Tag-Archive for » Historical «

Highland Soldiers 1 – The Enemy: A Review

I picked up a copy of this romance novel when I noticed it was free on Amazon and offered to review it for the author.

As the cover suggests this is a pretty typical Highlander romance story. Normally I find romances a little difficult to read as I want more to the plot than a lot offer but I can’t say that was a problem with this novel. The plot took from page 1 and kept going right to the end. If anything I felt a little overwhelmed sometimes with how much was going on around the main couple.

I adored Mari and Callum as well as most of the rest of the characters (I don’t think I was meant to like a few of them) and routed for them throught the story. I almost cried at several points during the book but I can’t say why because that would spoil the plot.

All in all a brilliant romance with plenty of action, strife and emotion to keep you turning the page. I’ll definitely read more from this author.

Book Cover Cubes

I’ve just had the most amazing fan make the most amazing tribute/present for me ever. A design for a book cover cube.

Doesn’t it look amazing! Not only is it a really lovely thing for someone to make for me, it’s exactly the sort of thing that appeals to my brain. I used to be the kid who spent ages putting together models made out of this sort of thing and had a lot of fun Sunday afternoon making up another from the extra sheet I was given.

I’m also going to get a pdf of the design via email so I should be able to make more of these gorgeous things and this awesome fan doesn’t seem to be too opposed to the idea of making different designs as I get more covers and creating cubes with genre themes or series books on them.

I have a feeling lots of them together is going to look amazing, even two looks better than one and I’m super excited about having them as extras when people buy books off me etc. I think they need to have something inside them though. Any suggestions (other than chocolate, cause let’s face it everything is better with chocolate)? And who wants one?

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.

The Promise: A Review

I was given a copy of this novel by the author in return for my honest opinion of it. It’s the first book in the Lady Quill Chronicles.

Let me start by saying I love the olde worlde sort of setting so I was fairly sure I’d enjoy this book and enjoy it I did. The characters were all varied and interesting and I adored Adele.

The premise for the books plot was interesting, although I felt it resolved a little too quickly and easily for my liking. All the characters seemed a little too quick to forgive but it was only a small niggle. The book has a pretty fast pace, not dwelling long on any one thing which may have lent itself to feeling too fast over some bits, but I felt the pacing was justified for the most part.

The book also seems to be written in a very omnipresent sort of viewpoint (as I believe this authors previous book was) and moved between the thoughts and feelings of all the main characters. Very occasionally this was confusing but I think it may have been because there were quite a few more characters in this book as I know I didn’t get confused in the previous book that had the same style.

I also noticed an improvement in the writing of the author and look forward to reading more, especially in this series.

Character Spotlight: Alexander Hayes

Also known as Captain Hayes, this is the male counterpart character in With Proud Humility. As I said with the last one of these I did. If you haven’t read the book already it might be worth checking it out at the above link. I will try to keep spoilers at a minimum but the point of these blogs is that they are extras to compliment the books I write.

With Proud Humility is the first of my published novels and the basic idea popped into my head while I was in the shower one day. The initial section that came to me was the meeting between Hayes and Marie and then the bit, a couple of months down the line when they are on the island and there’s that big decision moment for Hayes that he’s forced to make by the villian. The story and characters sort of grew out of there really but I think I owe the inspiration to a couple of people.

I’d decided that I wasn’t really going to write any more not long after I got to Uni and it wasn’t until a friend called Dan asked why I stopped that I realised I didn’t really know why. I’d always loved writing and nothing had changed.

Captain Hayes

Hayes was soon making himself known and sharing space in my head and while I was getting to know him I realised he was a bit of a cross between Jack Sparrow and another friend of mine called Dylan (who happened to be pretty good friends with Dan). Although, he ended up a lot more like Dylan and a bit like Sean Bean by the time I’d finished and less like Jack Sparrow.

Dylan, Dan and me played and MMO called Puzzle pirates (featured right) and Dylan was our Captain, which is, I suppose, where the resemblance came from. But Sean Bean is definitely who I’d want to play him if Hollywood ever decided to turn my swashbuckling epic into a film.

