Category Archives: Other

It’s 2019 and I’ve got Goals with a capital G

Happy New Year, everyone! My regular followers might have noticed that my output in 2018, and for that matter in 2017, hasn’t exactly been high. Part of that, I think, was fatigue around blogging and part was having quite a lot else on to worry about in my personal life. But 2019 is going to be different. Honest. While a lot of 2018’s worries haven’t gone away, with a new year comes a fresh outlook.

This is a quick update about my goals for the year and what I’ve got planned. So let’s get right to it.

Reading

Last year was a dismal year for me as far as reading was concerned. I barely read anything and didn’t review what I did read. This year I’ll do better. I’ve set a goal on Goodreads to read 24 books in 2019 – that’s two per month. And I don’t think I’ll have any trouble finding 24 books to read, between my “to read” pile (utterly massive) and the books coming out this year that I’m excited about (loads of them). I plan on reviewing any fantasy novels I read right here, but I’ll keep track of everything else – which is likely to include historical fiction and loads of non-fiction – with quarterly updates on my progress towards my 24 book goal, much like I did back in 2016.

Writing

I’ve been hard at work in the last few months working out what I want from my current novel. I now have a working title – Feud and Fire – as well as a general outline, a lot of notes about themes, particular plotlines, character and the world, and at the end of December I started the latest draft. I am happy with where I am with this story. My goal for 2019 is to write it, edit it and get it to a refined final state. Whether I then consider submitting for publication or decide there’s more work to be done is something I’ll decide when I get to that point.

I am also planning on writing some short fiction in 2019. I spend so much time working on these big novels, that a short break after finishing the Feud and Fire draft would be an ideal time to practice a shorter format, especially since I have enjoyed reading short fiction in 2018 (just about the only type of story where I have read more than previous years, thanks to the Daily Science Fiction emails I receive) and it’s been a while since I’ve written any.

Later this week I’ll be taking a look at how things stand for my One Million Words Challenge. I started it back in 2015 but stopped keeping track of it after a while. I have, however, continued to date each new document I create and each day of handwritten fiction in my notebooks, so it should only take an hour or two to get a fairly good idea of my overall total, by simply adding up the wordcounts of the numerous documents I have created since I started and adding an estimate of the handwritten stuff based on multiplying an average page wordcount by the number of pages.

Blogging

Yep, this is something I’m planning on increasing this year. I can hardly do worse than last year, so I’ve got that going for me. But in fact I’ve got a few ideas planned out, and with all that reading I’ll be doing there are bound to be a few reviews at the very least.

So that’s the plan for this year.

What about you? Do you have reading and writing goals for 2019? What are they? How do you think you’ll do? Did you meet your 2018 goals?

In support of the Herne Hill’s Carnegie Library sit-in protesters

The Herne Hill Carnegie library – one of over two thousand libraries opened and funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in the early 20th century – was closed by Lambeth council on Thursday. Officially, anyway. There are still people in the library, using it to play chess or study for A-level exams – all as part of a sit-in protest against the council’s plans.

Lambeth council intend to repurpose the library, turning it into a “healthy living centre” which would include gym facilities and a “neighbourhood library” – without librarians or indeed dedicated library space. The BBC has reported on the story here.

The Friends of Carnegie Library stated a few weeks ago that market research, both in 2000 and in 2014, has shown significant support for the library retaining its existing uses and location. There is strong opposition to converting part of the building into a gym:

In the assessed responses to the 2014 survey 84% of respondents opposed having a gym in the building even if the library stayed in its current position.

Lambeth council have attempted to discredit protesters by accusing them of being “misleading” as the library will reopen – but have failed to address that it will not be a library that’s reopening, but a gym with a few bookshelves.

A library is more than books. It is more than computers. It is more than study space. It is a community asset where learning and reading are nurtured. It is a supporting environment that brings communities together and promotes happiness. It is a motivating place where anyone can change their future, can strive to make more of themselves than they might otherwise have had a chance to do.

Libraries have been the breeding grounds for writers, academics, researchers, revolutionaries for decades. They are the fertile ground in which people can grow. They enable and encourage social mobility. They nurture curiosity and creativity. If the government wants artists and scientists propelling the British economy in the next few decades, it should be investing in libraries, supporting them, expanding them. Not cutting librarians and turning libraries into gyms.

Lambeth council’s plans are regressive. They plan to give the library building to a private gym company, while maintaining what essentially amounts to a book room. No librarians, presumably considerably fewer books, and none of what makes a library a library. It’s certainly not what Andrew Carnegie would have envisioned when he provided money to build and stock the library and maintain it. It should be owned by the community, not by a private company seeking profit, and it should be for the purpose of encouraging and enabling learning.

If Shropshire council ever threatens to close my local library – or indeed convert it into a gym – I would certainly consider joining a sit-in protest. I use my library regularly for knit & natter meetings, and read a lot of books from it. I’ve printed off my CV in it, learned local history in it, made friends in it.

