Bookish & Writerly Recaps: June 2017

Well, would you JUST LOOK AT THAT. It’s the last day of the month, and we actually have a recap. WE HAVE A RECAP, PEOPLE! Miracles happen, magic is real, goddesses walk the earth etc. etc.

What I have forgotten to mention is that as I get ready to publish this, it’s 11:30 at night on said last day of the month, so I’ve cut it pretty fine and also I’m kinda tired (hence the rambling having already begun). So let’s get this DONE.

What I’ve written…

I’ma be straight-up as always: there’s not much to report here this month. Over on Writer’s Edit, I’ve been writing about character motivations and types of freelance writing jobs, but novel-wise, I’m still working through some stuff.

I will say that the story’s still swirling its way around the back of my mind a lot of the time, and that I even wrote a random little 500-word scene the other night when I got a burst of inspiration. I think – I hope – I’m almost ready to start writing again in earnest.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts on the 1st of July (tomorrow as I write this), so I’m thinking of using that as a tool to help me get back into the swing of regular writing. I might mix up the usual Scrivener sessions with some handwriting and morning pages, and see how I go.

Blank notebookImage via Unsplash.

…Or, more accurately, what I’ve been doing instead of writing

I recently started listening to the podcast My Favourite Murder, and I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did. It’s pretty self-explanatory: two ladies discussing various murder cases they find fascinating. The details of the murders, while super interesting, can get pretty dark at times (which, I mean… duh, they’re murders). But the hosts Karen and Georgia even it out by being so hilarious and wonderful. I feel like I can relate to them in so many ways, and it just feels like I’ve made two new friends who keep me company while I’m doing boring everyday crap.

TV-wise, I’ve been loving the Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American GodsI’m only halfway through, but so far it’s doing an incredible job of bringing that big, complex, intriguing book to life. It’s highly stylised and visceral and funny and full-on, and just really damn entertaining – can’t wait to finish it.

Also, conveniently, the day I got home from the US was the day the new House of Cards season dropped – so of course Nate and I binged it in about a week. A couple of years ago I blogged about my love for House of Cards, and I still dig it. It’s gone in a bit of a different direction than I thought it would, but Frank and Claire are still ruthless as ever and scary AF and I love it.

I also saw Wonder Woman at the movies and damn near jumped in the air and fist-pumped with how much I enjoyed it. What an excellent movie and what a genuinely passionate, strong and emotional heroine at the fore. Along with every woman I know who saw it, I came out with a smile on my face and a sense of goddamn go-getter girl power.

My Favourite Murder-Wonder Woman

What I’ve read

Well. I’ve just checked my Goodreads and realised that, as well as being six books behind schedule on my reading challenge, I only read TWO BOOKS during the whole month of June. :/

I realise this is unacceptable. But as you’ll see, one of those two books was REALLY big and dense and kinda old with tiny type and lots of made-up words and… I’ll just use that as my excuse, and vow to do better during July.

(Actually, I’ve just come back to finish this post on the last day of June, and I ended up binge-reading the last half of another book last night – so let’s make that a total of three for June. Still pretty average, but what are you gonna do.)

Anyway. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

I absolutely loved this. When I read the premise (a Beauty and the Beast retelling) I was kind of like, ehhh, do I really have time for yet another retelling? But I decided to give it a try, and it turns out I have all the time in the world for this gorgeous book.

Hunted is a lovely take on the tale as old as time – original, while still retaining that beautiful fairytale feel. The writing is wonderful and it’s a lot slower-paced than a lot of other YA fantasy, which I am sooo here for. I mean, I love action as much as the next fantasy fan, but sometimes it’s nice to take things slow, you know?

Meagan Spooner paints her scenes with precision and beauty, and her characters with depth and nuance. Elements of Russian folklore are woven carefully into the tale of Yeva and the Beast, both of whom I adored. Plus, the book’s themes of duality and indefinable desire are fascinating in the ways they’re explored.

I’ve seen several people slam it for various reasons on Goodreads reviews (note to self: stop reading Goodreads reviews), but I disagree with all of them. For me, Hunted was completely captivating, and both the style and story couldn’t have worked better.

Hunted

Dune by Frank Herbert

Aaaaand now we come to the reason why I did not read much this month!

Dune is known as *the* science fiction novel, and for good reason. Published in 1965, it’s sci-fi on an epic scale, with as much in-depth world-building as you’d expect from the highest of high fantasy.

I enjoyed this. It’s long and dense and a little bit dragging at times, but it’s wonderful sci-fi. There’s action, technology, politics, prophecy and big ol’ desert worms that’ll eat you and everyone you love.

One thing I found interesting about the writing style is that it’s omniscient third person narration – something you rarely see these days (at least, something I rarely see). It took me a while to get my head around the head-hopping, but it was a little refreshing point of difference that I enjoyed by the end.

Anyway, I liked exploring the planet of Arrakis and watching the destiny of Muad’Dib unfold, and one day – perhaps when I’m not so far behind on my reading – I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel (but never watching the movie adaptation again… I have it on as I write this recap, and good lord, despite being faithful to the book, it is so. Hilariously. Terrible.)

Dune

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Strangely enough, the next book on my reading schedule was another story inspired by Russian folklore, and I enjoyed it just as much as Hunted. All the elements of The Bear and the Nightingale are woven together so beautifully, in such lovely prose, that I’m thinking these awesome ladies are definitely onto something with Russian folklore!

