Archive for » October, 2013 «

TRC Christmas Fair

I often join in with TRC events to help them raise money so no surprises that I’m mentioning them again (seriously, they’re awesome).

This Christmas they are doing a craft fair sort of thing in Bath and I went to the same event last year and it was amazing! The venue is new but the crafters are really really good (one of them made my tardis journal for me).

And, on top of all their usual awesomeness, I’m also going to be there signing print books, including the new Sherdan series.

A percentage of everything  the stall holders sell will go to the TRC so it’s a great way to do some Christmas shopping and give to charity, all at the same time.

And yes, I am doing this in the middle of also trying to do 60k for NaNoWriMo, which just makes it all the more epic. You never know, if you come along you might even get to have a sneak peak at the book I’m writing!

Sea of Secrets: A Review

This book was given to me by the author, Amanda DeWees in return for an honest review.

Historical books are a passion of mine and this one is no different. I loved the storyline and was hooked into the character’s life right from the beginning, feeling her pain and her excitement.

The romance was interesting and I enjoyed taking the ride with the main character as she worked out what she felt towards her final choice.

The plot wasn’t too complicated but it did keep me guessing and I didn’t expect the little twist at the end. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

Character Spotlight: Anya

Anya is the secondary/supporting character in the Sherdan series. Somewhere between a third and two fifths of the chapters in the Sherdan world are from her point of view.

Anya is probably the female character of mine I like the least (of the good protagonists anyway). I don’t dislike her, not by a long way, but I don’t get many warm fuzzy moments over her. I do respect her. Life for her in the first two Sherdan books isn’t easy. She gets tortured, imprisoned, almost raped and plenty of other stuff on top.

My biggest problem with her is that she’s religious, and yes I know I’m going to have to explain that. I don’t mean religious as in, believes in God, I mean religious in the sense of someone who believes in God and then acts a certain way because they think they are meant to rather than is actively trying to follow Jesus because of a conviction and emotion or belief in something born from experience. Sort of how we all brush our teeth, because we are told it’s good for us, we do it twice a day. Sometimes I forget to do it and I feel no guilt, I just do it because my parents said I was meant to and for the most part I take their word for it. There’s no engagement on my part.

For the most part Anya is like that. She has been brought up to believe in God and it isn’t until she’s tortured that she starts to work out there’s more to God than just doing what he says. Because of this ‘religious’ attitude to her faith she lacks in the ability to understand Sherdan and his problem with her way of life and the downsides of this form of Christianity.

Thankfully she gets better during the books. There’s still a bunch of stuff she will and won’t do but she starts to get a feel for the concept that she’s on a journey with God and she has a unique purpose she’s meant to work out with Him that involves more than just going to church and being a good girl. She has to think for herself, tackle big things and seriously think about loving someone who’s not got the same faith background as her. In short she has to decide what matters to her and what doesn’t.

While she’s trying to work all this out she sort of screws things up a bit with Sherdan. They love each other and I think that’s fairly obvious from mid book 1 but she’s a bit shocked by it and it presents her with decisions she never thought she would have to make. She also discovers that being a ‘good’ Christian isn’t always black and white. She doesn’t want to allow someone to have sway to potentially tempt her out of her belief system so she isn’t kind to him and then she realises she’s being judgemental, which is wrong as well. It’s tough to find everything you’ve spent your life believing is off centre and not quite know how you’re meant to be treating people.

As a result of these problems she yo-yo’s quite a lot between being nice to him and pushing him away from her. It isn’t until book 2 where she realises it’s not right to shut him out because he doesn’t believe exactly what she does that she starts to allow him the respect he deserves. Although none of this is helped by how controlling he is as she’s well aware she belongs to God not to anyone else.

I think I’ll like her more as the books progress. I’m sort of hoping she mellows out a little, actually learns to trust God and allow Sherdan into her life properly so she can show him the good sides of her faith rather than all the sucky things that an imperfect faith can exhibit. Of course, he also needs to learn to trust her.

NaNoWriMo Prep

Yup, it’s almost that time of the year again. In just over two weeks I’m going to be trying to National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge of 50k words of a new novel in one month. I’m actually going to aim for 60k as I’ve done 50k the last two years and want it to remain a challenge.

As such i’m in preparation mode and I thought I’d share some of the things I do to try and get ready for such a momentous task. I’ve found that planning before hand helps to make the task a success.

