Category Archives: writing problems

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!

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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.

Sunday Post – 19th February 2017

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Sunday Post

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

Himself has had the week off work. We have mostly stayed at home, because my half term break is next week *sigh*… That said, we did manage to have a couple of days when we chilled together and had lunch at our favourite place.

The weather has been variable, starting cold and wet but steadily getting warmer and sunnier – yesterday was fabulous so we went for a walk over Kithurst Hill. The views were wonderful and for the first time this year, it felt more like spring than winter. I’m not kidding myself – I’m aware that next week it could quite easily snow, but still… there it was – a slice of sunshine! The bonus was during the walk I talked through my ideas for Miranda’s Tempest, as since Christmas I’ve felt like I was wading through concrete on the rewrite. J is a really good listener and together we discussed some of the issues that I’d got stuck on, so I’m hoping to make much better progress this coming week, when I can fully concentrate on it.

As you can see, I’ve had a great reading week with a tranche of entertaining and in one case, outstanding books to read – though it looks a tad more impressive than it is, given one was a novella and one was a children’s book.

This week I have read:

The Vanishing Throne – Book 2 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May
Aileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her thevanishingthronefriends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility.

I encountered the first book, The Falconer, at the beginning of the year and loved the intense, brutal writing style of this YA genre mash-up, so was delighted when this offering became available at the local library. There’s no second-book slump here – May continues where the first book leaves off in this adrenaline rush of an adventure. I will be reviewing it in due course.

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
mirandaandcalibanMiranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from?

This beautifully written love story is mostly the prequel to Shakespeare’s The Tempest though you don’t have to know a thing about the play to become engrossed in the events of the enchanted island. I loved this one – it is my favourite book of the year to date.

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at slowbulletsan end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.

This space opera novella offers a cracking adventure with plenty of twists and turns, along with some interesting concepts. The slow bullets of the title are identity chips buried deep within a person that record all their major life events. They are impossible to change or over-write. So what happens in a crisis when your life and who you are can be read for all to see?

Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers’ Club – Book 1 of the Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries by Robert J. Harris
thegravediggersclubOne day Arthur Conan Doyle will create the greatest detective of all – Sherlock Holmes. But right now, Artie Conan Doyle is a twelve-year-old Edinburgh schoolboy with a mystery of his own to solve. While sneaking out to explore Greyfriars Kirkyard by night, Artie and his best friend Ham spot a ghostly lady in grey and discover the footprints of a gigantic hound. Could the two mysteries be connected?

This entertaining historical mystery adventure for children tripped along at a fair clip, with the main protagonist, Artie Conan Doyle, seeming very familiar with fans who have read any Sherlock Holmes stories.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 12th February 2017

Review of A Closed and Common Orbit – Book 2 of the Wayfarers’ series by Becky Chambers

Teaser Tuesday featuring Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Friday Face-off – Drivin’ Along in my Automobile… featuring Ill Wind – Book 1 of the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers’ Club – Book 1 of the Artie Conan Doyle mysteries by Robert J. Harris

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

10 of the Best Wendy Cope Poems Everyone Should Read https://interestingliterature.com/2017/02/17/10-of-the-best-wendy-cope-poems-everyone-should-read/ Once more this great blog has produced an entertaining informative article I really enjoyed.

Girl from Mars, on the telephone https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/girl-from-mars-on-the-telephone/ I love the sheer quirkiness of this pic…

Take My Hand, We Will Walk https://bitesizedhamma.com/2017/02/14/take-my-hand-we-will-walk/ I love the simplicity of this short poem, which also has been very apt this week. Himself and I had a walk just like this one – something we should do more often.

