Wednesday, 7 December 2016

#bookreview: Unsound | Toby Neal

Unsound (Lei Crime #5.5)Unsound by Toby Neal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve read one Toby Neal before, so when this came up as available for review on Edelweiss, I didn’t hesitate to take it up.

Unsound is a companion story to the Lei Teixera detective series, following the life of the police psychologist, Dr Caprice Wilson - which actually confused me a little at first until I realised it wasn’t part of the main series. I’d been expecting something more towards a straight detective story, but nope - this is a little more of a psychological thriller instead.

When a drinking episode goes too far and Captain Ohale threatens to fire her unless she goes to rehab, Caprice meekly agrees and heads off to Maui - to hike the Haleakala Crater alone while she battles to get sober. However, she soon discovers she’s not really alone - her stalker has come along with plans of his own.

The story was interesting enough. Neal moves you from action to action and emotion to emotion, without faltering. There’s Caprice’s crazy drunken antics to laugh at, the mystery of the strange objects that raise your hackles, the danger and fear out on Haleakala Crater, and, as always, the beauty of Hawaii to enchant you. However, it quite often also felt like a long, slow journey through an alcoholic’s mind, one who’s trying to use psychological tricks to both break her addiction and justify it. I guess that's okay if you like that sort of thing?

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Monday, 5 December 2016

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The 2016 #nanowrimo reflection post or how I wrote 33K in 4 days

Writing is often a constant battle between getting the words out and getting the words right. For the month of November and NaNoWriMo, the goal is getting the words out—whether it’s right or not. Not everyone can work that way, and that’s fine, but it’s often a handy tool for me to jumpstart new projects instead of procrastinating and waiting for inspiration to strike.

I had been a bit ambivalent about doing NaNoWriMo this year, mainly because I would be away for half the month, but I’d been encouraging a lot of people—mostly from our baby writing group—to do so and I thought I should set a good example by at least attempting it. After all, winning or losing wasn’t my main goal; my main goal was to continue to build this writing community.

I talked to our weekly write-in group as well as the NPO I work with, LUMA, and we set up the LUMA Drop-In Writing Space to host writers from 10am-10pm daily for the last 6 days of November. The dates also coincided with the annual George Town Literary Fest & In-between Arts Festival, which was focusing on food and zines, so we made a public event on Facebook and announced it in all the writers' groups we knew of online.

And then November started, and I went on my holiday, working sporadically on the new novel and totally pantsing all the way. Which was how I found myself at the start of our write-ins on 25th November with only 17K words. On one hand, I did wonder if I could actually reach 50K in such a short time, but on the other hand, I wasn’t very bothered because I knew that I had a lot of time before me and all I had to do was sit down and write, besides opening and closing the door for people (ah, the privilege of not working a 9-to-5). And so I broke a personal record and wrote an average of 8,000 words a day over the next 4 days, finishing 2 days earlier than I expected.

Now, obviously, I want to replicate this since I’m making writing my full-time job. If I know what’s been working these 4 days, that would help me to work better, right? I tracked all my writing this month (wordcounts & times) in Wordly and here’s my analysis of the data:

