Archive for » January, 2014 «

Tess of the D’Urbervilles: A Review

So this is another of those classics I attempted in an effort to make myself more cultured and well, study the people who were meant to be the greats.

I just want to say, classics you are not known for your happy endings. War and Peace had a bitter sweet ending (my favourite character died). Wuthering Heights has an unhappy ending, and so does this. I remember why I love Jane Austen.

To be fair. The book was well written and I loved the main character Tess, but I got to about two-thirds of the way and found the book just made me feel sadder and sadder the more I read. All of it is basically about the concept that no matter how sweet and innocent Tess tried to be and how hard she worked at trying to make a life for herself, more clever people and life in general, kept screwing her over, until she died because of it!

I know that’s a plot spoiler, but seriously, how depressing can a book get! The very thought of going through life, doing everything you can to be happy and finding you’re totally screwed through little fault of your own, is so hope destroyingly sucky that I am surprised I could actually finish the book, but I kept going, hoping against hope that something would happen to work it all out and her husband might actually show up in time to stop her from being ruined. But he doesn’t!!!!!

I’m reading Jane Eyre next. I know that one has a happy ending.

Studying Other Artistic Works

Probably the biggest advice given to other artists is study the art form you want to replicate. Want to write books? Then read. Want to make movies? Watch movies. Simple, well sorta. Watching, reading, going to galleries on its own isn’t really enough. You’ve got to have your brain engaged to figure out why the movie, book, painting is awesome.

Even as a book writer I like studying movies and tv shows. A friend of mine recently said that he’d love it if tv script writers wrote books because they’re great at characters and their dialogue, something generally lacking in the book world, so a favourite past time of mine is a character study. I sit down with a book or tv series and I focus on one character and their dialogue. If it’s film I also focus on their body language, eye contact and all sorts of things like that and if book I focus on the repeated expressions, what makes them angry.

I talk to other friends too about why they might like or dislike a character and then I often try to write some fan fiction, where I take everything I’ve learnt about that character and they way they talk and try to apply it. While this can sometimes result in work I can’t sell it can also result in some amazing pieces where I learn what sorts of things makes a character a character.

On top of that I find reading description heavy authors like George R. R. Martin great for my own descriptions. It helps me figure out what sort of details should be woven in amongst the rest. Some people like getting lots of description and place setting, but the true greats describe everything without you feeling bogged down in paragraphs of boring information. Studying their tricks and the way the build their scenes can be a great help.

Finally every writer, actor, and director has their own style and while this shouldn’t be copied out right as it’s way better to develop your own style it can be a great way to learn what sorts of things people like. You’d also be surprised what people do and get away with and what rules are deliberately broken and when. Sometimes a style can be particularly known for breaking a rule, like Stephen King tends to have long sentences and many authors will play around with the exact useage of commas and occasionally words. If there’s a good enough reason for something there really are no rules.

Three For All, And All For Free

Yup, that’s right there’s three freebies you can pick up that I want to tell you about (actually there’s four but End of the Road has been free for a while now).

The first is only free for a few days. Sherdan’s Prophecy in kindle format is available free on all good Amazon sites until close of day Sunday. If you’ve not yet tried my sci-fi, it’s a good start to the genre and quite different to my historical novels, although there’s plenty of action still.

Also free of mine and in need of some help making it free on amazon is Wandering to Belong on Smashwords, Apple, Nook and many other places. If people would like to see it free on Amazon they should report the Apple link to them under there report a lower price section. This is another great introduction to my fantasy genre and all the tales I’ve got written in the same world.

Finally, my most recent release is a sci-fi story set in space and is one of the stories featured in the Kiss anthology, also currently going through the process of being price-matched, but you can grab a free copy on Smashwords. My story is the last one in the anthology but don’t just skip to the end. There’s a lot of great stories in there from some authors I love.

Mycroft and Sherlock: Chapter 1

So I’ve been writing something I totally didn’t plan to write lately. I got bitten by the Sherlock bug but in a new way, so here’s a chapter from some fan fiction, written from Mycroft’s POV.

The rain pattered on the windows as Mycroft was driven through the dreary streets of London. He frowned at the typical English weather. He’d been in his house, working, for ten straight days and it annoyed him to find it raining the minute he needed to leave and see his brother. On top of splotching his tailored suit it made the traffic worse.

As the car pulled up outside Sherlock’s flat he turned his nose up at the familiar sight. The number on the door was loose and it was almost never straight. No matter how many times he neatened it by his next visit it was crooked again. Today was no different.

