Monthly Archives: October 2017

My Week In Writing (29/10/17)

20171029_135909.jpgAnd just like that, October’s nearly over…

I went along to the Edinburgh NaNoWriMo opening party today. Played some games, met some interesting writers and some NaNoWriMo newbies! I think I’ve officially achieved veteran status at this point, what with seven novels under the old belt.

I’m now in the process of creating my novel on the NaNo site. Slightly terrifying given how hard I found Inktober, but fingers crossed. I’ve got the first five days of November off work to get into the swing of it.

I was also out last night celebrating Halloween, so all in all this has been an odd weekend.

Speaking of Inkober, I’m up to date with 29 little stories written, including a couple of snippets from the world(s) of the novel I’m planning to write this November. Like I said, getting into the swing of it.

I have a job interview Tuesday! Which I really ought to have done some preparation for but I do have all day tomorrow so I’m feeling pretty chilled out.

And here’s the big news: my story has been longlisted for the Shoreline of Infinity Flash Fiction contest! Which means it’s going to be published in 2018 together with the other longlisted stories in a special anthology. I’m very excited – watch this space!

This week, I listened to Survival of the Fittest and Architects of History from Big Finish. I had some reservations about the trilogy but it turned out to be some really outstanding stuff and I’m looking forward to continuing the story with UNIT: Dominion. But mostly right now I’m just very pumped for The Morton Legacy.

I’m keeping up with the new seasons of The Good Place and Dirk Gently, both of which I have some mildly complicated feelings about and neither of which I can really talk about further without massive spoilers. Also, in both cases I really ought to wait for the season to pan out before casting too much judgement.

Up next, I’m going to start Stranger Things 2 and probably drink some wine.


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Here we go again: NaNoWriMo ’17

I can’t quite believe it’s that time of year again, but here we are: in seven days it’ll be November, also known as, National Novel Writing Month, also known as, why do I do this to myself.

And not only that: this year will be 10 years since I did my first WriMo! (Though not my 10th WriMo – more on that later).

I thought to celebrate the occasion – T minus one week! – I could take a look back at my previous WriMos, and see what, if anything, I learned.

I heard of NaNoWriMo some time around 2005 but I was reluctant, for a long time, to dive in. I was doing my GCSEs, I had coursework, I had homework, I was just like, super busy. But then one day I looked forward and realised… I was basically always going to be super busy. So come November 2007 I decided I’d just go for it:

NaNoWriMo 2007: ‘Untitled Novel’ 50,090 words

This was the latest in a series of attempts at the same novel I’d been attempting since I was about fourteen, and not the most successful one. I’m honestly not sure what I did with all those words, since best as I recall it was just magical teenager shenanigans, pages and pages of them. I think the idea was there was going to be plot, but I never got to it.

I finished on November 29th and didn’t have the energy to do another day just for the bonus words.

What I learned: the basics of NaNoWriMo; that I could commit to writing more than a thousand words a day; and also that I really love hitting targets.

NaNoWriMo 2008: ‘Summer’ 65,420 words

Now we’re talking! I had an almost entirely new project – I wrote the beginning of Summer in July 2008 – I had an actual plot and I had a determination to outdo myself.

Although if I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember much about writing this one. I suppose it’s just that I’ve revisted and re-writen Summer aka The Summer Masque so many times in the intervening 9 years that my memories of writing this initial, raw draft have been overwritten. I must have had a good time, though – look at that wordcount!

What I learned: how to write an actual novel, with a plot; how to improvise; how to worldbuild

NaNoWriMo 2009: ‘Autumn’ 80,250 words

Woof. I went a little crazy in November 2009. It was my first year of university, I was running my own affairs, my coursework projects… weren’t that important because you know, first year, and for the first time I had a local group to attend. I remember a lot of long hours in cafes, a lot of new friends, a lot of chips, a lot of cake.

The finished project was a mess that I’m still struggling to make sense of, but this remains my favourite WriMo. It was a truly great month and I don’t regret a moment of it.

What I learned: how to write and write and write!

NaNoWriMo 2010: ‘Phases of Being’ 50,000 words

Second year of university is when I learned how to actually be a student. I was taking my studies very seriously, I had a lot of coursework and was a lot more driven.

