Friday, 20 April 2018

#Indie Intro

#Review: BLAZE by Devyn Jayse

A 4 star read
The main character, Vincent is living in the insalubrious world of the Blights with his younger sister Penny. They are orphans striving to survive in a harsh world. Vincent has his set of friends and a burning anger fuelled by the unfairness of the situation he is forced to live in. Suddenly a series of fires begins to engulf the district. People are afraid and accusations start flying.

This is an engaging read with good characters and well a created setting. I felt I was in the shady world of the Blights with Vincent. The idea of a divide between The Blights and The Town is made very clear to the reader. Vincent’s cohort of friends are interesting and the description of the bond between them is realistic as it also charts the scuffles which can often occur between a friendship group of boys or young men. Further suspense is created by pushing Vincent into a situation where he’s forced to prove his innocence concerning several fires which have been set.

Some minor issues for me: I wanted a clearer idea of how old Vincent is. I kept speculating, he also solves the mystery of who is setting the fires far too easily. This could have been drawn out even more.

Intrigue is introduced by the insertion of new characters. I wanted to know more and will definitely be looking at the rest of this series once my other reading commitments are over. A writer to keep an eye on I’d say.

Grab a copy of Devyn's work today.

Friday, 13 April 2018

#Indie Intro

#Review: RED DESERT by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

4 Star reading

I must confess a certain attraction to the inhospitable red planet ever since I saw Total Recall. The Arnie version of course. There simply is no other. As many of you know, I’ve even squeezed a mention of Mars into my very own little eco SciFi number. So I was delighted to come across this translation of Deserto Rosso. It is written in diary format from the perspective of Anna Persson, an astronaut landed on Mars together with several colleagues. Together they are hoping to set up a primary colony.

The opening is dramatic as use of the present tense and the narrator’s situation draws the reader in. The story line switches between events on Mars and flashbacks, in the past tense, in which we learn a great deal of backstory. I found these details and the relationships Anna has with other characters very engaging. I wanted to read on and in fact finished the book in only 4 sittings. Anna's complex character is well rounded and Monticelli details her motivations, actions and feelings to perfection.

Where things were not so great for me was in the large sections of didactic information about Mars itself. I understand it is necessary for these crucial facts to be there as they pinpoint the difficulties the astro-team has waiting for them on this hostile planet. However, these chunks of information felt rather stilted. This may well be due to the fact they are in translation. Writing in English is complicated enough. I can’t even begin to contemplate how difficult translating an entire novel is. But sometimes the very fact of the translation made itself evident in clumsy phrasing, overlong sentence structures and perhaps the odd word or two with questionable context. And there was also the odd proofreading issue.

Despite this I enjoyed the story very much and would certainly read the rest of the series once I’ve finished this crazy Goodreads challenge I’ve set myself. If you like SciFi and stories with great characters then this book is the right one for you.

Other books in this series

Friday, 6 April 2018

Writing On The Go

Writing on the go can be a challenge. You don’t have the comfort of your familiar writing space. There’s no handy kitchen for making cups of tea, no cupboard full of snacks and no slow-cooker getting lunch or dinner ready while you become absorbed in your writing.

Over the years I’ve carved out a little nook in my living room which serves as my writing oasis in the midst of the craziness that makes up my weekly schedule. It’s a light, bright space where I keep all my writing accoutrement. It’s where words get put on the page, where I agonise over every punctuation mark, where the delete button gets a frequent pummelling. It’s the first place I head every morning as soon as I have a cup of coffee to hand.

So how do you go about getting that familiar writing nook feeling along with the sense of routine you’ve built up over the years when you’re not at home?

I’ve been writing on the go for several years now. At first, when I was a full time teacher, it was one of the few times I actually got uninterrupted writing time. Now of course I have regular writing days factored into my teaching timetable. But I still relish those moments when I know I can write every day without having to worry about having teaching commitments to fulfil at some point.

The diminishing size of my notebooks

Whenever I do a weekend trip or go away for a little longer I’m sure to be considering writing plans ahead of time. A weekend away usually involves a notebook. I’m talking old school and not electronic here. Luckily I have a large selection of these as people are always giving me notebooks as presents. In the past I used to take along a largish one but now I’ve downsized and stick to a much smaller version. 

