The Black Cat monthly round-up: January 2021

January is over already. Despite the continuing UK lockdown, time seems to be flying. I returned to work after a lovely, relaxed break for Christmas and New Year’s, and I have been fortunate to have a full work schedule. The West Surrey and North Hampshire CIEP local group had a catch-up towards the end of the month; we talked about our goals for this year – as hard as it may be to think of them in the precarious situation we all find ourselves in at the moment – and I’ll return to mine later in this post.

What I’ve been working on

My first project of the new year was the proofread of some American contemporary fiction. I work on a lot of contemporary British fiction, so it was interesting to work on a novel based in the US and by a US author. I moved on to the copy-edit of a novel by an author I have had the pleasure of working with before – the novel was an atmospheric Gothic horror reminiscent of the work of Laura Purcell. January ended with the proofread of a fantasy novel about angels and demons, and I am still working on a critique of the beginning of a fantasy fiction novel. I usually critique full manuscripts, so this will be another new and interesting experience.

What I read for fun

I’ve got one completed read to report and two partial reads. The completed read is Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes – I wasn’t going to miss out on psychic cats in space. It took me a while to fully engage with it but it is funny and fast-paced, and has a cast of likeable characters. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Susanna Clarke) is a very, very long novel, and that is my excuse for not having got anywhere near finishing it yet. It is, though, reminding me why I loved the BBC adaptation so much. My other not-yet-completed read is Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. I am aware I have probably approached the Grishaverse in the wrong order (I started with Six of Crows) but the upcoming Netflix adaptation has encouraged me to fill in some of the blanks.

Looking ahead

As I mentioned above, we talked about our goals for this year at the West Surrey and North Hampshire local group Zoom meeting. (I hope that in-person meetings can resume before the end of 2021.) I have two aims for 2021. One is a thing I do every year – complete one formal training course as part of my continuing professional development. The other is to make sure that I balance work with time off – I worked a lot of Saturdays and Sundays last year, and I am going to try to minimise that this year. It’s time to reclaim my weekends.

The Black Cat monthly round-up: January 2020

January started with a meeting of the West Surrey and North Hampshire SfEP local group where we discussed our goals for the year. New websites, membership upgrades, and client-base expansion were popular aims. I was heartened by the level of positivity and optimism on display. I count myself lucky to be surrounded by such a driven and generous group of editors.

Black Cat Editorial Services_ January round-upWhat I’ve been working on

I finished my Christmas-time edit of a satirical crime novel and the new year brought me two non-fiction proofreads. One was a book of reflections on Japanese culture (which gave me a final shove to start learning a bit of Japanese) and the other was a guide to privacy legislation. I was back to fiction for my next proofread: the second instalment of an indie mystery thriller. I’m still working on a critique of a time-travel thriller predominately set during World War II – I like to spend lots of time mulling critique manuscripts over, so I expect to have it on my desk until mid-February.

What I read for fun

I had a lot on my plate in January, so I haven’t quite finished my only for-fun read. Naomi Novik’s Temeraire – a fantasy alternative-history novel in which there are many dragons – somehow manages to be joyful and yet completely heartbreaking.

Looking ahead

I’m going to cut down on my workload for a few months, for personal reasons, but I’m planning to maintain this blog series and my coordinator work.

The Black Cat monthly round-up: January 2019

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Ella with her hurty paw.

The new year didn’t have the best of starts for poor Ella. She managed to split one of her nails down to the nail bed, which was very painful, and she had to have the nail removed under anaesthetic. She spent a few days with a bandaged paw, and she had to wear a plastic boot when out on (short) walks. She sounded like a small horse clopping around. In true spaniel style, she finished January with another injury – a snapped dewclaw. I’m hoping she’ll be more careful with her paws in February! The recent snow has certainly cheered her up.

What I’ve been working on

I managed to pack in a lot of work during January, and it couldn’t really have been more diverse. My first project was an account of the adventures of a community of dowsers – many of the events reported took place in warm and sunny climes, which was a nice antidote to the January weather. The second project was an elegantly structured novel about a young man who finds himself in big trouble with a local mob boss. My third and final January project will run into February – I’m proofreading a well-researched and interesting PhD thesis on the healthcare sector.

What I read for fun

I managed to pack in a lot of reading for fun as well – January was a long month. I started with Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I bought the absolutely stunning collector’s edition, and I’m glad I did. It’s fast-paced, moving and quite dark, with a welcome streak of humour.

I pre-ordered the The BBlack Cat Editorial Services_ January round-upinding by Bridget Collins some time ago, on the strength of the premise and the book’s aesthetic. It was released in early January (my copy actually turned up before the release date), and I was not disappointed. The cover is truly gorgeous  – I gasped when I peeked under the dust jacket. The story itself is beautifully written, powerful and engaging. The implications of the book’s core concept are quite terrifying.

I’d heard good things about Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and it lived up to the hype. It’s deeply sad, but there are passages that made me snort with laughter. I can’t remember the last time I read a book with such a strong narrator’s voice. Eleanor seems to me to be a truly unique character.

My final read of this month was Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers. It seems strange, considering the heartbreaking things that happen in the Wayfarers books, that I should find the novels so comforting. I wasn’t sure I would like the style of this one – multiple stories, each from a different character’s perspective, eventually coming together to tell a bigger story – but I loved it. It worked brilliantly.

Looking ahead

The West Surrey and North Hampshire SfEP local group is meeting in mid-February for a tips and techniques session on professional practice. We’re going to look at how we interact with our clients, and the aim is to help each other improve and develop the strategies and tools we use. But what I’m really looking forward to is the bring-and-share lunch.