Tag: life

What You Believe You Know – Talking Mindset

What You Believe You Know – Talking Mindset

Stuff. Lots of stuff.

What do you know about yourself? What do you believe? What are you good at? What things leave you bewildered? What’s your mindset?

We’ve all got those preconceptions – I can do this, but not this. I’m good at this, but not this.

But what if it’s not that clear cut? What if what we believe is less fact and more habit?

What if we can change it?

I read a very interesting article the other day. Well, interesting if you’re into that sort of thing. You know – the oddities of human behaviour and all that fun stuff. It was about mindset, and specifically fixed versus growth mindset. Odds are, you’ve heard those terms before. Maybe you know all about them, which is all good, and you can now go and read about cats and time machines, because you’ll learn nothing more from this blog post (although send me the link to the cats and time machines. That sounds good).

I knew a lot less about these things than I thought. Fixed mindset = not open to new ideas, growth mindset = open to new ideas, right?

Yes and no.

And solve for purple playpuses (platupi?). Or something.

Yes, that’s part of it. But not in the clear-cut way I thought. See, I like learning stuff. I’m getting increasingly less concerned about feeling (or appearing) silly as I get older, so that makes learning stuff ever-easier. I believe that if we set our minds to things, and work hard, we can achieve most things we set out to achieve. So, growth mindset, right?

Eh. Not exactly. I’m also very, very good at telling myself all the things I can’t do. Such as:

  • I’m not good in social situations.
  • I can’t draw.
  • I’m clumsy and uncoordinated.
  • I’m not good at maths.

You know, all the stuff I just have no talent for, right? And here’s some other things I tell myself, about what I can do:

  • Writing’s just one of those things I can do, like some people can draw.
  • I’m lucky because I find it easy to work out every day.
  • Watersports are just natural for me.
  • It’s in my nature to be self-disciplined, so working from home’s fine for me.
Yes, that is me, in my happy place. I recognise the fins.

Okay, so. Things I can’t do, and things I can. Facts, right? Just being honest about my abilities, right? I mean, obviously I have to consider these points, because there’s no sense trying to achieve things in areas I’m no good at, right?

Again, eh.

Turns out I actually have a pretty fixed mindset about myself. And I doubt I’m the only one. I think a lot of us look at our abilities – and the abilities of others – and just think, wow, she’s good at that! Or, hmm, I don’t think that’s really his thing.

This is something I’ve become more aware of since I started sketching. One of the facts I absolutely knew about myself was that I couldn’t draw. I was useless at art – I mean, jeez, I failed it at school! Who can actually fail art? (We’re not talking advanced here, either – I was about 15) But due to a dearth of tea-drinking, acrophobic dragon pictures, I decided I’d try drawing anyway.

Turns out, I’m no Chris Riddell, but I can draw. With some practise. And youtube tutorials. And laboriously copying other people’s pictures to start me off. And a lot of trial and error. And when I put my pictures online, suddenly people were laughing at me and saying, of course you can draw! Don’t be silly – you’re natural at it! And quite a few people were telling me that they wished that they could draw.

Early attempts – a very toothy dragon who has seen something he can never, ever forget, no matter how he tries.

But I’m not natural at it.  And a couple of weeks earlier, I couldn’t draw. But the wanting to grew big enough that it outweighed the knowing, so I tried anyway. I shifted my mindset, and decided that I could learn, and I did. It’s never going to be super-easy for me, and I doubt it’ll ever be anything more than a bit of fun, but that’s okay. Because it means more to me than just, oh, I can illustrate my short stories, now. It means I can do things I was quite sure I couldn’t.

There’s two sides to this – one is the negative beliefs, that stop us doing so many things. Drawing, for me. Maths and science is my other bugbear – which are also subjects I did pretty badly at in school (except biology. Biology was cool). So I’m trying to rephrase things. If I can learn to draw, what’s to stop me learning to maths? (Yes, I just used maths as a verb. I am a writer, and I do what I want. On this blog, anyway.)

Okay, so this is cool and exciting! I can take all these beliefs about what I can’t do, and turn them into possibilities. I’m not good at maths now, but if I study it and put the work in, I can learn it. I mean, odds are I won’t, because maths, but still. I could. Less exciting is the possibility that with a bit of work I could become, if not comfortable, at least adept in social situations, thus having no excuse to hide in the kitchen looking busy at every party I go to. Somehow even maths feels easier than that.

So what about the things that I can do? Am I to believe that I was not, actually, born swimming in words and sea water? Surely not! Surely I didn’t actually just put a lot of time in and learn those things, just like everyone else?

Not talent. I just became obsessed with arm balances, because they’re FUN.

Sadly, yes. And I can even point at one of them – working out every day – and remember that I was desperately bad at PE at school, and only really took up working out when my very active lifestyle became a not-very-active-at-all one. And that the whole moving every day thing only became a habit when yoga was my way of keeping my head on straight. So I learned to make it part of life, and now I get itchy if I miss more than a day.

*Sigh*. So I’m very unspecial. I’ve worked for all my ‘natural talents’, and if I worked on my non-talents I might be able to turn them into talents too. Boo?

Not really. How exciting that is! How dragons and popcorn fun to imagine that we can try pretty much anything, and if we put the time and effort in, we can master it! How – how freeing. How astonishing to realise we are a sum of our experiences, and by opening ourselves to something new, we can become something new. We can learn. We can change our preconceptions of ourselves. We can grow. We can take all those things that we (and other people) have been saying we can’t do, and do them. You know, as long as they’re legal and physically possible and no one’s going to lose an eye.

