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The Oakbrook Women

Readers have asked me about the representations of the Oakbrook women, and of other characters. Elder is a mother figure, Drummer is a protector. The stereotypes do manifest in most forms of fiction purely because we, as readers, identify with them and as such we seek them out in our reading. 

What follows here is a ramble about some of the three main Portal women, their origins, their inspiration and their motivations. 

While it wasn’t intentional, the three women in the series have come to represent aspects of the western society that I see everyday and aspects of ourselves as well as the traditional three ages of womanhood

Sam Brewer

Sam is the youngest, the maiden who although she is a mother doesn’t really want to be. She can’t cope as a mother or as a friend, barely functions as a person, has no idea what or who she wants and her anger at her treatment in the events leading to the opening of the book tear apart the lives and friendships she encounters. She is depressive and damaged, and not someone you need in your life. Sam is the person who would deliberately walk through the mud or brambles rather than step out on a cleared path. 

Yet, somehow, Kate and Lily love her anyway. I’m not sure I understand why, but don’t we all have a friend who needs more support than others? Don’t we stand by them and try to help them? 

Sam was adopted as a very young baby, only a few days old, and her biological mother isn’t known initially. She has a daughter, Susan, who looks very much like her mother. Susan has inherited her magical abilities. Sam refuses to reveal who Susan’s father might be. She says she doesn’t know. Kate’s not sure she believes her. 

Kate Morgan

Kate is the nurturer, the mother, the carer, the home-maker. She has an inner strength that she doesn’t see in herself but Lily and Jack both see it. The one with no magic, she is the one who holds the three families together while the magic rips them apart. She is the one who can rein Lily in when she rushes in without thinking. Kate is the one who can help the children and make sure they have a happy childhood. Kate is the one they turn to, even as adults, when answers and comfort are needed. 

As the quietest of the three, in many ways Kate is also the strongest. There is a fierce power lodged deep inside that she draws on whenever those she loves are threatened. Kate survives everything that I can throw at her. 

Lily McPhearson

Lily is, in many ways, the most complex of the three. She is the oldest, in more ways than one and she has held the power since her birth. But she’s not truly a “crone” in the sense of age. She has been trained and uses magic in everyday life but chooses to keep it quiet and subtle. She has a tremendous depth to her and is a force to be reckoned with. A wonderful and true friend but not someone you’d want to cross. But Lily is also flawed, like crystal that could shatter if hit in just the right place. 

Lily has so much history that there are bound to be things that hurt her. There are things she’s kept secret for too long and might be better out in the open. But Lily has been keeping secrets since she was a child and the habit is so ingrained now that she isn’t going to change. But isn’t that part of why you all love her so much? You know there’s more to her than you see, you adore the mystery. 

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Oakbrook Creations on Redbubble

Over the past few weeks I have revitalised and updated my Oakbrook Creations on Redbubble store. There are more products available now, including cloth face masks. I have a selection of my photos available across a range of products.

As we start to emerge from lockdown we need to wear masks more often and most importantly whenever we go out.

Masks have two layers of washable 100% brushed woven polyester. The print is on the outer layer. They have over-ear elastic straps for a snug fit over mouth and nose. Masks come in one size and fit most adults.

These cloth face masks are for general public use only. They are not intended for use in medical settings.

Oakbrook Creations on Redbubble

The jigsaw image is the most popular at the moment. It does look very effective as a cloth face mask. A wide range of designs and products means the choice is yours. Don’t want a mask? Choose a bath mat, a bag, a notebook.

I would love to hear what you made with my images! Let me know what you think, show me your masks, bags, journals.

Redbubble prints the item and ships it to you, and their quality is excellent., but any problems or issues should be directed to Redbubble as the entire process is theirs. My Redbubble store contains my images and designs. All images and designs are owned by Oakbrook Creations on Redbubble and therefore are subject to copyright. If you like the image or design and want to use it then you need to contact me and discuss.

Happy shopping, and I look forward to hearing from you.

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Back up everything, and change passwords often

Last week I got an email saying my site had been suspended after a hacker attack. I ignored it, thinking it was spam. Then I checked. Oops. So, after cleaning out all unwanted and hacked files, I started the process of Back up everything, and change passwords often…

That was slightly scary. In all the years I’ve had domains and websites I think this is the first time any of my sites have been hacked like that. I’m pretty sure it was caught within a few hours and fixed really quickly. My web host let me know, and offered advice on how to fix the issue. Even identified the errant files, so I could clean them up. All in all a relatively easy fix.

