Sanctuary

Way back in August I wrote a bit about the prep I was doing to travel. Since then, I haven’t written anything about my actual travels. Probably because I’ve been so busy, you know, travelling.

In the last two months I’ve visited four of Australia’s states, making my way from the very top to (almost) the very bottom of the country via plane and, mostly, campervan.

In November, I said goodbye to my best friends and travel buddies as they returned to the UK, and struck out on my own. Since then I’ve been volunteering at a sanctuary for farmed animals just outside of Melbourne.

These animals have changed my perception of their entire species. The sheep are so friendly (most of them, the ones that haven’t been traumatised so much they’re afraid to come near humans) and the pigs make me laugh on a daily basis. The cows are sweet and most of them come to the fence for pats. I think though, it’s the roosters who’ve changed my mind the most.

I’ve always seen chickens as a bit scary, maybe because of their beady yellow eyes and jerking movements. But watching them, and having to handle some of them, they suddenly don’t seem scary at all. They’re funny, quirky, and often very sweet. There are exceptions, like the gang of five roosters who work together to make me drop the pig food every evening, and the smallest rooster is maybe the biggest asshole of them all (but will do the least damage). But even those, when I’m not being attacked by them, have instilled a certain amount of fondness in me.

If I wasn’t already vegan before coming here, I would be now. I think my time here has ensured I will always be vegan, and I don’t want that any other way. I love the animals here, and some of their backstories are proper fucking horrendous, like Roxy, the pig who was bought as a lawnmower. Once the grass was eaten she was left in a muddy paddock to starve and die, alone. Now she’s here because the amazing people here took her in, and she spends her time foraging in the paddocks and getting lots of belly rubs. Many of the animals here are lucky to be alive.

I’ve learnt so much here, about the animals, but also practical DIY and even gardening skills. I took a chance on this place, on my ability to adapt to the tasks required, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ll remember this place and these animals for a long to come, and not to be too cliche, but I think I will leave a small piece of my heart here.

Sanctuary

Giveaway: Keeping it Together

Next week my book, Keeping it TogetherKeepingItTogether (1), is released into the wild! To celebrate, I’ll be cropping up with guest posts, and running a giveaway. More details on that in a minute.

First, I want to share with you all a short extract of the story, and as I’m currently waiting out a storm, what better extract that one where the heavens open?

The sky was beginning to grey, and both of them had slipped their outer layers back on. Their shoulders were touching, the pair of them settled against one another. Alisha was talking about some band Sian had never heard of before, and she’d stopped listening to what she was saying, just taking in the smooth flow of her voice, the rise and fall in pitch and tone.

She could have sat there forever, and even when the first drops of rain began to fall, Sian was reluctant to move.

“Come on,” Alisha said, laughter in her voice as she stood up and hauled Sian up by her arm.

The rain grew worse as they walked up the path, light drops turning heavy, pounding at the pavement and splashing back up, small puddles forming where the ground dipped. In minutes, they were soaked. Sian’s hair was heavy, plastered to her face and collar, water dripping under her the collar of her coat and down her neck.

The two of them broke into a run, laughing as the rain beat at their backs. Sian didn’t know where they were running to, only that they were running. Alisha turned, making sure Sian was following her, before rounding a corner, Sian on her heels. Her hand closed around Sian’s as they lurched up a couple of steps and into a doorway. At first, Sian wasn’t sure why they were standing on someone’s doorstep in the pouring rain, and then Alisha pulled a key from her pocket and jabbed it into the lock.

Door open, Alisha pulled Sian over the threshold. She brushed wet hair back from her face and kissed her.

Now, about that giveaway. For a chance to win, just comment below with your favourite rainy day activity (but folks, do keep it PG). Personally, I love the rain, and like to stay indoors all cosy, reading a good book!

Once you’ve commented, click this link this link to head on over to the giveaway!

Winners will be announced on the 1st of December.

Giveaway: Keeping it Together

Cover Reveal: Keeping it Together

Keeping it Together is getting a re-release!

First published in volume 3 of LT3’s Rocking Hard anthology, Keeping it Together is now a standalone book. You’ll be able to buy this as an ebook come the end of this month (official release date 28th of November, preorder here).

And I have to say, the cover art, designed by Aisha Akeju, is absolutely stunning.

KeepingItTogether (1)

Look at how beautiful it is!!

Now, to tell you a little more about the book, Keeping it Together is a contemporary f/f novella of approximately 32,000 words (around 130 pages) with both bisexual and lesbian main characters.

