Sunday, 30 January 2011
I think I've mentioned before how much I love to visit the coast, even - or perhaps, especially - in the winter. We're visiting my dad in Lancaster at the moment, and on Friday we went for a walk along the beach at Sunderland Point. I was chatting to a friend the other day and mentioned that I was probably going to see some "nice and bleak" landscapes - he was a little surprised that I associate "bleak" with "nice" but I do find something strangely mesmerising in grey and windswept scenes. The gorgeous seabirds here were just the icing on a cold and blustery cake.
Friday, 28 January 2011
Take a look at these houses - especialy the doorways.
We think the black box around the door on the left, and the metal columns by the doorframes, are all part of the flood defences. These houses look out over the sea. It's a beautiful view, but I'm not sure it would be worth the flood risk to live so close to the coast......
Monday, 24 January 2011
I love abstract sculptures, and particularly installations which are immersive, interactive, or both. Bonus points for cleverness. It kind of follows that Anish Kapoor is one of my favourite artists - so when I heard he had an installation in Hyde Park I had to go and see. There are four mirrored pieces around the park, and it's worth walking around them all if you have a free hour in the area, but this is my favourite. (Note for scale: it's about my height)
Saturday, 22 January 2011
It feels like a while since I was on holiday (okay, it was November... it feels longer!) so I've been entertaining myself with looking at photos from past holidays. I didn't have this blog back when Andy and I went cycling round Iceland in 2006, so there's a lot I haven't shown you yet.
The Rock Museum is the perfect tourist trap - and with bus tours arriving several times a day, they seem to have worked out how to print money. We did a back-of-the-envelope calculation in our tent, and I don't remember the result but I do remember that it must have been well over a thousand pounds per day in the summer season.
This isn't a collection of music memorabilia, it's a collection of rocks. Rocks from around the world, and admittedly some of them are quite pretty - but most of the individual specimens aren't that exciting. It's the quantity which is impressive enough to justify a visit: both house and garden are simply full of rocks.
Oh, and you can always buy an Icelandic rock to take home as a souvenir (for which the price was the equivalent of around US$4, at the time!)
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Would you like to win a paperback copy of Rebellion? I'm currently running a giveaway through Goodreads where you can enter for your chance to win a signed copy.
If you're not using Goodreads yet, it's free to sign up, and you might enjoy it - it's easy to record what you're reading, and if you add friends with similar tastes, you can follow their reviews and get ideas of what to read next.
Of course, the contest is free to enter, and it's open to Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
I don't know about the rest of the world, but I'd guess a lot of my British friends are battling with their tax returns right now.
I try not to get too grumpy about taxes. After all, if I'm being taxed then that means I'm earning money. And it gives some little validation to my claims of being a writer when the Inland Revenue wants to know all about it.
On the other hand, it's hard not to end up in a bad mood when you're faced with a long and boring form, asking for a lot of information that the tax man should already know. Why is it that entering my business info (the stuff they don't know about) takes only a few minutes, while adding up all of my bank interest payments and student loans and charity donations takes hours...?
However, I attempt to stay positive. I even put all my tax documents into a big pink box file - it's impossible to be scared of something so pink!
And on the really, really bright side, I've finished a whole two weeks ahead of the deadline this year. Yes, that's a record for me. (What can I say, I'm a deadline-driven person...)
Sunday, 16 January 2011
Having my Kindle has really changed the way I read - and not only because having easily-adjustable fonts is helping me to read avidly again the way that I did before my eyesight went wrong.
I'm talking about the free samples of novels that are available to download from the Kindle store.
Previously, I'd have to decide whether I was likely to enjoy a book based mostly on friends' recommendations or quickly scanning the back cover. I was a library addict as a child, so there wasn't much expense attached to not liking a book, but it did involve waiting to go to the library again, so I'd almost invariably read everything I borrowed, cover to cover.
