Books

Emojiathon Week Two ’19

Starting my diary for week two a little earlier than last week; and I am hoping to have a super productive week- but again with the exception of the weekend as its Fathers Day and we are going to Clacton.

Tuesday

I am now half way through The Record Keeper, and am absolutely loving it. Sadly though I haven’t had the opportunity to pick it up today, but hopefully I’ll get a chance when the Little one is in bed.

Last week I left The Record Keeper at page 160, and am currently at page 236. Fingers crossed I read a touch more later, but if not, I have a whole afternoon free to read once I’ve taken the Little One back. The Record Keeper is proving to be a very unique and catastrophic look at the future, set after World War 3. I will be having a full review for this on the 17th.

Target for this week is to get The Record Keeper finished, and also finish my next book, this will probably be either Obsidio or The Princess and the Fangirl, but I’ll see what I’m in the mood for. For now, time to prep dinner.

Friday

It is now early Friday morning, and I have not had the week that I was hoping to have. I had said that my goal was to finish The Record Keeper and my next book by the end of the week. But as I have a super busy weekend coming up, and its already Friday, I don’t think that will be possible. That being said I am on page 366 of the Record Keeper, so have made reasonable progress, and been loving all of it.

So today, I do have things to do, but finishing The Record Keeper is the priority. Going to sit and read at home for a little while, and then head out to a coffee shop after lunch to get some more reading done. If I have time after finishing it, I will pick up my next book and try and get through a good chunk of that. Update you later…

Just about still Friday, but it is getting very close to becoming Saturday. For a day that had a bit of a hiccup (I fell into a three hour unexpected nap- thanks infection), I ended up having quite a successful reading day. I have finished The Record Keeper, which I loved up until the last 50 pages, which I am now a bit unsure about, but you’ll see my full review very soon.

I have then picked up Obsidio by Jay Kristoff and Aime Kaufman, and am enjoying it so far. This series has been one of those that I don’t love, but I enjoy and do recommend. So I am currently 65 pages into this, and going to call it a night.

Now for the numbers; I read the final 304 pages of The Record Keeper this week, along with the first 65 pages of Obsidio, so that’s a total of 369 pages this week. Not my best and a bit of a disappointment but this week didn’t go overly as planned. In total that is 892 pages for the Emojiathon. Determined to push that number up quite considerably next week!

How are you finding the Emojiathon, or just how is your reading going this month?

Books

Guest Post: Listening to Music While Writing: Yes? No? and If So, What?

I have something a bit different for you today; the lovely Christopher Husberg has written me a really interesting guest post to share with you. This is in honour of the release of his latest book, the fourth instalment in the Chaos Queen Series. I will be doing a full reread of the series very soon, so watch out for my reading diary for that. Now I hope you enjoy.cover small[7652]

 Alright, so I’m going to spoil the premise of this post just to save us all some time: I write with music. I find it helpful and enjoyable. I’m a writer, I also like music, and for me combining the two really works.

That said, it doesn’t work for everyone. My guess is, if you’re a writer, you’ve tried writing with music, and you’ve already decided whether it’s helpful for you or not. If you haven’t, you know, give it a try. I tried several versions of musical accompaniment to my writing process, and have found some options that help me out quite a bit (and, for the record, there are some options that really don’t work for me, as well).

If writing with music doesn’t work for you, power to you. But you probably don’t have to read the rest of this post, because, well, it’s about writing with music. Peace, friends.

If writing with music does work for you, or if you’re not sure, then read on! I’ll tell you about some of my favorite music options and why they’re awesome.

 

Audiomachine

Audiomachine creates my immediate go-to writing music. According to an older version of their website (which I can no longer find), they once described themselves as “a boutique, motion picture advertising music collective, specializing in original epic music and bone crunching sound design for theatrical trailers, television commercials and video game advertising campaigns.” That description is still pretty accurate, imo. You’ve likely heard Audiomachine but just haven’t realized it – their music has been featured on recent trailers for movies like Rogue One, The Martian, and Avengers: Endgame.

