Monday, 17 April 2017

March in Books

This post is a little later than planned, so you haven't read the title wrong. It really is April 17th, or day 17 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. If you're taking part in A to Z this year, how's it going?

Here's what I read in March:

I found This Book Is Full Of Spiders while in my local Waterstones. It's the sequel to John Dies at the End, but can easily be read as a standalone. What drew me to the book, apart from the spiders, was the funny blurb and introduction - I needed a good laugh. The book delivered. I'm guessing this is the type of book you'll either love or hate because of the spiders. I've no fear of them, so this was a fun read for me.

Empress of a Thousand Skies was another Fairy Loot read. My favourite genre, and a quick read. Don't be fooled by the quick read comment; the universe and cast of characters Belleza created was vast and impressive. The author's tight prose and clean style made it a joy to read. I'm guessing book two won't arrive until 2018, which will be a long wait.

I read two books by Frank Tayell during March - London: Surviving the Evacuation Book One and Zombies Vs The Living Dead (An Evacuation Story). I discovered Tayell in 2015, when I read Work. Rest. Repeat. I was so impressed, I added him to my TBR list. After my severe lack of reading in 2016, I promised myself I'd read his zombie series in 2017. After reading book one (I've since read book two), I could quite happily read all nine books back to back. It's been a long time since I've read a story told through a diary format. It's also been a long time since a story's twists and turns genuinely surprised me with their originality, especially so in book two. I do, however, have a lot of books waiting to be read. The readers dilemma. One a month?

Finally, book seven of M. Pax's The Backworlds series arrived. Like the first six books in her superb space opera series, Freefall delivered in every way. When you're seven books into a series, there's a certain amount of fondness for the characters and the worlds they inhabit. You've also invested a lot of time and energy, so each book is opened up with some trepidation (or turning on the ebook reader in this case). As always, Pax did not disappoint. You know the way favourite television series surpass their fictional roots and the characters become real people to those watching? The Backworlds does that for me. Now begins the wait for book eight.

I ended March with 23% of my yearly target completed.

What books did you read in March?

Thursday, 6 April 2017

IWSG: Running Up That Hill & Goodreads Book Group

Founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG's purpose is to share and encourage. A place where writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. 

The awesome co-hosts for this month's post are Christopher D. Votey, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Fundy Blue, and Chrys Fey. Please drop by and thank them.

Lately, it feels like I'm always running to catch up and never quite getting to my destination. Hence why my IWSG post is a day late, again. My life is packed full with work, family, friends, and a myriad of non-writing jobs that need doing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I love my life. But my writing constantly comes way down the priority list. My other half keeps telling me I can take all the time I need, but that wouldn't feel right if he's left to do most of the housework, gardening, and so on. He's promised me a summer house, but that will involve clearing a large part of the garden and he'll need help. Can I really leave him to do it all? It doesn't seem right.

What I love about these IWSG posts is that writing down my insecurities is in and of itself cathartic. It's like keeping a diary, which I don't. Maybe I should, because writing down what's bothering me helps to put things into perspective. It was only a few days ago that my other half told me he's looking forward to sunny days, with him gardening and me sat at the garden table writing. He loves gardening. He'd spend all his time doing it if he could. I really should take a leaf out of his book (excuse the pun) and get busy writing.

I'm not answering this month's IWSG question, as it's related to A to Z and it's been a few years since I've taken part. If you're doing A to Z this year, have a wonderful month!

I do, however, want to give a massive shout-out for the IWSG Goodreads Book Club. They'll be reading one book every two months. Follow the link to find out more and join.

That's it for today's post. As always, I love reading your comments.

Friday, 10 March 2017

February in Books

After a slow start to my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge, I redeemed myself last month. Here's what I read in February:

Deep Space by Milo James Fowler was a lunchtime read, with seven entertaining science fiction stories. I'm a huge fan of Fowler's Charlie Madison novels, so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed by this collection and I wasn't. 

Travellers by Meradeth Houston was my first read for this author. I'm not usually a fan of stories involving time travel; the plot can become confusing if not handled right. No such problem in Travellers. Houston made both the time travel and the world the characters existed in believable from the start. It also brought to the genre a rather unique take on time travel (I won't spoil the fun) and I'd love to read more adventures set in this story world.

