My UK adventure – a few highlights

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My partner and I have been on a tour of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. We’re about a third of the way through our taster experience and I couldn’t be happier with what I have seen so far.

Here are some highlights so far:

I had an opportunity to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon. Below, I am standing in front of the museum that was once Shakespeare’s home and birthplace. Apparently, he is buried at the Trinity Church but I didn’t have a chance to see that. Still, I had a fantastic time at this beautiful place. I hope some of Shakespeare’s genius rubbed off on my creative writing!

Shakespeare’s house - the place where he was born - Stratford-Upon-Avon

Shakespeare’s house – the place where he was born – Stratford-Upon-Avon

Flags flying - Entrance to Shakespeare’s House, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Flags flying – Entrance to Shakespeare’s House, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Shakespeare’s ghost had to go wee wee. Such a great thing to see at Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Shakespeare’s ghost had to go wee wee. Such a great thing to see at Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Next we visited York.

I loved York. It has a wall surrounding the city and a moat too. And, apparently it is the most haunted city (city?) in England. I wasn’t there in the evening but I really enjoyed hearing about the things people have seen, like Roman soldiers marching down the street and the fact that certain buildings must have their windows painted white to stop a ghost from moving through the wall/windows and haunting people.

That’s a law in York. The windows of a particular house have to be painted white. I can’t remember the exact story but it was a woman who haunted the area so I was told.

A photo of the board outside the Golden Fleece pub about hauntings.

A photo of the board outside the Golden Fleece pub about hauntings.

The Golden Fleece pub in York - with my finger pointing to the sheep hanging over the door.

The Golden Fleece pub in York – with my finger pointing to the sheep hanging over the door.

Me (Selina) posing in a stone archway - York

Me (Selina) posing in a stone archway – York

David and I playing around in York.

David and I playing around in York.

Hadrian’s Wall was fabulous. I’m not a big history buff, so everything I discover is fascinating to me.

I learned that Hadrian’s Wall was built by Roman soldiers in 122 AD.

That blows my mind. Me leaning against Hadrian’s Wall - it was cold and sleeting rain that day.

Me leaning against Hadrian’s Wall – it was cold and sleeting rain that day.
Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall sign

Hadrian’s Wall sign

David, my partner, exploring Hadrian’s Wall

David, my partner, exploring Hadrian’s Wall

David, my partner was so excited to see Hadrian’s Wall, he took off like a kid to see it.

At one point, I wasn’t sure I was going to get him back on the bus. Honestly, he couldn’t stop grinning. This visit to Hadrian’s Wall was an absolute must on our itinerary for him.

I was so happy to see him so happy.

David and I - photo taken just before we left Stratford-Upon-Avon
David and I – photo taken just before we left Stratford-Upon-Avon

Visiting these special places has been wonderful. One day it was sunny blue skies and warmth, the next it was drizzle rain and cold, but it didn’t matter – we both had a great time.

More instalments to come as I find places with reliable wifi.

The Tower of London

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Oh my goodness, I have so much to share with you but I haven’t had access to wifi for a while, so these updates are going to come well after the actual dates. But I hope this glimpse into my UK trip inspires your imagination as much as it does mine.

Last week when my partner flew over to London, we took some time to tour around and see the sights. One of the sights we went to was the Tower of London where Anne Boleyn was beheaded and many other gruesome things happened.

I took some time walking through the tower and observing all the armour displays. Below are some of the photos I took.

Selina at the Tower of London

Selina at the Tower of London

That’s me (above) and behind me is a wall of armour. It was a great room to visit and very surreal.

Armour at the Tower of London

Armour at the Tower of London

Armour at the Tower of London

Armour at the Tower of London

Armour at the Tower of London

Armour at the Tower of London

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

I also took time to see the Crown Jewels and appreciate the magnificence of workmanship that went into each piece. This was a great afternoon in London. Funny to say that since it was a place that has known such gruesome historical events.

I have to say, that I am not a historian, but my visit to the UK has been helping me to develop a deeper interest in learning more about history.

