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!

Books

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

IF you have been around the blog for a little while you will know just how much I adore Christina Henry’s books. There is yet to be one that I do not like, despite having my favourites, I love them all. It helps that I find her writing to be such an easy read that I can get through very quickly, and with the horror genre, I think that’s just perfect.

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.
There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods….

Red, or Delia, is the youngest within her family and yet is the most forward thinking and prepared. As a character she is amazing, showing so much strength and yet vunerability, she is a highly relatable character in my eyes. She shows so much diversity, with being bisexual, mixed race as well as only having the one leg. Im not one to read books for the diversity as often I find it then over whelms the story, but this was beautifully done so that this didn’t happen. It was just a fact of her character rather than a part of the plot, which I just loved.

Henry’s stories are always very short and precise and I love that. You quickly get into the plot, and they always keep pace as that book goes along. They never get to a ‘slow patch’ or any info-dumping that can just put you off; it grabs you in from the very first chapter. I think the only time I put this down was when I needed food and when I needed sleep, that’s what I need from a really good book.

Although the concept wasn’t overly unique, the tie of the post apocalyptic setting with the retelling aspect of Little Red Riding Hood,  knitted together for a great story. With interesting characters, a super spooky (at times gory) setting, this is something that’s like no other. I am a lover of fairy tale retellings in general, but Christina Henry’s way of taking childhood stories and making them so dark and spooky is just fabulous, I’d go as far as to say the best.

Though one quick hint, make sure you read her books with all the lights turned on! 

As with most of her books, and in case you couldn’t tell, this was a very easy five star read for me. No question about that, I don’t think there was anything that could of made this any better, it was literal literacy perfection. Make sure that you go and get your hands on your own copy as soon as you can, you will not regret it!

Books

The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion

The Record Keeper has been on my radar for some time, and as a near future dystopian thriller fantasy, this is right up my alley; and wow did it not disappoint. So engrossing, and oh so compelling, this book really does make you reflect on the state of racial relations even in this day and age. Certainly not a light read, but definitely one to get your mind thinking. RecordKeeper_fOqOqaL

 After World War III, Earth is in ruins, and the final armies have come to a reluctant truce. Everyone must obey the law–in every way–or risk shattering the fragile peace and endangering the entire human race.
Although Arika Cobane is a member of the race whose backbreaking labor provides food for the remnants of humanity, she is destined to become a member of the Kongo elite. After ten gruelling years of training, she is on the threshold of taking her place of privilege far from the fields. But everything changes when a new student arrives. Hosea Khan spews dangerous words of treason: What does peace matter if innocent lives are lost to maintain it?
As Arika is exposed to new beliefs, she realizes that the laws she has dedicated herself to uphold are the root of her people’s misery. If Arika is to liberate her people, she must unearth her fierce heart and discover the true meaning of freedom: finding the courage to live–or die–without fear.

Although this book was amazing, and possibly one of the best books I’ve read so far this year, I had a few slight concerns with it. Firstly, I feel like the last 50 pages would of benefited from being told over nearer to 100 pages. I am not going to go into too much detail as I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I just felt that it needed a bit more explanation, and some more detail. That being said, I can not wait to have my hands on the sequel in 2020, as it has left me on tender hooks wanting to know what will come next.

Arika, our main character, is a character of questionable likeness. In many ways she is a really interesting main character with a lot of progression, and growth in her character. She was an interesting view to see from her eyes, and was definitely one that you rooted for. I only really ever had one negative about her. At times she just seemed a bit self absorbed. She came across for about 100 pages as if she could do no wrong, and she knew it. There was an issue, she would solve it, and she cocky about it to say the least. She just seemed a touch as if she felt she could do anything, and that she felt that everyone should know it; she just felt that she thought she was all deserving.

With the negatives out of the way, this book was a really good complete picture. It had me left speechless and really reflecting back on what is actually happening in this day and age. The look on what could happen if the current racial relationships continue, is really quite concerning at times, and I couldn’t help but think ‘wow this could really happen’.

