Monthly Archives: June 2016

Sing Me To Sleep By Chris Simms

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Okay, first of all, the title of this ghost story is a bit misleading since the main character, Laura, is having sleepless nights due to mysterious bird song in the old house she and her husband Owen recently bought. Perhaps, it refers to something that happens near the end of the book. Don’t worry. I won’t give any spoilers.

Laura is a retired ballet dancer and her husband, Owen, is a conductor. They are both really well drawn characters, but Laura is the focus of the reader’s sympathy.  Her story is so immersive that a couple of times, I actually thought the story moved from first person to third person, when in fact it had been third person the whole time.

I really enjoyed the writing. Some of the images are very poetic and really add to the atmosphere. After a careful, incremental build-up, the tension ratchets as Laura’s sanity is questioned and the terrible history of the house is revealed. This isn’t a book for readers looking for lots of gore, but it has plenty of surprises. The psychological depth of the main characters is key to its success for me. This anchors the weird to reality and gives the reader a reason to care.

Kindle Countdown Deal

I’m running two promotions at the moment. I’ll list them in order of time sensitivity.

 

ThePartingGift-Cover

Firstly, the short story The Parting Gift is free on Amazon until 24th June.

 

 

I am also running a Kindle Countdown (99 cent) deal until 28th June for A Bright Power Rising & The Unconquered Sun on the UK and US Amazon stores.

A Bright Power Rising US Link // UK Link.

The Unconquered Sun US Link // UK Link.

 

 

Violence: A Writer’s Guide

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This is an introduction to the world of violence for Writers. It’s not a book on writing technique. It’s really about the mechanics and psychology of violence. The writer has twenty years experience as a correctional professional and worked in Iraq as an adviser. Combined with thirty years of martial arts training, this gives him an insight into the nature of violence which any writer dealing with the subject would find priceless.

I can’t say I enjoyed the book, but I found it eye opening and fascinating. It’s definitely a book I could see myself rereading. Writers, I’m sure, will pick out of it what they want, or rather what their readership will let them. The writer of the foreword said that he didn’t agree with everything that Miller wrote, and I could see others agreeing with that sentiment especially with regard to some of the macro-historical points. However, you can’t disagree with Miller’s experience and knowledge of the subject.

The information is presented in a concise, matter-of-fact fashion. There are links to real word examples of violence which I skipped. I simply have no interest in watching other people’s suffering to further my knowledge. I know some writers like morgues and dead bodies but I’m not one of them.

Hobgoblin Night By Teresa Edgerton

Hobgoblin Night

 

The sequel to Goblin Moon, it was originally published as The Gnome’s Engine. To be frank, I don’t understand the change of name. Personally, I felt the original title is more relevant to the main thrust of the plot.

The story continues where the previous book left off. The sorcerer Thomas Kelly and the Duchess separately hunt Sera, Elsie and Jed. Meanwhile the parchment originally stolen  from the Duchess proves to be the key to unlocking the secrets of the drowned continent of Panterra. Meanwhile, Shelbrooke is busy hunting white slavers.

The world expands a good deal in this second volume. The writing is full of engaging detail and subtle wit.The main plot points are resolved but there are some new questions raised and avenues opened which I suppose adds to the verisimilitude and probably were originally intended for a sequel. Some of the minor characters from the first novel feel kind of underused, perhaps for similar reasons, but overall, the novel was very satisfying.

The novel includes three short stories which either relate to the world of the novel or share the same sensibilities. I particularly enjoyed Titania or The Celestial Bed which was a very clever story setting some of Shakespeare’s characters in the eighteenth century.

June Update

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I haven’t published one of these updates in a couple of months but I’ve been very busy behind the scenes. First of all, I finished the short story I had been working on. After  the rolling pin of Beta Reading and editing had flattened all the bumps, it ended up rolling out to 7k.

I paused work on the novel Diary largely because I found the solution to the problem that dogged the project I had been working on in February, nicknamed Spaghetti. If you remember the February Update, I had parked this project, which involves people being trapped in a massive multiplayer. At the time, while I really enjoyed writing it, I could see it had a lot of issues around how much game mechanics and language to include. I didn’t want to knock a few corners off a square and call it a wheel.

