Goodbye 2010

Some will be sad to see the year end. Not me. Admittedly, I’ve had worse years, but 2010 wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be – personally or writing wise. Hopefully next year will be better.

2010 in Review

In January (actually on the first day of the new year) I announced I was moving my website to a hosted site. I did it for financial reasons, but eventually realised that I didn’t want to lose my domain name to someone trying to sell underwear or DVD or useless gadgets nobody will ever use. I returned here in May but the hosted site is still in use. It’s now a useful archive site which will remain in place…forever!

Also in early January, I wrote the following goals:

1. Complete the planning for Whispering Caves by the end of summer (end of February).
2. Write the first draft by the end of the year.
3. Compile a list of publishers for Cat’s Eyes and submit, submit, submit.
4. Write a proposal for the children’s non-fiction and, again, submit, submit, submit.

Well, what can I say? I did finish the planning for Whispering Caves, but I didn’t come close to finishing the manuscript. What I wrote was good, but in the end it just didn’t come up to scratch. It was written in first person and that proved to be a problem. Besides, my focus was turned in another direction.

I did compile a list of publishers for “Cat’s Eyes” but that list was quickly discarded when I made the decision to start my own publishing company. I didn’t have to submit, submit, submit because the book was published by Kayelle Press and is doing moderately well.

The fourth point didn’t get done. I didn’t even give it a thought. Maybe next year.

I wrote a ton of reviews – mainly for books and DVD’s, but I also wrote a couple for Playstation games.

I shared my thoughts on e-publishing, much too often I think, I’m sure some people got sick of my harping on about it. Yet I have to say e-publishing is an exciting turn of events to the publishing world and a lot more people will be harping on about it in the future.

Even though I’ve started a publishing company, I still submitted short stories to publishers. So 2010 saw me in receipt of several rejection letters/emails. Luckily, I don’t cry in a corner anymore over those. I also received a copy of rejections that were more like encouragement with healthy feedback and lovely compliments.

2010 was also the year I discover ebooks. I read a couple of dozen books on my beautiful and handy iPod Touch this year. I absolutely adore my Touch and have used it practically every day since I purchased it. If you haven’t got one, then you should fix that soon!

On a more personal note, this year is when I discovered I had a rare blood disorder. The medication to help fix the disorder is so potent that I was sicker than I’ve ever been in my life for about 10 days in July. I certainly don’t want to return there any time soon. Right now, everything is under control and I’m as healthy as I can be.

Finally, I resigned from a job I loved in late November and have started a new job in mid-December. The training period proved to be intense and harrowing. I’m not sure I’m ready to face the real thing in the new year, but I’ll give it my best shot.

No, 2010 wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t what I had planned for. But I think myself lucky that it wasn’t a terrible year filled with bad things. I am hopeful that 2011 will be a better year, filled with better things, and because of that I’m happy to say “Goodbye 2010”.

Book Review: Dragon Keeper

Dragon Keeper (Rain Wild Chronicles, #1)

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book started out slow and even a little boring. I almost turned it aside unfinished. However, Robin Hobb is known (to me) for slow beginning and brilliant endings so I persevered.

Once the place markers were set and the characters introduced, the pace picked up and I found myself entertained and thoroughly immersed in this world of dragons.

Thymara, touched by the Rain Wilds and born with claws and scales, should have been disposed of at birth, but her father could not allow that to happen and went against his wife’s wishes by keeping her. Alise, almost an old maid when she finally marries, had already set her mind to the study of dragons and refuses to let her new husband stop her studies. Lethrin, captain of a Live Ship, will do anything for money…and love. These three people are thrown together when the council are persuaded to move the young dragons to a place more suited to their needs. The problem is … none of them are expected to return to civilisation, as it’s a dangerous journey.

The three main characters are complimented by a great cast of secondary characters. Their individual stories are complex and real. This is compounded by external conflicts and danger. In my opinion, what the author lacks in being able to get straight into the story, she makes up for in character and world development.

This is a brilliant book, once you get past the first 50 or so pages. However, the story ended without resolution. Smack bang in the middle of the tension…it finished! To be continued in book 2. As my definition of a story is that it must have a beginning, a middle and an ending this was a great disappointment for me.

Reaching for the Future

Yesterday was the last day of the job I’ve had for almost ten years. It was a day filled with mixed emotions. I’m certainly glad the travelling (4 hours a day) is over, however, I will miss the reading time I had. I’m sad to leave behind a job I loved; working with people I respect and got on well with. I’m scared about my immediate future, but know deep down inside that I’ll do just fine.

