Roll on 2014

Adios, shitty year. Au revoir, crappy times… Aiya, 2014!
Yeah, for many reasons, I can’t wait for this year to end. There have been some amazing highs, but mostly rubbish lows. So as far as I’m concerned, 2013 can do one!

Here’s my annual round up of my resolutions and how I did… I’m so ashamed.

1. Lose weight (I know. It’s the most common resolution). 2 stone goal. Again. I didn’t manage 2 stone, but I did manage another 10lb. So that’s 20lb in 2 years. The numbers are going down and that’s all good.  1/2 done.

2. Write another book. Either book 2 of my series or something fresh; doesn’t matter as long as I improve, grow and learn. Yeah… let’s skip this one.

3. Be less bitchy (I can be a right cow at times. I need to learn to keep my mouth shut). Part of this involves being tolerant and ignoring those with forked tongues… tough times ahead.  Not bad. Managed this quite nicely. I cut out some negativity from my life and realised how much happier I was for doing so. When someone is constantly critical, negative, manipulative and bullish – it rubs off and seeps in like poison. I have shed that skin and emerged more like the old me.

4. Save for Christmas in advance. I always complain that I’m broke in January because December drains me dry … well, not this time!  Skip it…

5. Finish DIY at home – conversion, stairs, wallpapering etc. Yeah, this is my cheat resolution ‘cos it’s pretty much a given. Neverending… Skip it.

6. Submit all my uni assignments on time. So far I’ve had 2 extensions and it’s only my 3rd Ancient Greek TMA … I need to organise my time more efficiently. Skip it…

7. Read 52 books not connected with work or business. 1 a week. I’ll add a widget thingy methinks. Skip it…

8. Exercise more. In fact, work up to being able to run 3-5 miles (I’m currently prohibited from running by my GP while they run tests, but if everything is ok – this is a doable goal). Errr….

9. Stop biting my nails. They look gross and bleurgh. ACHIEVED! Hurrah!

10. Improve time management. I am so unorganised, constantly busy, constantly tired, and constantly running behind schedule and never on time! This needs to change! Errr…

 

2 1/2 out of 10. Um. Well. I. Errr. There are no words. That’s terrible.

My friend, the wonderful Ken Dawson, wrote a blog post a few days ago about not setting goals and resolutions as you are effectively setting yourself up to fail (post here:http://kennydreadful.com/2013/12/24/ditch-the-new-years-resolutions/) . I liked the reasoning behind it, and will take some of it on board. I realise that after years of being a blog – I’m not going to turn into Scarlett Johansson. That’s cool. I can live with that.

So then… here are the resso’s for 2014.

*******

1. Continue losing weight – as I am now 20lb down, let’s aim for 2 stone again. This is a bit of a cheat resolution. I’ve set 2 stone for the last 2 years and managed 10lb on each year. I’m sort-of hoping that by setting the same resolution I’ll lose another 10lb! Well… here’s hoping. Resso set.

2. Dedicate time to MY writing. During 2013 I put everyone else first in all aspects of writing. Time to get my book out and be a little bit selfish and publish that damn book!

3. Ok… this one sounds really weird and makes me seem like stig of the dump… but, regular leg waxing and eyebrow shaping. Put more care into my appearance. Calm down, everyone! Yes, I know I don’t have to do this for anyone. Yes, I love myself for me. I just want to look more well-groomed, K? I feel more confident and more positive when I look more human and less werewolf.

4. Pass my Latin and Greek (OU). Believe me, with how busy I’ve been recently, this will be quite a feat! I don’t care if I get a 2:2 on this section of the course – I just want to pass!

5. A hobby of note. My God, I sound like a teenager…but I would like to do something worthwhile with my spare (ho,ho) time. I’m thinking snowboarding lessons again.

6. Save money. A little, a lot, I don’t mind. As long as there’s some in the pot by the end of December 2014  – I’ll be happy. This year wiped out everything we had and I feel very uneasy at the thought of no safety net!

7. Dedicate 1-2 early mornings a week to chores. That is, get up earlier than 20 minutes before I’m supposed to be in work and do something productive.

8. Feel healthier. Be healthier. Don’t care how. Just do it. No excuses. If I want to conceive, I need to give nature the best fighting chance.

9. Linked to number 2, but write 100k this year. Either a novel, or novellas, or short stories, but just write and get something solid down.

10. Visit family and friends more.

 

fairly doable list. I say this every year and have a rubbish track record – but this year – I’m gonna smash it.

Please feel free to share any resolutions, targets, goals, whatever, that you’ve set for yourself 🙂

 

 thumbs up

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Spirit’s Destiny by Ken Dawson – Nothing “Dreadful” Here …

Yeah, I know … my titles are rubbish: but they make sense to me  and the author, so who cares?

This is my 4th blog post in 3 days – good God! I’m doing well!