If you step aside from the shock of just how close we really could be to this, and stick to the fiction of the story alone, this is a brilliantly unique refreshingly different story. I read a fair amount of fantasy and dystopian books, but I don’t think I have ever read one like this. Its fast paced, while yet deep and gripping. It keeps you drawn in, and wanting to turn the pages. The political tension and just learning about all the political workings of this near future world was both really eye opening, and a really interesting read.

It has only been a couple of days since I turned the final page of this book, and I miss this world already. That I have to wait a year for the next one is really annoying, as I just want to dive straight into it now. In the end I have rated this book 4.75 out of 5. It was near on perfect if not for the rush in the final 50 pages. I highly recommend you pick this up!!

The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion, Paperback, £8.99, Out Tues 18th June!TRK_blogtour[7659]

Books

Emojiathon Week Two ’19

Starting my diary for week two a little earlier than last week; and I am hoping to have a super productive week- but again with the exception of the weekend as its Fathers Day and we are going to Clacton.

Tuesday

I am now half way through The Record Keeper, and am absolutely loving it. Sadly though I haven’t had the opportunity to pick it up today, but hopefully I’ll get a chance when the Little one is in bed.

Last week I left The Record Keeper at page 160, and am currently at page 236. Fingers crossed I read a touch more later, but if not, I have a whole afternoon free to read once I’ve taken the Little One back. The Record Keeper is proving to be a very unique and catastrophic look at the future, set after World War 3. I will be having a full review for this on the 17th.

Target for this week is to get The Record Keeper finished, and also finish my next book, this will probably be either Obsidio or The Princess and the Fangirl, but I’ll see what I’m in the mood for. For now, time to prep dinner.

Friday

It is now early Friday morning, and I have not had the week that I was hoping to have. I had said that my goal was to finish The Record Keeper and my next book by the end of the week. But as I have a super busy weekend coming up, and its already Friday, I don’t think that will be possible. That being said I am on page 366 of the Record Keeper, so have made reasonable progress, and been loving all of it.

So today, I do have things to do, but finishing The Record Keeper is the priority. Going to sit and read at home for a little while, and then head out to a coffee shop after lunch to get some more reading done. If I have time after finishing it, I will pick up my next book and try and get through a good chunk of that. Update you later…

Just about still Friday, but it is getting very close to becoming Saturday. For a day that had a bit of a hiccup (I fell into a three hour unexpected nap- thanks infection), I ended up having quite a successful reading day. I have finished The Record Keeper, which I loved up until the last 50 pages, which I am now a bit unsure about, but you’ll see my full review very soon.

I have then picked up Obsidio by Jay Kristoff and Aime Kaufman, and am enjoying it so far. This series has been one of those that I don’t love, but I enjoy and do recommend. So I am currently 65 pages into this, and going to call it a night.

Now for the numbers; I read the final 304 pages of The Record Keeper this week, along with the first 65 pages of Obsidio, so that’s a total of 369 pages this week. Not my best and a bit of a disappointment but this week didn’t go overly as planned. In total that is 892 pages for the Emojiathon. Determined to push that number up quite considerably next week!

How are you finding the Emojiathon, or just how is your reading going this month?

Books

Guest Post: Listening to Music While Writing: Yes? No? and If So, What?

I have something a bit different for you today; the lovely Christopher Husberg has written me a really interesting guest post to share with you. This is in honour of the release of his latest book, the fourth instalment in the Chaos Queen Series. I will be doing a full reread of the series very soon, so watch out for my reading diary for that. Now I hope you enjoy.cover small[7652]

 Alright, so I’m going to spoil the premise of this post just to save us all some time: I write with music. I find it helpful and enjoyable. I’m a writer, I also like music, and for me combining the two really works.

That said, it doesn’t work for everyone. My guess is, if you’re a writer, you’ve tried writing with music, and you’ve already decided whether it’s helpful for you or not. If you haven’t, you know, give it a try. I tried several versions of musical accompaniment to my writing process, and have found some options that help me out quite a bit (and, for the record, there are some options that really don’t work for me, as well).

If writing with music doesn’t work for you, power to you. But you probably don’t have to read the rest of this post, because, well, it’s about writing with music. Peace, friends.

