Category Archives: Personal musings

Sunday Post – 15th April, 2018

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

In the event, we didn’t make Highdown Gardens last weekend as the wind and rain was unceasing – until the grandchildren went home on Tuesday morning, when a rather watery sun appeared. In something approaching desperation, on Monday I took them to see Peter Rabbit at the local cinema. They were underwhelmed and I’m sure that odd scuffling sound I could hear was poor Beatrix Potter spinning in her grave…

I’ve continued to make progress with Miranda’s Tempest – to the extent that Himself is trudging through the manuscript, looking for the inevitable mistakes and plotholes. Oh, the things that we writers put our long-suffering spouses through… It was back to Pilates and Fitstep on Wednesday morning, so I have been working through the subsequent stiffness as throughout the holiday period I’ve been wearing out my glutes on the typing chair. On Wednesday evening, I was invited to a meal with some writing pals, where we ate an excellent vegetarian casserole – I’ve already nicked the recipe and will be trying it out very soon – and read aloud our current WIPs. It was a wonderful evening – I’m very lucky to have such lovely friends and thank you, Sandra, for being a fabulous host.

On Thursday, Mhairi came over. Her arm is still in a sling, but I’m mightily impressed at just how much she can now do singled-handed. We went out for lunch and discussed books and advertising campaigns – after which she decided that I needed space vessels on my spiffy new covers. Running Out of Space is now up with the latest improvement and I’m thrilled with it. Dying for Space should be appearing, complete with exploding space yacht, in the coming week. Friday was destined to be a day where I cleared a lot of routine admin in preparation for my catch-up class on Tuesday – but Sky evidently had plans of their own as the internet went down without any warning and it wasn’t until some two hours later that I realised it wasn’t anything to do with me or my equipment. Thank you Sky for the non-notification! I now need to crack on over the weekend to ensure I stay on schedule with my workload and get everything done before the end of my Easter break.

This week I have read:

The Ashes of London – Book 1 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor

London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer.

In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back.

Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters…
This well-written, historical murder mystery set during the time of the Great Fire of London held me throughout as Taylor’s vivid depiction of this difficult political period gives a wonderful backdrop to the crime. I’ll definitely be looking out for the next book in this series.

The Blood – Book 3 in the Jem Flockhart series by E.S. Thomson

Summoned to the riverside by the desperate, scribbled note of an old friend, Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain find themselves on board the seamen’s floating hospital, an old hulk known only as The Blood, where prejudice, ambition and murder seethe beneath a veneer of medical respectability.
Yep. Two historical murder mysteries set in London in a row… It doesn’t happen to me all that often, given that my go-to genres are science fiction and fantasy. But this was an amazing read – I’m still reeling from the vivid portrayal of the hospital ship peopled with some strongly eccentric characters that wouldn’t look out of place in a Dickensian novel. I now need to go back and find the previous books in this engrossing series – though this book could easily be read as a standalone.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 8th April 2018

Cover Reveal for Dying for Space – shiny, new and more appealing!

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Blood – Book 3 of the Jem Flockhart series by E.S. Thomson

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Obscura by Joe Hart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of School for Psychics – Book 1 of the School for Psychics series by K.C. Archer

Friday Face-off – The more I see, the less I know for sure… featuring Cryoburn – Book 14 in the Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

#Music & ComicArt Help Fill The #Imagination Room for #Writers https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/04/12/music-comicart-help-fill-the-imagination-room-for-writers/ Once again, this clever and amusing author has some insights on the process of writing that I’ve found really helpful…

Bullet Through Apple (detail) https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/bullet-through-apple-detail/ What a fascinating pic…

Exasperating Men https://readlorigreer.com/2018/04/12/exasperating-men/ This thoughtful article pinpoints the reluctance of many men to take themselves off to the doctor for necessary medical attention – with sometimes fatal results…

10 of the Best Poems About Music https://interestingliterature.com/2018/04/11/10-of-the-best-poems-about-music/ Another cracking list of enjoyable poems from this excellent site.

