Tag Archives: Mhairi Simpson

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.

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Sunday Post – 26th June

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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.

It’s my birthday, so I shall be conspicuous by my absence today as I’m hosting a family birthday get-together, complete with four generations of the family. Yesterday, we went out for a meal together in Brighton at a vegetarian restaurant, which was lovely. This week has been very busy with all sorts of non-editing activities.

I can’t quite believe it – but I’ve now finished this year’s Creative Writing courses, other than a one-day Summer Surgery course in July. So there has been a tranche of paperwork and admin to wrap it all up that needs to be dealt with. Wednesday night was Northbrook College’s Information Evening, where I met up with my other Adult Learning teaching colleagues as we start looking forward to September’s new courses.

I’m also in the process of changing computers – my desktop was bought in 2010 and works very hard. So as a birthday pressie, I’ve got a spiffy new model with a solid state hard drive which, hopefully will mean I won’t be spending vast acres of my life staring at the screen as it leisurely takes minutes at a time to consider opening up. My marvellous son, who helped me choose it in the first place, has helped me set it up.

I’ve managed to catch up a bit on my reading this week, completing:

City of the Lost – Book 1 of the Casey Duncan series by Kelley Armstrong
Casey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. Since then she’s become a talented police cityofthelostdetective, tethered only to her job, her best friend, Diana, and the occasional evening with her sexy, no-strings-attached ex-con lover, Kurt. But then Casey’s own dark past begins to catch up with her. The two women need to run—and Diana’s heard of a place where they won’t be found, a town especially for people like them…

I thoroughly enjoyed this contemporary murder mystery set in a confined, isolated community under a fair amount of stress – an ideal backdrop for all sorts of high jinks.

 

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
magicbitterMaire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from. When she is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being, she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.
This is a struggle for finding lost identity, with a number of fairy tales stitched into the storyline. I found this an unexpectedly moving and enjoyable read and will certainly be hunting down more books by this interesting author.

 

Demon Road – Book 1 of Demon Road series by Derek Landy
thedemonrdDemon Road kicks off with a shocking opener and never lets up the pace in an epic road-trip across the supernatural landscape of America. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers: they’re all here. And the demons? Well, that’s where Amber comes in…Sixteen years old, smart and spirited, she’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves.

This YA offering isn’t for the faint of heart – full-on, bloody adventure features right from the start. That said, I really enjoyed the protagonist, Amber, and the cast of characters both good and bad who whisk the narrative along at a good clip. But I wouldn’t be happy for a young teen to read it, given the level of violence.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 19th June

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Titanborn by Rhett C. Bruno

Teaser Tuesday – Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

Eve of War is Unleashed…

Review of The Obsession by Norah Roberts

Review of The Passage – Book 1of the The Passage series by Justin Cronin

Friday Faceoff – Armed to the Teeth featuring The Thousand Names – Book 1 of The Shadow Campaigns series by Django Wexler

Review of City of the Lost – Book 1 of the Casey Duncan series by Kelley Armstrong

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

This made me laugh on a rainy Thursday afternoon. Five of the worst ways to ask for print ARCs http://cuddlebuggery.com/blog/2012/06/06/five-of-the-worst-ways-to-ask-for-print-arcs/

I enjoyed reading these nuggets of information about one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. Five Fascinating Facts about A Midsummer Night’s Dream https://interestingliterature.com/2016/06/22/five-fascinating-facts-about-a-midsummer-nights-dream/ …

This is a great article about how the age of the internet can allow us to share those hefty, or tricky reads with someone else. Five Benefits of Buddy-Reading https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/06/23/five-benefits-of-buddy-reading/ …

Steph Bianchini gives us yet another lovely slice of science with this fascinating article.
Skies from other planets – The peaks of eternal light http://earthianhivemind.net/2016/06/21/skies-from-other-planets-the-peaks-of-eternal-light/ …

I loved this pictorial journal of a day trip from another part of the world where I’ve never been. A one day escape… https://indigodrift.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/a-one-day-escape/ …

eve-of-war-finalAnother slice of excitement is that Fox Spirit Books has published Eve of War, a short story anthology of science fiction, fantasy and horror tales of women battling their foes, which includes my own story ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ imagining what happens to Prospero and Miranda after they leave their enchanted island at the end of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.flashfloods

 

For a change, I’m not the only one moaning about the atrocious weather – we have endured some torrential downpours and my heart goes out to the poor souls who have endured flash flooding and damage with lightning strikes. Flaming June for all the wrong reasons…

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

Shoot for the Moon 2016 Challenge – January Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I have set ourselves some crazy writing-related goals over the last several moonyears with variable results. But I have found the experience so very helpful in keeping my focus throughout the year, it was a no-brainer as to what I’d be doing as 2015 sputtered to a close in a flurry of fireworks. So what goals have I set for 2016?

