My 2018 in First Posts

As in past years, I may cheat a little bit to find the most relevant sentences from this year’s blog posts which best describe 2018. A year of finally achieving stability and contentment of sorts after 4 years of tumult, but with all the usual feelings of guilt and never having enough time to do everything I want. 

So, each year I leap.

Soothe through boxing gloves…

Too ferocious to be constrained by borders in light and shade/ we shimmer in the mirror

I emerged like a warrior after endless wars in Troy: with a strained ligament, a pulled deltoid, throbbing headache, shortness of breath and a cold.

It is tempting to wonder what Orwell would have written if he had been living today.

With all of the book-buying binges I’ve been indulging in for the past year, I’ve had to rethink how I arrange my books on the shelves.

She sat down to do her mission report and invoices.

Close Encounters of the Welsh Kind

I finally took a couple of days off work and visited Cambridge with my sons.

Motherly guilt played a part.

The stones on the ground all glitter enchantingly, since these hills used to contain gold. 

I’ve let my #EU27Project languish for far too long… 

It has been fun keeping so busy, attending so many events, getting involved in multiple literary projects. But I think my word for 2019 will be ‘Restraint’. Not sexy, but necessary. It’s time to choose just a few important things to focus on. Help my son through his exams and to make the best decisions about his future. Make the poetry chapbook as good as I can and bring the novel to a presentable state. Save money by not buying books, booking holidays and going to shows at the drop of a hat. Read wisely and deeply rather than too widely and superficially. Take better care of my health: not eat so excessively, not be quite so extravagantly lazy.

Happy New Year, one and all! Let’s hope 2019 will be better than expected.

New Year’s Friday Fun: The Year of the Chateau

I start the year as I mean to go on: planning my move into a wonderful chateau complete with delectable grounds. Here are a few to set you dreaming as you digest all of the rich holiday food!

Chateau in Vienne, from website A Vendre a Louer.
Chateau in Vienne, from website A Vendre a Louer.

Chateau de Flecher, Ain. From tourist website.
Chateau de Flecher, Ain. From tourist website.

Chateau in Rhone Alpes, from Paruvendu website.
Chateau in Rhone Alpes, from Paruvendu website.

Chateau de la Tour, Ain. From tourist website. A bit pink, wonder what the repainting might cost...
Chateau de la Tour, Ain. From tourist website. A bit pink, wonder what the repainting might cost…

No idea where this one is, but it's glorious. From Leggett Immo.
Somewhere near Limousin, all moaty and everything, isn’t it glorious? From Leggett Immo.

No idea where this one is. From Chateaux et belles demeures website.
No idea where this one is. From Chateaux et belles demeures website.

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to an excellent 2015 for all of us! I will be travelling for work over the next 10 days, so I won’t be around much to either blog or comment or tweet, but thank you for your support and fun interactions over the past 2-3 years and I hope there is much more fun to come.

 

Not a Book List as Such…

It’s not yet that time of year to make my ‘definitive book list’. I like to leave it until the last 2-3 days of the year, just in case that world-shattering read comes along at the last minute. However, Goodreads is congratulating me that I have reached my (upwardly revised) reading goal of 140 books for the year, so I had to celebrate.

dailycreativewriter.com
dailycreativewriter.com

Statistics: Want cold hard figures? Look no further. 140 read and a few more to squeeze in before December 31st (not enough to claim 150, though).   10 books a month on average (childless and workless August was the personal record with 27, but there were quite a few months with just 5-6). A respectable reading speed of 2.5 days per book, with some devoured in a single day (or night).

Challenges Completed: The Global Reading Challenge (for crime fiction), with two books for each continent, including a wildcard 7th continent – excellent for broadening my palate. Sadly, I was unable to complete the Translation Challenge – which sounds crazy when you look at the 27 translated titles on my list. However, most of them were crime fiction for review, and of the remaining there was only a small handful I reviewed or mentioned in any detail. So that doesn’t count. I did manage to read roughly one French book per month (in French) – my personal Holy Grail, as I try to improve my vocabulary. Sadly, literary works do not seem to equip you with the right words for dealing with tax offices or other bureaucracy. Perhaps I should stick to the swear words in the BD?

Lessons Learnt: What would I forget, borrow and learn from this year’s reading and take forward to next year’s reading?

1) When you set yourself such a high target, re-reading goes out the window. I would like more time to revisit old favourites.

