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Friday, 30 September 2011

Facebook Turns Us Into Teenagers

When we are children we believe that the world revolves around us.  When we become teenagers we believe that the world should revolve around us.  Although we are starting to become aware of the fact that there are other people in the world, and that those people are important, we still seem to hold onto the ideal that we are the most important person and why doesn't everyone else get that?  I think this is what causes all that anger and frustration we seem to harbour as teenagers - it is the only way we can adjust to our changing world views.  Of course, most of us (hopefully) mature and accept that everyone is equal and while we are completely unique and important, we are no more unique or important than anyone else.  After this week I'm beginning to question if the internet and social media are actually preventing us from reaching this viewpoint.

As you are reading this, I'm assuming you probably use the internet for social media - in which case, you will know of the changes facebook made this week.  Yes, they were big changes.  Yes, I'm still working my way around them.  No, I'm not complaining.

All this week I have been reading posts and tweets and even facebook messages complaining that their comfortable media site has upped and changed on them and doesn't facebook know that they didn't want changes?  To me, this seems to be channeling a lot of that anger and frustration at the fact that facebook changed without their personal permission.  Basically, exactly the same reaction as what I described teens to have at the beginning of this post.  It seems that this change has brought out the whiney, angry teenage side of some of us.  I say us because I admit that I was a little annoyed when I saw the changes.  But I figured that, hey, this is a free site, I am not paying anything for it so what right do I have to complain? 

The reason teenagers have a problem with adults is that these adults are telling them to quit moaning and do something about the situation if it's that big of a deal.  The majority of the time, teenagers don't actually want to actively fix something, they want it fixed for them (I know I did).  This is what apparantly has happened to almost everyone online this week.  People didn't like the situation, but rather than do something about it, they just moaned, very loudly in public, knowing full well that it wouldn't make a shred of difference. In honesty, I feel that if the changes bug you that much, stop complaining and actually do something about it (how about deactivating your account?  Or had you forgotten that that was an option? A point for another post).  Or have you already forgotten that it bothered you and are now perfectly happy with the new system?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Pizza or Sims

Last night, as always, we came to the discussion of what we should have for dinner.  As much as I'd like to be that person who makes menu plans in advance, I'm not (turns out, downloading a cute menu planner doesn't actually make a difference in getting it written).

I was having a pretty crappy day so I wanted pizza.  Of course, mentioning this, Chris also decides he wants pizza (probably because that means he won't have to actually cook).  He then jumps to the decision of ordering out.  While I love Dominos and Papa Johns, I was aiming more for an Iceland pizza.  It took him a lot of convincing (after all, he'd have to go out and get it) but as money is tight I knew we really shouldn't be wasting it on take out.

This is where I show the flaw in my convincing.  Yes, we spent a lot less on pizza.  But we still spent that money.  You see, I recently bought Sims 3 and now we are both massively addicted.  I happened to find out that the expansion pack 'Ambitions' is on offer at Amazon currently and, as that is the one we both most want, is what I used as my leverage.  You see we could order pizza and have the money effectively go down the drain.  Or we could buy the Ambitions expansion and be able to enjoy many, many (no doubtedly far too many) hours of play. 

I'm aware that games are probably not what we should be spending our money on.  But I figured that if we would have spent it anyway, we should probably get something that will last little longer that 20 minutes.  We had the choice of almost immediate gratification (ordering pizza and not having to worry about it) or putting in a little effort (well, Chris put in the effort) and waiting for something that will hopefully keep us entertained for hours and hours.  Turns out, it got us the best of both worlds - we had pizza and we bought the game, so perhaps it wasn't the either or situation it first appeared to be.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Why I Love Twitter!

 There are quite a few things I'm loving at the moment:
  • Chris (obviously)
  • Chocolate (as always)
  • Sims 3 (far too addictive)
  • And Twitter
Seriously, Twitter is amazing.  For many of you, this is probably old news.  But for those of you who are still unsure about the whole Twitter thing, let me explain.