For the most part I try to avoid social obligations in November. There’s always a few, but I try to see peeps before or just after and this year I’m even taking a week off with my fella (this week in fact) to spend time with each other before I disappear down the writerly rabbit hole. Telling people you are trying not to do too much social during also helps because then they know what you’re doing and you can garner extra motivation from the fact they will ask you how you’re doing and they will know if you fail and have no good reason.

I also make sure most of October is dedicated to doing anything that might get in the way, like other deadlines and other stories that are part finished. The last thing you need is someone nagging you to finish something else. Same goes for the chores. Try to get on top of the washing piles, the cleaning and anything else you don’t want to be distracted by when you’re writing (I’ve even heard that some people do their christmas shopping so they don’t leave it too late but I just do mine in December).

Also I try to minimise the things that might call to me to procrastinate, like games, books and other entertainment. I won’t start a new series of anything on tv in October, unless it’s going to be mostly over in november or I really can’t watch it at a later date. I also won’t buy any new games unless I know I can finish them before November. I won’t activate any subscriptions to any MMO’s and I try to get my final book in October read before the start of the month, especially if I’m enjoying it. (If NaNo goes really well I start allowing myself some downtime with these things again but usually only books and I’m very disciplined on the time I allow myself)

Finally the day or two before I take off from everything but thinking over the plot for the books and writing plot notes on anything I think I really have to add. As my book will also be a sequel I’ll also read the rest of the books in the series to get myself immersed in the world and characters again and think over the first line. Sometimes it takes me ages to write that first line so if I’ve already spent hours thinking on it when I get up on the 1st I can just sit down and write the line I’ve already partially worked out.

Rowan in the Oak Tree: A Review

I grabbed a copy of this eBook when it was free about four months ago as I was intrigued by the blurb.

This book made me very sad. It’s a great little story and very well written but it doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s a tough subject to write about but this is one of the few books I’ve read about this kind of thing that really had me emotionally engaged.

With books like this it’s very hard to make people feel for the main chracter because they’re already in the ‘hell’ and suffering before the book begins but the little bits of thoughts and Rowan’s outlook on life made her easy to relate to.

My only little niggle was the ending. I felt there should have been a little bit more before the very end bit, to show the ending happening, before we’re told the results, but otherwise I think this was masterfully told.

Sherdan’s Legacy

The eBook of this sequel to Sherdan’s Prophecy was published recently so I thought I’d share a chapter from it so you could have a read. If you’ve not read the first book yet you can do so on my blog here.

Sleep was caught in snatches for Anya over the next few hours. Every hour or so someone looked in on her and woke her up. For some reason she was meant to stay alert, although no one else came to question her.

Time was impossible to keep track of. Not a single person wore a watch and the room had no clock in it. They had taken her mobile phone when they brought her there but even if they hadn’t the handcuffs would have prevented her from looking at it.

Her only hope of keeping track of time was counting the number of times someone came to check on her and assuming it was a scheduled disturbance. The same person only bothered her a few times in a row so it seemed like it might be a regular thing.

Her tenth visit revealed Mr Jeffreys again. He had both the folder and recorder with him this time.

“My, my, aren’t we serious, my file and proper documentation of what I say.” She sat down on the chair again, expecting she would be asked if she didn’t.

“So are you going to answer my questions now?”

“Not if they are the ones you’ve already asked me.”

“All right, I don’t like repeating myself anyway.” He opened the file and sat back, “So, tell me what your relationship with Dr Sherdan Harper is?”

“Not as important as the relationship I’d like to start establishing with a lawyer.”

“So you admit you know Dr Sherdan Harper?”

“Seriously? He was all over the news for months, who doesn’t know him?”

“Do you agree with Utopia’s stance?”

“The way the word looks or the ideology of a perfect society?”

“Miss Price!”

“Lawyer, remember. I asked for one of those yesterday.”

“Look, no one wants to charge you with anything. You’re not the kind of person who we feel is a major threat but we do want to make sure we know what we’re dealing with. We’re just asking for some information. As soon as we have everything we need you will be returned home,” he said.

She laughed and stuck her feet up on the table again, narrowly missing the papers.

“I did wonder when you’d try that tactic. I don’t actually believe you. I think you want more than information and I think that you would absolutely love to lock some people up just to show to the British government that you are doing something about Dr Harper.”

“That would be illegal.”

“It would be wouldn’t it, but denying me a lawyer is also illegal so we’re already past that point aren’t we?”

Mr Jeffreys reached forward and switched the recorder off.

“Miss Price. I am sure you really don’t want this to get ugly. You’re a young girl, with a bright future ahead of you. Your art work is fantastic and you could have a very happy life with the right man. We want to help you with that. There’s nothing more rewarding for me than seeing the young people of this nation free to be themselves and enjoy their life.”

