What’s Up Wednesday

I’ve been on a bit of a blog break for the last week, so I’m taking this opportunity to catch you up on what’s been going on, courtesy of Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk‘s What’s Up Wednesday meme.

What I’m Reading

I’m currently reading THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray, and I can see why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The first part is a little slow as she introduces us to the characters and sets the atmosphere. Personally, I’m enjoying it, and that’s largely due to the fact that it’s well written. She’s avoiding a lot of info-dump but giving a good sense of place and character. And despite the relatively slow pace, there’s sufficient action in the opening chapters to keep the reader interested. I have high hopes this will be one of the better books I’ve read this year.

What I’m Writing

I’m still plugging away at the WIP revisions, and wavering between “this is good,” and “this is not good enough.” But what I think of it isn’t important right now. First, I need to finish revisions. Then I’ll worry about whether it’s worth taking to the beta reader stage. In the meantime, the YA Buccaneers have posted their latest Walk the Plank flash fiction challenge. I’ve had one idea for a story based on the theme and the opening words, but I’m afraid it will take more than 200 words to develop. We’ll see. I have a few weeks to come up with something.

What Inspires Me Right Now

You people! I really needed to take a blog break over the past week, and didn’t have time to visit many blogs for What’s Up Wednesday a few weeks ago. I thought that would mean no-one would visit my blog either (seems fair). But no! You lovely people still stopped by, commented, visited, and so on. Thank you so much. It’s nice to know you all still check in on me even when I’m not around the blogs for a while. That encourages me to keep this blog thing going. I’ll try to do better over the next week or so to stop by your blogs.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

This past weekend, my oldest turned 20. She got a lovely swanky new camera, so she’s now the official family photographer. Aside from reading and writing, there’s buying Christmas gifts, and the various activities around that. I’m also trying not to get sucked into playing Doctor Who: Legacy on my iPad (also available for Android). I warn you–it’s very addictive. And speaking of Doctor Who… only one week until the Christmas Special, and the regeneration, the end of Matt Smith’s era… yes, it’s a huge deal for Whovians. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas would be awesome even without Doctor Who. The Christmas Special is the cherry on the cake, though. If you like cherries–which I do.

What have you been up to this week? Don’t tell me in the comments–blog about it! See Jaime’s blog for details on how to participate. Meanwhile, tell me what’s your favorite (or favourite for my Commonwealth friends) thing to do at Christmas?

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What’s Up Wednesday: Book of the Month for November, 2013 Edition

I missed last week’s WUW so I thought I’d give you all a quick update on life. My Mum’s here from the UK, and will be until Friday, which is why I haven’t been as engaged online as usual (and I’m not normally as engaged as I probably should be–sorry!). Anyway… here’s what’s going on with me.

What I’m Reading

I’m still reading Stephen King’s NIGHT SHIFT, a collection of short stories written between 1970 and 1977. The ones I’ve read so far are dark, as you would expect from Mr. King, but what interests me is the way he runs with an idea. Behind each story there’s a “what if…?” What if trucks came alive and started attacking truck stops? What if a mangler came to life and terrorized laundry workers? What if toy soldiers took on a hit man? Some of the ideas may seem a bit wacky, but King gets away with them by the fact he writes so well. Some have a conclusion, some he leaves open ended–with a twist, even. I’m not into the macabre, but it’s a good read anyway.

What I’m Writing

Aside from a couple of Janet Reid contests, not much, and that’s okay. Time with Mum is more important. The writing can wait until next week. But then it has to be full steam ahead to get revisions done and have this manuscript ready for beta readers. I’ve got busy days ahead.

What Inspires Me Right Now

I guess NIGHT SHIFT is inspiring me not be be afraid to grab an idea and run with it, see where it goes. Especially for short stories. That format, like flash fiction, is excellent for experimenting with those odd ideas you don’t know would work as a novel, but you kind-of want to try out anyway.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

This year’s Thanksgiving was particularly special because my Mum was here to celebrate with us. She contributed an apple crumble, which was delicious, especially with FirstBorn’s made-from-scratch custard. We also tackled a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, watched some Marx Brothers movies, and have been generally hanging out with the family.

