Tag Archives: Shoot the Moon Challenge

Shoot for the Moon 2018 Challenge – February Roundup


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 2015 Challenge – January Roundup


Last year, egged on by fellow writer and partner in crime, Mhairi Simpson, I set some crazy writing-related goals, which I revisited every month to see how I was doing. It worked so well, that this year I decided to continue with yet another set of over-ambitious targets. So what are these goals?

• Publish the Sunblinded trilogy

Running Out of Space and Dying for Space had already been written, when last year I decided this would be my firstmoon foray into self publishing my work. So I needed to complete Jezell’s story arc in the last book, Breathing Space. I’d initially hoped to complete the manuscript by the end of 2014, but it kept running off and generally behaving badly. One of the reasons prompting me to publish this series is that I’ve wanted to write a science fiction crime series featuring a female PI – and using Jezell as that character is an obvious choice. I know all her gnarly secrets, and how she got them; and given that I’ve also written two other books in the same world, I’m also on more than nodding terms with how it works. So now comes the stupidly ambitious part – I intend to publish the Sunblinded trilogy in time for Fantasycon in the autumn, so with a following wind and the gods of editing being very obliging, the three books will probably appear during mid-August. My marvellous writing group have agreed to beta-read and nitpick the manuscripts for me – though if anyone else is interested in doing so, I’d – of course – be delighted to hear from you.
Managed to complete the first draft of Breathing Space in the last week of January. Just as well – I was considering battering my head against a brick wall to see if I could shake the dratted story free, as it took 25,500 words – and less than half of that wordcount made the manuscript…

• Write Miranda’s Tempest

I started this last year and got nearly three-quarters of the way through before hitting a wall. I knew I’d gone badly wrong, but was too close to figure out what it was. So plonked the manuscript into the Pending box, and sure enough, I now know where and how it went off the rails… As a fair amount of what I originally wrote can be recycled, it shouldn’t take too long, once I get going.
Just to see if I could – I sat down and rewrote the first chapter in present tense, first person pov and it was so much punchier, while still keeping the slightly formal feel I wanted. But won’t be tackling this in earnest until the Sunblinded trilogy is done and dusted…

• Complete Chaos in New Cluster

This is the novel my writing pal, Michael Griffiths, and I started last year, writing alternating chapters between us. It has been pushed onto the back burner rather a lot, but is in the closing stages, so it would be great to get the first draft done and dusted. And start on the editing runs…
Haven’t had a chance to get to grips with this one, yet.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog

I pulled this number out of thin air last year – and nailed it. In fact, I wrote 126 reviews last year, as I increasingly find writing about books I enjoy helps complete the reading experience for me. I did debate whether to extend the challenge to make it more… challenging. But just because last year I happened to hit this target doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be able to do so with such ease this year – and as I find it really useful and fun to do, I don’t see the need to spoil it by placing undue pressure on a process that seems to work anyway.
I wrote 10 reviews during January, which came to just over 6,700 words. Half the books I completed in were by authors I hadn’t previously read – a promising beginning for my target to include more writers new to me in my reading pile.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2015/16

I have already been thinking about next year’s courses. I really would like to have the course notes and plans written by the end of the summer holidays, but given I will be probably working flatout on getting three manuscripts ready to go at that stage, I’ll settle for having the Autumn term course good to go in plenty of time.

• Submit Mantivore Eyes and Netted

I attended a wonderful talk last year at Bristolcon by Jacey Bedford, who was very generous in telling us about her efforts to obtain an agent. She took us step by step through her approach and totally inspired me. As I want to be a hybrid author, with a traditional publishing deal in addition to my self publishing career, I’d like an agent. Up to now I’ve been rubbish at submitting my work – but this year, I’ve determined I will NAIL this target!
Nope. But then I spent January grappling with Breathing Space – and in order for a submission to be any good, I have to pay attention. I’m liable to make stupid mistakes, otherwise… Watch this space, though!