Anchor World by Jack Croxall was the read of the month for me; the type of book you don't want to put down. What greater recommendation is there than that? Set in deep space, it follows the journey of a young security apprentice and her tough initiation into life aboard a space ship. What I loved about it (and Milo James Fowler does the same in his Charlie Madison novels) is the skillful way the science fiction and mystery genres are combined. This is a must-read for fans of both genres.

Defective by Autumn Kalquist was a bitter-sweet read for me. I discovered the Fractured Era series in 2015, and quickly devoured all the books. Defective, a prequel to the other books in the series, was a long time coming. Whilst the other books were set in space, I knew this one would focus on Earth and thus be a departure from the story so far. While I enjoyed the read, it just didn't grip me like the others. Also, one of my pet hates in literature is excessive use of swear words and this book featured a lot of them. Will it stop me reading future books in this series? Not a chance. It's only one so-so read and I still want to immerse myself in the world Kalquist has created.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber was my book box subscription's February read. Given the choice, this is not a book I would have chosen to read. I'm not a big fan of the fantasy genre, so I struggled with the book at the start. However, I stuck with it and I'm thankful I did. Beautiful, magical prose that left me breathless. Twists and turns that kept me guessing until the final pages. A fantastical mystery that will stay with me long after the final pages.

I ended February with 13% of my 52-reads target completed. Seven down, 45 to go.

What books did you read in February? 

Thursday, 2 March 2017

IWSG: Better Late Than Never (Again)

Founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG's purpose is to share and encourage. A place where writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. 

The awesome co-hosts for this month's post are Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, M.J. Fifield, and Nicohle Christopherson. Please pop by and thank them.

The 'Better Late Than Never' part of the post title has a double meaning - I forgot about this month's post (apologies for anyone who visited yesterday) and it's never too late to rework an old story. But before I answer this month's question, I need to discuss my current insecurities.

I've been trying to put together a writing master plan to cover the next five years. A sort of road map for my various projects. It's not been going well. Every time I sit down to do it, I scare myself silly with just how much I want to achieve and convince myself that whatever book series I go with first (I have several), it will be the wrong decision. Does anyone else have this problem and then become paralyzed with fear?

I would have stayed paralyzed where it not for my other half. While he does tend to race forward with any idea he has almost immediately, he achieves so much more than I because he just gets on with it one task at a time. This made me realise that while having a plan is a great idea, it isn't as important as getting the day-to-day tasks done and that the plan itself is made up of thousands of smaller, achieveable steps. It's the smaller steps I need to concentrate on to make real progress. The long term plan will write itself.

Now for March's IWSG question:

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Yes. On more than one occasion. I tend to squirrel away any idea I have, including first drafts of stories I decided weren't good enough to progress further. I'm a natural story hoarder. Some of those stories, after major rewrites, ended up in my short story collections. I turned them into stories I loved. I know we've all heard this advice hundreds of times, but never throw anything you write away. Ever

That's it for this month's IWSG post. Does concentrating on smaller steps work for you? Have you reworked an old story and made it work?

Monday, 6 February 2017

January in Books

Over the last few years, I've been taking part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Like many goals, I've achieved my target some years and others not. Last year was a 'not' year. Having set myself the lofty target of 66 books (I read 66 in 2015), I ended 2016 having read just 16. This year I'm determined to do a lot more reading, and set my target at 52.

Here's what I read in January:

The Long Utopia is the fourth book I've read in Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett's The Long Earth series and my favourite so far. I really didn't like book one of the series, so there was a three-year hiatus between that and book two. I have to admit the only reason I bought book two was for the cover art. Thank goodness I did, because I've fallen in love with the series. And they say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

Jenny Moyer's Flashfall was my first Fairy Loot, book box subscription read. Her YA science fiction debut is a fast read, with non-stop action. Perhaps too much action. Having said that, I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the follow up, Flashtide. Moyer certainly knows how to create compelling characters and a enthralling three-dimensional world.

I ended January with 4% of my target completed, two shy of where I need to be to reach my yearly target.

What books did you read in January? Are you taking part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge?

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

IWSG: A Writer Reads

Founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer's Support Group's purpose is to share and encourage. A place where writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

The awesome co-hosts for February's IWSG posting are Misha Gericke, LK Hill, Juneta Key, Christy and Joylene Butler.