I loved the brave and intuitive protagonist, Vasya, and Morozko the mysterious winter king. I loved reading about the spirits guarding the household and the forest, and the demons threatening them. To be honest, I don’t think there was anything I didn’t love about this book.

Katherine Arden’s prose is as beautiful as the story she tells, and the magical atmosphere running through the whole story makes it feel like a folktale in its own right. There are also some scary, almost nightmarish moments, which adds just the right amount of excitement to this slow-burning tale (another winner for slower-paced fantasy, woo!).

P.S. I usually only include the cover of the edition I actually read (hence the six-dollar-paperback Dune cover above). But for The Bear and the Nightingale, I had to include both the UK/AUS (left) and US cover (right). Our version is so colourful and unique and lovely, but the US cover just looks like the story in visual form – wintry and mysterious and beautiful.

Bear and the Nightingale

You’ll notice I was correct last month in predicting that, no, I would not venture beyond my horizons and read something other than SFF anytime soon.

BUT: both Nate and I are currently reading a FINANCE book (I know, wtf, right?), so hopefully that’ll be in my round-up next month to break up the ever-present slew of otherworldly tales. ;)

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Happy July, everybody – hope your month is full of warmth and wonderful things. (Also, for any Murderinos who might be reading: stay sexy, and don’t get murdered. Elvis, you want a cookie?)

Bookish & Writerly Recaps: April & May 2017

Look, I just thought things were getting a little too predictable over here, what with me actually scraping in with a **somewhat** timely recap each month. So, surprise – I’ve saved April’s and May’s recaps to combine into one ultra-late, ultra-exciting double recap post! Yay! *Uncertain, unenthusiastic smattering of applause*

For real, though, I started a new job in April and went on an overseas trip in May, so that’s kind of my excuse for missing one recap and being late with the other.

Due to that overseas trip, I thought it was fitting to expand this double recap to cover not only what I’ve been writing and reading, but also where I’ve been…

Where I’ve been

At the time of my last recap, I was getting ready to go on a mini-getaway to Melbourne with Nate to celebrate our five-year anniversary. Well, after returning from that, life was all about getting ahead with my new job and getting ready for my next trip – a ten-day venture through California with my sister Liv!

Liv’s a travel agent, and through an industry trivia night last year, she managed to score herself a free flight and some accommodation in California. And being the wonderful sister she is, she invited me to come along with her (and offered to go halves in my ticket seeing as hers was free – again, best sister ever, right?!).

Of course, I took her up on her offer, so halfway through May, we set off on a trip to Sacramento, LA, Anaheim and San Francisco.

I’ve never been to the US before, and even though we only visited a small portion of it, I loved it and can’t wait to go back. San Fran was my favourite of the four cities we visited, but I was surprised by how much I also liked Sacramento (it’s California’s capital, but when you tell people you’re going there they’re like, ‘Why tho?’).

Our time in LA and Anaheim was mostly spent at Universal Studios and Disneyland, respectively – and you can imagine how exciting that was for this Disney freak and lifelong Harry Potter-lover.

Overall, it was an awesome (if not slightly whirlwind) trip, and I loved every minute of it.

What I’ve written

Hahahahaha, hahaha, haha. Writing. Yeah. That’s totally a thing I do.

I don’t know if it’s post-holiday blues or just a continuation of the feelings I’ve been having about writing recently, but I’m still just not really… feeling it.

TBH, it was a struggle to even sit down and start writing this blog post. I just feel like there’s something missing – some magical blend of inspiration, motivation and creativity that’s so vital to writerly types.

But I know as well as any other writer that the key to solving this kind of problem is usually just to sit down and do some goddamn writing. To shove all that doubt and uncertainty and negativity aside and put some words – any words – on paper.

So, once again, with hope for a much more productive second half of the year, I’m going to try.

A few times in the last couple of months, I tried out the concept of morning pages, and was quite pleasantly surprised by the results. So I might try that again, or at least give some kind of free-form handwritten exercise a go.

Hopefully I can work my way back up to actually progressing on my novel, which is sitting long-neglected in its Scrivener file but always buzzing around in the back of my head.

I might even try writing something apart from (late) monthly recaps on this blog every now and again! (Plz don’t hold me to that, my internal life narrator is already laughing and laughing at the very idea.)

Somewhere I’m always happy to put words down, though, is Writer’s Edit. Over the last couple of months I’ve penned a few pieces branching out into areas of freelancing and self-publishing:

Wish me luck for a renewed sense of writerly vigour throughout the month of June.

Image via Unsplash.

What I’ve read

Since I’m doing a double recap this month (and, as I mentioned above, not really feeling it on the blogging front), I’m just going to list what I read in April/May, rather than writing a mini review for each book.

Even though I won’t be reviewing them, I really did enjoy all of the last two months’ books. Unsurprisingly, it’s been the usual fantasy feast, with a drop of dystopia and a single dose of straight-up fiction thrown in for good measure. ;)

Here’s what’s been occupying my lunch breaks and plane rides for the last couple of months…

  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  • Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
  • Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
  • Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

My two favourites out of these were definitely Strange the Dreamer and Royal Assassin. Laini Taylor’s beautiful words and magical story had me practically glowing with delight, and the more I read of Robin Hobb’s incredible Farseer series, the more I fall in love with Fitz’s story.

I’m thinking that this month I need to change it up a little and read some more non-fiction. But to be perfectly honest, it’s hard when there’s so much amazing fiction already on my TBR… I’ll make an effort to expand my horizons, though! (Narrator, next month: ‘She did not make any effort to expand her horizons.’)

