Tag Archives: alien encounter

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

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This is now an annual event – in the dying days of the year, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I sit down together and set ourselves targets for the coming year. The theory is that in aiming for the insanely unrealistic, we’ll achieve more than if we were more cautious in our goalsetting. These are the targets I set for 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Continue blogging about books and writing
I thoroughly enjoy reading and reviewing books – I’m keeping my target for the year at 100 books, although this last year I read 162 books and published 124 reviews on my blog. I am easing back from posting every day as I simply don’t have the time, but will continue to read and review. I’m intending to join two challenges – Love Your Library and Beat the Backlist, as well as continue with my Discovery Challenge to find more female authors I haven’t previously read. During January I read 12 books and posted 5 reviews.

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

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Sunday Post – 27th January, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

The weather has been quite a bit colder this week, with several frosts and then it suddenly warmed up again to nearly 50°F. No wonder several students have been off sick and my writing buddy had to cut short our Friday together. On Wednesday evening, I attended our fortnightly writing group and touched base with everyone, though I didn’t take any writing. On Thursday, I had a planning meeting in the morning for the rest of the teaching year with Tim and then taught him for three hours in the afternoon. It was lovely catching up with him, as I hadn’t seen him since the beginning of December.

On Saturday morning, Himself and I went shopping and I also took a stack of books to the local library, who gratefully received them. It was lovely to catch up with the wonderful lady who reads stories to small children in the library on Saturday mornings – she always asks after Frankie and Oscar, who she regularly used to read to. She was amazed when I told her that Frankie is now taller than I am…

I spent the rest of the day working on Mantivore Prey. The first 1,000 words was like drawing teeth and took a looong time. However, I then got into the swing of the narrative – I’m now in the middle of an unexpected subplot which is going very well, though time will tell if it’s going to work out. Fingers crossed…

Last week I read:
The Warrior – Book 3 of The Immortal Dealers series by Sarah Fine
Ernestine “Ernie” Terwilliger never intended to live among the Immortal Dealers, much less to be party to an ongoing battle where the fate of humanity is in the draw of a card. And the stakes have gotten only higher now that a shady new Forger has been crowned.
Despite crashing into this series by picking up the final book, I enjoyed this world and the magic system, as well as being able to empathise with the sympathetic protagonist. Review to follow.

 

The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, but I really loved this one. The political situation is gripping and the supporting cast are fabulous. Review to follow.

 

Spacer’s Cinderella by Adria Rose
A broken shoe. A forbidden ball. A sexy cyborg with a secret. Born on an abandoned colony barely held together by sealant tape and hope, Aurora Sato is at the very bottom of the social pecking order. Hard work and brains got her into a coveted spot in the quadrant’s top university… But her new supervisor is a woman who’s not about to let an upstart like Aurora get anything close to a break.
This romance sci fi story has a gripping plotline that drew me in and held me, despite not generally reading this sub-genre.

 

Traveler in the Dark – Book 1 of the Ex Situ series by Deirdre Gould
Sixteen hundred years ago, they fled Earth. Now their long journey may finally be at an end. None of them have ever walked on soil, felt rain, or breathed unrecycled air. Their resources nearly spent, they sent a last exploratory mission to a new planet. It’s ideal… but they are not alone. In the struggle for survival, they must make a choice. Sacrifice another species or accept their own extinction. And time is running out.
This colony exploration tale took an unexpectedly dark turn, which also explored the moral issues of colonisation.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th January 2019

Review of Novella The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Friday Face-Off featuring The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Box Set – The Sunblinded Trilogy – Running Out of Space, Dying for Space, Breathing Space

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
The Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse of 2019 http://www.fundinmental.com/the-super-blood-wolf-moon-eclipse-of-2019-bloodwolfmoon-eclipse/#.XE2QhM3grb1 I tend to avoid the news these days with the Brexit nonsense going on – but then I miss events like this. Thank goodness I can comfort myself with these superb pics…

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2019/01/24/thursday-doors-121/ This quirky blog is rarely just about doors – and this week not only do we have pics of the cutest dog in the world, but a grim slice of history, too.

The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society Guest Post by Amanda Cade! https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2019/01/22/the-u-l-s-the-underground-library-society-guest-post-by-amanda-cade/ Academic and indie writer Charles French runs this meme on his excellent blog – and this week I was blown away by Amanda’s contribution.

Let’s get real about the hot mess of spell-check, grammar and editing tools https://redpenofdoom.com/lets-get-real-about-the-hot-mess-of-spell-check-grammar-and-editing-tools/ Given that effective editing is a large chunk of successful writing – I share Guy’s pain in this heartfelt article.

