Character Profile: Pippa

Digitally painted portrait of Pippa Banks, a stern looking blonde woman with short hair wearing a military uniform with a plethora of medals on her chest.

Story: The Maggie Celeste

Protagonist or Antagonist?: Protagonist (unless you ask Ethan)

Name: Hippolyta “Pippa” Banks

Age: 47

Country of Origin: Sweden

Occupation: Warship Captain

Loyalties: United Nations of Earth

Goal: Originally to take down a pirate captain, then to survive.

Morals: Always do the right thing, unless a superior orders you to do otherwise.

In unknown space and in the middle of a war, military hero Pippa “The Angel of Death” Banks finds herself the second-in-command aboard the very pirate ship she was sent to destroy. With no clue where they are or what’s going on, she must navigate life aboard the Maggie Celeste without being killed by the vengeful outlaws or losing any more of her already decimated crew.

However, as they spend more time in this new region of space, the hostility from both sides of this war has her questioning if they are truly as foreign there as they originally thought, and just how they ended up there in the first place. She finds herself in the middle of a grim plot and she needs the help of her sworn enemy, the Pirate Captain Ethan Doe, to uncover it.

That is, if she doesn’t strangle him first.

Book Review: Pacts Arcane and Otherwise by Joanna Maciejewska

It’s funny, for someone who both loves reading and loves writing, I sure am terrible at writing book reviews. I still leave something on the book’s Goodreads and Amazon pages to help the authors, but it’s never much more useful than “this is dead good, peeps”. That said, it’s something I’ve been meaning to get on for a good while and, with Joanna Maciejewska’s Pacts Arcane and Otherwise series coming to a close last week, it seemed like a good time to go for it. 

Spoiler alert: I’m not going to write reviews for books I don’t like because I don’t want to trash someone’s baby and I also don’t want to lie. Maybe I should call them book recommendations instead? Anyway-

To celebrate the release of the final book in the series, Demon Siege, I thought I would talk about where it all started and the series so far. It all starts with By The Pact, a high fantasy epic adventure starring quick witted but seemingly mediocre magic user Kamira and her good friend and professional muscle Veelk. Together they stumble across a powerful demon, imprisoned in the ancient ruins they are searching, who traps Kamira into a bargain which will either see him freed or her causing a huge disaster. Fortunately, both Kamira and Veelk are both more than they seem, and each step they take leads them closer and closer to the dark truth of their world. What ensues is a colourful and complex adventure of magic and demons and swords and snark. 

Image of the cover of novel "By the Pact" by Joanna Maciejewska, featuring two human figures looking towards a large crystal with a demon encased inside.

This is a great one for people who enjoy your classic sword and sorcery, but also those who like cutthroat political fantasy tales without crossing over into the grimdark genre. What are some of the major highlights for me, personally?

Pacts Arcane and Otherwise has a great cast of complex characters starting right with Book 1. Kamira, introduced as a low grade arcanist, grows and grows throughout and shows us what she’s made of. Her past and her future are ever expanding and fascinating, and her family history shows its influence so profoundly – despite how much she runs from it! The supporting cast hosts a great mix of altruistic princes, evil royalty, secretive societies, mysterious outcasts, and on and on. It’s a great series for people who love to debate characters – get all your friends to read and then battle to the death over who is Team Ryell and who is Team Put Ryell In The Sea! 

Also, I can’t neglect to mention the world building! Maciejewska has crafted a vibrant and real feeling world, with intricacies and details that reminded me of why I loved Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle in spite of a certain redheaded bard/wizard/etc. Kaighal is a living and breathing city with layers upon layers, and it doesn’t feel like an island. The world around it and the links are interconnected so well that it’s easy to become immersed in this magical place. 

As with most high fantasy series, the stakes rise exponentially as we move from one book to the next, but Maciejewska has crafted a story which flows without leaps or suspension of belief (y’know, apart from all the demons and magic and stuff). Every plot point has its place and every wall in the story has its foundation, which just keeps me hugely invested in what on earth is going to happen next. 

And now, the series is complete, so I get to find out! Time for me to go and keep reading, biting my nails as I wish for everyone to make it safely out the other side!

(Except you, Ryell. Get in the sea.)

