What I read {March 2017}

Can you believe it is already April? Well, you better do because this is no April’s fool prank. Yep, we’re already that far into 2017 – a quarter of the year is gone and I don’t know where.

The last month has been quite a tough one. I guess that after a brief honeymoon phase with two babies in the house, things got rough last month and it’s been an exhausting one. I didn’t manage to get much stuff done and I’m not sure I have even written something during the past 31 days. Nevertheless, I did manage to finish a couple of books that I was halfway through and to read a whole book in less than two weeks I think. So let’s begin with the round-up.

BOOKS

  • Women in Science: 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world, by Rachel Ignotofsky. I know, I know. I’m quite cheeky to include an illustrated book in my list of read books but hey, half of the pages are text so it has to be read anyway, doesn’t it? Overall it was okay. A little less indoctrination would have been better but even with all its flaws it is still an okay book which makes a beautiful gift for any girl in a school age. Or any grown-up with an appreciation of the history of science, science itself, or merely fine arts and illustrations.

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  • Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I have been going through the classics lately and I started my classics bootcamp with a reread of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece. Mind you, there was a lot I didn’t remember and I actually wondered whether I had read it completely the first time. I read a Spanish translation of Frankenstein and I have to admit that I found it tedious at times – don’t know if the original version does a better work. But even then, I like it and I would still reread it a third time.

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  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. Again with the classic, and a very hyped one this time. Apparently, 1984 jumped up the bestseller lists again after Trump was elected president of the US. I had never read 1984 before and I had only a vague idea of what it was about, and boy did I like it. It actually blew my mind, in a good sense of course. This is a book I would definitely read all over again and find plenty to quote.

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This is all on the book front. I have quite a lot on my TBR pile and I think I’m gonna stick to the classics for a little longer and reread The Time Machine, before I dive into the seventh Harry Potter book. I’m so looking forward to that one but I guess that knowing it is already the last instalment in the series is holding me back from reading it, as I want the excitement to last forever.

I didn’t read that much online last month, hence, I have only one short story to recommend to you. But if short speculative fiction is the thing you like, you might enjoy Tao of the Space Cowgirl, by M. Irene Hill (365 tomorrows, February 2017).

Finally, a couple of links to some articles you might find interesting / amusing / useful / moving / adjective-of-your-choice.

  • An article with some writing advice by none the less than George Orwell. It is in Spanish but you may want to try Google translator in this one. Or browse the net looking for something similar in your own language.
  • This brief essay on revision by Elizabeth Moon gives an overall insight into the revision process and its several phases. Revision is re-vision, indeed, a very simple concept, yet too often obliviated.

And that’s all for the time being. So up to you now, what did you enjoy reading last month? What are you currently feasting on? What’s on your TBR pile?

Have a not-too-foolish April!

Fotos via Goodreads.com
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What I read {February 2017}

February has gone in the blink of an eye and in spite of all the time I spent waiting and doing nothing around the house, I didn’t manage to read as much as I would have liked to. However, less is more, or so they say, so better a bit here and there than nothing at all.

I started several books in February but only finished one of them. Among those books I’m halfway through, I’d like to highlight Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. I have read the first three chapters and I’ve already gained quite a useful insight into what makes an idea a good story and a good story a better story. I left just before the chapter about characters so I expect to continue learning quite some more. Anyway, if you have read Wonderbook I appreciate your thoughts about it.

So, the one book I finished reading in February was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling. I’m nearly done with the HP saga now and I have to say that it only gets better. Just like in the film, there’s really not that much going on in HP and the Half-Blood Prince. It is more a characters’ book, where the main characters and those secondaries key to the story are developed for the reader to enjoy. Harry is still a bit of a sucker in this one, but Hermione and Ron make up for the lack of likability in Harry. Dumbledore is right in the middle of the story and we get to know him like never before – he’s every inch as fascinating as we have been led to believe until now. Snape’s personality is also better sketched in this book and I guess he will be one of the stars in the last instalment of the series. Finally, Ginny turns out to be great, so bold. Loved that character in the film series and I liked her just as much in the books.

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Now, onto shorter things, here are a couple of short stories I read and enjoyed this month.

  • Upgrades, by Barry Chapman (Daily Science Fiction)

 

And finally, a couple of links to some interesting posts about how to set up an author blog and what to write about in your author blog. Information is power, you know.

That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll have more to share with you next month, though, with a baby and toddler running the house right now I don’t think I’ll have that much time left for reading, resting, cooking, washing my hair, and the list goes on. Anyway, I’d love to find out about what you’re reading lately, so you can drop me a line or two in the comments.

Cheers!

 

Image via Goodreads.com
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‘It’s a boy’ and other things that happened in February 2017

I wouldn’t say that February was quite an eventful month, yet quite a lot has happened around here during the shortest month of the year. First and foremost, our second baby was born and it was a boy. Just like we did the first time, we decided not to find out the sex of the baby and played he guessing game instead. We were convinced it was going to be another girl but surprise, it was a boy this time. Funny, as the first time I was totally expecting a boy and was shocked when I heard it was a girl in the delivery room. ‘A girl,’ I screamed in disbelief but totally overjoyed. This time I modestly gasped, ‘a boy,’ when I saw the baby and was equally overjoyed.