A Flying Visit – Seeing the Details https://scvincent.com/2018/04/06/a-flying-visit-seeing-the-details/ Sue Vincent features some delightful details on a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon. This is a gem…

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

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Sunday Post – 22nd October 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Life has been slowly getting back to normal after being laid low by flu. I resumed teaching my Creative Writing classes this week – it was lovely to see my students again. Though I didn’t make my Pilates and Fitstep classes on Wednesday because I was too wiped out – I’m still running out of energy far too quickly. On Friday, I was also teaching Tim and it was great to catch up on how the filming has been going of his comedy Robin Hood script. In the afternoon, we picked up the grandchildren, who will be staying until Tuesday evening as it is half term. Yesterday morning (Saturday) we took them shopping to spend their pocket money and in the afternoon, while J and Oscar stayed at home to play Bloodbowl together, I took Frances and Tim to the climbing walls at the Out of Bounds centre in Rustington. Both of them thoroughly enjoyed themselves while Storm Brian raged outside with gale-force winds and torrential downpours. There was a magnificent double rainbow stretching across the River Arun as we drove back into Littlehampton.

This afternoon we’re going to have a family readathon – I wasn’t able to take part in the Dewey 24-hour occasion on Saturday, so thought it would be lovely to run a mini-version for all of us to have a go… Wish us luck!

This week I have read:

The Mongrel Mage – Book 19 of The Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr
In the world of Recluce, powerful mages can wield two kinds of magic the white of Chaos or the black of Order. Beltur, however, has talents no one dreamed of, talents not seen in hundreds of years that blend both magics. On the run from a power hungry white mage, Beltur is taken in by Order mages who set him on the path to discover and hone his own unique gifts and in the process find a home.
I was thrilled to discover this on the Netgalley boards and immediately requested it – I love his writing and this one didn’t disappoint. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

And that’s it… only one book. I’m currently a third of the way through a 700+ page beastie that is a dense demanding read – and I don’t want to rush it as it’s also a joy. Thank goodness it’s on the Kindle because if I was trying to hold up the physical version, I’d probably sprain something…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 15th October 2017

Review of Empire of the Dust – Book 1 of the Psi-Tech novels by Jacey Bedford

Teaser Tuesday featuring Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Mongrel Mage – Book 19 of The Sage of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Reblog of Running Out of Space blog tour including Top Ten Character Names from Running Out of Space and how the author came up with them

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Austrel by Paul McAuley

Reblog of Running Out of Space blog tour including my article ‘It’s All About the Words…’

Friday Face-off – Me and My Shadow featuring A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Review of Healer’s Touch by Deb E. Howell

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Yellow https://richardankers.com/2017/10/21/yellow/ On Monday – apparently due to Ophelia causing a major disturbance – the UK was bathed in a sickly yellow light that caused the street lights to come on during the afternoon. This is Richard’s take on it…

Little Robin of Marlfield Lake https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/10/20/little-robin-of-marlfield-lake/ These lovely photos feature a cheeky little chap clearly not at his best – which makes him even more endearing…

…the most wonderful moment of my writing career… and it’s not what you may think… https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/10/20/the-most-wonderful-moment-of-my-writing-career-and-its-not-what-you-may-think/ Seumas always writes great blog articles and this is another classic.

Reading Goal Pressure http://chucklesbookcave.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/chuckles-chat-39-reading-goal-pressure.html?spref=tw This is well-written post is about an ongoing problem for many book bloggers.

Conflict of Interest https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/10/19/conflict-of-interest/ Family life is so rarely the honeyed version we see portrayed all too often in adverts – and Jean’s honest and thought-provoking article depicts a situation every working mother has had to confront at one time or another…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Shoot For the Moon Challenge 2016 – June Roundup

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Here we are – halfway through the year, already. Though it feels as if we are permanently stuck in April, given the shocking weather. So how am I doing with the targets I set myself back on New Year’s Eve?