When I first had Hayes in my head I thought he was going to be my antagonist and Vane would be a very minor character but as I explored the characters further I realised he would have this major turning point where he would choose something good over something evil and I couldn’t condemn him to the depths of evilness.

Despite this book being almost completely written from Marie’s POV I always seemed to know what Hayes was thinking, even when Marie didn’t. I probably knew him and his ambitions and goals better than I did her. Something about this character just spoke to me.

He had seen a lot of life before ever meeting Marie and seemed quite happy doing his own thing and being his own boss. His crew adore him and know they’ll fare well, get paid well, and have plenty of adventure along the way. Like Marie he wasn’t entirely happy with the way his social class worked and didn’t respond well to the expectations of his parents. This led to him leaving home and buying his first ship at an early age.

I don’t think Hayes and Marie really realised it themselves, but this probably led to him falling in love with her. She was everything his mother wasn’t. She bucked the trend, did what she wanted and although she infuriated him for not just falling in with his plans, she also proved she wanted similar things to him. To be free to be herself in a social class full of rules and regulations.

Hayes is one of those sorts of people that’s able to adapt to anything. He thinks fast and nothing much fazes him, except being disobeyed, so he’ll be pretty calm and collected no matter what happens.

He’s got boundaries (evidenced by how un-harshly he treats Marie about half way through the book) but he is willing to sacrifice a few things to reach his goals. Probably because he understands the rules are different in 19th century Caribbean compared to 19th Century England. The Caribbean is cuthroat and only the strong survive.

Oh and on top of that he’s an excellent sword-fighter. Well, you’d kinda have to be wouldn’t you? With all those ship to ship battles and the boarding that would be required. Thankfully sword-fighting was something any respectable gentleman could learn when growing up and it was considered to be the height of fashion to wear the cutlass when going about England. One of the few useful things about being in the first class. Although, he takes this a step further when he teaches Marie but he did it as much for himself as her. It was his way of saying he also didn’t agree with society and it’s ridiculous rules, which was the one major thing Marie and him have in common.

Les Miserables: A Review

I finally got the chance to go see this film at the cinema and went with two of my girl friends on a girl date.

The film started with a very intense scene where Hugh Jackman’s character was a slave under the watchful scrutiny of Russel Crowe’s character. The animosity between these two could be felt right away and these two really knew how to stare each other down.

Right before the film started there was a lot of noise and talking going on in the cinema screen I found myself in and I have to admit I was a little concerned that we had a few of those sorts of people who like to talk their way through movies and generally fidget and be annoying, but less than two minutes in the entire cinema was silent and totally enraptured by the performance.

I’ve never seen the show in theatre and I know quite a few people have said it’s not as good but I’d like to say that although it may not be as good that doesn’t mean this film is bad. It just means that the excellence this film delivered is even more excellent in theatre.

The casting was pure perfection. Hugh Jackman’s singing was emotional and so believable and closely followed by Hathaway’s rendition of I dreamed a dream. And I really don’t understand the people who said Russell Crowe mucked it up. He did a fine job in a role that I think suited him really well.

It’s hard to say which bit I liked more, but Jackman did steal the show, by a whisker’s breadth. I can see why they gave him a golden globe for this. I’ve never sat and watched a film before where I wanted the constant tugging at my emotions to continue. I cried, laughed, cried some more, felt like my heart might break on behalf of the characters, smiled, and then sobbed and I didn’t want it to stop!

On top of all that was the amazing amount of challenging stuff in terms of being a follower of Jesus. There were some heartbreakingly difficult choices for the characters to make and many of them included some element of their belief in God. I’ve honestly never been so challenged on a personal level about the choices I make when life deals a crap hand. But I also never felt at any point like the faith side of this was being rammed down my throat. It was melded in with everything else and added to the dimensions of each character.

I’ll definitely be getting this on blu-ray when it comes out and I’m highly tempted to go see it at the cinema again while I can. The books also on my to-read list. A beautiful story, wonderfully told.

