Friday, January 20, 2017

#Furkid Friday: Skye The #Rat On Being #Thankful For Human Caretakers Who Help Aging #Rodents (FD)

Um... Hi everyone! This is Skye the rat.

Me and my ratty sister, Star, are coming up for two and a half years old. Two and a half isn't extremely old for rats, exactly. Rats will often live to be four years old. But two and a half isn't young for a rat either, and we're starting to feel our age creeping up on us.

Of course, we try to hide it. But the human caretakers have noticed that neither of us can get about as well as we used to, and we're sleeping more than we did when we were younger rats.

Star started to show signs of it first, but it seems to be a slower progression for her than it is for me. For example, Star can still climb, though she's not as fast as she used to be, but I can't any more, and only hurt myself when I try. Mostly this isn't a problem, but where our food bowl was required a bit of climbing from us to get to. We were great at climbing until recently, so the human caretakers didn't worry about it. But then they realized I was hurting myself whenever I tried to climb up to the food bowl. So, do you know what they did? They moved it for me. Now it's down in the bottom of the cage where we don't have to climb at all to reach it. In fact, we can now access both food and water without going far from our wooden ratty house (which we didn't used to sleep in much, since we always liked our hammock more, but we do use now, since I can't climb to the hammock any more, and Star rarely considers it worth the effort it takes her to do it).

Also, I'm really slow with getting about in general, so Star - who can move a little faster than me, even though she's slowed down to what she was too - can get to the human caretakers for special nibbles, where as I struggle to do so. Luckily for me, the human caretakers have realized I'm having a hard time, so they come to me, and make sure to distract Star for long enough so I can get some special nibbles too.

I don't like that I'm feeling my age enough for the human caretakers to take notice. But I am glad they've tried to help by making it easier for me to get nibbles from the bowl. I'm also glad they don't make me miss out on special nibbles just because I'm struggling to come get them... I'd hate to miss out on tasty things like cheese, cheerios, and raisins, just because I'm getting older and less mobile, so I'm glad we have such understanding human caretakers.

Squeak Soon,
Skye

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

#Writing Wednesday - January 18th 2017


Hey, guess what? "Ulrike's Christmas" is now available in paperback!

I hadn't expected to be announcing this until at least next week, since the combination of several non-business days because of Christmas, the New Year, and the handful of bank holidays they insist on having around those dates, combined with the postal strikes around Christmas, made me think there would be more of a delay in the proof arriving than there was. But I'm not complaining.

Anyway, you can buy it from CreateSpace and Amazon already, and will soon be able to buy it from the other places that carry my paperback books too, such as Barnes & Noble, etc. If you click on the book's title in the first paragraph of this post, it will take you to where you can buy it directly from CreateSpace. Alternatively, you can search for it on your prefered Amazon site, or wait for it to become available on Barnes & Noble, or request that your favourite bookstore or library order a copy (if they're one of those who will order books published through CreateSpace).

***

Are you an author too? Are you on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you may want to take a look at these tips on how to get real on social media, and these on connecting with readers. These are tips I'm trying to follow myself. I'm good about the retweeting/sharing parts, and I'm getting in the habit of using hashtags, but need to work on the part where I just post random stuff from my day so people can connect with me as a person. It's not that I don't want to do it, it's that I either get busy and forget, or I feel like I have nothing to say that will seem interesting to people. Most often it's the latter, to be honest. I mean, are comments about the weather and what I had for breakfast really interesting to my followers?

Anyway...

Whether you're on social media or not, if you're a writer who finds you're struggling to finish the first draft of your current writing project, you might want to take a look at these tips for finishing off that first draft.

Alternatively, if your trouble is finding ideas, and your excuse for struggling to find them is being busy with work or other commitments, check out this post about how to STORYSTORM while you work.

Regardless of your progress in your current writing project, however, you may find this post about how to create unforgettable characters worth reading. Plus, this post containing tips for forging a hero group is a useful one to read if your story contains a group of characters who need to work together. Oh, and speaking of when you have a group of characters, here's a great post that will help you out with making sure there's a job for everyone in the party.

That's all for today... Until next time... Stay safe and warm!

Monday, January 16, 2017

January 2017 #Roleplaying Ramblings

Technically this post should have been done last month, and been for December 2016 instead. But I had so many other things I wanted to post about first, that I'm only now able to find a free spot to put this post up, despite actually having written it last month. It's been sitting in my blog's dashboard waiting patiently for a chance to get published since about mid December.

Anyway...

I killed a dragon!

I am Clover, dragon slayer... Fear me!

Yeah... Something tells me I'm more likely to get a chuckle if I have my character walk in to an inn and announce that during a game, rather than the looks of fear and awe I'd like. Why? Well, the name Clover doesn't exactly inspire fear, and she's a halfling (roleplaying's answer to a hobbit; three feet tall and weighing 31lbs). Still, it almost sounded impressive.

Plus, I really did kill a dragon!

OK, OK. I admit it, Kelly's elven druid did some damage to the dragon with a flaming scroll of some sort, and Carl's gnome sorcerer did some damage when he threw fireballs at it. But my halfling ranger did the most damage (even if you don't include the damage the dragon took when it met the ground as it died). Plus, most importantly, her arrows were what brought it down, and she dealt the killing blow, so to speak (technically killing shot, since it was an arrow, but you get the point). So I did have a little help, but I officially killed the dragon.

That ended the adventure, since it was called "The Dragon's Demand" and it's difficult to worry about the dragon's demands when there's no dragon to be making any, as I'm sure even the non-roleplayers among you can appreciate. So we're all heroes, because we saved the nearby town from kobolds and a dragon. We even did it without any of our party dying, which is an added bonus.

Go us... We're awesome!

Anyway, at the moment, we're not continuing to game. I think the others would kind of like to continue, but they won't do it without me, and I don't want to right now. I'm not saying I won't in the future. I mean, the characters are pretty cool seventh level characters with some magical items now, after all. Plus, roleplaying is fun. I'm just kind of feeling like I need a break from it right now. So we shared out the treasure from the end of the adventure, and will maybe take these characters on another adventure at some point in the future. But not right now. Right now there's no roleplaying. Not for me, anyway. Of course, if that changes, I'll let you know.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Spell Out Your Country #Reading Challenge From The Last Quarter Of 2016

I'm a little late posting this, because I wanted to post my 2017 goals first. But, anyway...

