Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day.
Emily is desperate.
Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.
Emily is perfect.
Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn’t play along, the consequences could be deadly.
This was the winner of last week’s Try a Chapter: Choosing my next Thriller. I said in that post that this isn’t the kind of thriller that throws you headlong into nonstop action. It starts gently, introducing us to Emily and then Scott, and showing us how things unfold. And the story was compelling, at least to me.
I loved the way the tense atmosphere built up bit by bit. The theme of the naive young woman drawn into a domestic situation that alternately alarms her and then reassures her that she’s just imagining things, struck echoes in my mind with gothic novels such as Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Of course, the reader knows Emily is not imagining the danger she’s in, and is internally screaming at her to get out while she still can.
There aren’t a lot of twists, but there is a reveal about two-thirds of the way through that I didn’t see coming, and from there the pace and action both sped up, making the book very hard to put down from this point on.
It was only the ending that prevented this from being a 5 star book. It just didn’t quite ring true somehow, and wasn’t as satisfying a payoff as the quality of the rest of the novel had led me to expect.
Even so, this is still a very solid 4 star novel for me. The characters are wonderfully imagined, fully fleshed out and fascinating. The writing is really good, too. The mystery kept me enthralled right to the end.
If you’re after a thrill-a-minute ride and explosive twists, this isn’t the thriller for you. But if you’re in the mood for a slow burning, atmospheric, psychological mystery, I’d encourage you to pick this one up.
I received an Advance Review Copy of this novel from Minotaur Books through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
I usually have several books on the go, so I can read what I feel like at any given moment. Right now, I’m reading two novels, which is sometimes enough, but they’re both Fantasy, and they’re both buddy reads, and today I feel the need for something different, something just for me. And I think I’m in the mood for a thriller.
Fortunately, with my library being shut and purchased books taking a while to arrive, there are already three thrillers waiting for my attention: a paperback on my shelf and two ARCs on the Kindle. I think it might be fun to try a chapter of each and decide which one I want to continue with. At least, it should be fun for me, and hopefully it will be a bit entertaining for you, too. Here we go.
STILLHOUSE LAKE by Rachel Caine
I bought a used copy of this at a charity book sale before I’d even heard about it. It was published in 2017, and several people have recommended it to me. The only Rachel Caine book I’ve read is the YA fantasy Ink andBone, (#1 in The Great Library series), and I enjoyed it, but haven’t continued on. So let’s see how this author goes with an adult thriller.
Oh, looks like there’s a Prologue, so I’ll read that and also the first chapter.
Prologue: Gina Royal “Gina never asked about the garage. That thought would keep her awake every night for years after, pulsing hot against her eyelids.” What a good opening. I already feel I’m in safe hands here. Gina seems to be living a normal life as a wife and mother, reasonably content if not wildly exciting. But we know that’s going to change, don’t we? And yes, she pulls up outside her house to find that a drunk driver has crashed into her garage, the destruction clearly a foreshadowing of the mess her life is about to become, as the damage reveals the dead body of a young woman hanging in the space only Gina’s husband ever enters. This is a good start, made even better by the high quality of the writing, not always a given with a thriller. I’m keen to read on.
Chapter 1: Gwen Proctor Fast forward four years, and the point of view has switched from third to first person, as we follow Gina, who has now changed her name to Gwen. She’s on a shooting range, getting certified to carry a gun. Gina is now a very different person, not just in name. She is tough, paranoid, and blames herself for not knowing what kind of monster she married. Her only aim in life now is to protect her children from anyone who wants to track the family down, and she has good reason to think they exist. This is all great stuff. The air of tension and menace Caine creates is almost palpable.
Do I want to continue? I’m in a bit of a dilemma. I can see this is going to be a superior and deeply engaging thriller, but also very intense. Do I feel like something so full-on right now? I’m not sure. Let’s try contestant number two.
THE FINDERS by Jeffrey B. Burton
This is due to be released in June, and I have it on my Kindle. I haven’t read anything by Burton before, so I’m going into it a bit blind, but I know it’s about a cadaver dog and her handler assisting the police with a homicide, and that sounds interesting to me.
