Saturday, 28 October 2017

Review for "A Slice of Quietude" by Sharon Cho

A Slice of Quietude (Woven Myths Book 1) by [Cho, Sharon]

Review for “A Slice of Quietude” by Sharon Cho

“A Slice of Quietude” is what I consider to be a pretty unique book. Cho made it clear in the beginning blurb of her book that this is for people like her, especially young people who are LGBTQ who are woefully underrepresented in literature. In this fantasy world guilds are very important, and the assassin’s guild, called Slicers, are some of the most feared for their abilities. Kat is one of the most renowned Slicers and her latest job puts her in direct contact with Tristien, a fallen member of a God cult who is as scarred on the inside as she is on the outside. The attraction is instant, and causes a whole host of problems for the motley crew they form.

I want to be clear, this book involves lesbian relationships, and that was incredibly refreshing to see. The various lesbian relationships the reader encounters are so normal and realistic and portrayed to exhibit the variety of relationships that exist in the world, and its something that is sorely needed. While I didn’t have the struggle of having nothing in media to look up to and represented me, I can totally understand how a young LGBTQ person would struggle to find media content that represented them, and that related to their experiences. So, I must give big kudos to Cho for filling that deficiency. The main group we see in this book is the definition of ‘mixed bag.’ We have a bard, a warrior, a healer and an assassin, again reminding me of a Dungeons and Dragons game cast. The backgrounds of our hero’s, in particular Kat and Tristien, has such potential and is amazingly well developed. The way Cho dishes out Tristien’s history was masterful, and the snippets we know so far of Kat left me excited to learn more, and even more excited for Tristien to hear about it.

Having said that the story borrowed heavily from most fantasy genres centered around Dungeons and Dragons-style worlds, and besides the elements of Lesbian relationships didn’t really push any other boundaries. Sometimes the story line didn’t make sense, and the situation with Kat and Tristien beyond their feelings for one another was unclear, and unspoken among the group, which made me feel like there was an understanding there that the reader was supposed to get, but which I couldn’t.

But as much as there were things left unspoken, the cliffhanger ending simultaneously left me frustrated and elated; frustrated that I couldn’t find out more about Kat and Tristien’s story, but happy that Cho chose a bold way to end this book. Don’t worry readers, Cho has made this into a series so there promises to be more adventure to come. 

To learn more about the author, Sharon Cho, click here

To purchase "A Slice of Quietude" click here

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Character interview with Zoe from "Grains of Truth"

On Writing interviews Zoe from "Grains of Truth" to gain a little truth ourselves. 

Grains of Truth: Bonds of friendship cannot be broken by [Ferry-Perata, Elizabeth]

What are the lies we tell ourselves to stay sane?

In the world of a Texas feed store, the line between reality and truth blurs when love and friendship are at stake. Meet Sarah and Zoe, two best friends who work in a family-owned feed store. Their lives begin to unravel when love sparks between Sarah and the feed store owner’s only heir, Tom. Patriarch Otis quickly makes it known that his only son’s future won’t include the feed store “girl”. The clash over Tom’s love life erupts in a family feud where business is expected to trump love. In the meantime, a romance also ignites between Zoe and the local town physician whom she nicknames “Dr. Sex on Two Legs”. The women are quickly caught up in a family feud that leads to unexpected consequences, loss and tragedy.

Grains of Truth is an intense, emotional and passion-filled story about two best friends looking for that one thing everyone wants — love. It’s a story about friendship and accepting what you can’t change. Grains of Truth will move you to tears and leave you astonished. It’s a must-read story with an unexpected twist.

Tell us a little about yourself? Where do you come from?
My name is Zoe. I am a single mother of an active son named Derek. We live in a small, 2 bedroom home, where we enjoy eating pizza, watching movies and spending time in the yard. Derek is my little man. I work as a bookkeeper for Otis’s feed store. I enjoy my job because of my friendships with that I have established with Tom and Sarah.

Tell us a little about your home, what are your feelings towards home?
As I stated earlier, my home is small but very comfortable. My son and I have taken pride in the yards and enjoy spending time outside as well. We love watching nature. One thing that we love to do is laugh. Laugh at each other, but also with each other. Family is one of my firm values.

