brings me to… the allotment! It’s looking amazing and certainly tidier than it had before.  I’ve bought three seasons of seed potatoes to keep us chip-happy and asparagus and more dahlias are going in.  The asparagus is low maintenance which is nice and it just keeps giving year after year (and tastes amazing).  It’s great working outdoors for something that gives back more than I put into it and I even use my archaeology trowel to get my sides straight in the seed bed areas.  Not that the area is devoid of any archaeological evidence.  There are pot sherds galore, broken pipes, slag (and some evidence of a small forge – probably just for shoeing horses), medieval peg tile and loads of iron waste which makes for good ballast when I want to keep a weed cover from blowing about the place.

We’re having some good productiveness on the home front too with two chickens producing eggs now.  Ruby, the ex-batt has decided it’s not fair for just Gemima to lay, so she’s back in action and looking two years younger (that’s about two decades in chicken years).  Star is looking better although she’ll never be at 100% after her illness (she had chicken bronchitis – or so said the vet after the last visit).

Things seem to be balancing out nicely now and I’ve nominated the first Friday of every month to be ‘find an agent’ day.  I’ll give Blood Tide another round and this time focus on US agents as they don’t seem to be baffled by having to read dialect.  Then it will be another edit (it’s out with three readers at the moment and I’m getting some excellent new suggestions), then up on kindle if I’ve had no offers.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Rabbit Ink

Goodness, where does the time go? It’s been a year since I boldly stated that I’d be sending in one submission every two weeks and would, hopefully, bag an agent.  I sent three submissions to large agencies last year and got no love back.  It was nice to get a few things in anthologies, but I was so hoping to reach a wider audience.

Which brings me to the new endeavour – Seadrake Creations.  It’s doing okay, I’ve got a new fair to set up for 21 April and it should be interesting to see what sort of things sell this time (at the Christmas fair it was only the children’s things that sold out).  I am getting more interest in my silver leaf pendants, but as PMC costs so much, I’m not really making money off it, just having a bit of fun.  I’ve secured the domain but have yet to transfer my seadrakecreations.googlesites website over to it.  After the debacle with google recently, I should do it quickly before its gone forever (Google was about to delete my account for being 8months old… I was setting up a youtube account and put the age of my business instead of my personal age.  Seems obviously silly now!)

I am trying hard to think of ways of working from home and staying self-employed – I’m going to be running craft workshops, but until I get my level 1 PMC certification, I’ll not have any access to discounted PMC and supplies (curses!) so that’s another thing to save up for (and getting a second hand camera that has a manual focus).  I’ll also be putting up demos on youtube and some project downloads will be put on the website (maybe even a kindle book with a load of projects).  There is always so much to do in the few spare hours when Claudia sleeps.

As for WIP – there are too many things to even count.  I know I should just stick to one, but my writing is in limbo until the last few things I sent in to knowonder are published.  So far, I’ve been writing story after story and have been biting my fingernails, checking their website to see if anything is ever published.  I’m guessing March will be when things are up, but that’s such a long way off considering the team has been putting stories in the pot since New Year. Patience has never been my strong point - the stories will go up when they are ready!

That, and I’ve been looking at new places to have fiction published.  Paying places *big grin*.  Highlights Magazine is my next port of call (even though I must post my work via snail mail overseas WITH a SAE; how expensive will that get?) and a few others of similar ilk. 

Here is a bit of one of the works I’ve been sneaking down – it’s been in my head for years and it’s a bit different from the usual stuff.

The Rabbits of Carrot Wood
(a series)

book 1: Into the Wood

Ostra looked up at the bright stars through the clearing of trees and thumped on her hind paw.  Her thick grey fur looked silver in the moonlight, but soon, she knew, it would appear golden when the fires began. 

In seconds, the entire forest floor was quaking with the thumps of several rabbit’s hind paws.  Tall ears popped up from holes in the ground, followed by long, sleek bodies.  More hind legs joined in the warning and soon even the birds in the trees had taken flight in the night.

“Is the council gathered?” It was Freya who asked Ostra, one of the rabbits to whom the next role of leadership would fall.

Ostra bowed her head.  “They are gathered.”

Freya nodded and raced off, her hind legs flashing like lighting to the summit.

An owl flew low, his talons out, searching for any small prey.  He too, must have sensed the change in the air and was taking advantage by finding food.  Ostra dove into one of the warren’s holes, knowing full well that she was just small enough to be taken by those sharp talons.  A few moments later, she heard his frustrated scream – her den-mates were safe.  Surfacing again, she watched the wings flap towards the plain and away from the colony of rabbits.

She pulled the rest of her body out of the hole and shook off dust and soil.  She’d have to do a proper wash later – after this council business was sorted; after the fires had passed.

