Friday, 24 February 2017

Winter '16 Gut Reactions


I failed!! Completely and utterly. The Winter TBR pile contained eleven books but due to The Christmas Rewrite, I managed very very little recreational reading. (I did, however, consume three writing-craft books, which took some time.)
Of the seven Christmas books listed I managed all of two. Yes, two. In a holiday. So poor.
Of the others mentioned, I managed another two. I know, I know...

Lovely Santa CP gifted me three which I leapfrogged in, because I am particularly naughty like that. They were;
I’ll be home for Christmas – CRISIS anthology (YA)
Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (YA)
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland (YA)

 Easily (the competition is small) the joint Book of the Season are Holding up the Universe and Our Chemical hearts which were top-rung YA novels. Loved them. One of them doesn’t even have a happy ending – which is tantrum territory – but get this- I didn’t mind. That’s how otherwise pleasing it was – or else I’m just growing up a bit…

 Given I read very few, there’s only a couple of other thoughts;
-          One was just too worthy, which detracted from the enjoyment.
-          I love quirky forms of storytelling and one of these had that. But the quirky form in this case made it quite hard to read, distorting the flow of the narrative, which I doubt was the desired effect. I'm verging on feeling that the form was trying to disguise an underdeveloped story. Overall it felt like a case of 'form over experience.'
 That’s it. Epic fail, but it was for good reasons, so no apologies.
Onwards!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Funny stuff for your ears.

Having given the focus to The Bestseller Experiment in my last post, I also wanted to give a nod to a few of the comedy podcasts that I've been listening to.

 The Guilty Feminist is a fave; comedians Sofie Hagen and Deborah Frances-White "covering topics 'all 21st century feminists agree on' while confessing their insecurities, hypocrises and fears that underlie their lofty principles."
So much of what they observe is spot on and absolutely recognisable. And so so funny.
 My dad wrote a porno, has me barking with laughter in the car, scaring other drivers, as Jamie Morton reads an erotic novel his 60 year old father has written, OUT LOUD to his friends Alice Levine and James Cooper, who critique. And they do critique; constantly, harshly and widely as it is truly awful on many many levels. (I’m claiming that one as a writing-related piece, as their deconstruction of Rocky Flintstone’s Belinda Blinked, is both hysterical and informative about the pitfalls of scene construction. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it… As an aside Belinda Blinked is actually available on Amazon. The reviews are entertainment in themselves.)


And then there is Standard Issue, which is a supplement podcast to Standard Issue e-magazine. Comedian Sarah Millican set the magazine up in response to all the women's magazines out there, with the aim of it being "for all women, and not making you feel shit about yourself." These podcasts have female comedians in conversation, covering all sorts of issues and opinions, with intelligence and humor. They chat, following me around the house, as I do my chores with my phone in my back pocket and they never fail to make me smile and laugh.

Anyone got a podcast to recommend? 

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Wrap your ears around this, writers

  I’ve got into podcasts recently. Mainly comedy and the one I’m going to rave about here. I listen to them when I’m ironing, in the bath or when I’m driving to collect the kids. (Not with the kids- some of the comedy podcasts are filthy.)


 The Bestseller Experiment is the one I want to put you onto if you have any interest in writing. Mark Stay and Mark Desvaux are aiming to write, edit, publish and market a bestseller in a year, podcasting about it each week with guests to help them along with advice. What’s more the guests are excellent; editors, writers, agents (mine!), bestsellers- both indie and traditional. The writers are top names; Maria Semple, Joanne Harris, Michael Connelly, Joe Abercrombie, Bryan Cranston and Shannon Meyer, Michelle Paver to name a few. Sarah Pinborough this last week was brilliant.

 They cover all sorts of ground which all writers, who have any aspirations to be published in whatever form, will find gold dust. And there are competitions!! Winnable prizes, like Bryan Cranston's tighty whities and signed books. Seriously, what's not to like?
 I’m thinking most of us don’t sit and listen to the wireless like they used to do – for me it’s generally music in the background,- but if you look at the way your time works, I’ll bet there'll be an hour where you can listen to this, even if you have to split it in parts. The commute? A run? The school run? Walking the dog? A bath? During the washing up? It’s definitely helping me through the ironing and I feel lots better when the hour has done double duty.
  For the duration of the Experiment, there is a free e-book available with all the nuggets of wisdom the guests have brought to the show.
Go seek this podcast - there is treasure to be found!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Aims and Intentions


  I was listening to a writing podcast recently (more on this in a few days), and one of the two presenters, musician & dream-coach Mark Desvaux, was talking about having aspirations and goals and how writing them down makes them far more likely to happen. I might have written that wrong; writing them down doesn’t make them happen. Writing them down makes it more likely that you’ll do what’s necessary to make them happen. You know what I mean. I’m sure there was a statistic, but it escapes me.
  I’m ridiculously poor at sticking to New Year’s resolutions, so I don’t make them. (Actually that’s not true. This New Year’s Eve I distinctly remember saying “Next year, I intend to…” but by the next morning had totally forgotten what I’d said. I still can’t remember. You get the point.)
  But I have, the last few years, been writing down my writing intentions here. 
In 2014 I wanted to up my quantity and quality. No comment about the quality, but I did bat out three separate vomit-drafts. 
2015 was about doing something with them, and while abandoning one, I pulled another into some readable shape.
In 2016 the plan was to get it ready to submit which I did, in the hope of landing an agent, which I also did. Hurrah!

