Tag Archives: Miranda’s Tempest

AUTHOR ANNALS #2 – WRITING RETREAT #Brainfluffauthorannals

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I was fortunate enough to be invited to go on a writing retreat with some of my writing group members. I’ve been part of this group now for nearly ten years and we try to meet up twice a month over tea and cake every other Wednesday evening to share each other’s work and provide constructive, but honest criticism.

This retreat was at a converted barn with 8 double bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms. Six of us were there for most of the week, while three others joined us for part of the week. The barn was tucked away down winding single-track roads etched into the red West Country earth at a farm on Exmoor near the hamlet of Roadwater. The weather was fabulous, so we’d aim to write from 9.30 am, stop for lunch at 1 pm and go for a walk at between 4-4.30 pm, though I only broke off a couple of days for the walk. And then we generally stopped writing at about 6 pm and took turns to prepare the wonderful meals organised and provisioned by Sarah Palmer, who not only organised the whole thing, but happens to be a fabulous cook. After clearing up, we sat around the table and read our work aloud to each other and gained valuable feedback. We then played quizzes or chatted until going to bed, before repeating the whole process again the next day. Bliss…

My bedroom view was across the lawns to the main farmhouse, with a large lavender bush right outside the door opening onto the gardens, which was open most afternoons because otherwise it was too hot. It was so lovely – this was where I chose to write

The internet connection was practically non-existent in the barn, apart from the occasional text and if we wanted to make a phone call we had to climb the hill at the back of the property. I found this a huge advantage, though others weren’t so impressed, but it meant that there was no question of messing around on the internet in displacement activities – it was all about the writing.

It’s been such a treat to have spent that amount of time as a writer – the part that often gets tucked away until the end of a busy day, or squeezed between other chores – that I’m very aware just how very lucky I’ve been to have such a wonderful opportunity. But did I make the most of it? Nope. I made some fundamental mistakes that meant I didn’t make as much progress as I should have.

The biggest problem was my lack of preparation. During the last year, I’ve published a space opera adventure The Sunblinded trilogy, which meant I spent hours in the head of my main protagonist, Lizzy and immersed in the world. I don’t know what made me think that I’d be able to seamlessly switch into Kyrillia’s viewpoint in Mantivore Preys and absorb all the details, backstories and most importantly of all – the speech rhythms and dialect differences of Arcadia without at least rereading the first book, Mantivore Dreams. But I didn’t and I paid the price. While Felina, the protagonist who made a takeover bid for the book during my last retreat, had poured from my fingertips, Kyrillia didn’t. The going was slow and I kept having to break off to check up on various details.

That said, having read several scenes to the group, who gave me suitable feedback, I’ve returned from Somerset with a stronger start to the book. And while I was there, I also had an epiphany regarding Miranda’s Tempest which is currently on the backburner, until the Arcadian trilogy is finished.

But the biggest advantage was to get a break from my everyday life in a setting that made me feel happy and peaceful, with the mental space to realise that my current work rate simply isn’t sustainable. I need more sleep and fewer hours in front of the computer – I suspect my raised blood pressure is part of that problem, too. So now I’m back home, I hoping to put in place some major changes… watch this space!

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Sunday Post – 15th April, 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.

In the event, we didn’t make Highdown Gardens last weekend as the wind and rain was unceasing – until the grandchildren went home on Tuesday morning, when a rather watery sun appeared. In something approaching desperation, on Monday I took them to see Peter Rabbit at the local cinema. They were underwhelmed and I’m sure that odd scuffling sound I could hear was poor Beatrix Potter spinning in her grave…

I’ve continued to make progress with Miranda’s Tempest – to the extent that Himself is trudging through the manuscript, looking for the inevitable mistakes and plotholes. Oh, the things that we writers put our long-suffering spouses through… It was back to Pilates and Fitstep on Wednesday morning, so I have been working through the subsequent stiffness as throughout the holiday period I’ve been wearing out my glutes on the typing chair. On Wednesday evening, I was invited to a meal with some writing pals, where we ate an excellent vegetarian casserole – I’ve already nicked the recipe and will be trying it out very soon – and read aloud our current WIPs. It was a wonderful evening – I’m very lucky to have such lovely friends and thank you, Sandra, for being a fabulous host.