Chapter 1 We’re following a woman named Christine, and wow, Burton does not want us to forget what she’s called. Even though there are no other characters here, Christine is named over and over again, where a simple “she” would do the job perfectly. Within a couple of pages, it’s starting to get really annoying. It makes the whole book seem amateurish. The viewpoint is omniscient, not my favourite, and there’s a lot of telling, not much showing. Overall, not a great start, but Christine dies at the end of the chapter, so in a way, this is really a prologue, too. I’ll go on to Chapter 2. Perhaps the writing will improve once the main character appears.
Chapter 2 We meet Chicago police officer Kippy Gimm, called out to the scene of a supposed suicide. She’s not named as often as Christine, so that’s a relief, and there is clearly a mystery here, but somehow my curiosity is not really aroused. I want to be on the spot with officer Gimm, feeling what she’s feeling, seeing what she’s seeing, but again I keep getting told instead of shown, which throws me out of the scene.
Do I want to continue? Honestly, not right now. I will read the novel in the next few weeks, because I intend to review it, and maybe on another day I’d enjoy it more, but right now I’m just not interested. To be fair, it’s definitely suffering from being read straight after Stillhouse Lake, which sets a very high bar for the actual writing and immersion in the story. On to number three.
THE SAFE PLACE by Anna Downes
This is another ARC on my Kindle, due to be released in July. When I requested it, I read the blurb, but I’ve forgotten what it was about, so I have no preconceptions. Ah, another Prologue, so it looks like I get to read extra pages again.
Prologue: Emily Here’s another third-person limited point of view approach, like Stillhouse Lake, and it feels comfortable. I don’t yet know who Emily is, but I get her feelings of surprise and anticipation at a sudden change in her circumstances, and I’d like to know more. A little hint of a twist at the end of the prologue tells us that things are probably not as rosy as they look. Not a hook exactly, but enough that I’m happy to keep reading.
Chapter 1: Emily There’s no marker to tell us about time, but I’m guessing this is happening before the prologue, showing us what happened to get Emily to the point where we meet her there. She is auditioning and makes a mess of it, then gets fired from her job. We learn a lot about her and her life without ever being directly told, it’s nicely done and feels natural. Nothing very dramatic has happened by the end of the chapter, and we’re not up to the point the prologue starts yet. The threat/menace is faintly implied rather than overt.
Do I want to continue? I do. It’s not as gripping as Stillhouse Lake, but also less stressful (at least so far) and much more what I’m in the mood for now. It’s a smooth, easy read, and for now I’m feeling quite happy to be eased gently into the action, along with Emily.
AND THE WINNER IS:
How do you choose your next read? Have you experimented with trying a chapter? How did it go?
My average rating was 4.2, continuing this year’s theme of enjoying what I’m reading. Here are the books:
SEMIOSIS by Sue Burke
Genre: Science Fiction Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2
I said I was hoping for Speaker For the Dead (Orson Scott Card) vibes from this novel that follows several generations of a human colony on an alien planet with sentient plants, and there were similarities at first. But in the end, I liked it, but didn’t love it. The plotting is good, and the ideas are good, and even the characters, so it took me a while to work out where it fell short for me. I think it’s just that it engaged my brain but not my heart, whereas Speaker for the Dead did both. I just wanted more. Still, 31/2 stars isn’t a bad rating. This is the first book of a duology, and I’m not sure if I’ll continue.
BEHIND THE EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN by Michael Bachelard
This was a hard read, and I can’t say I enjoyed it, but it’s a very thorough dissection of the history and influence of The Exclusive Brethren, focusing primarily on Australia, including case histories of people who have left and how that has affected them. It was shocking in parts, and heartbreaking, but I think it’s an important book, especially considering the influence this organisation has had and still has on Australian governments. A worthy read, but not a fun one.
NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Non-fiction / Mythology Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Looking around for something I was pretty sure I’d enjoy after the Brethren book, I picked this up and wasn’t disappointed. Gaiman has a fun way with words and he tells the familiar stories about Odin, Thor, Freya, Loki and the other Norse gods in a fresh and colloquial style, with plenty of humour. The first section, the creation myths, is the driest, but once he gets into the stories, it’s pure gold. I raced through it and absolutely loved it. Highly recommended.
