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