May Wrap Up & June In Focus

May has been a lovely month – it was shaky at first as I came off the pills and dealt with the final symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but once those had evened out I started to really feel myself again. I’ve been focused on self-care but also orientated around my goals, and I feel ready to up my game over the next month!

MAY Wrap Up

I’ll admit that I got a little stressed out about my blog this month as I did the classic mistake of getting fixated on the numbers once I noticed they weren’t going up. I rectified this with a giveaway which brought loads of traffic to my blog, but now I need to keep it up! I was perhaps too ambitious with my social media goals given that I was on holiday for a lot of the month so I’ve tried to be more realistic this time around.

Books

During May I read just two books – both non-fiction, but wildly different! The first one was the Culture Smart! Colombia travel guide published by Kuperard, which I really enjoyed and became inspired after reading to write my own series of travel guides focused around British and Canarian locations. Very early days but looking forward to working on this soon! The second book I read was a much more spiritual book by Ann Marie Ruby entitled Spiritual Lighthouse: The Dream Diaries of Ann Marie Ruby. Not a book I’d normally pick up but I loved it. Both of these I reviewed this month as well as Moxie by Alex Poppe.

Eateries

Because we went on holiday this month we were quite excessive with eateries, visiting eight in total! Three of those were in England including LEON at Stansted Airport (which I also reviewed this month), The Rose & Crown in Wivenhoe, and Patisserie Valerie in Colchester, and five were in Corralejo – Hamburguesa, La Casita, Retro, Cordon Blue, and El Pescador. La Casita will always be my favourite in Corralejo for their beautifully authentic Spanish seafood, and Patisserie Valerie stood out to me back home for their rather delightful afternoon tea which I shared with my Mum.

Experiences

Time for British experiences was sparse this month so I visited just one, which was the annual exhibition from the Colchester Photographic Society featured at The Minories in Colchester. It was fantastic, showcasing a real range of talent from the area.

I reviewed two experiences I’ve visited previously – Norwich Cathedral which I visited last year and Seven Sisters Country Park which I experienced as part of a fundraising trek.

Travel

This month was a Fuerteventura month, which might be why I feel so great! We trialled having a more budget, relaxing holiday this time round which I enjoyed, though I think I’m more suited to jam-packed adventure holidays… I get a bit bored of sunbathing after a while! It was lovely to get away though and I got loads of good review content, from a complex review of Maxorata to an excursion review of Jandia, situated on the south of the island.

I also reviewed two travel experiences this month – the Fuerteventura Grand Tour, one of my favourite excursions on the island, and Nomad Beach Bar & Restaurant which is on Diani Beach in Kenya.

Miscellaneous

It wasn’t quite as busy as April for miscellaneous posts but there were still a couple! I didn’t write any product reviews but I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award, which was possibly the lengthiest award post I’ve written in my life! I was really grateful for that as it now means I’ve been nominated for four separate awards since I started in February.

Several of my guest posts and contributions were also featured this month – What I Love About Britain for BritVoyage and Let’s Talk About Pets for Little Tinkablee. I also contributed to Favourite Travel Destinations by World Of Lina.

June In Focus

June is hopefully going to be a busy month! I’m planning on going self-hosted towards the end so my site may be down for maintenance at one point, however it’s going to be bigger and better once done! I’ve also got lots of planning to do, such as an email list that I’d like to develop and ways that I can be working with other bloggers and featuring them on my site.

I’m Reading…

I’m starting off my reading today with The Cleansing by Anton Eine, a sci-fi short story written purely in dialogue which I’m interested to read. I’m participating in a blog tour for One? by Jennifer Cahill in the middle of the month, and I’ll also be reviewing Matt Haig’s Notes On A Nervous Planet which I read in April.

I’m Eating…

I think it’s fair to say that I visited a whole myriad of restaurants in May, so for June I’m scaling that back a little bit. I’ll be posting reviews of The Rose And Crown and Patisserie Valerie, and hopefully will visit Caffe Sala in Colchester towards the end of the month.

I’m Experiencing…

My first visit this month will be to the Naze in Walton, which is very local to me! This is a place that is very special to my heart and perfect for both sun worshippers and nature lovers. I’ll be reviewing it mid-month as my main British experience for June.

I’m Travelling…

Sadly I’m not travelling anywhere this month as I can’t really justify it, but I’ve got loads of content to share! You’ll be able to read reviews of Hamburguesa, a brilliant place in Corralejo for burger fiends, plus a more close-up look of Timanfaya which was mentioned briefly in my Lanzarote Grand Tour review. I’ll be going into more detail of what to expect from the first Timanfaya visit we ever did.

i’m also focusing on…

I’ve got one guest post scheduled for this month which is part of the Meet The Blogger series with Fraser’s Fun House, plus a contribution to Inching Forwards. I’ll also be writing two guest posts up – one for Brighter Craft on galleries in London and another for Emily Eva on Colchester. I’m hoping to do one product review but it’s not confirmed yet so we shall see!

I feel like I’ve really got into the swing of things now with blogging and I’m excited to finally go self-hosting at the end of this month. May has been crazy for ideas generation, so let’s see how much of that I can start working on in June!

