Friday, 21 November 2014

Murderous Little Darlings: Paperback Release Announcement!

Hello friends and hope you're having an amazing day.

"Now hear this!" as Lt. Dan says in Forrest Gump.

The Kindle version of my first book in the Tale of Vampires series has been out for  a while now and you can get the e-version here but this post is specifically about the paperback version.

It's done now, so expect it on Amazon soon. Here's a look at the front and back cover.

Murderous Little Darlings is the first in a series of seven tales of vampires. Expect the series to twist and turn, but all relate, once the series has ended. Each story can be read as a standalone too.

I hope you'll give it a go. I had a blast writing this!

Happy reading and writing!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Book Review #31: Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3) by Suzanne Collins


Mockingjay had some serious living up to do. After The Hunger Games, and Catching Fire, the issue for Suzanne Collins was how to reel readers in for a third time. The possibility of another Hunger Games taking place seemed implausible, and so we are taken on a street level tour of District 13 in this book.

The rebellion appears to be in full swing, but the Capitol have a weapon in the form of Peeta. They use him in the same way that Katniss, for a large part of this book, seems to be used.

Christopher Nolan, director of the Dark Knight trilogy, at first did not want to do a third film in the series. That film, which became The Dark Knight Rises, would have almost certainly featured Heath Ledger's Joker. Given the actor's death, revisions to the script had to be made. 

The general consensus is that 'Rises' is the weakest of the three movies. But I see the series as one whole, and if you look at it in those terms, it's very enjoyable indeed. You have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Mockingjay has this too, and the ending to Catching Fire just made your pulse race harder than anything that was in the first book. Yes, it was that good, in my view. Surely after that, the only way is down? Christopher Nolan didn't want to do the third Batman film because 'how often does the third story beat out the previous ones?'

And he is right. It's so difficult to get the third story in the series right. Mockingjay also seems to have 
polarised many readers, but most seem to think this is a fitting end to the series. Here's my take on it, given I read the book nearly two years ago now, and with the new film coming out, I just had to reacquaint myself with the story.

I had previously rated Mockingjay 4 stars out of 5 on GoodReads. Would this rating stand up?

I recall that my experience mirrored many others. Book 1, read as fast as I could (in my case, 1.5 days - I even wanted to reschedule teaching lessons in order to finish the book!), Catching Fire, best part of a week, Mockingjay....nearly three months.

Was I 'Gamed out' by this point? Had I tired of Panem's situation? No, it wasn't that. The pace of Book 1 and 2 was frenetic, to put it mildly. Book 3, in contrast, was slow, plodding, and yes...a bit depressing. I wanted to know where the spirited Katniss had gone. 

She became one of my favourite heroines in book form, but Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal on the big screen elevated Katniss to something else. That's why I think the film will still be good. Is it really Suzanne Collin's fault that some readers feel let down by the pace of this final book? Most say 'I was expecting something mind blowing'? And of course, that is fair enough.

Another comment was that the publisher pushed Miss Collins to write this third book, one she never intended to write. The whole evolution of Katniss from plucky fighter who replaced her sister in the 74th Games to this inward looking girl, who cannot seem to choose between Peeta and Gale, really irked me.

I know she is young, and she has seen many horrors, but Peeta, though kind to her, was more of the Games's invention - they were star crossed lovers because that's what kept them alive. I never really bought the relationship, and I felt - always - that Gale was closer to her. 

In the latter part of Mockingjay, Katniss still seems very confused, and it's not something I was comfortable with. Maybe it is how the author saw the character growing, but I felt it was a step back. I wanted Katniss not necessarily to be the symbol of the rebellion...after all, anyone could be the Mockingjay, really - it was more that I wanted her to have a happy ending, and I am not sure Suzanne Collins gave us that.

Many of you will have read the series, but on speaking to many people I know, not so many have, so I'll leave the spoilers out.

Ultimately Mockingjay is a case of some missed chances. There's dramatic points parachuted in needlessly, whereas in the first two books, the drama was truly engrossing. These points were introduced in order to make the reader feel some emotion, but I felt a huge disconnect here.