Summary: Sian should be tucked up in bed when she meets Alisha Hart—beautiful, talented, and the star of a band that’s on its way up. Alisha doesn’t have to worry about curfews or homework or overprotective parents; in fact, she doesn’t seem to care about rules at all. She makes her own, and lives life her way—something Sian can only dream of, and which draws her helplessly to Alisha. But love is complicated, and if there’s such a thing as fate, it seems dead set against them.

I can’t wait to share this story as a standalone work! Alisha and Sian are a great couple and not to toot my own horn, but the book has some good side characters too 🙂

Keep an eye out for preview snippets and a chance to win a free copy!

Cover Reveal: Keeping it Together

Preparation

Preparing to travel is stressful, I’ve discovered. Maybe not if you’re already well-travelled, already have the fine art of packing a bag or two down, but I’m not and I don’t. I’ve already moved house once, and in a couple of weeks I have to move again. This around things like working overtime, driving lessons, and of course taking my two remaining rats over to Ireland (sad to see them go, but they’ve an amazing home lined up). Despite clearing out probably half of my stuff and storing another quarter, leighann-renee-506942-unsplashI still have a lot to go through. I need to be ruthless. That jacket I can only wear on cool but cloudless days because the rain will ruin the velvet? Looks great but it has to go. And do I really need two dressing gowns? (I don’t have a firm answer for this one – it might be yes).

The good thing is, I don’t miss my old flat at all. There’ll be nostalgia there for it, for the weird corner of Bristol that I made my own, but I’m glad to be out. I’ll be even more glad when the prep stage is over and I’m on that long haul flight to the other side of the world. Because then it’ll be done. No going back.

Strangely, all this change is keeping me creative. I’ve got two little stories on the go and another one brewing in the back of my head. This is why it’s good to shake things up a little. Otherwise I fall into bad habits. Right now, I barely have time for bad habits. My empty hours are now filled with planning and clearing and learning. I’ve become that person who can’t make social plans until they’ve checked their diary. It’s stressful but I don’t hate it, in a weird way I actually kind of like it. I think that’s because I know this will be worth it. And then, for a little while at least, I’ll have all the time in the world and no plans whatsoever. I can’t wait.erol-ahmed-48243-unsplash

Preparation

Loki

Today I want to talk about my rat, Loki. Loki is the reason I even still have rats at this point. I heard about two martens (a rare colouring involving a black/grey coat and red eyes, aka ‘black devils’) who’d been rescued from a pet shop with a bunch of other rats. All the rats were underweight and had patchy fur from mites. When I got Loki and his brothers, they definitely weren’t underweight any more. They were the biggest rats I’d ever seen! And although Loki isn’t a particularly good marten (he looks more white than grey now), he’s still super pretty ❤

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Loki had a pretty bad start in life. His brothers hated him. I’ve never seen a rat be so badly bullied. I tried everything to sort this out (mainly sticking them all together in hamster cages over and over to ‘bond’) but nothing worked. This was one occasion where the ‘no blood, no foul’ rule of rat keeping turned out to be total bullshit. Loki was a nervous wreck. I’d often hear him screaming as his brother chased him, and during free roam he would hide behind the sofa and to get him back I’d have to tip the sofa onto its back and grab him with a towel before he could find something else to hide under (luckily he couldn’t fit underneath the fridge). Despite his fear of being touched, he never actually bit me.

After splitting him and his brothers up, and after neutering him, I tried Loki with my two girls, and he seemed to like them well enough, but nothing really changed in him until I partnered him up with my baby rats, Odin and Tyr (who are definitely not babies anymore and who make Loki look like a small rat), along with Mercury. All three boys are super friendly and cuddly, and Loki seemed to soak up their confidence like a sponge. I was able to train him to jump onto a tool box if I tapped it, and I could use that like a lift to get Loki to and from his cage. Eventually, Loki started letting me pick him up. After that, and not really all that long ago, Loki started jumping on my lap with the other boys. I was able to get in quick cuddles with him whenever I picked him up. He no longer runs away from me. He still has off days where he doesn’t want to be touched, and on those days I leave him alone, but the majority of the time he acts like any normal rat.

The change in him has been so wonderful to see. He’s no longer scared of his own shadow. He’s no longer scared of me. That’s taught me a lot about rats, and about their friendships. He loves his new brothers. If we go to the vet, I always take Tyr along with us, because he’s the most confident and he makes things a lot less scary for Loki.

I’m writing this because Loki is an old man now, and his body is starting to shut down. I’m trying to feed him up, but he can’t keep weight on and he’s tired. Still, he seems happy cuddling with his brothers after a good meal, and that makes me happy, because I know how miserable he was when he first came here, and the contrast is so good to see.