What are you most looking forward to reading about in June?

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Fuerteventura Gift Box Giveaway!

As you all know I recently visited Fuerteventura, my favourite place ever and hopefully my future home. To celebrate reaching 2000 followers on Twitter I decided to do a giveaway, and what better theme for the prizes than this beautiful island…

Gift box for Fuerteventura Giveaway
The full gift box, complete with loads of prizes!

Details of entry are below, but before you do so check out the great selection of gifts you could win, all flown back from the Canaries!

The Prizes

Skin Products

Skin care from Fuerteventura giveaway - aloe vera body lotion and soap

The Canary Islands are famous for their aloe vera – one of the only plants that can thrive in such harsh, arid conditions. Fuerteventura is dotted with aloe vera farms, with the plants being used to make a wonderful selection of skincare that’s been proven to moisturise skin effectively and provide relief from sunburn and other issues. I’m never without aloe vera skincare so decided to include two of my favourites in the giveaway – face and body lotion, which I use everyday when I’m out in the sun, and a bar of aloe vera soap.

Home Decor

Home decor from Fuerteventura giveaway - hanging lizard decor, lizard cup, and magnet

If I could I’d buy all my home decor from Fuerteventura – there’s so many artisan shops out there with beautiful handmade gifts! Lizards are very popular on the island and you’ll see them running around all over the place, so they’re a common image when it comes to decor and many people have them on the walls of their houses or adorning their jewellery and accessories. I chose a cute cup/container plus a lovely hanging decoration for the lizard theme, and of course the Fuerteventura magnet (which you have to have when it’s a gift from abroad!).

Food Items

Food items from Fuerteventura giveaway - mojo sauce

Another thing the Canary Islands is famous for is Mojo sauce. There are two main types – a slightly spicy red pepper variety known as Picón, and Green which contains coriander or parsley. They make beautiful dipping sauces and work well with bread or my favourite, Canarian potatoes. I’m including a recipe for these as well as it’s the ultimate Canarian starter!

jewellery

Jewellery from Fuerteventura giveaway - four bracelets and anklets

If you snooped through my jewellery box then you’d notice that most of it has a beachy feel to it, which is typical of the jewellery you can buy in Fuerteventura. Bright colours are appreciated, and many bracelets, anklets, and necklaces use material and string rather than metal. I love how durable the jewellery is over there and the traveller/beachy vibe it gives off, so I’ve also included four bracelets/anklets as one of the prizes.

candles

Candles from Fuerteventura giveaway with candle holder

And finally, we have another lizard-themed product – a handmade candle holder, complete with a set of rose candles.I’m a big candle fan myself so when I saw this holder I just had to buy it! There are several wonderful shops with these sorts of products but I found this particular one in El Campinario in Corralejo, and the shop also featured many beautiful crystals and ornaments. I’ll admit I’m envious of the winner for getting this!

how to enter

All you need to do to enter is use the following Rafflecopter link – it’s that easy! The giveaway lasts for two weeks so make sure to get your entries in quick, and don’t forget to share with your friends! Good luck!

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Fuerteventura giveaway pinterest image

Sunshine Blogger Award

I’ve received my third blogger award which is amazing! I was nominated by three wonderful bloggers – Little Tinkablee, LoveMeTreatMe, and Nyxie’s Nook, and I strongly recommend you check all of them out as they write brilliant posts and have been so supporting throughout my blogging journey. This is a great concept for an award and I love how individualised it is. I’ve got to say though – I’m thankful for three nominations but Jesus H. Christ did you guys give me a lot of work when I was writing this up!

Sunshine Blogger Award title image

The Rules

The rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award are simple:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and don’t forget to link back to their site
  • Answer the 11 questions asked by your nominators
  • Nominate at least 11 more bloggers for the award
  • Write 11 new, creative questions for your nominees to answer
  • Notify your nominees via social media or by commenting on their blog
  • Lastly, list the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your site or in your post

the questions

Questions From Little Tinkablee

Do you have any pets? If so how many?

I have just the one pet, my beautiful Giant African Millipede, Chongololo. Some thing she’s an odd choice for a pet but I love her – she’s super interesting plus I’m a massive fan of bugs!

Me with my pet Giant African Millipede, Chongologo
She may be different but I love her

If you could turn into any animal what would it be?

This is a difficult question! I think I’d probably go with an octopus… They’re my favourite animal and super intelligent so I could still have loads of fun.  

Favourite book? (four max)

It’s hard to pinpoint my absolutely favourite book ever but one I really loved was The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins, as it had everything I look for in a good novel. My favourite non-novel book is The Ultimate Noah’s Ark by Mike Wilks, a book I grew up with and adored (I still don’t know all the answers though).

Favourite Author? (four max)

I’d say Ian McEwan, Marian Keyes, Jonas Jonasson, and David Nicholls – all excellent writers (though very different).

Top 3 bloggers that have helped you out the most?

There are three bloggers that have been super useful actually when it comes to blogging tips and courses and so on – Cynspo, Dana Nicole Designs, and Jenny In Neverland! Thanks to these three I actually know what I’m doing 😊

Is there a colour that you hate? What is it?

