What I read {October 2017}

Hi there! Another month is gone and there are only two more. So it is time for another recap on what I read last month. I’m going to be very brief this month because my laptop’s screen has broken and I can only see what I’m writing on the sides of the screen but not in the middle. So no reason to ramble if I cannot make sure that my ramblings are correctly written. Thus, without further ado, here’s what I read in October.

BOOKS

A Conjuring Of Light, by V.E. Schwab. I feel like I have been reading this sine forever, though in the end it only took me three months and a half (and I wasn’t reading it for nearly two of them). It was ok; slightly worse than the first book intros series and better than its predecessor. All in all, it was a decent end to the Darker Shades of Magic series.

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Three Sisters, Three Queens, by Philippa Gregory. I went very quickly through this one. It wasn’t particularly good but it was a page turner nevertheless. The reason why I problaby didn’t enjoy it wholeheartedly is because I never warmed up to the protagonist, Margaret Tudor (wife of James IV of Scotland). It still made an interesting read.

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The Beggar’s Opera, by John Gay. Another classic I’ve read this year. I don’t have much to say about it – I feel a bit meh about reading drama just for myself … maybe I should try reading it aloud.

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SHORT STORIES

The Seven Deadly Genes, by Candice Lim (Daily Science Fiction, October 2017)

Glass, by Adam Dean (Daily Science Fiction, October 2017)

What I Told My Little Girl About The Aliens Preparing To Grind Us Into Hamburgers, by Adam Troy-Castro (Lightspeed Magazine, October 2017)

And finally, a link to a podcast I found rather interesting by Gabriela Pereira, founder of DIY MFA. I’m a regular visitor to her site, which is always full of great advice for aspiring writers, and also a subscriber to her newsletter, which is how I found out about this podcast interview she had recorded for TCK Publishing. She talks about certain strategies that might help you become a better writer and also goes a bit about how she came up with the idea for her site and how it is structured.

And that’s all for today. Enjoy a cosy November!

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New story out on Every Day Fiction

Quick post so late today to let you know that I have a new story out today. You can read Of Frogs and Kisses on Every Day Fiction here. Let me know what you think, either here or there.

This story came to me while I was reading The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert. I was kind of mesmerised by the word herpetologist, which I had never heard before, and I knew that I had to included in one of my stories. In the end, I somehow borrowed a bit of that book’s backstory to assemble my tale of a team of herpetologists searching for frogs in Costa Rica. Also, there’s a bit of romance in the air. Wait, what? I have written a love story? Yikes, how did that ever happen …

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What I read {September 2017}

September is already gone and that leaves us with only three months left to live, laugh and love throughout this year. That’s barely ninety days, give or take one here, one there. Ninety days to read everything that’s still gathering dust on my TBR pile. Well, I better get going and read, read, read.

It happens to me that as soon as I reach the amount of of books I set to read at the beginning of the year I relax and my pace diminishes greatly. I really don’t know why, because challenge or no challenge, I still enjoy reading. But the thing is that it happens and I waste a lot of time being lazy.

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much.” (Seneca, On the Shortness of Life)

It is indeed so, we may have little time here on earth but we definitely make it even less by wasting many precious minutes, hours, days. So my aim for this final quarter of the year is to make the most of everyday and read, write, learn as much as I can. And enjoy everyday as it comes, hopefully making tons of beautiful memories with my loved ones.

As usual, I digress.

September was not a really bad month. I finished one of the books I was reading since the previous month and I read a substantial chunk of the other book I’m currently busy with. Only 250 pages left. Hurrah! Also, I read – again and again – several children books, both picture books and stories. I borrowed Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, from the library last Friday and we have already read it five or six times aloud. My toddler girl loves it!

Back to business, this month I read Around Britain by Cake, by Caroline Taggart, and I truly enjoyed every bite of it. A book about cake and Britain, what’s not to love about it? The author set on a trip around Britain to find out more about the local delicacies that used to be the favourite teatime treats of the nation but that have long been forgotten, though some survived in one way or another, and some are having a revival helped by the rise of a counter-globalisation trend that aims to put more emphasis on local produce. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, don’t even think of reading it but if you do, get ready for a British feast that began long time ago, as many treats date from way back to the Middle Ages, and is still going on on many pockets of the country. Bonus point, the book includes recipes fro many of the cakes tasted by the author – I have bookmarked quite a few.