Many latecomers rushed past her to get to the gathering point; a large oak stump in the centre of the clearing.  Already, the four council elders sat in their honoured positions, each facing outward in the cardinal directions. 

“Hush”, Elder North called.  The crowd of rabbits settled down.  The crowd was managed by the guardians; twelve strong warriors to keep their eyes on the skies for predators and behind them for sly foxes.  Each was armed with a spear ending in a stone point, their backs covered with a long, blue stripe of paint to mark their position as protectors.

Elder South nodded to Elder North and raised his front paws.  “We are gathered here this late night to witness the passing of the moon’s shadow as foretold by our seers.  In honour of this spiritual event, we shall light the fires as is custom.”

There was a hiss of breath as the crowd took in the knowledge. There had not been any fires lit for the past twelve generations.  Legend was strong in the tribe, but the
marks on the earth told the tale more solidly than any storyteller.

“Firedancers!” called Elder West.  “Now it is time to put to use your years of training! Prepare the cinders.”

Two small rabbits with patches of red on their heads came forward, eyes wide and frightened.  They brought with them a basket of smoke.  Behind them followed four young females, each carrying a bundle of twigs.  They dumped the twigs in the centre of the elders’ oak stump and scurried away on all fours like wild rabbits.

The four elders hopped off of the stump, allowing the two firedancers to approach.  They placed the basket gently in the centre and stripped off their woven robes.  The black and red flame patterns heaped onto the earth below them and each of them took deep, slow breaths before opening the basket.  It was apparent to Ostra that they had spent hours in preparation for the eve.

“Begin! Begin! Begin!” The four elders started the chant and were soon joined in a cacophony of others as the crowd opened their mouths to add to the chorus. It wasn’t long before those rabbits who had been wary, became fevered with the need to see flames – and the result of those flames devouring both flesh and flora.

Ostra felt the need to look away, but something held her attention captive as the two dancers reached into the basket with their bare paws and, screaming, threw the live embers into the pile of sticks.

“More, more, more!” The crowd and the elders’ voices were one now, like a hive of bees with only one thought for the many.  Even Ostra found the words seeping from her tongue when all she really wanted to do was run. 

The dancers’ screams turned from fear into screams of maniacal joy – they threw more embers into the air, letting them catch the sky and form arcs of light.  Yet, despite their fur touching all the flames, they didn’t burn.  The glowed.  The fire seemed to come from inside them now and each of the dancers, inflamed with magic of the dance, began to swallow the coals and embers, belching out long flames then leaping over.

The ground began to shake, this time without the aid of any rabbits’ thumping.  The dancers stopped leaping and began digging.  They bored into the earth like worms, their bodies glowing under the patches of turf and soil.  Long pathways of steam showed the crowd were the dancers were moving; each of them in perfect harmony with the other to form first a perfect circle around the crowd, and then spirals.  Rabbits jumped high as the dancers burrowed under their feet, but still nobody left.

This is madness, thought Ostra.  But she too, could not escape.  The sky then seemed to be falling – the stars streamed in the sky and the moon, covered by an invisible cloak, disappeared slowly into the night.  The dancers surfaced, exhausted, but untouched by fire.  Except, perhaps, the fire in their eyes, observed Ostra.  They had a new life in them that hadn’t been there before.  But they seemed spent and almost hobbled to the centre oak.  Satisfied, the elders covered each with a flame-coloured cloak and looked up to the sky.

“Prepare yourselves!” said Elder North.  “For now we shall see the vision.”


Once upon a time, long, long ago, there were three rabbits.  One was grey and one was brown.  The other was pure white.  The white rabbit wanted to lead, for he felt that only he was closest to the gods; why else would they keep him as pure in colour as the snow?  The grey rabbit felt that he should be in charge, for was he not the very colour of a fallen star – which everyone knew was the physical body of an angel.  The brown, however, said nothing.  For he knew that the gods would give to them what the gods would give.

The white and the grey rabbits quarrelled.  They bit and tore at each others’ ears.  Soon, they had lost their sight.  Soon after that, they had lost their ability to hear the gods’ whispers.  But the brown rabbit prayed.  He prayed that his two aggressive brothers be spared; that they live in peace.

The gods heard his prayers and granted them.  The grey and the white rabbit were made one – every winter the rabbit would be white and every summer, the rabbit would be grey, each blending in harmony with the land around him; never meeting each other or overlapping.  But they had become simple.  They could not speak.  They could not plan or think.  They could live, but live simply.

Happy that his brothers could live, but lonely, brown rabbit then asked the gods for a mate.  And once again they granted his wish.  A beautiful female rabbit came to his den one morning.  She could speak the language of the flowers and knew healing spells.  She too could communicate with the gods and her name was Ostra.  She gave the brown rabbit a name, so that he too could be remembered in song.  His name was Oak.  Together they had many children and became the founders of our way of life.  They kept the forest and woods tame and knew that their needs would always be met; using their minds and skills granted to them by the gods.  But they also knew too, that if they did not keep the law of the earth, the gods would punish them in the same way they did to grey and white rabbit.