Book of the Month for November, 2013

I haven’t gone through many books this month, but I don’t think my pick of the month is a “default” choice. It really is a great book, and worthy of the accolade. So, my Book of the Month for November is… THE SHERLOCKIAN by Graham Moore. The novel consists of two murder-mysteries, one at a gathering of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts, and the other at the turn of the century featuring Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker. For those who want to know more, I reviewed it on Goodreads. If you enjoy murder-mysteries and/or historical fiction, you’ll love this book.

So, what have you been up to this week? Find out how to join the What’s Up Wednesday fun by visiting Jaime Morrow’s blog. You’ll also find a linky list of all the participants there.

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Clive Staples Lewis: November 29, 1898 – November 22, 1963

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis–professor, writer, theologian. Lewis is probably best known for his Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven children’s stories that have been made into radio plays, movies, and have remained in print for sixty years. My brother had a copy of the first in the series, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, and though I remember seeing it on the shelf, and was curious about it, I never once throughout my childhood picked it up and read it. I read JENNINGS, and GRIMBLE, and history, and a variety of other things, but I avoided Narnia. Did I think it too “childish”? Did the title put me off? I really don’t know. Maybe, like many things, I just never got around to it.

The first C. S. Lewis I remember reading was not long after I became a Christian when I was 13. My uncle, a Church of Ireland minister, bought me a copy of THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. That book made me a fan. It was witty, and thought provoking, and so beautifully written. After that, my mum picked up a copy of MERE CHRISTIANITY from a used book shop. In fact, up until my mid-twenties, I only knew C. S. Lewis the theologian. And while I didn’t agree with him all the time, I couldn’t avoid the way he crafted language, and formed his arguments in such an engaging way. Whether or not I liked what he said, I loved the way he said it.

I discovered Narnia when my wife bought me a set of the books for my birthday. I don’t remember the exact year, but I remember starting on the series and going through a book a day for a week. I was enthralled, and amazed that books for children could appeal to an adult. The way Lewis effortlessly brought his Christian worldview to bear on the stories without being preachy particularly impressed me. Encountering these familiar points of theology was like meeting beloved friends at a fancy dress party. There was joy at the recognition, and marveling at how well they concealed themselves from all but those who knew them. I often credit J. K. Rowling for giving me the kick up the backside to return to fiction writing; but I’m sure during that week, C. S. Lewis planted a seed. Christian theology wasn’t the only friend I encountered in Narnia; I also heard the call of the story-writer I had long left behind.

I have gone back to Narnia many times since, and frequently venture back to Lewis’ other writings. As a theologian, I would call him my Christian brother, though we still have important areas of disagreement that I’m sure will be settled in Eternity. As a writer, I consider him second-to-none. If at some point in my writing career–whatever becomes of that–I manage to attain some measure of his clarity of thought, and beauty of expression, I will consider myself blessed.

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What’s Up Wednesday: Doctor Who Edition

This coming Saturday, Doctor Who, the longest-running sci-fi series, and the only reason for having a television, turns fifty. So there’s a distinctly Whovian turn to this week’s WUW, if you don’t mind. For those who don’t know, What’s Up Wednesday was devised by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk as a way for reader/writer buddies to keep up with each other. Find out how to join in the WUW fun and visit other WUW participants on Jaime’s blog (Erin’s taking a blog break for a while).

What I’m Reading

I finished the Doctor Who book I was reading, and I reviewed it on Goodreads. It was a good story, but the writing left a bit to be desired. I contemplated diving into another Doctor Who book, but in the end I chose NIGHT SHIFT by Stephen King. I’ve been saying for a while that I need to write some short stories that I could submit to publications and/or competitions, which is primarily why I picked this as my next read. NIGHT SHIFT is a collection of short stories, written by King between 1970 and 1977. The first, “Jerusalem’s Lot,” appears to be a prequel to ‘SALEM’S LOT. Again, horror’s not my genre of choice, but King is an excellent writer, and I hope to pick up some tips on how to structure a good short story.