Ok, this is my review of Ken Dawson’s (KD) book “Spirit’s Destiny” – a  fast paced space adventure aimed at the late teen market.

Sci-fi is often a neglected area in literature, it’s difficult to write (contrary to popular opinion) and those that read it are often “purists.” They prefer a set plot, a set style and nothing more, so hats off to KD!

(There’s a promising newbie author by the name of Ross Harrison releasing his sci-fi book in a few weeks – I’m rather excited and looking forward to reading Shadow of the Wraith, but I’ll save that for another time …)

So, what’s Spirit’s Destiny about and why is it good?

Well, we’re quickly introduced to the feisty protagonist Ella Bland and her life, awkward, a little lost, and about to start university (she’s a character that a lot of young females will be able to identify with). She’s thrown into a world of robots (or droids) manipulation, war, destiny and organisational interfering. There are secrets around each corner and the characters are not what they seem. It’s exceptionally difficult for me to talk about the plot without revealing some of the twists.

This is the Amazon description/blurb: “…When Ella Bland leaves home to attend university on another planet, the last thing she ever expected was to be dragged into a secret, ancient and bloody war.
On one side stands Eclipse – a genocidal creation hell-bent on slaying all humanity, whilst on the other lies a shrouded organisation that will do anything to make sure that mankind’s annihilation never happens.
As the violence senselessly rages between both sides, Ella must place her trust in a young secret agent and an unusual female droid if she is to have any chance of escaping this gory nightmare alive.
Yet as she becomes deeper involved, Ella discovers her role in this conflict will be far greater than she could ever possibly imagine …”

When reading the book, I immediately clicked with the authorial voice and how it guided us through the story without ever taking over or being a pretentious or overpowering show of ego. What a lot of readers don’t realise is just how hard it is to write a YA book. The language, pace, scene and setting have to appeal to an audience who don’t have the attention span (younglings, please don’t hate me!) for long, complex books on moral rights and wrongs/specific literary issues or complex themes.

KD manages this very well, while he pitches this for the late teen market – personally, I think it’s suited better for the mid to late teen age range; his original artwork and the style of his drawings paired with the dialogue and vocabulary will definitely appeal to teenagers whereas adults might find the story a little simplistic and if it’s pitched purely as late teen and adult – he’ll miss out on a HUGE fan base and potential sales.

Now, that sounds like a criticism – it’s not, not at all  – modern (not classical sci-fi like Dick or Wells) adult sci-fi is usually long and complex, with pages and pages of explanation detailing the engine management system, fuel and resources, oxygenation system … Zzzz … but you get the picture. I read recently that there is no market for space operas or light and action packed sci-fi (a report written by a mainstream published sci-fi author with an ego the size of the moon)- but I disagree, I think adults will happily read (sci-fi) books tagged as YA or a light-hearted space adventure as long as they don’t pretend to be something they’re not.

Spirit’s Destiny is pure and transparent. It’s fun, it’s a great ride with a nice pace and, a FABULOUS case of characters that each have their own traits and issues (S.A Gemma Chapman is just excellent). I knew from the moment I read the blurb that this was going to be a nice easy-to-read story that I could pick up and switch off to. It didn’t disappoint.

I’m not without criticisms, I do think that there were a few areas that could have been improved, the description of the ship for example, a bit more on Ella’s background and there were some small issues with commas in the direct speech – but (and I know people hate the word but) this is the first book in a series – so I imagine there will be A LOT more to come, and the grammar/punctuation is a small niggle, I actually feel harsh mentioning it.

Why do I feel bad? Because Ken Dawson has done something that most “wannabe writers” never do – he has taken a leap of faith in his story and writing and published his book, investing in print copies and throwing hours of work into some really amazing cartoon drawings. I think anyone who chases their dreams is worth my respect.

I think the book is currently priced at £4.11 on the kindle – which some will feel is quite pricey for a SP book of this length. Normally I would agree with the masses – but the artwork inside makes it worth the price. I have to admit however, I’ll be buying a paperback copy when available (believed to be a couple of weeks) because I think the difference in price is well worth it – oh, and the author can sign it for me!

Overall, this is a 4 1/2 * book – but, as we’re taught in maths, you round up – so it’s a 5* tale.

I recommend to anyone who wants and enjoys pure escapism on a rainy afternoon, a train journey or something for when you just want to kick back and relax.

I’m not one for long author interviews, but I asked Ken a few questions and thought I’d share his responses.

Q. Why did you write the book?

A. After school I went to study graphic design and art, in the hope of doing something vaguely related to manga or animation. Slowly I wrote little stories to go with the paintings I did in my spare time. Eventually the stories became more important than the actual images. Originally I had three big ideas. I used one of them called ‘Time Eclipse’ for my final piece of my animation degree. Soon after that I decided to write a full tale of it, but include all my close friends as characters. I guess the only reason for doing it was simply a desire to.

