Saturday, 19 November 2016

A Scarf's Dreams

Here's another story I wrote for Square Pegs. I was given ten minutes to write a story from the perspective of an object I had with me. I chose my scarf. This is the unedited version.

A Scarf's Dreams

I'm a good scarf, I am. All white and cream and golden sequins, warmer than anything. At least, in my opinion.
I've been around a bit, wrapped around a few people's necks, been to a lot of places. Been on holiday to the New Forest (those donkeys, though). Been to Chester Zoo too. Got to say that those elephants were my favourite. They've got nice big necks and really long noses. Looks like they catch cold easily. I could keep them very warm, make sure they don't get sick. Someone should make a scarf for an elephant. I'm sure it would make them happy and keep them from getting ill. I worry about stuff like that, you see?
What does a scarf have to worry about, I hear you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked, 'cause no one ever seems to care what a scarf thinks. I'll tell you. I worry about a bunch of stuff. I worry about getting thrown away. Every time winter passes and I get put away for next year, I shiver and wait in dread for the day my owner'll get a new scarf and toss me away. Then winter comes and so do I, safe for another few months. I also worry about keeping my owner warm enough. I don't want them to get sick. Imagine if they got sick and died? Like in all those classic novels (yeah, that's right, I read). I'd have basically killed my owner by not keeping them warm enough. That's why it's so annoying when they forget me. This isn't a joke! Sickness is serious business. Putting aside how broken-up I'd be over losing my owner, I've got dreams of my own!
Yeah, scarfs have dreams too. I once knew a scarf who dreamed of fame. Or rather, of being owned by a famous person. Specifically the Queen. Very high ambitions, that one. But not me. No, my dream is simple.
I want to be an heirloom.
I want to be passed down from generation to generation, with lots of stories to tell. I want to have children look at me with wide eyes when they learn how old I am, how long I've been in their family. Can you imagine it? I'd be able to say to all those snooty scarfs (you know the ones, the ones all made of silk and all nice and shiny) yeah, you're real nice. Very shiny and silky. But are you a family heirloom? I think not.

See? Pretty simple dream really, I think. Not hard to be fulfilled. I've just got to avoid getting a hole. Or letting my owner get sick. 'Cause then they'd die and I wouldn't be an heirloom then, I'd just be that one scarf who let their owner die because they were bad at warmth.

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Bronze Statue

Hey guys!
Something that you probably don't know is that recently I've been attending a series of workshops about writing down in London run by Mainspring Arts. These are happening on various Saturdays over the course of a few months. Over the course of it, I'll write a separate short story and that'll be published in an anthology with the other writers attending. 
So yeah, pretty exciting stuff. 
This isn't really a blog-post, that won't be coming until December, but I wrote a bunch of stuff as part of these workshops and I thought I'd share one of the stories I've written. So here you go.


