Jon and Michelle’s Horse Cart

Last night on BBC2 Jon and I were on My Unique B&B with Jon’s horse cart! It was so much fun watching the episode, and we can’t wait to welcome guests to the little cabin on wheels!

It was a great experience, working with Simon Parfett and the Plimsoll Productions crew to film the episode and to turn the cabin into a boutique space for people to stay in.

The cabin is now available to book on Airbnb, and you can see all the details through Jon’s Sacred Tree Spirit Website. It is called Char Bareu and really is a wonderful little sanctuary, especially if you are in need of unplugging from your devices and plugging into nature.

The wonderful sign hand-painted by Jess Grimsdale

Even little Chouli starred in the show, so if you haven’t seen it yet, do check it out! The whole series is wonderful, and features lots of great B&Bs in the Forest of Dean area. If you have seen it, what did you think? Let me know!

You Are Invited!

To celebrate my birthday with me tomorrow, at my Woodland Tea Party that is supporting the Secret World Wildlife Rescue.

Lockdown birthdays don’t have to be depressing! Which is why I have had far too much fun organising a woodland tea party. Fear not, the only ones who will be meeting face to face will be the woodland animals! But I would love for you to join me and them virtually through the FB event page, click here to check it out (it is totally public, you don’t need to be logged in)

I have decided to ask people to donate (if they feel called to, and they can afford it) to the Secret World Wildlife Rescue, because they do such wonderful work for the badgers, hedgehogs, deer, foxes and even mice! They rely on donations from visitors, and I imagine that those have been quite scarce over the last year. You don’t have to donate through me on FB, you can donate directly, or buy them something on their Amazon Wishlist.

I have been to the Healing Weekend which is hosted on the Secret World land, several times over the years, and it really is a wonderful place.

So head over to the FB event page on the 20th January (tomorrow!!) and check out the tea party! (Photos and videos will be posted throughout the day)

Creativity is my Therapy

One of my most popular letterpress prints on my own handmade paper

Apparently I started to write this blog post in February last year. I had the title and a single sentence (which I have just deleted), and then I apparently got distracted.

But oddly enough, it is very relevant in this moment, and was relevant throughout the whole of 2020. Crafting and creating is what kept me sane. And continues to keep me sane. Making things is my favourite thing to do when things get to be too much. And right now, I cannot help keep getting more and more materials to make more and more things. Very much like my main character, Caru, in The Girl Who Loved Too Much, I have a LOT of hobbies. 

I letterpress print things on my Adana presses. I knit things. Crochet things. I love making Luna and friends, by Sarah Peel, with their tailored clothing. I enjoy making things out of leather, and stamping metal with words. I love taking photos, making little videos. And then of course I love to write, though you could argue that wasn’t a hobby, but my work. 

Luna Lapin and friends!

Why is creating so therapeutic? I know that not everyone has hobbies to the level I do, but over the last year, I have seen quite a few friends who have declared themselves uncreative in the crafting sense, take up a craft and find themselves enjoying it a lot. And not just enjoying it, but being damned good at it too! 

I genuinely think that a large part of the difference between those who create things and those who don’t, comes down to whether they were encouraged to make things in their childhood. When I was little, we were ALWAYS making things. Always. And I watched my parents constantly make things. It was normal. But when I ran a little crafting group 15 years ago, I found that none of the children were allowed to craft at home. Because it created mess. Because it meant having to find somewhere to put the things they created. Because it didn’t fit into the neat and tidy lifestyle the parents had created. 

Special Edition of The Girl Who Loved Too Much

This is something I tried to address in my latest novel. Is it possible to be creative, while also being wealthy and neat and tidy? So far in my own experience, these things are mutually exclusive. To be creative is to create mess. There are things drying, things in half finished states, things at various stages. Then there are things waiting to be sold, or given as gifts. And money? Well that gets spent on materials, on packaging, on courses to learn more about your craft and on yet more materials. 

But when I consider the question whether I would prefer to be creative or be wealthy, or creative or neat and tidy, creative wins every time. Even though it drives me crazy that I can’t find things. Even though I keep moving house and having so much crafting equipment and materials to move is a nightmare.

Because to create things is part of who I am. These things are extensions of myself. They are manifestations of my thoughts, my excitement, my enthusiasm. And they are my way of coping with things. Of moving through these ultra-weird times we find ourselves in.

So tell me, do you create? What do you create? Why do you create (or not)? If you have Instagram accounts, or somewhere I can see your creations, post them in the comments!

On the Smugness of Minimalists

I’m in a slightly ranty mood, so take from this post what you will!

I have stuff. And I like all of it. I’m not a hoarder in the sense that I keep absolute rubbish, but I do get sentimental about things. I come from a family of hoarders, so in my defence, I never had a chance.

I get that energetically, it’s better to have less ‘stuff’. To have a clear space is to have a clear mind, and I have to say, every time I watch a decluttering program (I do love Marie Kondo!) I have the urge to clean, tidy and purge my stuff. And some things have improved – my drawers contain all Konmari style folded clothes now, and have done for months. But some things don’t change.