VALKYRIE: THE WOMEN OF THE VIKING WORLD by Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir
Genre: Non-fiction/ History and Mythology/ Sociology Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
It was somehow fitting that while I was reading Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, I was offered an Advance Review Copy of this. It almost seemed like fate. Perhaps the Norns were at work! This is an impressively scholarly treatise about a fascinating topic. The author begins with the same mythological sources that Gaiman’s tales are based on: the Elder (or Poetic) Edda and the Younger (or Prose) Edda. She draws from them what they have to tell us about the way the writers viewed the women of the viking age, via their portrayal of Valkyries and goddesses. Later, she mines the sagas and the archaeological evidence to give a picture of the position and lives of women of various social strata. Much of this is necessarily speculation, as we have no writings from the point of view of the women themselves, but it’s thorough and intelligent speculation. Parts of this book were definitely 5-star, but I’ve dropped the rating to 4 simply because there is a lot of repetition, which made some sections a bit hard to get through. But overall, it’s excellent, and I recommend it to anyone interested in this topic.
I received an Advance Review Copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL by Jessica Brody
Genre: Non-fiction/ Writing craft Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I read through this very quickly without doing any of the exercises, just to get a good overview and judge if I felt it would be useful. The answer is a resounding yes! This is such a thorough analysis of story structure, plotting, character arcs, all that good stuff, and I can see myself applying it at every stage of the writing process from brainstorming through first drafts, structural revisions, editing, and writing marketing copy. It has already earned a permanent place on my shelf and I expect it to fall apart from constant use in a few years.
CHICKABELLA COUNTS TO TEN by Veronica Strachan and Cassi Strachan
Genre: Picture Book / Counting Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is so cute! Simple text, gorgeous illustrations, and Chickabella is counting backwards, which is a nice variation on all the counting up to ten books out there. And on the final page, your child can have the fun of cleverly pointing out to you where all of Chickabella’s friends are hiding. Definitely one for the cuddle-up-and-read-together shelf.
I received an Advance Review Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
TROLL HUNTER: WITCH FOR HIRE by P.A. Mason
THE DAMSEL GAUNTLET by P.A. Mason
Genre: Fantasy / Humour/ Novellas Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I read these two short novellas one after the other and it was like enjoying a couple of petit-fours (if petit-fours were funny as well as delicious). They are the first episodes in a humorous fantasy series that I’m delighted to report is every bit as much fun as it sounds. I truly love the character of the hapless witch Gretchen, who is inept at spells and potions, but not by any means naive or stupid. The secondary characters are fun, too, and P.A Mason takes the idea of a fairy tale retelling and runs with it in an original and engaging way. I now want to read all of Gretchen’s forthcoming misadventures, and it’s worth noting that there are lots of fun extras on the website http://gretchensmisadventures.com including examples of Gretchen’s execrable poetry, follow-up stories to the main episodes, and articles about the Gretchenverse.
I received an Advance Review Copy of the second novella in exchange for an honest review.
So, those were my 8 books for April. How was your reading month? What was the best book you read?
This witch needs more than a wicked sense of humor to be the hero in a quirky quest she never saw coming.
It was an ordinary afternoon at The Salt and Bog until the city guards turned up. While sipping ale among outcasts and misfits, Gretchen gets called on for an audience with the King… whether she wants one or not. Hauled back to the palace in secrecy, this ‘witch for hire’ gets an offer too good to refuse. But when she’s locked in a dungeon with bickering goblins and a smug dragon, the proposition looks shady. A damsel is in distress. A prince is on his way. All is not as it seems. Living from hand to mouth, Gretchen pushes aside her reservations to keep her eyes on the prize; the King’s coin. To earn it, will she be willing to take the dragon by the horns? When a ‘happily ever after’ is at stake, she must paint a heroic picture for those who are watching. Because when this fairy tale goes down in the history books, the people behind the scenes fade into obscurity… which is exactly how Gretchen wants it.