And now I have to go have a little sit-down, because all that potential is making my head swim.

Although I’m still not sure about the social skills. But, y’know – I could.

My favouritest Beaufort picture so far, because this IS Beaufort.

How about you, lovely people? What are some beliefs about yourself you’ve challenged? What beliefs would you like to challenge?

A Day in the Life of the Little Furry Muse

A Day in the Life of the Little Furry Muse

The life of a little furry muse is not an easy one.

Greetings, humans. No, it’s fine. No need to bow. If I was physically before you things might be different, but you’ll look ridiculous if you’re all sitting there bowing to your internet machines.

Wait, I take it back. Bow away.

It has come to my attention that some of you doubt the work that I put in as a muse. It’s extensive. All cats put in the exact right amount of work, as it happens. You humans, always rushing around, as if being busy all the time makes you a better person. It’s utterly unnecessary. Happiness is dependent on knowing the correct balance between sleeping, playing, and musing. Or whatever you do. What do humans do? It makes you shed your fur so badly that you have to wear bits of cloth instead, so it must be quite unpleasant. If anyone would care to enlighten me in a sufficiently entertaining manner, please do so.

My day commences early. I am duty-bound to wake the Significant Human (SH) at 5am latest, to ensure she has enough time to gather herself to feed me at 6am. She’s very irritable in the early morning, and I need to paw her face numerous times between 5 and 6am, which tends to lead to her telling me to “get off” and that I’m a “horrible cat”. I forgive her these indiscretions. One must indulge one’s humans at times.

NOW try and get up, human. Human? Oh. I think I need a new one.

Once up, the SH goes to another room and jumps around a lot, waving her arms in the air and lifting heavy things. I think it must be some sort of primitive ritual, perhaps to ensure a good harvest. I’ve heard about these. I usually observe from the door, and occasionally run past her to jump out the window, which makes her trip over and shout a bit, but I know it improves the challenge for her. Sometimes she does quieter rituals, with no jumping, and then I lie in the middle of the room to supervise. I think in these ones she’s trying to emulate the true grace of cats. It’s sweet how bad she is at it.

Having watched the SH’s ritual, I return to the big bed, as it’s quite a suitable place to doze until the biscuit machine calls me for second breakfast (The SH complains that she can’t make the bed, but I don’t understand this – what does she think she’s going to make it into? A pony? They are odd creatures). My meals are unsatisfactorily small these days – the human says it’s for my health, but I suspect there may be a shortage of cat biscuits. As such, I make sure to investigate all cupboards that are opened during the day, so that I can check that she hasn’t lost food in there.

No, no. This is no good. Try harder, human.

The human will normally be staring at her internet machine by this time, so I will make sure she gets her exercise by asking to be let out and back in again at least eight times in quick succession. This duty taken care of, I will attempt to sit on the internet machine, and bite her when she moves me off it. She’s surprisingly slow to grasp the fact that I am far more interesting that anything on the machine. Once she has given up and started petting me, I will bite her to make her stop (it’s important to keep one’s humans respectful), then retire to the sunny spot on the couch to doze until lunch. If I remember I will get up and demand lunch from the human a little before the biscuit machine puts the biscuits out. So far, she has resisted giving me anything, but there’s always a first time.

After lunch I repeat the human’s exercises with the door, and if the weather is clement I may even stay outside for a while and sleep in the sun, or hunt up a gecko. The human gets very excited when I bring geckos back for her, even if she’s not very good at keeping hold of them. She always manages to drop them outside again.

Alright, human. Throw it again, will you?

First dinner is at 6pm, and as the human gives me this I need to start reminding her at about 4. Humans are not, of course, very bright, so she could easily forget. After dinner I like to play with the SH by chasing the toys she throws about the floor. It’s a little beneath a cat of my status, but it makes her very happy. Sometimes the Other Human (OH) plays as well, and it’s very rewarding to see how they crawl around after the toys (because obviously I chase them, but do not return them. I’m not a dog). Always make time to play with your humans, cats.

The rest of the evening is taken up with sleeping on the SH, first on the couch, then when she goes to bed, in order to offer her comfort – she turns so many lights on that I can only assume she is very scared of the dark. Staying close also allows me to remind her that 10.30pm is second dinner, in case the biscuit machine malfunctions. The humans remain in bed all through the night, which is terribly lazy, but even when I try and rouse the SH for my 2.30am feeding, she ignores me. They’re not very good at spreading their sleeping hours out, but I do what I can to make sure hers are at least interrupted. One day maybe she will manage to sleep in a more cat-like manner.

Correct sleeping includes lengthy daytime naps, human.

And that is my day. As you can see, it is terribly busy, and very focused on the welfare of my human. She requires a lot of reassurance that I like to cuddle with her, and sometimes some amusing poses to make her laugh if she’s having a bad day. She likes being greeted at the door and for me to show an interest in what she’s doing, but obviously this does depend on my napping schedule. She talks to me a lot, most of which I ignore, although I do tolerate one instance of being picked up daily, and a large amount of petting. It’s hard work, keeping a human, but once well-trained they can be quite pleasant.

Please address any questions relating to training your human to the SH, and I shall offer advice for keeping your human happy, healthy, and dog-free.



