Archive for » March, 2015 «

My Life Untold: A Review

I was given an ebook copy of this story by the author, S. S. Gee Buro, in return for my review.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe books started off a little slow, but definitely wasn’t boring, recounting the early years of the main character, Magda’s, life. Within a few chapters it had set up relationships and characters that had me in love and I found it very difficult to stop reading and put the book down.

Although the story reads like a typical historical romance, it’s so much more than the average romance novel. The book had plenty of context and plot that filled it out and made me feel like a whole life happened around the story. I couldn’t have asked for more from the plot. There was even a twist that I didn’t see coming.

The ending wasn’t as happy as I’d hoped it would be but I don’t want to spoil the exact ending. It definitely was satisfying and I think it was an accurate portrayal of the aftermath of the events.

All in all one of the best books I’ve read in a while. I’m very glad I got the opportunity to read it.

Taming Virtual Pets

As is pretty obvious by now, I’ve not been doing much writing so far this year. I just seem to have hit an emotional brickwall when it comes to telling more stories. Instead I’ve been spending a lot of time in Entropia, playing around with their newest feature, pet taming.

BristlehogThey introduced the first pet in the autumn of last year, a sort of cute little hedgehof/fluffy porcupine thing called a bristlehog. I found myself drawn to taming these things almost instantly and before I knew it I had over two hundred of the tamed critters in my inventory and storage and was training up several to higher levels. I soon found that people would pay me more than it cost to train up the bristlehogs for my higher leveled ones and a friend in game did a lot of research and shared data with me on the most cost effective way to reach each level, as well as a whole bunch of other information on them.

CornundacaudaI didn’t think much more of it as I got stuck into my NaNoWriMo and the wonderful world of Mycroft and Amelia (those books still are on their way, I promise). But in early December two more of the creatures that existed in the world of entropia were made tameable and I found myself once again out there catching myself a few of the six legged Combibo and the rather large but almost majestic Cornundacauda (don’t ask me who named that one). Neither of them are very good looking but they seem to be wanted by a few people so I again found myself making money taming and training them.

eudorian trollEvery month since I’ve probably made somewhere between $30-40 a month on pet taming and training (about £20-25) and a similar amount from the in game deeds I own that I mentioned previously a few times, but this month something quite spectacular happened. They introduced some brand new pets that weren’t creatures previously found in the game and some rare and incredibly rare versions of them. One even looks a bit like the rock trolls from Frozen. In about a week I’ve found myself making what I would normally make in a month and it’s continuing to supply me with a steady and easy to earn income rate. I’ve even started crafting the tools required to tame with and found myself profiting there as well (crafting in entropia is incredibly difficult to profit from).

KaninAll in all, while I’m struggling with writing it’s been a great way to spend my downtime and make some spare cash on the side as well as have some fun. The great thing is a lot of it can be done at the same time as other things so it won’t hinder my writing when I do finally find myself able to pick up a pen again. If anyone wants to play the game and find me I play under the avatar Marie Elf Woodell so look me up and I’ll show you around.

Memes of Loss and Devotion: A Review

This ebook was given to me by the author, Darren White, in return for my review.

Memes of loss and devotionInside is a collection of short stories and I must admit I really didn’t like the first one. It was very slow going and full of purple prose. I put the book down only a few percent in and then had to come back to it, which is a real shame because the later stories are much less over the top in terms of description.

While a lot of the stories feature around romantic devotion they are also pretty much all of a sci-fi sort of nature, apart from a couple that were more horror based and that felt out of place to me. There was one with what seemed to be a serial killer in it that seemed a lot like it didn’t belong in the collection at all.

A few of the stories I thought were very good, mostly the more heavily sci-fi ones that had a bit more plot to them and a little less waffle about strange things happening. I don’t want to plot spoil so I can’t really say which bits were overdescribed but often the more supernatural or strange stuff was described far too much.

All in all a bit of a mixed bag. I’d skip the first story or two and get into the third one and read from there.

Sneak Peak: The Unexpected Coincidence

I’ve been working on a bunch of different things lately, trying to get back into the zone of writing and I thought I’d share the first chapter of the 2nd novella in the Mycroft Holmes Adventures series.

Mycroft took another sip of his tea from the delicate china cup Mrs Wintern had provided. It would have tasted perfect if it wasn’t for the lingering smell of formaldehyde. Sherlock’s flat never smelt normal at the best of times but his younger brother had a case and was experimenting on some severed body parts.

“It’s not that bad,” Sherlock said, disturbing him from his thoughts.

“What’s not?”

“Having to look over a crime scene for yourself.”

“Apparently not. You seem to enjoy it,” Mycroft replied, not sure whether to be relieved that his younger brother hadn’t read his current thoughts or annoyed that Sherlock had figured out the real reason he was there.