  • I rarely wrote anything more than 1K before lunch (noon/1pm). I open the place at 10am, but by the time I’m finished pottering around, making tea, going up and down the stairs, turning on the laptop, checking my phone, it’s usually almost 11am before I even sit down and start writing. This isn’t anything new. Even in my previous day jobs, when I had to be in the office by 8.30 – 9am, I always felt super unproductive before 10am, especially before making tea.
  • Tea is important, as noted above.
  • I averaged about 5.5 hours of writing time per day, despite being at the centre for 12 hours a day. If you subtract approximately 2 hours for lunch and dinner, I only “worked” about 55% of the time. It seems unproductive, but I’m not very good at focusing for extended lengths of time. It also works out (as averaged by Wordly) to about 1,541 words per hour. I’m not entirely sure if that’s good or bad, but at least it’s measurable.
  • Not having Internet access probably helped a lot, because there’s only so long you can stare at your phone before you feel that you’re wasting time.
  • Setting small goals helps, especially when I don’t feel like writing, or am unsure where the story is going. During those times, I do a sprint of maybe 15 minutes. At the end of that 15 minutes, I’ve either written a good bunch of words and am excited to continue, or I’ve figured out a new direction and need to sit back and think about it.
  • Knowing where the story is going helps me to write faster. Some of the “unproductive” time was spent thinking about the story’s direction and possible plot points, which then translated into higher word counts during the next writing session. (Some of the unproductive time was also spent staring into space, which is another matter altogether ;) )
  • The best writing sessions were usually between 20 – 30 minutes.
  • The best writing session goal was usually to hit 1K words per session, which usually averaged out to 30 minutes.
  • I was hampered at times because I’d previously researched some local fairy creatures/folk tales, but I’d only saved the stub or link, instead of saving the whole document for reference. Having all research on hand (that is not online, where I’ll get distracted) is probably pretty important.
  • Having the right mindset really helps. During these 4 days, all I thought about was “I need to finish writing this story before I can do anything else”. This is very different from when I’m writing at home and thinking about ‘oh- I haven’t finished my book review’ or ‘I need to do this other project first’ or even ‘maybe I need to read/research this’ (and the usual culprit - ‘I’m hungry/bored/sleepy, I need to find something to eat’). So – I do really need to get into this ‘cave’ mindset when writing to make sure that I stop procrastinating! (Also already noted by the way I can be superbly productive finishing a short story for submission… the WEEK before the deadline!)

In summary, here are the things I need to be working on to make sure I’m really writing and not just being a bum:

  1. Set writing goals & deadlines and STICK TO THEM
  2. Work on only one project at a set time.
  3. Research BEFORE writing where possible (ahahahah) and SAVE/archive my research
  4. FOCUS!

All of which I already knew before, but now there’s DATA. Hard, measurable data.

But other than that, the writing space has also been a win community-wise. There were some down/slow times, especially in the beginning where I feared I’d be sitting there writing alone (which turned out okay because I was productive), but there’s also been a steady group of regulars, as well as a few newcomers added to our writing community. The group’s excited to take it further, so we might see more people coming for write-ins in future. And maybe more collaborations/discussions/critiques happening spontaneously.

… the only thing I am actually uber sad about is that I didn’t attend anything in GTLF at all. I’d been eyeing maybe 2 – 3 sessions, but I needed to sit in LUMA to keep the space open. Maybe next time we’ll try not to overlap with the fest. I had been hoping for some drop-ins from fest attendees, but that didn’t actually happen.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Revealing... Ever in the After: 13 FantasyTales! #coverreveal

Hi everyone!

Today, I'm so excited to share the wonderful cover for Ever in the After: 13 Fantasy Tales. This anthology of fantasy/SFF short stories has been put together in aid of Lift 4 Autism, and releases April 1st, 2017. 100% of the proceeds will go to Lift 4 Autism. So, let's take a look at the gorgeous cover!


Isn't it beautiful? The cover was designed and created by Stephanie Keyes, and it fits the stories in the anthology perfectly.

About the anthology...

ever-in-the-after_cover_3dIn Ever in the After, 13 authors come together to explore fantastical realms full of supernatural creatures, dark intrigue, and spells that may-or may not-be curses. This anthology features work by:
  • Melle Amade
  • Miracle Austin
  • J. A. Culican
  • Madeline Dyer
  • Jessica Hawke
  • Alaina Hebert
  • Elizabetta Holcomb
  • Stephanie Keyes
  • Christopher D. Morgan
  • Mandy Peterson
  • Alice Rachel
  • Cadence Rae
  • Jaqueline E. Smith
A must-have fantasy collection full of surprises, secrets, and strong teenagers who know what they need to do to succeed in these mystical realities.

Add Ever in the After: 13 Fantasy Tales on Goodreads now!
Buy your copy of Ever in the After: 13 Fantasy Tales on April 1st, 2017!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

#bookreview: Jakkatu Vector | P.K. Tyler


Welcome to another Novel Publicity tour! We're so excited for the release of The Jakkattu Vector by P.K. Tyler that we wanted to celebrate with a great giveaway featuring a Kindle Fire, one of a kind Jakkattu Vector bookmark and a special book bundle from the author herself!