And just like that we are a family of four now with all the stress and happiness that this brings. I haven’t felt overwhelmed so far but I’m sure that those moments will come when I feel that I’m not enough, not coping or not responding adequately. Sure the days are longer than long, nearly endless, but so far I’m enjoying every second of it. What can I say, a newborn is probably one of the cutest things on earth and we have been very lucky that his big sister, as young as she is, already likes him a lot. No sibling rivalries yet.

Baby #2 also made a late appearance so there was a lot of waiting in February. While I was busy with a hundred errands around the house, plus taking care of baby #1, plus hanging around with the relatives that came around to help, I still found a bit of time to do some writing and reflect on what I was doing wrong (and right) and learn some more. I managed to finished two flash stories in February which are waiting to be edited and rewritten some time later this month year. I also have a couple of unfinished stories which I’d love to end but as much as I have tried, I haven’t found the right words or fitting story arcs. Anyway, it’s a work in process.

I started this online course about how to write stories that sell and even though I haven’t gotten far, I’ve already learnt a thing or two that could come handy to improve my writing skills. Most importantly, I have learnt the importance of writing a first draft quickly and freely, even if there are all kind of mistake on it and the story is all over the place. Never mind, things should fall into place later, on the second, third and subsequent drafts. First drafts are intended to let the imagination run wild. This idea was also reinforced by Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, a book on writing I’m currently going through.

I think this pretty much sums up my month of February, a month full of surprises and love. So, excuse me now as I am off to share some love with the newborn and the toddler. I might be back some time around here, but don’t expect much in the upcoming months.

Have a lovely March, you too!

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What I read {January 2017}

This month has been a rather quiet one and this has meant quite some time to read. Hence this hefty post with several books and a couple of recommendations on short stories out there.

BOOKS

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling. So far the best book in the HP series (I still have two to go, though). As the series progresses, the story is becoming more complex, with a greater variety of subplots entwining. Also, each instalment of the series sees the main characters growing up, deepens the characterisation of some minor characters and introduces some interesting new ones. Hello Luna Lovegood.

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  • A Few of the Girls: Stories, by Maeve Binchy. A collection of lovely stories, A Few of the Girl is the perfect book to curl up on the sofa during a rainy evening – bonus points for snow. It is better to it easy reading this one, though, or every story will begin to sound just like the previous one.

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  • Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch. Loved this one! Rivers of London had been for a while on my TBR pile and it didn’t disappoint. Think goofy policemen meet Harry Potter’s magic meet London’s charisma. Quite a cool mix.

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  • The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert. A very insightful tale about the current situation of the biodiversity on earth. Too apocalyptical at times but an interesting read, nevertheless. And an inspiring one – it prompted some of the short stories I’ve written this month.

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SHORT STORIES

 

Finally, here are a couple of links I found interesting. If you’re a budding writer or simply someone who enjoys putting pen to paper during your free time, you might learn a thing or two reading this.

  • This interesting article covers almost everything there’s to know about getting a short story published.
  • This collection of blog posts shares some insight on the most common mistakes that many writers out there make, whether they’re amateur or professional. I haven’t read every article but already going through the list gave some clues on what to try and improve in my writing.

 

And that’s all for now. Things might be going very quiet around here, as I’m expecting baby #2 is two weeks. I haven’t planned any posts and I don’t think I’ll have much time left to write during the upcoming months, so let’s take things one day at a time.

In the meantime, do not hesitate to share what you’ve read this month (or the next one and the next one and the next one) in the comments.

Have a fruitful February!

 

Fotos via Goodreads.com
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Out and about – a new story on 365 Tomorrows today

A funny thing happened today. I woke up thinking today would be just like every other Saturday, so I got up, had breakfast and carried on as usual. You know, hoovering, a bit of cleaning, preparing laundry loads and the like. I finally sat down to watch some telly past midday – I know, midday  doesn’t sound like the right time to watch tv on a sunny Saturday but being past the 38th week now, this pregnancy is already taking its toll on me. To feel a little less guilty I decided to open my laptop and begin the edits on a story I finished writing last week. I thought it was a moment as good as any to check my mail and so I did and here came my big surprised. 365 tomorrows had accepted one story I had submitted earlier this month. Can you believe it? I still don’t.

So, drumroll, out today is my very first published story, The Renegade, which you can find today on the front page of the 365 tomorrows and indefinitely in their archives.

Hope you enjoy it – let me know what you think in the comments, either here or there.

Have a grand weekend!

 

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On rejections

Rejections.

They suck, don’t they?

No matter the reason or situation, a rejection is always a painful thing. Whether someone is ending a romantic affair with us or a prospective employer is giving us a negative response, rejections hurt all the same. And it is no different when it comes to writing, sending a manuscript and getting that dreaded mail saying, ‘thank you but no’.

Writing is a very delicate business and every person attempting to walk that road must have a very thick skin to endure all the blows that will eventually come their way. Each and every writer will surely know that there’s no guaranteed happy ending to this adventure; that this satisfying I-made-it moment might never come; and that rejection letters will be the most common mail they will receive most of the time.