The 2023 Goal Post

Two tall, slim glasses of champagne surrounded by shiny gold confetti.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Another year, another list of goals. I knew at the start of last year that I wasn’t getting much done. This year though I am hoping to be able to get a bit more done because I should have less big life events going on. So, what are my goals for this year? 

Writing Goals:

  1. The Halfway House first draft completed – This one is quite close to being done to be honest but, with other stuff going on, I need to make sure I don’t lose momentum and stop when I’m so close to the end. I have a track record of doing this if I don’t intentionally set myself goals (see Goal 2).
  2. The Fairy Godfather with betas – Now that I’ve finally admitted to myself that traditional publishing isn’t for me, my original beloved trilogy The Twyned Earth is back on the rails. Book 2 was so close to being beta ready but I became disillusioned and stopped working on it. It’s time I fixed that! 
  3. Self publishing fund – Self publishing can be as cheap or expensive as you decide for it to be. My books are a complete labour of love and I want them to go out into the world in the best possible state they can be, which unfortunately can be pretty expensive! Thanks to the current cost of living crisis, I’m not giving myself a specific numerical goal but instead committing to setting aside at least a little bit every single month. 
  4. Website overhaul – I want to go over and refresh every page on the site and, in addition to that, I want to delete or unpublish old posts that I either don’t feel are necessary anymore or that I would like to rewrite and republish to be better. I’d also like to update the appearance if I can find a layout that I like!
  5. Turn my Twyned Earth encyclopaedia digital – This was a really fun project I started ages ago. Basically a world building bible for Twyned Earth to help me keep consistency throughout the books and series, and keep track of all the fun world details that either never made it into books or had to get cut. It’s currently on paper in a binder and I want to get it typed up so that it’s both easier to change and add things to and also so I have a copy if something happens to it.

General Life Goals:

  1. Consistent Duolingo – I don’t want to say “keep a streak for the whole year” because, while that would be great, if I failed at any point I’d be demotivated to keep going. Instead I’m going to aim to get the 1000 xp badge for every month. That way at least if I fail one then I can redeem myself the next month. 
  2. Health targets – There’s a few things that I want to get back on track with that help my physical and (especially) mental health.
  3. Talk on Discord again (again) – Last time I set voice therapy with the end goal of talking on Discord to my online friends, I actually managed it. I want to get back into doing that and be more consistent this time!

That’s me for this year! All in, I think it’s a realistic amount of stuff to do while also giving me a few solid things to show at the end, which are both good for motivation. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m done with “hoping next year will be better” and instead just aiming to get more stuff done. 

I hope everyone had a lovely new year and that you’re all looking forward to whatever challenges you have set yourselves (if any)!

The 2022 Round Up

It should come as no surprise that this year has not been good for the goals I set out earlier in the year. However, while I’ve missed the mark on almost all of them, I’ve been very successful on some other stuff which was arguably quite a bit more important. For example, I no longer live in a country I hate and I own a home. I also have a lovely little cat and have passed my probation to make my new job permanent. All very successful! We’ve also had a few additional disasters this year which, while sorted now, certainly set me back. Still, let’s have a look at those goals.

A white and grey cat, curled up asleep on a keyboard, with two angry looking plushie octopus on her.
  1. The Halfway House – The goal was to get this to beta ready and we never made it to the finish line, however, I am pretty happy with the progress I did get. On the printed out line edits stage so not too far from being done. 
  2. NaNoWriMo – This was the big one for me this year and fortunately I delivered! Ten years and ten wins. Huzzah!
  3. Reading – I didn’t get through as many books as I would have liked but I did get through a fair number and I’m pleased with how diverse my selection of authors was. Not technically a win as I didn’t hit my arbitrary number but still happy with how I did and hoping to keep it up into the new year.
  4. Health stuff – Very early into October this changed to “just keep yourself together” because even that was a tall order thanks to some illegal work being done outside my home and completely knackering our water and boiler. I did keep myself together just about, even if I went backwards on a lot of the progress I’d made. Hugely disappointing but sometimes life is like that.

I think only one win out of my yearly goal list is a new personal low for me but I’m trying to look on the bright side. I got a lot of very tiring, time consuming, and essential things out of the way this year and while I’ve thoroughly had the “next year will be better” attitude beaten out of me slowly but surely since 2016, I am hopeful that next year I will at least be able to focus on writing a little more.