I have been tweeting (or twittering as I prefer to say) for quite a while now but it is only recently that I unlocked the magic and started loving it.  You see, it is a SOCIAL network.  And while my tweeting was fine as it was, it was all about me.  Now, I'm starting to get the whole social part of it.  I am replying to tweets and making friends (or at least aquaintances).  I am tweeting about anything and everything (though I do keep it pg and as interesting as possible).

But as I said, it is about socialising, it's about connecting.  And I think that is exactly the reason why I love it.  No matter what time it is, there is always someone to chat to on Twitter.  Being stuck at home can be lonely (especially when Chris is at work) and while I've tried forums and facebook and letters, Twitter is the only one where the replies are instant.  Perhaps that's not always a good thing, but with connecting, it certainly helps to know that there are other people out there at that exact precise moment.  But with Twitter, it's even better.  I can connect instantly but if I miss when someone replies to me, it doesn't matter as that message is still there when I come back on.

I'm still a beginner when it comes to Twitter but I think I have finally pulled myself out of that 'newbie' phase (which, of course, there is nothing wrong with but it is kind of limiting) and am now happy to proclaim (apparently very publicly) that I love Twitter.

If you're on Twitter, or decide to sign up, make sure you add me @Tamara_Epps and send me a message.

Friday, 23 September 2011

No Title


I've struggled with writing this post.  It has been perculating for a while and now I've finally written I don't think I've quite captured what I meant to say.  Perhaps I should wait until I get it right to share it with you, but I feel it's just too important to not share right now.  This post was originally titled 'Sheltered' but after writing it, I realise that that's not the right title.  I'm not sure it has a title (but if you think of any, please share in the comments).

Everyone knows racism, sexism and general prejudices are bad.  At school we are taught why we should see the person rather than what country they come from or what religion they follow.  I never really understood why we were being taught this.  I assumed that all these problems belonged to history (which, to be fair, was where most of these lessons happened – in history class) and that it wasn’t anything to do with current life.  I was naive.  I thought everyone thought like me.

You see, to me, I understand what racism is, I just can’t comprehend it.  I’ve never been able to.  I can’t physically work out why racism exists.  So you can see why I had problems with being taught it.  

Since high school I have come to terms with the idea that racism still exists – a lot – but I don’t think I will ever get my head around how someone can be racist.  Thinking about it, it’s obvious that I had a great upbringing (seriously, my only gripe has ever been that my life wasn’t as messed up as I thought it was supposed to be – from films, magazines, friends) and this whole not understanding prejudice thing is where it really shines.  You see, I don’t think I am prejudice against anyone due to who they are, where they’re from, what they believe (I do have issues with some religions but that’s still with the business side of it rather than individuals), I don’t think I know how to be.  Clearly, if everyone thought like that then there just might be hope for mankind yet.  I’m not attributing myself with amazingness here as it doesn’t really have anything to do with me – guess I’ll have to ask my parents their secret.

Are you racist?  Have you ever witnessed racism?  What effect did your upbringing have on your values?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Travelling Notebook

 A while ago Kess blogged about The Travelling Notebook.  The Travelling Notebook is a creative blogging journal started by Kess, the idea being that we each write something then pass it on to the next person.  I have finally done my part.  Some of the pics are a little blurry so sorry in advance if you can't read it - but I guess it makes it more fun as you try and work out what I'm saying.

My Introduction


The notebook's theme was 'Things that are important to me':


And the most important to me, my family and friends:


I didn't have any photos I wanted to use so I decided to do something very, very daring (for me).  I'm not good with drawing people so I stuck to stick figures but put a little of each of the people in my drawings.

Hope you enjoyed my pages from The Travelling Notebook.  I've sent it on to Bee from Vivatramp

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

My Most Important Post So Far

I had a post all planned for today, but then I read this.  If you have a moment, I urge you to click the link and read this post.  I'll wait.  I promise.

