Books

Guest Post: Building a Better Marriage by Destroying the Timeline Together

Great treat for you today, with a guest post from the lovely author duo Dana Fredsti & David Fitzgerald. Their second novel in the Time Shards series is out now, but this was written on the build up to the release (sorry, I’m trying to catch up)!! So sit back with your cuppa, and enjoy this piece of gold… 

Building a Better Marriage by Destroying the Timeline Together

DAVE: So, my wife and I are driving home from the San Diego Comic-Con, and the topic meanders to an idea I had for a role-playing game in college:
            Me: “The basic idea was a schizochonolinear cataclysm.”

            Dana: “A what?”

            “Um, lemme see. Okay, say the timeline is a like a stained-glass window of everything that has happened, is happening and will happen. Now, imagine if that window breaks—

            “Whoah.”

            “And then all the surviving pieces get put back together…”

            “Like a jigsaw puzzle.”

            “Exactly! Only now in this piece here, it’s 1776. The piece next to it is from the first century. And the one over here is from 5 million B.C., or 50 million B.C., or 500 million B.C….”

            “Whoah.”

            “Right? So the characters can be from basically anytime and place you wanta Viking warrior, a Japanese ninja, Benjamin Franklin, the Queen of Sheba, you name it.”

“Cool!”

“And they have to cross a post-apocalyptic wilderness that has everything from dinosaurs to cowboys and Indians to robots from the future.”

Her eyes got steadily bigger.

“Oh babe, we have got to turn this into a book.”

She wasn’t kidding. As soon as we got home, we began working together on a story arc, wrote the first fifty pages, and then pitched it to her agent, who loved it. She, in turn, pitched it to Dana’s editor at Titan Books.

And then the real work began.

DANA: Okay, so first of all, I did not say “whoah.” I’m not sure why that’s so important for me to clarify, but it is. That makes me sound like Tara Reid reacting to getting thrown around in the car ride in Sharknado. In fact, other than ask what a schizochonolinear cataclysm is, I didn’t say much of anything while Dave explained the idea to me until he’d finished, and then I did indeed say “Oh babe, we have got to turn this into a book.”

And, while yes, I was very enthusiastic about the idea, my eyes stayed one size during the conversation. I am not an anime character. What did happen is I got chills when he told me about the concept; it’s an amazing idea and talk about an endless playground of times/places to play in!

It took us a few months to do the initial outline and first 50 pages. We knew it was going to be a three-book story arc because there was no way to adequately tell the story we wanted to tell in one book. You get about 90k (give or take a thousand words here or there) per book with publishers like Titan, and while we tried to give both Time Shards and Shatter War (book two in the series) satisfactory endings, there’s no getting around the fact that the series story arc is not going to be finished until book three. This can cause issues with some readers, who feel it’s a marketing ploy. George R.R. Martin probably wishes he could have wrapped up GoT in one book, but that wasn’t gonna happen.

DAVE: Okay, it’s a fair cop. In hindsight, maybe there weren’t quite so many ‘Whoahs.” Maybe none, even. Anyway, I admit it; the thought of co-writing a novel with Dana terrified me a little. Not because we hadn’t co-written together, not because she wasn’t an awesome writer with the most diabolically good ideas, not because I didn’t think we could do itNo, what scared me the most was me. Unlike anything else that we’d previously worked on together, I felt incredibly possessive of this idea, and had very specific ideas of what needed to happen in the storyline, what topics we needed to address (and just as importantly, what ones we needed to ignore!). I also had a long wish list of must-have historical goodies to put in the trilogy.

But I guess all those life lessons from Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers paid off, because once I let go of my inner five-year-old’s possessive streak, we soon realized that having two authors sharing a story brought twice as much to the table. Dana’s wish list was just as crazy and wonderful as mine, and while there were a few moments of “Wait, you want to add what?”, once we ran with the ideas, all of them turned out amazing.

Dana: Luckily I’ve collaborated on several screenplays, stories, a novel (these are before I started working with Dave), and co-founded a theater group back in the day, so I had plenty of experience to draw from. It also helps that I generally enjoy collaborating on creative projects. Writing can be a very solitary pastime so working with a partner can sometimes energize me when I’d rather just stay in bed and read.