During the last quarter of 2016, one of the groups I'm a member of over on Goodreads had a reading challenge to read books for the letters that make up the country you live in. Since I live in England, in the United Kingdom, that meant I had to read books for the letters that made up the letters in either "England" or "United Kingdom" or both. I decided on both, because I thought it would make it more of a challenge for me.

They were quite flexible about the rules for it, and said you could use either the title, author name, or both. But I decided to only use titles, since I read a lot - as anyone who knows me will agree - so figured I'd finish the challenge quickly anyway. As it turned out, I only just managed to complete it before the end of December 2016. But I did it, and that's what counts.

So, anyhow, here's what I read to spell out the name of the country I live in...

England:
E ~ Enchanted Castle by Chrissy Peebles
N ~ Night of the Giant Everything by R.L. Stine
G ~ Gods in the Machine by Marilyn Peake
L ~ Learned Counsel and the Three Bears by Max G. Bernard
A ~ An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott
N ~ Not Just a Witch by Eva Ibbotson
D ~ Don't Scream! by R.L. Stine

United Kingdom:
U ~ Unpredictable by Lady Jenniviere
N ~ Never Ever by Gita V. Reddy
I ~ It Came from Beneath the Sink! by R.L. Stine
T ~ Thin Air by Michelle Paver
E ~ Esmerelda by Frances Hodgson Burnett
D ~ Dr. Maniac Will See You Now by R.L. Stine

K ~ Kaylyn the Sister-in-Darkness by Barbara G. Tarn
I ~ I Believe in Unicorns by Michael Morpurgo
N ~ nightfall in the kingdom of winter by Andy Young
G ~ Geek with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir
D ~ Defenestration by Matthew W. McFarland
O ~ One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson
M ~ Marginaliens by Philip Gross

Friday, January 13, 2017

#Furkid Friday: Maizie The #Chinchilla Turns 1 (FD)

Hi everyone! This is Maizie the chinchilla.

Guess what? It's finally my turn to have one of those birthday things! You know what that means, right? Special nibbles!

Of course, the human caretakers gave special nibbles to my chinchilla sister, Mollie, too. They said it's only fair since they gave me some when she had her birthday back in October, and it's best to do it that way because we share a cage. Well, to be honest, our other rodent siblings get special nibbles when birthday things happen too, because the human caretakers say it isn't right to give to one of us rodent gang if the others aren't having anything. But whoever is the one actually having a birthday gets an extra special treat, if you know what I mean. That's what I'm saying Mollie was included in. I don't mind though. I mean, Mollie might not be my littermate, but I love her as if she was.

Anyway, the human caretakers are usually really careful about how much nibbles we're allowed each day. But when a birthday thing happens, we always get a little more than usual, and it's either something we don't get often, or an extra helping of something the human caretakers know we absolutely love. Cereals are popular with all of us. We chinchillas especially enjoy the raw oats you humans use to make yourself oatmeal. I guess the human caretakers realized that, because they made today an oatmeal day for me! They also threw in a few raisins, which is something they don't do often.

That was my breakfast time nibbles... I wonder what special treat they've planned for my dinner time nibbles?

Squeak soon,
Maizie

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

#Writing Wednesday - January 11th 2017

Alright, now that Christmas - or whatever else you might have been celebrating - is totally over, we've welcomed the new year, we're done with the posts reviewing 2016, the holiday decorations have been taken down, and we've finished discussing my goals for 2017, it's time to return to our regular Wednesday posts, complete with a selection of links and articles I've gathered over the past couple of weeks, which I hope you will find interesting, and maybe even useful. So... Enjoy!

STORYSTORM started on January 1st 2017, and there have been some great posts as part of it. Like this one about how to mind and not mind when it comes to your writing, and story ideas. Or this one on how autocorrect and typos can inspire you, or this one on how a change of perspective can spark a story idea. Even if you didn't sign up for STORYSTORM, the posts are worth reading (don't worry if you didn't sign up... I didn't either, but I'm still reading the posts).

Anyway...

Are there any immortal beings in your current work in progress? If so, these seven tips to writing immortal characters may be just what you need to make them believable.

Immortal beings or not, here are some tips for creating tone through dialogue.

There are all sorts of rules when it comes to things like spelling and grammar, as you no doubt know. Now, most of them are sensible ones you should pay attention to, or at least have a really good reason for breaking. Sometimes, however, there are rules that are, quite frankly, kinda dumb, and you can feel free to ignore those. Here's an example of three such rules.

Every writer has their weakness. You know? That one thing you know you need to do differently next time, or not do at all, but still do it anyway. Regardless of what yours is, here's a post with some tips on how to sort out the weaknesses in your writing.

If one of your goals for this year is to get serious about marketing in 2017, you may want to read this article. Of course, there are other things you need to be doing when it comes to marketing too, but that's a great place to start. Another post you may want to take a look at is this one on internet marketing. Plus, this list of marketing ideas, and this list of 20 ways to get yourself out there as a writer, may give you some suggestions on things to try.

Remember, fellow authors, don't burn yourself out! Just bear that in mind, regardless of your writing goals for 2017.

Oh, and... Speaking of writing goals - or resolutions - for the year... Here are six tested tips for keeping your writing resolutions. I agree with the tips, though I disagree with something that was said in the post about publishing. The post says you can't choose whether you get published, so that's not a valid resolution, since you can't be in control of it. But that's not entirely true. If you're going down the traditional publishing route, sure, the choice as to whether or not you get published is out of your hands. However, if you self-publish, you can control when your book is published, and publishing your novel by x date is actually a valid resolution. Just saying.

Anyway... Last, but not least, for those of you wondering how you can show support for an author friend or family member, here are some ways you can support the author in your life.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Other 2017 Goals

I had only one goal for 2016 that wasn't related to either my reading or writing in some way. Funnily enough, that goal is the only one I didn't do as well with as I'd hoped I would.

The goal was to sort out the shelves so we could unpack the boxes we've had packed since we moved in to this place in February 2015. Well, technically they've been packed longer than that, since we got the stuff packed up while waiting to move, so they'd been packed since the January at least. But I think you get the point.

Like I said, this is the one goal I didn't do well with in 2016. We did make a start with it, though I admit that wasn't until near the end of the year. But we only got maybe half way through the task before 2016 came to an end. As I'm sure you can imagine, finishing the job is top of my list of goals for 2017, especially since the boxes had to be moved for the shelves we've got to go up, which means the boxes are currently in the way. Not so much in the way that we're falling over them, but enough so that them being where they are is annoying me. This is good though, in a way, because them annoying me will give me plenty of motivation to finish the task so they can stop doing so.