 

What I love about Audiomachine is they give me the sweeping, dynamic sound of an epic film soundtrack, but without the potentially distracting context. (I love movie soundtracks, but listening to them while writing often gets me more in the mood to watch the movie than to write, if that makes sense.) Audiomachine is a happy medium, and they have an immense catalog of music so I never get tired of the same tracks. And, while I’d categorize all of their music as “epic,” and most of their stuff seems to work best for me when writing fantasy, many of their albums have more of a sci-fi twist, while a couple others lean toward horror or even a steampunk vibe. If you’re interested in trying them out for your own writing soundtrack, you can’t really go wrong with any of their albums, but I’d personally recommend checking out Chronicles, Phenomena, or Magnus: B-Sides first if you’re asking.

 

Sigur Rós

If you remotely consider yourself one who appreciates music at all, and haven’t heard of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, do yourself a favor and check them out immediately. They’re one of my all-time favorite bands, and if I could choose one word to describe their music it might be immersive. SR creates the type of music in which you need to fully immerse yourself in to appreciate–listen to it in the dark with a good pair of headphones. I like listening to them when I’m brainstorming and worldbuilding, or for specific scenes that require something a bit more stirring than the typical Audiomachine track. Their transcendent album Ágaetis byrjun is a must-listen, but I’m particularly fond of Takk… and Valtari as well.

 

 

Max Richter

Max Richter first came to my attention when I discovered he wrote the haunting track “On the Nature of Daylight” featured on the 2016 film Arrival. His album Sleep is perhaps his most interesting: a concept album focused on the neuroscience behind the act of sleeping, it comes in at a whopping 8.5 hours long. Sleep is subtle and atmospheric, and perfect for background music while writing. I’d recommend his other work as well, starting with The Blue Notebooks.

 

Giles Lamb

Giles Lamb is perhaps best known for writing the track that accompanies one of the greatest video game trailers ever made (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ialZcLaI17Y), but I’ve found a lot of his other work to be great writing music as well. Before the Birds, Glossolalia, and Pure Frame are some of my favorite albums.

 

Vienna Teng

Vienna Teng stands out on this list as one of the few artists whose music is accompanied by English lyrics. I’ve found that when I’m writing epic fantasy, tracks with English lyrics more often than not distract me and pull me out of the writing process, and generally are not helpful at all. However, when I’m writing more contemporary stuff (particularly with more contemporary dialog), I actually don’t mind English lyrics at all. That’s just how it works for me, and it’s been a process of trial and error.

 

So I’m including Vienna Teng here because (a) her music is awesome, and (b) her track “The Hymn of Acxiom” has basically become the theme song of my latest project (which involved AI – you’ll see the connection if you listen to the lyrics of the song). So, yeah, check out Vienna Teng!

 

For me, music has become another tool in my writing toolbox. I can use it to enhance my process, or put it away when it ceases to become useful. And, for the record, there are times I don’t mind silence while writing, either!

Hopefully my suggestions have been helpful to you, and I wish you the best in your own writing journeys!

Chris Husberg[7653]Fear the Stars by Christopher Husberg, Paperback, £8.99, Out now!

Books

Emojiathon Week One ’19

*Well this is take two as my laptop crashed and it didn’t save*

 

I am starting this five days into the readathon, and having set myself six books to read this month, I am glad to say I have already finished one and am well into my second. You can check out my TBR in this post to see what I am hoping to read during this readathon and hence the month of June.

Within the first two days of the readathon I flew through my first book, The Girl in Red by Christina Henry. I’m not going to go into too much depth of my thoughts for this book as I will be doing a full review for it nearer the release date. But I will just say that this is an utterly terrifying, post apocalyptic adventure! This book also surprised me by having fabulous representation, it showed diversity in sexuality, disability and ethnicity; although it wasn’t the main aspect of the story, it was all shown through the main character and was beautifully done. This was an easy five star read for me and one you should definitely out on your pre-order list.

I am now reading The Record Keeper and am loving it so far. The hope is to have it finished by the end of the weekend at the latest. But with my partners birthday, and my dads partners birthday party I have a busy last half to the week.

Friday

So tomorrow will be the end of the first week of the Emojiathon, but as we have a party tonight I thought I would get this scheduled ready for tomorrow. As of midday Friday I have finished The Girl in Red, and am 160 pages into The Record Keeper. In total I have read 523 pages for the Emojiathon so far. Not my best week, as I had hoped to have The Record Keeper finished by the end of Sunday, but it is looking less likely now.

