Monthly Archives: March 2016

I’m feeling good about my writing so I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo

I’ve got some momentum with Horrible Monster right now. It’s going well and I’m feeling good about it. I’m getting into the meaty parts of the story now. So it’s just the right time for a writing challenge – and would you believe it, there’s one about to start!

Camp NaNoWriMo – a sister-challenge to National Novel Writing Month in November – sees writers setting their own goals and working on any writing project, not only novels but also screenplays, poetry, short stories and more. It takes place in April and July. Instead of big massive forums that every participant can access, writers are grouped into cabins of up to twelve. It’s like an online writing group, in which the cabinmates will cheer one another on.

I’ve set my goal as 30,000 words. That’s 1,000 a day – a little above my current average, but I did better than that in November so I should manage it. Two writing sessions a day will easily see it done.

It’s going to make it a busy April – I’ll also be picking up learning French again, in preparation for a holiday in September. I’ve also been thinking again about poetry. Specifically, I re-read one of my favourite poems yesterday – On Wenlock Edge the Wood’s In Trouble from A Shropshire Lad by A E Housman. It’s a great poem, very visual, and I’d like to draw it as a comic. I’ve not done much drawing for a while, but a small project like this – 5 pages, one for each stanza – would be a good first step, and good practice if I pick up other planned comics again.

2016 Reading update

We’re 10 weeks into the new year and I am soaring ahead with my reading goal. By now I need to have read 5 books to be on track; last night I finished book number 11.

The list so far

In my last update I mentioned I’d read (or had started reading):

  1. Cadfael: Monk’s Hood, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  2. Cadfael: St Peter’s Fair, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  3. Key Under Blue Pot and Please Milk the Goat, by Marie Sever
  4. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  5. Cadfael: The Leper of St Giles, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)

Recent reads

Since then I’ve been on a bit of a Pauline M Ross binge – four of the six books I’ve read have been by her.

6. The Fire Mages’ Daughter by Pauline M Ross

I reviewed this book here. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed it a lot. Enough, at least, that I bought and subsequently read the three remaining books in Ross’ back catalogue.

7. Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)

I do like this series. For a murder mystery writer, Parteger seems to have had a fairly positive view of humanity. These are comfortable books, with nothing particularly distressing or emotionally challenging, and they all end up neatly concluded to the benefit of the characters who are nice or moral, and the detriment of those who are evil.

8. The Mages of Bennamore by Pauline M Ross

I didn’t end up reviewing this one but again I enjoyed it. Not quite as good as The Fire Mages’ Daughter, I think, but another charming story full of magic and romance. I’m really enjoying seeing glimpses of this world.

9. The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah

After the softer books I’d been reading, this one really bored straight into my heart, via my tear ducts. I reviewed it here, but if you’ve not read the review, well let the fact that I reviewed a non-fantasy book on my fantasy blog clue you in.

10. The Plains of Kallanash by Pauline M Ross

Ross described this one as her “ugly duckling book” in her blog post Launch report: book 5, ‘The Fire Mages’ Daughter’. I found it full of intrigue and well-paced. It provided a fresh look at another aspect of her rich world – a new country, a new type of society. It might have struggled because the first chapter throws the reader into the deep end of that new type of society a bit – there’s a lot to process – but once the story picks up it’s a true adventure.

11. The Magic Mines of Asharim by Pauline M Ross

After everything I’d already read from her, I couldn’t wait to get my teeth stuck into the last available book from Ross. Once more, this book sheds a light on a different part of the world, though this time we get to see several different societies, neighbours to one another, with their cautious truces and different cultures. Once again this is packed with intrigue, adventure and love. I particularly liked the protagonist, who felt like a real figure – shaped by her upbringing, capable of changing her views and feelings, with anxieties to overcome and complex relationships with the other characters in the story.

Up next

A little over a week ago I went into Much Wenlock and there visited Wenlock Books, a lovely little independant bookshop full of little treasures. Aside from some great old map postcards (including one of medieval Shrewsbury I’ll use as a bookmark next time I read a Cadfael book, to save me always flicking back to the map at the start) I picked up The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift – another book in my “locals” list – and a great little hardback collection, Best Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s got a cloth cover and a ribbon page marker and really thin paper for the pages and gold edging. An absolutely beautiful book.

So I’m going to make a start on Hans Christian Andersen next. I’ve been meaning to get to this. Fairy tales have been an inspiration for fantasy for decades, one of the roots of fantasy, so it’s about time I really delved into one of the definitive writers of the genre.

I’m also hoping to get back to the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian again soon, it’s been a while since I read the last one. I caught the movie approximation of the series (I wouldn’t stretch to call it an adaptation) on TV not long ago – Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World – which, now I’ve read both Master and Commander (book 1) and The Far Side of the World (book 10) I can safely say is not much like either of them, except in a few individual little scenes and lines.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but: Libraries are not obsolete, and they’re not just book houses

Following nationwide government cuts to libraries, author Abigail Tartellin has argued that ‘the price of libraries is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation’ in the Guardian. Libraries in Lincolnshire – and my own county of Shropshire (here’s an article about Telford and Wrekin, which is a different authority but still within the county; the same is true of other libraries under Shropshire council’s umbrella) are being closed or going volunteer-run. Some are being replaced by library buses visiting for as little as an hour a month, where once there was a library open forty or fifty hours a week.

But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about. Yes, I condemn the government for these cuts. Libraries are important. But it seems a lot of commenters, discussing the Guardian article on reddit – including /r/books and /r/writing (!) – seem to think libraries are obsolete.

Stockholm public library - Wikimedia Commons
Stockholm public library. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Continue reading I can’t believe I have to say this, but: Libraries are not obsolete, and they’re not just book houses