Yesterday was also the day my book Cat’s Eyes was released. The anxiety of leaving a job mixed with the excitement of the book launch did not do me any favours. I was left feeling emotional wrought and unable to enjoy a very special event in my life, which is a huge shame. On top of that, I could not sleep due to the images continually flashing across my mind. I really do believe we should have an “off” button for such times.

Anyway, that was yesterday. Today is the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I now have an additional 40 hours a week to do with whatever I want. The thought of that will help me get through the next few days.

I look forward to writing regularly. It will be difficult, at first, to settle into a routine, but I’m determined to write every day. I will not allow myself to be overwhelmed by all I can now do…which often leads to doing nothing! I will keep my steps small to start with. I will work on a story for younger readers, that is about 45% completed. I will also “think” about the third book in The Land of Miu series. Most importantly, I will write.

I also look forward to reacquainting myself with old friends. Time restraints have not allowed me to “mingle” over the past 20 months or so. I feel as if I’m alone in this big world of writers, whereas there was a time when I felt surrounded by good friends, helpful and insightful people. I intend to be rid of that loneliness over coming days and weeks. I will be visiting friend’s websites more often and keeping up with their news. I will also be looking for new friends too.

*raise your glasses* To the future. May it be a good one for all of us.

Book Launch Starts at 8pm Tonight

The book launch for Cat’s Eyes will start in a few minutes and will continue all weekend. I invite you to join me and celebrate this special event. I will be online on and off during the entire weekend so please be sure to come say hello. You never know, you might even be one of the lucky people who will win a copy of the ebook.

The event is being held at Facebook. You will need to have an account and be logged in to participate.

Personal: A Change on the Horizon

No, I’m not going to change the template. I quite like this one and will be keeping it for a while yet. The change I refer to is of a personal nature. The change will affect my life in every way possible. More importantly, this change will have positive results on my writing.

Many of you know that I’ve been travelling to work for the last couple of years. Travelling as in long distance. Travelling as in two hours and ten minutes each way. Travelling as in a total of 21 hours a week! Then, on top of this, I’ve worked 40 hours a week and I’ve slept 37.5 hours a week (or tried to, at least). Then there’s the 4 hours taken up in walking to and from the station and waiting for the train each week. Don’t forget the 2.5 hours per week for the lunch breaks I’ve earned. And the 2.5 hours per week allocated to getting showered and dressed each morning. That leaves me with a grand weekly total of 12.5 hours. Of course, that isn’t all leisure time. I have to eat dinner, make my lunch for the next day, do something at least to help out around the house to prevent mutiny and spend time with my family and my pets. On average, I get an hour a day for me. I’m usually so tired I can’t think about characters, plots or settings. I’m lucky if I can think at all!

As of 10 December that will change. I have found employment closer to home. So close, in fact, that I will never have need of a car. If this was an old western, I would proudly tell you my new job is within spitting distance. However, as it’s not an old western and I’m too much of a lady to spit I’ll simply say that the job is just around the corner.

But that’s not all! Yes, there’s more. The job is permanent part-time. I’m going from a 40 hour week to a 25 hour week. This is something I’m really going to love! I’m saving 15 hours of work time, 21 hours of travel time, 4 hours of walk and waiting time. This adds up to 40 hours of life!

Life!

I’m going to have a life. I simply cannot believe it and cannot wait for that. I took it for granted before but now I will treasure it. As the reality of it all sinks in, I find myself excited by the prospect of daily writing time. I already plan to get up each morning and write for two hours (I will be working in the afternoons) before I have breakfast, get dressed and then do other life activities with family, friends and pets. If I can make this a habit then I’ll find a new routine that includes everything I’ve been missing for so long, including a generous writing time.

I’ve waited patiently for a very long time, and now I have received my wish. I am so happy.

eBook Review: Heidi

Heidi (Kingfisher Classics)

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like most females, I loved this story as a child. However, recently, I realised that I’d only ever seen various movie versions of it (the one I remember most was the one with Shirley Temple playing the role of Heidi) and had never actually read the book. With this in mind, I decided it was time to fix that oversight.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri was written around 1880 and for this reason the wording is very old fashion and stiff to read. Yet, knowing the era the story is set in suits the formal writing. I found it easy to accept and even to ignore.

Heidi is about a young girl who lives in the Swiss mountains. Everyone who meets her falls under her spell as she is a girl of innocence and loves helping people. Her loving nature and giving heart result in people depending on her more than they should.

[pullquote align=”left”]Give with a willing heart.

Remember God in all that you do and the reward will be greater than your wish.[/pullquote]

The story is well known by most people, as it was to me. What I didn’t know was that the book is heavily religious orientated. These days, a writer is warned to be subtle in the messages they wish to share with their audience. The messages within Heidi were not subtle! The messages are clear and strong, sometimes even a bit overpowering, but I didn’t allow that to ruin the story.