Also, at the start of this year some time, we're having some work done on our heating system. Maybe even a complete boiler replacement. Our heating system isn't too bad, but there's room for improvement, and it hasn't been replaced for a while. On the one hand this is great. On the other hand, it means a day... Or possibly a couple of days... Of workmen to deal with. Still, as I said, there's room for improvement, which means it will be a good thing in the long run, so I'm not complaining.

There are also a few other things that need doing in this place, but most of those are tasks that are the responsibility of our landlords. Those tasks would have been done by now, but our landlords got some new repair guys who turned out to not be doing their jobs, and now their new new guys (yes, I did mean to write "new" twice there) are trying to catch up with the long list of jobs the landlords thought were getting done, which weren't getting done after all. While they do that, we'll work on trying to get the ones that are our responsibility done. Like sorting the curtain rail for what is now our bedroom, so we can finally put the curtains up in there.

I know there are areas of my daily life I should set goals for too. But I'm finding that part difficult. It's not that I don't know what goals I should set. I do. It's that when I write them down they seem vague and formless, and I immediately wonder how I expect to know I've achieved them when I'm not able to make it clear what will be required to do so. So then I just delete them. Does that even make sense? Anyway, I'll come back to those when I can get them clearer in my mind. The general gist though is that I want to break some bad habits I've aquired, return to some habits I used to have that I've let slip (like daily meditation) and introduce some new good habits I wish I had. Hopefully, even if you don't get a detailed daily life goals list, you'll see signs of some changes in my life as the year progresses. Changes that will, I hope, be positive ones.

So... To summarize...

Household goals:
*Finish unpacking and organizing the things that have been in boxes for way too long.
*Get the jobs done that are our responsibility to take care of. (I can't control what happens with the jobs the landlords need to do, so I'm not officially including that on my goals list).

Personal goals:
*Start meditating daily again.
*Attempt to break some bad habits I've gotten in to, and try to replace them with some good ones I wish I had, or used to have and want to have again. This especially applies to exercise, and the fact I should start making some effort to go out more.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

2017 #Reading And #Blogging Goals

Yeah, I know most people were posting these kinds of posts last weekend, but I had other things I wanted to post first. Besides, we're only about a week in to the new year, so I'm not that far behind.

Anyway...

I set a reading goal of 216 books for 2016. I ended up reading over 300. 317 to be exact. So... Yeah... I read quite a few more books than my goal for the year... Again!

If your reading total for 2016 came nowhere near mine, please don't feel bad for not reading as many books as me. People read at different speeds, and of course the length of books needs to be taken in to consideration too. Not to mention, other commitments you may have in your life will influence the time you have available for reading. What I'm basically trying to say is, it doesn't matter if your total for the year was nowhere near mine, because the important thing is that you are getting some reading in. It's more important for you to be reading something, and enjoying the act of reading.

So... As I was saying... I posted my December book reviews post last week, but if you want to take a look at all the details for what I read in 2016, you can do so by going here, and checking out my year in books. You never know, you may find one you'd like to read.

By the way, as I mention in the monthly review posts I started doing on this blog, the format reviewed may not be the format I actually read, so please disregard the format. Also, I read across multiple genres and age ranges, so you should always check if a book is suitable for the intended reader or not, especially if children are involved.

Anyhow, I did consider making my reading goal larger this year, but I have a few things I'd like to achieve this year that will most likely result in less reading time, so I'm not going to do that. Instead I'm setting a reading goal of 217 books. Some of the things will be ongoing, so if I find this year that those things take away less of my reading time than I expected, I may up the reading goal by more next year. We'll see. Either way, my reading goal for this year is 217 books.

My other reading goal for 2016 was to make a point of reading some of the books I've had on my Kindle for ages, since I've had some of the books waiting to be read ever since I got my first Kindle a few years ago. I knew I'd end up reading several newer books too, and would probably add books to my to-read shelf on Goodreads as fast as I read others. But my aim was to focus at least a large chunk of my reading time on those books I've had on my Kindle the longest. Well, I did an okay job with doing that. Not as well as I'd hoped, since shiny new books kept catching my attention, but I did get a reasonable sized chunk of the books I've had for a while read in 2016. I plan to continue trying to focus at least a good chunk of my reading time for 2017 on getting those older books read too. I'm hoping to do as good of a job as I did in 2016, if not better. I'm joining the reading challenge one of the groups I'm a member of over on Goodreads is running for the first quarter of 2017, which is to tackle the books that have been on your to read shelf for three months or longer, so that will hopefully get me started with it... It worked last year, anyway.

I also did the A-Z book title reading challenge the same Goodreads group does each year. I completed 2016s challenge before the year was half over. You can see my post about finishing it here. I'll be doing the challenge with them again this year, and will post when I'm done. Let's see how many months it takes me this time.

OK, now for the blogging part...

You may have noticed that the way I do my blog posts has changed slightly over the past year or so.

I'd said in early 2015that I was posting a random post on Monday, a writing one on Wednesday, and a "Furkid Friday" post on Friday. Well, the Wednesday and Friday posts have continued as planned, though with some tweaks to the titles to make use of hashtags. But I started seporating the Monday ones in to more spacific topic based posts in late 2015, and since that seemed to work well, continued doing so throughout 2016, with hashtags being introduced at some point during the year. This generally resulted in me having enough to say to cover more than one extra post a week, hence the addition of posts on Sundays, and sometimes other days too.

In 2017, I plan to continue with my current blogging schedule of posts about random things on Sundays and Mondays (the topics of which will be determined by what I want to share), posts about writing related things on Wednesdays, and pet themed posts on Fridays, with the odd post on other days if I'm getting too long of a backlist of things I want to post about, or if I want/need to post about something on a spacific day. I'll also continue to make use of hashtags in the titles when possible/appropriate, in hopes they'll do their job and improve visibility for my blog. They might not do much, but it's worth a try, right?

