Category Archives: writing challenge

July 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffJuly2020Roundup

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Lockdown is slowly easing and right at the end of the month, we actually went to a café together and had a cup of tea and cake. It’s been lovely to meet up with my daughter and the grandchildren and have them over to stay, again. But most of the time, I’m still at home reading and writing, while Himself has continued to go out to work.

Reading
I read fifteen books in July, which used to be an outstanding number for me, but isn’t anymore. No DNF’s and once again, it’s been a great reading month – particularly for space opera and space adventures in general. My Outstanding Book of the Month was The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal and my Outstanding Audiobook of the Month was Deep Roots – Book 2 of the Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys. My reads during June were:

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell – Book 1 of the Embers of War series. Review to follow

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. Review to follow

Scarlet Odyssey – Book 1 of the Scarlet Odyssey series by C.T. Rwizi. See my review

Skin Game – Book 15 of the Harry Dresden files by Jim Butcher – reread

AUDIOBOOK The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. Review to follow

Velocity Weapon – Book 1 of The Protectorate by Megan E. O’Keefe. See my review

End Game – Book 8 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker. Review to follow

Peace Talks – Book 16 of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. See my review

Chaos Vector – Book 2 of The Protectorate by Megan E. O’Keefe. See my review

AUDIOBOOK Deep Roots – Book 2 of The Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys. Review to follow – OUTSTANDING AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH

Seven Devils – Book 1 of the Seven Devils series by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May. See my review

Last Dragon Standing – Book 5 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron. Review to follow

The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal. Review to follow – OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE MONTH

The Outcast Dead – Book 6 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. Mini-review to follow

AUDIOBOOK The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents – Book 28 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Review to follow


Writing and Editing
I had intended for Picky Eaters 2 to be a novella, but though I’ve written a reasonably comprehensive outline, the writing has fallen into the rhythm and pacing of a longer piece of work. Oh well. So rather than polishing off the first draft during the first fortnight of July, I found it has been something I’ve been picking up and putting down between the final two editing passes of Mantivore Warrior. Mhairi has now produced the cover, which I’m very happy with – and I’m on track to publish it at the end of August, as planned. Again, due to all the editing I’ve been doing, my writing wordcount is way down in comparison to the beginning of the year.

Overall, I wrote just over 35,500 words in July, with just over 20,500 on the blog, and just over 15,000 on my writing projects. This brings my yearly wordcount to date to just over 288,500 words – which completely justifies my decision to step away from my regular Creative Writing stints at Northbrook, because that is over 92,000 more words than this time last year.

Blogging
I am more or less back on track with commenting, though I still struggle to get around and visit as much as I’d like – sorry to those of you who I’ve neglected! But again, I’m finding it such a lifeline to be able to chat about books to other folks – it certainly cuts down the sense of isolation. Take care and stay safe.x






May 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffMay2020Roundup

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I recall I said something to the effect that there had never been a month like April in the whole of my life – except that May was exactly the same. Eerily so. Staying at home and seeing no one else, other than Himself. Though we did drive across to my daughter’s house and deliver her bike, so she could also cycle with the children. It was bittersweet seeing them after such a long time and I’m hoping this month, with the easing of the lockdown, I might once more be able to be a regular visitor, again. The weather continues to behave as if we are in July or August, further skewing the sense of abnormality. But thank goodness for books and writing projects!

Reading
I read fifteen books in May, but as I also broke off to read a couple of my own books on editing runs, that did impact on my general reading time. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my selection, so there were no DNFs. They were:

Oranges and Lemons – Book 17 of the Bryant and May: Peculiar Crimes Unit series by Christopher Fowler
The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North – see my review
Hammered – Book 1 of the Jenny Casey series by Elizabeth Bear
The Physicians of Vilnoc – Book 8 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold – see my review
Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik – this is my outstanding read of the month
AUDIOBOOK Starsight – Book 2 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
The Valhalla Call – Book 4 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
Even Stranger – Book 2 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
The City of Brass – Book 1 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
The Kingdom of Copper – Book 2 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
AUDIOBOOK The Fire Court – Book 2 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor – this is my outstanding audiobook read of the month
Night’s Tooth – Tales of the River Vine novella by Jean Lee
Gravity is Heartless – Book 1 of the Heartless series by Sarah Lahey
The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso

Writing
I finished the first draft of my Wordmanship Handbook – How to Write Convincing Characters, which went really well. While I had intended this to be part of a series, I decided that if I found it too much of a trudge, then it would be a standalone, but it ended up being quite a lot of fun to write. So during the year I am hoping to write at least another book in the Wordmanship series. The handbook aspect of it – with a quick checklist so an author can tick off possible issues as they go, either during the writing phase, or during an editing run – ended up being about the right length, too.