Well, yes, I don’t know what I’d do without her musing…

Do you have a muse, little, furry, or otherwise? How do they help you out? Let me know in the comments!




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Weird Things in My Kindle TBR

Weird Things in My Kindle TBR

Book hoarding. YESSS.

I’ve had a Kindle (other ereaders are also available, apparently), in one form or another, for at least eight years or so. My original Kindle, in fact, I sent to my dad when I ‘upgraded’ to a Kindle Fire. That Kindle Fire has now become a Spotify machine which crashes regularly, and the Kindle Fire that followed (which has the worst battery life imaginable and crashes regularly) has been relegated to use for YouTube workout videos, replaced by a Kindle Paperwhite. Meanwhile, Dad’s still using that that first Kindle. I kind of messed that one up.

Anyhow, I did one of those “I have so much stuff on here, what is it all?” things (of course, I know there are at least six versions of the WIP, but there is so much more on my Kindle. So much more).

Friends, do not ask this question lightly.

I thought that, other than the many copies of various versions of the WIP, that there were certain things I could expect:

  • Several Learn French books because I have good intentions, mostly never opened because I have terrible follow through.
  • A large collection of classics, because as above. Plus they’re free.
  • A very large collections of BookBub buys, because when I first found Bookbub I bought something off almost every email. Every daily email. Some were free, some weren’t. A fairly large proportion of them are unopened, and a reasonable portion of the opened ones I never finished.
  • A substantial collection of books I actually bought and read.

So, yes, I was prepared for those.

However, some things I was not prepared for.

Allow me to present:

A Tour Through the Weird Books I Thought I Needed.


Decorative Napkin Folding for Beginners.

“Napkins are easy to fold into ingenious shapes and add a tough of festivity to any dinner. Whether you use paper or cloth, a napkin folded into a delightful shape is a welcome way to start a meal.”

I do not know why I thought I needed this. Many years ago I did a combination of cooking and stewardessing aboard small boats, and did on occasion need to fold a napkin, although mostly my partner at the time took care of that sort of thing. This was many years before Kindle, though, and it is not an aspect of the job I miss.

However, if I ever decide to buy a dining table and have a dinner party, I will be able to fold paper or material napkins into festive shapes. Which is handy. (And, apparently, my guests “will have as much fun trying to figure out how you did it as you did in the making.” Good times.)


Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking.

“In this involving history of the British people, Kate Colquhoun celebrates every aspect of our cuisine from Anglo-Saxon feasts and Tudor banquets, through the skinning of eels and the invention of ice cream, to Dickensian dinner-party excess and the growth of frozen food.”

To be fair, this actually sounds quite interesting, but I don’t know why I thought I’d read it. It’s one of those books I look at in a bookshop, think it sounds clever, then put it down again. The odds of me learning about the history of Britain through the medium of food are – wait. Hang on, I just realised the attraction. Okay, I won’t delete this one.


Don’t Throw It, Grow It!: 68 windowsill plants from kitchen scraps.

“Don’t throw out your kitchen scraps — grow them! Discover how you can transform leftover pomegranate seeds, mango pits, and dried bits of gingerroot into thriving plants. From the common carrot to the exotic cherimoya, you’ll be amazed at the gardening possibilities hidden in the foods you eat.”

Delusions of grandeur. I don’t even know what a cherimoya is. And I can’t keep actual plants from garden centres alive, so I have doubts about my ability to coax life from garden scraps. It seems that, at times, I see myself as having a domestic goddess side. I’m pretty certain this is incorrect.


How to Stay Sane: The School of Life, Book 6.

“There is no simple set of instructions that can guarantee sanity.”

I can’t help but feel this book is poorly named. “How to Possibly Stay a Little Sane” might fit more with that blurb. Not that I’ve read it, because apparently this was not a high priority read for me. I’d also like to know why I didn’t start with Book 1. That might have been something handy, like “How to Adult”.


Writing a Novel & Getting Published for Dummies.

“If you’ve always wanted to write that great novel, but never knew where to start, look no further! Taking you step by step from concept to contract, this book provides the tools you need to tell your story with skill and approach agents and publishers with confidence.”


Well, we always hope there’s a secret, right? A magic formula that we just have to discover? A secret code, a hidden map, a… book for dummies?


I also discovered an astonishing amount of cosy mysteries, both read and not, as well as a perfectly ridiculous number of zombie books. Apparently I’ve been searching for the perfect zombie-cosy mystery crossover for quite some time.

I won’t mention the large assortment of books that I actually already own in hard copy, though…




What about you? Have you made any mystifying finds on your Kindle (substitute ereader of choice here)?

Happy Valentine’s from a Valentine’s Cynic

Happy Valentine’s from a Valentine’s Cynic

I’ve never quite got Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t a huge thing when I was growing up in NZ – or I don’t remember that it was. I don’t really know – maybe it was popular, but as I was a bit of a late starter on the whole romance thing, I may have missed it. I certainly don’t remember that there was loads of cheap chocolate around in the second half of February, and I’m sure I would’ve remembered that. I was all about the chocolate.


And really, I’m still all about the chocolate. I’m not great at going out anyway, but fighting to get a reservation for an overpriced meal in an overcrowded restaurant, accompanied by an overwrought flower arrangement and an over-sweet card? Not seeing the appeal. And don’t even mention expensive, scratchy lingerie. I will, however, take that half-price chocolate on Feb 15th. Yes. All the chocolate.