I have a busy weekend ahead, plus I don’t get as much read at the weekends as my partner is home. So the new aim is that by the end of next Sunday I am hoping to have The Record Keeper and my next book finished. I am thinking that the next book will probably be The Princess and the Fangirl, but it might also be Obsidio.

Will check back with you next week.

Are you participating in the Emojiathon? If so how are you getting on?

Books

Emojiathon TBR ’19

The Emojiathon seems to be the one readathon that I always get excited for and then forget about until the first day of it. That is exactly what has happened again this time around. So here I am on the first day of the readathon, throwing together my TBR.

You have probably noticed that since moving I have been in a bit of an on and off reading slump, which I am putting down to just not having found a reading routine quite yet while now living with my partner. So I am not going to go crazy with the TBR this round, and going to stick with just six books for now. I can always add more if I get through them.

Not going to lie, I am kind of trying to fit books to the challenges as I still don’t have all my books unpacked. But I’m hopeful.

The first book on this TBR is my current read; The Girl in Red by Christina Henry. This is her latest release which is a take on Little Red Riding Hood. For the readathon this will cover challenges, 5 Star Prediction, Takes Place Outside, book started but not finished,  Animal on the cover, Anticipated book, and Gifted book.

Though to be fair most of these books will work for gifted book as many are books sent to me from publishers.

Next I have The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion, a book that I am reviewing on the 17th of June as part of the blog tour. This has some overlaps for the challenges as it too has an animal on the cover. Other challenges covered are, set somewhere you don’t live, and written by an unknown author,

A book I have started but not finished is Crazy Rich Asians, I am taking the opportunity to make myself finish it, as this is one of the challenges. This will also complete the challenge to read an ebook, book that features travel, and a book you’ve been seeing everywhere.18158562
As with all readathons, I have a graphic novel thrown in here, and that is Monstress by Marjorie Liu. I always include a graphic novel for readathons just to break it up a bit, but this one will also cover the challenges to read a fantasy book, and an expensive book (but aren’t all graphic novels).

There was a challenge on this list that I just felt was a perfect opportunity for me to get brutal with a book in particular. I have had Obsidio for so long, that it is time that I either read it this month or it is time for it to go bye-bye. This will also cover a few other challenges for me; a book you’re annoyed at yourself for not reading yet, Sci-fi book, book you don’t know why you haven’t read yet, and a book you’ve said you would read but haven’t yet- if you don’t believe me, check my previous TBRs.

Then finally, I have The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston on this list. With all the cons going on at the moment, as well as missing the amazing opportunity to meet this lovely author, I just feel like its the perfect time for me to read this book. This wont cover as many new challenges, but it does cover to read a comtempory. 39725622

The only other challenge I am confident that I will complete is to read a book in 24hours. I haven’t linked this to a specific book but I feel that I will complete this with either Monstress or possibly Obsidio.

I think I will try to do weekly over views of what I manage to achieve to read for the readathon each week. Lets hope that I break free of this recurrent reading slump.

What are you reading for the Emojiathon?

 

Health · Lifestyle

The stress of adulting!!

I still don’t really feel like I’m an adult. I now live with my partner, we have our own home, our fur babies, and have to do everything for ourselves now. Yet I still don’t feel like we (well at least myself) are competent adults. Everything still seems so hard and complicated and completely out of my abilities.schizo

This feeling of being overwhelmed is just making me really rather stressed. I hadn’t realised it until the other night when I was laying in bed (with Ash snoring as always) not able to sleep and then my brain went into overdrive.

The main pinpoint trigger for my stress lately has been because of trying to sort out our universal credit claim. Going into this move we thought that I would be able to carry over my disability benefits and just change the address, however we were only told otherwise about a month into having moved. Because of this we have gone almost two months with only having Ash’s wage (which isn’t great).

Although I can understand that they have to make applying an official process, what I don’t feel like they take into consideration is that the process is a lot to handle for those with mental health issues. Although we have been going through the process for about a month now, we are only just starting to get some idea as to how much we are going to be entitled to.  This has really been a stress to me as I have not known whether we are going to reasonably be able to afford to live alone.