• I’m now working on the line edit of Breathing Space. Events like my birthday, the end of the college moonyear at Northbrook and changing over my computer have slowed everything up over the last week and a bit, but overall, I think I’m more or less on track. I now have the covers for all three books – Running Out of Space, Dying for Space and Breathing Space organised, thanks to the wonderful Janet Sked.

During the All Night Write event, I started work on the opening passage of Bloodless, which will be the first book in the Jezel Campo murder mystery series. While it wasn’t my best effort – there was too much going on to really get into my writing zone – it did feel great to actually get back to writing, rather than editing.
Challenge – To have The Sunblinded trilogy published during 2016. Still on target…

• I read 10 books in June and will be reviewing all of them. I have slipped slightly behind on my reviews of NetGalley arcs, as I miscalculated just how long it would take me to read Justin Cronin’s The Passage. It’s a remarkable book, but a really hefty read and I had a whole lot of other things going on. I have read 76 books so far this year and enjoyed most of them.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me.

I should be able to achieve this target, though it won’t necessarily be with such a wide margin as the numbers might suggest so far. The numbers of books this month I managed to read has fallen and I’m expecting that trend to continue through the summer while I get through the mountain of work I’ve got waiting for me. However, I am really enjoying blogging and interacting with fellow book bloggers.

• I have now completed this year’s Creative Writing classes at Northbrook College, other than a one-day Summer Surgery course on Friday 22nd July. It has been a successful year, with most students continuing to improve and several celebrating successes in competitions.
Challenge – To have at least two of the four courses I hope to run next year planned and written by the end of the summer holiday.

eve-of-war-finalThere are still a couple of my 2016 Shoot for Moon challenges that need serious attention, but I am reasonably pleased with where I am halfway through the year – I just need to sustain my momentum. I was delighted that my short story ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ was published in the anthology Eve of War. I wrote just over 13,000 words on my blog in June and just under 5,500 words on teaching admin, as well as nearly 1,000 words on Bloodless – though a fair chunk of those won’t ever see the light of day!

How about you – how did you get on during June? Are you where you want to be halfway through 2016?

My 1,000th Post – Shoot For the Moon Challenge 2016 – May Roundup

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I was all set to write a special one-off post about this being my one thousandth blog –moon but I really couldn’t think of anything to say, other than thank you very, very much for taking the time to read and comment on my reviews and articles.

So how have I done during May – have I managed to keep within touching distance of my very ambitious targets for this year?

• I’m now on the last lap of the third major edit of Breathing Space. It’s taken quite a long time, but I’ve been quite pleased with it, so far. It’ll be interesting to see if the closing scenes work, as I’ve had several goes at them to ensure the ending is sufficiently satisfying – though it will be leading into a crime series with my protagonist, Jezel Campo, solving the murder mysteries, so I’ve left a dangling plotline that I can pick up again in Bloodless. I’ve also been working on the blurbs for all three books and I’m finally happy with them.
Challenge – To have The Sunblinded trilogy published during 2016. Still on target…

• I read 13 books this month and reviewed 11 of them. Five were new releases, but I’ve gone a bit mad this month with all the NetGalley arcs I’ve stacked up for review, so will need to keep on top of it all. There’s a good chance it will all come crashing down about my ears… Though I got carried away because I’ve been having so much fun reading books I wouldn’t necessarily have picked up off the shelves. Only one, so far, has been an utter disaster – which is very good going, given that I’ve read 66 books so far this year.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. So far, I’m comfortably on target for this particular challenge, as during May I read another 6 authors I haven’t encountered before.

IMG_0153Overall, it’s been a good month. My classes are going well at Northbrook, though I can’t believe we are now nearing the end of this academic year. Tim is now thriving with the one to one teaching he is getting and we now have a solid plan as to what we’ll be working on next year. I thoroughly enjoyed going to Lesley’s book launch at The Kew Bookshop last week, and will be reviewing The House With No Rooms next week. I wrote just under 14,000 words for my blog and just over 6,000 words on teaching admin during May, bringing my overall writing total this year to just under 114,500 words. Sadly, none of those were new manuscripts – but once I decided to publish my novels, inevitably editing has to become a far greater chunk of the workload than the initial writing.