Q.What advice do you have for budding writers?

A. My only advice to budding writers is ‘Get it started, and get it written!’ Forget all spelling, grammar and plot holes until the piece is fully written. You can smooth those things over later.

Q. What problems did you come up against when publishing?

A.  I think the problems of getting published is that there is no clear direction of how to go about it. Researching everything and everyone will avoid you handing over your hard earned cash to unscrupulous people promising you fame and fortune. It take time but it’s worth it.

Q. Apart from “The Tapestry of Fates” series – do you have other stories planned? 

A. Well apart from the two books that follow Spirit’s Destiny, I have a free monthly horror vampire novel on my blog called Fallen Tears. I also have several other projects that will expand the universe of Spirit’s Destiny, as well as a set of novels based around an idea called ‘Phoenix’ I had at sixteen for which I have hundreds of pieces of art for. It is mentioned briefly in Spirit’s Destiny.

 

Spirit’s Destiny has a dedicated webpage, where Ken has uploaded character bios and pictures:-

http://www.tapestryoffates.com

The book can be bought on Amazon:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spirits-Destiny-Tapestry-Fates-ebook/dp/B006YJR88S/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1

Those who enjoy vampire stories that don’t involve bloodsuckers that sparkle or prance around full of teen angst can find Fallen Tears on Ken’s blog:-

www.kennydreadful.com or on Harper Collin’s site for writers (Authonomy) http://www.authonomy.com/books/41727/fallen-tears/

And those that link his artwork can find more at:-

http://kenny-dreadful.deviantart.com/

 

I’ll add here, none of these reviews are for personal gain. I won’t give gushing praise and I won’t mince my words. 

 

 

*Blink* … 3 months have gone! Marty! Doc! Help!

Wow, just … wow. I’ve had such a busy 3 months – or, to put it another way – a busy quarter of a year. I’m sitting here, on a rainy Friday afternoon just trying to put into words exactly what I’ve done over the last few months. I’ve found myself staring at the window more than I’ve stared at the computer screen. I can’t actually recall any one singular thing that has been exceptionally “worthwhile” or “awe-inspiring.”

Is that a bad thing? That in over 90 days I have failed to achieve anything of note?

I don’t know, but I’m going to list everything I have achieved / have done (that I can remember off the top of my head)

***

* Completed 60 credits towards my OU course. 9 months work in 5 months. AA100 completed with average TMA score of 79 (EMA score outstanding). Currently working on A151.

* Completed the first full edit of Anna – my literary/speculative fiction piece on the loss of identity in one’s self and society, the self-determination theory and the 5Fs displayed in psychology when one is abused. (Saying “one” makes me feel intelligent)

* Signed up for anthology pieces with “The Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse.” – More to come in the near future, but it will involve published pieces in the form of a “paper” book. (http://apocalypsegirlsguide.blogspot.co.uk/)

* Signed up for and written a 10k short anthology piece for Pankheart – it’s hot, it’s erotica, it’s noir and sexy as hell.

* Signed up for an anthology piece with BadNews Press (need to find out more, this is fresh-off-the-press news! Email received this afternoon!)

* Finished full editing of Chaeli (now called “In Search of Gods and Heroes” ) and submitted to a few agents and indie presses – so far I’ve had a publishing contract and full manuscript request. I turned down the contract, I had my reasons.

* Started and working on “Twisted” and “The Silver Nightingale” – more details another time.

* Have removed myself from Authonomy. Yes, the site I initially enjoyed became a playground for trolls, ego-strokers and backslapping. I lost all enthusiasm for the site. I saw bullying, cheating, racism and just general nasty behaviour. While it’s easy to “ignore” I had to ask myself: “is it right to ignore? Because to me, those that ignore and acquiesce are as bad as those that take part.” So I commented, I got “attacked” and a host of abuse. For a supposed writing site, it’s run and occupied by children. Rant over.

* Met my friend Terje twice – it’s a big deal, he’s edited my work and helped me improve as a writer 100 fold. I’m privileged to call him a friend really, since we started speaking in October he’s really helped me get my shit together, writing, thoughts, messed-up stuff, the works.

* Lost 21lb in weight, regained 6lb – another 28lb to go. My target is August. Let’s see if I get there!

* Read a total of 73 books. This includes novellas, but excludes flash pieces and anything under 20k. My favourites include 2 self-published books. Spirit’s Destiny by Ken Dawson (http://kennydreadful.com/) and The Last Mask by Stephen Winterflood (http://stephenwinterflood.blogspot.co.uk/). I intend to dedicate a blog post to each of these writers in the very near future. So watch out!
A few others I loved, Beatrice by Anonymous, The  Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Hunger Games trilogy, The “50 shades” trilogy, The White Devil, Letters to a Young Poet and loads more. I’m mentioning a few to give you an idea … the idea being I love all books, all genres, all styles, old, new, I don’t care. I also (believe it or not!) don’t really put much emphasis on punctuation or grammar. I adore the story of books. If it’s badly written – it will take me longer to get into the flow of it, but as long as I care for the characters – then I’m in heaven. A few of these have been on my list for months, so I’m pleased to have ticked them off!

