Tag Archives: Shoot for the Moon Challenge

July 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffJuly2020Roundup


Lockdown is slowly easing and right at the end of the month, we actually went to a café together and had a cup of tea and cake. It’s been lovely to meet up with my daughter and the grandchildren and have them over to stay, again. But most of the time, I’m still at home reading and writing, while Himself has continued to go out to work.

I read fifteen books in July, which used to be an outstanding number for me, but isn’t anymore. No DNF’s and once again, it’s been a great reading month – particularly for space opera and space adventures in general. My Outstanding Book of the Month was The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal and my Outstanding Audiobook of the Month was Deep Roots – Book 2 of the Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys. My reads during June were:

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell – Book 1 of the Embers of War series. Review to follow

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. Review to follow

Scarlet Odyssey – Book 1 of the Scarlet Odyssey series by C.T. Rwizi. See my review

Skin Game – Book 15 of the Harry Dresden files by Jim Butcher – reread

AUDIOBOOK The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. Review to follow

Velocity Weapon – Book 1 of The Protectorate by Megan E. O’Keefe. See my review

End Game – Book 8 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker. Review to follow

Peace Talks – Book 16 of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. See my review

Chaos Vector – Book 2 of The Protectorate by Megan E. O’Keefe. See my review

AUDIOBOOK Deep Roots – Book 2 of The Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys. Review to follow – OUTSTANDING AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH

Seven Devils – Book 1 of the Seven Devils series by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May. See my review

Last Dragon Standing – Book 5 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron. Review to follow

The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal. Review to follow – OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE MONTH

The Outcast Dead – Book 6 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. Mini-review to follow

AUDIOBOOK The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents – Book 28 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Review to follow

Writing and Editing
I had intended for Picky Eaters 2 to be a novella, but though I’ve written a reasonably comprehensive outline, the writing has fallen into the rhythm and pacing of a longer piece of work. Oh well. So rather than polishing off the first draft during the first fortnight of July, I found it has been something I’ve been picking up and putting down between the final two editing passes of Mantivore Warrior. Mhairi has now produced the cover, which I’m very happy with – and I’m on track to publish it at the end of August, as planned. Again, due to all the editing I’ve been doing, my writing wordcount is way down in comparison to the beginning of the year.

Overall, I wrote just over 35,500 words in July, with just over 20,500 on the blog, and just over 15,000 on my writing projects. This brings my yearly wordcount to date to just over 288,500 words – which completely justifies my decision to step away from my regular Creative Writing stints at Northbrook, because that is over 92,000 more words than this time last year.

I am more or less back on track with commenting, though I still struggle to get around and visit as much as I’d like – sorry to those of you who I’ve neglected! But again, I’m finding it such a lifeline to be able to chat about books to other folks – it certainly cuts down the sense of isolation. Take care and stay safe.x

April 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffApril2020Roundup


I’m conscious that I’ve never experienced a month like it in the whole of my life – and I’m not sure I ever will again… Or perhaps I will. Perhaps May and June will continue being in social isolation with lots of handwashing and staying at home. But what has kept my head straight is my love of reading and writing – thank goodness for both! I’ve also loved the wonderful sunny weather – it’s been a joy being able to sit in the garden and watch Spring springing… I’m conscious that I am very blessed. And given that none of us can guarantee if we will survive this, I’ve determined to be as thankful for every coming day as I can be. So despite everything, this has been a very precious April.

I read eighteen books in April, which isn’t quite as marvellous as it sounds, as one of those was a short story and another was a novella. This is the list:

The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
Scythe – Dimension Drift prequel NOVELLA #1 by Christina Bauer
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is my EBOOK read of the month
Dead Eye – Book 1 of the Tiger’s Eye Mystery series by Alyssa Day
Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Q by Christina Dalcher
The Hedgeway SHORT STORY by Vivienne Tuffnell
A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel. This is my AUDIOBOOK read of the month
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Palm Tree Messiah by Sarah Palmer – manuscript read
Witch Dust – Book 1 of the Witch series by Marilyn Messik
Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
After Seth by Caron Garrod

I continued working on my Creative Writing How-To Book on Characterisation and I’m pleased with the progress, but I woke up on 11th April with an epiphany about some issues that had been niggling me with Mantivore Warrior – so I dropped my How-To book and immediately dived back into the manuscript to fix it. I’ve learnt from hard experience not to ever put those kinds of moments off – otherwise they pass and I forget!

