Thursday, 30 June 2016

Camp NaNoWriMo is Here Again

I wasn't going to do it this summer, but then I figured "why not?".

I registered for Camp NaNoWriMo, and have committed to 10,000 words written in July. Instead of tackling a novel this time around, I am going to work on a collection of short stories. The tentative title of the collection is Wandering Minds. Earlier this week I jotted down over twenty ideas for stories, which will give me a good starting point.

I have always had more trouble with short stories, but after changing my way of thinking it is getting easier to write them. I like to include details in my stories, which makes a novel ideal. I have a lot of opportunity to paint a picture (with words) of what I am seeing in my head in a novel. With a short story, I have to limit the details while still getting the point across.

By registering for Camp NaNoWriMo I am hoping to explore some genres I don't usually write in. Plus, I enjoy "meeting" new people via the cabin assignments. It is always nice to have the encouragement from others as the days go by, and the word counts increase. Last summer our cabin exceeded its word count by tens of thousands, if I recall correctly.

If you are a writer or are considering exploring the writing world, why not give it a shot? By setting a 10,000 word goal, it will help motivate you yet not feel overwhelming. My first novel was written during NaNoWriMo, which had a minimum word count of 50,000. For a first-time fiction writer, that was a challenge for me. I could easily write non-fiction, and at that point had already self-published a few titles. Fiction was a whole new world for me, but as I wrote I found it easier. The best part was, I have since written a second book in the series, and am working on the third.

I do have to say, I am stuck on the third. Losing my dad suddenly almost two years ago has made that particular story a difficult one to write. I know the best thing to do is to just get back to it, but I know it will be an emotional one to do. My personal goal is to get it finished before November. It will mean going back and reading the first two novels in the series and the first 27,000 words of the third, but I have to keep going.

Have you ever participated in Camp NaNoWriMo or NaNoWriMo? If so, did you meet your goal? If not, are you willing to try? To register, visit. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Bored Kids this Summer?

Happy Monday all!

Weekends seem to go by much too quickly, don't they? I know mine didn't last long enough.

With summer officially here, it is time to start planning vacations (or stay-cations) and enjoy all that summer has to offer. For some it means kids home from school being bored - not a term I was familiar with when I was growing up. Is it just me, or does it seem the more kids have to entertain them, the more they complain of being bored?

If you are a parent or guardian of school-age children this summer, why not encourage more outside time? I know the world has changed since I was a kid, but let them play in the dirt, stay out playing street hockey after dark and encourage them to explore their surroundings. Make summer fun for them, even if you aren't going anywhere on vacation.

Most communities have a Summer Reading Program at the library, so why not encourage your child to participate. They will be encouraged to read, be eligible for some neat prizes and make some neat crafts. The latter does vary from library to library, however.

If you are one of the parents who has to work all summer while your kids are out of school, enlist the help of family, friends or responsible childcare. Summer doesn't have to be boring. What about a treasure hunt? You set it up and have your child(ren) follow the map and collect the goodies. Encourage them to tell you all about their findings when you get home from work. It will help keep you in the loop of what they did, plus they will be excited to show you what they found. Chances are, they'll want to do it again.

For kids being raised on a farm, there is no shortage of things to do. My fondest memories are of summers on the farm. My sister and I used to take a blanket, juice, sandwiches and cookies and have a picnic in the shade of the haystack. Or we would walk through the tall grass and spread our blanket out. My dad used to scold us when he realized it, and I couldn't understand why. As I learned how to operate some farm equipment, I realized why flattened grass was something he didn't want. Sometimes nature did the flattening, and trying to cut hay that is lying flat on the ground is not an easy task.

Give your kids some responsibilities based on their age. Farm kids can take over feeding the outdoor pets and help with the livestock. Those who live in town can mow the grass, weed the garden or take the family dog for a daily walk. Let them help plan a weekend of camping or a visit to a museum. If they are part of the planning process they will be more interested in going, and it will help you take a step back and see the world through their eyes.

As adults we tend to forget what being a kid is all about. No matter how old you are, there is nothing wrong with doing something fun. Let your kids be kids, and let yourself act like one too. I miss my two being little, because we would go for walks, go to the lake for an afternoon, or go camping. We lived across the street from the school and spent hours at the playground. They had their Nintendo, but when summer came I would put it away and they were encouraged to go outside and play. There is nothing wrong with a child making mud pies. Water and soap does wonders to dirty hands, feet and faces. And if it gets on the floor, a mop will take care of that too.

On a final note, let your kids be kids. If they want to get dirty, let them. If they want to read a book in the treehouse, that's okay too. And for those who show some artistic ability, encourage it by buying sketchbooks and crayons for them. Young writers would be content with a pen and a notebook. Let them explore their world and who they are as a person. You may be surprised at what they come up with. And, when they return to school in the fall, they will have fond memories of a summer spent doing fun things, even if they didn't go anywhere on vacation.