In the interim I’d made another more succesful attempt to write the Big Novel and I figured for WriMo I’d pick up where I left off. I wrote a 50,000 block from the middle of it and as you can tell from that, um, wordcount, I wasn’t putting in more time or effort than was necessary!

What I learned: how to manage my time, how to juggle projects, how to find & know my limits

At this point, I knew I wasn’t going to be writing any more WriMos for the forseeable future. Juggling second year coursework with a novel had been hard enough. Come November 2011, I made what was definitely the responsible decision and bowed out till I was sure I had the time… which was…

NaNoWriMo 2014: ‘Autumn (Redux)’ 70,034 words

Looking back, this one was a bit of a cheat. I was essentially just re-writing, from the ground up, my 2009 effort. But I don’t regret it. I got some good material out of it and it was a massive mental health boost.

In November 2014 I’d been unemployed for two months and was really struggling with job hunting, with motivation, and with general self-worth. Having a structured project to work on and twice-weekly socials to go along to was exactly what I needed.

And fortunately, come the start of December I started a work experience placement – and by January I had a job. It worked out okay!

What I learned: to believe in myself again, how to re-write, to re-revist.

NaNoWriMo 2015: ‘Here we are again (A Working Title)’ 61, 453

Would you believe… essentially the same novel as my first WriMo. Only this time, not a cheat. In 2015 I was stuck in a mindless job and really needed to dive straight into something, so I decided to go again and give volume two of the Big Novel a shot.

It got off to a slow start but ultimately worked out pretty good. I re-read it a few months back and it works pretty well! I’m considering picking up where I left off next week…

What I learned: to take the plunge, to take my characters further

NaNoWriMo 2016: ‘After My Mother Disappeared’ 70,484 words

Right up till the end of October I was undecided about which project to dust off… but then I had a dream, and in my dream were the bones of a YA fantasy. So here it is: my one and only entirely fresh start WriMo.

It was tremendous fun. I had very little idea where I was going with it, but I kept writing and in the end it came together beautifully.

What I learned: to take risks, to really write by the seat of my pants

NaNoWriMo 2017: ?

As you can see from the above: I’ve done NaNoWriMo 7 times and I’ve yet to lose. I take commitments very seriously and I can write fast, when I want to.

That’s why each year is always a little nerve-wracking: at this point, I don’t know if I could stand losing! I’d rather not try at all, which probably isn’t healthy. The fact that I’m struggling to stay on top of a goal of 100 words a day at present isn’t helping!

But I did it last year when I was working full time and I can do it again. It’s just a matter of making a decision:

Option A: pick up where I left off with 2015. Very tempting as I almost did this last year!

Option B: keep on going with Annique, my current project. Practical and responsible but I’m starting to hate it already so, maybe not.

Option C: start something new. I’ve been using Inktober to toss around some ideas for a sci-fi story based on a couple of short stories I’ve written. There’s some bones there. It’d be a risky move, for sure.

Well: the good news is, I have a whole week to make my mind up!


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My Week in Writing (22/10/17)

20171021_134918.jpgI’ve had an odd week, for reasons that to be quite honest, aren’t suited to this blog. Let’s just say I lost most of a night’s sleep and for the first time in several months one of my fridge shelves isn’t propped up with a pint glass.

My Inktober document is sitting just shy of 5k and I only have another 8 prompts to go. Written some excerpts of stories I’ve been throwing about for a while plus openings for various new things that I’m mildly excited about!

I listened to The Outliers, which I enjoyed very much and am planning to do a proper review of (perhaps when the season finishes, to avoid flooding my blog with posts about obscure Doctor Who stories) so I shan’t say too much more.

I also listened to A Heart on Both Sides and All Hands on Deck, Big Finish’s two Time War era stories pairing the Eighth Doctor up with classic series companions. A Heart on Both Sides was pretty good but All Hands on Deck really is a treasure and genuinely surprising.

And I listened to Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories, an anthology release starring Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. I found the title story a bit so-so but the rest were really outstanding. An Eye for Murder was probably the stand-out, some truly chilling stuff.

I went to the Creative Salon on Tuesday, which was a low-key kind of mixer this month. Met some nice people, got into a strange and intriguing conversation about ghosts, left early.

I had my mother to visit! We went to the National Museum on Friday to see the Galloway Hoard – which they’re in danger of losing, go here to find out more and donate to help them by it. On Saturday we went up to Newport-On-Tay to see Generations of Colour, an exhibition of artworks by David and Callum McClure.