Here’s hoping everyone has a successful June and that the weather starts to act as if summer has arrived!

Sunday Post – 29th May

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written. ‘It’s been another really busy week’ is becoming rather an ongoing theme…

Robbie travelled down late Sunday night after a stint on the river as he had an audition tape that needed filming on Monday. It took most of the day, but we managed to have it completed with him travelling back to Cambridge before I had to leave for Northbrook to teach my Monday evening class.

IMG_0153On Tuesday evening, Sarah Palmer drove us to The Kew Bookshop to attend the launch party for Lesley Thomson’s latest book The House With No Room, which is set at Kew Gardens. This is the latest book in Lesley’s successful crime series The Detective’s IMG_0151Daughter and if you enjoy reading well written crime with interesting spiky characters and a steady build-up, then track it down – ideally, I suggest you start with The Detective’s Daughter – see my review here.

It’s been a good teaching week, all the sessions went off well – particularly Tim’s lesson. It is such a relief that we now have a solid plan in place regarding his exam goals for the next year.

I’ve enjoyed my reading this week, although I only completed two books. However they were both very enjoyable and utterly different. They were:

theobsessionThe Obsession by Nora Roberts
I had only read one other book by this very prolific author, but have seen a lot of enthusiasm for this latest offering on the book blogs I follow, so when I saw it on the library shelves, I scooped it up. I have written a review, which will be posted in due course.

 

Change of Life – Book 2 of A Menopausal Superhero series by Samantha Bryantchangeoflife
When I saw the cover and read the blurb of this offering on NetGalley, I couldn’t resist it. I had assumed it would be a knockabout farce, but in actually fact it is a straight superhero adventure, solidly embedded in the sub-genre – featuring women of a certain age instead of the fit young things we are used to seeing flitting about the skies and tossing cars around. I really enjoyed it and will be posting my review of it shortly.

I managed to continue editing Breathing Space and during the week, my writing group also helped me fillet and gut my blurbs for all three books in The Sunblinded Trilogy, so they are suitably punchy. Now that I’ve half term week ahead of me with no teaching obligations or related admin to deal with, I’m hoping to have completed the third draft of Breathing Space by this time next week.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 22nd May

Teaser Tuesday – Change of Life – Book 2 of A Menopausal Superhero series by Samantha Bryant

Review of Plantfall by Emma Newman

Review of The Witches Revenge – Book 2 of the Beaver Towers series by Nigel Hinton

Friday Faceoff – Renewed Shall Be The Blade That Was Broken featuring The Fell Sword – Book 2 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron

Five SFF That Made Me Laugh – Part 1

Other interesting/outstanding blogs that have caught my attention during the last week:

Discussion: Realism in Books – Characters. Metaphors and Moonlight. A fascinating discussion about just how irritatingly plausible we want our main protagonists to be by Kristen Burns.

Markets for Your Fiction – how to locate them. A comparative analysis by The Earthian Hivemind. Stephen has produced a very handy guide if you have speculative fiction to submit.

On Losing Faith. Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking. Viv Tufnell’s searingly honest account of her current despair.

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: A Spotlight on David McCall Johnston. Science Fiction Ruminations. Joachim Boaz regularly features the amazing covers produced during the last century for science fiction books – but these are exceptional.

If you are also enjoying the Bank Holiday weekend, fingers crossed it stays fine… In the meantime, thank you for taking the time to visit and chat – I always appreciate it and hope you have a great reading and blogging week.

The Infinity Dreams Award

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I’ve been very remiss in responding to award nominations recently – sorry! It’s not that I am indifferent to the honour. I am always humbly grateful that anyone out there enjoys the blog sufficiently to consider nominating it… So many, many thanks to the wonderful Sara Letourneau for nominating me for this beautiful award. Sara is a fellow speculative fiction author, beta-reader par excellence, avid reader, great blogger and huge tea-drinking fan. If you are remotely interested in the craft of writing, then check out her blog – she is generous with her advice and tips.