This is the first episode in a humorous fantasy series launching next month, and I’m delighted to report that it’s every bit as much fun as it sounds. I truly love the character of Gretchen, who is inept at spells and potions, but not by any means naive or stupid. The secondary characters are fun, too, and P.A Mason takes the idea of a fairy tale retelling and runs with it in an original and engaging way.
This story reminded me irresistibly of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Witch books. The feel and the humour are delightfully similar, and while I would argue that no one can truly touch Pratchett when it comes to humorous fantasy, Gretchen can hold her head up high as a more than worthy addition to the genre. I literally giggled aloud more than once, and this is very unusual for me.
I want to read all of Gretchen’s forthcoming misadventures, and it’s worth noting that there are lots of fun extras on the website gretchensmisadventures.com including examples of Gretchen’s execrable poetry, follow-up stories to the main episodes, and articles about the Gretchenverse.
If you’re looking for a quick, original and funny read, you should check out The Damsel Gauntlet, available for pre-order on Amazon now.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I had a fairly average reading month in March, and I’m not sure exactly how I’ll feel in April, so instead of bringing in anything new, I’ve shopped my bookshelves (and my Kindle) and picked out some books I’ve been meaning to get to for a while (plus one new ARC that I think will be fun). I’m also giving myself full permission to read anything else in my possession that I’m in the mood for, including rereads of old favourites. It’s a time to be kind to ourselves, I think. Here’s what I’ve chosen for now:
I bought this over a year ago, and was very keen to read it at the time, but then just somehow never got around to it. Perhaps April is the month I’ll finally crack it open. It’s Science Fiction, about pioneer colonists trying to survive the ecosystem of an alien planet, totally my sort of thing. I’m hoping to get vibes of Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead from this one.
A friend passed me her used copy of this with a positive recommendation. It’s not at all the kind of thing I usually read, but I am curious, and coincidentally my daughter is working as a psychologist with some Exclusive Brethren schools at the moment, so it’s timely.
I’ve enjoyed most of the Neil Gaiman novels I’ve read, so I know I like his writing style. And I think I may be in the mood for some mythology. This actually belongs to my husband, but he’s finished reading it now, so it’s fair game. And look at that cover!
I was disappointed with my writing book in March (Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird) so I want to give another one a try. I know the basic ‘beats’ of the Save the Cat method of planning a story, but I’d like to dig into it in more detail.
Two-for-one with these next stories by P.A. Mason about Gretchen, a young witch who gets into all kinds of trouble when her spells don’t go quite as planned. I have both of them on the Kindle, the first as a free gift for signing up for her newsletter, and the other as an ARC for review. I’m expecting them to be short, light and funny.
This was supposed to be a buddy read with a group on GoodReads in March, but not everyone was able to access a copy of the book in time, so it was postponed. It looks like we may be able to start it some time in April. If so, it’s the only one on this list I’ve actually committed myself to reading, although we probably won’t finish it this month. I am keen to start it though, because I loved Ship of Magic, the first book in the series.
What are your reading plans for April? Are you being kind to yourself? I hope so.
Hello again, lovely readers! It’s a very strange time, with all of our lives disrupted one way or another. How has it affected your reading? Are you reading more, less, or about the same? Have your genre tastes changed?
I read 6 books in March, about the same as January and February. They were split between Science Fiction, Fantasy, Crime, Romance and Non-fiction. Four were paperbacks and two were Ebooks, both of which were ARCs (Advance Reader Copies). So, reading-wise, March was a pretty normal month for me. I find this a bit surprising, because it didn’t feel normal at all. Here are the books, on a background of one of my favourite roses, blooming now on an arch in my garden:
My average rating for March was 3.83, quite a bit lower than the past couple of months, but there were two 5-star reads in there, so it wasn’t a bad month by any means. I’ve presented the books in order from lowest rated to highest.
