Category Archives: writing problems

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…

Sunday Post – 22nd September, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

This has been a week of two halves. I started it in Bexhill, where I’ve spent nine glorious days with my sister-in-law at our writing retreat in a turreted flat overlooking the sea. It’s been wonderful. The weather was fabulous – bright sunshine and warm temperatures so we had the joy of wonderful sunsets every day turning the whole sky gold and pink. Typical that because I was travelling by train with two heavy cases I left my cameras behind this time around… Last Sunday, as a special belated birthday treat, Celia took me to see Eddie Izzard’s Wunderbar Tour at the iconic art deco building that dominates the lovely sea front. It was a wonderful evening as I roared with laughter at his madcap, surrealist humour – he is an amazing, clever person and I’m so heartened that he is planning to go into politics.

We also went to a meditation session on Monday night, and walked every day along the seafront. And in amongst that, we had the joy of sitting down to write in this lovely turret. I managed to complete another editing pass for Mantivore Prey, write the character arcs for all the main protagonists in Mantivore Warrior, which meant I was ready to make a start on the novel. I got the first two chapters written and am halfway through the third one, feeling very happy with the way its going.

Returning on Thursday was a bit of a wrench – we both felt that we were really hitting our stride and could have done with another week – but the massive upside is that I got to see Himself again. Yesterday we had breakfast together at a café in Littlehampton with my sister, before scoping out another flat for her and hopefully, she will be joining us for roast dinner tonight.

Last week I read:

Circe by Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves. Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

This is one that’s been on my TBR list since forever, and I was delighted that it was worth the wait. A wonderful, engrossing read with an ending that brought a lump to my throat.

 

The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes
Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically. The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they’re committed to their job–bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives.

This one caught my eye on Netgalley – I read the start of the blurb and was sold… It was a delightful read, full of incident and drama in a wonderful setting – and based on a real scheme to bring books into the lives of poverty-stricken households living way off the beaten track.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Forgotten Palace: An Adventure in Presadia by Luke Aylen

Friday Faceoff featuring The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearn

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Turning Darkness into Light – a Memoirs of the Lady Trent novel by Maria Brennan

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

#writersproblems: finding help writing that d*** #bookblurb with #inspiration from #tvthemes https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/09/19/writerproblems-finding-help-writing-that-d-bookblurb-with-inspiration-from-tvthemes/ And no… it wasn’t just because I was namechecked in this one 😊. It is also because I feel PASSIONATELY about this issue as anyone whose ploughed through a handful of my reviews will know…

Attack every moment of every day with that attitude of a pet https://chechewinnie.com/attack-every-moment-of-every-day-with-that-attitude-of-a-pet/ One of those pieces of advice that’s far harder to achieve, but nonetheless is worth attempting… Besides, he’s just soooo cute!

The Story of Romana https://jenniefitzkee.com/2019/09/18/the-story-of-romana/ This one brought a lump to my throat as I watched the video of these lovely children… I hope it all works out for them! Thank goodness they’ve had Jennie in their lives.

Quotations on Fantasy Literature https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2019/09/19/quotations-on-fantasy-literature/ I felt Tolkien’s quote has a sense of trying to justify the genre, which simply isn’t the case these days.

Teleportation https://rosieoliver.wordpress.com/2019/09/20/teleportation/ This fascinating article on the subject is a must-read for any hard sci-fi reader or writer…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

Sunday Post – 10th March, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

And here I am a whole month after my last Sunday Post. It’s been a difficult one. During half term I had a bad reaction to my blood pressure medication and am in the process of waiting for things to calm down before the Dr begins another treatment. I cannot speak highly enough of the fine folk in the NHS, who have been nothing but prompt, professional and kindly – such a relief to feel I’m in capable hands.

But what that did was bring forward a decision that I’d been considering for a while. So when I returned to Northbrook after the half term break, I tendered my resignation as Creative Writing tutor to take effect as from the end of the summer term. Given my health is still iffy and I am striving to step up my writing output, something has to give – while I’ve loved teaching at Northbrook College, it takes a lot of work over and above delivering the lessons and I simply need to ease up. As ever, Himself has been a rock throughout.