Brown, unless it’s combined with colours like oranges and reds.

Me doing child's pose for yoga practice
Yoga keeps me motivated and is one of my favourite ways to de-stress

When you aren’t blogging or planning a blog what do you like to do in your down time?

Usually you’ll find me either gaming, reading, cooking, or doing yoga. In the summer I’m mostly found at the beach, swimming in the evenings after work.

Favourite season of the year?

Summer! I’m a complete sun-worshipper and hate the cold – anything over 25 degrees is perfect for me.

Have you ever dyed your hair a crazy/vibrant colour?

I used to have black hair with a blue tint when I was at school – not something I’d do again but I did love it! I’ve also accidentally dyed my hair purple before, and once had a pink fringe with my natural blonde hair (don’t ask).

 Have you ever volunteered for anything?

Yes, I love volunteering! I’ve done lots of voluntary writing and I currently provide voluntary cover art designs for my local magazine. I’ve also done some volunteering with my local nature reserve where I counted sheep and made sure that they weren’t suffering from flystrike. Counting sheep is much harder than it sounds as they tend to run all over the place when you go near them! I’ve also volunteered with social care and helped a Children and Families trip to Legoland which was super fun, albeit exhausting.

 If you had to choose between never having a single piece of fruit again or a single piece of vegetable, what would you choose?

This question makes me sad… I’m going to have to say fruit because otherwise it makes dinners really difficult, but I’d sure miss watermelon, mangoes, and berries ☹

Questions From LoveMeTreatMe:

If you could go back to any time period, which would you choose and why?

Oooh that’s a difficult one! I’d want to go really far back so I could experience something different… Maybe to the time of Mayans or ancient Druids, or even further back to the Jurassic era! I’d absolutely love to see what life was like in such a wildly different time.

If you had to pick a mythological creature to be what would it be?

Definitely a Kraken, as then I could eat boats whole which would be pretty cool. Don’t think I’d have many predators, either!

Which musicians do you really resonate with?

Jimi Hendrix, who inspired my love of guitar. Also Kurt Cobain and Florence.

Do you have a routine you do before you begin to create? What is it?

A positive workspace for blogging
Achieving a relaxing and positive vibe is crucial to my productivity

Sometimes I’ll just open my laptop and write but generally I stick to a routine. I have a really nice desk in my studio where I write, and before I’ve started I always make sure I have my notebook handy and a cup of tea or coffee made and ready. I usually light incense and will sometimes light candles as well. It’s also really important to me that my workspace is tidy while I’m working (when I’m not working, not so much) so I put everything back where it should be before I start.

If you had to pick an actor/actress to play your life who would it be?

Alicia Vikander because I love her ❤

Your name is in the dictionary. What is written next to it to describe you? Human is not an answer.

Probably just a load of question marks. I’m not sure, though the words ‘bug’, ‘eclectic’, and ‘creative’ would definitely be in there somewhere!

Are you pro marijuana legalization, or against?

I’m against cannabis legalisation which is mainly due to my job as a youth support advisor. I’ve worked with so many young people that have made the wrong choices in life and ended up in really negative situations, and so much of it could be traced back to cannabis use (which, of course, is often traced back to other issues as well). I’ve worked in a school where students would take up the habit and screw up their grades, and eventually end up without an option once they’d left school. Many young people I’ve worked with who were cannabis users have gone on to commit crimes or take more serious drugs, and others have ended up with severe mental health problems including anxiety and paranoia because they started smoking in school and never stopped. It breaks my heart that it’s so easily accessible despite being illegal and so many young people are screwing up their lives before they’ve even began… Sure, they can get back on track, but it takes a lot of time and resources and some of them never turn it around (coincidentally I’ve seen a few of my ex-regular cannabis users in the news recently going to jail for various different assault-based crimes).

However, I’m totally for medicinal use providing that the THC is removed… I’ve heard wonderful things from some people! I’m looking into CBD oil myself for my migraines, so I’m interested to see how it works.

Name one food you refuse to live without.

CHEESE. It’s why I could never be vegan – I just love it so much! Terrible habit but I pretty much sprinkle grated cheese on everything…

We all have hobbies, which is your favourite?

Although it’s nothing to do with my blog I really enjoy gaming! I’m mostly found on the PS4 but I love PC and handheld gaming as well. I pretty much game every day – I love the immersion and the escapism to a degree, plus the wonderful storytelling some games provide. I’m also really motivated by trophies and achievements so I’m a bit of a completionist!

Pick a colour to describe your personality.

I’m tempted to go rainbow but I’m not sure if that counts! I’m a bit of a chameleon and my personality really depends on my surroundings – sometimes I’m super outgoing and happy to take risks and be bold (think oranges and yellows), and other times I’m this super quiet shell of a person who will avoid all social contact and gravitate towards cosy, easy going situations (more teal or duck egg blue, or sometimes even a dark navy/indigo). My sense of self comes and goes, and I tend to just adapt!

Name something you wish came naturally to you, and why.