What motivates you along your journey?
My son Derek is what motivates me along my journey. My son gives me so much joy. I enjoy watching him play sports, but also seeing him interact with his friends. I strive to make sure that he and I are taken care of and we have a place to call home. It is not uncommon for our home to be extended to our friends especially to my best friend Sarah. After work, we will drink wine and eat pizza, while watching Derek build Legos or run around outside.

How do you see yourself/ how do you see yourself in relation to the rest of the world?
I see myself as someone that loves her family, and is driven and very focused.

What is most important to you in this world?
My son Derek is the most important thing to me. But, also my friendships with Sarah and Tom. We have really been through a lot of we have learned to share with each other o ur struggles. To me this has helped me be a stronger person both as a friend and a mother.

What characteristics do you consider important in a person? What kind of people do you try to surround yourself with?
For me loyalty is what is very important characteristic. I think that when we make friends we really put ourselves out there and yes we can get hurt, but we need to learn that we can trust others to support us when we need them the most.

What do you see for yourself in the future? Where will you be? What kind of person do you want to become?

I want to be a person that is loved by my friends and to be remembered both as a excellent mother, but also as a great friend. I am hoping to see where my personal relationships go, especially with Luke and we shall we what happens…

To learn more about the author Elizabeth Ferry-Perata, click here

To purchase her book "Grains of Truth" click here

Interview with the author of "Drip" Andrew Montlack

Lilaina from on Writing had the opportunity to discuss all the lovely things about writing with Andrew Montlack, author of "Drip"

Drip: A Gothic Bromance by [Montlack, Andrew]

"A hand wearing a fancy watch parted the office blinds, and J.D. felt nauseous with despair: suddenly he knew—even though he could not explain how—that all of his mojo had been permanently taken away."

J.D. and George: thick as thieves since the fourth grade. J.D., the troublemaker, the stud: the alpha. George, the sidekick, the misfit: the loser. Upon graduating college, J.D. has convinced the only job creator in rusty Middlestop to hire them. BrewCorp, the hot new coffee and retail chain, is offering a vice presidency to the employee with the boldest plan for growth, and J.D. is determined to be the guy. When not sleeping with co-workers, he hatches his pitch for a one-of-a kind data pipeline. He is unbeatable--until George grabs the promotion. Now J.D. wants answers. His quest to find them—and to deal with the monstrous truth—is the subject of indie filmmaker Andrew Montlack's wry debut novel, which features the same biting satire that made his mockumentary, The Devil's Filmmaker, a cult classic.

What inspired you to start writing?
It wasn’t a single What, it was a group of Who’s.  My grandmother, who wrote children’s short stories and musical lyrics—she also composed and played the piano—read to my sister and me all the time.  My mom and dad read to us also.  My grandmother had music and prose in her bones, and that informed what I—at age 5, 6, 7, 8—fell in love with about life and the world.  Also, like a lot of kids, I was also falling in love with certain movies that were on TV regularly in the 70’s—The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—and my grandmother and parents were reading me the original novels, especially when my sister and I were home sick with a strep throat and wanting comfort; I would be listening through a fever daze, thinking about the differences between what was on the page and what I remembered on the screen (e.g. Veruca Salt’s meeting her fate in a room full of squirrels versus a room full of golden-egg-laying geese).  This wondering about which version was more authentic got my young brain started on the problem of storytelling.  The other Who was a great children’s playwright named Aurand Harris, who visited my elementary school when I was in the fourth grade and ran a dramatic writing workshop with my class.  That was a big, big deal to me: having a grownup in the classroom not lecture me to practice my math flashcards more often or read some textbook out loud and summarize it but instead invite me to express myself creatively, freely.  That was better than Tollhouse cookies!

What is your favourite genre to write? Why?