Other than that, Life whizzes by at its usual breakneck pace. Himself and I are attempting to clear out the loft and have made some progress by taking bagfuls of books to the charity shops. It’s made a bit of a dent… Last week we went down to Ringwood and had a lovely day with my in-laws and I spent last Sunday with my sister, which was fabulous – I haven’t seen much of her recently.

Last week I read:
Day 115 on an Alien World – Book 1 of the Settler Chronicles series by Jeanette Bedard
A dishonourable discharge left Margo unable to find honest work on Earth. Signing onto a colonizing mission heading to a new world promised a fresh start. Or at least that’s what she’d thought. Strapped into a crashing colony ship, she realized how wrong she’d been.
They hit the ground and the straight forward colonizing mission becomes a scramble for survival…
I really enjoyed this colony world thriller and will be reviewing it in due course.

 

No Going Back – Book 5 of the Jon and Lobo series by Mark L. Van Name
Haunted by memories of children he could not save, Jon Moore becomes so increasingly self-destructive that even his best friend, the hyper-intelligent Predator-Class Assault Vehicle, Lobo, is worried. So when Jon receives both a job offer and a message from a woman from his distant past, he and Lobo leap at the welcome diversions. That the job is illegal is the least of their problems. They’re happy to retrieve stolen artifacts from Jon’s quarantined home world, and their fee is high even for a job so highly illegal. The forces protecting their targets are formidable, and the assault team that’s chasing them is even more dangerous–but Jon and Lobo are used to that. The scientist Jon and Lobo need for the mission has an agenda of her own, but they’ve faced that problem before. This time, though, the knowledge that they and the others seek spells doom for Jon.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first three books in the series – and will be now tracking down the fourth one. The relationship between Jon and Lobo is both poignant and funny and I love the overarching story arc that is emerging. Review to follow.

 

Frozen in Time AUDIOBOOK by Ali Sparkes
Ben and Rachel Corder are sure they’re in for the longest, dullest summer ever, until they discover an underground vault at the bottom of their garden with an amazing secret inside – two children from the 1950s who have been asleep for decades. But waking up Freddy and Polly Emerson means unearthing the secrets that were buried with them. Why would their father leave them frozen? How is cryonic suspension even possible? Why doesn’t the world know about the process fifty years later? How will the Emersons ever fit into the 21st century world of cell phones and microwave dinners? And why does it feel like they’re all suddenly being followed?
I’d loved reading this children’s thriller to Frances years ago – and then bought her the audiobook, so when she helped me get my Kindle Fire going during half term when the grandchildren came to stay, this was the first book I wanted to listen to. It’s been great fun – and so very different to reading it. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Cyanide with Christie – Book 3 of the Crime with the Classics series by Katherine Bolger Hyde

Friday Face-Off featuring The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of String City by Graham Edwards

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

Jonas Brothers Carpool Karoke #Jonas Brothers #James Corden http://www.fundinmental.com/jonas-brothers-carpool-karaoke/#.XIT9objgrb1 When I spotted this offering by Sherry at Fundinmental, I knew it would make this week’s cut. I love James Corden – talented and witty and very, very funny – what’s not to love?

Viking Heritage Day at Woodstown https://inesemjphotography.com/2019/03/09/viking-heritage-day-at-woodstown/ Once again, Inessa’s fabulous pics bring a slice of beauty into my life – and this time around, she’s gone time travelling…

Understanding and handling your bookworm. A guide https://thisislitblog.com/2019/03/04/understanding-and-handling-your-bookworm-a-guide/ Shruti’s funny take gives outsiders some inkling of what it is to be gripped by a passion for books.

Eagle Eyes https://storyshucker.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/eagle-eyes/ Stuart’s delightful account of a classroom incident that happened waaay back is worth a read.

New blogsitential questions https://readerwitch.com/2019/03/09/new-blogsitential-questions/ Alexandra discusses issues that we all have to face when we suddenly find the days have slid past and we’ve been too busy to post a new blog article…

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I am so sorry about my lack of response and am aiming to try and get back on track during the next week or so. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

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!