What I’m Writing

Again, work on the revisions is slow, but while my Mum’s here, that’s fine. I wrote a piece of flash fiction for the YA Buccaneers’ “Walk the Plank” challenge yesterday that was fun to do. While revisions are slow, it’s good to do things like this that stir the creative juices and remind me that I can still write.

What Inspires Me Right Now

Doctor Who. What particularly inspires me about Doctor Who is how this show that I remember watching as a child on TV in England is still going, and has become such a worldwide phenomenon. The 50th Anniversary Special is being simulcast on television stations in at least 75 countries. It’s being shown in 3D in movie theaters around the world (including this little corner of Eastern North Carolina!). And the Eleventh Doctor graces the cover of this week’s TV Guide magazine here in the States. For all the Radio Times covers the Doctor has appeared on over the years, to land a place on the US’s most prestigious listing guide just shows how far it’s come.

The amazing thing, though, is the fact that all this success is not just due the show itself (though, of course, that is a big factor–it’s an awesome show), but the incredible, loyal fandom the show has. There are people watching today who were sat in front of their TVs that Saturday night in 1963. The people who make the new, rebooted Doctor Who are among some of the biggest fans of the show, and watched it religiously as children. The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, was (and still is) a complete Doctor Who geek, as is the actor who will become the Twelfth Doctor at Christmas, Peter Capaldi. Even the team of sound and video engineers who restore classic Doctor Who stories for DVD release are all long-time fans of the show. There is such a lot of love for this program both inside and outside the television industry, it’s breathtaking. And that’s the power of a great idea, and what can happen when great ideas capture the imagination. You see a similar kind of thing with the Harry Potter fandom, and I don’t doubt in 2047, people will be celebrating 50 years since HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE was released in the UK.

You might be interested in the following list of celebrities who are fans of Doctor Who (pulled from Wikipedia)–some of these names surprised me!:

  • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
  • The Prince of Wales
  • Mark Gatiss
  • Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Stephen Fry
  • David Duchovny
  • Tom Hanks
  • Eric McCormack
  • Simon Pegg
  • Rob Lowe
  • Anthony Stewart Head
  • Steve Martin
  • Scott Bakula
  • Noah Wyle
  • Simpsons creator Matt Groening
  • Inheritance Cycle author Christopher Paolini
  • Firefly creator Joss Whedon
  • Science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer
  • Horror writer Stephen King
  • Graphic novelist and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman
  • Star Trek star Patrick Stewart
  • Craig Ferguson of the Late Late show
  • Author Rick Riordan
  • Director Peter Jackson
  • “Star Wars” creator George Lucas
  • Director Steven Spielberg (at least a fan of the classic series)

What Else I’ve Been Up To

This past weekend, SecondBorn turned 18. I am now the father of two adult children. I feel old. We had a fun time celebrating, though. And, of course, this Saturday, we’ll be joining with friends to watch the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. FirstBorn says she’ll make Dalek cupcakes, and wifey’s trying to think of an appropriate supper to fix. We’re all looking forward to that.

If you’re not a fan of Doctor Who, or have heard of it but never watched it, and you feel like you’re missing out on something… well, yes, you are. :)

What’s your week been like?

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Walk the NaNo Plank

For this month’s Walk the Plank flash fiction challenge, the YA Buccaneers are celebrating NaNoWriMo by offering participants the opportunity to either write something original, or share 200 words of their current NaNo project. Since I’m not doing NaNo this year, I have a story to share. Here are the rules:

  • It must be 200 words or fewer
  • It must start with “I walked as quietly as I could into the room …”
  • It must end with “That’s when I realized he knew …”
  • Bonus points for using exactly 200 words

Here’s my response to the challenge:

I walked as quietly as I could into the room. It was after two in the morning, and Zack’s head was slumped back on the pillows that propped him up, his laptop nestled in the bedcovers on his legs. As I slid in beside him, I couldn’t resist. With the same care I used to pry toys from our sleeping daughter’s hands, I took the laptop from his legs and rested it on my own. Only this morning Zack had said how close he was to 50,000 words. He was so excited about his NaNo project, but he refused to tell me what it was about. Here it was in my lap. Temptation called to me, and I fell.