I have also been working on another project that I’m hoping to be able to discuss in another couple of weeks. I don’t normally flit between so many different writing projects – but right now everything is extraordinary. So it makes sense that my writing patterns would suddenly go AWOL, too… Overall, I wrote just over 43,000 words in April, with just under 17,000 words on my blog and just under 25,500 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just under 180,000 words so far.

I have found keeping up with my blog such a source of comfort and encouragement – I know social media can be responsible for some dark acts, but I happen to be fortunate enough to inhabit a really lovely corner, where I meet some of the nicest people on the planet. But that’s not a surprise, because they are readers, or writers, or both. I hope May is a good month for you and that you stay safe. Take care.xxx

January 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffJanuary2020Roundup


Yes… I know. We’re now more than halfway through February – though when that happened I couldn’t say. I seem to be permanently temporally challenged these days, so please bear with me…

I read fifteen books in January and DNF’d another. They were:
Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan – end of series
AUDIOBOOK Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
AUDIOBOOK Dark Summer by Ali Sparkes – children’s book
Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky – my outstanding read of the month
Broken Flyght – Book 2 of The Flyght series by S.J. Pajonas – indie author
Termination Shock – Book 1 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews
AUDIOBOOK Over Sea, Under Stone – Book 1 of The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper – children’s book
The Last Smile in Sunder City – Book 1 of the Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold
A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Sweep With Me – an Innkeeper Chronicles NOVELLA by Ilona Andrews – indie author
The Zero Curse – Book 2 of the Zero Enigma series by Christopher G. Nuttall – indie author
Bone Silence – Book 2 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds – end of series
Crownbreaker – Book 6 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell – end of series
Ribbonworld – Book 1 of the Balcom Dynasty series by Richard Dee – indie author
AUDIOBOOK Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear – audio read of the month

Overall, I wrote just over 17,500 words on Mantivore Warrior during January. I am only now beginning to realise just how exhausted and low I’d become by the middle of last year – writing Warrior has been so much fun in comparison to the last two books, which turned had into something of a struggle. In fact, looking back, everything had become a bit of a struggle… I realise that one of the main ongoing challenges for me will be to adequately take care of myself, so I don’t burn out. Sorting out my dreadful sleep habits and getting more exercise would help – though the rainy weather this winter really hasn’t helped.

It’s with great reluctance, I’ve decided I need to ease back on my blogging. I do enjoy it – but it’s not just the writing that takes up time, it’s also the visiting and commenting. Apologies all around – right now, I’m aware I still haven’t got the balance right and I’ve fallen behind with visiting other folks. I’ve kept up with the Friday Face-off and the Sunday Post, but I’ve stepped back from Teaser Tuesday. I will still be taking part from time to time with Can’t-Wait-Wednesday – but only when it suits my writing timetable, which has to take priority. But I love being part of such a lovely corner of social media – you guys are absolutely wonderful and I love being able to discuss books – so I refuse to give it up!

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – 2020 #BrainfluffShootfortheMoon2020


This is now an annual event. My writing buddy Mhairi and I get together at the start of the new year to set ourselves ambitious targets, so that even if we don’t fully succeed in these, we still come out ahead. This year, we weren’t able to spend New Year together, so I had to wait until she was able to travel up from Lincolnshire to reflect upon our previous year’s progress and compile our current list. This is what I’m trying for in 2020:-

• Write at least 200,000 words on first drafts.

• Have Mantivore Warrior completed and edited, ready for publication by the end of April.

• Start my series of writing tips and advice by writing, editing and publishing two books this year – Characterisation: Do Your Characters Ping Off the Page? and Scene Setting & Description: How Much Is Too Much? I have ten years’ worth of course notes and writing advice currently insulating the loft and it seems to me that I could put them to better use.

• Get the manuscript for Bloodless, written. This is the first book in my Beth Wheeler murder mystery series, which is a spinoff from The Sunblinded Trilogy.

• Continue teaching Tim and provide necessary support for his continued progress.

• Continue to improve my fitness by continuing to attend Pilates and Fitstep classes. Also include one stint a week on the fitness bike and go for one walk a week, weather permitting.

