Goodreads Challenge 2019: February

Eep. February was… not the best month for the old reading challenge.

Oh, I’m still bang on track, thankfully. But halfway through February I decided to start my ‘Battle the Bookshelf‘ challenge, which means NO NEW BOOKS. I challenged myself to go completely Waterstones cold turkey until I’ve got through the thirty-odd books that have been gathering dust in my spare room for the past year.

Yes, I know. Terrible excuse for a voracious reader.

And although I started well, powering through my first neglected book in a matter of hours (ish), since then I’ve kind of… slowed down. It didn’t help that there was a whole glut of news about the new His Dark Materials series on the BBC (it’s going to be SO MUCH BETTER than that terrible Golden Compass film and I can’t wait) and the new Philip Pullman book coming out this year (I can’t wait even more) (oh heck, I’d better be off my book ban by then). So instead of ploughing on with my TBR list, I’ve been rereading Northern Lights. I couldn’t help myself; I needed to get back into Lyra’s world. Daemons and Dust and bears, oh my.

FYI, my daemon would be a small black and white kitten called Balénessa who sits on my shoulder and chews my ear.

Right, there’s not much to add to the list from last month, but let’s have a cheesy breakdown anyway!

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Time to Battle the Bookshelf

I’ve decided to set myself a new challenge. A new reading challenge, to be precise.

I’m already doing the Goodreads Challenge, and doing it well, why am I throwing some more drama into the mix?! – is what I should be saying to myself. Instead, I’m clapping my hands with glee at the thought of a new trial of my dedication and reading abilities.

Those feelings will probably go away pretty swiftly once I realise what I’ve let myself in for.

So what is this new challenge?

I’m calling it – Battle the Bookshelf.

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Goodreads Challenge 2019: January

Well, I suppose I can say the year has started well…

I made the resolution to read 52 books this year, one for each week. And I’m very pleased to say I’m already ahead of schedule! Yes, somehow despite getting The Bean Jar published on Amazon (why yes, you should indeed go and check it out) and tying myself into absolute knots over it, I’ve managed to get a decent chunk of reading in, too.

I’ve so far read seven books this year, and reread two. Let’s have a cheesy breakdown…

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Goodreads Challenge: 2018’s Best And Worse

Last year, I declared myself done with new year’s resolutions. I’m not the kind of person who vows to exercise more, or eat better, or go on any kind of spiritual journey.

Just like life, all I want to do is read.

So I set myself up with a Goodreads challenge, with a modest goal of reading fifty new books in 2018. I knew full well I read far more than that in a year… but the problem was, I’m a chronic rereader. Case in point: I can probably do a one-woman performance of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, at least the first half of it. I find something that I love and I read it over and over and over again. I also wanted to read a bit more non-fiction; it felt a bit like my brain was being neglected and was slowly but surely turning into a puddle of mush sloshing around inside my skull.

A puddle of mush that could recite the opening paragraphs of I Capture the Castle, at any rate.

I’m pleased to announce that I did complete my challenge; in fact, I surpassed it, with 54 new books read in total. Oh, there was a lot of rereading too, something I might actually try and track this year. The vow to read a bit more non-fiction fell a bit by the wayside: out of 54 books, only 8 were non-fiction. Though, I suppose, that’s probably a step up from the year before.

Let’s have some numbers, while I’m at it. In those 54 books, there were 19.542 pages; the shortest was only 84 pages long (probably a bit of a cheat, that one) and the longest clocked in at 850 pages. I gave an average rating of 4.1 stars, but that doesn’t mean a great deal – even books I didn’t really like, I still ended up giving three stars (I’m a sucker for finding at least SOME good points). Only 8 books came from the library, 24 were on Kindle, and 24 were my own physical books (some I bought myself, some were gifts, and some had been languishing on my shelves for months). Ooh, I do enjoy a good stat. I could go on – if I’d done this at the end of the year, like proper bloggers do, I could have done a full statistical analysis…

Anyway.

Let’s have a look at my highs and lows of 2018!

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Happy 2019!

Big things are coming.

Oh, look, I’ve been neglecting my website again. For a good half of 2018, in fact. That happy little post I did a few months back about getting all disillusioned with blogging? Yeah, turns out that stuck. And for all my good intentions of going back to basics, having a good little ramble from time to time… that went out the window.

I suppose I didn’t think I had anything useful to say. I was just getting on with life, revving up for some big big things coming my way.

And now it’s time for those big things to get underway.