I just briefly want to mention the  nightmare we have been having with citizens advice over these last two months. We have both grown up being told that when you are an adult, and you get into a situation where you don’t know what to do, you can go and get free and accurate advice from The Citizens Advice Bureau.

We did exactly this when we started to realise that we were going to have to make the switch to Universal Credit. After waiting for over an hour, we got to see the lady. We explained the situation, I took all of my benefit paper work and my medical certificates.

After we finished explaining she went of to talk to a colleague, as she ‘didn’t know about this’. She openly said that to us, and that wouldn’t of been a problem if she had come back with any advice from the colleague. But instead she came back and said go onto the citizen advice website and then follow the advice on there. So basically, she was useless. We had already looked online before we decided to go and talk to Citizens advice, so we had already done this.

In the end we had to just bite the bullet and apply for universal credit even though we were still unsure about whether this was the right thing to do. Its only been through doing the application and going through the interviews that we were advised by the assessment people that we should of gone a different way through the system and we then wouldn’t of had to jump through as many hoops. We also wouldn’t of had to go through two months without any support.

I guess what I’m saying is that there is no problem going to Citizens Advice for help when you get yourself stuck in life, however its not all its built up to be. They are only human, and often they don’t know the answers. I just wish they wouldn’t then point you to their website which you have most likely already looked at, as if you don’t have a brain cell and hadn’t already used your own common sense and had a google to try and work it out.

But anyway, that is it. I just felt like it needed to be said as that too often the benefits system causes way too much stress for those of us that already have mental health issues. In this time I have had to up both my anti-depressants and my anti-anxiety medication. I will be doing a bit of an off load post in the near future that will talk about the health issue impacts and some other things.

Books

My Mother’s Daughter by Ann O’Loughlin

On the face of it this isn’t really the sort of book I would normally go to, but while I’ve been on the search for something a bit different I felt like this was definitely the perfect way to go. Now I am certainly glad that I did, as this is one amazing emotional rollercoaster.

County Wicklow, Ireland. Margo has just lost her husband Conor and is grieving his passing, unsure how she and her daughter Elsa will survive without him. Then she receives a letter that turns everything she thought she knew on its head. Not only has she lost her husband, but now Margo fears she could lose her daughter as well.

Ohio, United States. Cassie has just split from her husband acrimoniously. Upset and alone she does not know how to move forward. Then her ex-husband demands a paternity test for their daughter Tilly and sorrow turns to anger as Cassie faces the frightening possibility of losing her daughter.44014721

Being mostly a fantasy and thriller reader, this is certainly more out of my comfort zone, but this year, I am trying my hardest to try and break out of that zone and try some different genres of fiction. When it comes to this book, I am certainly very glad that I did.

Very quickly I found myself connecting to the characters in this book, feeling their emotional dilemmas, and life struggles. I will admit, I definitely found myself more invested in Cassie’s chapters than in Margo’s, but to be fair I think this was less to do with Margo and more to do with Ida. Ida’s personality I found got on my nerves in places, and although I can understand her part in the story, I found her to generally be quite an unlikable character. Which I don’t think was the intention.

I believe this is probably the first book I have read within the Irish setting, and it was a beautiful setting. Ireland is a country I would love to visit, and the village description in My Mother’s Daughter absolutely strengthens that. For such a story of emotional growth and budding family relationships, this peaceful close setting was perfect; it allowed the surroundings to be tranquil so the main focus was completely on the character growth.

This book had me from laughing to tears in just a number of pages. There is a reason I called it a rollercoaster of a book, as truly it took you up and down to the highest and lowest of emotions.

This was an easy 4 out of 5 star read for me, and one that I highly recommend for anyone that is in need of a warm hug from the pages of a book- as that is exactly what this is. You will not be able to put it down, and I recommend you have a blanket to hide under, and a box of tissues ready for the ugly crying.

You can get your hands on a copy in just 2 days, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled and grab yourself a copy as soon as you can!

