Author Archives: Faye Avalon

I see the moon and the moon sees me…

Do you remember this lovely lullaby? Whenever I hear it, it brings back so many memories of a beloved aunt. I adored my Aunt Chris. She was only ten years older than me and we were very close. As a child, I’d watch her get ready to go on dates and she’d let me try out her make-up, she’d style my hair, and later when I slipped into teenager-hood she gave me loads of advice about boys. When she married I was one of her bridesmaids (that’s me in the ankle socks – stylish, or what πŸ™‚ ) and later became god-daughter to her two babies, who I also adored with a passion.

Her husband was in the military and when the babies were still little they were posted to Singapore. It was my first taste of grief. I remember waving them off in the taxi that would take them to the airport, then disappearing to my bedroom to cry my young heart out. I missed them so much. We wrote all the time, my Aunt Chris and I, but it wasn’t the same, of course.

I remember one night I was in the garden looking at the moon and feeling sad when my lovely dad came out and sat by me. We chatted for a while and then my dad reminded me that the very moon we were looking at was the same one my aunt and little cousins would be looking at, too. It’s strange how the simplest thing can make you feel better, because my dad reminding me of that brought my long-distance family closer.

When they came back to the UK we had the biggest party. My little god-daughters were school age by then and I was well into the dating scene. My aunt picked up the mantle as if she’d never been away and we were back to the make-up, hairstyling sessions and, of course, the tips about handling guys. A skilled dressmaker, Aunt Chris soon became really busy and much in demand to make the most amazing creations for people. One day this chap I’d had a crush on for forever asked me out. Of course, I didn’t have a thing to wear! I bemoaned the fact to my aunt and when I got home from work that night, excited to prepare for my date but still not sure what to wear, there was a gorgeous pink shift dress (mini of course, it was the late sixties) laid out on my bed, a replica of the very one I’d been drooling over in a magazine. She must have worked like blazes to make that for me, despite the fact she had such a busy schedule.

Sadly, my aunt died a few years after returning home to the UK. I still feel the closeness we shared and think of her often … every time I look up at the moon.

It’s (almost) a wrap…

… of 2022 that is. Where did it go? You may well ask, and I only wish I knew.

There’s something about the start of a new year that is exciting and scary in equal parts, at least it is for me. Exciting because of all the potential new opportunities ahead, and scary because there are things I’ve loved about 2022 that I don’t want to let go of and hope will continue with me into the new year.

No resolutions for me this year, instead I’ll be listing out my ‘intentions’ in my shiny new 2023 journal. The list is pretty long and may well get even longer since there’s still a few days left to think about things. I do a little ritual on New Year’s Eve which I really look forward to, and this year I’m adding a few new ones. We’ll be out during the evening, so I’ll get them done as soon as the light fades around teatime here in the UK.

My main ritual involves writing down all the things I don’t want to take into the new year with me … such as hurt feelings, past mistakes, fears, disappointments… and then tearing up the paper and setting light to it (this is done outside and in an appropriate container, of course). There’s something very freeing about watching those words go up in smoke, taking with them all those negative emotions. After that’s done, I write down all my intentions for the new year while burning a candle and playing some music, assisted as ever by my trusty companion, if she can let go of her favourite Christmas toy for an hour, or so.

After that we’ll grab a bottle of bubbly and head along to a neighbour’s house for some New Year merriment, happy in the knowledge that I’ve let go of the old and am ready to welcome in the new.

So, all that’s left is for me to wish everyone a very happy, healthy, safe, prosperous, and successful 2023

Oh, and here’s my choice of Christmas 2022 TV advert this year. Have the tissues ready…

So that was November?

These days every month seems to pass in a flash, but November takes the prize for me this year. Probably because my main focus was NaNoWriMo (a yearly event that challenges you to write a 50,000 first draft of a novel in one month). I’m extremely happy to report that I hit that goal. Yay! And a double yay to my fellow NaNo-ers Jillian and Kit who also came in well ahead of schedule. We rock, ladies πŸ™‚ (nothing like a bit of self-congratulatory rhetoric, ha!)