Also, learning about life in a castle is so helpful for my fantasy fiction story that I worked on during my week with David Farland. The course went really well and I met some fantastic authors – all with excellent story ideas. I’m very much looking forward to seeing each of them published in their chosen genre.

I will try to update my blog as I go, but as I said above, the wifi isn’t always reliable.

Today, I am in the Scottish highlands. I’ll write about that another day.

UK here I come

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Tomorrow I fly out of Australia and will be on my way to the UK for a month.

I am super excited to be starting my holiday.

So it’s packing time and Miss Poppy decided it was time to check out the interior of my suitcase. Rocket tolerated some photos with me which I took with my new selfie stick. And Jack spent time inspecting my suitcase as I considered what I might take with me.

My companions are so sweet to look after me in this way.

I’ll miss them while I am away but I feel good that my best friend will be caring for them during that time.

My partner is set to jet off and meet me in the UK a couple of days after I go because I’m going to Oxford to do my writing course.

I’ve got a couple of new ebooks downloaded for the trip:

  1. Three Bedrooms One Corpse by Charlaine Harris
  2. Maim Your Characters: How injuries work in Fiction by Samantha Keel
  3. Play It Away by Charlie Hoehn

So that’s one fiction novel, one writing how-to, and one non-fiction book on how to overcome anxiety through incorporating play in your everyday life.

I’ve also got a few digital puzzles downloaded and I’m currently listening to Voyager by Diana Gabaldon.

It is going to be a big adventure for me. I have a fair bit of character development done on my fantasy story, although there is always more I could do. I’ve got some setting sorted. Conflicts sketched out and an idea of the plot. I wouldn’t say that I’ve got all the novel puzzle pieces in my head but it’ll come as I relax and enjoy this travel adventure.

I’m not sure if I will have an opportunity to post here during my travels but if I can, I will.

UK here I come!

 

Dragon Sketching

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I took some time out today to start sketching some dragons. It was a lot of fun to get back into my art and enjoy the process of creating on the page.

Below are some photos of my first dragon portrait. It’s an idea that I’m developing and hope to create a far more intricate image in the coming months. But for now, this drawing is about exploring possibilities.

Exploring possibilities is part of the fun of developing my artistic/creative expression. It also gives my left brain a break and allows my right brain the opportunity to take the driver’s seat.

I’m pretty happy with my dragon line drawing and I am looking forward to developing her further.

The second dragon I sketched today took about an hour and a half to create. I’m also rather happy with how the image turned out.

Dragon_2_04082018I think that this sketch can be developed further and more depth given to it, but for now, I am happy with the results of my time playing on water paper.

I chose not add water or colour to the sketch. I wanted to spend my time developing a dragon from my imagination and seeing how it came out on the page.

Today, it’s Saturday in Australia and I’m now two weeks away from my trip to the UK. I finally gave in and got myself a ‘selfie stick’ so maybe when I get back home at the end of September, I’ll have some other photos to share. I also hope this trip fills up my creative bucket with new ideas for creative writing.

15 days and counting down.

Have a great creative day (or night)!

Writing – Paranormal and Fantasy Fiction

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soul seeker 1A couple of weeks ago a new character came into my imagination. I knew what she looked like and I had a good sense of who she was. It was like being visited by a the soul of a real person.

I grabbed my iPad, opened a new Scrivener project and jotted down everything I’d seen, heard, smelled and tasted in that first meeting. It got me excited because I loved this character immediately and I wanted to know more, to learn more and experience more of her paranormal/normal life. I wanted to learn more about the conflicts she has over her abilities and how her paranormal abilities complicate her career, her love life, her sense of self.

On and off since the first time she showed up, I’ve had visits from her and each time I learn a little more about who she is as a ‘real person’ in my imagination.

Then last night an antagonist walked out of the mist of my imagination and I saw exactly what he was wearing, the gate of his stride, the tilt of his fine boned face.

So once again, I opened my scrivener file and jotted what I’d experienced down. I don’t have his name yet but I’ve got the essence of who he is and the darkness that emanates from him in a seductive manner. And I know he is the opposing force to my female protagonist.