My trusty ASUS, notebook and pen
Longer trips used to involve my trusty ASUS Seashell and a USB with my latest WIP. Now however it’s just the ASUS as all my WIPs are stored online. I also keep a back-up of all my docs on a portable hard-drive just in case the internet goes nuts. I have future plans for letting go of the ASUS completely, though the mere thought of this pains me as it’s been such a loyal companion for so long. The plan is to invest in a collapsible keyboard which is compatible with my Kindle. This will be a weight and space saver.

However, that time is not here yet. For now my ASUS and I continue to explore new territory with only an old school notebook and pen serving as aide de camp. After all, when the notebook is completely covered in scrawls there’s still plenty of paper napkins to hand wherever your travels might take you.

How do you write on the go? What’s your go to implement of choice?

Friday, 30 March 2018

Fighting Talk Update

The Witch Adoption Project, the cheeky little fantasy upstart won the battle of the genres. Scifi fans were just not fast enough with their trigger fingers to topple this young lady from her perch on high. She will now be the WIP I work on for next year once Palindrome is published this summer.

The main battle was fought on my Facebook page and she won by 31 votes. Here is her successful plea to the public. As you can see, she shamelessly used her youth to pull the voters in.

Hi there
My name is THE WITCH ADOPTION PROJECT and I'm a WIP sitting in a folder on Rae's laptop. I want more out of life. I don't want to stay a draft forever more. I want to be published.

So I'm appealing to you dear followers to support my cause and vote for me. Yes I'm young. Yes I'm precocious. But age is only good for wine and cheese. I'm neither.
The rest is now up to you. You know what you have to do.

The Witch Adoption Project is the sequel to my fantasy novel The Lonely Dragon for ages 8 and upwards. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a good fairy tale you know. I very much look forward to working on this WIP as of August and am sure she’ll give me as much lip as she’s given the voters.

Friday, 23 March 2018

#Indie Intro

#Review: THE RED RIBBON by Rachel Ledge

2 Stars for lack of enjoyment due to frustration

This book won a Grand Prize in the Clue Awards so I was excited to see what it had to offer. The plot sounded engaging – set in 1773, a young woman (Julia) from a privileged background struggles to return to a normal existence after the murder of her best friend. To complicate matters, Julia’s fiancĂ© has been found guilty of the murder and awaits execution while Julia still harbours feelings for him despite the fact she has married his best friend. Another problem she faces is a headstrong younger sister who is intent on ignoring the advice of her elders.

The opening was very confusing. Initially it was difficult to establish which character was which when it came to the two sisters. Nor were matters helped by the constant shift between modern and archaic language. Even before I was 9% into the reading several proof reading and editing issues had already reared their heads: shifts in tense, misspellings, words used in the wrong context, missing articles, poor punctuation. I was beginning to despair. Then there were clumsy unedited sentences such as: “Only the body collectors, sent by surgeons who wanted the bodies for dissections, waited like vultures for the bodies to be cut down.”

I’m afraid that for me things did not improve. The constant need to describe 18th century costume made me feel I was reading a dressmaker's historical account of the period rather than a period drama. There are certainly sections which warrant the description of dress to explain a character’s fall in status but this only occurred once.

At one point I could not bear this list of problems any longer. I shut my Kindle on it for 3 days. I did however persevere. There was no reward for my stalwart behaviour. The book concluded much as I expected and I was very glad it was over.

This book was very much a case of NOT what it says on the tin. I read for pleasure. In this case I was completely robbed of it. I sincerely hope this writer’s future offerings are better edited with more attention to detail.

Is there anything in particular which spoils the enjoyment of a book for you?

Friday, 16 March 2018

How To Befriend A Writer

So you’ve always wanted to be friends with a writer. But you’re a bit intimidated. You’re worried we’ll be all sneery because you only got an E on your English GSCE or we'll insist you’re outrageously well read before looking your way. You’re thinking we spout words which require constant thumbing through a dictionary or demand you listen to every plot we’ve ever come up with. Well you couldn’t be more wrong. I’m here to tell you we make the very best friends you can get. So it’s in your interest to find one of us, tempt us into your life with juicy little treats and foster a loyal and potentially lifelong buddy.

A writer is a person of many parts. All these can be nurtured and brought to the fore for which ever situation demands it. So here’s what you need to know.

