New Year, New Decade, So What’s The Plan? #WeekendCoffeeShare

A few years ago I decided that I wasn’t going to bother making New Year’s resolutions anymore. The fact was that whatever I ‘resolved’ to do, I always ended up feeling like I’d failed by year end. So instead I set myself a number of goals that I wanted to achieve at some point in the year, and then periodically I would sit down and review my progress towards those goals.

CoverThis year I had a few things that I really wanted to achieve, number one on that list was publishing my poetry collection ‘It’s All In The Blood’. The collection launched in November and is now available to purchase through Amazon, so I’m counting that as goal achieved.

It’s even had it’s first review:

Quietly powerful, heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time

I’m quite chuffed with that as far as reviews go.

My other main goal for the year was to complete my AAT exams, and on the 19th December I found out I’d achieved 87% on my Personal Tax exam which means that I’ve passed all my level four assessments! Now I’m just waiting for my work experience submission to be reviewed as part of my application for full membership to the AAT.

So what now?

The next step on from AAT will be CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) but I’ve decided to hold off for a few months and focus on my writing and my drawing. The last couple of years I’ve been trying to juggle study, writing, and a social life with varying success. For a couple of months I want to work on finishing the draft of my novel, improving my sketching skills, and writing some new poems. At the start of December I decided to have a go at a few of the DoodleWash December Prompts and I’ve been pretty happy with how most of them have turned out. I’ll admit that I didn’t draw ever day but I’ve been drawing a lot more than I was so that’s the main thing.

A new year also means a new monthly speculative prompt. Some of you might have noticed that there wasn’t one for December. The official reason was ‘a Christmas break’ the unofficial reason is ‘oops, I forgot.’ However, the January prompt is now up and ready for you all to take part.

Reviewers Wanted!

Edwin and Sammy hunt monsters. They’ve been at it for centuries and they’re not planning on stopping any time soon.

Except things are stirring. Things that haven’t stirred in a long, long, long time and it’s got a certain zombie with a hording problem all jumpy, and he wants Edwin and Sammy to fix it.

They just have to find out what it is.

A few months ago I started working on Solitary Creatures. It’s set in the modern day and the first four parts are up on the site starting here. This April I will be using the story line for my CampNaNoWriMo project so it will begin to feature a lot more heavily on the site.

What I’m looking for is readers who will be willing to give it a read and let me know what they think. I’m looking for honest, constructive feedback so if you don’t like it and want to tell me so, then that’s fine too.

If you’re interested then you can click the link above and it will take you to the first chapter or you can get to the story through the menu at the top of the site. I’ve included a sneak peak below to show you what you’re getting into.

‘Well he was a stubborn one wasn’t he!’ Edwin dragged his hands along his jeans to wipe off the worst of the blood. ‘I swear, it was like he didn’t want to die.’

Sammy mumbled something beneath his breath and continued to throw body part into the pit they’d dug just outside the farm boundary where the boggy peat land crept in and made the ground wet and dangerous.

The pair were sweating but Edwin was still grinning. It had been his idea to go after the vampire, his idea, not Sammy’s.

‘You sure you got all the pieces?’ he asked. He left Sammy unloading the truck and opened the passenger door to fish around in the glove box. Between the dead torch and a road map thirty years out of date he found the half smoked pack of cigarettes and tapped one out into his palm. ‘Don’t want to risk someone coming across some stray bit of Mr Baldy here and kicking up trouble.’

The end of the cigarette glowed red and he sucked in a lungful of smoke.

‘I got ’em all,’ Sammy muttered. ‘This isn’t the first time remember.’ He hurled the last segment of Mr Baldy into the hole and mopped his face with a bit of rag from his back pocket. ‘Your turn.’

Edwin nodded once and leaving the cigarette pinched between his teeth raised his hands up in front of him. The earth groaned and wavered. Frowning, Edwin adjusted his stance and shook out his arms. The earth groaned again, but this time the hole snapped shut with a wet squelch, leaving no trace of the grave at all.

