Saturday, June 30, 2012


Yesterday, as I set down to make the changes in Bliss on my laptop - that being a book I wrote for NaNoWriMo - after doing my proofreading when...the laptop died.

If you know me, you know I love my laptop. I do all my work on it. I use it all the time. It's an extra limb for me. And it just stopped working. No explanation, no warning, just dead.

I swear, I almost cried, except I know people who generally know what to do in these situations. I resolved to merely panic that it might be irreparable, that I can't afford to replace it. And I sent an email asking my best friend what to do.

He didn't just offer me one solution, which is just as well. The first one didn't work. It was the most basic. But the second option fixed my laptop in about ten minutes.

Yes, it works.

I love my best friend right now. He's just saved my laptop. It's the most valuable item I own, and it didn't cost me a cent to fix it.

While it wasn't working, I resorted to using the desktop computer. Technically speaking, it's better than my laptop. But in practice, I can't use it as well. I can't do half the things on it I can with my laptop, including design book covers how I like them. I mean, I'm limited to the certain standards, but I'd wanted to do a cover for Bliss.

So, I resolved to make this on the desktop:

It's not the best, but I just wanted it for the five free copies from CreateSpace. I got that from NaNoWriMo, and damn it I was going to take advantage of it! I love having copies of my books. It's much handier to hand someone a bound book when looking for feedback than sending an ebook or handing a bunch of loose pages. Plus, it's just cool.

There's a reverse image, but I don't think it's almost the same.

In case your wondering at the concept... well, initially I'd wanted to have a full face of pink/violet light on the cover, but with the laptop dying I wasn't able to devote as much time as I'd wanted to do actually doing it. So, I decided to go as minimal as possible, since I didn't have the time or software to do much more. I think it looks pretty cool, but then, I would.

The front cover is literally just one image and the text you see above. And that image took about thirty seconds to make. I just used the Internet! This nifty site let me make the image and save it:

Anyway, I have my five free copies on order now, and my laptop is working again. Things are looking up today, compared to yesterday!

But God, I do not want this to happen again!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Magical Mayhem: Venser Battles

Today, I made use of my free time (i.e. I procrastinated) by playing against my brother in Magic. Again. I used Venser's deck exclusively for the morning battles, so that I came to understand a few of the tricks. A couple of cards are extremely useful for doubling up on "when X enters the battlefield" abilities. There are also cards that are otherwise useless, where the special ability is a downfall rather than a way to trump your opponent. Given it's a deck for duelling, and could well be aimed at beginners, it's clear that the weaknesses - although exploitable if used correctly - are there for a reason.

For me, they were just annoying, until I learned not to play those cards for no reason at all.

Venser is a lot more strategic a deck than Koth. With two land variations, and some non-basic land cards, that makes it immediately more difficult to just build up the mana you need. Of course, some of the non-basics made playing Venser more fun. For instance, the deck comes with a couple of lands that grant 1 life point when played. Handy. Very handy. Others allow for scrying, or flying, and a few allow for choosing either Plain or Island mana, or, in one case, both. That helps for the battles, which can be manipulated to last longer with Venser, allowing for bonuses to add up.

A few of the creatures have abilities that come in handy just from an attacking point of view, like exiling, drawing a card, getting +1 power and toughness, and there are a handful of flyers - these are more than effective against Koth's deck, unless the player happens to have a couple of Koth's defenders out.

So, it was a fun deck to play with. I won't go into full detail on it, because that's not quite my style, but I found that when I won with Venser, it was a more enjoyable win than winning with Koth. It felt deserved, rather than just boastful. I don't just beat the living daylights out of my opponent: I do it with style.

We played eight games earlier, before we had to stop for lunch. In those eight games, my Venser deck beat the Koth deck (used by my brother) half the time, losing the other half. What interested me was that three our of four of my losses were a result of Koth actually being played. He's a much more formidable Planeswalker to fight against than I would have thought just by looking at his abilities.

Later in the day, I played games by myself. I controlled both decks, sought to play them both strategically, and two out of three of them Venser won. In the losing match, it turns out I broke the rules while making Koth's turns, so there's no way of telling if the deck should have won. I'm sceptical. I have two defenders that were virtually indestructible, and a planeswalker with 7 defence. My rule breaking got rid of them, but it shouldn't have. Oops!

