Category Archives: writing problems

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!

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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!

Cover reveal – Dying for Space – shiny, new and more appealing!

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As you may know, I changed the covers for the first two books in the Sunblinded trilogy. Immediately, I noticed an improvement in my sales for Running Out of Space. However, as we sat down and looked at the last six months, cover maven, Mhairi and I realised that the new cover for Dying for Space had absolutely no impact. Not a single person felt drawn to buy it after the initial flurry died down after the book launch blog tour.

 

I wondered whether this one looked a bit ‘death mask’ and that was putting off potential readers, given the title is Dying for Space. Mhairi speculated that with the pink tint and her closed eyes, Lizzy looked as though she was… um… having a very nice time. And as I haven’t been targetting a readership interested in erotic fiction in space, Mhairi thought the possibility might be disuading readers from giving this one a go.

 

So she’s come up with this one, instead. It definitely still has the same branding as the first book, with the advantage that Lizzy is clearly alive if a tad pensive – and there is no possibility that this can mistaken for anything other than a space opera adventure featuring a heroine, whose action scenes take place outside the bedroom… This one is going live on Thursday, but I thought I’d share it with you all, first.

Do let me know what you think!

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.

Sunday Post – 25th February, 2018

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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.

I’ve been back in the thick of it as term time has resumed at Northbrook. We had a department meeting this week, which was the most exciting in years with a new head who is very focused on expanding the role of Adult Learning in the college and in the community. I am now thinking about next year’s courses.

On Wednesday evening we had a great meeting with our Writers’ Group and are discussing the possibility of going on a week-long writers’ retreat in Devon at the start of October. During Thursday, my staunch writing buddy Mhairi came over and we discussed our projects, when she stopped me taking Miranda’s Tempest off on a new shiny direction that was luring me away from my former narrative arc. That’s what writing friends are for, people!

On Friday, Himself and I collected Frances from school so we were able to catch an early train to London on Saturday, as Grimbold Publishing were part of a featured event laid on by Forbidden Planet. I’ve never been to this store before – and found I’d arrived in heaven. In addition to being able to catch up with wonderful folks like Kate Coe and Jo Hall – there were all these books… shelves and shelves and shelves allll devoted to science fiction and fantasy! Frances was equally thrilled at the range of manga comics, so after a lovely afternoon chatting about books, browsing among books and buying books, we came home again… Though the trip home on the train was a tad quiet as we’d all buried our noses into our favourite reading matter.

Writing-wise, it hasn’t been a great week, but let’s hope I can do better in due course. Though it has been a very good reading week, given that I had some time after my meeting on Tuesday and a train journey to and from London to fill…

This week I have read:

The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
A year after the Commonwealth won the war with the Theocracy, the interstellar cruise liner Supreme is on its maiden voyage, carrying a host of aristocrats thrilled to be sharing in a wondrous adventure among the stars. The passengers include the owner and his daughters, Angela and Nancy. Growing up with all the luxuries in the world, neither sister has ever known true struggle, but that all changes when Supreme comes under attack…
This is a really enjoyable adventure set on a passenger liner – think Titanic in space. I loved the slow build so we get to know the characters and care about them, before it all hits the fan. There are plenty of twists, though I did see a couple of them coming. All in all, an excellent read for fans of quality space opera.

 

Into the Fire – Book 2 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon
When Admiral Kylara Vatta and a ship full of strangers were marooned on an inhospitable arctic island, they uncovered secrets that someone on Ky’s planet was ready to kill to keep hidden. Now, the existence of the mysterious arctic base has been revealed, but the organisation behind it still lurks in the shadows, doing all it can to silence her.
I loved Cold Welcome, the first book in this series, so I was delighted when I realised this offering was now available. It picks up immediately after the first book, when everyone has returned home and should be relaxing with their loved ones after such a terrible ordeal – only that isn’t happening. Once more Moon is cranking up the tension in this, well told futuristic thriller.

 

The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods series by Diane Janes
1929.
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.
This cosy murder is consciously set in the 1920’s tradition with a slow buildup and plenty of prospective suspects. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical details of Fran Black’s life, which takes a hard look at the lot of a woman living on her own at a time when they had only just got the vote. This one held me right to the end and I am definitely going to be looking out for more books, in this entertaining series.