David was a good friend of my grandparents to my mum was very keen to see the show. We fortuitously managed to go on a day when Callum was doing a monotyping demonstration, so that was interesting! Fascinating process to watch.

Next week, I’m probably going to be doing more filing at work, which means I’ll be able to listen to some more Big Finish. Which is good timing because they had a 10% off everything sale this weekend, so I have a lot of audios to listen to. Otherwise, no plans.

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Review: Doom Coalition 4

doomHere we are: the final installment. Looking back, Doom Coalition represents an interesing Big Finish transition, as they got the rights to and, naturally, wholeheartedly embraced New Who. Here we have River Song, we have the Time War… we have the Weeping Angels.

Ship in a Bottle: Picking up from volume three’s nailbiting cliffhanger, the boxset gets off to a strong start. The Doctor, Liv and Helen are hurtling forward into the time vortex, into a future that no longer exists. They have the contents of their semi-functional escape pod. They have their wits. They have each other.

What follows is, perhaps surprisingly, volume four’s character piece. There’s never any real doubt in the listener’s mind that they’ll find a way out. The drama comes from listening to the characters grapple with their situation, from their at times starkly different ways of dealing with the horror of their circumstances. It’s ingenious and, ultimately, triumphant. I’d say this is probably my second favourite Doom Coalition story, after Absent Friends.

Songs of Love: River Song, left alone in the lion’s den, does the natural thing… teams up with the enemy. The Doctor is gone, Liv and Helen lost in a rapidly diminishing future; this is River’s story and for the first time in the series (IMO) she really shines, spectacularly conning the Time Lords while simultaneously grappling with her own heritage.

River visiting Gallifrey for the first time has a potential for character drama which isn’t lost here, even as the story stays as quick and action-packed as ever. River is not a Gallifreyan; she is not an alien. The Time Lords struggle to identify her, but she knows exactly who she is and what she’s doing, and she has the villain wrapped around her little finger. River Song at her heroic best.

The Side of the Angels: And now for something completely different. Tracking the Eleven, the Doctor lands in New York in the 1970s, where he finds more than one old enemy lurking. Reverend Mortimer, aka the Meddling Monk (played here by a deliciously camp and scheming Rufus Hound) has joined forces with the last free Time Lords to create a stronghold against the end of the universe. And to that end, they’ve recruited the Weeping Angels.

This is the point in the boxset where things start to get really complicated. I admit: I’d forgotten who Cardinal Ollistra was or why I should care, and between the main arc, Ollistra’s scheming, the Eleven’s counter-scheming, and the addition of the Weeping Angels, I got a bit lost.

That said, once you reach the inevitable carnage the story really comes into its own. Big Finish has done an impressive job of realising the Weeping Angels on audio, and you feel them here even if you don’t see them. Unfortunately the weak link in the boxset, but still a great ride.

Stop the Clock: Returning to Gallifrey to face down the Doom Coalition, the Doctor, Liv and Helen are working against the clock. The Doom Coalition have one chance to unleash their wave of destruction on the future. The Doctor has one hour to stop them. The race is on.

As with The Side of the Angels I got a little lost here, between all the returning characters and all the threads, but the characters ring very true. The Doctor, Liv and Helen haven’t had as much room to breathe as some other TARDIS teams but here the Doctor trusts both of them absolutely, letting both of them play vital and dangerous roles in his plan, and it feels right.

And what is, in retrospect, the true arc of Doom Coalition comes to a head, as Caleera AKA the Sonomancer. The two aspects of her character, the tormented, maligned young woman and the fearsome villain coming together for a conclusion that’s at once satisfying, tragic and straight up chilling.

Verdict: I do have to say, looking back I think Doom Coalition 3 was the strongest installment. It’s almost inevitable: with so many threads to bring together and tie up, the final installment of a series like this would be… unforgiving to write, to say the least.

That said, the highs are really high: Ship in a Bottle, the Doctor confronting the Monk for the first time post-To the Death, River at her best, another team TARDIS facing the Angels… Caleera’s reconciliatin with Helen and their ultimate face.

In retrospect, it’s blinding obviously what Caleera’s fate would be. I did find the handling a little lacking: given her insistance that she is not and was never a monster, I do wish the tragic irony of her becoming what she did had been dwelt upon. But it was a shocking and thrilling moment, nonetheless.