There’s no one particular genre; quite the contrary, I’m sort of inclined to mix it up, the key being to have a strong dramatic basis for the story, even if it’s a comedy, otherwise I have no way to tell if it’s working.  That said, there will probably always be an absurdist element in my work; absurdism, which can be a form of satire, is useful for criticizing whatever it is in the world that you can’t, or shouldn’t, get your head around; I enjoy its childlike quality, particularly when it butts up against a bureaucratic or social norm.  I remember watching Robert Altman’s MASH a few years back and trying to figure out why it tickled me so much—why it worked; what I realized was that it was fueled by magical realism, in the form of absurdist leads.  Hawkeye, Trapper, and Duke were basically trickster superheroes, doing what no one actually could do within their system: they were able to poke fun at it over and over and over, with no consequences to themselves; that’s absurd and impossible in the real world, but it felt inspiring to see them do it.

What kinds of sources do you take inspiration from?

Cinema is usually percolating in the back of my mind.  I loved the biting humour of anti-establishment films like The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy, but I’m also a child of the 70’s and 80’s, so there’s a special place in my heart for films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Return of the Jedi, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  There are also books and authors I like to revisit or think about when I want to be inspired: Robert Cormier, Roald Dahl.  I’ve read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus three or four times.  I recently came back to John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces.  Probably, I go back to the stuff I watched and read as a kid because that’s how I strip back some of the callused “grownup” layers that get in the way of creative expression.

What does your writing process look like? Did it take you a while to develop?

Drip took me quite a long time.  One reason was that I originally developed it as a screenplay that I would direct—my background is in indie film.  Eventually, I had to shelve it and get on with my life.  I came back to it hoping to incorporate some of the production concept art I had commissioned into a graphic novel; I realized that it made more sense to just adapt it into a straight novel.  Going back to the original screen story development, that started on dozens of 3x5 cards, with themes, characters, plot points, lines of dialogue.  I envy writers who can set pen to paper on page one and crank out the story sequentially, but for me the process is a lengthy honing and discovering, which results in a basic outline, an in-depth outline, a lengthy story treatment, a separate document filled with research notes, and finally, after going back and forth between all of those, a screenplay or novel.  There is also a lot of walking, pacing, staring into space, and chocolate binging. 

Do you take criticism hard or do you have a thick skin? Have you ever received criticisms that you felt were unjustified or too harsh? Are you your worst critic?

I take criticism quite well, it’s just that I can’t write anything or hold a coherent thought for six weeks afterwards!  Kidding aside, I suffer heartbreak every time.  One thing that’s helped me is that I’ve learned to solicit criticism starting at the earliest outline, as soon as I’ve run it through my own personal gauntlet of revisions and edits, that way it’s early enough in the process that I haven’t gotten too invested in the fundamentals.  Next, I plan out a session, inviting a few close friends, and I brace for it by reminding myself that the point is not to get a lot of validation; the point is to make it good.  I try to go into a critique session like a pro, saying, “Give it to me straight; I need to hear what’s not working.”  When I first pitched Drip to my friends, it was properly shredded to bits.  The outline wasn’t working, and if the basic outline wasn’t there, investing a lot of time in the prose wasn’t going to fix it.  I took a long break from it; for me that was the right thing to do, because what I needed was recharge and get inspired to come up with a totally new outline that could incorporate the themes and some of the characters of the previous attempt.  It takes time.

To learn more about the author, click here

To purchase "Drip" click here. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Book Review: Hidden Elements (Book II of the Devil's Bible Series) by Michael Bolan


It's been a while since I've read the first book in this series, so it was a little difficult to get back into the story and get reacquainted with the characters. (To read my review of Book 1, click here.) There was no reintroduction which I feel is a weakness, especially for a novel and series of this scale. But that's about where the weaknesses end.

Once I remembered the events of the previous book, it was easy to see why I enjoyed the first one. This was no different. The characters are well rounded and engaging, and for a novel of such an epic historical scale it didn't get bogged down with pointless plot. It's heavy on narrative at times, but done beautifully and didn't seem like a chore to get through. I think my favourite parts are when we are given off handed remarks about an invention or innovation, like it doesn't mean much to the characters but we're sitting in the future thinking "oh, that's this thing!" Maybe that's just me, though.

From book one to this, I'm glad the characters still have somewhere to grow, and do they ever grow. Isabella was my favourite character in the last book, and that hasn't changed. Perhaps this is Isabella's book in regards to growth. Or rather, it's where the rest of the cast realize her true strength, and she is the one with the last word of the novel.