I then turned back to Mantivore Warrior to do the first editing pass. This is always slightly nerve-wracking. Once I’ve gained a bit of distance, I can work out whether it’s a hot mess, or if it hangs together. And as it is the first book that I thoroughly plotted before I started, I was keen to see how it held up. And I’m delighted – those fixes I put in last month strengthened the overall narrative, so there was only one major addition and then it was a question of smoothing the prose and looking for mistakes.

So once again, it’s been a wonderful writing month. Overall, I wrote just under 43,000 words in May, with just over 15,500 on the blog, and just under 26,000 on my writing projects.

Blogging
The big event during May was Wyrd and Wonder 2020, which I discovered thanks to Tammy from Books, Bones and Buffy. It was about alll things fantastical and I really enjoyed taking part. Huge thanks go to Imyril of There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa from Dear Geek Place and Jorie Loves a Story for all their hard work and effort throughout May to make this such a success.

I hope everyone is managing to keep well and healthy, both physically and mentally – the situation has been a strain on everyone, not helped by some dodgy decisions by those in charge. Take care and stay safe.x






Shoot for the Moon Challenge – 2020 #BrainfluffShootfortheMoon2020

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This is now an annual event. My writing buddy Mhairi and I get together at the start of the new year to set ourselves ambitious targets, so that even if we don’t fully succeed in these, we still come out ahead. This year, we weren’t able to spend New Year together, so I had to wait until she was able to travel up from Lincolnshire to reflect upon our previous year’s progress and compile our current list. This is what I’m trying for in 2020:-

• Write at least 200,000 words on first drafts.

• Have Mantivore Warrior completed and edited, ready for publication by the end of April.

• Start my series of writing tips and advice by writing, editing and publishing two books this year – Characterisation: Do Your Characters Ping Off the Page? and Scene Setting & Description: How Much Is Too Much? I have ten years’ worth of course notes and writing advice currently insulating the loft and it seems to me that I could put them to better use.

• Get the manuscript for Bloodless, written. This is the first book in my Beth Wheeler murder mystery series, which is a spinoff from The Sunblinded Trilogy.

• Continue teaching Tim and provide necessary support for his continued progress.

• Continue to improve my fitness by continuing to attend Pilates and Fitstep classes. Also include one stint a week on the fitness bike and go for one walk a week, weather permitting.

• Sort out my sleep patterns. I was doing better – and then when Himself’s sleep masks needed sorting out, I slid back into my bad old ways. Partly because sleeping next to Darth Vadar was something of a struggle… But there’s no excuse now! And I’m still unsure why I’m finding it so hard to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

• Do more speaking engagements and see if I can join a panel at a conference – preferably Bristolcon.

• Join Chindi – a local support group for indie authors. I had an invitation to become a member a while ago, but I simply didn’t have the time. Now it would be a good idea to go along and become part of a group of people whose aims and ambitions are similar to mine. It can be a lonely road…

• Digitise my books of ideas – they are currently a disorganised mess that are difficult to access.

• Get the garden sorted out, so it once again is a source of pleasure and creativity that I love spending time in.

• Continue reading and reviewing at least 100 books during the year, though cutting down on my blogging schedule. There are only so many hours in the week and if I’m upping my writing rate, then I need to give myself a break.

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?

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – January 2019 #Brainfluff2019targets #ShootfortheMoon2019 #authoringannals

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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.

• Edit and publish Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles
I’m hoping to release Mantivore Dreams sometime in the summer – it’s been held up by my delay in getting Mantivore Prey completed. Once I’ve finished the first draft of Mantivore Prey, which isn’t so much of a rewrite as starting more or less from scratch, then I’ll have a better idea of the publishing schedule.

• Complete, edit and publish Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles
At long last, the writing is going smoothly and I now know exactly where the story is headed after two false starts and some 50,000 words discarded. One of the more miserable aspects of being ill at the back of last year was that I lost my writing mojo… I think I can realistically complete the first draft by Easter. I wrote just over 13,000 words towards book in January and am now well past the halfway mark.

• Rewrite, edit and submit Miranda’s Tempest
I know have a strong sense of where this one is going and I’m determined to get this novel written, edited and resubmitted before the end of the year. I now have a wonderful editor prepared to look at my manuscripts who understands my writing style and makes it the best it can be, which should help enormously.

