A Masculine Bookshelf

Tomorrow [26th August 2017] we will finally bear witness to the long-awaited Mayweather (Champion Boxer) VS. McGregor (UFC Champion) fight and man, has it been a long time coming. I don’t follow either sport but even I’m eager to see the outcome. It’s a “pretty macho” event and with all this testosterone in the air I’m feeling the need to deviate from my usual pink and flowery repertoire and pick up something a bit more traditionally masculine.

I’m a firm believer that readers can engage with any genre of book regardless of their own age or orientation (you should see the way I ranted about (YA book audiences) so if you fancy picking up something in tune with this week’s vibe check out one of the following:

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

This list would be very odd without this absolute treasure of a book. Fight Club is an all-consuming kind of read and one I will never let go of. This book disects not only the guts of masculinity but also the bowels of consumerism, replication and the psyche as well – not to mention its take on violence. Palahniuk writes a vidceral narrative with a poignancy that’s almost impossible to replicate.

It’s a gritty story about the modern man and… well… I’d say more but I really shouldn’t talk about it…

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kessey

In this modern classic we get a typically masculine, boisterous, male rebel in an oppressive environment. Our hero (of sorts) moves from a prison institute to a mental facility and rallies his new troops in a fierce retaliation against authority. What ensues is nothing short of intense.

There is a huge war of wills – a relentless fight for power – between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched the iron fist controller of the whole ghastly operation. It’s a tale of strength and struggle and really is one worth reading.

On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates

In her anthology, On Boxing, Oates chronicles boxers from Jack Dempsey and Barry McGuigan to Joe Louis among others. This one highlights the sport from a variety of standpoints and explores the sport as a spectacle from both literary and female perspectives.

If you’re looking to really re-evaluate how you look at the sport or are curious about its history then this collection of essays is definitely an interesting take on it and may well be worth your consideration.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Nothing really screams “MEN!” (and echoes ‘patriarchy’) quite like military strategy. But then the history of war was dominated by men so I guess that makes sense. Sun Tzu’s The Art of war is an ancient doctrine on the very subject. It’s an incredibly interesting and influential tome that was actually only translated for the western languages in the 1700s; It may even have inspired Napoleon!

It’s often reported to read as very anecdotal but certainly is a fascinating piece of history and, if you’re interested in military strategy, is a must read.

The Way of Men by Jack Donovan

Amazon describes this book as offering ” a simple, straightforward answer-without getting bogged down in religion, morality, or politics” to the question “What is masculinity?”

They go on to say that  “[t]he Way of Men captures the silent, stifling rage of men everywhere who find themselves at odds with the over-regulated, over-civilised, politically correct modern world. If you’ve ever closed your eyes and wished for one day as a lion, this book is for you.”

Having not read this one yet I have to say it certainly has me intrigued and definitely strikes me as the kind of thing that really explores what it is to be masculine. Have you read this? Let me know in the comments!

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

This is kind of my “wildcard” choice for this list. It’s wholly about a female leader (and a powerful one at that), Empress Dowager Cixi. It’s a historical fiction about the fall of the Chinese Dynasty and one I never thought would be to my tastes.

The reason it made the list is that it is so very interesting when read from a gendered perspective. Seriously, if you want to read something brutal you should always look to history. It’s got everything you’d consider masculine in a book: power plays, war strategies, battle scenes and brutality and it’s an absolutely captivating read.line If these books don’t get you in the mood to see a fight I don’t know what will. Whoever wins it’s sure to be an event for the history books! In the immortal words of Chuck Palahniuk “everything up to now is a story and everything after now is a story” and the world is waiting to see how this one ends.

I’m not as in touch with my masculine side as I could be (I’m wearing pink fluffy slippers and watching “Say Yes to the Dress” as I write this) so I’m sure you lot can think of a few better masculine reads than I can. Let me know in the comments! Happy Battles!


Writing Competitions to enter and win

The sun is shining, beaches are getting busier and flowers are in full bloom; summer is finally on its way and with it comes a ton of opportunities for some friendly writing competition. Get inspired and do something with your writing this year by entering one of the following and showing off your skills!

The Bridport Prize

Entry Fee: £8 – £20     Word Count: Dependent on genre     Prize: (1st) £5000 (poetry and short stories)

The Bridport prize is a competition most wordies will have heard of at some point in their writing lives but if you haven’t it’s not too late to get involved in this years contests                                                               (But you’d better hurry!)

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The Bridport Prize accepts all submissions within their four catagories:

  • Poetry
  • Flash Fiction
  • Short Story and
  • Novel

But if you’re thinking of entering you’d better hope you’ve got something most of the way written already as the deadline is fast approaching. You’ve got just under three days to submit. Find more info here if you’re interested in this long running, prestigious competition.