• Sort out my sleep patterns. I was doing better – and then when Himself’s sleep masks needed sorting out, I slid back into my bad old ways. Partly because sleeping next to Darth Vadar was something of a struggle… But there’s no excuse now! And I’m still unsure why I’m finding it so hard to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

• Do more speaking engagements and see if I can join a panel at a conference – preferably Bristolcon.

• Join Chindi – a local support group for indie authors. I had an invitation to become a member a while ago, but I simply didn’t have the time. Now it would be a good idea to go along and become part of a group of people whose aims and ambitions are similar to mine. It can be a lonely road…

• Digitise my books of ideas – they are currently a disorganised mess that are difficult to access.

• Get the garden sorted out, so it once again is a source of pleasure and creativity that I love spending time in.

• Continue reading and reviewing at least 100 books during the year, though cutting down on my blogging schedule. There are only so many hours in the week and if I’m upping my writing rate, then I need to give myself a break.

Weekly Wrap-Up – 17th April 2016


Fritillary & bee on rudbeckia1

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.
This week I only read two books, which I’ll be reviewing when they are due to be published as they are both NetGalley arcs. For the rest, I have been up to my neck in paperwork, preparing for my summer term Creative Writing course, which seems to have come around insanely fast.

I also held a Filking Workshop at West Sussex Writers on Thursday evening, which also took some preparation and organisation. I’ve never done one of those before – but everyone responded brilliantly and we had a really enjoyable evening, ending up with a singsong.

The books I read were:


brightblazeofmagicBright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blades series by Jennifer Estap
This adventure fantasy is a swords and sorcery fully of incident, featuring a smart heroine who is capable of taking care of herself. This deftly written story is brimming with strong characters and interesting monsters. I’ll be posting a review on or about 26th April, which it is due to be published.


The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walkerendoftheworldrunningclub
This apocalyptic road tale is set in Edinburgh. Ed, the protagonist, is overweight, under-exercised and wearily cynical. He drinks too much and doesn’t spend enough quality time with his small daughter and baby son. And then the world ends – and he is in the position of having to fight for them. I’ll be reviewing this one at the beginning of May, when the book is published.

My posts last week were:-
Weekly Wrap-Up – 10th April

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – March Roundup

Teaser Tuesday – Bright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blades series by Jennifer Estap

Review of Deceptions – Book 3 of the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong

Review of Beaver Towers – Book 1 of the Beaver Towers series by Nigel Hinton

Friday Faceoff – UK vs US books covers of The Forever Watch by David Ramirez – see my review here

Review of Cinder – Book 1 of the Luna Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer

I’m hoping to be able to get back to my editing schedule this coming week for The Sunblinded trilgoy. In the meantime, many thanks for everyone who has visited and commented on my posts – I really appreciate it. Have a great week.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – March Roundup



Another month that has slid by far too fast – and here we are with Spring springing and a quarter of the year already gone… So am I on track to meet my crazily ambitious writing and publishing targets?

• As I reported last month, both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space were a nice surprise when I sjhigbeefinalcame to look at them again. But Breathing Space was bound to pose more of a challenge as this was the first time I’d looked at the manuscript since I’d finished writing it last January. I’m now about halfway through the first major rewrite. I’ve introduced a murder and a kerfuffle in a tunnel and fixed a hatful of niggling formatting errors, mistakes with the Spanish and typos. Hopefully by the end of the month I will have completed this pass and be checking the Kindle format for Running Out of Space on my Kindle.
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.

• I have finally completed checking Miranda’s Tempest – my fantasy novel charting the fortunes of Miranda and Prospero after they leave their enchanted island in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It was slow, fiddly work and I didn’t want to rush it, but I completed the job to my satisfaction during the second week of March. I’ve put it on one side and will look at it one more time before sending it anywhere after I’ve completed the edit on Breathing Space to check it’s fit to submit.
Challenge – to get Miranda’s Tempest fit to send out by the end of the Easter holidays. I want to get at least one more pair of eyes to check it over for me before sending it out, so am waiting for feedback…

I read 15 books and wrote 14 reviews during March, which I think is some sort of record. Again, it’s been a blast to read so many great books. I wrote seven New Release Special reviews during March, although some of these won’t be published until the launch date of the books in question. I have acquired more NetGalley ARC copies, and am in the process of organising my reading schedule, so I don’t miss downloading books by accident – which happened a couple of times last year. I am continuing to widen my reading and during March I encountered five authors I hadn’t read before. Read my Discovery Challenge March Roundup here.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. 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 some of my other targets.