Having a good memory, for sure. My memory is absolutely terrible and I constantly have to write things down – even if you’ve pretty much just told me something there’s a chance I’ll forget it! I’ve learnt to overcome the issue with other tools but it’s frustrating that I can never quite find the information in my mind.

Questions From Nyxie’s Nook:

Why did you start blogging?

I write reviews for CEX as a side-gig, and one day I was sitting down writing a couple of reviews and felt myself just really enjoying it. That’s where the idea for the blog came from – a place where I could just review loads of stuff. I’d love to make it my main career as it fits in nicely with my goal of moving abroad!

The caldera at Isla de Lobos, Fuerteventura
The world around me brings me so much inspiration – particularly when I’m travelling

Who are your inspirations and why?

I don’t really get massively inspired by people but more the world around me… Nature and what it brings is my real inspiration, especially for travel and experience. Positive environments motivate me to be my best and inspire me to get out there and try new things.

Describe yourself in three words.

Creative. Eclectic. Introverted.

Who brings the most joy in your life?

My partner, who I’ve been with for almost 6 years.

What is the most important thing for you in your life?

Sounds cliché but being happy – which I guess stems from being healthy, having a good work/life balance, having a positive relationship, and not having too many financial worries. I need a lot of variety in my life to be happy as well.

Harwich lighthouse ink drawing
I’m also an artist in my spare time and I specialise in ink drawings – this is a cover I drew for a local magazine

What at you best at?

Procrastinating! Joking aside, I’d probably say ink drawings.

What change can you bring in the world through blogging?

Hopefully to inspire people to try new things and to help them find the experiences and products that they need in their life.

What is the one thing you wish to change in the world and why?

Lack of responsibility towards the environment because I’m very passionate about sustainability and eco-friendly concepts. I’d also like to change how fast-paced and short-termed we have become as a society as I believe it’s very damaging.

What do you fear the most?

Dying – not the pain part, but the concept of not existing. I find that really hard to grasp.

Who is the best blogger for you?

Ahhhh this question is too hard! My answer is… everyone I’ve nominated or who has nominated me 😀

If you had to change your name, what would it be?

Something elven or witchy… I’m not sure of specifics though! I go by Luna Marina (pronounced MAH-rin-uh) in my Pagan circles so that would be pretty cool.

the nominees

Here are my nominees, in no particular order!

What’s In My Wonderland?
The Art & Science Of Worldbuilding
The Sacred Space
Time To Travel
Your Travel Handbook
The Ray Journey
Frantasmagoria
BritVoyage
Lea Bella Blogs
ThatAutisticFitChick
TreatYoBrain

the questions for my nominees

  1. What’s an interesting fact about you that people might not expect?
  2. If you could only eat one cuisine for the rest of your life what would it be?
  3. What’s a fear you have that you really want to overcome?
  4. What’s your main aim when it comes to your blog?
  5. What’s a hobby you don’t currently do but really want to take up?
  6. If you could have any superpower what would it be and why?
  7. You’re moving house and have to choose between a ranch in the desert, an ice house in a snowy land, a treehouse in the jungle, or a bamboo hut on the beach. Which do you choose?
  8. What’s something you were absolutely obsessed with as a kid?
  9. You’ve been given £1m to donate to any single charity of your choice. Which one do you go for?
  10. Aside from blogging (if that’s the case), what is your dream job?
  11. And the ultimate debate… Pineapple on pizza?

Looking forward to reading all of your responses!

Camp NaNoWriMo Update – Week 4

It’s the end of April which means that Camp NaNoWriMo is nearly over for 2019! You may have noticed that I didn’t post an update last week due to several things (stepdaughter visiting, laptop breaking, life in general) so here’s my final update for the experience.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2019 Title Image - Week Four

My novel & goals

Title: Written In The Stars

Genre: Romance/women’s fiction

Synopsis: After discovering her fiancé (and love of her life) has been having an affair, Vicky Murton decides it’s time to give up the dating game. It’s now official – men are all useless and not worth her time. Besides, it’s much easier to live a happy life when someone else isn’t there to spoil it, right?
That’s the plan, but then Vicky’s astrologically-inclined friend, Felly, gets involved. She reckons it’s not that all men are unreliable – it’s just that Vicky has bad taste. If she would just listen to her inner psychic, then Felly reckons that Vicky will meet the man of her dreams.
With Felly in charge of her love life now, Vicky has a whole host of different experiences to look forward to (or not). But will Felly’s zodiac-based predictions ring true? Or is it really down to Vicky to find the right man?

Camp NaNo goal: Revise 50 pages of first draft

My progress so far

I didn’t get anything done during week three at all as I couldn’t access any of my chapters, which wasn’t great. It meant that I had to really pile on the pressure this week to get it done – I had 21 pages to get finished by the end of week 4 if I wanted to win.

I actually managed to do it! I feel that my time to sit down and edit has been quite inconsistent as I’ve only really been able to work on my novel on weekends, but I pushed through and got the last bit done today. In total I revised 52 pages of my novel, 2 more than my target, which equated to 13 chapters.