Overall once again this is a beautiful novel, and I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Buy the book by clicking here.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Review for "The Devil Take Tomorrow" by Gretchen Jeannette

The Devil Take Tomorrow by [Jeannette, Gretchen]

Review for “The Devil Take Tomorrow” by Gretchen Jeannette

“The Devil Take Tomorrow” by Gretchen Jeannette is a historical romance with equal parts action and adventure, with just a dash of intrigue. We get an exciting introduction to two of the main characters, Ethan Matlock and Maddie Graves who are smack dab in the middle of the American Revolution. At this point in time the revolutionary cause is suffering and the British have begun to celebrate their inevitable demise, and eventually we learn where Ethan and Maddie’s loyalties really lie, as well as their affections.

I haven’t read a book like this in a very long time. Because of my archaeology and history background I tend to shy away from historical fiction as there is only so much cringe I can handle, but this book was different. Firstly, I know very little about the American Revolution, so the academic part of my brain could take a little vacation. Secondly this book has such a lovely balance between romance and action, intrigue and mystery. I can’t comment on the accuracy of the details, but I can say this was a very enjoyable book. Jeannette did an excellent job of taking readers on a rollercoaster ride; feeling fearful when Ethan is on a dangerous mission, feeling powerful when Maddie defies her uncle. The dialogue was also excellent, giving the inner thoughts of people context and adding flavour to the tension as it builds.

I have a tough time saying anything negative or even critical of this book. I was surprised at how much I loved this book, and how much it captivated me. This may not compare to great literary works, or the classics, but it strikes me as the perfect book to read in the fall, curled up in a comfy chair and a snugly blanket, with a hot mug of tea on one side and a fragrant candle burning on the other side. If you knew me, you would know this is some of the highest praise I can give a book, as that state is basically what I aspire to be in at all times. 

To learn more about the author, Gretchen Jeannette, click here

To purchase "The Devil Take Tomorrow" from click here

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Book Review: Prospero's Half-Life by Trevor James Zaple


I need to get the bad out of the way first, so please continue reading beyond this paragraph. Normally I don't comment on this kind of thing, but the book needs a quick line edit. It's admittedly been a few years since I received this novel to review and changes may have been made. But the version I received was full of stupid little mistakes any editor could catch. It bothered me, only because I nitpick, and only a few mistakes made it necessary to re-read the sentence to understand the meaning.

Okay, that's out of the way. I did that first, because the rest of this review will be glowing. Quite honestly, I've wanted to get to this book on my list for a long time. Nearly two years, actually. And man was it worth the wait. Actually, I should have read it two years ago, and then again now. I am normally not a fan of post-apocalyptic novels, as they usually go through the same tropes. I need to tell you how Prospero's Half-Life is different.

First, it's set in Canada. Not only that, but Southwestern Ontario. I can't tell you how cool it is to read a book completely set in my own stomping grounds. It's a fresh setting and gives a different perspective on what happens post-plague. You know, if most of the world dies. Let me tell you, in that circumstance, Canadians are not all polite, sharing their timbits and all. (I'll be honest with you...I don't share my timbits pre-plague. Sorry.)

Second, the novel deals very little with what actually killed off humanity. The beginning describes a bit of the plague and how gory it is in the end. Zaple does a great job describing the protagonist, Richard Adams, and how he finally sees how horrible it is living surrounded by death. Instead, the majority of the novel follows Richard as he lives with other survivors. It skips through time expertly, showing how society backtracks, progresses, gets a little crazy, but continues on nevertheless.

Richard goes through a very real, very intimate transformation throughout his journey. At first he's described as selfish, only looking out for his own survival. And in the end he realizes the importance of sticking together, relying on one another in this new world in which he's found himself.

The minute twists and turns, the people Richard meets along the way and how everything circles back just shows how you never know the big picture. The impact you leave on people, good and bad. The person you sell $9000 worth of electronics to... there's always something bigger going on.

Overall, this is the type of novel that could easily be turned into a mini series, but I honestly wouldn't want anything added. Not everything is described or extrapolated, but it doesn't have to be. Not here. I commend Zaple on creating such a unique, and thrilling novel.

You can buy the novel by clicking here.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Interview with author of "Harkworth Hall" L.S. Johnson

 Lilaina from On Writing had the chance to interview L.S. Johnson about his writing process. 