Overall last month, I wrote just over 37,400 words.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – September Roundup


This is the ambitious goal setting I recklessly signed up for, instigated by writing wingman and all round good egg Mhairi Simpson at the end of December 2013, which now seems a very long time ago. The theory is that even if we miserably failed, we’d still be further along than if we’d set more attainable, sensible targets. So now three-quarters through the year – how am I doing?

  • Breathing Space is growing far more slowly than I’d like. But September was a busy old month, what with Fantasycon moonhappening, getting to grips with a new academic year at Northbrook and zipping up to London for an anniversary getaway… Despite the excuses, I still managed to write 11,500 words towards the novel and have definitely crossed the halfway stage, which is always a significant milestone for me.  Challenge – to have the first daft of Breathing Space completed by the end of the summer. Nope. At my current rate, I’ll be happy to have the first draft finished by the end of the year.
  • I set this challenge in the firm belief that I wouldn’t achieve it – but this is the single challenge that I’m going to have nailed with ease. Typical, isn’t it? The only one that really doesn’t matter all that much. I wrote another 11 reviews during September for my blog. Challenge – to write and publish 100 book reviews on my blog during 2014. I wrote another 11 reviews during September, taking my yearly target to date to 92 reviews.
  • I have now started teaching this term’s course. And no… next term’s course notes aren’t yet written. But I am still aiming to get them completed before the Christmas holidays, which are always very hectic. I wrote 11,930 words towards my Creative Writing course. Challenge – to have written at least two sets of course notes for the next academic year by the end of the summer break. I’m hoping to have the Spring Term notes completed by the end of November.
  • Erm… Well, I’ve made SOME progress in this department. Albeit rather paltry… Challenge – submit all my unsold short fiction and poetry. Not there yet…

Another up and down month – I’d have like to have made more progress with Breathing Space. I added up how much I’d written towards my course since the start of the year, including notes, lesson plans and admin – and the total to date is a jaw-dropping 69,900 words… That doesn’t include emails to students, either… I also wrote 7,400 words in book reviews and blogs this month, making my monthly wordcount 31,150 and my yearly total so far 227,130 words. Hm. Must try harder…

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – July Roundup


moonThis is the ambitious goal setting inspired by writing buddy Mhairi Simpson waaay back at the end of December – said goals were set under the influence of strong Assam – in the belief that even if we failed, we would still have achieved far more than if our targets had been more sensible. So at the end of yet another month – how am I doing?
Breathing Space is still progressing steadily, if more slowly than I really would like. I’ve just been away and been grannying fairly intensively (it’s what tends to happen during the summer holidays…) so the writing has inevitably slowed up somewhat. But I do feel I’ve reached a point where I can dive back into Jezell’s world without too much effort – and she has finally overcome her tendency to burble away at the reader in tell mode.
Challenge – to have the first daft of Breathing Space completed by the end of August. Being realistic, I think it’s more likely to be finished in early September.
• I set this challenge in the firm belief that I wouldn’t achieve it – but up to now it has sort of taken care of itself and July was no different. But during the last week of the month I started 2 books that I didn’t bother to finish and completed 2 others that I’m not going to review as I didn’t sufficiently enjoy them. So I’m not sure I shall be able to continue to sustain my output.
Challenge – to write and publish 100 book reviews on my blog during 2014. I wrote another 10 reviews during July, so I should be able to achieve this target with ease.
• I completed Chapter 21 of Chaos in New Cluster and my amazing writing partner and I are starting to plan how we are going to wind up with particular adventure, which has been a total blast.
Challenge – to complete Chaos in New Cluster which I am writing with Michael J. Griffiths before the end of the year. This is looking very doable.
• I now need to roll up my sleeves and get cracking on my course notes for next term – particularly as both courses are already full. I’d love to be one of those folks who can perform two major tasks at the same time – but I’m not. While I’m planning and writing my Creative Writing courses, my novel writing has to stop, otherwise I don’t get the necessary depth and quality in either the course notes or writing exercises.
Challenge – to have written at least two sets of course notes for the next academic year by the end of the summer break. Not yet started. Watch this space…
• Nope. Again dismally failed at this target.
Challenge – submit all my unsold short fiction and poetry. Another wholesale failure at this particular target.