From the opening paragraph I was riveted. It was very good. Even as his devoted wife and number one cheerleader, I was surprised. The characters came alive, especially the jealous friend. The one who killed her best friend by spiking the casserole with peanut oil, just so she could steal her fiancé.

My heart raced; I could feel the cold sweat on my forehead. Propped up on his bedside table was a picture of Laura. That’s when I realized he knew…

Flash fiction is a lot of fun, and if you’re a writer, it really helps hone your craft. If you’re wanting a little diversion from your NaNo project, or perhaps something to kick-start the creative juices, why not Walk the Plank? Details on how to participate are on the YA Buccaneers blog.

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What’s Up Wednesday

This is just a quick WUW post to keep you all informed about life with me–that’s what WUW’s for, after all!

WHAT I’M READING

I’m currently reading LEGACY OF THE DALEKS by John Peel, the next in the BBC Books Eighth Doctor series I’m working through. Given this is Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary month, I thought I ought to read at least one Doctor Who novel. And while I have some gripes with the writing, this is a pretty good story so far. I finished up THE SHERLOCKIAN, and posted a review on Goodreads, so go there to get my thoughts on it. Summary: Five stars–I recommend it. (BTW, in case you missed it, I posted my review of ALLEGIANT on Monday. See HERE.)

WHAT I’M WRITING

Still working on revisions to the WIP. As I explained last week, I don’t have much time for writing at the moment, but I did manage to get some done. I’ll continue to find a few moments here and there, just to keep things moving. After this month, I plan to push hard to get revisions done by the end of the year.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

This past weekend there was another Janet Reid contest, and I got another nod for my work. It wasn’t a win, but it was “Special recognition for entries that weren’t quite stories but had lovely writing.” One could quibble over whether my entry was or wasn’t a story, but that’s not the point. As a writer, to have a respected literary agent compliment your writing is encouraging and inspiring. Once again, the finalists were awesome, which is why I never feel slighted for not being selected as a winner. Fellow writers–if you aren’t participating in these contests, you really should. They are a great way to hone your craft, and challenge your creativity. I usually Tweet when Janet’s running a contest, so if you’re following me on Twitter, you’ll find out about them. Or you can just follow Janet, or follow her blog.

WHAT ELSE I’VE BEEN UP TO

This past Sunday was ThirdBorn’s fifteenth birthday. He holds the distinction of being the only male child of our six, the only male grandchild, the only male cousin, and the only nephew. That’s quite a lot for his young shoulders, but he bears it well. Quite unlike his father and his siblings, he loves numbers and mathematics. He also enjoys strategy games (e.g., chess), so we bought him the board game “Risk” (yes, board game–i.e., you don’t play it with a console or a computer, but with bits of plastic, and cards, and a board) and played it on Monday. It’s been at least twenty years since I last played, but it was fun. No, I didn’t win. SecondBorn, who also enjoys strategy games, won.

What’s up with you? To participate, see Jaime Morrow’s blog for details.

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What’s Up Wednesday

I debated whether or not I’d do a WUW today, but decided to go ahead, just so you know I’m still here. What’s up with me?:

What I’m Reading

Despite the votes for THE DIVINERS last week, I decided to read THE SHERLOCKIAN by Graham Moore. My wife recommended this book to me a while ago, so I decided to go ahead and read it (I’ll get to THE DIVINERS soon–promise!). I haven’t finished THE SHERLOCKIAN yet, but I’ll say this much–it’s good. Very good. If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, I think you’ll enjoy it. If you’re not, but like a good mystery, you’ll probably enjoy it too. The novel consists of two stories running parallel to each other: one involving a murder among a group of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts in 2010, and another that has Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker investigating a murder case in 1900. They are related to each other in at least one sense that I’m aware of at the moment–they may well end up being related more deeply as the story progresses. We’ll see. I’ll post a Goodreads review when I’m finished, but perhaps that’s enough to encourage you to check it out yourself…

By the way, I know I said I’ll post a review of ALLEGIANT soon, and I will. I just haven’t got around to it yet.