On Thursday, Mhairi came over. Her arm is still in a sling, but I’m mightily impressed at just how much she can now do singled-handed. We went out for lunch and discussed books and advertising campaigns – after which she decided that I needed space vessels on my spiffy new covers. Running Out of Space is now up with the latest improvement and I’m thrilled with it. Dying for Space should be appearing, complete with exploding space yacht, in the coming week. Friday was destined to be a day where I cleared a lot of routine admin in preparation for my catch-up class on Tuesday – but Sky evidently had plans of their own as the internet went down without any warning and it wasn’t until some two hours later that I realised it wasn’t anything to do with me or my equipment. Thank you Sky for the non-notification! I now need to crack on over the weekend to ensure I stay on schedule with my workload and get everything done before the end of my Easter break.

This week I have read:

The Ashes of London – Book 1 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor

London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer.

In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back.

Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters…
This well-written, historical murder mystery set during the time of the Great Fire of London held me throughout as Taylor’s vivid depiction of this difficult political period gives a wonderful backdrop to the crime. I’ll definitely be looking out for the next book in this series.

The Blood – Book 3 in the Jem Flockhart series by E.S. Thomson

Summoned to the riverside by the desperate, scribbled note of an old friend, Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain find themselves on board the seamen’s floating hospital, an old hulk known only as The Blood, where prejudice, ambition and murder seethe beneath a veneer of medical respectability.
Yep. Two historical murder mysteries set in London in a row… It doesn’t happen to me all that often, given that my go-to genres are science fiction and fantasy. But this was an amazing read – I’m still reeling from the vivid portrayal of the hospital ship peopled with some strongly eccentric characters that wouldn’t look out of place in a Dickensian novel. I now need to go back and find the previous books in this engrossing series – though this book could easily be read as a standalone.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 8th April 2018

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

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Blood – Book 3 of the Jem Flockhart series by E.S. Thomson

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Obscura by Joe Hart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of School for Psychics – Book 1 of the School for Psychics series by K.C. Archer

Friday Face-off – The more I see, the less I know for sure… featuring Cryoburn – Book 14 in the Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

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

#Music & ComicArt Help Fill The #Imagination Room for #Writers https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/04/12/music-comicart-help-fill-the-imagination-room-for-writers/ Once again, this clever and amusing author has some insights on the process of writing that I’ve found really helpful…

Bullet Through Apple (detail) https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/bullet-through-apple-detail/ What a fascinating pic…

Exasperating Men https://readlorigreer.com/2018/04/12/exasperating-men/ This thoughtful article pinpoints the reluctance of many men to take themselves off to the doctor for necessary medical attention – with sometimes fatal results…

10 of the Best Poems About Music https://interestingliterature.com/2018/04/11/10-of-the-best-poems-about-music/ Another cracking list of enjoyable poems from this excellent site.

A Flying Visit – Seeing the Details https://scvincent.com/2018/04/06/a-flying-visit-seeing-the-details/ Sue Vincent features some delightful details on a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon. This is a gem…

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

Sunday Post – 8th April, 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.

We had a fairly quiet Easter week-end, partly due to the weather which was atrocious. It rained unceasingly with a biting wind. We hunkered down indoors and I appreciated not having to turn out for lessons and plunged back into bleeping Miranda’s Tempest. This book is driving me crazy – as soon as I think I’ve nailed the story, another aspect suddenly occurs and I need to add that into the mix. I managed to get to my writer’s group on Wednesday evening. It was the first time I’ve made it in a month, where – after regaling my long-suffering writing buddies with yet another instalment – we were wondering whether turning Miranda into a porn story would work. Lots of hilarity ensued when we worked out that a number of torrid sex scenes could be set on the good ship Titania, culminating in the underwater orgy involving nereids… I really needed that chance to laugh at the whole thing and I don’t think it was an accident that the next time I got a real run at it, the writing suddenly went a lot better. Bless them – nothing like friends to help ground you…

And talking of friends – my mate Mhairi came over on Thursday with her arm in a sling, having broken her radius. It was great seeing her and having a chance catch up. Other than that, I’ve been working and spending time with my sister, popping out for cups of tea and the occasional sticky bun. We haven’t yet got to Highdown Gardens to see the spring flowers because I’m not up for trudging in the rain or braving the biting wind. We have the grandchildren staying over this week-end and we’re hoping to get there today – fingers crossed! In the meantime, have a lovely week and I hope Spring is finally warming up with you – it’s still on the chilly side here.

 

This week I have read:

Remnants of Trust – Book 2 of the Central Corps novels by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Six weeks ago, Commander Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster were court-martialed for their role in an event Central Corp denies ever happened. Yet instead of a dishonorable discharge or time in a military prison, Shaw and Foster and are now back together on Galileo. As punishment, they’ve been assigned to patrol the nearly empty space of the Third Sector.