My Review 

The Jakkattu Vector (Jakkattu #1)The Jakkattu Vector by P.K. Tyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sabaal is a captive Jakkattu imprisoned on Earth by the Mezna priests who experiment on her. Javan 6ix is a tek - half Miscegenate, half machine - beginning to question his life in the city. Norwood Thorne is too smart for a human, too inquisitive for a man, leading his sister Julip down the path of questioning the Temple, the Mezna and all the history they've learnt on the Rez.

Sabaal's escape is the part of the catalyst that throws them all together, leading them to question whether everything the Mezna has been telling them is true. Because beyond their fences, the Feral - the Undone as they name themselves - have information that will turn their understanding of the world upside down.

The Jakkattu Vector is action-packed, with Tyler propelling you from one scene to another, giving you glimpses of the truth, glimmers of the lies these human-Mezna hybrids have grown up with, expecting you to piece them all together before the horrifying reveal. In between, she engages your emotions with the innocence of the young Thornes as they grow up, navigating the thin line between independence and insolence in their quest for truth. And then she feeds you heartbreak on a platter.

The Jakkattu Vector is gritty and grim yet inexplicably hopeful as each of strand of humanity - human, Miscegenate, Undone - come to terms with who they are and what the Mezna has done to them.

Note: I received an ARC from Novel Publicity in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour.

View all my reviews

About the Book

tjv-ebook-coverThey came as saviors to a deteriorating Earth

Julip Thorne questions whether there is more to life beyond the barren dirt, acidic seas, and toxstorms her people work and die in. Living in poverty on the withering Greenland Human Reservation, she wonders if the alien Mezna goddesses are truly as holy as the temple preaches. Julip begins to dig deeper into the history of the planet and her leaders’ rise to power. But nothing can prepare her for the atrocities she uncovers.

Meanwhile, Jakkattu prisoner Sabaal suffers constant torture and heinous medical experiments as her Mezna-priest captors seek to unlock the key to her genetic makeup. Escaping from captivity, she finds herself suddenly alone on the hostile alien planet of Earth. To survive, she’s forced to work with the same Mezna-human hybrids she’s loathed her entire life, but the more they work together, the more they realize that their enemy is the same.

When humans and Mezna collide, will Sabaal turn out to be the genetic vector the Mezna have been searching for all along, or will she spark the flame that sets a revolution ablaze?

About the Author

pavartiktylerP.K. Tyler is the author of Speculative Fiction and other Genre Bending novels. She’s also published works as Pavarti K. Tyler and had projects appear on the USA TODAY Bestseller’s List.

“Tyler is essentially the indie scene’s Margaret Atwood; she incorporates sci-fi elements into her novels, which deal with topics such as spirituality, gender, sexuality and power dynamics.” – IndieReader

Pav attended Smith College and graduated with a degree in Theatre. She lived in New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off-Broadway. Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry for several international law firms. Now located in Baltimore Maryland, she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not penning science fiction books and other speculative fiction novels, she twists her mind by writing horror and erotica.

You can follow PK Tyler on Facebook, Twitter, and sign up for her newsletter, or visit her website here.

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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

#bookreview: A Thousand Perfect Things | Kay Kenyon

A Thousand Perfect ThingsA Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From this holy place he decided that should a thousand perfect things ever be found, the world would end. Therefore to preserve the world, Rama declared that every manifested though should have a flaw.

Astoria Harding has a tragic flaw. Her club foot has prevented her from participating in the many feminine pursuits of the day - dancing, socialising, finding a husband - so her grandfather, the renowned botanist Sir Charles Littlewood, has trained her in scientific methods and inquiry, nurturing in her an unnatural desire to follow in his footsteps. Tori's passions have been inflamed by the Nelumbo aureus, the holy thousand-petaled golden lotus from Bharata, seeing its discovery and documentation as her way into the men-only Royal Society. Her father's posting to Bharata and her chance to visit the famed Gangadhar Mahal seems fortuitous but soon proves to be a nest of intrigue and manipulation by the Anglics and the Bharatis, both alive... and dead.