It had been a week since Mycroft had realised his own people were too incompetent to do what he needed and still he hadn’t gone himself. Coming to see Sherlock was always his last resort. Most of the time his younger brother was only too eager to go take a look at a crime scene or evaluate a suspect but Mycroft had found him in the middle of his own case.

Since Mycroft’s abduction along with Amelia Jones Sherlock had changed his tune a little. His younger brother seemed to think it was good for Mycroft to be in the thick of the action. He, however, felt as he always had, that it was far too much effort when he could get someone else to do it for him.

“You could get Amelia to do it?” Sherlock plonked himself down in the armchair opposite Mycroft. He had a smug grin on his face. He put his cup down on the nearby tray to buy him a few seconds to compose his voice.

“And why would I ask her? She’s hardly suitable for the task.”

“She’d be perfect. I’ve taught her plenty and I’m sure she’d love to help you catch the people who took both you and her. I’m sure the event was more traumatic for her than you, even with your aversion to getting physically involved.”

“Which is exactly why I would never involve her further. The last thing I need is a woman’s emotions clouding a delicate situation. And besides, I’ve not even seen her since. It’s not as if we’re even acquainted.” Mycroft rolled his eyes and hoped his brother would drop the subject. He didn’t want to talk about Amelia. Every time she was brought up he ran the risk of giving something away about their arrangement and it was bad enough that Amelia spoke to Sherlock often.

“Then I can ask her. I’m sure she won’t mind.” Sherlock grinned and got up again to go back to the kitchen table which was covered in laboratory equipment.

“No, she won’t have the time. She starts another book tour tomorrow and they have her signing all over the country. It seems the new book is a big hit.”

“So you’ve been keeping an eye on her then,” Sherlock said as he stared down the microscope lens.

“Of course. She’s an acquaintance of yours. For her safety I thought it best.”

“Perfect,” Sherlock muttered under his breath right before taking the specimen out from under the light. “I’m sure it has nothing to do with the novel, does it brother of mine. The one she re-wrote for you. I suppose you feel she ought to be thanking you considering how well it’s selling.”

“Nothing of the sort. I only know that part because she seems to have charmed Daniels.” Mycroft let out an exasperated sigh. “Every time I come back to the car he’s got one of her books in his hands.”

“Well, she is very charming. But if we’re done here. My case is waiting and I really have a lot to do.” Sherlock put his hand out towards the door and gave his brother another brief smile.

It was fake, and Mycroft knew he’d outstayed his welcome. With another sigh that was a last attempt to sway Sherlock into helping he got up and nodded his parting.

“Have a good day, brother of mine, and try not to cause an international incident,” Sherlock said as Mycroft was part way through the door. He rolled his eyes and ignored the jibe. It was meant to annoy him and he wasn’t going to give his brother the satisfaction of seeing his success. But it wasn’t the only part of their discussion that irked him. Sherlock had focused on Amelia much more than Mycroft was comfortable with and even worse, he was going to have to look over the house himself. He’d gone to Baker Street for nothing.

When he stepped outside the sun was shining and helped to take the chill off the late November air, but he knew the wind had a bite to it that reminded everyone it wouldn’t be long until Christmas. Not wanting to be out in such cold when wearing nothing but his favourite suit, he took several quick steps to the car and the door Daniels already had open for him.

“Back home, sir?” the chauffeur asked once he was back behind the wheel.

“No, Moffat Road in Thornton Heath. Number eighty-nine. And try to avoid traffic. I want this dealt with as swiftly as possible.”

“Of course, sir.”

Mycroft gazed out the window as his driver did his best to wind through the traffic and ensure it didn’t take too long to get to their destination. For a few minutes he let the details he picked up from the passers by go through his mind, noticing a young woman evidently having an affair and two teenagers who were about to try and rob a local shop. He knew they wouldn’t succeed or he might have got out his phone and sent a quick text to the chief of police.

When the people in the streets failed to keep his interest he re-focused his thoughts to business. Since his little adventure with Amelia, where both had been abducted from the Thames barrier in Silvertown, he’d been trying to track down the terrorist group responsible. It didn’t make it easier that the North Koreans and Russians appeared to be working together on this.

Of all the countries causing concern they were two of the worst. Russia was making threatening moves in Eastern Europe and North Korea was adapting to its younger leader. Like all people who were brought up knowing they would run a country the Korean was a spoilt brat used to getting his own way. Despite knowing all this, it didn’t help in finding the terrorists who’d tried to flood the capitol city. There was no guarantee they were acting on orders and not simply some extreme group of mercenaries who happened to have aligned goals. Whoever they were, they had plenty of funding from somewhere.

The yacht they’d held him and Amelia on hadn’t been small and so far they had moved house twice since Mycroft had become aware of them. Each time they’d sent someone into an estate agent with the deposit and several months rent in cash. On top of that, the first house Sherlock had found had been left in such a hurry that there was technology and money left behind. Most of the computers had been wiped clean but Mycroft had found enough information to know it was the right place. The police had completely bungled the attempt at catching everyone, alerting them to the discovery and giving them time to run.