By the way, if you click on a link in any of my old posts and it either doesn't work, or takes you to somewhere that's obviously the wrong place... Sorry! I did think about going through my old posts and checking the links. Loads of people recommend doing so. But I've done over 3000 posts, many of which contain links (often several links). I mean, I did over 200 posts last year alone. So, as much as I'd love to make sure all my old links are working for you, I can tell you now that it's not about to happen any time soon. Sorry, but that's how it is. Quite frankly, just the thought of checking so many posts makes me want to run away, whimpering in distress, with my Metaphorical tail between my legs. So, like I said, sorry, but you'll just have to try the link, and if it doesn't work, Google what you were looking for or something.

Anyway... To summarize...

Reading goals:
*Read at least 217 books.
*Focus at least a large chunk of my reading on those books I've had waiting to be read for longest.
*Complete the A-Z title reading challenge.

Blogging goals:
*Continue to post writing themed posts on Wednesdays.
*Continue to post "Furkid Friday" posts on Fridays.
*Continue to post about other things on Sundays and/or Mondays (preferably both).
*Make use of hashtags in post titles, in hopes of increasing post visibility during social media shares.

Friday, January 06, 2017

#Furkid Friday: Baggins The #Gerbil Turns 3 (FD)

Hellooo everyone! This is Baggins the gerbil.

Guess what? Guess what? Guess what?

I'm having one of those birthday things today!

I'm three human years old today. For gerbils that's like being an old man. I'm not ready to slow down just yet though, and am still enthusiastically playing and digging, just like I've done since I was a very young gerbil.

Well, there was that time I slowed down for a while when I was upset about losing my gerbil brother, Bilbo, last year. But that didn't last long. Plus, even though I miss him terribly, I try not to think about that. I can't help it today, of course, since it would have been Bilbo's birthday today too. But I'm trying to enjoy my special day, despite not having my brother here to share it with me.

The human caretakers are doing a great job at helping with that, since they've already given me a special birthday nibble. I'm also pretty sure I heard something mentioned about cheese being on the menu later, which is the best news a gerbil could get on his birthday, if you ask me. Of course, if they want to throw in a frosted Shreddy or two, or maybe a berry, that would be just fine with me, and would certainly go a long way to helping me enjoy my special day... Just saying.

Squeak soon,
Baggins

P.S. I really do miss you, Bilbo, and wish you could be here to share all the great nibbles with me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

#Writing Wednesday: Looking Ahead At 2017

It's a whole new year, and I suppose you're wondering what's to come for me as an author this year?

Yeah... About that... Guess what? So am I!

Ahem... OK, well, here's what I've got so far:

*The paperback version of "Ulrike's Christmas" is currently in production, and will hopefully be available by the end of January 2017... Or maybe some time in early February 2017. Depending how long the proof takes to get to me, and assuming there are no issues when the proof arrives, of course. Great news for those of you who prefer a physical book.

*I've got a little stack of poems I plan/hope to add to in the next couple of months, so I'm planning to release a new poetry collection some time in 2017. Exactly when will depend on when I feel like I have enough poems for it, and decide which of them I want to use as the title poem, so I can't give you even an estimated date at this moment in time. All I know for sure right now is that a new poetry collection will be released at some point in the not-too-distant future.

*I've got a couple of stories I've made a start on, and several ideas trying to get my attention, so I plan to work on those - beginning with the couple I've already started - and will publish them when they're ready. What will be finished first, and how many stories I finish and publish this year is currently uncertain, so I'll have to fill you in on details about that as the year progresses and potential release dates become a reality. Not having old stories to rewrite in between the writing of new ones any more, means I'm not ahead of my publishing schedule like I was for the past couple of years, so 2017 will see less releases from me than previous years have. Not because I'm not continuing to write at least a little each day, but because I've only got new material to work with, so you need to give me time to write it, and then to get it ready for publication. Anyway, I'll give you more details about the stories when they're closer to completion.

*I need to spend a bit more time on marketing. I've got a few ideas I'm toying with, so you'll hopefully see my attempts at doing more when it comes to marketing my books in the near future. How many of these ideas I manage to do anything with, and how successful these attempts will be is anyone's guess, but that's always the case, so I'm going to try not to become discouraged if they don't work as well as I hope they will. The point is, I know I need to do more when it comes to marketing, and I'm going to try my best to do so.

So, there you go. That's what I've got planned for 2017. I know the plans are a little vague, but it's all I've got for now, I'm afraid. Still, it's a starting point, which is better than not having any plans at all. Right?

Monday, January 02, 2017

Tori's December 2016 #Book #Reviews (LBE)

It's time to take a look at what I read in December.

As with the previous posts like this one, the format reviewed may not be the format I read the book in. Also, please remember to bear in mind the fact that I read across multiple genres and age ranges, and you should always check suitability of content before reading, especially when children are involved. Finally, if you want to know more about the book, or the author it's by, simply click on the book title, or author name, to go to the appropriate Goodreads page.

OK...

The Girl with the Cat Tattoo (Cool Cats, #1)The Girl with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I enjoy a good romance from time to time, and I love cats, so I expected to really like this book. Except I didn't. It starts off really well, but I found my attention wandering by the time we were maybe a third of the way through the book, with only the odd scene here and there holding my interest enough to stop me finding it dull, and the ending was only an "OK" sort of ending. So, a cute read, but not one that will be making it in to my favourites any time soon.

Geek with the Cat TattooGeek with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I only read this one because I read the first in the series, and like with the first book, I thought it started off great, but did not continue as well.

Thin AirThin Air by Michelle Paver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Michelle Paver's previous ghost story "Dark Matter" is the only ghost story to seriously scare me, so when I heard she was doing another, I was eager to see if she could manage it again. Did she ever! The well-rounded characters, amazing descriptions, and fantastic writing in general, all combine to make a story that had me huddled under my blankets with shivers running up my spine.

Tri-Pizza-Tops (Kittysaurus, #2)Tri-Pizza-Tops by Judge Kludge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Like the first in the series, this is a fantastic book, which combines real dinosaur related facts with a very imaginative and exciting story. The plot is extremely creative, while still being thought out well enough to be believable, and the characters are likable and easy to relate to. There's more obvious fiction and less potential fact in this one than in the first, but that doesn't spoil it. Actually, it makes it a fun read where you're always wondering what will happen next. The only reason this one doesn't get the full five stars that book one got, is because the ending was too sudden; I hate cliffhanger endings.
*NOTE: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This fact has in no way influenced either my opinion of the book, or the contents of this review.

