Category Archives: writing challenge

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – How Did I Do?

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Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, set ourselves a series of ambitious writing-related goals when 2017 was only a couple of days old. How well did I do in meeting these targets?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest after receiving excellent advice on how to improve the storyline.
I finally managed to get this rewritten, including a change in the point of view from first person to third person, and sent back during the summer. In the beginning of August, I got another long, detailed email listing the main problem areas where I could further improve it. So far I haven’t managed to get to it – but it is high on my list for early 2018.

• Edit Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I duly tightened up Dying for Space to my satisfaction, but although I had another go at Breathing Space, I’m still not completely happy with the narrative arc and plan to have a drastic pruning session to see if I can smooth out the pacing in the first third of the book, before publishing it in summer 2018.

• Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Elizabeth Wright, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy.
Nope. Didn’t get close to this one as I was tied up with the rewrites of Miranda’s Tempest and later in the year, I also made a drastic change to Running Out of Space and Dying for Space ridiculously close to the publication date which further messed up my writing schedule. So this is another major task that needs to be completed in 2018 if I am to sustain my self-publishing schedule.

• Complete Picky Eaters
And this is another project that didn’t see the light of day and one I intend to get completed during 2018. Apart from anything else, the grandchildren are keen for this one to be published and given my other books aren’t age appropriate, I’d really like to get it out there for them.

• Continue submitting my work
My more professional approach to the submission process paid dividends as in January 2017 I was offered a contract for Netted by Grimbold Publishing. I am thrilled – they are a small outfit, but so passionate about the books they publish. They are like a family, with a strong and continuing interest in the authors they work with and I have huge respect for the quality of the work they release. Netted is due to be published in 2019.

In addition, I was asked to submit a short story to be included in a Grimbold Publishing anthology Holding On By Our Fingertips. I was delighted when ‘A Dire Emergency’ was accepted and will be published alongside a number of excellent writers in the first half of 2018.

• Self publish a novel
And in October, I finally released Running Out of Space. It has garnered a few reviews, all positive and in December I published the sequel, Dying for Space. I am thrilled every time someone drops me a line to tell me how much they enjoyed reading the books. I’m guessing that is an emotion that never gets old.

 

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
This year I read 175 books and wrote 162 reviews, though not all of them have been published yet. I have now got my act together regarding Netgalley arcs and throughout most of 2017 I have managed to achieve an 80% feedback ratio. In another post, I will further discuss the books I read in 2017. I’m really pleased I have managed to sustain my reading and blogging as I thoroughly enjoy being involved in the lovely #bookbloggers community, discussing books I’ve read and swapping recommendations.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I am delighted that since the merger with Brighton Metropolitan College last year, the Adult Learning Dept at Northbrook has had a new lease of life. My Creative Writing classes this last year have all been successful and well attended. I’m really pleased, because this is the loveliest teaching job on the planet – teaching a subject I love to the nicest bunch of folks you could wish to meet.

• Continue teaching TW
What an amazing year! We were quite daunted at the start of the year as trying to find a suitable syllabus that would be a good fit for Tim’s specific abilities was a major challenge. And once we found the subjects, we then had a battle getting hold of past papers and a suitably extensive teaching programme as despite the fact Tim is fully funded by County, we weren’t formally recognised as an official learning centre. However, it all fell into place in time for Tim to take and pass a couple of music and singing exams, which he passed with flying colours. He also passed his first formal English exam with a very high percentage. And in March we took the decision to film the script he had been working on for the previous three months – and it turned into a whirlwind…

By the end of November, we had all thirteen songs professionally recorded in a studio and the filming completed – with a cast of twenty-three, shot in a variety of locations, including Bognor pier, the museum, a shop and a local college. Tim repeatedly was pushed beyond his comfort zone as he had to respond to a number of deadlines and react to unexpected problems. He is now in the throes of editing it with the help of the videographer and we are hoping it will be ready to be shown at a local cinema sometime in the summer. I still can’t quite believe we managed it…

• Continue to improve my fitness
It was a year of two halves. I was doing so well with this up until the summer, when I was slimmer and stronger than I’ve been for years. But it was a gruelling summer and I was zapped by flu in October – probably because I was very, very tired. It wiped me out for nearly a month. The result was that I only attend my a Fitstep and Pilates class for three sessions last term. You won’t be surprised to hear that the weight has started piling back on and I am finding a number of my favourite clothes are uncomfortably snug. So I need to get back to exercising and hopefully going on walks with my husband.