I absolutely and wholeheartedly support the residents of Herne Hill who have decided they are not going to let their library close without a fight. And I condemn Lambeth council for ignoring the people they are meant to serve.

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

Companies hiring freelance writers pay like crap

I’ve been registered on Elance a couple of weeks now, and something has become very clear. I have not submitted a single proposal for a writing gig, even though I am perfectly capable of doing these jobs. The reason is that the companies listing the writing jobs are paying peanuts.

There are two payrates I’ve seen a few times now. One is $1 per 100 words. The other is even worse – starting at $1.50 for 500 words and going up to $5 for 500 words if the writer is producing over 10,000 words per day, putting this upper rate on a par with the $1 per 100 words.

That’s a cent a word.

Continue reading Companies hiring freelance writers pay like crap

RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

When I was 12 or 13, my sister bought me a book for my birthday. It was a tattered ex-library copy with some funny, detailed, cartoonish drawings on the front, drawings of an old fashioned treasure chest with lots of tiny little feet coming out the bottom, and troll-like figures standing in a doorway. I thought she’d cheaped out on my birthday present, that’d she’d just thought “Ally likes books, I’ll see what I can find at the library booksale for 20p”. But she talked with such animated enthusiasm about it that I decided to ignore the state of it and give it a go.

the colour of magic

Continue reading RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

The Liebster Award

I never heard of this thing either til just the other day but I’ve been nominated by Diane Brander on her blog How I Became a Writer for the Liebster Award, which is a means of discovering new, low traffic blogs. I’m thrilled Diane likes my blog enough to nominate me.

What is the Leibster Award?

Basically, the Liebster Award (which I keep misspelling – my name is Leiper, I’m not used to starting words with Lie) is a “pay it forward” blog chain designed to promote small-audience blogs you like – and your own blog. There seem to be several sets of rules, but these are the rules Diane posted so I’ll stick with those as much as I can:

1. Post the award on your blog.

Done. Hello.

2. Thank the blogger who presented this award and link back to their blog.

Yes indeed, thanks Diane, and do check out How I Became a Writer, it looks pretty cool and I’ve already found a few posts I like.

3. Write 11 random facts about yourself.

Okay that’s a bit tricky.

1. I crochet. The correct term for someone who crochets is a “hooker” – we use a hook. Look it up.

2. My favourite module at university was the ceramic analysis module I did in my masters year.

3. My favourite book is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diane Wynne Jones.

4. Even though I did a character study on Zuko, my favorite ATLA character is Sokka. Here is a haiku about Sokka:

They call me Sokka

That is, in the Water Tribe

I am not an oaf.

(Yes I have that memorised)

5. I am engaged. I have been engaged for seven years.

6. I am in the process of researching a non-fiction book about the ancient Greek city of Corinth, from the neolithic period to the city’s destruction at the hands of the Romans in 146BCE. This is because Corinth is severely underrepresented in literature about the time period compared to Athens and Sparta. Everyone forgets Corinth. Not me.

7. I hate ironing. It is my least favourite chore.

8. I used to know the Jabberwocky by heart, but I’m out of practice now.

9. I once tried to learn the Modern Major General song by heart but eventually gave up.

10. My kitchen is red themed, or at least the parts of it we could pick colours for: kettle, toaster, teatowels, crockery etc. I like red.

11. I don’t like being barefoot. I wear slippers in the house. The only times I am barefoot are when water is involved (showering, swimming, at the beach etc).

4. Nominate 11 bloggers who you feel deserve this award and who have less than 200 followers.

I don’t even follow 11 blogs, much less 11 with fewer than 200 followers. But since the official rules of the Liebster Award allow for 5-11 blogs, I’m going with the minimum of five, all from fellow Mythic Scribes members:

1. Brian W Foster’s blog

2. Rant, Ramble, Rave

3. From Peneverdant

4. Supercritical – the Alchemy of Writing

5. The Fantasy Review Barn

Check them out.

5. Answer 11 questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 11 questions.

Okay, here are the questions Diane has asked me:

1)  At what age did you start writing?

About 8 or 9. I wrote and drew a comic about my mum which Dad photocopied at work so I could colour it in in different colours. I also wrote a story about a magical black cat which could walk between dimensions and bring people with her.

2)  What is your greatest writing success so far?

I got a short story, Ailith’s Gift, published in Myths Inscribed. That was pretty cool.

3)  What is your favourite book?

Howl’s Moving Castle. Oops, I’ve done that one above in my facts. Well, it’s so good it’s worth mentioning twice. I love that book.

4)  What was the first book you bought?

Probably a Horrible Histories book or a Redwall book. It was a long time ago. Either way, both those things gave me a foundation for one of my two interests now – ancient history and writing fantasy.