Twisted Conservation Education and Awareness http://chechewinnie.com/twisted-conservation-education-and-awareness/ I enjoy Cheche’s blog, and her insightful observations about conservation in Africa – this disturbing article highlights some of the challenges faced by those trying to make a difference…

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

More SFF Goodness in the Runup to Christmas… Christmas-Holiday Gifts – Science Fiction & Fantasy for Everyone

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My novel Running Out of Space is currently on offer in a giveaway organised by Midwest Journal Press running up to Christmas and so I thought I’d feature a few of the other offerings for you that have caught my eye. I haven’t read any of these yet, but liked the covers and the sound of them.

Arkship Countdown – Prologue to The Arkship Saga by Niel Bushnell
“Dune meets Battlestar Galactica, with a pinch of Asimov thrown in for good measure.”
Earth has been destroyed, the entire solar system turned to dust by a cataclysmic event known as the Fracture. Now, the last survivors of humanity live on vast arkships drifting through the Cluster, doing what they can to survive in a hostile ever-changing environment.

Life on board the Ark Royal Obsidian is a quiet routine for Chief of the engine deck, Bran Colmen. That is until his family is kidnapped and he is forced to steal secrets about the vast arkship’s engines by a covert intruder. As time runs out, Colmen finds himself trapped between saving his family and averting a war that could kill thousands.

Arkship Countdown is the prologue for the epic new series from British author Niel Bushnell.

 

 

Ghenna Dawn – Book 1 of the Portal Wars series by Jay Allan
Erastus. An unimaginable nightmare. A searing hot world, covered with cracked, burning deserts and sweltering jungles. A hostile planet far from Earth, it was the most hellish place men have ever tried to survive. Called Gehenna by the condemned men sent to fight there, it forged the few who survived its murderous battles into the strongest soldiers in history.

Jake Taylor was a New Hampshire farmboy who wanted nothing more than to marry his girlfriend, work on the farm, and maybe one day write a great novel. But mankind was fighting the alien Tegeri and their bio-mechanical cyborg soldiers, and UN Central needed men…men to go to war on hostile worlds like Erastus.

 

 

 

 

Alien Hunters – Book 1 of the Alien Hunters series by Daniel Arenson
The skelkrins. Predators from deep space. Creatures of claws, fangs, and unending malice. They swarm across the galaxy, slaying all in their path. Planets burn in their wake. And now they’re heading to Earth. Raphael “Riff” Starfire commands the Alien Hunters, a group of scruffy mercenaries. Galactic pest controllers, they mostly handle small critters–aliens that clog up your engine pipes, gnaw on your hull, or burrow through your silos. Riff and his crew have never faced anything like the skelkrins before. As these cosmic killers invade our solar system, will Riff be the one hunting aliens . . . or will aliens hunt him?

 

 

 

Planet Emergency by Christian Bæk Hedegaard
Thе соmbinеd bоmbаrdmеnt causes аll сrеаturеѕ on the Earth to ѕwар mindѕ, leaving реорlе in аnimаlѕ, animals in реорlе, men in women аnd сhildrеn in adults. Thе nightmаrе which follows bесоmеѕ a ѕосiаl аnd есоnоmiс саtаѕtrорhе.

#Sci Fi Month – Review of INDIE Ebook The Scent of Metal – Book 1 of the Argonauts of Space series by Sabrina Chase #Brainfluffbookreview #TheScentofMetalbookreview

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Himself reads a lot more than I do – and when I asked him for more science fiction adventures to read in order to celebrate Sci Fi Month, he recommended this book, and given that it’s by the author who has written the enjoyable Sequoyah trilogy – see my review of The Long Way Home here, it was a no-brainer that I’d tuck into this offering.

The expedition ship Kepler races to Pluto, intent on uncovering the secrets of the alien structure recently discovered under the ice. Computer scientist Lea Santorin can’t wait to figure out the alien technology. Instead, she wakes it up … and it continues its long-interrupted journey across the galaxy, taking Lea and Kepler with it.

I really liked Lea, which is important as she is the character that we are connected to throughout this adventure. Chase does a good job of thoroughly establishing Lea’s personality in the opening stages of this book, which I increasingly appreciated as stuff became seriously weird. Lea somehow becomes linked to the alien entity which is Pluto, and there is a nicely creepy section where we are unsure exactly what is going to happen next. I do enjoy space opera adventure when it goes down this path, however, the catch with upping the stakes so that we are increasingly invested in discovering what is going on is that the reveal has to be worth the journey. I’ve read far too many of these types of books where it wasn’t. Fortunately Chase is too experienced and skilful to fall into that trap, so that as the adventure progresses and we get to know more about what is going on, she keeps providing sufficient twists and turns. I love her explanation for why Neanderthals disappeared so abruptly from our planet…

There is also another plotline involving the military detail assigned to look after Lea and the other scientists investigating Kepler, which also gives this adventure more of a military sci-fi feel. The two plotlines merge nicely towards the end and I definitely want to know what happens next, given the rather chilling threat that is revealed at the end of the book.