 

The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon: Using Speech Recognition Software to Dictate Your Book and Supercharge Your Writing Workflow by Scott Baker
As writers, we all know what an incredible tool dictation software can be. It enables us to write faster and avoid the dangers of RSI and a sedentary lifestyle. But many of us give up on dictating when we find we can’t get the accuracy we need to be truly productive.

This book changes all of that. With almost two decades of using Dragon software under his belt and a wealth of insider knowledge from within the dictation industry, Scott Baker will reveal how to supercharge your writing and achieve sky-high recognition accuracy from the moment you start using the software.
This book is certainly well written and very clear. While there are a number of excellent tips which should help me improve my mastery of Dragon, I’m not sure that I will ever get to a stage where my accuracy will rival my typing – after all I was a fully-trained touch-typist who earned a crust as secretary in a former life. But as my hands and wrists are getting increasingly unhappy at cranking out 400,000+ words a year (NOT all novels or stories, I hasten to add) I need to do something before it turns into a full-blown repetitive strain injury.

 

Into the Thinnest of Air – Book 5 of the Ishmael Jones Mystery series by Simon R. Green
Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are attending the re-opening of Tyrone’s Castle, an ancient Cornish inn originally built by smugglers. Over dinner that night, the guests entertain one another with ghost stories inspired by local legends and superstitions. But it would appear that the curse of Tyrone’s Castle has struck for real when one of their number disappears into thin air. And then another . . .
This is another entertaining adventure in this paranormal murder mystery series. There is certainly plenty of tension as guests disappear one by one in the creepy castle that is cut off from the outside world. I was hooked into wanting to know what happens next and will be writing a review in due course.

 

Escaping Firgo by Jason Whittle
When a bank worker takes a wrong turn in life and on the road, he finds himself trapped in a remote village hiding from the police. Before he can find his freedom, he has to find himself, and it’s not just about escaping, it’s about settling up. Because everybody settles up in the end.
This is a delightfully quirky read – and at only 52 pages, moves along at a decent clip. I thoroughly enjoyed following our protagonist’s adventures, as he endeavours to escape from Firgo and will be reviewing this one.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 18th February 2018

Review of Defender – Book 2 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

Teaser Tuesday featuring Into the Fire – Book 2 of the Vatta’s Peace series by Elizabeth Moon

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – A Black and Dod Mystery:1 by Diane James

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Fire and Bone – Book 1of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks

Friday Face-off – Halfway up the stairs isn’t up and isn’t down… featuring Murder Must Advertise – Book 10 of the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers

Review of Killbox – Book 4 of the Sirantha Jax series by Anne Aguirre

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

It Comes Down to Reading https://jenniefitzkee.com/2018/02/22/it-comes-down-to-reading/ Just in case anyone has gone away thinking that learning an appreciation for books and reading is now an outdated irrelevancy superseded by newer technology…

Let’s Discuss – Predictability in Fiction and Film https://www.spajonas.com/2018/02/23/lets-discuss-predictability-fiction-film/ Accomplished indie author S.J. Pajonas raises this topic and has some interesting things to say regarding this topic. Do you like knowing what is coming up?

Blackwing: LITFIC edition https://edmcdonaldwriting.com/2018/02/19/blackwing-litfic-edition/ Genre author Ed McDonald pokes gentle fun at some of the snobbery that still pervades certain corners of the writing world…

Bar jokes for English Majors https://bluebirdofbitterness.com/2018/02/20/bar-jokes-for-english-majors/ I loved these – though there were one or two that had me blinking and wondering what the joke was…

Do Not https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/do-not/ I love this poem by talented writer Viv Tuffnell – it contains a strong message for anyone who is feeling pressured and manipulated.

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

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 – April Roundup

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How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets now that we are a third of the way into 2017?
• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
My schedule regarding Miranda’s Tempest got completely chewed up due to my illness after Easter. I wasn’t able to attend my Writing Group, so didn’t get to touch base with my two main beta-readers.