Loki

Free Fiction: Office Romance

 

Squirrels leapt across the grass and up into trees. Daffodils were in bloom and blossoms were just beginning to unfurl from their buds. It was warm, with a cool breeze that played across the back of his neck.

He meandered through the park at a leisurely pace, taking in the view of the river that divided the park from the luxury flats with their floor-to-ceiling windows. Nate had always loved this park. Especially in the morning, before anyone else got to it.

It was short-lived, though. It took twenty minutes, if he dragged his feet, to walk from one end to the other, and soon he was on the other side of it. Looming over him was a red-brick block of offices, the lights off and blinds drawn. He pressed the buzzer on the door and waited for Gladys, the cleaning supervisor, to let him in. He greeted her warmly, but she barely acknowledged him in return. He got the sense Gladys was not a morning person. That, or she just didn’t like him very much.

He wasn’t the first person into the office, for once. Someone was in the staff kitchen, clinking cutlery, and the kettle was rumbling to a boil. He peered around the doorway to see a young man he didn’t recognise. His hair was short, curly and bed-rumpled, but his suit jacket was wrinkle free, well-ironed. As Nate walked through the door, the stranger turned, a teaspoon in his hand.

“Oh, hello,” he said, all Welsh vowels. “I’m Steffan. I started last week. D’you want a cuppa?”

Nate looked him over. He must the be the new sales assistant, Tina’s replacement. He was short, with wide eyes and a slightly pointed chin. Kind of cute, Nate decided. That was good. They needed more of that around here. His liked his colleagues, but none of them were very good eye candy. Except maybe Dianne, but she was the boss, and married. Or he supposed there was Isaac, from accounting. Okay, so maybe not none of them, but it had been a while since Nate had had someone new to look at.

“I’ll take that as a no then, shall I?” Steffan asked, and Nate realised he’d been staring, silently.

Great, he thought, I’ve creeped out the new guy. What a way to start the morning. “Sorry, yes,” he said, before feigning a yawn. “It’s too early. Not quite with it yet. I’m Nate. And I’ll take two sugars.”

Steffan nodded and turned his back to Nate, busying himself with the mugs. He was careful to choose only the plain white ones, Nate noticed, which was good. If he accidentally used Lisa’s kitten mug, this place would become a living hell for him very quickly.

“So where you from, Steffan?” Nate asked, taking a seat at the nearest of the three tables, and stretching his legs out.

Steffan turned, a steaming mug of tea in each hand and his eyebrows raised. “What? You can’t tell?”

“Ha. Well obviously. But where abouts, I meant.”

“Right. Ystradgynlais.”

At Nate’s blank look, Steffan smirked; clearly he’d assumed Nate wouldn’t know where that was, and he’d been right.

“Powys,” Steffan clarified. “About half an hour from Swansea. What about you?”

“Bristol born and raised,” Nate said, a hint of pride leaking into his voice.

“Huh. You don’t have much of an accent.”

Nate chuckled. “Get me drunk, and you’ll hear it.”

Nate couldn’t help but enjoy the way Steffan blushed.

Continue reading “Free Fiction: Office Romance”

Free Fiction: Office Romance

The Troubles of Tidying

Tidying is just. so. hard.

Okay, so maybe I’m realising that I am a horrible hoarder and pretty much have been all my life.

Lately, I’ve been watching lots of lovely minimalists’ videos talking about how nice having less stuff is and god damn it I want that. But!

I’ve gotten rid of a lot of easy things (mainly size-too-small clothes and literal rubbish) and now I’m looking around and it’s still no better. I just have so much more stuff than I even realised. I’m moving out in a few months. I’m doing the whole travel thing (well, a bit) and then I plan on living small for quite some time. So I have to downsize. A lot.

But I feel emotionally attached to everything. It’s ridiculous. A dress I haven’t worn in 5 years but used to love as a teenager. A Christmas card with a short story someone wrote me (that I read once, and has sat in a box full of similar items ever since). A pen that doesn’t work but looks nice and goes with the matching letter opener I’ve never used. Things I ‘might need’ even though I haven’t needed them in years, or ever.

Why am I like this?

Do you find it this hard to clear things out, or are you one of those people who hate having stuff around and throw them out as soon as you can? If you have any success stories, or tips on how I can battle my hoarder instinct (and win), comment and let me know!

 

The Troubles of Tidying

2017

2017 has lately been feeling like kind of a nothing year for me. Or at least the last half of it was. Most of 2018 will most likely be about the same as I’m working hard to save money to visit friends on the other side of the world. It’s easy to forget how much I actually did last year, when the last half of it was so quiet. Still, there were adventures to be had in 2017, and I’d like to reflect on those.

