Jenny Graham-Jones

Fantasy and Sci-fi Author

Read Harder!

Book Riot - Read Harder Challenge 2017

This year, I’ve set myself a goal of reading 100 books. I’m keeping track of this through the Goodreads Challenge and am pleased to say that so far, I’m ahead of my target. To try and broaden my reading horizons, I’m endeavoring to  also complete the Read Harder challenge. Book Riot, who host the challenge, have this to say about it:

We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. No one is keeping score and there are no points to post. We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out. That’s what this is – a perspective shift – but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself.

So, just about half way into the year, here’s a list of my progress so far.

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First Flash Fiction

Earlier this month, I set myself a challenge: to write a 2,000 word sci-fi short story over the course of 48 hours. Well, strictly speaking, the Sci-Fi London Film Festival set the challenge for me:

On Saturday 8 April 2017 at 11am, we task you to write some original science fiction using elements we give you.   Your story should not exceed 2000 words and you only have 48 hours: the best story we receive will be published on New Scientist’s website and the author will receive £500 and a VIP pass to this year’s festival which runs in London from 27 April to 6 May 2017.

Two things appealed to me about this challenge.

First, the deadline. The more I write, the more I’ve found that a firm deadline helps me to focus on what I need to achieve. I’m planning on doing another ‘Agile Novel Development‘ post about this in the near future, talking about my experience with the concept of writing sprints and how writing in short, fixed bursts can be a great way to develop a consistent writing habit.

Second, the constraints – specifically the length of the story and the mandatory prompts. Every entrant received two mandatory and one optional prompt, all of them – seemingly – randomly mixed together. I’ve often found writing prompts a little too woolly to work with and appreciated that, in this case, I would have more than one connected prompt to work with.

When the morning of the challenge arrived, these were the prompts I was assigned:

Title: THE WORLD IN A TEACUP

Dialogue: “Have a look online, see if we can hire one.”

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What’s Caught My Eye: The Crypt TV Collection Contest

Although the Geek and Sundry Fantasy Contest has attracted hundreds of authors to Inkshares – myself included! – it’s not the only contest currently in-flight.  Elsewhere, in a darker, blood-stained corner of the Inkshares community, the Crypt TV Collection Contest is just getting started.

At the time of writing this post, less than twenty projects have been submitted to the contest, but with just under two months left to compete, I’m sure there will be plenty more to come. I’ve picked out a few entries that have caught my eye, to highlight some of the great and diverse projects currently seeking funding.

Weaponized
Weaponized1Not even remotely for the faint of heart, Weaponized  by Zac Thompson is a deceptively simple yet original premise that, if you’re anything like me, will set your stomach to turn and your skin to crawl:

After losing his virginity to a stranger, a confident but naïve gay teen contracts an STI that causes his flesh to transform into a living gun.

What a fascinating concept! In his project page, Zac mentions that the idea for Weaponized came to him when he was “[…] watching a news broadcast where a scientist said if we started treating guns like a disease we’d find a solution to gun violence much quicker.”

The sample chapters showcase Zac’s skill with visceral, suspenseful prose and open a window into a grisly world of “inside-out men” and “swords made from sharpened spinal cords.”

For anyone who has the stomach to preorder, Zac has offered to share the whole, albeit draft, contents of the book right away.

 

Bad Medicine
B_D_MedicineFar at the other end of the horror spectrum and currently standing tall in the contest, undoubtedly in fabulous heels, is Bad Medicine by Ricardo Henriquez. Of all the books in the contest, this one has – arguably – the most exciting and unexpected tagline:

The Walking Dead meets Ru-Paul’s Drag Race. An up-and-coming drag-queen faces a poorly timed zombie apocalypse. Can she wield a machete and still look good in Jimmy-Choo?

Yep, you read that right. Talking about taking a tired genre and turning it into something fresh and new. Though, at the time of writing, there’s only one chapter available to read, Ricardo’s prose has such a strong tone and voice that it’s easy to see why almost 40 readers have backed Bad Medicine.

Equal parts humorous and horrific, what’s not to love?

 

Ward of the South
WOTS-594x891Last but by no means least, is Ward of the South by Cem Bilici. At the time of writing, this project is something of an underdog, but definitely worth a look.

Stacey’s boyfriend and girlfriend have been taken by dark, shape-shifting creatures. A stranger in their home says that she was their target. To save herself and her lovers, she must join that stranger. To become like him, a Ward of the South.

This is urban horror with plenty of spit, grit, and shadowy monstrosities.  There are a whopping 11 chapters already available to read on Ward of the South‘s project page, so settle in with a mug of something dark and bitter and lose yourself in Cem Bilici’s world.

 

 
If all of that has left you wanting more, head over to the contest page where you can explore dozens of other novels.

Agile Novel Development: User Stories

I’m going to start my first author blog post by talking about software development.

I know, it’s not what you might expect from a fantasy and sci-fi author. When I’m not writing fiction, however, I’m writing code for software and it occurred to me that it might be interesting to explore how the two aspects of my life intersect in a series of posts called Agile Novel Development. Specifically, I want to look at how the former can benefit from my experiences in the later, and perhaps in the process share some of the useful techniques that I’ve picked up in my short time as a developer.

I work in an Agile software development team. If you’re not familiar with Agile as a project management approach, Agile in a Nutshell describes it as “a time-boxed, iterative approach to software delivery that builds software incrementally from the start of the project, instead of trying to deliver it all at once near the end.” It’s this iterative approach that really appeals to me and offers an obvious parallel to the editing process integral to writing a great story. 

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