Most of my wishlist for the series, btw, involves anything big and nasty and scary that can kill a person in horrifying ways. So… giant sharks, prehistoric crocodiles, dire wolves… these things make me smile.

Our morning beach walks with our dog Pógeen (it means “Little Kiss” in Irish Gaelic) turned into writing salons. We gave birth to a cast of unforgettable heroes and villains,
hammered out plot points, untangled story problems, and brainstormed wonderful and sometimes mind-wrecking craziness to befall our poor characters.

DANA: Walking on the beach also provides a very soothing environment for potentially heated creative discussions. This was especially helpful during the writing of Time Shards when we were still figuring out how to work through any initial possessiveness and I was still working on remembering how to be diplomatic. Because yeah, Time Shards was originally his baby and I needed to remember also to be grateful he was willing to share.

In Book One, we divided the work between our two main protagonists. Dana took one and I the other. Once we were done with a chapter or a section, we handed it over so the co-author could add their tweaks and notes. I had expected this is where the fireworks would be, and to be fair, we did have some good brawls over one scene or another, whether Character A would ever talk like this, whether Character B would ever do that, or even know about X in the first place.

Part of our brawls were over what I refer to as the ‘if we have a female character, we’ll show her emotions by having her bite her lip and speak softly’ phase, and me disagreeing violently with it. And to be fair, once I pointed out that this was not the way I wanted the majority of our female characters to be portrayed, Dave didn’t argue with me.

Other disagreements were because (to greatly simplify this) Dave writes in a way that serves the plot. I write in a way that serves the character arcs. So he works on getting characters from Point A to Point B because they need to get to Point C, and it’s action based. I think about what would need to happen externally and internally to justify their reactions/responses/choices to get them to these various points. Both ways of thinking are necessary to make the character arcs and story arcs believable. Sometimes one interferes with the other, but we always managed to find something that satisfied both of us.

I usually like to switch up working on a fiction project with a non-fiction project, and vice versa, because each has its own challenges. In a non-fiction book, you have to cite your sources, have footnotes, and engage in heavy research. In a fiction book, you don’t have to worry about footnotes and endnotesbut you also have to make everything up.

The problem with doing a series like Time Shards is that now you have to do both: you have to do all the historical research, and you still have to make everything up. It’s the worst of both worlds from a work standpoint, but wow, does it pay off when the book is done. We’re very proud of the series. It’s a fun read with interesting characters to root for, an exciting new world to explore, and a cosmic mystery to solve that only gets deeper as the trilogy unfolds.

Sigh. I’ve come to accept the fact that there will never be a time when our living room is not filled with library books, books we’ve bought, or books we’ve borrowed for research on some project or another. The Time Shards trilogy, however, has taken the piles of books (we could build a bomb shelter out of the books in our living room…) to new and frightening heights. Each section of the book (each ‘time shard,’ if you will) requires a different set of books. From the English Civil War to Hypatia’s Alexandria to Romford, England (several different time periods) to many other times and places… lots of books. And yes, it does pay off for anyone who reads these books and cares whether or not the authors did their best to get things historically correct, but oh my god, if there’s an earthquake in San Francisco, they’re gonna find us buried in books and beach glass. Ah well.
-Dave & DanaShatter-War_cvr_02[7745]

Time Shards, Book Two (“Shatter War”) By Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald comes out Sept. 24th, 2019 – at least, in this portion of the timeline… OUT NOW!

Books

October ’19 TBR

This is it, I am going to get back to my Goodreads challenge, and wow have I made my life hard. At the start of the year I had set my challenge at 50 books, and as of now – the beginning of October – I have only read a total of 13 books. That leaves me with 37 books to read in 3 months!! If I am honest, I don’t know if it is even possible, so I will be happy if I can hit 40 books by the end of the year. That being said, I am going to keep my TBR’s reasonably short so that I leave myself plenty of room to mood read as I wish as that is generally how I manage to read the most.

So lets get started.