• 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 April, I read and reviewed 22 books, writing just under 22,500 words. The reason for this high number was my sojourn in bed for nearly a week doing little other than reading and sleeping. It was another month of wonderful books – the bar just keeps getting higher in terms of overall quality, it seems to me. As for book of the month – I can’t decide between Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys, A Tyranny of Queens by Roz Meadows and Scavenger Alliance by Janet Edwards.

• Creative Writing courses
The new term is under way.
We had a bit of a glitch at the start of the Tuesday group when I had to cancel the first session because I was feeling so ill, which is only the second time in 8 years that I’ve gone sick. Fortunately, I am able to add the missing session to the end of the course so the students are not short-changed.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
Tim continues to progress and develop – this term he is flying, which is wonderful to watch. I’m hoping he can continue to sustain his progress throughout the summer as he has a series of major challenges in the coming few months.

• Continue to improve my fitness
To continue to attend Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
Nope. I missed a chunk of my classes and so far, while I’ve felt well enough to resume Fitstep, my lack of energy has meant that by the time I get to Wednesday, I cannot face my Pilates class. I am taking some vitamin supplements which hopefully will boost my stamina and general well-being so that I can resume my normal level of activity.

Frankly, April was a frustrating month. I simply haven’t had sufficient energy to sustain any area of my life to the standard I like to generally achieve. I’m not keeping up with comments on my blog and for three days during the month didn’t post anything at all. Neither am I fully up to date with my teaching admin and as for writing anything worth the name – that is a distant memory. The only thing I seem to be fit for is reading and writing reviews, which would be great if I was hankering after a life as a book reviewer, but that is my hobby activity… Let’s hope the second half of May is a vast improvement.

I wrote just under 28,000 words during April, mostly on my blog, which brings my yearly total to just over 142,000 words so far.

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – February Roundup

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So now that I blinked twice and discovered February has gone, how have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets that I have set myself for the year only last month here?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve moonit by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
This had me tearing my hair out all through January and the first half of February. I’d roll up my sleeves, all set to get stuck in and only to just get stuck… Then in the last quarter of the month, Himself and I went on a walk on one of the few sunny days in the month – and I made a breakthrough halfway through whining to him about how hard it was. He’s a great listener and knows this project almost better than I do, so is an invaluable partner in the whole process. And sure enough, as soon as I sat down I managed to power through it in five days of intense writing nearly 25,000 words. The relief is indescribable…

• 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 February, I read 17 books, wrote reviews for 16 of them and DNF’d another two which came to just over 16,000 words. This clearly isn’t my usual reading pace and is down to the fact that during half term – unusually – I didn’t have the grandchildren to stay at all so read far more than normal.

• Creative Writing courses
To propose and plan next year’s course to Northbrook College and continue delivering this year’s Creative Writing courses.
This term’s course has gone very well so far, despite the seasonal illnesses that have put a dent in attendance figures. We haven’t had to cancel any sessions due to snow, thank goodness. I have next year’s courses sorted out and will probably be submitting them for approval to Northbrook in the next few weeks. In addition, I have completed writing my One Day Poetry course due to run on Saturday 11th March at Northbrook. I hope to get sufficient students to be able to teach it as it should be great fun.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
The decision to increase my hours with Tim has continued to be an unqualified success. Sally and I had an exhaustive planning meeting during February to monitor our progress and came away very heartened at the progress we’re making so far. So now it’s just a question of continuing to focus on the areas that need ongoing development and ensure we go on covering the projects within the necessary timescales.

• Continue to improve my fitness
To continue to attend Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
I’m really enjoying both the Pilates and Fitstep classes as I can now see the progress I’ve made in my strength and stamina. I now carefully watch my sugar intake as I realise just how much it aggravates my back and general joint pain, increases the wrinkles on my face and messes with my focus and concentration when I’m trying to write. It’s something of a shock as I have a very sweet tooth and really enjoy my sticky buns… no more, though, except for the very occasional treat.

Despite loathing February as the dreariest month of the year, this one has been nothing but successful work-wise. I wrote just over 51,500 words during the month – a goodly chunk of those on the Miranda’s Tempest rewrite, bringing my yearly total to just under 90,000 words so far.