When Dedications Leave Something To Be Desired https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/when-dedications-leave-something-to-be-desired/ Oh, this is hilarious! I howled with laughter and then shared the fun with J…

Interview with Sir Kipling from the Lily Singer series by Lydia Sherrer http://lolasreviews.com/interview-with-sir-kipling-from-the-lily-springer-series-by-lydia-sherrer/ I’ve seen book characters interviewed before, but never with more entertaining snark than this gem…

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

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – January Roundup

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

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

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

• Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Jezell Campo, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy
I have the plot outline sorted out and I’m going to have a go at writing this one, while editing Dying for Space and Breathing Space. It may not work as I’m the ultimate monotasker, but I won’t know until I try, will I? Another project that got shunted further down the line when Netted needed a major rewrite last year. I am really hoping that by the end of the year I will have a first draft completed.

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

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

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

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

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

• Continue teaching TW
This has been a roller-coaster year as it proved a whole lot harder to find a suitable syllabus and qualifications suitable for Tim, who is autistic and taught at home. However his mother managed to find a series of projects based around acquiring practical skills that I will be helping to deliver, alongside Tim’s team of other tutors, which will also give him qualifications he can use to access college or university courses in the future. In addition, I am also helping Tim acquire the necessary skills to take the Functional Skills exams, so have doubled my teaching hours with him.
This is, obviously, going to take priority as it becomes necessary.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I suffered a major back injury back in early 2005, leaving me with ongoing sciatica that meant I was a constant visitor to the Physio for almost a decade. After Mhairi’s suggestion back in 2015 that I try a TENS machine to see if it would improve the nerve pain during yet another flare-up that was making my life a misery, I have gone from strength to strength. I now attend a Fitstep and Pilates class every week and have managed to lose nearly a stone so that I have now reached my target weight, which I want to maintain – more or less – throughout the year. One of my goals for 2017 which we didn’t achieve last year is to resume hiking with my husband on a regular basis.

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

Shoot for the Moon 2016 Challenge – How Did I Do?

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For the last three years, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I have set ourselves a series of ambitious goals to work towards. How did I get on with the targets I set myself last year?

Publish the Sunblinded trilogymoon
Nope. Still not happened… In the flurry of submitting work to a number of agents who appear to like my writing, one of them specifically requested to see Running Out of Space, instead of the manuscript I was submitting. This presented me with a dilemma – ROOS was all set to be my self-publishing project, but if I was serious about also wanting a traditional publishing career, it seemed that I should submit it. So I have. In the meantime, I’ve got further work to do on Dying For Space and Breathing Space as my wonderful beta-readers have provided me with invaluable feedback that impacts on the ending of one and the start of the other.

Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Jezell Campo, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy
Again, no. I have been busy rewriting and editing a number of other manuscripts, so this simply didn’t get done.

Complete Chaos in New Cluster
This is the novel my writing pal, Michael Griffiths, and I started in 2014. Yes – we completed the first draft and Mike has someone looking over it. As this is a project we will be working on in between everything else, it is ticking over quietly in the background.

Complete Picky Eaters
No, this didn’t get touched. I have been busy on a variety of other projects and didn’t have the time or headspace to get it done. However, Frances regularly asks about it, and I have made a PROMISE that it will see the light of day at some stage.

Edit Miranda’s Tempest
Miranda’s Tempest was duly submitted after being edited and I had some excellent feedback from an agent. So I am now in the process of rewriting it, which is challenging but much easier than it might be, because getting that advice was a lightbulb moment where I could then see exactly where I could improve the story flow and tighten up the plot.

I am working through it right now, though I took a break over Christmas as I also needed to produce my course notes and it was particularly busy, social time.

Submit Miranda’s Tempest
This year, I have been far more organised about submitting my work and while I don’t have a publishing contract, I have had some very positive feedback, which will help me move forward. One of the reasons why I failed at some of my other targets, was that earlier in the year a publisher considering Netted, my other novel which was ‘out there’, asked me to undertake a major rewrite which took me the best part of five months to complete. I’m now waiting to see if they like it sufficiently to offer me a contract…

Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I wrote 150 reviews for my blog during 2016, the most I’ve ever posted. I also nailed my target to read and review more new releases as 71 of those reviews were about NetGalley arcs. I made one of my goals to increase my blogging output to every day and I have also mostly achieved this, too. Indeed, my views on my blog during 2016 have nearly doubled from the 2015 figure and I also have far more interaction with a number of wonderful bloggers who love books as much as I do. Given the fact I’ve been rewriting and editing throughout the year, reading and reviewing have become increasingly important to me as a source of pleasure and escape, particularly as personally 2016 was something of a heartbreak throughout the latter half.

Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
Obviously, I had these planned, but due to all sorts of things going on from August onwards, I didn’t get the Spring Term course notes written during the summer as I would have liked. Last year’s classes went really well and I was also able to run my one day courses. I have a lovely time teaching – it’s got to be the best gig of all, teaching a subject I’m passionate about to a group of people who are equally keen to learn.

Work on the teaching syllabus for TW
I undertook to teach English to Tim now over a year ago, paid for by County. Last year, we needed to find a suitable syllabus for him to study with a view to getting him some qualifications. This proved to be far more difficult than we initially thought. However, we now have found a way forward that is unusual but doable and I have now begun working on a series of projects with him that will provide Tim with a qualification commensurate with an English GCSE. Meanwhile, I am privileged to watch Tim continue to blossom into a remarkable person.

Continue to improve my fitness
This has gone really well. I decided to become vegetarian right at the end of 2015 and while I still eat eggs and fish occasionally, I haven’t eaten meat for over a year. I cannot get over how much better I feel – I have so much more energy and my nails, hair and skin have never been in better condition. I’ve continued my Pilates classes and now also attend a Fitstep class, which is exercise through dance and so much fun. Just before Christmas I finally achieved my target weight and although I put on a few pounds over the holiday, I’m confident I’ll soon lose it again. It’s marvellous to open up the wardrobe and know I can wear everything in it!

It’s a mixed picture, isn’t it? On one hand, the aspect that is really important to me – my writing – hasn’t appeared to make much progress. However, all that rewriting and re-editing prompted by professional advice has helped me to further improve my craft, which was one of the reasons why I wanted a hybrid career in the first place.

As regards the reading and blogging, it’s never been better. Though I don’t expect 2017 to be such a productive year, as I’m hoping to spend more time writing and less time reading. And teaching continues to provide me with plenty of challenges and much-needed interaction with other people.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – November Roundup

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After setting some crazy writing goals with my writing partner, Mhairi Simpson, moonway back in the dying throes of 2015, how am I doing?

Family issues rather ambushed me and I had little mental energy or necessary headspace required to cope with my demanding rewrite. On a more positive note, I gave a talk at West Sussex Writers on the joy of writing reviews and posting them online and my Creative Writing course gathered momentum, while Sally and I finally sorted out Tim’s syllabus and have drawn up a coherent schedule of work for him for the next two years.

• During November, I read eleven books. Again, it’s been a great reading month. I really enjoyed songsofseraphinethe wonderful the children’s book Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson, cyberpunk adventure Synners by Pat Cadigan, Bloodrush by Ben Galley and E.D.E. Bell’s penricsmissionThe Banished Craft – however Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton and Penric’s Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold are my standout reads for the month.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. I fulfilled this challenge in August, but I am continuing to read and review more enjoyable, exciting books.

 

• I am currently stranded in the boggy mid-book bit of Miranda’s Tempest. Realistically, I don’t expect to get much further this side of Christmas, but there’s no point in getting in a spin about it. I’ll continue as and when I can manage it.
Challenge – To continue to submit my work.

 

• I’ve continued to improve my fitness with Pilates and Fitstep classes and we’re now learning extra steps for the jive and tango – so much fun … thanks to the marvellous Louisa Jones, an inspired and very patient teacher. I hadn’t quite reached my target weight during November, but it was very close and I am continuing to improve my fitness and stamina.
Challenge – To continue to improve my fitness.

Another month where nothing has gone to plan… Oh well, that’s Life I suppose. I wrote just under 17,000 words on my blog during November, nearly 6,000 words on my teaching admin and just over 10,00 words on my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest, bringing my total for the month to just under 33,000 words.

How are you getting on with your targets now the year is drawing to an end? Are you anywhere close to fulfilling them?