For those of you who don't have the time to read it, here is a very little snippet:

Jenny is still alive [this is the most positive statement that we can issue]. She is just battling to survive every day, putting all her energies in trying to get enough food down her throat each day. This takes so much out of her and weakens her a lot, but is the most basic thing you have to do to stay alive: eat and drink. The rest of the time she has to lie completely still in order to be able to do this.
This snipped horrified me.  It made me stop in my tracks.  You're probably wondering what illness this Jenny has.  She has M.E. The same disability that I have.

Lately I have been feeling down, hard done by, unlucky and generally angry at my situation.  Why has this happened to me?  Why can't I live a normal life? (For those of you who don't know, I have had M.E. for 8 years now, but it is only recently that it's changed my life.  In the past 6 weeks I've managed to leave our flat once.  In my wheelchair.  For just over an hour.)

And then I read those words.  I've always been aware that I am 'lucky', in the fact that until now, I've been able to lead a relatively normal life.  Even now, I know that I can do quite a bit more than many with severe M.E.  Yet it is so easy for me to forget how lucky I am.  I have been blinded by what I can't do, to what I can do.

I don't know Jenny.  But I know I owe it to her and to everyone else living (if you can call it that) like her due to chronic disabilities, to not forget how lucky I am.  I can still get up everyday.  I can write.  I can sew.  I can read.  I can watch T.V.  I can make myself food (most of the time).

M.E. is real.  It is not a mental disorder.  While it may effect our mental capacities, it also affects our physical existence.  M.E. sufferers are not delusional.  We are not making it up.  I am yet to meet anyone with M.E. who doesn't wish they could have a full-time job, and a family, and a normal life.  I often wish I was making it up.  I wish I was lazy.  I wish I could sit at home doing nothing, not caring that I am not contributing to the world.  But I'm not and I can't.

And I really have nothing else to say right now.  I am horrified.  I know that my first thoughts when I read about Jenny were entirely selfish.  My first thought was - I hope that doesn't happen to me.  But I also know that there is nothing I can do if it does happen to me.  I just hope I will have the strength to believe that life will get better.  Right now, I'm thinking of Jenny and the millions of others trapped inside their homes, their beds, their bodies.  And I hope you will spend a minute thinking of them too.  Because I know that they all appreciate it.  I know because I am now one of them.

If you didn't read the post I linked to - please click here and read it now.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Monarch Winners (take 2)

Okay, so on Saturday I announced the winners for Monarch by Michelled Davidson Argylle (read my review).  As it happens, Sarita, the winner of the ebook, contacted me to say she didn't want to accept it as she had already won it (lucky her).  So I drew again, and the winner of the ebook is:


Nicole Giles, can you please email me at anyawillowfan (at) yahoo.co.uk to claim your ebook.  And Brooke, you won the print copy so can you please email me too so we can get it to you!

If I haven't heard from Nicole and Brooke by next week I will be doing the giveaway again.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Monarch Winners!

So today I drew the winners for the Monarch giveaway (you can still read the review).  As it's my first giveaway I wanted to do something a little bit special:

I wrote every entry onto a little butterfly and put them all in this cup (I don't have anything better to use).  The first name pulled was:
And the second one was:




Brooke wins a print copy of Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argylle and Sarita wins an ebook copy.  Send me an email at: anyawillowfan (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk so we can arrange to get those copies to you.  Happy reading!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

I Matter. You Matter.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  ~ Marianne Williamson
 Last week I came across this quote and I was struck.  Recently, I have been struggling with the feeling that I have nothing to give.  Sure, I have the ideas (for ebooks, novels, that secret project I was meant to be working on but let fear get the better of me) but every time I truly think about starting them, I think 'who am I to write about/do this?  I have nothing to share.  No one will want it.'  Reading this quote has helped me push past these fears.

Yes, I am still afraid that no one will want what I think I can give.  But now I feel that that doesn't matter.  Because I need to use my skills to produce.  No one might want I offer.  But someone might.  Someone might NEED it.  I could change someone's life, not to mention my own.