Shoot for the Moon 2018 Challenge – How Did I Do? #Brainfluffblog #AuthorAnnals4

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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 – did this work for me during 2018?
• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest and submit it to the agent who expressed an interest in it
Well, I did the rewrite, submitted the manuscript to an editor in June and got the feedback. By then, I was in the throes of rewriting The Arcadian Chronicles, which I thought wouldn’t take all that long. However, it has. It is still doing so. Which means that Miranda’s Tempest is still waiting to be sorted out. I am hoping to get to it during the summer, However, during the long break from it, I have had a major epiphany regarding the beginning. A – duh! moment where I can’t believe I didn’t take this approach before. It should improve the pacing, make the reader immediately aware of what’s at stake and start the story with a bang.

• Organise new covers for Running Out of Space and Dying for Space
It helps when your best writing buddy also happens to be an awesome cover designer – I was so grateful when Mhairi agreed to help me out and the general response has been nothing but positive since I released the books with the new covers.

• Rewrite, edit and publish Breathing Space
Yes – this was all achieved, so that Breathing Space now completes The Sunblinded Trilogy, after being published on 18th July. I have also set up the story so that Lizzy is poised to start a new chapter in her life, once I start writing the crime series featuring her next series of adventures.

• Rewrite, edit and publish Mantivore Preys and Mantivore Freed
This is another casualty of my poor writing performance during the latter end of the year. I’m now nearly halfway through Mantivore Preys, which I more or less started on schedule – and then started wading through glue as the story graunched from one dead-end to another. At last my writing is gathering momentum again, so I’m hoping to complete the book by the end of February. With luck and a following wind, I’ll also have the first draft of Mantivore Freed finished by the end of the summer. Fingers crossed… I have the covers ready for these books and am really looking forward to getting them completed and published.

• Release paperback editions for Running Out of Space, Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I have released Running Out of Space as a paperback and had hoped to have Dying for Space done before the end of the year. However, it didn’t happen – again due to my illness. Hopefully, I’ll have Dying for Space and Breathing Space both available in paperback format by the end of February.

• Write the first draft of Bloodless
No, I didn’t get close. My health became a real issue from the time I returned from my lovely writing retreat. Even before then, I wasn’t happy with the quality of my writing which had lost its bounce and energy. It turns out I was the one without any bounce and only now, since my diagnosis of hypertension, am I starting to feel like my old self as the medication is starting to take effect.

• Learn to market my books
Himself and I attended a marketing conference at the early part of the year and came away a tad overwhelmed, but enthusiastic. With Mhairi’s help, I plunged into the rarefied world of Amazon ads and felt quite pleased with my progress for a few months – before the algorithm abruptly changed and nothing was working any more. It takes a lot of time and energy I simply don’t have to keep on top of these developments, so I’ve decided to put the Marketing aspect on the back-burner until I have more books available to make it more economically viable.

• Read and review at least 100 books on my blog
I read 162 books during the year and published 124 reviews on the blog, although I have a few more written that will now have to wait until the coming year to see the light of day. I always love blogging and discussing books, but during the year I had to cut back from posting daily to about four times a week once my energy diminished as I became unwell. I’m not rushing to resume my daily posts, as I think one of my issues has been overwork.

• Continue teaching Creative Writing at Northbrook
Since Northbrook merged with Brighton Metropolitan, the Adult and Community Learning Department has had a new lease of life and during 2018, I was delighted to be able to run an extra session every week. The start of the new academic year in September saw my 10th anniversary teaching Creative Writing, which I still can’t quite believe.

• Continue teaching Tim
I will be continuing to teach Tim for the rest of the year, while he also attends college three days a week and still needs ongoing support. I cannot quite believe how far he’s come – it’s marvellous to see how well he is coping in a course for neuro-typical students, as he’s busy making new friends and extending his musical skills.

• Continue getting fitter
This was an epic fail. I was enjoying my Pilates and Fitstep classes, but as the year wore on I found it increasingly difficult to keep my attendance regular and finally, regretfully, I gave up first the Fitstep class and then the Pilates class as my energy drained away. I am hoping to resume my Pilates classes next week. Wish me luck!

As you can see, it’s been a mixed year. Overall, I’m reasonably happy with the results, given how my illness impacted my productivity and I’m hoping to put in place some lifestyle changes to help me stay healthy during the coming year. I have already set my targets for my Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2019 – I will be sharing them on the blog at the end of January. In the meantime, have a peaceful, healthy year, everyone – hopefully with lots of wonderful books to get lost in. Thank you all for your kind comments, likes and visits – even during the dark times when I couldn’t summon up the energy to post, I always found the kindness and good will evident within our blogging community a continual source of encouragement.