“Well, if you care so much about my happy life I suggest you go fetch that lawyer now.” Anya got up and walked off to sit down with her back to the table. She heard the scrape of the chair and a little while later the opening and closing of the door. Repeating the same request for a lawyer over and over again was getting boring for her and she wondered if it was for them too.

As soon as she was sure she had been left alone she swivelled around so she could see the rest of the room again and tried to get some more sleep. Power napping would have to keep her going until something changed.

The rest of the day was a blur of attempted interviews with Mr Jeffreys. He wouldn’t tell her anything about where she was and she wouldn’t answer his questions, insisting on having a lawyer.

By the time the day had drawn to another close and she could rest again she was feeling very hungry. There had been plenty of water brought to her but no food at all. No one offered her any and she didn’t ask. Instead she focused on God and prayer. If she was fasting, even if involuntarily, she might as well make the most of it.

Night came and went, although the only reason she knew it was not day was the lack of interrogations and the regular waking from the other people on duty. Despite the lack of food and the very broken sleep she felt fine the following day. She had been working hard over the last few weeks and actually stopping and resting had made her feel less stressed.

Anya was thanking God for this when someone completely new came in to talk to her. She watched the grey haired man walk over to the table and pull a chair out. After looking at her he motioned for her to sit on it and waited.

At first she just stared at him but he met her gaze and held it for some minutes. She grinned at the boldness of this new person and decided to see what he had to say.

Once she had sat down he even helped her tuck the chair in. He then poured her a drink, added a straw so she wouldn’t need her hands and sat down opposite.

“Good morning, Miss Price, I’m Jacob Schmidt.”

“Good morning.” She took a gulp from the water, pleased her voice worked after being unused all night.

He clasped his hands together on the desk and sat waiting, but she couldn’t figure out what for. When she raised her eyebrow and he still did nothing she assumed he must be waiting for her.

“Are you a lawyer?”

“No, I’m a psychiatrist.”

“Oh, do the government think I’m insane?”

“No. You appear rational enough.”

“Good. I may well be an artist but that’s not full blown psycho territory.” Surprisingly, he chuckled at this statement.

“I’m here out of concern for your well being, that’s all. I want to make sure you are emotionally well and functioning normally. I take it you are a Christian?”

“Yup, born and bred a Jesus Freak.” She grinned again. Having a psychiatrist sat opposite her had tickled her somewhat and coupled with the rebellious attitude she’d felt like, so far it was having interesting results. So much so she was talking without really thinking.

“Jesus Freak is an odd term.”

“It’s in a song by a Christian band.”

“Interesting.” Mr Schmidt started making notes as he nodded his head up and down a few times, “And do you ever question your faith?”

“Sometimes, I mean who doesn’t in their darkest moments but mostly God gets me through stuff. He’s pretty awesome like that.”

“You’ve been through things where you’ve needed God then?”

“Of course, I think all Christians do.”

“Like being held a prisoner in another country?” he asked.

“Smooth. I like how you slipped that in there. I assume you’re referring to Utopia?”

“You tell me? Were you trapped there?”

“You’re assuming I was ever there.”

Mr Schmidt put down his paper, pen and took his spectacles off, also laying them down on the table.

“I think it’s acceptable of me to say that we know you were there, Miss Price.”

“Can you prove it?”

“I’m sure we can or you wouldn’t be here.”

“I’d like to see that proof then.”

“Did you enter of your own free will, Miss Price?”

“Mr Jeffreys already asked me a very similar question. I told him I wouldn’t answer without a lawyer.”

“Well thank you for everything you’ve told me so far, Miss Price. May we continue this discussion later?”

“You can try.”

Mr Schmidt left her alone and oddly no one came to see her at all for the rest of the day. No food or water came and no one checked up on her. After a few hours she settled down to get some sleep but found she couldn’t.

Before sleeping she always said a prayer of thanks to God, for whatever she thought she had to be thankful of that day, and she found as soon as she started talking to God that she felt wide awake. Instead of sleeping she paced the room, talking to Him and pondering over the conference she was missing.

The people would have all flown in by now and be staying in the church’s accommodation. None of them would realise she had vanished until the meeting she was meant to lead and that was sometime this afternoon.

She prayed that their journey wouldn’t be wasted and hoped they would all stick around so she could meet with them when she did get back. For the first time since being locked up she felt tempted to use her ability and escape. If she left in the next few minutes there was a chance she could get back in time to see everyone and do a later conference.