As I’ve said in previous reviews, I found Doom Coalition a little lacking in characterisation, but it more than makes up for it in excitement, drama and plot twists – oh, there are twists! – and when it slows down and focuses on its characters, it sings.

All four boxsets together are a tense, concisely-plotted ride and if you want a jumping in place for the Eighth Doctor, you could do a lot worse.

Up next for Eight is a four-part Time War boxset and as pumped as I am, I’m really looking forward to seeing more of Liv and Helen. Don’t leave us hanging Big Finish. Please?

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My Week In Writing (16/10/17)

20171013_120515.jpgA short update this week. Between various things I’ve been having a pretty exhausting time.

I’ve been doing some training at work, which has included getting sent to what I can only descibe as the filing jail. I’m probably going back tomorrow. And will need to take comfortable shoes this time.

I’m still working on Inktober – I’m all up to date and only missed a couple of days. Looking forward to expanding some of the drabbles I’ve written into full stories.

I finished Quiet, Loud, my very strange werewolf story. I think I managed to get it to a stage where other people would understand it, but there’s only one way to find out, I suppose!

I also finished Anita and Me, which means I’ve hit my Goodreads goal of 45 books! I decided to shoot for 50 a while ago, though, so I’m still going. I’m now reading The Time Hoppers by Robert Silverburg, which I confess I bought mostly for the aesthetic.

And I finished Doom Coalition 4, which I have somewhat complicated feelings about but mostly enjoyed! There’s teasers out for the upcoming Time War boxset, which I was pleasantly surprised to find in my library – they came with the newest Time War-themed short trip.

The Outliers is also out, which I’m very excited about… but probably won’t have time to listen to till next weekend. Oh well.

This week, I’m hoping to finish my final read through of my novel. Tomorrow I’m going to the Creative Salon at the Traverse Bar, and next weekend my mum’s coming to town! So, busy week.

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Let’s talk writing music

Lately Youtube has been recommending me nothing but ‘ambient’ mixes. I know exactly why this is – tinnitus + a need to be productive and concentrate without being distracted by having to pick what to listen to next – but given that I do sometimes use Youtube to listen to music, it’s getting annoying.

But anyway: since I’m pushed for time this week, I thought I’d share some favourites that I’ve been writing to lately:

First up, what I’m listening to right now: Autumn River Sounds, which is seasonally appropriate and comes with a suitably relaxing video.

I’m a big fan of nature-y white noise. Waterfall Sounds is another nice one, and is part of a channel with a huge variety of similar, long videos.

When it comes to music, I found a Steampunk & Victorian Era compilation that I like to listen to while editing my novel. I also really enjoy this Studio Ghibli piano collection and lately I’ve been listening to the Coraline soundtrack a lot. Less relaxing but certainly atmospheric!

I’ve also been spending some time delving into the world of Indie albums on Youtube and keep returning to Strange Trails by Lord Huron.

And finally, Cosmos: A Musical Journey Through Time and Space is a truly epic three-part series that I’ve yet to get tired of!

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My Week in Writing (08/10/17)

20171007_150822.jpgIt’s been a long week. Very stop and start on my writing projects, thankfully slow at work – we’ve finally cleared the backlog of work that’s been there since I arrived, and I was personally thanked by the manager for my contribution to said backlog clearing, so that was nice. Next week I should be training on something new, at last!

I’m partway through chapter seven on my novel. Slow going, it’s not the most engaging task and I don’t always have the energy to do it properly. Annique is sitting at 39k which continues to seem unnaturally short for how long I feel like I’ve been writing it!

My new short story has, conversely, turned out a big longer than I expected. It’s at 6k and rising, but (I hope) very nearly done. Hopefully it’ll make sense to people who aren’t me.

I’ve also, on a total whim, decided to do Inktober for Writers. Inktober is a drawing challenge that runs every October on tumblr (and presumably other sites, I don’t actually know!) and this year someone put up a set of writing prompts.

I’m trying to do at least a hundred words for each prompt, alternating between sci-fi and fantasy, and I think I’ve produced some good material, so far. Certainly some completed flash fiction which is a rarity for me!

I’m reading Anita and Me, which is heavier than I expected – I saw the film years and years ago and I’m getting the feeling that it softened the story a bit. I also reviewed. The Greengage Summer on Goodreads.