But their mundane mission quickly turns treacherous when the Galileo picks up a distress call: Exeter, a sister ship, is under attack from raiders.
I love a really quality space opera adventure where characterisation powers the story through a detailed, interesting world – and that’s exactly what I’ve got with this engrossing second book. I’m delighted that the third one will shortly be on the library shelves, ready for me to scoop up.

 

School for Psychics – Book 1 in the School for Psychics series by K.C. Archer

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic.

When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.
I’ve always got a soft spot for school–based adventures and I enjoyed this one, too. Though there were times when I did wonder a bit about the behaviour of the protagonist – she seems very impulsive and rather self destructive in her behaviour. But as the story progresses some intriguing aspects surface and she matures sufficiently to start trusting the team of friends and colleagues around her. I am keen to know how the dangling plotpoint will play out in the next slice of this adventure.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 1st April 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts

Teaser Tuesday featuring School for Psychics – Book 1 of the School for Psychics series by K.C. Archer

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna

Friday Face-off – It’s a family affair… featuring The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein

Review of Children of the Shaman – Book 1 of the Children of the Shaman series by Jessica Rydill

Running Out of Space is free today!

 

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

A Dictionary of Unusual and Preposterous Words https://interestingliterature.com/2018/04/06/a-dictionary-of-unusual-and-preposterous-words/ If you are remotely interested in words, then this is something to check out…

Fatalism and Futility in Film Noir https://silverscreenclassicsblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/fatalism-and-futility-in-film-noir/ This is a fascinating indepth article I came across that will interest anyone who loves the film noir genre.

Why are reviews unpopular as blog posts? #Bookblogger #Bookbloggers #Blogger #Bloggers #Blog https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/why-are-reviews-unpopular-as-blog-posts-bookblogger-bookbloggers-blogger-bloggers-blog/ An interesting – and slightly depressing post – for those of us who write LOTS of books review…

Romance in Fantasy: Love is Not Dumb, it’s Dopamine http://fantasy-hive.co.uk/2018/03/romance-in-fantasy-love-is-not-dumb-its-dopamine/ I found this article really interesting – if you are a fantasy fan, it’s worth reading…

A Follycon comedy video and a podcast on The Green Man’s Heir http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2914 This is an article from Juliet McKenna, just pleased at the reaction for her stormingly good novel The Green Man’s Heir – but please also check in for the spoof panel on Men in Science Fiction Writing. Hilarious, but also with a real point to make. I haven’t seen women patronised to QUITE this extent over the years on panels at Cons – but at times, it’s been very close…

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

Sunday Post – 25th March, 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’m a day late with this as on Saturday evening my sister was admitted to hospital. She is still there under observation and recovering. As we also had the children staying over, it was a difficult time and yesterday there simply wasn’t space to post – and frankly it wasn’t on my list of priorities…

Thank goodness, no snow this week! For which I’m very grateful, though it hasn’t been all that warm, either… Last Sunday, I decided I was within touching distance of the end of the major rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest and given I didn’t have headspace for anything else, I just went for it. It turns out that I wasn’t as close as I thought, because I finally got to type THE END at 4.30 am on Monday morning. This was a really stupid move on my part, because I was teaching on Monday morning and in the evening until 9 pm, so there wasn’t much opportunity to catch up on my lost sleep. Indeed, I’ve been suffering from the effects of that missed night’s sleep for most of the week – tinnitus… buzzy… bad memory… sugar cravings… It’s easy to be wise after the event, because the novel was literally driving me crazy – though now I’ve a completed manuscript, I can now get a better feel of exactly where I want it to go and where to push the focus.

On Wednesday after Pilates and Fitstep, my sister, Himself and I had lunch together and arranged that as we were travelling to Ringwood on Thursday to visit my in-laws, we’d give my sister a lift so she could visit Mum, who lives less than ten minutes away from Himself’s parents. We had a lovely day visiting them, though the wind was bitterly cold in Fordingbridge where we had lunch – at least it didn’t rain. On Friday, we collected the grandchildren in the afternoon and in the evening Frances and I went over to see the first rough cut of Hoodwinked as Tim is in the last stages of editing it – a massive achievement. I was so very impressed with the way he’s put it together. There is something wonderful about the energy and strong emotional story, which the constant comedy running through the dialogue that had me laughing out loud more than once, despite editing the script and helping with the directing. On Saturday, we took Tim with us to see A Wrinkle in Time at the cinema, which we all enjoyed. While the story was somewhat predictable, what salvaged this for me was the quality of the performances, particularly by the children.

