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Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – March Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post here on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During March, I read – um… no books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge. Nope – not a single one. I read plenty of books by women writers throughout March – the catch is that they were writers I’d read previously. So my yearly total of seven books so far is unchanged.

So surely I at least managed to clear a host of books from my TBR pile towards this year’s Tackling My TBR, given my sorry showing in the previous challenge. No… not really – just four – but it was definitely quality over quantity because every single one is a cracking read:

After Atlas – Book 2 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.
This science fiction whodunit blew me away and is every bit as good as the awesome Planetfall. It starts out as one sort of story and steadily morphed into something else, all the while giving us an insight into what makes Carlos tick. He is entertainingly grumpy about all authority figures – and then… something happens – a gamechanger that had me yelping in horror and unable to put the book down. And as for that ending – wow!

Mira’s Last Dance – Book 4 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series
In this sequel to the novella Penric’s Mission, the injured Penric, a Temple sorcerer and learned divine, tries to guide the betrayed General Arisaydia and his widowed sister Nikys across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia to safety in the Duchy of Orbas. In the town of Sosie the fugitive party encounters unexpected delays, and even more unexpected opportunities and hazards.
Another gem from one of the leading speculative fiction writers of our time. This series is wonderful – Penric has continued to change and develop since as an idealistic young man, he inadvertently acquired a demon he calls Desdemona. This story follows on immediately from Penric’s Mission so my top tip would be to read that one first before plunging into this one. Better still, start at the beginning with Penric and the Demon. Each one doesn’t cost more than a cup of coffee and are worth every penny.

Blood upon the Sand – Book 2 of The Songs of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu
Çeda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim—that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will—but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. Çeda could become the champion they’ve been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater.
This sand and sorcery epic fantasy doesn’t suffer from any second book slump after Twelve Kings as we continue to follow Çeda’s fortunes while she seeks a way to get close enough to the kings in order to bring them down. But they are every bit as powerful as myths say they are… This is a compelling world riven with factions and deep, corrosive secrets and I loved it.

My Parents Are Out of Control – Book 2 of the How to Train Your Parents series by Pete
Johnson
Louis doesn’t think much of it when his mum and dad ask him for tips on how to be cool. In fact, he thinks it’s pretty funny watching them bump fists and use words like ‘safe’, ‘sick’ and ‘wicked’. Until Dad turns up outside Louis’s new school dressed like a rapper, that is . . .
Suddenly they’re trying to friend Louis and all his classmates on Facebook, and wearing baseball caps backwards – IN PUBLIC. Louis and his best friend Maddy are horrified. Mum and Dad have taken things too far . . . and immediate action is needed!
After reading the hilarious How To Train Your Parents, it was a no-brainer that I would want to track down this sequel. Unlike many other children’s books, it puts Louis’s interaction with his parents right in the middle of the story. It makes for a funny, often poignant and engrossing tale with some shafts of wisdom about the intergenerational divide and modern family life.

So that is my March roundup. It’s early days in April – and already I’m doing better with the my Discovery Challenge. What about you – are there any challenges you’re undertaking during the year? I’d love to hear about it!

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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.