Working toward that goal was harder some days than others, but what I found interesting was how it kind of solidified my process. I’ve been writing for many years and I’m usually a sit down and just write kind of gal, but lately I’ve noticed that word sprints are my bag. Word sprints consist of setting a timer for however long you want to write (or whatever task you want to accomplish), in my case twenty five minutes, and then not stopping until the timer goes off. Then you can take a short break (five minutes) to get up and stretch, make a cuppa, sweep the floor, you get the drift, before heading back to the keyboard and setting the timer again. It’s worked so well for me and really keeps me focused, so I’ll continue to work this way in the future.

When I wasn’t writing, November has been a month for walks in the local woods. My happy place. I think we’ve had everything weather-wise this month here in the UK – gorgeous sunshine, rain, fog, rain, frosty mornings, rain, and yes, even more rain. And with rain comes mud, mud, and even more mud. Happy days. It was during one very rainy, muddy walk that I discovered my sturdy boots leaked (thank goodness for Black Friday sales πŸ™‚

One day I checked to make sure nobody was around and then had a very happy time amusing myself kicking up leaves as high as I could. Well, it made me happy. It wasn’t long before an inquisitive little girl made her way back from her own explorations to see what her crazy mummy was up to πŸ™‚

Can you spot Vivvy in the photo?

Anyway, I hope everyone has had a good November and taken the opportunity to enjoy the month whatever you have been up to (and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends).

I want to just finish this blog with a heartwarming video I spotted on Facebook this last week. You might have seen it, but here it is below. It’s a mamma chimp reunited with her baby after she thought the baby had died. In reality the baby had been whisked away for life-saving treatment. That is one adoring and beautiful mamma. I admit to shedding a happy tear while watching, and even AJ was clearing his throat a few times. Best with the sound on…

It’s spooky time…

Don’t you just love Halloween? No? Me either, well at least I didn’t used to, but lately I’ve gotten more and more into the spirit (pardon the pun) of it. I think it started a few years ago when I dressed Vivvy for her puppy Halloween party at doggie training. It was lovely taking her for walkies dressed in her little witchy hat and cape, and getting the reaction of the kiddies who were doing their trick or treat fun. One little lad caught up with me in the local field yesterday and asked if Vivvy would be dressing up again this year, so it looks like I’ll be heading out to the shop to get her a new costume πŸ™‚ We have a Spooky Evening Walk here in the village on Monday night where lots of houses are decorated. It’s fun, and Vivvy loves it, mostly because she gets loads of attention, and treats!

What I really love about Halloween though, aside from eating all the leftover chocolate/sweeties after trick or treat, is watching the scary movies on TV. This year so far I’ve watched Interview with the Vampire (can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this in the past), Dracula, The Midnight Club, What Lies Beneath, and 28 Days Haunted. The shows I love most though are the ones that are those ‘reality’ types they do just for Halloween, where celebs get to stay at a ‘haunted’ house/mansion/castle for a few nights. I especially like the ones where there is audience participation and you can comment via email/YouTube about anything paranormal you think you’ve witnessed on screen. Yes, I know they’re mostly a set up and purely for entertainment purposes, but it’s just fun getting scared in a safe environment, LOL.

How about you? Are you a Halloween fan? Like scary movies?

Three Down and One to Go…

…quarters, that is. A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote about becoming a passionate planner. The system I use breaks the year down into four quarters, and it’s hard to believe we’re just about to move into the fourth and final quarter of the year. Where has the year gone?

Prior to discovering my inner planner, my writing schedule was a bit hit and miss. Basically it had become a ‘write when the spirit moves me‘ kind of deal, and to be brutally honest, the spirit didn’t move me that much at all!

Anyhoo, that’s all changed, and it’s time to start planning for quarter four. Moving into October means some of my quarter four planning will be geared up to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which takes place in November each year. NaNoWriMo challenges you to write a 50,000 word novel during the month. The aim is to let the words flow and get the bones of the story down so it can be edited and refined later.

To be clear for NaNo, I need to finish the first draft of book one of a new paranormal series by the end of September. Since book two is in first draft mode too, it means that October will largely be editing and revision, and hopefully even working on the third book of the series which is about thirty percent done. I also want to be planning my NaNo project ready to start on 1 November. Depending on how things go with the third book, I might even use the 50,000 NaNo words for this.

Before becoming a planner, I probably would have stressed out at the workload, but now I get to plan it all out using the system developed from working on the original course.