I find I'm much more fickle now. I'll start reading a book on the Kindle, and if I'm not drawn in by the time I hit the end of the free sample (typically around 10%), then I'll just delete the sample and download something else. I know, I know. There could be some really good books that start slowly - and if someone gives me a really glowing recommendation then I still might take a chance. But ultimately, a tenth of the book is probably going to be enough for me to tell whether I get along with the author's style. And there are so many great books out there that it seems a shame to waste precious time on reading the mediocre ones!
What do you think? If you're also a Kindle addict, have you developed this habit? And did you know that you can install Amazon's Kindle application on your computer and benefit from the free samples even if you don't have a Kindle?
Friday, 14 January 2011
I've been away at a conference this week, the International Workshop on Computational Semantics. I was presenting a poster and a short paper - my first academic publication.
Writing the paper itself felt quite straightforward - it's not that different to any academic essay - but producing a poster was a very different kind of task! You have to make it visually appealing at the same time as being informative, and you need to strike a balance between enough detail to be interesting but not so much as to be overwhelming. Just designing the poster took me about four days in total... longer than it took to write the paper. But it was worth it, I've met some great people in the field and had some productive conversations.
I've also started a small research section on my website - if you feel like taking a look, I'd love to know what you think. Does it make sense to a non-specialist? Links to this week's paper and poster will be on there shortly.
Monday, 10 January 2011
I've spent this weekend applying Danish oil to pieces of oak, ready for our carpenter to fit over the course of the week. It's a bit of a messy job (the oil is really sticky) but I quite enjoy it anyway. If nothing else, I like to feel as if I'm contributing something to getting our house ready - my husband has been spending so much time painting, that it's nice to find something I can do to help! It's also great to watch the wood go from its dull natural shade to the warm and glowing colours that you expect to see in finished furniture.
I have to confess that I'm not naturally suited to following instructions which tell me to "apply liberally and wipe off the excess" - given a choice, I'd prefer to apply with extreme thrift, panicking if I waste a drop. It reminds me of those shampoo instructions to "rinse and repeat" - I'm just skeptical when any manufacturer tells me how I should be using more of their product! However, in this case I know I need to override my natural tendencies in order to make sure I get a good amount of oil soaked into the wood. Especially as it's oak, which isn't the most absorbant of woods.
The house is progressing day by day - we should have carpets by the end of the month, and then I'll take some pictures of the story so far.
Saturday, 8 January 2011
We bought our current car in January 2007, just after moving house. Ever since then, the old car has been sitting - neglected and unroadworthy - on our drive. Every year we've had to fill out an off-road form to avoid being taxed or fined for our possession of this lump of scrap metal.
On a few occasions I've tried to encourage it in the direction of the scrap yard, but since I can't drive there's a limit to how much I can physically do. Occasionally I would cast a pointed glance in its direction, or encourage my husband that maybe we could move it by the end of this or that year.
This morning, however, our little car finally departed. Incredibly, it isn't going for scrap - it's going to become a race car! Seriously. How cool is that?! They're going to put in a high-performance engine and a roll cage, and expect to get a couple of years' life out of it. We've asked if we can go and see it racing when it's been rejuvenated.
Which just goes to show that sometimes it's right to leave things until the right moment comes along, because I'm much happier that it's getting a new lease of life rather than just being crushed.
Thursday, 6 January 2011
You may already know that it's my birthday today... and I'm taking this opportunity to shamelessly beg for a small favour as I blow out my birthday candles.
As a new author, there's one thing standing between me and my readers, and that's obscurity. The vast majority of the people out there who'll enjoy my novel don't yet know that I've written it. They don't even know that I exist. This is where I'm hoping you can help.
My first novel, Rebellion, was published in October. Sales have been encouraging, especially on the Kindle store (where I was, briefly, in the top 10,000 out of millions!), but not earth-shattering. I realise this is partly because I'm very shy about shouting my virtues from the rooftops. However, reviewers on Amazon have said many lovely things, so I don't have to. Things like this:
"...as charming as it is exciting, and it contains everything I seek in a novel..."
"...I was drawn in by Eleanor's situation and found this very difficult to put down..."
