Tag Archives: netgalley

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – February Roundup

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Where did it go? I know it’s a short month, but I turned around twice and February has moonalready slipped past with terrifying speed… So how did I do with the stupidly ambitious 2016 targets that I set in the New Year, aided and abetted by writing buddy Mhairi Simpson?

• I hadn’t been near my space opera novel, Running Out of Space since the mess last October, when formatting issues meant I couldn’t publish it as I had initially planned. When I revisited it in the middle of February, I was expecting the manuscript to be littered with a forest of niggling errors after my desperate efforts to manually replace all the italics and bolding that had been wiped out by the likes of Sigil. But there were only a small handful of mistakes which were quickly fixed. I have loaded onto Himself’s Kindle to see if the format is as robust as I’d hoped, and so far, so good… I also completed another editing pass on the sequel, Dying For Space, after my major rewrite last summer. Again, there were a series of small errors, but nothing too major.
Challenge – To have The Sunblinded trilogy published during 2016. After my failure last year, I am reluctant to give any firm dates when this will happen until I have everything in place, but at present, I am certainly on schedule.

• Last November, I finally completed the first draft of the book that has been burning a hole in my skull for the past eighteen months – Miranda’s Tempest. So after Christmas, I started the editing process. The biggest issue was that the style was far too modern and snappy, so I set about ‘Tudorising’ it. I went through and expunged most of the main verbs that were not around in the 16th century and replaced them with older words, as well as making the dialogue sound more appropriate. The word nerd in me was purring like a well-fed cat, but aware I can get carried away on these sorts of tasks, I kept passing bits of manuscript around to my long-suffering beta readers to ensure I wasn’t getting too extreme. So far the feedback has been positive. As soon as I am sure, the manuscript is as strongly written as I can manage, I shall start submitting it.
Challenge – to get Miranda’s Tempest fit to send out to agents by Easter. I’m on target for this one.

• I read 9 books and wrote a review for every single one of them during February, as they were all really good. It’s been a joy to read such a great run of books – it’s the best year that I can recall to date. I wrote two New Release Special reviews and have been applying more to NetGalley for ARC copies, which so far I have been getting. I am trying to widen my reading to include more authors new to me, especially women. During February I encountered four authors I hadn’t read before.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include at least a third of authors I haven’t read before. So far, I’m on course for hitting this target, although it’s early days and later in the year it could very easily slip, when I’m grappling with my publishing projects.

Overall, it’s been a reasonably productive month. I have managed to get through a significant amount of editing. I wrote just over 6,500 words on teaching admin and just over 7,000 words on my blog, bringing my writing total for 2016 so far to just over 40,000 words.

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* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* KINDLE ebook – Review of Gold, Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

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This is a much-anticipated debut novel from a writer who got a lot of attention for her short story collection Battleborn, published in 2012.

GoldfamecitrusDesert sands have laid waste to the south-west of America. Las Vegas is buried. California – and anyone still there – is stranded. Any way out is severely restricted. But Luz and Ray are not leaving. They survive on water rations, black market fruit and each other’s need. Luz needs Ray, and Ray must be needed. But then they cross paths with a mysterious child, and the thirst for a better future begins. It’s said there’s a man on the edge of the Dune Sea. He leads a camp of believers. He can find water. Venturing into this dry heart of darkness, Luz thinks she has found their saviour. For the will to survive taps hidden powers; and the needed, and the needy, will exploit it.

This literary apocalyptic, near-future scenario is of a broken, desiccated California and two people struggling to fit into the tatters of civilisation. Ray and Luz are drifting through the remnants of other lives as they squat in the mansion of a former starlet, using her belongings as they see fit. That Watkins can write is apparent from the first line. Her prose is extraordinary and she has the capability to push boundaries and take her readers with her to a heightened vision of this desert world.

While the people flail around, trying to fit into this brutal new environment, the main protagonist in this book is the setting. The huge, super-dune called the Amargosa that is sprawling out of the Mojave Desert and swallowing everything in its way has a forest of stories, legends and conspiracy theories sprouting up around it. When Watkins gets it right – such as Ray’s trek with heat-seared eyes, the writing is poetic, apt and astonishing. During a chilly January night, I felt and tasted the sweat, gritty dust and sweltering heat.

But, there is an unevenness throughout that prevents this thought-provoking book from becoming a great novel. While the literary genre does allow for a slower pace and more experimentation with story structure, all too often, the descriptions are a page or two too long; minor characters suddenly take centre stage, distorting the narrative arc; and character viewpoint goes completely haywire, as in the runup to Ray’s beating. Technical flaws such as these graunched, given how much is triumphantly successful about this offering.

Watkins gives us a mesmerising insight of Ray and Luz’s relationship, which kept me caring about both of them, even as they lurched from one self inflicted crisis to another – and I certainly didn’t see the ending coming. I’m still undecided whether I think it works or not. However, while I’m not sure I enjoyed Gold, Fame, Citrus, I’m very glad I read it and if your tastes run to apocalyptic scenarios, then track this one down. I’ll guarantee you’ll remember it.

My ARC ebook was supplied by Netgalley via the publisher, in return for an honest review.
7/10