Chase provides plenty of thrills, spills and nicely nuanced characterisation that held me until the end and definitely makes me want to read on – in short, all the ingredients that make me such a fan of modern space opera. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.
8/10

#Sci Fi Month – Review of INDIE Ebook Battle Cruiser – Book 1 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson #Brainfluffbookreview #BattleCruiserbookreview

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I spotted this one on my Kindle while looking for a good sci fi read and dived in. I’m so glad I did – and I’ll be linking it up with this month’s reading challenge – Sci Fi Month

A century ago our star erupted, destroying Earth’s wormhole network and closing off trade with her colonized planets. After being out of contact with the younger worlds for so many years, Humanity is shocked when a huge ship appears at the edge of the Solar System. Our outdated navy investigates, both curious and fearful.

This is fun! William Sparhawk is an interesting protagonist. Rigid and an unbending follower of the rules, he isn’t your average swashbuckling rebel – or is he? When you put him into the context of a stagnating society with his father the head of one of the main political parties who are arguing hard to cut back on the Star Guard who patrol the solar system. William is expected to serve as his father’s intern, ready to position himself as his father’s successor – after all, he had been partly cloned from his father’s genes. Instead, he joins up the Guard, persisting in serving despite the obvious and continued hostility from his superior officers who are convinced he is spying on behalf of his famous father. However, he isn’t – he genuinely believes in the values and purpose of the Guard and the obstacles placed in his way only harden his resolve to continue serving.

And then a particular mission takes a left turn into the weird… Larson is an experienced, skilled writer and it shows. The pacing, character progression and blending of action and explanation of the world works really well. To be honest, for those who like their worldbuilding detailed, this one will feel a bit fractured as we only see it from William’s viewpoint. But I’m fine with that – this is, after all, a trilogy so there is clearly more to come.

The action sequences in space work really well and as the classic fight against all overwhelming odds kicks off, Larson makes it both believable and gripping. I was genuinely relieved when some of the supporting characters also made it through, as I have a hunch that Larson won’t mind too much if a couple of said characters don’t make it through. As for the romance – I wasn’t quite so invested in it as I didn’t particularly warm to the object of William’s affections. However, that may well be intentional. I’ll find out in the next book – because I’m definitely going to be tracking down the next book in this entertaining series.
9/10

#Sci Fi Month Review of INDIE Ebook On Silver Wings – Book 1 of the Hayden War Cycle series by Evan Currie #Brainfluffbookreview #SciFiMonthOnSilverWingsbookreview

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I’ve enjoyed Currie’s writing – see my review of Heirs of Empire – and this is a series Himself has been nagging suggesting that I read for a while now, so I’m linking my review with Sci Fi Month…

In the future, mankind has colonized other worlds, mined asteroid belts, and sent ships so far into the blackness of space that light from their drives won’t reach Earth for centuries. Through it all, life has been found in almost every system we visited and yet we’ve never encountered another intelligent species. Until now.

When the Colony on the planet known as Hayden’s World stops transmitting on their CASIMIR FTL system, a Solari Fleet Task Force is sent to investigate. When they arrive there are enough oddities in the situation that they in turn send in a special operations unit to contact the colonists and determine what happened. Only one of those operators survives to make planetfall. Sergeant Sorilla Aida finds herself against an alien force of unknown power and capability. Her only assets? A depleted suit of power armor, her rifle, basic kit, and a few hundred Hayden born civilians looking to take back their home. Just what she was trained for.

That is the starting point of the book and the opening sequence is punchy and full of drama. I love Sorilla and the cool high-tech toys she has to play with. I also enjoy the fact that the medical tech is also very whizzy and high-functioning so we don’t have a single soldier going up against a powerful alien enemy with a collection of serious injuries when by rights she shouldn’t be moving from a hospital bed. That’s a scenario I get a tad tired of in this sub-genre at times. Currie is careful to ensure the physical limits of his super-soldier are sufficiently realistic so that while I’m sympathetic and concerned about her pain – I’m not rolling my eyes at being yanked out of the story at the unfeasibility of it all.

Currie also handles the scene changes and inevitably wide cast of characters that have to be involved in this type of scenario without holding up the pace with lengthy info-dumps or those wincing, ‘As you know, Bob…’ conversations. I found some of the early engagements both exciting and the aftermath genuinely poignant. The outcomes matter – not just on an epic Earth-is-at-stake scale, but on the personal level where friends and lovers are lost.