Now for February's IWSG question:

How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I really do understand and respect the countless hours of struggle and sweat that goes into writing a story. I seldom give up on a book, even if there are a spattering of technical mistakes - none of us are perfect, and there are a lot of writers cutting their teeth on a first book. I'm also more willing to try unknown authors. If the cover and blurb grab me, I'm in. You don't have to be a bestselling author to end up on my bookshelf, and that has led to many rewarding experiences. Having said that, my time is still precious. Life is too short to waste on stories that fail to hold my attention or have me throwing the book against a wall, no matter how many books you have or haven't sold.

For all of the reasons above, writing has enriched and shaped my love of reading. And that's a good thing, right? What about you?

Monday, 9 January 2017

Freefall Into Book 7 of M. Pax's #SciFi Backworlds Series

The latest instalment in M. Pax's space opera adventure has arrived, which has made my January. I'm a massive fan of this science fiction series.

The first shot of a new war echoes through the galaxy. Craze has high hopes for what the alliance with an old enemy, the Foreworlds, will do to defeat a worse enemy, the Quassers.
The test of a highly-advanced weapon, created by the efforts of the alliance, pushes tensions over the brink and kills thousands. To make it worse, the Foreworld ambassador is keeping secrets.
Conventional warfare against the Quassers isn’t working, and if the alliance ends, Craze has become the most hated man in the galaxy for no reason.
With nothing left to lose, Craze sets in motion one last chance for survival.

Congratulations, M. Pax. Adding this to my eBook reader after I hit the publish post button!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

IWSG: Are you ready?

Founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer's Support Group's purpose is to share and encourage. A place where writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Are you ready for the start of another new year? Did you wake up on January 1st motivated and ready to make this year the best ever? I did. 

I've always avoided new year resolutions, because they tend to be negative in nature. I prefer to look back over the previous year and determine what went well, what didn't, and what changes I can make for the year ahead. For personal reasons, 2016 was a year when my writing was put on hold. I ended it knowing that if I didn't make writing a priority from day one of 2017, I might as well give up.We're four days into the year and I've made time every day to write or complete writing-related tasks. I even set the alarm for 6am this morning to write this post. Getting up that early didn't kill me!

To keep myself on track and motivated, I'm using a Self Journal. It's a great tool for planning and reflection, and writing by hand means the process feels more concrete and accountable. I still have doubts. Will I continue to make the commitment to write every day? What happens when real life gets in the way? I have to trust my determination to succeed, but I can also be inspired by the members of this group. If you can do it, so can I.

Now for January's IWSG question:

What writing rule do you wish you'd never heard?

When I first started writing, I had no clear direction. I spent a lot of time reading advice from authors and online writing sites. One thing came up multiple times - write what you know. The problem was I took it literally. What would a retail worker from Devon know about science fiction? About space? I didn't work for NASA or hold a doctorate in astrophysics. How could I even consider science fiction?

It took me awhile, but I learned two things. Firstly, I knew far more than I realised. I'd been reading and watching sci-fi since a young age. I'd read many books and watched countless programmes about space. And if there was something I didn't know, I could easily find the answer. Secondly, write what you know does not have to be taken literally. It can be more about your life experiences and how they influence the stories you craft. I've always been drawn to stories of survival, where characters struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds. No big surprise given I grew up in foster care. Every new home was a survival test. So, in a way, I do write what I know.

Is there a piece of writing advice you wish you'd never heard? Do you feel ready for 2017?

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016: A Year in Pictures

At the beginning of 2016, I shared some of my personal highlights from 2015 via pictures. I've decided to do the same every January 1st. I hope you enjoy them.

I call this one 'Velociraptor Running Away from the Moon'

Another beautiful day beside the sea

They could have placed it anywhere . . .

Agatha Christie's writing desk providing inspiration

The man who makes my life complete

Pebbles giving her seal of approval to my Labyrinth 
top (Thank you, Rachel!)

When your brother surprises you with tickets to 
an outdoor screening of Star Wars

Meeting a new arrival in the family

My new writing space

When your cat falls asleep on your current read

When your cat is fascinated by your current read

When your cat chooses your next read

Just another day at the office

A Lincolnshire sunset

Happy New Year!