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Written and Read 3/12

Updated: Apr 1

Writing Goals

  1. I am 4,000 words into Draft 1 of Avonstow Book 3

  2. Castle Priory Press attended the successful launch of Jane Barron de Burgh's novella 'Not All There' - our first book for an independent author. We also have several more books in the publishing pipeline.

  3. 'The Quest of the Summer King' is ready to publish next month

  4. The artwork for the new cover of 'The Reign of The Winter King' is ready and the new cover is underway

Reading Goals

  1. 2/30 library books (17 left)

  2. 2023 kindle list complete. Reading books added in 2024 now

  3. 4/15 bookshelf books read (9 left)

  4. 0/3 books to buy read (3 left)

Between getting Summer King ready for publication (it had a LOT of editing), preparing for the upcoming Robin of Sherwood convention, editing other people's work and getting an influx of my paid work towards the end of the month, I have really found it difficult to carve out time to read and when I did manage to, it was often reading for purpose rather than pleasure. The other thing my work this month has brought home to me is how much less editing I would need to do if I stopped overusing certain words. It isn't even as though it's all the time. I won't use them for pages and pages and then all of a sudden I find 10 on the same page. Now I know which words they are, I'm hoping that my brain will automatically start avoiding them as I write!

However, I have read some genuinely brilliant books this month and it was really difficult to pick just one from the list. I was also really pleased that I actually managed to get some writing of my own done in the last few days before Easter. Knowing that I work better to a deadline, I set myself up on Pacemaker with a challenging, but realistic target for the next month. This means that rather than trying to get through a 'to do' pile of work for other people which never seems to get any smaller, I've been doing my daily target of my writing and then moving on to tackle the jobs which require less creativity. As a result, I've been just as productive for them and far more productive for me! I think this is going to be the way forward in future and if it works, I might even use it in the summer to try and carve out some time then for a bit of writing.

This month has also been a good one in terms of getting paid for my writing. Not only is the publishing company beginning to see business coming in from all angles, but I've also done my first paid author visit to a school on World Book Day and I've been booked for some paid workshops in the autumn for a local creative writing project. Dare I say it, but it's beginning to feel almost like the start of an actual job! Either way, it's all very exciting.

Book Reviews


Murder in the Family - Cara Hunter (Audiobook. A really unusually structured book. An historic murder turned into a true crime television detection show. Made for really interesting listening, particularly as it had a cast of voice actors. Highly recommend this as a good take on modern reality TV as well as a gripping listen.)

Murder Takes Root - Rosie Sandler (Second book in Rosie's Gardener Mysteries series. Full review can be found here.)

The Last Devil To Die - Richard Osman (One of the few exceptions to my celebrity author rule. This series has geuinely got better and better as it has gone on and this one was fabulous. I had not expected it to make me cry, but it did. Well worth reading.)


The Good Servant - Fern Britton (Not one I would have picked up, but it was a recommendation. Wasn't massively impressed. It was vaguely interesting, but I never really engaged with the characters and as a result, it felt overlong and I only persevered with it because it had been recommended.)

Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe (Picked this up after hearing about it on Between The Covers. Enjoyed it even more than I had expected to and will probably look out for the sequels as well. Gives different perspectives on the missionary work carried out in Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I can see why it is considered to be such an influential book.


The Twyford Code - Janice Hallett (I wasn't quite sure which category to put this as it is also kind of historical, but I settled on thriller in the end because it kept me hooked in the same way that books of that genre do and there was an element of danger , although not always for the same reasons. The ending very much took me by surprise, but it left me in awe of the writer's skill.)


Wilful Murder - Diana Preston (Audiobook. We have been listening to this in the car for ages - it's REALLY long – but it's one we've both enjoyed. I certainly hadn't realised quite what a complicated background the sinking of the Lusitania had and the short one has definitely taken lots of it in as he's kept talking about it throughout the month.)

Hooded Man Volume 1 - Andrew Orton (Companion book to Series 1 and 2 of Robin of Sherwood. I've had both this and Volume 2 on my bookshelf and on my 'to read at some point' list for years, but I've never quite got round to reading them. This month, I started researching the programme and this proved absolutely invaluable as a resource. However, it's also a genuinely interesting book in its own right - it pulls in history and politics of the 1980s in a way I hadn't expected, plus it made the show a more interesting watch for the 8yo as I was able to point out interesting things as we watched each episode.)

Hitler's Girl - Lauren Young (interesting take on Unity Mitford's obsession with Hitler and the Nazi party. Also looks at the history of anti-Semitism in Britain, particularly during the rise of the BUF and has an interesting take on the circumstances leading up to her shooting and indeed questions whether or not her injuries were indeed self-inflicted.)

A History of Austria - Captivating History (Not especially captivating, but vaguely interesting. Learnt a little bit about the Habsburgs but quite a pedestrian book.)


Women In Love - D H Lawrence (Audiobook. Enjoyed this far more than The Rainbow. Yes, sometimes the characters behave in melodramatic ways that are irritating, but they feel like real flesh and blood people as a result. I'm not sure I particularly liked any of them, but yet again, it made me think about how awful it must be to not feel able to be your true self and how much happier many people's lives would have been (and still would be today) if they felt able to be honest about who they were and to live a life free from prejudice. This was particularly interesting, given Lawrence's recorded views on this subject.)

Ivanhoe - Walter Scott (Audiobook. First read this in my mid-teens and I remembered loving it, but couldn't recall much of the story. I read it again as part of my Robin Hood research with a degree of trepidation - I'd made the eldest read it over the summer and he was less than enthused by it so I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it as much this time around. I shouldn't have worried. In spite of the blatant anti-semitism - difficult to read, but completely in-keeping with the views of the time - it was a romping good tale of medieval chivalry. However, it did raise one question for me. In the same way I find it difficult to understand women being deemed worthy of a mental asylum because of excessive novel reading, how on earth can someone die of 'emotional turmoil'?)


Remarkably Bright Creatures - Shelby Van Pelt (Book Group pick. When this book was described to me 'an octopus solves the mystery of a young man's death' I will admit to feeling less than enthused about the prospect of reading it. However, I cannot recommend this highly enough. It is an absolute gem of a book and made me look at the octopus in a completely new light. If even half of what is said about them is true, they are indeed remarkably bright creatures and this is a book I will be recommending to everyone!)


Summer at Sea Glass Cove - Jenny Kane. (Read for review. Enjoyed it very much. Full review to follow on 15th April)

Book of the Month?

Once again, I'm going to cheat and choose two books because I genuinely cannot split them. I loved both for very different reasons. The Twyford Code came very close to the top spot, but these two were just so brilliant in their own ways that they just pipped it to the top spot. It's been a while since I've had to choose two books, so in a month where I've not read anywhere near as many books as I normally would, I think it speaks to the quality of the ones I have read when there were so many that could have been chosen.

However, there can only be one (ok, two) winnners and they are - Andrew Orton's Hooded Man Volume 1 and Shelby Van Pelt's Remarkably Bright Creatures. What unites them is the fact that I suspect even people to whom they might not, on the face of it, appeal, would actually enjoy them.

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