And one of those things is, I like my stuff.

I’m not just a writer. Or even just a reader. I have a LOT of interests and hobbies. I knit, crochet, scrapbook, sew and create all sorts of crafty things. I love stationery (washitape is my current addiction) so I have a lot of papers, pens, stickers, notebooks etc. I run my own business, so I have stock, packaging, and equipment like lighting etc for filming videos.

And you might be reading this, thinking – so what? Why is this an issue? Well, the issue is, I don’t own my own home, and in the last 12 years, the longest I have stayed anywhere is my current home for the last 13 months. So I have moved, a LOT, and every time, I get so many comments from people on just how much stuff I have. Yet I bet any of them would struggle to move their belongings every few months!

I honestly do wish I could be minimalist, and believe me, I have done energetic work on having too much stuff. But the things is, I love the things I own. In the words of Marie Kondo – they bring me joy.

What doesn’t bring me joy is having to pack them up and move them all the time! So of course, the easy solution is to have a permanent home. But unless a magical unicorn that poops gold bars drops out of the sky right now, that’s not really an option.

There’s not really a point to this post, I was just feeling ranty because many minimalist people seem so smug about not having so much stuff, and to be honest – if I were minimalist, I’d probably be smug too. It does seem like an easier way of life!

But until I find the magical minimalist pill, or a gold bar pooping unicorn, I guess I better just get used to packing a lot of boxes…

(This image may seem completely random, but it shows one of the many craft projects I have done in my life and had a fun quote on it!)

Comparison – The Thief

Roosevelt said that comparison is the thief of joy, and I have to say, I quite agree.

It’s a completely different world for authors right now, to just a mere ten years ago, and now, it feels like we should be producing at least ten books a year, to keep up with reader demand. Gone are the days where you could take several years to write a book and hope to do well.

Since I began publishing properly in 2011, I have published at least 2 books a year, and I now have 16 books available. Quite an awesome accomplishment, but instead of revelling in the joy of what I have created, I find myself looking at authors who have published 50 or 60 books in that same amount of time, and wondering why I have been so lazy in comparison.

Then I saw the posts about the latest plagiarism scandal. It seems that a bestselling author in Brazil has been taking chunks of other authors’ work, and giving it to ghostwriters on Fiverr and then publishing what they’ve cobbled together and making a mint from it. She has a large list of books available, and it would seem that none of her material belonged to her.

Which made me wonder, how many of the authors with massive output are actually writing it all themselves? Or even using original material?

And somehow, this made me stop comparing myself to them. Because I know that I write every word of my books. And I know that I only write books that turn up and annoy me until I write them. And that it’s actually quite realistic to write and publish two or three books a year, when you take into account the editing and proofreading, publishing and marketing.

So although I am quite upset for these authors who have had their work ripped to bits and made into bad books that have made thieves a lot of money, I am also grateful to now have been released from this comparison game, and I plan to revel in the joy of each creation, knowing that I am producing work that I am proud of, and that readers will love, and that is wholly my own.

Do you compare yourself or your creativity or your life to others? Do you think that you should be further along, or richer, or better, because you look at what other people are doing?

Let me know in the comments.

The Shack

The other night I snuggled down with my latest sewing project and watched The Shack. I had read the book many years ago, and the story had always stayed with me. Family go on camping holiday, dad’s attention is diverted for a few minutes, youngest child goes missing, her clothing is found and she is presumed dead. The father, who is distraught, visits the shack where her clothing was found, and has an experience that changes his life forever.

The film is beautifully acted and shot, and although it has religious tones to it, it is more on the spiritual than dogmatic side. By the end of it, I had big, hot tears soaking into my jumper, my sewing forgotten on my lap. The film addresses the ultimate question, something I have been struggling with recently, which is –

Can we truly forgive those who have hurt us, or the one we love?

Can we truly show them compassion, understanding and even love?

Watching The Shack helped bring me closure on a situation with someone, helped me to forgive them and let them go, and I find that yet again, I have found a movie that is not simply just a piece of entertainment, but an instrument of life change.

I wrote a post a while ago about my favourite spiritual movies, and I think this one has just become my number one.

Have you read or watched The Shack? What are your thoughts? Have you forgiven anyone who has hurt you?

Autumnal Faerie Photoshoot

I’ve always been fascinated by Autumn. The beauty that nature creates from what is essentially the death of its bounty, astounds me. I think it’s my favourite season, especially as I have experienced the colours of New England in the Fall, which was incredible. If you have never seen Vermont or Boston in October/November, put it on your bucket list – it’s a must see.

Anyway, it felt like it was time to take some new author photos, as my last ones were taken in Summer 2016, in various places across the States, and I like to take new ones every year.  I decided to do some Autumnal ones, and went on an adventure with two Faeries, into the local woods. I may have added a few magical elements…

As always, would love to hear your thoughts 🙂