Sunday Summary – July 16, 2017

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Usually, I try to take stock in the first week or so of July, evaluating where I am and where I would like to be by the end of the year. The first two weeks of this July have been so busy I haven’t been able to do that yet, so I thought I might do it now, along with weekly reflections.

This week in writing

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The last two weeks I have sadly not been able to work on Memories and Magic, and I’m starting to get twitchy about it. After this weekend, I should be able to get back into my regular routines, but I am a bit behind where I hoped to be by now.

Goals:

  • Finish re-writing Part 2 of Memories and Magic by  the end of August
  • Finish re-writing Part 3 by the end of October
  • Finish revisions by the end of the year

This is possibly ambitious. There’s quite a bit to rewrite and expand upon. And I’ll once again be doing two uni subjects. But I would love to have this ready for readers by the end of the year.

This week in readingreadingthumb

After speeding through five of the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket, I am back to The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig. I’m also listening to The Art of Purring by David Michie. This is the sequel to The Dalai Lama’s Cat, which I read some weeks ago and really enjoyed.

I’m well on track to reach my goal of 75 books for this year (and surpass it) and I don’t really have any other reading-related goals.

This week in blogging

blogginthumbThis keeps trucking along. I’d really like to have a bit more time to commit to blog hops, or memes on other places like Twitter, but I always seem to commit and then fall off the wagon after a week or so. So at the moment, my aim is just to keep posting regular reviews along with WWW Wednesday posts and the occasional tag on this blog, and WIPpet Wednesday and Sunday Sessions posts on Letting the Voices Out.

THIS WEEK IN STUDY

I’m still enjoying free time at the moment; next semester starts at the end of July. I’m going to be doing one core subject and one elective this semester. I proved to myself last semester that I can do two courses at once and still maintain my good results. I’ve only got 18 months left of this degree now. I’ve been enjoying it, but I also look forward to not studying any more.

This week in health and fitness

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I’m really not sure where I am on this at the moment, for a couple of reasons. When I weighed in last week, I appeared to have lost 5.4kg, which seemed unlikely, but I was willing to take it. This week, I appeared to have gained all that back.  I am also experimenting with not counting calories and just trying to be sensible about what I eat. So I may have really gained 5kg (unlikely) or there was an anomoly. Either way, it will take a couple of weeks to sort it out.

Goal: reach 74kg by the end of July. This might also be ambitious, but I’m aiming high.

That’s my week. How are you going?  ~ Emily

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Sunday Summary – June 18, 2017

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After a bit of an absence, Sundary Summary makes its return.  I think I should be able to keep this up now. Though to be honest, the past week hasn’t been the greatest to report on!

This week in writing

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I’ve been trying to revise a chapter every day of Memories and Magic, though that hasn’t gone as smoothly as I’d hoped. A number of reasons have factored into that, including fatigue and illness, but I’m hoping these will clear up soon and I’ll be able to get back into a proper routine with it.

 

This week in readingreadingthumb

I’m still reading Dracula by Bram Stoker very slowly, and I have just switched to the paperback format for Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (from audio). I have accepted I’m probably not quite going to completemy April-June TBR, but I’m going to come pretty damn close!

This week in blogging

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For first time in several weeks, I have managed to return blog comments and visit fellow blog hoppers. I also posted two reviews this week, again the first time I have managed this in a while: Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder and The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie. Not only that, but I have two reviews already scheduled for the coming week as well!

I’ve also started a new series on my writing blog, titled Sunday Sessions. Each week, I’ll reflect on some aspect of writing, whether my own writing or just in general.

THIS WEEK IN STUDY

I handed in my last piece of assessment for the semester on Tueday June 6, and it felt like a huge weight off my shoulders. And you probably don’t remember the assignment I was working on at the start of May, that I was quite convinced I’d fail… but I got a78 for it! Which may not sound like much depending on where you study, but at my university 80 is a high distinction.

This week in health and fitness

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Fitness has taken a back seat the last few weeks, and I know I need to pick it up again. I always feel so much better when I’m exercising regularly and eating well. My restart was going to be this week, but then I got sick. I’m hoping that I’ll be back on my feet soon enough and able to continue with this journey. 

That’s my week. How are you going?  ~ Emily

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“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” // Review of “On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King

Title: On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Non-fiction
Date Read: 16/05/2017 – 23/05/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Okay, here’s the thing: I was probably destined not to like this book very much. I’ve not especially liked the books by King that I’ve tried to read (neither of them were well-known ones and I’ll probably change my mind when I get around to reading Carrie or something) nor do I especially like craft books. But literally everyone talks about how inspirational this one is, so I thought I would give it a look.