The first book on this list is actually the book I have already picked up; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling and all those other people! I thought a play script would be a great way to get back into reading. The hope is to fly through this and get the confidence to then jump into a full novel- we will see whether or not it works. I have heard so many mixed reviews about this, but personally I am actually finding I am enjoying it – okay, it isn’t as good as the original series but its a bit of fun and nice to be back in the world.29069989._SY475_

Next on the list is actually another script, just in case the first wasn’t enough- and that is Fantastic Beasts and where to find them, again by JK Rowling. I have seen the film for this, and now have the second film to watch, so I thought I would read the script for the first before jumping into the second. Plus its just another quick read to ease myself in. If really needed I then also have The Crimes of Grindelward script, so if still not ready for a book then I have this to pick up also.

Right, I really do need to catch up on some recent releases that publishers have had the kindness to share with me, so I am going to have at least two on each TBR for the rest of the year, with the hope to read more through mood reading as well.

So first is one of my most anticipated reads of the year, a September Titan release, The Swallows by Lisa Lutz. A crime thriller, which if its anything like The Passenger by Lisa Lutz then it will be full of psychological twists and turns. As for the plot I don’t know much, and that is how I like to keep it with my thrillers. That way I can just enjoy the surprise and go with the ride.47284539

And then another from Titan, but this time it is in the fantasy genre, The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young. This is a companion novel I believe to her previous book Sky in the Deep, but I have been reassured that I will be okay reading this one first- plan is if I love this one, then I will then most definitely pick up Sky in the Deep. Again I do not know overly much about this but I know that it is about a girl with powers who is then used by the native people. I am expecting it to be a fun exciting fantasy novel though, hopefully with loads of rich world building.42867937

Then finally I have a book I have left unread for far too long, The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston. I was kindly gifted this by Quirk Books, and am ever so sorry for not having got to it sooner. I know that this is a young adult comtempory based at a convention, but not much more than that. But I have only heard great things so I am definitely super excited to jump into this.

What are you planning to read this month? Do you have any recent releases that you need to catch up on?

Also I am looking to do a buddy read within the next few months, so please let me know if you are interested 🙂

 

Books

GIVEAWAY: Strange Ink by Gary Kemble

Time for a bit of a throwback to a book review I wrote last year; but this time I have a very special addition. So sit back, read on, and get ready for some excitement!! 

Its been a while since I last sat and wrote a book review, but then is that really a surprise when you think that you have to read a book in order to review it? I will put my hands up and admit that in the past few months I have only read a tiny handful of books; its not something that I am proud of, but with the reading slump, and just generally more going on in life I have not been in the mood to sit and marathon through a book. Thankfully, it is now starting to change, and this book was one that definitely helped to get back on track with reading.img_1016

Described as a horror novel, this turned out to be a perfect Halloween read for me, spooky without scaring the living daylights out of me, and full of suspense and page gripping twists and turns.

When washed-up journalist Harry Hendrick wakes one morning with a hangover and a strange symbol tattooed on his neck, he shrugs it off as a bad night out. But soon more tattoos appear: grisly, violent images which come accompanied by horrific nightmares – so he begins to dig deeper. Harry’s search leads him to a sinister disappearance, torment from beyond the grave, and a web of corruption and violence tangled with his own past. One way or another, he has to right the wrongs. (From Goodreads)

Now I may be a wuss when it comes to horror films, I can only watch them during the day and with all the lights on, but when it comes to horror novels, I am generally quite a bit better. Strange Ink however had me running to turn the light on, and gripping my duvet that little bit closer to feel safe. It was and odd sense of fear of not knowing what was going to be coming around the next corner, especially in the flashback chapters.

This book does flick back in flashbacks in the form of dreams, which I have to admit I thought were my favourite chapters, but it was at times a bit hard to follow.

Connecting the two different storylines, with the past couple and the present couple was very cleverly done, showing how they were taking on the other personalities while still sticking to themselves.

Not going to lie I was a little disappointed that they just lost these connections once the mystery was resolved. I feel like the events that happened would of left more of a mark on them; but I cant explain this much more without this become spoilery.

I would definitely say that this is a great read for any horror or psychological thriller fans; I read it over Halloween and I would say it was the perfect read.

Have you read this book yet? What did you think? If not, you should go and get yourself a copy.

Strange Ink by Gary Kemble, Paperback, £7.99, OUT NOW!