Overall, it has been probably my most successful year so far, when long hours of sustained work started to pay off. The irony was that Himself was in real trouble with his job and from March through to December, we weren’t sure if he would be able to keep it. Fortunately, the review board found in his favour – but throughout that time, we didn’t know if he would prevail. So in the middle of all these successes, we were busy trying to keep our anxiety on a leash. I’m fervently hoping that 2018 is a kinder year personally and that I fulfil most of my targets I’ve set for my Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2018, which I will be discussing at the beginning of February.

In the meantime, what about you? Did you set yourself any 2017 challenges and how do you feel they went?

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Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – November Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, set ourselves a series of ambitious writing-related goals when 2017 was only a couple of days old. This has become something of a ritual, because over the past several years I have found it so very helpful to set out my targets for the year and then at the end of every month to hold myself accountable for these targets. Although that has slipped – due to being ill, I didn’t get around to writing my ‘Shoot for the Moon’ article for October.
How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets now we are nearly through the year?

Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process.
If you’ve been following this one, you’ll know I sent Miranda’s Tempest back to the agent after a rewrite. She sent back more notes and helpful advice on how I could further improve it. This is such a help, but as I’ve been busy sorting out Dying for Space and working on the blog tour, I hope to be able to return to this during the Christmas holidays.

Continue with the courses at Northbrook
Continue to run the Creative Writing courses at Northbrook Metropolitan College.
I have the course written for the coming term What Is the Time and Is It Raining? Setting and Why It Matters and have photocopied all the course notes. I just have to write up the Scheme of Work and lesson plans.

Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
I hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. I also would very much like to get more of my To Be Read pile read and reviewed, so will have another go at the Tackling my TBR Pile this year with the aim of reading at least 30 books during the year from this teetering stack.
During November, I read and reviewed 11 books. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 164. Book of the month was Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett. I haven’t yet sat down and worked out exactly how many reviews I’ve written, but I know this target was achieved back in September.

Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
Last term was epic – we managed to complete the filming of Tim’s script Hoodwinked 3: This Time It’s Personal by the end of November, which was an amazing achievement considering the cast numbered 25 with 13 songs and locations ranged from the seafront and pier at Bognor, to the museum. Watching Tim rise to all the pressures and deadlines that came with such an ambitious project has been wonderful.

Continue to improve my fitness
I attend weekly Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
And this has been a car crash! I’ve only attended three sessions in last term. Hopefully I’ll be able to return to the routine in the new year. Ditto going for walks with Himself – we simply haven’t had the time or inclination. Now that he is back on track, hopefully things will get back to normal…

Overall, November was a busy but successful month. I am aware that I have been feeling very tired and rather frayed, but the constant uncertainty and resulting insecurity also played its part in that. Now things are on a more stable footing, hopefully I’ll feel more energised and positive.

ANNDDD…

Between the Bindings is promoting Dying for Space

ANNDDD…

Writers and Authors is publishing an article by yours truly entitled ‘My Protagonist and her Point of View’ about the issues I confronted while writing about my main character, who features in the Sunblinded series

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – September Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson and I, once again, set ourselves a series of ambitious writing-related goals when 2017 was only a couple of days old. This has become something of a ritual, because over the past several years I have found it so very helpful to set out my targets for the year and then at the end of every month to hold myself accountable for these targets.