Sometimes we’re off with our heads in the clouds and don’t appear to be listening. It’s not true. We’re multi-tasking, taking in your every word, storing it away for a rainy day writing session in which you or the people you’re talking about may be forever immortalised in print. Naturally we will preface the work with the italicised words:

This is a work of fiction and any names or characters bearing a likeness to anyone you know is mere coincidence.

When we’re not doing the whole multi-tasking thing we’re fully there with you. We’re great listeners even if our motives may be entirely self-serving. So listen to our little spiels then marvel at our skill in listening to all you have to say. Your confidences will be considered sacrosanct.

We’re always up for adventure. If there’s a new thing to be tried be sure you’ve got a writer in tow. We’ll absolutely give it a go. To ensure our writing has a visceral quality we like to step right into situations, participate, experience them in full. We’re all about wild abandon. Our job spec demands it. Next time you're off out or heading into the woods - give a writer an invite.

Now you introverts out there needn’t feel left out. Just want a quiet winter afternoon or evening sat by the fire or hugging the radiator? Then writers are definitely the way to go. We love nothing more than an intimate setting with books, drinks, the gogglebox and food close at hand. Nor are we averse to the joys of sunny afternoons on the balcony or brunch on the patio.  Speaking for myself, if you’re willing to feed me and provide libation I’ll be more loyal than a puppy. In case you haven't quite got the message - ask us home for lunch, invite us out to tea. Feed us people. Feed us.

Us writers are a varied bunch. Yes, of course our main enjoyment involves prolonged stretches of time in garrets, reading rooms, libraries and book shops but we’ll also do a multitude of activities everyone else is out there doing. A recent survey concluded writers are more active than anyone would ever assume. Exercise in its many forms is their number 1 activity after a spot of Extreme Writing. This activity is undertaken in many forms. Some writers work at standing desks, others tap away madly at keyboards or use the latest technology to keep tabs on their daily word count. There are those who firmly advocate the old school approach and write using pen and paper. Who knew? Well now you do.

We can teach you the true art of doing without doing. This usually involves stretching out on a sofa or lounger in a seemingly non active pose. However, this is a total ruse. What’s actually happening in such a situation is deep cogitation. As you can see, the benefits of befriending a writer are endless. So I urge you to get out there and find a writer near you as soon as possible. Then using my suggestions, forge that friendship.

Already have a writer friend? What are their best and worst qualities?

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Carnegie Blues

I’ve been avoiding Carnegie Library ever since Lambeth Council announced its so called re-opening a month ago. My brain and heart knew the announcement for the spin it so obviously was. This morning I was forced into the ravaged listed building to attend a meeting. As a representative of the literacy charity Ruskin Readers I went to find out if there’s any hope of this ousted community group eventually returning to Carnegie Library.

Standing in the icy entry way I have serious doubts. Once beyond the swing doors my fears are not allayed. This is what the council considers a viable library: the repetitive resounding rattle and rumble of a digger in the garden, the central area covered in a range of books stacked on shelves, a small area housing 6 or so computer terminals, sets of tables and chairs in the round, a couple of automated book issue machines, a photocopier/printer and security guards.

“So where are the librarians?” You ask. Well you’ll have to ring a number for their assistance. Oh, and hands-on librarians will only be available at limited specified times. This provided by a leaflet posted on a pillar.

Together with myself and the three other meeting attendees there is a total of 12 people in the library. 3 of the 12 are security guards; 1 nursing two standing heaters, another patrolling in an Arctic style parka, a third - statuesque in a body warmer –acts as bouncer to the blocked off entrance of what used to be the wonderful Wildlife Garden.

 The lack of people emphasises how much our community has lost by the senseless closure of this much loved building for far too long and my Raynoids Syndrome flares despite the fact I’m wearing my obligatory fingerless gloves. There’s no way I can remove my coat or beret during the course of the meeting. Besides this, I’m welling up as I remember previous vibrant Saturday mornings spent teaching an Inkhead course here or just catching up with people during one of the regular tea and cake stalls run by the Friends. I’m heartbroken and inconsolable.

So what else is missing besides the vibrancy which was once the mainstay of this community building? Well, there is no disabled access, no access to public toilets, no possibility of mums with prams gaining access, no kitchen. And what, I wonder lurks behind the screened off side rooms? I suspect damage to walls and parquet flooring from water ingress.

So I reiterate – this then is what Lambeth Council considers a viable substitute to the wonderfully run Carnegie Library we once had.