  Can you see why I'm buying into the writing things down idea? (Looking back at the earlier posts, I can see I got scared when things were written down. Faced with it, it felt overwhelming - or maybe I was frightened of the commitment. Not so much any more. Now it genuinely feels helpful to have an intention stated. It's something I have to hold myself to.)

So what of this year? Things have changed now, as with Agent Federica onside there’s a plan. My writing doesn't just fill the hours while the kids are at school; it has deadlines and expectations to meet, where it never did before. Effectively I have a job again and that is requiring some alterations at home. I haven’t had employment (aside from child management) for twelve years and when I did, I didn’t have four additional lives to run at the same time. I’m not used to telling the kids to go away as I don’t have time right now. It makes me feel guilty, though I know it shouldn’t. So I have a learning curve to travel this year.
 Also during this last rewrite I took myself back to school and went through some how-to books, which made me question how I’d been writing up to now. Going forward I want to be far more savvy with my plotting and structuring, from the off. Essentially, like the last three years, I want to raise my game again. I fully intend to finish this story I’m on as soon as I can (but in as long a time as it takes to be good enough), then move on to the next, while Agent Federica sends the first off into the stratosphere. Then we’ll have to see what happens as it’s out of my hands.
(Yes that is a kitten pic. Do not judge me.)
So there it is, my 2017 pledge of intention; To develop new a working practice that fits with all of us here at home and to Write smarter, write better.

What about you? What’s your plans? Write them down!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Reading Fail

  Am totally failing on the TBR pile at the moment. Just checked and I have 6 1/2 Christmas-themed books looking at me most unimpressed with my efforts...

Thursday, 1 December 2016

*Falalalalaaaah* My Winter ‘16 TBR pile

 It’s curl-up-with-a-book,-mulled-wine-and-a-log-fire season. Hurrah!
I said I was going to do something a bit different this time. Only a bit. Not much. The pile looks like this;

Small, no? But Christmassy, yes?
They are;
Maybe this Christmas by Sarah Morgan (Romance)
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson (Romance)
I will marry George Clooney (…By Christmas) by Tracy Bloom (Romance)
The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan (Romance)
Christmas at the Cupcake CafĂ© by Jenny Colgan (Romance)
For Christmas, El Hubby is replacing my lost kindle machine. (Hallelujah!!!) On my kindle account are a bazillion books that I haven’t read yet, and have been steadily adding to, in spite of being kindle machine bereft. (Mad, right? I know, I know…) So. In addition to the mini-pile above (how many of something constitutes a pile?), I shall also be reading at least the following, plus as many others as I can hoof through.

Mistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson (Romance)
Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin (Romance)
Christmas under Starlit Sky by Holly Martin (Romance)
Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider (YA)
I was here by Gayle Forman (YA)
Me being me is exactly as insane as you being you by Todd Hasak-Lowy (YA)
Seeds of Deception by Linda Castillo (Amish Crime. Niche, right? Suspect that after all the Christmassy schmaltz I shall be ready for a bit of slaying, -neither pun in that sentence intended.)


Have a lovely winter! What are you reading?

Friday, 25 November 2016

Autumn '16 Gut Reactions

  AAARGH! I forgot to write notes about this season’s books as I went, and now, having just been fully immersed in a rewrite of my story, I have forgotten most of my thoughts. So this is going to be a scant reactions blog I suspect, and it’ll be based on me staring very hard at this picture:

 and then trying to remember what I thought a while ago.



I’m giving Book of the Season to the Lockwood & Co series (MG), which I belted through, one after the other and Son One did exactly the same. He’d gone off reading for a bit, much to my woeful lamenting, but these books brought him back to the light. It’s ghosthunting essentially, but as only kids can see the “visitors”, they are employed to catch and eliminate them. Stroud doesn’t dumb things down, the tension and scenes can be properly scary. Normally, my boys can be utter wusses when it comes to anything frightening – reading or viewing-, but I rather neglected to mention the ghost bit to Son One when I started him off, and he was hooked before he could get scared.


My only whinge is that it took until book four for the narrator and the actual main character (girl) to make it onto the front cover, as opposed to her colleague Lockwood (boy). Shows that marketing depts. still won’t risk putting boy readers off a series by having a girl on the front. So I'm going to put a bigger picture of it here, just because I can.

  Jackaby (MG) was a similar set up; girl narrator, quirky boss, facing the supernatural, but set in Victorian times, on the east coast of America. Lockwood & Co was more punchy, but it was still a fun adventure.



Another day
(YA) – I love books where you get an alternative view. This didn’t disappoint, I might even have liked it more than the original -, but then I could only do that having read the first one first, if you see what I mean.


 The Widow (Thriller) was a gripping read. One of those books where really the action isn’t high octane by any means, but the tension grows and grows.


  And the other stuff;

  One of these books, by a writer I admire, seemed well… a bit pointless in the plot. Made me think that had it been their first book, it wouldn’t have been taken on.

  One of these books was a deep disappointment. It’s been a bestseller, raved about everywhere, and the setting was interesting, but the end was dire. It made me want to shout. So many unresolved issues, and maybe it was so it could be ‘deep’, but it just felt half-arsed and weird.

  That’s it. That’s all I can remember. My small brain is full of other stuff – my own plot for example.



  I’m doing something slightly different this year for the Winter TBR pile. You’ll have to wait and see.