So I think I'm going to print out this quote and look at it every day.  I need to be reminded that I DO have something to give.  EVERYONE has something to give. So that secret project?  Yeah, it's back on.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Perception and Memories


The other day I had a bad day.  Only, it wasn’t actually a bad day.  It had a rough beginning and it would have had a crappy end (if I hadn’t then written in my diary and realised what I’m now writing here).  For the majority of the day I was happy and content and calm.  But then the end – knocking the c.d. player I was carrying into the doorframe, stubbing my toe, tripping over my pyjamas which could have led to a different (much worse) ending – put me in a foul mood.  Only minutes before I had been thinking how lucky I was to be alive and to be able to enjoy any part of my day at all.  Then, in a moment, it turned sour.

I know that if I hadn’t written in my diary, and realised that in truth the majority of the day had been good, I would have gone to bed in a very bad mood.  We all know this is never good.  It leads to not sleeping.  Which leads to a late start.  Which leads to grumpiness.  Which leads to another bad day.  

Those few minutes of anger and annoyance and pain changed my perspective completely.  They wiped out the good memories and replaced them with bad ones.  It is only because I forced myself to write what I had done that day, and things I’d thought, that I realised I’d almost missed out.   

Memory is tricky.  And our perceptions of our day, our year, our life are bound to what we remember and what we forget.  

I used to think that memory wasn’t a choice.  Now I know it is.  We can choose to remember what we did that day, what we ate, what we thought.  It is unlikely we will remember everything but we can choose whether to focus on the memories that make us smile or those that make us want to cry out in anger or frustration.  

We cannot change the past.  But we can change the perception we have of it.  So I challenge you to pick a memory that you hate, that makes you cringe, that makes you bristle, and to really think it through.  Live through the memory and focus on anything and everything that reminds you it doesn’t have to be a big black cloud tarnishing your mind.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Monarch Giveaway Update

Hi all, Yesterday I did a review for Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle, complete with a giveaway.  I originally put that the competition was open internationally - turns out that they can only ship a print copy to someone in the USA.  However, Michelle has been incredibly generous and has offered an ebook copy to someone not in the USA.  Therefore I now have 2 copies up for grabs!  So why don't you ENTER NOW.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Review: Monarch (& giveaway)


Nick’s life as a CIA spy should be fulfilling, but it has only given him unhappiness—a wife who committed suicide, and two daughters who resent everything he has become. Now, stuck in the Amazon on the last mission of his career, he must track down Matheus Ferreira, a drug lord and terrorist the U.S. has tried to bring down for years. If he succeeds, he’ll have the chance to start his life over again.

Just when Nick is on the brink of catching Ferreira, he’s framed for a murder that turns his world upside down. His only chance of survival lies in West Virginia where Lilian Love, a woman from his past, owns the secluded
Monarch Inn. He’s safe, but not for long…

(Giveaway now closed).

Thrillers are another genre that I don’t read often, but after reading Cinders (read my review here) I just had to find out what MichelleDavidson Argyle had to offer next.  When I heard that it was a thriller I have to admit that I was a little cautious, but after reading it I can safely say there was nothing I didn’t love about this story.

Monarch, to me, isn’t just a thriller – it’s a romance, a mystery, an adventure story with plenty of family issues all cohesively winding together to create a thrilling story.  I wanted to know more about every single character and I have to admit that I often found myself thinking and wondering about them (and sometimes forgetting that they aren’t real people I know!) when I wasn’t reading.

Michelle has seriously upped her game with Monarch – I was constantly trying to work out what was going to happen (and no, I didn’t manage to guess most of the twists and turns) and when I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be reading it.  She also weaves the imagery of monarchs (a type of butterfly) throughout, giving this thiller a unique undercurrent of threat and hope. 

This is a gripping tale that I highly recommend to anyone wanting to escape reality for a while (it will also put your problems in perspective), in fact, it’s so good that I’ve put it back on my ‘to-read’ list as I miss all the characters (that’s a big deal for me as I very rarely re-read anything) and I just know I’ll be able to delve deeper the next time.