If writing with music does work for you, or if you’re not sure, then read on! I’ll tell you about some of my favorite music options and why they’re awesome.

 

Audiomachine

Audiomachine creates my immediate go-to writing music. According to an older version of their website (which I can no longer find), they once described themselves as “a boutique, motion picture advertising music collective, specializing in original epic music and bone crunching sound design for theatrical trailers, television commercials and video game advertising campaigns.” That description is still pretty accurate, imo. You’ve likely heard Audiomachine but just haven’t realized it – their music has been featured on recent trailers for movies like Rogue One, The Martian, and Avengers: Endgame.

 

What I love about Audiomachine is they give me the sweeping, dynamic sound of an epic film soundtrack, but without the potentially distracting context. (I love movie soundtracks, but listening to them while writing often gets me more in the mood to watch the movie than to write, if that makes sense.) Audiomachine is a happy medium, and they have an immense catalog of music so I never get tired of the same tracks. And, while I’d categorize all of their music as “epic,” and most of their stuff seems to work best for me when writing fantasy, many of their albums have more of a sci-fi twist, while a couple others lean toward horror or even a steampunk vibe. If you’re interested in trying them out for your own writing soundtrack, you can’t really go wrong with any of their albums, but I’d personally recommend checking out Chronicles, Phenomena, or Magnus: B-Sides first if you’re asking.

 

Sigur Rós

If you remotely consider yourself one who appreciates music at all, and haven’t heard of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, do yourself a favor and check them out immediately. They’re one of my all-time favorite bands, and if I could choose one word to describe their music it might be immersive. SR creates the type of music in which you need to fully immerse yourself in to appreciate–listen to it in the dark with a good pair of headphones. I like listening to them when I’m brainstorming and worldbuilding, or for specific scenes that require something a bit more stirring than the typical Audiomachine track. Their transcendent album Ágaetis byrjun is a must-listen, but I’m particularly fond of Takk… and Valtari as well.

 

 

Max Richter

Max Richter first came to my attention when I discovered he wrote the haunting track “On the Nature of Daylight” featured on the 2016 film Arrival. His album Sleep is perhaps his most interesting: a concept album focused on the neuroscience behind the act of sleeping, it comes in at a whopping 8.5 hours long. Sleep is subtle and atmospheric, and perfect for background music while writing. I’d recommend his other work as well, starting with The Blue Notebooks.

 

Giles Lamb

Giles Lamb is perhaps best known for writing the track that accompanies one of the greatest video game trailers ever made (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ialZcLaI17Y), but I’ve found a lot of his other work to be great writing music as well. Before the Birds, Glossolalia, and Pure Frame are some of my favorite albums.

 

Vienna Teng

Vienna Teng stands out on this list as one of the few artists whose music is accompanied by English lyrics. I’ve found that when I’m writing epic fantasy, tracks with English lyrics more often than not distract me and pull me out of the writing process, and generally are not helpful at all. However, when I’m writing more contemporary stuff (particularly with more contemporary dialog), I actually don’t mind English lyrics at all. That’s just how it works for me, and it’s been a process of trial and error.

 

So I’m including Vienna Teng here because (a) her music is awesome, and (b) her track “The Hymn of Acxiom” has basically become the theme song of my latest project (which involved AI – you’ll see the connection if you listen to the lyrics of the song). So, yeah, check out Vienna Teng!

 

For me, music has become another tool in my writing toolbox. I can use it to enhance my process, or put it away when it ceases to become useful. And, for the record, there are times I don’t mind silence while writing, either!

Hopefully my suggestions have been helpful to you, and I wish you the best in your own writing journeys!

Chris Husberg[7653]Fear the Stars by Christopher Husberg, Paperback, £8.99, Out now!

Books

Emojiathon Week One ’19

*Well this is take two as my laptop crashed and it didn’t save*

 

I am starting this five days into the readathon, and having set myself six books to read this month, I am glad to say I have already finished one and am well into my second. You can check out my TBR in this post to see what I am hoping to read during this readathon and hence the month of June.