The rules for this award are:-
1. Thank and follow the blog that nominated you.
2. Tell us eleven facts about you.
3. Answer the questions that were set for you.
4. Nominate eleven bloggers and set questions for them.

Fact 1 – I love my garden, though it is sadly neglected. I am passionate about gardening organically to encourage wildlife. The exception to that of course is slugs and snails, though I still refuse to use slug pellets to exterminate infinitydreamsawardthem.
Fact 2 – I enjoy listening to music while I am writing and when completing Miranda’s Tempest this year, I compiled a specific playlist to help me write the more emotional passages.
Fact 3 – I loathe being cold. If I had the choice, I’d far rather cope with bone-melting heat than being chilly, which makes me miserable, bad tempered and unable to think.
Fact 4 – I took four goes to pass my driving test, which I finally managed aged 34. My difficulties were caused by my problems with left and right, so whenever I was directed by the driving instructor, I hesitated too long at junctions. Or turned the wrong way… I only passed because my instructor suggested I lipstick the letter L on my left hand.
Fact 5 – I also learnt to swim in my thirties. One day while queuing at the checkouts with my son in the pushchair, a delightful elderly lady in my swimming group cheerfully hailed me from a neighbouring queue with, ‘Hallo there! I thought it was you – I nearly didn’t recognise you with your clothes on, though.’
Every head swivelled in our direction as silence roared around Gateway’s checkout area…
Fact 6 – I’m very fond of spiders and insects and grow lots of plants to encourage them. Earlier this year, a large bumble bee flew into a spiders’ web in my garden shed and she crawled across my hand for nearly an hour while I teased the silk from her wings and body until she was able to fly away.
Fact 7 – I LOVE people-watching and eavesdropping on conversations. Favourite overheard line – one builder to another, describing the receptionist at a high-end solicitors’ office he was working on… ‘She was a stunner – legs up to her armpits. The sort you’d elbow your old lady in the face to get a crack at if you reckoned you stood half a chance…’
Fact 8 – I was a skinny, worried young woman and now I’m more laid back and a whole lot wider… On balance, while I’d like to be slimmer and fitter (I have writers’ backside) Life is easier now I’m more chilled.
Fact 9 – I used to sing in a choir, but I simply don’t have time anymore, which doesn’t prevent me warbling in the shower or on the rare occasion I do housework.
Fact 10 – I hoard TV programmes and films to watch on the hard drive and often simply delete them without getting around to seeing them. My favourite TV show these days is ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Horizon’.
Fact 11 – I am a writing addict. If I go for more than a few days without writing something fictional and fanciful, the world becomes a grimmer place. My husband maintains it’s me who gets grim, but I find that hard to believe…

Answers to the 11 Questions
1) Does your personality fit your zodiac sign? How? (Or, do you believe in the accuracy of zodiac signs?) I can’t say that it makes any sense for those signs to be accurate – but the fact is that I have many typical characteristics of someone born under the sign of Cancer.
2) What is the most chilling or frightening story you’ve ever read? Annoyingly, it is in the days before I kept proper reading logs and it was a science fiction near future story of a world where the machines decided to rid Earth of humanity and finally achieved it by poisoning the money. I just can’t recall the name of the author, or the book…
3) What is your favourite fruit? Mango – yumm…
4) What is your favourite room in your home? The lounge where I do nearly all my writing. So it’s where I have the most fun…
5) How do you de-stress after a long day? Read or play solitaire on the computer – at present. I tend to zero in on one game until I get tired of it, then flit onto something else.
6) What was the name of your first pet? What kind of animal was it? Rufus and he was a golden Labrador.
7) What was the last funny thing that made you cry because you laughed so hard? I cannot recall the exact exchange, but this last week I went out with my writing group pals and we were laughing hard enough to make me smudge my eye make-up.
8) How do you like to pass the time during a car/train/plane ride? In the car, I am most often with my husband if it’s a long trip, so we chat or listen to an audio book or music together. On a plane or train, I read.
9) Have you ever kept a journal or diary? No. For which I’m very thankful…
10) Do you speak other languages besides your native tongue? Which ones? Very rudimentary Spanish and French.
11) In your opinion, what is one thing (tangible or intangible) that our world could use more of right now? A distribution system worth the name so those with too much could ensure those with not enough had sufficient for their needs.

