A Bit of Me, Writing

Feeling Off-Kilter

Dart Valley Rain 1
Dart Valley Nature Reserve, 12th June 2016

I’ve been feeling a little off-kilter for the last few weeks. Reading hasn’t been the joy it usually is, writing became a bit of chore, I had a run of headaches and was generally feeling rubbish.

This isn’t unusual for me, I’m used to these feelings cropping up sooner or later, but it’s the first time for a while that all things lost colour all at once. I felt a bit like the bluebells in the bottom right hand corner of the top photo, trying my hardest to keep going yet somehow getting overtaken by the super-fast bracken that sprung up from nowhere! Or maybe the oak tree, stretching all my limbs in one direction only to find the sun has shifted to rise behind me.

Dart Valley Rain 3
Dart Valley, 12th June 2016

It’s not so terrible a feeling, and is mostly brought on by tiredness and a general feeling of being run down, but I wasn’t expecting it all at once so it knocked me back a bit.


Sometimes it’s a simple thing to fix – a good walk, usually on Dartmoor, often works wonders. So a couple of weekends ago I went back to the Dart Valley, since the weather was showery and I didn’t want to get caught out somewhere high if it turned nasty. I was half-hoping that the foxgloves would have come out.

Wow, was I wrong. Turns out the bluebells are going stronger than ever and the undergrowth has exploded! Here are some pictures from 15th May next to my last visit on the 12th June. It’s like someone jammed the grow switch on or something. Moss, ferns, leaves, go!

Dart Valley 2 Dart Valley Rain 4

Dart Valley 1 Dart Valley Rain 5

It was lovely down there, and this time there weren’t a bunch of campers cluttering the place up so I could get much closer to the water. I’m not very good at sharing my favourite spaces with other people, but one of the best things about this place is that a lot of people don’t realise it’s down there, so it’s pretty peaceful and quiet – when the campers aren’t about anyway ;)

It was even lovelier when the sun poked its head out for a bit.

Dart Valley Rain 7
River Dart, 12th June 2016

I caught a faint shower on the way back up the hill, but by the time I reached the top the sun was blazing and I was startled by a bunch of sheep who looked very unimpressed by me. I would have taken a picture but the ewe was looking at me funny and I didn’t want to disturb the lambs, so I left them to it and decided to clamber down a very (very) steep slope to see how far along the Venn Brook (which flows into the Dart) I could get. I’d seen a picture of a waterfall down there and wanted to try and find it. Well, I think I did, but I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s not much of a path and I didn’t pick the best time to walk it, since everything is growing like mad. Maybe I’ll try again in the winter.

Dart Valley Venn
Venn Brook (not the falls, unless they’re really weedy or those ferns are enormous!)

Still, it is very pretty down there. A proper fairy glen.

And the climb back up was rough. I followed a bunch of hoof prints from the Clydesdale Heavy Horse Adventure rides, and I felt so jealous! I went on a ride with them last year and it was amazing, but I really wished I had a horse, any horse, when I was scrambling back up that slope. Served me right.

Dart Valley Rain 2
Dart Valley, 12th June 2016

Sadly the walk itself didn’t sort my head out as much as I hoped, but putting my fiction reading aside for a few days and immersing myself into some non-fiction definitely helped out on that score. On the writing side, I abandoned everything at the end of last week and watched How to Train Your Dragon 2 instead. I hadn’t seen it for ages and it was a perfect tonic. Add in a few naps and I seem to have recovered my writing zest too. I’m now closing in on the end of the Viscount book.

Dart Valley Rain 6
River Dart, 12th June 2016

At least I was until the characters decided to take a road trip. Argh! Don’t they know how difficult it is to find and read Regency era road maps from Devon to Norfolk on my phone?
I also looked up the symptoms for syphilis, just to stop my Google search history from getting boring. It’s probably best that cocaine usage post-dates this era, else I’d have that research on top, with a little opium addiction for extra colour. At least it isn’t poisons or the best natural treatments for burns and bruises or how long it actually takes to throttle someone this time.

I’m not a serial murderer in training, I promise. It’s all research – er, not that kind of research. Oh, never mind!

Ah well, at least my equilibrium is mostly back, so that’s gotta be good. Even if Google is looking at me funny.

