Tag Archives: writing

June 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffJune2020Roundup

Standard

Lockdown has continued throughout June, though we have been able to see more of our family, which has been wonderful. We were particularly thrilled to be able to meet up on my birthday and have a picnic. Most of the time, though, we have been continuing with the new normal. Himself going off to work, while I have stayed at home reading and writing… While we have had some wonderful warm weather, the cooler windy episodes means spending time with visitors outside hasn’t been practical.

Reading

I read seventeen books in June, which is still more than usual – though I am increasingly unsure what usual means anymore. I had a single DNF and once again, I’m struck by the overall quality of the books I’ve read. My Outstanding Books of the Month were TUYO by Rachel Neumeier and The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal. Neither were audiobooks, as most of the month I’ve been in the thickets of The Priory of the Orange Tree, which I am listening to at 1.5x slower as the narrator’s voice is quiet. I might have completed it by Christmas…

My reads during June were:

AUDIOBOOK The Naturalist – Book 1 of The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne

Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristelle Comby – see my review

The House on Widows Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green – see my review

Set My Heart To Five by Simon Stephenson – see my review

The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty – see my review

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – see my review

Flower Power Trip – Book 3 of the Braxton Campus mysteries by James J. Cudney

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken – Book 3 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall

NOVELLA To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

The Ruthless – Book 2 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman

Entangled Secrets – Book 3 of the Northern Circle Coven series by Pat Esden

Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker

TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier – see my review – Outstanding book of the month

The Calculating Stars – Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

The Fated Sky – Book 2 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal – Outstanding book of the month

Ghost Ups Her Game – Book 9 of the Bailey Ruth mysteries by Carolyn Hart



Writing and Editing

I worked on editing a friend’s book for the first quarter of the month, then turned to a space opera adventure I’d written several years ago to see if it was any good. I worked on rewriting and tidying it up and hopefully will have it ready to publish before the end of the year.

I then published my short story Picky Eaters about a grumpy elderly dragon, who suddenly finds himself in the middle of family life when he gets unexpectedly evicted from his lair and has to move in with his daughter. I have been really pleased with the reception, as I’d hoped it would provide an enjoyable escapist read. All proceeds will go to mental health charities.

Because I was editing and rewriting, my wordcount is far smaller this month, but that’s how it goes. Overall, I wrote just under 31,000 words in June, with just over 21,000 on the blog, and just under 10,000 on my writing projects.


Blogging

I am finding being able to chat about books a great comfort on my blog, but as Himself is now on holiday from the last week in June, I haven’t been around to comment and visit as much as I’d like – sorry about that. Hopefully once we get back to normal, I will be around more. I hope you are all keeping well, both physically and mentally. It’s an ongoing strain and I’ve been rather frayed at times, even though I’m also aware we have been very lucky… so far. Take care and stay safe.x






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

Standard


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.

Reading
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

Writing
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.

Blogging
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






Dragon’s Loyalty Award

Standard

I am delighted to accept Charles French’s nomination for the wonderfully named Dragon’s Loyalty Award. Charles French’s Words Reading and Writing blog is subtitled ‘And exploration of writing and reading’ which nicely sums up his whole approach, so it’s not a surprise that he is rapidly growing in popularity with his series of readable and informative articles that he publishes. He is also has a delightfully friendly, inclusive approach which guarantees a dragonawardwarm welcome to any passing visitor. If you haven’t already dropped in, I recommend you do so.

Meanwhile I have this Dragon Loyalty Award, thanks to Charles. The rules are:-

* Display the award certificate on your website.

* Announce your win with a post, and link to whomever presented your award.

* Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers.

* Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post.

* Post 7 interesting things about yourself.