These are heading in the right direction for Valentine’s cards.

Look, I’m not an entirely unromantic, Valentine’s Day grinch – actually, wait. No, I am entirely an unromantic Valentine’s Day grinch. I’m not good at romance. I never have been (good thing my preferred genre is very light on it). I am, in fact, terminally unromantic, much to the despair of the SO, who is quite a romantic. He’ll do lovely things like draw a candlelit bath, and I’ll want to turn the lights on so I can read. Or he’ll cook a beautiful dinner, and I’ll eat it on the couch in my pyjamas. Or he’ll have a gorgeous orchid plant delivered while he’s away, and I’ll have killed it by the time he gets home (to be fair, he’s known me for seven years. He should know better than to give me plants. Not once has that ended well). No, my natural inclinations are not towards the romantic, and that’s even before you factor in the commercial bloat that surrounds Valentines, with every shop breaking out in a rather nasty, frilly, pink and red rash and racking up the prices starting around January 2nd.

Not that I’m a cynic or anything.

Friends and breakfast food. Life is complete.

However, I did fall in love with Parks & Rec a while back, and the idea of Galentine’s Day – and Galentine’s cards – just makes me ridiculously happy. Special cards for celebrating friends? And breakfast food? Yes please! And while yes, all friends should be celebrated (furry ones included), I adore some of the Galentine’s Day cards, and I love the idea of telling my friends how wonderful they are, because that’s another thing I’m not terribly good at.

Galentine’s > Valentine’s

I think I can blame the softening of my attitude towards Valentines entirely on Leslie Knope, because it wasn’t long after this that I started to notice some clever little cards sneaking around. Despite my ban on Valentine’s, the SO got me a card that just read, ‘I like you quite a lot, actually’, which was admittedly not bad.

And then I came across a much better interpretation of the kittens and hearts card. Much better. It appears I am not alone in my grinch-ness.

This is right, yes?

So maybe it isn’t all ribbons and frills, and maybe Valentine’s isn’t such a smug couple fest as I always felt it was. But still – my advice would be to choose a quieter night for the meal out, do the flowers and the card at some other time, because surprises are more fun, and definitely wait on the chocolate until the 15th.  If I haven’t bought it all already.

Anyhow, I did have a point, and, getting to it in a roundabout way – happy Feb 14th to all of you, my lovely, wonderful readers! Whether you do the Valentine’s thing or not, I think you’re amazing, and I would share some of my half-price chocolate with you just because you’re so perfectly you. Because that is something worth celebrating.

Well, virtually, you know. Via t’internet, because otherwise we’d have to be right next to each other, and I’m not sure about that.
A Dragonish Q&A with Beaufort Scales

A Dragonish Q&A with Beaufort Scales

Introducing Beaufort Scales, High Lord of the Cloverly Dragons and lover of tea, cakes and barbecues, if you haven’t met before.

Beaufort: So, what are we doing, Miriam? Lovely scone, by the way.

Miriam: Thank you, Beaufort. And we’re going to do a blog.

B: Which is neither a bog nor a log, or any combination of those?

Mm: No. It’s just an article, really, but it goes on my website instead of in a newspaper.

B: And the website is in the twitter machine?

*Mortimer sighs loudly in the background*

B: Alright, lad. No need to get sniffy. Old dragons will learn new tricks, we just take a little while to do it.

Mm: Okay. So – are you ready?

B: Fire away!

Mm: Okay, so – can you explain to the readers who the Cloverly dragons are?

B: Of course. We are a very ancient clan, and have been living in the area ever since that whole St George incident made us decide we were best to move to less populated places. I saw that, you know. High Lord Catherine was sleeping, and he just –

Typical. Making High Lord Catherine look ten times the size of that ‘knight’, rather than her true size- that of a Shetland pony.

Mm: Oh dear. Maybe we should move on…?

B: There’s a whole day devoted to him! Where’s High Lord Catherine’s day?

Mm: Well, that does seem unfair –

B: And a flag! St George’s cross! Cowardly monster. And did we take revenge? No! We just moved away and left the humans to it! Some days I’m not sure that was the right choice. Maybe we should have taken a stand against such vulgarity, then and there!

Mm, hissing: Mortimer, what do I do? He’s going to scorch the tablecloth!

Mortimer: Beaufort, sir? Would you like some more tea?

B: I – ooh. Are there more scones too?


…a little later…


Mm: So, what made you decide to, um, visit with humans again?

B: Well, that’s all down to Mortimer, really.

Mort: What?

B: Yes, lad. First that clever idea of changing our definition of treasure, then those wonderful baubles you created to enable us to actually start trading – wonderful!

Mort, spluttering: I didn’t – I never – it was meant to be all anonymous!

B: Nonsense. And then you made friends with Miriam here, and she introduced us to all her Women’s Institute friends –

Mort, faintly: I think that was called you gate crashing a meeting, not being introduced.

B: And then it became very clear that the WI needed our help when the vicar was poisoned last summer, and you were ready to help straight away.

Mort, fainter still: I really wasn’t…

Mm: Mortimer, are you alright? Your tail’s gone blue.

Mort: Am I stress-shedding again? Again? We’re not even doing anything! Just talking about it! Just talking about it upsets me!

B: Mortimer, I think you could use another cup of tea. Sit down and leave your tail alone. You’re not helping, worrying at it like that.