I love it when this type of thing happens. For me this is part of magic of writing fiction. I’m always learning and growing as a writer and story teller, and when a character comes forward and wants to be put down on the page, I get excited. It’s almost as if the character is whispering in my inner ear and I am writing their story from their perspective.

So, now I am a bit over three weeks away from my trip to the UK and I now have two stories growing inside my mind. After a period of feeling creatively fallow, these ideas are a delight.

One of my stories is a paranormal romance, which is probably my absolute favourite genre to write, and if this story goes the way I am plotting it, then it will be my third paranormal story with romance beats. I’m excited to write this story.

The second story is my fantasy novel which features dragons and a few humans that can use magic. I’m enjoying learning how to put an epic fantasy story together. I’m not yet sure how this story will go. Sometimes I feel frustrated that I don’t have all the puzzle pieces and other times I feel inspired by the ideas I have. Most of the time I am considering: How can I take this idea beyond cliche?

So far I have discovered writing a fantasy world is an in-depth adventure in itself. There is so much for me to think about, to brainstorm and to create. My thinking includes:

  • Characters – who is my protagonist, my antagonist and other roles
  • Conflicts – the major conflict and smaller conflicts for all characters and how they will play out
  • World building – there is so much involved in this part, sometimes I feel overwhelmed
  • Plotting how it will all pan out
  • Themes I want to touch on
  • Treatment – do I want to write this story from first person point of view or third person point of view?

So I am going to really enjoy my Fantasy Fiction writing course with David Farland in Oxford, and I am very much looking forward to learning about all the layers and nuances I need to consider to bring my ideas to life and create a believable fantasy fiction world that readers will want to experience via my characters.

When I return from the UK, I hope to finish writing these stories and to work on editing Tuppence Weatherstorm and The Living Death of Toddy James so that I can move them toward publication. It would be good move my writing to the next level, even if being published is a scary step.

 

29 Days and Counting Down

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Stonehenge by Kit-Ko from Unsplash.com

Stonehenge by Kit-Ko from Unsplash.com

I’m 29 days away from flying from Australia to England to attend David Farland‘s Fantasy Fiction Writing Course.

I am excited and still catching up on all the work I need to do to be fully prepped for the course.

I have been creating characters, working on my settings and figuring out the main conflicts for the characters I have so far. At this point, I haven’t started to explore the themes I want to bring out in the story as it is very early days.

In my story, I have dragons and people. That’s what I can tell you. The rest I’m keeping close to my heart because my story is like a newly conceived baby and I want to protect it while it grows into a being in its own right.

I’m very much looking forward to the course and the three week holiday I am going to have after the course is finished. I’ve never been to the UK, unless I count going through London Heathrow Airport on my way to Barcelona when I was fortunate enough to go for work reasons in the early 2000’s.

It’s going to be excellent for me to immerse myself into a different culture and to see the history of the United Kingdom. I’ll be going to Oxford, London, a number of stops throughout England, then through Scotland, down to Wales and to a number of stops in Ireland.

It feels so surreal at the moment but before I know it, I will be on the plane and in new countries.

During my holiday, my partner, David, will be flying over (for our three week holiday) and we’ll be taking a day trip over to Paris too. I’m very excited to see all these places. And I hope each new experience inspires my imagination to new heights and helps me to become a more entertaining and interesting genre fiction writer, as well as adding to my personal experience as a human being.

I’m certainly stepping out of my comfort zone on this trip. And I am staying positive about it.

29 days and counting down until a brand new life experience comes my way!

Learning Photography

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Last weekend I started learning the basics of my Canon DSLR which resulted in some photos that I loved. This week, I finished going through the Skillshare.com online course and put some of my new knowledge to use.

Miss Poppy_1_26052018_Portrait

Here is Miss Poppy suffering a long photo shoot session. I used the Av mode on my DSLR to get a cropped image and to capture the sweetness of Miss Poppy’s face.

Here are some of the various photos I took this morning. Miss Poppy has to put up with a lot.