2) You become cynical and less patient about clichés – and you have no qualms about abandoning a book if it still doesn’t move you after 50 pages.

3) Whether you sign up for a challenge formally or not, it is such a good idea to broaden your horizons and try out new things in literature. Some won’t work, but some will and then you have the pleasure of entering a whole new realm you had previously sealed off.

4) Although I always have 4-5 books on the go at any point in time, this simultaneity is a bit of a myth. I cannot enter, exit and parachute into other worlds quite so easily. I may not be in the mood for the same book during the day or in the evening, though, so having a couple on your bedside table makes sense. I usually alternate between a paperback and an e-book.

5) I must NOT buy any more books until I read all those I bought this past year. In 2014 I need to be ruthless about reading the books I have, instead of always reaching out for new ones at the library. I have 50 on my Kindle, 20 on my shelf and 8 on my laptop waiting to be read. And I suspect there will be many more ARC to review for Crime Fiction Lover too. Plus I have a few challenges of my own up my sleeve (am thinking of reigniting my passion for Japanese and German literature).

BookPileAnd now I have a goal of 140 to beat in the New Year…

Holiday Haikus

Snowy landscapeSilver mother-tongue:

winter nights are still too short

to share you with friends.

 

If you must pass too:

let the murmur of the snow

be your only guide.

 

Our Falcon-hut

hugs its icy green mantle

closer to its heart.

 

Shrill squawks of delight

our boys, your boys: who can tell?

Bundled-up snowmen.

 

If laughter ceases,

what is left? Bring more mulled wine!

Games room rings with us.

 

Inside the prison,

outside of the storm,

I am laughing.

 

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

We know how to relax...
We know how to relax…

Aren’t cats just the best at teaching us how to relax and take life as it comes? May you all have a Christmas that is at least half as restful and enjoyable as Pepina’s, shown here!  (Oh, and have you ever wondered why there seems to be such a prevalence of cat and dog lovers among writers?)

I may be missing in action over the next few weeks, as I am not sure how good my Internet connection will be, but I wish you all a great start to the New Year.   Fingers crossed, I will get the editing on my novel done!

 

Something Old, Something New…

Now that the Chinese government has told us in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that the world is not going to end on the 21st of December, I can safely plan my ‘summary of just 2012’ blog post. Rather than having to summarise the whole history of Earth and human beings.

Out with the old, in with the new is what always comes to mind as the year changes.  So I shall follow the good old wedding traditions and find something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue to list as my highlights for the year 2012.

1) Old

I have rediscovered my pleasure for writing this year, especially for reading and writing poetry, which I haven’t done since high school.  Writing is an old passion of mine, but I have been very clever at avoiding it (at least in its fully creative guise) over the past decade or more.  So, welcome back, old friend, sit down and tarry a while.  It’s such a pleasure to have you here with me!

2)  New

Joining the online community through blogging and book reviewing and connecting with other, much better writers than myself.  There is so much to learn here, so much to enjoy, especially on storytelling sites such as Cowbird,  that I am afraid I am spending far too much time reading other people’s work and not concentrating nearly enough on my own. I have also discovered a genuine community and mutual support system here, which was unexpected and moving.

3) Borrowed

I will borrow my own review of the Top 5 Crime Reads of my year from over at Crime Fiction Lover. But while you’re there, you may want to check some of the other Top 5 picks by my fellow reviewers.  They are all very knowledgeable about crime (fiction, of course). I have certainly added substantially to my already formidable TBR mountain.

4) Blue

No, I am not going to finish on a sad note, about what has made me blue this year.  Instead, since blue is my favourite colour, I will tell you about some of my best discoveries this year. I was going to do it in images, but this antiquated desktop can’t seem to cope with that.

– The beauties of France: its settings, its history, its (contemporary, rather than what I read in school) literature

Peirene Press – beautiful editions of world literature in translation (with a pronounced Teutonic flavour), as well as an interesting business model based on subscription and community-building

– There is more to skiing than racing madly downhill – I have also learnt cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing this year

– That maybe I do need a cat to complete my happiness after all. We befriended a friend’s cat at the weekend and now I want one just like her!

– Online reading challenges.  I intend to participate in a couple this coming year: Translation Reading Challenge (particularly from cultures that I know next to nothing about) hosted by Curiosity Killed the Bookworm and the Global Reading Challenge, to be hosted by Mysteries in Paradise.

So, what have been your highlights this year? And what do you intend to keep on doing in the New Year, or what do you intend to start afresh?