Harkworth Hall by [Johnson, L.S.]

Caroline Daniels must marry, and marry well. But in her remote corner of England eligible suitors are few and far between, and none hold a candle to her closest friend, Diana Fitzroy.

When Sir Edward Masterson arrives, he seems the answer to Caroline’s financial worries, though she instinctively dislikes the reticent, older merchant. Soon Sir Edward has set his sights on acquiring both Caroline and the decaying Harkworth Hall.

Caroline’s future seems secure, save that Sir Edward’s enigmatic secretary hints at a dark secret, and Sir Edward shows an unusual interest in the nearby bay. To discover Sir Edward’s true purpose, Caroline will have to face the horror beneath Harkworth Hall—and the woman who will change her life.

What is your favourite genre to write? Why?
After a long time trying to write realistic fiction, I came back to fantasy, and it was Such. A. Relief. Fantasy allows me to take all the creepy stuff in my head and make it serve a purpose. There are things that can’t quite be conveyed in a story about day-to-day life, but are perfectly expressed by a spectral creature that hovers behind you, taking bites out of the tender flesh of your nape with teeth that only manifest at dawn. For example.

Do you take criticism hard or do you have a thick skin? Have you ever received criticisms that you felt were unjustified or too harsh? Are you your worst critic?
I’m pretty thin-skinned, unfortunately—criticism dovetails too neatly with social anxiety. I have, however, taught myself how to process criticism in order to be able to focus on the critique rather than reading into it all sorts of terrible things about myself. Basically I glance at the crit/review, just the quickest skim, and then I put it away and I go do something else that will engage my brain—watching a movie, say, or going out with friends, or diving into some nonfiction. The next day I’ll go back and read it through carefully. If responding is an option, I’ll still take at least two or three more days before I respond. What I find is that even the harshest stuff, if I take it in through these stages, will either morph into advice I can reasonably consider, or will reveal itself to be a personal response that I can ignore.

Have you ever felt like quitting writing? If so how did you overcome those feelings?
I’ve actually quit twice now. This pen name is a total reboot. In all honesty, if I don’t write I don’t sleep, otherwise I’d be working a far more lucrative job and just scribbling on the third Sunday of the month. Writing is difficult, lonely work, and it can chew you up in ways you’ll never be able to predict. It’s also exhilarating, creatively fulfilling, and provides a level of emotional engagement with the world that I am lucky to experience. How those things stack up against each other is different in everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with saying nope, not for me, or just keeping it as a hobby.

How do you keep motivated to finish a writing project?
One of the most transformative decisions I made as a writer was to finish EVERYTHING. Even if I know it’s lousy, even if it’s going straight to the trunk, I finish it. Doing this upped my, how should I say, my stamina? I plow through drafts now, I just put my head down and go. I’m also trunking far less work because having the whole arc written down allows me to see better how I might fix a broken story.

Have you ever written something you didn’t like, but felt necessary for the overall story?
All the time. You get excited by certain parts of a story – a great scene, a great character. But there’s still connective tissue to write, and you still have to earn that amazing ending you’re imagining. Sometimes getting it done means writing very blah stuff, and sometimes it means writing very painful stuff. But as Neil Gaiman pointed out in a similar bit of advice, when you get to the end and look back, it’s often hard to distinguish where you were excited, and where you were keeping one eye on the clock, and where you were gritting your teeth and wincing at every word. It all has a way of smoothing out.

What do you wish people knew about life as an author?

That staring into space really is part of the process. Also, the pay is s**t. ;)

For more information about the author, click here

To purchase "Harkworth Hall" click here

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Review for "Frankly, Twisted" by Kevin Eleven

frankly TWISTED: the lost files (Tales of the 23rd Trilogy) by [Eleven, Kevin]

Review of "Frankly Twisted" by Kevin Eleven

Frankly Twisted: The Lost Files is a quasi-cop mystery centered around a precinct in Brooklyn and a few officers of note from there. It is not the first in the series but Eleven gives you a decent background of the characters involved so that you aren’t too lost. Two major criminal cases are ongoing in the precinct, and little do most of the characters know that they are related, through one of the main characters named Frank (the title of the series is aptly named). Frank is an officer who has many years of service under his belt, but Frank also hides a secret; a secret that will change everyone’s lives.