His driver rushed around to the side of the door with a large black umbrella and Mycroft stepped out into the cold, narrowly missing the puddle at the side of the road. An almost identical umbrella with a silver plated handle dangled from Mycroft’s left hand and he realised he’d never used it to keep the rain off himself. After raising and lowering his eyebrow he strode through the flat door, knowing it wouldn’t be locked. He paused for the briefest second to shuffle his feet on the doormat while his chauffeur shut the door behind him and went back to the shining black vehicle to wait.

Sherlock’s housekeeper and landlady, the widowed Mrs Wintern, peered around the edge of the living room door. When she noticed it was him she retreated back inside. Knowing she’d be scurrying off to make tea, whether he would be there long enough to drink it or not, he climbed the wooden steps up to the familiar flat. None of them creaked but he’d had plenty of years practice at putting his feet in the right places to ensure his arrival was unnoticed.

Three steps from the top Mycroft paused. Mixed in with the usual scent of dust, damp and body odour was the faint traces of perfume. He knew it could only mean Sherlock had a visitor, probably a client. It only took a few seconds for Mycroft to weigh up his options in light of this discovery. He needed Sherlock to begin investigating at once and couldn’t let a client stop him. As he took the last few steps he searched his memory for the name his brother used now. By the time he rapped his knuckles on the door, Sebastian was floating across the back of his mind. Whoever was with his brother would know him as Sebastian Holmes.

Without waiting for an answer he twisted the door knob and strode into the room. Both occupants turned to face him and he scanned the extra person for information. She wore a black corset, styled to look like a waistcoat from the front but laced down the back, over the top of a deep red blouse. The red skirt almost touched the floor but a slit up one side revealed size seven black boots with a small chain running behind the two inch heels. The corset took her waist in from what would have been twenty five inches to twenty three and her mid-brown hair was up in a netted bun on the back of her head. As she turned he also noticed she deftly held a fountain pen in her right hand. Both hands had fingerless gloves that were made of the same material as a jacket over the arm of a nearby chair.

She smiled and the corners of her eyes wrinkled to match the upturn of her lips. Whoever she was she spent a lot of time writing; there were no ink marks on her despite the style of pen, and she was comfortable and relaxed in the odd mix of old fashioned and modern clothing.

“Myron! To what do I owe this pleasure?” Sherlock said in his usual sarcastic manner, although he knew the woman wouldn’t have picked up on the disdain laced in every word. It took him a fraction of a second longer to respond as he took in the pictures of people and places on the board beside them. She had to be a client with all the information presented, although not directly involved, an observer with a vested interest.

“Let me introduce my guest, Amelia Jones.” Sherlock motioned to her. “She’s a writer. Amelia, this is my brother, Myron Holmes.”

She swapped the pen over to her other hand and took a few steps towards him, her right outstretched to shake his. He glanced at her offering but kept his right hand in his trouser pocket and his left gripping the umbrella. Whoever she was, Sherlock had used her first name, something he’d not done since his days with John Watson. Mycroft frowned and the woman returned to her position by the board, giving no indication that she was bothered by the snub.

“I need to talk to you, brother of mine,” Mycroft said when he realised the case on the board still held both their attention.

“In a moment, you’ll be interested in this. This man is an undercover agent, working a case to find a stolen diamond.” Sherlock pointed to the man’s picture and then to the woman’s, “She’s unmarried, no kids, parents are dead and no one else in her life and we’re trying to figure out how she was blackmailed and how he finds out before he has her arrested.”

Mycroft rolled his eyes but took a look at the information anyway. He wanted to know how this Mrs Jones was involved. If the diamond had been hers it wasn’t something she was attached to, perhaps a family heirloom she didn’t care for.

“How was the diamond taken?” he asked.

“I don’t know, I’ve not written that part yet,” she said, fixing her blue eyes on him. “I was thinking she might seduce the security guard or get him drunk. She’s an amateur under pressure so it can’t be too difficult.”

Mycroft raised his eyebrows before he noticed Sherlock grinning at him. He sneered in response. When Mrs Jones went to continue talking he put his hand up, cutting her off.

“This is a fictional scenario?” he asked, his voice dripping with disdain at the very concept.

“Yes. It’s what I do for a living. Sebastian helps me get all the facts straight.”

“He does, does he?”

She nodded and waited for him to continue but he had no desire to make her feel more comfortable. She glanced at his brother.

“So… Why are you here, brother. You don’t visit unless you need something,” Sherlock said, taking the focus back off his guest.

“I think we ought to discuss that in private.” Mycroft looked pointedly at Sherlock’s client, hoping she’d get the hint and hurry from the building but she didn’t move.