So, overall, I think Venser is a better deck. At least, it suits me better than Koth does. At the same time, Koth is still fun for just beating people up with, and in playing against him, I picked up a few tricks to make my battles with him much more enjoyable from my end.

Tomorrow, I may be getting more cards. We'll see. I'm still hoping I can get Carnival of Blood.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Magical Mayhem: On First Gathering

There's this little game you can play with cards. It's called Magic: The Gathering. Maybe you've heard of it. If you're a 90s kid, think Pokemon or YuGiOh, but actually good.

My first ever experience with Magic was when my brother got a free booster pack in a magazine several years ago. And up until today, it was my only experience with the game. We never bought more cards, we never learned how to play.

Over the weekend, a friend of mine asked if I'd be interested in playing. Knowing that the game required an actual deck, some patience to learn the basics and money to buy even a cheap deck, I should have said, "It seems like too much work for me right now." But I thought back to the awesome artwork, and to my limited experience playing Dungeons and Dragons, and I agreed to play.

Today, I bought my first deck. Well, two. It was a duel deck pack, Vesner vs. Koth. Why? Because I was too shy to ask if they had any Carnival of Blood. Thankfully, Facebook means I don't have to ask sheepishly in person. I just messaged them, mid-writing this post, to ask.

My first reaction to playing the game: this is hard. Then I remembered my friend was a semi-experienced player, with three decks he knew how to use, and I had only just started. So when he beat me in two games, I wasn't too annoyed. Because another friend showed up, who had also played before, and I beat her. Quite viciously, too, I might add. Land cards don't like her.

I've only used Koth so far. It's not that I didn't like the look of Vesner, mind you. In fact, I preferred the look of him. But I recalled reading that blue cards are some of the hardest to use, and I wasn't about to get myself into that mess. So I used a good ol' red deck and got used to powering up creatures simply by having lands to play.

That was nerd talk for: I had lots of one type of card that made it so I could kick ass a little easier.

So, three matches in and I've already agreed to an idea posed by friend #1: we're going to have tournaments. Not big ones with lots of really experienced players, mind you. We're going to just have four players, a €1 entry fee and a booster pack as the prize. It's a simple way to get us all playing and to make it worth winning.

So, I'll probably be blogging about my experience with this, oh so wonderfully nerdy game, for a while. At least until that gets boring. (As if!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Passionate Writing

A few days ago, I began the actual writing work on a book that few people have been told anything about. I began with the introduction, and I've realised something that made me stop writing it: I wasn't enjoying it. It was a bare-facts, passionless piece, and because I plan to publish this book, I have to start again.

That's not a problem for me. I've started books several times before. The first book I wrote, while the writing sucks terribly and there's a lot of it, has about six different beginnings, because I was never happy with it. That was fiction, and this is non-fiction, but the same principle of starting all over again still applies. In every case, I identified the problem early on.

I won't go into detail on what the book's about, just yet, not until I've actually gotten it underway, but I figured out the standard I want it to meet.

If you've signed up to my website, you'll see a free PDF in the Subscriber Zone. It's about designing a website. Before I posted that, I had also written another document. Again, a secret like the book. The point, though, is that I want the book to be of the same standard as the document. I want it to be a passionate piece about the topic in question, with each chapter addressing different areas of the topic.

The introduction... not quite fitting into that.

I have a bunch of things to do to make this book work, but my first call to action is to actually find my passion for the book. This blog is often how I express a "contract" to myself publicly, and I'm doing it again. By the end of the month, I want to have enough of the book written to be able to tell people I'm writing it. That announcement will be more personal, at first, but the nitty-gritty details will find their way into the open soon after.

I'm all about my big projects, I suppose, and this is one of them. Another big one, another challenge, and something that will be fun to do if I actually put my head down and do it.

So here's my question for you: how do you manage your time to get everything you want to do done?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Life's Everlasting Learning

I've always liked school. Weird, right? I mean, I hated most of the work. A lot of that was mainly that I liked doing other things, and there was a lot of it. I get why we had it, though. It's all part of learning, and because of the way school works these days we had to get a lot of homework just to get everything done. But this isn't about school. This is about learning, which is precisely why I liked school.

