Category Archives: writing problems

August 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffAugust2020Roundup

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Life is steadily settling into some kind of normal – though not the one we were used to before Lockdown. My shopping expeditions are still infrequent and stressful and though we have been out for a few meals and cups of tea, it still feels odd. The big bonus continues to be that we can see family – although we have to be mindful of those who are shielding as Himself is a key worker.

Reading
I read sixteen books in August with again, no DNF’s. It’s turning into an outstanding reading year for SFF generally, which is just as well as 2020 is going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, otherwise. My Outstanding Book of the Month is A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixicalaan series by Arkady Martine and my Outstanding Audiobook of the Month is Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer. My reads during August were:

The Mother Code by Carol Stiverssee my review

AUDIOBOOK Finding the Fox – Book 1 of The Shapeshifter series by Ali Sparkes. Review to follow

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington. Review to follow

Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison – see my review

The Ghost Fields – Book 7 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths – mini-review to follow

Chasing the Shadows – Book 2 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy series by Maria V. Snyder. Review to follow

Grave Secrets – Book 1 of the Lavington Windsor Mysteries by Alice James – see my review

NOVELLA Silver in the Wood – Book 1 of The Greenhollow Duology by Emily Tesh. Mini-review to follow

A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine – OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE MONTH Review to follow

Afterland by Lauren Beukes – see my review

Snowspelled – Book 1 of The Harwood Spellbook by Stephanie Burgis. Mini-review to follow

AUDIOBOOK Starless by Jacqueline Carey. Review to follow

Every Sky a Grave – Book 1 of The Ascendance series by Jay Posey – see my review

AUDIOBOOK Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer – OUTSTANDING AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. Review to follow

Fearless by Allen Stroud – see my review

Ink & Sigil – Book 1 of the Ink & Sigil series by Kevin Hearne – see my review


Writing and Editing
Mantivore Warrior was released at the end of August, as planned and overall I was pleased with the way it went. I worked on Picky Eater 2, between editing and preparing Warrior, editing my Creative Writing textbook How To Write Authentic Characters, and making a start on the series of short, instructional videos I shall be releasing alongside the book. So it won’t come as a surprise to learn that I haven’t made all that much progress on the second Picky Eaters book. And as I need to get the videos filmed during September, when the light levels are still good, I don’t foresee that much progress is going to be made in the coming month, either.

Overall, I wrote just under 38,000 words in August, with just over 20,000 on the blog, and 12,500 on my writing projects, which is fairly dire. No point in beating myself up about it, though – unless I can produce a writing clone, there are always going to be months when my productivity goes down. This brings my yearly wordcount to date to just over 321,500 words.

Blogging
I have spent more time on my blog, and I’m pleased with the new Cover Love feature and the ongoing Tuesday Treasures. It’s worth it, because during this year, I’ve found the blog a source of great comfort. Take care and stay safe.x






June 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffJune2020Roundup

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Lockdown has continued throughout June, though we have been able to see more of our family, which has been wonderful. We were particularly thrilled to be able to meet up on my birthday and have a picnic. Most of the time, though, we have been continuing with the new normal. Himself going off to work, while I have stayed at home reading and writing… While we have had some wonderful warm weather, the cooler windy episodes means spending time with visitors outside hasn’t been practical.

Reading

I read seventeen books in June, which is still more than usual – though I am increasingly unsure what usual means anymore. I had a single DNF and once again, I’m struck by the overall quality of the books I’ve read. My Outstanding Books of the Month were TUYO by Rachel Neumeier and The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal. Neither were audiobooks, as most of the month I’ve been in the thickets of The Priory of the Orange Tree, which I am listening to at 1.5x slower as the narrator’s voice is quiet. I might have completed it by Christmas…

My reads during June were:

AUDIOBOOK The Naturalist – Book 1 of The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne

Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristelle Comby – see my review

The House on Widows Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green – see my review