So therefore I say you should definitely read this book.  And I’m even giving away 2 copies of Monarch in my very first blog giveaway!  To enter just tell me about a book you’ve read and enjoyed (it can be something you’ve read recently or something you remember reading in the past) in the comments.  The winner will be picked at random next Saturday (17th September) at midday (GMT).  For an extra chance to win, tell someone about this competition – it can be on twitter, facebook, your blog, or even your mum – and let me know (again, in the comments).  If you are in the USA you will be entered to win a print copy and if you are anywhere else in the world you will be entered to win an ebook - please let me know in your comment where you are.

If I haven't managed to convince you to read this book, you can read the first two chapters on Michelle's website.

This post is part of the Monarch Blog Tour - check out the other blogs involved for more reviews, interviews and giveaways.

[Disclaimer: I received a paperback ARC in return for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  The giveaway is being run by me but the prize (a copy of Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle) is provided by Rhemalda Publishing.]

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Why I Wish I Was A Sim

Click for Source

 Okay, so I’ve been playing Sims 3 far too much recently (one of the best forms of procrastination ever!) and, I have to admit, sometimes I find myself wishing I could be a sim.  Now, just to be clear, I don’t actually want to be a sim.  For one thing, I could never live with so few options of things to do.  (I totally think that should create a creativity expansion pack including every craft imaginable).  But you have to admit that sometimes it would be nice to have someone else telling you exactly what to do (sure way of taking off the pressure).

But the main reason I would love to be a sim is just how simple their lives are.  Have you noticed?  Money practically falls into their laps.  Every painting painted earns money.  Every book written earns money as it’s being written and then royalties for 6 weeks after.  Imagine it – no endless hours worrying that no one will ever want to read your novel.  No having to write the perfect letter to interest agents/publishers.  And you’re guaranteed to sell, no matter what.

Okay, so in reality, that would make for a very boring world, full of (probably) awful books available and everyone being able to afford exactly what they want, when they want (which we all know would be a complete disaster).  You’ve got to admit though, it makes for a good fantasy.

What do you fantasise about?  Do you imagine your book/painting being a huge success?  Or do you prefer to keep your head firmly attached to your body and only worry about the life you’re actually living?

Monday, 5 September 2011

Think Before You 'Like'

There are more social networks popping up all the time, and one thing that I’ve noticed with all of them is that they are designed so you can easily repeat anything you find to your followers.  This post is to explain why I think you might be better off NOT pressing the ‘like’, ‘retweet’ or ‘share’ on Facebook, Twitter and Google +1 respectively.   

You are probably thinking ‘but it’s so easy’ or perhaps shaking your head at the screen as you believe I have just told you not to share this post.  But that’s not what I’m saying at all.  I’m not saying don’t ever press that button.  I’m simply suggesting you think about it before you do.  Think of it this way – if a stranger handed you some business cards, would you happily go and give them to your friends, family and anyone who happened to be standing nearby?  When you share anything online, you are advertising it.  Now, I’m all for word of mouth advertising (which is the closest phrase I can think of for it) but only for products and services that I truly love.  I would never recommend something without trying it for myself.  And I think that this should apply to ‘liking’ as well.

Not only does retweeting anything you find clog up your feed, it can actually harm you (well, your reputation anyway).  When you tell your followers about a product, you aren’t just sharing it, you are reflecting who you are.  We all know the phrase ‘everything you say and do can, and will, be taken and used against you’ and with technology this is even more prevalent.  We are constantly judging others by what we see online – and we are constantly being judged.  And the thing with services like Facebook and Google +1, that information is out there, for anyone to find, forever (or at least until we all stop using the internet which I don’t see happening anytime soon).  If you say something to a friend, it can be forgotten.  If you type something into twitter it will always be there for others to access (even if you delete it, it is already in the feeds of all your followers).

So back to my point about passing on what you find.  I think it’s great that we can share what we love so easily with anyone who knows (and doesn’t know) us.  But I think with this freedom we should exercise a little care.