How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets now we are three-quarters through the year?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process.
If you’ve been following this one, you’ll know I sent Miranda’s Tempest back to the agent after a rewrite. She sent back more notes and helpful advice on how I could further improve it. This is such a help, but I need to put it on one side just for a while to give myself some perspective before tucking back into it. Anyway, this is such a busy month as I’m back in the thick of it with starting back at Northbook and once again restarting my sessions with Tim.

• Get my courses ready to start the new year at Northbook
While I wrote the new course ‘How to Write Believable Characters’ during August, there is a host of admin tasks and extra handouts that need to be written before I start work on the lesson plans and print out the course notes and writing exercises.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
I hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. I also would very much like to get more of my To Be Read pile read and reviewed, so will have another go at the Tackling my TBR Pile this year with the aim of reading at least 30 books during the year from this teetering stack.
During September, I read 15 books, reviewed 13 of them and DNF’d 2 more. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 136. As for book of the month – I think it is a tie between Tricia Sullivan’s Sweet Dreams and Austral by Paul McAuley. Again, I have managed to achieve my target of reading 100 books with ease.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
We have now resumed Tim’s classes and it’s all about the rehearsals and preparing for the filming schedule that will be taking place in various locations during October.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I attend weekly Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
I resumed the classes after the summer break, but unfortunately I wasn’t very well for a couple of weeks, so wasn’t able to get back in the swing of it. But I have the autumn term to continue to build up my fitness and stamina again. Himself has some annual leave coming up next month and we’re hoping to go for a couple of hikes – autumn is a great time to go walking.

September was another very busy month – I’m aware of being tired, but it’s been great hitting so many of my targets and hopefully later in the autumn we’ll get a chance to get away for a few days and rest up.

This was written before I went down with flu… So I need to regroup in the next few weeks once I get back to full fitness, because clearly my current work/life balance is not sustainable. While going down with an illness like that can happen to anyone, I was already stressed and exhausted after a very tough summer. As I work in compressed, intensive bursts, I think I need to build into my working pattern at least two days when I take it easy before diving into the next project – and ensure I get more walks and time away from the computer screen. What about you? Is anyone else battling with this issue?

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?

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – July Roundup

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

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
Done. I managed to complete the line edit of Miranda’s Tempest aided by my new purchase of Dragon Naturally, which now dictates my manuscript back to me in an English accent. This makes it far easier to listen and stay focused so I can line edit for longer. I have now sent my rewrite back to the agent who kindly provided me with such helpful advice and had an acknowledgement within the hour that she had safely received it.

 

• 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 was able to power through this final edit of the second book in The Sunblinded Trilogy and make a good start on Breathing Space, the third and final book. At this rate, I should be able to get started on the first draft of Bloodless before the end of the summer.

 

 

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
I hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. I also would very much like to get more of my To Be Read pile read and reviewed, so will have another go at the Tackling my TBR Pile this year with the aim of reading at least 30 books during the year from this teetering stack.
During July, I read 16 books and reviewed 15 of them. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 106. As for book of the month – oh my word – this is a painful choice as there were so many marvellous books. I think it is a tie between Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold and Artemis by Andy Weir.

 

• Creative Writing courses
To continue to deliver my courses to the best of my ability.
The One Day Summer Surgery writing course was a lovely day, though very hot. However, everyone took full part in all the writing exercises and contributed throughout the day, making it a delightful teaching experience. A fitting end to a wonderful year – and I am now starting to plan next term’s course notes.

 

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
We received the marvellous news that Tim has passed his first external English exam with flying colours. The final weeks of the term were taken up with working on his film script in readiness for the cast to go away and learn their words over the summer. They also rehearsed and prepared all 13 songs and went into a professional recording studio to record them. The resultant CD of Tim’s own compositions and words is wonderful to hear. I am thrilled at the progress he has made this year – it has exceeded my wildest expectations.

 

• Continue to improve my fitness
To attend weekly Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
I have not been able to attend all the Wednesday morning sessions as I’m now in major granny mode. But I am thoroughly enjoying them and have one more class before the summer break.