Set My Heart To Five by Simon Stephenson – see my review

The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty – see my review

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – see my review

Flower Power Trip – Book 3 of the Braxton Campus mysteries by James J. Cudney

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken – Book 3 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall

NOVELLA To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

The Ruthless – Book 2 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman

Entangled Secrets – Book 3 of the Northern Circle Coven series by Pat Esden

Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker

TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier – see my review – Outstanding book of the month

The Calculating Stars – Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

The Fated Sky – Book 2 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal – Outstanding book of the month

Ghost Ups Her Game – Book 9 of the Bailey Ruth mysteries by Carolyn Hart



Writing and Editing

I worked on editing a friend’s book for the first quarter of the month, then turned to a space opera adventure I’d written several years ago to see if it was any good. I worked on rewriting and tidying it up and hopefully will have it ready to publish before the end of the year.

I then published my short story Picky Eaters about a grumpy elderly dragon, who suddenly finds himself in the middle of family life when he gets unexpectedly evicted from his lair and has to move in with his daughter. I have been really pleased with the reception, as I’d hoped it would provide an enjoyable escapist read. All proceeds will go to mental health charities.

Because I was editing and rewriting, my wordcount is far smaller this month, but that’s how it goes. Overall, I wrote just under 31,000 words in June, with just over 21,000 on the blog, and just under 10,000 on my writing projects.


Blogging

I am finding being able to chat about books a great comfort on my blog, but as Himself is now on holiday from the last week in June, I haven’t been around to comment and visit as much as I’d like – sorry about that. Hopefully once we get back to normal, I will be around more. I hope you are all keeping well, both physically and mentally. It’s an ongoing strain and I’ve been rather frayed at times, even though I’m also aware we have been very lucky… so far. Take care and stay safe.x






April 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffApril2020Roundup

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I’m conscious that I’ve never experienced a month like it in the whole of my life – and I’m not sure I ever will again… Or perhaps I will. Perhaps May and June will continue being in social isolation with lots of handwashing and staying at home. But what has kept my head straight is my love of reading and writing – thank goodness for both! I’ve also loved the wonderful sunny weather – it’s been a joy being able to sit in the garden and watch Spring springing… I’m conscious that I am very blessed. And given that none of us can guarantee if we will survive this, I’ve determined to be as thankful for every coming day as I can be. So despite everything, this has been a very precious April.

Reading
I read eighteen books in April, which isn’t quite as marvellous as it sounds, as one of those was a short story and another was a novella. This is the list:

The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
Scythe – Dimension Drift prequel NOVELLA #1 by Christina Bauer
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is my EBOOK read of the month
Dead Eye – Book 1 of the Tiger’s Eye Mystery series by Alyssa Day
Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Q by Christina Dalcher
The Hedgeway SHORT STORY by Vivienne Tuffnell
A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel. This is my AUDIOBOOK read of the month
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Palm Tree Messiah by Sarah Palmer – manuscript read
Witch Dust – Book 1 of the Witch series by Marilyn Messik
Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
After Seth by Caron Garrod

Writing
I continued working on my Creative Writing How-To Book on Characterisation and I’m pleased with the progress, but I woke up on 11th April with an epiphany about some issues that had been niggling me with Mantivore Warrior – so I dropped my How-To book and immediately dived back into the manuscript to fix it. I’ve learnt from hard experience not to ever put those kinds of moments off – otherwise they pass and I forget!

I have also been working on another project that I’m hoping to be able to discuss in another couple of weeks. I don’t normally flit between so many different writing projects – but right now everything is extraordinary. So it makes sense that my writing patterns would suddenly go AWOL, too… Overall, I wrote just over 43,000 words in April, with just under 17,000 words on my blog and just under 25,500 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just under 180,000 words so far.

