Tag Archives: Celtic myths

Shoot for the Moon 2018 Challenge – February Roundup

Standard

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.

Review of World’s End – Book 1 of The Age of Misrule trilogy by Mark Chadbourn

Standard

All over the country, the ancient gods of Celtic myth are returning to the land from which they were banished millennia ago. Following in their footsteps are creatures of folklore: the Fabulous Beasts, shapeshifters and Night Walkers. Five flawed humans, named as Brothers and Sisters of Dragons but barely understanding what that entails, are drawn together on a desperate quest: to find four magickal talismans needed to fight the powers of old. As time draws short and the modern world falls into twilight, humanity looks set to be swept away in the terrible dawning of a new Dark Age.

This gripping mytho-fantasy isn’t set in some mythological land – this is Britain complete with motorways and actual cities, towns andworldsend villages with recognisable landmarks used as the backdrop to this quest. And don’t let the slightly high-flown language and capitals on the back cover blurb fool you into thinking that this is some polite version of a knightly tale brought into a contemporary setting. Chadbourn produces a couple of set pieces that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror book with his ability to depict chilling evil in all its bloody violence. However, this isn’t some gratuitous gorefest. As we follow the chosen five protagonists, all with troubled pasts, we get to know them and Tom, their reluctant, cranky guide. In fact, cranky sums up the relationship between these five different personalities as they careen across the British countryside in a desperate search for these ancient talismans, not even fully convinced that what they’re doing makes sense. It is in sharp and refreshing contrast to all those epic tales where everyone was courageously jolly.

There is more than a nod to the past in this tale, though. Even the name of the main protagonist – Jack Churchill – reprises echoes of another time in Britain’s history when her people were fighting for their existence. And that is the other main character in this story – the British landscape. I didn’t have to read that Chadbourn had spent six months tracing the best route for his characters to take from the south coast, right up into Scotland – it sings out of the pages in a hundred details that help depict the story in three-dimensional clarity.

Britain is drenched in history – for millennia our ancestors have roamed, settled, farmed and worshipped here. Placenames, pre-Roman roads, forts and settlements dot the completely manmade landscape. And in Chadbourn, we have an author whose detailed knowledge of the past has used this amazing backdrop to wonderful effect. The only criticism I could find was from an American who commented that he would have preferred some of the action to have been set in another country – which would have had the effect of shifting The Grapes of Wrath to Hawaii.

What Chadbourn doesn’t do with his vivid scene setting and in-depth mining of the Celtic myths, is hold up the action. This plot takes a bit of time to get going, as we learn about Ruth and Jack and what is driving them, but once we have the electrifying scene on the M4 depicted on the front cover, the pace goes on gathering momentum as the stakes are steadily raised.

As you might have guessed by now, I really enjoyed this one. It was wonderful to be able to so clearly imagine the different backdrops to the action with the braiding of Celtic mystery through the modern landscape, shot through with dread and fear. I’ll have to now track down the next two in the trilogy…
10/10