‘You’re getting rusty. You didn’t even have to raise your hand two years ago.’

‘Yeah well, things change,’ snapped Edwin. ‘At least I’m more use that you.’

Solitary Creatures: Part One

Confessions Of A Bookworm: September

It’s the last Wednesday of the month so it’s time to take a look at the books I’ve managed to get through this month.

What Am I Currently Reading:

uk_the_last_wish_newLast month my fiancee and I watched the film The Last Witch Hunter and I really enjoyed it so my lovely fiancee went out and bought me the original book that the film was based on.

I started reading it this morning and so far it’s pretty good. It’s quite different from the other fantasy books I’ve read. There have been a couple of spots where I’ve had to go back and reread a page to try and work out how many people are involved in a situation.

I’m getting to grips with the plot but I’m trying to keep my expectations from the movie out of mind. The book isn’t that long and so far it seems like a nice read and it’s nice that it was my fiancee, [who loudly complains about how many books I have], decided to buy this one for me.

What I’ve Just Finished:

This month I got a fantastic surprise. I’d completely forgotten that ‘Empire of Storms’ was due to come out so when it turned up on my doorstep I was super excited to dive right in and not only that! It’s not the last book in the series. That means there should be a follow up next year for me to devour.

The book itself is over seven hundred pages long so it took me a few days to get all the way through the book, but because of its length I wasn’t left feeling like the book ended too quickly. Sarah J Mass used the length to bring together all these little threads from the previous books and the collection of short stories that prequel the series.

The landscape of the world that Sarah J Mass has set her books in comes into focus more in this book and I loved how she hadn’t tried to simplify the politics and geography of the world to make a shorter series. Granted, there is room for a lot more elaboration but I enjoyed reading about how the world fits around these characters and how the characters are growing into a court.

I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give anything about the book away but I did have a couple of niggles when reading it. While I love the relationships in this book, there were a couple of moments where comments or relationships seem to be added in just for the sake of pairing everyone off. However, that didn’t really have much of an impact on the rest of the book and I still loved every page.

‘Legends And Liars’. I’m falling more and more in love with Kacha and Voch with every page that I read of this series. As you will see, the third and last book in this series is in my ‘What I’m Reading Next’ list and I can’t wait to get around to it. This book puts the main characters back on a more steady footing but it starts in Ikras but you don’t really find out much about it and it seems that it only starts there so you can see them getting back to Reyes from Ikras.

I do like how the second book ends in a place that could be seen as the end of the series. I think this gives the story lines more room to grow as the three books are no all focused on the same arch which I did think they were going to be.

Book three promises to be interesting.

Finally, ‘American Monsters’!!!! September meant two books from two of my favourite Authors. ‘American Monsters’ was the last in the Demon Roads trilogy and I would feel really disappointed about reaching the end of it if I hadn’t already heard that Derek Landy will be writing another series of Skulduggery Pleasant. But more about that little development another time.

I’ve adored this series and I’m gutted to get to the end, but it does look like it could be carried on at some point in the future. If not, it at least ended in a place where I felt comfortable that the characters had reach some form of resolution without everything tying up perfectly.

What I’m Reading Next:

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I’m hoping to finish off this series this weekend. After that I’m going to go through my bookshelves and try to get through some of the books that have been sat there for way too long.

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Confession Of A Bookworm: May

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At the start of this year I set myself the challenge of reading fifty books before 2016 was done and gone. You see, I’m very good at starting books, but finishing them within a set period of time is a trick I seem to have lost over time. I’m too easily distracted by shiny new covers in bookshops or fresh releases popping up on Amazon. The Goodreads Challenge seemed like a great way to push myself into focusing on my reading more and these WWW Wednesdays meant that I could share that progress with you all.

What Am I Reading?

I’m terrible at starting numerous books at once, so the other day I pulled out all of the books containing bookmarks and stacked them together on my bookshelf. I decided that until I had finished them all I would not pick up a new book, no matter how tempting.

