Saturday 25 February 2017

Editing and Blogging

Oh dear. I was doing so well too. But it looks like I’ve broken my new year’s resolution and missed a couple of weeks of blogging. It’s a good thing I promised not to beat myself up too much about it, isn’t it? I’ll just try and get back on track again!

I’ve had a new experience this month which has been very exciting and very scary at the same time. I’ve had my first ever set of notes sent from a professional editor! I think I mentioned in a previous blog post that I’ve had a short story accepted for publication, well the editor (who is lovely!) got back to me with her comments… and some changes she wanted me to make.

I’ve got to admit that I was totally terrified about opening the document up when it came into my inbox. I’d managed to convince myself that the editor hated the whole story, and that she was going to tell me to change EVERYTHING! You do hear some horror stories about editors telling writers to cut all their favourite bits of a story or novel, but I think I was imagining it would be worse than that. I was picturing it more like getting a bit of homework back, with all my mistakes circled in red pen. See me after class, Valentine.

But… hooray!… it was nothing like that. I should’ve remembered that if the editor (Hannah) hadn’t liked my story, she wouldn’t have accepted it in the first place. Sure, she’d made quite a few comments (and pointed out a few mistakes), and it was really difficult to read those at first. I had to resist taking things personally, which was made a lot easier by the fact that the comments were all very kind and helpful. Once I got over my initial fear and read through them properly, I found myself agreeing with them all and making the changes happily.

So not so scary after all. And another new step taken! Now I’m just excited about the story being published later this year.

Gold star, Valentine.

Thursday 2 February 2017

Book Review – The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (2014)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a review of the first Cormoran Strike book by Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling), so I thought I’d follow it up by reviewing the second book in the series. I said in my first review that I enjoyed The Silkworm even more than The Cuckoo’s Calling, so I thought I should do this review sooner rather than later.

The Cuckoo’s Calling introduced the characters of Cormoran Strike and his long-suffering secretary/assistant Robin Ellacott, and The Silkworm picks up their story a few months later. Strike is now quite famous after cracking the Lula Landry case and so he has a string of divorce cases to work on. But this changes when Leonora Quine approaches him and asks Strike to find her missing husband, Owen.

Owen Quine is a writer who is known for being a bit of a literary rebel. He had a huge hit with his first book, but he’s never really been able to live up to that since. Quine has been working on another, secret novel (called Bombyx Mori – which is the name of a kind of silkworm), but the manuscript was leaked and has been causing a bit of a scandal in publishing circles. Quine disappeared at the same time as the leak.

As with The Cuckoo’s Calling, this book is filled with larger-than-life characters. If anything, it’s even more larger-than-life than the first book. There’s Kathryn Kent (Quine's lover), Pippa Midgley (his protégée), Elizabeth Tassel (his agent), Jerry Waldegrave (his agent), publisher Daniel Chard, and writer Michael Fancourt. All these people had reason to do away with Quine, because they all appear (in a fictional and not very flattering way) in his secret manuscript.

Even though it’s all a little bit larger-than-life, this was an absolute page-turner. I genuinely couldn’t put it down. Like I said in my previous review, Rowling (or Galbraith) is just so good at telling a story. She’s also shaping up to be a really good mystery writer. I did spot a few of the clues as I was reading The Silkworm, but it didn’t completely fall into place until the end when I realised how all the pieces fitted together. Sometimes, you spot something but don’t realise what it is you’re really seeing – that’s one of my favourite things about mystery novels!

One thing I didn't like about The Silkworm was seeing more of Robin's fiancé Matthew. I'm not sure if we're supposed to like him or not, but I really don't. And I don't like the way he reacts to Robin's job with Strike. (I'm saying nothing about Career of Evil, the third book, here. I'll save that for another time!)

The Silkworm is a massive recommendation for me. I love The Cuckoo’s Calling, but this one was even better. I’m planning to read it again very soon because it was such an enjoyable read!

Friday 27 January 2017

Mr Motivator!

So I’ve been doing pretty well with my New Years Resolution so far. Could this be the first time I stick with a resolution all the way through January? Well, we’ll see about that, won’t we?

Today I’ve been thinking about motivation. What motivates you to get on with things? Are you a carrot or a stick sort of person? When I turn up to my day job, my motivation is pretty clear. It’s my job and I want to earn some money! But also, I’ve made a commitment to my place of work that I’ll turn up and do my job every day. I work in a care home, so I’d be letting quite a lot of people down if I didn’t show, including some people that are really vulnerable.

But what’s my motivation for doing other stuff? How do I keep myself motivated to write? Or to keep posting on this blog, even when I don’t really know if anyone’s ever going to read it? How do I motivate myself to send my finished stories (not that there’s a lot of them) to publishers? The only person I’ll be letting down if I don’t do that is myself, and I’m definitely not earning any money from this.

I think I’m definitely a ‘carrot’ rather than a ‘stick’ person. I know some people like to set themselves a target and tell themselves off if they don’t stick to it. I’m not very good with that approach. Instead, I have to promise myself a bit of a treat. Write 1000 words and then you can read a chapter of that book you’ve been enjoying – that sort of thing. I find that helps me to focus on things a bit better. Of course, I do this mostly with housework and chores, rather than writing… they’re the things I really need to push myself to do!

On that note, I’ve written a blog post for this week and I’ve stuck to my New Years resolution for 4 whole weeks… so I think I deserve some chocolate now!

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Book Review - The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013)

I’ve been meaning to writing a review of this book for ages and ages, so I thought with my new year’s resolution that now would be a good time to catch up.