“Nonsense, if it’s a case, Amelia can help. She’s been proving most useful in my own work, and besides, she helped with the last case you gave me.”

“She did?” Mycroft’s annoyance grew. Somehow he’d missed Mrs Jones being a regular in Sherlock’s life and he shouldn’t have done.

“I did?” She raised an eyebrow and her own surprise made him feel a little better. Sherlock laughed and nodded.

“Come on, out with it brother. What do we need to investigate?” While Sherlock spoke Mrs Jones lifted the board from the two hooks it hung on, revealing a second blank white board underneath. Mycroft coughed and then pulled the printout of the intercepted email from his inside jacket pocket.

“I received this coded message from a suspected terrorist account.” Before Mycroft could begin reading it Sherlock took the paper out of his hands and wandered off with it, leaving both him and Mrs Jones standing and waiting as Sherlock read it.

“It’s not a skip code…”

“It’s nothing logical, I assure you,” Mycroft said before Sherlock could list everything he already knew it wasn’t.

“Read it aloud.” Mrs Jones said. Mycroft frowned as Sherlock did just that. He would have done one anyway but now he was sure a background check on her would be needed.

Hiya,

Totally failed today – My ringtone went off at the funeral – I’ve got it set to Staying Alive. :AwkwardFace: I suppose I’d already made it hard on myself, the deceased had bought me one of those ugly Christmas jumpers and I wore it to the funeral. My mother told me to take it off and I don’t think she was very impressed when I told her I’d rather cry in a BMW. Then to top my day off I got rick rolled.

Thankfully my kids were cute when I got home – when I asked the eldest what she wanted for dinner she said, ‘I can has cheeseburger?’ and grinned. Later when I was playing a board game with the twins and I lost they came out with, ‘All your counters are belong to us’, their English is getting better each day. When I was a kid my dad used to swear and say ‘pardon my French – I still remember when my school teacher asked if anyone spoke a foreign language and I put my hand up. :SmileyFace:

It might be a while before I communicate again, I’m staying with relatives and they don’t know their own wi-fi password. FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUU. The kids are excited, they said they can get their pink unicorn back, I didn’t even know they had one.

Geoff

By the time Sherlock had finished, Mrs Jones was curled up on the chair, clutching her sides and crying as she tried to stop her almost silent laughter.

What’s so amusing?” Mycroft demanded when she didn’t stop as soon as the letter was over. She wiped her eyes and sat up straight again.

It’s internet memes. For example, all your counters are belong to us, is a miss-quote of all your base are belong to us from a badly translated game. I can has cheeseburger is a phrase on a lolcat, and I think there was a confession kid in there, as well as the mention of being rick rolled.” She picked up the pen and wrote out the entire letter. Once she’d finished she circled phrases in the text and linked them to the names of the internet memes. Mycroft watched and waited, wanting to see where she was going with it. If it solved the email he could get back to his house and away from her.

She stood back and put both her hands on her hips, staring at the letter now in her neat but ornamented hand-writing.

The punctuation is strange, and not right in the slightest,” she said a moment later, when no one else did anything.

Each full stop marks the end of a coded section, that much is easy to work out,” Mycroft said. His brother nodded and stole the pen from Mrs Jones, their fingers brushing past each other as he did. Mycroft sneered again, although both had their backs to him and wouldn’t have noticed. He almost wished they had.

Sherlock put a line in where each sentence ended to break the message up and then she pulled the pen from his hand and wrote in another meme at the end of the letter. After a minute of browsing something on her phone she wrote in two more, completing the final paragraph with:

First World Problems
Rage comic
Invisible Pink Unicorn

Mycroft saw the message and smiled. It pleasantly surprised him that she was on the right track.

The first letters from the first part of Friday,” he said, knowing his brother wasn’t paying attention and should be. He stepped closer so the whole thing was easier for him to read.

It looks like each paragraph is a word,” she said and smiled at him. He ignored her. She was right but that didn’t mean he had to like her or praise her for it.

The second word has an A and C in the middle and has four letters,” Sherlock said.

Four?” She turned to him, a puzzled look on her face.

Yes, there’s a fourth sentence.” Mycroft pointed to the smiley face reference in between two colons. She shrugged.

That’s an emoticon gone wrong, but I suppose it might be part of the message.” She put the word in brackets in the list in the two places the references appeared and then turned to his brother. “Search for I’d rather cry in a BMW online and see what comes up.”