I have to admit that I’m as guilty of this as anyone, especially when it comes to Facebook.  I was recently editing my profile and I realised that I’d ‘liked’ an enormous number of pages.  I don’t expect anyone to read them all.  And therefore they won’t know what I really love.  (I am currently in the process of going through them all and ‘unliking’ any that shouldn’t be there – an excruciating and annoying process, but one I believe will be worthwhile.)  As I said, it can all be used against me as anyone who does happen to glance over my profile will see the huge list and automatically assume that I’m either very well-rounded or have no focus in my life (the fact that both of them may be true isn’t the point – it’s whether I want everyone I know to make that assumption or not).

Do you ‘retweet’ constantly, or do you show restraint?  Think, what do your ‘likes’ say about you?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Review: Notes From Underground Anthology

Click to Buy

I realise that I promised you this review ages ago and I have no excuses (except ending up with more books to read than I can in one go) but here it is finally.

Notes from Underground is an anthology created by The Literary Lab last year.  I knew this would appeal to me as soon as I saw it as the entries were judged completely differently from most competitions.  Instead of writing a piece and submitting it, writers were encouraged to write about their ideas - if they were selected they then had free reign to create what they liked, how they liked.  And I have to say it has made for a very unique anthology.

There are a wide variety subjects and styles so there is bound to be something you enjoy.  Not only that, but it also opened my mind up to different ways of writing what I want to say - from using diary entries, poetry and even including images.  The only downside was that as I was reading it on Kindle, the images (photos, paintings, etc) were all in black and white and perhaps not as clear as in the print copy.

I would strongly recommend this anthology to anyone looking for unique storytelling and especially to writers as expanding our ideas is never a bad thing.

(By the way, submissions for The Literary Lab's new anthology 'Variations on a Theme' are currently open.)

[Disclaimer: I have not been compensated in anyway for this review.  All opinions are my own.]

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Inspiration

Last week over on Coach Creative Space (CCS) the topic of discussion was inspiration. (By the way, if your life is revolves around creativity then you should definitely consider joining.)  As a writer, crafter and general creator I always love reading where others get their inspiration.  In fact, I’d go as far as to say that often I actively seek out this information.  I want to know how writers come up with their stories, how artists get inspired.  And the one thing that I’ve read over and over again is that they have too many ideas, that the problem isn’t finding ideas but deciding which ones to use.

And thus I found myself a minority on CCS.  I love to write and I love to create.  But I have always struggled with the inspiration part.  It is very rare for me to just have an idea – I have to actively seek it out (which I have learnt to do through extensive reading on inspiration).  When I mentioned this in the discussion I was mostly met with confusion and advice to take a break to replenish my creativity.  The thing is, I don’t need to take a break.  I need to do the complete opposite.  I need to drive myself to find more ideas, new characters and different settings. The more I do this the easier it comes.  

But I still get a little jealous when others complain about the inspiration question.  They can’t answer it because they just are inspired.  Constantly.  So here’s a few of my tips if you have the same problem I have.

  1. Take a notebook with you everywhere.  
  2. Write what you see/hear/smell/feel wherever you are (being a writer/creative gives you license to eavesdrop – but only for research purposes).
  3. Pick a word or phrase and use it as inspiration.
  4. Write from the point of view of a character you know well (perhaps someone from your favourite T.V. show?)
  5. Free-write for ten minutes.  Pick a sentence/phrase/word from what you’ve written.  Use it to start another ten minutes of free-writing. Repeat.
  6. Find a book of writing/creative exercises and do them.
  7. Listen to the conversations you have with your friends/family – give the subject to your characters to talk about.
  8. Take a walk and get some fresh air.
  9. Get someone to give you 5-10 unrelated, random words.  Write/paint something that includes them all.
  10. Remember that you don’t have to get it right the first time.  Give yourself permission to have fun and see what you come up with.
Are you in the minority like me?  Or are you one of those who struggle to choose which idea to use?  Let me know if you try any of my pointers and please share your own in the comments.