I’m very pleased with my blogging and reading targets, as I produced a blog every day, something I don’t think I’ve managed before. I wrote just over 13,500 words on blogs and just under 12,000 words on teaching admin. As I’m in the depths of Editland, I have produced a paltry 2,000 words on creative writing, which brings March’s wordcount to just over 27,000 words. Am I on target? So long as I manage to get this editing pass of Breathing Space completed by the end of the month and the Running Out of Space formatting continues to behave well. But it’s going to be a close-run thing, of course it is – after all, I’m shooting for the Moon…

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – June Roundup


We’re just over halfway through 2015 – and for once I’m skipping the head-shaking amazement at the speed at which we got here, just take it as read! In the meantime, how am I doing? Well, I’m hanging my hopes on the saying that it’s not over until it’s over – and hoping that it’ll be over in time for Fantasycon. I may be shooting for the Moon, but at present I’m barely clearing the roof of my humble abode.

• I have at last completed my major edit of Running Out of Space and am about to hand it over to my long-suffering moonhusband and a couple more beta readers. I haven’t looked at the other two manuscripts, yet. Challenge – To have The Sunblinded Trilogy ready to publish by the end of August. Right now this target is looking risible – but I’m going to keep plugging away and hope that it somehow falls into place. July will be a keynote month for me and by the end of it, I should know whether I’ll be able to come close to this ambition.

• So far this year I have read 57 books and written 50 reviews, making me bang on target – so long I don’t get so overwhelmed by a ton of work that all my timescales end up in a heap on the floor. Can’t image WHAT could possibly cause such an occurrence during the next couple of months… Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2015. Given what else is going on this year, the chances of missing this challenge is high.

• Submissions of my two novels Mantivore Dreams and Netted to agents has rather lost momentum while I’m waiting to see if the agents who requested full m/s are interested. I’m hoping to address this lapse during July/August while my teaching commitments are not so pressing. Challenge – To seek and procure representation for at least one of my novels. Still ongoing.

• I have now had an opportunity to discuss the summer term with the participating students, who overwhelmingly enjoyed the opportunity to present their favourite writing to the class. I’m delighted this has been so successful and intend to run a similar format next summer. My final teaching course this year is a one day Summer Surgery at Northbrook College on Friday 24th July. I’m really looking forward to the day, which will round off a successful year at Northbrook. I’m very grateful to my lovely, loyal students for making the whole experience so much fun. Challenge – To make this term’s Creative Writing courses more interactive. Yes, I succeeded in this Challenge. I aim to continue along this trajectory when planning and writing the course notes for the new academic year, starting on 22nd September.

• I owe my long-suffering writing partner Michael Griffiths a chapter for our joint science fiction adventure Chaos in New Cluster. And now I’ve completed the major rewrite of Running Out of Space, I shall FINALLY be turning my attention to this project before plunging into the manuscript of Dying for Space. Challenge – To complete the first draft of Chaos in New Cluster before the end of the century year.

Realistically, having The Sunblinded Trilogy ready for Fantasycon is a fairly remote possibility, given that I have no intention of cutting any corners just to reach the deadline. But Running Out of Space will definitely be good to go – I’m really pleased with the major overhaul I’ve given this manuscript. As for Dying for Space and Breathing Space – watch this space!

I wrote 7 reviews for my blog this month with a wordcount of just over 6,000 words and failed to finish reading another 3 books – a consequence of attempting more novels by authors unknown to me. I wrote just over 15,700 words this month on my teaching courses in the form of admin, lesson plans and evaluations and just over 1,500 words on a poem and a couple of articles, bringing my June wordcount to just over 23,500 words.

Shoot for the Moon 2015 – February Roundup


These are the ambitious, writing-related goals I set myself to ensure I keep moving forward in my writing and teaching career. Last month I set the 2015 targets, which you can read here. So how am I getting on?