What are your favourite summer memories as a child? Have you been able to recreate them with your own children (if you are a parent)?

Friday, 24 June 2016

Generating Story Ideas

Although my first few posts on this blog have been about alpacas, I’m going to switch direction just a little today. For those who know me or have read the first post, I am more than just an alpaca owner.

Writing is a big part of my life as well. I try to write every day – whether it be an article, a short story or in my personal journal. It is while writing in the latter that I come up with many ideas for articles, eBooks or novellas. My writing interests are as varied as the rest of me, but for the most part I like to share what I have learned with others.

I stepped out of my comfort zone in November 2012 when I registered for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I honestly had no idea which direction my writing was going to take, especially since I had never attempted fiction before then. My articles and other published works had all been nonfiction.

In a sense, the alpacas were my inspiration for the story. Once I had the basic idea, I let the words flow without knowing where the story would take me. I was, as is known in the literary world, a pantser. No plot; no outline – just write. The Hidden Estate was born.

The second book was a little easier for me to write, and I took the time to do some outlining. I knew where I wanted the story to go. I cannot say so much for the third in the series. I was well on my way to getting the first draft written, and then my dad passed away suddenly on July 31, 2014. I was a mess inside and out, and anything to do with writing was simply not happening. It wasn’t until several months later that I attempted it again, and added about 20,000 words to the manuscript. I was stuck again, and set it aside.

My job as a library assistant has been good for me, and I recently had a patron come up to me and compliment me on my first two novels. She asked when the next one was going to be out, and I admitted to her I was very stuck and had set it aside. Talking to her has given me the push I needed to move forward with it. Perhaps by the end of the summer I will have the first draft finished.

Now, to get back on track. Story ideas can be all around us; sometimes we just have to know where to look. Last summer I entered a short story contest put on by Polar Expressions Publishing (no entry fee, and no more than 750 words). The two biggest challenges for me were 1) a story idea, and 2) keeping it within the word count parameters. I came up with the story idea while we were camping one weekend; and I wasn’t thinking about it at the time. Surroundings play a big part in where our minds take us, and as writers we have to be open to new ideas. Mystery on the Lake was written, entered and made it into the book Wherever We Roam, which meant I made the cut. I didn’t get any cash prize or honourable mention, but making it into the book was good enough for me.

In order to come up with story ideas, you just need to be open-minded. Keeping a notebook close by (or utilizing the notepad app on your phone) is ideal for jotting down ideas when they present themselves. You do not need to have an entire plot in your head; that can come later. Brainstorming is one way to get a list started. It doesn’t mean you have to write a story about everything you think of, but it gives you a good base.

Some things to consider are:
1.       Life events
2.       Interests
3.       Places you’ve been
4.       Places you want to go
5.       Observing others
6.       Reading
7.       Watching the news
8.       Taking a walk
9.       Going for a drive in the country
10.   Careers others have
11.   Careers you have pursued
12.   Volunteer work
13.   Where you live
14.   Museums
15.   National parks

What has the above listed prompted you to think about? Do you see a mystery in the future, or perhaps historical fiction? Use one sheet of paper for each number and write down as many possibilities as you can think of. You may find yourself even plotting out a story, and that’s alright.

Has the list above given you any ideas? Comment below, without revealing your secrets.  

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Shearing an Alpaca Alone

Yesterday was a good day!

I was able to shear one of our alpacas alone, yet safely for her and me. It took me a bit to get her secured, but when I did all went well.

First, I tied two tubular fence panels to the windbreak, about eighteen inches apart. I tied them in two places, but today will add a third point of securing the panels.

I then bribed her in with some fresh grass, and tied the panels together behind her. She wasn't very pleased, but she was in no danger.

I had my shears ready nearby, so started to give her a haircut. She kept walking ahead and stepping back, which made it hard to clip her. I had missed one crucial step in my excitement of getting the job done - I didn't secure her head. Once I had the halter on her and tied her to the front of the panel, she was unable to move much.

The open design of the panels allowed me to shear while keeping her safe as well as myself. I only did her blanket as I was not very fast, but still ended up with two big bags of fiber. I couldn't believe how white and dense the fiber was once I got below the dirt, dust and hay.

As there is no electricity close to the alpaca pens, I used hand shears. They worked and personally I think it was a more relaxing experience for both her and I. Perhaps just me, as I wasn't the one tied up and unable to move much.

The positioning of the panels allowed me to work on both sides of her without having to turn her around. That most likely wouldn't have gone well. I am excited to try again today with another alpaca. If only they understood how much lighter and cooler they would be once they were done. It would be nice to have them lined up and waiting their turn.

Below is a picture of her in her shearing chute. Notice the difference between outside and inside of her coat?