As time went by, however, the idea faded from her mind. Using her ability and going back home would arouse suspicion and then take that attention right back to the people she was trying to help. Staying put would be best for now.

When her legs grew tired she sat and rested but continued praying. Somehow she kept finding things to pray about, despite nothing changing in the immediate vicinity of her world.

She remained in a cycle of pacing and resting for longer than she could estimate, until she saw and heard the door handle rattle. Despite the movement, the door didn’t open. After a few minutes she got up and walked towards it.

She stood only four feet from it when it opened a crack and a head appeared around the edge.

“Julie!” Anya rushed forward and squealed. Julie wrapped her up in a big hug, letting her see the others who had come to rescue her. Nathan stood there, as well as four other men she didn’t recognise. She smiled at them all.

“Can you get the handcuffs off?”

“Not yet, we’ll get them off in the car, we’ve got to hurry.” Nathan ushered her into the middle of the group.

“Thank you for coming to get me.”

“We couldn’t have left you, but why did you not escape yourself?”

“I didn’t want to give your secret away. If I had just disappeared they would be even more suspicious. At the moment they appear to think Utopia is some kind of cult.”

“Well thank you for being so careful. But quickly now, let’s go.”

“Lead the way.”

Anya smiled and jogged along, flanked by the bulky Utopian security guards. Her heart felt light. Sherdan had sent his men for her and that meant he still cared.

They led her down many corridors, always checking if people were coming when they got to a junction or corner, but no one disturbed them. After several minutes of this process Nathan and Julie stopped. Everyone else ground to a halt behind them.

After a brief pause Julie beckoned for them to follow her through the nearest door. As soon as they were all inside the store cupboard she shut the door as softly as she could. They huddled in silence as the sounds of footsteps came closer.

The small room soon felt claustrophobic and hot as she had to stand stock still to avoid awkward contact with the men around her; a task made more difficult by the handcuffs still holding her hands behind her back. She wished Nathan had removed them already so she could rub the aches out.

To try and keep quiet she inhaled her breath and held it, counting past the seconds and listening to any and all sounds from outside as the person came closer and closer. Just as Anya thought she could stay silent no longer the sounds receded down the corridor, the way they had come.

After a few more minutes Julie opened the door and everyone hurriedly filed out. They led her to the elevator and strapped a harness around her waist.

“What’s this for?”

“We came down a maintenance shaft by the elevators to avoid the cameras. We need to climb back up so you’ll be strapped to Nathan to help you. We have to go quickly before they notice you are gone and lock down the building.”

She nodded and gulped. Her harness was attached to Nathan’s so she hung below him and he climbed up the rope first, using ascenders.

“Use your feet to steady yourself against the sides and stop the spinning,” Nathan said when he noticed her flailing and twisting around. She did as he suggested and he pulled them both up the fifteen floors. All the other men came behind and then Julie last.

They paused at the top before emerging from a hatch and packing away the equipment. Rather than going out the very obvious front door right by them Julie and Nathan led the group down another intricate maze of corridors, many of which were dark and empty. Whenever it got too dark to see well enough, one of the extra men lifted a hand and a faint glow emanated from it, lighting the way for everyone.

Eventually they halted outside a fire door. Another of Anya’s guards crept forward and after fiddling with something she couldn’t see for a moment they pushed the door open. There was a pause as Julie listened for something.

“All clear.” She led them out the door and down a dark alleyway. Right near the end, two of the men pulled on black masks and rushed off into the night.

“What are we waiting for?” Anya whispered in Nathan’s ear.

“They’ve gone to get the cars.”

She stayed right by him while they waited, shivering in the cold air. As soon as he noticed her reaction to being outside he shrugged off his jacket and wrapped it around her. She muttered her thank you and moved even further behind him to use his body to block the wind that whistled past them down the alley.

The cars weren’t long in pulling part way up the alley, one after the other. Right away she felt Nathan’s hand on the small of her back, guiding her towards the back of the nearest car. He opened the door for her, helped her inside and followed after her.

As soon as every door was shut the cars reversed back out of the alley and set off towards home.

“Thank you very much, Nathan. You all risked a lot coming to get me.”

“Don’t mention it, Anya. You’re important to us.” He grinned and ran his hands through his hair, something he often did when she thanked him or made a fuss over something he had done, “Here, let me get those handcuffs undone now.”

She turned so he could access her hands and waited as he pulled out an odd looking instrument and picked the lock.

“These are much easier than those room doors,” he said as the cuffs slide open, only a few seconds later.

She rubbed her wrists to try and stir some life back into them. They hurt as blood reached the places that had been restricted, but it was a bearable pain and she knew it would soon fade.