Future Goal: Self Publishing

I’ve been thinking a lot this last year or so about my writing and what it means to me, and even more so what my goals for it are. Writing has always been a pursuit of passion, of fun, and I didn’t even think about trying to get published when I was a kid or even when I got “serious” again after university. Somewhere along the way though I realised that I wanted to put my work out there. If I was putting all of this time and effort into it, I wanted something tangible that I could hold in my hands and be proud of. For a while, I thought traditional publishing was what I wanted and even spent a good chunk of time querying. It was during that time though that I realised something.

I had lost a lot of my passion. I wasn’t writing what I wanted to and was worrying about what an audience would want to see in my books. My themes had changed and my characters flattened. I was thinking too hard on what an agent might want and not what I might want. This was all very subconscious, so subconscious that I would only much later realise that I was losing my love of writing and of my stories. 

Some of you may recall around the end of 2020, I decided to spend NaNoWriMo writing a story that was just for me, with no intention of ever sharing it with anyone. One with every trope and trash that I loved without worry. 

That was the easiest NaNoWriMo I ever won, and only the second time I had ever actually COMPLETED the story within the month (the only other time was my very first year). This was when I started realising that I was making a mistake. Yes, I wanted my novel to become something more than a private file on my computer, but I didn’t want to think of it like a business. I didn’t want to worry about markets and trends or anyone else even liking it.  

Now this may sound like a strange conclusion, given the title of this post, as self publishing surely means you have to be even MORE business minded, right? Not necessarily. The beauty of self publishing is that you can pursue it in line with what your actual goals are.

It can be for the most hard-core of career writers, who put in their hearts and souls, and who create amazing and fruitful writing careers from it. But it can also be for the ones like me, the ones who just want the joy of sharing their story even with a handful of people. 

There are a number of benefits to self publishing that have made me realise that it is right for me, specifically.

  • I can write what I like without worrying about the market
  • Complete creative control
  • No querying to stoke my anxiety
  • I can set all of my own deadlines
  • I just want to share my work with those few who might be interested

All of these things have made me realise that self publishing is the way forward for me. It aligns with both my end goals and with the way I want to enjoy writing. It gives me control over my work and also the process. And that is why I’m really pleased to finally say out loud, even though I know that there’s a lot of work ahead, that I’m going to do it.

I am going to self publish my work.

Long width-wise image of two stacked bookshelves filled with books.

NaNoWriMo – Ten Years, Ten Wins

This post is a few days early considering it’s not quite the end of November yet, but I have the exciting news already so let’s go! As we approach the end of the yearly madness, let’s have a look at how I did.

First up – I won! Woo hoo! Ten years in a row doing NaNoWriMo and ten wins. I’m very happy with that! Feels weird to think that I’ve done this every year for almost a third of my life but I also couldn’t imagine my year without it. I look forward to it every year and always appreciate the challenge and inspiration that it brings me. Even in the hardest years (2021 being a prime example), I’ve still managed to get myself writing thanks to this event. So, to the NaNoWriMo team, thank you.

Yellow banner with drawn floral designs with the text: "Spoonwood for perseverence. WINNER. NaNoWriMo2022"

I anticipated this being a tough year but it actually went very smoothly, despite petering out a bit towards the end of the 50k. I was writing a story, The Maggie Celeste, that I had thought about a lot for several years and I was very hyped for my ten-year anniversary. Things slowed down around the middle of the month, partly because my ridiculous October meant that I didn’t have time to plan more than the first third of the book properly and partly because of Game Freak’s notorious habit of releasing new Pokemon games in the middle of November. That said, I made my way to the 50k mark fairly comfortably, which is nice since after That October I really didn’t want to burn myself out all through November.

A graph showing the date from the start of November to the end of November on the x axis, and word count on the y axis. A grey line shows the linear "on track" word count per day and a blue wiggly line shows my actual progress. The blue starts high above the grey and rising, until around mid November when it gets very close to 50k and becomes almost flat.

As for the story, I’m pretty happy with the start but as soon as I ran out of my plan it all started coming off the rails a bit. Still, I have a good thirty thousand words of it that I’m happy with and now I have the time to sit and plot out the rest. At the very least, I got some nice scenes and character development out of the latter half as well so even if I scrap a lot of it, it shouldn’t feel like time wasted.

What comes next?