I’m glad I read the ebook for no other reason than the fact that I can now say I’ve read it. It was good to revisit a childhood story and discover new things within it.

Podcast Review: Shadow Magic

Some months ago, actually it was more like two years ago, a friend recommended a podcast to me. I had only just discovered podcasts and she thought I would enjoy this one. However, having to listen to them on my computer proved to be annoying as I can’t work and listen at the same time, so I left the email containing the link in my inbox, waiting for a more convenient time.

That time never came, but the email remained in my inbox.

Then, earlier this year I bought myself an iPod Touch (as you are no doubt sick of hearing about by now). For the first several months I couldn’t get enough of ebooks. But then I also rediscovered the world of podcasts (which you are probably also sick of hearing about). By this time, the email had become part of the furniture and I hardly even noticed it when I checked my email. Until a couple of weeks ago, when I was doing a clean up.

I followed the link provided by my good friend, Sherry, and then I followed another link to the author’s website and from there I followed another link to iTunes. Brilliant! The entire book was promptly downloaded to my iPod Touch and within days I was listening to the podcast.

Shadow Magic by John Lenahan is simply brilliant. It is read by the author, who is a writer, comedian and magician. It is a fantasy story based on Irish Mythology, so you’ll hear names of people and places that ring a bell. It’s about an eighteen year old named Connor, who has lived in our world his entire life. He has a cheeky personality and a loving spirit. Although he never knew his mother, Connor has been raised by a caring father, but he doesn’t have any other living relatives. Then one day he discovers he has an aunt. But the discovery is made after his aunt tries to kill him and he is taken to The Land!

John brought the characters alive with his telling of the story. So much so, in fact, that part of me is glad I listened to the podcast rather than purchased the book. The reason I say this is because the author is so easy to listen to and the storyline is so well crafted that I simply couldn’t hear enough of it. It’s funny, serious, gory in places and filled with emotion in other places. The world is vivid. The characters strong. The plot believable. I truly did enjoy it. At the risk of repeating myself, which I know is strictly not good for a writer, the story is brilliant!

This one is highly recommended.

The podcast can be found at iTunes or head over to the author’s website to find out where else you can download the book.

eBook Review: The Yin & Yang Books

The Yin & Yang Book (Chinese Whisperings)

The Yin & Yang Book by Paul Anderson & Jodi Cleghorn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lately, I’ve been hearing people repeatedly say that we must open our minds and experience new things. I am very much a creature of habit. Most people can set their clocks by me. “What’s Karen doing? Oh, well it must be X o’clock then!”

You can laugh or smile, but I think that’s a bad thing because a creature of habit learns nothing new. I’m trying to become another type of creature right now. I’m not sure what the creature is called, but it steps out of its comfort zone more often, sees new things, reads new things, experiences new things. It doesn’t come naturally for me to do this, but so far the experience has been pretty good.

On 10.10.10 a book was released and in that book is a story written by a long-time friend of mine, Benjamin Solah. I was made aware of the book’s release through an invitation, from Benjamin, to attend the online book launch. Of course, I went. I respect Benjamin and his writing and wanted to show my support. Through that event I was made aware of a book that sounded quite…what can I say…“different”. I made a note of the book’s title on my to-read list and carried on with my day. A few days later I was thrilled when I received notification that I had won a copy of the ebook.

The Yin & Yang Books edited by Jodi Cleghorn and Paul Anderson is a collection of short stories set in an airport. That doesn’t sound exciting in itself, but believe me, the stories are entwined together in a way that forces the reader’s attention. They are filled with intrigue, mystery and humour. One story will tease you with something and another story will satisfy you with the resolution. Several stories might hint at something else and then you’ll be treated with the “real” story later in the book. The characters, because they are written by many authors, have unique voices…yet you feel as if you are reading one complete story written by one person. It is most cleverly done and I was impressed by the high quality of writing by not one or two of the authors, but ALL of them.

Now, going back to Benjamin’s story. He describes himself as a marxist horror writer. He is passionate about many political issues and likes to address these topics in his writing. “Somewhere to Pray (Kurush)” is not an exception. For the duration of however many words the story is, the reader finds themselves in the head of a Muslim. It doesn’t matter what your views are, you’re seeing life through his eyes and you’re feeling his desperation. The story is extremely fast paced and in some ways horrific. By the time you reach the end you’re breathless, ashamed and alarmed. More than that I cannot say without a spoiler, in my opinion. Benjamin writes with passion and his words make you stop and think, even if it’s for a second, and that cannot be a bad thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this ebook and would happily recommend it.