Welcome to the November 2020 roundup!
Here we are at the end of November, which seems crazy considering 2020 has felt like it’s dragged on for 5 years. In Melbourne, a lot of our stage 4 restrictions have eased, including traveling further from home and no longer having to wear masks outdoors if we can socially distance. This has put walking back on my schedule!
Walking in the warm weather with a mask was no fun and I’d stopped such exercise for the last few weeks. If you’ve been following my antics for a while, you’ll know I get the best story ideas when I’m out walking, so I’m hoping it’ll help me as I continue to work on my Blackbirch series. Along with more edits for book 3, I’ve been reading some great books, binge-watching some amazing TV shows, and other fun things, which you can find out more about below!
What I’ve Been…
Blackbirch Book 3 – I’ve done more thinking than writing this month, trying to get together an editing plan for draft 6 of Blackbirch 3, after working my way through a Cut, Shape, Polish editing course with The Australian Writers Centre, which I highly recommend.
None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney – It takes a while for the book to get going, with the actual story taking off halfway through. Before then, we meet Emma, the teen victim of a serial killer, and Travis, another teen who lost his law officer father to a serial killer. Turns out it’s the same serial killer Emma interviews for the FBI because the killer is a teenager and so is she.
Throughout the book, we learn that this serial killer, who is a pretty chilling villain, is connected to an active serial killer the FBI is trying to track down. The way the two killers are intertwined and playing a game with each other is the best part, although the choice to have some chapters from the active killer’s POV randomly in the book ruins the tension and surprise for the reader about who he is.
There’s a romance hinted at in a terrifically subtle way that goes nowhere and a flattish ending, but the action in the last half of the book is done really well. I also enjoyed the banter/relationship between Travis and Emma and the way they worked with each other to crack the case.
Operation: Sugarplum (Drosselmeier Industries #1) by Emily Wrayburn – A fun story that explores what would happen if video game characters came to life. While attending a work Christmas party, Clara meets Max, a young genius gamer working on a secret virtual reality project. When the two play, they let loose the Rat King and must work together to put him back where he belongs. It’s a fun, quick read, with great chemistry between Clara and Max, two characters I’d love to see more of in future stories.
The Babysitters Coven (The Babysitters Coven, #1) by Kate Williams – Although this book took a long time to get into things, and all the action happens in the final few chapters, you are rewarded with a good read. Esme loves babysitting and fashion, has only one friend in the world, and a mother who was shipped off to a facility. Turns out there’s a reason for that, and a reason why Esme can suddenly move things with her mind and why the new girl at school is always staring at her.
When she finds out those reasons, everything she knew about her mother and herself is turned on its head and she discovers she’s part of an ancient order that uses magic and powers to protect the world from evil. It’s part Babysitters Club part Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and a fun ride with great world-building. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment.
Everwish by Amelia Oz – I loved this debut from Amelia Oz! Not only did it have hints of a fairytale retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but curses, prophecies, witches, demons, mermaids, elemental magic, and everything in between. It might sound like a lot, but it’s all expertly weaved throughout a tight plot carried by an amazing female character in Stella, and her half-angel, half-demon love interest, Alaric.
When Stella discovers there’s more to the death of her parents than what she was told, she also finds out she’s the latest descendant in a line of women who have all fallen in love and died by their 21st birthday. Intent on breaking the curse, she seeks help from a kind stranger who turns out to be more than he seems, and her best friend who has been hiding the fact that she’s a witch. Secrets are revealed, alliances are forged and broken, there’s an action-packed ending, and enough twists to keep the pages turning. The main story wraps up nicely, but as it’s just the first in a series, there’s plenty of exciting threads left hanging for the next book—which I can’t wait to read!
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If you’d like to add the Blackbirch books to your “Want to Read” shelf and/or check out the reviews, click the following images!
Palm Springs (Amazon Prime Video) – I know this was out in July in the US, but we had to wait until now to see it in Australia and it was worth it! When Sarah attends her sister’s wedding, she notices a guest who seems to know exactly what people are going to say and do before they do it. Turns out Nyles is in a time loop, reliving the day over and over again. When Sarah gets caught up in it too, they have to work together to break it.
