Last year I had a whole lot of fun designing my own Valentine’s Cards, and I’ll be doing that again this year. The original idea came from when a friend of mine linked a page on some blog with quirky/alternative cards, and I figured it’d be fun to try and do something similar myself.
Plus, sharing some love and positivity has got to be a good thing, right?
Originally, I’d planned on waiting a little longer to start, but then I was informed that today (January 31) is Inspire Your Heart With Art Day, and I figured that it was too good a coincidence to pass up, so I got going.
Here are some of the cards I did last year (click the images for larger, easier to read versions):
I’ve got a few done already, but I’ll save them for later and put them up closer to the day, or after, or some other time. After all, it’s not about the day, it’s about telling someone you love them – or just making people smile. That’s fine too.
A semla (Sweden Swedish) or fastlagsbulle (Finland Swedish), laskiaispulla (Finnish), vastlakukkel (Estonian) or fastelavnsbolle (Danish and Norwegian) is a traditional sweet roll made in various forms in Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania,Sweden and Norway associated with Lent and especially Shrove Tuesday in most countries, or Shrove Monday in Denmark and Iceland.
Apparently, Semla is also the name of an Etruscan goddess. I did not know this until just now when I looked up the description here.
My shoulder’s been acting up again lately. I spent too much time in a bad chair playing computer games. So my arm, shoulder, and neck all started aching and being all painy and achey. Not cool.
I’ve been to the physiotherapist again and the arm is fine now, but the are between the neck and shoulder still aches. I’ll have to keep up with the stretches and remember to stand up regularly while it at work. I had two days off, then worked one day and then it was weekend. I’ll be back at the office tomorrow.
With this going on I’ve been trying to do things that doesn’t require me to be in front of the computer. There’s been no writing and no gaming – except maybe just a little. Mostly I’ve sat in front of the TV watching anime. It’s entertaining but feels like a waste of time.
The entire weekend has been a bit of a waste really.
I was horribly hungover on Wednesday, and today I’ve just sat around not doing much. I did go to the spinning class, and I wrote a letter – by hand no less – to a close friend (sorry Å, not you), but other than that, not much.
I suspect there will be more walking coming though, once I’m not hungover and once my legs don’t hate me after the spinning. I went for a nice little hike after work on Tuesday. It’s getting too dark for long walks after work though. With the time change evening begins to fall before five, and the sky is black soon after six. I manage on my own, but I don’t feel like dragging others with me under those conditions.
I did get a few nice pictures though. I still enjoy the idea of the panorama function on the phone and I like finding the landscapes where it works. One of these days I’ll have to get up on Elizabeth forth (which is next doors) and take a big picture of the surrounding area. I should be able to see my house from there.
I’m really looking forward to getting back into writing too. I want to try and finish the scene I’m working on for the story about Alena, and then I’ll get back to Emma’s Story. I have a few ideas of things to change up and then I’ll do a thorough editing pass to try and catch as many mistakes as I can. After that I should be ready to send it off to the editor.
This weekend me and my friend E went for a trip to the Waterfall Alpaca Farm near Drimoleague in West Cork. We did a bit of walking, ate a lot of good food, met the alpacas and figured out how to take panorama pictures with our phones.
Sure the picture quality isn’t the best, but we had fun, and if just look at the thumbnails and don’t zoom in, it looks kind of nice. It also gives a pretty good idea of the scenery we encountered.
I’m always mesmerized by the hills and mountains of West Cork. It’s very unlike the landscape of back home in Sweden where I grew up – I may have mentioned that in the past…
Still, it fascinates me, and I’m not entirely sure why, but maybe that’s part of it.
I took some normal pictures too:
And of course, a bunch of photos of the alpacas. They’re friendly, and while not necessarily shy, they do seem to like to keep their distance. We got to lead them around a little trail, about half an hour or so, and in order to keep them from running ahead, you just had to hold your hand out in front of them and they’d stop.
Even then, they’s still let you touch them, and they’re really soft. I can see how they make for good wool.