This week I have read:

The Cold Between – Book 1 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel
Commander Elena Shaw is in dire need of shore leave and has tagged along with her firm friend Jessica to a bar that was recommended as ideal for visitors wanting a bit of fun, yet off the tourist trail. But when it comes to it – she finds she would rather be back on board and is just considering leaving, when an intriguing man starts to talk to her. A man that snags her interest, to the extent that she is able to ignore the fact that he is wearing the wrong uniform…
Don’t read the blurb as it gives away far too many of the main plot points in the first quarter of the story – I’ve made up my own. What I would add is that despite that opener – this isn’t primarily a romance, it’s a space opera adventure, though there is a romantic thread running through it. It’s also great fun and highly recommended.

 

Burn Bright – Book 6 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Brigg

They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm. With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…
I loved this one – and what really impressed me is that without having read any of the others in the series, I was able to pick up the book and immediately get drawn into the world. And it was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure, too…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 18h March 2018

Review of Virology – Book 2 of the Shock Pao series by Ren Warom

Teaser Tuesday featuring Burn Bright – Book 6 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Review of The Stone Sky – Book 3 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

Friday Face-off – Be a tower firmly set… featuring The Black Tower – Book 6 of the Adam Dalgliesh series by P.D. James

2018 Shoot for the Moon Challenge – February roundup

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

A woman’s work is never done, so why bother? https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/a-womans-work-is-never-done-so-why-bother/ This is a philosophy that I thoroughly subscribe to – be warned if you are inclined to visit…

Badass Book Smugglers – a historical reality? http://avalinahsbooks.space/discussion-badass-book-smugglers-historical-reality/ I loved reading this amazing story of resistance and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

80 Years of Caldecott Winners https://jenniefitzkee.com/2018/03/19/80-years-of-caldecott-winners/ This impressive list of outstanding children’s books is worth a visit, even if there aren’t any small people in your life requiring the written word…

Birds of the Far South (Pt.II) https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/bird-of-the-far-south-pt-ii/ For the bird lovers among you – or those that appreciate a wonderful photograph.

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 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.

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 – September 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 of every month to hold myself accountable for these targets.

How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets now we are three-quarters through the year?

• 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.
If you’ve been following this one, you’ll know I sent Miranda’s Tempest back to the agent after a rewrite. She sent back more notes and helpful advice on how I could further improve it. This is such a help, but I need to put it on one side just for a while to give myself some perspective before tucking back into it. Anyway, this is such a busy month as I’m back in the thick of it with starting back at Northbook and once again restarting my sessions with Tim.

• Get my courses ready to start the new year at Northbook
While I wrote the new course ‘How to Write Believable Characters’ during August, there is a host of admin tasks and extra handouts that need to be written before I start work on the lesson plans and print out the course notes and writing exercises.

• 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 September, I read 15 books, reviewed 13 of them and DNF’d 2 more. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 136. As for book of the month – I think it is a tie between Tricia Sullivan’s Sweet Dreams and Austral by Paul McAuley. Again, I have managed to achieve my target of reading 100 books with ease.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
We have now resumed Tim’s classes and it’s all about the rehearsals and preparing for the filming schedule that will be taking place in various locations during October.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I attend weekly 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 resumed the classes after the summer break, but unfortunately I wasn’t very well for a couple of weeks, so wasn’t able to get back in the swing of it. But I have the autumn term to continue to build up my fitness and stamina again. Himself has some annual leave coming up next month and we’re hoping to go for a couple of hikes – autumn is a great time to go walking.

September was another very busy month – I’m aware of being tired, but it’s been great hitting so many of my targets and hopefully later in the autumn we’ll get a chance to get away for a few days and rest up.

This was written before I went down with flu… So I need to regroup in the next few weeks once I get back to full fitness, because clearly my current work/life balance is not sustainable. While going down with an illness like that can happen to anyone, I was already stressed and exhausted after a very tough summer. As I work in compressed, intensive bursts, I think I need to build into my working pattern at least two days when I take it easy before diving into the next project – and ensure I get more walks and time away from the computer screen. What about you? Is anyone else battling with this issue?

Sunday Post – 4th June 2017

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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.

Last Sunday was a bit wet, but a perfect day for moving plants around and potting up. We’d visited the garden centre and spent the children’s inheritance on reed screens, pots and ivies to train along our low brick wall to discourage the local teenagers from using it as a smoking spot. So I hacked away at bindweed and transplanted some sulking lavenders and a bullied fuchsia before the rain stopped misting around and decided to get serious.