When I started Frankly Twisted I thought I knew what I was in for, a procedural cop drama, similar to pretty much any show you can find on TV nowadays, but I was delightfully mistaken. Eleven gives some basic background to the characters that for those that didn’t read the previous books, but the stories within are self-contained and I found I didn’t need to read the prior books to fully enjoy this one. The pacing adequately built the tension, and a light sprinkling of twists and turns make this a pretty enjoyable read.

There is nothing particularly offensive about the book; it may not be the shining star on your bookshelf, but it’s got a lot to give. The one thing that really threw me off though was the way the police officers spoke and talked to each other. Again, let me remind you this book is set in Brooklyn; an area of one of the biggest cities in the world, known for their distinctive accents and local slang, but the cast of characters sounded like they were educated at the finest Ivy League schools and have only ever mingled with the upper crust of society. Basically, they sound more like they belong in the boardroom and not in the squad room, and it kind of took me out of the story and made it feel artificial. On the upside if you love excellent grammar and non-regional diction then you will get a real kick out of this. 

To learn more about the author, Kevin Eleven, click here

To purchase "Frankly, Twisted: The Lost Files" from click here

Friday, 13 October 2017

Interview with the author of "Dark Water" Simon Thould

On Writing was able to interview author Simon Thould who's book Dark Water we will be reviewing soon. 

Simon was born in Somerset, England, where he went to public school and played rugby and cricket with more enthusiasm than he studied. He later managed to qualify as a chartered surveyor and practised for over twenty years in both public and private sectors in London and the south of England. Simon completed two Creative Writing night school courses and a Writers' Bureau correspondence course in his spare time. He also worked as a restaurant and bar manager in Hampshire before moving with his two black cats to a mountain farmhouse in Andalusia, southern Spain for a year and a half. There he wrote his first novel.

He moved back to the UK and worked as a resident housekeeper and groom in Kent and wrote a second novel.

Then he relocated to Charleston, South Carolina, USA for several years and worked in warehouse stock control, sold insurance and then artwork in a downtown gallery. Returning to the UK once more, he worked as a postman and in several retail positions and wrote a third unpublished novel. 

Simon moved to the island of Gozo in 2014 and wrote, 'DarkWater', a thriller introducing Alex Rafter. After a lifetime of rejections from publishers and agents with only minor success with magazine articles, Simon made a final push to try and get published. He sent the synopsis and three chapters to more than fifty UK agents before being lucky enough to be taken on by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency in London. 'Dark Water' is being published in August 2017.

Simon's passions, other than writing, are reading hard-boiled, noir novels, watching classic movies, travel and following National Hunt horse racing. He has been married twice and has a daughter, Lucy.  He currently lives in Almunecar on the Andalusian coast and has just completed the first draft of a second, 'Alex Rafter' novel.

What is your favourite genre to write and why?