Blogging
I have found keeping up with my blog such a source of comfort and encouragement – I know social media can be responsible for some dark acts, but I happen to be fortunate enough to inhabit a really lovely corner, where I meet some of the nicest people on the planet. But that’s not a surprise, because they are readers, or writers, or both. I hope May is a good month for you and that you stay safe. Take care.xxx






March 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffMarch2020Roundup

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I’ve just read my roundup for February with a sense of unreality, because I didn’t once mention COVID 19. And whatever else I was chatting about, it didn’t include social isolation, daily death tolls and endless hand-washing. And now I’m going to take a deep breath and make that the last time I talk about that stuff. Because this is about carrying on as best we can, despite all that misery and fear. And maybe it’s rank cowardice, but I’m turning to the biggest consolation in my life, when the going gets tough. The one thing that never lets me down – books.

Reading
I read nineteen books in March, which I think is a record number. It was a really good month, with some cracking reads. This is the list:

Death of a Bean Counter – Book 12 of the Maggy Thorsen mystery series by Sandra Balzo – Review to follow

Song of Achilles AUDIOBOOK by Madeline Miller – this is my oustanding audiobook read of the month. Review to follow.

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright. Review to follow.

The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Lovett and Marwood series by Andrew Taylor

A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths.

Longbourn AUDIOBOOK by Jo Baker. Review to follow.

On Writing by Stephen King

Minimum Wage Magic – Book 1 of the DFZ series by Rachel Aaron

By the Pricking of her Thumb – Book 2 of the Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer AUDIOBOOK – Book 1 of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished – Book 3 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron. Review to follow

Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Space Agency by Gillian Andrews

War of the Maps by Paul McAuley

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett. Review to follow

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey – this is my outstanding book of the month. Review to follow.

A Dragon of a Different Colour – Book 4 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron

Writing
I finally completed the first draft of Mantivore Warrior in the second week of March. The book ended up being just over 103,000 words long – so much for thinking I was nearing the end at the 75,000 words mark! It took another 12,500 words to finish it and then I was quite ill for nearly a fortnight. I do need to learn to pace myself…

I’ve put it on one side and have been working on my first Creative Writing How-To book on Characterisation. It’s going reasonably well, I’ve just finished Chapter Five on Viewpoint, but it’s very different to writing fiction. I’m hoping to have it completed by the end of April – but with all that’s going on, inevitably that has to be more of a hope than a solid target. Overall, I wrote just over 48,000 words in March, with just over 15,000 words on my blog and just under 30,000 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just over 136,000 words so far.

Blogging
Like many others, I’m finding my online friends a real source of consolation. I can’t tell you how grateful I feel having so many lovely people around me from the book blogging community to talk books with. It’s at times like these that you discover what really matters and who has your back… Wishing everyone a peaceful, healthy April and stay safe.xx






February 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffFebruary2020Roundup

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And here we are in March, already… The final week of February proved to be a bit grim as I became ill and rather miserable. The unending rain didn’t help, either… Nonetheless, it proved to be a reasonably productive month as I wrote just over 49,000 words altogether, with nearly 35,500 words on Mantivore Warrior, just over 11,500 words on the blog and just over 2,000 in lesson planning and evaluations.

Reading
I read twelve books in February and DNF’d an audiobook because I couldn’t get on with the narrator – the first time that’s happened to me. This is the list of twelve books I completed:

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce – my outstanding read of the month
The Case of the Reincarnated Client – Book 5 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
AUDIOBOOK Uprooted by Naomi Novi – audio read of the month
A Blight of Blackwings – Book 2 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne
P is for Pluto – Book 3 of the Molly Marbles series by Jackie Kingon
AUDIOBOOK Salt Lane – Book 1 of the DS Alexander Cupidi series by William Shaw
Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus series by David Hair & Cat Mayo
Skyward – Book 1 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter
Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum
Magic Bites – Book 1 of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

Writing
I was some 75,000 words into Mantivore Warrior and decided that I was within touching distance of the end – so decided to blast for the finishing line. A mistake – I was nothing of the sort, given that I had a fair amount to tie up in this the last of the trilogy. And as I tried to prioritise my writing to the exclusion of everything else – I was a bit dismayed at just what a struggle it was as there are still a lot of calls on my time. And the stress of trying to push so hard pitchforked me back to feeling dreadful, both physically and mentally… Let’s hope I’ve learnt that lesson and don’t make the same mistake next time around.