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Well, that’s all from me on this sunny winter afternoon. Here’s hoping the second half of the year brings plenty of happiness, inspiration and generally wonderful things.

Bookish & Writerly Recaps: March 2017

Look! Another monthly recap written and published in a timely fashion*!

*It is, fittingly, April Fool’s Day as this goes live, so if you believe the above, that’s totally on you.

Here’s what’s been happening throughout March…

What I’ve written

Look, I’m going to be perfectly honest again (as if I can help being anything but? #oversharer). This past month was another not-so-great one for me, writing-wise. And I don’t just mean writing in the novel-writing sense; I mean it in the sense of, ‘Why did I think I could be a writer in the first place – freelance OR fiction? Neither one is working, and I don’t think they ever will’.

Yeah, fun stuff. Good job, brain, for spending all of March dwelling on those super helpful thoughts.

Basically, most of my month was lost to a fog of self-doubt and inner conflict. I was questioning everything: what I really want out of life, what ‘the dream’ is and how it compares to actual reality, whether I should throw everything in the bin and run away to England, etc. etc.

These doubts were split evenly between the freelancing dream and the author dream. Not only was I struggling with my career situation, I was also still in a really bad place regarding my fiction writing (see last month’s recap for more on that).

Truthfully? I’m still in that place when it comes to my book. I’ve tried a little writing here and there, but I just don’t feel good about it again yet. I’m still constantly thinking about it, and I have moments where I’m like ‘Yes! This story could still work, and I do still want to write it!’. But those moments are a little too scarce right now, and I think I’ve still got a lot to work through.

March recap-1Image via Unsplash

BUT! I did get a bit of nice news on the last day of March: after a couple of weeks of job applications, interviews and trials, I was offered a new part-time role as a marketing assistant! Yay. :) I’ll primarily be creating content, which is what I love to do most, and I can finish up at my casual bookselling job (which is lovely, don’t get me wrong, but it’s time to move on).

With three fixed days a week at this new job and the other two days to focus on my freelance stuff, I can finally develop a proper routine and stick to it. And I’m hoping this will also help with my writing. I really do want to give it another go, so with a little less career-related stress and a more consistent work situation, fingers crossed I can get things moving again.

Something that I think is really going to help me do that is looking to others for inspiration and motivation. It’s no secret that two of my biggest inspirations are two of my best girlfriends, Helen and Kyra – and truly, when I think about what those ladies are achieving, it’s a bigger motivator than anything to keep me going.

Kyra posted recently about getting out of her own writing slump, and Helen’s amazing first novel is coming out later this year, and basically, I just admire the absolute heck out of them both. I want to stay on this writer’s journey with them, so I’m going to try my hardest to do just that.

Anyway – one last thing to finish off this perpetually rambling section! While the word-well in March was running pretty dry, I did write some articles for Writer’s Edit on impostor syndrome and establishing a writing routine, so check those out if you’re struggling with the writer’s life (join the club, we have a monthly newsletter).

March recap-2Image via Unsplash

What I’ve read

This month has been ALL FANTASY, ALL THE TIME – and let’s be real, I’m not even sorry about it.

A Gathering of Shadows (reread) and A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab

I blabbed on a little last month about how much I love this series, but I’m going to do it again here. I LOVE THIS SERIES. I love everything about it. And I really admire Victoria Schwab as a writer.

In March I reread A Gathering of Shadows in preparation for the release of the final instalment, A Conjuring of Light, which I completely devoured as soon as it landed in my mailbox. How do I even explain these books? The characters are beautiful and flawed and funny and heartbreaking and real; the writing is finely tuned and wonderful; and the story is absolutely lustrous with magic – there’s no other way to describe it.

ACOL was a perfect, bittersweet ending to the series, and to anyone who’s read it, you’ll know what I mean when I say: Anoshe.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

First of all, let’s not be superficial here, but what a beautiful cover. Give me black and sparkly gold and a magical hammer and I’m sold. (Neil Gaiman’s name and the word ‘Mythology’ in big letters doesn’t hurt, either.)

Moving beyond appearances, I loved the book itself as well. It was a refreshing little jaunt into the world of the Norse gods, and I really enjoyed the traditional, almost spoken-word style of the storytelling – just like sitting around a campfire at night while a bloody genius named Neil tells you tales of monsters and gods. (Truly, writing any kind of god is this guy’s absolute jam. This was a lovely contrast to American Gods – which, by the way, looks like it’s going to make a freaking excellent TV show.)

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

This is the first Robin Hobb book I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It has a real ‘classic fantasy’ feel to it, and the writing style is markedly different to all the fantasy I’ve been reading lately, which is refreshing. There are no dramatic chapter cliffhangers, and very little fanfare when it comes to big reveals; there’s just simple writing telling a damn good story, and that’s something I hadn’t read for quite a while. (Don’t get me wrong – I love a good cliffhanger and some fanfare, of course, but it was nice to dive into something a little different.)

Fitz’s story also reminded me a little of one of my favourite epic fantasy tales – that of Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle. Both Fitz and Kvothe have a terribly shit time while they’re young (as well as, presumably, a terribly shit time when they’re older too, poor loves). They’re both misunderstood and gifted and fierce and terribly lonely – and despite all that, they’re both thoroughly likeable characters, with exciting and extraordinary stories to tell. I can’t wait to continue with the Farseer Trilogy.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I wasn’t so sure about this one. It’s been getting huge hype online for months and months now, which I think may have had something to do with my less-than-enthusiastic reaction to it; I think it was actually over-hyped, which hasn’t really done it any favours.