• Publish the Sunblinded trilogy
The fact that I didn’t manage to complete Breathing Space until the end of January is starting to catch up with me. moonEditing is a process that cannot be rushed. I’m going through the first book, Running Out of Space, and checking and correcting the Spanish phrases I’ve used with the help of the marvellous Mhairi Simpson. Apart from deciding never to do anything so stupid as to include a bunch of foreign phrases in a manuscript again, I am more or less on the home straight with ROOS. I’m hoping the same process will go faster and more smoothly with Dying for Space – one of the issues with Running Out of Space is that at one point it was with an American publisher and was formatted in American English. And I’m still tripping over the occasional American spelling…
I’ve nearly completed the corrections to my Spanish phrases in Running Out of Space and hope to have the m/s ready for my writing group next time we meet next week.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I’ve been reading some wonderful science fiction this year, so far and Daniel Polansky’s wonderful underworld trilogy has been a huge pleasure. One of the delightful consequences of steadily expanding my blog readership, is that I now regularly chat to other like-minded bloggers and book lovers… Thank you, those of you who take the time and effort to comment about various subjects related to reading and writing – and for Gloria Chao in nominating me for the Leibster Award, which I was delighted to receive…
I wrote 9 reviews during January, which came to just over 9,227 words. That includes a review of mine that I reblogged, after reading it to my granddaughter, as well as my response to the Leibster Award.

• Submit Mantivore Eyes and Netted
Yes – I’m actively seeking representation for these two novels and have been sending off submissions to agents… (Pauses to take in your stunned disbelief after a year of complete procrastination…) Of course it’s absolutely vital for professional writers to be prepared to roll up their sleeves and write the bleeping synopsis and query letter, rather than diving straight into another novel in the hope that my work will somehow seep into the consciousness of editors and agents ‘out there’. Fortunately, I’ve finally caught on that if I want an agent and a traditional publishing deal, I need to actually submit my work…
I’m working through a list I compiled in early January – and need to continue my initial strong start. NOTE TO SELF – one submission flurry does not constitute a sustained coherent search for a suitable agent…

Overall last month, I wrote just over 19,700 words and edited three manuscripts – Mantivore Dreams, Netted and Running Out of Space, totalling just over 250,000 words.

2014 Shoot for the Moon Challenge – How Did I Do?


New Year’s Eve 2014, Mhairi Simpson and I concocted a madcap plan whereby we set ourselves a moonseries of ridiculously ambitious writing challenges in the belief that even if we failed, we would still accomplish far more than if we’d been more sensible. At that point, I was halfway through writing Miranda’s Tempest, continuing to build up my blog and teaching Creative Writing at Northbrook College. What happened next?
• Early in 2014 I ran into a brick wall with Miranda’s Tempest with just over half the story written. I realised there was a major faultline running through the current structure and the manuscript would need a long rest while I figured out how to fix it. So I turned to the first two books I’ve written in the Sunblinded trilogy Running Out of Space and Dying for Space, which both needed further editing. After getting ROOS up together except for the Spanish phrases, and having DFS at the stage where the plot anomalies, character inconsistencies and general overwriting had been heavily pruned, I started writing Breathing Space, the final instalment in the trilogy, which also sets up Jezell as my science fiction private investigator who will be flummoxed by a number of unusual crimes in a new series I plan to start in 2016. So I shifted my Challenge to complete the first draft of Breathing Space before the end of the year.
I didn’t succeed at this one. I’m between 10,000 and 15,000 words short of the end, so should have the book completed by the end of January. I also know where I went wrong with Miranda’s Tempest, so will be having another go at completing it in 2015.
• The Challenge was to read at least 120 books and write 100 reviews for my blog.
I actually read 143 books, and started another 20 which I didn’t bother to complete and wrote 126 reviews, most of which are already published on my blog. This rather random Challenge was the most successful of the year and has also resulted in a steady increase in my viewing figures on my blog throughout the year. Thank you everyone who has taken the time and trouble to read my reviews and articles – and that goes double for those of you who then actually comment on the content. One of the reasons why this Challenge was relatively easy to achieve is that I really enjoy reviewing books and interacting with other readers.
• The Challenge was to have the notes and lesson plans completed for the first two terms of the 2014/15 academic year’s Creative Writing course I teach at Northbrook College before the end of the summer break.
This didn’t happen. August ended up being very busy, which effectively holed that plan. But I managed to complete both courses in plenty of time, thus avoiding any last-minute rush – a state of affairs I loathe as I don’t produce my best work under pressure. So while I missed this particular Challenge, I don’t regard this as a Fail.
• The Challenge was to submit all my unsold poems and short stories to different publications.
Complete and unmitigated failure. I submitted one poem and a couple of stories and when I received the rejection emails, I let them lapse. Even to the editor that said while the piece wasn’t what they were looking for – he would be happy to consider any other work I had available… I know, I know – you don’t have to say it.