• Publish the Sunblinded trilogy
As some of you know, I was all set to go with this target, having planned to release Running Out of Space in time for Fantasycon 2015 at the end of October – and fell at the last hurdle because I had major problems formatting the book to a suitable standard. And then was ill throughout November with a dreadful cold that would not lift – chiefly due to exhaustion.

However, my clever son has sorted out the formatting issues for me, so I’m hoping to have both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space released together in the first half of 2016, followed by the final book in the trilogy, Breathing Space, in the autumn. I have learnt my lesson, though. No spreading the word about release dates until I have everything set up and ready to go!
It was huge breakthrough to understand what went so wrong and why – not something I’m going to bore you with, seeing as it’s an arcane techie niggle. But it means I should not run into the same problems again!

• 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?

• Complete Chaos in New Cluster
This is the novel my writing pal, Michael Griffiths, and I started in 2014. We still haven’t managed to finish it, but perhaps this will be the year when we can get it completed. It’s not a priority as we both have plenty else to be getting on with.

• Complete Picky Eaters
This is the novella that mushroomed from my short story, published at Every Day Fiction longer ago than I care to think. Another story that wouldn’t rest in my head until I completed the whole tale… While reading it to the grandchildren over the Christmas holidays, I realised there were another couple of plotpoints that needed tidying up, so I have it pencilled into my editing schedule during the summer when I’m not teaching, to have a go at getting it to a publishable standard. All being well, I intend to see if I can self-publish it at the start of December.

• Edit Miranda’s Tempest
This is one of the successes of last year. This novel has been burning a hole in my brain for the best part of a year, after I made a couple of false starts. When teaching The Tempest, I always felt that Miranda sailing off to marry Prince Ferdinand was never going to work – she’s been running around an enchanted island in her father’s cutdown robes since she was a toddler, which simply will not prepare her for surviving life as a 15th century Italian princess. And I finally managed to complete it while I was ill during November, given that I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t seem to concentrate on reading. I now need to knock it into shape so I can send it out to some agents.
I am working through it right now, as it still won’t leave me alone. I’m more than halfway through the manuscript and so far have lost 8 pages as I’m tightening it up and ensuring the language is appropriate for the Shakespearean period. It’s a balancing act to keep the feel of the language without too many forsooths and I prithees cluttering up the narrative drive…

• Submit Miranda’s Tempest and Unearthly Things Above
While submitting my work still happens in fits and starts, rather than the smoothly rolling process I’d planned in theory, it hadn’t been completely discouraging. A number of agents requested to see the full manuscript of Mantivore Dreams and said nice things about my writing. Meanwhile Netted is under consideration by a publisher. I don’t want to say more at this stage, but I plan to send out Miranda’s Tempest and Unearthly Things Above as soon as they are suitably shiny and good to go.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
As 2015 was the second year in a row that I nailed this challenge, I’ve decided to fine-tune it. While I don’t want to extend the number of books I read and review, I am going to apply for more Netgalley ARCs and read and review more new releases. There is a real buzz about doing this – and as reading is my main hobby, increasing the excitement and fun can only be a good thing. I’ve also already signed up to the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s thoughtful post – read it here – which is to read and review at least one female author I haven’t read before per month, then report back in a specific blog, which should keep me on the ball…
I wrote 12 reviews during January, which came to just over 10,915 words. Half the books I completed were by authors I hadn’t previously read and five were new releases. I don’t think for a second that I shall be able to sustain those shiny stats – the slew of new releases were affordable due to Amazon vouchers and book tokens as Christmas gifts. But I am hoping to be able to continue to read and review at least two female authors new to me every month.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I have next year’s courses sorted out, but during the second half of the term I will be submitting them for approval to Northbrook College. I really would like to have the course notes and plans written by the end of the summer holidays, and so long as I work hard, that should be doable.
So far this term is going well – although a number of students have gone down with various bugs and illnesses and I’ll be glad when they have all recovered!