Blogging
Given the car-crash I made of managing my work/life balance at the end of the month (I didn’t…) it won’t be a surprise to learn that keeping the blog going was an almighty fail. Sorry folks. It doesn’t help to drop all the balls, I know. But hopefully this won’t happen again! On the plus side, I’ve been buoyed and comforted by the kind messages and encouragement that I’ve been receiving about my decision to ease down on my blogging frequency. Thank you so much for taking the time to send said comfort – it’s been mightily appreciated and certainly justifies my decision NOT to completely walk away from my blog.






January 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffJanuary2020Roundup

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Yes… I know. We’re now more than halfway through February – though when that happened I couldn’t say. I seem to be permanently temporally challenged these days, so please bear with me…

Reading
I read fifteen books in January and DNF’d another. They were:
Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan – end of series
AUDIOBOOK Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
AUDIOBOOK Dark Summer by Ali Sparkes – children’s book
Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky – my outstanding read of the month
Broken Flyght – Book 2 of The Flyght series by S.J. Pajonas – indie author
Termination Shock – Book 1 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews
AUDIOBOOK Over Sea, Under Stone – Book 1 of The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper – children’s book
The Last Smile in Sunder City – Book 1 of the Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold
A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Sweep With Me – an Innkeeper Chronicles NOVELLA by Ilona Andrews – indie author
The Zero Curse – Book 2 of the Zero Enigma series by Christopher G. Nuttall – indie author
Bone Silence – Book 2 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds – end of series
Crownbreaker – Book 6 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell – end of series
Ribbonworld – Book 1 of the Balcom Dynasty series by Richard Dee – indie author
AUDIOBOOK Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear – audio read of the month

Writing
Overall, I wrote just over 17,500 words on Mantivore Warrior during January. I am only now beginning to realise just how exhausted and low I’d become by the middle of last year – writing Warrior has been so much fun in comparison to the last two books, which turned had into something of a struggle. In fact, looking back, everything had become a bit of a struggle… I realise that one of the main ongoing challenges for me will be to adequately take care of myself, so I don’t burn out. Sorting out my dreadful sleep habits and getting more exercise would help – though the rainy weather this winter really hasn’t helped.

Blogging
It’s with great reluctance, I’ve decided I need to ease back on my blogging. I do enjoy it – but it’s not just the writing that takes up time, it’s also the visiting and commenting. Apologies all around – right now, I’m aware I still haven’t got the balance right and I’ve fallen behind with visiting other folks. I’ve kept up with the Friday Face-off and the Sunday Post, but I’ve stepped back from Teaser Tuesday. I will still be taking part from time to time with Can’t-Wait-Wednesday – but only when it suits my writing timetable, which has to take priority. But I love being part of such a lovely corner of social media – you guys are absolutely wonderful and I love being able to discuss books – so I refuse to give it up!

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?

Authoring Annals 5 – Using Flashback – Mantivore Warrior – Book 3 of The Arcadian Chronicles #BrainfluffAuthoringAnnals5 #MantivoreWarrior #TheArcadianChronicles #AmWriting

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I was pleased that some of you took the time to let me know you found last week’s article interesting, thank you! So I thought I’d share a bit more of my writing process while working on my latest novel, Mantivore Warrior.