AUTHOR ANNALS #2 – WRITING RETREAT #Brainfluffauthorannals

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I was fortunate enough to be invited to go on a writing retreat with some of my writing group members. I’ve been part of this group now for nearly ten years and we try to meet up twice a month over tea and cake every other Wednesday evening to share each other’s work and provide constructive, but honest criticism.

This retreat was at a converted barn with 8 double bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms. Six of us were there for most of the week, while three others joined us for part of the week. The barn was tucked away down winding single-track roads etched into the red West Country earth at a farm on Exmoor near the hamlet of Roadwater. The weather was fabulous, so we’d aim to write from 9.30 am, stop for lunch at 1 pm and go for a walk at between 4-4.30 pm, though I only broke off a couple of days for the walk. And then we generally stopped writing at about 6 pm and took turns to prepare the wonderful meals organised and provisioned by Sarah Palmer, who not only organised the whole thing, but happens to be a fabulous cook. After clearing up, we sat around the table and read our work aloud to each other and gained valuable feedback. We then played quizzes or chatted until going to bed, before repeating the whole process again the next day. Bliss…

My bedroom view was across the lawns to the main farmhouse, with a large lavender bush right outside the door opening onto the gardens, which was open most afternoons because otherwise it was too hot. It was so lovely – this was where I chose to write

The internet connection was practically non-existent in the barn, apart from the occasional text and if we wanted to make a phone call we had to climb the hill at the back of the property. I found this a huge advantage, though others weren’t so impressed, but it meant that there was no question of messing around on the internet in displacement activities – it was all about the writing.

It’s been such a treat to have spent that amount of time as a writer – the part that often gets tucked away until the end of a busy day, or squeezed between other chores – that I’m very aware just how very lucky I’ve been to have such a wonderful opportunity. But did I make the most of it? Nope. I made some fundamental mistakes that meant I didn’t make as much progress as I should have.

The biggest problem was my lack of preparation. During the last year, I’ve published a space opera adventure The Sunblinded trilogy, which meant I spent hours in the head of my main protagonist, Lizzy and immersed in the world. I don’t know what made me think that I’d be able to seamlessly switch into Kyrillia’s viewpoint in Mantivore Preys and absorb all the details, backstories and most importantly of all – the speech rhythms and dialect differences of Arcadia without at least rereading the first book, Mantivore Dreams. But I didn’t and I paid the price. While Felina, the protagonist who made a takeover bid for the book during my last retreat, had poured from my fingertips, Kyrillia didn’t. The going was slow and I kept having to break off to check up on various details.

That said, having read several scenes to the group, who gave me suitable feedback, I’ve returned from Somerset with a stronger start to the book. And while I was there, I also had an epiphany regarding Miranda’s Tempest which is currently on the backburner, until the Arcadian trilogy is finished.

But the biggest advantage was to get a break from my everyday life in a setting that made me feel happy and peaceful, with the mental space to realise that my current work rate simply isn’t sustainable. I need more sleep and fewer hours in front of the computer – I suspect my raised blood pressure is part of that problem, too. So now I’m back home, I hoping to put in place some major changes… watch this space!

Sunday Post – 16th September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

Last week I pulled a no-show here as I was staying with my daughter over the weekend and getting to know my adorable baby granddaughter. It was lovely touching base with all the grandchildren and chatting with my daughter until the wee small hours as she fed the baby. She has recommended a new comedy TV series, Upstart Crow, which she reckons is right up my street. I’m looking forward to catching up with William Shakespeare’s efforts to write his plays, in between his eventful commutes back to Stratford-Upon-Avon…

As for the rest of the week – I’ve now completed the course notes for my Creative Writing classes which are due to start tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing my students as it seems a very long time since we broke up for the summer. On Wednesday, I attended my Pilates class, but gave Fitstep a miss as I’ve been nursing a sore hip. I might alternate between the two, but right now until I’m a lot fitter, I think trying to do the two classes in one morning is simply beyond me. On Thursday, I started teaching Tim again and was delighted to hear that he is enjoying his Music course at Chichester college. Last night, we went to our favourite Chinese restaurant, The Dragon, for a meal, accompanied by my sister, to celebrate our twenty-third wedding anniversary – where does the time go? It certainly doesn’t feel as if we’ve been married for twenty-three years!