• Work on the teaching syllabus for TW
Since taking on teaching my friend’s son, County have given the go-ahead for the current situation to prevail. So we are now getting organised to start teaching him the English GCSE syllabus and I will be taking responsibility for the planning and delivery of both the English Language and Literature. This is hugely challenging – but also extremely exciting as only a few years ago, no one would have thought he would be in a position to consider taking such qualifications due to his autism.
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, which left me with ongoing sciatica that meant I was a constant visitor to the Physio. Doubtless spending hours in front of the computer aggravated the situation, but I found I couldn’t go on long walks, swim or spend an undue amount of time gardening. Then last year, Mhairi suggested I get a TENS machine to see if it would improve the nerve pain during yet another flare-up that was making my life a misery. It worked! Last June, I spent the day at Kew Gardens for my birthday treat, walking up the stairs in the Palm House and around the grounds without so much as a twinge.
I’ve now been signed off by the Physio and am on my second course of Pilates – yay! Himself and I have also started hiking again, albeit gently. But it’s marvellous – I feel I’ve got my life back. My ambition is to resume my regular swims, which I used to enjoy and increase the distance I can walk. And in case you’re wondering how this impacts my writing – it’s huge. I used to battle through the nerve pain to write, and now I don’t have to, it is such a wonderful relief…

Those are my 2016 Shoot for the Moon Challenges. Wish me luck!

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – How Did I Do?

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Thanks to the success of this form of goal-setting, concocted by writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and moonme one New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago when we were slightly the worse for wear – this has now become an integral part of my writing process. The theory is that I set myself some crazily ambitious targets and while striving for those, achieve more than I would have done, had I been more sensible. Um. Yes, I know… But it made sense at the time, when you consider we were both rather the worse for wear – and it has proved to be a very successful strategy for improving my productivity. Question is, did I achieve my targets for 2015?

• The Challenge – Publish Running Out of Space
Nope. This was a decided fail and when it happened, felt like a devastating blow. I had intended – and announced – that I would self publish Running Out of Space, Book 1 of The Sunblinded in time for Fantasycon at the end of October. And I was fully geared up to do so – but fell at the very last fence due to a major glitch in getting it formatted. It was a nightmare, with the clock ticking and convinced it would only take one more major effort, I pulled three 20-hour days in a row trying to get it right. Only to face the fact that it just wasn’t going to happen – unless I shrugged my shoulders and let those occasional bolding/italicization errors remain. I was tempted. Truly. But when I went back to the uploaded version on my Kindle, I felt vaguely sick every time I flipped through the pages and came to those particular passages and knew that feeling would intensify tenfold if I took the decision to publish with those errors in place. So I took the decision not to do so and set off for Fantasycon without having Running Out of Space live and available. It hurt. So much so, that I woke up on the last day of the conference with a heavy head cold that lasted six weeks – and I think the fact it lasted so long was due to exhaustion, both physical and emotional.
However, I take comfort from the knowledge that I made the right decision – and that if I had gone ahead and published Running Out of Space with those errors in place, I would have bitterly regretted it.

• The Challenge – Complete first draft of Miranda’s Tempest
Yes – I managed to achieve this one. Ironically when I was so ill throughout November, I couldn’t sleep much or read – but the one thing that alleviated the misery was writing. So I dived back into this world which has been burning a steady hole in the back of my brain since I started it over a year ago and couldn’t get it right. I went back to the beginning and did a major rewrite, then powered on until I completed the manuscript. It is the most ambitious book I’ve attempted to date.
When teaching Shakespeare’s The Tempest as part of the GCSE syllabus, I always wondered about poor little Miranda. She has been running around an enchanted island, playing with spirits since she was three-years-old. And now, engaged to Prince Ferdinand of Naples, she is sailing off to become a 16th century princess in an Italian court. I never saw that one ending well… So I wrote her adventures, first as a short story, and then when the idea still wouldn’t leave me alone, made a start on the novel. I feel delighted I’ve managed to finish the first draft and am currently working on fine-tuning it, ready for submission.