My favourite excerpt from this week

Back at work, everyone expressed their sympathy with me, but it didn’t help. They all had different lovely things to say.
“It’ll be alright, babe.”
“I know it’s difficult, Vee, but the hardest part is now over. You can start to move on now.”
“This is good – you’ve got the bastard out of your life! Nothing to remind you of him now – you can start over.”
Okay, so Celine didn’t have quite such a heart-warming and comforting approach, but I appreciated her trying, at least.
“I just…I just don’t know what to do now.” I found myself saying.
“Find these shoes in another size?” An elderly customer shouted.
“I don’t know…You need to look to the future now. Which I’m sure everyone keeps saying, but it’s true.” Sarah tried to comfort me. “Maybe you should go for something completely different?”
“But I want this pair!” I heard the woman shout back.
“I’m not sure…I don’t want to do anything right now. I just want to get back to my old life and go from there. That’s all I want. All I need.”
“Different is good though, sometimes.”
“This is the only pair of shoes that I like! Can someone please help me find them in my size?!”
Cue Sarah’s rage mode, reserved only for the most abrasive of customers. “They’re underneath the other shoes! Can’t you see we’re busy here?!”
The customer huffed and went back to the shoe section.
“Sorry, about that. I think we need to –“
“Stop thinking about my abyss of a life, and get back to the job we’re supposed to be doing?”

What i’ve learnt & focus for the rest of the novel

Something that I’ve noticed about my writing is I tend to overuse certain words – “still”, “though”, “definitely” and “also” to name a few! I really want to focus on making my writing concise and removing these repetitive words – it’s hard during NaNoWriMo to truly craft your writing because of the time and word count pressures, but hopefully I’ll be more aware now at least.

I’m proud of revising 13 chapters but I’ve still got a long way to go – another 42 chapters left! Now I’ve made a start I’m confident I’ll get bits done here and there… I don’t think it’ll be a quick process but hopefully I’ll have a fully revised draft done by the next NaNoWriMo, so I can put ‘Written In The Stars’ to one side again for a bit while I write the next one, and then go back to it afterwards and look into editors and beta readers. There’s lots of other things to focus on as well but for now I’m enjoying taking it one step at a time and not letting myself become overwhelmed by it all. Hopefully in a couple of years you’ll be seeing my name on the shelves!

How did your Camp NaNo project go? What are your plans now? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like this post if you enjoyed reading it!

April Wrap Up & May In Focus

Like March, April has gone so quickly and I can’t believe it’s nearly May already. Where has 2019 gone?! Here’s how the month has gone and my plans for May as well.

APRIL Wrap Up

I feel like I’ve really settled into the blogging community now although this month hasn’t been without its hiccups – my laptop died mid-month and left me with over a week without access to a computer which made blogging rather difficult! We also had my stepdaughter up that week – great fun, but I got soooo behind on my writing. I’ve pretty much caught up now and I’m glad to not feel so overwhelmed anymore!

Books

I’ve read some brilliant books this month, and most of them I’ll be reviewing on here. I started off by sneaking in another Jenny Colgan book, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop In Paris, which I really enjoyed. It wasn’t quite as good as Christmas At Little Beach Street Bakery but I still got completely wrapped up in it! I also finished Book Of Panacea by Tineke Peeters, a self-published fantasy YA book, and The Sound Of Drowning by Katherine Fleet which had a massive impact on me emotionally. Yesterday I finished Moxie by Alex Poppe and I’m also reading the 2019 Culture Smart! Colombia Travel Guide over the weekend. It’s been a busy month for reading!

EateriesO

I did one main eatery visit this month, which was to Hare And Hounds in East Bergholt. Sadly it’s the only one I managed to fit in what with such a busy month, but it was a fantastic experience! We were very lucky that it was also the hottest day of the year so far which really added to the day.

Experiences

Again time has been a constraint this month but I’ve reviewed two different locations – Three Cliffs Bay, a beach in Swansea that’s very close to my heart, and Hollow Trees Farm, which I visited during the Easter break with my stepdaughter and family. I haven’t been to a family farm in a long time so this was a great day out! The review will be up on Monday.

Travel

There’s been no travelling again for me this month so I’ve been focusing instead on past travelling experiences. I wrote two travel-focused reviews this month – one of these was for Oasis Dunas, an apartment complex in Corralejo, Fuerteventura, that we visited last September. The other covered my experiences of Mount Kenya which I trekked last August when leading a school trip, which certainly made for an interesting time!

Miscellaneous

It’s been a busy month for other posts! At the start of the month I was nominated twice for the Blogger Recognition Award by fellow bloggers which I really appreciated. I also wrote up a post for Seven Things I Like In A Book, which was a post I really enjoyed writing and it got me thinking about some of the devices used within fiction. It even helped inspire me a bit with my own writing!

There’s also been a lot going on with guest posting – I’ve been mainly writing them up, however I’ve had one guest post featured on my experiences of SAD for Pickle & Poppet’s Share Your Story series, and I’ve contributed to two different posts – Top 13 Animal Encounters From Around The World by Lauren’s Travel Adventures, and Advice For Supporting Someone With Mental Health Problems by Unwanted Life.