July was a really productive month on the editing side and I am also a bit taken aback at just how many books I managed to read. Once I start writing again, I expect those stats to take a tumble. It’s been a month of extremes – very busy and successful on one hand – and yet, very stressful and difficult due to issues at J’s work. At last there looks to be some resolution ahead of us, which is a relief.

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – June Roundup

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How have I got on with the writing, reading and blogging targets I set back at the beginning of the year?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
During June I continued my line edit of Miranda’s Tempest.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
I hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. I also would very much like to get more of my To Be Read pile read and reviewed, so will have another go at the Tackling my TBR Pile this year with the aim of reading at least 30 books during the year from this teetering stack.
During June, I read 9 books and reviewed 8 of them. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 90. As for book of the month – The Dog Walker – Book 5 of the Detective’s Daughter series by Lesley Thomson.

• Creative Writing courses
To continue to deliver my courses to the best of my ability.
We have now completed this year’s courses, apart from a one day Summer Surgery writing session in July. It was a successful year and I am now beginning to plan the 2017/18 programme of study.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
Tim took his first external academic exam in June and took part in Chichester Free School’s end of year concert, singing ‘You Got to Pick a Pocket or Two’ from Oliver and ‘Evermore’ from Sleeping Beauty as solos. He also completed his film script and the songs he has composed, along with the lyrics and is in the throes of rehearsing with a cast of 15 youngsters, often leading the sessions as he plays the piano and coaches them as they learn the songs. It has been a busy, challenging month for him and he has responded magnificently.

• Continue to improve my fitness
To attend weekly Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
I restarted my Fitstep and Pilates classes, though I now have to attend both classes on the same morning, which isn’t ideal. I’m struggling a bit with the new Fitstep class as they are far more advanced. However, I console myself with the thought that as I strive to pick up all these new moves, hopefully I am giving my poor old brain a thorough workout, as well as my befuddled feet…

June was a special month as I also celebrated a BIG birthday. I decided to dye my hair purple – I’ve always been very conservative regarding my appearance, so I thought I’d do something different. It was a busy month with lots going on, including my sister moving from the south of France into a flat just up the road. It’s marvellous having her living in the same town – the first time that’s happened since 1977…

I wrote just under 20,500 words during June, mostly on my blog, which brings my yearly total to just under 194,500 words so far.

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – May Roundup

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How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets I set back on New Year’s Eve?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
During May I went through Miranda’s Tempest and managed to complete the rewrite, despite still suffering the after-effects of my illness at Easter. I just need to finish my line edit and then resubmit it.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
I hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. I also would very much like to get more of my To Be Read pile read and reviewed, so will have another go at the Tackling my TBR Pile this year with the aim of reading at least 30 books during the year from this teetering stack.
During May, I read 17 books and reviewed 15 of them. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 81. As for book of the month – Assassin’s Fate – Book 3 of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy by Robin Hobb, closely followed by The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein and The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams.

• Creative Writing courses
To continue to deliver my courses to the best of my ability.
We are now more than halfway through the term and the academic year is rapidly drawing to a close. This year has been a successful one – now Northbrook has joined with Brighton University to be reincarnated as the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College, it looks as though our Adult Learning and Community Department, which for so long as been steadily shrinking, is now getting a new lease of life.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
It has been another marvellous month with Tim continuing to develop and punch through barriers to his learning as we continue to prepare for his exam in June.

• Continue to improve my fitness
To continue to attend Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
Once again, this has been a month of missed classes and non-attendance. I’m hoping to resume my Fitstep and Pilates classes now in the latter half of June, but so far have not managed to do so. Fortunately, I have now resolved the problem that was causing me such an issue – I was suffering from a lack of vitamin B12. Now I have sorted this out, I am back to my normal levels of fitness.

May was another month where I struggled to fulfil my teaching and writing commitments due to constant attacks of exhaustion that left me wiped out. I am very relieved this has now been resolved. I now need to crack on and see if I can gain some ground on my editing and writing schedules which have badly slipped.

I wrote just under 32,000 words during May, mostly on my blog, which brings my yearly total to just over 174,000 words so far.

