Category Archives: e-publishing

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – August Roundup

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How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets?

• Edit Dying for Space
Edit Dying for Space after receiving advice from my beta readers on the second book of the Sunblinded trilogy, in readiness for self-publishing the series.
I completed my edit of Dying for Space and it is now ready for publication, which all being well, I hope will happen before the end of the year.

 

• Self publish a novel
This is one of the main targets I had back in January – after the false start I made last year with Running Out of Space due to some significant formatting problems, I was feeling a lot less gung-ho and I wanted to be in a situation where I could release the first two books of the Sunblinded trilogy reasonably close together. I’m now in that situation.
I have arranged a blog tour for Running Out of Space and decided on a release date – 11th October. The book is now up on Goodreads and I hope to have it on Netgalley very soon. My website and blog will also be undergoing a major makeover, so the covers for all three books – Running Out of Space, Dying for Space and Breathing Space can feature.

While I managed to successfully complete the line edit on Breathing Space, after receiving some really helpful feedback on my manuscript of Miranda’s Tempest, I can now see my way to tightening up the book, which has a few issues that I wasn’t completely happy about. So I hope to be able to work on it after completing the rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest.

 

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
After resubmitting Miranda’s Tempest, to an agent who expressed interest in the book last year, she got back to me very quickly…
The agent has responded with another very helpful email, detailing her concerns with the manuscript. So it’s back to the drawing board to continue working on it until this book is right.

 

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
The target I set in January was to to read and review at least 100 books this year.
During August, I read 15 books and reviewed 13 of them. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 121. As for book of the month – there were 4 that blew me away – The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts, The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein, The Heir to the North by Steven Poore and Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill. Don’t ask me to choose – each one moved and excited me in different ways and for different reasons. By the end of the year, I will be in a better position to know which of them has really stuck with me – but right now, I simply cannot decide which I love best.

 

• Short story to be published
This wasn’t part of my initial January target, because it popped up during the year. I was asked if I would be interested in submitting a short story for the upcoming Grimbold anthology Holding On By Our Fingertips.
I was a bit overwhelmed – and also very excited. The premise for this anthology is what you would do if you only had 24 hours before it all goes belly-up. I had several false starts before submitting a story entitled ‘A Dire Emergency’. And I had the news in the middle of the month that it has been accepted for the anthology, which was a lovely surprise.

I started writing August’s roundup feeling a bit miserable. In the middle of everything else, I also had the grandchildren to stay for a large chunk of the holidays and my sister was taken seriously ill, so I was unable to get the amount of writing done I’d planned. But looking back at what I actually managed to do, I realise it isn’t the failure I had feared. And there are several developments that didn’t exist at the start of the year which are enormously exciting, if a bit terrifying… I wrote just over 16,500 words on my blog, just under 8,000 words on course notes for next term’s Creative Writing course and just over 25,500 on the rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest, which comes to just under 50,000 words for the month and a total for the year to date of approximately 266,000 words.

How did you get on during the summer? Is there anything unexpected looming in your life right now that keeps you awake at night?

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Shoot for the Moon 2016 Challenge – January Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I have set ourselves some crazy writing-related goals over the last several moonyears with variable results. But I have found the experience so very helpful in keeping my focus throughout the year, it was a no-brainer as to what I’d be doing as 2015 sputtered to a close in a flurry of fireworks. So what goals have I set for 2016?

• Publish the Sunblinded trilogy
As some of you know, I was all set to go with this target, having planned to release Running Out of Space in time for Fantasycon 2015 at the end of October – and fell at the last hurdle because I had major problems formatting the book to a suitable standard. And then was ill throughout November with a dreadful cold that would not lift – chiefly due to exhaustion.

However, my clever son has sorted out the formatting issues for me, so I’m hoping to have both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space released together in the first half of 2016, followed by the final book in the trilogy, Breathing Space, in the autumn. I have learnt my lesson, though. No spreading the word about release dates until I have everything set up and ready to go!
It was huge breakthrough to understand what went so wrong and why – not something I’m going to bore you with, seeing as it’s an arcane techie niggle. But it means I should not run into the same problems again!

• Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Jezell Campo, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy
I have the plot outline sorted out and I’m going to have a go at writing this one, while editing Dying for Space and Breathing Space. It may not work as I’m the ultimate monotasker, but I won’t know until I try, will I?

• Complete Chaos in New Cluster
This is the novel my writing pal, Michael Griffiths, and I started in 2014. We still haven’t managed to finish it, but perhaps this will be the year when we can get it completed. It’s not a priority as we both have plenty else to be getting on with.

