Category Archives: books

My Week In Writing (21/05/17)

20170521_175211Well, first of all the big news: I resigned from my job this week. I’m still hoping to find an entry level position in publishing, but I can’t stomach staying in my current job any longer. Four more weeks and I’m out. Hopefully moving to some kind of temp job. I’m trying not to think about it too much, when I’m not actively job hunting – this level of uncertainty is a terrible thing!

That out of the way: I started reading Summer and marking it up for a final round of edits. So far I’ve found two glaring flaws I’d previously missed, one of which I’m pretty sure has been there since draft one. I have no idea how I missed it for so long! I’m on chapter three, and stalling to do some minor re-structuring.

Settlement 359 has passed 140k and despite my best efforts, I’ve started a part eight, titled Freefall. Things kept getting worse and worse for my protagonist, so I rolled with it and now she’s struggling to recover from mental time travel-enduced amnesia. However, I’m pretty sure part eight will be the last one… I’ve been saying this for a while.

I’ve started work on an entry for Big Finish’s annual short story contest. Torn between two ideas, not sure which is best, and as I don’t have to have a completed story to enter and I can submit more than one, I might as well try and do both.

Speaking of Big Finish, this week I listened to a William Hartnell era Lost Story called The Dark Planet, which was both a fairly typical sixties Doctor Who story, exceptionally dark, more or less impossible to do on film now let along fifty years ago. I’m not surprised it didn’t get made. It’s fascinating listening, though.

This week’s Doctor Who, Extremis, was absolutely phenomenal. Beautifully executed mindscrew and absolutely terrifying – my only concern is how they’re going to top it with the (by the looks of it, more conventional) follow up!

I started reading Darling by Jackie Kay, which is slow going because you can’t just rush through a poetry collection, you have to pause and contemplate, y’know?

Next week, I’m planning to listen to some monthly range Big Finish stories with the Fifth Doctor (my fav!) and start reading The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, the last of my birthday books. Otherwise, I’m job hunting relentlessly.

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My Week In Writing (14/05/17)

20170512_155627I’m in Berlin! I’m writing this in my hotel room, with a view of a rather orange abstract nude painting. My window looks out over downtown.

I’m here with my parents, primarily to look at museums. We’ve done the Neues, for Egyptian artefacts, and seen the very famous Nefertiti. We’ve done the Altes, for Greek and Roman stuff, and seen the Severan Tondo, which I was excited about, my stepdad was interested in, and my mum, I think, was just sort of confused by.

We did the Pergamon, which was a touch disappointing because as it turns out, the Altar of Zeus plus a whole wing of the museum is under long term refurbishment – but there’s still a lot of very exciting stuff to see.

And then we had a look around the Bode, where we saw some more recent (ie, after the fall of Rome) sculpture, including a Donatello that we had to chase all around the renaissance galleries in search of!

We’ve always been around the cathedral – me and my mum climbed the dome while my stepdad stayed on the ground, being afraid of heighs and in possession of a dodgy knee. I probably should have stayed with him, cause it turns out the stairs up to the dome are far more nerve-wracking than I’d expected. The way up wasn’t so bad. Down was harrowing.

20170513_123140We stopped by Checkpoint Charlie, mostly to have a nose around and take some pictures – we didn’t do the museum but did have a look around the shop, which has the most surrel array of Berlin Wall themed tourist tat. I bought a piece of the wall. Or I think I did. No way to tell if it’s genuine wall or a bit of some other wall.

We’ve also had some very nice cake, admired some modern architecture, and stopped by the Haagan Dazs shop (twice).

Other things I’ve done this week: I made some good progress on editing Summer. It’s on hold till I’m back in the UK, but I’m finally starting to feel like I can actually make it into a good book.

I’m trying to keep up with Settlement 359, but it’s slow going because I don’t have the energy, and because I’ve reached a tricky bit.

I finished reading The Circle Opens and I have three out of four reviews posted on Goodreads. And I read Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay, which was a fascinating and moving read.

Next week, I’m going back to Scotland, catching up on some TV I missed, and for one reason or another, I’m not thinking much beyond that.

