Two Weeks of Coronavirus Lockdown

It’s been two weeks now since I last left the house, with the exception of working in the back garden and a brief walk around the nearby park. Such is the nature of these coronavirus times in which we live.

Have I wasted this time? For the most part, yes. Will I emerge with a polished magnum opus? Almost definitely not. But that’s not to say I haven’t been busy. I’ve got a to-do list that is literally four full pages long, which I’ve been working my way through. Slowly but surely.

I left my ‘day job’, my teaching job has essentially been put on indefinite hold, and that leaves just my writing gigs…after I caught up on laundry and worked through my waiting pile of paperwork I’d been neglecting.

loaf of white bread

Like a lot of people during this time I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and tried my hand at making bread. I haven’t made many loaves, but I’m already improving, so that’s cool. Maybe I can switch to making my own bread full time, instead of just during existential crises.

I’ve also forsaken makeup and hair products, preferring to give my hair and skin a chance to breathe and recover.

Like a lot of people during this time I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and tried my hand at making bread. I’ve also forsaken makeup and hair products, preferring to give my hair and skin a chance to breathe and recover.

Mentally, I’ve been doing well, which I attribute to being an only child growing up deep in rural West Virginia. I’m sort of used to being alone.

Here’s a look at the more important and interesting things I’ve been up to:

Writing: #CoronaWriMo

I completed and submitted my first series of short stories to be published on Scribd! Once that’s a bit more underway I’ll likely link to it, but suffice to say I’m writing romance under a pen name there. I’m super excited to see where this project leads and to do more work for them. There’s a list a mile long of fluffier story ideas that don’t fit with my current body of work, and this is the perfect outlet for those ideas.

Medium

I’m still writing on Medium. Be sure to check out my current stories, and follow me on there to keep up with my future output. I’ve also started a couple publications on there to help organise my work. They’re very much works in progress at the moment, but please do check them out:

  1. Nothing 2 Wear: a fashion humor blog written with a friend
  2. Roll 4 Charisma: Marketing for creatives, written with my best friend.
  3. Flashion Week: Flash fiction, updates on Fridays.

You can also find my work on Sonnetry and The Writing Cooperative!

NaPoWriMo

April is National Poetry Writing Month! The premise is simple: Write a poem a day, every day for the month of April. So far, I have five under my belt, disregarding a slew of over twenty haiku I’ve written. I feel pretty confident that this will help jump start my lagging poetry projects at the moment. You can find my poems on Medium and Twitter!

Arts & Crafts: The Corona Collection

I’ve had a few felting kits that were given to me for Christmas for awhile. It always felt like I just didn’t have time to sit and stab an egg for hours and hope it turned into a cactus or a llama. And yet, here we are. I have the time now, and I have stabbed three eggs into beautiful little frizzy cacti.

As previously mentioned, another felting kit I had was for a pair of llamas. I finished one, and I think they look more like alpacas. That’s fine by me, as alpacas are much nicer than llamas. I’ve had two people say they look like cats, though. Either way, I’m thinking I might use them and the cacti to make a generic sort of Latin America bunting:

Even more embarrassing, I’ve had a birdhouse kit for well over five years, again waiting for the planets and stars to align so I could have a blissfully free weekend to build this birdhouse. Well the celestial bodies did just that (albeit with 2m or more between each, of course) and now I have this beautiful little birdhouse, ready to put out on my allotment:

COVIDeo Games

This has also felt like the perfect time to start working my way through my Steam catalog. And our Xbox Game Pass games. Like most people, I’ve had the itch to try Twitch. Not sure if I can be bothered, but maybe with the Steam games I could as they’re less complicated to record. Here’s what I’ve been playing:

Banjo-Kazooie

100% in under 12 hours. A childhood favourite which I feel like I probably never actually beat in its entirety.

I’ve always loved this game for its irreverence and fun characters. But it definitely reminded me that the N64 was just getting the hang of camera angles that didn’t kill the player.