I have tried to develop my version of the hard-boiled, noir genre, as I have been a long-time lover of these American writers from Dashiell Hammett to Elmore Leonard (my all-time favourite) and I follow Elmore Leonard's, 'Rules on Writing', as using narration to characterise the people in a story and move the plot along really appeals. He says all the information a reader needs comes from dialogue and I agree. I do not like the over-long, 'purple prose', type of writing as I am keen to get on with the story. Since writing for me is a very visual process - see below - being able to visualise characters makes reading a much greater pleasure. Also, I find that this sort of writing lends itself to great movie adaptations and I am a big fan of the old, black and white classics, such as the Phillip Marlowe ones, Casablanca, etc. I remember studying for a long time DH Lawrence's books as I was amazed at how he got so much information on the page from seemingly such simple words - genius.
What kind of sources do you take inspiration from?
As an introvert and great, 'people watcher', I can be inspired by such things as the way someone uses their hands to 'talk' on a bus; the way clouds move over a setting sun; overhearing a funny remark or other comment. These things seem to trigger something in my brain that then goes, 'What if...?' I think this one thing, imagining a future event, is key to fiction writing. I guess it is just the way writers' brains work that practically anything seen or heard will produce a sentence or two that is then written down in the notebook that is always carried. This will be the germ of an idea that thought, both conscious and unconscious, will develop into a story carrying a theme that is interesting to me. Dark Water was inspired in part by my concern for the struggle ex-military personnel have in adjusting to civilian life from the 'battle' mindset.
What does your writing process look like? did it take you a while to develop?
Following on from the previous answer, having got an idea, the most important first step for me is find photos or pictures to represent the type of personalities I want my characters to have. Then I develop extensive background character charts for all the main characters in great detail so I really know them, and do extensive research down to the type of watch a person wears. I have a storyline in mind that I plan on a large piece of A3 accounting paper, writing longhand basic notes for the first chapter - format will be for 80,000 words in 1,000 word chapters. Then I place my characters in the situation of the story and watch and listen to how they act and write it down. I will write early-ish in the morning until I have a chapter/1,000 words, then make notes for the next chapter to write the next day.  I have done several writing night school classes and correspondence courses in the past and read how authors whose work I like actually go about writing and discovered that what comes naturally to me - as above- is pretty much how Robert B. Parker, another of my favourites worked. I seem to recall that when I started on my first full-length novel, many years ago, planning a framework for the book was necessary to stop me rambling off point and, literally, 'losing the plot'!
Do you take criticism hard or do you have a thick skin? Have you ever received criticisms that you felt were unjustified or too harsh? Are you your worst critic?
I imagine that, to be able to persevere as a writer, developing a thick skin is essential for emotional survival. I have had ample opportunity to do just that since I have been writing for over fifty years and have the rejections to show for it! You just have to tell yourself that you can't please everyone and soldier on. My mantra is, 'never give up - never give in', and now, it has finally paid off. I had one 'professional' criticism of Dark Water from the reader of a big publishing house to which my agent had submitted the book, where it seemed pretty obvious that he had not properly read the book as his remarks were so far off the mark and irrelevant. This irritated me as being disrespectful and rude bearing in mind the years of hard work that go into writing a full-length novel. I try to be the first critic of my work by reading it aloud, as a wrong word of sentence will jar immediately on the ear. Otherwise, I'm not afraid to congratulate myself and buck myself up!
What would be your advice for aspiring authors?
Believe in yourself, work at the craft of writing as much as the storylines, plotting, etc. Read a broad spectrum of genres and writers, I read at least a book a week, and write as often as you can. Always carry a notebook as you never know when inspiration will strike. The best book I've ever read about writing fiction is, 'The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction', by Barnaby Conrad and the staff of the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference. Every budding writer should get a copy as there is a wealth of hints from many famous writers inside. Also, Stephen Kings’ On Writing, is well worth a read.

To succeed in writing, if you aim to one day get published, you should be prepared for the long haul - overnight success stories are very rare. 

To learn more about the Simon Thould, click here

To buy "Dark Water" click here

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Interview with author of "Black Hole Heartbeat" Andrew Henley

On Writing was pleased to be able to interview Andrew Henley, author of "Black Hole Heartbeat"

Black Hole Heartbeat is Star Wars if the stormtroopers didn't miss all the time. Like Cowboy Bebop meets Butch and Sundance, or Guardians of the Galaxy in the style of Pulp Fiction.
Self confessed thief of ill repute, Elizabeth Ranger, runs head first into tragedy when she tries to recover a lost treasure in The Barely Charted. She wakes up three years later, flesh burned off and grafted back on, surrounded by strangers and suddenly part of a much larger mission. 
Together with Anastasia Yukishnov, the doctor who healed her, Elizabeth and her ensemble cast of lovable and loathable rogues uncover things much more sinister, much more compelling, than the mere trinkets she has spent her life hunting.
Love, loss, loneliness and ray guns all feature against the beautiful, bloodstained backdrop of space.

Do you take criticism hard or do you have a thick skin? Have you ever received criticisms that you felt were unjustified or too harsh? Are you your worst critic?