I went on an outing yesterday in search of further books! I went to Lighthouse Books in Newington to check out their LGBT section and picked up Stonewall by David Carter and a very tiny Penguin anniversary edition of Sappho. And I went to Transreal Fiction for the new edition of Shoreline of Infinity.

Also, as of yesterday I am (for the first time since leaving home) a public library card holder, which is exciting. Really long time coming because I am very much running out of space for books.

Anyway: I have a novel to edit.

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Review: The British Invasion

britishI confess: I’m a little late with this here review, given that Big Finish have already put out their next two Monthly Short Trips (and it looks like an exciting pair, too!). But I was never not going to review something as relevant to my interests is this: The British Invasion.

I love BF’s Short Trips (the books, the audio collections, and the monthlies) and I love the Second Doctor, so a Two-era Short Trip is always an extra special treat for me. And this one didn’t disappoint!

The TARDIS lands in London, in the summer of 1951, perfectly situated to take in the Festival of Britain. The Doctor is enthralled; Jamie and Zoe are less so. When you can go to the past and the future whenever you want, what’s the point of a museum? Museums, the Doctor declares, tell you what people think about their own past and future.

Soon, all three TARDIS crew members are united by a common purpose as they become determined to help a scientist make her exhibit work – to send radio signals to the moon and back.

The Festival of Britain was an ingenious bit of history to highlight. One of the strengths of Doctor Who, especially BF Doctor Who, is its ability to put to the forefront oft-looked historical events and this is an especially apt example.

Though it’s a historical the setting harks back to the roots of Doctor Who itself, the optimistic, ‘shining vision of the future’ era of sci-fi to which sixties ‘Who belongs. In many respects it’s a world away from sci-fi today.

The British Invasion is also one of those (in my experience, rare) Two-era stories that does justice to all its characters. A lot of writers seem to struggle with three-person TARDIS teams, but Jamie and Zoe both get a chance to shine here, in there own, strange way. Ultimately, though, it comes down (as it ever does) to a battle of wits between the Doctor and an old enemy.

And that, for me, is where things started to get disquieting, and not in a good way. The reveal of the enemy-of-the-week is ingeniously done and I shan’t spoil it. It’s a great use of a Classic Who monster.

But with the reveal of the monster comes the reveal that the characters have been manipulated all along, that their enemy has literally been putting thoughts in their heads that were not their own. Which, in a story as introspective as this, makes you wonder what you can trust. And if you can’t trust the narrative you’re listening to, what’s the point?

Jamie has some fascinating character moments. He sympathises with the scientist because he, too, feels that he’s not taken seriously because of his background, which is a remarkable step for a character who earlier stories had shown to be openly sexist at times. He’s the only character to notice, and be troubled by, the propagandistic nature of the festival. Are any of these moments genuine? It’s never made clear.

This ambiguity isn’t a bad idea, but the short form means there isn’t really time for the narrative to deal with the consequences. It feels a touch truncated, the ending a bit rushed. It’s unexpectedly dark.

That said, I fully expected to enjoy it more on a second listen and I did. It’s a fascinating little story and I continue to be glad I subscribed to the monthy Short Trips.


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My Week in Writing (01/10/17)

20170930_151417.jpgI can’t quite believe it’s October already! This year has flown by. I really wish it wouldn’t.

On the flip side, this has been a slow week. I’ve been trying to do a final read-through of my novel but things will keep getting in the way and progress on my other projects has been slow too.

I did, however, finish and submit my story for the Shoreline flash fiction contest and I was pleased with the finished product. It took some editing but I finally managed to have at least one reader get what I wanted from it so hopefully the judges will too!

I finished listened to The Night Witches and listened to Songs of Love, the second installment of Doom Coalition 4. Both were pretty excellent and I look forward to reviewing them!

I finished The Greengage Summer and toyed with watching the film… but I, do not like the sound of some of the changes they made for it, so I think I’ll give it a miss.

Next up I’m reading Anita and Me by Meera Syal. And after that, I only have one book left on my to-read stack… a terrifying prospect. I may have to actually go book shopping.

I also went to the Edinburgh Literary Salon, where we heard a bit about Book Week Scotland (coming up this autumn) and I got introduced to Charlie Stross. Very strange experience as I wasn’t sure how to bring up the fact that we were recently in the same book. Thankfully Noel from Shoreline helped me out!

And I started watching Red Dwarf.


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