All posts by isoltblog


Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and DisturbancesTrigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars
Neil Gaiman writes beautiful words.
A writer’s block inspired assembling of an office chair becomes poetry. His fairy-tale inspired stories are thought provoking, blending the comforting familiar with clever twists.
The preface to each story gives fascinating glimpse into their origin. Though, rather like a witch’s spell, the magic is in the process, not the constituent ingredients.
I was delighted to follow my beloved character, Shadow Moon, on a quaint cosy paranormal mystery in an English village.
The title ‘Trigger Warning’ holds true. Disconcerting happenings abound, with challenging concepts, spinning of familiar tropes, and plenty of scares too.

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The Haunting of Hillwood FarmThe Haunting of Hillwood Farm by Kathryn Knight

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book spooked me from the start. I loved creepy atmosphere, and dangerous poltergeist elements.
I enjoyed the way the romantic relationship developed alongside the supernatural story, though it did feel the characters fell in love rather quickly.
The characters of Callie, Alice, and Luke were likeable and beautifully written. I was compelled to follow as they uncovered the mystery behind the haunting while under increasing danger from supernatural forces. As the story progressed, I felt more intrigued by the mystery, than scared by the horror. There was the hint of more possible conflict towards the end, which never transpired. The ending felt rather abrupt, though was satisfactory. Overall, this is a good spooky romantic mystery .

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Life These Past Few Months.

The world has turned into a surreal conspiracy theory, zombie movie mess since my last life update.

At the beginning of March we visited Jodrell Bank. It was early days, before the lock-down when social distancing had been mentioned but wasn’t yet in practice. We had a guided walk around the gigantic telescope. It was fascinating to learn about the history of the observatory and the science behind it, while hearing the creak of gears and watching as the vast telescope turned on its tracks. It seems so long ago now, being in a group of people, sitting in a cafe, with no hyper-awareness of my proximity to others.



I had been going to work until these last couple of weeks, and was managing to not drown in anxiety thinking about the risks. Now I’m safely staying at home, keeping busy with writing, reading, gaming, Netflix, park walks, odd jobs around the house, and sometime guitar practice.

I have got back into video games too, playing Doom, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Shadow of Mordor.


Netflix and Amazon Prime have been getting a good hit. My partner and I stayed up until 1am, pretty much marathoning Black Lightning. I love the ‘subtle’ costumes,  and graphic novel style book chapters format. Picard was a real tear-jerker, with good spacey action. I’m  having end-of-series grief  over Altered Carbon. Looks like we’ll be waiting a while longer for the new season.



Movie-wise I  enjoyed watching Birds of Prey for  absurd fun and full-on action. Harley Quinn is a superb anti-hero with her querky character.


Having to keep our walks local, we have made new discoveries at our local park.  I’ve seen fish jumping for flies, a toad crawling through a muddy tunnel, and a Kingfisher streak over the river. The most magical walks have been at dusk along the lakeside, bats swooping over our heads, so close I  hear the flapping of their wings.



On the fitness front, my gym, understandably, closed temporarily due to Covid. This was especially annoying, as I had finished a deload week on my FSA programme, and was excited to see if I had made any strength gains. I  attempted to buy  weight plates and a barbell for home workouts, but all had sold out.  Luckily FSA quickly put together a free Stay Strong programme, which I have been following to  hopefully minimise any muscle loss, and keep myself active.

I have  been using this home-time as an opportunity to relax, and focus on improving my mobility. Yoga with Adrienne has an aptly titled HOME series, which I am working through. Adrienne has a great selection of yoga sessions,  from physically challenging to gentle meditation.  I have been picking and choosing to fit my mood and energy level. Though sometimes I misjudge, and have fun contorting myself into positions, then more fun trying to untangle my limbs!


For now I’m taking each day as it comes. Stay safe people x


Pray Lied Eve: Short Tales of the UntowardPray Lied Eve: Short Tales of the Untoward by Lydia Peever

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These tales are both intriguing and terrifying. When the haunted becomes the ghost. A conspiracy theorist proved right. Perhaps there is a supernatural explanation for the psychopath?
Uncanny and spooky, rather than gore or shock-scares.
I have not been properly frightened in a long while. Pray Lied Eve kept me up at night, and stayed with me during the day.
4.5 stars for this trio of clever and creepy stories.

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Argh! Why is this editing so uncomfortable. Having to stare at and critique my clumsy, ugly, mess of words. Rather like having to listen to the sound of my own voice, which always grates on me.

I have been watching Brandon Sanderson’s lectures to get some idea how to sort this disaster. He gives lots of useful editing advice. Nothing I haven’t already learned from my academic and casual studies, but  it was helpful to refocus.