Well after my last couple of years which have been rough, I’ve made some big decisions which I’ll talk about later but for now my priorities are as follows:

  • Finish getting The Halfway House beta ready. Pretty close to this one, just on the line edit stage for it.
  • Get The Fairy Godfather beta ready. Again, this one got close to done but I got disillusioned with the series a while back thanks to where my head was at. I’m in a better place now and I refuse to let this trilogy disappear into the depths of draft hell.
  • Do some Through the Black touch ups. Speaking of the Twyned Earth trilogy, there are a couple of things I want to tweak in this manuscript that I’ve noticed which I’d like to get sorted.

There’s a few things I’m working on that aren’t novel related too that I’ll be tinkering with in the background, the main one being giving my website a nice overhaul! It’s been quite stagnant around here since I set up shop in 2012 (oh my god, really?) and a lot of the pages need a refresh. This includes adding in some art galleries! I was originally planning on using InkBlot for this, which I still will, but I didn’t realise that unlike some other art hosting sites you need to have an account to view. Now that I’ve figured out how to make a gallery here without it looking terrible, I think it will be nice to be able to have everything all together.

And that’s it from me! I hope you’ve all had an excellent November. 

Anyone else out there doing NaNoWriMo? How did you do? Remember – any words at all is more than you had, and that’s a win.

Halfway There, NaNoWriMo 2022

Wooooaaahhh, we’re half way there!

Uh, I mean, here we are at the halfway mark for NaNoWriMo 2022! How’s it going you ask? Well, on paper, very good so far. It’s exactly halfway through and I am at 38,814 words out of the end goal of 50,000. Nice. I even got around to setting up my project’s page, though it needs some love when the month is done. However, there are two major challenges up ahead.

Challenge number one: I’ve run out of plan. Yup, not a good one for me. I’m not so good without a plan but thanks to how awful my October was I never got further than section two, which means a few days ago I ran out. Now all I’ve got is three sentences describing what happens in the last three sections of the book. It’s going to be rough from here. Oh boy, it is going to be rough.

So what’s the other issue? GameFreak, my old friend, is back at its usual tricks of releasing a new Pokemon game right in the middle of November. They really do make a habit of this though. It seems almost malicious at this point.

Still, I have set myself in good stead for the rest of the month. I’m at the point where I need less than 800 words per day to finish. This is certainly doable, provided I don’t run into too many problems with the story. The problem is that if I can do, it could really stall me out. This is year ten though, I am determined to make it and this head start has just got me even more encouraged.

I hope all my fellow NaNoWriMo-ers out there are having a good month! And the regular reminder that, even though I am determined to hit this goal, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. It’s just about getting yourself kickstarted. 

Got some words done this month? That’s a success right there.

Happy writing, everyone! 

(P.S. I’m going for the fire starter…)

The Ten Year Streak

This year marks my 10th year doing NaNoWriMo and, if I do well, it will end with a 10 year win streak. While exciting, I’m coming into it with challenges. October 2022 was unbelievably difficult for a multitude of reasons. It was just one of those months where EVERYTHING went wrong and there was no rest from the disasters. I’m really, really hoping that November eases up on me. God knows I need it.

Not only that, but this will be my first ever year without Twitter. As a platform, I could leave it any moment. The issue is I’ve made some great writing friends on there from the very first year, people who I’ve met in real life now, people who I’ve stuck with for 10 years. It’s going to be strange doing NaNoWriMo without those who were there at the start, cheering on my progress and sharing theirs with me. Of course I have other ways of contact but it’s not quite the same as having a live feed of everyone sharing their highs and lows, their WIPLines and their story teases. 

Still, I’m determined that nothing will stop me. This year, I’m working on a sci-fi for the first time in a long time! I’m also off to a strong start, which will hopefully give me the momentum to keep pushing through if things do get tough. I’ll make a proper page for my story at some point but, for now, you can follow my progress and read a (very hastily written blurb) here: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/celuth/projects/the-maggie-celeste

For anyone who’s on there, I’ve also joined Mastodon to try and fill the void of similarly afflicted writers shrieking about their novels! You can find me at @CMSchofield@writing.exchange

Good writing, everyone!

The 2022 Goal Post (Finally)

Where have I been? The start of 2022 and the year’s goals.