But in the aftermath, and knowing that some of you also have websites and may need reminding. Back up everything, and change passwords often! Just in case. You never know when your entire site could be replaced with football, or worse.

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Oakbrook Portal on Wattpad

I’ve finished the rewrites for the first Portal book, and you can now read the initial draft of Oakbrook Portal on Wattpad. The entire novel is there, and I’d love to hear what you think. I have also entered the manuscript into the Watty’s competition.

There’s a new cover, the title has changed, and may change again – I’m still pondering that.

Oakbrook Portal on Wattpad

You can read Oakbrook Portal on Wattpad, while the original version is here. The original is still available through Amazon, but I’m planning on trying to remove all versions before seeing the new one published. I am also submitting the new version to publishers before I think about self publishing again.

Initial feedback suggests the new version is stronger, richer, somehow – which was my aim! Large chunks of the original story have been cut. The character ensemble has been trimmed. The result is a story rich in character, with better flow of action, and more magic.

So, I hope you’ll read the story, comment, vote, and let me know what you think. I have never been easily offended, and all feedback is welcome. My only proviso is that I ask you to please keep your comments civil and constructive. Oh, and I reserve the right to only make use of the comments I feel will work for my story.

Click away, read on, and enjoy. I’ll carry on working on the next book while I wait for your reactions.

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My other site

My other site has been there for several years now, in one shape or another. That is where I keep my writing, galleries, and other creative endeavours.

I try to run the 2 side by side, linked but separate. Here is where you will find items for sale, the finished product. Over at Sarah Barnard you’ll find work in progress, trying out new ideas. Any NaNoWriMo project will be there, until any resulting book is finished and available for sale.

Now, you all know I am appalling at keeping up one blog, let alone 2. During lockdown I have had a little more time to think about the two sites and their future. I’ll be focussing on achieving constant and sustained traffic to OakbrookCreations as my primary goal, so SarahBarnard may look a bit neglected, but you are always welcome to go and browse the galleries and other pages.

my other site

As ever, I welcome any comments, feedback, or discussion, on this or my other site, as long as it is kept civil and constructive.

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Oakbrook Creations

Why did I choose the name, Oakbrook Creations? I wanted a name that reflected a desire to work creatively, and that showed a respect and love for the natural world.

During the recent rewrite of the first book, the fictional town in which my Portal series is set, became Oakbrook. The rest now need rewriting, because once you make changes they cascade through everything. This means that the rest of the story needs rewriting to accommodate those changes. That’s where Oakbrook came from. There is no real Oakbrook in the UK.

Oakbrook Creations

Oak trees have always been one of my favourites, ancient and drenched in the history they’ve seen. I saw oaks scattered through the landscape in Derbyshire, and there are a few here in Wales. The Portal story formed around an ancient oak that links 2 worlds and also features running water as a focus. So, Oakbrook came to be.

When looking for a domain name I discovered the town of Oakbrook in the US, and all domains with just the word Oakbrook were taken. So I have to add something to the name to make it unique. I’m all about creativity, so it became Oakbrook Creations.

At the moment this is a sales site, the shop is pretty much all there is. I have some photographic greeting cards, and hand crafted notebooks for sale, but the novels are not here. While I am working on rewriting the story, I have withdrawn them for sale. Once I have finished then rewrites, had the manuscripts checked, and edited, then they can reappear for sale. Sorry, I don’t know when that might be. The first book is out with a select few friends who are reading and commenting, but it’s a waiting game right now. I also need to decide whether to send the first one off to a publisher, or to go straight to self publishing again. Any thoughts on that? I would welcome a discussion, any opinions, suggestions?

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Lockdown 2020, a new normal

So, here we are coming towards the end of June 2020, and we’ve been in a state of lockdown since March. It’s been one hell of a year, and one to remember, one to tell our children and grandchildren about. The year the world stopped and the earth had a chance to heal a little. There was time to reflect on what really matters, find out who means the most to us.