It‘s not that I didn’t find parts of this book inspirational, but these were mostly in the more memoir-centric parts of the book, rather than the actual advice on writing. I loved that as a teenager, King kept his rejection slips on a spike in his room to spur him on. I loved the story about the editor of a magazine he submitted to when he was only eleven showing up at a book signing decades later asking for that piece of history to be signed. I even didn’t mind the post-script of sorts talking about the incident in 1999 that resulted in several surgeries and confined him to a wheel chair for a period.

One of the things that bothers me about craft books, and this one is no exception, is the conflation of “the way I do it” with “the way you should be doing it”. There are so many books on writing out there and they each contradict a dozen others, but they all claim that theirs is the only method for successful writing (or the tone that is always used seems to suggest that). But then, I think what bugged me even more than that was King then turning around and essentially saying down the track, “But whatever. Do what works for you.” I guess he was meaning that he is providing the framework and we have to do the hard yards, but it still left me thinking, “So… why have I just bothered with the last 150+ pages?”

I think there was also the issue that this book is nearly 20 years old, and it felt dated. When the book was written, the Kindle hadn’t been invented, self-publishing wasn’t worth a person’s time, and blogging was only just taking off as a platform. Most of the useful advice that was presented in the book was stuff that I had read on a dozen blogs before. If I had read it when it was published, when this sort of information was a lot harder to come by, then I may have put more stock in it.


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#AWW2017 Book Review: “How the Aliens from Alpha Centauri Invaded My Maths Class and Turned Me Into a Writer… and How You Can Be One, Too” by Jackie French

Title: How the Aliens from Alpha Centauri Invaded My Maths Class and Turned Me Into a Writer… and How You Can Be One, Too
Author: Jackie French
Genre: Non-fiction/middle-grade
Date Read: 06/05/2017 – 07/05/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:
I read this book years ago,  when I was probably still a member of the target age-group, and there were things in it that I still remember and apply to my writing. When I came across it in my local library while looking for Stephen King’s On Writing, I thought it was time for a re-read.

Jackie French breaks down the writing process into easy-to-understand chunks. There isn’t any jargon; instead, French uses terminology like “make your story fat and then make it skinny again” – meaning, in this case, “write all the words you think your story needs, then go through and cut out all the unnecessary stuff”. It’s all advice that we hear in chunkier writing craft books, just delivered in a perhaps more digestible way.

The fact that it is written for younger writers shouldn’t put you off. Most of the chapters end with writing exercises which I think would be just as beneficial to any adult writer as they would be to a twelve-year-old. We are always learning, and this is a great back to basics book for anyone.


This review forms part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge for 2017. Click here for more information.

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#WWW Wednesday – 03 May, 2017

Hello everyone! Apologies for my absence over the last couple of weeks. I had a 4000 word paper due a couple of days ago, which pretty much consumed my life for the time I was writing it. It turned out to be harder than I expected to write, but I got there in the end. It wasn’t my best work, but I’m reasonably confident I won’t fail the course, since I have done reasonably okay on the assignments worth the other 50% of my grade. And if I do fail, I will be disappointed for a bit, then shrug it off and do the course again next time it is offered (it’s a core one for my specialisation, so I do need to tick it off somewhere).

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You may notice that this post only features WWW Wednesday. That’s because I’ve set up a new blog for my writing. You may have already seen the post I wrote on Monday announcing this, or you may have seen my Facebook post. If not, you can read my first WIPpet Wednesday post in the new digs here.

So now it’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished The Asp of Ascension by B. R. Meyers and posted my review here. I enjoyed the mystery and felt it had a lot of potential, but there were a few too many things that didn’t work for me, so it only got three stars.

After that, I read The Abyss Surrounds Us and its sequel, The Edge of the Abyss, both by Emily Skrutskie. My review of the first one is here, and the second one will go up this Friday.

I finally got back to the Series of Unfortunate Events for a while and read The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket. It was nice to see the Baudelaires hanging out with some kids their own age, even if it didn’t last very long.

Last but not least, my review of The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil was also posted since my last WWW post; you may remember me gushing about it. Click here to read the review.

What are you currently reading?

After seeing a really incredible stage production of it last week, and after discovering that I hadn’t donated my copy, I am trying to read  Dracula by Bram Stoker. Mostly to compare it with the performance, because I’m intrigued as to how much of the eroticism and repressed sexuality that seems to be in every adaptation was actually in the original text.

I know I’ve said in the past that I was swearing off vampires but Dracula doesn’t count. It’s modern vampires that I don’t like. The ones with ~feelings~ and who are all angsty about their nature. Unapologetically evil vampires I am still okay with.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I think I will try Poison Study by Maria  V. Snyder next. I own three of the books in this series and the four of them are on my April – June TBR. It’ll be good to knock a few off there, as well as being able to count them towards my Beat the Backlist challenge. Also everyone I know who has read these books has really loved them. And the covers are really stunning.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

Announcement! New blog!