May In Focus

I’ve been looking forward to May for ages because we finally get to go away! I’ve also got some exciting posts scheduled and a travel-based giveaway coming up so stay tuned!

I’m Reading…

May is starting off with a blog tour for Moxie by Alex Poppe which I’m really looking forward to taking part in. I’ll also be reviewing the 2019 Culture Smart! Colombia Travel guide and The Sound Of Drowning by Katherine Fleet as mentioned above. Another book I’ll be reading and reviewing is Spiritual Lighthouse: The Dream Diaries Of Ann Marie Ruby – it’s got such an interesting premise so I can’t wait to get lost within the pages.

I’m Eating…

I’m going to be eating out loads this month but abroad, so that’s more relevant to the travel section! For my reviews I’ll be writing just one this month, as we’ll be visiting one location in Stansted Airport for breakfast – LEON, describing itself as fast-food with a Mediterranean twist. Can’t wait!

I’m Experiencing…

Recently I got to experience two wildly different days out – trekking across the Seven Sisters of the Sussex Downs, and absorbing serene atmosphere and stunning architecture of Norwich Cathedral. Both reviews will be up this month! I’ll also hopefully be visiting either Colchester or Colchester Zoo towards the end of the month to prepare a review for June.

I’m Travelling…

…To Fuerterventura! This will be our fifth time back there and I’m just so excited as the place feels like home! We’re going for a week and doing a couple of excursions, with the main focus checking out the beaches and restaurants. Expect loads of reviews over the coming months for that. I’ll also be using the trip to research for a Top Secret Project I’m currently working on… Eek!

As for what I’m writing, you’ll be able to read about the Fuerteventura Grand Tour excursion and Nomad Beach Bar, my favourite restaurant in Diani Beach, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

i’m also focusing on…

I’ve got one guest post scheduled for this month which is with the wonderful George at Brit Voyage and I’ll be exploring why I love my country of Great Britain. I’ve also been nominated three times for the Sunshine Blogger Award so there will be a new post next Saturday for that! My Camp NaNo posts are now coming to an end as April wraps up but the last one will be published tomorrow.

May is super busy but I’m hoping the holiday will also make it a relaxing one! I’m also looking forward to spending more time reading your posts as well – this was sadly something I had to neglect, what with the lack of laptop and time, so will certainly make up for it this month instead.

What are you most looking forward to reading about in May?

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress Update – Week Two

We’re now halfway through Camp NaNoWriMo 2019 – it’s going so quickly! Here’s my progress so far.

Camp NaNoWriMo Week 2 Progress Update Books Title Image

My novel & goals

Title: Written In The Stars

Genre: Romance/women’s fiction

Synopsis: After discovering her fiancé (and love of her life) has been having an affair, Vicky Murton decides it’s time to give up the dating game. It’s now official – men are all useless and not worth her time. Besides, it’s much easier to live a happy life when someone else isn’t there to spoil it, right?
That’s the plan, but then Vicky’s astrologically-inclined friend, Felly, gets involved. She reckons it’s not that all men are unreliable – it’s just that Vicky has bad taste. If she would just listen to her inner psychic, then Felly reckons that Vicky will meet the man of her dreams.
With Felly in charge of her love life now, Vicky has a whole host of different experiences to look forward to (or not). But will Felly’s zodiac-based predictions ring true? Or is it really down to Vicky to find the right man?

Camp NaNo goal: Revise 50 pages of first draft

My progress so far

Like last week it’s been a really busy week this week, so I’ve found it quite hard to fit the time in! My goal this week was to get to 25 pages and I nearly hit, however was slightly off as I only reached 21. I’m still proud of what I did, but it isn’t quite enough for me to feel really happy with. I did manage to get one chapter, focused around tarot readings, proofread by someone with way more expertise than me in that area and it came back with nothing that needed changing, so I was happy with that at least!

My favourite excerpt from this week

Sitting on my own in the coffee shop (not the one from the Unfortunate Event), I realised something. Everyone around me was either with someone else and happy with them, or on their own but furiously busy. Opposite me was a young couple, cuddling together on the sofa and laughing as they shared their hot chocolate cream with a spoon. Behind them was an older couple, married, who were planning a holiday together, and discussing the small things of life.

The lonesome people also seemed happy. One was typing away at his laptop, oblivious to the world. Another one, situated in the corner, was cosied up and completely engrossed in a hardback. A third woman was with her small children, talking to them about what they were all going to do together when Daddy came home tonight.

And then there was me – sitting on my own in the middle of the room, with nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs while I waited nervously to meet with a man who no longer loved me.

What i’ve learnt & focus for next week

This week I’ve definitely learnt something about myself – I don’t push myself enough when I have the chance. For example, I have found times to edit and I’ve done a couple of chapters, but why not more than that? Once I’m into it I could probably revise for ages instead of doing a bit then moving onto the next task, so I guess the real goal for next week (which should take me to 38 pages, where I should be at by next Sunday) is to make some time to sit down for a good half an hour to an hour and get loads done. I can do it with everything else, so why not editing?

How is your Camp NaNo project coming along? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like this post if you enjoyed reading it!