*Mortimer mumbles indistinctly but furiously*

B: Miriam, do you have any cream? It goes terribly well with scones, and it always seems to calm him.

Mort, indistinctly: I shall be fat and bald. Fat and bald and stressed.



…a little later again…


Mm: Does everyone have enough scones and tea? Okay, let’s talk about something else. Beaufort, you’ve been High Lord for centuries-

B: Ever since High Lord Catherine was slaughtered.

Mm: Um, okay, yes. What are the greatest changes you’ve seen?

B: Oh, what a terribly exciting question! It’s been wonderful. Humans are so interesting. You never rest, do you? Always something. Trains, and cars, and airplanes, and rockets. Satellites up among the stars, and people on them. People! Such clever things, you humans. But at the same time you don’t change a lot. Still fighting with each other over everything, and never looking up from all the clever things you’re doing to really appreciate everything. What else? *pauses thoughtfully* Vegetarianism. Yes. Vegetarianism in dragons. I mean, humans are always a little odd, but dragons? I consider myself very tolerant, but that is strange.

Mm: I – okay. Yes, I can see how that’s a really big change.

B: And village fetes. The standard of cake has really gone up in the last millenia.

Mm: So, the biggest changes since the days of St George are vegetarianism in dragons and cake?

B: Well. We notice the small stuff, don’t we? The big things are wonderful, but it’s the small things we really live, don’t you think?

Mm: I guess so.

B: And there’s no point dwelling on the changes that help no one. This is a positive glob, isn’t it?

Mort: Blog.

B: That’s what I said.

Mm, quickly: Absolutely.

B: Anyway, I think there’s more positive than negative. All species have their funny little scuffles and problems. But, individually, you’re all quite lovely. And you do all these things to connect to each other, like the twitter. All these little people living in the machine and chatting to each other and supporting each other. It’s wonderful!

Mort: That’s not-

Mm, talking over Mort: You’re right, Beaufort. It is kind of wonderful, isn’t it?

B: And having human friends again is a beautiful thing. It teaches an old dragon all sorts of new tricks.

*Mortimer sighs heavily and picks at his tail*

B: What else do you want to talk about?

Mm: I think that’s perfect. Unless you have anything else to say?

B: Hmm. Only that too many humans think they are very small and unimportant, and it makes them sad, or angry, and sometimes hurtful. But every one of you is beautiful and wonderful and fascinating, with the most astonishing thoughts and ideas and potential. You should all remember that, and tell each other the same every chance you get. *pause* Mortimer, do stop picking your scales. You are far too young a dragon to be having a bald tail.

Mm: Mortimer, do you want some more cream?

Mort: No.

B: Come on, lad. A scone, some cream – maybe a little something stronger?

Mort: Noo…

Mm: How about hot chocolate?

Mort: I’m not sure.

Mm: With Baileys and cream?

B: Well, I certainly want one. Come on, lad.

Mort: I guess I could.

B: There we go. Hot chocolate. Chocolate in general! That’s another wonderful advance!

Mort, whispering: He’s so enthusiastic. It hurts my head.

Mm, patting him on the back: I know. I’ll make you that hot chocolate now.


…and later still…


B: How’re you feeling, Mortimer?

Mort: Mush – much better.

B: There we are, then. Life should always be contemplated with plenty of tea and cake. And spiked hot chocolate, when necessary.

Mm: And that is a universal truth.




Do you have any questions for Beaufort? Ask away in the comments, or you can find him on twitter here. Well, when Mortimer lets him use the twitter machine, anyway…



If you enjoyed that little insight into the world of Beaufort, you might want to jump over here and read one of his short stories – or ask me about his others! Don’t forget that most of the short stories will be coming down from the website at the end of the month, but if you sign up to the newsletter below you’ll get a link to a new story every month (and yes, this month it’s a Beaufort story!)



7 Things About Snowboarding, Writing, & Life

7 Things About Snowboarding, Writing, & Life

I finally got my first snowboarding day of the season in yesterday – a friend and I headed up to Auron, which is about 2hrs drive from here. The snow was gorgeous, and, being a Monday, it was lovely and quiet. Which was good, as the first day of the season tends to be… patchy for me. My friend, being French, elegant, and a skier, spent most of the day laughing at me and asking when I was going to learn to ski.

Which I’m considering, but, honestly, controlling one board is about the limit of my coordination. Two skis and two poles? I have doubts.

But something occurred to me when I fell getting off the lift (happens a lot), and my friend and the lift operator were both teasing me about it.

I didn’t care.

I wasn’t embarrassed.

I hadn’t hurt myself, so what did it matter? I laughed as much as they did.

And I’m not as relaxed about most things in my life.

So, because I needed a blog post, you shall now be subject to the philosophy of writing and life, as taught by snowboarding. (Lesson – never think anything is not relatable to writing if there’s a writer in the vicinity.)


7 Things Snowboarding Taught Me About Life (& Writing)

1. You will fall. Probably frequently. Sometimes it hurts (sometimes even a lot), sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s frustrating. It’s okay. Everyone else falls, too. Even the ones that go super-fast and have the awesome expensive boards. Often they fall much harder than you just did. Check for broken bits, laugh, get up and keep going.

2. Learn how to fall. Since you’re going to fall anyway, learn how to do it so it doesn’t hurt too much. Learn to lean into the motion of your board (or your writing, or life), so you’ve got a better chance of catching yourself and not landing on your bum in an icy patch and really feeling it. If you want protection, wear it. It’s okay to have a buffer against the bumps.