THE SEVENTH LINK (Village Mysteries #4) by Margaret Mayhew GENRE: Crime/ Cozy Mystery
A retired English Colonel is pleased when an old friend invites him for the weekend, to coincide with a RAF reunion event. His fellow guests include a Lancaster bomber crew, reunited for the first time. But everything is not as it seems, and the Colonel finds himself taking on the reluctant role of sleuth once more when tragedy strikes . . .
I borrowed this from my library on a whim, and I was enjoying it, just the kind of easy, familiar read I was in the mood for, until it abruptly ended in a way that to me is unforgivable in this genre. To be blunt, the mystery is not solved, not for certain. I mean, the reader is not told what really happened. And the amateur sleuth just kind of shrugs and goes home to his cat. No. Just no.
BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott GENRE: Non-fiction/Writing
A step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life. From “Getting Started,’ with “Short Assignments,” through “Shitty First Drafts,” “Character,” “Plot,” “Dialogue.” all the way from “False Starts” to “How Do You Know When You’re Done?” Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses “Writers Block,” “Writing Groups,” and “Publication.” Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive.
This was a book I was looking forward to, and it was a disappointment. It’s well-written, as you’d expect from Anne Lamott, but the further I read, the more I disliked her. This is supposed to be part memoir, part writing craft book, but really, it’s all about Anne. Her insecurities, her jealousies, her fragile ego. I would not want to take one of her classes. And despite the glowing blurb, it’s not much of a guide, pretty basic advice and very repetitive. I know people love this, and if I had gotten on better with Lamott’s personality, I probably would have liked it too, hence the 3 stars. But I found nothing to identify with here.
THAT NIGHT IN PARIS (Holiday Romance #2) by Sandy Barker (ARC from Netgalley) GENRE: Romance
To Cat Parsons, a European bus tour feels like a stroke of genius to dodge awkward conversations at home. But little does Cat realise that the first stop will be Paris, the city of love itself. Joined by new friends, Cat has got two weeks, eight countries and a hell of a lot of wine ahead of her. As they discover hidden treasures and the camaraderie of life on the road, will Cat find a new way of looking at love?
I enjoyed the first book in this series, One Summer in Santorini, but this one was better. I loved the tour aspect, and the descriptions of the different places. I really want to go to Lauterbrunnen now! The romance was fine, and not as cringy as most (I’m not a huge fan of romances in general). But for me, the best part was the relationship between Cat and her “bus besties”, especially Lou. As others have said, Cat begins the trio as somewhat self-obsessed, but she fully realizes this and really grows by the end. A satisfying escapist read, full of heartfelt and touching moments, and just the kind of thing we all need right now.
HOSTAGE TO FORTUNE (A Bradecote and Catchpoll Investigation #4) by Sarah Hawkswood (ARC from Netgalley) GENRE: Crime/ Historical
January 1144. Hugh Bradecote does not want his betrothed heading off on pilgrimage to the shrine of St Edgyth at Polesworth, but the Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy and his entourage of monks seem Heaven sent as escorts, right up until they are captured by a renegade who wants his forger out of the lord sheriff’s cells; a renegade who loathes the Benedictines, and kills for pleasure.
This invites comparisons to Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael Mysteries, and while it isn’t quite on that level for me, it was an enjoyable story with engaging characters and a solid plot. My favourite character was Christina, and I would have liked to see more of her. Hugh was a little colourless, except when he was thinking about her, when he suddenly came to life in my imagination. Catchpoll is well-realised and a nice contrast to his superior. A good read.
THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone GENRE: Science Fiction/ Time travel
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.
Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?
This seems to be a polarising book, but I absolutely loved it: the writing, the structure, the story, the characters. It’s short, but it packs an emotional and cerebral punch. The authors don’t spoon-feed you, which I suspect is the reason some readers haven’t enjoyed this. You are dropped straight into the action with very little explanation, and off you go, figuring things out as you go along. I was hooked from the first page and remained mesmerised all the way through. I really hope this duo is planning more collaborations in the future.
LEVIATHAN WAKES (The Expanse #1) By James S.A. Corey GENRE: Science Fiction/ Space Opera
Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
Why did I wait so long to read this? There’s Space Opera and then there’s SPACE OPERA, and this is close to perfection. Holden and Miller are so well-realised, their personalities and motivations so clear, it was as if I was getting to know real people rather than characters in a book. The action is perfectly paced, the settings brilliantly imagined, the ending surprising and at the same time inevitable. Have I said enough to convince you yet? If you like Science Fiction at all, I can’t imagine you won’t love this one. And there are 7 more books in the series!
So, that’s what I read in March. Have you read any of these? What did you think? And what did you read last month?
GENRE: Fantasy/Science Fiction/Dystopian/Hope Punk
On three distant worlds, three women journey towards their destinies. Before they started out, all three made a choice – to forget they share a single soul.
In tech-ruled post-Crack Earth, where magic doesn’t officially exist, project manager Ali’s humdrum life under the crumbling Melba Dome is becoming weirder by the day. Her fingers keep glowing, a snarky dragon takes up residence in her head, and people she thought were her friends keep trying to control, kidnap or assassinate her. To top it off, she can’t figure out why her previously perfect memory is suddenly full of holes.
Meanwhile, on Heavens Gate, where magic and science have forged an uneasy alliance, research analyst Merindah is desperate to save her dying planet. What she lacks in magical ability, she more than makes up for in ambition, which comes in handy as she navigates family politics and feral deities. But when an impatient and not-so-extinct dragon begins to help her solve the puzzle of the Yarran journal, she realises hermagic might not be as weak as she’d thought.
Finally, on Reverie, where magic rules unfettered, a young orphan becomes burdened with tainted magical gifts. Dee is alone, trapped in a waking nightmare. When she finally surrenders to the voices in her head, her out-of-control magic unleashes her dragon and propels her onto a path that could unravel the fabric of time and space.
Three women, three worlds – and their time is running out. Unless Ali, Merindah and Dee can reunite and unlock the secret of the Timegates in a single year, all is lost. They must each make unimaginable sacrifices to become the Key, the Gatekeeper, and the Fire who will save the Cosmos – or ignite Armageddon.
First though… they need to teach their soulmate dragons who’s in charge!
Ochre Dragons is a stunning, genre-bending work of the imagination that effortlessly engages both mind and heart. From the almost mythological Prologue to the pulse-racing conclusion, this is a glorious, multi-faceted gem of a book.
I began reading the Ebook on my Kindle, but a third of the way through, I ordered the paperback (available from Amazon at a ridiculously low price, just saying). The story just seemed too epic, too huge in scope, to be contained within a small, flat electronic device.
For a start, we have three main characters, all women at different stages of life, but somehow connected to one another. I fell in love with Ali first. She is the elder of the three, in the same decade of life as I am, which may be the reason I took to her so early. But her life in a future dystopian Australia is so interesting, as is her personality. And when her dragon appeared, well that just put the icing on the cake. It took me a little while longer to warm to Merindah, in her world where magic and science co-exist, and perhaps gods and goddesses, too. But I was on her side by the end. And then there’s Dee, the youngest, and in some ways in the most desperate situation of them all. She has the least time time devoted to her and her world, and I’m hoping for more of her in the sequel.
As if that wasn’t enough, the world-building is extraordinary, the settings switching between science fiction and fantasy, dystopian and frankly cosmological. And then, of course, there are dragons.
This is not a simple tale, but I loved the complexity. Other things I appreciated were:
The lyricism of the Prologue. And yes, it is a necessary element in this novel, and yes,you must read it. Trust me.
The sentient towers, and the eventual reveal of why and how they are sentient.
The inclusion of the archetypes of maiden, mother and crone, without falling into the trap of making them only hollow symbols. instead of real, flesh-and-blood women in their own right.
The fact that it’s such an Australian story in many ways, and yet universal, too. Nice trick, if you can pull it off as well as Patton does here.
This novel was first published in 2018, and it seems to have been flying under the radar to some extent since then. It deserves better. Buy it, read it, and tell me I’m wrong. I dragon-dare you.
Today I intend to bite the bullet, take the bull by the horns, grasp the nettle, swallow the pill, and all the other other cliches that mean I ‘m going to stop moaning and making excuses and just do this. And by this, I mean (cue ominous music and peals of thunder) Fast-drafting.
What is fast-drafting?
“Fast-drafting is quite literally the process of writing the first draft of your novel (or short story, novella, etc.) as quickly as possible. No hesitation, no excuses, no editing-as-you-go.” storied.com/blog/fast-drafting
No editing as you go? Is such a thing even possible? Well, gentle readers, I am about to find out. I have come to this sorry state because progress on my current manuscript has slowed to a miserly trickle instead of the gushing torrent I’d expected as I neared the end.
Seriously, after more than 100,00 words of my first draft of Skalsinger, I was hoping for a quick dash to the finish, something like this:
And instead, for two weeks, I’ve been getting this:
And I’m tired of it. It’s time for some drastic action. So, as much as the whole idea of fast-drafting makes my cramped, nitpicking, perfectionist soul cringe and flinch back with a gasp of horror, I am feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Enough cliches? Fair enough. On with the experiment.
Begin a fresh scene. Write using Scrivener for 30 minutes, then immediately switch to a pen and notebook for the remaining 30 minutes, so I can compare results between the two drafting methods.
Write as fast as possible, with no breaks
Ignore the voice that says it’s all rubbish and just carry on
Do not use the BACKSPACE or DELETE keys (ouch!)
Do not change anything once it’s on the page (double ouch!)
Do not use references to check for consistency with the rest of the manuscript
Do not make notes as I go about how to improve it later (yes, I do this)
Do not stop until the hour is up, no matter what
The Experiment Begins:
So, this is it. I am about to start fast drafting.
For one hour.
Using Forest App, which I’ve just downloaded to my phone.
Here I go. Wish me luck, and I’ll see you on the other side.
First 30 minutes (using Scrivener on my laptop):
I waited until I had the first sentence in my head, then started the timer. The first time I produced a typo, I went to use the backspace key, but just stopped myself in time. This kept happening for a while, but then the impulse faded as I got into the scene. And I really got into it: 759 words in 30 minutes, and I was till typing when the timer went off to switch to the notebook. The last time I churned out 700 words in a single session was three weeks ago, and that took two hours. As for the quality of the words, they are better than I expected. There’s some waffling and repetition, but that’s easy to tidy up later, and there’s some good stuff there, too. I’m more than happy with my progress in the first part of the experiment.
Second thirty minutes (using a notebook and pen):
There was a slight delay when I realised my fountain pen had run out of ink and I couldn’t find a new cartridge, but I grabbed a ballpoint and started in. Immediately, I noticed that my writing was much slower than my typing. I couldn’t get the words onto the paper quickly enough. No typos, though, and only one word scribbled out before I remembered I couldn’t do that. And the words kept flowing. Not only that, but the scene took a sudden new direction that I hadn’t foreseen and am quite excited about. More excited than I’ve been about this draft for quite a while, to be honest. I stopped writing about thirty seconds before the timer went off and left it at that. As I’d already known, I got far fewer words in this session: only 340. But I was writing the whole time, so I know it’s only because typing is faster, and not lack of inspiration.
Oh, and I planted two virtual trees in my forest. Strangely satisfying.
I know this is only a first attempt, but I have to call it a resounding success. All my fears of fast drafting have disappeared. I wrote 1099 words in 60 minutes, and I’m excited to get back to this scene tomorrow. I call that a win.
I thought my usual editing-as-I-go method was giving me time to think, time I needed, but it wasn’t true. Reading back what I’ve written today, it’s just as good as anything I’ve produced this month (barring quite a few typos, but they’re easily corrected).
I will definitely continue with fast-drafting, but from now on I’ll be sticking with Scrivener and the laptop. Handwriting is just too slow, and now that I see a way to increase my productivity, I don’t want to handicap myself like that.
Fast-drafting rocks, and I like the app, too. Double win.
Have you tried fast-drafting? What methods do you use to write?
The last time I did this tag was October last year, so it’s about time for a repeat, don’t you think? I’m also very busy getting ready for an extended visit to help out my elderly parents, so it seems like an ideal week for a post that is short and sweet.