I’m back in Sweden for about a week. So far it’s been good. I met both my brother and my sister at the same time for the first time in ages. Tonight, however, was a personal solo-highlight.
The forest has a special place in my heart.
Sure, I stayed mostly on well maintained paths lit by electric light, but it still felt great to be out among the trees.
What’s more: my legs kept up the entire way. I’ve had issues with the muscles in my thigh since sometime this spring and it’s been a drag. I really enjoy walking, and I used to do it a lot. For a while I averaged nearly ten kilometers a day and then, of course, I overdid it and damaged myself.
Since then, I’ve not been able to walk the way I used to – not as fast, and not as far. Tonight, I mostly walked at a very relaxed pace, but I was out there for nearly two hours, and it was almost completely without pain.
Walking is a great way for me to relax. It’s a mild exercise and I can disengage my mind completely. I pick out some music, put my feet on the road, and let my mind wander. It can get rather meditative. It’s amazing.
It’s a great way to dream up ideas and characters for my stories. It’s a great way to think through whatever bothers me. It’s a great way to spend some quality time with myself.
I don’t mind company now and then. Last year I organised group walks around Cork and the nearby countryside. It used to be good fun, but due to the leg issues I haven’t done it this summer. I’m going to try to pull one off for September though and maybe someone will show up. I’m quite excited about getting going again.
It did eventually get pretty dark, and the path homewards had no lights until I got back onto the city streets. This is the last picture from the forest part of the walk tonight.
Two minutes after this I saw a few stray dogs on the path just ahead of me. Only they weren’t dogs, but deer. Three of them stood on the road just ten-fifteen meters (30-50 feet) ahead of me. I did reach for my phone to take a picture, but they darted.
I put my phone back into the pocked and kept on walking. Three seconds later they all came running back again across the path, even closer than moments before.
Every Wednesday, for the past two months, I’ve gone to the Franciscan Well to have a pint and a pizza. For the most part I’ve gone alone, but now and then someone else has shown up to keep me company.
I did a bit of writing and it worked pretty well. I enjoyed my pizza and had another pint. Life was good, and very warm. Summer decided to happen on this day. It’s one of the best days of the year.
Then T showed up.
T is an old friend of mine. I’ve known him for almost as long as I’ve lived in Ireland. He’s not a close friend, but we’re on good enough terms that I’ll call him a good friend despite me having slapped him over the face for being a jerk – and he still chooses to hang out with me of his own free will from time to time.
Also, the pizza at the well is good.
We had our pizza and we had our pint and I didn’t write any more and then T asked if I wanted to tag along to Fota. It’s a wildlife park they have right near Cork – kind of like a zoo.
I had planned on going home, having a nap, and maybe writing a bit more. I was tempted, but then I figured I should take the opportunity to actually do something else than sit around on my own on a day like this. Today had easily the best weather in the last two months (while I also had time off from work).
So we went to Fota, and it was good.
We saw the tiger. It’s a new addition to the park for this season. Rumor has it there will be more added.
There is something sad about seeing a wild animal like this behind bars, but then there’s also something special about seeing an animal like this. I’d rather not go to far with that train of thought.
This frog is of course also in captivity, but somehow I don’t feel nearly as bad for it as I do the tiger. I’m just fascinated by it’s big red eyes and its seeming smile.
There were kangaroos too. One of them had a baby in its pouch, but I didn’t get a good picture of that one.
I believe the capybara may be my new favorite animal, at least if going by looks. It somehow manages to look both very relaxed and very dignified at the same time. It’s appearance is somehow soothing, pleasing, and encouraging all at once.
This was a good day, and it was not at all what I expected when I headed down to the well to have a pint and a pizza.
I’d stayed home from work today. I had a headache and I was a bit stressed out about getting my next chapter finished by Tuesday. In short, I wasn’t feeling too good (by my own standards), and I stayed home, and remained in bed.
I didn’t even pull back the curtains to let the daylight in.