Set in an alternate 19th century filled with magic, the social mores of the time seems evident throughout the book: white Anglica is the scientific, progressive continent; brown Bharata is the uncivilised, barbaric spiritual continent, ripe for Anglic exploitation and pity. It's also a time of uprising and rebellion, with the Bharatis fighting for their independence and the Anglics (some of them at least) coming to realise that Bharata is not theirs to conquer and keep. It seems that opinions and attitudes are changing for the better. I would like to think it was a well-written, nuanced view of colonialism and the interplay between England and India (with magic added in), but in some ways, there is still a tinge of White Saviourism to it: the Rana is weak, tempted by Anglic science whilst the Ranee lives in an opium dream; Sahaj is petulant; Jai needs Tori to lead him; the only person who knows the way to the Golden Lotus (a symbol for hope? liberation? holiness?), albeit guided by a Bharati spirit, is Tori. Tori herself becomes a legend - for what else is there for a white woman in a brown land?
The only Bharati with independent agency seems to be Mahindra, the sadhu.

Yet despite all this, which you don't actually think about until you start to analyse the book, A Thousand Perfect Things was a very satisfying read. Like the Golden Lotus, it blooms in hidden places, catching you unawares with its beauty. It's a journey through hidden walkways and dark caves to promises of light and liberation.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Friday, 18 November 2016

#fridayflash: a #nanowrimo excerpt

“I don’t believe I have ever been to this part of the Fairy Kingdom before,” Mary Hays said, looking around at the strange trees. It felt hot and muggy, unlike the cool breeze they’d been having earlier.
Ataneq also peered around. “It feels different.” He started to run further down the path.
“Slow down, Neq, I’m not as young as I used to be!” Truth was, Mary was feeling every bit of her 70 years as the heat folded around her. She took off her shawl and used it to wipe her sweat. “Oh my! Why is it so hot here?”
Ataneq stopped and waited. “I do believe that we’ve been joined by a new fairy kingdom,” he said as he waited for her to catch up. “Isn’t that exciting?”
“It is. But how does it happen?” Mary had been in and out of the Old Fairy Kingdom ever since she was 8 years old when that old meddling crone, Baba Yaga, had lured her sister in. Her grandmother, the Fairy Queen, had been dead against their presence in the Kingdom, harbouring her anger and hatred against her supposedly human father, only to find that Darrick Hays was half elf and half human. They’d been given grudging permission since then to enter the Kingdom. Whilst their friends had been allowed in as children due to the Dragon’s decree, only Jane and Mary had been allowed the privilege of continued access until now because of their blood ties.
“I don’t know. I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled into this one either.”

They walked down the overgrown path, Ataneq slowing his pace to match Mary’s. He looked at her with worry sometimes. She’d been a bright, young girl when he’d first met her, and now she was old and grey while he hadn’t changed a bit. The ravages of time. He hated it. He was glad now that he hadn’t made an effort to find his way back home when Baba Yaga had offered to turn him back to a human. Too many years had passed - his wife and sons would have died by then so there was nothing for him to return home to. This was now his home, for better or worse.
“Does it look to you like there’s some sort of plague here?” Mary asked, dislodging him from his melancholic thoughts.
“Is there?” He peered closely at the tree he was standing next too. “Well, it looks like a tree. It’s a little… pale? But maybe that’s just what trees in this place look like. You know, maybe they’re a light-bark type of tree.”
“But I don’t think they’re supposed to be slightly transparent, do you? Do you think we should as Euthalia for her opinion?”
“I don’t see why not.” On second thoughts, Mary was right. The tree didn’t just look pale. It looked a little translucent. Another thought struck him. “I suppose these trees can talk to the dryads?”
“How would I know? Can’t all trees talk to dryads?”
“Well, how were you planning on calling Euthalia then?”
“Oh. I hadn’t thought that far. I just assumed that we could call her and she’d appear as she always did.”
“We can try.”
Mary and Ataneq took turns calling for the dryad by name. When she didn’t appear after a few minutes, Ataneq shrugged and said, “I suppose that answers it. These trees probably don’t talk to the dryads. Or, not yet anyway, if they really are from a new realm.”
Mary looked around. “So, should we go on or do we go back?”
“Oh, onwards, of course!” Ataneq grinned. “It has been a long time since we had a new adventure!”
“Everyday is an adventure with you, adlet,” she teased in reply. “I never know when you’ll turn round and try to eat me!”
Ataneq laughed. “You know I’ll never eat you. I don’t like the taste of stringy old women!”


Here's a little excerpt of what I've been working on for NaNoWriMo!
I'm awfully far behind, so any form of moral support is welcome. :D

Here is my extremely pathetic wordcount graph