There is one genuine shock I did not see coming, and for those who will just watch the movie, it will be a real high point of the series. 

Catching Fire - the movie, was almost certainly better than the first film. Somehow, I don't think Mockingjay will pull it off. But it will be an enjoyable ride nonetheless.

My rating holds for now.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Weekend Writing Workshop #3: Scene Hopping - A Good or a Bad Thing?

When you are writing that special story of yours, there's a tendency, no matter how disciplined the mind, to run ahead of certain scenes. That's okay in itself - you need to know where the story is going. But if you scene hop just because you are stuck on the current scene, should you be actually scene hopping?

How helpful, or destructive, is this to your writing process?

We learn as we go. In my case, if I scene hopped, I needed to go back and check that at that moment in time, and how it fitted with the events prior to that, and those that came after it.

It would not be enough to simply suggest that you had reached an end point. The reader needs a reason, a justification as to why you wrote the scene in the way that you did.

It is often said that an author's first book is the one that truly nags to be written. Any book thereafter is an indulgence, no?

No, I don't think so. If you are a writer, at whatever level that may be, a second, third, hundredth book is fine. So long as you are happy with it, and you offer your readers a coherent, believable story.

The breaking of a scene, is a huge decision. You may have to - for example, certain elements aren't working and if you don't get to the scene twenty or fifty pages further on, you cannot make sense of this current one. Makes sense, right?

It only makes sense, if it makes sense to the reader. You cannot second guess how the reader will interpret your story, but try and make the job easy for them. Don't overload a scene with characters who have been barely introduced, or not mentioned for 200 pages. Don't over complicate the scene, so that the important details are lost. Don't bore your reader with too much detail! Sometimes, an oak tree, is just an oak tree!

I do this workshop in the hope it helps some of you, but I also say that I too am learning the craft, and it's something I will never stop learning. If each book I write is better than the last, I feel I am on the right path.

I've mentioned what I think you shouldn't do, so here's what I think you should do.

  • Do finish a scene. Then leave it to 'brew', come back, and flesh it out. 
  • Do not add drama for drama's sake. You are taking your reader on a journey, not an OMG on every page. After a while, they will desensitise to your perceived dramatic points
  • Do make the scene real, even in fiction works, this has to be believable, and relatable for the reader.
  • Make the scene hopping work. Ever tried to drive over a broken bridge? That's okay in GTA, but not in real life. Make the scene (hopping) work.

So, in summary, I don't think scene hopping is a bad thing, but it does make you lose time, and possibly, the thread of the storyline. If this is your first book, you're forgiven, so long as the story is good. If it is your second book, try your best to scrub scene hopping from your writing process.

By then, you'll be well on your way to having a back catalogue for readers to enjoy.

Happy writing!

Catch up on the previous #Tips here

Monday, 27 October 2014

Book Review #30: Revenge of the Knights Templar by Adriana Girolami


 A tale of swords and superstitions, of passion and deception, of political machinations and posturing, Revenge of the Knights Templar is an exceptional debut novel by talented author Adriana Girolami.

This story has been on my to read list for most of 2014. Now, that I have finally completed reading it, I can say that the wait was worth it.

The ability of an author to transport the reader to a different time and place, and do it convincingly, is a task that perhaps only the most seasoned of authors would attempt. So it makes this story all the more remarkable that it sets itself up brilliantly, with the kind of prose I wish I could use in my writing.

After the initial few chapters, where most if not all of the main characters are introduced, the pace picks up and doesn't let go. In fact, I had to stop myself from finishing the novel too quickly.

It is a thoroughly entertaining and thrilling read, set in the 1480s where, as always, who ever wields power can do so with a silken rose or an iron fist.

Our heroine, Polyxena, is destined to become a duchess, but not in the way she envisaged. Her love, the Duke Arsenio is brutally cast aside in a battle of wills and swords, seeing the repugnant Duke of Saxe-Hanover seizing power, with Polyxena, seemingly hapless to play anything but the dutiful wife.

