Thursday, January 24, 2013


My dislike of January is well known - I do a post like this about this time every year.

I don't like the cold. I seem to have the blood of a lizard. And I really don't like snow. When you can sit at home all day by the fire, and don't have to be anyplace, it probably looks pretty, but when you have to go to work in it - particularly on public transport - it's a pain in the backside. At least in London our snow fall is generally fairly short lived. If I liked snow I'd still be living in Canada, where it covers the ground for nearly six months of the year.

I spend January bundled up in thick jumpers and thermal vests and socks, shivering on the station platform waiting for a delayed train, arguing with my office mates about how hot we can have the central heating (I want it at 'tropical' mode - they don't), and generally feeling tired and run down. I seem to go into a kind of hibernation. Getting out of bed in the morning is a supreme effort and I drag through each day feeling half asleep, not being able to focus my brain on anything. Moving becomes an effort. I don't go to the gym, I don't do much writing, and I spend as much time as possible in bed. But it doesn't really matter because no matter how much or little sleep I get, I still struggle to stay awake during the day. And I crave sugar and carbs even more than usual, because I feel I need the energy.

When I'm not at work, I spend my time playing video games, because they don't require too much mental energy and distract me from how tired I'm feeling. Now, I am aware of my weaknesses. I would be quite capable of spending all day, every day playing video games if I didn't have to go to work. And there are many weekends in January when I do pretty much do that, leaving the sofa only to use the bathroom, go to bed, or get myself more chocolate. But the price you pay for being a grown-up is having to do stuff you don't really want to do a lot of the time, like go to work every day.

So far I've not had a terribly productive January. I've eaten a lot of biscuits, and made progress in 'Dragon Age', but not done much else. Come to think of it, I was in the same situation last year.

Roll on Spring, when I can wake up and emerge from my hibernation...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Did You Just Call Me?

Titles. They're the bane of my writing existence. Either they come easily to me, such as "Death Sword" did,or I struggle for years to find the right one. Sometimes, I enlist the help of friends. That's how my short screenplay "Cemetery" was named. Even today, I doubt I could come up with a better title.

Titles not only need to grab reader attention, they need to give a clue as to the tone and genre of the book. For example, I'm working on a collection of short dark fiction that I plan to call Malice and Mayhem: Tales of the Macabre. This should give a pretty good indication of the subject matter.

Which brings me to my latest WIP, formerly known as The Zaphkiel Project. For two years, I've debated what to call this angel UF. Zaphkiel and A Discordant Melody were two titles I played with, but neither were very exciting. And A Discordant Melody sounded more like sci-fi. (Although who's to say I won't write such a story?) For those curious, it relates to the disruption of the planetary harmonics in the story, something I researched for this WIP.

I'm getting ready to submit The Zaphkiel Project, so I needed a title. I brainstormed, writing down character names and anything related to the book: Venus Transit, angels, demons, pentacles, ghouls, Tarot...


And then I wrote the title of a song by Blutengel: "Oxidising Angel".

That brought to mind the title "Exterminating Angel". Surely there had to be several books with that title. But this didn't seem to be the case. Instead, "Exterminating Angel" is better known as a movie by Luis Bunuel.

I doubt anyone will confuse my angel paranormal/UF with Bunuel's satire.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Speed Reading

I've been reading books since I first learned how to read. In fact, I've been devouring books since then. It's always been about finishing one and going straight on to the next one. I don't remember a time when there wasn't another book to read once the current one was finished.

Some people have told me I'm a fast reader. I never really thought about it in this way. I do get through a lot of books - average count is about one a week. But I spend over two hours a day on public transport, going to and from work, and most of that time is reading time.

I do prefer books that are plot driven, and the vast majority of the books I read fall in the genres of crime and horror. The nature of these genres generally demands a suspenseful plot, and when I am reading I am focused on getting to the end of the page so I can turn over and find out what happens next. So maybe I do read fast. I never thought about the fact that I might read faster than other people, until recently.

Every day I take the train into London Victoria, and then I have two stops on the underground to work. I am on the underground for precisely four minutes. I've been doing this journey a long time - trust me, I know how long it takes. Four minutes is generally not long enough to get back into my book, in my view - by the time I've jostled with the crowd to gain access to my bag, get out the book or the e-reader and find the right page, it's time to get off the train. And I'm generally standing on the underground anyway, which makes it even more awkward. So more often than not, as I'm hanging onto a pole being jostled around on the subway train, I'm standing next to someone who is sitting down, reading a book of some sort. Being a nosy sort of person, and as there's not much else to look at on the underground, I'm reading over their shoulder. I've started to notice that in those four minutes I am reading their book over their shoulder, the person doesn't turn the page. I get off at my stop and they are still on the same page they were when I got on four minutes ago. I've read that page four times over in that time.

So I'm starting to think maybe I do read faster than most people. I don't pick up every detail of plot; I'm wanting to know what happens on the next page, instead of focusing on every detail on this page. I probably don't savour a book; I devour it.

This has always been the way I read, and I never thought there was anything wrong with it. There are a lot of books in the world to read and we've only got so many years to read them, so I don't want to spend too much time on each one. Most of the books I read I don't remember much about a year or so later. The books that make a particular impact do stay with me - and they are the ones that are featuring in my 'My Life in Books' series. Books that I can still remember, because they made an impact.