Sunday Post – 4th June 2017

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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.

Last Sunday was a bit wet, but a perfect day for moving plants around and potting up. We’d visited the garden centre and spent the children’s inheritance on reed screens, pots and ivies to train along our low brick wall to discourage the local teenagers from using it as a smoking spot. So I hacked away at bindweed and transplanted some sulking lavenders and a bullied fuchsia before the rain stopped misting around and decided to get serious.

This week was half term, so I had a break from teaching – which was very welcome, given I’ve been struggling since Easter with regular bouts of exhaustion and faintness. I had to cry off a writing get-together with former students on Tuesday as I was suffering with yet another headache, but at least it didn’t linger through until Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to get plenty of editing down – one of my lovely beta readers had given me plenty of notes, so I went through Miranda’s Tempest fixing some issues. Himself is currently going through a line edit for me. And the big bonus – on Thursday I finally managed to get together with my marvellous writing partner Mhairi, who I haven’t seen in faaar too long! It was lovely to catch up and natter about all things writerly with her.

I also managed to finish and submit a short story for an anthology – what was special about this one, was that I was asked to contribute… So I’m now fretting by hoping it is suitable and ticks all the boxes – and taking my mind off it by plunging into the last major edit of Dying for Space, Book 2 of the Sunblinded Trilogy. This week-end we’ve been working in the garden again as the weather continues to be fabulous. The best spring I can recall for years…

This week I have read:
Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
Kate Shugak is a native Aleut working as a private investigator in Alaska. She’s 5’1″ tall, carrires a scar that runs from ear to ear across her throat, and owns a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Resourceful, strong-willed, defiant, Kate is tougher than your average heroine—and she needs to be, to survive the worst the Alaskan wilds can throw at her. And throw their worst the wilds have: Kate and Mutt have both been shot.
This book immediately picks up from the cliffhanger ending of the previous instalment. I loved this one – the dual narrative works really well and it is always a great bonus when a crime novel gives an insight into a corner of the world I’ll never know. Alaska is revealed as a relentless environment that is nonetheless undergoing massive change.

A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons – Book 6 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
It’s Hiccup’s birthday, but that’s not going to keep him from getting into trouble. To save his dragon, Toothless, from being banished, Hiccup must sneak into the Meathead Public Library and steal the Viking’s most sacred book. But the Vikings see books as a dangerous influence, and keep them locked up and under heavy guard. To save his friend, Hiccup must brave the Hairy Scary Librarian and his dreadful army of Meathead Warriors and face off against the formidable Driller-Dragons. Will he make it out and live to see his next birthday?
Thanks to Oscar coming to stay at the start of the half-term break, we managed to get this one completed. As ever, lots of danger, unexpected plot twists and a nice message about just how vital libraries and books are – without being remotely preachy. Another cracking story.

Silent City – Book 1 of the Corin Hayes series by G.R. Matthews
In the Corporation owned cities life is tough. All Hayes wants is money and a bar to spend it in. He is about to learn that some jobs in the abyss can be killers. For a man who has lost everything, is life even worth fighting for?
This enjoyable military science fiction underwater adventure is full of tension and action that doesn’t let up. Hayes is a nicely grumpy protagonist with a bleak backstory and there is clearly going to be plenty of other problems looming in the future for him to tackle.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
I haven’t read Patrick Ness before – but I’ll certainly be reading him again. I found this beautiful, unexpected story a heartbreak. But I couldn’t put it down until I’d read it from cover to cover. Ness hooked me with his angry, conflicted boy and complicated monster and I wasn’t able to break away until I got to the marvellous end. One of my favourite books of the year to date.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…
This contemporary novel was a delight. Quirky and slightly fey, I was initially concerned that it would puddle down into sentimentality. Luckily Hogan is made of sterner stuff and this book tackles some gnarly subjects along the way, while delivering a lovely story. Recommended.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 28th May 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Review of Saven Disclosure – Book 1 of The Saven series by Siobhan Davis

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

Friday Face-off – Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars – featuring A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Review of The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

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

Italian Fantasy Names https://scflynn.com/2017/05/29/italian-fantasy-names/ This quirky article by fantasy writer S.C. Flynn had me grinning…

Broadside No. 14 – Rosemary Kirstein https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/broadside-no-14-rosemary-kirstein/ It’s always a buzz when you’ve been banging on about an underappreciated author to then find a fellow fan – and so imagine my delight when I was pinged by the Cap in her feature of the awesome Rosemary Kirstein’s wonderful Steerswoman series.