DefenestrationDefenestration by Matthew W. McFarland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was a pleasant, though somewhat slow paced read. Most of the characters are well-rounded, though I don't feel I know enough about Adam, who I would have thought was most important for us to be familiar with, considering most of the story is told from his point of view in one way or another, so knowing more about him would have made getting inside his head easier. Anyway, it was interesting learning more about all of the characters as the threads of their individual stories were woven together as the story progressed. Also, though the plot moves at a slow pace, it doesn't move so slowly that you feel it drags or anything like that, and the pacing feels right for the story.
*NOTE: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book, nor has it had any influence on the contents of this review.

HeartlessHeartless by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a difficult one for me to decide on a rating for. On the one hand, this book was excellent, with a pleasing mixture of whimsical characters and plot elements that will remind you of the Alice In Wonderland story, and make this a perfect read for fans of that particular book, while also being a wonderful story of one girl's attempts to be more than just a lady forced in to a loveless marriage she doesn't want, in a time and place when a proper lady shouldn't have dreams of running a bakery. On the other hand, there are a few places where the plot felt like it was starting to drag a little, and a few times when I struggled to understand why a character made the choice or comment they did, since it felt more like something that was done to make the plot move in the direction the author wanted it to go in. Thankfully, however, neither of those things happened too often, so I did mostly enjoy the book.

I Believe in UnicornsI Believe in Unicorns by Michael Morpurgo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautifully written story, which is a perfect one for encouraging a love of books and the stories they contain.

Enchanted CastleEnchanted Castle by Chrissy Peebles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It feels like the story hardly started before it suddenly ended. I get that this is the first in a series, but this book felt more like the first couple of chapters of something longer, rather than a book in its own right, which is a shame... It had the potential to be a five star read. If this was one of those serialised stories some magazines used to do, it would be worthy of that five star rating.

EsmereldaEsmerelda by Frances Hodgson Burnett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The ending was really nice, but the rest of it was a little dull.

Beginning of a Hero (Legends of Windemere, #1)Beginning of a Hero by Charles E. Yallowitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a well-written book, with believable and well-rounded characters, and an interesting and exciting plot.

Learned Counsel and the Three BearsLearned Counsel and the Three Bears by Max G. Bernard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An entertaining little story.

Aurora's ChristmasAurora's Christmas by June Burns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The lesson in this book is a great one, and this has the potential to be a beautiful Christmas story. However, her little brother's behaviour on Christmas day wasn't believable for a child of five, and the message of the lesson was verbally shoved down her throat, with only brief glimpses of situations that would have had the potential to show her what she needed to learn, rather than Aurora being allowed to figure it out for herself. Also, the ending - though touching for Aurora's actions - was in need of a bit of work to feel believable. With some work, and more use of the "show, don't tell," way of thinking, this book could be a five star read, but it's not there yet.

BookElves Anthology Volume 2BookElves Anthology Volume 2 by Jemima Pett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an excellent collection of festive tales, which are even better than those in volume one of the Book Elves anthologies.

A Boy Called ChristmasA Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a sweet and imaginative story, which is a perfect holiday read for the young and young at heart.

FREE: A Christmas CarolFREE: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a pretty good dramatization of the classic story. Perhaps not the most amazing version of it ever created, but certainly an enjoyable version, which I consider to be well worth listening to.

Christmas Crumble: An Agatha Raisin Short StoryChristmas Crumble: An Agatha Raisin Short Story by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This isn't a bad story, but there's not much mystery solving going on, which is a bit of a disappointment.

One Dog and His BoyOne Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautiful and touching story, which dog lovers will adore.

nightfall in the kingdom of winternightfall in the kingdom of winter by Andy Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This isn't a bad book. In fact, it's a weird kind of story, with the potential to be wonderful too. But I feel like too much was left unanswered. The big question she's supposed to be answering is whether or not she should be opening the doors, and I'm still not entirely sure what the answer to that question actually is, let alone how she found herself in the position to need to answer the question in the first place.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Celebrating The #Holidays 2016 (FD)

First of all... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

If 2016 was a bad year for you, I hope 2017 is kinder to you. If 2016 was a good year for you, I hope 2017 is even better.

We don't really do anything to see in the new year. I mean, the new year approaching always gets me to thinking about both the past and present, and reflecting on both. But we don't worry about being up to see in the new year, and don't usually bother to do anything special on either New Years Eve or New Year's Day. If you did though, or are planning to later, I hope your celebrations went/go well.

We used to make a big fuss for both the Winter Solstice and Christmas, but these days we've toned it down a lot. We now do small private rituals on the evening of the day the solstice falls upon (usually December 21st, but not always; the date sometimes shifts a day or so either way, depending on how the planets align), then we do something to celebrate Christmas (even if it's not much). For 2016, for example, we had our friends, Lorna and Andy, over for a Christmas Eve tea, which we ate the leftovers from on Christmas Day while watching Christmas movies, and then we cooked our Christmas dinner on Boxing Day.

Our Christmas Eve tea consisted of mince pies with squirty cream, a jam and cream swiss roll, a chocolate log, and some shortbread, served with whatever everyone wanted to drink, which was tea for Lorna and Andy, cocoa for me, and coffee for Kelly, just in case you're interested. Oh, and Christmas dinner was roasted parsnips, garlic and thyme roast potatoes, a root vegetable mash consisting of carrot and sweet potatoes with a bit of butternut squash, sage and onion stuffing balls, sprouts, cranberry sauce, and vegetable gravy (it was for me, anyway, Kelly didn't have all the vegetables I had though, and had pigs in blankets as part of his dinner, which I obviously didn't do, what with being vegetarian and all).

Now, on to the presents!

On the sixth day of Christmas, my friends and family brought for me,
6 audiobooks.
5 Hello Kitty themed pressies.
4 random gifts.
3 Hershey Bars.
2 DVD boxsets.
A penguin, and a box of toffee.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. *wink*

Here are photos of most of it...

Four Hello Kitty plush toys, and a Hello Kitty mug:


My penguin plushy, an Olaf the snowman plushy, three of my audiobooks (CDs of children's stories; two bedtime story collections, and a collection of Womble stories), my DVD boxsets (a boxset of the "Goosebumps" series that used to be on TV, and season nine of "The Big Bang Theory") and my "Frozen" DVD:


(so,, I don't have to wait for Sky to be showing "Frozen" so I can watch it again now, haha!)

Not pictured are the audiobooks that were audio downloads I picked out myself, a handy gadget my brother got me to make chopping vegetables easier, my Hershey bars and box of toffee, and the vouchers I have from a very good friend who's organizing a special zoo experience for me (which I'll tell you more about when it happens).

