Friday, 28 June 2013

Weekly Inspirations #19

Image from Animal Talk
Here are my favourite links from the past week. Have a great weekend.

Make it Stick – The Art of the Chapter Ending by over on The Other Side of the Story

More evidence that cats are from another planet | S A V O I A

Cuteness Overload | S A V O I A

Lost Egyptian City found After 1,200 Years via WhereCoolThingsHappen Incredible pictures

you + your shadow: who is the “necessary opponent” in your life story?

Revealing a Character's Past Without Falling Into Backstory via

50 Rantypants Snidbits Of Random Writing & Storytelling Advice via Great advice, read it fast then get writing

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Review of Mortality (The Hitchhiker Strain) by Kellie Sheridan

Cover links to Amazon
Description (From NetGalley)

After surviving a deadly plague outbreak, sixteen-year-old Savannah thought she had lived through the very worst of human history. There was no way to know that the miracle vaccine would put everyone at risk for a fate worse than un-death. 

Now, two very different kinds of infected walk the Earth, intent on nothing but feeding and destroying what little remains of civilization. When the inoculated are bitten, infection means watching on in silent horror as self-control disappears and the idea of feasting on loved ones becomes increasingly hard to ignore. 

Starving and forced to live inside of the abandoned high school, all Savannah wants is the chance to fight back. When a strange boy arrives with a plan to set everything right, she gets her chance. Meeting Cole changes everything. Mere survival will never be enough.

My Review

Mortality is written from the point of view of two different characters, Savannah and Zarah, and their stories run parallel to one another and I think this works really well.

I think it's important to mention here that I have never read a zombie book before because it's not an area that typically interests me, but when I read the description of this one I was intrigued and decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did. The storyline is really good, providing a new twist on the zombie theme, and the pacing is excellent.

It was the story and pacing that pulled me through and made me want to find out how it would all end though and not the characters. I liked them but for me they felt a little flat and despite being told in first person I felt a little distanced from them and found I didn't really care what happened to them. That being said, this is a YA read so at 33 I'm not exactly the target audience and maybe that's the reason. Definitely worth a read though and I would be interested in reading the next book in the series.

I give Mortality 3 out of 5.

Disclaimer - I was provided with a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 24 June 2013

When the Writing Spirit Falters

"The majority of people perform well in a crisis and when the spotlight is on them; it's on the Sunday afternoons of this life, when nobody is looking, that the spirit falters." Alan Bennett
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

This quote seems to sum me up pretty well. I have always performed so much better when I am under pressure and when there is a deadline to work to. Without that pressure it is all too easy to let things slide.

I have tried imposing my own deadlines but they never seem to work, it is too easy to keep moving the boundaries. I have also tried setting a joint deadline with my brother (also a writer), our own little version of NaNoWriMo with spreadsheets and daily reporting and pep talks. We lasted about two weeks before things began to slide again as we let life get in the way.

I tried keeping my word count displayed in the side bar of this blog but I kept forgetting to update it and then when my computer died I lost the spreadsheet with all the data on it, so now I have had to remove the widgets. (Thankfully I always save my writing in dropbox so that was saved.)

When it comes down to it though, I don't think there is any magic formula that you can follow that will give you more self-discipline. I think it is more like a muscle and the more we use/exercise it, the stronger it becomes.

How about you? What methods have you used to get yourself writing when the 'spirit falters'? Have any of them worked? Let me know in the comments section below, I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Weekly Inspirations #18

Image from Animal Talk
Here are my favourite links from the past week. Have a great weekend.

Why The Hero’s Journey is a Tourist Trap via Lisa Cron at Writer Unboxed

You're not satisfied and it's time to do something about it | Positive Writer

The Confident Writer Series: 1 – The Mental Games We Play via Gary Korisko on Write to Done

How to Write Characters Who Don't Sound Like You via

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Review of The Cambodian Book of the Dead by Tom Vater

Cover links to Amazon
Description (From NetGalley)

Private eye and former war reporter, Maier is sent to Cambodia to track down the missing heir to a Hamburg coffee empire.
His search leads him into the darkest corners of the country’s history, through the Killing Fields of the communist revolution, to the White Spider, a Nazi war criminal who reigns over an ancient Khmer temple deep in the jungle.
But the terrifying tale of mass murder that Maier uncovers is far from over. And soon Maier realises that, if he is to prevent more innocent lives from being destroyed, he will have to write the last horrific chapter himself.
The Cambodian Book of the Dead – it’s where Apocalypse Now meets The Beach…

My Review
Having been to Cambodia myself, I really wanted to enjoy this book. The first chapter was great and I was confident that I was in for a great ride. Unfortunately, it ended there. There is the makings of a very good story here but it reads more like a bad tour guide than a novel. The author seems intent on getting across just how much he knows about Cambodia and it's history at the the expense of the story.
The dialogue all felt wrong; there were no contractions in the main characters speech (and very few, if any, in the other characters'). I don't know anyone who speaks this way and it made the dialogue very stilted. The lack of dialogue tags was also very confusing at times and I found I had to keep going back to try and work out who was speaking.
There were lots of irrelevant passages that had nothing at all to do with the story and some of the descriptions were just plain weird, such as the character describing himself on the plane by giving a list of his vital statistics, and in one scene he even lists every item on someone's breakfast plate instead of just saying it was a fry-up. It almost felt like the author was just trying to bump up the word count.
The story does pick up pace just past half way but by then it was too late and I just could not bring myself to like the flat and two-dimensional characters or care what happened to them. 
As I said at the start, there is a good story in there trying to get out. I just think the author needs to step out of his own way and give his characters more of a voice because at the minute they all sound the same and it comes across as more journalistic than as creative fiction.
I give The Cambodian Book of the Dead 2 out of 5.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Playing With My New Writing Toy

My new iMac has just arrived and I am busy getting everything set up (and generally having a play around!), so I'm afraid there will be no blog post for today. The good news though is that after this I will have no excuses about using a slow, sluggish old laptop.

Have a great Monday, I know I am!!!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Weekly Inspirations #17

Image from Animal Talk
Here is a round-up of my favourite links from the past week. Have a great weekend.

Ten Stupid Writer Tricks (That Might Actually Work) « terribleminds via Some excellent tips here

Starting With Subplot via

The Pace Race via

Paperback Writer: Story Improvement Really interesting, may have to give this a try myself

An Original Way to Make Any Story Plausible by Dr John Yeoman over on the Blood-Red Pencil blog. Loving the examples!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Review of Penance by Dan O'Shea

Cover links to Amazon

Description (From Amazon)

"Born and raised in Chicago, Detective John Lynch might just be about to die there too."

A pious old woman steps out of the Sacred Heart confessional and is shot through the heart by a sniper with what at first appears to be a miraculous and impossible shot.

Colonel Tech Weaver dispatches a team from Langley to put the shooter and anyone else who gets in the way in a body bag before a half-century of national secrets are revealed.

But soon the sniper strikes again. And Detective Lynch, the son of a murdered Chicago cop, finds himself cast into an underworld of political corruption, as he tries to discover the truth about what's really going on before another innocent citizen gets killed.

My Review

I really enjoyed this fast-paced thriller. The narration of this novel is very clipped and bare-bones and I found that this fit well with the personality of the main character as well as the fast pace of the story. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way and I never knew exactly how it would all turn out at the end, which is a big bonus point for me.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, namely because it is split between two time periods. Adding to the confusion is the fact that a lot of those in the past are relatives of those in the present, and being a crime novel most of them are referred to by their surnames. Thankfully the author included a list of characters for each time period, and their relation to each other, at the start of the book (if you read this novel in e-book format, bookmark the character list, you'll need it!).

There were a few sections that confused me, especially when referencing black ops events that had taken place in the past, and I had to re-read them. In these instances the clipped style frustrated me a little and I would have liked clearer explanations. This may just be a personal thing, but it was enough to pull me out of the story several times and for that reason I have had to knock one star off.

That said, I do highly recommend this book and I can see myself referring back to it for tips when I need to increase the pace in my own fiction.

I give Penance 4 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Blog Tour and Giveaway Part 2

Jane Austen Collection

Cover links to Amazon
Published by Doma Publishing

Friday, 7 June 2013

Weekly Inspirations #16

Image from Animal Talk
Here is a round-up of my favourite links from the past week. Have a great weekend.

Pretentious Title: How I Manage Large Casts of Characters via

Achieving Writing Goals the SMART Way via

When To Let The Reader Into The Character's Head via

3D masterpieces on pavement by Tracy Lee Stum on Flickr Blog Amazing

The Difference Between Idea, Premise, and Plot via

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Discouragement via

How to Fake Your Way Into More Freelance Writing Gigs via The Renegade Writer

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Review of Vivid and Continuous by John McNally

Description (from NetGalley)

Cover links to Amazon

Taking off from The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide, John McNally’srelentlessly blunt, bracingly cheerful, and immensely helpful map to being a writer, Vivid and Continuous is an equally blunt, cheerful, and helpful map to learning to be a writer. While acknowledging that many fine books cover such essentials of fiction writing as point of view, characterization, and setting, McNally sets out in this new book—intended as a supplement to beginning fiction-writing classes or as the sole text for upper-level or graduate courses—to solve the tricky second-tier problems that those books cover only in footnotes.
Vivid and Continuous takes its inspiration from John Gardner, whose essential truths in On Becoming a Novelist clarified McNally’s goal of communicating a “vivid and continuous dream” with his own writing. In fifteen concise, energizing chapters, he dispenses advice gained from almost thirty years of studying, writing, and teaching. How do you avoid the pitfalls inherent in the most common subjects for stories? How do you create memorable minor characters? What about managing references to pop culture without distracting your readers, revising a story to bring its subtext into focus, or exploring the twenty most common craft-related quirks that lessen immediacy for your readers? How do you keep from overdosing on similes and metaphors or relying on too many flashbacks to provide necessary backstory? How do you learn to listen when your story tries to talk to you? Finally, how can you resist “John McNally’s Sure-Fire Formula for Becoming Funnier in 30 Days”?
McNally cites many novels and short stories as examples that best illustrate the lessons he wants to impart, the writer’s life, or the writer’s craft, as well as his own favorite authors’ novels and short story collections. Exercises at the end of each chapter reinforce its point and serve as practical catalysts for new writings and directions.
Just blunt enough to get your attention but not blunt enough to crush you, challenging but not discouraging, personal but not ego-ridden, snarky but not mean, John McNally will prompt you to think more deeply about a variety of issues that will push you toward writing more meaningful, more accomplished work.

My Review

This was an interesting and enjoyable book, taking a different approach to many other writing guides. Most of the essays provided me with some food for thought when it comes to my own writing and I have bookmarked all of the exercises that come at the end of each one, in no doubt that working through them will improve my writing no end. There is also a comprehensive list of further reading that illustrates any examples given in the essays.

Admittedly, some of the areas seemed to ramble a little for me and you will have heard much of the advice before, so it's not completely original - but then no book on writing is and this one is still worth a read. 

I give Vivid and Continuous 4 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Blog Tour and Giveaway

Anne of Green Gables Collection

Cover links to Amazon
by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Doma Publishing presents to you The Anne of Green Gables Collection, which has been designed and formatted specifically for your Amazon Kindle. Unlike other e-book editions, the text and chapters are perfectly set up to match the layout and feel of a physical copy, rather than being haphazardly thrown together for a quick release.

This edition also comes with a linked Table of Contents for both the list of included books and their respective chapters. Navigation couldn't be easier.

Purchase this Anne of Green Gables Series and treat yourself to the following list of works featuring the lovable Anne Shirley and written by L. M. Montgomery:

Anne of Green Gables Series, Anne Shirley's age:

Anne of Green Gables, (1908), 11-16
Anne of Avonlea, (1909), 16-18
Anne of the Island, (1915), 18-22
Anne's House of Dreams, (1917), 25-27
Rainbow Valley, (1919), 41
Rilla of Ingleside, (1921), 49-53

Related books featuring Anne Shirley:

Chronicles of Avonlea (1912)
Further Chronicles of Avonlea (1920)

Poetry Collection:

The Watchman, and Other Poems

*BONUS other works by Lucy Maud Montgomery:

Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910)
The Story Girl (1911)
The Golden Road (1913)

Note: This Series is missing Anne of The Ingleside and Anne of Windy Poplars. Unfortunately, the rights for these two books aren't yet available for Kindle publishing. To make up for it, we also included Bonus Books of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Call of the Wild by Jack London. Enjoy!

Thank you for choosing Doma House Publishing. We look forward to creating many more affordable Kindle Classics for you to enjoy!

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