Blogger Recognition Award

So I’ve been nominated for another blogger award, which is exciting! This time round it’s the Blogger Recognition Award.

The Rules

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and give a link to their blog, so your readers can check out their posts
  2. Write a post about the award and upload it on your blog (to display that you already received it and to remind yourself what you already achieved of course)
  3. Describe how you started your blog
  4. Give some advice to new bloggers (preferably two pieces)
  5. Nominate 15 other bloggers that you deem worthy of this award
  6. Notify your nominees and provide them with a link to your blog post

My Nominees

I’ve been nominated twice for this award so I’d like to thank Home Of Understanding and Emily Eva for both of their nominations, which really means a lot! Nadine, the writer behind Home Of Understanding, writes some amazing posts on mental health which are well worth a read. Emily Eva is another great blog filled with lifestyle and travel articles, as well as very useful tips on blogging! I’m proud to have been nominated by such wonderful bloggers, and I encourage all of my readers to check them out.

How I Started My Blog

As you most likely know already I’m a very new blogger, having only started a couple of months ago in February. Like most of my ideas, it came about as a niggling feeling and ended up a full blown obsession until I got it started! What inspired me to start writing was realising just how much I love writing reviews (I also review films and games for CEX). I adore writing, and it’s great to be able to help and inspire others when it comes to choosing their next book to read, food to try, or place to visit. It was difficult to narrow my blog down to one topic so I ended up going for several, but I love the variety I get to write about and it’s inspired me to go out and do more in the world!

Advice for New Bloggers

One piece of advice I want to give, which translates into lots of other things, is to not get wrapped up in the numbers and the stats when blogging. Numerical targets are great and being able to track your stats is brilliant, but they’re not the be all and end all. I’ve always believed that if you do your best then the numbers will come naturally, and this is something that I follow not only with blogging but also in my day job, where targets are important but the ground work is even more so. If you’re writing about your passion, engaging with your followers, refining your SEO, and doing all those other things relevant to blogging then your numbers will go up.

The other advice I have is to get out of your comfort zone! Before starting blogging I didn’t realise just how supportive the blogging community is, and there are so many opportunities out there for you to grab. Get in touch with companies, reach out to guest post for others, and get involved with as many things as you can (without taking on too much, of course!). Don’t feel like a fraud doing all this when you’ve just started, either – you’re a blogger, and how long you’ve been blogging is irrelevant. Go put yourself out there!

My Nominations

Here are 12 bloggers I want to nominate for writing fantastic blogs and being an inspiration to all of us:

  1. Little Tinkablee – a fantastic blog covering loads of different topics from mental health to book reviews to lifestyle
  2. The Sacred Space – the place you need to go for self-care and personal development advice!
  3. My Bookish Blog – amazing review website of all things book-related
  4. Nyxie’s Nook – eating disorder recovery blog that’s really taught me a lot
  5. What’s In My Wonderland? – another great book review blog
  6. Jenny In Neverland – a really inspiring blog, and Jenny has helped me so much with the blogging process!
  7. Your Travel Handbook – so much useful travel advice and inspiration
  8. Love Me Treat Me – really useful posts on self-care and happiness
  9. Popular Is Wrong – beautiful poetry and real thoughts
  10. Treat Yo Brain – a truly inspiring mental health advocate
  11. BritVoyage – travel articles that have really reminded me why I love Britain (which I think we all need right now!)
  12. Coffee And Corfu – travel posts that really get the wanderlust going!

Please make sure to check out all of these wonderful people!

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress Update – Week One

As many of you know I’ve been taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo this month – I know it’s not massively relevant to my usual content but thought I’d share my progress so far as so many of my readers also happen to be writers!

Books title image for Camp Nanowrimo progress

My novel & goals

Title: Written In The Stars

Genre: Romance/women’s fiction

Synopsis: After discovering her fiancé (and love of her life) has been having an affair, Vicky Murton decides it’s time to give up the dating game. It’s now official – men are all useless and not worth her time. Besides, it’s much easier to live a happy life when someone else isn’t there to spoil it, right?
That’s the plan, but then Vicky’s astrologically-inclined friend, Felly, gets involved. She reckons it’s not that all men are unreliable – it’s just that Vicky has bad taste. If she would just listen to her inner psychic, then Felly reckons that Vicky will meet the man of her dreams.
With Felly in charge of her love life now, Vicky has a whole host of different experiences to look forward to (or not). But will Felly’s zodiac-based predictions ring true? Or is it really down to Vicky to find the right man?

Camp NaNo goal: Revise 50 pages of first draft

My progress so far

This week I’ve had quite a busy week with lots of ill health so unfortunately editing hasn’t been super high on my list of priorities. I’ve managed to make a start though, and have edited eleven A4 pages so far, which amounts to the first four chapters. I’ve found it easier than I thought – I originally wrote this novel in November 2016 and each time I’ve gone back to it I’ve felt it was too familiar to revise. Now feels like the right time though, and I’m actually enjoying the revision process!

