Category Archives: reading challenge

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – 2019 Roundup #Brainfluffbookblog #ShootfortheMoon2019Roundup

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This is now an annual event – in the dying days of the year, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I sit down together and set ourselves targets for the coming year. The theory is that in aiming for the insanely unrealistic, we’ll achieve more than if we were more cautious in our goalsetting. These are the targets I set for 2019 – how did I do?

• Edit and publish Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles
I released Mantivore Dreams at the end of August, so it was bang on target, given I’d planned to publish it during the summer.

• Complete, edit and publish Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles
Mantivore Prey was released just three months later, at the end of November, and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I’d had a battle with this one and I feel I’ve managed to complete Kyrillia’s story in a way that is both powerful and moving. Vrox’s story will be concluded in Mantivore Warrior, due out after Easter, all being well.

• Rewrite, edit and submit Miranda’s Tempest
This didn’t happen and for the time being, I’m going to abandon this project. Miranda’s Tempest is too far from my current goal, which is to continue working on my self-publishing career. So breaking off from my writing and publishing schedule to fit in a book that I think could cause me major problems in the writing seems a daft move, right now.

• Outline and start on the first draft of Bloodless – Book 1 of the Beth Wheeler mysteries
I didn’t manage to get to this one, either. Mantivore Prey took longer to rewrite and edit – I don’t write particularly quickly and my editing process isn’t all that fast. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article – these goals were ambitious, and I failed with this one.

• Release paperback editions of Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I’ve now managed to get both these books published in paperback – in fact, Breathing Space is pretty much hot off the press, as I uploaded the paperback format just a couple of weeks ago. I’m thrilled to be able to hold the books in my hand, and particularly like how the blurb and the Griffinwing Publishing logo appear on the back cover.

• Organise reviews for the release of Netted
I was delighted to have a handful of reviews organised for Netted when it was released by Grimbold Publishing. And I’m very happy with the amazing cover that Mhairi designed.

• Regain my fitness and stamina
I now feel a whole lot better, but still haven’t regained the stamina and fitness I’d achieved in the early part of 2018. However, now I’m taking blood pressure tablets, I’m feeling so much better and in a position to really work on building up my stamina and fitness.

• Continue delivering my Creative Writing courses at Brighton Metropolitan College
I achieved this goal, in that I completed the 2018/19 academic year with my lovely students, before resigning from the position of Creative Writing tutor, after a wonderful ten-year stint. It was a wrench and I still miss them, but running those three classes, along with my other obligations, was simply too much. Since stepping down from the post, I’ve felt a lot better and have found writing easier. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, though.

• Continue teaching TW
I continued to teach Tim, as part of a team of tutors who also supported him when he attended Chichester College to take a Music Diploma. The course has a two-year option, but Tim decided not to continue his education in a college setting, as he feels he learns more on a one-to-one basis. We prepared him for the last section of his English Functional Skills Level Two exam – the Reading paper – throughout the Autumn term. While he is a fluent reader, he found it a challenge to compare and contrast three separate texts, then answer questions on them – but then this exam is commensurate with a GCSE English Language qualification, so it isn’t meant to be too easy. He took the exam at the end of November 2019 and during his first lesson after Christmas, we got the news that he not only passed it – he smashed it by getting an amazing 25/30!

• Continue blogging about books and writing
I thoroughly enjoy reading and reviewing books – I’m keeping my target for the year at 100 books, although during 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 128 reviews, though some have yet to be published. I had intended to branch out from mostly featuring book reviews, to taking part in reading challenges such as Love Your Library and Beat the Backlist. It didn’t happen, as I’m rubbish at nipping across to the host site and adding the links. Although I did participate in Sci Fi Month, which I absolutely loved. I wrote a measly five articles in my series authoring annals, so that was also something of a fail.

During 2019, I wrote 350,569 words – 151,500 were written for the blog, just under 52,000 were in connection with my teaching duties and just over 147,000 words went towards my novels. I published the boxed set of The Sunblinded trilogy, Mantivore Dreams and Mantivore Prey – and I had the fun of watching someone else publish Netted. I also had my Roman steampunk story ‘The Final Voyage of Juno’s Breath’ published in the anthology Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion II.

While I would have liked to have managed to get more books completed, I am pleased to see my backlist steadily growing. Overall, I think the 2019 Shoot for Moon Challenge went reasonably well. I shall post my goals for the 2020 Shoot the Moon Challenge at the end of the month. What about you – do you find setting targets helpful? What was your biggest success of 2019?

My 2019 Reading Year – the statistics #Brainfluffbookblog #BrainfluffReadingYear2019

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It’s been a great reading year. Once again, I achieved my reading challenge to read and review at least 100 books, which I managed by reading 168 books with 128 reviews written, though 25 have yet to be published. I DNF’d 7 books.