Easy, peasy (she says with her palms together, eyes up to heaven) or it should be if I stick to the plan, and manage to catch a following wind πŸ™‚

Oh, and something else I’ve discovered while working this whole planning deal. Stickers! Oh, how I love them, especially ones with pretty colourful shapes and inspirational quotes. They make a great motivator to get the words done, or any other task you want to complete. Just award yourself a sticker when the task is complete and pop it in your planner/diary. It’s simple, but for me it’s working so I’ll take it.

So, here’s to Quarter 4… Bring it on!

Back to the Future…

Way back in the day, I learned to type on an old black typewriter. Anyone else remember them? The ones with keys you had to bang on so hard to get them to work? And woe betide if you gathered some speed because if you typed too fast the keys would stick together and you’d get ink on your fingers separating them. Happy days. No, really, they were.

Typing stencils for use on the Gestetner machine was something else. Working with this duplicating machine you had to make sure you didn’t type too hard on the stencil, especially any letter with a circle (o, b, d, p, q), because the circle could disappear beneath a blob of ink and didn’t look too great when printed out – achieved via turning the handle on the side of the machine until you felt your arm would drop off! Any mistakes were corrected with this red fluid that if you sniffed too robustly could get you pretty high!

Things progressed pretty rapidly and soon we had the super-duper electric typewriters. Those things took some getting used to. By the time I had an electric model my speed had progressed and the thing seemed to run away with me. Thankfully tippex was around then and I made good use of it πŸ™‚

Technology moved on and I bought my first computer – an Amstrad 9512. I loved that machine and spent many happy hours on it. I went kicking and screaming into the modern computer age, and while it’s great having new technology which makes life easier (most of the time and when it works properly) I do hanker after those old manual typewriter days, especially the keyboards… Hearing the clackety-clack of productivity made my little heart sing.

When I saw they made old style keyboards I wondered if it was worth buying one and taking a trip down memory lane. Not really able to justify it, I put it on my wish list and kind of forgot about it. Then Amazon Prime Day happened and there it was at a nicely reduced price. Needless to say, it now adorns my desk πŸ™‚ It took a while to get used to as it’s so much smaller/narrower than a modern standard keyboard and it was a few days before I got used to having to press down harder on the keys again. It was hit and miss if the required key was obtained, and there was much mumbling of “this will have to go back” but after persevering I now love it. The clackety-clack is modified, but it’s there. Happy days are here again πŸ™‚

So I’m enjoying my trip down memory lane, although I have to admit that I’m not looking to go back to the days of tippex and carbon copies. No sirree.

On Becoming a Passionate Planner

I’ve never been a huge planner, by that I mean I don’t do much in the way of formal detailed planning. I set goals at the beginning of each week/month/year, but they’re usually quite general and loose, leaving wiggle room which I all too often take advantage of!

Back in January, feeling a bit demotivated and yes, lazy, I signed up for a planning course primarily but not exclusively aimed at writers. I wasn’t desperately excited about it, and saw it more as a necessary means to and end because I’d been backsliding quite considerably and felt I needed a kick up the proverbial. Plus, the course focused on three months at a time which felt fairly doable. Once signed up for the course, you are able to take it again every quarter if you need it.

At first, I struggled with the detail required and wondered if I’d made a huge mistake signing up. The problem stemmed from trying to do everything suggested and getting myself bogged down and frustrated. All that happened was that the rebel in me… well, rebelled.

The second quarter was a bit different and I started adapting the information to suit me. This is something that the course creator (who is absolutely excellent, by the way) stresses all the time – take what works for you and discard the rest. It still didn’t really resonate with me, and I still managed to get bogged down to the point of wanting to throw the whole thing in the air, but I’d paid in full so thought I’d better persevere.

I’ve just finished planning out the third quarter and actually feel like I’ve had a breakthrough. So much so that I’m now loving it! It finally feels like I have a workable plan. One that will (hopefully) work for me. I feel like I’m in control and that’s a really great feeling. So motivated am I that I even bought myself a shiny new planner folder to record everything in, plus a pretty new hole punch, some coloured pens, a paper cutter, and some sticky notes for the Kanban board (which I have learned to love with a passion).

Here’s to July, August and September. Bring it on! Ha! I’ll let you know how it goes.

How about you? Do you have a planning system that works for you?

A Month of Celebrations…

It’s been a great month with lots happening in my little corner of paradise πŸ™‚  There have been parties, new cars, cinema trips, a wedding: it’s really good to be venturing out in the big bad world again.