Goat Simulator

Great for just seeing what the fuss was about. It was fun for awhile, but can’t see it holding my attention for too long. Definitely good for a quick, mindless laugh though.

Minecraft. So much Minecraft.

I switched over to Bedrock from Java, but only so I can play with my friends. So far it’s pretty good, and I haven’t noticed anything lacking. Will I keep playing Java edition too? Possibly. It’s not as though it’s a huge hassle to keep both version sitting around on my PC.

Banjo-Tooie

Haven’t played much, but so far I’m mostly just really confused about the change in Banjo’s voice.

But it’s still Banjo and Kazooie, so I have faith it’ll hold up under scrutiny! Maybe there’ll be an update when I’m further into the story.

Dragon Quest Builders 2

I’ve always had indescribeable issues with the art style of Dragon Quest, and my first encounter with DQ was Boom Town on the Wii. This has all the appeal of Minecraft, plus some added direction and purpose. So far a very solid game that is happily devouring my evenings.

I’m just wrapping up Furrowfield Island (I think).

Well, I think that’s it from me for now. I’m hoping to do a couple more of these types of updates, though maybe not too many as it would be nice to not be in lockdown for much longer. I’d love to know what you’ve been doing to stave off cabin fever, let me know in the comments! And if you haven’t been doing much, that’s okay too. These are extraordinary times in which we find ourselves, and it’s most important to take care of your mental health.

2019 Update So Far!

From Time Capsule Back to Website

So I’ve not put a lot of new content on here, I know. It’s really going to get in the way of my meteoric stats rise, and that’s a shame, but let me explain.

I’ve been reconsidering where I place my work online, and how best to use my website. For now, I think there’s going to be a lot less new content on here. What you can expect are larger monthly update posts. These will attempt to capture what I’ve been writing and creating elsewhere in the world.

Writing

Now of course, you can always check out my writing portfolio page for a master list of everything I’ve written and put out into the world, but here’s what I’ve been up to so far this year:

So at a glance, it looks like I’ve abandoned Ash & Feather for Medium. That’s not entirely true, but going forward a lot of my short-form writing will end up on Medium. Why is that? Honestly, because it pays. Not a lot, but enough to usually cover my phone bill each month, and certainly more than the nothing I was getting out of publishing directly on here.

I also won the February qualifier for Hammer & Tongue Solent. They’re a poetry slam competition, and I’ll be competing in their regional slam in December. If I’m one of the two best poets that night, I’ll go on to perform at the national slam at the Royal Albert Hall! So wish me luck!

Speaking of poetry performance, I’m regularly going to open mic nights and improving my technique, and I’ve started recording my readings. I’m hoping this will lead to a poetry-based YouTube channel, but in the meantime any videos will go up on the Ash & Feather Facebook page.

Workshops

Itchen to Write has been growing as a platform for affordable, accessible writing workshops across a broad range of disciplines. So far this year we’ve hosted workshops on screenwriting, plot and structure, found poetry, and this month we’re doing editing! You can find out more about our events on Meetup or Itchen to Write’s website.

I’m also teaching a variety of courses for Eastleigh College:

If you’re local to the area and fancy learning a bit more about these subjects, head over to their website and book your place!

Freelancing

My freelance writing work has tapered off somewhat, so if you’re interested in working together, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I have a wide range of experience in copywriting, fiction writing, and other forms.

Miscellaneous

As mentioned before, I do have an Etsy shop now. At the moment it’s mostly ceramics and vintage books, but I’m hoping to add a wide range of bullet journal layouts, prints, and planner PDFs in the future. If there’s anything you think would be good to add, let me know and I’ll look into it!

My social media presence has been growing; I’m over 1k followers on Twitter now, and creeping up on 200 followers on Instagram. Neither of these are particularly branded, but I post a lot of nice photography and political memes so if that’s your thing consider adding yourself to a growing crowd of people with excellent taste.