 

I have read 100 books by female authors and 70 by men – the sharp-eyed among you will have notice that adds up to 170, but there were two books in this year’s list with joint authorship – How To Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone and Oracle’s War by David Hair and Cath Mayo.

 

In a related challenge I set myself the task of reading at least two books a month by female authors previously unknown to me in the Increasing Discoverability Challenge, as set out by Jo Hall. I managed to read 40 books in this category, which is 24% of my 2019 reading list, while 13% of books were by male authors I hadn’t previously read, which means that 37% of the books I read last year were by authors new to me. I’m reasonably happy with that – it means I am continuing to expand my reading experience, rather than only sticking with authors I know and like. But I do note that last year I read more books in this category, particularly by male authors previously unknown to me. I really don’t want this ratio to drop any lower next year.

 

I decided to cut back requesting review copies from Netgalley, though I still enjoy reading and reviewing arcs and have also occasionally taken review copies from writing colleagues. During 2019, I read and reviewed 61 new releases and managed to read 98 books on my TBR pile, which I’m really pleased about. However my determination to read more library books hit a wall – I only managed 9. Partly it’s because I don’t enjoy reading print books all that much these days. But partly, I decided to join a Reading Challenge – and I discovered during this year that I’m rubbish at keeping these going. So come 2020, other than my ongoing Discovery Challenge, I’m not going to sign up for any more, as they act as a deterrent rather than an impetus.

 

As you can see, I read more ebooks than anything else. But as I continue to add more audiobooks, I expect this number to rise during 2020. That pitifully small number of print books is dire though, and I really need to knuckle down and read more as we have several large shelves full of unread books. It is one of my reading targets for the coming year – to read more of our own paperbacks.

 

In 2019 I read 56 science fiction books, 104 fantasy books, 21 crime adventures, 2 contemporary fiction, 9 historical books, 3 non-fiction books. Science fiction includes sub-genres such as space opera, colony adventures, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic, time travel, alternate history, military, futuristic crime, literary and steampunk. Fantasy includes sub-genres such as epic, urban, swords and sorcery, musket and magic, sand and sorcery, underworld, historical, grimdark and coming of age. This is a big shift from last year’s figures, when I’d read more science fiction than anything else. The reason for this shift is that the Audible reading list I’d inherited from Frankie was heavily skewed to fantasy reads and I decided to work my way through those books I thought I’d enjoy. I expect this bias to still impact on next year’s reading stats.

 

I announced last year that I wasn’t going to bother including children’s books as a category as I had miserably failed to read more books. However, because I have been working through Frankie’s Audible collection, which were all children’s books, the number I’ve read this year has been far more respectable. While my YA reading numbers were constant last year and the year before, in 2019 my numbers of YA reads have tanked – and I’m not really sure why.

 

I have read 30 books by small presses and self-published authors, which is only 18% of my 2019 reading list – far fewer than in 2018. Again, I think this has been skewed by my enthusiasm for Audible books, which are mostly produced by traditional publishers. I would like to read more Indie books next year.

Thank you for bearing with my inner geek! Here’s hoping we all have a great 2020 reading year.

Shoot for the Moon 2018 Challenge – February Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, sat down to write a series of very ambitious targets for 2018 when the year was only a few days old. After the success of the last few years, I have become a real fan of this process as it has given me clear targets to work towards throughout the year and then at the end of every month, hold myself to account in fulfilling these goals. So how did I do in February?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
After completing Miranda’s Tempest and sending it out last year, I am hoping to have my rewrite completed by the end of March, using the feedback from an agent who has shown interest in the manuscript. She further suggested that I send it to a professional editor before resubmitting it to her, which I intend to do.
 As is often the case, now that I have the completed manuscript, I can see how to improve it further. Though I shall be glad to finish this one – it rides on my shoulders like a demon… I have contacted an editor who is willing to plough through the manuscript in June – so I now have a hard deadline to work to, which is always a help.

• Learn to market my books
I conducted my first giveaway for Running Out of Space along with an Amazon ad and given it was only for 24 hours, I was pleased with the result. I have some extra keywords to add and I’m going to be tweaking my description on Amazon. I have also added the covers for my two self-published novels to my blog site.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I read 13 books in February – and the standout ones for me were the space opera adventures – Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon; The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher Nuttall and Queen of Chaos by Sabrina Chase.
I have undertaken to read at least 24 books this year written by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. In February, the 4 books I’ve read towards my Discovery Challenge 2018 are:-

Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson
Chase Walker is beginning to doubt his own sanity. From the moment he turned eighteen, a strange paranoia has taken over his mind. It all started the moment he discovered his uncle’s old watch… The watch calls to him. Though it beckons, he resists. His body strains toward it, blood pulsing, heart pounding in a mysterious and primitive need to connect with his uncle’s old beat up watch.
An entertaining parallel dimension adventure that really got going after an unexpected twist halfway through which I found original and engrossing.