That’s not to say I didn’t like it; I enjoyed it enough to stick with it, and actually smashed through it fairly quickly. But I didn’t love it. I don’t particularly like giving detailed negative reviews, so I won’t go into too much here, but suffice it to say that I felt the story fell a little flat, and there was some big ol’ insta-love that I really wasn’t a fan of. The writing was quite nice, though, and an indulgent, dazzling, night-time carnival atmosphere is always fun.

Caraval

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Well, that’s enough book rambling and life pondering from me (for now). I’m off to pack for a few wonderful days in Melbourne, where Nate and I are heading tomorrow to (belatedly) celebrate our five-year anniversary! *prepares self for three and a half straight days of eating, drinking and lounging in a hotel spa bath*

Happy April – I hope your month ahead is full of lovely things.

Bookish & Writerly Recaps: February 2017

Would you look at this?! It’s the last day of February, and I’m actually posting an ON-TIME monthly recap!

Here’s a quick look at the last month in my world of words…

What I’ve written

So in last month’s recap, I mentioned that I’d finally been diving back into my novel. Throughout February, I did more diving; spent a few days frolicking underwater as a graceful mermaid; came back up for air; lost my beautiful mermaid tail; and am now stranded on a desert island, surrounded by shark-infested waters and unable to swim.

If I lost you with that confusing analogy, I apologise. I’m feeling rather lost and confused myself.

I wrote just over 7000 words in Feb, which brings me to about the 12,000 word mark in this redo of my first draft. Things were pretty up and down with writing throughout the month, and I didn’t write as much as I wanted. But I did get into a few good grooves here and there (usually when word-sprinting with Kyra), and for the most part, was enjoying the process.

But then I hit a rough patch. A really rough patch. One that brought home every doubt I’d ever felt about my story, magnified it tenfold, and made it feel impossible to continue.

As February draws to a close, I’m still in that difficult spot. I’ve only written 1400 words in the last two and a half weeks, and I don’t know when I’ll get back into the swing of things again. To be honest, at the moment, I’m actually wondering if I’ll get back into the swing of things at all.

This is a bit of a tricky one to explain, and I don’t want to ramble on and get too negative here. I may write a more detailed post about this stuff later on, but for now, I’m just going to move on and hope I have a more positive update to share with you at the end of next month. Fins and fingers crossed.

So! Steering out of turbulent fictional waters and back towards the real world, I also wrote a few articles for Writer’s Edit in Feb, about Scrivener, plot twists, and what to do when you’ve finished the draft of your novel. Hopefully writerly types may find them useful and/or interesting:

Feb-recap-1Image via Unsplash

What I’ve read

I settled back into a more regular reading groove this month, which was nice. (Goodreads is finally telling me ‘You’re on track!’ – yay!) Once I’d finished the non-fiction book that was my first Feb read, I flew through my next four… And yep, they were all fiction.

I know I vowed to try to read more non-fiction this year, and I will. But I’ve realised that when it comes down to it, fiction is what has my heart. I haven’t read many non-fiction books that had me dying to get back to the story every time I put it down, but I can’t count the times I’ve felt that way about a novel.

So while I will be making more of an effort with my NF reads, I also won’t be denying myself the pure joy of fresh fiction, especially whenever I find myself in a bit of a reading slump and need something to get me back in the game.

Anyway, here’s what I read in February…

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

This one took me a while to get through, but I did enjoy it. I love birds and I’d heard many good things about H is for Hawk, so I made an effort to finally get around to reading it. It details the relationship between the author and the goshawk she purchased and trained shortly after her father died. Goshawks are notoriously difficult to train, and the entire painstaking process is outlined here, woven through with multi-layered meaning and emotional insight.

The book refers extensively to T. H. White and his own hawk-training memoir The Goshawk throughout, but if I’m honest, I thought there was a little too much focus on White. The sections about him were often the ones I found myself struggling to push through, but I do understand why they were included. Overall, it was a good book and I’m glad I read it.

h-is-for-hawk

The Good People by Hannah Kent

I really enjoyed Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites when I read it last year, so I was keen to pick up her newest book The Good People, especially after hearing her talk about the process of writing it on an episode of the So You Want to Be a Writer podcast. Set in 19th century Ireland, The Good People is steeped in rich folklore and based on real historical events, exploring pagan traditions and the superstitions and beliefs of a small Irish county community.

Hannah is a beautiful writer – the prose was often stunning and always graceful. I really liked this story, too; I felt super immersed in the setting, got really invested in what was going to happen to the characters, and loved the Irish folklore that formed the book’s foundation.

the-good-people

Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

I loved Illuminae by this pair, and Gemina was no different – a rollicking sci-fi rollercoaster ride that’s a lot of fun to read. I’ve always been a sucker for interesting typesetting, and this YA series, set out in epistolary format, really has some fun with this. The story is told through IMs and emails, transcripts of conversations and security footage, memos and illustrations, and countless other bits and pieces. While some people might find this a bit gimmicky after a while, I’m not gonna lie – I ate it right up in both volumes.