This week was half term, so I had a break from teaching – which was very welcome, given I’ve been struggling since Easter with regular bouts of exhaustion and faintness. I had to cry off a writing get-together with former students on Tuesday as I was suffering with yet another headache, but at least it didn’t linger through until Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to get plenty of editing down – one of my lovely beta readers had given me plenty of notes, so I went through Miranda’s Tempest fixing some issues. Himself is currently going through a line edit for me. And the big bonus – on Thursday I finally managed to get together with my marvellous writing partner Mhairi, who I haven’t seen in faaar too long! It was lovely to catch up and natter about all things writerly with her.

I also managed to finish and submit a short story for an anthology – what was special about this one, was that I was asked to contribute… So I’m now fretting by hoping it is suitable and ticks all the boxes – and taking my mind off it by plunging into the last major edit of Dying for Space, Book 2 of the Sunblinded Trilogy. This week-end we’ve been working in the garden again as the weather continues to be fabulous. The best spring I can recall for years…

This week I have read:
Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
Kate Shugak is a native Aleut working as a private investigator in Alaska. She’s 5’1″ tall, carrires a scar that runs from ear to ear across her throat, and owns a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Resourceful, strong-willed, defiant, Kate is tougher than your average heroine—and she needs to be, to survive the worst the Alaskan wilds can throw at her. And throw their worst the wilds have: Kate and Mutt have both been shot.
This book immediately picks up from the cliffhanger ending of the previous instalment. I loved this one – the dual narrative works really well and it is always a great bonus when a crime novel gives an insight into a corner of the world I’ll never know. Alaska is revealed as a relentless environment that is nonetheless undergoing massive change.

A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons – Book 6 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
It’s Hiccup’s birthday, but that’s not going to keep him from getting into trouble. To save his dragon, Toothless, from being banished, Hiccup must sneak into the Meathead Public Library and steal the Viking’s most sacred book. But the Vikings see books as a dangerous influence, and keep them locked up and under heavy guard. To save his friend, Hiccup must brave the Hairy Scary Librarian and his dreadful army of Meathead Warriors and face off against the formidable Driller-Dragons. Will he make it out and live to see his next birthday?
Thanks to Oscar coming to stay at the start of the half-term break, we managed to get this one completed. As ever, lots of danger, unexpected plot twists and a nice message about just how vital libraries and books are – without being remotely preachy. Another cracking story.

Silent City – Book 1 of the Corin Hayes series by G.R. Matthews
In the Corporation owned cities life is tough. All Hayes wants is money and a bar to spend it in. He is about to learn that some jobs in the abyss can be killers. For a man who has lost everything, is life even worth fighting for?
This enjoyable military science fiction underwater adventure is full of tension and action that doesn’t let up. Hayes is a nicely grumpy protagonist with a bleak backstory and there is clearly going to be plenty of other problems looming in the future for him to tackle.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
I haven’t read Patrick Ness before – but I’ll certainly be reading him again. I found this beautiful, unexpected story a heartbreak. But I couldn’t put it down until I’d read it from cover to cover. Ness hooked me with his angry, conflicted boy and complicated monster and I wasn’t able to break away until I got to the marvellous end. One of my favourite books of the year to date.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…
This contemporary novel was a delight. Quirky and slightly fey, I was initially concerned that it would puddle down into sentimentality. Luckily Hogan is made of sterner stuff and this book tackles some gnarly subjects along the way, while delivering a lovely story. Recommended.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 28th May 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Review of Saven Disclosure – Book 1 of The Saven series by Siobhan Davis

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

Friday Face-off – Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars – featuring A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Review of The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

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

Italian Fantasy Names https://scflynn.com/2017/05/29/italian-fantasy-names/ This quirky article by fantasy writer S.C. Flynn had me grinning…

Broadside No. 14 – Rosemary Kirstein https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/broadside-no-14-rosemary-kirstein/ It’s always a buzz when you’ve been banging on about an underappreciated author to then find a fellow fan – and so imagine my delight when I was pinged by the Cap in her feature of the awesome Rosemary Kirstein’s wonderful Steerswoman series.

Asteroid Collision May Have Tipped Saturn’s Moon Enceladus http://www.space.com/37034-saturn-moon-enceladus-tipped-over-by-asteroid.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social#?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=2016twitterdlvrit An intriguing article for those of you who also enjoy space stuff…

A Summary and Analysis of Goldilocks and the Three Bears https://interestingliterature.com/2017/05/30/a-summary-and-analysis-of-goldilocks-and-the-three-bears/ I’ll guarantee you’ll discover something you didn’t know about this story, if you read it.

A Book Labyrinth in London https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/a-book-labyrinth-in-london/ I’m sorrier than I can say that I managed to miss this one… It looks amazing!

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 – 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.

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?