Storykeeper: A Review

I was gifted a copy of this eBook in return for a review. This is a historical American Indian novel based on some scrolls that were found and translated from the native language.

I studied this area of American history in school and while it was quite a number of years ago now it still made me eager to read this book. I was not let down in the slightest. This was the perfect book to finish off last year with and one of the best books I had the pleasure of reviewing in 2012.

The storytelling structure of the book appealed to my own nature and each different timeline being talked about felt real and fresh. I could imagine every little detail described yet nothing felt over described or dragged out. The balance of narrative and pacing was spot on and over the few days that I read this book I kept finding myself thinking about the characters and being eager to sit back down and delve into their journeys.

I really can’t recommend the book highly enough.

With Proud Humility: From start to finish

With the first novel of mine finally finished and in print I thought I’d share the timeline of how things went in writing it. This is also my 100th blog and I figured a nice way to mark me actually being relatively successful at blogging.

6th April 2007

A discussion with one of my friends online resulted in me having an idea for a book (while in the shower)

I then wrote the first 600 words or so in a frenzy of writing delight. I hadn’t written in well over a year and it felt very good. I vowed then and there that I would finish the book.

9th April 2007

I uploaded a polished version of the first 600 words or so to the Wiki page for the society of the MMO I’m playing (puzzle pirates, yes I still play). I got 5 people in the society reading it, including the friend that sparked it.

Over the next month I wrote and uploaded 4 more chunks of approx 600 words each.

November 2007

I realised I had totally forgotten about the book again and needed to continue. I wrote another 2k words that month. I also attended a writers meeting and took what I had along. It’s the first time my husband took me wanting to write seriously. It’s was also the first time I really begin to take it seriously.

24th December 2007

I was bored and didn’t know what to do while waiting for Christmas to come so I wrote some more, bringing the total up to approx 7k words. I also told the first few other people that I was considering writing as a career. I’d finally realised I loved writing even if I didn’t understand what that meant.

January 2008

I started to take the book more seriously as a whole and renamed a bunch of characters as well as rewrote some really bad chunks. I also finally plotted out the rest of the book chapter by chapter.

February 2008

I handed my notice in at my job, wanting a less stressful one with less hours so I could spend more time writing.

April 2008-September 2008

I started temping in various locations, writing in between short term temp jobs. By the end of September I had got approx 20k words done and was introducing myself as a writer to people I met. I still attended any of the writers meet ups I can in Bath. I also made my first estimate on the final book count, around 70k words.

October 2008

I finally got a part time job and settled into a writing routine. Writing approximately 2k words per week on a good week and about 500 on a bad. I really wasn’t very disciplined but I was making progress.

January 2009

I had about 35k words and felt like half way there.

At this point I started researching publishing options from the traditional way, to Print on demand, to completely self funding a print run. I decided I didn’t really like any of them that much  which was typical me really. I always want to change a revolutionise things.

I did have a natural leaning towards print on demand though. I didn’t like the gatekeeper mentality of  the traditional route and I couldn’t afford to fund a print run large enough to make it worth doing. Unfortunately I also couldn’t find a Print on demand service that didn’t charge a huge amount for not a lot of actual gain.

29th January 2009

I had my first meeting with a guy called Chris Turner because I’d seen a film trailer idea of his on facebook and offered to help him write the script. I’d only met him once before at a wedding we had both helped at and I’m not entirely sure why I offered to help him, I just couldn’t stop myself.

We then meet up  at least once a week for the next 4 months which seriously cuts into my writing time because I typed up what we hand wrote together.

15th July 2009

I managed to scrape together enough money to stop working completely and live off my very lovely husband for a few months. He was by now very aware I was 100% sure not only do I want to be a writer but I wanted to be a entrepreneur of sorts. I still didn’t get any more writing done on my book, however, as I was too busy trying to raise  money for the new company I’d set up with Chris and get my head around my new role.