For one, I finally got to visit Ireland, a place I’ve wanted to see for most of my life but never got around to until this point. It turned out to be a bad time, with a country-wide bus strike that left me stranded in Rosslare for the better part of a day until my cousin could drive halfway up the country to pick me up. I was only there for a few days, but I got to see a lot, the highlight of which was Killarney national park, with its lush, brooding mountains and winding rivers.

My housemate of three years moved out, and I started living with someone new, which was a daunting prospect at first but has turned out great. They may or may not be moving out this year, but another change is less worrying since it’s already worked out once, and I myself might well be moving out at the end of the year anyway.

I got a new tattoo, which didn’t heal quite right so I’ve just been in for a touch up (which was way more painful than the original, although thankfully did not take anywhere near as long). This was my first ‘big’ tattoo, and I sat for almost three hours for it. I know that’s actually no time at all compared to a lot of tattoos, but considering I’ve only had small pieces that have taken no more than half an hour, 3 hours was a lot! Hopefully 2018 brings a couple more, although most likely they’ll be small as I’ll be saving throughout the year.

I started going to yoga classes, and although I don’t do much of it at the moment, my posture has improved and I feel like I’m putting less pressure on my knees when I stand. It’s pretty hard to believe though that for 26 years I genuinely did not know how to stand up straight.

I also started driving lessons in October, which was absolutely not a fun new hobby, but incredibly stressful. I’m sort of okay with my lessons now and am not shitting myself every time I pass another car (although if everyone else could just take their cars off the road when I have a lesson, that’d be great). I’ve still a lot to learn when it comes to driving, but I’m really hoping to pass my test this summer. Fingers crossed!

In December, I saw an otter whilst out on a dog walk, in a Bristol lake. I’ve seen otters before in sanctuaries, but never in the wild, so this was a big deal for me. Considering they were once on the brink of extinction in this country, finding one in the middle of a busy city is pretty cool (:

I did, also, write a full length novel, although more and more now I’m thinking it will probably never see the light of day. Still, the actual writing of something that long is an achievement in itself, and I consider it a stepping stone for more to come. Though perhaps for 2018 I will just focus on writing shorts and novellas, things that cause me less anxiety that I might actually be able to send out into the world without too much agonising.

Having written all this down, maybe 2017 wasn’t quite so boring after all, and I’m sure 2018 will bring plenty of new experiences too. I’ve set myself up with a challenge for the year, to go plastic free. It’s pretty much impossible to be 100% plastic free, but I will be buying alternatives or just going without where ever possible, including and especially food packaging! This should have the added benefit of cutting most processed foods out of my diet, forcing me to eat healthier and to cook more often, and also mostly (if not totally) cutting out palm oil, which is something I should have done forever ago. It’s a bit of a daunting task, but as I’m in the hippy city of Bristol, I don’t think it’ll be as difficult as it would be in other places. And if I could go vegan and stick to it, I can probably do this too.

Let’s just hope the apocalypse doesn’t happen before the year is done.

Peace out.

2017

My Top 5(+) TV Shows of 2017

I watch a lot of TV. Like, a lot. I love finding good shows and getting really into the world and the characters, and I watch a lot more TV than I watch film and even more than I read books. If you’re the same and you’ve run out of shows to watch or are feeling the cold and want to hibernate under a bundle of blankets for a spell, then have a read and try checking out some of my favourite shows from 2017.

Dark

This show has absolutely beautiful music and cinematography. Set in a GermanTV Dark 2 woodland town, the atmosphere is sinister and brooding. Dark is a time travelling murder mystery, a sci-fi show with a very paranormal feel to it, with clear influences from Stephen King and David Lynch. This show hooks you pretty early on and the mystery only builds as you get deeper into the show (seriously, guys, what the hell is going on??). It will certainly keep you guessing.

The only problem I have with this show is figuring out who’s who. Split into three different time periods (1953, 1986 and 2019) the show does pair up each younger character with their older counterpart in split screens to make it easier, but many of the older women in 2019 have the same hairstyle and general appearance about them so it took me a good 5-6 episodes to start figuring out which character was which.
TV Dark

Glitch

This is a bittersweet paranormal drama with, again, science fiction elements woven into it. A bunch of people crawl out of their graves, wreaking emotional havoc on their loved ones. TV GlitchA little reminiscent of Les Revenants in the concept and emotional aspects of the show, but with a very different backdrop (set in Australia, this is a long way from France’s cold and misty mountains).