• Complete Picky Eaters
This is the novella that mushroomed from my short story, published at Every Day Fiction longer ago than I care to think. Another story that wouldn’t rest in my head until I completed the whole tale… While reading it to the grandchildren over the Christmas holidays, I realised there were another couple of plotpoints that needed tidying up, so I have it pencilled into my editing schedule during the summer when I’m not teaching, to have a go at getting it to a publishable standard. All being well, I intend to see if I can self-publish it at the start of December.

• Edit Miranda’s Tempest
This is one of the successes of last year. This novel has been burning a hole in my brain for the best part of a year, after I made a couple of false starts. When teaching The Tempest, I always felt that Miranda sailing off to marry Prince Ferdinand was never going to work – she’s been running around an enchanted island in her father’s cutdown robes since she was a toddler, which simply will not prepare her for surviving life as a 15th century Italian princess. And I finally managed to complete it while I was ill during November, given that I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t seem to concentrate on reading. I now need to knock it into shape so I can send it out to some agents.
I am working through it right now, as it still won’t leave me alone. I’m more than halfway through the manuscript and so far have lost 8 pages as I’m tightening it up and ensuring the language is appropriate for the Shakespearean period. It’s a balancing act to keep the feel of the language without too many forsooths and I prithees cluttering up the narrative drive…

• Submit Miranda’s Tempest and Unearthly Things Above
While submitting my work still happens in fits and starts, rather than the smoothly rolling process I’d planned in theory, it hadn’t been completely discouraging. A number of agents requested to see the full manuscript of Mantivore Dreams and said nice things about my writing. Meanwhile Netted is under consideration by a publisher. I don’t want to say more at this stage, but I plan to send out Miranda’s Tempest and Unearthly Things Above as soon as they are suitably shiny and good to go.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
As 2015 was the second year in a row that I nailed this challenge, I’ve decided to fine-tune it. While I don’t want to extend the number of books I read and review, I am going to apply for more Netgalley ARCs and read and review more new releases. There is a real buzz about doing this – and as reading is my main hobby, increasing the excitement and fun can only be a good thing. I’ve also already signed up to the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s thoughtful post – read it here – which is to read and review at least one female author I haven’t read before per month, then report back in a specific blog, which should keep me on the ball…
I wrote 12 reviews during January, which came to just over 10,915 words. Half the books I completed were by authors I hadn’t previously read and five were new releases. I don’t think for a second that I shall be able to sustain those shiny stats – the slew of new releases were affordable due to Amazon vouchers and book tokens as Christmas gifts. But I am hoping to be able to continue to read and review at least two female authors new to me every month.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I have next year’s courses sorted out, but during the second half of the term I will be submitting them for approval to Northbrook College. I really would like to have the course notes and plans written by the end of the summer holidays, and so long as I work hard, that should be doable.
So far this term is going well – although a number of students have gone down with various bugs and illnesses and I’ll be glad when they have all recovered!

• Work on the teaching syllabus for TW
Since taking on teaching my friend’s son, County have given the go-ahead for the current situation to prevail. So we are now getting organised to start teaching him the English GCSE syllabus and I will be taking responsibility for the planning and delivery of both the English Language and Literature. This is hugely challenging – but also extremely exciting as only a few years ago, no one would have thought he would be in a position to consider taking such qualifications due to his autism.
This is, obviously, going to take priority as it becomes necessary.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I suffered a major back injury back in early 2005, which left me with ongoing sciatica that meant I was a constant visitor to the Physio. Doubtless spending hours in front of the computer aggravated the situation, but I found I couldn’t go on long walks, swim or spend an undue amount of time gardening. Then last year, Mhairi suggested I get a TENS machine to see if it would improve the nerve pain during yet another flare-up that was making my life a misery. It worked! Last June, I spent the day at Kew Gardens for my birthday treat, walking up the stairs in the Palm House and around the grounds without so much as a twinge.
I’ve now been signed off by the Physio and am on my second course of Pilates – yay! Himself and I have also started hiking again, albeit gently. But it’s marvellous – I feel I’ve got my life back. My ambition is to resume my regular swims, which I used to enjoy and increase the distance I can walk. And in case you’re wondering how this impacts my writing – it’s huge. I used to battle through the nerve pain to write, and now I don’t have to, it is such a wonderful relief…

Those are my 2016 Shoot for the Moon Challenges. Wish me luck!

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – How Did I Do?