So, my 15 nominees are:-

Mhairi Simpson – Crazy Creative

Lizzie Baldwin – My Little Book Blog

Sara Letourneau’s Official Website & Blog

Michael D. Griffiths – Yig Prime

Joanna Maciejewska – Melfka

Sophie E. Tallis

Leiah Cooper – So I Read This Book Today

From Couch to Moon

Anastasia – Read and Survive

Zeke Teflon – Rip-roaring reviews

D. Parker – yadadarcyyada

Ionia Martin – Readful Things Blog

Siamese Mayhem – Musings on YA novels and pop culture

Humanity’s Darker Side – A book review blog

Dr Suzanne Conboy-Hill

Seven Interesting Things About Me – hm… it’s debatable whether the facts below are remotely interesting, but I tried to dredge up details many of my online friends wouldn’t necessarily know about me.

1. I spent a chunk of my childhood in Zambia, and when living with my grandparents I first flew unaccompanied from England to visit my parents in Africa when I was 8.

2. As a left-hander, I turn the paper sideways and write from top to bottom, a strategy I adopted at school to avoid smudging my writing.

3. I’m a writing addict and if I go more than 3 days without putting keyboard to paper, I turn a tad unreasonable.

4. I was born on a Wednesday and so were both of my children and my granddaughter.

5. I am the ultimate monotasker – the multi-tasking skill women are supposed to be endowed with has completely by-passed me.

6. I’m an insomniac.

7. I visualise each of my books as colours when I’m writing them.

The Blog-hop Challenge

Standard

Thank you Sarah Letourneau for nominating me to contribute to this World Blog-hop. The challenge is to answer the five questions below and nominate two more people to take on the Blog-hop. Here goes…Bunny Hop

1. Include a quote.
I think it comes from the great Terry Pratchett – Writing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on… Yep. I’d agree with that.

2. Why do you create what you do?
Because it’s an addiction that really has me by the throat. I’m aware that I and my family pay a price. The hours I spend sitting at the computer pouring these words out (so far this year 277,800 and counting…) means I’m not doing other things. Some of those things aren’t crucial – let’s face it, who really cares whether the house gets dusted once a week? Or even a month? But I don’t keep up with friends as much as I should, and there are also times when I’m not the best daughter/mother/granny/sister/wife I could be – because those damn words keep swirling around in my head and if I don’t let them out, I stop being my usual sweet-natured, saintly self and instead turn into the snarling bitch from Hell…

3. How does your creative process work?
I used to just plunge in and start writing – whether it was a novel or a story, but I’m far more circumspect about doing that with a novel, these days. My favourite part of the whole business is writing the first draft, but if I’m too gung-ho then the re-writing is a massive effort of tidying up dead-ends, extra characters that didn’t go anywhere and pruning redundant plotlines. So these days, I will make some attempt to write a plot outline – and I make a strenuous attempt to have an ending planned. However inevitably in the middle of a chapter, about a third of the way in, the book will suddenly swerve off the main road speed off down a left turn. I’ve learnt to go with the flow – seven times out of ten it will work out.

The other three times it doesn’t and I have to stop, work back to where the turning went wrong and start again. As I’ve become more experienced and learnt my own writing rhythms, I can spot when it’s going wrong far more quickly and backtrack and sort it out fairly fast. I’m a bit of a conflict junkie, so there are times when I’ll get caught up in burying my long-suffering protagonist under a mound of knee-buckling problems to the extent that it simply doesn’t work. But while there are times I’ll break off from a book for a while, I’ve only a couple of times completely abandoned a novel without finishing it. The first one was when in chapter 3, my lantern-jawed hero was suddenly castrated in a tragic accident – which was when I realised my destiny didn’t lie in writing straight romantic fiction…

4. How does your work differ from others in your genre?
My writing voice is very strong – for good or for ill. I’m one of those Marmite writers readers either love or loathe. I write mostly science fiction and some fantasy. I’m particularly fascinated by the dynamics of family life and in what form it will survive when we are living on different planets, or family ships carrying cargo, as my current protagonist’s family do, for instance, in my Sunblinded trilogy.