Things can't go on like this forever, and with the tyrant becoming ever more tyrannical (as they do!) the evil Duke begins to make mistakes...the biggest of which seem his superstitions. The fate of one cat in the story was a pivotal moment for me.

Polyxena, as befits a great heroine, is anything but a housemaid and often voices her displeasure at the Duke's actions - especially with his joy at the arrangement of so many executions of his enemies. Polyxena, understandably, is horrified. One of the condemned is her new love, Duccio.

The story has a great premise, but actually backs this up with superb execution. The characters are believeable, you feel hatred for the evil Duke, love and hope for the beautiful and intelligent Polyxena. I even found my distaste of Flavia coming around to better thoughts later on. Such is this beautifully woven tale.

The cover, though stunning, should not hide the fact that the sword fights are realistic in their description, and Miss Girolami places you as if you wielded the sword yourself! I was truly swept into the action of this story, which I will say is as well written as any part of the Lord of the Rings.

The author's wordcraft is exciting and perfectly describes each scene. The characters are superbly drawn, and the detail of her vision leaves nothing to chance. You, dear reader, are transported to 1480s Europe, and can do nothing about it!

This story is a historical epic, a romance, a thriller, a mystery and is full of great lines, written beautifully and without any hint of pretence.

It's not without humour, with great lines such as:

"The erotic spectacle stimulated the drunken crowd, who quickly joined the royal pair in a sexually driven bacchanal. An orgiastic took over the room while everybody rubbed and caressed anything that wasn't theirs."

And stark, great authoritarian lines such as:-

"A river of blood will cleanse you of audacity!"


"It's easy to learn cruelty when you live with evil."

Truly, I can't wait to read this book again. It's been by far one of my favourite reads of 2014, and one can only wait for Miss Girolami's next book. As for Revenge of the Knights Templar, I thoroughly recommend you read it. Now. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Book Review #29: Mine 2 by J. Kahele


You know the often quoted saying, especially in movies, where people say that a follow-up or sequel can never match the original?

That's true. But authors wouldn't write a follow up unless they could beat it. In Mine 2, I believe author J. Kahele has achieved this improbable feat.

Mine 1 was a brutal read, about a woman suffering severe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her Senator husband, Ben Kramer.

Jenna Kramer is a character I could feel great sympathy for. A common riposte from people about women who stay with the men who hit them is 'why doesn't she leave him?'

And whilst I agree with that, unless I was in the horrific situation Jenna finds herself in, how could I know what I would say, how I would react, what would I do?

It's clear Ben Kramer is a brutal man with few, if any, redeeming qualities. Does this make him sound one-dimensional? No, because if he was, you could predict his next move. You can't. This is masterful story telling.

That said, like Mine 1, this is not an easy read. It is not a book to make you smile. It is not for the faint of heart, because the violence is graphic, very hard-hitting, and relentless.

With so many horrors happening in the world, why read this book?

Well..if you want an utterly compelling story with a thrilling narrative and a woman who you really feel for and want her to come through Mine, then read Mine 2.

The antagonist, Ben Kramer, doesn't love Jenna. He controls her. As I reviewed in Mine 1, she cannot even wear blue jeans because it displeases Ben.

And when Ben is displeased, boy, does he show it.

Fortunately, Jenna is not alone, and she has a new love, Andrew Carington, who really does love Jenna, but when I was reading some of his actions, I found myself shocked.

Can I, as a male, tell you honestly that a woman I have been in love with has never annoyed me, to the point that her words and actions have enraged me?

Of course I cannot say that. But I can say that my discipline means there is a line I would not cross. But there are many men that do, and the women on the end of their cruelty stay with them.

I have taught women martial arts who have previously suffered from abuse from men in their lives. I have heard real horror stories from them, the details of which turned my stomach and made me ashamed that I was the same gender as these torturers.

There is no circumstance in which a man should hit a woman. I don't care what it is. There is nothing that can justify that.