Anyway, I think that’s about it for now. As always, comments and suggestions are always welcome!

 

Monthly Update – December 2018

Monthly update!

We’re closing in on a year of ups and downs, redundancies, temp roles, and dipping my toes in the freelance waters. I’ve made some really positive changes and significant progress on my mental and physical health, and I think 2019 is shaping up to be a fantastic year indeed.

News!

NaNoWriMo, unsurprisingly, was a bust for me. In retrospect, November strikes me as a really inconvenient month to try and write a rough draft of a novel (or at least 50k of a rough draft). There’s Thanksgiving, and Christmas is looming on the horizon. And it’s on the back end of Halloween and Bonfire Night.

But, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy! I’m excited to have a few opportunities going:

If you’re interested in working with me on proofreading, editing, or writing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

And what does all that mean?

It means I’ve been busy, but like a good busy, not the unproductive sort of busy that’s plagued my life for so long. I’m happier producing creative content, and I look forward to sharing all of it with you in the coming year.

If there’s anything you’d like to see more of on this website, please let me know–I’m always looking for new ideas!

Monthly Update – September 2018

Monthly update dropping like these crisp autumn leaves

Monthly update!

It’s a little late, but better late than never. I’ve been thinking about how I’m framing these monthly updates. They’re supposed to be part accountability, part actual news updates to let you guys know what I’m up to when I’m busy not posting. So I might play around with how they’re laid out and what I actually talk about in them. If you’ve got feedback, you know where to leave it.

So what’s going on?

  1. I’ve been accepted to teach an introduction to poetry course through a local college! I’ll also be teaching some IT and marketing related courses, so be sure to check it out!
  2. Itchen To Write also had a very successful workshop on editing your writing with writing coach and screenwriter Craig J. Rickard. We’ve got more in the works; watch this space!
  3. I was featured on Medium, in their publication I Quit!, a collection of the best times we quit the worst jobs. You can read my contribution here.
  4. My first poetry collection, BELTS: A NATIONAL SNAPSHOT IN POEMS, is available on Amazon! It’s less than £1, so please consider downsizing your coffee one morning to make room in your budget for a copy.
  5. Ash & Feather is on Facebook now, officially. I post industry news, behind the scenes snippets of what I’m working on, and the occasional bit of new content. Give it a like, what’ve you got to lose?
  6. I’ve had a chance to work on my photography, and I think it’s getting really good. You can find out for yourself, either on Instagram or on the photography website YouPic.
  7. If you like what I get up to on here, and poetry’s not your thing, you can buy me a coffee now, or if you’re in it for the long haul, become a Patron.

Whew! And all that while juggling a re-entry into the workaday world, even if only as a temp. There’s been a lot of positive energy and good momentum behind me lately, so don’t be surprised if you see more posts like this, jam-packed with new content and achievements!

I’m also looking for opportunities for freelance writing and editing, so if you like the feel of my writing, please drop me a line.

Monthly Update – July 2018

Monthly update!

June wasn’t exactly the rip-roaring month I was expecting, but in many ways I think it’s for the best. There were some reality checks and I’ve really buckled down on assessing my priorities and developing a workable strategy. I started a Patreon to help support my writing habit as well as subsidise Itchen to Write so that I can offer workshops very cheaply or for free depending on the support levels. Currently, Itchen to write relies on donations for its meetings, and the workshops have fees. I’d like to eliminate those because I’m a filthy socialist. Sue me. Become a patron. Or buy me a coffee.

Additionally, if that’s not your jam or you’re not able, consider doing your shopping on Amazon through my affiliate links. They don’t add to your costs when purchasing, and I get a kickback. You can find affiliate links in all of my book reviews, and anything you buy in the hour following the clickthrough applies, apparently.

I’ve got a lot of projects going at the moment, most are in the startup phase, so hopefully once the foundations have been laid, I can reveal these in their neat little schedules. But I’m really excited about developing new material!