What I’m Writing

Not much aside from blog articles at the moment. With my Mum in town for the next month, I’m trying to make the most of spending time with her. I do need to find some time to make progress on the WIP edits, even if it’s just the odd 10 minutes here and there–just to keep up the momentum. That’s my challenge for this week.

What Inspires Me Right Now

I don’t remember the exact context of the comment–something to do with being able to afford things–but my Mum just casually mentioned the extra income I’ll make when I publish a novel. How can you not be inspired when your Mum a) considers becoming a published writer a reasonable goal, and b) believes it’s something you can (and will) achieve? This is not to say no-one else in my family believes I can and will be published–I know my wife shares my Mum’s conviction. But it’s very encouraging to hear these things from those closest to you.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

As you can guess, largely hanging out with Mum–shopping, catching up, lots of family time. I’m also trying (and not always succeeding) to convince Mum that she’s on vacation, which means she doesn’t have to help with the housework!

How’s your week been? Check out Jaime Morrow’s blog to find out how to join in with her What’s Up Wednesday meme.

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What’s Up Wednesday: Book of the Month for October, 2013 Edition

I’m a little late posting this week’s WUW (see below for an explanation). As you probably know, What’s Up Wednesday is a blog meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to keep up with blog writer friends. To participate, we all answer four questions that cover what’s going on in our lives at the moment. See Jaime’s blog for details on how you can join in.

What I’m Reading

I just finished ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth, and I’ve yet to select the next book to read. Possibly THE SHERLOCKIAN by Graham Moore, but I also have GIRL OF NIGHTMARES, THE DIVINERS, and a number of other books I could read. Choices choices! As to what I thought of ALLEGIANT… I’ll post a full review soon, either here or on Goodreads, but here are some brief thoughts. I was a little disappointed. I wondered about the dual perspective, though toward the end I understood better why she wrote it that way. But the voices of the two perspectives were too similar. When the only way you know who’s POV your reading is to check the chapter heading, something’s not right. Marie Lu scored points with me because even though she color-coded the two voices in LEGEND, I didn’t need the color coding to know who’s POV I was reading. Also, there was a bit too much knuckle-brushing/nose brushing-type romance in the first half of the book. Indeed, I thought the first 250 pages needed some serious editing. HOWEVER… the book got a lot better after that, and I gave Veronica big points for a very gutsy ending. I know people have complained about the ending, and though I haven’t read any of the complaints, I think I know why. And frankly, I thought it was bold, but totally true to character. Story-wise, I think it’s a good finale. Not the best-written of the three though; only four stars.

So, what’s my Book of the Month for October? Definitely… THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey. I gushed about it a few weeks ago, and wrote a review on Goodreads, so I won’t go on about it now, except to say you really need to read that book! And I have the sequel on pre-order already.

What I’m Writing

Not much at the moment. Editing has slowed to a snail’s pace. I’ll try to get more done as time permits, though I’m not sure how much time I’ll have over the next month.

What Inspires Me Right Now

Another Janet Reid contest, and another shout-out. I didn’t win, but I didn’t expect to–partly because of the competition (97 entries–and the winner sooo deserved to win), and partly because I wrote a poem, and poetry’s not my thing. So why write a poem? BECAUSE poetry’s not my thing. Yes, when it comes to writing, I guess I’m Dauntless (har har). Seriously, I like a challenge, and the harder I can make it for myself, the better. However, I’m inspired because 1) I wrote a poem; 2) it was a story; 3) it was horror-themed (and I don’t write horror); and 4) Janet gave it a shout-out–she enjoyed it. Cool! More evidence that perhaps I might not be too bad at this writing thing…

What Else I’ve Been Up To

My mum’s visiting from the UK for the next month or so. This means I’ll be spending time with her, which explains why this is late, why my writing has slowed to a crawl, and why I’ll probably not be as blog-active for a while. But it’s worth it. I haven’t seen her in over two years, so it’ll be good to spend time with her.