Last, but by no means least, here are some photos of our Christmas cards:


I didn't get a white Christmas again this year. We had some awesome storms, and Christmas Day itself didn't have the nicest of weather. The weather wasn't the worst we've had, but it was rough out there. At least it wasn't one of those Christmas days where it feels like Summer... Those are only supposed to happen in the Southern Hemisphere, not up here in the Northern Hemisphere. Like I said though, I would have liked snow, but we didn't get any. I can't say I'm all that shocked. Still, it would have been wonderful if I'd had snow for Christmas. Never mind.

Anyway, despite the lack of snow, it was a really good Christmas. Not just because of all the great cards and presents either. Although, I am grateful for those, so thank you to those who sent me stuff. Also, thank you to those who sent me holiday messages one way or another. As I was saying though, it was just a nice Christmas in general. 2017 promises to be a better year than 2016, and the promise of that helped, I think.

I hope you can say the same, both about the enjoyable Christmas, Winter Solstice, or whatever you celebrated, and the promise of a good year to come. Although, I suppose we won't know for sure what kind of year 2017 turns out to be for us until we reach the end of it, and can look back on the events that happened throughout the year. Still, I hope there's no sign of a dark cloud on your year's horizon so soon, and that none appears.

Friday, December 30, 2016

#Furkid Friday: A Very #Rodent #Christmas 2016 (FD)

Hi everyone. This is Star the rat.

Well, we didn't see him again... Even my chinchilla sisters, Mollie and Maizie, who are nocturnal, so awake at night, didn't see him... But that Santa Paws made his yearly visit, and left us loads of goodies. See:



Since I know you can't even see most of it, let alone tell what we all got, with it all mixed up together in the box like that, I'll tell you what Santa Paws brought for us this year.

Baggins (gerbil):

*A pack of small animal fruit loop treats.
*2 packs of small animal yogurt drops.
*A pack of cheese and cranberry gerbil treats.
*A wooden gnaw toy in the shape of a carrot.
*A Christmasy wooden gnaw toy.
*A small seagrass holiday reef (which he's chewing on in the above photo).

Joshua (degu):

*A pack of degu breakfast cookies.
*A pack of carrot slims treats.
*A pack of dandelion and rosehip treats.
*A wooden gnaw toy in the shape of a carrot.
*A Christmasy wooden gnaw toy.
*A small seagrass holiday reef (which he's chewing on in the above photo).

Mollie & Maizie (chinchillas):

*A pack of chinchilla cookies.
*A pack of dandelion and rosehip treats.
*A calcium stick each.
*An apple and cranberry treat each.
*A wooden gnaw toy in the shape of a carrot each (one of which Mollie is chewing on in the above photo of her).
*A Christmasy wooden gnaw toy each.
*A small seagrass holiday reef each (one of which Maizie is chewing on in the above photo of her).
*A larger seagrass holiday reef for in their playpen.
*A couple of small logs to gnaw on while in their playpen.

Star & Skye (rats):

*A pack of carrot slims treats.
*An apple and cranberry treat each.
*A pack of rat chippies treats.
*A gnawable tree shaped treat.
*A wooden gnaw toy in the shape of a carrot each.
*A Christmasy wooden gnaw toy each.
*A small seagrass holiday reef each.

(It's me, Star, you see in both photos. I was all over the place checking out our new toys, while Skye took her time coming out to see what all the fuss was about, and then took her time investigating the new toys carefully before deciding what to gnaw on... Skye takes her time with everything these days).

Plus, there was a bundle of sticks, a packet of dandelion roots, and a box of nibble rings, which are for us all to share.

When they say Santa Paws delivers, they really mean it, don't they?

Squeak soon,
Star

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

#Writing Wednesday: 2016 In Review

I said at the start of January 2016 that my writing goals for 2016 were:

*Finnish and publish both "Zeena And The Mermaid" and "Zeena And The Phoenix" (books three and four in the "Zeena Dragon Fae" series respectively).
*Get the last few books already published as eBooks out in paperback, and arrange for new books to be made available as paperbacks as soon as possible after the eBook releases.
*Publish a new poetry collection.
*At least start writing some of the stories I have ideas for, and publish them as they're ready.

So, how did I do?

I managed to check everything off my list!

*"Zeena And The Mermaid" and "Zeena And The Phoenix" were published in February and May respectively.
*With the exception of my newest release, which I haven't had a chance to sort the paperback for yet, all my books are now available in paperback as well as being available as eBooks. I've even sent paperback copies of them all to The British Library's Legal Deposit office.
*I published my poetry collection "The Ocean's Lullaby And Other Poems" in July.
*I wrote and published four other stories: "Rhubarb The Red-Nosed Rabbit" in March, "Jeffrey The Orange Alien" in August, "Eadweard - A Story Of 1066" in October, and "Ulrike's Christmas" in December.

All in all, a pretty productive year, I think, which surprised me when I realized it, because I felt at first as though I hadn't done half of what I'd planned to this year. It was only when I was looking at my list of 2016 goals that I realized I'd actually done everything I planned to do in 2016. Yep... Turns out I did better than I thought... Go me!

My 2016 sales figures weren't too bad either, which is amazing considering how much I suck at the marketing side of things. Honestly, I could do with figuring out a proper marketing plan one of these days. Yeah, yeah. I know, I should have done that already. Like I said, I suck at the marketing side of things.

Anyway, thank you to those who have been there beside me throughout it, or joined me along the way. Especially those who have supported me as an author in some way. You're all awesome!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Kishi And Luke In 'Lost In The Forest' - Via @VictoriaZigler And @cyallowitz

The magical worlds of two different authors collide when half-elf hero of Windemere, Luke Callindor, has an encounter with a dryad named Kishi.  The very same dryad, as it happens, who helped Zeena the faerie dragon at the start of her adventures.

This is taking place via the blog of fantasy author, Charles E Yallowitz, in a post co-written by me and Charles especially for this event.