One of the structural issues I needed to overcome in this one, is that in both Mantivore Dreams and Mantivore Prey, the main protagonist is Kyrillia, who features on the cover of both books, while this book is told from the viewpoint of Jessob. Readers who read Mantivore Prey will have already encountered Jessob, but they won’t know much about him as he’s a minor character, even though he plays a pivotal role in one of the main action scenes. So while readers got to know Kyrillia organically as they were absorbing the world in Mantivore Dreams, now the pacing has been established over the previous two books, I can’t slow it down again just to enable folks to learn all about Jessob. Especially as they are already familiar with the other two major characters, Felina Keeper and Vrox, who are also driving the main narrative forward. This left me with the problem of how to give readers a detailed insight into Jessob’s strengths and vulnerabilities without resorting to excruciating dialogue scenes along the lines of, “Well, as you know, Vrox…”, or tedious info-dumps.

I decided to use a technique I’ve never before used – an extended flashback from the point in Jessob’s life where he first encounters mantivores. While I have used brief flashback scenes in Mantivore Dreams to show aspects of Vrox’s past, this is the first time I’ve ever interrupted the narrative timeline in a flashback that continues over a number of chapters. I’ve been wary of using this device to date. Done well, extended flashback can add a layer of characterisation and background that gives impact and purpose to the ongoing story. But if I get it wrong, it has the potential to turn into an irritating interruption to my story that I started with a lot of tension and a climactic scene. I risk losing all that momentum to provide the reader with details of Jessob’s backstory.

I decided it’s worth the risk, because Jessob’s journey is every bit as dramatic as the ongoing storyline and I felt the fractured flashbacks I used in Mantivore Dreams simply wouldn’t work. Those occur near the end of the book, when my readers are familiar with the characters and the world and fully aware of what the stakes are. Chopping up the narrative so early in Mantivore Warrior, when readers are still working out who is doing what to whom would simply be too confusing, especially as my writing style means I don’t tend to stop and explain much along the way.

At present, I’m about a third of the way through this flashback. Is it working? It’s a question that continually haunts me as I’m writing it. I think so – but I’ll be unable to tell until I’ve completed the narrative timeline and had a chance to evaluate its success within the overall story arc. Once again, it comes down to finishing the draft and trusting my instincts. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted…

Authoring Annals 4 – Tweaking the Outline – Mantivore Warrior – Book 3 of The Arcadian Chronicles #AuthoringAnnals #Brainfluffwritingblog #MantivoreWarrior #AmWriting

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I’m on the final lap of editing Mantivore Prey, the second book in The Arcadian Chronicles, which will be released on 30th November, barring any major catastrophes. This is the cover for Mantivore Prey, which as ever was designed by the marvellous Mhairi Simpson and I’m really pleased with it.

I made a strong start on Mantivore Warrior while in Bexhill on a wonderful writing retreat with my sister-in-law last month, but once I hit Chapter Three, it all slowed down a bit. Chapter Three provides the first major plotpoint which changes everything up. I’ve flung everything, including the kitchen sink into this pivotal scene, which is ambitious as there hasn’t been all that much time for readers to bond or care about the characters. Initially, I had one of the antagonists killing a relation in the outline, which worked well enough. But when I actually came to write the scene, it turned into something a lot more visceral and violent – and I began to feel uncomfortable about writing the death. Granted, we hadn’t known the character all that well beforehand, so there wasn’t going to be a major shock to the reader. But it seemed a rather bleak beginning to have a character that the protagonist really cares about felled at a time when he’s hoping to turn everything around. What had seemed reasonable in the outline, suddenly was far more of a big deal, given the emotional heft I’d added in the writing of it.

I’ve tweaked events, so said elderly relative is now in a coma and fighting for her life. I’m leaning towards sparing her life, as things stand. But I do reserve the right to have her die after all, if I think it will better serve the story. I’ve rewritten the outline so that both outcomes can serve the story, though it will affect the overall tone if young Jessob is mourning the loss of this character and vowing vengeance. It was what I’d originally intended.

But once I finished Chapter Three, that plotline felt less effective than the alternative, where he’s fighting to help her recover. So I’m looking forward to getting further along so that I can discover which plotline will be the one that prevails…