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I haven’t really read any interesting short story this month (ah, that should change too) but I have a couple of interesting links for you.

First of all, this post by Ed A. Murray is a reminder that NaNoWriMo is upon us and that if you’d like to take part and win, the time to prepare is now. Personally, I have never taken part in such a marathon of words and I don’t think I’m ready yet. I don’t have the time either. I know, I know, you might chiming that if I’m to take my writing seriously I should try and make time everyday, as much as possible. But life with a baby and a toddler is not that forgiving, so really, I don’t have the time.

Nevertheless, in case you’re really thinking of putting pen to paper in November and come up with 50000+ words of your own, here’s some advice (actually tons of advice) by a seasoned writer who’s given it a go – and won – several times. As a starter, here’s a post Frankie Thompson about how to get ahead at NaNoWriMo. Feel free to dig deeper in her archives, there’s plenty more content on NaNoWriMo and writing itself.

And finally, here’s a Youtube video by Victoria Schwab about Shiny New Ideas, how they distract us and what to do with them when we’re busy with something else.

And that’s all for now.

Have a great October!

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Bend it, break it, fix it.

We are already halfway through September and that means that I am already halfway through my Story a Day challenge. Not really, as I haven’t written anything new in the last couple of days. I might or might not catch up later this weekend. To be honest, I wasn’t so inspired by the second set of prompts, which were more like creative writing exercises than prompts.

But aren’t writing prompts creative writing exercises themselves, I can hear you saying. I guess so, I don’t know, you tell me. You can check this week’s prompts yourselves and see if they inspire you to write five new stories. Actually, a few of them are meant to rewrite a previously written story so maybe that’s why I’ve found it more difficult to draft new stories this week. Maybe, but hey, this needn’t be bad. In fact, something very good happened this week.

I was a bit discouraged at the beginning of this second challenge week but as I worked my way through these prompts, I suddenly realised how helpful they can be when revising and rewriting a story. And so, I applied them to a story I wrote a few months ago and which has been in my head ever since, though as much as I thought about it I just couldn’t find a proper beginning or ending and much of the wording felt wrong. Well, instead of gender-swapping any story, I just swapped the point of view of my characters; I somewhat changed settings by making them more real, as I filled in the details in my story; and I totally ignored punctuation rules and wrote a soliloquy of my main character, which helped me to get to know her better and polish her voice. So three prompts, three ideas, and three big changes to bring my crappy story closer to a publishable story.

Yes, revising and rewriting can be tedious but it is SO necessary. And I am happy I just found these three wonderful ways to help me find out more about my stories and characters. I will definitely do more of this in the future, specially when I’m stuck in the middle of a story or am getting nowhere in the revision process. In a nutshell, I would say that sometimes a story needs to be bent, broken and fixed, in order to work and be published.

Bend it, explore other paths you did not take the first time, give voice to silent, object characters. Break it, swap bad for good, better for best, set a new order of events, eliminate scenes altogether. Fix it, find the right wording, let your characters shine, make your story the best it can be.

How do you revise your manuscript? Do you have any tried and trusted strategy for polishing your stories?

 

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What I read {July + August 2017}

I haven’t read much lately and most of the books I’ve been diving in have been travel guides. I read a bit about Andalusia first, to get ready for my summer holidays, then some about Britain, just for the pleasure of it, and I began researching Denmark to get inspired for a future holiday. Ah, the joys of travel planning, as exciting as travelling itself. Besides all that travel inspiration, I have only finished a book in the past two months. And guess what? It was also a travel related book. July was rather hot around here and I decided it was time to fly away somewhere tropical , even if it was only in my imagination. So I dusted off my bookshelf and reread Paradise News.