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Thanks to the success of this form of goal-setting, concocted by writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and moonme one New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago when we were slightly the worse for wear – this has now become an integral part of my writing process. The theory is that I set myself some crazily ambitious targets and while striving for those, achieve more than I would have done, had I been more sensible. Um. Yes, I know… But it made sense at the time, when you consider we were both rather the worse for wear – and it has proved to be a very successful strategy for improving my productivity. Question is, did I achieve my targets for 2015?

• The Challenge – Publish Running Out of Space
Nope. This was a decided fail and when it happened, felt like a devastating blow. I had intended – and announced – that I would self publish Running Out of Space, Book 1 of The Sunblinded in time for Fantasycon at the end of October. And I was fully geared up to do so – but fell at the very last fence due to a major glitch in getting it formatted. It was a nightmare, with the clock ticking and convinced it would only take one more major effort, I pulled three 20-hour days in a row trying to get it right. Only to face the fact that it just wasn’t going to happen – unless I shrugged my shoulders and let those occasional bolding/italicization errors remain. I was tempted. Truly. But when I went back to the uploaded version on my Kindle, I felt vaguely sick every time I flipped through the pages and came to those particular passages and knew that feeling would intensify tenfold if I took the decision to publish with those errors in place. So I took the decision not to do so and set off for Fantasycon without having Running Out of Space live and available. It hurt. So much so, that I woke up on the last day of the conference with a heavy head cold that lasted six weeks – and I think the fact it lasted so long was due to exhaustion, both physical and emotional.
However, I take comfort from the knowledge that I made the right decision – and that if I had gone ahead and published Running Out of Space with those errors in place, I would have bitterly regretted it.

• The Challenge – Complete first draft of Miranda’s Tempest
Yes – I managed to achieve this one. Ironically when I was so ill throughout November, I couldn’t sleep much or read – but the one thing that alleviated the misery was writing. So I dived back into this world which has been burning a steady hole in the back of my brain since I started it over a year ago and couldn’t get it right. I went back to the beginning and did a major rewrite, then powered on until I completed the manuscript. It is the most ambitious book I’ve attempted to date.
When teaching Shakespeare’s The Tempest as part of the GCSE syllabus, I always wondered about poor little Miranda. She has been running around an enchanted island, playing with spirits since she was three-years-old. And now, engaged to Prince Ferdinand of Naples, she is sailing off to become a 16th century princess in an Italian court. I never saw that one ending well… So I wrote her adventures, first as a short story, and then when the idea still wouldn’t leave me alone, made a start on the novel. I feel delighted I’ve managed to finish the first draft and am currently working on fine-tuning it, ready for submission.

• The Challenge – complete Chaos in New Cluster
This is the book my pal Michael Griffiths and me started writing a while ago, now. We are really, truly now on the last lap – but Mike has a new baby, so it is not a surprise that this one is still on the backburner. But the nice thing about this project is that it has been written in amongst all our individual writing activities, so if it takes a tad longer before it sees the light of day – so be it. It’s a bonus any way you look at it.

• The Challenge – Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
Done. Actually, I wrote 108 reviews, after reading 121 books, so I only achieved it by the skin of my teeth. This is the one target I haven’t bothered to strive for – I enjoy writing book reviews and I read for pleasure. It was a target I’d set in 2014 and achieved, so there was no point in changing it. But if I hadn’t met it, I wouldn’t have been unduly worried.

• The Challenge – Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for 2015/16
Done. I didn’t manage to get the courses written during the summer, as I had wanted, because I was busy on the final edits of Running Out of Space. In addition I was also very busy Grannying, which tends to drive a coach and horse through all my writing schedules. But I had a successful teaching year, with some new tweaks to make the classes more interactive which have proved popular and I’m pleased to say that both current courses are full.

• The Challenge – Submit Mantivore Eyes and Netted
Those of you kind enough to closely follow my blog will know this has been a major block for me – I am reasonably productive, but not terribly good at getting my work ‘out there’. I resolved to submit my work to at least 50 agents. And no – I didn’t achieve those numbers, BUT I did send out both manuscripts and received a number of nicely worded rejections along the lines of ‘this one isn’t for us, but please bear us in mind for your next project…’ and both manuscripts are currently under consideration.

Overall, despite the mess-up with Running Out of Space, it was a successful year for my writing. And the very good news is that my clever son managed to untangle the formatting issue for me over the Christmas holidays. As for my 2016 targets – I will be posting those at the end of January.

