Category Archives: Entertainment/Travel/Activities

Otters And Meerkats

Recently, I was able to see otters in person. It was different being able to stand in front of them after all the research I’ve done for Guardians Of The Round Table. Although the companion animals in the series have some differences due to becoming a companion animal, my co-authors and I wanted to keep many of the animals’ natural attributes and behaviours as well. So when I say I’ve done a lot of research on otters, it may be a bit of an understatement. I’ve watched countless hours of videos, read numerous books and online posts, watched lots documentaries, examined hundreds of photographs and asked a tonne of questions. Yet I learned even more by viewing two otters in person.

Unlike on documentaries and videos, you can’t turn their volume up or down when you’re watching them in person. It was good to hear the exact volume of their many noises. Being there, being able to experience them with all my senses, was amazing.

They are, of course, just as cute in person as in all the footage and images I’ve seen of them. It is also quite possible that I spent an extremely long time watching them. I might even have been asked a couple of times if I was ready to go. It was extremely hard to tear myself away from them and their antics.

Another animal I also saw was the meerkat. I’ve always thought them cute, but I now have an even greater interest in them. Meerkats are a much smaller animal than I thought, even having seen them in comparison to other objects, people and animals. And the babies are super cute. The way they move around, the sounds they make and how they interact with each other is fascinating. So fascinating, that parts of the next Guardians Of The Round Table series has needed a little early editing to swap out the original animal that a character they encountered has as their companion and replace it with a meerkat. I couldn’t resist.

The information I gained from seeing otters and meerkats in person is why I like to see the objects, animals and places I’m researching. You can gain so much more from doing so. It isn’t always possible, but when it is, I always take the opportunity to do so.

Lost In Research

I really enjoy researching things. Not just because I like to have some basis in facts, even for fantasy novels, but because there are so many fascinating and interesting subjects. Recently, while researching medieval architecture, I somehow ended up reading about hunting birds. I’m not sure how I ended up on that topic, but that tends to happen while researching. Not that I’m complaining since the topics I discover always seem to be just as fascinating as the topics I start out researching.

After reading about hunting birds, I thought I’d better return to the task at hand and continue with my original research. It was going very well, at least for a time, and I worked my way through several articles until somehow or other, I once again went off track. Did you know that in 1457 a pig was charged with murder? I’m afraid to say she was found guilty and hung.

Once again, I closed down the articles I wasn’t meant to be reading and returned to the topic at hand. This time, I ended up wandering through articles about archery within minutes of finishing another few articles on architecture. At least this time I knew how I ended up there. It was the windows, the arrowslits. They were to blame.

Anyway, I finally managed to finish my research on medieval architecture, for now, and only went off track about half a dozen times. Well, maybe a few extra times than that. But who’s counting? I’m sure some of that information I stumbled on will be useful in the future.

Local Exploration

During these time when we can’t go far afield, why not explore your local region? We often put off visiting some of the places nearby, thinking we’ll have plenty of time to visit them since they’re so close to home, with years going by and those places remaining somewhere we’ll get around to seeing one day. When I travelled in a caravan, many years ago, I would often ask the locals in the places I visited, what were some of the nearby locations they planned to visit and what were some of their favourite spots. I soon noticed how many people had places they kept saying they’d get around to checking out one year. Sometimes they’d been meaning to visit those places for years and even, in some instances, decades.

I love exploring what’s around me, spending time discovering all the interesting spots when I live in an area. Even in an area I’ve lived in for over a decade, I’m still discovering new locations and things to do. Within a couple of hours in each direction of me, there are national parks, beaches, historical buildings, waterholes, lakes, gardens, scenic drives, lookouts, museums, art galleries, waterfalls and so much more. It can be interesting visiting a tourist information website for your local area and discovering things you didn’t know existed nearby. Why not play tourist in your own town or the nearby region? You can rediscover old favourites, find new ones and gain plenty of memories to look back on in years to come.

For those of you who can’t leave your homes, why not explore a map of your region and discover the places you didn’t know existed. That way, when you can get out and about again, you’ll have a list of where you wish to visit and what there is for you to explore in your region.

I’d love to hear some of the hidden gems you’ve found in your region and if at all possible, see photos of them too. I’d also love to hear your stories about those places. What you’ve discovered, what you liked about it and if it’s likely to become one of those places you’ll often return to. I think that’s what I love most about exploring. Not just seeing a new location, but discovering the stories about it, learning of the people who’ve been there and hearing about what has happened there, both the good and the bad. Stories, as always, intrigue me.

Family Holidays

In these days of being mostly housebound, my thoughts tend to wander to places I’ve been. That soon has me remembering childhood holidays and the places we often went as a family. Living in North Queensland as a child, a lot of our holidays tended to be at a beach. Bowen was one of the places we often went to and we stayed there in a caravan park. I remember spending a lot of time combing the beaches for the perfect shells, gathering them up and examining them, thrilled when I found one I wanted to keep. There were spirals that reminded me of unicorn horns, long thin flat shells that we’d pretend to wear as fingernails and shells that we called kookaburra shells. When you held them on the side, with the opening facing you, they looked very similar to a kookaburra with a long beak and a rounded body.