See, I'm all about learning new things. I like picking up information and being able to use it. It makes my days so much better to be able to learn something in them.

So, even though college is over for the summer, I'm still learning. Admittedly, I'm not doing my research for my paper, but that can be done at another time. Right now, this is all about learning stuff for myself.

Brendon Burchard, this one guy who knows stuff (Google him!), advises people to set out each month of the year to learn something new. This month, I've been learning business stuff. Vague description, I know. I'm a writer don't you know! Specifically, I've read a book on marketing and a book on strategy, but I have books on other topics and I've been watching videos. I'm focusing on what might be of use as a writer, which subsequently included just about everything Burchard teaches on his different programs. Since I'm not exactly wealthy, I've been going with his free information in his videos and I bought two of his books. I'm still waiting for them to arrive.

I've also signed up for information from a bunch of others in the field, though, and it's meant that I have a stream of lessons coming into my inbox every day or every other day from a few different people. I take notes, I learn, and when I get things get up properly I can begin sharing what I know to save people who don't have it the time I spent watching all those videos.

I'm still looking for more stuff to learn, of course. If you know of someone who produces videos and webinars that are free to watch, even if it means signing up to their website to get them, let me know. I'm always up for learning.

That's all well and good for this month, of course, but what about next month? July is rapidly approaching.

So, I figured I'd tackle something I've been meaning to do for a long time: I want to learn how to cook. I'm going to start basic, and a co-worker and friend of mine has advised a book. She's ordered it into the shop for me to see. I'm pretty excited about it, actually. The book looks amazing, and it'll be worth the investment if it means I can cook my own food for the first time in my life. So far, I'm limited to food that goes into the oven without preparation, sandwiches and things that go into the toaster. The microwave, too, but I don't use that unless I'm just heating something up Mother of Mine prepared earlier that day, usually vegetables.

I don't imagine I'm going to be the most amazing chef in the world, but that's not the point. I need the basic skills to actually learn to cook, and there are some baking recipes in the book, too. Did you know I have a sweet tooth?

So, that's July sorted. August, I'm still stumped for. I mean, I'll be working on my research paper independent of this learn-one-thing-a-month idea, so I guess I just need to find something new. Maybe, just maybe, I'll start learning how to drive. Theory test, initially, of course, but I figure this is a good step. So, I can start learning to drive. Obviously, I won't be able to drive a car by the end of the month. Far from it. But I can at least get myself started on the path towards learning. And if anyone knows me well enough, they know I'll put my mind to this fully. I won't be the best driver in the world, but I'm so damn cautious I'll stay out of trouble.

September... trickier to tell. I have teaching practice and college starts back up and I have something massive to organise, so there's no telling what will happen with the month. Or the months to follow, for that matter. Obviously I'll keep learning to cook and keep learning to drive, but there's only so much I can do on that before I'm breaking the rule of learning something new every month. Part of me would love to learn to play an instrument, but I think I need to go for something more future-specific to get by in this. Possibly I'll start learning a new language.

I've always had problems with this in the past, and it comes down to not applying myself to it. But I figure, even if I only do this half the month as a beginner, I wake up early enough to go to college to listen to audio for about an hour before anyone even gets a chance to talk to me. I can use that time effectively, and I really want to give this a shot.

October... public speaking. Has to be. I mean, I'm already working on it, but it's something I need to get better at. Not just for teaching, but for everything else I plan to do in life. I want to be more natural when I speak in front of people. I tend to stick to notes and all that jazz, though I hate reading them out so I ad lib. I wouldn't be a teacher if all I did was read from a page.

November, I think I want to get better at organising. That sounds too vague, so I'll be more specific. I suck at lesson plans. I suck at schemes of work. I have no proper filing system. I need to get better at that sort of stuff, especially with all the plans I have for the next few years of my life. So hey, there's something. I'm choosing November for this because then the information will be fresh enough in my head even if I get busy to help me prepare for teaching in January more effectively. Yep, strategy. I'm actually implementing it.