The story itself is fast-paced, funny and action-packed, with likeable characters, a space-station hostage situation, murderous, parasitic worm things, and even some quantum physics phun. For me, Gemina certainly lived up to its predecessor in terms of enjoyment, and I’m really looking forward to the next instalment.

gemina

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I’d heard a lot about this series but had never actually picked it up – for rather a silly reason. I regularly use Goodreads to find new books, but for a while there, I found myself putting a lot of stock into Goodreads reviews. As in, if a book that I thought looked interesting had a few one-star reviews that had been voted up to the top, I wouldn’t bother adding it to my TBR. But then I read Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight, which I’d previously not bothered with because of a few bad Goodreads reviews – and I loved it. That’s when I realised I was relying way too much on what other people thought, putting far too much stock into what are essentially 100% subjective opinions and not simply reading what wanted to read.

ANYWAY, long story short, I’d held off reading Red Queen for the same reason, but when I picked it up this month, I really did enjoy it. It’s nothing super groundbreaking, and I didn’t find myself liking the main character Mare as much as I wanted to, but it was an enjoyable read, and I’ll probably continue with the series.

red-queen

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (reread)

Oh, how I love Victoria Schwab and the Shades of Magic series. As soon as I picked this book up for the first time last year, I knew it was destined to become one of my all-time favourite series. This is exactly the kind of fantasy I love. It’s set in an amazing world – actually, four worlds, with four parallel Londons; the characters are well-drawn and wonderful; the magic is… well… magical; and Victoria’s writing is seriously excellent. There are some truly cinematic scenes in here, which I can’t wait to see brought to life on the big screen!

I reread this first volume to prepare for the final book in the trilogy, which was released towards the end of Feb. I haven’t reread anything in a long, long time (apart from my two HP rereads last year), because I get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new books there are to read, and feel like there isn’t enough time for rereading. But with a series that’s as good as this one, I want to see it off right – and that means making some time to rediscover the magic before it all comes to an end. <3

a-darker-shade-of-magic

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What have you read and written this month? I’d love to hear!

Bookish & Writerly Recaps: January 2017

So I’m a little late to the party (what else is new?), but here I am with a bookish and writerly recap of January! This year, I plan to write a little something at the end of each month about everything I’ve been reading and writing.

What I’ve written

You guys… As of the 23rd of January, I have been WRITING. ACTUAL WORDS. FOR MY BOOK.

That’s right. I finally bit the bullet, decided it was time to stop plotting and planning and world-building and worrying, and started writing again.

I haven’t been hitting it too hard – mostly just trying my hardest to write something every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words. So far I’ve done about 5,250 words, which isn’t a great deal, but it’s been nice to start easing myself back into the story.

What really helped me get back into things was revising my plot outline. Last February, in preparation for getting back into writing (this never actually happened, but that’s another story), I plotted out an outline to guide me through the rest of the book. But after mulling over the story in the back of my mind for nearly a year after that, I realised some changes needed to be made.

So I sat down with pen and paper and completely redid my outline. And I mean completely – as in, from the very beginning of the book. The majority of plot points remained the same, but I changed some things around and added stuff here and there, so overall, it’s a fairly different outline to the one I had last year.

bookish-writerly-jan-17-2Image via Unsplash

I’m much happier with the outline as it looks now, but redoing the whole thing meant one very important thing: I’d essentially be starting from the beginning again when I did get back into writing.

But you know what? I’ve actually enjoyed doing that. Using Scrivener’s handy split-screen mode, I’ve begun writing a brand-new draft from scratch, copying in bits and pieces from the corresponding chapters in my old draft that I like and want to keep. (Those bits and pieces are fairly few and far between.)

I’ve only written a chapter and a half so far, but I’m really enjoying it. I still find myself plagued with doubts and fears, but at those times, I try to remind myself of two things:

  • Every writer feels like this at one stage or another.
  • This is a first draft and it’s allowed to be completely, totally and utterly crap. The most important thing is that it actually gets written.

Anyway, apart from my book, I’ve also written an article for Writer’s Edit about how to work with beta readers, so if that’s something you’re interested in learning more about, check it out.

bookish-writerly-jan-17-3Image via PicJumbo

What I’ve read

At the moment, my Goodreads challenge is telling me I’m one book behind schedule… SHUT UP, GOODREADS, I KNOW, ALRIGHT?

I was a bit up and down with reading through January – I powered through most of the books listed below, but had a few big gaps of not reading anything at all in between.

I think there’s a way to remedy that, though. This year I want to swap my bad habit of mindless social media scrolling for a new habit: picking up a book at ANY spare moment I have. I’ve done pretty badly at that so far, but hopefully throughout February I’ll be a little more mindful of how I spend my time (and get lots more reading done in the process).