My nominees for the Infinity Award
No one is obliged to take on this award – or you can postpone it until Life is not falling on your head. But know that you were recommended because I enjoy your blog.
1. Dream Big, Dream Often
2. Bette A. Stevens, Maine author
3. Jean Reinhardt
4. Ana’s Lair
5. Rosie Oliver
6. The Earthian Hivemind
7. A Daily Rhythm
8. Roam Wild and Free
9. Never Less Than Everything
10. Sophie E. Tallis
11. Chris the Story Reading Ape

My questions for my nominees (should they wish to answer them)
1. What is your earliest memory?

2. What is the worst present you ever received and why?

3. What is your dream car and why?

4. What is your favourite type of cake?

5. What was the first film you remember seeing at the cinema? Did you enjoy it?

6. What is your favourite font for reading and/or writing?

7. If you had a chance, what would you tell your 10-year-old self?

8. What is your favourite type of weather?

9. What is the oldest thing you own?

10. When was the last time you wore a hat?

11. If you had a chance to attend your dream dance, what would be the song you’d dance to and who would you want to dance with?

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – November Roundup

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This was certainly an odd month… On one hand, I went down with a really nasty head cold like a sack of spanners. Try as I might I could NOT shake off the damn thing, which continued on and on moonthroughout the whole month. It pervaded my whole existence, turning my lessons – which I normally love – into a dreary trudge as I struggled with a blocked nose, temperatures and persistent sore throat. BUT on the other hand, while feeling so grim the only refuge was to get lost in writing. So I did…

• As I mentioned last month, my plans to get Running Out of Space fully formatted and self published in time for Fantasycon landed in a heap when I encountered a corrupted file and as this was my first time, I hadn’t realised it until after 3 twenty-hour days in a row trying to get it right… After returning from Fantasycon and while struggling with my cold, I wasn’t up to facing the fiddly job of formatting – yet again. So decided to put this project on the back-burner until the New Year. December is always crazy-busy with more than half the family birthdays occurring throughout the month and then there’s the small disruption of Christmas. I am not going to put myself through the madness of the run-up to Fantasycon again if I can avoid it.
Challenge – To have Running Out of Space – Sunblinded: 1 published by the end of the year. I’ve failed at this major target, but I’ve learnt so much in the process that while I won’t deny it felt like a huge defeat at the time – it isn’t the end of the world. Better by far to delay the project to ensure the book is something I’ll be proud to share with the rest of the world, than to fling it out on Amazon with major formatting issues, regarding the italicisation – which was my biggest bugbear. I’ve also decided to bring out the whole trilogy together in 2016, with, hopefully, Bloodless, the first book in the follow-up space opera crime series ready to go  at the start of 2017.

• Due to the cold and the fact the only time I felt remotely human was when sitting at the computer lost in my own world, I spent the month writing. The result was I managed to complete the first draft of Miranda’s Tempest. This is a huge deal for me. This book has been boring holes in my skull for most of the year after I screeched to a halt with it in February and hadn’t had a chance to go back to the start, work out where I went wrong and put it right. Even so, the last chapter took 4 goes before I was happy with it – and I’m still unsure whether I’ve completely pulled it off… But I do know I’m very proud of the book and think it is the best thing I’ve written so far, once I’ve completely tidied it up, of course.
I also managed a major rewrite of a space opera romp I wrote years ago and stuffed in the back of a virtual drawer. Dusting it off, I realised it wasn’t as dire as I’d recalled – in fact once I addressed my tendency to repeat all the major events three times in three different ways – the narrative and characters work very well. It was also the last time I wrote anything in third person pov and I’m also pleasantly surprised how successful it was.
Challenge – to complete Miranda’s Tempest by the end of the year. Yep. Ticked that box:). Also dusted off and edited/rewrote Unearthly Things Above, which way back when, was on DAW’s ‘seriously considered’ heap for a while after I submitted it to their slush pile. No wonder they passed on it, given how overwritten it was!