September 2009

Somehow my money was still lasting and I still didn’t have to go back to work so I turned my full time attention back to the book I promised myself I would finish 2.5 years earlier. At this point I still didn’t really know what I was doing. I just knew I wanted to be creative and write.

16th October 2009

I filled up my first A4 pad of hand written book (I don’t work well typing straight away) and moved on to my second, feeling very very satisfied with myself. I had about 55k words at this point and realised it was going to be a good bit longer than 70k words, more like 85k in total. I promised myself it would be finished before the end of the year.

31st December 2009 7:45pm

I finished the first draft of the book. It had a temporary title – All’s fair in love and war. I kinda liked it but not enough to keep it. It’s 88k words long. I also only had 15 minutes until the new year’s eve party I was hosting started. Needless to say I hit party mode full swing (I worked on Christmas day to get it finished).

8th January 2010

I emailed it out to three beta readers after having a preliminary edit myself. Over the next 6 months it got edited a total of 4 times and had a lot added and taken out.

July 2010

I finally felt I’d finished enough for my liking. I got back to researching ways to publish. Because I didn’t have the money for any of the other options I knew about I eventually decide on traditional publishing and went through the agonies of writing a synopsis of several different lengths as well as a query letter and email.

August 2010

I’d finally picked some publishers I wanted to apply to and finished fretting about my query letters etc. I applied to one by email only putting in a two sentence synopsis as they asked, nothing else. I got rejected. I found I didn’t actually care that much. I mean I know it’s not nice being rejected and I was angry they didn’t even bother to read a longer synopsis or even look at the book at all but I’m not actually that bothered.

I used the rejection as an excuse to get people to stop nagging me to apply to more publishers until I could figure out what I did really want. I think a lot of friends and family were a little fed up with me at this point. It had been ages since I’d started and I often had people asking leading questions about the book. To be fair I was equally as fed up. I couldn’t find the option I wanted and didn’t think it existed.

30th October 2010

Someone online overheard me telling someone else I was trying to get published and asked why I didn’t try self publishing on kindle as an ebook. I vaguely remembered hearing of the Kindle but I dismissed the idea as not being good enough.

31st October 2010

I couldn’t sleep. What I was told about ebooks kept coming back to me. I googled them and found several blogs and articles by people saying ebooks are revolutionising the way the world reads and even some traditionally published authors are now self publishing to kindle. Mostly Joe Konrath. I hashed this over with several people. Some I knew would say ‘no, go traditional’ others I thought would go for the ebook thing and some I thought wouldn’t give an opinion. Surprisingly all but one said go for it.

1st November-2nd November 2010

I spend two days thinking about and researching nothing else, trying to decide what I wanted to do. I didn’t like what the traditional publishing industry is, never had and really didn’t feel settled or happy applying to them. I also didn’t want to just self publish something that was rubbish and add to the stereotype that self published authors are crap and not worth considering.

Eventually my heart over ruled my head and I went with what I felt most peaceful about. Ebook publishing for the win.

I did know I needed to really make sure my book was up to scratch so I made a short list of people I wanted to help me get the book edited. I couldn’t afford a professional copy edit as at this point I’d been out of work for over 15 months. Fortunately I had a list of 2 other writers, someone that used to edit for a magazine, and a few good friends with a good eye for detail. In some cases I had a volunteer or two ask to help out proof reading and I thought more couldn’t hurt.

I also made a request to an artist I knew for a front cover.

The provisional launch date I had in my head was December 1st although the few people I said this to all laughed at me. They thought it was going to take me until the following year at the earliest.

27th November 2010

All the editing was finished and done and I sat and waited for all the cover art I needed as well as got my book formatted correctly for the kindle.

1st December 2010

I found out my front cover art wasn’t going well. I quickly emailed or facebooked every person I knew who was a graphic artist of any kind and asked them if they had the time and expertise I needed.

3rd December 2010

Keith Mountifield stepped in and we worked until almost midnight together making my ebook cover design.

4th December 2010

I got up early to upload everything and finally hit the publish button. The formatting was awful and needed to be completely re-hauled. I started totally over, stripping the book of all its formatting and reapplying all of it again. By 4pm I’d managed it.