Within the first two days of the readathon I flew through my first book, The Girl in Red by Christina Henry. I’m not going to go into too much depth of my thoughts for this book as I will be doing a full review for it nearer the release date. But I will just say that this is an utterly terrifying, post apocalyptic adventure! This book also surprised me by having fabulous representation, it showed diversity in sexuality, disability and ethnicity; although it wasn’t the main aspect of the story, it was all shown through the main character and was beautifully done. This was an easy five star read for me and one you should definitely out on your pre-order list.

I am now reading The Record Keeper and am loving it so far. The hope is to have it finished by the end of the weekend at the latest. But with my partners birthday, and my dads partners birthday party I have a busy last half to the week.

Friday

So tomorrow will be the end of the first week of the Emojiathon, but as we have a party tonight I thought I would get this scheduled ready for tomorrow. As of midday Friday I have finished The Girl in Red, and am 160 pages into The Record Keeper. In total I have read 523 pages for the Emojiathon so far. Not my best week, as I had hoped to have The Record Keeper finished by the end of Sunday, but it is looking less likely now.

I have a busy weekend ahead, plus I don’t get as much read at the weekends as my partner is home. So the new aim is that by the end of next Sunday I am hoping to have The Record Keeper and my next book finished. I am thinking that the next book will probably be The Princess and the Fangirl, but it might also be Obsidio.

Will check back with you next week.

Are you participating in the Emojiathon? If so how are you getting on?

Books

Emojiathon TBR ’19

The Emojiathon seems to be the one readathon that I always get excited for and then forget about until the first day of it. That is exactly what has happened again this time around. So here I am on the first day of the readathon, throwing together my TBR.

You have probably noticed that since moving I have been in a bit of an on and off reading slump, which I am putting down to just not having found a reading routine quite yet while now living with my partner. So I am not going to go crazy with the TBR this round, and going to stick with just six books for now. I can always add more if I get through them.

Not going to lie, I am kind of trying to fit books to the challenges as I still don’t have all my books unpacked. But I’m hopeful.

The first book on this TBR is my current read; The Girl in Red by Christina Henry. This is her latest release which is a take on Little Red Riding Hood. For the readathon this will cover challenges, 5 Star Prediction, Takes Place Outside, book started but not finished,  Animal on the cover, Anticipated book, and Gifted book.

Though to be fair most of these books will work for gifted book as many are books sent to me from publishers.

Next I have The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion, a book that I am reviewing on the 17th of June as part of the blog tour. This has some overlaps for the challenges as it too has an animal on the cover. Other challenges covered are, set somewhere you don’t live, and written by an unknown author,

A book I have started but not finished is Crazy Rich Asians, I am taking the opportunity to make myself finish it, as this is one of the challenges. This will also complete the challenge to read an ebook, book that features travel, and a book you’ve been seeing everywhere.18158562
As with all readathons, I have a graphic novel thrown in here, and that is Monstress by Marjorie Liu. I always include a graphic novel for readathons just to break it up a bit, but this one will also cover the challenges to read a fantasy book, and an expensive book (but aren’t all graphic novels).

There was a challenge on this list that I just felt was a perfect opportunity for me to get brutal with a book in particular. I have had Obsidio for so long, that it is time that I either read it this month or it is time for it to go bye-bye. This will also cover a few other challenges for me; a book you’re annoyed at yourself for not reading yet, Sci-fi book, book you don’t know why you haven’t read yet, and a book you’ve said you would read but haven’t yet- if you don’t believe me, check my previous TBRs.

Then finally, I have The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston on this list. With all the cons going on at the moment, as well as missing the amazing opportunity to meet this lovely author, I just feel like its the perfect time for me to read this book. This wont cover as many new challenges, but it does cover to read a comtempory. 39725622

The only other challenge I am confident that I will complete is to read a book in 24hours. I haven’t linked this to a specific book but I feel that I will complete this with either Monstress or possibly Obsidio.

I think I will try to do weekly over views of what I manage to achieve to read for the readathon each week. Lets hope that I break free of this recurrent reading slump.

What are you reading for the Emojiathon?