And the collection of short stories I’m shortly self-publishing, entitled Picky Eaters, explores what happens when Granddad has to move in with his daughter after Sammy Jo and Billy Bob, his grandchildren, manage to upset the neighbours so they run him off his mountain dwelling. And Granddad is a crotchety dragon cursed with the gift of time-travelling…

5. What are you working on right now?
I’m writing Breathing Space, the last book in a trilogy I hope to be self-publishing next year. It charts the adventures of my Iberian merchanter’s daughter Jezell Campo, from when she is a wannabe trainee officer on her father’s ship, to the final book when she is on a mission to track down and kill a psychotic murderer threatening her family. The first two books, Running Out of Space and Dying for Space are completed bar the final edits and I hope to have the first draft of Breathing Space finished before Christmas.

I’m enjoying writing the book, although it has thrown me a few curved balls – it’s one of the addictions about the writing process, it never gets boring… While I have other books I’d like to be traditionally published, Jezell Campo is going to be my PI in a series of science fiction crime series I’ve planned out, which I’m really excited about. This is one project is one I’d like to keep under absolute control.

I’m also working on next term’s course notes Keep Writing on the Right Track. Each term has a particular teaching focus and next term we’ll be looking at those issues that can derail a writer. I do a lot of thinking and reading before I start writing the handouts – which will be at the beginning of next month at the latest. I hate running any project right up to the deadline as the sort of pressure never produces my best work.

My continual work in progress are the reviews and occasional other articles I produce for my blog – another passion. I’m an avid and enthusiastic reader and have become somewhat addicted to writing reviews sharing my excitement about a good book I’ve recently enjoyed. I don’t write negative reviews because these days I simply don’t bother to complete books I don’t like – Life is too short.

My nominations for blog-hopping are:
Mhairi Simpson, for her site Reality Refuge.
I met up with Mhairi back in 2011 at Fantasycon and we just… clicked. We poured out our passion for writing fantasy and science fiction, swapped life histories and discovered we had a lot more in common than the fact we’re both strong-minded blondes… Her blog reflects who she is – brave, articulate and with a tendency to run into situations at a full gallop. She writes fantasy, including several self published excellent short stories and edited the critically acclaimed anthology Tales of Eve – I reviewed it here – which include stories from the likes of Juliet E. McKenna and Adrian Tchaikovsky. She is also one of the most endlessly inventive people I’ve ever met and spending a week-end in her company makes me feel brand new and excited about writing all over again… If I could bottle her, I would.

C Miller. Another impressively talented YA Fantasy writer who regularly blogs. Check out her book Reave. She writes with a passion that sweeps you into her world. Her blog is enjoyable and well written, while she is enthusiastic and supportive of other writers – all in all a thoroughly deserving nominee, who I guarantee will answer the questions interestingly…

Sharpen up your dialogue…

Standard

Grammar spot

Setting out dialogue – if this doesn’t get nailed at school, it can provide problems. Just remember that if you can put your words inside a comic speech bubble, it should be surrounded by speech marks. Eg,

“Land ho!” called the sailor.

• Whenever someone new starts to talk ALWAYS start a new line, generally indenting it, except at the start of a new section or chapter.
• The text inside the speech marks is known as direct speech.
• The he said/she said lines are known as dialogue tags (more on this later…)
• Although I have added an exclamation mark, go easy on them. Editors generally don’t like them – and never more than one at a time.

General points

Dialogue can:-
• Give an immediate sense of your characters, especially if you ensure they use contrasting speech rhythms, vocabulary based on age, education, etc
• Inject pace, tension and/or humour into your work
• Move the plot along by introducing important information without lengthy descriptions
• Visually break up blocks of text on the page – a fairly modern concern, by the way. But certainly one to take into consideration if you are submitting your work to professional markets and competitions

Dialogue can also:-
• Derail the narrative tension by including too much pointless information, eg, “I’m fine, thank you. How are the kids?” Even in literary fiction, ensure that you compress your speech by taking out everything that isn’t necessary to your plot
• Kill your characters stone-dead with clunky, unrealistic speeches. One of the giveaways of an inexperienced writer is their characters often talk in chunks. In reality, people interrupt. A rule of thumb is never to let your character say more than 3 lines of speech at a time