• The Challenge – complete Chaos in New Cluster
This is the book my pal Michael Griffiths and me started writing a while ago, now. We are really, truly now on the last lap – but Mike has a new baby, so it is not a surprise that this one is still on the backburner. But the nice thing about this project is that it has been written in amongst all our individual writing activities, so if it takes a tad longer before it sees the light of day – so be it. It’s a bonus any way you look at it.

• The Challenge – Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
Done. Actually, I wrote 108 reviews, after reading 121 books, so I only achieved it by the skin of my teeth. This is the one target I haven’t bothered to strive for – I enjoy writing book reviews and I read for pleasure. It was a target I’d set in 2014 and achieved, so there was no point in changing it. But if I hadn’t met it, I wouldn’t have been unduly worried.

• The Challenge – Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for 2015/16
Done. I didn’t manage to get the courses written during the summer, as I had wanted, because I was busy on the final edits of Running Out of Space. In addition I was also very busy Grannying, which tends to drive a coach and horse through all my writing schedules. But I had a successful teaching year, with some new tweaks to make the classes more interactive which have proved popular and I’m pleased to say that both current courses are full.

• The Challenge – Submit Mantivore Eyes and Netted
Those of you kind enough to closely follow my blog will know this has been a major block for me – I am reasonably productive, but not terribly good at getting my work ‘out there’. I resolved to submit my work to at least 50 agents. And no – I didn’t achieve those numbers, BUT I did send out both manuscripts and received a number of nicely worded rejections along the lines of ‘this one isn’t for us, but please bear us in mind for your next project…’ and both manuscripts are currently under consideration.

Overall, despite the mess-up with Running Out of Space, it was a successful year for my writing. And the very good news is that my clever son managed to untangle the formatting issue for me over the Christmas holidays. As for my 2016 targets – I will be posting those at the end of January.

Dragon’s Loyalty Award

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I am delighted to accept Charles French’s nomination for the wonderfully named Dragon’s Loyalty Award. Charles French’s Words Reading and Writing blog is subtitled ‘And exploration of writing and reading’ which nicely sums up his whole approach, so it’s not a surprise that he is rapidly growing in popularity with his series of readable and informative articles that he publishes. He is also has a delightfully friendly, inclusive approach which guarantees a dragonawardwarm welcome to any passing visitor. If you haven’t already dropped in, I recommend you do so.

Meanwhile I have this Dragon Loyalty Award, thanks to Charles. The rules are:-

* Display the award certificate on your website.

* Announce your win with a post, and link to whomever presented your award.

* Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers.

* Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post.

* Post 7 interesting things about yourself.

So, my 15 nominees are:-

Mhairi Simpson – Crazy Creative

Lizzie Baldwin – My Little Book Blog

Sara Letourneau’s Official Website & Blog

Michael D. Griffiths – Yig Prime

Joanna Maciejewska – Melfka

Sophie E. Tallis

Leiah Cooper – So I Read This Book Today

From Couch to Moon

Anastasia – Read and Survive

Zeke Teflon – Rip-roaring reviews

D. Parker – yadadarcyyada

Ionia Martin – Readful Things Blog

Siamese Mayhem – Musings on YA novels and pop culture

Humanity’s Darker Side – A book review blog

Dr Suzanne Conboy-Hill

Seven Interesting Things About Me – hm… it’s debatable whether the facts below are remotely interesting, but I tried to dredge up details many of my online friends wouldn’t necessarily know about me.

1. I spent a chunk of my childhood in Zambia, and when living with my grandparents I first flew unaccompanied from England to visit my parents in Africa when I was 8.

2. As a left-hander, I turn the paper sideways and write from top to bottom, a strategy I adopted at school to avoid smudging my writing.

3. I’m a writing addict and if I go more than 3 days without putting keyboard to paper, I turn a tad unreasonable.

4. I was born on a Wednesday and so were both of my children and my granddaughter.

5. I am the ultimate monotasker – the multi-tasking skill women are supposed to be endowed with has completely by-passed me.

6. I’m an insomniac.

7. I visualise each of my books as colours when I’m writing them.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – April Roundup

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At the end of last year, I and Mhairi Simpson decided to aim for insanely ambitious targets, using the theory that in an effort to achieve them, we would get more done than if we had been more sensible in our goal-setting. It does make more sense as a strategy at 3 am after having downed several mugs of strong Assam – really… So how are things working out?

