Thank you for your time & support.
Thank you for your time & support.
An enjoyable introduction to Kristen Martin’s YA Dystopian trilogy.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Alpha drive is a solid debut novel from Kristen Martin. I enjoyed the fast paced action scenes, and the Matrix inspired plot.
Alpha drive would appeal to adult or older teen readers wanting a quick sci-fi / dystopian read, as well as YA readers who’d enjoy a contemporary novel with a twist.
According to the author, Alpha Drive started life as a NA contemporary novel, which was then rewritten as a YA Dystopian. This novel does seem to straddle a line between the two.
The main characters fit more in the NA age group. The setting seems to be a college/ uni, rather than a boarding school. Emery drives a car, has a long term relationship with her boyfriend, and drinks alcohol in a club.
The writing style and plot is clunky in places, but the story kept my interest with its Matrix inspired theme.
I enjoyed this book for what it is-a quick, fun read. I will be reading the rest of this trilogy to see how the story develops.
I’m looking forward to reading more of Kristen Martin‘s books. I will finish The Alpha Drive trilogy as it should be a fun sci-fi fix. I am thinking that her dark fantasy Shadow Crown series will be more suited to my taste.
Kristen has a YouTube channel, which I watch for her useful writing advice and vlogs.
I also enjoy listening to her podcast That Smart Hustle while doing my morning workout. Kristen’s upbeat, motivational, common sense thoughts on life and writing are a great way to start the day.
I loved that this story is set in early 1980s, with many references to my own childhood. Geeking-out on books about unexplained Mysteries, wandering through woods, listening to my Dad’s tales, & hunting ghosts in abandoned buildings. Yes, we did pretend to be Ghost Busters!
Forgotten Things by Stephen Mullaney-Westwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I felt as if I was pixie-led into this book. The reader, along with the main character Adam, is lead into the woodland world of the fae. The writing is lyrical, as full of life as the woods, and captures the sense of magic and wonder, and also the danger and mystery.
Through young Adam’s eyes we see, feel, taste, smell and hear the woods, and glimpse the creatures which inhabit them. The voice of each character is distinct, yet filtered through the young boy’s perspective. We see them as he does, but also the reality from the older Adam recalling events. Narrative from his older self foregrounds more sinister events to come. This novel was both enchanting, and disturbing with a macabre twist.
The first person past tense is descriptive. Through young Adam’s eyes we see, feel, taste, smell and hear the woods, and glimpse the creatures which inhabit them. Reading the first half of this book is an immersive experience, rather like a path-working into the woods. Then, as events unravel, we are pulled back into the real (or rather the ‘mundane’) world to see the repercussions of when our human world and the Faery’s realm collide.
While the ending perfectly rounds off the story,with Adam understandably changed by his experiences, it left me with a sense of melancholy.
Like faeries, this story is filled with magic and wonder, but also has a darker side.
I’m looking forward to reading more of Stephen Mullany-Westwood‘s books. I already have the short story collection Unforgotten Tales, and I’m lucky to have won a signed copy of his latest book Paradise Shift . I’ll probably read them while listening to some of his music, for an immersive experience.
He has a cool YouTube channel with videos on nature, writing, retro toys, and dark fantasy movies.
For some time I had been wanting to have a coaching session with E J Runyon at Bridge to Story. One of my writing buddies had been coached by EJ while writing her debut novel, and told me how much the coaching had helped develop her work. I checked out the Bridge to Story website, and tried out a few of the writing exercises, which I found helpful.
Me being me, I kept dithering about it. I either didn’t have funds, or I’d get worried about having my work dissected and judged. Plus the added anxiety of having to Skype. I hate having my photo taken, or speaking on the phone. Having face to face video chat with another human being is a whole other level of awkward.
Then I was lucky enough to win a free coaching session. I took the opportunity to give it a go, hoping I would get a cure for my editing phobia, and improve my writing.
When it comes to writing, I love the adrenalin rush of the first draft. The process of extracting a story out of my brain and onto the page is exciting. The story seems to gain a life of it’s own, no matter how intricately I have planned and plotted. There’s always something new that comes out when I type or write the words onto the blank screen or page.
