Monthly Archives: October 2014

Red Of The Woods By Lana Axe

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This short story is a fairy tale for adults. It harks back to that time before our popular fairy tales were sanitized, when they inspired genuine terror. The author takes an axe (sigh) to Red Riding Hood and turns the story inside out in a new and imaginative way.

The grandmother’s actions at one point seemed a bit excessive, but I suppose her thirst for vengeance blinded her to her cruelty. And I think to a story like this, you need to apply the logic of fairy tale and myth.

The proofreading was excellent. The story was clean of errors.

The ending surprised me in a good way. It was very apt.

I received a copy of this book for an honest non-reciprocal review.

The Real Unconquered Sun

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This image might remind you a little of the Statue of Liberty.  However, it is in fact a roman sun god by the name of Sol Invictus, sometimes translated as the Unconquered Sun.  His worship was popularlised in the third century by the emperor Aurelian.

At the time that Aurelian took over the Roman Empire, it was in decline due to civil wars and poor leadership. In the west, part had broken away to form the Gallic Empire, while several of the eastern provinces had become the Palmyrene Empire.  Barbarians were pouring what was left.  Things were looking pretty bad.

Aurelian reversed the decline, reunited the empire and dealt with the barbarian threat. He was a zealous reformer. He also encouraged all the people of the empire to follow one god, Sol Invictus, in a manner very similar to Constantine The Great’s later adoption of Christianity. Indeed, it is interesting that Sol Invictus is found on roman coinage until then.

We will never know what might have happened to the Roman Empire, if Aurelian had survived longer to consolidate popular devotion to his religion. He died violently as so many emperors before him. A strict disciplinarian, he engendered terrible fear among his subordinates. He even looks severe in many of his surviving images. In the end, it cost him his life. A secretary, fearing terrible punishment for a small lie, concocted a greater lie to save himself.  He convinced other officials that the emperor intended to have them executed, so they struck against Aurelian first, and the rest is, as they say, history.

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 Image sources: Flickr 1, 2

Tiger In A Cage By Allie Cresswell

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This novel has two narrative threads. In the first, told in the past tense, the somewhat prudish Molly, trapped in a loveless marriage, attempts to turn her new neighbours in the Close into a surrogate for the loving family she has never had. The second thread, told in the present tense, picks up years later, after the Close Set has dispersed. Molly struggles to deal with their growing estrangement. The narrative gradually reveals why the perfect world Molly so desperately wanted was impossible.

Molly is a lover of Jane Austen, and, in some ways, although this is set in the eighties, this feels like a 19th century novel. The writing is excellent, as are the characterisations, mostly. Initially, it was very daunting to meet the Close Set. They were all fleshed out very well, but some made a more immediate impression than others as each couple paraded out to be introduced. However, as the book progressed, this fog of names dissipates and you get to know them intimately. Molly herself is very well drawn and entirely believable.

It is an excellent novel, and yet I never quite connected with it emotionally. The crises of the past were very much ‘told’ while the present thread, for me, lacked crisis. Though Molly dabbles in other people’s lives, she never makes a dramatic decision about her own. Circumstances choose for her. The characters outside the Close Set don’t really pull their narrative weight. Also, I wasn’t convinced by the reason Molly was writing all this down.

The author plays a dangerous game with the reader by depending on revelation to drive the drama. Some of these revelations, the ones where we share the discovery with Molly, are very effective. I liked when Molly was forced to rethink her interpretation of past events. But, there is also a certain revelation where Molly already has the answer, and she holds it back from the reader for no obvious good reason. It distanced me emotionally from the narrative.

Despite these quibbles, I still absolutely recommend this book to lovers of good literature.

I received a copy of Tiger In A Cage for an honest review.

Years of Stone By Beth Camp

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Mac  McDonnell has been sentenced to seven years in Van Diemen’s Land. His love, Deidre (‘I am affianced.’) Scott, follows him there on the same ship, Brilliant. The novel opens with the ship sinking. Can Deidre overcome the series of obstacles keeping them apart?

Years of Stone is a novel full of rich detail. Real persons from the time, such as the Franklins. are woven seamlessly into the fabric of the story, and the setting feels authentic. The story worms its way through every stratum of colonial society. It reminds me of Zola’s Rougon-Macquart novels. I felt that I, like the main characters, had been transported to another land.

It is the second novel in a series, but it feels complete in itself. I will definitely look up the first book when I get a chance.

On to the bad stuff… I can’t really think of anything to be honest. Mac was often his own worst enemy, but I suppose it is easy to have patience when you aren’t breaking rocks twelve hours a day. Years of stone, indeed.

I received a free copy of this book for an honest, non-reciprocal review.

Click Bait

There are a lot of good on-line articles on writing and publishing, but there are some not-so-good ones also. Nothing is more annoying than coming across a tweet with a link to say The Three Key Things You Must Know Before You Publish only to find when you click on the article tells you absolutely nothing of any use. Or, like Fifty-Five Short Story Competitions for Jack Russell Owners, the article turns out to be just a list of links, half of which don’t work, with a disclaimer at the bottom that the author isn’t entirely sure that these are short story competitions or that the organizers like dogs.

With that in mind I’ve written my own bait click article.

Ten Critical Things You Must Do To Write A Book:

(1) Breathe. Dead people cannot write a book.

(2) Open your eyes. Otherwise, you cannot see what you are writing.

(3) Have an original idea. It can be fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction is generally truer than fiction.

(4) Have something on which to record your story. Examples include word processors, blank pages, vellum, papyrus, and clay tablets.

(5) Use the appropriate tool to record your story. For example, pens and quills work well for blank pages, but not for tablets and computer screens.

(6) Write in a language you understand.

(7) Make sure you understand the concepts of ‘book’ and ‘novel’. Check them out on Wikipedia.

(8) Read lots of books about writing and publishing. You can find these books in book shops and on-line stores. They will cost money, but they are worth it if you want to build a successful career.

(9) Get a dictionary. If you don’t know what this is, look it up.

(10) Read my book as a good example of how the finished product should look. It’s cheap and it’s on sale at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Itunes, etc. There’s even a paperback.

DISCLAIMER: The author of this article does not maintain that this is an exhaustive list of steps, or that all steps listed are required in every case to write a book. The order of the steps is not prescriptive. The reader should do his/her own research.

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