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I managed to catch a photo of Rocket playing with his rope toy. I don’t think I had the camera on the right mode to really catch the moment, but I am learning. And I do love this photo of my poodle.

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Next, I tried to capture Rocket in an interesting composition by getting down on the floor and photograph him from his level. He wasn’t too keen on giving me much face time for the portraits I was trying to take. The look on his face in the second photo says it all.

Jack (above) is a gorgeous boy but he doesn’t believe in sitting still for photos. It took me ages to catch these images and they are a little blurry. I’ll just have to keep trying.

Then I went out to Mapleton which is in the Hinterlands of the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia, and took some photos. The images above were attempting to capture the water fall movement using the Tv mode of the camera.

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This is the view from the Mapleton lookout – or at least, a portion of the view.

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I was striving to capture the expansive nature of the vista and to make an interesting photographic composition in the above image.

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Here’s an image of David, my partner. I used the Av mode to get this portrait.

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Above is an image of my best friend in the world, Edward. He’s also putting up with me snapping photos of him using the Av mode of the camera.

Selina_1_26052018_AvModeSelina_2_26052018_AvMode

And, lastly, I had to get in front of the camera. I set up the manual settings and gave the camera to David. He did a great job of these photos, I reckon.

Taking a moment out of the busy-ness of life has allowed me the space to capture images that mean a great deal to me. I’m a total beginner at photography, but I am thoroughly enjoying the process of learning. And learning is what inspires my continued growth and I’m grateful for that.

Learning a new creative skill

Last weekend, after doing some minimising of ‘stuff’ in my house, I wanted to do something creative and different. I wanted to learn a new skill.

So, I decided it was time to take the DSLR Camera (my friend owns it and I borrow it from time to time – he’s good to me like that) and start learning how to use it.

I went to my go-to creative learning site, Skillshare.com, where I created and published my own online class to teach people how to draw using negative space, and looked for classes on photography.

I found a class that focused on teaching beginners how to use their DSLRs. I watched the start and learned how to use some of the manual features of the camera. Buttons, and dials and widgets that had intrigued me for some time but I’d never got around to working out what they were for.

So far I have watched just over half of the course. As I learned about shutter priority, aperture and ISO, I fiddled with the manual settings and had a go at taking a photo or two.

Here’s a couple of photos of Rocket. I know these photos are not professional in any sense of the word and I’m not even sure what settings I used but I love them!

I think I love these photos so much because they really capture the cute attentiveness of Rocket. These are the first photos I’ve taken of Rocket in a very long time where I have been able to capture what his face looks like.

Having a black poodle is one of the greatest things in my life – I treasure him. He is my loving and ever present companion and I want to take images of him as he is, showing his sweet face to the world.

This tiny creative success has inspired me to keep watching the course on Skillshare.com and learning how to use the camera to take photos that I want in my life.

Also, learning a little bit of photography is a great way for my brain to rest after such an intense time of creative writing. I’ve found lately that my creative writing has slowed down and that I need to take a pause. To allow my creative writing bucket an opportunity to fill up again.

Learning a new creative skill helps to enhance all of my creative skills. And I get to share this with you too!

I’ve been cutting out the things in my life that no longer bring me joy or add value to my life. And I’ve been focusing on uncovering my highest values so I can live in accordance with them.

Creative expression is one of my highest values. I love being creative. Drawing. Writing. Painting. Mixed Media. Photography.

Each one of these creative activities helps me to take a breather from a fast paced world and allows me to see what is truly before me. Creative writing helps me to understand the human condition, as does reflective writing and journaling.

I am so grateful for creativity and the journey of continued self-expression.

If you haven’t tried something creative for a while, maybe it’s time to slow down the pace in your life and take a moment to put a creative desire into action.

In The Moment With Life

When life is busy and I have so much travel to do to get to and from work each day, it can feel utterly overwhelming. My job is busy and I also write and read and my mind swirls with anxiety too. I want to do so much and achieve what is important to me, but sometimes … it is all too much.

That’s when change needs to take place. That overwhelm is a signpost on the path of my life and I am stopping long enough to heed it.