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My Week In Writing (7/5/17)

20170430_205810To be quite honest, I’ve had a hellishly busy week – two job interviews + a meeting to discuss volunteering + an anthology deadline. And then next week, I have two more job interviews! And after that I’m going to Berlin. So, that’s going to be a fun ride.

Settlement 359 is now sitting just shy of 132k and I really hope it’s coming up on the climax, though as I’m still not 100% sure what said climax is I really don’t know. But I am coming up on a scene I flashed forward to earlier in the novel, which is always exciting.

Summer is coming along nicely as well. I made a proper list of all the edits I still need to make and I’m working on 1-2 a night. I’m optimistically aiming to get this draft done in a month or so.

I submitted my story for The Temporal Logbook II. I’m not 100% satisfied with the finished product – I only managed to find one person to read it at such short notice and he found it confusing, which is a difficult criticism to take on board because it was supposed to be confusing. Just, in a good way. I hope.

I started re-reading The Circle Opens by Tamora Pierce. I got through Magic Steps and Street Magic, the two I read when I was a kid, and now I’m moving into new territory with Cold Fire. Once I’m done with all four, I’ll finally be done with all my Christmas books (hurray!)… and I’ll be able to move onto the books I got for my birthday. Starting with Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay.

I didn’t listen to as much audio stuff as usual, because I only worked a couple of days this week, but I did start listening to the third season of Jago & Litefoot, which in a delightful twist also features Tom Baker-era companion Leela. I’m about halfway through now and it’s probably my favourite season so far.

And I listened to The Children of Seth, part of their Lost Stories range. It’s by Christopher Bailey, who wrote some of my favourite Doctor Who serials (Kinda and Snakedance) and like his other stories, it’s dizzyingly confusing. I’m still not sure if I liked it or not.

Next week I’m hoping to finish The Circle Opens and listen to The Masters of Luxor, another lost story, this time from the William Hartnell era. And I’m going to Berlin, to see some museums and (I hope) eat some cake.

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My Week In Writing (30/4/17)

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The view from my window

April’s almost over – insert obligatory ‘can’t qite believe we’re four months into 2017 already!’ here.

Settlement 359 is now sitting at around 125k and rising and has somehow managed to grow another character, the delightfully named Georgiana Polymer Grace. Over a couple of days I went from ‘what are my characters going to do once they’ve broken into this base’ to ‘how would a pair of sixteen year olds blend in, can I justify a party of schoolchildren’ to ‘this party of schoolchildren is absolutely essential to my protagonists arc’. So that’s always a fun process to go through.

I have this very strong feeling that Georgiana Polymer is going to play some kind of role in the sequel. So far, I have no idea what the sequel will be about, but I know Settlement 359 isn’t a standalone, and I know I have characters I want to do more with (for example: Grover G, Lulu the kidnapped preacher’s daughter, the Ship Thinker). I’m equal parts excited to see where this goes and utterly terrified at the prospect of having to come up with 1-2 more books worth of plot…

I finished marking up Summer, so now I’m scrolling through the comments picking one a day to try and fix. Which is a slightly confusing way to edit, and I’ll probably have to spend a couple of weeks going over it chapter by chapter again pretty soon.

I’m also planning on moving around some of the chapter breaks, which means some moderate restructuring. I just plain don’t have the energy for that right now.

I started my Temporal Logbook submission, working-titled ‘The Tower’, which is now sitting at 7500-ish words. Which is to say, almost over the upper word limit, and maybe three quarters done. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that editing it will be manageable-ish. Hoping to have it written by the end of the long weekend, at the very latest.

I went to the Literary Salon at the Wash Bar, where I heard a talk about libraries and realised (to my shame) that I don’t actually have a library card. So, I should probably do something about that – just a matter of deciding which library I want to register with, I guess.

This week I finished reading Popshot: The Future Issue and reviewed it on Goodreads. I also read Slade House by David Mitchell and The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin (both short, both gripping). Got some notes for reviews but they’re both pretty heavy. Next week I’m switching to something lighter – I’m going to re-read The Circle Opens by Tamora Pierce.