Firstly, you might have noticed that this website has had a bit of a revamp – my own domain name is back, for a start! And, er, my name has changed back. Don’t worry, I’m still happily married. But I’ve always said that I want my pen-name to be my maiden name. It’s far more memorable than my married one, for a start, and my feminist side has always stridently proclaimed that any big achievements I, er, achieve, should be done in my own original name.

And the achievements are coming.

Finally, finally, finally…

Meet the cover for The Bean Jar.

The Bean Jar by Jessica Leather
Oh yes. Oh yes oh yes oh yes.
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June Favourites 2018

How is it July already? It seems like fifteen minutes ago we were wading through snow during the Beast From The East, now I’m somehow managing to get a tan. In the North East. Miracle of biblical proportions, truly.

Apologies for the late arrival of my favourites post. As I said in my last one, it seems like any blogger worth the keyboard they type on is doing favourites posts at the moment, and I feel like it would be fun to join in. It would, however, be a bit better if I could get them done on time…

I’ve not been blogging much over the last month, or even doing my customary over-sharing on Instagram – I’ve been a bit busy, and, um, getting far too into PC gaming again. Blogging has definitely taken a back seat… I’ll explain in a bit.

Anyway here are some of my favourite things from last month!

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Happy World Book Day!

Today is World Book Day – time to celebrate books and reading and the joy they bring.

I’m sure to many parents this is just another groan in the school calendar – another costume to create, or dig out an old one and tenuously link it to a book. I’m not there yet – Ted’s not even at nursery yet, so no costume needed (though you just know I’d turn him into a teeny tiny Teddy Lupin, multicoloured hair and all). But if it ever stops snowing, I’m taking him to World Book Day events at our local library and bookshop anyway.

That’s a point: there’s bound to be plenty of parents out there who have constructed painstakingly detailed costumes only to be faced with a snow day. Does this mean we can have another World Book Day to celebrate their efforts? I’m up for it.

It’s so important to instill a love of reading. So, so important. To just hit the tip of the iceberg of benefits, it makes you live longer.

(graphic from the National Literacy Trust)

If there’s one thing I hate to hear, it’s “books are boring”. See also: “I’d rather watch the film”. Ugh. It makes me cringe and rage in equal measure.

Simply put, books have shaped my life, and have played a huge part in defining who I am today.

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Goodreads Challenge 2018

Oh, I know I’m terrible for this. Every year I talk about blasted new year’s resolutions, and every year I ignore them until approximately November, shrug, and mark up another year of failure.

But here I go again!

This time, I’m not doing traditional new year’s resolutions. Instead, I’m finally going to put my Goodreads account to use and I’m doing a reading challenge!

Fifty new books in a year is achievable, right?

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NaNoWriMo 2017: What Happened?

Oh, when I look back on that post I made in September, I can’t help but laugh.

I was so determined.

After missing NaNoWriMo 2016 (bit busy having a baby) and failing at Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 (bit busy being lazy), I wasn’t going to let myself fail again! No way. Never. I’d never failed a November NaNo and I wasn’t about to start.

To be fair, if I hadn’t had to move across the country in the middle of November, with all the resulting stress and sheer lack of time, I might have actually made it.

I managed a healthy 22,092 words. I didn’t start until the 4th November, and I rattled to a halt on the 13th November. I’d say that’s a pretty good total for such a short amount of time.

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Customary shot of the stats-graph.

I’ve used the word ‘fail’ a few times there, haven’t I?

But do you know what – I don’t feel like I’ve failed.

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NaNoWriMo Musings – WHAT ON EARTH AM I GOING TO WRITE?

Have a totally unedited ramble. I’m sitting in Starbucks waiting to go and see Marian Keyes talk about her new book, and get said new book signed. I am buzzing on far too many coffees, and the novelty of being out without a tiny Ted bouncing up and down in his pram trying to shout at passersby. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in my head on a day-to-day basis, this is it.

RIGHT.

I am doing NaNoWriMo this November.

Correction. I am DOING NaNoWriMo.

I have failed a Camp and missed an actual NaNo because, you know, baby. I think of myself going into hospital on that final night, knowing that I realistically wouldn’t be leaving without a baby in my arms, packing a chunky notebook and some pens into my bag among the tiny hats and mittens. “I might be bored!” I thought, optimistically. “Surely I can at least get a few thousand words down while I’m waiting for my induction!”

(See Teddy’s birth story for the reasons why I found my notebook and pens three days later and laughed very darkly and bloodlessly to myself).