He’d been praised for saving London, despite Amelia being involved, but since then the trail had been difficult to follow. Little head way was gained until his brother helped him track a lead to a second address. The address Mycroft was now being driven to.

Over half an hour after setting off Daniels pulled the car over to the side of Moffat road right in front of the driveway of house number eighty-nine. It looked worse than Sherlock had said. The drive had once been bricked over but areas had sunk while the bricks themselves had worn and crumbled. Weeds grew up in the cracks and a large pile of rubbish filled one corner of the front yard.

As Daniels opened the door he was assaulted by the smell of the rotting refuse. He wrinkled his nose up in disgust and hurried over to the front door. Before he made the six steps to the porch he’d managed to fish his skeleton keys from his pocket. Pretty much every door in London opened to these.

Once inside he paused in the hallway and surveyed the area. It smelt musty but nothing that opening a window wouldn’t fix. There were a few sparse furnishings in the living area and he expected to find the rest of the house in a similar state. A couch with old cushions sat near a coffee table. No television or music player of any kind and no lamp shade.

The curtains were drawn in every room, but all the doors were open everywhere, including up the stairs he could see to his left. Thankfully, the material hanging over the windows was thin so enough light from the shining sun still bled through to the rooms. So he could see the detail he might need, he pulled a small torch from his jacket pocket and shone it at the floor in a path to the sofa.

The carpet was yellowing and threadbare in several places, but traces of dirt from some kind of boot still lingered near the very edge of the sofa. Mycroft pulled an empty envelope and a small spatula from another pocket and scraped up some of the residue before sealing the packet and tucking it safely back. He could have his brother analyse the make up of it and tell him where it had come from.

A glance at the sofa let him know the occupants had put a plastic covering over it. There would be no evidence for him to find. Although he didn’t expect anything in the kitchen to aid his search he put his head through the doorway all the same and looked over the appliances.
A fridge and freezer combo stood on the far wall. He knew it would be empty but he went over to it and checked anyway. On his way back to the living room he opened the oven and the few cupboards but they were unused and dusty from neglect.

He sighed wishing this sort of process was quicker but Mycroft knew he had to be thorough. After decades of sending his little brother he couldn’t do a worse job.

With a sigh Mycroft padded up the carpeted stairs, using his torch to scan important locations as he went, such as the bannister and the walls at ankle height. Not even a scuff mark appeared beneath the bright light.

Each of the three bedrooms contained a single or double bed frame with a clean, barely used mattress. None of them had a single stain or blemish although he noticed the surfaces weren’t perfectly even. They had been slept on, but just like the couch the occupants had protected them from the transference of any dirt, sweat or substance.

He took his time to look over the floor around each one, hoping to find a hair or flake of skin, but he could spot neither. The bathroom was equally as unhelpful. The shower looked like it had been hosed down and the faint smell of bleach lingered in the air. Whoever was in charge of these men, he had them being far more careful than terrorists of their type usually were.

After two hours of combing the house for clues, Mycroft gave up and headed back to his car. Other than the small scraping of dirt he’d found nothing. It made him feel a little better about the competence of his own men as they’d reported a similar story, but it didn’t solve his problem. Somehow the terrorist cell was staying one step ahead of him.

Once he was on the way back to his house, Mycroft thought over everything he knew and had done in response to the recent threat. He had under cover operatives in Ukraine, Russia and South Korea as well as several working on the case in London, but so far none of them had found anything useful. He knew if he sent his brother to one of the countries the information might be found immediately, but the British best weren’t normally so ineffective. He also knew his brother disliked leaving London almost as much as Mycroft disliked being anywhere but the house or club.

He sighed and knew he would have to do some more digging himself. At least until Sherlock snapped out of whatever notion he’d got himself into over Amelia. She wasn’t ready to help with the sort of work he needed, that was something he knew even she would admit.
By the time the car arrived at his house grey clouds had pulled in and covered over the sun sufficiently to bring an early evening. It would rain, something that had happened surprisingly little for November in England.

“Have this taken to my brother,” Mycroft said as he got out the car and gave the envelope to Daniels. “Be careful with the contents.”

Daniels nodded and tucked it into his own pocket, ensuring it remained the same way up. It might take a day or two for Sherlock to get around to the experiment and then another few days for him to bother passing the information on to Mycroft but it was some progress.

Once inside Mycroft went straight to his study. He was late for his afternoon tea, but the usual tray with teapot full of hot water was there. The biscuits weren’t. He clamped his mouth shut over the desire to yell for some, knowing he had told his housekeeper not to bring them for a few weeks. Although his supernatural abilities gave him a younger man’s metabolism, he still had to be careful what he ate. If he wanted to keep to a healthy weight he needed to manage his diet.