3. Relax. You’ll fall, you’ll get up, you’ll keep going. So will everyone else. Maybe you feel like you look silly (windmilling your arms trying to stay upright, perhaps, or hopping up and down trying to get yourself moving, or sliding head-first on your back down a slope because you got a little cocky). Don’t worry about it. Everyone looks a bit silly at some stage. And the more you relax, the less that fall’s going to hurt.

4. Know how to stop, and don’t be afraid to do it. Unexpected things are always jumping out at you, whatever form they take – battalions of very small children snaking across the slope in such long lines you can’t get past them, or appearing off snowbanks and dropping onto the piste, or flying past you so fast you need to take a break to re-evaluate if you’re even young enough to be out here (small children on ski slopes scare me. They’re so quick. And small). Or, you know, colds, or unplanned visitors, or needing to know where you’re actually going, or the lure of hot chocolate. Or even just a really nice view that requires appreciating. There’s nothing wrong with stopping. Make sure you’ve got the hang of it. It’s important.

5. Sometimes it hurts. I don’t mean the falls, although sometimes they do. I mean the seam in your sock rubbing on your little toe, or your calves aching from too much toe edge coming down a skinny trail, or your sinuses playing up, or (nasty new discovery this week) mal de montagne. Things hurt, and that’s just part of snowboarding, or writing, or life. And it’s okay to hurt. The thing is to find the good stuff that outweighs it.

6. Make it fun. You can moan about the hurts and curse the falls and whinge about all the people who are better at it than you, or you can look past it. See the bits that matter – after all, what other sport basically invites you to slide down a mountain on a piece of wood, fall over, roll around in the snow, then go drink hot chocolate, all while bundled up like a five-year-old (well, that’s me. My friend always looks very glamorous and put together)? And writing – where else do you get to make up worlds, play with imaginary friends, then go tell people about it? And said people actually want to listen? And as for life – well, it’s just generally pretty ridiculous, I’d say.

7. The more you do it, the better you get. Don’t let those first few horrible days, where it’s more falling than fun, put you off. Don’t let the rejections stop the stories. Don’t let the stuff that made you stumble at twenty still trip you at forty. Every fall, every rejection, every trip, is one you don’t have to do again. Keep going. It’ll get better. You’ll get better. And the better you get, the more fun it is. Keep going.

Although I still have my doubts that I’ll ever completely get the hang of getting off lifts.



What’s your favourite activity for getting out of your head? What have you learned from it? Let me know in the comments!

A bit of an update, too, as I know I haven’t done a short story since December (which feels like a really long time ago). I’m going to be making some changes to the website over the next month or so, and one of those will be that there’ll only be one short story a month, the link to which will go out in the newsletter. I’m sorry I couldn’t keep up to the more regular stories, but I’d rather do less and do them better!

The old short stories will also be coming off the website, and I’ve yet to decide exactly what I’m doing with them, so stay tuned – and sign up for the newsletter to receive this month’s short story in a week or so!

Sign up here!


A Few Tips for Surviving December

A Few Tips for Surviving December

It is getting horribly close to Christmas. A month. Obviously I have all my Christmas cards done, the Christmas cake is being basted as we speak, the Christmas lights are all neatly coiled and functional, the veggie haggis is on order, the table decorations are ready to go, and I have decided on presents for my nearest, dearest, and the mailman.

I’m also a writer and you should believe very little of what I tell you.

I had considered making the blog a Christmas-free zone until December 1st actually rolled around, but who am I kidding – we’re all thinking about it, right? Where we’re going to be, what parties we’ll have to go to, what family members are coming for the day and how many are just going to move in for the foreseeable future. How many disagreements will be reignited, and how many times you’ll be told how you should be cooking the turkey/lamb leg/nut roast/insert holiday preference here. If you’ve struck the right balance of fun and useful with the presents, and if anyone’s going to give you anything other than socks this year (honestly, you wear one pair with holes in the toes…).

So I decided that if we were already worrying about December, I’d throw my ten cents in, and after that this blog will become a place of stories until the madness is over. A little slice of escapism, full of dragons and reapers and (hopefully) the sort of Christmas spirit that reminds you it’s not all bad.

But first, before we jump headfirst into a sea of mince pies and mulled wine (or eggnog, for those of you that are into what is, as far as I can tell, alcoholic custard), here’s a few thoughts about the whole thing.

The presents don’t matter. They really don’t. Not once you’re over the age of eighteen, anyway. Well, twenty-five. I used to tie myself in knots trying to come up with thoughtful, inventive, one-of-a-kind presents that would show I’d put in the requisite effort, had really considered the person in question, and had spent a decent sum. But you know what? It’s not about that. We don’t need more stuff. Not unless we’re moving into a new home, or having kids, or some major life event like that. I love presents I can either eat, or read. And as far as that goes, book vouchers are amazing. Because, as every bookworm knows, even if we told you what book we wanted last week, by this week we’ll have done an ooh, shiny! on something else. Don’t spend your time and money trying to out-present everyone else. If you know what someone wants, great. If you don’t – vouchers work. And chutney’s easier (and quicker) to make than it looks.