I listened to the second two stories in Big Finish’s Raine Creevey trilogy: Animal, which was very 1989 Doctor Who so thumbs up there, and Earth Aid which is basically Doctor Who does Star Trek, with Ace Mcshane as Captain Kirk. Overall, I really strong trilogy of stories (even if none of them were outstandingly good) and Raine’s a fantastic companion. However, lots of questions left unanswered, and Big Finish’s continuity being as confusing as it is, I honestly don’t know if they get picked up in another story or not.

I also listened to season two of Jago & Litefoot, one of Big Finish’s many (MANY) Doctor Who spin offs. This one’s about George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago, a pair of very popular supporting characters from The Talons of Weng-Chiang, a very popular Tom Baker story.

I have… complicated feelings about Jago & Litefoot. The show itself is great fun and both lead characters are a delight, but it belongs to this genre of light-hearted Victoriana that always makes me vaguely uncomfortable (I don’t like the Victorians – I’m writing a novel set in a Victoria fantasy world because I hate them). But that’s probably something I should save for a full review!

I’m still enjoying the new season of Doctor Who. Bill’s great, Peter Capaldi is on point as always, and so far we’re three for three on really good stories (and these last two had only minimal Matt Lucas!).

Next week, I’m planning to go to Inky Fingers, and (hopefully) workshopping a very strange sci-fi story with my writing group. I also have two job interviews, though, so I might be too busy for either.

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My Week In Writing (23/4/2017)

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Also I made lemonade

Settlement 359 is still trucking along. Part 6 is sitting at about 10k, so I should probably find a way to wrap it up and move on to part 7, which (all going well) should be the climax. Hopefully. Maybe. Then there’ll be an epilogue. I think.

I’m now 10 chapters (out of 13) into editing Summer. Unfortunately I’ve spent most of this week too tired to substantial re-writes so I’ve just been marking passages to come back to later and then realising that I can’t re-write a related passage in the next chapter till I do the earlier passage so I just highlight that one too… you get the picture.

I’ve started working on a story for The Temporal Logbook II, a charity Doctor Who anthology. No idea if I’ll get my story finished in time for the open submission day, though – I decided to take some advice from one of Big Finish’s writers (I forget which one) and try to come up with the best possible Doctor Who story, so I’ve ended up with something very ambitious that might not be doable in <8k. We’ll see. I’m making a spreadshet.

I went to the Creative Salon at Summerhall, where we heard some poetry, which was a nice change of pace. Lot more writers than usual, so I got to chat to some people about my novels.

I finished reading The Snake Wand and reviewed in on Goodreads. Now I’m reading the newest issue of Popshot (which I submitted a story for and didn’t get into, boo). The artwork is gorgeous as ever and the theme is ‘future’, which means the stories are right up my alley.

I’m really enjoying the new season of Doctor Who. Smile was sincerely frightening in that paranoia-inducing way that New Who’s so good at, though I had a curious sensation of deja vu – I’m sure I’ve seen almost that exact premise in a Doctor Who story before, but I can’t place it. But on the up side, Matt Lucas was barely in it, which is a plus.

I listened to two Doctor Who audio plays, both from Big Finish’s Lost Stories range: Point of Entry, a very gothic piece about Christopher Marlowe (which was originally to be scripted by the author of one of my favourite Fifth Doctor serials, Enlightenment) and Crime of the Century, the first in a trilogy of stories featuring the Seventh Doctor and Raine Creevy, the companion who would have been introduced had the show now been cancelled.

Point of Entry does a really good job of capturing the tone of the Sixth Doctor era (it’s got this grungy, rough around the edges feel to it), though in many respects it harks back to the Hinchcliffe & Holmes era. I don’t think I know enough Christopher Marlowe to properly appreciate it, though. I was a bit less taken with Crime of the Century, which I found oddly dull for a story that features the Doctor’s companion sword fighting a giant insect…

I’ve also been listening to The Adventure Zone by the McElroys, ie, listening to a group of very funny and creative people play D&D. I gather the plot goes to some very exciting places (I know a lot of people who are really invested) but I’m still trying to get caught up.

Next week I’m planning to start reading Slade House by David Mitchell (which I literally JUST realised is a companion piece to The Bone Clocks – which is fine by me because I’ve read it and loved it, apparently threw some people!), finish listening to the Raine Creevy trilogy (I’ve heard mixed things so we’ll see how that goes) and make a proper start on writing this Doctor Who story. Just as soon as I get it planned out. It’s gonna need a very detailed plan.