“So, is Sherdan here somewhere or are we meeting him in Utopia?” Anya’s eyes lit up with the idea of seeing him after so long.

“He couldn’t leave Utopia and we’re taking you home.”

“Oh. I’m not sure home would be safe for me. Whoever took me did so less than two-hundred metres from my flat. I expect they know where I live. Surely Utopia would be the best place for me?”

“I can’t take you into the country without orders. Sorry, Anya.”

“Will you let me grab some stuff from home and take me to a friend’s house then?”

“Of course, anything we can do to help you stay safe.”

“Except take me to Sherdan.” Anya didn’t phrase it like a question.

“Except that.”

She knew it wasn’t Nathan’s fault Sherdan didn’t want to see her but it felt like all her relief from being rescued and crushed it under the weight of a thousand elephants.

“Does he hate me, Nathan?” She asked a few minutes later.

“No, I don’t think so. But he’s hurt, very hurt. Give him time, I’m sure he will talk to you again.”

“I didn’t want to leave but I had stuff to do. One day, I think I’d like to come back. Bath… well… It’s just not the same any more. Sherdan and Utopia changed something and I’m not sure it can change back.”

“I know, I understand. You had a duty to do for your church, but he loved you, he loves you. That’s important too.”

“Thank you, Nathan. That helps, I think.”

 

If you enjoyed that and want to read more, the book is on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and all the other Amazon eBook stores.

A Storm of Swords: A Review

This is the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series (otherwise known as the Game of Thrones books) by George R. R. Martin and is so huge they had to split it into two volumes to print it economically.

So I enjoyed the first book, liked the second one a little bit less and sort of love and hate this third one. I think it’s the best in terms of storytelling and action. It’s got a nice pace to it and lots happens, which is great, but some of the stuff that happens left me a bit cross.

Most people who’ve heard of this series have usually also heard that there is a lot of death, and I really mean a lot. And this book is definitely no exception, in fact I think it’s the worst. There’s a lot of deaths and I can sorta accept one or two in a series. These people are doing dangerous things, so they’re going to die and I can sorta accept one or two more than that because this is a rather realistic series where there’s more everything that’s bad in the world but there are tooo many deaths in this book.

My favourite character is still Jon Snow but Tyrion comes a close second, although Walder Frey is now my most hated character (previously Joffrey). And maybe that doesn’t help with my attitude towards the book. Jon and Tyrion are the characters everyone else loves to try and screw over. I guess I’m truly British in my liking of the underdog.

I do have a lot of respect for George R. R. Martin after reading this book and trying to write my own epic fantasy though. I could never have written this book. I’d have spent the entire time crying in a pile somewhere with grief over all the characters I’d just mercilessly slaughtered.

Why My Books Are My Babies

I know thinking of books as babies is a rather odd concept but bear with me while I explain.

To start with, the ideas come to me in a small form, often only snippets of what they are going to grow to be and it can take a while for them to fully form. Some take a few weeks but some, like Chains of Freedom, take many many years before I’m ready to think about writing a first draft.

The first draft is sort of the easy bit. It has its struggles but it’s a process of getting to know my characters and putting shape to what has been in my head somewhere for a while. Then there’s the drafts that follow, full of the tough stuff, where I try to get things formed just right so it’s going to be understood better by the rest of the world and not offend people or seem rude and uncouth.

And then finally, I get to the point where I have to let it go. Where the story and characters have to go out into the world, and although I can help them a little with some basic marketing, they have to find their own way, make their own friends who talk about them and share them with other friends, and I can only really sit back and watch and hope they do good and people like them, but I can’t do anything about the people who inevitably won’t like them. My work is done and as much as I might want to take them back in and try to perfect them a little more, or correct mistakes I made, I have to trust I did my best and let go.

On top of that, there’s everything I’ve learnt about being a parent, especially where my characters are concerned. I’m fairly used to getting weird looks from people who don’t write fiction when I talk about my characters. Mostly because I talk about them as if they are real people and for the most part they do feel rather real. I have conversations with them, they have family, past events, likes and dislikes, they feel pain and joy and all the myriad of emotions we feel too.

Also, during the stories, when they are hurt and cry, I almost always cry too, and when they grieve for dead characters I grieve too. When they make mistakes I feel sorry for them, and I get excited when they get something right and make a good decision. I cry happy tears when they fall in love and have their dreams come true.

My characters and my books are my children, and I’m sure I’ll feel all these things even more when I have children of my own, but for now, I’ll keep birthing characters and their stories.