What I Read Last Year & What I’ll Read This Year

I would begin this post with ‘Happy New Year’, but:

  1. It’s been 2016 for almost two weeks, and
  2. David Bowie died today, so ‘happy’ isn’t the right word at the moment. :( Rest in peace, Starman.

David Bowie

Ziggy himself would know best that the show must go on, though, so let’s continue with today’s scheduled programming.

As with most of my posts here, this is slightly late, but I wanted to take a look back at all the books I read in 2015. My total count was 33 – a little less than I’d hoped, but hey, that’s what 2016 reading resolutions are for, right?!

So here’s my list (organised alphabetically by author, of course).

Books read in 2015

  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood
  • Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
  • The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
  • MaddAddam – Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam

  • Sunset Park – Paul Auster
  • A Fall of Moondust – Arthur C. Clarke
  • Room – Emma Donoghue
  • Pieces of Sky – Trinity Doyle
  • Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith

Pieces of Sky

  • Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  • Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  • The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  • The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
  • The Invasion of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

Queen of the Tearling

  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakaeur
  • Into Thin Air – Jon Krakaeur
  • Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas
  • The Children Act – Ian McEwan

On Writing

  • The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  • Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman – Haruki Murakami
  • South of the Border, West of the Sun – Haruki Murakami
  • Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
  • Underground – Haruki Murakami

Blind Willow Sleeping Woman

  • Rowan of Rin – Emily Rodda
  • Rowan and the Travellers – Emily Rodda
  • Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal – Emily Rodda
  • The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  • Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut

Name of the Wind

Kindling

***

Here’s some stats about my list…

Female authors: 15 (Robert Galbraith, of course, counts as a woman!)
Male authors: 16

Fiction (total): 27
Non-fiction: 4
Mixed anthology: 2

Speculative fiction: 13
‘Regular’ fiction: 12
Short story collections: 2
Crime: 1

As you can see, things were fairly even in terms of author gender and types of fiction, but rather shameful in the ratio of fiction to non-fiction! I am a fiction reader first and foremost, but this year I really want to increase the amount of non-fiction on my list.

I’m also going to make a concerted effort to read more from Australian authors. I was a little sad to realise only two authors on my list were Australian (although both Kindling anthologies are primarily made up of works by Australian writers). It’s so important to support the local industry, and as I become more involved in and passionate about writing and publishing, the more I want to make an effort to do just that.

So more non-fiction, more Australian authors… And what else? Well, I’m finding it a little hard to narrow down the rest of my reading goals for 2016, because there’s SO much more I want to read. More fantasy, more women writers, more YA, more big hitters of literary fiction, more books about writing itself…

In light of all that, you know what? I think I might make the simplest reader’s resolution of all for 2016…

MORE BOOKS.

LibraryArtist’s representation of what my house will look like by the end of 2016. Alllll of the books!
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Flash Fiction And A Full-Length Novel (Almost)

Happy December, everybody! If you’re not feeling festive enough yet, here, have a picture of Professor Flitwick decorating a Christmas tree.

Christmas at HogwartsImage credit: http://soulstratum.tumblr.com/post/133631891343

I’m a little late with this post. I’d planned to have it up at the end of November, as I’ve noticed there’s a nice little pattern going of around one blog update per month (emphasis is strongly on ‘little’ there). But alas, it wasn’t to be – you’ll probably see why when you reach the end of the post (*cough* NaNoWriMo *cough*).

Anyway, here’s a bit of an update about what’s been happening in my little writing world. :)

Seizure Online

Last month, I was lucky enough to have a piece of flash fiction published with Seizure, an online writing hub that I absolutely love. Their excellent Flashers project features a new piece of bite-sized fiction every week, each of which is accompanied by a custom illustration. Having been a fan of Flashers ever since I discovered it a couple of years ago, you can imagine how excited I was to hear that my submission had been chosen for publication and illustration! You should have seen the cheesy grin on my face as I opened the email and saw the phrase ‘would like to publish’.

Anyway, my piece is called Up High. Click through to give it a read – it’ll only take a minute or two. And be sure to feast your eyes on the absolutely gorgeous illustration by talented artist Sam Paine. The sea, the sky, the blanket – everything about it perfectly encapsulates the feel of the piece. Huge thanks must go to both Seizure and Sam!

Illustration courtesy of the talented Illustration courtesy of Sam Paine via Seizure Online.