Deadline: Wed 31st May 2017

Adventure Writers Competition

Entry Fee: $25     Word Count: 50,000 min     Prize: £5000 grant

Like adventure? Have an unpublished manuscript you want to get out there? The Adventure Writers Competition could be your authorial salvation. And, the rules are pretty flexible too! “If your novel has sold or given away less than 5000 copies, you can enter it! If it is already published? Enter it. If it was written years and years ago? Enter it!”

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Find out more here and take a huge step in your writing adventure.

Deadline: before 11:59:59 PM PST on June 30, 2017. You’ve got plenty of time to hit the keyboard and create something fabulous.

100 Word Story Competition 

Entry Fee: Free     Word Count: 100 (no more, no less)     Prize: £2000

This unique competition request submissions of super short stories of exactly 100 words. It does not accept entries of any more or any less but does expect a full story within those 100 words. Find out more details here.

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Deadline: Submissions open on June 1st but if you’re eager to get started you can always try their ‘Photo promt’ competition too and really test your writing abilities. it also helps if inspiration has taken a weekend off!


Bristol Short Story Prize

Entry Fee: £8     Word Count: 4,000        Prize: £1000 (1st)

This international contest is open to both unpublished and published global writers and is a well known and respected short story competition. Wouldn’t it be cool to win? giphy (33)They’re big on finding up-and-coming writers with fabulous stories to tell so it’s a great place to start if you’re working on a short story. It’s time to be discovered, and if you win just think of how many books you could buy with that £1000 prize!

Deadline: Has passed for this year ( May 3rd 2017) but 2018 details will soon be released.


Mslexia Women’s Short Fiction Competition

Entry Fee: £5/£10     Word Count: 300/3000 limit    Prize: £500/£2000

Mslexia Women’s Short Fiction Competition is open to all female writers of any level of experience and aims to celebrate women in writing. ‘Girl Power’ and all that jazz.

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The categories in which you can enter are as follows:

  • Poetry
  • Pamphlet
  • Novel

Deadline: 18 September 2017 (novels), 19 June 2017 (Poetry/Pamphlet)


Whether you’re inspired for this year or contemplating it for the next one, make a note of the deadline dates and set yourself a new goal!

Have you ever entered a writing competition before? What was your experience like? If not, would you ever? Let me know in the comments below!

(And let me know if you’d like to read more things like this!)

  – Cat –

Top ten reasons why you shouldn’t write a novel

Or, to be more specific, the top ten things stopping me from doing something great with something I love, things you might struggle with too.

I’ve been battling an every growing need to create something big, something that makes me proud and something that exists as my tiny dot on the map. But, more than that, it’s that I’m bottled full of stories and I just gotta get them out of my system. So here’s a condensed list of my tiny growth-stunting fears (fears you might share) and rationalisation to help you, and to help me, push them aside.

Fear of criticism

Now, even I know this one is just a battle I’m eventually going to have to face. If you create something and present it to the world you will undoubtedly become a subject of criticism and praise. It’s unwise to get swept up too much by either one of these responses. Even the greatest, most renowned artists and creators have their critics so, if you’re working on something you believe in, take both criticism and praise with a pinch of salt and just work to keep improving your product because in the end that’s all you can do. But you shouldn’t be put off by a bit of fear – in fact, fear is a good indicator that you’re taking your goals seriously. In the words of good ol’ Aristotle “Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing”, so do something.

Lack of time

Hello? Lack of time? This is not a thing that should stop you – this is a logistics thing and with careful planning and time management it can almost always be negated. At this point I’ve written 43 blog posts with over 600 words in each of them. That equates to roughly 25,800 words which is approximately two and a half times my undergraduate dissertation. It feels like nothing because it’s all in bite-size little chunks. My theory is, if I apply the same writing goals to a novel as I do to this blog, I could (theoretically) write a 40,000 word novel in less than a year without even breaking a sweat.

Check out this TomBird article if you still don’t believe me. You have time.

Everything has already been done

The Seven Basic Plots concept has been putting off writers for years and whilst it stands up to tests and is a relevant bit of theory, it shouldn’t stop you writing. There are billions of versions of each of those basic plots but that doesn’t mean that the story is the same. Vampires have been done over and over and over again but we’re all still watching The Vampire Diaries and reading Twilight. Go with your story and make it your own. Self-doubt can often hold you back here – have faith in your ideas, even if it’s already been said, you can say it differently.

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It’s a daunting task, it’ll probably be too difficult to write that much. 

Well, for one, you probably can and , for another, it’s time to stop looking at your project as a quantity of words and start looking at it chapter by chapter. Chunking your writing into manageable blocks can be a helpful place to start.

Fear of failure

“everyone else is doing it, I don’t stand a chance”

well now, that’s not true is it? You’re not doing it, and for every moment you’re not, someone else might be plucking up the courage to start something. And that something may not be as good as what you can create, but since you’re not doing it they will succeed and you will not. You’ve got to be in it to win it and setting yourself goals is the way to get there. Your first attempt may be a complete failure, or even flop half-way through but you’ve got to have perseverance and patience if writing is your game – trying is half the battle.