If you enjoy the posts here on A Keyboard and an Open Mind, don’t worry, it’s not going anywhere. WWW Wednesday and the twice-weekly book reviews will still happen as usual.

What’s changing is I’m taking my writing somewhere else. I thought about it, and I realised that amongst all the reviewer-type posts, any focus this blog once had on my writing has disappeared. WIPpet Wednesday is really the only time it gets to shine, and when I combine it with WWW Wednesday, it only gets a certain amount of the glory.

So I’d like to invite you to visit Letting the Voices Out, where I’ll be posting WIPpet Wednesday posts, as well as other posts on writing. At the moment, I’m doing the Story a Day in May challenge, trying to come up with some ideas for a sequel to With Memories and Magic. My intention is to post twice a week regularly, with some kind of reflective post on a Sunday. I’ll see how that goes.

I hope to see you there!

Sunday Summary – April 16, 2017

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I know, I know, two posts in one day! But today did seem the most appropriate day for my previous post, being the end of the month, and since I didn’t do a Sunday Summary post last week, I wanted to get one done today. So here we are!

This week in writing

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I finished the first draft of Memories and Magic nearly two weeks ago now. It came in at about 51k. It needs a lot of revisions and I can envisage it getting up around 60k or so in further drafts. I have been thinking about a possible sequel and doing a bit of brainstorming for that. I’m also considering doing the Story a Day in May challenge again, so watch this space tomorrow!

this week in reading

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I’ve finished quite a few things over the last couple of weeks. You can read my April Wrap Up here for a full list. Hoping to get a bit further with my challenges over the next month!

This week in blogging

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Because I’ve been so busy with uni work over the last couple of weeks, I ended up taking a mini hiatus from blogging, so that I didn’t feel the weight of needing to visit other people. I’m also a bit behind on reading, which has left me a bit behind on reviewing. But after tomorrow, I’ll be much less stressed about uni, so I’ll be able to start making up for my absence.

THIS WEEK IN STUDY

My 4000-word report is due tomorrow. I’ve got the thing written, I’ve just got to go through and add in references (I did a lot of reading and then just keyboard-smashed, so the references need to be inserted). It’s not my best work, but given how stressed I was about this a week ago, I’m just glad to get it in. I’ve done the maths, and I’d have to do pretty freaking badly for a mark on this one paper to lead to failing the whole course.

This week in health and fitness

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Heh. Once again, I have gained back the weight I lost at the start of the month. It’s easy to blame Easter, but it’s really my own lack of willpower at times like Easter that does it. And when colleagues bring chocolate fudge in to work. However, now that I’ve finished the Beginners calendar on Blogilates, I can follow along with the monthly calendars, which means that there won’t be a gap while I’m waiting for new exercises. I’m hoping keeping consistent with that will keep me consistent overall.

Other highlights this week

My partner and I have had two great theatre outings this week. The first was to The Play That Goes Wrong, a West End comedy that I had wanted to see ever since seeing a scene from it on the Royal Variety Performance back in 2015. The second was a stage adaptation of Dracula by shake & stir theatre, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it has been a long time since a piece of theatre affected me so much. I was still pacing around my kitchen an hour after we returned home because I was all a-buzz. Just the way the set, lighting and sound design all interacted with the performers made for an incredible show. I’ll stop gushing now but here’s the ad to give you just a glimpse of it:

That’s my week. How are you going?  ~ Emily

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 19 April, 2017

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Welcome to WIPpet Wednesday! This is a weekly blog hop hosted by yours truly. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

I’ve finished the first draft of Memories and Magic! The last chunk is a bit haphazard, as I realised I need to fix some structural issues in the third act before I can make it run smoothly, but I sort of have a whole A – Z progression. In this scene, Clara’s memories of being a princess have just been restored after several months of her living with some false ones.

The scene didn’t change for several minutes. Finally, the blue of the rune faded and the ink on the wall disappeared, as usual. All eyes turned to Clara. She wavered on her feet for a moment.

“Huh,” she said weakly before passing out on the floor.

Yep.

My last assignment for the semester is due on June 09, so writing will go on the backburner for the next couple of months. It’s kind of a good time to finish a draft, as I’ll actually be distracted from wanting to start revisions too soon. I’ll still try to have something to share each Wednesday, even if it’s just something I’ve slapped together on the day.

Sort of on that note, a random writing observation: I realised the other day why I’ve never successfully written a contemporary. It’s because pretty much all ideas and characters I have for contemporary stories are based on my own experience, to the point where writing them in the third person feels weird and distant. Even though that’s what I write everything in, so it is kind of my default. Now that I have realised this, though, I’m going to try writing in first person and see if that helps.

And now it’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Soulless by Gail Carriger and reviewed it here. It wasn’t my favourite but it was amusing enough.  I would have preferred a bit more urban fantasy and a bit less comedy of manners in the end.