Where I falter is the editing process after. I reread my work and am overwhelmed by the huge task of extracting my story from the pile of cliché, rambling narrative passages, clunky dialogue and other myriad of bad writing.
I felt confident that I would get the best advice, having read my writing-buddy’s novel The Secret King: Lethao, DK Cassidy’s short story collection Spilt Milk edited by EJ, and EJ’s own novel A House of Light and Stone , all of which I loved. Spanning a broad range of genres from literary fiction, magical realism, to sci fi/ space opera.
With a pain not unlike extracting a rotten tooth. I pulled an old word.doc of a short story I’d written for an Open University Creative Writing course some eons ago, and a god-awful first draft from NaNoWriMo 2017 from my files. Feeling sorry to inflict the jumbled mess of words upon my poor coach for the hour.
I was relieved that Skype was just a voice call (saves on bandwidth), with text doc displayed in chat window, so I could see the editing work as we progressed.
EJ was so warm and approachable, putting me at ease immediately. It was lovely to finally put a voice to the person. Her passion for writing and helping others to create beautiful words shines through.
Discussing my first draft, and writing process with EJ, she immediately identified the main issues I was having. Working through a section of my work, she guided me through the edit step by step. I felt that I was given tools to hone my writing, and practical advice on how to approach editing tailored to my personal needs.
Bridge to Story has an art for extracting the essence of the work, to allow the author’s voice sing out from the page, rather than imposing her own style, or a prescriptive formula.
After studying creative writing in an academic environment, the Bridge to Story approach was refreshing. I now am feeling confident that I can chisel something worthwhile out of the detritus of my pile of first drafts, some of which I have been meaning to edit for near on a decade. I feel excited to start editing.
DAY15// FIND A DAY PLANNER: ICAL? DIARY-WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU
I use a diary for all household and work appointments, though sometimes forget to keep it up to date. In an ideal world I’d like to go paper free, but I don’t trust technology enough to keep my diary on a phone or online storage.
I usually buy a cheap page-a-day diary from the pound shop, but this year I treated myself to lovely diary that includes pagan seasonal festivals, moon phases, as well as poetry, art and inspiring writing. While it might not count as minimalist with it’s colourful and busy pages, it does allow me to multitask (that’s minimalist isn’t it?). I can organise my life, whilst keeping more in touch with nature and the seasons, and be more mindful.
DAY16// TURN OFF SOCIAL MEDIA NOTIFICATIONS
My old second-hand android phone has pretty much turned off social media for me already as it crashes when I try to do anything other than send text message or make phone calls.
The downside of being disconnected from my social networks the majority of the time, is when I do log in, I find myself scrolling through a hundreds of facebook notifications and tweets for fear I might have missed something.
I have unfollowed most pages and group notifications to reduce what comes up in my newsfeed, but the main issue is my compulsion to check. I’m planning on reviewing my social media again in a while, perhaps I may be able to switch off a few more notifications so I only get updates from close friends, family and groups that are most important to me.
DAY17// SWITCH TO PAPERLESS BILLING
Already done! I have enough trouble sorting appointment letters and weeding out junk mail without adding bills to the pile.
I pay everything through internet banking, so checking bills online is easiest. A drawback is that I’ve got lazy dealing with post and tend to ignore any snail mail unless it looks like a council tax bill. Letters might go unopened for a while when some companies insist on sending paper correspondence.
DAY18// JOURNAL YOUR WHOLE DAY
This is so I can find out what I’m spending my time on to identify where I can make extra time.
I have pretty much same routine every work day. I think it might be mild OCD; If didn’t stick to a regular schedule I’d be completely disorganised, anxious the world was going to end, and not be able to drag myself from under the duvet.
Looking at my day, I can save at least an hour by:-
Getting out of bed when I wake up -spent half an hour hitting snooze, despite not being able to get back to sleep
Not getting distracted– watching youtube videos between sets during work-out (was to check my form, so not 100% wasted time, but still…)
not stressing– wasted 20 minutes worrying about what I’d written on a job application
Going to bed by 10:30 (to avoid morning snoozefest) -fell asleep in armchair, walked dogs stupidly late as too lazy to drag myself out into the cold night.
DAY19// PLAN OUT THE NEXT 7 DAYS IN YOUR PLANNER
Already done. I’m fine at scheduling things in, but often end up with tasks not done by the end of the week. I haven’t time to do stuff like DIY and gardening during the week, and come the weekend I’m too exhausted or just plain lazy.
DAY20// SET GOALS FOR THE NEXT 6 MONTHS
To make things simple, I’ve linked this in with my main goals
Gain enough strength to do a chin-up Seems easy enough, but I’m finding it impossible; hanging onto the bar and flapping about like a dying fish -it’s a girl problem!
Keep up to date with budget realistically should get me towards black
Walk the Tolkien Trail Will need to get walking to work again as practice
Finish editing at least 1 story For possible publication in e-zine or competition entry
DAY21// SET UP A SAVINGS ACCOUNT & DIRECT DEBIT TO PAY INTO IT
I already have a savings account, which I will set up a direct debit for once I have paid off my overdraft. There’s no point paying interest on debt if there’s money sitting in a savings account. All goes well, I can make this a 12 month goal.
This challenge week has helped me set goals and find ways to use my time more efficiently. I’m only hoping I can keep focused and put what I’ve learned into practice.
When inspiration fails to push you forward, then it’s time to seek some motivation. Having a reward to work for to reach the daily word target always helps me plough on once the initial excitement of my shiny new story wears off.
My usual treats are time on social media, watching television (Big Bang Theory is my favourite at the moment), and the ever-effective promise of cake. Another treat comes courtesy of the guys and gals at nanowrimo. One of my favourite things about nanowrimo are the tips and pep talks from famous writers which arrive in your nano-mailbox throughout the month.
Yesterday my treat was to read the Week Three Rally message. One particular post caught my attention; http://blog.nanowrimo.org/tagged/5-tips from author Stephanie Perkins about how to get inspired when your story is stuck in a rut.
While I have plenty of exciting scenes planned out, I am wanting to save these until the final week, when I will have the time to do them justice and properly enjoy them. At the moment I am rushing to churn out the daily requirement of words in between work and getting enough sleep to function at work.
Tip 4-‘Interview your characters.’ caught my interest. So I tried it out today; I interviewed my main character.
Natalie (that’s her name) told me that she was feeling upset; understandable considering that her twin brother had just died. She confided that she thought there was something suspicious about his death. I gave a sympathetic ear, but didn’t let slip what I knew.
I decided to ask her why my/her story ‘sucked so much’. At first she was very kind, saying she understood that it must be difficult getting into her thoughts as we are so different. She’s a really romantic ‘girly’ girl and I’m …NOT. Then she got quite vicious, berating my bad writing and lack of focus, complaining about all of the horrible things that have happened (which I shall not mention as spoilers), and said she wouldn’t have put her worst enemy through what I’ve put her through.
Eventually Natalie calmed down enough to give some constructive ideas of where she wanted to be. Though first she tried to convince me that I really should drop the character Tanya (who she doesn’t really like) and just make the story about her and (best friend) Kathy. At first I thought ‘Nice Try’, but then I got thinking. She may have something here; it would definitely tidy up my switching-first-person point-of-view.
Natalie went on to ask if I could let her do something fun, like go to a movie premier, so she could get dressed up in a nice pretty flouncy dress (okay). She was very reasonable and said I could edit it out in December. This might happen if I finish the story I’ve got planned out, and need to add filler to get 50K.
Lastly it seems she has come to accept her lot as one of my characters. She said I should give her some more action scenes; that despite being a girl she could kick ass if she wanted to, and that I should give her some monsters to fight. Bring it on girl!
Oh, and she asked very nicely if she could ‘have some yummy cake please’. That wish I can grant. I could do with a slice myself.
words today: 1706