Monthly Roundup: September 2015

Books Read:

    1. private-life-stately-homesPrivate Life in Britain’s Stately Homes: Masters and Servants in the Golden Age – Michael Paterson

The Victorian and Edwardian eras in the run-up to 1914 marked the golden age of the English country house, when opulence and formality attained a level that would never be matched again. The ease of these perfect settings for flirtation and relaxation was maintained by a large and well-trained staff of servants. Although those ‘in service’ worked very long hours and had little personal freedom, many were proud of their positions and grateful for the relative security these gave. Indeed, the strictly hierarchical world below stairs could be more snobbish than that of a house’s owners. Michael Paterson skilfully and entertainingly explores the myths and realities of this vanished world, both upstairs and down.

2. Lost Highlander – Cassidy Cayman

Grad student and cocktail waitress Evelyn Merkholtz has plenty to deal with. Too much to deal with. So, when her runaway best friend calls with a mysterious and urgent request to join her in Scotland, she is secretly more than happy to drop everything and oblige.

She’s faced with an ancient curse, an adorably hunky villager, and a super hot (but possibly murderous), Highland warrior from the 18th century – and realizes that getting burned at the stake is a really bad way to get out of writing her thesis.

3. Snow Crash – Neil Stephenson

After the Internet, what came next? Enter the Metaverse – cyberspace home to avatars and software daemons, where anything and just about everything goes. Newly available on the Street – the Metaverse’s main drag – is Snow Crash, a cyberdrug. Trouble is Snow Crash is also a computer virus – and something more. Because once taken it infects the person behind the avatar. Snow Crash bleeds into reality. Which is really bad news for Hiro – freelance hacker and the Metaverse’s best swordfighter (he wrote the code) – and Y.T. – skateboard kourier, street imp and mouthy teenage girl – because reality was shitty enough before someone started messing with it …Exploring linguistics, religion, computer science, politics, philosophy, cryptography and the future of pizza delivery, “Snow Crash” is a riveting, brake-neck adventure into the fast-approaching future.

4. Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) – Leigh Bardugo (re-read)

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

5. Seige and Storm (The Grisha #2) – Leigh Bardugo

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

6. Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Chosorcerer-to-crown

In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England’s first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the eminent Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, but a malicious faction seeks to remove him by fair means or foul. Meanwhile, the Society is failing its vital duty – to keep stable the levels of magic within His Majesty’s lands. The Fairy Court is blocking its supply, straining England’s dangerously declining magical stores. And now the government is demanding to use this scarce resource in its war with France.

Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she’s drudged all her life, and a visit by the beleaguered Sorcerer Royal seems the perfect opportunity. For Prunella has just stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries – and she intends to make the most of it.

At his wits’ end, the last thing Zachariah needs is a female magical prodigy! But together, they might just change the nature of sorcery, in Britain and beyond.

7. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’ This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

I’ve also read about half of a manuscript for a friend and some of a screenplay.

Total: 53

Writing:

The month started with me finishing up False Hearts copyedits. Then I had to take a few days off because I had LASIK surgery at the beginning of the month! It took me about 5 days to get back to full productivity. At the end of August, the draft of Shattered Minds stood at around 60k. This month my goal was to write at least 20k, and I beat that. The draft at the end of the month was just shy of 85,000 words, and now I’m nearly done (so close. So cloooose). I’m hoping to finish by mid-October at the latest, so I can let it breathe while I do False Hearts page proofs, then go back to edit it so it’s in decent enough shape for beta readers. I’m aiming to have an editor-worthy draft in December or January.

I did a tiny bit of planning of Betwixt Book, but not much. I also started a fun side project in the last week, but won’t say too much about it. This month also saw 2 writing workshops out of 4 at the local Central Library. I’m working with a group of 7 young adults, and I’m enjoying having the chance to develop linked lesson plans.

This month had a lot of admin as well–I emailed all the local Aberdeen schools, introducing myself and gently urging public schools to apply for Scottish Book Trust Live Literature funding, with the hope of additional workshop bookings in the new year. Several private schools have gotten in touch about visits earlier than that. I developed a brochure and flyer to send them. I also did 3 months of tax expenses, which is always so fun.

Travel:

I spent a weekend in Edinburgh to see Elizabeth May and Emma Trevayne. We were actually decently productive and did a mini writing retreat in Elizabeth’s flat.

Goals for next month:

Finish Shattered Minds! Proof False Hearts. Keep playing around with Shiny Project. Finally figure out what property law for castles in the Highlands in 1910 was so I can finish planning Betwixt Book. Do more yoga.

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