I also finished The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil. I fell in love with it on page one and stayed in love right to the end; not really a big surprise given how much I’ve enjoyed Keil’s other books. If you read YA and were ever a geek at school, you should read them. She nails it. It doesn’t read like she’s even trying, it just feels completely authentic.

Okay, I’ll stop gushing now. 😛 My review of that one will be up on Friday. If you’re interested, I also posted a review for The Man from Snowy River by Elyne Mitchell over here.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading The Asp of Ascension by B. R. Meyers, which I requested from Netgalley because I feel like there aren’t enough books that use Ancient Egyptian mythology as their basis and this one sounded fun. When I started it yesterday, I was fairly bored but I’m about halfway through now and it has grown on me.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Next I will be reading The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie. I have the sequel waiting for me on NetGalley, but I don’t think it’s one to read out of order. I’ve kind of hyped this series up in my head because it’s premise is lady pirates fighting genetically-engineered monsters in a dystopian future and also there’s LGBT representation, so it’s got huge potential. I just hope it lives up to it!

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

Sunday Summary – April 16, 2017

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This week in writing

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The official ending (by which I mean, the actual last chapter/scene/line, not the general ending) of Magic and Memories is eluding me! I kind of know roughly what I’m after, but getting there is hard. I did write 2509 words this week, though.

I also had a very vague idea for a sequel last night. So maybe I could work on that when I finally put this one in a drawer for a few weeks. Though I also saw the new Beauty and the Beast movie on Friday night and now I want to write something sweeping and romantic.

this week in reading

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I finished both The Man from Snowy River by Elyne Mitchell on audio and Soulless by Gail Carriger. I wasn’t as into Soulless as I had hoped, but The Man from Snowy River was a really fun adventure! I’ve now go two contemporary YA novels on the go at once, and I keep getting them slightly confused.

This week in blogging

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I have responded to all blog hop participants and comments on my own blog. Woo! I have a review of Soulless scheduled for tomorrow, too, and I should be finished reading The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil in time to review that for Friday.

THIS WEEK IN STUDY

I did some study work yesterday but I have suddenly realised how close the due date for my 4000-word report is. So I am going to have to spend a lot of my free evenings working on that this week and the next. I also realised I have a small research proposal for my other class due this week and I have no idea what I want to research! Ahhh!

This week in health and fitness

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I wasn’t expecting much in terms of weight loss this week, seeing as how I have been eating a fair amount of chocolate and according to my own logging, I wasn’t really creating a calorie deficit. So imagine my surprise when I discovered I had lost 800g this week! I’m also six days out from finishing the Blogilates beginners calendar, and I have really toned up thanks to it. I’ll post some progress shots next week after I finish it.

Other highlights this week

Remember a while back I said to watch this space for an ‘OMG YOU GUYS I’M GOING TO NEPAL!” announcement. Well, I spoke to my doctor about the trek I wanted to do on Wednesday, and she has some advice for me to go on with in the lead-up, but essentially “OMG YOU GUYS I’M GOING TO NEPAL!” In 12 months, which is ages, and it feels so abstract that I am not the slightest bit excited by it yet, but it is happening. This is the trek: click the banner to read more.


That’s
my week. How have you been doing?  ~ Emily

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 12 April, 2017

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Welcome to WIPpet Wednesday! This is a weekly blog hop hosted by yours truly. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

Today I have three lines (1+2) describing Max’s experience of Clara’s magic. Clara is transporting a group of Mages back to her home after a run-in with some not-so-good ones. This particular night is the first time this particular power has manifested, but she quickly got the hang of it.

Max couldn’t believe how instantaneous the transfer was. One second, he was on picnic bench in the park, the next second, in his kitchen. There was no darkness in between, no nausea like he had imagined travel at such a speed might induce. There was just nothing. It was seamless.

And now it’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Walpiri Women’s Voices: Our Lives, Our History (Oral history series) and reviewed it here. It was interesting, but somewhat hard to read since it was just transcripts of the oral histories with no embellishments or anything. I actually left it unrated because I wasn’t sure what rating to give.

I also finished The Man from Snowy River by Elyne Mitchell. This was a really fun adventure story. Even though I had never read it before, nor seen the movie, it made me feel nostalgic, I think just because I grew up surrounded by the Australian bush (even though I have no desire to move back there).

I also reviewed Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey; you can read that here.

What are you currently reading?

I am finally currently reading Soulless by Gail Carriger. It has some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments due to clever writing, but I feel like there is not much plot to speak of. I imagine I will finish this over the next few days but at the moment, I’m not feeling terribly inclined to pick up the next book in the series.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I will probably read The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil. This was only released last week and while I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA, I was at the top of my library’s queue for this one. I will read anything this woman writes. And I just found out it has diverse characters, too! The MC is South Asian. So yay that, too!

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily