New Year – Reading and Writing Plans

Hello there, blog. It’s been a while. Towards the end of last year, I was really not in the blog writing zone. I had a bad dose of writer’s block so everything was suffering. The whole year, really was a struggle writing wise. There were a number of reasons for this that I’m not going to go into, largely because they are too personal but also because they are not especially interesting or special.

Anyway, this year I am going to try harder. I am picking up a pen and putting it to paper. Choose Your Future is ready to be sent out to publishers. I am also investigating the new and exciting online places for self-publishing. I’m looking through the myriad odds and ends of writing I have done for the bones of a story, as well as some of the longer pieces I have previously abandoned.

Of course, now I am writing again, I feel better. Even if I never become particularly successful, I enjoy the escapism of creating another world. I enjoy blogging as well which brings me on to the topic of what to read this year.

One of the things that was affected by last year’s apathy was the reading challenge that I started and didn’t finish. I was four books from finishing the Full House Reading Challenge. It’s not as if I didn’t read more than 24 books last year, they just didn’t all fit in with the challenge. In fact, by the end of the year I was deliberately avoiding reading books that I had picked out for it because I wanted to be free to choose what I read. It may be that some of the books I picked to read for it – such as War and Peace and Catch 22 – were less enthralling than I might have hoped. This year, I am undecided as to whether to do any challenges or just read what I want to read. I’m currently enjoying researching the possibilities so I will probably end up doing something.

Anyway, I hope to be writing this blog a bit more frequently this year – and not just about books I have read either.

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Full House Reading Challenge – Breath – Tim Winton

Genre: Bildungsroman, Australian Fiction,

Narrative Style: first person, flashback framed by present day.

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2008

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Bruce Pike is a paramedic. When he attends what appears to be a suicide by hanging, it takes him back to his thrill-seeking adolscence with his friend Loonie. They meet Sando, an older man who is keen to take their daring to new levels. 

Reading Challenges: Full House Reading Challenge – Genre Australian Fiction.

The story starts when Bruce Pike is called to what seems to be a suicide by hanging. A teenage boy has been found hanged by his parents. It is a horrific and emotional opening. There is something not quite right about the scene and Bruce knows straightaway that it is not a suicide. Much to the chagrin of his paramedic partner, he refuses to spill the beans as to how he knows.

The incident takes Bruce back to his childhood when he hung around with Loonie, the town’s wild boy when they spent their hours surfing. Not longer after, they meet Sando, an older man who lives a hippie lifestyle and seems to have no cares in the world.

The novel goes on to explore masculinity and the need for adrenalin. There is a stark contrast between the daring and exciting Sando and Bruce’s parents who are decsribed as dull and everyday. As the friendship between the three deepens, so the waves they take on get bigger and Bruce gets more and more nervous. A rivalry develops between Loonie and Bruce, and Bruce knows he has no hope of winning. He just isn’t brave enough.

When Sando goes away, taking Loonie with him, to explore foreign waves, Bruce is bereft. He begins to visit Sando’s wife and becomes involved in her erotic thrillseeking, something that both repulses and attracts him.

Bruce’s voice is very much an Australian one. Winton captures the speech patterns of his native country successfully while also putting Australian masculinity under the microscope. I enjoyed it immensely. My only criticism is that the end of the novel seemed a little rushed as Bruce moves to talking about his adult life. Apart from that, a very good read.

 

 

 

Reading and Writing Goals 2017

Reading Goals 2017

Last year, I read 60 books and although I didn’t meet my Goodreads target, I was still pleased as some of them were very long and some of them were very bad. Some of them were both of these things (The Power of Beauty by Nancy Friday for example).  So this year I have set my goal a bit lower at 50 books. There a couple of reasons for this. I plan to read War and Peace this year. This will undoubtedly take a while. Also, I am going to be starting a new job which will see me traveling less so I will be reading less on my Kindle.

I’m taking on one reading challenge this year. The Full House Reading Challenge has 25 categories which should be manageable. The categories are an interesting mix – some are genres (Western, Cozy Mystery), some are author based (European author, North American author) and some are circumstance based (borrowed, attractive cover) so it should make for a good mix of books over the year.  I am just starting the first of these books So You’ve Been Publically Shamed by Jon Ronson which I got for my birthday last year.

Writing Goals 2017

Obviously, the main goal is to get Choose Yr Future published. I’m currently re-working it based on feedback I have been given and am hoping that process won’t take too long to finish. I should have more free time now that I have a new job so here’s hoping. I’m also working on my next novel which is currently called The Meaning of Sickness but this may very well change.

I also want to blog more this year. I was very neglectful of my blog last year. I was very lazy. I could have made the time but I didn’t. This year, I am going to make myself write more. It used to be second nature to blog at least once a week but I have lost the habit. I need to get back into it.

As a sidebar to this, I am also resolving to tweet and post to my Facebook page more often. These two things have also been woefully neglected. I’m really looking forward to all the new connections I will make.

Help! Which publishing platform?

When I published Shattered Reflections through Amazon, I was fairly naive and had no idea of exactly how many self-publishing platforms there were out there. I certainly made mistakes. I was over excited about the idea of being published and that made me hasty. I did virtually no research. I wasn’t about to make the same mistakes again. If I use Kindle Direct or CreateSpace again, I want to be sure they are the best options.