Listening to Sanderson’s Writing Excuses podcasts , a discussion on editing and revision really resonated with me: ‘Discovery writers (Pantsers) often have to rewrite their first draft, using it as an outline, stall a quarter way through edits, need more revisions, and struggle to complete work.’  This is me!

This wouldn’t be a problem if I enjoyed editing more than writing. I know plenty of writers fall into that category, but I am not one of them. I enjoy the excitement exploring  new words and worlds, weaving my way through a story. Finding new ideas grow from the act of putting words on the page. Those mischievous plot bunnies who throw in an unexpected twist, kill off a supposed main character, or reveal character motives I had not intended.

I have so many partially edited and unedited stories in notebooks, ring binders, and computer files.  I had to merge several partial edits of a particular story which I wrote 15 years ago, but has been overwhelming whenever I have attempted to edit it.

But I digress, I will write about that some other time. Not before I have completed editing this current short story/ novella ‘Beneath Anubis’. I am not sure what the word count is, or will end up being.

I intended to join in CampNaNoWriMo to help motivate me for this editing project. However, I  found the new website cumbersome to navigate, so only ended up using it to track my stats for the month. There is no longer the option to set a time goal for editing, which is another annoying niggle. I will probably skip July Camp, and hope the glitches have been smoothed out for the main NaNoWriMo event in November.


After completing edits of the first scene, I was feeling accomplished. Although the writing was still ‘pretty crap’ (quoting my BuJo), it was an improvement on Draft Zero. I now had complete sentences, no redundant or repeated words, and minimal adjectives, adverbs, and dialogue tags. Taking baby steps.

I got stuck on scene 4.  It wasn’t until I had rewritten that I realised it was four scenes , not one. No wonder it had felt like more work!

For my line-editing I have been using advice from my coaching session with EJ Runyon alongside an editing spreadsheet from author and editor Natalia Leigh.

None of my scenes are perfect, but I forced myself to do what I can to make improvements, then move on. Perfection is the enemy of productivity, is my mantra. I can polish it up in my next draft. Better now, is preferable to perfect never.

In the past I would have gone over it to the death, spending 3 hours on perfecting a sentence, and still not being happy with the result. Then given up on the whole project. This has actually happened-if you don’t believe me, ask my long-suffering partner.

I am better at realising when I need to take a break. When I get over tired and risk overworking the clay.  I can get tangled up in my words, changing old mistakes for new ones, rather than making improvements.

Six chapters edited/ rewritten this month. I’m in for the slog to get this done, no matter how long it takes. April (and currently May) I have been continuing to edit ‘Beneath Anubis’ scene by scene. If  suitable, I plan to publish this as a novella, or submit to an anthology or competition, depending on the final word-count. I’m currently on leave from work, so trying to get as much done before I start working from home.

Happy writing, and editing.


A  note on book review scoring.
When I’m reviewing books I find it tricky to decide how many stars I should award.  Often, giving a book 3 stars seems stingy where I only have niggles about either the writing, character, or plot. On the other hand, giving 4 stars might be overgenerous,  as it comes across as the novel is near perfect. While only exquisitely written, epic, or perspective-altering books would deserve 5 stars.

Keeping that in mind, I  stumbled across a spreadsheet from Booktuber Harpies in the Trees  which is a great help in  applying  less arbitrary scores. This is also helpful in unpicking which elements of the story I enjoy or dislike.

The download link is in the video info:

The spreadsheet is set up for the Horror genre, but can be easily adapted for other genres.

Thanks to Lydia Peever at Typical Books for mentioning this in her book review. I’d recommend  her podcast if you’re looking for good horror reads and general spooky gothness.

It is still frustrating that Goodreads and Amazon do not have half-stars or ten-star scoring systems, but this template has made it much easier to give a fair score, and insight into which aspects of the book I have enjoyed or not.

I would be interested in finding out how others rate books. Please let me know if you have found a good system.


American Demon Hunters: SacrificeAmerican Demon Hunters: Sacrifice by J. Thorn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a quick and exciting read, with fast-paced action and plenty of monsters. There are plot twists, scares, and building relationships, as well a few heart-wrenching moments.
The setting of the train adds to the tension as it speeds along with the growing dangers.
I was interested in the concept of the authors collaborating to write a story, while they were travelling on the train in which the novel is set.
I enjoyed the range of diverse characters, with each author writing from the point of view of a main character. This worked really well, as each character has their own distinctive voice, while still creating a cohesive story.
The ending was well rounded, and leaves scope for further stories too.
A thrilling read for those who enjoy action, intrigue, and plenty of gore.

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