There is plenty of action and tension to make me continue turning the pages in order to find out what happens next in this exciting military sci fi adventure. One of the reasons I wanted to continue turning those pages was to find out more about the mysterious aliens and their terrifying weapons. Currie’s deft handling of the steadily increasing bank of knowledge about these creatures was a major contribution to this enjoyable opener to this series. I now know why Himself kept banging on about it.

Highly recommended for fans of epic and engrossing military science fiction.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 6th November, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Second Star – Book 1 of the Star Svendotter series by Dana Stabenow

42% The worst thing about Charlie was that I couldn’t slug someone that much shorter than I was and look myself in the mirror the next morning. I began to feel that it might be something I could overcome, given time.
Reaching for a cutting board, she took another, closer look at me, and paused with the knife poised over a green pepper. “You look exhausted, Star. What’s really worrying you?”

BLURB: Earth’s first space colony is overrun by spacepirates, politicians and saboteurs. One person dedicates her life to keeping her beloved colony safe: Esther “Star” Svensdotter. She’s dealt with all kinds of human troublemakers, but the rules change when the colony receives its first contact from aliens.

I’ve read and enjoyed Stabenow’s successful best-selling Kate Shugak series – see my review of Less Than Treason. I’d had this space opera adventure on my Kindle for a while and decided to give it a whirl. So far I’m really enjoying Stabenow’s alternative take on our history, if those pesky aliens hanging out in the Beetlejuice sector really had roused themselves to get in touch…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Muse of Nightmares – Book 2 of the Strange the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor #Brainfluffbookreview #MuseofNightmaresbookreview

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I recently completed Strange the Dreamer, the first book in this amazing series and immediately went ahead and bought the second book – I had to know what would happen next…

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old. She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise. She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

That’s as much of the blurb I’m happy to share with you, given that if you have picked up this book without reading the first book, then put it back down and track down Strange the Dreamer. Muse of Nightmares immediately picks up the tale from where Strange the Dreamer left off, so you’ll be floundering without appreciating the full awesome specialness of either Sarai or Lazlo if you try to plunge straight into the middle of this duology.

In this book, we also are introduced to two sisters, Kora and Nova. While Sarai and Lazlo are battling with Minya, we also learn of the hard-scrabbled existence endured by Kora and Nova as their mother was taken by the blue-skinned gods. They are both convinced they are also worthy to serve – that when the time comes, they, too, will be taken away from their cruel step-mother and uncaring father before they end up being married to men old enough to pay for them. And then the silver skyship comes… I particularly love this story arc and would have enjoyed more of it and a little less of the romantic scenes between Lazlo and Sarai. But it is supposedly a YA read, so I’m aware that I’m not the target audience. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, more of an observation.

What I particularly enjoyed was the way the story morphed from being a magical fantasy tale into a science fiction story – and then was linked with the Daughter of Smoke and Bone universe – nicely done! However, I was interested to note that most of the characters – at least the ones we cared about and even some of the ones we didn’t – had their story arcs completed in a more positive manner than I’d been expecting. While I knew that Taylor wasn’t writing grimdark or anything close to it, – I had rather assumed that there would be more losers, given the stakes were so very high and I’m not sure that I was completely convinced by some of the character transformations.

That said, I couldn’t put this one down until I’d finished it and if it didn’t contain quite the same atmosphere and magic of Strange the Dreamer as far as I’m concerned, it is still an amazing read and one I very highly recommend.
9½/10

Teaser Tuesday – 23rd October, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

On Silver Wings – Book 1 of the Hayden War Cycle series by Evan Currie

29% The ship was dead, literally, bodies still strapped into their crash couches with limbs floating freely in the zero gravity. Alexi led the team himself, moving through the ghost ship with a sick feeling forming in the pit of his stomach.

On the bridge, things were the same. Dead officers were slumped over their equipment, some of them with obvious injuries like broken limbs and necks, but most simply still.

“Gott,” one of the crewmen whispered. “What happened?”

“Acceleration,” Alexi said softly, floating over the captain’s console, gently moving the uniformed figure out of the way. “They redlined their drive.”

BLURB: In the future, mankind has colonized other worlds, mined asteroid belts, and sent ships so far into the blackness of space that light from their drives won’t reach Earth for centuries. Through it all, life has been found in almost every system we visited and yet we’ve never encountered another intelligent species.

Until now.

Last week, confined to bed feeling sick and giddy, I read lots of fantasy so I needed a fix of military space opera goodness and decided to go with this one, which I’m thoroughly enjoying so far.

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!