"...storytelling of high quality focussed on someone you want to know ... be prepared to read it in one sitting - it's that nail biting and absorbing..."
"...it has a kind of unputdownable quality to it..."
See what I mean? People are enjoying this novel, but sadly, most people simply don't know about it. So, if any of your friends and family enjoy reading fantasy or adventure novels, pretty please, tell them about my book. You can send them a link to this page if you like, and maybe they'd be willing to do the same for their friends. After all, voracious readers are always looking for more books to get their teeth into.
You can read the beginning of Rebellion online, for free.
If you enjoy it, why not email me for a voucher to get a discount against the ebook? If you prefer to read a physical book, the paperback is available on Amazon (links in the sidebar, right).
If you've read this far: thank you. And if you will take a moment to tell your friends, or to link to this page from your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere, then thank you doubly. You can only imagine how much it means to me to have your support.
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
It's my birthday on Thursday, so I'm almost 12 months into my "Before 30" challenge, with 24 months to go. That means it's time for another update. Just like last time, I'll use green for finished items and pink for progress since the last update (July).
|Previous 6 July 2010||Latest|
6 Jan 2011
|Complete my PhD||Transferred to full PhD status on January 21st||Conducted the first set of experiments.|
|Publish in an academic journal||Not started|
|Present at a conference||One unsuccessful submission in 2009||Presenting a short paper next week!|
|Install a woodburning stove||Not started||Had the fireplace rebuilt, and purchased stove.|
|Redecorate the house||Got some quotes.||Carpentry & plastering done. Waiting for new carpets.|
|Install solar water heating||Not started|
|Build raised vegetable beds||Not started|
|Go to Greenland||June 2010|
|Visit the southern hemisphere||Probably New Zealand in 2011||Pushed back to 2012 due to work on the house.|
|Have visited 30 countries||Started at 20; up to 22 by July.||Up to 23: added The Netherlands|
|Writing & Speaking|
|Have a novel published||Decided to DIY my first book, to great reviews so far|
|Finish the Charanthe series||Rebellion (vol 1) complete & edited||About half way through writing Revolution (vol 2), and 13k words into Reformation (vol 3)|
|Finish writing one standalone novel||Odd first-drafts lying around|
|Record and podcast an audiobook||Done some test recordings|
|Have articles printed in 10 different publications||1/10 so far; a few further queries ignored.||Sent out a few more queries.|
|Average 5,000 hits a month on my blog||Started ~1,500, avg. ~2,200 in early 2010||Over the past six months the average is ~4,100|
|Get a slot on the local radio station||Took a short course in radio production and broadcasting|
|Take at least 5 public speaking engagements||Found a couple of leads for possible bookings||One confirmed.|
|Crafts & Skills|
|Hand-knit a jumper or cardigan for myself||Knit myself a cardigan|
|Learn embroidery||Started learning||Continued with my flag project|
|Learn 10 new juggling tricks||Not started|
|Use manual camera settings most of the time||Currently rather erratic|
|Get my Guiding warrant||Around 1/4 done|
|Develop a board game||Made an initial prototype (lots of work still to do!)|
|Make all my own Christmas cards||About half were hand-made in 2009||Complete in 2010|
So out of 25 goals, that's 3 completed, which sounds quite bad apart from the fact that so many of these things are necessarily running incrementally and in parallel. Personally, I'm really happy with my progress, and delighted to find that having specific goals really is encouraging me to work on them with fewer (I won't say no) distractions. The next progress update will be around 6th July 2011.
Sunday, 2 January 2011
Happy new year, everyone!
We were away at a friend's party for the new year's weekend, and in one quiet moment we lapsed into that most 21st century of passtimes: using the nearest computer to share our favourite Youtube videos. (I'm not quite sure when that became a socially acceptable way to spend time with friends, but it definitely is now, isn't it?) I thought this one was particularly striking, especially for any other jugglers or musicians out there:
PS the piece they're playing is Steve Reich's Clapping Music.