But now for the excitement… In preparation for the sequel coming out 9th October, I have a copy of Strange Ink to give away! All you have to do is head over to my Twitter @Alexxmarie74 and like the pinned post, and leave me a comment down below so I know you have done it! I will reveal the winner on 29th of August, so go enter to be for a chance to win. UK ONLY 

Health · Lifestyle

Am I Back?…

Since I’ve moved in with my partner, I have lost sight of any and all organisation. Looking after my home, and building the future has take priority to the point that I think I lost myself a little. The blog was the first thing to go, but I think now I am ready to do all I can to get it back. Back to posting 3 times a week, every week, and giving myself some focus.schizo

Although in every possible way, this move is exactly what I wanted; I see the love of my life every single day, and we are moving forward to set up our own lives, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been stressful. Actually its been incredibly stressful, and I’ve been really struggling with it at times.

I am not one to deal well with pretty much any form of change. Consistency is most definitely my favourite thing, but I appreciate that change is necessary in order to move forward for the better. It is so frustrating the fact I know this, and yet change still scares the life out of me.

But lately not all the changes have been for the better. I have had a bunch of new health issues, some of which have changed my life forever, and that is a very hard thing to wrap your head around. I will talk more about these over the next few weeks, but finding out that your body is uncapable of something you’ve based your life goals around is a really tough thing to come to terms with. I will talk more about this in a post in the future.

So I am now on the path of seeking help for my mental health. More help than just medication- which is all the doctors seem to be able to offer me. But while I wait, I have realised that I need to be doing more to help myself; and that starts with me making time for the things that I get a sense of achievement from. Starting with getting the blog back to a consistency that I am happy with, and starting back at university.

Fingers crossed that I can get my head straight and organised from now on, as I feel that this will really help me in the long run of things. But I guess we will have to wait and see.

Books

The Spider Dance; An Extract

So after a bit of an unplanned blogging break (life got in the way), I am back with a very exciting extract from The Spider Dance by Nick Setchfield. This thrilling dark fantasy is certainly one to have on your watch list; I can not wait to pick it up! So sit dark with a cuppa, and let this extract draw you in.. Spider Dance cover

Winter took the bullet a second before he heard the shot.

It tore into his chest, shredding skin, skimming bone.

For a moment he felt nothing. It was as if his body was simply noting the bullet’s arrival.

And then it came, the numbing, consuming punch. Winter swayed, one arm wheeling for balance, the other pressed to his chest. His hand covered the wound, trying to plug it. He felt a warm insistence of blood pumping against his palm.

The world tilted, the stars and the city blurring. Winter buckled and fell, hitting the terrace.

He sensed Alessandra cradling him, lifting his head from the tarmac.

The man with the gun was almost upon them, his breathing still ragged from the kick he had taken to the throat. Winter fought to keep focus as the figure loomed. The outline of the man rippled and warped as Winter’s eyes watered. He glanced at Alessandra and then moved his gaze to his left ankle.

He slid the heel of his right shoe against the trouser leg, hitching up the fabric.

She saw the knife strapped to his calf. With a nod she eased it from the sheath and hid it in her hand.

And then she spun at the waist, slashing upwards, targeting the man’s ribs. She corkscrewed the mean little blade, twisting it into his side until the blue waistcoat purpled with blood.

Winter lay there, curling into himself as he watched the man stagger and crash. Now their bodies lay parallel on the ground.

Alessandra withdrew the knife and tossed it away. She crouched over the fallen state security agent, easing her thighs across his chest. The man was clearly in agony but she smoothed her hands over him as if savouring each spasm of pain, stealing it into herself. As her nails traced down to the knife wound her skin began to shimmer.

The Hungarian screamed and there was an unmistakable shudder of pleasure in the sound.

Winter saw the world darken, the stars receding in his peripheral vision, turning the sky into something black and crushing. One last image lingered as he lost consciousness.

Alessandra’s eyes, bright and blind as gold.


SpiderDance Blog Tour Banner[7723]

The Spider Dance by Nick Setchfield, Paperback, £7.99, OUT NOW!

 

Books

Emojiathon Week 3 ’19

Wow, so I am only starting writing this very late on Friday evening. This evening has not gone to plan AT ALL!! Started the week looking after the Little One, and then I spent Wednesday in hospital- but that is a subject for another blog post. In short this has been a poor reading week, so this is going to be short but sweet.