So imagine my delight when I discovered the genre LitRPG. This genre, which began in Korea and Russia and is slowly gaining momentum in the west. Popular series include The Land by Aleron Kong, The Way of the Shaman by Vasily Mahanenko and The Phantom Server by Andrei Livadny.

However, one key factor missing from my story was leveling. The focus was on very advanced players at the top of their game. I needed to go back and build up to the book. So I decided to create a trilogy with Spaghetti as the third volume. To keep things simple, I made it Spaghetti 3 and the first two volumes became Spaghetti 1 and Spaghetti 2.

I started out pantsing Spaghetti 1. Simply put, I built up the story letting myself be led by the words I wrote. This process was helped by a killer beginning that just came to me out of the blue. Everything was going along smoothly until I was about 28k words in. Then I discovered a vast chasm between me and where I wanted to go. I took a deep breath and revised what I had done, but the solution wasn’t forthcoming. I got about sixteen chapters in when I decided enough was enough. I must either map my terra incognita or  I put it aside. I have a dozen projects clamoring to be written. I gave myself two days.

I started to map out the story on Scapple from the point I had reached to the as yet unknown end. Basically, at each stage I asked what would be the most interesting thing that could happen next. I connected these points with arrows and I deleted lines that went nowhere. And very quickly, everything clicked into place. I even had the inciting incident and setting for the next book.

What I didn’t do was break this tapestry of plot threads into chapters. The exercise wasn’t about prescribing to the finest detail what would happen so that writing the book became a form of transcription. It wasn’t about bashing it to fit some preconceived template. No, I left the story space to grow, to surprise me. But I now have a clear idea where I need to finish and a general direction on how to get there. I’m confident I can get the first draft finished in the next couple of weeks.

Goblin Moon By Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Moon

 

This is a fantasy novel set in a world of Men, dwarves, gnomes and fairies, but instead of the usual medieval period setting, the milieu is more akin to the eighteenth century. The period detail is fantastic and the writing is sumptuous. The characters are well drawn. There’s an alchemist-turned-bookseller struggling dabbling in the dark arts. There’s his niece who must defend her cousin from her from the eccentric medical plots of her overbearing mother.  And then, there’s a dashing Scarlet Pimpernel type who fights occult secret societies and the like. It takes a while for the pieces of the story to coalesce into the plot but the journey makes the wait worth it.

The world building is excellent. The eighteenth century elements (and some of the place names) can blind you that at times, but there was obviously a lot more work and thought put into the setting than a simple transposition of historical and literary detail.

My one quibble would be the recipe of a homunculus only in so far as it pushes the age range for which the book is suitable upward. It didn’t bother me particularly, but I could see it bothering others.

It’s the first part of a duology so there are still matters to be resolved in the sequel, but the conclusion at the end didn’t make me feel short changed.

 

The House On The Borderland By William Hope Hodgson

 

House On The Borderland

Two visitors to the West of Ireland, Tonnison and Berreggnog, stumble across a ruined house. They discover a damaged book in the midst of the debris. It is the diary of the reclusive former occupant of the house. In it, he recounts a series of bizarre phenomena he encounters while living there.

The influence of this book on writers like Lovecraft is unmistakable. The siege of the house of pig creatures is well done. There is an astounding  passage describing the speed up of time and the author’s experience of the passing of millions of years. It reminded me a lot of 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, other parts are less climatic. I felt frustrated rather than intrigued by the missing pages. The disjointedness and randomness of the events sometimes made me like I was passing through a fun house rather than experiencing an unknowable but cohesive mystery.

The house is strangely divorced from the time and place in which it’s supposed to be set. The odd anachronism doesn’t help. But maybe it’s part of the book’s dream-like charm. It reinforces the isolation (or madness) of the diary’s author and his much put-upon sister.

Tonnison at the end of the book is certain at the end of the novel that the journal is an honest recounting of real events. I wasn’t so sure. There seems to be hints to the contrary. It’s really up to the reader to make her mind up.