One of my favourite scenes is the main character, James, kneeling down to pray and then rapidly changing his mind, muttering ‘fuck this’ and storming off, which to be honest pretty much sums up the whole mood of the show. Glitch is emotional and at times a little sinister, but mostly good-humoured, and lets you get really invested in some great characters who, let’s be honest, you probably won’t like right away, but most of them will grow on you pretty quickly (looking at you, Paddy).

WantedTV Wanted

This is essentially a buddy show between two women on the run from the Australian authorities after witnessing a murder. There are so few of this style of friendship stories between women that this is a real gem. Although this is a crime thriller, the show’s really all about the relationship between Chelsea and Lola, two very different women of different ages and backgrounds who are thrown together and suddenly have to rely on each other in order to survive. As with Glitch, this show has a lot of typical Australian good humour which makes it a really fun watch that isn’t too heavy, but is still quite exciting and keeps you hooked pretty much all the way through. I think I watched both series of this one within just a few days (which is totally not what I do with every show….)

The Handmaid’s Tale

Although I’ve not read The Handmaid’s Tale, I have read other books by Atwood, so I expected this to be bleak, but oh my god this was an intense emotional ride through a dystopian nightmare where no one can be trusted and everyone is watching. Often infuriating, and always heartbreaking, this show is beautifully shot and well acted, and well worth watching if you can handle the fairly awful subject matter.TV handmaid

Bojack Horseman

Of course this would end up as one of my favourite shows of all time.TV Bojack 2 What’s not to love about a narcissistic, depressed and bitter horse-man hybrid? I started this show a couple of years ago, and then for some reason didn’t quite get into it. Now the show is in its 4th series and it just keeps getting better. Usually after more than 2-3 series shows take a drastic downhill plummet, but there’s so much to these characters and they keep developing (and backsliding, and then developing again, and backsliding). It’s a cartoon and yet the writing is very real, the characters are solidly believable (despite most of them being talking animals), and as you may have heard, the show has some great ace rep as well as dealing with some pretty heavy subjects like depression, addiction, and dementia. Plus, it’s fucking hilarious.TV Bojack

Honorary Mention: The Straintv the strain

Now in its 4th series I’m amazed I hadn’t heard about this earlier. It’s a really cool vampire dystopia set in New York, with old myths blended into modern-day science. Two main characters are a 90-something Jewish vampire hunter and a 40-something CDC doctor, which gives you an idea of the show overall. The vampires are just grim as hell and the show is a good mix of creepy, gory, and light-heartedly camp. Don’t take this one too seriously, but still watch the hell out of it!

Other shows I’ve enjoyed this year are The Expanse, and Blue Planet II (because anything narrated by David Attenborough is gold by default, and some of those sea creatures are even weirder than the The Strains’ vampires).

My Top 5(+) TV Shows of 2017

Glastonbury Frost Fayre

What better way to celebrate the fullness of winter than with a fayre? IMG_3330Glastonbury Frost Fayre is an annual event that draws visitors in from miles around. We spent two hours on a bus to get to Glastonbury (thanks Bristol traffic), but it was so worth it.

Glastonbury is one of my favourite places in the UK, and it was the place I’d always ask to go if I ever got a choice of day trip location when I was younger. If you’ve never been, it’s basically a small witchy town, steeped in myth and religious history, and the local businesses are pretty much all built off that.

Of course upon arrival we immediately made a beeline for the mulled cider stall (the best thing about winter of course) and warmed our hands around the cups whilst watching the Morris dancers.

 

Later, we met up with some friends and checked out some bands, had a mosey at the abbey, and watched some more Morris dancing. I refilled my incense supplies, had a giggle at the rather insulting horoscope candles in Star Child (bossy, moi?) and purchased a new notebook.

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I had meant to pick up a bunch of Christmas presents, but the cider depleted my cash quicker than I expected, and as is usually the way with these things, I could see lots of things that I wanted, but nothing anyone I knew would, so it’s back to the drawing board on that front.

We ended the day by watching the sun set over the high street. The town’s Christmas lights were turned on, and we drank more mulled cider and danced a little, mainly to keep warm. We were pretty tired by the time we headed home, and we were definitely all eager to get back in the warm. The day was a nice reminder that winter can be fun. It’s not just mouldy walls and staying in bed all day because it’s too cold to get out from under the blankets. There’s roast chestnuts, dark, cosy evenings, Christmas lights and markets every other day. And if anything makes the hard times worth it, it’s definitely mulled cider.

Glastonbury Frost Fayre