The book was launched as an ebook.

December 2010-February 2011

I marketed the book like crazy. Trying to get reviews from review blogs as well as customer reviews. Lots of people wouldn’t review it because it was either an ebook only or self published. I had to admit I got very annoyed about this but persevered anyway. Cost so far £7.75 (sending printed manuscript to a reviewer, who then never reviewed it).

25th February 2011

I started working with Keith Mountifield on a website to help promote the book and the other stuff I was doing by then. Tony Mountifield kindly agreed to host it for me. (I love my in-laws, they are a very talented bunch of people) Cost so far £19.75 (registering domain name).

28th February 2011

Website was up and running, despite me having no internet for over 24 hours in between starting and finishing.

23rd March 2011

I researched ebook tips on marketing and getting reviews and it brought me back to Joe Konrath’s blog. The days blog was about his print books and how he prints them through a subsidiary company of Amazon.com – CreateSpace. I registered that he printed his books himself but thought nothing more of it, instead I looked for advice on how to maximise ebook sales.

24th March 2011

I couldn’t sleep again. I kept thinking about print books and Createspace. I had to check it out. I suddenly realised, not only are they the perfect Print on Demand company to go alongside my ebook choice but they didn’t charge (you can pay $39 for a higher chunk of royalties if you wish, but don’t have to). They were just what I had been looking for over 2 years ago.

I cried.

I then told a bunch of people. Including Keith Mountifield, who would be my person of choice for making the front cover, spine, and back cover (seriously this guy rocks). We talked about the things I’d need to do a much higher quality cover for a printed book and he gave me a list of things I’d have to get.

25th march 2011

I blogged a giveaway and began trying to get everything I needed. Lots of people helped. I also reformatted the book for print, deciding on a 5.5′ by 8.5′ book with 274 pages.

1st May 2011

I had my first completely independent 5 star review of the book from the Founder of the ePublishing Consortium. I was over the moon with this as it was the first person that didn’t know me in some way who had given me a 5 star. It also got me included on the reviewers Amazon list that was just for the top Indie books in his opinion. I then had many more reviews roll in over the next few weeks.

15th May 2011

The ebook was on promotion for the rest of the month at only 99 cents to help raise awareness. I had more sales during this period than the rest of the year to that date and was only 1 off doubling my total lifetime sales for the book.

June 2011

I decided to keep the price at 99 cents as an ebook as it kept sales at a slightly higher level than at $2.99, also had a few more 5 star reviews roll in.

1st July 2011

Made the print versions cover with my designer, Keith Mountifield. We also set up the publisher Red Feather Writing, it’s website and it’s logo. Cost so far £40.70 (the cover needed me to buy the gloves, rose and old cards)

5th July 2011

I uploaded everything needed to Createspace. Had the files rejected.

7th July 2011

Tried again. Got rejected because of the bleed not being obviously there. I then swapped a few messages with the Createspace support team and with Keith trying to figure out why it wasn’t working.

August 2011

Took a break from trying to figure out the files issues to focus on other stuff and have a holiday.

22nd September 2011

Continued trying Createspace’s review process, encountering many different problems after reformatting and reediting. A lot of it didn’t really make sense. Keith eventually redid the whole cover again in a different program.

14th October 2011

Finally gained approval for my file and ordered my proof. Cost so far £63.28

17th October 2011

My proof arrived. Checked it through and found everything to be in order, I believe I may have cried at this point too. I then approved the book for printing and publishing and ordered the first 50 books, due for delivery mid December. Started planning the book launch party. I also began taking pre-orders. Cost so far £278.64

11th November 2011

The first box of my books arrived and I began signing.

17th December 2011

I know this dates in the future but it’s when I’ve actually scheduled my book launch for. It’s going to be in the Starbucks on Bond Street in bath and anyone is welcome to join from 1pm onwards.

And that’s the whole journey. Well done to anyone who actually read the whole thing and made it all the way to the bottom here.