My Ideas are bad

Yep. They might be, some of them at least. The writing process is a journey and you’ll probably have some pretty basic ideas to start with; even some bad ones. Later on you’ll be able to recognise issues in your writing and rectify them so you can improve. I’ll probably look at this post in a year and cringe at its cliches or lack of clarity but that shouldn’t stop me from writing it now. Use your less interesting ideas to help shape your writing and see if, through words, you can make them better. Epiphanies and best-sellers aren’t something you can just pluck from your head; you have to wait until you’re frying an egg one day, shampooing your hair, absent-mindedly,  or staring at the dark ceiling at 3 in the morning – that’s when the ideas are destined to arrive.

I don’t know anything about publishing

Well, so what? neither do I but that doesn’t stop me from writing something incredible. Write first, the rest comes later.

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I’m completely unqualified to write a novel

Deep down we all know that qualifications aren’t the be-all and end-all of writing ability, but sometimes it just takes a little reminder. Writing is a learned craft, one that takes practice and dedication – people are seldom ‘born-writers’ but rather they learn through doing, and through loving what they do. Having a degree or a PhD or working in a relevant field does not give a person more of a right to publish a book – there are no “minimum credentials,” or “licenses,” required to express yourself in this way so don’t let it stop you. If you love to write, write.

I’m just not ready

Well, that’s okay, so long as you can tell yourself why. As I’m writing out and thinking about all my reasons (or excuses) I’m fast discovering that I may be holding myself back out of sheer fear.

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I can’t keep motivated

Excuses, excuses, excuses – it’s all excuses, if it’s truly something I (or you) want to work towards then I have to make an effort to make it happen, sometimes it just takes a switch of perspective. Motivation is cruel and hard to maintain but once you figure out a way to keep yourself from falling out of love with your project it can be easy. A lot of motivation is born out of habit – try starting with a simple routine and see where you end up.

If you’re in the same boat, I’ll give you the same advice I’m giving myself:

If you can’t even fathom out where you should begin: just start writing, I used this book for prompts initially but you can use anything that gets you inspired. Now, I use this blog – when you get used to writing every day it’s easier to consider a bigger project.

There are lots of things I never thought I’d be able to do, and I’m not done proving myself wrong. Sometimes you’ve got to give yourself a kick and just make something happen and that’s why I’m making these the top ten reasons to start writing something today.


 – Cat –

Upcoming film releases: books to read now!

Happy ‘Everything, Everything’-release-day! In honour of it’s debut on-screen (and with time still left to read it beforehand) here’s a few other adaptations you might want to get reading before they hit the screens.

Everything, Everything – by Nicola Yoon

Release Date: 19th May 2017

My review of this book was not the most favourable thing I’ve ever written, still, I think it would make a good film. Everything, Everything tells the story of Madeline, a teen girl confined to the sanitised bubble home she shares with her mother and nurse. It’s a wicked love-story and it destined to be as popular as The Fault in Our Stars. Find more information and get the book here.


Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Release date: 17th November 2017

“Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.” IMBD
I first read Wonder a year or two ago and found it completely wonderful, a real heart-warmer. Wonder teaches lessons we should all keep in mind. Plus Auggie is amazing and Julia Roberts is in it.


9969571Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Release Date: 30th March 2018

Kelly-Ann over at DragonBabble loved this one when she first read it and (whilst I’ve yet to get round to reading it) the concepts it toys with are totally selling me the film already. It’s set in the not too distant 2044 and involves a virtual utopia – and an element of competition. To me it seems like it’s gotta be at least as good as Spy Kids 3D (great kids film) but perhaps with something deeper. The adaptation is to be directed by Stephen Spielberg and I will be hoping to read this one in time for its release too!



Image result for the death cure book coverThe Death Cure by James Dashner (3rd maze runner)

If you’ve been following the story you’ll want to get a head start on the new film by reading the third book in the Maze Runner series, The Death CureIt’s a series that’s difficult to describe but interesting to read. I’ve yet to read the 2nd book in the series, The Scorch Trials but enjoyed the first movie enough to read the book and really ought to catch up on the second instalments of each. The penultimate edition to this whirlwind series is set to be as fierce as the previous two and it’s the last chance for us to get in on this series whilst it’s still in production so we had better get a move on.


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Release Date: Unknown

I read Illuminae  this year and I am super hyped up on film rumours. Not only can I not wait to see how filmmakers handle the setting but also how they use the book’s unique, dossier format. The second book Gemina was just as good and, if done well, the film could become a major sci-fi trilogy. It’s the perfect indicator of changing genre trends with sci-fi making a massive come-back. What’s nice is Illuminae keeps the human elements of say, a romance or a Young-Adult novel and pairs it with typical sci-fi elements. Whilst very few film details have been confirmed, if speculation is to be believed, it’s one to look out for.

There are plenty more adaptations to look forward to ahead too, which ones are you most looking forward to?

Till’ next time…

 – Cat –