And December...? I have no idea. Critically thinking about what I need to do in my life hasn't gotten me that far. That's probably because I haven't written out a strategy for the year. But hey, I reckon what I've got so far is enough to keep the brain going. Odds are I'll probably be learning other things in the middle of everything. I don't see the months as being so strict as to have to stop learning about something because I'm too busy with something else. Heck, if that was the case the school system of Ireland would collapse.

Game on, I suppose. Back to learning from way too many things at once to be sane.

What do you want to learn this year? Leave your answer in the comments below.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Learning to be a Writer

You might be wondering by that title if, perhaps, I left that a little bit too long. However, I find it's never too late to learn - to really learn. Since I got out of college after exams, I've been working on learning new ways to develop myself. As far as the actual writing aspect of my life goes, I think I've gotten to a point where I can't really get away with calling myself terrible. As far as getting a lot of writing done, I'm an on-and-off success.

But that's only one part of being a writer. Aside from the quality and quantity of words I produce, there's the way in which I share them that has always been a weak spot for me. I'm not afraid to admit that, because it's the truth. So I took up a study in another aspect of being a writer: business.

For me, it started with marketing. I read a book about it, and got a lot of advice from some people in the industry. It helped to build a foundation of understanding, onto which I could then add more knowledge. Since then, I've started watching webinars and video presentations on this, to develop the business side of my writing career.

I should point out: this isn't an Indie Author thing. Just because I plan on self-publishing certain titles doesn't mean that's all I'm restricting myself to, and this learning isn't just for that aspect of my writing life. Authors who go down the traditional route still need to learn to manage themselves as if they were working in a business, albeit the best business in the world. (Maybe not financially, but I think you get my point - writing is awesome!)

As part of this learning process, I've been introduced to some amazing thinkers and I've developed a few new ideas for non-fiction books. My aim isn't to get rich from this. I want to help writers - new ones especially - who want to learn more about their trade. This isn't just the craft side, but the business side as well. Admittedly, the latter will take some time to develop towards, given my limited understanding of it, but that's the point of my website: to teach.

With that, I should point out something I've added to the website: a video. It's the first of what will become a series of videos and associated products, aimed towards writers. The first video, 5 Essentials for Writers, went live yesterday, accompanied by an exclusive document on website creation. If you're serious about being a writer go to this page:

When you're there, watch the introduction video, or move on to the full video for free - all you have to do is enter your email address in the box beneath the video where it says 'Subscribe!'

You'll get a confirmation email about the newsletter. Click on the activation link and you'll be brought to a page with a password and a link. Highlight the password and copy it (either by right-clicking on the highlighted word and clicking on 'Copy', or by holding on Ctrl and pressing C) then click on the link.

There will be a password box on that page. Paste the password (again, right-click in the box and select 'Paste' or click in the box, hold on Ctrl again and press V.) You'll then have immediate access to the full length video, 5 Essentials for Writers and a free PDF file Setting Up A Website With It's a step-by-step guide that makes it easy for you to have a professional looking website, all for free. It's helpful for everyone, too, not just writers, and works mostly in the same way with as it would with (If you don't understand the difference, that's okay - is perfectly fine for websites.)

It's that simple, and it's the started of the journey for both you and I. I aim to release new material like that every month, aimed at different aspects of being a writer - from the creative to the business to the psychological. You simply need to stay signed up to the website.

I anticipate an average maximum of four emails a month (newsletter, new download availability, micro-surveys to develop new material for you and product release - you have no obligation to buy, either!). Given my own limited schedule, I don't think I even have time to send more than that. You can be sure, though, that everything I send will be relevant to the journey of learning.

It doesn't get easier than that to start learning more about your business and helping me pick up on what you want to know about.

If there's anything you're really curious about that you want to learn more about, leave a comment below. I'll pick a couple of comments for next month's free release and video, added to the list of ideas I already have growing on Google+ and Facebook.

Good luck on your writing journey. Together, we can go somewhere.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Guest Post: How to make time to write a novel by A.B. Wells

Most people’s lives are busy. For me it’s juggling the demands of four children under the age of twelve, and it’s true to say that there’s little time for quiet contemplation or courting the writing muse. But all would be writers are juggling,  whether it’s college, full time work, caring for children, sick or the elderly there are very few that can dedicate full days to the endeavor of writing, especially when starting out.