Immediately Sherlock obeyed and grabbed his laptop. Mycroft found himself sneering again. This woman was telling them what to do when she was evidently of inferior intelligence and even worse, his brother wasn’t even slightly put out. He’d thought Sherlock over this sort of sentimentality after losing Watson, but it appeared he was even softer than ever.

Twenty minutes later they had one more letter and Mycroft continued to stand and do nothing but stare at the letter. The entire time he’d been running through five letter words that fit with the E and N they’d already had for the first word. With the I Mrs Jones now wrote in he knew what it said. BEGIN LACE FRI was the full message, but he wasn’t about to say so and be pressed to explain further. Even if Mrs Jones expressed no further interest, his brother would and with his deductive reasoning might work out more than Mycroft wanted either of them to know.

As he was trying to think of some way to get rid of Mrs Jones she pulled a pocket watch out, checked the time and gasped.

I’ve got to go. I’m meant to be signing books in less than half an hour.” She grabbed her jacket and shrugged into it. “Sorry to run before we’re done, but I hate being late for anything.”

I’m sure we can solve this without you,” Mycroft said and gave her a smile which didn’t reach his eyes.

See you tomorrow, Sebastian, and it was a pleasure to meet you, Mr holmes.” She gave him a half smile, meaning it far more than he would have and hurried from the room. As the sound of her rapid footsteps receded down the stairs Mycroft relaxed.

So, you’ve found a new John Watson.” He looked intently at his brother but Sherlock remained impassive.

She’s brighter than John ever was, but she won’t be around for long. She will go write her next book in a few days. Mostly she’s a recluse, like you, especially when in the middle of a book.”

You’re trying to intrigue me by making me think she’s similar to me, but it won’t work. She’s not as intelligent as you even so I have no interest in her.” Mycroft walked towards the door, now wanting to continue this conversation.

She would have been as clever as me had she grown up with you as an elder brother. She’s keen to learn from us and pleasant enough.”

Mrs Jones won’t live long enough to ever get close.”

Miss Jones,” Sherlock said, looking smug. Mycroft shook his head at what his younger brother had overlooked.

There was a wedding ring.”

Yes, but she’s not married, not anymore anyway.”

Widow,” Mycroft nodded. He should have seen it in her manner with Sherlock. No woman in a relationship would spend time coming to London for book signings and spend so much time alone with another man. He walked out, and called back, “Don’t get involved, brother of mine.”

I’ll let you know when I’ve solved this,” Sherlock yelled after him.

No need!” Mycroft pulled the door shut. Miss Jones perfume lingered in the stairwell even stronger than before and Mycroft found himself thinking that as far as perfumes went it could have been a lot worse. At the least it smelt better than Sherlock’s flat usually did.

As he walked back to his car he messaged his assistant.

Project lace will begin on friday. Deploy operation clean-up. Also find all information on the author Amelia Jones.

As soon as the message was delivered he put his phone back in the inside pocket of his jacket and stepped outside. The rain had stopped and Mycroft smiled as he was driven back to his home, his mind already focused on other matters.

Ashes in the Fall: A Review

This fantasy novel was gifted to me by the author Christopher Martinez in exchange for my review.

I want to start off by saying that I really love this cover. It’s professional and really works with the topic of the story. It’s got a slightly older fantasy cover feel to it but those are still my favourite so I’d definitely have taken a further look at this story thanks to the cover.

I also liked the majority of the characters. I felt a few could do with more depth but the lack of information I wanted was more related to the style than a character problem specifically. I definitely cared about the majority of the people and what happened to them, especially Danario. I did feel the princess fell in love a bit too quickly, however. I’d have expected her to be a little wary.

On top of that I found the battle scenes were also amazing. They were described in just the right level of detail that I could imagine them without feeling there was too much for me to take in.

Unfortunately that’s where the good things about this book ended for me. Plot wise I can’t really complain but I can’t really praise it either. It wasn’t overly complicated and combined with the style I felt the whole book was rather brief. Every chapter seemed to be a long time after the one before and moved from one reason to fight to another, with little in between.

I’ve thought about this at length and I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what was missing, but some of the normal ‘fluff’ from around the edges just wasn’t there and it felt like there was little down time. I was given very little apart from action and I’d have liked more emotion or information gathering, or lead up to the decisions of what to attack next and why, rather than just the battles and most major decisions.

Life is full of Distractions

The vast majority of the time I can write and get on with my tasks no problem, but occasionally something comes along which totally distracts me in some form of another. Most of the time I blog about these distractions. Sometimes it helps me ‘get over’ whatever it was I found distracting. It doesn’t always but it’s worth a try, and it means I have varied and interesting topics to blog about.