Merry Wednesday, everyone, I hope you’ve been enjoying Midsummer, or if you be on the lower half of the world, I hope you’re enjoying being halfway out of the dark!

(And for those who are interested, new dragons can be found on Starlight Magpie. Along with an Ivy Witch and hares on rocks. If you’re curious, go and see.)

A Bit of Me, Updates

Of Progress and Lazy Sparrows

Garden Flag 2
Flag Iris

Life in my garden is very green right now, bursting with life and buzzing with insects. For the most part I’m not a particularly clever gardener. I don’t remember the names of things, I tend to “rescue” plants from the sale sections of garden centres and hope for the best, and I’m very Darwinian in my planting scheme (stick ’em in, if they’re tough they will survive). On the whole, I prefer to stick to native wildflowers or things that I know bees and butterflies love. Occasionally, very rarely, I’ll pick something just for me.

Garden Flag 1Like the flag irises in the pond.

It’s not much of a pond, just a half barrel in the corner of the garden, mostly taken over by duckweed, but every other year the flag irises decide to break through the green and put on a show. Only one is flowering this year, but it seems to be making up for it with the sheer number of blooms it’s throwing out. Three so far, with at least three more to go. They only last a few days, but luckily there’s always another waiting.

Garden Iris 1 Speaking of irises, this is one of my garden centre rescues. I have no idea what type it is, it was in the sale as a gorgeous pale blue bloom, so I snapped it up and every year I think it’s died and instead, out of nowhere, I’ll get this gorgeous fellow.

Sometimes the pale blue one comes up too, but since I only spotted this bud yesterday, I’ll have to see if the other one makes an appearance. Yesterday this was just a green shoot with a purple tip. Isn’t it lovely?

Garden Iris 2 Garden Iris 3

The sad thing about irises is that they never bloom for long, and when they’re done they mostly vanish. Which is why I’m always so delighted when these ones keep coming back, year after year.

Garden Ev PrimA bit like this evening primrose. I found it in Wells last year, when I met up with my sisters in search of where our great-grandparents are buried. (And to see my nieces and nephews.)

Anyway, I saw this outside the Bishop’s Palace café and thought it was lovely. Had no idea what it was, but brought it home, planted it up and figured out it was an evening primrose. The flowers only last a day or two, but as you can see in the picture there are plenty more buds waiting to open. It flowered non-stop for about five months last year, then vanished entirely over the winter. I’m so pleased my mystery bargain came back!

Garden Yellow DaisyThis is another mystery buy, some sort of daisy thing, but it’s a great big bush now that’s picked out its own little niche beside the buddleia. Every time the poor thing opens a flower it seems to get eaten, but it ploughs on regardless with bloom after bloom after bloom all through spring and summer. It first came out in April – which is a little late, as most things are this year – but it’s going stronger than ever right now.

Garden ButtercupsIt’s right at home alongside the buttercups. These ones in the main garden are doing considerably better than the ones in the wild garden, which are getting eaten by the mega slugs, who will eat everything they can, alas.

Garden Ox-eye 1The ox-eye daisy has also just made a reappearance. I love how cheerful these flowers are. Big and brash and sunny – the bees and hoverflies seem to like them too. Haven’t seen any butterflies on them yet, but then butterflies are pretty scarce in the garden so far this summer.

Garden Orion GeraniumHere’s another of my rescues. It was in the end of season sale and I felt sorry for it. Besides, not only do I like geraniums, but it’s an Orion something or other – I couldn’t leave it! This is another that I think has vanished when I go looking for it each spring, but it always bounces back in the summer to surprise me.

The bees seem to like it too.

Elsewhere in the garden the violas and red campion are flowering like mad, the bluebells are gone and replaced with nettles and the sea holly seems to be flowering small this year and doing better than usual.

When I stepped out for lunch the other day, I watched a female house sparrow on the seed feeder, fluttering back and forth across the garden, while her lazy brood huddled in the prickly pair, fluttering and begging whenever she came within reach. They’re as big as she is, and since they had to have flown to get into the pair, the least the lazy so and sos could do was flit the tiny distance to the feeders themselves. One of the feeders is practically in that tree now, it’s spread so much since spring.