It was lovely to catch up with Kit recently when we were invited, along with other members of our writing group, to celebrate one of our members’ 90th birthday. What a super time we had, too – great conversation, fabulous food, a lovely happy atmosphere – and the birthday girl, Rosemary (the beautiful lady with the silver bob), had a day to remember. She’s amazing and still very much a creative, despite some health and mobility issues. Her energy and enthusiasm has always inspired us and continues to do so. She was very keen for us all to get back to our writerly meetings, or should I say lunches which always stretch way into the early evening πŸ™‚

I had to leave the party early as I had a wedding reception in the evening. My friend’s beautiful daughter, Kelly, looked absolutely stunning when she married Alex, her handsome groom, and of course Max their fur baby was there for the photographs! It was a really happy occasion and everyone had a great time. The couple left next day for their honeymoon in Mexico.

It was also our wedding anniversary this month and we celebrated with lunch and then went to collect AJ’s new car. The showroom staff knew it was our anniversary and placed a huge red bow on the car to acknowledge the day, as well as presenting us with a bottle of champagne and a ceramic feeding bowl for Vivvy, who of course had to vet the new car to make sure she was happy to ride in it πŸ™‚

Speaking of the love of our life… it’s Vivvy’s birthday next week which will be celebrated with lots of pressies, treats, walkies, and many, many cuddles and kisses.

Hope you’re having a great spring!

Once bitten…

I love spring. It’s my favourite season. The bulbs and flowers are springing into abundant life, the light evenings are stretching out, the air has the hint of warmer days to come (a bit hit and miss at the moment here in the UK where it’s currently more like January!), and the promise of long summer months stretch before us.

As much as I love spring, it has its downside. Insects! Biting ones! Especially the sneaky little blighters encountered on walks that find their way through leggings, jeans, two pairs of socks, sturdy walking boots, and manage to bite me relentlessly despite any attempt to thwart them. Walks with Vivvy are glorious right now: primroses, daffodils, tulips, bluebells – the woods are abundant with life. And I have the bites to prove that. I’ve tried every repellent I can think of: creams, lotions, vitamin tablets, but nothing seems to deter the little devils. They love me!

The itching drives me crazy, and the only thing that seems to help is the old and trusted calamine lotion. I think I keep the makers in business single-handedly this time of year πŸ™‚ The problem with that is Vivvy loves the taste and keeps trying to lick my pink-covered legs!

Me and calamine lotion go back a long way. Born and raised by the sea, I spent long sun-filled days on the beach as a teenager in the company of my older cousin. She used to mix up this concoction of olive oil and vinegar and we’d lavish it on our skins in the hope of developing a lovely suntan. I vividly remember one time when we vastly overdid it and ended up at my grandmother’s house slathered in calamine lotion and our grandfather’s old workshirts which was all we could tolerate against our sunburnt skin. Happy days!

Sewing Memories

So, with spring in the air and the clocks going forward an hour here in the UK, we decided to start clearing/decluttering our home from the top down.

The attic was first on the list. It didn’t take long as we tend to shove everything we don’t need into the garage keeping the loft relatively free, but there were several discoveries. Mostly it was old suitcases of holiday clothes (a bikini, size 12 if you please! – was that really once mine?) and equipment like snorkels, waterproof footwear for pebbly beaches, old beach mats and towels, and broken tennis and squash rackets.

The best discovery was a small case containing a real blast from the past. Loads of dressmaking patterns! I was once a very keen sewer and loved making my own clothes. I loved choosing a pattern, then the fabric, matching the thread precisely to the material – often, if I liked the style, I’d make the outfit in different fabrics. I couldn’t get enough of dressmaking back in the day and got a real buzz from it.

Pre-marriage we were keen ballroom dancers and went every week for classes (AJ loves to remind me that he once was given an award for student with the fanciest footwork!) Every Saturday we attended the dance school’s social where we could practice what we’d learned that week as well as learn a new group dance. Heck, it was fun! During the week, I’d often make a new dress specifically to wear to the Saturday dance. Yes, I was a make-a-dress-in-a-week girl. If only I could say the same about my life as a writer – imagine being a create-a-book-in a-week author!

I even found some fabric in that case in the loft so maybe one of these days I’ll turn my hand to dressmaking again – maybe a simple strappy summer shift dress? Oh, if you look closely at the bottom of the photo you’ll see the pattern I used for my wedding dress. I can only dream of the size pattern I used for it back then *sigh*