Why did I fail so disastrously at this particular Challenge? I’ve been giving this a lot of thought – and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because I want to be a published novelist far more than an acknowledged poet and short story author. As the year progressed, I’ve been increasingly focused on my books – and while I hated letting this Challenge slide, succeeding would have meant spent days poring over submission guidelines. And that was time I couldn’t afford to take away from writing or editing my novels.

So one important lesson I learnt this year – take care to ensure any future challenges are relevant to my goals. In the meantime, I wrote a total of 325,700 words last year split between my teaching commitments, my blog and my WIPs – and yet if I’d had to guess, I would have estimated that I’d written around 100,000 words, which just goes to show that I’m shockingly bad at estimating my work rate.

Overall, my Shoot the Moon Challenge was a success. Not due to my having failed or achieved any of the particular goals I set – but because it kept me focused and the monthly round-ups forced me to confront those goals I was missing and work out why I kept missing them. Therefore Mhairi and I sat down a couple of days ago – New Year’s Day – and wrote another set of ambitious targets. More about those at the end of January…

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – November Roundup


So as the year end is looming – how am I doing with the clutch of mad challenges I set myself at the moonstart of the year? Helped along by plenty of encouragement from Mhairi Simpson and industrial strength Assam, the theory is that even if I pitifully failed, I’d still be further along than if I’d been sensible and set more attainable goals. I’ll be looking at that theory in more detail next month – which is crunch time, anyway.
Breathing Space was doing just fine last time I looked at it – which was a couple of weeks ago. But on the way home from Bristolcon on the train, Mhairi suggested it might be a good idea to finally write the extended story of ‘Picky Eaters’ and unleash it on an unsuspecting world before Christmas… I’m putty in that girl’s hands!

I wrote the original 1,000 word story and those lovely folks at Every Day Fiction published it back in 2009 – but Granddad and his family of dragons wouldn’t leave me alone. (If anyone is interested, you can read the original here.) While I knew there wasn’t enough for a full-length novel, every so often I’d find myself sliding back to Wyvern Peak and wondering how things were going with him, Sammy Jo and Billy Bob… So when Mhairi suggested I went for it – I did! I’ve completed the first draft, which had me skipping around the room on a high that didn’t fade for several days. Which is bizarre, as when I complete a novel, I normally feel drained and rather depressed for the following week. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that this slice of Granddad’s story has come out at just over 10,000 words. I’m still aiming to have it out with Amazon before Christmas (this habit of setting crazy-stupid challenges is getting to be something of a bad habit…) but the RELIEF of having let Granddad out again has affected me far more profoundly than a daft story about dragons should, really…
Challenge – to have the first daft of Breathing Space completed by the end of the year. Hm. Not sure whether I’ll hit this one, thanks to Picky Eaters popping up – but I refuse to let the tail wag the dog. Challenges and targets are there to facilitate my creative process – not ringfence it.

• Continuing to read books and write more reviews – although I hit a rough patch in the middle of November where I read several books in a row that I didn’t like enough to finish. Which had me nearly running out of reviews…
Challenge – to write and publish 100 book reviews on my blog during 2014. I wrote 9 reviews during November, bringing my total to date to 115 reviews.

• The Autumn Term course is now on its last lap and though I have yet to have done the full evaluation with the students, it seems to have been well received. I have completed all but one of the main sets of course handouts for next term and should have them all prepared for printing next week, in readiness for the students in the New Year.
Challenge – to have written at least two sets of course notes for the next academic year by the end of the summer break. The Spring Term’s course notes are now nearly completed, which I regard as an achievement as I have been also working hard on another teaching project.

• This remains the biggest failure. I am stepping away from this until next year. I’ve been thinking long and hard about exactly what has been hampering my progress and I now see how to progress. But it needs time and a flexible, resilient strategy, which I’ll be devising over the Christmas break.
Challenge – submit all my unsold short fiction and poetry. No.

I was surprised to see that November provided my highest word count so far this year. I managed to write another 18,000 words towards Breathing Space which is still going well. As I’ve already mentioned, ‘Picky Eaters’ was another 10,200. The work on next term’s Creative Writing course meant that jumped to just over 10,700 words and my reviews and blogs added 7,500 words, making my monthly wordcount to just over 46,500 words and my yearly total to date to just over 305,000 words.