I took action as soon as I realised I was beginning to burn out.

I changed the route I take as I walk across Brisbane City to get to my place of employment. Instead of weaving in and out of a river of people on George Street and feeling stressed, hurried and overwhelmed, I now walk straight down another, quieter street to the Botanic Gardens and take a few moments with nature.

Nature has a way of bringing me peace, healing and wisdom.

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As I have walked along the path with lush overhanging trees, I realised just how important it is to give myself the mental, emotional and physical space to be in the moment. The simple act of walking and placing one foot down in front of the other on the pavement allows me to ground and to take stock of what is truly important in my life.

I’m thinking things through. I’m changing. I’m course correcting in my life and considering the consequences of actions and outcomes.

Who do I want to be?

What do I want to do?

How do I want to bring value into the world?

How do I live my life in accordance with my highest values?

These questions have deep answers and I know I need to keep asking them. Even with my creative writing and my artwork, I know I want to go deeper and give more and create in a way that is fulfilling to me and to anyone who receives what I have to offer.

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Each morning that I walk through the Botanic Gardens, I take a moment to look at the Brisbane River and appreciate the flow of the water. I contemplate it. The flow, the speed, the tranquility.

No matter what obstructions are in the path of the river, it flows with ease, even in choppy times. This seemed like an appropriate metaphor for me to contemplate. Maybe the message of the river to me is that no matter what may be happening around me, no matter what obstacles are in my way, I can be like the water and surrender to the flow.

I’ve noticed that nature has a way of being, of quietly doing, of growing and of changing and flowing with the elements. The river flows, trees are flexible and give when the storms batter them. The earth stays steady (most of the time) under my feet and sometimes the earth shudders to wake us all up to our place in this world.

Nature teaches me that my need to grasp, control and bend life to my will doesn’t work.

On my reflections about life and nature, as I place one foot on the ground and then take another, I begin the process of surrendering to the moment which is where peace sits.

It is in those in-between spaces of noise and hurry and want and grasping that peace sits patiently waiting. Peace calls lightly on the breeze. In those moments, the in-between spaces, where life truly comes into its own, that is where peace is found.

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I am not sure if my musings make sense to anyone else. But I do know that as I walk and contemplate and breathe, I give my brain and my nervous system time to unwind. I also allow myself the space to consider what is truly important to me.

In the last couple of weeks I have given myself the gift of a moment in time. I have taken deep breaths, released stress and I have looked up and I have appreciated the blue sky, the cool air as it rushes against my cheeks and the lush green leaves that sway and wave in the invisible wind.

I have taken time to consider all the stuff in my life and especially the stuff in my mind. This simple action has made me more mindful of the moment and the precious moments of life that I have. I am suddenly grateful for all that I have and all that I experience. And I take the mental action I need to take to de-clutter.

When I say, de-clutter, I don’t just mean getting rid of things. De-cluttering applies to letting go of outdated mindsets, thought forms, ways of approaching the world. I’m going through a re-orientation in my life and it’s very interesting to experience.

It is also scary.

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Love to my mum on Mother’s Day

Love is important.

I love you, mum.

Today, I may not be there in person, but in my heart, you and I are always together.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mum. You are always in my heart.

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My mum has Alzheimer’s. It’s heartbreaking but these moments are precious. Here’s a photo of the love we share.

Rodger and I love you more than words will ever convey. We want you to know that you mean the world to both of us.

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My brother, Rodger and I, taking a selfie on Mount Ainslie overlooking Canberra. It was a beautiful evening and mum was wandering around having a good time too. 

Mum, you are so precious to Rodger and I.

You may not remember certain things now that Alzheimer’s has touched your life, but we will remember things for you. And we want you to know how amazing we think you are.

You’ve been a light in my life and you still are. I cherish every moment we have together, and I’m so very grateful that I got to have such a fantastic mum as you!

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Mum and I having a special moment. Mum was telling me, “I love you, darling.” And I was telling her, “I love you too.”

Neither time nor distance will ever stop us from loving each other. Now and always, Happy Mother’s Day.