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Paradise News, by David Lodge, was the first book I ever read in English (other than those graded readers for learners of English as a foreign language). Back then, it took me a while to get into the story, and more importantly, to get into the language, which is much different than the plain English to be found on graded readers. But I was fully enjoying it towards the end. This second time around I didn’t face any major issues, when it comes to the language, but it is still true that the beginning is rather slow and it takes quite a while to get into the story. But one you’re in, it is a very pleasurable journey. The story, itself, is very uncomplicated; Bernard and his father travel all the way to Hawaii to comfort his sick aunt during her last, lonely days. Reluctantly at first, both of them will end up having a good time at the other side of the world, while facing past demons and returning home a new person. Paradise News can be a light story to be read during a warm summer weekend, but it also has a much deeper side to it, full of thoughts about the meaning of life and the existence or not of an afterlife.

I haven’t read many short stories either. Truth is, I have been watching way too much telly this summer and one of the series I’ve binged on is Vikings. And man, did I like it. I can’t wait to start season 4, which I just found is already available on Netflix Switzerland. All this to tell you that the only short story I have for you this month is a viking tale. In fact, it is called just like that, A Viking’s Tale, by Jamie Wang. And it’s a funny one.

And finally, an interesting link I found recent ago. It is to a site called Big History Project and it looked rather interesting to me. I can’t wait to see the videos later this month and learn more about the history of the universe, Earth, and humanity at a bigger scale and in much more detail. Until then, I cannot tell whether the Big History Project is any good, but it is a very appealing idea.

And that’s all for the time being. Any recommendations from you side?

Have a productive September!

 

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Life, writing and everything in between

Hi there.

It feels like forever since I last posted here. Come to think about it, it feels like forever since I last wrote anything anywhere. I’d love to come up with a fancy explanation to excuse myself; something along the lines of I was travelling and too busy seeing to the world to put pen to paper or I was lost in somewhere incredible but lacking most basic services, such as internet connection. But truth is, I was at home – a home with properly working wi-fi and stacks of notebooks overflowing my drawers – and life simply got in between. And life, when you have a two-year old toddler and a six-month old baby can be pretty hectic. Overwhelming if you like.

I haven’t read much in the past three months – only one book and a few travel guides – and I have only rewritten bits and pieces of a story I began long ago and I still haven’t finished that. Not much to share when it comes to writing, as you can see. But September has always been the back-to-school time of the year for me, so I guess I can easily make it into the back-to-writing month of the year for me. And writing I’m doing. And not only on this blog.

I am planning on taking part on the September Story a Day challenge by the resourceful site Story a Day. Putting it into their own words, this is stripped-down affair; not much like the intensive Story a Day challenge held in May. With only five prompts a week, you can choose to write as much or as little as you want. Five days a week, one or seven. I intend to write (or sketch) five stories a week, one each weekday, and use the weekend to add new scenes to whatever I have written during the week, if inspiration strikes.

I also want to ease back into my reading routine. I am already busy with two books, one fiction and one non-fiction. I am struggling with a Conjuring of Light, by V. E. Schwab, (sorry, but no better word to describe my reading experience with that one) and eating my way through Around Britain by Cake, by Caroline Taggart. Hopefully I will resume my monthly What I Read posts soon, though I might drop them off altogether next year. We’ll see.

That’s all from this rainy corner of Switzerland. Summer seems to have moved on and so do I, moving onto better things. Up to you now, what have you been up to this summer? Any plans to make a grand comeback to writing this September?

Cheers,

Irene

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What I read {June 2017}

I don’t know how this happened but June was a very lazy month and I didn’t finished reading a single book! What?! Yep, just like that. I am busy rereading Paradise News by David Lodge and nothing else. I didn’t read much short fiction either.

I was rather busy for most of the first half of June and quite exhausted during the second half and I didn’t even have the strength to pick a book and immerse into its worlds. It was also too hot for most of the month, mind you. So when I finally I felt in the mood for reading again, I chose a witty satire set in Hawaii to do a bit of armchair travelling – just what I needed to get me through that heatwave. I’ll write more about it next month, though, when I finally finish reading it.

Anyway, here are a couple of links you might find interesting. One is a short story I found utterly beautiful and the other is an insightful article about writers who do not seek fortune or fame. Food for thought, ha!

Artist of Love, by JT Gill (Every Day Fiction, June 1 2017)

What happens when a writer is not primarily interested in commercial success?

That’s all for June’s round-up. See you around next month and in the meantime, enjoy the summer.

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