5)  What is your favourite song?

It depends on my mood and changes on a regular basis. Overall, I’d say The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel.

6)  What is your favourite holiday destination?

Anywhere would be nice at the moment. No but seriously, the southern Brittany coast, specifically the bit around where my grandparents live near Sarzeau. There’s this little place called Saint Jacques which has a little harbour and some great beaches, there are dolmens nearby (neolithic chamber tombs), there’s Vannes half an hour’s drive away which is such a beautiful medieval city. There’s Chateaux du Suscino down the coast too which is stunning (and really close to the best beach of the lot).

7)  If you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do?

Spend it with my fiance and my parents. And eat ice cream. I miss ice cream – I’m dieting at the moment.

8)  If you were stranded on a desert island and could wish for one luxury item, what would it be?

Tricky. I’d have to go for a massive ball of yarn. I’d then find a way to make a crochet hook out of what was on the island, and crochet stuff to while away the time.

9)  If there was one thing about yourself you could change, what would it be?  Physical or psychological.

Personal motivation. I’d make myself more driven to do stuff, or at least make my ability to work less dependent on my will to work. I’d get so much done if I could be bothered.

10)  What do you do to relax?

Crochet and watch something on Netflix. At the moment, it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the past it’s been Avatar: the Last Airbender. When I’m done with Buffy I’m moving on to Scrubs.

11)  What writing project are you currently working on?

Anyone who has been reading my blog recently knows that very well. Not that many people have been reading my blog recently. I think my daily updates have been putting people off or harming my search engine ranking or something. Anyway, it’s the story of Fiarra, who is trying to overthrow the slavery-endorsing regime that took over her home town when the empire that settled it abandoned it, and see justice done for those who were part of it.

Questions for my nominees:

1. What story or story element did you abandon but still want to use some day?

2. Who is the person you admire most in the world and why?

3. If you won £1,000,000 or $1,000,000, untaxable, what would you spend it on?

4. Given the choice of being a witch/wizard at Hogwarts, a Hobbit in Middle Earth, or a Pevensie sibling in Narnia, which would you choose and why?

5. What one place is most special to you?

6. What music do you listen to to get into the writing mood?

7. What do you dislike most about your writing?

8. What landmark or achievement have you reached in your writing in the last 12 months?

9. If you could have a chat with any famous person, living or dead, for one hour, who would it be and what would you talk about?

10. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

11. What is the best piece of advice you could give a new writer?

Right, cool, this was fun. I look forward to seeing how my nominees respond. Do check out their blogs and also Diane’s blog linked above.

Beautiful new Library of Birmingham opens its doors

This morning Malala Yousafzai officially opened the new Library of Birmingham. The Library aims to “rewrite the book” for modern public libraries and offer “world-class facilities and resources” (see Mission Statement). It is the largest public lending library in Europe. I think it’s a stunning building, shining out golden across Birmingham with a façade made up of over 5,000 silver and black circles. The appearance has been a bit controversial, but I adore it.

It's quite an imposing building, and some aren't fond of it, but you can't deny that the new Library is quite the eye-catcher.
It’s quite an imposing building, and some aren’t fond of it, but you can’t deny that the new Library is quite the eye-catcher.

I’ve been quite excited about this building. You see, I work for Carillion, the Main Contractor responsible for building the Library of Birmingham, and my job has involved keeping my department’s records up to date for completed and ongoing projects, including the Library of Birmingham. And since it’s been a flagship project for the company, I’ve been seeing a lot of info about the Library – and an awful lot of amazing photos.

Continue reading Beautiful new Library of Birmingham opens its doors

King of Thorns Giveaway winners

Last week I posted the Giveaway for a signed paperback of King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. Now it’s time to announce the winner. There have been some brilliant responses, and I recommend you go and check them out in the comments.

The suggestions included towers that reach high into the sky, strange architecture and scientific marvels – exactly the sort of stuff that would inspire wonder and confusion in people who don’t understand our own world.

I have picked the winners – a very difficult task. So, without further ado…

Continue reading King of Thorns Giveaway winners

Giveaway: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

A few weeks ago I reviewed King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence and gave it a 9/10 (and I also reviewed the first book in the Broken Empire series, Prince of Thorns, and gave it 9/10). Well guess what? Mark has offered up some signed paperbacks of King of Thorns for bloggers to give away. Isn’t that awesome?

NOTE 15 June 2013: This contest is now closed.

Continue reading Giveaway: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Lorsch Gospel illuminated page

Okay, my next post was meant to be a review (almost finished the book, won’t be long) but I just saw this and I had to share. As someone who loves books, every now and again I go looking at images of medieval gospels, personal libraries and other beautiful book related things. I recently subscribed to /r/bookporn on Reddit and today a user called mktoaster posted this thread, featuring the below image:

Click for full size
Click for full size

Continue reading Lorsch Gospel illuminated page