Occasionally I’d find the perfect butterfly shells, delicately joined together with colours inside them ranging from purplish blues to soft pinks. These were rare since most times they were broken apart and even if you found two matching ones, it just wasn’t as special as finding them still attached in the middle. We would also collect cuttlefish bones for birds, either ours or other family members, trying to find the largest ones possible.

The beach we went to at Bowen had bright, white sand that as a child, seemed to stretch for miles and miles. I would walk along it, my gaze on the tidemarks as I searched for the perfect shells, the grains of sand warm beneath my bare feet and shifting and moving as I put weight on it. Occasionally I’d walk through the waves as they lapped on the shore, cooling my feet when the sand became too hot. But even then I’d be searching for the perfect shells, sometimes finding the perfect pebble instead.

At the end of our holidays, I always had quite a collection of shells to take home with me. Some I displayed, others I used in craft a few of them that had large enough holes, I’d hang from my earrings. A reminder of my days at the beach. Reminders of sand, sunshine, waves lapping the shore, the tang of salt and a long stretch of white sand.

Flood

Occasionally I write short pieces, almost flash fiction in size. Not often though as ideas tend to flow and the story continues to grow. Here’s one of those smaller pieces, a small snapshot in time of a character with more than his fair share of responsibilities.

Dale hurried down the ladder from the loft he shared with his younger brother, drawn by the scent of freshly baked bread. The sound of rain was quieter in the kitchen as he helped himself to a slice of bread.

“You be careful out there.” His mother handed him a thick coat.

Dale shrugged into it, knowing it’d soon be soaked through. “I’ll bring the plough horse up to the house. We should have moved him yesterday, but I thought the rain was over.”

“We all did.”

Finishing the last of his food, Dale buttoned his coat before braving the pouring rain. Visibility was low and it was only that he’d been born and raised on this farm that he could find his way to the back paddock, head low as his eyes squinted through the rain. Stepping through the gate of the wooden fence he whistled, but the wind blew the sound back in his face along with the rain. When he called for the horse his words were also thrown back at him.

Walking forward, his boots sinking into mud, he scanned the paddock for the plough horse. He had to find him. Without him, they couldn’t plant their farm and have crops to sell at the market. Ever since his father had died he’d become the head of the house, trying to support the three of them. He had no idea what to do if he couldn’t find the horse.

A sound drew him onwards. He hurried towards the stream, each step a struggle. He heard it again, the frantic scream of a horse. Then he could see him, tangled in the branches of a tree caught in the swollen stream, which was now wide enough to be a river. The tree dragged at the horse and blood flowed from several gashes on the animal.

Dale plunged into the water. They needed the horse. Without him, they couldn’t survive. He tried to untangle the terrified creature. A log crashed into them, pushing them further into the stream. Dale grabbed at the mane, pulling the horse towards the bank, each step an effort.

Another log swept past, barely missing them and Dale stared at a man clinging to the log that turned and rolled in the churning water. The horse screamed and the man on the log went under.

Time seemed to stretch out, but it was only a few seconds. Dale’s cold fingers let go of the mane and he threw himself forward into the middle of the stream, swimming towards the man as he surfaced for a moment.

Dale reached the log, searching for the man, his fingers tangling in hair. He momentarily thought of the horse’s mane before he focused on rescuing the man. It seemed to take forever, but eventually they were stretched gasping on the bank, the rain still pouring.

“Thank you, how can I ever repay you?” The man held out his hand.

Dale took the offered hand. “Anyone would have done the same.” He paused to catch his breath. “Come back to the farmhouse. We’ll get warm and my mum can make us something hot to eat.”

They struggled to their feet and as they passed the part of the stream where the horse had once struggled, Dale felt his heart sink.

His heart was still sinking a month later as he hoed rows by hand, his brother following him with a basket of seeds. He stopped to run his arm across his forehead as his gaze travelled over the land still untouched. They’d be lucky to get a quarter of the paddock planted, and there’d be none for the market. Replacing the plough horse would be impossible.

Dale turned his head at his name being called. His mother frantically waved him over to the farmhouse. Beside her stood a stranger, a grey-haired man. Dale shared a look and a shrug with his brother before the two of them trudged to the farmhouse.

The man stepped forward, throwing his arms around Dale who froze, sending a questioning look to his beaming mother. “Ahh, sir?” He pulled away.

“Thank you. Thank you.” The man clapped him on the shoulder as his other hand drew out a bulging money pouch. “There’s no price I could put on my son’s life, but let me offer you a small token all the same.”

Dale took the pouch, the weight of it in his hand lightening the weight of his worries. He met the man’s gaze. “Thank you.”

Chocolate And Coffee

There is a myth that authors live on coffee and can’t resist chocolate. Well, I don’t drink coffee, or even tea for that matter, but I can’t resist chocolate. So for those of you who love both, here’s a great way to combine them.