Again, it’s been a mixed month – although I’m happier with Breathing Space, having written 26,000 words this month and nearly at the halfway point. If I didn’t have to write the course notes and spend more chunks of my time grannying, I’d probably get it completed this month. However, those are also crucial calls on my time and non-negotiable for completely different reasons.

Writing just over 5,000 words toward Chaos in New Cluster, has brought this rom-com science fiction post-apocalyptic thriller closer to the finishing post (Mike and I haven’t so much mashed up our genres – more like creamed them with added spice and nuttiness along the way…)  I also wrote 7,000 words in book reviews and blogs this month, taking my monthly writing total to 38,000 words in July and my yearly total so far to 184,000. If only I could get to grips with submitting my work – I’d be really pleased with myself…

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – June Roundup


Well, we’re now halfway through the year, so how is the strategy holding up? The one – conceived with Mhairi Simpson at stupid o’clock and fuelled by FAR too much strong tea – of working towards insanely ambitious targets in the hopes that I’ll achieve more than if I’d set sensible goals? Patchy, I’d say… Right now I could do with a clone to watch the tennis while I write – or polish off a few chapters while I do the Wimbledon bit.

• I’m still working on Breathing Space, although it isn’t progressing as fast as I’d like… Slow and steady is characterising my writing at present, which isn’t really how I generally produce my first drafts. But this is unknown territory – I know most of the plotpoints and narrative arc in this particular book, whereas normally that all unfurls as I write. My battles to recapture Jezell’s voice are more or less over – I feel I’m back inside her skin now. But she still wants to natter away and tell all to her audience, rather than show them what happened. If I am to hit my target of having the first draft completed by the end of August, I’m really going to have to put my foot to the floor this month and get at least 10 chapters finished.
Challenge – Have first draft of Breathing Space completed by the end of August. In progress and still just about doable.

• I was doing quite well with the blog, until Wimbledon interrupted… It turns out that I cannot watch tennis AND write at the same moontime. Which I’d established before, but it didn’t do any harm in checking. So I need to get it back on track as August is going to be another iffy month with a lot of family stuff going on. But the Challenge I merely threw in just for the Hell of it and without any intention of working particularly hard to achieve is the one that is still rolling forward, absolutely on target, as I’ve written 10 reviews this month…
Challenge – To write and publish 100 reviews on my blog during 2014. Comfortably on target as I’ve completed 64 reviews so far this year.

• Sorry Mike – I’d written about half of Chapter 21 for Chaos in New Cluster, our team-writing project of producing a post-apocalyptic science fiction rom-com, before my annual teaching observation at Northbrook sideswiped me. Will make it a priority in July!
Challenge – To complete Chaos in New Cluster by the end of the year. On target – just about…

• I’ve now completed this year’s Creative Writing course at Northbrook College, which was, as ever, enjoyable and stimulating with great students. There is now a long break until we resume in the third week of September, but as both my courses are already full for the autumn term, I need to get cracking on writing the course notes for How To Write Mood Music and tidy up the last few administrative tasks for the 2013/14 academic year.
Challenge – To write the course notes for next term – not yet started.

• As for the pesky target about submitting my unsold short fiction and poems? Nope – haven’t got to grips with that one yet. BUT I do have the timeslots free when I normally am teaching, so I’ve decided to use that time towards browsing/preparing/submitting work. Watch this space…
Challenge – To submit all my unsold short fiction and poems – dismally failed to date.

Another up and down month. I’ve written 17,000 words on Breathing Space – a fair proportion of those haven’t made it into the first draft as I’ve been junking all Jezell’s rants and looong explanations about stuff the reader doesn’t need to know yet, while writing myself back inside her skin. The reviews for my blog ran to another 10,000 words during June and Northbrook admin for my Creative Writing summer term contributed another 5,000 words, taking my monthly total to 32,000 and my yearly total to date to 145,000 words. Hm… need to get cracking if I’m going to get within sniffing distance to some of those targets!