Anyway, here’s a quick round-up of everything I read in January…

  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
    I really, really enjoyed this. Nate bought it for me for Christmas and wrapped it up Blind Date with a Book-style (cute, I know). Foolishly, I’d actually held off reading it because I’d seen a few Goodreads reviews that slammed the style of writing, and while I do admit the prose goes a little overboard at times, I still loved the book. The world and the characters were great and the story really sucked me in. Looking forward to the sequel Godsgrave later this year!
  • Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner
    God, Helen Garner is wonderful, isn’t she? I first read her last year in my attempt to read more non-fiction, and I just fell in love with the way she writes. This collection of writings spans the majority of her lengthy career, and it was super inspiring. I often found myself smiling or marvelling aloud at some especially sharp observation or magical turn of phrase.
  • Bad Behaviour by Rebecca Starford
    This was a really interesting memoir about life at a boarding school in the Australian bush. It dealt with some really tricky issues, like bullying and the complicated nature of young female friendship; parts of it hit uncomfortably close to home. I found the way it was written to be really immersive – alternating between the narrator in the present, and a novel-like retelling of her experiences in the past.
  • A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
    Oh, be still, my beating heart. I can’t tell you how much I love this series. I absolutely devoured An Ember in the Ashes late last year, and this sequel was no different – I smashed through it in a few luxurious sittings. Elias, Laia and Helene are some of my favourite characters from recent reads, and I adore the world and the story Sabaa Tahir has created here. Super pleased to learn that there are two more books to come!
  • Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer
    This month I was lucky enough to be a beta reader once more for the wonderful Helen and her wonderful debut fantasy book. I read an early incarnation of Heart of Mist last year, and since then Helen’s worked SO hard to undertake a big structural edit and incorporate feedback. I won’t say too much here, but I LOVED this book even more in this second read, and I can’t wait to continue the journey throughout the whole Oremere Chronicles series! Fantasy fans, definitely stay tuned for the release of Heart of Mist later this year.
bookish-writerly-jan-17Actual image of me trying to deal with my TBR list right now. Just kidding, image via Unsplash.

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That’s all my reading and writing news for now. Hopefully my next recap will be on time, and will feature many more words written and books read!

2016 In Review: Part Two (Life, Health and Happiness)

Welcome to Part Two of my 2016 wrap-up! Part One was all about writing and reading, but this one’s more of a collection of candid ramblings about – you guessed it – life, health and happiness.

Life

To be honest, there weren’t too many big life developments throughout 2016. As I mentioned before I dropped off the blogosphere, I was taking some internships while working at a bookshop, working for Writer’s Edit, and trying to get my freelance career up and running.

Apart from the internships, which I finished halfway through the year, things look pretty much the same now as they did throughout 2016. I had hoped to be well and truly finished at the bookshop by now, able to rely on freelance income without the necessity of a ‘side job’ to keep me afloat financially. Alas, I’m not quite there yet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately, and in particular, how I don’t make very much of it. I’m aware, of course, that the industry I’ve chosen is not the most lucrative. Nobody pursues a creative career for the money. But that doesn’t change the fact that you need it.

I’ve found that while ever I’m worrying about trying to bring in more work and more money, though, I can’t focus on doing anything creative. I feel like I have to be spending all my spare time focusing on work, and can’t really justify spending time on my own writing, for example. It’s been really hard to keep things in balance, to maintain my creative identity and my dreams.

I have this grand vision of how I want my life to look: managing my own days, being my own boss, balancing my work and my creative pursuits, taking charge of my future. Some days, that vision seems very far away. But at the moment, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about this year. I’m feeling like it could hopefully, finally, be the one where I make it happen.

If and when it does, I’ll be sure to let you know.

lifeImage via Kaboompics

While things haven’t changed or progressed as much as I’d like between last year and this one, there’s one thing I’m glad has remained constant, and that’s Writer’s Edit. Since starting out as an Editorial Assistant right after I lost my job almost two years ago, Writer’s Edit has become such a huge part of my life. I’ve learned more, worked on more rewarding projects, and had more fun than I ever dreamed when I first applied for that temporary intern-style role.

I’ve now moved from Editorial Assistant to Editor, and am so excited to be continuing with Writer’s Edit into the future. In 2016, we achieved all sorts of wonderful stuff: launching an ebook about publishing and the final volume of the Kindling anthologies; publishing plenty of great articles and reaching plenty of great milestones; and making some truly exciting plans and developments for the future (stay tuned for more on those).

But the most life-changing thing that’s come from my involvement with Writer’s Edit isn’t the professional development and opportunity it’s afforded me. It’s the two incredible, lifelong friends I’ve made in Helen and Kyra. More on these incredible women in the ‘Happiness’ section below.

kindling-anthologiesImage via Kyra Thomsen

Health

Back in October, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. To be honest, I actually considered the diagnosis a good thing. It was a relief to finally be able to put a name to what had been making me feel pretty terrible for a pretty long time; it felt great to be finally doing something about it by seeking treatment.

After diagnosis and a treatment plan, I was responding to my new medications really well and feeling better than ever. Nate and I went on a holiday in November (more on that below); I came home feeling happy, healthy and refreshed, ready to see out the rest of 2016.

And then… My body turned on me completely.

At the very end of November I came down with what I thought was a simple cold/flu. But it dragged on, and got worse, and dragged on, and got worse. Whatever infection I’d picked up also set off my other condition into a flare-up, which meant a truly horrible double whammy of symptoms. I’ll spare you the details – suffice it to say that for three straight weeks, I was sicker than I’ve ever been in my life.

There were endless visits to the doctor, sleepless nights, countless needles, tests and tests and more tests, different types of drugs… I simply couldn’t function as a human being, and I wasn’t getting any better. It was not a fun time.

Anyway, as Christmas crept closer, I was finally put on some medication that made me feel better for the first time in weeks. But that came with an interesting set of side effects in itself, and my recovery was slow. In fact, it’s only been this last week or so that I can say I’ve felt like I’m back to my normal self (or as close as I remember ‘normal’ being, anyway).

health_2Image via Unsplash

Now that I’m well again, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about just how important my health is.

We all take our health for granted from time to time, and sometimes it takes a period of illness like this to serve as a wake-up call. I generally take pretty good care of myself; but now, having experienced such a period of absolute debilitation, I’m going to redouble my efforts.

Having spent almost a month not being able to do anything, learning how it felt to effectively lose that whole period of my life, I want to aim never to take my health for granted again. I want to take full advantage of being lucky enough to enjoy a properly working body (well, almost properly working!) full of life and energy.