Ostra woke in her warren, her familiar blankets firmly tucked in around her.  It had been a long time since she’d dreamed; and this dream was beautiful. It was full of colour – blues and greens and a huge mass of water.

“No,” she said aloud, “it wasn’t a dream…” It had been the firedance – they had seen a vision.  She knew, though she couldn’t pawpoint how, that each of them had seen something different.  Hers had been of a place far, far away – there were white birds with black tipped wings, heavy winds, and no trees.  It made her feel exposed, but she felt inexplicably drawn to it nonetheless.

It was very early – she could smell the dew in the earth and hear the deep breaths of the rest of the warren.  Creeping out as quietly as she could, she popped her head above the ground and sniffed the air.  Fresh.  Clean.  She opened one eye, a little frightened of what she might see.  It was green and lush; without any scarring from the night’s ritual.  But when she hopped to the clearing, she could see the markings in the ground where the dancers had burrowed – instead of scorching there was moss. 

What does it mean?  She scratched her left ear with her hind leg and hopped onto the oak stump to take in the entire pattern. She hadn’t remembered going back into the warren – just a vague knowledge that she did see a vision when she looked up to the stars.

Monday, 23 January 2012

writing on thin ink

Well, it’s been months since I’ve heard from Cold Moon Press – I’m beginning to think they’ve been abducted by marauding faeries! So I’ve no idea if the anthology will go forward or not, which is a shame as I was really looking forward to that one in particular.

Things with knowonder! are on hold for a little longer, so I expect I’ll have new story links to post perhaps by the end of February. But I’ve been so inspired by them and the idea of having so many children’s stories that there is now a backlog of stories in my brain and I can’t seem to get them out fast enough.

Lillia and Rose is the temporary title of a children’s book I’m working on now. It’s really Lillia’s tale – she’s ten and always wanted to be stolen by the fey, or to discover that she’s got magic faerie powers. On the day her parents convince her to keep her feet on the ground, she meets her twin brother… in the woods. He’s got pointed ears, teeth, and talks in an unusual dialect. Yup, he’s fey (that means faerie for all my non-fantasy readers). And Lillia finds that not only is she from the woods she’s always loved, but her real family had put her in hiding. To confuse matters more, her human ‘sister’ Rose turns out to have magic too and is also part of an intricate prophesy of the children to free Wildwoods from the darkness of troll-law.

The Rabbits of Carrot Wood is the other book I’ve started – it was meant to be a children’s book, but the characters have hijacked it and now it’s an unusual tale of a pagan tribe of intelligent rabbits. It has an odd feel of Native American/Celtic tribal origin myth and it’s been a joy to write so far. It’s unusual, as I said, so it’s not the sort of thing I can imagine an agent slapping a contract on, but it wants to come out and won’t take no as an answer.

Blood Tide is still in the mill – I think I want to give it another polish before I put it up for sale on Create Space. It is extremely pedantic fine-tuning, but as it’s historical fiction, I’d rather have it absolutely right.

Aside from the big projects, small tales for knowonder! are seeping out of my typing fingers (here’s hoping that they are good enough).

So that’s the writing side of things. There is still so much more work to do with Seadrake Creations, especially the website which looks a real mess at the moment. I’m happy with the sidebar and one photograph… the rest is rubbish! I think once I get some more professional-looking photos and get used to the web programme (things keep hopping to different areas when I’m not looking) it may be much nicer. Or maybe I just keep comparing it to high quality professional websites that I’ll never be able to afford.

The really lovely thing is that my silver leaves have been landing more contracts. I’ve got two sets in the VIC and having finished one commission, I’ve been asked to do another, which is very nice :)

I also want to start workshops as it’s covered in my PLI.

That’s the light side of life. Then there is Claudia starting to walk and using me as a walking frame, which is hilarious, but pretty time-consuming. And with having three books to edit for publication this year with Wyvern Publications means that every minute of my day needs to be accounted for. I do feel a bit exhausted and spread a bit thin.

Alright, as I said, spread a bit thin… I’d better be getting back to work now. The allotment needs digging over today.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Seadrakey things

Well, I didn't really intend on it happening so soon, but Seadrake Creations now has a website: although it's still in baby stages.

I've been trying to keep it tidy but I am having problems with getting good photos - they just don't seem to do the items any justice. Ah well, it will come together in the end. The important thing is that it's up and I've got enough stock to see me through all three days of the Colchester Oyster Fayre.

Knowonder! is holding back posting stories from their new staff writers while we all get organized and I've started two new children's books - I'll be giving updates as time goes on.