Books

Snakeskins by Tim Major – Blog Tour

After a bit of a blogging break, I have the great honour of returning to blogging with a guest post by another fabulous author, Tim Major. The tour is for his new release Snakeskins, an epic science fiction thriller.43185464

The Long Shadow of the Triffids

I can’t overstate how important John Wyndham’s novel The Day of the Triffids is to me. When I read it, perhaps around the age of ten, I swear I could feel a rearrangement of my brain patterns. It wasn’t just the content of the book that mattered; it was the timing, the sense of serendipity. I’d been a rabid Doctor Who fan for a couple of years, my love for the programme neatly coinciding with it being cancelled. Without access to the show itself, I was left with the Target novelisations of televised TV shows, which I adored, and which turned me from an avid reader into a full-on bibliophile. Perhaps concerned at my literary cul-de-sac, my parents passed me two additional books: H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds and John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.

Wells’ novel is wonderful. It’s serious and pulpy and pretentious and daft all at the same time. Along with The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, Wells covered the bases of a huge range of what would become accepted SF territory.

But The Day of the Triffids is another matter entirely.

When I read it, the first shock was the shock. I was completed unnerved by the initial hospital scenes in which Bill Masen observes people blinded after witnessing the meteor shower of the previous night. A snapshot image of a blind patient standing in broad daylight, demanding that the curtains be opened, haunted me for months. I’d been prepared for an alien invasion, but the beginning of the book was, in fact, my first real introduction to adult horror fiction.

And though I’d expected alien invasion, it was more complicated than that. Far from a marauding army, the Triffids – huge, carnivorous plants – have arrived on Earth years before the novel begins and are safely contained. Our hero, Bill Masen, is already an expert on the subject. It’s only the effects of meteor shower, and the debilitation of the majority of the human population, that allows the Triffids to escape and thrive.

This was, and remains, a big deal to me. I guess I wouldn’t have spotted it at the time, but this idea of a latent threat, and a seismic event that happened some time ago, allowing the reader only to witness the aftermath, was intoxicating. More and more, my favourite SF would follow this same pattern: benign new phenomena gradually being perceived as a threat. (For example, soon after reading the Wyndham book, Russell T Davies’ Dark Season was televised on Children’s BBC – another touchstone to which I’m indebted today.)

There are other aspects of the book I find appealing. Brian Aldiss was referring explicitly to Wyndham’s books when he coined the term ‘cosy catastrophes’, but to me this seems hardly an insult. The vision of a post-apocalypse as largely safe, but with societal rules reset and simplified, was tremendously appealing to a child trying to figure out the workings of the world, and still appeals to me as an adult, whenever I find myself mired in chores or bureaucracy.

After I turned thirty, when I finally decided to stop talking of writing as an ambition and making it an active hobby, the influence of John Wyndham was there from the start. My first short story was about an unexplained blinding light – one that persisted indefinitely, so that people were forced to remain in their homes, blindfolded. I was happy to riff on The Day of the Triffids, and it turned out that in doing so I immediately diverged from it, finding my way towards my own specific concerns.

I’m still happy to acknowledge the debt. My novella, Blighters, follows the Triffids pattern precisely: giant alien slugs landed on Earth many years ago, docile and exuding calm that affects anybody in the vicinity, fought over for their strange properties.

My new novel, Snakeskins, isn’t about alien lifeforms. It’s about a group of British people who have the strange ability to rejuvenate every seven years, and in doing so they shed a Snakeskin, a precise clone of themselves. Complicating matters further, this Snakeskin is sentient, and may live for minutes, hours or days. The idea of sheddings and Snakeskins had been rolling around in my head for years – but when it came to devising a cause of this strange effect, I turned immediately to John Wyndham. So, the cause of the phenomenon was a meteor shower, affecting the population of a small village, and the effects have been passed down through the generations. And, like Wyndham, I placed this instigating event long before the novel – a century ago.

I’m already in John Wyndham’s debt to a huge degree, but I know I won’t stop riffing on his concepts any time soon. I’m busy finishing up with a novel about Midwich Cuckoos-esque creepy children – at least, that was the starting point, but as always the plot has diverged massively from its inspiration. The SF genre is built upon appropriation, building and expanding upon earlier ideas. I hope that John Wyndham would approve.