I’m going to manage my condition as best I can, and set myself up for the best possible health with more good food, more exercise, more time spent outdoors, more living.

Bring it on, 2017.

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Happiness

Despite the less-than-ideal December I had, the rest of 2016 was pretty great. There were a lot of things that made me happy – my incredible partner, amazing family and wonderful friends being the main ones.

Here are two of my top happiness highlights from 2016…

A holiday with Nate

After not having been on a proper holiday for almost two years, Nate and I took two whole weeks off together in November, and it was the absolute highlight of my year. First we camped in beautiful North Haven, then road-tripped up to Byron Bay, somewhere neither of us had been before.

We spent time at the beach and by the pool, went on hikes and drives, read books, visited breweries, lighthouses and waterfalls, ate lots of good food, and just generally spent some super lovely quality time together. Then we had a few days just to spend at home before we both returned to work, which was lovely, PLUS we finished it all off with an awesome night at the launch of Kindling III.

Best. Two weeks. Ever. I love this boy with every bit of my heart, and I can’t wait for our next adventure.

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Adventures with Helen and Kyra

These two girls, seriously. I don’t know what I would have done in 2016 without them. I can’t quite express how much I appreciate having them by my side as we all try to make it in this crazy world of writing and publishing.

But even more than that, I appreciate their friendship. They’re two of the wisest, funniest, most wonderful and supportive friends I’ve got, and for that I consider myself so, so lucky to have become so much closer to them over the last year.

From a road-trip to a publishing festival in Canberra, to Kyra and Justin’s beautiful wedding in Robertson, to an actual Harry Potter party at a club in Sydney, we had a LOT of fun together in 2016. And there are plenty more adventures on the way!

This year, all three of us will be focusing on bringing our first fantasy novels into the world, and I couldn’t think of two people I’d rather take that journey with. I know there’ll be plenty of love, laughs and most likely wine involved along the way. <3

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So what’s coming up in 2017?

As well as working hard to make my dreams come true and all that jazz, here are a few things I’m particularly looking forward to this year…

  • Nate’s and my five-year anniversary, which we’re planning to celebrate in Melbourne.
  • A ten-day trip to California with my beloved sister Liv.
  • A writers’ retreat/girly weekend with Kyra and Helen.

Yep – it’s already shaping up to be a pretty lovely year, I think.

I can’t wait to see what else it has in store. :)

2016 In Review: Part One (Writing and Reading)

Well… I’ve done it again.

I’ve let my poor, long-suffering blog sit gathering dust and cobwebs – this time, for almost an entire year.

I’m pretty disappointed in myself for taking such a long hiatus. But hey – it’s the first week of 2017 now, and I’m ready to forgive myself and start fresh!

To kick things back off, I’m doing a round-up of 2016 in two parts: Writing and Reading, and Life, Health and Happiness. I’m starting with the straight-up stuff here, all about the things I wrote and read in 2016, and in a few days, I’ll follow up with a bit more of a personal post about what’s been going on with me.

Then, I’ll be aiming to post at least monthly, recapping what’s been going on in my bookish and writerly life throughout the year. This was my intention last year as well, but come March, my life had gotten so hectic that I just couldn’t commit to one more thing… So off the blogging bandwagon I fell once again. But anyway, more about that in Part Two.

For now, let’s get stuck into the fun stuff… Writing and reading!

Image via freestocks.orgImage via freestocks.org

Writing

2016 was a bit of a mixed year for me when it came to writing, mainly because I don’t really feel like I did very much of it. I mean, sure, I wrote thousands upon thousands of words for work, but creatively? Not so much. But it wasn’t all bad, and besides, looking back on things now makes me even more determined to write loads more in 2017.

Here’s a round-up of writing bits and pieces from 2016:

My novel

Ahh, yes… The fantasy novel. That thing I started back in November 2015 and still haven’t finished. About that…

Well, after vowing to get back to writing my draft in early 2016, I embarked upon a self-imposed ‘NaNoWriMarch’ with the lovely Helen. But while Helen blazed ahead like the writing Wonderwoman she is, I only managed a mere 7,000 words before my NaNoWriMarch reverted back into plain old Regular March.

This wasn’t for lack of trying, though. Truth was, I’d simply taken on too much at this point in time (notice how March was also when my blog dropped off the face of the earth again?). I was working three part-time jobs, completing two internships, and trying to keep up with life and writing on top of all that.

Needless to say, something had to give before I burned out completely. And that something, sadly, was my little novel.

But all isn’t lost! I haven’t given up. The dream is still there, and later last year, I started making concerted efforts to rekindle it again.

I asked Nate to get me Scrivener for my birthday. I started reading research books about perfumery. I did yet more plotting and planning. I even actually wrote a few snippets in some of our Writer’s Edit Twitter word sprints (which will be starting back up sometime this year – keep an eye out and join us!).

To be honest, I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole thing. I feel like there’s still SO much I need to work out about the characters and the story and the concepts before I can dive properly back into writing.

But this year, I’m determined to finally finish my draft. I want to be able to give it to my favourite writerly ladies, the amazing Helen and Kyra, so they can help me fix what will undoubtedly be a bit of a hot mess. I want to create intriguing characters and make magic and tell a good story and build a world all of my own.

In short, I want 2017 to be the year I really live up to the title of ‘writer’.