I’m also hoping to go to Edinburgh’s Literary Salon – no idea who the feature is and don’t especially care, I jsut like getting to hang out with some writers for a few hours.

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Books To Read – April 2017

20170411_2231311 – 4: The Circle Opens quartet by Tamora Pierce. I’ve actually read the first two (Magic Steps and Street Magic) already, but I’d like to re-read them before reading the second two. They were actually my first Tamora Pierce novels if I recall correctly – I read them before the Circle of Magic, the series they’re a prequel too, which in hindsight was a misake.

5: Thirteen Steps by J. Jefferson Farjeon. Impulse purchase in a charity bookshop, because I liked the cover and I’ve kind of been craving some vintage murder mystery lately. Hopefully I’ll still be up for it by the time I get around to reading this!

6: The Snake Wand by Mavis Gulliver. The third volume in the fantasy trilogy I’m reading at the moment. On a break from it just now, but I’ll be reading it next.

7: After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry. Another charity shop impulse purchase, this one just had such an intriguing blurb, I couldn’t resist!

8: Slade House by David Mitchell. I’ve only read two David Mitchell novels (Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks) but I already consider myself a fan. Picked this up with an Amazon voucher I got at Christmas, and I’m planning to read it after The Snake Wand.

9: A Song of Stone by Iain Banks. A charity shop impulse purchase, and I’ll be honest, I bought this mostly because I really dig the vintage Iain Banks cover art.

10: The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin. Also bought with my Amazon voucher. I’m on a mission to read more Ursula Le Guin sci-fi.

10: Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay. A birthday gift, from my mum. There was a theme! (See below).

11: The Doll’s House by Rumer Godden. I’m very excited about this one! I’ve read it before, many times, but this is a new edition, part of a children’s classics range with a foreword by Jacqueline Wilson. I’ve felt for years that The Doll’s House was severely underrated so I’m really pleased to see it getting some appreciation.

12: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. A further birthday gift, from my sister. I don’t know much about it, but it’s certainly very pretty.

13: Darling by Jackie Kay. The other half of my mum’s birthday present.

14: Bed by David Whitehouse. Has a very interesting cover, an intriguing premise, and by total coincidence, it’s signed – and made out to me! Had a good laugh when I got it home from the charity shop and saw that.

15: Popshot Magazine: The Future IssuePopshot Magazine: The Future Issue. Squeezed in at the bottom – the newest issue of one of my favourite literary magazines. I submitted to this one. They didn’t want my story. Still wanted the magazine.

So, that’s my reading for the next, hmm, two months, at least. I’ll be back with more pictures of books once I’ve read these ones!

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My Week In Writing (9/4/17)

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A space station & and setting

Slower progress on my novel this week – I’ve had a lot going on! But I did start part 6, which is weird because I was pretty sure part 5 was going to be climax. Oops. 6-7 parts, I think. Wordcount is currently around 108k.

Still cracking on with Summer. I’m going over a chapter a day, so I should finish this edit and be ready to move onto the more fun business of writing chapter epitaphs in about two weeks…

I finished Cry at Midnight, and its sequel, Clickfinger, and reviewed both on Goodreads. Putting off the third volume, The Snake Wand because I’m reading Fear: Essential Wisdom For Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh for a book group meeting on Tuesday.

I workshopped a short story called The Procedure with my writing group on Monday and it went down pretty well, I think. I haven’t look over it since I wrote it so I actually forgot how squicky it gets. Sorry, writing group.

I went along to Inky Fingers with my flatmate, where we heard a love poem delivered to a block of lard, a poem about shower gel, a story about a world where chicken korma is illegal, and we all sang head shoulders knees and toes, so that was a fun night out. Couldn’t stay till the end, unfortunately – I have to be up at six every morning for my job.

Next week I’m going to Event Horizon at Banshee Labyrinth, which is always a highlight. Will probably have to give my writing group a miss because I have a job interview the next day (yay!) but I’m hoping to get back to my book group. If I can finish the damn book…

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