Make It Monday:Be Super with our capes

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Ok, so Edna may have said ‘No capes!’ but who doesn’t feel instantly more super with a cape tied around them? I was commissioned to make a set of ‘Batman’ capes for a friend and my daughter loved being my model for the small one so much, I’ve had to sew her a range of capes to fit with her every mood! If you’d like one for your little superhero (or yourself!) I’ve a selection of colour combinations and prices start at £9.95 plus p&p for toddler (2-4years) size. Message me if interested and wear this seasons must have!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram to see more of my creations: @bluebeaglebaby

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And the little one said……

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There’s were two in the bed
And the furry one said,
‘Can I get in?
Can I get in?’
So the all rolled over & one jumped in

There’s were three in the bed
And the mini human said,
‘Can I get in?
Can I get in?’
So the all rolled over & one jumped in

There were four in the bed

AND MAMA AND DADDY GOT NO SLEEP!

Throw back Thursday: Define Yourself!

I wrote this piece in 2011, discussing how emerging authors should seek to create their own ‘online presence’ and how this would help with book sales and engaging with readers and reviewers by labelling, or pigeon-holing their work. Re-reading it now, I still struggle to define by work – it’s at times horror, comedy, science fiction, fantasy and drama. It’s me!

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Define Yourself

I’ve been thinking a lot about labels recently. I attended FantasyCon, the conference linked to the British Fantasy Society. As an aspiring writer there were innumerable interesting and relevant panels and discussions, as well as the chance to meet with other writers and discuss our work. However, this was where things got a little tricky. I’m the first to admit that I’ve been a little late coming to the genre and rather naively I thought there was only Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror, certainly those are the categories in my local bookshop. However, I was in for a shock when I chatted with other writers.

‘So is it a paranormal romance?’

‘I’ve just finished writing a military sci-fi but my passion is steampunk.’

‘I started in hard-core fantasy, but I’m drifting now towards anthropomorphic fantasy.’

I nodded vaguely, feeling like I should have taken a language course before attending the conference, because I was certain these people were not talking English.

I remember at university, learning all these new terms and phrases. One student mentioned to the lecturer that it was like learning a new language and he likened it to religion, once you know the phrases and labels you become one of the initiated, in a club which outsiders have trouble entering or understanding.

But then I got to thinking, what exactly do these labels tell us? For example, I described my first completed novel, ‘Akane: Last of the Orions’ as a fantasy, until someone suggested that it was more sci-fi and probably leaning towards military sci-fi, with invading aliens, space ships and human testing. However, there’s a strong romantic element, first love, betrayal, as well as mythology and religious theory. How can all of that be summed up in one word?

I spoke with one author who had coined the phrase ‘metaphysical fantasy’ for his own books. When I asked him exactly what that meant, he admitted that it didn’t really mean anything, but was a marketing tool. He’d identified a number of authors who he felt met the criteria of ‘metaphysical fantasy’ and linked them under an umbrella of his own creation, thus ensuring that his own work would be identified with more established writers. So now I was really confused. Was all this categorising and labelling nothing more than cynical marketing? Or a way to make yourself feel superior to the uninitiated?

Evidently modern authors need to create and maintain an ‘online presence’ to allow their fans to interact with them (as well as to keep their publishers happy!) and certainly there are some success stories about authors who initially published their work online, building up a loyal following and almost cult status before being connected to a publishers. It seems as if all aspiring authors need a web-page as any potential agent/publisher/editor/other interested person is likely to google you. Therefore I’ve been thinking about my own brand. There’s a plethora of information about branding and having sat in on the panel at FantasyCon 2011 about ‘How to Maintain Your Online Presence’ as well as reading the recent article on the BBC about ‘Should We Do Away With Privacy?’ it would appear that I should live my life out in the open, log time on the internet, but not express my political or other opinions for fear of alienating potential fans or publishers. I should define myself and my work in one word which sums me up completely, again in an apolitical, non-confrontational manner.