What follows is a movie that is as funny as it is serious, heartbreaking as it is heartwarming, and features one of the best-choreographed dance numbers ever! Definitely put this on your must-see list and don’t forget to watch the credits for a bonus scene that’ll answer at least one of the questions you’ll have at the end of your viewing.
The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) – You may have seen everyone on social media raving about this and wondering why they were losing their minds over a TV series about chess. I was the same, but the praise is justified. I don’t know how, but this 50s/60s set show works. Not only is it compelling, but the lead performance from Anya Taylor-Joy is top-notch. She gets the balance right, playing a girl orphaned by a suicidal car accident.
At age 9, she learns to play chess from the janitor at the girls’ home she lives in until she’s adopted at 16. From there, the series follows her until the age of 20 as she rises through the chess ranks. It’s not all smooth sailing. She has to deal with the memories of her childhood with a mentally ill mother. The pill addiction started by the “vitamins” given to her at the girls’ school, and her reliance on alcohol. She’s not a warm character and pushes aside everyone for her addictions and chess, but the writing and performances still have you rooting for her as she faces the toughest chess tournaments and players in the world. Highly recommended.
Truth Seekers (Amazon Prime Video) – Considering this is the team behind Shaun of the Dead, I thought this series about a ghost hunting Wi-Fi installer would be funny. It is, but it’s also scarier than I thought it would be, with the ghosts he comes across pulling off some pretty good jump scares. The overall story moves slowly in this series, but it does come together in surprising ways by the last episode, cleverly connecting to the other episodes in ways you don’t see coming. Give it a watch if you like rag-tag teams, humor, and horror.
Supernatural – Final Episode (10Play) – I remember when Supernatural first premiered back in 2005 and they released the first episode online for people to watch—which was absolutely unheard of at the time. 15 seasons later and the finale ended pretty much how I think most fans thought it would.
Unfortunately, because of COVID, it didn’t end as big as I think it was supposed to. It’s hard to include all the characters when the number of people on sets is limited. Instead, it finished as it began—with an episode about two brothers.
Do I think Sam and Dean’s end could have been combined with episode 19 instead? Sure. I think it would have improved the pace and gone nicely as that episode felt more like a finale (*spoilers* they beat the big bad, there was a past guest star montage, and a ride off into the sunset), but the writers went the way they did and included one more. It wasn’t awful like other shows (I.e. Dexter), it just… was. But, as they say—it’s the journey, not the destination—and it was a hell of a ride for the wayward sons.
Taking Photos Of
My book in a bookstore! Definitely one for the Writing Bucket List, and something I’d never thought I’d see as an independent author. Dymocks Knox City is carrying Blackbirch: The Beginning and Blackbirch: The Dark Half, so if you live in the area and are interested in reading my series, you can now pop by this awesome bookstore and pick them up!
On The Blog…
In case you missed any of my posts, or want to read them again, here are the latest blogs.
And for those looking for some holiday gift buying inspiration, check out this past post…
Writing Tip Of The Month…
#WritingTipWednesday posts are added to my social media feeds every week and here is the most popular tip for this month. It’s taken from my blog post, Foreshadowing Tips.
For more tips, visit my Writing Tips Pinterest Board.
Blackbirch Teaser Of The Month…
This was the most popular Blackbirch: The Dark Half teaser I posted to social media this month.
This teaser is taken from an action-packed scene where Josh is trying to stop a friend from making a mistake but is interrupted when visions are forced into his head by an unknown source. Those visions lead him to a truth none of them could imagine and reveal what the title of the book means. For more teasers, visit my Blackbirch Pinterest Board.
If you’d like to read the books released so far or find out more about each novel, here are the links:
Quote Of The Month…
I’ve hoped you’ve enjoyed my November Roundup. Let me know what you’ve been up to this month in the comments!
— K.M. Allan