  • I am giving myself a rest from editing both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space as I’d got to a point where I couldn’t see the story for the words… Challenge – have both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space completed, including edits, by the end of April – In Progress.
  • I wrote 12 reviews in April and am now posting something on my blog every day – including my reviews. Challenge – to write and publish 100 book reviews in 2014 on my blog. For the 4th month in a row, this target is on track…
  •  My Summer Term Creative Writing courses started this week, so I am still working on the related admin. In April, I ran a Therapeutic Life Writing 1 day course with a colleague, who is also a trained counsellor – it was an amazing roller-coaster experience, and we have had some very positive feedback so now want to make it a regular occurrence for those who attended. Challenge – to run our 1 Day Therapeutic Life Writing course. Lyn and I have been working on this for over a year and were excited about its power to help people in a difficult place emotionally. I am very proud that we successfully started this project – and I couldn’t wish for a better partner. Achieved and ongoing.
  • West Sussex Writers ran a national Short Story competition with a 3,000 word limit – no, I didn’t submit (more on that later…). As a member of the committee, I was part of the reading team tasked with compiling the long list, so during April ended up reading fifty-something short stories and marking them. It has taken up a lot of time, as obviously, it isn’t something to be rushed. Our team have now completed the first read-through, and will shortly be working on the long list. Challenge – to read and mark entries for the West Sussex Writers’ National Short Story Competition. In Progress.
  • I am team-writing a book with author Michael D. Griffiths moon– we started a crazy thread when we both were members of SFReader.com and found that we thoroughly enjoyed the fact that when we write together, we produce something completely different from our normal output. This was a book we started a couple of years ago – since then Life has intruded and we haven’t managed to complete it as fast as we would have liked. But Chaos in New Cluster is now approaching the final climax and I am working on Chapter 21. Hope to have it back to Mike within the next couple of weeks. Challenge – to finish the first draft of Chaos in New Cluster during 2014. In Progress.
  • I undertook to submit all my short fiction and poetry to magazines or competitions and this month I’ve failed AGAIN. Miserably… I MUST knuckle down and put in the hours it takes to comb through and find suitable markets, then edit/adjust my work accordingly. AND SEND IT OUT! Challenge – to submit all my short fiction and poetry to magazines or competitions. Failed AGAIN!!

During April, I wrote a paltry 15,000 words, most of which were book reviews, taking my yearly total to a mere 88,500 words. Have to say, I’ve been trudging towards the computer these last couple of weeks as the admin tasks have stacked up. So instead of being all sensible about clearing the decks, etc – after writing this, my instinct is just to plunge into Breathing Space as the buzz of writing will probably mean I’ll power through the admin that at present seems like a dreary slog.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – March Roundup

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At the end of last year, Mhairi Simpson and I decided to really go for it in 2014 and give ourselves a stupidly ambitious set of goals that we would inevitably miss – but in doing so would still be far ahead of where we’d be if we’d played safer… Have to say, there are times when explaining it to other people, I realise the pair of us might have been a bit more stoked on Very Strong Tea (we’re both addicts) than we were aware of.

• I seem to have been stuck in Editland forever… I’m now working through Dying for Space, the second book in the Sunblinded moontrilogy. I spent a week going through Running Out of Space, the first book, and will return to it again. I find it easier to edit if I focus on a particular issue – like checking that all commas and full stops are in the right place in dialogue scenes, for instance. I have to be sharp when editing, and this month I’ve been spending a lot of time painting a garden fence that seems to morph into the Great Wall of China as soon as I pick up the brush. It’s taking a looong time – a bit like the editing. I’m hoping to have Running Out of Space as error-free as I can make it by the end of April. Dying for Space may take a bit longer.
Challenge – Have both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space edited, ready for publication by the end of April. In progress.

• I set myself a random challenge – to write and publish a 100 book reviews during 2014, confident that this is one I would miss by a mile. Yet I am bang on target – still! I wrote 12 reviews this month. I still think that this is one that will slip as the year progresses – during March I took an extra Creative Writing class and in the period between the afternoon and evening sessions, I’ve been relaxing and reading, instead of slogging through the rush hour traffic home and back again.
Challenge – Write and publish 100 book reviews this year. I’m on target with my reading and writing – but slightly behind with my publishing schedule.