Obviously by now everyone knows that The Cuckoo’s Calling was really written by J.K. Rowling, who used the pen-name Robert Galbraith for a series of crime novels featuring the detective Cormoran Strike.

I was never a big fan of the Harry Potter books. I don’t mean I didn’t like them, just that I was never a mega-fan. But I love detective novels so I was really curious to read The Cuckoo’s Calling.

And I wasn’t disappointed. I loved this book so much!

Cormoran Strike is a private detective who previously worked for the SIB. He is disabled after he lost part of his leg in a bomb in Afghanistan, and he’s also the illegitimate son of a famous rock star. Strike is hired by John Bristow to investigate the death of his half-sister, the model Lula Landry. The police have deemed it a suicide but John doesn’t think that’s the case. Strike isn’t sure whether he wants to take the case, but he’s persuaded to investigate Lula’s death. Along the way he gets a new secretary, Robin Ellacott, who starts out as a temp but ends up being more like his assistant.

As Strike begins his investigation, he soon realises there’s more to Lula’s death than meets the eye. He interviews the various people in the model’s life, and starts to uncover all their secrets.

The main reason I enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling is that it is a complete page-turner. I just couldn’t put it down. Partly this is because of the mystery – I just had to find out what happened. Each chapter had a new revelation, and I found myself unable to put the book down as I wanted to discover the truth. Rowling (or Galbraith) really has an amazing way of keeping you hanging on for the next revelation.

The other thing I liked about The Cuckoo’s Calling was the characters. I was a little bit unsure at first as they (especially Cormoran Strike) felt a bit larger-than-life. A lot of the names are a bit dramatic – Cormoran Strike isn’t exactly run-of-the-mill and Lula Landry is also a bit OTT. But it turns out that doesn’t matter, as I found myself warming to the characters from the off. Strike is larger-than-life, but he’s also a really likable and sympathetic character. His friendship and working relationship with Robin is a very enjoyable part of the book (and the others in the series, which I’ll review at a later date).

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a big recommendation from me. It’s a fun read that I found very hard to put down. Saying that though, I liked the sequel, The Silkworm, even more! But I’ll write about that in another post.

Sunday 15 January 2017

Guest bloggers wanted

Now that I've got back into blogging again, I'd love to invite some guest to write for my site. Would you like to be a guest blogger and write something for my site? I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who writes about books, films, baking, nature, animals - or any other topics you think would fit with my blog.

If you'd like to write a guest post for me, please just drop me an email. Can't wait to hear from you!

Surviving Friday the 13th

Are you superstitious?

I wouldn’t say that I am particularly superstitious but a lot of people where I work are. So Friday was a bit of a nightmare because no one wanted to be working on Friday 13th. It didn’t help that we had an electrician in fixing one of the strip lights… so there were ladders in the office as well. Needless to say, everyone was avoiding going near them in case that counted as walking underneath them!

The thing about superstitions is that is once you start taking them seriously, you start seeing plenty of stuff that backs them up. This week was a good example. One of the support workers at work spent most of the morning worrying about the date. Then at lunchtime, she went out to the shop and tripped over a paving stone. She wasn’t badly hurt but she gave her knee a bit of a bang. Of course, she put that down to the curse of Friday 13th and spent the rest of the day looking terrified that something else would happen.

That accident could have happened on any day of the week. Would she have felt the same if she had tripped up on Thursday 12th? Or if it had been Friday 14th or Friday 15th? Probably not. But she’s convinced that her accident proves her superstitions about that spooky date now.

I suppose the only thing I am superstitious about is magpies. I always salute when I see one. I don’t know if I really believe that something bad will happen if I don’t do the salute. But then again, I’ve never tried it to find out! Saluting magpies is just something I’ve always done and so it sort of comes automatically now. If I didn’t do it, I’d feel a bit weird – like something was missing or I’d forgotten something important. Maybe that’s more a habit than a superstition? I’m not sure.

Well, anyway, I’ve survived another Friday 13th and the magpies haven’t got me yet, so I must have done something right. And the superstitious people at work can relax again… the ladders have gone, and we don’t need to worry about another Friday 13th until October!

Thursday 5 January 2017

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year where we’re all setting our resolutions and hoping that we’ll stick to them this time (even if we didn’t quite manage it last year… or the year before…) So my resolution for 2017 is that I’m going to really try and keep on top of my writing, including this blog. I know I’ve said it before, but I do want to post more regularly.

So my 2017 new year’s resolution is that I’m going to write an update every week, a bit like a diary. I can’t promise they’ll always be long posts, or even interesting ones! But at least I’m going to try and make sure I write something every week. My plan is that this will help me to focus on writing and maybe help get me motivated to finish some of the projects I’ve been working on.

2017 is already going to be an exciting year for me, because I’ve got my first ever publication coming out! A short story I wrote (called ‘Mrs Frankenstein’s Void’) is going to be included in a collection by Hic Dragones, which is run by my two lovely neighbours Hannah and Rob, who have been really supportive and encouraging about my writing. The book is titled ‘Nothing’, and it’s going to be coming out later this year. I’m so excited!

I always find Christmas a bit of a difficult time of year, but I do love New Year (maybe that’s because my birthday is on New Year’s Day! hee hee!) January’s my favourite month of the year, because I always feel a bit of a buzz about all the new things that could be round the corner. Who knows what the new year might bring?

So that’s my new year’s resolution. What’s yours?

And since I’ve successfully stuck to my plan for Week 1 of 2017, I think I deserve a treat. I’m going to start reading the lovely birthday present I got from my brother and sister-in-law…