This week I have read:

The Poisoned Chalice Murder – Book 2 of the Black and Dods mystery series by Diane Janes
Tom Dod’s Aunt Hetty is worried – three sudden deaths have occurred in the sleepy village of Durley Dean. They might seem like tragic accidents, but Aunt Hetty isn’t so sure. After all, all three took a stand against Reverend Pinder, the new vicar of St Agnes Church, whose controversial changes have divided the congregation. But is there really a killer among the parishioners? And while Fran leaps at the chance to spend a weekend at Aunt Hetty’s sleuthing with Tom, could the trip prove to be a poisoned chalice in more ways than one?
I loved the first book, The Magic Chair Mystery, and this follow-up didn’t disappoint. Fran, the protagonist is intelligent and sympathetic, while the mystery, set in the 1920s had plenty of period detail. Review to follow.

 

Immortal Creators – Book 2 of the Immortal Writers series by Jill Bowers
Sixteen-year-old author Scott Beck never wanted to be an Immortal Writer—not after his father was killed on a mission attempting to dispatch his own villain. Scott blames Shakespeare and the Writers for his father’s untimely demise, but no amount of hatred will prevent the oncoming alien attack, which has come over to reality straight from Scott’s book.
Scott is forced to collect his characters—an Air Force colonel, two of the best pilots on Earth, and an alien enthusiast from the year 2134—and defeat the alien king before Earth is obliterated by his ships. But an odd sickness Scott calls his Writing Fever might just kill him before the aliens have the chance.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Scott is convincing as a very reluctant protagonist, who has to face up to the fact that he is the only person able to save Earth. I will be reviewing this in due course.

 

Spinning Thorns by Anna Sheehan
Sleeping Beauty has woken. The world has been renewed. Everyone is living happily ever after . . . Almost.

Sharp, blood-seeking thorns still surround the castle. A feud remains between those who wield magic and those who were subjected to it. And while the kingdom is divided against itself, nothing can thrive. A rebellion may be needed – and that’s where Sleeping Beauty’s daughter comes in . . .
This fairytale retelling is a delight, mashing up elements from Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin in a clever, convincing way. I posted my mini-review of this one on Amazon UK and Goodreads.

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Salvation’s Fire: After the War – Book 2 of the After the War series by Justina Robson

Teaser Tuesday featuring Immortal Creators – Book 2 of the Immortal Writers series by Jill Bowers

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Nyxia – Book 1 of The Nyxia Triad by Scott Reintgen

Review of The Watchmaker’s Daughter – Book 1 of the Glass and Steele series by C.J. Archer

Friday Faceoff – A wolf doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of sheep… featuring Wolf Brother – Book 1 of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver

I N T E R S T E L L A R – Instafreebie Giveaway featuring some of the 54 books available

Authoring Annals – Writing in Heaven and Plunging into Uncertainty Hell

 

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

Off to North Wales for a writers’ week. Meantime a writerly warning. http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2972 Hybrid author Juliet McKenna spells out how to spot the vanity publishers leeching off unwary writers

Bob Dylan: Forever Young https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2018/09/06/bob-dylan-forever-young/ Thom’s marvellous site is always worth visiting if you enjoy passionate, beautifully written articles about a range of popular music – but this one dedicated to the birth of his granddaughter struck a particular chord with me…

The Five Mistakes the Caused Me Not to Write my Column This Month https://writerunboxed.com/2018/09/15/the-five-mistakes-that-caused-me-to-not-write-my-column-this-month/ Bill Ferris and his writing advice is another firm favourite – and this hilarious offering reminds me of the excuses I make on my blog when I have to confess why I’ve missed posting yet another article.

My Passion for Reading https://literacyletters.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/my-passion-for-reading/ Rae is one of the remarkable, interesting people I have met through my blog and this short article about her love of books and reading is an inspiration.

NASA Wins an Emmy Award https://earthianhivemind.net/2018/09/09/nasa-win-emmys-awards/ Steph has highlighted this achievement by including a video of NASA’s activities. It’s worth watching.

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

#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!