• Outline and start on the first draft of Bloodless – Book 1 of the Beth Wheeler mysteries
This is the first book in the spin-off series from The Sunblinded, featuring disaster-magnet Lizzy Wright who now finds herself solving murder mystery cases in space. It’s a genre I’m very fond of and look forward to writing.

• Release paperback editions of Dying for Space and Breathing Space
Another consequence of my illness late last year – I’d scheduled for these to occur then and it simply didn’t happen. Hopefully I’ll have both Dying for Space and Breathing Space available in paperback by Easter.

• Organise reviews for the release of Netted
We now have the cover done and I’m in the process of going through the manuscript for the final time looking for any errors. Netted is due to be published sometime in the autumn by Grimbold Publishing and I’m very excited about it. I’m hoping to soon have an arc available for anyone interested in reviewing the book – please let me know.

• Regain my fitness and stamina
My hypertension has been diagnosed and I feel so much better. I’d always been under the impression it was a symptomless issue, not so in my case – I felt dreadful. I’m still having major problems with rejigging my sleep patterns and need to better manage my stress issues, which are compounded by my habit of working too hard. I have restarted my Pilates class and when I feel better, I also want to find some sort of aerobic class to also join, such as Fitstep or Zumba.

• Continue delivering my Creative Writing courses at Brighton Metropolitan College
I am now running three courses a term and also hope to run a three-week Poetry Course and One Day Summer Surgery course this year. I love teaching my wonderful students and really miss them during the holidays – which is so very uncool…

• Continue teaching TW
Tim is now studying music at Chichester College three days a week and doing really well. However we still have the final element of his English exam to work towards during the next two terms. It’s lovely to see him developing into an articulate, charming young man who is sensitive to the needs of others and enjoys going out with his friends.

• 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 this last year I read 162 books and published 124 reviews on my blog. I am easing back from posting every day as I simply don’t have the time, but will continue to read and review. I’m intending to join two challenges – Love Your Library and Beat the Backlist, as well as continue with my Discovery Challenge to find more female authors I haven’t previously read. During January I read 12 books and posted 5 reviews.

These are my writing, reading and life challenges for 2019. Wish me luck!

#Authoring Annals – Writing in Heaven and Plunging into Uncertainty Hell… #BrainfluffblogAuthoringAnnals-1 #SJHigbeeWritinginHeaven

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I’m conscious that over the last year, I’ve been writing a lot of reviews and not much else other than my weekly roundups. As you’ll see from the subtitle of the blog, the original intention was to provide more variety – and as I am not only a keen reader and reviewer, but also a writer of science fiction and fantasy as well as a Creative Writing tutor at Brighton Metropolitan College, I think it’s high time I wrote a bit more about my other activities.

At the end of last month, my sister-in-law booked a seaside flat as a writing getaway and invited me to join her, as there was a spare bedroom. I’d never been to Bexhill-on-Sea before, despite it being not all that far along the coast. I joined her on Bank Holiday Monday, expecting the town to be heaving with holidaymakers keen to catch the last of the glorious summer by the sea. However, it wasn’t all that busy. While there were certainly tourists around, overall this town had a peaceful serenity that seemed more in keeping with the early half of the last century, to the extent that the two of us felt perfectly safe wandering around the streets on our own late at night.

As for the flat, it was fabulous. The highlight was the room we ended up writing in – a hexagonal room with views on every wall, so that as we wrote, we had panoramic views of the sea. It was magical – it’s always been on my bucket list to write in a room overlooking the sea. And here I was! I managed to get 16,000 words written on the second book of my trilogy featuring my telepathic alien, Vrox. I rewrote and edited the first book, Mantivore Dreams, earlier in the year and was delighted at how smoothly it went.

When I started the second book, Mantivore Prey, I was confident that it, too, would give me no trouble. I was wrong… I love my main character, Felina Keeper. She is in charge of keeping the village’s produce safe from hungry pests, thieving individuals and selling on anything left over from the quota set by The Council for much-needed cash. The village is perched on the edge of The Arids, where rainfall is scarce and the heat of the two suns is fierce. Trouble is, Felina, who is loud, bossy and very overbearing has marched in and taken over the novel. The plotting and pacing have been stomped flat under those hobnailed sandals of hers and I need to nip in quick when she isn’t looking and wrest control back.

Kyrillia, who is the main protagonist in the first book, needs to get a look in, I think. So, I’ll have to go back to the drawing board and start this one again… I’d love to be one of those indie authors who can happily write two books plus a year, but right now it seems a distant dream. I’m hoping that I can use some of those words I wrote while staying at Bexhill – it was such a happy, creative time. But if not, then I’ll chalk this one up to experience. Favourite characters need to kept on a very short leash!

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.

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?

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?