Now, with Choose Yr Future finally looking somewhere near publishable, I want to make sure I get it right this time. There is a proliferation of self-publishing sites. All of which have their advocates, of course, as well as their fair share of doubters.

I admit that Smashwords does seem attractive but then so does Draft2digital. I can’t help but feel bamboozled. I suppose it was inevitable with the popularity of self-publishing that the field would become as crowded as traditional publishing routes. And that is good as they will have to work hard to keep their corner of the market. But it doesn’t help my head which is spinning.

So, anyone who has any experience of these sites, I would love to hear your opinion.  Anything to help me make this most exciting of decisions.

 

The Non Fiction Challenge – If This is a Man / The Truce – Primo Levi

2016 Nonfiction Challenge

Genre: Autobiography, History

Narrative Style: First person account

Rating: 5/5

Published: This edition published 1979, first published 1958Unknown-1

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: Levi was arrested as part of an Italian Anti-Facist movement and then sent to Auschwitz where he remained for the last year of the war. If This is a Man is his account of life in the camp, The Truce details the liberation of the camp and his incredible journey home. 

Reading Challenges: The Non Fiction Challenge.

I inherited this book a couple of years ago and I’d wanted to read it for longer than that so when the Non-Fiction Challenge came along, it was the excuse I’d been waiting for. Reading about the concentration camps was never going to be easy so I was glad of a reason to make me pick it up.

In one way, it wasn’t as awful a read as I might have expected. In If This is a Man, Levi focuses on the will to survive and the different strategies that are employed by his friends and fellow prisoners. Like in Schindler’s List, the emphasis is on survival and overcoming so the book becomes a description of the strength of human nature.

This is not to say that Levi avoids writing about the horrors of the camp. He describes them in calm, rational manner that almost makes it harder to take than if he were angry. In the afterword, he says that he felt he had to bear witness and relate it in as factual a way as possible. In this he is successful and the reader is given a clear picture of what life was life. He does not flinch from details but also does not become overly emotional about them. Quite how he has achieved being so lucid and calm is beyond me but without a doubt it is what makes these books so powerful.

The Truce detailed his journey home. You might imagine – and I certainly did – that once the camp was liberated, that would be the end of it. But , of course, Europe was in complete disarray at the end of the war and so there were plenty of difficulties still to be overcome.

The map at the beginning of the book shows the ridiculous nature of the journey, heading at first in completely the wrong direction, into Russia. The journey was not without hardships but they are of a different nature because Levi and his fellow travellers know they are now free. This creates a different atmosphere to that of If This is a Man, a more positive and hopeful one.

Again, Levi details the many strategies used in order to survive and there are many interesting characters – some from the camp, some new – to interest the reader. It is more entertaining than the first book. I’m glad I read them together as after the horror of the camp, it was good to know that Levi managed to get home to his family.

Writing the sort of book I want to read

It occurred to me yesterday that I might be the only one who would actually want to read Choose Yr Future or any other book that I might write in the future. You might think this is a bad thing and it is in terms of making money (not that that has ever been my concern) but really I’m not sure it matters in real terms. I mean, it wouldn’t stop me writing. Nothing could stop that from happening.

I’m now elbows deep  in a pretty serious re-edit of Choose Yr Future brought on by comments made on the Scribophile site. Don’t get me wrong, the comments were constructive and keen to read on. What made me pause was whether they would like what came next. I can’t help but suspect it is not going to be what they expect.

It’s hard to see inside someone else’s head when they are reading. Already I have realised that things I thought were obvious weren’t necessarily obvious to others. This is what started me down the editing path again. And then up popped the question, just because I enjoy it, does that mean anyone else will? It’s a levelling thought. Sometimes I get a bit wild-eyed with how good I think something is. (Other times I think it is all rubbish.) There’s nothing like realising you may have completely missed your own point to bring you back down to earth.

 

Still, it is a process I enjoy and I will be posting more of Choose Yr Future and hopefully at least a couple of people will like it a bit. I don’t really hope for anything more than that.

Writer Apathy

I really expected I might be closer to publishing Choose Yr Future then I am by now. The worst thing is there is no one to blame. I have been suffering from apathy. Not writer’s block as such – Choose Yr Future is finished and I’ve been scribbling away at other ideas. It’s the thought of further editing, beta readers, all the next steps. It’s making me exhausted. I’ve even been avoiding writing this blog. (It would be easy to blame lack of time but really that is just an excuse and not a reason.)

I wasn’t very good at promoting myself when I published Shattered Reflections. And while that has had some good ratings and reviews and so I am more confident, I still find it hard to put myself forward. It’s not really in my nature to show off and it seems to me that what social media involves. I’m quite a reserved person and while I know this is not a useful thing to be online, I find it hard to shake off the habits I have formed.

I have a better idea of what I am doing now, of course. And I have joined a couple of writing sites so I can get some reader feedback – Wattpad and Scribophile – and I would be grateful for any advice anyone has about getting beta readers. And then there are all the publishing platforms that have sprung up in the last few years. I’m a little stuck for which direction to take. I used Amazon’s Createspace last time but I’m not sure I want to again. Any advice would again be gratefully received.