Things have been hectic recently which has left me with no time to blog.
The bird hospital has been crazy busy this year. We have had in far more birds than last year already. I've had quite a few baldy babies to look after - and they are a 24/7 job. We've had lots of sadness and joy, lots of losses and quite a few birds who will have to remain with us for the rest of their lives. It's worth it but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't difficult.
I also decided that this year I was going to plant my own vegetable garden. I'm not sure where the idea came from, possibly an attempt to find some peace and beauty somewhere. It's been a success of sorts but in a very haphazard and chaotic way. Next year it might need a bit more forward planning and a lot more patience. I do have a habit of digging things up before they're quite ready just because I can't quite believe I've managed to grow them.
My writing has been in the rewrite stage. Heather, my ever patient Agent, has given me plenty of notes and ideas to work on. Writing can be therapeutic or completely soul destroying, sometimes both at the same time.
So... if I go quiet again know that I'm still out there somewhere, doing something like research, or planting, or rescuing a bird. I'm still planning for when everything changes and starts to go my way - for when I finally get the break I've been waiting for. I'm still here!
Firstly I apologise for not having written anything for so long :(. Things have been manic and a lot of changes have taken place, but now I'm back and hoping to be a little more regular with my posts.
January saw the end of my relationship with my Agent, Kirsty McLachlan at DGA Limited. It was blow, but sometimes when one door closes a huge, massive pair of sparkling French windows opens. I am now signed to The Bent Agency NY with the lovely Heather Flaherty. It has kind of been like meeting a soul mate and I've never been happier in my writing than I am now. King of Crows in an intense edit and I've finally started writing something new (more on that soon).
Every Feather Bird Rescue is doing really well. We're into Spring which is also baby bird season which means we've been crazy busy. There have been some losses and they've hit us hard - I doubt they will ever become easier, but we've also installed a new disabled coop.
Skywalker has a new friend - Shadowhunter aka Captain Jack aka JJ - a jackdaw who moved in with us almost a fortnight ago now. He's still pretty nervous but Skywalker isn't one to take no for an answer and has started chatting away to him incessantly. I'm pretty sure Shadowhunter will be won over.
What else... oh I've started a vegetable garden. I've never been one for gardening before but it's actually becoming a new obsession of mine. I started off by putting a couple of raised beds up near the disabled coop to attract wildlife and give the birds something pretty to look at. Then I purchased a book which promised all I could eat in 3 square feet and now the possibilities seem endless. This image is just one small part of my vegetable garden which is going from strength to strength.
2015 has so far been a year of changes and growth - there have been some definite low points but the sun is shining and there is still plenty to look forward to so bring on the rest of the year!!!
So I have been pretty quiet lately, mainly due to everything being hectic at Every Feather Bird Rescue. There was a last flurry of baby birds which was quite unexpected, and then another flurry of extremely poorly pigeons.
I've also been working hard on my new novel King of Crows. There is a complete draft now and I'm looking for any huge plot holes that might need stitching together. I've really loved writing it and I've fallen in love with the characters which is a real necessity for an author. You spend so long working on a novel that you need to love the characters and the story enough to revisit it and never get bored.
Skywalker has a starring role in King of Crows which has made his ego extremely inflated. He has taken to issuing diva demands like boiled eggs, more cage free time, more shoulder perching time and generally permission to steal any items from my jewellery box that take his fancy. The only one who seems capable of cutting my magpie back down to size is my hamster, Minx. She aims at him in her hamster ball and runs him down when he gets too big for his boots. Got to love the triumph of the small guy.
I've probably mentioned before that plotting has never been a strong point of mine. I like to write organically, to let the story come out of me before I look at its structure too closely. With Wanted (Sanctuary) I did learn a lot, the feedback and the advice I have received I stood me in good stead to start working on my new idea.
The other day I was told about writing maps. These are designed by a company in London. I purchased some of them and some notebooks so that when this new book is out on paper I can start using the maps to get to grips with the plotting. They might not be useful to everyone but they are worth checking out - if only to have something aesthetically pleasing to encourage you to look at structure and characters.
The good thing about writing is that you are always learning. It doesn't matter how long you've been doing it, or how far you've managed to get, every book teaches you something new which you can use to help with the next one.
Things have been quite hectic lately. I've started writing a new novel which is taking quite a lot of plotting (something I've never been that fond of). I've been holding a lot of markets to raise money for Every Feather - the bird sanctuary that we set up last year. It seems that there is a never ending supply of birds that need help and there never seems to be enough space to take them - so far we have used our money to build an outdoor hospital and now we're working on an aviary for the permanent residents and to let the birds pre-release build up their strength.
In the last couple of weeks we've managed to rehome a few domestic birds and a lovely woodpigeon that wasn't able to ever be released due to a broken wing. It's wonderful when you know that a bird is going off to an amazing new home where they will be looked after and loved.