I can't wait to spin up some of the fiber, but it will need a very good cleaning first. Time to get busy and shear another! Have a great day!!!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Our Alpacas

Hello all,

It's hard to believe we have had our little alpaca herd for five years already. Our number is still at seven, but that is counting births, deaths and sales. It has been an interesting adventure, to say the least.

I grew up on a farm, but we raised cattle - not fiber animals. It wasn't until I was in my early 40's that I wanted to invest in livestock that didn't have to be sold regularly to make money. Being the crafty person that I am, I was more interested in animals I could keep for years and just harvest the fiber. As I started doing some research, I fell in love with alpacas. They were more my size, easy to care for and quite entertaining at times.

I learned about the fencing they need, the food they eat and how much space was needed for a small herd. To my surprise they needed a lot less space than I initially thought, which made them perfect for an acreage. We already had a fenced area in place which had initially been for the horses, so all we did was replace the barbed wire with page wire.

One thing I quickly learned was that they were escape artists. We had put them in a temporary area before we had the big pen ready, and they quickly figured out how to get out. Imagine my horror when they ran straight to the highway, which is a busy one. Acres and acres of grass in the yard, and they ran to the road!

Each has their own personality; some are a little crankier than others but still fairly easy to get along with. It is quite simple to see who is the boss when observing, and if the boss escapes the others will definitely follow. Last week I made two long walks to retrieve the herd because they found a hole to get through. No matter which one I thought I could entice to follow me with a little food, it was the boss who determined which way they went.

I learned alpacas cannot be chased, because that does not go over well with them. The easiest way to get them back where they belong is to be patient. Having a little grain in a bucket helps too. I felt like the Pied Piper, leading the herd. I can only imagine how comical it must have looked from a distance.

Alpacas are quite easy to care for, in my experience. I have read several horror stories on various Facebook groups, but overall we have not had any major issues. As someone once said to me "when you have livestock, you have deadstock", and that is so true. It is a fact of life, and although it can be heartbreaking one must move onward. I do not mean to sound heartless, because I cry every time we lose an animal (cat, dog, alpaca), but it is a fact of raising animals.

I am a self-taught spinner and have known how to crochet for 40 years. The opportunities are endless when it comes to raising alpacas, because they have given me so much inspiration. As a writer, they have even made their way into my novels.

The photo is one of our newest addition. She was born May 7, 2016 and is such a little sweetheart.

As you can see in the photo, her mother is in need of a haircut. If all goes according to plan that will take place this week. Have a great day all!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Welcome to Not Just Alpaca!

First of all, I'd like to say welcome to my blog!

It has taken me years (literally) to come up with a name that represents who I am and what I do. Instead of having several blogs (which are hard to keep up with), I am now going to concentrate on only this one. For those of you who know me, you will understand completely. For those of you just joining me, you'll understand in due time.

Now, a little about me. I am a writer, indie author, fiber artist, gardener, alpaca owner, library assistant, significant other and my favourite part: a mom. Although my children are now young adults, I am still very much a part of their lives. They both live within an hour's driving distance, which is nice for me and them.

I have been writing both online and offline since January 2010, when I decided to bite the bullet and put some of my work out there. When I submitted a couple of articles to HubPages and the content was well-received, I started pushing myself a little harder. I have since self-published two novels and several nonfiction titles on writing, self-publishing, freelancing and crafts. Most of my titles can be found on Amazon, Kobo, Sellfy, Lulu and some are even available in my Etsy shop.

I do not claim to be perfect, as I have made mistakes along the way. I have, however, learned a thing or two from each mistake I have made. It helps give me a better understanding of the process of writing, self-publishing and freelancing.

As for my fiber arts, I have been hooked on crochet for most of my life. I am also a self-taught spinner, felter and needle-felter. My alpacas are a great source of fiber and inspiration for me. They have made their way into my novels and their antics are now shared regularly on my Instagram account.

To some my blog will seem a little wishy-washy, as I will post about a variety of topics. That is who I am though, and often one interest merges with another. My fiber arts have led to the creation of patterns, which incorporates the writing skills I have. I have learned to just be me, and to not try to please everyone. When one tries to please everyone, there can be no happiness. I like to be happy, and figuring that out was the hardest part. Now I concentrate more on what makes me happy, and it seems to be working.

"Do what you love, and the rest will follow." That is some advice I have taken to heart, and it is helping me enjoy life. I haven't hit the best-seller list yet, nor have I earned six figures from what I do, but perhaps one day I will. Until then, I am just going to enjoy the ride. If it never comes, then so be it, but at least I will be able to say I lived my life doing what I love.

Stay tuned for the next post, and feel free to ask questions about alpacas, self-publishing, freelancing and fiber arts. You never know when your question may become the title for a blog post. I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experiences with you, as well as learning more about who my readers are.

Until the next post, have a great day!