I can’t say very much about any of them at the moment since I’m only a few chapters into most of them. I’ve got into the habit of snuggling up on settee on a Sunday afternoon and reading the hours away, so it shouldn’t take me too long to get through these.

Recently Finished:

This month I’ve managed to get through quite a few books and claw my way back towards being on track.

After You

Now I absolutely loved the first book by Jojo Moyes and this one was just as good. It’s not fantasy fiction so it might look a bit odd in the line up, but when you’re reading and writing in one genre, it is lovely to take a little break now and again. The characters in this piece were brilliant and it is funny in all the right places while maintaining a sense of seriousness when it needs to. It tackles how everyone, no matter how perfect they may seem, is generally ploughing their way through mess and confusion in the hopes of finding happiness at the end.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

This is a George R R Martin style book when it comes down to detail but it’s all focused in on a set collection of characters. You still have the bloodshed and the violence but in a much more compact storyline. It’s not a small book so you won’t finish it in one sitting, but if you’re looking for an epic fantasy fiction novel then this is one for you.

The Gathering Dark 

I like this book and I’ve bought the next two in the trilogy, I’m just annoyed about them changing the cover and the title of the first book but not doing the same for the others. While I enjoyed the story line, it doesn’t rate up to the rest of the books on this list. It’s a much shorter book and the length goes some way to explaining the lack of development for both the character and the plot line but I can’t help but feel that it could have done with being longer.

Desolation

Haha! I’m so happy right now. There are two books in this section that I had been waiting rather impatiently for, and Desolation by Derek Landy was one of them. The only gripe that I have with the book is that the relationship between the two main characters is very similar to the relationship between Skulduggery and Valkyrie Cain. There is even a car involved in the relationship. If it were anyone else then this would probably annoy me, but I love the way Derek Landy writes to the extent that I find it difficult to stay annoyed about anything in his writing for very long. It’s funny, dark and gory, everything you would expect from Mr Landy. This series is perhaps a little more grown up than his last, and I don’t have the same love for Amber as I did for Valkyrie. I mean Valkyrie! I suppose that’s the danger with writing such a good series of books, following it up will never be easy, so while Desolation and the rest of the Demon Road Trilogy is utterly entrancing in its own right, I’m stuck with the feeling of ‘but it’s not quite Skulduggery’.

Blackbirds

I’m not sure what to say about this book if I’m honest. It’s one of those where everything seems to happen in the last few moment and them bam! We’re done.

The Novice & The Inquisition

I’m really enjoying this series. I’ll admit, I read the first few pages of Taran Matharu’s first book ‘The Summoner’ and promptly put it back down on the shelf. It wasn’t the books fault, it just happened to be one of those days that I wasn’t in the mood to read that specific book at that specific time.

Last weekend I pick ‘The Summoner’ back up, polished it off and promptly pe-ordered ‘The Inquisition’ immediately.

‘The Summoner’ manages to do something spectacular. It comes to a satisfying conclusion but also manages to leave you with a massive cliffhanger where you find yourself clinging by your fingertips, really, really hoping that the next book is out soon because the suspense is gut wrenching.

Just as with ‘The Summoner’, I finished ‘The Inquisition’ in two days. It was face paced, interesting and I really like the characters that Taran has managed to create. He also managed to surprise me as a few chapters in I announced to my partner that one of the characters was no doubt the traitor only to be completely thrown at end of the book.

There are bits where I found the book strayed too closely into ‘Lord of the Rings’ territory. The breeding of Orcs and Gremlins to form Goblins brought vivid visions of watching The Two Towers back to me but apart from that I thought the book did well.

Similar to ‘The Inheritance Cycle’ by Christopher Paolini, the book tackles issues of race and prejudice, a topic that at the moment is perhaps more relevant than ever. Not only does it tackle this subject masterfully but it also touches on gender equality.

Overall I’ve been really impressed by Taran Matharu and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. Let’s hope it’s out soon.