Working full-time and trying to juggle my writing and my birds has been a struggle, particularly given my M.E. Sometimes I can feel myself on the brink of exhaustion and I know that one day its going to hit me with full force and completely knock me off my feet. So far I've been lucky - when I've felt like I've been getting to the end I've somehow managed to have an extra wave of energy - but I know that luck won't last forever.
Finding time for my writing is like finding a little break in the madness and chaos - it's something I'd simply never be able to give up no matter what.
I have started work on a new idea for a novel - basically plot plans and character development at the moment. Sometimes it's just a matter of accepting that it's virtually impossible to run a critical eye over your own work, so I have shelved a previous idea and started something new - good advice isn't always easy to take.
Bird Sanctuary wise it's been a tough few weeks. I've had some really painful losses, but I also got Skywalker, a baby magpie who had lost his parents and sibling in a cat attack. Skywalker is one of the most amazing little birds I've ever had the luck to raise. He is full of life, adorable and everyone who meets him falls in love. He's worked wonders at our stalls, attracting lots of attention and probably some extra sales. .
Skywalker is a good example of hope and strength. Despite his terrible start he battles every day to learn to fly, to walk on his badly broken leg which is currently splinted. He falls asleep when you hold him and he shouts for food from his human vending machine on a regular basis. During the day he sits on my desk at work and in the evenings he goes in a larger cage in the hope he's going to learn to perch. Last night I watched him attempt to jump on a perch several times, falling off due to the leg splint but continuing to try. Skywalker never gives up.
A lot of people don't like magpies - you can't blame them when they kill baby birds and steal eggs - but Skywalker is out to prove everyone wrong. I would challenge anyone to meet him and not fall instantly in love.
He's also taught me a lot about myself. Sometimes I give in too easily. I've had a lot of disappointment with my writing lately but I have to keep going - it's something I love and something I'd do no matter what happened. One day Skywalker will fly and one day a publisher will read my books and fall in love with them. IT WILL HAPPEN.
This weekend Arwen made her debut at her first dog show. Unfortunately, despite the fact I think she's absolutely beautiful, she failed to win any prizes. Darcy on the other hand came second in most handsome dog - another rosette to join his already brimming wall of fame.
I love dog shows - the fun ones where nobody takes things too seriously. Okay, so my dream is to enter Crufts - but having a Jack Russell and a cross-breed means that isn't likely to happen any time soon.
One thing I love about fun dog shows is that everyone there is so devoted to their dogs. You walk around talking to people and they all rave about how fabulous their dog is, the little stories that make them unique.
We have another show next Sunday where Every Feather has a stall to raise money for the hospital and aviary. It's run by the Society of Abandoned Animals in Manchester so if you're free then come along. Arwen will be trying to win her first rosette and there will be cake - lots of cake!
Every Feather has had some sad outcomes this last week. A juvenile woodpigeon with PMV who died in his sleep; a woodpigeon shot through the wing who had to be euthanized due to the extent of the injuries and the potential for continued suffering; a baby magpie who died after a cat attack and this Saturday another woodpigeon who had been attacked by a cat and a magpie who also died in its sleep. Even when the outcome isn't what I would have hoped for I still hope that I have given them somewhere safe and comfortable to spend their final hours - if I can't save them then at least they were briefly loved.
I tend to look forward to Spring. It's one of those times when the nights start getting lighter and you can feel a little more positive.
I've been working on my new book, finishing off my portfolio for college, working hard on my sanctuary and the hospital / aviary build. Things get busy but busy is good.
Spring is a pretty busy time for birds too.
It's baby bird time so we get a lot of calls about babies found on the floor. Usually they are just learning to fly so can be left where they are - if they are in danger, normally from cats, then they do need to be watched or moved. I had two tiny baby collared doves brought in (affectionately named The Piggles) because someone had chopped a tree down where they were nesting. This is actually illegal but few people get reported for it. The Piggles unfortunately didn't make it without their Mum. I have another baby collared dove and a baby woodpigeon at the moment. Baby birds are adorable but I'd prefer not to get them - I'd love them all to stay safe until they're ready to fly the nest.
Wilfred (my racing pigeon) has a girlfriend. I was called to collect Shadow almost a month ago from a residential care home in Bolton. She's a fancy pigeon with clipped wings and I'm trying to locate the owner. In the meantime Wilfred has developed a huge crush and they spend most of their days sat together on my picture rail preening each other. If her owner does turn up I'm going to have one love sick pigeon.
On Sunday I have my first craft fair at Lowton Town Hall to raise money for the sanctuary. If anyone is in the area then feel free to pop by. We've been working really hard on designs and crafts so there will be some awesome stuff for sale.
The edits are going slowly. I'm working on characters at the moment and actually enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. The problem is that I'm very musically motivated so if I find a new album or even song that seems to inspire my characters then I get stuck playing it for weeks until I begin to hate the sound.
Editing is starting to become something less dreaded and more respected now.