Going Grey – Book 1 of The Ringer series by Karen Traviss
Who do you think you are? Ian Dunlap doesn’t know. When he looks in the mirror, he’s never sure if he’ll see a stranger. After years of isolation, thinking he’s crazy, he discovers he’s the product of an illegal fringe experiment in biotechnology that enables him to alter his appearance at will…
Tense contemporary sci fi thriller tale with plenty of action and adventure. While the writing is good, there were aspects regarding this book that I didn’t like, so I decided not to review it.

Fire and Bone – Book 1 of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks
Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party — one that turns out to be a trap.
Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted — especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.
I really liked how this story draws on the myths of the Celtic gods and goddesses and look forward to reading more about this world.

The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods series by Diane Janes
The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death. Could Linda have discovered something about Robert Barnaby that got her killed? Or does the answer lie in the dead woman’s past? As they pursue their investigations, Fran and Tom find the Barnaby Society to be a hotbed of clashing egos, seething resentments and ill-advised love affairs – but does a killer lurk among them?
I loved this one, which firmly follows in the footsteps of Agatha Christie’s whodunits in realising the time and the intricate plotting. Highly recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries.

• Continue teaching TW
We are now working on the final elements of this two-year syllabus for Tim’s COPE project, which needs to be handed in by Easter, so it’s a rather stressful time. Tim is also in the throes of editing the film that was shot last autumn and making very good progress with that. When I see what he now achieves on a daily basis and measure that against what he could manage only a couple of years ago, I cannot get over just how much he has progressed and continues to do so.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I have now resumed my Pilates and Fitstep classes – I wish they weren’t on the same day, but at least I get to jig around once week. With the continuing cold weather, I have gained more weight than I wanted, though I’m hoping to lose most of it for the summer. My hip has been a bit grumbly during the cold, but it is easily sorted out, these days.

I have read a total of 24 books this year, including 7 towards my 2018 Discovery Challenge and 5 towards my Reduce the TBR Pile Challenge. My wordcount for the month, including blog articles and teaching admin as well as work on my novel, was just under 43,000, bringing my yearly total to the end of February to just over 86,000 words.

My 2017 Reading Year – the Statistics

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This has been another excellent reading year. I kept my reading challenge to read and review 100 books during the year and in the event, I read 175 books and reviewed 162. Of these, 66 were written by male authors and 109 books by female authors. Given that I read mostly science fiction and fantasy, I am happy to be reading more books by female writers as they tend to be under-represented in book shops and libraries, particularly in science fiction.

 

 

Another related challenge I set myself was to read at least two books by a female author previously unknown to me – the Discovery Challenge, prompted by Jo Hall. During 2017, I read 39 books by women writers I hadn’t previously encountered, and 24 books by male authors I hadn’t read before. So 36% of books I read were by authors new to me. This is a bit disappointing, as last year, I had managed to achieve 43% of books read by previously unknown authors.

 

After resurrecting my previously-dormant NetGalley account in 2016, during 2017 I read and reviewed 74 new releases, still retaining my 80% feedback ratio badge with NetGalley. I have been very careful not to overload myself with arcs as I am a mood reader who reviews books as a hobby. I think this caution is paying off. In addition, my reviewer stats with Amazon have steadily climbed and I am now hovering around the 1,500 top reviewer mark. This may seem rather grim, but I am very happy, given that only three years ago I was waaaay down this ranking. One of my targets for 2017 was to make more inroads on my TBR pile. I am pleased to announce that I managed to read 74 books from my TBR pile. What was a bit shocking was how much less we are using the library, given Himself now has a lot more books from Kindle Unlimited, which he often goes on to buy if he likes them.

 

In 2017 I read 75 fantasy books, 72 science fiction books, 4 historical adventures, 11 contemporary fiction and 13. Science fiction includes sub-genres including time travel, steampunk, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, military, space opera and literary. Fantasy includes sub-genres including epic, urban, swords and sorcery, sand and sorcery, musket and magic, grimdark and coming of age.

 

Regarding the age cateogries of the books – I read 19 children’s books in 2017, along with 25 books for young adults. The rest were adult/new adult. This is a massive fail – I was supposed to read more children’s and YA books this year. Given that in 2016 I also read 19 children’s books and 30 YA books, I am definitely going to have to ensure that I read more books for children and young adults in 2018.

 

And that’s it. How did you get on in 2017 – was it also a good year for you, too?