With reference to the book, this is a book everyone should read and they will enjoy it. The author, J. Kahele, is a truly talented writer and I believe she is going to go far.

Here is a lady author who has not gone down the route of 'sex for sex' sake' in her writing. That may be the hot topic right now, but for my own part, I want to read intelligent writing. And it is here in abundance.

Does Jenna find happiness? Is Andrew the answer? Does Ben mend his ways and win Jenna back, or does he get his comeuppance?

The last line of Mine 2 is automatically one of my all-time favourites!

So many haunting lines that just hit you where it hurts, such as:-

"Abusers are not merely low-paid, uneducated alcoholics, like society would like us to believe. They are from all different positions in society; an abuser can be just about anyone, from a factory worker to a senator."

All true. Wearing a suit does not necessarily make me more civilised!

The answers to the questions above are within this fantastic book, arguably my favourite book of 2014. This is such a hard thing to say, amongst so many great titles, but I love this book. I felt all of Jenna's pain, all of Andrew's rage, and I understood his position too (for the most part!) - and I could not stop reading.

The last book I read this fast was the superlative Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. That's how good this is.

Take a bow, J. Kahele. You have won a new fan.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Book Review #28: Mine by J. Kahele


Once in a while, a true edge-of-the-seat (or in this case, page) thriller entertains and enthralls us.

Mine tells us the tale of Jenna Kramer, who comes into contact with handsome attorney Andrew Carington. All well and good, you may say. But Jenna is married. Not only that, she is married to Ben, a Senator. Not only that, Ben is a possessive nutjob, I'm thinking his mother could be Annie Wilkes from Misery.

Mine is a brutal examination of how people can be controlled in relationships. Of course there are things we will do that our partner / spouse will not like. But in Jenna's case, she finds herself eating a wall because she chose to wear blue jeans. Something with Ben doesn't like. He doesn't like this at all.

In fact, when the first assault from Ben happens, it is truly shocking. And the way he follows it up with an 'I Love You' makes it all the more worse.

I have had Mine on my to read list for a while. It's such a pleasure to read a truly thrilling novel, where the author uses great prose to draw us into this world.

You root for Jenna, that's a given, but really, no-one should have to go through what she goes through in this book.

Even more pleasing is the knowledge that a second book in the series exists.

Make sure you read Mine, because I was reminded of Fatal Attraction, Jagged Edge, Stepfather...and similar thrillers of this ilk. Ben could be in any of these kind of films...he is a guy you love to hate. But is down to the author's talent as a writer that this Ben is so utterly chilling.

I find myself still thinking about the book, even though I have read it, and would re-read it!

So buy Mine, and enjoy. You may not look at your relationship in the same way again!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Book Review #27: Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley


Jennifer Ashley is best known for her romance novels, but she writes paranormal on occasion too. This book was recommended to me so I purchased it. This review is for the paperback edition.

I'll sometimes lend my books out. In my mum's case, I'm trying to broaden her reading beyond Catherine Cookson, Maeve Binchy and Danielle Steele. So I lend her the occasional book.

A good thing I read this first then - from the first few pages the rating could be considered as extremely hot, and not the kind of book to lend to Mum!

So this review is based on the second book in the series, and is my first JA read.

Isabella is a strong, independent young woman, and doesn't give in to the affections from men easily. However, in this book, it seems she will wilt in the end, although I won't spoil the ending! 

The book could be considered a Highland romance, as our 'hero' paints whilst wearing a kilt. Fair enough!

It also means he can get his clothes off more quickly, which, if Isabella is as hot as we are led to believe, I'd probably be going for her too!

I like the descriptions of England, which are extremely well done, you really feel like you are there. I suppose it must be hard for American authors to write with true authenticity if they haven't been to the country they write about. But her descriptions are so vivid that the author must have been here.

The ending was actually rather unpredictable. And it's that thought I'll leave you with. Jennifer Ashley has sold tonnes of books, so she must be doing something right. It's an enjoyable romance that has lots of intensity, which puts it above many of its peers, but lack just that bit extra to make it awesome.

A very good read, nonetheless!