Writers need to be their own worst critic, but also their own biggest fan. You need to be a cheerleader in a first draft, to allow yourself to get excited about a witty one-liner, a fun action sequence or whimsical flourish. But when you read it back, you also need to be brutal enough to chuck it in the trash.
In general though, I think it depends on who the criticism is from on how hard I take it. Whether a stranger on the street tells me the book is better than Jesus or worse than Hitler, I just smile and nod. I’ve never met this person before, so good or bad I can’t take their opinion to heart. I have a pretty thick skin but it’s often easier to read the harsh ones. Someone tells you it stinks then it just isn’t for them. Someone tells you they like it but…, then you’ve done something wrong. I think that helps build a thick skin because you listen to that person, decide if you agree, and if you do, change it. If you don’t, don’t.

What does your writing process look like? Did it take you a while to develop?

I don’t like to over plan before I start, and I’m a big believer in letting your writing lead you down its own path. Once I hit a brick wall, I sit down and plan out the next few chapters then go back to the more free-writing style.
I always set small goals for each writing session, usually to write 500 words (give or take), but occasionally it’ll be 750 or 1000. Very rarely it’s 250, but it happens. I prefer this style because it’s a motivator, and it allows you to write freely. I find myself sometimes adding in passages that I expect to cut later, and usually they do indeed get cut. Occasionally though, the writing surprises you. A lot of my writing features small moments or non-plot conversations where the characters’ personality shines through. I think my writing style has helped developed this. I teach creative writing, and I can always tell which of my students set themselves goals of ‘I’m gonna write this chapter today’, because the writing is rushed and too focussed on the plot. Writing in chunks might have taken them longer, might have made them cut more, but it would have fixed their pacing.

What does you editing process look like? Do you allow others to read your writing?

Editing can be monotonous and it can feel like you’re not making much progress, so I think you have to create a system of ‘easy wins’. I print the whole novel out, stable every ten or so pages together then go through each little booklet with a biro pen. First couple of times I just look to take out, but if I know something needs to be added, retconned or developed, I just throw in some asterisks. Then I type up my notes, mainly deleting for the first few, and go again. Once everything is out that needs to leave, I do the same, but this time I’m looking to add in the gaps where the asterisks are. This type of edit usually takes a lot longer. After I do this a couple of times, I let a few trusted people read it. While they’re doing that, I do a punctuation edit. Once I get their notes back, it comes back to what I said on the thick skin question. If I agree, I change it. If I don’t, I don’t.

Have you ever felt like quitting writing? If so how did you overcome those feelings?

I think I actually overcame them with Black Hole Heartbeat, and I’m not just saying that to promote the book! I did my degree in Creative Writing, but when the course finished I felt a bit aimless. I never wrote a screenplay at university, but a month after I left, I sat and wrote three in a week. They were mostly garbage, with maybe a few bits here and there to salvage. Anyway, it was pretty unhealthy and I kept putting pressure on myself to just keep writing, because I didn’t know what to do when I wasn’t writing. I wanted to write but without the stress of projects, so I started playing around with Mass Effect fan fiction. About 10 chapters in, I was getting a lot of compliments from people for my writing style, with a lot of criticism for not sticking to canon and killing off characters. But I was feeling better about writing in general, so I used the fan fiction ideas to inform the first draft of Black Hole Heartbeat.

What would be your advice for aspiring authors?

Write for yourself, don’t edit until you’re done and go for a walk. The first one should be pretty self explanatory; writing can be damn hard and if it doesn’t make you smile, why are you doing it? Don’t worry about whether anyone else will buy it, like it or even read it. The second one taps into the whole brutal cheerleader thing. Editing requires you to admit that most of your first draft isn’t good enough yet, and that can be soul destroying when you’re still finishing it. Once the last word is written, it’s so much easier to go back and tweak, because you don’t need to motivate yourself to keep going. Your mindset is fixed on editing, so you’re happy to change. The third one is a bit of a metaphor. I walk everywhere, and because it’s such a solitary activity, I find it great for getting ideas. You get to overhear conversations, meet weird and wonderful people and make up little headcanon stories for them. Combined with my style of letting the writing lead me, a lot of this overheard dialogue and mini headcanon episodes end up making it into my writing in one way or another. But not everyone will literally go for ‘a walk’. I think it’s more about finding an activity that you enjoy that can give you ideas for writing, but isn’t something you deliberately do to get ideas.

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