Writer’s Edit

November was a super exciting month for Writer’s Edit: on the 18th we launched our newest anthologyKindling Volume II! I was lucky enough to be involved in the process of producing Kindling II, and I have to say that even just as its humble proofreader, I’m so proud of the final result. It’s such a beautiful book – the pieces within are truly compelling and inspiring, the cover is gorgeous, and Helen, Kyra and the rest of the editorial team did a seriously amazing job putting it together.

KindlingIsn’t she lovely?! That’s Kindling II on the left, accompanied by her equally beautiful sister.
Photo courtesy of Yasmin Scheuerer via Writer’s Edit.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about (trust me, you want to), head over to the Writer’s Edit store, where there’s currently a sale on both volumes of Kindling.

While you’re over at Writer’s Edit, you might catch a glimpse of my latest article: last month, I delved into what it takes to write compelling character backstories in a Complete Guide to Creating Backstory in Speculative Fiction. I was inspired by a world-building workshop I attended at the National Young Writers Festival back in October, where there was some interesting chat about backstory: what it is, why it’s so important in sci-fi and fantasy, how much you should include and which parts you should leave out. I learned a lot myself while writing the article, so hopefully you will too.

Back in October, I also wrote something we like to call the Essential NaNoWriMo Survival Guide: a comprehensive, detailed guide to getting through the madness that is National Novel Writing Month. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge in which writers from all around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. (It sounds crazy; that’s because it is.) I really enjoyed writing this article, and the more I looked into NaNoWriMo, the more intrigued I became… And so, a mere few days before November arrived, I decided to undertake the NaNoWriMo challenge myself alongside the wonderful women I work with at Writer’s Edit!

Writer's EditThree of my favourite ladies! L-R: Me, Bernadette, Kyra and Helen at the Kindling II launch.
Photo courtesy of Yasmin Scheuerer via Writer’s Edit.

NaNoWriMo

So yeah, November was pretty crazy…

For the last couple of months, I’d had the vague beginnings of a story idea floating around in my head, but the most I’d done to act on it was to decide it was likely going to be Young Adult fantasy, and to write ~1200 words of random description. So when the idea of doing National Novel Writing Month came along, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to actually make a start. The fact that Helen was also working on YA fantasy definitely encouraged me as well – and so, along with Kyra and Bernadette, we officially became WriMos!

I’ve never written anything longer than a short story before, so to commit to writing an entire novel was a huge deal for me. To commit to writing it in a single month was an even bigger undertaking! But I had the support and comradeship of the Writer’s Edit girls to bolster me, so on the 1st of November I got to work, sketching out as many plans as I could and jumping into the writing process in earnest.

I got off to a good start, and for the first half of November I kicked along on par with the minimum 1667 words per day. Despite the minor setback of spilling an entire mug of tea over my laptop one day, and waiting with bated breath to see whether it would still work after drying out, I was going really well.

NaNoWriMoThe allure of the blank page is made so much stronger by NaNoWriMo! Image credit: Kaboompics.

And then the halfway point hit…

Around the 14th, I most inconveniently developed a ridiculously large and painful blister, smack-bang in the middle of my right palm. Reduced to Jaime Lannister-ing my way around for several days, my momentum slowed considerably. And even when the blister started to heal and I could type two-handed again, I still found myself stuck.

I realised I really hadn’t done enough planning for the sort of story I was trying to write. I needed to take my own advice about doing some serious world-building, for a start; I also needed to develop my characters more, and make some concrete decisions about where the plot was going. All these realisations brought me to a virtual standstill, and I got reallfar behind.

But in my own NaNoWriMo Survival Guide, I’d written about allowing yourself to be flexible, and keeping your own personal goals and circumstances in mind. Taking into account my lack of time to plan, my relatively busy month and my overall desire to simply make a start and commit to a project, I decided to reevaluate my original 50,000-word target. By the time I started playing catch-ups, I’d settled on a much more modest goal of reaching 30,000 words by the end of the month. And I’m pleased to say that by 11pm on the 30th of November, I’d hit 30,056 words!

While this is nowhere near the official NaNoWriMo goal or the length of a completed novel, I’m still excited by my progress. If someone had told me at the start of the year that I’d have written at least 30,000 words of a novel by the end of it, I’d have laughed in their face. But now I know I can do it: I am capable of working on a big, sustained project, and what’s more, I’m now especially motivated to do so. With the awesome start NaNoWriMo has given me, I’m determined to keep plugging away until I have a complete first draft of the novel, hopefully by early next year.

As for the book itself… All I can really tell you is that it’s about a perfumer’s daughter, and that it’s somehow morphed its way into a trilogy in my head. Three books to plan and write? That’s not too ambitious at all, right?

I suppose only time will tell.