I read so many books that sometimes I'll pick one up and be halfway through it before I remember I read it before - some details seem familiar. But because I don't remember every detail, I can re-read books and enjoy them again, because I don't remember much about the first time around. This is another reason why I like Goodreads. I can log all the books I read and the log will job my memory about what I've read and what I thought of it. And of course it also lets me keep a list of everything I've read, which appeals to my anal nature.

Anyway, got to run. There are still more books out there to read...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Best Books of 2012

At this time of year, I like to look back at all the books I've devoured over the last 12 months and decide which ones I rate highest. As I've mentioned before, I read a lot of books. For 2012 I set myself a goal of 60 books, and I managed to achieve it. Most of my reading time is during my commute. I spend over 2 hours a day travelling to and from work on public transport, and this is mostly why I get through so many books.

My favourite crime writer Sara Paretsky recently put out a call on her blog asking for people's favourite reads of 2012, to increase her own TBR pile. I was very flattered that she included my response in her post.

 I've mentioned before my love of Goodreads. Not only does it allow me to keep track of exactly what I've read and when, and list things I want to read, but I also use their guidelines for my star ratings (with one star meaning 'didn't like it' and five stars meaning 'it was amazing'). I don't throw five stars around lightly. Most books I will enjoy, but they have to be pretty special to warrant a five star rating.

However, it so happens that in 2012 I gave no less than six books five stars, which makes choosing my best picks a bit easier Many of them I've also reviewed on Goodreads, and in each case there's a link back to the review, to save me repeating myself here. They are in no particular order, apart from the order I read them in.

BODY WORK - Sara Paretsky: I don't mean to become a dribbling fan girl whenever the esteemed Ms Paretsky's name is mentioned, but I can't help it. This is the fourteenth book in her series about the tough woman detective VI Warshawski, and I have loved every single one of them. VI is older in this one, but still charging in without thought, in her desire to save the world from the bad guys. Ms Paretsky never disappoints, and neither does VI.

 THE ASSASSIN'S PRAYER - Ariana Franklin: This fourth book in the series about 12th century doctor Adelia Aguilar, will sadly be the last because Ariana Franklin died in 2011. Adelia is a wonderful character. Not only is she a doctor specialising in forensics, at a time when the medical profession was viewed with suspicion, but she is a woman doctor to boot. A fact she tries to keep hidden, because in primitive England she would be burned as a witch. Instead, Adelia travels in the company of a Moor, who pretends to speak no English, so they can pretend that he is the doctor and she is his nurse and translator.

FLASH & BONES - Kathy Reichs: Another writer who, in my view, never fails to deliver. This fourteenth offering in the adventures of forensic pathologic Temperance Brennan is the best in some time, I think. Set in the exciting world of motor racing, it was tense and thrilling and had me turning the pages.

ODD APOCALYPSE - Dean Koontz: This is the fifth book in the series about a strangely named young man who can see ghosts, and I was introduced to it when I had to review this book for Shotsmag. I enjoyed it so much I immediately bought the first book in the series as soon as I finished this one.

ODD THOMAS - Dean Koontz: Hence why this, the first book in the series, I read after the fifth book in the series. Start with this one and get introduced to Odd properly.

11/22/63 - Stephen King: This time-travelling thriller from the Master of Horror seems to be the Marmite of the literary world - you either love it or hate it. I loved it.

And what of my reading target for 2013? I could have been ambitious and upped the stakes. But since my job hasn't changed I don't anticipate any more or fewer hours of reading time, so I've set myself the same goal again. I average a book a week. I aim to read 60 books in 2013, which is more than a book a week, but it does depend on the length of the book, and how much time I spend sitting on the beach (for every day I spend doing nothing but lazing around on holiday reading, I can get through one book). So, we shall see if I can reach the same target again.

What are your reading goals for this year?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013!

Happy New Year 2 by Sabine Sauermaul
How was your New Year's? Hope everyone had a good time, and didn't suffer too bad a hangover. I watched the Red Green New Year's special, while negotiating for chair space with my cat. Amazing how such a small creature can take up so much space.

I guess a lot of people are writing about their resolutions and goals for 2013. For me, the focus is on writing, of getting more of my work out there. Not that 2012 was a washout. I published five short stories, four in anthologies and one through MuseItUp Publishing. I'm currently finalizing the draft of an urban fantasy short novel that I intend to submit this month.

This year, I've decided I'm not going to listen to the naysayers, those negative people who try to convince me, rather insidiously, maybe I'm not good enough. You know the ones. They hide behind insincere compliments, but when it comes time to walk the proverbial walk, they're nowhere to be found.

Sadly, these people (and some writing groups) have played a negative role in my writing, convincing me maybe I wasn't good enough, or that I wasn't writing the right stories, etc. So many of my stories lay dormant on my hard drive, pushed aside, even though I liked them.

That's why I've decided to dust them off, finish and/or revise them, and send them out into the world. Screw what my detractors say. I don't have time for those who want to shoot down other people's dreams.

As for resolutions, I usually don't make any. Except this year, I want to submit at least one story a month. Doesn't have to be a story, either. Could be a screenplay or a poem. As long as I'm writing. :-)