Over my blogging history I’ve talked about all sorts of distractions, from computer games to philosophical topics, characters and even events like abseils. I’m naturally a very easily distracted person. I like the satisfaction of completing things (books take months and sometimes years so short term fixes are often helpful) and computer games are great for this sort of thing. I go save the world or beat up a bad guy and it only takes a few hours.  I also like new people and getting to know them, so I’m quite social, but it also means someone elses characters can distract me. It’s not uncommon for me to sit and ponder over a character for a few minutes (or maybe even an hour) after reading or watching something, having conversations with them in my head to try and figure them out based on the information the author has already given me.

On top of all that I’m plugged into quite a large network of people through my church and there are usually several invites per week to go do things, like dinners, games nights and other activites. I also have a writer’s group, bookclub, and other regular commitments, as well as things like paper work, tax info stuff and accounts and all the boring side of my career to stop me from writing whenever I want.

Now these events are often regular enough that I work around them and still get a decent number of hours in each week, but occasionally I find myself distracted by many topics all at once, and this is when my productivity plummets. At the moment, I’m playing Castle Clash a lot (lots of short term satisfaction), planning someone’s hen night, distracted by Mycroft thanks to the new episodes of the BBC series actually giving more info on him and his family. He’s very different to the Mycroft in the original stories and really rather an interesting character. On top of that Mark Gatis and Stephen Moffat like hinting at lots of little things and it’s a lot of fun to speculate at what they might mean. I’m rarely right but I never usually mind, but that’s enough of that.

And it’s that time of the year again. Tax return time. when I have to get all my accounts in order and try to remember where I put everything I need. I don’t really enjoy that part of things so I often let myself get distracted so i don’t have to do it.

Finally, at the moment I’m working on the bonus content for my upcoming anthology and finding it very hard to stay on task. I love putting together my own worlds and thinking about how everything fits together. At the moment I’ve only got to finish my maps and put together the rest of the dates in the timeline so other people can track the changes in ages, but I find myself thinking about family trees, names and their meanings and where I might put this creature I just decided would be good to have attack a character in a book I probably won’t get around to writing for a couple of years.

In short, my head is one very chaotic place to be right now as it goes down a mish mash of threads involving basilisks, tax returns, mycroft, castles, dragons, maps, good things for a group of girls who aren’t particularly girlie to do and all sorts of other ideas and concepts floating around. It has some potentially interesting consequences for the hen night, that’s for sure.

 

The Story of the Mimosa: A Review

This is another book I recently read by the author Paul Kater. Like most of his work it’s quite quirky.

In the blurb for this book it mentions that if you love Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ then you’ll enjoy this one, and I’d just like to say that I completely agree. This story about a black ship and it’s realtively independent journey through space and time is very similar in feel and quirkyness to Douglas Adam’s classic.

With the main character and focus being the ship’s journey you don’t have a massively complicated plot and there’s no massive conclusion to the book. The ship is made and then off it goes. But it’s journey is worth going along with, as several different aliens find when it turns up near them.

This sort of story all ways reminds me of how awesome it is being different and still finding somewhere and some people to be different with. Oddballs, Geeks, Nerds and wacky creative types really do make the best travelling companions for any runaway ship.

Character Spotlight: Marie Woodell

Marie is probably the first character I really had an understanding of and is the main character of my best-selling book, With Proud Humility. I think I’m always going to have a soft spot for this character and I think, out of all of my standalone works, she’s the one who most tempts me to write a sequel, just to get to visit her world again.

She’s not too dissimilar from Anya, although Marie is a little more gutsy and manipulative, when there’s something she wants. Marie is very young when her story starts and is rather naive in every area except money and the power it brings. She knows what she wants and her father has never really been able to stop her getting anything. He does also indulge her quite a bit, but she’s still not overly spoilt, probably because her two friends are significantly older than her and are used to encouraging Marie to think through her actions.

Love is an odd concept for her at the beginning of the story. She’s only really had her father around in her life as her mother died early on in Marie’s life and she’s always been aware of cruelty and hatred. Apart from her closest friends she isn’t shown any affection so when Hayes pays some attention to her it totally bowls her over and she succumbs to his portrayed interest without a second thought to it being genuine or not.

Once burnt she finds it hard to know what to do. Her pride is seriously injured but her hatred of the pirate who killed her mother is so much stronger she works with Hayes anyway. Finding he cares about her after all is something she never expects but despite that she decides to try and make her marriage to him work. She also knows well enough that she can only flaunt society’s rules so much. Having a marriage annuled is a step to far even for her.