• Next term’s course notes and lesson plans are completed and photocopied. Just as well – both classes are full… I just have to update my Scheme of Work, which is one of the chores for the Easter break.

• I’ve now got an Excel spreadsheet set up to keep track of my short fiction and poetry submissions, and have made a start, albeit paltry – 3 stories and 1 poem are Out There. Promise to do better during April!
Challenge – submit all my unpublished short stories and poems. In progress.

During March, I wrote 24,500 words. Most of this word count went towards writing my course notes and lesson plans and the rest was my blog, bringing my current yearly total to 74,300 words.

Review of EBOOK short story Hookers and Blowe by Mhairi Simpson

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My pal Mhairi Simpson’s short story was on my To Read list and during a train journey to London, I decided to give myself a treat. Firstly, let’s get the business of the title out of the way first. While this story is aimed at an adult audience, it’s not ‘adult’. And certainly not about the sex trade and illegal nasal substances – sorry if you were suddenly excited, there…

hookers & bloweDetective Constable Robert Blowe has put away more criminals than most of his colleagues combined, but in a world of plea bargains and witness protection, he’s starting to wonder what the point is. His fatigue on the job gets worse when a murder of a local drug lord has Blowe on the back-foot and searching for answers to questions that go back to his childhood—to the scene of his own father’s killing. The murderer is no average criminal and seemingly always one step ahead. You can’t touch it, let alone cuff it, and if you see it, it’s probably after you. Blowe is the only person ever to survive an encounter with the shadowy killer. That was over thirty years ago—a distant memory. Until now. Blowe isn’t one to hide from a challenge, however, and with the aid of a peculiar informant, a little faith, and a considerable amount of guts he faces down his nemesis. If he doesn’t stop it then no one will.

And there you are – the hardbitten lawman finds himself confronted with a shadowy murderer who targets those who have crossed the line, themselves. Simpson’s prose is always enjoyable – her style has plenty of bounce and some nicely noirish images. I quickly got caught up into the story and found Blowe a sympathetic protagonist – but also was interested with the moral conundrum that Simpson sets. In an environment where the hardened criminal seems to be able to operate with impunity, is it so terrible if some shadowy vigilante picks off the occasional lawbreaker? And if the collateral damage is that occasionally an innocent gets caught up, as well – maybe that’s just the price to pay for having someone/thing out there that gives the wicked pause for thought…

Simpson manages to pack a lot into this short story, which kept me engrossed right up to the end – and wanting more when I reached the end. Looking forward to reading her first full-length novel…
8/10

Review of INDIE KINDLE story The Scent of Freedom by Mhairi Simpson

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Mhairi Simpson is a pal and fellow writer – we knock about writing ideas together, but this was the first time I’d read any of her completed work. Would I find this 8,000 word story as compelling as the idea she had outlined to me?

scent of freedomAfter thirty years hunting demons, the Hunter needs just two more. Two more dead demons and the family debt will be repaid. But when an old friend gets in the way, she must make a choice: to save him or her honour.

Written in first person POV, the inhuman protagonist is tracking a vicious murderer and Simpson immediately pulled me into her world. Her snappy writing style and vivid depiction of the crime scene, along with the dilemma facing the Hunter had me turning the pages, wanting to discover what would happen next. It takes a great deal more skill to write a successful short story than it does to write a novel – many bestselling, readable novels can get away with thin characterisation, or clunky dialogue, so long as the author provides a sufficiently compelling storyline. However, in a short story if the character isn’t convincing; or the backdrop sufficiently developed; or the dialogue sharp and realistic; or the storyline strong with a satisfying ending – then it fails. There simply isn’t time to compensate for such shortfalls in writing technique in a short story.

Simpson manages to fully deliver – the Hunter’s reliance on her sense of smell gave the story an intriguing feeling of ‘other’ that is always important when creating an alien character. The increasing tension as Hunter struggles to track down the perpetrator of a gory murder, with the frozen park providing an excellent backdrop to the action, provides narrative tension in spades.

I’m not going to discuss the ending, other than to say that it worked and left me wanting a lot more from this world. A superb slice of writing.
9/10