A Court Of Mist And Fury

This book six hundred pages of pure joy and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series. Sarah J Mass always amazes me with her writing and I spent my Sunday curled up with this book, devouring every chapter. I love the relationship between Rysland and Feyre and I’m so impressed with the way that Sarah J Mass tackles emotion in the books. There is no ‘and now everyone is magically over that horrible, traumatic event that took place. Yay!’ Instead, you get to see them working through it and in some cases, how it utterly breaks characters.

This books tackles a new treat, and the tension is there all the way through the book. Not only that, you have this amazing dynamic between Rysland and Feyre and as always, the message that women are strong and powerful in their own right. I am really impressed recently by authors who tackle this subjects and handle them with such finesse. The do not make an example, they make it normal.

What I’m Reading Next:

The God of Small Things is still very much on my to read list, as are the sequels to The Gathering Dark and The Lies of Locke Lamora. The author of Rise Of The Sparrow, Sarina Langer, was wonderful enough to write a guest post for Writing and Works so I’m also keen to read her new book. I’m only one book behind track for my Goodreads challenge now and if I keep up the steam I’ll be laughing come November.

If you have any recommendations based on the books listed above then please do let me know in the comments below, or perhaps leave your own mini review. I love hearing from readers and an important part of reading is sharing your thoughts after and working out what you can take from a book.

So, until next month happy reading!

 

Dealing With A Bad Review

There are more than a few days when I wake up and wonder if my little foray into self-publishing was an utter mistake. Then I remember that there was a purpose behind choosing that option for Before The Words Run Out and even if the bad reviews leave me feeling like someone has filled my insides with snakes, there were some good reviews as well.

I went into self-publishing with no idea what I was doing and most importantly, no editor. That was clearly a big mistake and not one I would be quick to make again. Despite spending hours pouring over my work it is still clear that I needed someone there to pick out those twinges that I still missed and to push me harder with the poems that didn’t come up to standard.

This morning was the first day in months that I actually went on amazon to check out my book in order to pull out a link and update my Linked In account. I assumed that like me, most of the world had let this little adventure of a book slip to the bottom of the barrel unnoticed, to languish among the many other rashly self-published books lurking out there on the big, wide web.

Instead I found a two star review from last September, a year to the month and my confidence took an impressive swan-dive into solid concrete.

There is an odd mix in Miss Forrester’s anthology ranging from fairly OK poems to dire. The whole package in fact is poorly executed which takes away from the occasional good piece and makes the immaturity of it all painfully obvious, being both patronising and arrogant at the same time. “So far I have won no awards…” Really, dear?

All in all, I think it was too early for Miss Forrester to be publishing and a few more years worth of waiting and planning would have made all the difference.

They’re right of course. It probably was to early for me to be publishing and even now I would be hesitant to follow the same route. That is why I’m going to stick Darkened Daughter through the traditional route, mostly because it needs someone who knows what they’re doing to beat it into shape and to show me what it takes to get something to the store shelves.

I’m not going to cry over this review. It sucks and I feel horrible about it, [actually that might be the virus currently working its way through my body] but I’m willing to accept that this review serves a purpose.

The purpose is reminding me that I need to improve and really think about what I’m putting out there.

I will always find people who will tell me that my work is good. Everyone can find someone to tell them that their work is good and you can also find someone on the other end of the spectrum. The important thing is taking all that and using it to drive you forward. Most of the copies that I had printed of my book were sold to members of my family or friends who knew my family well. A lot of the poems held additional meaning to them because they knew some of the subjects and they could remember the situations that sparked the poems.

So I will follow this advice’s review and keep working and hopefully in a few years I can publish something that does live up to standards.

It hurts of course. Piece likes Grandfather and the likes were in my opinion some of my best works, but when you put something out there you’re going to get negative feedback and I knew I would be opening myself up to this sort of review. They may have been my favourites, but they were still open game for the reader.

So now I’m going to trawl through the comments on this blog and read the ones telling me that I am in fact a rather a good writer and my work is amazing. I need the confidence boost.

Tell me, how do you guys feel about bad reviews and moving forward?