You can go directly to the post by clicking here, if you want to check it out.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Huge Thank You To #Author @MichellePaver

I first learned of the existance of Michelle Paver's books when I was losing my sight. My Mam and I were looking for something for me to listen to among the audiobooks in one of our bookshops, and stumbled across Michelle Paver's "Wolf Brother" (the first in her "Chronicles Of Ancient Darkness" series). It sounded so good that I grabbed the audio copy, and my Mam grabbed herself a paperback copy. We loved it, and were instantly hooked on the series, and devoured the rest of the books eagerly. Waiting for the sixth and final book "Ghost Hunter" to come out was like waiting for the last Harry Potter book to come out for me, and my Mam wasn't much better. I clearly remember clutching my audio copy of "Ghost Hunter" all the way home, and eagerly listening to the book that evening.

When Michelle released her ghost story "Dark Matter" a few years ago, I was excited for a new Michelle Paver book, but didn't expect to be scared. I mean, the only times I've ever been scared while reading a book have been due to external influences, like the time my cat, Topsi, grabbed my foot during a particularly tense moment when I was reading one of R L Stine's Goosebumps books in my teens, or when my Westie, Kero, moved enough to cause the blanket to shift on my leg right when I was reading about a creature in J K Rowlings "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them" that creeps along like a shadowy fluid cloak. But, as it turned out, Michelle Paver's "Dark Matter" actually scared me. I'm talking curled under the blankets with shivers running up my spine, too scared to even go to the bathroom, kind of scared.

When I heard Michelle was bringing out a new ghost story called "Thin Air" I was eager to see if she could pull that off again. But whether she did or not, I was excited for a new Michelle Paver book, and eagerly shared the prank video that was part of the pre-release publicity. It turned out she did pull it off again, as I mention in my review of "Thin Air" on Goodreads. But that's not the point of this post, even though her ability to do so was an excellent achievement.

The point of this post starts with the prank video going viral, and me getting an eMail thanking me for helping to make that happen. In the eMail, it's mentioned that if I requested the signed book plate that people signed up to her mailing list had been invited to request if they eMail proof that they brought a physical copy of "Thin Air" this would be sent out soon. To which I sent a reply containing the following paragraph:

I didn't reply asking for a signed book plate.  Having something signed by you would be great, but I have to stick to audiobooks or eBooks because I can't see to read print ones, so I figured there wasn't much point in my asking for one.

Honestly, I kinda thought it would be ignored, and that the eMail I was replying to was just an eMail sent out to the whole mailing list. I mean, despite the fact I've seen it mentioned several times that Michelle always replies to fans, I didn't expect any kind of response. But I sent my message anyway.

To my surprise, a few weeks later, I got a reply that contained the following short message from Michelle's literary agent, Peter Cox:

Michelle would still like to send you a little something... what is your postal address?

So, I sent him my postal address. I mean, I'd heard the guy's name in connection with Michelle's a bunch of times, and he had a copy of my response to the original message, so I figured it couldn't hurt. Besides, getting something in the post from one of my favourite authors would be amazing, and I wasn't about to let that chance slip through my fingers.

That was a few weeks ago.

A few days ago, these items arrived in the post for me:


The items include a pin badge (or button, to most of those outside the UK) and wrist-band style bracelet from Michelle's "Chronicles Of Ancient Darkness" series, a signed book plate, and a picture of Michelle with a young wolf named Torak (who I think was actually especially named for her character by those who run the zoo or wildlife preserve he was born to, if my memory serves me correctly, though I don't remember the full details, unfortunately). The wrist-band is even semi-tactile (the symbols are tricky to feel, but I can feel they are there). Besides, tactile or not, it's the thought that counts. I mean, it's nice to be included, even though the official requirement was that you had to reply to your mailing list eMail with proof you'd brought a physical copy of the book, which I couldn't do, though I did grab an audio download from Audible a few days in to November.

Anyway, I've included Michelle's Twitter name in the subject of this post, because I'm hoping she'll see this and know how grateful I am to her and Peter. So, Michelle, if you see this... Thank you!

I hope, one day in the future, I will get the chance to pay it forward, and make a fan of mine as happy as Michelle Paver and Peter Cox have made me.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The #History Of Traditions Associated With #Christmas, And Other Winter #Holidays

Want to learn about the history behind many of the traditions we associate with Christmas today? How about learning a little about how the holidays are celebrated around the world? Or, perhaps, you're just looking for some holiday fun, so you can make the holidays last a little longer?

If any of those applies to you, check out Why Christmas?. It's an interesting site.

Whatever you're celebrating, or have recently celebrated, be it Christmas, Yule, or some other holiday that happens around this time of year, I hope your celebrations went well, are going well, or go well when you get to them.

Happy holidays, whatever you celebrate!

From me, Kelly, Joshua the degu, Baggins the gerbil, Star the rat, Skye the rat, Mollie the chinchilla, and Maizie the chinchilla.

Friday, December 23, 2016

#Furkid Friday: For Those Missing Someone This #Holiday Season

Hi there humans, rodents, and anyone else reading this. This is Joshua the degu.

The human caretakers were messing about with those things they call "holiday decorations" recently, and I heard them say Santa Paws was coming for his yearly visit soon. In fact, my gerbil brother, ratty sisters, chinchilla sisters, and I wrote a letter to Santa Paws, which you may have seen when it got posted on this bloggy thing last week.

I'm really excited about the toys and nibbles Santa Paws will hopefully be bringing, but I'm sad that my degu brothers won't be here to share them with me too, which stops me being quite as excited as I usually would have been.

I'm trying to be happy; trying to just enjoy the rest of my life, like my gerbil brother, Baggins, has been doing. But it's hard, and sometimes I get sad and miss my brothers terribly.

The Mummy human says she understands, and that humans have the same problem when they lose someone they love, especially when the holidays arrive, and especially if it was as close to the holidays as losing the last of my brothers, Jacob, is for me. So I'm hoping at least some of you who read this will understand how I'm feeling.

Although, in some ways I hope you don't, because it hurts to miss someone so much, and makes it hard to be excited about things when you do, especially if the thing you would have been excited about is something they loved as well.

For those who share my pain, and are missing someone so much it makes it hard to completely enjoy the holidays, this post is for you, to let you know that you aren't alone, and someone else is missing someone this holiday season too.

If you need a little help dealing with the holidays this year, you might want to take a look at this post the Jeanie human did. The Jeanie human is a friend of the Mummy human, who often comments on our posts, and I happen to think she gives some great advice in the article. I know the Mummy human thinks so too, and hope you will agree.

Squeak soon,
Joshua

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

#Writing Wednesday - December 21st 2016

First of all, here's an announcement about PiBoIdMo becoming STORYSTORM. If you're planning to make any new year's resolutions that involve doing more writing, you may want to check it out... Regardless of the genre or age range you write for.