Why bother then? Why would someone choose to put their time, energy and heart in such a heartless industry? Well, first because we want to and second because we like love writing. Or the other way round.

I have always loved writing and telling stories. I have not done it consistently, though. Too often I’ve been put off by my own fears. I don’t know how to do it; I’m not good enough; I don’t have the time now; no one cares about what I have to say … I mastered all kind of excuses to hold myself back. Until I realised that those reasons were only that, excuses. No more and no less. Last year I decided that the time to write, to learn and improve as I go, to try my luck out there, was now. Not later when I’m finally an expert, have way too much free time, or have signed an amazing book deal. And I was doing fine, mind you. I wrote nearly every day, I managed to finish several short stories, I began to learn the tricks of editing and rewriting. And then I suddenly stopped and didn’t write anymore for nearly half a year.

What did happen, you may be wondering.

Well, I got a rejection that hurt badly. It wasn’t the first one but for some reason that one stung more than the all previous ones. Why? I’m not 100% sure but I believe that several reasons combined and made me extremely vulnerable at that particular moment. Like when the planets align, if you want.

What happened was that I wrote this story, edited and rewrote big chunks of it, did some more editing and when I was happy enough with it I sent it to some magazine out there. The magazine policies stated that most rejections were sent within two days, unless the story was under serious consideration, in which case they might take up to two weeks to reply. No answer reached my mailbox within two days and my spirits soared foolishly. Yep, my hopes were high, so when I finally received my rejection letter almost two weeks later I felt totally deflated. It was another thank-you-but-no situation and instead of seeing things the way they were, thinking of how far I’d come this time and cheering myself up, I took it all wrongly and let this small incident eat all my hopes and dreams. I was done with this writing thing. I must add that this story was a very personal one and that probably made me feel this rejection as something personal, instead of the usual business of someone saying that my story/writing/characters were not interesting/brilliant/strong enough. Besides, I was in the middle of pregnancy’s first trimester, so hormones may have also played a part.

So, what happened next? How do you cope with rejections?

I wish I knew. In fact, if you have any tips to get through the endless rejection letters that any writer seeking publication usually goes through, please let me know in the comments. Truth is, that other than having a thicker than thick skin, I don’t know how people deal with so much negative reactions to their work. I know, however, that one day I realised that I missed writing and one fine morning, while snow was falling outside, I sat in front of my laptop with a cup of hot tea and began to write again. I typed one word after another and one sentence after another. Eventually I ended up with some new stories that were willing to be given a chance in the big, wild out there. I might or might not have learnt how to cope with rejections but I’ve already submitted three stories in 2017 and I’m playing the waiting game again. Patiently and calmly.

There’s something I’ve learnt, though, about this tricky business of publishing. After much thinking I realised that editors are not these evil bunch of people that send rejection mails on default. They’re just trying to do their job the best they can and they better do so, for they have quality standards to maintain, they’re also putting themselves out there hoping their work will be recognised during the award season, and they’re facing rejection from their readers with every decision they take. Yes, they’re only humans working under rather stressful conditions and often not being credited or remunerated enough. And the thing is, that by doing their job the best they can, they’re also helping you to be the best writer you can. For you can be sure that when they finally pick up something you’ve written for publication, this something will be really worthy of their trust and the standards of their publications.

 

A lengthy post, this one. Kudos to you if you made it this far. Here’s a short story about publishing and rejections as a reward (not by me – it was written by Doug Hawley). Funnily enough, this appeared today on 365 tomorrows and I couldn’t help smiling to myself.

 

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Short stories I read and loved in 2016

A couple of days ago I posted a summary of the books I read and loved in 2016. Today I want to round up my review of the past year with a list of the short stories that I specially enjoyed reading last year. Unfortunately, just like I did not write consistently during 2016, I wasn’t a constant reader either. I read quite a lot during the first half of the year, then I had a nearly two-month hiatus and resumed my reading by the last quarter of the year, though I was reading more sporadically by then. Similarly, I did a lot online reading of short speculative fiction during the first half of 2016 and completely neglected those joyful and sometimes thoughtful reads during the second half. I should definitely try and be more constant this year.

Anyway. Without any further preamble, and again in chronological order, here’s a short list of my favourite stories of 2016. Also, a new year means a new awards season, so if you’re looking for some outstanding works eligible for this year’s Hugos, Nebulas or whichever award of your liking, these are some great stories to take into account.

  • We Will Walk Among the Gods, Among the Stars, by Caroline M. Yoachim and Tina Connolly (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January/February 2016)
  • Seven Ways of Looking at the Sun-Worshippers of Yul-Katan, by Maggie Clark (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2016)

 

Besides original fiction, a couple of reprints also made it to my favourites of 2016.

  • Hereafter, by Samuel Peralta (Lightspeed Magazine 2016, originally printed in 2014)

 

I hope you enjoy the works I’ve shortlisted as my favourites. And do not hesitate to share the stories which rocked your world in 2016 in the comments. I’d love to know about your favourites too.

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