When he pulled open the nearest desk drawer he noticed the thud as his spare mobile phone jerked against the edge. The light on the bottom flashed green to let him know it had a message. He frowned.

Only Amelia Jones had the number and it was quite a large coincidence for her to be contacting him today if his brother hadn’t followed through on his threat and told her about his difficulties. As he grabbed the device he started to think of all the ways he would punish Sherlock for the betrayal. When he managed to pull the text up on screen the lines on his forehead deepened even further.

Stage 2?

Her question gave nothing away but impatience and definitely didn’t give him an indication of why she’d decided to message him now.

Is your lack of patience the only reason you messaged? I won’t reward impatience.

Mycroft pressed the send button before he thought that his message sounded angry, but he wouldn’t apologise for it. If she chose to message him because of something Sherlock had said to her it would only fuel the temper that already simmered. It didn’t take long for her to respond. He flicked the screen on again hoping she had a good answer for him.

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound impatient, I just noticed that it has been ten weeks since you last sent me a message. As always, I await your instructions.

He exhaled and considered the reply. If Sherlock had prompted her she’d have said. Lying to him wasn’t something she’d risk when she was so eager to learn from him.

After leaning back in his chair he thought over her request. Ten weeks was a long time to leave her without a lesson of some kind, but he’d had little time to think about it since their last communication. It would take little effort from him to begin the second stage of her teaching and he knew just the person to start her off. He used his main phone to send instructions to one of his agents before typing a one word reply and sending it to Amelia.

Tomorrow.

Memoirs of a Geisha: A Review

I watched the film of this some time ago not realising it was a book and therefore accidentally breaking my don’t watch before reading rule. But I’ve finally read the book and having done so I’m pleased I watched the film first.

memoira of a geishaThe beginning of the book gives a very rich and more understandable history to Sayuri’s life and how she ended up in the Geisha home but doesn’t drag or weigh down the story. There’s a lot of description and culture that’s very interesting that complements what’s in the film, explaining some of the different things we see without going over the top.

I loved the way she looked at the world, her innocence and simple desire to live life in a happy way. It wasn’t an easy life and she often had to work hard for what she wanted but she was inspiring.

I also really liekd the last part. It elaborated much more than the film did on her relationship with the Chairman and his friend Nobu, making her decisions feel mroe real and in character than the film did.

My one problem with the book was actually finding out it was entirely fictional. Both the film and the beginning of the book imply heavily that the main character is a real person and the book’s story really happened. I found myself feeling quite upset when the back mentioned that it was fictional.

Although it doesn’t change that the book is good, it changed how inspiring the book is in a real world context and is something I find I really don’t like about some books. It’s now the third that’s really made me feel gutted that it wasn’t true after implying that it was and I wish authors would stop doing it.

Finding Inspiration

Life often has a way of making things feel dull, routine and just downright unfun. Even when doing the thing you love for a job sometimes it feels like a chore. The constant daily grins of meeting word counts, fixing errors and finding a way to market the books already published can be wearing despite the love of creating and telling stories. This can lead to ideas going stale and a certain loss in quality of writing.

When life gets like this I realise that sometimes it’s good to take a break, let the mind rest and refind the love of the job. There are several ways I try this.

Enjoying other good stories. Whether this is reading or watching them, I occasionally find that nothing reignites my passion for creating a good story quite like delving into someone elses does and being taken along for the ride. Sometimes one little line or spark of an idea makes all the difference. And at worst I’ve given my mind a rest and enjoyed something relaxing and interesting.

Getting out into nature. Going outside, getting a complete change of scenary and also getting a little exercise can often help me relax, refocus and get back into the right mindspace to enjoy writing again. Sometimes the routine and sameness of each day is what’s making it hard to focus. Going somewhere else and seeing something new can be the little bit of change needed to make the world feel fresh and interesting again.

Trying something different. Sometimes the problem is writing the same sort of story over and over again. I find it can really break open my writing to try a new challenge. Often trying to write in a new genre or a new style can break the monotony and at the same time be a great learning experience to bring back to the usual stories.

Fixing a problem. Occasionally the blockage is unrelated to the writing and is an issue or undealt with conflict in another area of life. It can be very hard to stir up the emotions and creativity needed to write about one circumstance when another in our own life is commandeering all our emotional energy. It can help to down tools, work out a satisying resolution to a problem and then come back to work knowing our quality of life has improved or is improving thanks to the effort we’ve put in elsewhere. Doing our dream job so much the rest of life suffers won’t make us any happier in the long run.

I’ve found that often when I don’t feel inspired to write the above, or a combination of them eventually lead to me getting back into my writing, but I’m sure there are other fixes to the problem too. If you find other things work please let me know in comments or email etc.