Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Best Books of 2017

This post is a bit late coming, given that we're already halfway through February.

Every year I set up a 'Goodreads' challenge to read so many books in a year. On average it takes me about a week to read one average-length novel. Most of this is down to my long commute - I spend the best part of 3 hours a day every working day on public transport, travelling to and from work, and I use most of that time to read. I am also quite a fast reader, especially if the book is exciting, and I find myself turning pages faster to find out what happens next.

In 2017 I set myself a goal of reading 68. Happily I exceeded that goal and a read a total of 70 books last year. Six of those books I gave a five-star rating to, and this my criteria for the 'best books of the year' list.

In no particular order, they are:

Pet Sematary: Stephen King
Heart-Shaped Box: Joe Hill
Behind Her Eyes: Sarah Pinborough
X: Sue Grafton
Bones Never Lie: Kathy Reichs
Soul Music: Terry Pratchett

No real surprises here - these are all authors whose books I enjoy, and three of my four all-time favourite authors - Stephen King, Sue Grafton and Kathy Reichs - are in this list. The only one who isn't is Sara Paretsky, and that was only because I did not read her 2017 release (though I bought it, at Bouchercon in Toronto) last year.

More details about these books and why I enjoyed them can be found below.

Pet Sematary:
 The first time I read this book was over 25 years ago. I had to re-read it last year for my horror book club, and I had forgotten just how good it is. This is an almost-perfect horror story that contains all of the characteristics of King that made him my inspiration.
Louis Creed, doctor and Ordinary Guy moves his family to rural Maine when he takes up a job as resident physician on a university campus. The road outside the house claims the lives of many pets, so many that a pet cemetery has been set up by local children. But there's something much darker lying beyond the cemetery, and Louis' descent into madness is creepy and downright disturbing.

Heart-Shaped Box:
I got to meet Joe Hill at Fantasycon in Scarborough a couple of years ago, and end up buying a few books of his which he signed. This was one of them. It involves a fading, self-absorbed rock star with a fascination for collecting macabre items who ends up buying from the internet a suit that allegedly has a ghost attached to it. The suit turns up in a heart-shaped box and the promised ghost does indeed come with the suit, but as always the story is far more complex and it soon takes a sinister turn.
Though not in the same league as his famous father, Stephen King, Joe Hill is still an accomplished horror writer in his own right, and this is a creepy and rather disturbing tale.

Behind Her Eyes:
 I know Sarah Pinborough personally through both the crime and horror convention circuits, and I am always impressed with both her versatility and her writing style. The author of 20-plus published novels, this is the one that seems to have moved her up into the big leagues, and well deserved that move is to.

'Behind Her Eyes' starts out as effectively a love triange between David, Adele and Louise. David is a doctor, Adele his apparently fragile wife, and single mother Louise his secretary. But she meets him in a bar and shares a kiss with him before she starts her new job and realise that he's her boss. Meanwhile Adele offers a hand of friendship to Louise and she finds herself getting closer to Adele, whilst feeling guilty about carrying on a relationship with David. Alternating between Adele and Louise's point of view, it soon becomes apparent that this is not a typical psychological thriller, and it has an ending that will blow you away.

X:
I was not to know, at the time I read this book, that it would be Sue Grafton's penultimate novel and she would tragically leave us before getting to the end of her 'alphabet' books. I have been with Grafton's couragious female PI since 'A is for Alibi'. Kinsey Millhone isn't married and doesn't seem to be able to commit to relationships, has no kids and no desire to have any, doesn't cook and doesn't play particularly well with others. I think she's wonderful. In 'X' Kinsey ends up crossing paths with a particularly vicious villain, and the encounter will have long-term repercussions for her.

I am aware that Grafton's writing style, and her character, has influenced my own crime series. Sue Grafton is the only one of my favourite crime writers I never got to meet, and I wish I could have
.
Bones Never Lie:
Kathy Reichs is another one of my favourite crime writer, and one I've had the privilege to meet. Forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan shuttles between Montreal and North Caroline, uncovering murders in her examination of bones, and with a long-standing on-again off-again relationship with Montreal cop Andrew Ryan. She also has a daughter, Katy, whose chronological age marks the passage of time in the series, though by now Katy is grown up and off doing her own thing.

This one was very typical of Kathy Reichs' style. But I freely admit I love the formula, and I found this one a proper page-turner.

Soul Music:
 I've been re-reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld series for a while, and I expect it to take me quite some time yet, since there are over 40 books in the series and this is #16. And eventually I will get to books I haven't read before, since I didn't get through them all the first time around.

My favourite books are the ones about the witches, but Death comes a close second and this one features the latter. In this chronicle of the fantasy world, the inhabitants discover Rock Music, and the spirit of teenage rebellion it inspires. Pratchett's books are always entertaining, and are always a good thing to read when I need my spirits lifting.

So there we have it for the best books of 2017. For 2018 I've decided to play it safe and set a goal to read 70 books. Nearly 7 weeks in I have read 7, which puts me a bit behind schedule. But I am sure I shall catch up!

And if anyone is on Goodreads and wants to link up there, this is my profile page.Best

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Monthly Review: January 2018

I really hate January. It has no redeeming features. It's dark, cold and wet, everyone is broke after Christmas, there is nothing to look forward to and as I never see daylight during the working week it's the month my SAD seems to hit the hardest so I spend most of it feeling depressed.

Hence, I am always glad to see the back of it. Happily, we are now out of January and there are a few things to look forward to in the coming months as there is news to report.