Asteroid Collision May Have Tipped Saturn’s Moon Enceladus http://www.space.com/37034-saturn-moon-enceladus-tipped-over-by-asteroid.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social#?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=2016twitterdlvrit An intriguing article for those of you who also enjoy space stuff…

A Summary and Analysis of Goldilocks and the Three Bears https://interestingliterature.com/2017/05/30/a-summary-and-analysis-of-goldilocks-and-the-three-bears/ I’ll guarantee you’ll discover something you didn’t know about this story, if you read it.

A Book Labyrinth in London https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/a-book-labyrinth-in-london/ I’m sorrier than I can say that I managed to miss this one… It looks amazing!

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – March Roundup

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How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets now that we are a quarter of the way into 2017?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
This month has seen me going through the manuscript after a fortnight’s break to ensure that after the rewrite, it all makes sense. I’ve completed a line edit and turned it over to Himself to read, who agreed the story is stronger. I am hoping my beta-readers will be able to let me have it back by the end of the month so I can resubmit it at the beginning of May. Overall, I lost 7,000 words through the rewrite.

• Publishing deal for Netted
Submit my work in a professional and organised manner.
The above target finally paid off. After entering Netted – my post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure – to Kristel Ink’s open submission, they got back to me last year and asked for a rewrite. I duly resubmitted the manuscript and at the end of January I got the brilliant news they wanted to publish it. I have had such a warm welcome from fellow Grimmie authors and during March, they formally announced that myself and Myfanwy Rodman have been signed up, with a view to publishing Netted in 2019. Yay!

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
I hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. I also would very much like to get more of my To Be Read pile read and reviewed, so will have another go at the Tackling my TBR Pile this year with the aim of reading at least 30 books during the year from this teetering stack. I have reported about my progress with these two reading targets here.
During March, I read and reviewed 13 books, which came to just under 21,000 words, including some fabulous books, and my Book of the Month was After Atlas by Emma Newman. I was also asked by Sarah Ash, the marvellous fantasy author, to contribute a guest article for her blog, which you can read here.

• Creative Writing courses
Continue providing challenging and informative courses to assist my students to become productive, adventurous writers.
We are now into the Easter holidays and last term’s course was very successful with most of my new students signing up for the coming term. I can’t quite credit that we will be starting the Summer term in just over a week.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
I’m so pleased at Tim’s progress during this term – he has made several significant breakthroughs since Christmas. Next term is a crucial one as he will be sitting a couple of exams for the first time.

• Continue to improve my fitness
To continue to attend Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
This continues to go well. I’m delighted that each session allows me now to steadily push myself further, rather than just stagger through without collapsing – which also makes it a lot more enjoyable, too. On a less positive note – J was discovered to have severe sleep apnea and a pre-diabetes Type II condition. This was a huge shock, but explains his lack of energy and concentration issues. He is now wearing a diagnostic sleep mask and is due to return to the Sleep Clinic for a follow-up appointment during this month.

Another great month, with some wonderful books read and a big breakthrough in my writing career. Though J’s diagnosis was a nasty surprise, it is also a plus as we had no idea just how potentially lethal sleep apnea can be, especially as J was averaging 51 non-breathing episodes per hour, which is very severe. The good news is that using the sleep mask should eradicate the broken sleep and high risk of stroke and heart attack. It is certainly a lot more restful sleeping alongside him, now I’m starting to get used to the rather eerie silence where once there was thunderous snoring.