You will need:

A block of chocolate (I’ve used white to make it easier to see)

A handful of coffee beans (depends on how much coffee you want to add)

A tray/mould (I’ve used a water bottle ice tray)

Method:

Melt the chocolate either over low heat or put boiling water in a large bowl and place chocolate in a smaller bowl that you sit in the large bowl.

Scatter coffee beans across the bottom of a tray.

When chocolate is melted pour it over coffee beans.

If you want the beans more covered, use something such as a cocktail fork to mix the chocolate around them thoroughly. For less covered beans, just pour in the chocolate.

Put in the fridge and when set turn out of the tray or mould.

Enjoy!

A Love Of Gaming

When we were deciding the worldbuilding and game mechanics of Guardians Of The Round table, we had a look at what it was about our favourite games that continued to draw us back. We looked at tabletop games, computer and console games, board games and even card games. There were some games that stood out, ones we’ve played for years. Particularly Dungeons and Dragons and all The Elder Scrolls games.

We love open world games, ones where you can explore and discover new things. We like completing quests and being able to go into areas that we’re probably too low a level for, knowing there’s a good chance we’re going to get wrecked. We also discovered that failing is part of the way we learn. Time after time, we’ll pit ourselves against an impossible boss, trying something different each time until we eventually triumph.

We also love intricate worlds. We enjoy discovering the lore and exploring new locations. We also enjoy finding interesting items and collecting things that probably have no current use, but we might need in the future. And setting up a base to store all those things we might eventually need because we’ve ended up collecting more than we can carry.

We took some of those general ideas into account when we began to do worldbuilding for Guardians Of The Round Table. Particularly the idea of writing books that the characters can find. We have so many books planned for the characters to discover. Some will lead them onto other things, some will teach them about the world and others are just for fun.

We are currently working on another book that the characters will discover in Guardians Of The Round Table 5: Crystal Mine, due out in May. But until then, if you haven’t already read it, Legend Of The Ancestral King is free on Smashwords.

Island Grove

I love being able to look at an image and see a story in it. This one brings to mind images of sacred groves and nature magic. But what if someone from a long line of powerful nature magic users has a different sort of magic? One considered evil and that all those who wield it should be eradicated. How would they keep it hidden? Tell everyone they have no magic? Never use it? What if they or a loved one are in danger and the only means of surviving is to use the magic? Either way, it could lead to their death. Would they be willing to sacrifice themselves if they could escape without using it, but doing so would lead to the death of a loved one? And if they used their magic to saved the one they’re close to, what would they do? Leave them to be sentenced to death? Rescue them? See them as evil since they have a magic all fear?

No wonder I have so many ideas that I’ll never be able to write all of them A glimpse of a single image creates yet one more idea. And I see so many different images every day. My world is full of stories. Everywhere I look.

Penelope

I had a porcelain doll when I was a child and at the time I was reading a lot of Greek myths and chose the name Penelope for her. I always wondered who had it worse. Penelope stuck at home waiting for Odysseus to return and missing out on all those adventures, or Odysseus struggling to return home as he faced all kinds of challenges. I spent many hours pondering this question, as well as many others, about not only that story, but all the other Greek myths I read, particularly stories about their many gods and goddesses.

Penelope, the doll, came with a fancy outfit that could be removed, but the problem was, I had nothing else to put on her. Luckily my grandma could sew and we spent a lot of time designing and making clothes for Penelope. That was my favourite part about her. Not the fact that she ended up having lots of clothes, but the designing and creating of those clothes.

Grandma had tins of buttons, containers of ribbons and leftover pieces of fabric. I spent hours searching through all the items, matching ribbons and buttons with fabric, deciding what type of garment they’d suit and talking over how I wanted them to look. We spent months creating a wardrobe for Penelope and I spent more time creating clothes for her than I ever spent playing with her. But that was what I loved about her. Creating her clothes.

I still enjoy making clothes today. These days I make them for myself and family, either everyday clothes or costumes, sharing the fun with my children. But I still regularly remember all the days I spent with Grandma, creating clothes for Penelope and the many hours of fun we had making them together.

Costumes

With Supanova fast approaching, we’ve been busy making some new costumes. There are so many things I enjoy about creating costumes. Choosing a style or character to base it on, designing the outfit, choosing material and fittings and of course seeing it all come together.

We’ve been researching medieval style garments, drawing up patterns and testing them and spending many hours in fabric shops being distracted by all the things we don’t really need, but might find useful for future projects.

We’ve finished a handful of items and have patterns created for others, but there are still many more to create. I’m looking forward to not only continuing to make the costumes, but wearing them at Supanova in November. On some of the days we’ll wear costumes from previous years, possibly with a few new items added to them, but there will also be a day or two that we’ll wear new costumes. As usual, there will be a group of us, dressed in our different outfits, with various displays as backdrops. And that is another thing I can’t wait to see. How the latest display turns out. Not long now and I’ll be able to see how it all comes together.

So if you’re in Brisbane this November, why not come along to Supanova. There’s no need to wear a costume, but if you do, I’d love to see what it is.