No one will eat as much as you think they will, yourself included (maybe). I’m terrified of the supermarkets in December. Never mind the fact that, even in France, there’s always a shop open, even on Christmas Day – everyone’s determined to buy up enough food and drink to feed a family of fourteen until Easter. Stop it. Yes, I know it’s not Christmas until we’re collapsed on the sofa at 4pm in elasticated trousers, arms and legs akimbo and hoping the cat doesn’t jump on our bellies, but really. It doesn’t actually take half a turkey, four Yorkshire puds, six roast potatoes and five mashed ones, seven carrots, eight brussels sprouts, a third of a cauliflower immersed in cheese sauce, half a litre of gravy, and four pigs in blankets per person to do that. And that’s before we get to dessert. I don’t even eat the meat bits, and I still can’t eat all that. Trust me, I’ve tried. Never let it be said I don’t give Christmas dinner my best effort.

It’s only one day. I know we seem to have been building up to it since somewhere around August, but it’s only one day. And there’ll be another one next year. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It won’t be perfect. The turkey will be overcooked, the peas will be forgotten in the freezer drawer, the stuffing will burn on top, the gravy will have lumps in it, you won’t like half your presents (if that), someone’s aunt will ask you when you’re going to get a real job/get married/have kids, someone’s uncle will tell at least three racist/sexist jokes, and the cat will vomit on the rug right as you walk into the living room. It’s okay. Tomorrow you’ll be eating stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches in your oldest PJs, the house silent around you. And you won’t have to do it again for another year.

Family is what you make it. Not all of us will spend Christmas with our families. Not all of us will want to. And that’s okay, too. Sometimes family is you and the cat and a houseplant called Arthur. Sometimes it’s a family you’ve acquired from your significant other. Sometimes it’s friends that have adopted you into their clan, or maybe you’ve made a haphazard family together. All of this is okay. Often it’s better than okay. Christmas is rarely the mellow-lit firesides and warm familial embraces of Christmas cards and holiday movies. Sometimes family works anyway, even if it doesn’t look like the TV specials tell us it should. And sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Don’t beat yourself up about that. Don’t regret it. I’ve had nice family Christmases, and tranquil ones with just the cat for company, and wonderful ones with friends. They all work in their own way.

Let some time be just for you. It’s too easy to get caught up in the shopping and cooking and cleaning and shopping and visiting and hosting and eating and shopping and drinking and games-playing and shopping and stuff. But it is the season of goodwill to all, so let some of that goodwill be towards you. Do the shopping on your own so you can take half an hour in a cafe beforehand, listening to terrible Christmas songs and drinking something loaded with cream and over indulgence. Go to bed early, even if the house is full – especially if the house is full – and snuggle down with the cat, a good book, and the fancy chocolates you’ve kept hidden from everyone else. Kick everyone out to go for a walk, telling them you have lots of presents to wrap, and take a bath instead (you can wrap the presents later. It doesn’t take that long). Have the last mince pie. Refuse to let anyone else use your favourite mug. And if the cat’s sitting on you, obviously you can’t get up and do the dishes. (Within reason, of course. If someone else has done all the cooking, then no. Get off your lazy bum).

And there ends my seasonal advice.

TL;DR: Don’t stress out too much, look after yourself, and try and enjoy it.

Have fun, folks!



What else would you add? Let me know below!


A Halloween Q&A

A Halloween Q&A

I was tagged by Billy Owens Jr in a Halloween Q & A, so you lucky people get to find out more things about me that you never wanted to know! (Yes, I realise that technically it’s not Halloween any more, or even Halloween month, but it’s still closer to Halloween that Christmas. Not that the shops seem to know that…)

If you haven’t come across Billy yet, his website is here and his Twitter here – he’s a wonderful supporter of all writers and indie authors in particular, and is working on an intriguing-sounding superhero story. Thanks for the tag, Billy!

Onwards, then, for the spooky details…

1. Are you a scaredy cat or a horror aficionado?
Umm. When I was a kid I devoured anything horror-ish, the more gruesome the better. I adored anything that made me scared to turn out the lights. I didn’t watch a lot of TV or movies even then, but I read anything scary I could get my hands on, the more teeth and gore on the cover the better. I also slept with my light on for quite a while after reading Dan Simmons’ Summer of Night, purely because I was too scared to reach across the gap between the bed and the light switch. There was also a small incident when I was about 13 and reading Stephen King’s It for the first time – we were living on an island in Tonga, and I was in a separate fale (beach bungalow type thing) to my parents. I did manage to turn the lights out, but then became so sure Pennywise was watching me from just inside the bathroom that I had to sprint through the night and hammer on their door until they let me in. I think I slept on their floor for about a week…

These days I don’t seem to find a lot of horror I actually like. I don’t like splatter, or gore for the sake of gore, and I seem to be more sensitive to some things than I used to be. Anyone got any recommendations for a good old-fashioned supernatural scare?

2. Would you ever consider writing a horror novel?
Ah, now this I’ve actually tried, when I was younger and bleaker. They weren’t very good. My horror short stories were okay, though.

3. What is your favorite bookish costume you’ve ever worn?
When I was growing up, Halloween really wasn’t a thing in New Zealand, and I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a Halloween party as an adult. Although I did once wear a snowman costume to teach a Christmas spin class. Does that count?

4. What is the best bookish costume you’ve seen someone else wear?
I saw a small boy in a full Harry Potter costume while I was in London, which I know is hardly original, but there was no one else in costume around, and he and his dad were just wandering down the street as if this was a normal occurrence. I liked that.