Reviews!

I’m still getting back into the swing of making regular reading time. It’s a bit strange that it’s so hard, because I always enjoy it when I do. A bit like going to the gym, another thing I’ve not done in a long time.

However, we’re getting down to the wire time wise, as I may be starting a new job soon. More on that as and when (and if) it happens. A nice deadline like that is usually really good for my productivity, and I’ve got an exciting TBR pile to work through. So I think it’s fair to say I’ll get several reviews out this month!

Writing News!

 

I’ve been rapidly growing as a poet, including developing poetry workshops and a short poetry course to offer. My current thing I’m into is found poetry, which I plan to start sharing on my Instagram, so follow now to avoid missing out!

You can also expect to see a greater focus on self-published material from me, and I’ve been laying the groundwork to really diversify my online presence and build a solid fan base, so y’know, watch this space!

And of course, if there’s anything you’d like to see here, let me know!

Monthly Update – June 2018

Monthly update!

The year is half over and I’m pretty offended about it if we’re perfectly honest. The humidity is settling in and the heat is rising and it makes it pretty hard to get things done here in a country with no home A/C. But I’ve persevered.

The recovery from April has been a little slower on the visible side of things, but rest assured, my absence here has been supplanted by a surge of activity with my writing group, Itchen to Write, and really working hard on my main projects.

Reviews!

We’ve gotten off track with book reviews and social media scheduling reviews, but I can safely say the ship’s been righted and there are no less than four book reviews forthcoming this month, as well as resuming the social media scheduling series with a look at Later.

As always, please note that my buy links in my reviews are Amazon Associate links, so if you make a purchase I may get a little kickback from that. It doesn’t increase your prices, just helps to support the site.

Writing News!

IT’S PITCH SEASON YOU GUYS.

This month, I’ve got three opportunities to cram my pitch down as many agents’ throats as possible. I’m going to the Winchester Writers’ Festival on 16 June, as well as the TLC Writers’ Day on 23 June in London. These are both amazing events I’m really looking forward to, and as of this writing tickets are still available for both so make sure you get in on that action.

Additionally, #PitMad is coming up on 7 June, so you can keep a look out for my tweets as I try and catch the eye of a lovely agent. Wish me the best of luck!

 

I’m also teaching another poetry introduction towards the latter half of the month, so things are really heating up around here, and for once I don’t mean the muggy weather.

StabCon South: Playin’ Cards and A-Shootin’ Dice

stabcon south logoLast month, I had the great pleasure of attending StabCon South’s springtime event at the Jurys Inn in Southampton.

What is StabCon South?

The southern variant of StabCon, a regular, long-running event in Stockport (Manchester for the less geographically inclined).

The focus is on board gaming. There’s no panels, no workshops, just good ol’ fashioned worker placement. Oh, and quite a few tabletop RPG one-shots. And a sci-fi ship crew simulator!

Where did we stay?

StabCon is local to us, so we didn’t bother with accommodation. However, being located in central Southampton, and in a hotel to boot, there were lots of very affordable options for out-of-towners. We ran into people who had travelled from as far away as High Wycombe, and also Isle of Wighters in for the weekend.

You also had the option of just not leaving the event! It ran 24/7 from 11am on Friday til 11pm on Sunday. A true test of endurance for any self-proclaimed gamer!

Which characters did we cosplay?

With a strict focus on tabletop RPGs and board gaming, there isn’t a cosplay element to this event. So we went as boring ol’ us. Womp womp.

Was there anything to eat?

With the venue being located in central Southampton, close to London Road, there’s a plethora of options. There’s the restaurant in the hotel itself, which is exactly what you’d expect: a bit overpriced, but damned convenient, especially given the dismal weather this weekend. But go a bit further afield and options abound: MexiGo, Starbucks, pubs, Subway, etc…

Verdict:

We’ve been several times before, and it’s a great, low-key way to spend a weekend. It’s also an amazing opportunity to dabble in a hobby that frankly can be a little intimidating and have a high cost to enter. Everyone contributes to the available games and helps with teaching newbies, so it’s a good way to try out new games.