I did, many months ago, promise an update about where I’d been and to come up with a list of goals for the year. Considering we’re already  over halfway through said year, they aren’t going to be anything to write (ahaha) home about. I’m sure that comes as no surprise, considering my last post. So, where HAVE I been?

Mentally, very low. And in and around all of that, I have been: job hunting, starting new job, moving cross country, living in a less than ideal situation for a few months, enduring the joy of house hunting, going through the process of buying a home (which they make far more stressful than it needs to be but I’ll save whining about that for elsewhere), trying not to mess up my probation at my new and very challenging job, moving again, getting the whole place furnished, and getting a cat. 

I now live in a lovely flat which has furniture and a small furry family member named Scone. I have officially passed my probation period at the new job, and slowly my brain is coming back around to being vaguely useful once more. How nice. Almost at the point now where I feel like I have time to breathe. 

Now I’ve already been doing a touch of writing here and there, but I now have my new office set up (words cannot describe how excited I am about this), and it is time to WRITE!

But what am I working on?

  1. The Halfway House – I really want to get this beta ready. Not sure it’s totally achievable since I want to be prepped well for NaNoWriMo and we’re already well through the year, but I’ll be aiming to at least have my line edits on paper finished by the end of December. 
  2. NaNoWriMo – This year will be my 10th year doing NaNoWriMo and, if I win, will mark a 10 year win streak. It’s happening, even if I’m mashed potatoes by the end of it.
  3. Reading – When my mental health is bad, I get into the habit of either rereading books over and over or not reading at all. As a writer, reading widely is one of the most useful things I can do to improve (plus it’s just really fun and I miss it), so I’m going to be focusing on getting back in the habit of reading every day like I used to, even if it’s just 20 minutes before bed. 
  4. Health stuff – A few things I want to do to help myself feel better. Mental health going splat has a great way of letting your physical health go splat too.

I wouldn’t expect blog posts to become regular again until next year at least but I’ll try and post things here as I can. Overall going to be focusing on the fun stuff though. I hope everyone has had a better 12 months than I have, and hoping things carry on the way they’re going now.

To cheer everyone up from my whining, may I present, Scone:

The beast.

Rest in Pieces, 2021.

It is me, the one who disappears randomly for long stretches of time! I made a post on Twitter at the start of January stating that pretty much everything was on hold thanks to life really laying it on for a while. I’m really glad I went into 2021 with the expectation that it was going to be more of the same shit as 2020 because that way it wasn’t too much of a shock to the system that 2021 turned out to be much, much worse. 

On the plus side, 2022 is off to a far better start, so that’s something. More on that and what I’ve been up to in my next post. For now, let’s finally put that godforsaken year to bed with the round up of my goals and how I did. Spoiler alert: not well. 

  1. Write 1 short story per month – This one never recovered and I can’t say that’s surprising. 
  2. Get something beta ready – Considering how my year was, I’m proud of how well I did on this one. I didn’t finish but I’m very close to being at the line edit stage and I can’t wait to carry on working on this. The Halfway House was one of the few things keeping me going last year, even when I couldn’t work on it. 
  3. Read new books – Another big flop. I’ve done better already this year than I did the entirety of last year. Not sure if that’s a tragic thing for last year or a good thing for this one. 
  4. Keep Through the Black on submission – This started off well, and it wasn’t until relatively late in the year when everything really went sideways that it stumbled. Another fail but again, it was a bad year and a bad time. 
  5. Keep up blog posts – I think we all know the answer to this one. 

Moving on to some non writing related ones:

  1. Draw 1 piece of art per month – My poor 2021 art folder didn’t even get 12 finished pieces for the whole year, never mind one per month. Pretty gutted about it but other things needed to take priority. 
  2. Weight goal – Ell oh Ell. 
  3. Voice Therapy – I technically succeeded at this one! My goal was to speak on voice chat to my gaming peeps and I did! Like twice. It still counts, and I’m planning on being more consistent this year. The first time is the worst time and that’s out of the way now. 

One out of eight is a new low for me, and I’m hoping this is my rock bottom for bringing myself back up again. Though I’m going to be cheating by setting myself way less than I normally would, especially since I’m expecting more disruption through the year (though if all goes to plan that’s going to be far more controlled and exciting disruption).

Here’s to 2021, may you rest in a ditch somewhere!