K M Watt short story stories blogs writing reading author writer fantasy contemporary urban ya mg5. What literary villain is your favourite?
Ooh, tricky! ‘Literary’ always makes me think of the classics, so I’d have to go with Mr Hyde, as the idea that the villain is part of us is something that’s always been more scary to me than any monster.

6. Will you be visiting a haunted house this year?
Not intentionally. But you never know.

7. Would you rather go to a Halloween party or go Trick-or-Treating?
Go to a party and have to make small talk while explaining an obscure costume to people, or knock on strangers’ doors and ask them for candy? Why is staying home, drinking tea and reading scary books not an option here?

8. What’s the best Halloween song?
I’m putting a video in here because, predictable as it is, I love this too much not to.

9. What scares you the most about the writing process?
Other people reading it. Which is also the bit I love the most.

10. Monster Mash – If you had to say your antagonist was a mix of two traditional monsters what would those be?
I’ll go with my MG book here, so he’d be… a touch of demi-god, a touch of warlock (stretching the traditional definition here a little).

11. Would your MC be more scared of being left alone in a dark forest or an abandoned castle?
At least one of those things does happen to her. And she’s scared, but she’s also not happy with the people who put her in that situation, which helps her out rather a lot.

12. Does anyone in your WIP believe in ghosts?
Kate, the protagonist, does, because she’s just discovered cats can talk, pixies are real, and there really are monsters under the bed. So she figures the rest must be real too. Everyone else knows that even magical worlds have limits.

Do not mess with the cat.

13. What character would last the longest in a scary movie?
Chester, because he’s a scrappy cat with about five lives still left to him. Plus, like any cat, he looks out for himself rather well.

14. Good witch or bad witch – do you enjoy torturing the characters in your WIP or do you feel bad about it?
I thought I was a good witch, and wasn’t that mean to them, but my beta readers rather disabused me of that notion.

15. Pick a love interest from your WIP: would they be most likely to scream like a little kid or punch someone in the face if they were scared abruptly?
There aren’t any love interests in my WIP, because I have the romantic intelligence of a cabbage. But Kate would probably scream and punch them, then kick them a couple of times just in case.


Gratuitous Halloween scary black cat shot.


And that is it – Halloween Q&A is done! Thanks again, Billy!

What about you – what’s a spooky fact you’d like to share? Have you seen a ghost? Do you write about them? Tell me below!

Dragons, & the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Dragons, & the Stories We Tell Ourselves

It’s short story week, and we’re joining Beaufort Scales, High Lord of the Cloverly dragons and barbecue aficionado. Jump straight to the story here, or read on for a chat! (And if you’ve not encountered Beaufort before, there’s a Q&A with him here, or you can ask me about his other short stories!)

Dragons don’t swim! That’s a truth.

One thing I have always known, is that I am terrible at drawing. I failed art at school (somewhat like PE (sports), I doubt anyone knew it was possible to fail art until I came along). I have a terrible sense of proportion and no spatial awareness whatsoever. Hence, I spend a lot of time measuring and using spirit levels before drilling holes anywhere, as eyeballing it is not an option for me (and pictures are still usually wonky, because even if I get the holes in the right place, I can’t sit them straight), most of my photos have horizons with more angle than the Tower of Pisa, and cakes are never cut evenly.

And this generally doesn’t bother me. Drawing has never been a passion for me. I love other people’s drawings, and admire anyone who has the talent to create such beautiful things. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do.

But. I have a dragon. And of all my characters, he’s the pushiest and the one I’d most like to see. Plus I can only illustrate his stories with so many cups of tea and slices of cake, especially as the latest one has no tea or cake in it. (Sorry, Beaufort.)

But I can’t draw. This is one of those truths I know about myself.

Like, I can’t dance. I’m no good at maths. I’m terrible at sport. I’m even at worse at small talk.

All these things I know, although, when I think about it, I’m not sure how I know. I dance at home and scare the cat, because I’m not one for going out. I haven’t had to do maths since I was at school. I haven’t played sports since I was at school. And I go into every social occasion so convinced that I can’t talk to people that I’m stressed out before I even begin.

The only one of these truths I’ve tested is the drawing.

Hands up, they’re not brilliant, and I’m not digging for compliments there. I can only draw his little dragon face at one angle, and it’s best you don’t look too closely at his paws. However, he is recognisably a dragon, which was more than I’d hoped for. So maybe I’m not as terrible at drawing as I thought.

Maybe I can still learn these things.

Of course, high levels of motivation will be required before I tackle sport or small talk. And I’ll probably keep the dancing at home, and the maths to my phone. But, y’know. I could try.

Truths. Aren’t they funny things, sometimes?

And, on that note – Beaufort looks at a truth he thought he knew about dragons in this week’s short story. Enjoy!

Beaufort Scales & A Rather Difficult Flying Lesson

PS – the drawings are actually mostly of Gilbert. I’m still working on Beaufort.



Do you have any truths about yourself you’d like to test out? Let me know below!

Friday Frivolities – Aging Gracefully

Friday Frivolities – Aging Gracefully

As you already know, I’m not the biggest fan of aging gracefully. It seems a little overrated to me, and I figure I may as well continue as I mean to go on. However, there is some sage advice to be found in this video.

I particularly love: “Cultivate younger friends, otherwise yours will all die off.”



What are your thoughts? What piece of advice would you impart to your younger self? Mine would be – and probably still is – you don’t have to know what you’re doing in life. No one else does either.

Happy Friday!