What’s going on in your life?

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What’s Up Wednesday

It’s time for my weekly What’s Up Wednesday check-in. What’s Up Wednesday is a blog meme hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk (though Erin’s on a blog break at the moment), designed to help blog writer buddies keep in touch in the midst of our busy lives. If you want to join in, check out the details and the linky link widget on Jaime’s blog.

What I’m Reading

ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth. The last installment of the DIVERGENT trilogy. I pre-ordered it, and Amazon delivered it yesterday. I’ve only just started, so no review… and I’m not sure I’d want to say too much about it anyway (spoilers!). I guess I can say that it’s written from Tris and Tobias’s POV–so far alternating chapters between them. Chapter FOUR is Tobias. I wonder if that was coincidental?

What I’m Writing

Still on the WIP revisions. October is waning, and I’m not at all near the end of my revision phase. In other words, I doubt very much I’ll be through with revisions by the end of the month. But I’m not giving up! Revisions will be done when they are done. I’m not going to rush them just to feel good about meeting a personal deadline. I want a revised manuscript that I’ll be proud to put in the hands of beta readers, no matter how long it takes to achieve that. Hopefully not too long, though!

What Inspires Me Right Now

This isn’t new, but working through my WIP while also reading other books actually gives me confidence (hopefully not misplaced) that I might actually be able to do this writing thing. I may not be the most talented writer in the world, but I don’t think I completely suck either. I suppose that’s a good place to be in.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

The usual stuff, and preparing for my Mum visiting in from the UK in a little less that a week. It’s been about three years since she last visited, so we’re all looking forward to seeing her.

So, what have you been up to?

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What’s Up Wednesday

It’s time for me to post a weekly What’s Up Wednesday life update. If you’d like to join in with this blog meme, check out Jaime Morrow‘s blog for details.

What I’m Reading

THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey. I’m still reading it, so I’m not sure how to sum up the premise. For now, let’s just say it involves an attack upon earth that comes in waves, and appears to destroy the entire population. At least, that’s how Cassie Sullivan feels: like she’s the only survivor of the human race. I figured, given my current reading pace, it would take me the rest of the month to get through this book. Then I got sucked in, and stayed up way past my bedtime reading the first 100 pages. What’s drawing me in right now isn’t so much character, description, or anything like that. It’s the story, and the way it’s told. The premise is full of interesting possibilities, and Yancey is not squandering a good idea. He’s telling the story well, in a way that keeps me turning pages.

What I’m Writing

Still working on the revisions, gradually moving along, sometimes reading ahead and enjoying it, which is a good sign. I also wrote my Walk the Plank challenge for the YA Buccaneers. I usually don’t get to this until the very end of the month, but I decided to get on and do it early this month. I also posted it late last night, which I don’t normally do. Strange behavior for me. Was it a full moon? Anyway, if you want to read my spooky piece of flash fiction, visit yesterday’s post.

What Inspires Me Right Now

Not really writing-related, but as a Doctor Who fan, I am both inspired and excited by the recent discovery of nine previously lost episodes of the classic series. Until last week, there were 106 episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s missing from the BBC archive. Over the years, episodes have turned up, but it was beginning to look like the well of opportunities was running dry. A find like this stirs the hope that there may still be more out there, and one day we’ll be able to enjoy again some of these long-lost stories. What is particularly gratifying is the fact that, thanks to this find, the story “The Enemy of the World” is back in the archive. That was one of my top five missing Who stories I’d like to see recovered.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Not so much what I’ve been doing, but my kids have been cleaning the house in preparation for my Mum coming in a few weeks. FirstBorn has a to-do checklist, and even Fourth- and FifthBorn have cleaned and vacuumed their room! Makes me wish my Mum came more often…

What have you been up to this week?

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