Eventually I did get up though, and I got going on my writing. I sat out in the living room, which was full of light and music (Grateful Dead), tapping away at my laptop when it eventually ran out of cream.
So I’m back in my bedroom, sitting on the floor, with the laptop plugged in and sitting on my old sofa table. I decided that rather than pulling back the curtains I’d just light some candles. It’d be like back in winter, when I sat here almost every night, with candles lit, writing.
It feels good to be back there, even if I’m just pretending. After al, it’s barely five in the afternoon and it’s the middle of summer.
This works though. My story takes place in the dark of winter and there’s a lot of firelight in the scenery (don’t worry, nothing and no one is going to burn down, or up).
It was my birthday just the other day. It was great. I made a cake.
I need to work on my lettering, but other than that I’m happy with how it turned out. I even got the layering right this time, and that hasn’t happened before.
Overall I had a great birthday. Due to some recent complications in my vacation planning I have had a whole lot of extra holiday freed up, and I got reminded I could take half a day off from work and go to the pub to have a pint and write – so I did.
The writing went well. I finished the introduction to the sixth chapter. It was a bit of a challenge, but it’s now good enough I can move on to the action. That part is both easier and more challenging. It’s easier in that I don’t need to worry about what’s happening as that’s already planned out, but it’s more difficult as I’m not all that familiar with the emotions and how they manifest in the body. I don’t want to ramp up the intensity too fast, and I don’t want to be too subtle. It’s a tricky balancing act – but it’s a lot of fun.
I received a very encouraging comment from my beta reader. The anfylk race in my setting are basically a variation of hobbits. They were originally even called hobbits, but as that word is trademarked I decided to swap it over to something else and eventually came up with the word anfylk.
Now, the anfylk aren’t exact copies of Tolkien’s hobbits. They may look like it at a glance, but under the surface there are plenty of differences that set them apart. I asked D about something that’s mentioned in the fifth chapter and the response included the following sentence (I hope you don’t mind I’m quoting you straight up):
“I’m used enough to it [because I think of them as *your* hobbits] that I don’t even think twice about that kind of thing.”
Now, I may be reading too much into it, because I really want to, but it kind of feels like this confirms that the anfylk have an identiy of their own. They’re not just cheap hobbit copies anymore – at least not to someone who’s gotten to know them. I’ve hoped and imagined that this would be the case, but it’s still very encouraging to hear it.
As if that’s not enough, someone else just started reading the first draft of Enar’s Vacation. This fact in itself is exciting to me, but this time it’s extra special. The person reading provided a lot of inspiration for the character Amanda, and I’m really excited to hear what she has to say about it (the character, the story, everything).
Yes, she knows there’s a bit of her in the character, but that doesn’t make me any less nervous about it – rather the opposite.
Today, I saw what I thought was a rare bird, in a park just near where I live.
Turns out it’s not really such a big deal. They’re mainly found in Australia, and any seen here in the northern hemisphere are escapees from some zoological garden or other. Still, it was cool to see it up close like this.
I’ve been through a rough patch lately, but I think I’m mostly over it now. First, a close friend’s dog passed away, and the next day a long time colleague in our France office died in a car accident.
Two sudden and unexpected deaths close to home has had me thinking a lot of serious thoughts. I’ve come to no important realizations. I’ve not gained any deeper understanding. I’ve just thought a lot, and I think that in the long run there’s some value in that too.
Life goes on, and so must we.
I’m making some progress with my writing. The third chapter of Emma’s Story is finished and ready for reading, but I’m going to try to stick to a release schedule of one per week so I won’t put it up until Tuesday.
As I write, I’ve been musing on the concept of voice. On the one hand, I consider that I have a narrative voice that works for me, and I’m really happy with that. I like to think it’s fairly distinct, but the may just be me. On the other hand, I’m concerned that my characters and stories sound all the same.
I don’t think that this is much of an issue when it comes to stories – especially not if they are similar stories, with similar characters, in the same setting. If my characters sound the same though, then that’s an issue. I don’t want someone reading about Enar to confuse him with Emma.