If you’re interested in attending, the next event will be in June, with a focus on extremely long, crunchy games. The next standard Stabcon South is in October, with more information here. You can keep up with them on Facebook, and pricing is generally £15 for the entire weekend.

Additionally, the original Stabcon is coming up, and you can find more information here.

Monthly Update – May 2018

Monthly update!

April was a wash. I spent the majority of the month just treading water and I think it’s pretty accurately reflected on this site. I’ll be going into why that happened in a much later post I’ve got planned.

Reviews!

This month is already set to get back on track, with two book reviews already scheduled, and last month’s installment of my social media scheduling series being pushed forward to this month. We’re basically going to pretend April didn’t happen.

Writing News!

The submission rejections keep rolling in, but I’m not bothered because rejections still mean progress is being made. You can read a really good article about why rejections aren’t bad here.

Another major achievement is a far more robust schedule for Itchen to Write, my Hampshire, UK based writers’ group. You can check it out on Meetup, or on Facebook. Choose your poison.

And lastly, I’ll be giving another poetry lesson in June, time to be determined. I’m pretty excited for the way my poetry career seems to be inadvertently flourishing.

 

Monthly Update – April 2018

Monthly update!

Let’s start with the biggest news: I was made redundant. I’m hoping that years later I’ll be telling people in a keynote speech about how this was the turning point, and when I really started to thrive as a writer. I’ve also got other opportunities in the pipelines, so in no way whatsoever am I counting this as a defeat!

Additionally, I broke my finger, which I did whine about a little bit on my Twitter, but we’re all mended now. It was my first broken bone in my entire life! I must admit feeling a little underwhelmed.

I have a fresh perspective to make the most of this opportunity, so hopefully you can look out for some big things going forward. I’ve been unemployed before and utterly failed to capitalise on a wide open schedule. Working again has shown me how I took for granted my time, and this time around, I’ll be able to really put out some good writing.

Reviews!

Between various things, my reading’s slipped quite a bit. But I’m hoping to recover on this front along with several others. It’s gonna be a huge exercise in learning to better structure my days.

As always, please note that my buy links in my reviews are Amazon Associate links, so if you make a purchase I may get a little kickback from that. It doesn’t increase your prices, just helps to support the site.

Additionally, I’ll be continuing in my appraisals of alternatives to Hootsuite. Last month I took a closer look at Tweetdeck, and this month we’ll be looking at Buffer.

Writing News!

Well, as expected, I bombed out of the first round of NYC Midnight’s Short Story Competition. actually really liking my story. But there’s nothing stopping me submitting my story elsewhere, and I think it’s strong enough to do well outside the constrains of prompts. I’m also waiting to hear results on a couple more competitions I’ve entered.

In more positive news, I was featured on Who Writes Short Shorts? with a short sci-fi story, which you can read here. Additionally, on the 19th of March I had the great pleasure of being a guest instructor on a creative writing course. I taught a two hour lecture on poetry, which went down a treat. It’s looking to become a more regular thing, and may lead to more writing workshops, probably falling under the Itchen to Write umbrella.

Speaking of Itchen to Write, it has its own, standalone website now. So you can find my Hampshire, UK, based writing group here, on Meetup, and on Facebook. With my newfound free time, I’m really looking forward to growing this group!

And what does all that mean?

I’m developing myself as a writer. It’s part of a larger trend of spending more time on myself and prioritising myself and my ambitions. All of my goals fit nicely together, and working towards one works towards all of them, so I’m very excited about what the future holds. And of course, if there’s anything you’d like to see here, let me know!

Wellies, Whovians, and Worbla: Your Guide to Sci-Fi Weekender 2018

What is Sci-Fi Weekender?