Review of KINDLE Ebook White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles by Sophie E. Tallis

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I loaded this book onto my Kindle after meeting Sophie at Bristolcon last year. But what with one thing and another, I hadn’t managed to get around to reading it…

whitemountainAmongst our modern world lies another, an archaic and hidden world of tradition, sorcery and magic. As dark demons awaken from our past, the last remaining wizards are being hunted and murdered by a changeling of terrifying strength. Attacked and drained of most of his powers, a dying sorcerer must race against time to save himself, and the fate of all, from an enemy intent on cleansing the planet of humanity… Darkness spreads as friendships, betrayals and horrifying truths await…

If you are looking for some modern twist on the classic epic Fantasy setup, this isn’t it. Tallis gives us a straight Fantasy tale, complete with an evil mastermind who has been plotting the overthrow of the world for ages – and now his plans have finally come to fruition. We have a stark demonstration of the power of said evil mastermind very early into the story. It was at this stage, I bonded with Marval and his grumpy dragon Gralen.

One of the other classic aspects of this book is the semi-omniscient viewpoint Tallis uses. To be frank, it isn’t a favourite viewpoint choice of mine, as writers who use it are too liable to canter through a story long on action and description, while being rather light on characterisation. However, Tallis writes with passion and eloquence that breathes life into her characters. There is plenty of description, but as the tone of the story inexorably darkens and becomes steadily grimmer, those descriptions, imbued with Tallis’s strong visual imagination and fluent writing add rather than detract to the story. sophiedrawingAn enjoyable addition are the beautiful illustrations drawn by Tallis herself, evidently a talented artist.

The initial light and affectionate exchanges between Marval and Gralen abruptly disappear after Marval’s abduction and draining as the tone of the book darkens. There is a real feel of danger – partly because Tallis isn’t afraid to kill off some of her more major characters.

My personal favourite is Gralen, the impulsive and outspoken dragon. He manages to provide shafts of light relief throughout the book, which I very much appreciated as the stakes steadily go on getting ever higher. The climax – the huge battle – was every bit as big a deal as Tallis continually flagged. In fact, while I’d already realised she is a writer of ability and passion, it was her depiction of the major conflict that confirmed her as a gifted storyteller. Did I see the final denouement coming? Yes, but that didn’t really matter – because it’s what the consequences are going to be that will count.

I will certainly be looking out for the second book in this series – and if your taste runs to quality epic Fantasy, then track down White Mountain – you won’t be disappointed.
8/10

Review of The Path of Self-Publishing Success by Michael R. Hicks

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I’ve been a Twitter follower of Michael for a while and we’ve exchanged the odd tweet, meantime my husband has downloaded and read a couple of his ebooks on Kindle and they’re now archived waiting for me to get to them. I came across this book and downloaded it after reading the Look Inside feature on Amazon, as I’m seriously considering self-publishing one of my science fiction trilogies.

self-publishing-cover01-300hThe writing style is friendly and approachable – Hicks delivers the advice as if you are sitting at a table across from him over a coffee or beer, so I was immediately drawn in. The books is clearly set out, starting with Hick’s own experiences of trying to sell his first novel In Her Own Name, to agents and publishers and finally deciding in 2008 to take the plunge and publish it himself. And after working away, in mid-2011 he hit the best-seller lists and by July of that year was close to making $30,000 in a single month. He then takes the reader on a step by step journey of what you need to do in order to successfully publish your work, starting with the writing and editing of your work, acquiring a good cover, how to obtain an ISBN number…

It isn’t a particularly long book and I devoured it in a single sitting. However, I’m very aware that it is a book I shall be regularly returning to when I’m in a position to turn my own work loose on the unsuspecting public.

He has made a point of labelling his chapters, so you can dive right in to the appropriate section if you wish to retrieve a particular slice of information – and acknowledging that this is a fast-moving industry with a lot going on, he also has produced links where he will regularly update developments for those of us who made the investment of £1.90 for his words of wisdom.

I came away from reading this book feeling inspired and energised. However, at no time does Hicks under-estimate the significant amount of hard work and effort it takes to acquire the amount of success he has attained. Which is a relief – I get a tad fed up with the horde of tweets and Facebook messages to the effect that so long as you tell yourself, ‘You Can!’ or some other equally anodyne sentiment, you’re more or less destined for J.K. Rowling success…

All in all, this book is excellent value for money and if – like me – you are thinking about self-publishing, or simply curious to see what all the fuss is about, then you can discover a lot of valuable information from an industry insider, who has taken the time and effort to smooth the way for those coming behind him.
9/10

Review of INDIE KINDLE story The Scent of Freedom by Mhairi Simpson

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Mhairi Simpson is a pal and fellow writer – we knock about writing ideas together, but this was the first time I’d read any of her completed work. Would I find this 8,000 word story as compelling as the idea she had outlined to me?

scent of freedomAfter thirty years hunting demons, the Hunter needs just two more. Two more dead demons and the family debt will be repaid. But when an old friend gets in the way, she must make a choice: to save him or her honour.