Despite telling myself several times that I would make the most of being unwell and really blitz through some reading, I just was not feeling up to it. Up until today, I have not felt like reading, and wasn’t really in a position to push myself.

That being said I feel like I have made up for it to degree today. I have read Obsidio solidly for several hours this evening, and am now on page 314, that is 249 pages read today, and sadly that is also the total for this week.

So in terms of the Emojiathon, there is just over a week left, and I have a lot that I would like to get through before the end. Following my TBR, I have two books that I want to finish, a graphic novel, and  another full novel that I haven’t even started. That is a lot to get through in a total of eight days.

But I am determined. I am still not well, and am pretty much immobile while my partner is at work. That give me 40 hours over five days to get loads of reading done ( though I may have the Little One). My priority in books is going to be to finish up Obsidio, and then get through the graphic novel and work on The Princess and the Fangirl. If I manage that, I will be happy with my success of this readathon.

So at the end of week 3, I am on a total of 1141 pages for the readathon. This is over two complete books, and half way through another. I’ve got eight days left to push this number hard!!

How is your reading go this month?

Books

Guest Post: A Note on Character

Once again I have the great honour of being able to share with you another guest post from an amazing author. Todays post is all about the importance of character within a novel, and it really is an interesting read for both readers and writers alike, so take note. Richard (R.S Ford) is the author of Hangman’s Gate, the second book in a fantasy series, so be sure to check it out. Now into the post.. Hangman's Gate - Cover[7660]

Everybody has a view on what’s the most important aspect of writing fantasy. For some it’s worldbuilding, for other it’s having a sweeping, epic plot, for others it’s innovative magic systems and/or fantastical races and creatures. For me it’s character. I write in a close third-person style, which relies on telling a story from different points of view. This in itself requires that you have a diverse and believable cast through which you tell the story. You can have as well-developed a background, with as many outlandish creatures, as you like, but unless you nail the characters it won’t be wholly believable for the reader.

This all relies on the writer inventing a diverse cast, with their own individual personalities and motivations. So as the story shifts from one perspective to another, how do you get into the minds of each of your characters? The simple answer is that they have to be well-rounded enough to tell their own story. Once you’ve created a character, the easiest way to test this is to put them in a random situation. If the character reacts organically, speaking with their own voice and making their own decisions without the writer having to force it, then you’ve done the job.

This search for living breathing protagonists can throw up challenges all its own. I plan my novels quite meticulously, and have a full chapter breakdown before I even begin to tackle the tricky process of thrashing out a first draft. This preplanning of plot becomes a problem when I need a protagonist to react in a way that’s contrary to their character. That’s when a decision has to be made to change the story itself, or find some way to motivate the character into acting against their better judgement. I’d like to think it works most of the time, but on occasion I’ve had to initiate ‘ruthless editor’ mode and work out how to alter an entire character arc for the good of the story.

But you have to be true to the character, and legitimacy is key here. Each character needs their own style, their own internal monologue, if you will. This is easy enough if you’re writing first person, but slightly more difficult if you’re writing tight third-person POV. Each different character requires their own way of speaking, a differing style of prose when writing their POVs, as well as unique dialogue. Granted these don’t always have to be ‘unique’ – different groups of characters will have a similar style. Warriors will share banter in a certain way, just as intellectuals, farmers or children will share a common mindset or patois. This can bring about its own difficulties, especially if you’re writing from the POV of a character very different to what you’re used to. But then, writers also have to be actors for the most part – they’re just portraying every role.

This leads us to the question of whether your characters are a part of you? And to a certain extent the answer is ‘yes’. As a writer you have to inhabit the character, no matter where you’ve drawn your influence. Saying that, influences come from everywhere, and oftentimes a character will be an amalgam of several different people you’ve met, or simply a collection of traits that have coalesced into a character in the author’s imagination.

In essence, the author is every character they portray and none of them. They’re pure invention and an amalgam of everyone the author has ever encountered at the same time. Put this minestrone of contradictions together, add in some conflict, and hopefully you’ve got a novel the reader can believe in, no matter how fantastical the tale.

Hangman’s Gate by R.S Ford, Paperback, £7.99, Out now!