My favourite excerpt from this week

I’d only just hauled the finished desk into Jay’s study (why didn’t I just build it in there in the first place?!), when I heard the familiar sound of his keys in the door. And then another one of his keys, for a second go. And then a third. Which was unlike him, as it was usually me to get my keys mixed up.
The door opened on the fourth try. It was a slow opening, like a thief making sure he wasn’t heard. Except it clearly wasn’t, because a thief wouldn’t have a key, and even if he did, would almost certainly not have made as much noise beforehand.
Excited to show him the desk, I slid down the staircase, ready to surprise him. I pictured his face, lighting up as he realised the newfound potential for working at home. Holding me close to him, finally seeing that my talent had worth. And then we could catch up on his fishing trip, be it over a glass of wine, or under the sheets.
Except that didn’t happen. When his face turned around to look at me, it was straight and bland. He looked me in the eye and said the one phrase that everyone dreads.
“Vee…We really need to talk.”

What i’ve learnt & focus for next week

The main thing I’ve learnt this week is that revising a novel sounds daunting but isn’t as difficult as you think it’s going to be if you do it in small sections. I’m taking quite a light, casual approach which is working much better than when I have previously dived headfirst into it with too many pressures. I’ve also re-learnt that it’s okay to take it slow, as there’s plenty of time to hit my goal.

Now I’m feeling a bit better and got other parts of my life organised again I want to achieve a little bit more this week, so to catch up with my progress I’m aiming for 25 pages by next Sunday. I’ll check in again next week to let you know how it went!

How is your Camp NaNo project coming along? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like this post if you enjoyed reading it!

Seven Things I Like In A Book (Book Tag)

Last week I was tagged by My Bookish Blog to write about several things I like in a book which is such a great idea for a post! Sometimes I forget about why it is I’m so passionate about reading, so it’s nice to remind myself of those things that really make me smile when I’m enjoying a good book. I found it hard to narrow it down to seven but here goes!

Strong character development

Character development is so important to me because I need to care about the characters to want to read the book. I don’t just want to know about what’s happening in the present plot though – I want to know the history of the character, why they are the way they are, their likes and dislikes, their quirks. I want to feel like I know them as a person, rather than just witnessing them complete a journey.

Atonement and On Chesil Beach - books by Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors – I haven’t yet found a book by him I didn’t enjoy

Unreliable narrator

Unreliable narrators are definitely a Marmite device within storytelling but for me I absolutely love them (when done well). Ian McEwan never fails to entertain me with his knack for writing them, and I’ve read many a novel where I’ve been well and truly duped by the main character. It fascinates me that a well-written unreliable narrator can completely throw you and lead you off the scent, yet if you read it back again it just seems so obvious. I find it all very clever, and it’s something I’d love to perfect as a writer as well.

Multiple perspectives

I absolutely love books that show the story from multiple perspective as it adds a curious dynamic to the plot and broadens the story for the reader. I love seeing things evolve through different eyes and eventually catch up with one another – it can be frustrating to know what’s stopping a character without themselves knowing, but it’s an interesting tool that helps get the reader completely absorbed in the story. I don’t like too many perspectives because I get confused, but a few just makes it that little bit more interesting.

A selection of books with great literary devices within them
A selection of books that contain multiple examples of my favourite book feaures

Unusual plot structure

The standard plot structure that’s used within many stories is a very good thing, but sometimes I appreciate a book that deviates from it bit, whether it be telling the plot in a different order or going full blown literary fiction and not including a plot at all! I love stories that come from the mind of the character, where not much happens physically, but mentally so much is explored. For this reason I love books that explore mental health and the more philosophical concepts.

Short chapters

I hate to admit it but I’m one of those people that struggles with long, uninterrupted pieces of text… I even struggle to write them because I get distracted so easily! I like chapters to be short and to the point, which not only makes it easier to read but also allows me to dip in and out of the book much more conveniently. I have this thing where I hate ending my reading sesh halfway through a chapter so shorter ones are especially useful during my commute or when I get a quick 10 minute break to read.

Engaging subplots

I’ve already spoken about plot but I find subplots so important as well. I’ve read books before that don’t really have subplots and to me they just feel so flat. Having a couple of interesting subplots not only adds to the main plot but also contributes to better character development which, as I’ve mentioned, is key to getting me hooked.

Two books by Jenny Colgan
Buying a Jenny Colgan book means you get a mini recipe book for free!

Extras!

I’ve always appreciated those authors that go a little bit further with their novels, adding extra things besides the story to entertain the reader. I’ve been reading books by Jenny Colgan recently and I love how she adds recipes at the end of her novels! I also love fantasy novels filled with lore and maps, and pictures included in fiction books – these sorts of things flesh out a world and give yet another medium that the reader can use to delve deeper into the story.

There are so many other things that I love seeing in books, but I’d say these have to be my top seven. I’d also like to tag the following bloggers to write one of these posts as well…. I’m looking forward to comparing our lists! I’d also totally recommend you follow them as I really love their blogs!

The Art And Science Of Worldbuilding

Little Tinkablee Blog

What’s In My Wonderland?

The Caffeinated Reader

The Tattooed Book Geek

What sorts of things do you look out for in a book? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin this post if you enjoyed it!