Garden Forgetmenot
Forget-Me-Nots mostly gone now :(

Ah, such are the delights of a green and beautiful summer. I hope things are as pretty where you are, or at least have spaces where you can breathe in something clean and remember the beautiful days.

I’m having a pretty productive week away from the garden. I’ve finished the second Regency book, which is only a novella, and started a third. They have titles now too. At some point I think I’ll have to make myself a new author website, since these will be released under a pseudonym. Still, the writing is going well, the weather is glorious and I survived my solo-driving trip to Wales.

Yay, summer!

May your own week be going so well.

A Bit of Me, Updates, Writing

The Merry Month of May

Dart Valley 2
Dart Valley Nature Reserve, 15th May 2016

Since I was walking in the woods the other day, and it being the merry merry month of May, I decided to share some photos with you while I natter about what I’ve been up to.

It’s incredible how green everything has suddenly become around here. Until very recently it’s been kind of cold for the time of year, meaning the buds and blossoms have been holding back. No longer. It’s all green, all the time. Which, in places like the above picture, mean the bluebells are out in force.

Dart Valley Bells 1You can’t see them too well in that shot, so here’s some more down beside the River Dart. Dart Valley Bells 2

These are British Bluebells, which are something of a rare breed these days, since Spanish bluebells are stronger, brighter and spread like nobody’s business from people’s gardens. In this little spot, however, they were all delicate British ones. I’ve never seen so many.

Dart Valley 1
Dart Valley Nature Reserve, May 15th 2016

This is how you can definitely tell I’m on Dartmoor. Rocks in the woods, rocks in the river. Rocks everywhere! It’s an oread paradise – look at all that moss.

Anyway, as lovely as all that has been (and it has been very lovely, and I’ve had some really good walks lately), I’ve also been busy in other areas.

Since my last catch up post, I’ve edited and read through Blazing Dawn, but I’m a little stuck. If you know of anyone who wouldn’t mind reading a dragon fantasy novel at some point over the next month, please let me know. I’m not looking for deep editing (though I never say no to picks and crits), I mostly need to know if certain plot points make sense. Of course they do to me, because they’re threads I’ve been teasing out for over a decade, but I’m not sure if it’s too obscure for other people or if it works well enough in the context of the story. So, if you know of anyone who can help, please let me know. Ta!

Away from that, I’ve left my first Regency book alone since I finished it – because I need to do some extra research and check things – and was supposed to have turned my attention away from writing for a while. However, I got itchy without typing on a daily basis, so I’m now a little over halfway through an unplanned Overworld novella, which doesn’t fit into either of my Overworld series, but I’m enjoying it immensely. I’m not at all sure where it’s heading (though I got a few inklings when I was thinking it over earlier), so I’m hoping I’m over halfway but can’t be certain. It’s at 20K at the moment, but who knows where it’ll end.

I’ve also started a second Regency novel, because why not? I’m planning to spend the next month writing it, the novella and working on Blazing Dawn. Then, come July, it’ll be time to turn back to the Aekhartain (because summer is absolutely the best time to write a winter novel), and also tidy up the details in the first Regency book. I might even come up with a name… I hope! I can’t call it Filly’s book forever. I’m also hoping I will come up with a name for the second Regency book along the way, because Matilda’s book (can you sense a theme?) doesn’t sound nearly exciting enough.

And the reason why I was supposed to be taking a break from writing these last few weeks? Well, since you asked, I’ve opened an Etsy shop and started a new blog – both called Starlight Magpie.

Here’s a little glimpse at why:

It’s been keeping me busy and I’ve been having fun with it. We’ll see how it goes. For now it’s providing a nice creative break away from writing and I’m constantly getting new ideas.

Dart Valley 3
Dart Valley Nature Reserve, 15th May 2016

Anywho, that’s what up with me. I shall leave you now with a final look along the Dart Valley.

And while we’re here, how are things with you lovely people? Has the year been treating you kindly thus far? I hope so.

I’m driving to Wales on Friday and I’m a touch nervous, but more about that another time.

For now, bask in something beautiful.

Cheers, m’dears!



A Bit of Me, Books, Overworld, Updates, Writing

Catching Up: Feb-May

As there isn’t a midweek Wingborn update this week (contain yourselves) and we’ve hit the halfway point in the book, I thought I’d catch everyone up on what I’ve been up to lately.