I tried to do Camp in April, but it was a bit of a disaster. I was far too unmotivated at the time – I started a whole new project as well as trying to finish some old ones, to deal with my current attention-span-of-a-gnat, but it didn’t help. I still didn’t get anywhere near 50,000 words.

But! November. November is coming closer, and I’ve got a good feeling about it.

Baby and childbirth and the like aside, November has always been a crazy month for me. It’s usually full of gigs, trips abroad, and work stuff. And yet I’ve never once failed a November NaNoWriMo, once I’ve started it. I’ve done 20k-days. I’ve done 10,000 words in three hours on November 30th. I’ve never failed. And I’m not about to start now.

And yes, it’s another crazy month. At least, the first bit of it will be. It’s Ted’s birthday on November 1st, and we’re going to be in Disneyland Paris for it. That’s the first few days of writing time essentially scuppered. Even though I haven’t got any gigs lined up for this year, there’s still going to be the usual Teddy routine of baby groups and play dates and walking round and round Chorlton in circles to get him to have a nap in the pram. He’s still going to be at the age where he needs constant supervision and entertainment: I’m not going to be able to sit in a soft play and let him run wild, or sit him down with some crayons while I type away on the laptop. Maybe next year. Realistically, that stage probably won’t come until the year after next. Or never: already I can’t quite see Ted being the kind of kid who will sit quietly with a colouring book!

It’s not going to stop me though. I’ve already booked in for my own private writing retreat: in other words, me and Ted are heading up to my mum’s house for a few days while Kev works. I’ll be throwing a delighted Ted in my delighted mum’s general direction while I scoot off to Durham to park myself in my old Caffe Nero haunt (without which I’d have never learned a single bit of German vocabulary, best working environment I’ve ever been in) and write like the wind. This will serve the dual purpose of getting me some writing time, and giving Mum and Ted some alone time. He already loves her, but I want them to get more time on their own together so they can build up to having Teddy and Grandma’s Excellent Adventures when he’s a bit bigger.

Then when we’re home there’s also the fact I’m back at work two days a week. You’d think that would be an impediment to writing time but it’s actually helpful: I can go into town a couple of hours before my shift, hole up in Starbucks, and crack out a couple of thousand words.

It’s all perfectly doable.

If. IF.

If I can think of something to write.

Oh my goodness, I’m so uninspired. I’ve got two giant projects that desperately need finishing – The Hummingbird and the Timepiece, my last successful NaNoWriMo project, is crying out to be finished, the main characters left in a limbo-esque loop of unrequited love. I’m 50,000 words into it and I still haven’t introduced one of the focal characters. Much writing and editing is waiting for me there.

My diary-type novel from the point of view of an uprooted French teenager is coming to its end after no less than nine years of being in some form of progress, but the main character has currently shut me out of her head and I can’t get back in. The new book I started for Camp, about a twenty-two-year-old unwilling to grow up and forget her obsession with Disney, is languishing somewhere on my hard-drive, the main character tossing her hair and pretending not to know me.

Throughout all my works-in-progress, there have been guest appearances from a metal band of my own creation: Karin Cluster. In some books they’re just mentioned in passing – say, a secondary character has a one night stand with the keyboard player and the main character has to watch them run past in their underwear in the morning, or even just that there’s poster of them on a character’s wall. In others, they provide a big plot point – a MAIN character sleeps with one of them and causes all kinds of repercussions. There’s a tiny voice in my head saying they deserve their own story.

Maybe this is the year for that.

Karin Cluster actually came about when I was trying to write something for my best friend: we’d just started our heavy metal jaunts around Europe, and I wanted to make up a funny little story about what could happen to us if certain coincidences happened to happen. All names changed, an entirely new band created, of course, that band being Karin Cluster.

Then, funnily enough, the events of the story I wrote… actually happened. Not everything, not every single detail. But enough that I was freaked out and shut down the project, a bit scared of what I could conjure up. It was just too creepy: my main characters (expys of me and my best friend, of course) were invited onto a tourbus by a roadie. The roadie even had the same name as the roadie who actually invited us onto a tourbus a few months later. That wasn’t the only similarity, but it was the weirdest.

Throughout my other projects, I’ve hinted enough about Karin Cluster that the bare bones of their backstory has formed in my brain, and I’m pretty sure I could get an actual novel out of it. One that’s not quite so autobiographical, at any rate. But can I put enough passion into it that I can get a full fifty thousand words out of it?

I think this calls for some planning.

And do you know what planning calls for?

NEW NOTEBOOKS!!

…I sense a trip to Paperchase in my future.

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