I’ve been working from home in, my other job, and work has been so busy I haven’t had the chance to really sit and look at where I want this to be. We’ve been busy staying safe, keeping my dad and son safe. My son did have Covid19, but a very mild dose and he didn’t need to go to hospital, he dealt with it at home. He’s recovered now, with no lingering side effects, and is back at work after a period of furlough.

We’ve settled into a new routine, and slowly letting things back into our lives that have been unsafe until now. Hopefully lockdown will ease further over the summer.

I’ve decided to reopen the shop here, and start listing some items on ebay too. The local post office is open, and we can keep contact there to a minimum, so it should be safe. My priority right now is care and safety. If at any point there is any contact with anyone who may show Covid19 symptoms, the shop and ebay will close again.

Feel free to have a browse.

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We’re all stressed and panicking over Covid-19. My Dad is self isolating because he is in his 70s and diabetic. My son has been sent home from work with a cough, so he’s stuck at home too. I feel guilty for being grateful neither of them lives with us.

There are so many small businesses out there, now struggling, or failing, because people are simply not buying. This is a hobby for me. I have a paid job, and my employer has said we can’t work from home, at the moment. I, and others, disagree with the decision, but if we want jobs then we have to go in.

But for other people these websites are their livelihood, their main income.

So, for so many reasons, I am taking the shop offline for now. Ebay sales will suspend once the last listing has ended. I’m just not prepared to be going to the local post office and putting others at risk. Of course, it’ll all come back once this goes away. And it WILL go away, in time. It’ll go away a lot faster if we can all just stay at home. Close the doors, batten down the hatches, look after each other from a distance, and stay as well as we can.

Use the time to get out in your garden. Deep clean the house. Binge watch stuff on netflix. Play board games. Have a virtual pub quiz with friends over skype or whatsapp. I’m heading outside to build a new raised bed for veg, move the compost, and generally tidy up out there. Then I’m settling in to rewatch old Silent Witness on BBC iplayer.

We can get through this.

If you are an online small business and you want a shout out on Twitter, just tag me on there and I’ll push your name out. Digital products and downloads for preference.

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Hedgehog rescue

For the past couple of years we’ve taken in a hedgehog over winter. UK Hedgehogs are in steep decline, and we need to do as much as we can to help them. So we work with the local Hedgehog rescue when we can.

Hedgehog rescue

Last summer was warm and wet, and autumn was the same, resulting in a larger than usual number of late litters for the hedgehogs. Through October and November we took in 5 tiny hoglets. All under 200g and far too small to survive winter without help.

They were already in serious trouble when we got them. Each time we assessed, removed ticks, treated for worms, kept them warm and fed. But sometimes that just isn’t enough, and sadly we lost 3 of the 5. One had so many ticks he was too weak for us to help. Another came in too late, he was suffering from serious hypothermia and died within a few hours. A third developed cage stress, which is horrid to see. We try our best, but these are wild animals, and they don’t appreciate being caged. He died too. Hedgehog rescue, any wildlife rescue, is often like this.

So, we were down to 2. Although a little tricky to maintain, we got them healthy and stable. We name them as they come in, and the two survivors were Fidget, a female, and Prickle, a boy.

Prickle was tricky. He’s been up and down through the whole time he’s been with us. He hates company, doesn’t like being cleaned, and he’s had some worrying health issues. But, weighing in at over 1kg now, he’s doing ok and we’re looking to release him in the next few weeks.

Fidget was an easy B&B – feed, water, keep clean. Until she suddenly developed cage stress, stopped eating, and started losing weight. We did everything we could, but she wouldn’t settle. Around 2 weeks ago we took the decision that if we released her early she’d have a slim chance outside. It was far too cold, and there’s not much food about, but if we kept her indoors she would certainly die within a few days.

She’s been living happily in my back garden ever since. We put food out every night for her, and we see her foraging. It was a huge risk, but after consultation with the local Hedgehog rescue, we decided it was worth it to give her a chance.

We made her a special house, and I’ll share how that was made, another time.

Hedgehogs are starting to come out in some places now and would really benefit from a shallow dish of fresh water, and a bit of food. Cat food is best, poultry flavour, not fish.

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New site – Welcome!

Making a new website is always fun. This is a brand new site, and I am still testing various things.

But, it should be fully functional and you are welcome to browse. The shop should be working, I’m just working on the behind the scenes stuff.

This is to test the social media links, for which I need a new post. So, if you’re seeing this on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, please let me know.