COMING SOON:

I am pleased to announce that my previously-published story "Morgan's Father" (most recently available in the collection SOUL SCREAMS) is to be published in the forthcoming 'Women in Horror' edition of the ezine SIREN'S CALL.

My new horror novel OUTPOST H311 is currently with the editor, and will be released later this year from KGHH publishing. I will let you know when I have more news regarding release date.

PUBLICITY:

I've been a bit quiet on this front of late, and there's nothing to report at the moment, but there are a couple of things I've been working on and I hope to have something to report soon.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

With the horror novel finished I've been trying to figure out what to work on next. I'm back at work on the collaboration with Hubby, which has been a somewhat long-running project. It's a crime thriller set in 1967, about a young woman with a dream to play bass in a band, who gets caught up in the heady world of London gangs and the rising music scene when she searches for a friend who's disappeared.

The fourth Shara Summers novel is about a third of the way through draft 1, but I have not done any work on it for 12 months. I am still in two minds as to whether to carry on with this series. I enjoy writing it, but it's not selling, and is there any point in carrying on with a series people don't want to read?

As we move into February and the days start to get lighter, things start to look brighter. Join me again at the end of this month to see what it had in store!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Living Through My Characters

Crime Scene Tape
So the question was asked by someone, via Facebook, if you could go back and pursue a career you wanted, what would it be? I mentioned two: NTSB investigator or United States Postal inspector. I could've added crime scene investigator, homicide detective, but you get the idea. Personally, if I could, the NTSB investigator would be my first choice, given my love of aviation.

That's one of the perks of being a writer. I can create an NTSB investigator or a postal inspector. I can put them in whatever world I want. I'm playing "God(dess)" and living vicariously through them. Of course, as many authors know, characters can also be notorious for going off and doing their own thing, but sometimes this works to the author's advantage. While I plot my novels, I also leave room for any deviations from the story, although I'll make sure the characters don't wander too far off the proverbial beaten path.

This year, I have at least three new protagonists I want to write, one being a private investigator, another a homicide detective, and the third that USPS inspector. As for the NTSB investigator, that will require far more research, so perhaps in the future...  This year, I'd like to write crime stories in various genres/subgenres, including cozy, police procedural, and noir, among others. I've enjoyed reading crime fiction since elementary school, when I read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I grew up watching shows like Columbo, and have continued to pursue my passion by taking classes in crime scene investigation for writers, forensic science, and cyber crimes, among others. I read thrillers, mysteries, suspense, and books on crime writing.

Yes, I suspect if I had my life to live over, I would probably still be a writer, but I would also probably have a career in some area of law enforcement.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Year in Review: 2017

Well here we are at the start of 2018. This is a time to make resolutions to change things in the forthcoming year, and review how things went in the last one.


This time last year, I resolved to have two finished WIPs by the end of 2017. Well, I got halfway there. I finished the latest horror novel in mid-December. The novel is called OUTPOST H311 and it will be published by KGHH Publishing some time this year. Stay tuned for more info on this.


The other WIP - the fourth Shara Summers novel - remains unfinished. I am at present trying to make up my mind whether to continue with this series. The third novel is still without a publication date. Although it was accepted by MuseItUp Publishing some 18 months ago, health and personal issues affecting both my editor and my publisher there have delayed publishing schedules.


I enjoy writing the Shara series, and the few reviews that I've received for the first two books in the series have been positive, but they really aren't selling, and I'm finding this very discouraging. What's the point of writing books that no one seems interested in reading?


Since I finished OUTPOST H311 I've taken a bit of break from writing while I think about what to work on next. I have got a couple of vague ideas, but nothing concrete yet.


This year, I resolve to have at least one WIP finished by the end of the year. I just haven't made up my mind which one yet.


Happy New Year one and all, and hope 2018 brings success and happiness.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Coming Down From the NaNoWriMo High

Finished my untitled NaNoWriMo project last night. Fell short of my 60,000 word goal and ended up with a first draft of 56,103 words. Hopefully, I'll make the word count in subsequent drafts.

Time to let this manuscript rest and work on another project. I like having more than one novel and/or screenplay to write or revise. If I get stuck on one, I can put it aside and go to another.

If this is your first NaNoWriMo, congratulations. I hope you made the 50,000-word goal. If not, no worries. What's important is that you wrote your story. Maybe you're still working on it. Many people go beyond the requisite 50,000 words. I used to think I could never write novels in the 70,000-word range. Ironically, novelists would tell me they couldn't write short. I still write short stories, as well as novellas. Sometimes, I adapt the stories into screenplays. It's all about making my stories do double-duty, if possible.

My goal for 2018 is to have at least two new books available. Con season is right around the corner, and I want to be ready.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It's NaNoWriMo Time

It's that time of year again. Not Halloween or Thanksgiving, but NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. For 30 days in November, writers - published and unpublished - will accept the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel.

My plot's already outlined in Scrivener. It was outlined in 2016, but for some reason, I never got around to writing that particular story. Instead, I wrote another one. For some reason, back then I wanted to write a paranormal romance involving a dragon and a wyvern. To be honest, I still haven't figured out what to do with it.

This year, I'm writing a story using creatures from Nordic and German folklore. Something different from my usual fare of angels and demons. I think I might even compile a playlist. I usually don't listen to music while I write, but I can think of some bands that would be perfect for this novel.

To those doing NaNo this year, good luck and keep writing!