Sense and Sensibility: A Review

Having now read the book and watched the film from 1995 I am going to review both.

The Book

As always Jane Austen manages to make many witty insightful remarks about English society and it’s one of the romances I find most tense of hers. It really does seem about two thirds of the way in, that there is no way she could possibly pull a happy-ever-after out of the mess of the lives involved. She does, however, and reasonably satisfactorally. One of the sisters at least manages to get her first choice man and while the other sister’s happy-ever-after doesn’t go quite the way she wished I actually like this.

Jane Austen shows that sometimes what we think we want isn’t actually what we need. Sometimes the man that panders to our every indulgent whim isn’t as good as the man who presents us with steady feelings both of love and wisdom, self restraint and devotion. She presents the idea that feelings of love can fade when only flattery and merrymaking are involved but can be strengthened by a consistent companion who provides for and works with their partner in making a future. Essentially she makes a point that the feeling of love isn’t as good as the actions of love.

While this is a point I highly approve of I have to admit it’s not my favourite book. I actually think Miss Austen could have done with an editor who removed a little of the padding from the book to make it shorter but more to the point. That someone would have to understand the whole point of the book, however, to ensure they didn’t remove anything important.

The Film

This is where my love of the film comes in. The film has, for the most part, managed just that. It’s removed some of the slightly uneccessary complications and just included the major plot points. It’s also removed quite a few of the extra characters that didn’t really add anything.

I can also say the acting was completely amazing. Every actor did their part so well. Hugh Grant even managed to pull off Edward Ferrars. My favourite was by far Emma Thompson though who played the eldest Miss Dashwood. Coincidentally she was also the writer and that’s something I loved finding out. When an artist is allowed to do more than one art well I always admire them. So many people seem to think artists have to stay within one realm when often the experience in one type of art can lend understanding to another type. Before I rant about this I’ll go back to the acting part, however.

I also really liked Alan Rickman’s part as Colonel Brandon and Hugh Laurie’s part as Mr Palmer. While neither of them played huge roles they did their’s perfectly. It’s like there was some huge understanding among the entire cast that although the budget wasn’t that large and there were too many of them to have huge parts they all acted their socks off. They truly turned something less likely to do well into a delightful film full of gorgeous historic grace and charm.

This is confession time, however, as the first two times I watched this film I don’t think I really appreciated the acting talent and issues within the story. It was enjoyable enough but it wasn’t until my third watch that this film actually made me take notice of the acting, story and feeling in every scene. I highly recommend people watch it as long as they promise to do so with the seriousness of the film and an open heart to the feelings the actors so lovingly portay.

As Sure As The Dawn: A Review

As Sure As The Dawn is the third and final book in the Mark Of The Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers.

The third book follows one of the more minor characters from the first two parts. Atretes, the German from the Chatti tribe who was taken from his village and forced to be a gladiator, is the main character with the Christian widow, Rizpah as his love interest. It starts off in Ephesus, not long after Atretes has finally won his freedom. Atretes and Rizpah intitally do not like each other very much but they have a common bond, which eventually soothes their relationship, in the form of Atretes son, Caleb. Rizpah is employed as his wet nurse.

They then set out on the very long journey from Ephesus, to Germany and the Chatti tribe. Both characters have a very different approach to travelling and they clash frequently. This often results in Atretes getting the whole family into some kind of danger and then having to be rescued from it by one of the other Christians in the travelling group. Both characters are quite hot tempered and stubborn and it causes many interesting moments for them both.

As it is usually with Francine Rivers, the locations were very accurately and stunningly described and all her research was very well done. I also found these characters even easier to relate to, especially Rizpah. There was something about the way she thought, felt and her reaction to Atrete’s temper that I could understand. I may have had something in common with her stubbornness too, just maybe.

For me the magic was very much in the ending of this book though. It was very well written with plenty of unexpected but fitting twists and turns. I gobbled the book up very late one evening and couldn’t go to sleep until I had finished it.

Definitely a 5 out of 5 stars for this one.