Written in first person POV, the inhuman protagonist is tracking a vicious murderer and Simpson immediately pulled me into her world. Her snappy writing style and vivid depiction of the crime scene, along with the dilemma facing the Hunter had me turning the pages, wanting to discover what would happen next. It takes a great deal more skill to write a successful short story than it does to write a novel – many bestselling, readable novels can get away with thin characterisation, or clunky dialogue, so long as the author provides a sufficiently compelling storyline. However, in a short story if the character isn’t convincing; or the backdrop sufficiently developed; or the dialogue sharp and realistic; or the storyline strong with a satisfying ending – then it fails. There simply isn’t time to compensate for such shortfalls in writing technique in a short story.

Simpson manages to fully deliver – the Hunter’s reliance on her sense of smell gave the story an intriguing feeling of ‘other’ that is always important when creating an alien character. The increasing tension as Hunter struggles to track down the perpetrator of a gory murder, with the frozen park providing an excellent backdrop to the action, provides narrative tension in spades.

I’m not going to discuss the ending, other than to say that it worked and left me wanting a lot more from this world. A superb slice of writing.
9/10

Review of Switched – Book 1 of The Trylle series by Amanda Hocking

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If you are remotely interested in e-publishing or Fantasy fiction and haven’t heard of Amanda Hocking, then you clearly were off-planet for the duration of the media fuss. Just in case you were sojourning somewhere on the Moon, or have a memory like mine – Amanda Hocking is the twenty-something who, on finding it impossible to get her work accepted by an agent or publisher, decided in April 2010 to start to self-publish her seventeen books. She brought out her three series in quick succession on Amazon’s Kindle and by August was able to quit her day job. By the following January, she was selling 100,000 plus a month and eventually signed up with St. Martin’s Press to publish her Trylle trilogy and the new Watersong series, after having sold well over a million books and earned over two million dollars in book sales. So when I spotted this volume on the shelves, I couldn’t resist. Would I find it an enjoyable, absorbing read as so many of Hocking’s fans have before me?

Wendy Everly knew she was different the day her mother tried to kill her and accused her of having been switched at birth. Although switchedcertain she’s not the monster her mother claims she is – she does feel that she doesn’t quite fit in… She’s bored and frustrated by her small town life – and then there’s the secret that she can’t tell anyone. Her mysterious ability – she can influence people’s decisions, without knowing how, or why…

When the intense and darkly handsome newcomer Finn suddenly turns up at her bedroom window one night – her world is turned upside down. He holds the key to her past, the answers to her strange powers, and is the doorway to a place she never imagined could exist: Főrening, the home of the Trylle.

These Trylle are trolls – no, not the grotesque, lumpy creatures that lurk under damp bridges to eat goats, this version are sexily attractive with magical powers that are dwindling while they use their abilities to gain material possessions, instead. So they switch their babies with wealthy human hosts, allowing them to inherit fortunes before bringing them back into the fold.
Wendy is a strong heroine – wilful, not altogether likeable, spiky and with plenty of vulnerabilities. She is struggling. Disliked at school by her peers, who instinctively sense her difference, she is often reduced to coercing people against their will. While she is sharply aware that her brother and aunt spend far too much of their precious time and energy worrying and caring for her – something that makes her both angry and even more awkward.

Hocking has this under-achieving teenager absolutely nailed – her sense of frustration is palpable. So when Finn turns up, she is not immediately inclined to believe the story he comes out with – a refreshing change in a genre where often I feel that the humans involved throw themselves into the supernatural high jinks with far too little soul-searching, or scepticism.

Once Wendy finds herself in Főrening, still scrambling to play catch-up in an environment where secrecy seems to be a way of life, we meet maybe the most intriguing character in the book. Wendy’s true mother, Queen Elora, is beautiful, aloof and utterly formidable – she certainly doesn’t display any maternal cosiness as her attitude towards Wendy is guarded and detached. Unsurprisingly, Wendy finds herself floundering.

It did occur to me that maybe that society reliant on switching their children at birth with human hosts to parent their offspring would be a lot slicker in providing a strong familiarisation programme, once those offspring returned back to Trylle society. However, this is a minor niggle in what is a well-structured story with an enjoyable world and some engaging characters. Am I going to get hold of the sequel, Torn? Oh yes – because I found that once I got into the story and overcame the occasionally lumpy prose, Switched was difficult to put down again. And I want to know what happens to Wendy.  And her mother…
8/10