So how is it possible to fit in writing around our lives? I started writing again when my youngest child was a newborn, I wrote around his naps. Then followed a period when all the children were tiny so I wrote when friends and family offered a babysitting hour. In the last few years in particular though, I’ve been more methodical in how I create writing time and since 2009 I’ve managed to complete a shot story collection, and 2.5 novels as well as many standalone flash fiction pieces.

These are some of the ways you can create opportunities for writing.

1)      Create a quiet, dedicated writing space/time:. Whether it’s in a spare room or shed, the library or a coffee shop, it helps to move away from your normal space and its distractions. In my case I also need to find a time when it’s quiet and I don’t have interruptions from family. I’m an early bird so I choose to get up at 5am and write for 1 or 2 hours then, others prefer to write into the night.

2)      Take part in writing challenges: The bulk of Housewife with a Half-Life was written during Nanowrimo, the 50,000 words in a month writing challenge. It a) allowed me to state my aim to my friends and family and b) claim writing time for this special challenge. They were happy to rally round to help me achieve the word count. I also discovered that by making myself write 1667 words per day no matter what, some of the material (if not all!) was very useable and even on a very busy day I could squeeze in writing time, either with early starts, while waiting for the kids at an activity for example, or even in ten minute bursts through the day.

3)      Join an online or real world writing group. I joined a weekly peer review flash fiction writing hashtag on Twitter called #fridayflas. This is a group who post regular flash fiction and link to it on Fridays. While there’s no obligation to post every week, being part of a community makes me want to participate and keep involved and I’ve produced many pieces that would never otherwise exist, some of which can be developed further. I even won a short story competition by joining up some of the pieces I wrote for this meme. I’m also a member of a Dublin writing group, the feedback on pieces I write is invaluable.

4)      Integrate musing time into your regular schedule. Walking is wonderful. John Boyne discovered the plot to The Absolutionist during a 1 hour walk. Bestselling author Murakami runs every day. Each time I go for a walk I find phrases and ideas arrive naturally without having to search for them. Spending time on other activities  such as reading (of course), movies, art galleries and so on is feeding the imagination & helping make interesting associations that you can use in your writing. The late Ray Bradbury suggested that reading a short story every night and reading an interesting article was a great way of feeding passion and imagination necessary for writing well about the thing you love.

5)      Get away from it all. After I had built up some short story publications and successes I applied to a writing retreat centre and was successful. I will have my first uninterrupted week of writing ever in July. The arts council in Ireland and local authorities provide grants for people to go to retreat centres such as the Tyrone Gutherie Centre and Anam Cara once you can show evidence of your writing development.

Finding the time to write is not about finding great swathes of time to write (although it’s great when it happens). It’s about creating opportunities for inspiration and building up your wordcount consistently and incrementally. A daily wordcount challenge of even 500 words can help you accomplish that. The kind of writing that will come from these endeavours will be more considered and of higher quality.

About A.B. Wells.

A.B.Wells is the mother of four children age 11 and under. London born, Kerry raised, she has lived in Bray, Co. Wicklow for many years. As Alison Wells her more literary writing has been shortlisted in the prestigious Bridport, Fish and Hennessy Awards and she’s been published or is about to be in a wide variety of anthologies and e-zines, including the Higgs Boson Anthology by Year Zero, Metazen, The View from Here, Voices of Angels by Bridgehouse and National Flash Fiction day’s Jawbreakers. She recently won the fiction category of the Big Book of Hope ebook with a flash fiction medley and has a litfic novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities on submission. She blogs for the popular Irish writing website, and on

About Housewife with a Half-Life

A Housewife's answer to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! In this lively space comedy, Susan Strong and her spaceman guide Fairly Dave dodge entropy hoovers, Geezers with Freezers, the Super Gnome and the Spinner's cataclysmic converter on a mission to retrieve the lost pieces of the housewife's disintegrating self across parallel universes. Can they save us all from Universal Devastation?

Housewife with a Half-Life launches in Hughes and Hughes Dundrum on Friday June 22nd at 7pm. All welcome.

To win one of several prizes related to the book, check out the following competition being run on Alison's blog. The competition ends Saturday 16th June.

The ebook is available on Kindle