Bagtor Feb
Haytor from Bagtor Feb 2016

As the picture shows, I’ve been walking on Dartmoor a fair bit, when the weather allows. You’d never know from that particular picture that it was bitterly cold up there that day, with a wind blowing hard enough to almost knock me over! (Ignore the shape of the tree, it’s always like that. Growing on the moors tends to have that effect on the vegetation.)

It’s been a very strange start to the year in many ways, not least weatherwise, but now that May is here things seem to be settling down a bit. Especially when it comes to writing.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve finished two books!

The first, Blazing Dawn, is an Overworld book, set a few centuries before Wingborn when women were still allowed in the Rift Riders and the dragons still interacted with humans. That’s where this series is set, the Dragonlands, where a certain fiery Blazeborn elder has been unhappily assigned as a delegate to the new human ambassador and her Rift Rider retinue.

Mini Khennik Blossom
Mini Khennik amidst the greengage blossoms

The dragon is called Khennik and he’s the sort of hero who if you’d asked him to save the world would say, “Not today, I’m busy.” But if you asked him to help his kin and Clan, would lay down his life before you finished the question. He’s contrary and grumpy, prone to bursting into flames, and I’m really rather fond of him.

Mini Dragons 1

Here Mini Khennik is hanging out with a few of his fellow Blazing Dawn characters on some pieces of Dartmoor quartz. Junior Archivist Reglian is the black and gold dragon, Elder Goryal is the little grey one, stony Estenarven is beside him, while poor watery Mastekh is lying off to one side. They all have their parts to play in the story, some more successfully than others, and there are plenty of Rift Riders to get to know too. Not least Nera, a young lieutenant out in the world for the first time.

You might also be able to tell that I’ve been playing with polymer clay a bit lately, but more on that some other time.

The second book I finished just last week. It doesn’t have a title yet, but it’s a Regency Romance! I love reading books in this genre and I’ve had a few ideas for my own over the years. I originally started this one almost ten years ago, but it’s been mouldering away, stalled at only three chapters ever since. I thought I’d give it another go and see if I could actually finish it – and I did! It’s still very rough and needs a lot of work, but it’s set in the country, has a rather put-upon heroine, a scarred up hero and some annoyingly cute kids running around. I had fun writing it, so I hope people will enjoy reading it. I’ll also be releasing it under a different name, but again, more on that some other time.

Aside from the fact that I’m really pleased to have finished these two books, they also have a couple of surprising things in common. They’re both old stories I started ages ago (Blazing Dawn didn’t even get past the first chapter), neither of them turned out at all like I expected, they’re both longer than I intended, and they’re both firsts in their own ways: my first completed Regency and the first time I’ve actually managed to finish a book with a dragon as the main protagonist. This last one is particularly surprising since I love dragons and have written a fair few over the years, but clearly they prove more tricky than I ever expect.

So, as you can see, writing continues apace. Over the next few months I’ll be polishing both books up and turning my attention back to the Aekhartain again. I’ll also be considering what I’ll do after the serialisation of Wingborn ends. I think I’d like to try it with something else, but I’ll be writing it as I go this time. I haven’t what decided yet, but I’m open to suggestion if anyone has anything they want to know more of.

In the meantime, I shall leave you with a final couple of pictures.

One of the things I love best about walking on Dartmoor at this time of year (or in the lanes closer to home, because I am very lucky) is hearing the skylarks. Their numbers are supposedly dropping nationwide, but you’d never know it if you walk regularly around these parts. Here’s one I spotted the other day when walking to Laughter Tor.

Laughter Skylark

It’s perched atop a prehistoric menhir, Loughtor Man, which stands at 2.4 metres tall.

Louden Man
Loughtor Man, April 2016

Apparently it once stood in the centre of a small cairn, with stone rows around it. Now it stands mostly alone, save for the occasional walker or skylark stopping by for a rest or to admire the view.

And on that note, I shall leave you all in peace. I hope the world and the weather is treating you kind wheresoever you may be. I shall be back soon with more Wingborn and perhaps a photo or two of places I’ve been along the way.

Merry midweek, everyone!