• I read 11 books and wrote 8 reviews during November, which brings my annual total to date of 100 written reviews.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2015. Nailed that one…

With a chunk of my teaching commitment on hold – I could not possibly risk giving the boy I tutor my monster cold – I only wrote 3,400 words on admin, my blog took just over 7,000 words. But my wordcount for writing my own work was just over 91,800 words. Yes… my jaw dropped too. I have to say that while I was certainly on a roll, it didn’t feel unduly difficult. Hopefully I won’t get that ill again for a while – but at least it wasn’t a complete bust. That now brings my yearly total to date to just over 314,000 words.

To the people who made books live for me…

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This is a tribute to those people who helped spark my love of books by reading aloud to me.

Pile of Books @ Windham library

Pile of Books @ Windham library

First and foremost – my granny. She read aloud really well, having a beautiful, deep voice slightly roughened by smoking. I vividly recall her reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green and Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, sitting on the end of my bed as part of the bedtime routine, when she came to stay while we were living in Zambia. I can close my eyes, feel the slight pressure of the bedsheets tugging and hear her husky voice as I listened spellbound with the cool night air and the crickets sawing in the background. I could have listened to her all night…

I was also lucky enough to have a number of teachers who read aloud to our class. Mrs Parry read us stories about the Greek myths from a huge, foxed book that had me combing the library looking for more stories like those ones – and stumbling across an edition with some fairly graphic illustrations, when aged eight.

Miss Allson read The Pearl by John Steinbeck and I recall struggling not to cry when we reached the passage involving poor little Coyotito near the end. It was the first time I recall a story that so starkly examined racism and the sheer unfairness of poverty.

On a much lighter note, Miss Jorden read us the wonderful stories featuring Don Camillo, the hot-headed village priest and his regular run-ins with the equally hot-headed mayor Peppone, written by Giovannino Guareschi. I managed to get hold of these books years later and although I enjoyed the TV series, I still far prefer the ironic tone of the books. I, again, can close my eyes and hear Miss Jordon’s gentle voice pattering around the room on a sleepy afternoon and smell the classroom scents of chalkdust, ink and learning.

Mr Crawford read Animal Farm by George Orwell to us and a selection of poetry, which he recited beautifully, managing to imbue the likes of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ and ‘Roman Wall Blues’ by W.H. Auden with passion and understanding.

I recall being entranced by Mrs Jefford’s rendition of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Eagle of the Ninth, furiously drawing black and white doodles as I drank in every word… I don’t know if teachers regularly read aloud to children older than eleven, these days. I hope they do.

So I want to voice my gratitude to all the adults who read aloud to me all those years ago. Although I was one of those children who effortlessly learnt to read at a very early age, it mattered to hear other people read aloud to me, opening me up to literature I probably would never have otherwise encountered. Thank you…

I have always made an effort to pass on the baton, having read to both my children until they got to a point they’d rather I didn’t. And now I read aloud, sometimes until my voice goes, to both grandchildren who love listening to all sorts of adventure stories.

Who read to you when you were a child? What did they read? Do you read aloud to anyone in your life? I’d love to hear from you…

I’m so proud…

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Last Friday was Rebecca’s Graduation Day. After three years of hard work, studying for a Business with Marketing degree at Brighton University while looking after two children, this was the day when it we celebrated the fact it was worth it.

IMG_0033The ceremony took place at The Dome and was due to start at 10 am. Rebecca’s father and I were there, along with the grandchildren. But although it happens far more often these days, universities are slow to acknowledge their mature students may need more than a couple of tickets for parents. So we agreed to sit the children on our knees for the duration. As the seats weren’t allocated and we wanted to be situated where everyone could get a good view of Rebecca on the stage, we were sitting down by 9.30 am in our best bib and tucker.