Anyway...

In case you missed my post about it on Saturday: You can now buy Ulrike's Christmas from Smashwords. It's available in formats that work for just about any eReader or tablet, as well as for your average computer. It's also available from some other eBook retailers... Just like all my other books.

Even without the postal strikes currently happening over here, it would be impossible for me to get the paperback version of "Ulrike's Christmas" organized in time for those of you who prefer a physical book to have it in time for Christmas, and I'm not even going to try. One will become availabe in early 2017 though, and I'll post about it on this blog when that happens, which hopefully won't be too far in to the year.

I know this is really short, but I'm going to leave it at this for this week, since I'm sure you're all busy with holiday celebrations, or last minute arrangements for holiday celebrations, or whatever. Today is the Winter Solstice - in fact, this post is being scheduled to go up at the exact time of the astronomical event itself, which is on Wednesday December 21st 2016 at 10:44am UK time - and Sunday is Christmas day, after all. So happy whatever you're celebrating... Stay safe during your festivities!

Monday, December 19, 2016

The #Holidays Are Upon Us (FD)

Today is my Mam's birthday. I don't know if she'll see this, but I'm going to say it anyway... Happy birthday, Mam! Also, my Grandad celebrated his birthday on December 4th. I know for a fact he won't see this, but - again - I'll say it anyway... Belated happy birthday, Grandad!

OK... The Winter Solstice - or Yule, if you prefer - is in two days time, and Christmas is less than a week away... How'd that happen? Pretty soon we'll be starting a whole new year...

It's OK though... We're ready for it. I wasn't when December first arrived. At least, I wasn't ready for the holidays when December first arrived. I've been ready for 2016 to end since around my birthday, along with most other people, I'm sure.

But I am ready for the holidays now! Our holiday decorations are up. The gifts and cards we're sending are brought and sent out, and should be with the people now (or will be in the next day or so, if they haven't yet arrived). Also, our presents to one another, and those people have sent us, are wrapped up under the tree. We also have plenty of good things to eat over this next week. Though I confess I cheated and brought all our cakes and cookies this year, because I just didn't have the time or energy to bake them.

So... Regardless of what you're celebrating... How about you? Are you ready for the festivities to begin? Is all your holiday shopping done, or are you one of those people that always leaves it until the last minut? Are you free to relax and enjoy the holidays, or will you be scrambling around to get everything done at the last possible moment?

To be honest, with everything that's been going on lately, I'm glad we'd planned a quiet holiday celebration this year. Not that I've done anything big for the past couple of years, but still. So it will just be me, Kelly, and the rodent gang, enjoying our presents, eating treats, and having a nice holiday meal together. I'm pretty sure the rodent gang is already dreaming of the tasty nibbles they've asked Santa Paws to bring them this year.

How about you? What are you celebrating? Also, what are your holiday plans?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Of Real #Christmas Trees, #Reindeer, And 2016 #Holiday Decorating



I usually get an artificial tree, and had planned to get a new one this year, since I accidentally broke the base of the old one last year, and the fibre optic trees are no good without their base. But then I decided I wanted a real tree this year, especially since our friends, Lorna and Andy, are having a wood burning stove installed in their new house, and it can go to them for firewood once the holidays are over.

When I mentioned this to Lorna, she offered the use of her car to go get one. So, on December 7th, we all went to the tree farm (pictured at the top of this post) to get a tree, and while we were there, we said hi to a couple of deer they had at the farm (pictured below).



We were allowed to pet the reindeer, but they wouldn't come close enough. I was a little disappointed about that, but not all that surprised. The frustrating thing is, they came almost close enough for me to touch them, but were just out of my reach. I got to hear them snorting, eating, and drinking, so that was cool anyway.

So... Back to the tree...

The original plan was for Lorna and Andy's car to transport the tree, but the guys at the farm delivered it with their lorry instead. They even carried it up the stairs for us, which I'm sure Kelly and Andy were pleased about, since I'm sure neither of them was looking forward to carrying the tree up all those stairs.

So... A couple of days before, Kelly and I had used our old bucket to collect some stones from the beach, with plans to use the bucket of stones to stand the tree in. We figure we'll take the stones back to the beach after the holidays are over. Our plan worked, though if we get a real tree again next year, it will probably be best to invest in a proper stand for it, since getting both tree and stones to cooperate was a lot of work (not to mention how much fun carrying a bucket of stones up three flights of stairs wasn't for Kelly). Still, as I said, our plan worked, and the tree happily stood among the stones waiting to be decorated...



...Which we started doing the day after we went to the tree farm, and finished doing the following day, since it was being done between other activities.

I'm glad I had Kelly helping me with decorating it, since I'm not sure I'd have reached the top of it even if I climbed on a chair. We got an eight foot tree, since we had the ceiling to allow for it, and I'm only just over five foot tall. Actually, we only just have the ceiling to allow for it, and had to nestle my new snowflake tree topper among the branches, since the tree almost touches the ceiling, so we couldn't really get it on there. Yes, we could have trimmed the top, but I didn't want to.

Anyway, we got our tree decorated between us, so here it is all nicely decorated:



(If you're wondering why I took separate photos of the top and bottom, it's because there's nowhere we could stand and still get the whole tree in the shot, so I had to do it that way).

Some of the tree ornaments are ones I still have that I've made or collected over the years, some - like the snowflake that's meant to be a tree topper - are new ones I brought this year, and some - like most of the baubles - are ones Lorna and Andy gave us that they no longer use.

We don't have lights on the tree (other than the snowflake) because we'd originally planned to just get a small tree, so we only got a small string of lights. When we realized there was no way we'd be able to light up the whole tree with the lights we have, we decided to leave the lights off the tree this year. We strung them up elsewhere instead, since I wanted my star shaped lights to be up, even if they aren't on the tree. So, these are my new star shaped holiday lights:



The tree is in the computer room, because where we're sorting some things out, the computer room is the place with the best space for it. But the lights are in the living room, along with the polar bear and penguin enjoying some fake snow...



...A mini figure of Olaf the snoman who is also enjoying the fake snow...



And the window display I set up...



(Which, again, had to be done in two shots to get it all in the photo).

So, there you go, those are our holiday decorations for this year, with a couple of real live reindeer thrown in for your holiday viewing pleasure. I even made sure my iPhone was charged so I could get decent shots for you.