That would be bad.
I think I’m safe for this one, but I’m still fascinated by the concept of voice.
In Emma’s Story, I’m mixing two narrative styles, written with two different voices. It’s difficult, but fun, and I believe it works. It serves to rip the reader away from the characters and force them into the setting, putting their minds back into the world and reminding them where the story is taking place.
One way of thinking about it is like cut scenes in a video game. The character driven scenes are the main part of the game play where you kill all the bad guys and where you’re behind the controls. The far-distant narration scenes are the cut scenes between the missions. They explain what’s happening and why you’re killing all the bad guys.
In the end, the important thing is I’m having a good time and I’m trying out new things. Hopefully I’m learning something too.
Finally, I’ll share a picture which shows how I’m not learning things. I’ve been pretty good with the planning and outlining of my story so far. Then this happens:
Part of the reason I’ve made such great progress with the previous scenes is that I had the dialogue all typed up already. Not so here. Apparently I figured this scene wouldn’t be important and that I could just improvise once I got to it.
I can sort of see where I got that impression from, but after just having finished the chapter before this, that all goes out the window. Filling out the conversation with beats and actions added quite a lot more depth to the situation than I’d anticipated. Chances are, if I don’t do a full conversation outline of this scene, I’ll mess it up and will have to come back and do an outline afterwards anyway.
Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened. More than once while writing Enar’s Vacation did I scrap a scene halfway through, write an outline, and then write the scene again. It works, it gives a good idea of where to take the scene, and where not to take it. It’s just not very efficient.
It’s rather frustrating actually. I guess it’s part of learning too.
In my last post I mentioned how I went back to Sweden to visit friends and family and how I found that to be a little bit scary. I wrote I’d explain, and I’ll try to do that now.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Sweden. It’s where I grew up and where I’ve spent most of my life. It’s where most of my really close friends are and where my parents live. I just haven’t lived there for the last nine and a half years.
It doesn’t feel like home anymore.
In fact, it’s a little bit scary.
It’s a very different world compared to where I live now. Here, in Ireland, my life is simple and easy. Apart from work, which I generally quite enjoy, it revolves largely around things I enjoy: going for walks, playing games, writing, eating, and sleeping. There’s little else. Occasionally I go shopping for groceries. Sometimes I have to run an errand.
Everything I need is withing walking distance – and that’s without considering that I’m the kind of guy who walks half a marathon for fun.
I don’t need a car. It’d be cool to have, so I could drive to the coast and go walking in a different location, but other than that, I don’t need one. I’m single. I don’t have kids. I have friends here, but very few social obligations. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I’m not mentioning this to brag, but to put things in perspective.
My life is simple, and apart from work, most of what I do (writing, gaming, walking around daydreaming), has very little to do with what’s going on in the real world. I’m basically living in some kind of sparkly fantasy dreamland.
It’s pretty great.
That is, until I go somewhere else and get reminded that there’s a world outside my fluffy little bubble – like now when I went back home last week.
The friends and the family I met, seemed happy enough, if a bit tired. They’re happy and comfortable with their worlds they live in. They deal with them every day, and they’re used to it. It’s fine for them.
Still, it scares me, the world.
It’s big. It’s complicated. You need a car. You have to make plans. You’ve got responsibilities and obligations and appointments. The thing is, it’s really not that big a deal. People are used to it, and they deal with it, and they don’t even think about it. I’m sure if I still lived there, I would too.
But I don’t.
I live in a fluffy little dream-land where I just drift along like a marshmallow boat on a chocolate river. It’s really nice, but how long can I keep doing that? What if I want to move back home? I’d need someone to hold my hand while I figure life out.
Sure, it wouldn’t be that bad. I’d figure it out and get back into it without too much trouble. It just fascinates me how different my life here is when compared to the lives of my friends and family back home – and how much that worries me.
And – as with so many other things – I’m a lot less worried now that I’ve written about it.