In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t know the ceremony would continue until well after 12.30 pm. It could have been a nightmare. The seats in The Dome are closely jammed together without much legroom, but the grandchildren, aged 10 and 5 respectively, were heroically well behaved. They sat quietly and attentively throughout, clapping other people and remaining engaged with the whole procedure, which inevitably, included a fair number of long speeches and a never-ending procession of gowned students marching across the stage to shake the Chancellor’s hand and pick up their certificates. Though they did jump up to cheer and clap their mum as she walked across the stage.

She has done so very well, getting impressively high marks that has netted her a first class degree. We went for meal afterwards to celebrate her achievement, then the grandchildren and I caught the train home. Despite being on a crowded train where they both had to stand for part of the journey, their behaviour, as ever, was marvellous, finally arriving home at around 5.30 pm.

It’s never easy studying when you have children – as I know only too well. But for Rebecca to get the outstanding result she achieved, while also bringing up two such delightful, well behaved children speaks volumes for her, and of course, for my lovely granddaughter and grandson…

Great Food and Service Above and Beyond…

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It’s been a busy week on the family front. Last Tuesday, I travelled to London to meet up with Robbie, who was off to LA for several weeks on Wednesday. It’s a funny old thing – while we’re reasonably close as a mother and son, we don’t see each other all that often. But I hate it when he disappears across the Atlantic beyond my reach.

robbie-jarvisWe had planned to get together for my birthday at the end of June, but filming for an episode of Eastenders intervened at the last minute – such is the lot of an actor. What with my teaching commitments and Rob’s own busy schedule, we hadn’t managed to meet up earlier. So I was really looking forward to seeing him before he flew off.

I travelled up to London by train. As arranged, Rob met me at Victoria Station and took me to Mildred’s, a vegetarian restaurant he knew in Lexington Street, while we caught up. I had popped my travel pass in my jacket pocket alongside my phone, instead of sensibly putting it back in my purse, when we first met up. We arrived at Mildred’s a little later than planned because Lexington Street proved to be irritatingly illusive – according to the map we were nearly there three times, when it somehow shifted sideways to be the next turning along.

mildredsFinally we wound up at the restaurant a little after the main lunchtime rush, so there was plenty of room. I showed Rob my new phone as I enthused about several apps I’d recently acquired, while waiting for our food. We keep in touch online with Skype, Whatsapp and texts – but nothing beats a good old natter face to face…

The staff were friendly and approachable, the service prompt, the food delicious and we weren’t hassled to leave as soon as we’d finished eating. By any standards, it was an excellent meal and all too quickly our time together was drawing to an end. Robbie walked me back to Victoria, we said good-bye and I made my way to Gate 15 to hop on a train home. To find my travel pass gone. I searched my pockets… my purse… my bag. It was nowhere.

I eventually arrived home significantly later than planned, feeling a tad sick that I’d lost my pass and phoned the restaurant, more in hope than expectation, speculating that it might have fallen out of my pocket when I’d shown off my phone. But it was right in the middle of the evening rush, and I was asked if I wouldn’t mind ringing the following day when it would be quieter and the staff that served us would be working.

Next morning, I spoke to Anna who was very sympathetic and promised to ring me back to let me know whether IMG_0068they’d found it or not. I wasn’t expecting her to be on the phone five minutes later, when it rang. Nor was I expecting her to sound so delighted that they’d found my pass and I certainly wasn’t expecting her to promise to put it in an envelope and post it first class the same day. But that’s what she did – so it was back in my hands on Thursday afternoon.

It is clearly a busy, successful restaurant. As somone who doesn’t live or work in London, I’m not a regular customer and never will be. There was absolutely nothing to be gained by being so very helpful and kind – and yet, they were. Often social media is used, rightly, to warn prospective customers of shoddy, unsatisfactory work and offhand, rude service. I’m here to do the opposite. Mildred’s is worth a visit if you want reasonably priced, well cooked food – and just as importantly, they really care about their customers.