And how do these labels really help us? What do they really tell you about the person or in this case, the book? These labels have been created by society and people external to me. As humans we have an innate need to classify and group things. I’m sure we have all seen, and even been, a child who organises their lego based upon its colour. We segregate people by colour, religion, belief, interests, even sex. Humans have a need to organise, to quantify, but really to what end? I think the need to label and categorise says more about the society than it does about the person. As social beings we have an innate need to fit in and I suppose by labelling ourselves we allow ourselves to become part of a group with which we identify. It seems even in the fantasy genre, where we let our imaginations run free, we feel the need to constrain ourselves and establish sets of rules.

However, labels can blinker our thinking and it is this notion which has be concerned. I asked a friend to read my book. Initially she was very excited but as soon as I mentioned it was a fantasy novel, her eyes glazed over. ‘Oh, I don’t read fantasy books,’ she replied. A bottle of wine later and she was convinced. Later that evening I received a message from my friend, ‘I love your book.’

This obviously boosted my ego somewhat, but then the worry set in. By labelling my book as fantasy, I had isolated a large section of potential readership. It’s more a book about nature with elements of crime, horror, fantasy, alternative history and more thrown in. Like me, does it fit one label? And in doing so, does this mitigate the world of possibility it might become? As an aspiring author looking to one day market my book, what impact could this have on potential sales and readership? As I said above, are we at risk of labelling ourselves to such an extent that we risk limiting or isolating readers?

Words have power. They can build you up, or destroy you and like a snapping dog, they need to be treated with respect. In my life I have had the following labels: schoolgirl, uni student, traveller, office worker, teacher, friend, bitch, daughter, writer, girlfriend, wife, heterosexual, home owner, renter, borrower, lender, clown, adventurer,  vegetarian, volunteer, carnivore. Do any of these labels actually tell you more about me? Do they define me? I hope to one day add published author to this list, but what do any of these words actually tell you about me? And more importantly, would any of them make you more or less likely to buy my work?

As soon as you label something, someone, a book, genre, a group, you stop it becoming something more. It can never evolve or grow, it will forever be whatever it has been labeled. Don’t you think that’s sad? For example, think of Woody of ‘Toy Story’ fame. How would he be labelled? Probably as a child’s toy, but he was so much more: loyal friend, cowboy, leader, lover (what happened to Bo Peep anyway?). Now, not one of these labels fully describes Woody and to use any one alone would be a great disservice to him and that is the point I am trying to make.

So I would like to propose a shift in our thinking. I’m not suggesting a total removal of all labelling, but a more careful usage. Many readers say their job from reading comes from the ability to have their minds opened, so why are we so desperate to immediately limit their thinking by labelling books? I’m currently working on a horror novel, but it might (and probably will) grow to encompass other genres, including archaeological, history and fantasy. It’s therefore a novel of about nature with a supernatural, fantastical and historical twist. I’m very open to suggestions for it’s label….

And as for me? What one word label would best describe me? I’m still evolving, I’m learning something new about myself and this amazing world in which we live every day. There’s only one label that I feel fully fits.

Me.

Writer Wednesday: Fox Pockets ‘Reflections’


I’m terrible at promoting my different books (naughty author!). Anyhoo, here’s my latest short story, in the last of the ‘Fox Pockets’. I’m a HUGE fan of the ‘Pockets’ – they’re inexpensive, easily portable (the fit in your pocket so perfect for mums on the run who need a few minutes diversion, commuters who don’t want to overstuff their pockets or students who need a break from text books. I always joke that I keep mine by the loo as the stories are the perfect length to pee to!) and packed with New and established genre authors. There’s sci-fi, horror, fantasy and more so get your copy from Fox Spirit or Amazon. Check out the reviews on Amazon – my short story ‘Fun At The Fayre’ gets a mention in both!

Happy reading.

Movie review: Oculus (2013)

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Synopsis: Tim has been accused of murdering his father. His sister Kaylie takes him back to the family home, where they both suffered at the hands of their abusive father. Kaylie blames an ancient mirror that hung in their home for Tim’s breakdown and her fathers actions. She works to prove that the supernatural actions and exonerate her family. Will they be successful?