Madness descends upon a quiet, seaside holiday park in northern Wales, just a short drive from Pwhelli and near Snowdonia. For three days (Thursday-Saturday, missing Sunday which I found odd for a ‘Weekender’ event but hey ho) all the main structures were taken over by stages, computer gaming stations, vendors, cosplayers and board gamers.

In the evenings, shows and concerts abound, merging traditional festival style performances with geek culture.

They’re gearing up for their tenth year running, and you can find out more information on their website.

Who was there?

The Retro Computer Museum in Leicester had a gaming station set up where you could try out all sorts of consoles, from Atari to Commodore to PS1, and even Pong. You can find out more about them and how to support their work here.

The Galactic Knights were also out in full force, giving demonstrations and running orc boot camps for attendees. They’re a cosplaying group of the highest caliber, focusing on sci-fi and fantasy primarily.

Telos Publishing, one of the event sponsors, was out in full force, with several of its authors giving talks and selling their books.

Skaro was strongly represented, with hordes of Daleks running amok. The evening was also full of talented performers, such as Area 51’s dancers.

Where did we stay?

On site! As SFW takes over an entire holiday park, you never need leave the premises. There’s plenty of decent accommodation, several small shops, a pub, and other restaurants to choose from.

We did pop to Pwhelli for some loo roll and a towel, which isn’t included in your accommodation. So be mindful of that. No kitchen roll, either. If we could do it all over again, I probably also would have brought space heaters and draught excluders. It was brutally cold and the heaters in the flat could only do so much. The windows were so draughty that you could watch the curtains move.

All the ventilation is probably lovely during the summer, which is obviously peak time for this holiday park, but in March it makes for some rather crisp mornings.

Which characters did we cosplay?

The partner and I made a couples’ cosplay as Lone Star and Princess Vespa from Spaceballs. However, as Vespa’s dress is a bit short on fabric, and most of it is gauzy sheers and lace, I took a miss on trotting it out, so the partner followed suit in frozen solidarity.

Others’ cosplay was absolutely amazing. The Warhammer armour was larger than life, and someone had put together a very well articulated alien-from-Alien costume. Lord of the Rings and Star Trek were well represented, and there were Doctors and Daleks in spades, though Star Trek was oddly sparse.

The level of craftsmanship was stunning, and really inspiring.

Was there anything to eat?

As mentioned above, there were several restaurants on site. Starbucks, Burger King, Papa Johns, a fish and chips shop, a full pub, and hot food counters in the mini markets made for a wide variety of choices.

We chose to make use of the full kitchen in our flat, however, and self-catered (when we weren’t running the oven with the door open to provide a little extra warmth!).

Verdict:

The partner and I were a little underwhelmed, possibly by being previously spoilt in Atlanta, with its plethora of high quality, serious business cons. As some content seemed to not happen and was not well sign posted, it can be a little hard to find one’s footing as a first timer. The board gaming was a little small, and the guest list wasn’t the most impressive.

It also seemed to focus slightly more on the nightlife aspects, such as the DJs and concerts, which the partner and I aren’t really into, being prematurely OAP in our taste in entertainment. So there wasn’t a whole lot for us to do after about 6pm, which made for some chilly, early nights.

Normally for a con, this wouldn’t be an issue, but SFW also lacked the sort of frantic schedule that leaves you satisfactorily worn out after a long day of panels, workshops, and speakers.

This feeling of being underwhelmed seems to so far be a trend in the UK con scene, which I’ve touched on previously. Again, I’m not suggesting that this sort of events management is easy, but at the same time, much smaller cons like WHOlanta, Treklanta, and CONjuration all seem to pull off a much more cohesive, jam-packed, exciting programme.

The partner and I have discussed this at length, and can’t seem to pinpoint what it is that seems to take the wind out of the sails over here. If anyone had any theories, I’d love to hear them.