I wrote just over 27,500 words during the month, mostly on my blog, which brings my yearly total to just over 114,500 words so far.

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – January Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, set ourselves a series of ambitious writing-related goals when 2017 was only a couple of days old. This has become something of a ritual, because over the past several years I have found it so very helpful to set out my targets for the year and then at the end moonof every month to hold myself accountable for these targets. And these are the goals I have set for 2017.

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
After completing Miranda’s Tempest and sending it out last year, it garnered sufficient interest that I had some excellent advice on how to improve the storyline. So I embarked on a major rewrite at the back end of last year, intending to resubmit it in early 2017.
This slid to a halt in the run-up to Christmas and as January was extremely hectic, I only managed a paltry 7,500 words. I am hoping to make better progress during February.

• Edit Dying for Space and Breathing Space
My trusty beta-readers came back with some excellent advice on both these novels, particularly around the ending of Dying for Space and the start of Breathing Space, which I’m still not completely happy about. Given these are books 2 and 3 of The Sunblinded trilogy, I want them to be the very best they can be before I set them loose onto an unsuspecting world.

• 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? Another project that got shunted further down the line when Netted needed a major rewrite last year. I am really hoping that by the end of the year I will have a first draft completed.

• Complete Picky Eaters
This is the novella that mushroomed from my short story, published at Every Day Fiction longer ago than I care to mention. While reading it to the grandchildren, I realised there were another couple of plotpoints that needed tidying up. I wanted to have this one completed last year, but my major rewrite of Netted took priority so this one got pushed to the side. However, I would really like to get it to a standard where I can either self-publish or submit it.

• Continue submitting my work
Thanks to the Shoot for the Moon Challenge, I have become far more professional and organised in submitting my work. As a result, I am now rewriting Miranda’s Tempest, achieved significant interest in Netted and have Running Out of Space out with an agent. Anyone who has been through this process knows it can take a long time to get a response, so I am continuing to work on a number of other projects while waiting.

• Self publish a novel
I have wanted to get at least one of my novels self published for a while, now. Hopefully 2017 will be the year when this happens.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I easily achieved this goal in 2016, having reviewed 150 books, while also becoming very involved in reading and reviewing new releases, which was one of last year’s targets. I don’t intend to increase this target but hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall if you’re interested in joining the 2017 Challenge, here is her post.
I read 12 books, DNF’d another and reviewed 11 of them during January, which came to just under 15,000 words. I am not sure this will be a pace I can continue once I am writing again, as opposed to editing and rewriting.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I have next year’s courses sorted out and during the second half of the term I will be submitting them for approval to Northbrook. In addition, I am starting a series of Creative Writing courses with gifted writers and talented teachers Sarah Palmer and Linda McVeigh, called Writing Sussex. This promises to be a really exciting development.
We are planning to start our very first courses at the end of February, so if you live in or around the Worthing area in West Sussex, check out our website and course availability.

• Continue teaching TW
This has been a roller-coaster year as it proved a whole lot harder to find a suitable syllabus and qualifications suitable for Tim, who is autistic and taught at home. However his mother managed to find a series of projects based around acquiring practical skills that I will be helping to deliver, alongside Tim’s team of other tutors, which will also give him qualifications he can use to access college or university courses in the future. In addition, I am also helping Tim acquire the necessary skills to take the Functional Skills exams, so have doubled my teaching hours with him.
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, leaving me with ongoing sciatica that meant I was a constant visitor to the Physio for almost a decade. After Mhairi’s suggestion back in 2015 that I try a TENS machine to see if it would improve the nerve pain during yet another flare-up that was making my life a misery, I have gone from strength to strength. I now attend a Fitstep and Pilates class every week and have managed to lose nearly a stone so that I have now reached my target weight, which I want to maintain – more or less – throughout the year. One of my goals for 2017 which we didn’t achieve last year is to resume hiking with my husband on a regular basis.

Those are my 2017 Shoot for the Moon Challenges. Wish me luck!