Director: Mike Flanagan

Starring: Karen Gillan. Brenton Thwaites

Review: I have to be honest, I’m not the biggest Gillan fan. I loved her in her first series of Dr Who, but felt she morphed into a generic, whiny side-kick and I’ve not seen enough of her other work to change this opinion. Having said that, I did enjoy ‘Oculus’, one of her first films post ‘Who’. Admittedly, Gillan’s and Australian Thwaites’ American accents don’t always hold up but they are so committed to their characters you can forgive them. The blending of past and present doesn’t jar you out of the story as often happens, and the sense of foreboding and suspense builds slowly. The breakdown of the father was well-handled and you felt his wife and children’s fear. The use of technology in trying to reveal the supernatural entity in the mirror seems to take a lot of explanation, especially as you’d assume Tim would know about cameras etc. but he’s our foil, to help explain things and also act as our voice at some of Kaylie’s more questionable choices. However, despite these minor issues, Oculus is an engaging, creepy, dark and spooky horror, well worth an evenings viewing.

Movie review: My Bloody Valentine (2009)

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Synopsis: A mining community is rocked when a mine collapses and in order to save himself, one of the miners kills six other miners. He wakes up from a coma on Valentine’s Day and the town discovers that he now has a taste for murder as he goes on a killing spree, with one of the only survivors being Tom (Jensen Ackles) the son of the owner of the mine. Ten years after the killings Tom returns to town and reopens the mystery of who the murderer was. Who will survive the swing of the miners pickaxe as the rampage starts again?

Director: Patrick Lussier

Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King & Kerr Smith

Review: I’ll be honest, I only watched this movie because I have a crush on Jensen Ackles (yep, I’m a super Supernatural fan!) but I wasn’t disappointed. The premise of a masked serial killer stalking screaming teens has been done to death (excuse the pun) by a multitude of other and better movies but

However, I think the problem with the movie is that you don’t care for any of the characters. There’s more tell than show as the actions moves along quickly and I really don’t like being told how I’m supposed to feel about the characters or forced attempts at making us care with ham-fisted ‘she’s a mother, love her’ or bad guys suddenly attempting to be good because he’s realised how much he loves his wife. It’s handled poorly by the director but the actors try their best with an uneven script.

The other gripe I have with the movie is that it’s blatantly been made for 3D audiences, with pickaxes flying at the audience. I’m not a huge fan of 3D in movies like this: it doesn’t add anything to the story and when the action is determined by where the blood will spray, I think it loses a certain credibility (see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter where all the action is directed for 3D which makes much of it insensible on a 2D screen).

However, for a fan of Ackles, there’s plenty of they cheeky pout and the ending is well done, if not really a surprise.

The Big Interview: Jasmine Gailer

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I’ve been incredibly lucky to meet some inspiring women during my travels. One such lady is Jasmine. We worked together in Australia before I ran away to join the circus and she took a gap year in the UK. It was whilst working in London that she suffered a knee injury and upon returning home was diagnosed with cancer. After successful treatment, and determined not to be defined by or ashamed of her scar, Jasmine set up ‘Scar Stories’ which aims to empower teens and young people with cancer by photographing them and their scars. The photos are stunning and I highly recommend you take some time to view them here. Not content with setting up photo shoots, she’s also developed Scar Stories to include documentaries, exhibitions, a festival and creative projects to help young cancer patients and survivors. She’s one busy lady!
I originally interviewed Jasmine back in 2012 and sadly her original interview was lost when I lost my old website but she’s kindly sent through an update which you can read below.  Scar stories page 2 Weekend Jan 14 2011.jpg
The last 5 years has been a whirlwind of portraits, TV appearances, marketing strategies and beautiful stories. Scar Stories continues to provide photoshoots to young adult cancer patients and survivors and an avenue to tell their stories, along with a few new projects – free creative workshops and our favourite side project, RockScars! Scar Stories released a book in 2014 which is the epitome of the Scar Stories mission – it is designed to help cancer survivors see their scars and experiences in a new light; one that is empowering and beautiful. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about young adult cancer. The young adult age group has been in the media recently in Australia for a number of reasons – fertility preservation one of them. This is just one example of how this age group has unique needs and why it needs specialist attention.
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In personal news, I recently got engaged to the most fantastic man! Wedding planning has taken up most of my spare time (along with work and studying my Masters in Social Work as well!!), so I am now heavily relying on my dedicated team of volunteers to ensure Scar Stories keeps providing support to our participants.
The Scar Stories book is our main fundraising item and is on sale through our website for just $25″