Being a recognised speed reader has both advantages and disadvantages however! I’m running out of books and needing some recommendations – I have Jeremy Rodden’s Toonopolis books to read asap, I’ve heard excellent things and I’m looking forward to finally starting. Just to be fair – here’s his website: http://portmanteaupress.com/

* I had the privilege of reading Amaranth by Zoe Harris as a beta reader. Man, this girl can write. It’s exceptional, I actually told my friend (and editor) that I’m jealous of her talent. It’s a beautiful young adult book about a girl who commits suicide but she doesn’t “move on” and instead walks the earth alone until she meets three others like her. I don’t want to write any more as I haven’t got permission from Zoe to talk about it – but needless to say, I loved it. It’s just enchanting and captivates you from the first paragraph. Publishers – please take note: Miss Harris deserves a publishing contract, more so than most.

* It’s only fair I add a little dedicated asterix for my other friend Hazel Butler and her book Chazing Azrael. It’s odd, while I’ve come away from Authonomy I don’t have *all* bad things to say. I’ve met some amazingly talented people on there, some I’m honoured to call friend, others are acquaintances, but those that I admire and want to support – I’ve stayed in contact with. Chazing Azrael is a book which firmly drags gothic literature back to the 21st century. A clear lover of Poe, Hazel has drawn on a variety of her personal loves and battles to write a book that is so bitter-sweet and well crafted that I read it non-stop and cover to cover. I’ll write more on Chazing Azrael when I have permission: but, it’s going out on submission and I want a signed copy.

* Last one in the plugging section: Steve Guscott and The Book of Prophecy: this is available to read on Authonomy, but Steve sent me the full MS to critique for him. I like intelligent books, stories that make you think and have a strong moral centre. This book is aimed at young adult’s but deals with the issues of choice, family, love, sacrifice and loss – all set in a fantasy world. What’s not to love?

* Had my book cover design created by a talented artist called Raymond Tan (http://r-tan.deviantart.com/)- it’s amazing, but I’m keeping it secret at the moment.

* Went on a mid week holiday to Bude for my birthday which inspired me to work harder on Anna. Took lots of photos, switched off and recharged the batteries.

* Had my foot tattoo! Yes, yes yes, how could I forget?!! It’s my homage to Jacqueline Carey “Love as thou wilt” across the top of my foot and two butterflies – pic below! I say homage to Jacqueline Carey, but also, a little “shout out” to Thelema. A religion that I have grown to appreciate. Now, I don’t believe in the “magic” spouted by Aleister Crowley, but there are little gems in the Book of Thelema that are just … well, I’ll let you decide:-  …”The joy of life consists in the exercise of one’s energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means simply to die. The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal.” … 

* Have discovered a love for philosophy. I personally don’t think I’m very good at arguing on points – but some others beg to differ. So now, I’m reading the Presocratic Philosophers at work in my “downtime” – preparation for A275 “Learning Ancient Greek” which starts in October.

* On the above note, changed my OU degree from English Language to Humanties with a specialism in Classical Studies.

* Changed my spare bedroom from “Hannah’s room” (sorry Hannah!) to my office. I have more lovely bookcases full of books, a desk, a display cabinet and shelves … all in a lovely sunny space. Perfect for reading, relaxing and studying!

* A 5 year medical problem has been diagnosed and medication issued. I am relieved, nervous, scared and excited!

* Archery. Yup, archery. More to come later.

***

 Now, I don’t doubt there is soooo much more that I’ve done, but this is all that comes to mind. While I’ve written this, the rain has stopped and the sun is now shining. It’s a gorgeous evening.

There are things I know I haven’t done. They involve:-

* Making an effort with friends: I think I wrote a blog post this time last year pouring out my awkwardness and lack of communication skills with people. Nothing has changed, I’m still a nervous wreck with self-confidence issues!

* Win the lottery. Yup, I know, moving on …

Stop biting my nails.

 ***

My mission is now to update this blooming thing more often. Tomorrow and Sunday I will post a blog each day – a long overdue review for both Mr Dawson and Mr Winterflood.

IF ANYONE WOULD LIKE ME TO REVIEW THEIR BOOK/SHORT STORY/ANTHOLOGY PIECE OR WHAT-NOT. PLEASE CONTACT ME VIA FACEBOOK. I LOVE TO READ, IT WOULD BE A PLEASURE AND A GOODREADS REVIEW AND BLOG POST WILL FOLLOW.