#Sunday Post – 3rd June, 2018 #Sky’sservicesucks #Brainfluffbookblog

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

It should have been a relaxing, but productive half-term week and started so well with the grandchildren staying over until Sunday night – but on Monday we had a massive thunderstorm. The thunder cracked above us, shaking the house, accompanied by a bright flickering light that was gone in microseconds with the smell of burning air and an odd noise coming from the surge protectors. It was disorientating and frightening. Though the TV didn’t work, once we replaced the fuse, it was back to normal. But our internet was down… and it’s still down. Sky have been as useful as a concrete hanky. When we reported the problem, their diagnostics said they needed to send an engineer, but somehow the bloke on the other end decided a new router would fix the problem. He said it probably would be with us on Wednesday, given it was Bank Holiday Monday. It finally arrived yesterday (Saturday) after two more VERY expensive phone calls and once we set it all up – the internet is still not working and the engineer isn’t able to come out until Wednesday.

My dinky little laptop perched at the end of my sister’s dining room table frankly isn’t up to the job. It’s slooow and I’m used to my powerful desktop that pretty much does what I want when I want it… So I’m not commenting or posting much and I promise to catch up once I’m back online. Other than that, I have been trying to relax a bit – I’m conscious of feeling profoundly tired… We saw Solo on Wednesday and though the performances were great, I am disappointed that the story tends to up the stakes over issues that we know are resolved – lots of time with The Millennium Falcon being chased or under attack, when we already know she survives as the ship features in other films. I feel the script writers could have been smarter in creating tension for folks who have followed the whole franchise to date. I also had some book tokens and hit Smiths and Waterstones, coming away with an armful of books I’ve been lusting over for a while, which rounded off a lovely day out with Himself in an otherwise rather stressful week.

So grovelling apologies for not having been in touch much. I hope that normal services will shortly be resumed, though given Sky’s dire performance so far, I’m not holding my breath…

This week I have read:

A Quill Ladder – Book 2 of the Derivatives of Displacement series by Jennifer Ellis
Abbey Sinclair would just like to return to her physics textbooks, but the witches who just moved in across the street seem to be up to something, and one of them has offered to give her lessons in witchcraft. She also has to decide what to do with the instructions on how to save the world that seem to have come from her future self.

This enjoyable YA time travelling series continues to gallop forward at a real clip, with a very involved, twisting plot full of incident that doesn’t feel designed for a younger audience, despite the age of the protagonists. I’m thoroughly enjoying this series and looking forward to reading other books in the series.

 

 

Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel
When hostilities between factions threaten to explode into a shooting war on the moon of Yakutsk, the two major galactic military powers, Central Corps and PSI, send ships to defuse the situation. But when a strange artifact is discovered, events are set in motion that threaten the entire colonized galaxy—including former Central Corps Commander Elena Shaw.

This is another excellent space opera adventure featuring characters I have grown very fond of during the previous two books. And it takes the story forward with lots of action and a dollop of emotional heft. Bonesteel’s characters really do ping off the page…

 

 

Drifter’s Alliance – Book 1 of the Drifter’s Alliance series by Elle Casey
One hand of cards and it’s all over but the crying…

Cass Kennedy finally gets what she’s been dreaming of for the past ten years: a drifter ship to call her own. All the sim time and battle training is going to pay off in spades as she sets her course for the future. She’ll be living on her own terms, not those of her father.

This space opera story is a strong start to what promises to be an entertaining, enjoyable adventure featuring a gutsy nineteen-year-old with more experience than she should have.

 

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
A group of undocumented children with letters for names, are stuck living in a refugee camp, with stories to tell but no papers to prove them. As they try to forge a new family amongst themselves, they also long to keep memories of their old identities alive.
Will they be heard and believed? And what will happen to them if they aren’t?

I initially thought this was a post-apocalyptic tale – and when I realised it was something far closer to home, it turned this adventure into a far more uncomfortable read, with a vital message. Required reading for all politicians everywhere. It won’t take long, as this is a short book with lots of easy words – and a difficult message that haunts me and will go on doing so…

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 27th May 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Flowers of Vashnoi – Book 14.1 of The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

Teaser Tuesday featuring Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Friday Face-off – Clinging and invasive… featuring Forest Mage – Book 2 of The Soldier’s Son series by Robin Hobb

Sorry there are no blogs or articles to feature – but I haven’t had the luxury of browsing and visiting other sites… Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!