I’ll keep you updated on how that goes.

paperback-bird-2Image via Unsplash

Newcastle Short Story Award

In my last (very long-ago) post, I mentioned that I’d submitted an eleventh-hour entry to the Newcastle Short Story Award. Well, it turned out that I was lucky enough to be shortlisted, and my story, ‘The Land of Always Living’, was published in the 2016 anthology!

This was super exciting for me – I’d never been shortlisted for an award like this before. So needless to say, I was stoked to be able to attend the awards ceremony, drink a celebratory glass of bubbles with my lovely friend Mat, and see my little story in print.

I’m in wonderful company in this anthology. I was so inspired reading all the amazing stories from the winners and other shortlisted entrants. I’ll definitely be flicking through it again for inspiration and motivation as I prepare my entry for the 2017 competition!

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Writer’s Edit

I wrote a bunch of articles for Writer’s Edit last year, and loved every minute of it. I learn so much myself every time I sit down to research these writing advice pieces. It’s my absolute favourite sort of article to write, and I love the feeling that I’m contributing in some small way to the amazing collection of resources for writers we have over at Writer’s Edit.

Here’s a round-up of everything I’ve put together for W.E. since my last blog post here in February:

There’ll be plenty more where those came from in 2017!

paperback-bird-3Image via Pixabay

Reading

2016 was a good reading year for me. I read 62 books in total, 22 more than my original goal of 40 and almost double my 2015 total of 35. This was largely due to the five hours I spent on the train every Wednesday while I was an intern at the NSW Writers’ Centre, which helped me knock over more than a book a week!

In my reading wrap-up for 2015, I mentioned that I wanted to read more non-fiction. Well, after spending 2016 thinking I’d been reading loads more non-fiction books than usual, it turned out that I had read… less than ten. Awkward. But in my defence, there’s just SO MUCH amazing fiction out there, and there’s nothing like finding an incredible new series to lose yourself in (which I did many a time last year!).

Anyway, I want to try again this year and really give non-fiction a proper go. So I’ve decided to aim for, at the very least, 15 non-fiction titles, making up a quarter of my total reading goal of 60 books. (To this end, I’ve gone on an over-enthusiastic reserving spree at the library and put a stack of non-fiction books on hold all at once. Wish me luck when they’re all due at the same time and I have like three weeks to read every single one.)

I also said I’d make an effort to read more Australian authors in 2016, which I did: 17 Aussie-authored books compared with a mere four in 2015. I’d like to up this again in 2017, if possible.

Finally, while we’re talking stats, just out of interest, check out the girl power in my 2016 author breakdown below. Ladies be writing some AMAZING stuff, especially in my beloved fantasy genre.

Anyway, here’s a round-up of everything I read in 2016:

Fiction

  • Half a King – Joe Abercrombie
  • Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
  • Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
  • Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  • The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury
  • People of the Book – Geraldine Brooks
  • Truthwitch – Susan Dennard
  • The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
  • American Gods – Neil Gaiman
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

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  • Rebel of the Sands – Alwyn Hamilton
  • The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
  • In the Quiet – Eliza Henry-Jones
  • The Fate of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
  • Illuminae – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
  • Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
  • The Eye of the Sheep – Sofie Laguna
  • A Man Made Entirely of Bats – Patrick Lenton
  • Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. Maas
  • Heir of Fire – Sarah J. Maas
  • Queen of Shadows – Sarah J. Maas
  • Empire of Storms – Sarah J. Maas
  • The Assassin’s Blade – Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J. Maas

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  • Finnikin of the Rock – Melina Marchetta
  • Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil – Melina Marchetta
  • Nutshell – Ian McEwan
  • Newcastle Short Story Award Anthology 2016
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid
  • The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Patrick Rothfuss
  • Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling (reread, Jim Kay illustrated edition)
  • Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets – J. K. Rowling (reread, Jim Kay illustrated edition)
  • The Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski
  • The Winner’s Crime – Marie Rutkoski
  • The Winner’s Kiss – Marie Rutkoski

winners-trilogy

  • A Darker Shade of Magic – V. E. Schwab
  • A Gathering of Shadows – V. E. Schwab
  • This Savage Song – V. E. Schwab
  • Vicious – V. E. Schwab
  • Try Not to Breathe – Holly Seddon
  • The Paper House – Anna Spargo-Ryan
  • An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir
  • The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
  • The Secret History – Donna Tartt

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  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor
  • Days of Blood and Starlight – Laini Taylor
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters – Laini Taylor
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
  • Welcome to Orphancorp – Marlee Jane Ward
  • And I Darken – Kiersten White
  • The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood
  • All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

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Non-fiction

  • The Diary of a Nose – Jean-Claude Ellena
  • Fight Like a Girl – Clementine Ford
  • Joe Cinque’s Consolation – Helen Garner
  • This House of Grief – Helen Garner
  • Givaudan: An Odyssey of Flavours and Fragrances – Annick Le Guérer
  • A Murder Without Motive: The Killing of Rebecca Ryle – Martin McKenzie-Murray
  • Alex & Me – Irene M. Pepperberg

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Author breakdown

  • Books by female authors: 47
  • Books by male authors: 15
  • Books by Australian authors: 17

Genre breakdown

  • Fantasy/speculative fiction: 39
  • Literary/general fiction: 14
  • Short story collections: 2
  • Non-fiction: 7

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Well, that concludes Part One of my 2016 round-up. Part Two: Life, Health and Happiness is forthcoming, so put the kettle on… I’ll be back soon (and I mean it this time!).

:)

paperback-birdImage via Unsplash