The Bronze Statue


Annalise had not gone in to steal the bronze statue, not at all. In fact, she had gone to the ball with the express intention of donating to the charity in question. Run by the Count Broccio, a tall, imposing man with beady green eyes and grey-and-black hair, the ball had promised to be quite the event, with even the most reclusive of barons in attendance. The promise that the Count's statue, an artefact discovered in Peru by the Count's son would be on display had only added to the attraction, which had no doubt been the intention. Overall, it was certainly nothing that a high-society young woman like Annalise would want to miss.
She had strode inside the glittering ballroom, her black rhinestone dress swaying as she walked, ready to show off her charms and greet the Count himself. But then she caught sight of the statue in question and her fingers began to itch.
As a respectable young woman, of course, Annalise would never dream of stealing such a priceless artefact. As a retired thief, Annalise had already begun planning out how she would go about acquiring it within seconds of setting eyes on it.
It was truly a stunning specimen, eyes made of embedded emeralds, old markings etched into the sides, coming round in a spiral to the centre where a single ruby stood. Probably worth billions, Annalise estimated.
Not that that was important. She wasn't planning on selling it.
As she inched her way around the floor, pausing every now and then to send a smile to the young men around, she sorted through her options. The simple swipe-and-run perhaps?
But no. The guards at the doorways would catch her. Perhaps a switch? She'd used that one before when stealing an artwork in Venice.
Yet again, no. The room was lit only by candles. To put out the lights would be no small task and she would surely be noticed. And without darkness, a switch simply would not work.
Annalise paused as a young man stepped around her, one hand outstretched.
“May I have this dance?” he asked with a little too much eagerness.
Annalise took his hand with a brilliant smile. “You may.”
Across the dance-floor they moved, elegantly twisting in and out. No words were exchanged, but that was just fine with Annalise. She spun, bringing the young man closer and closer to the gorgeous statue in the centre.
He seemed almost dopey, his blonde hair flipping into his eyes as he moved, a bright smile on his face. His white gloves were smooth against her hands, far better than the sweatiness that Annalise had experienced before with many a dance partner.
Annalise glanced at the statue, then back at him.
Ah. Of course. A simple manoeuvrer, but one no less useful for all its simplicity.
With that thought, she turned her most stunning smile on the young man who seemed to melt underneath it. As the dance came to an end, he escorted her off the floor.
“May I have the honour of knowing your name, sir?” Annalise asked. “My name is Annalise.”
“My name is Warren, my lady,” said the young man, no less dopey now he was off the dance-floor than he had been on it.
Annalise crushed her feelings of satisfaction. It wasn't done yet. Any good thief knew not to crow too soon. She took his arm, flipping open her fan and fanning herself with it.
“Shall we adjourn to the refreshments table then, Warren?”
Warren's eyes went even brighter. “We shall, Annalise.”
With a silvery smile, Annalise led him to the table, taking a glass of punch for herself and watching him as he ate his fill.
“Do you come from far away?” Annalise asked, sipping at her punch. The bitterness of the alcohol slid down her throat with a burn. She grimaced, placing the punch back on the table.
“Not at all,” smiled Warren. “I come from fairly near here. I own an estate named Woodburn, perhaps you've heard of it.”
“Ah, yes, Woodburn,” said Annalise knowingly. She had not heard of it. “Stunning place.”
Warren nodded in agreement, eating a spring roll with one hand.
“I myself have travelled widely, though more recently I have settled within London,” said Annalise, taking her punch up once more and valiantly sipping at it.
Warren's eyes lit up looking rather like an overly excited puppy. “Indeed?” he asked in a vain attempt to hide his interest.
Annalise nodded. “Of particular interest to me are art galleries and museums,” she said. “I have travelled in order to see some of the most priceless artefacts around.”
Warren brightly smiled. “Perhaps you can tell me more,” he said eagerly. “I too have travelled. Perhaps we could exchange experiences.”
Annalise smiled back. “Perhaps we could. But first, might we adjourn to one of the smaller rooms? I feel rather faint, large crowds have never been my strong suit.” In order to emphasis just how faint she felt, she let herself fall against the table a little, just enough to make the extravagant wine-glasses wobble.
“Ah, yes, of course,” said Warren, quickly slipping his arm around her waist to help her. “Come.”
They made their way out of the main room (and away from that stunning statue) and into a beautifully furnished side-room, with walls made of mahogany panels, a rich-blue painted ceiling and a Turkish rug laid over pale wooden flooring.
Annalise allowed herself to drop onto one of the cosy velvet sofas and smiled at Warren. “Thank you,” she said.
Warren smiled back. “You're welcome,” he said, sitting beside her and taking her hand. “Are you feeling any better?”
Annalise made a face (elegantly of course) and sank back. “I feel awfully hot,” she said sadly. “Perhaps I'm running a temperature. Could you perhaps open a window?”
Warren hurried to do exactly that, pushing open a window then returning to her side. He frowned in concern at her, pulling off his lovely white gloves and dropping them on the floor. He reached out to check her temperature. “Your temperature seems fine,” he removed his hand, still frowning. “Shall I go call for a carriage?”
“If you would,” said Annalise thankfully.
She watched him leave the room, all signs of sickness dissipating as the door shut behind him. She leaned forward and picked up the gloves carefully. She glanced inside, catching sight of a label.
“Perfect,” she murmured, slipping them between the seat-cushions, then suffering a sudden relapse.
Warren hurried back inside within minutes, telling her that her carriage was waiting outside. Out she stepped into the cold night air, she alighted into her carriage and left.
Sort of.
After travelling for roughly five minutes, Annalise slipped out of the side of the carriage, gathering up her skirt and landing perfectly on her feet. She slipped back to the grounds and settled down in a bush to wait.
The party continued for hours more, near endless. But finally, as the dark started to lighten ever so slightly, carriages left and the house was left near-empty.
It was time.
Annalise pushed herself to her feet, slipping around the side of the house to where the window remained open. She pushed herself up onto her hands, raising her legs and slipping through with ease. She landed softly on the rug inside, kneeling and listening for talking on the other side.
Nothing.
She stood up and headed back to the couch, reaching between the couch cushions and pulling out the white gloves, pulling them on inside out and skimming the label. PROPERTY OF WARREN MCMOROUGH. It read in such untidy handwriting that it was actually unbearable. Annalise snickered. What sort of idiot would write in their gloves? Well, served him right.
Pushing open the door, she slipped through the halls to the now empty ballroom. The servants too had gone to bed, leaving the statue completely unguarded.
Annalise smirked to herself, waltzing forward and reaching out for the statue. She gripped it with both hands, lifting it up and making sure to touch all over the stand.
She stopped. Hefting the statue, Annalise frowned at it.
It was too light. She leaned forward, focusing on the ruby in the centre.
To the untrained eye, it would look exactly like a ruby, but to Annalise's definitely not-untrained eye it was very blatantly not.
She took a few steps back, staring in shock. Finally her eyes caught on a piece of white paper poking out from under the statue. She pulled it off carelessly, tearing open the envelope and scowling down at the message.
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME, MY LADY.
The paper crumpled in her hand. That handwriting was still unbearably messy. Add to that the 'my lady' on the end and it was unmistakable who'd written it.
Warren.


Friday, 4 November 2016

Beautiful Books 2016: How's It Going?


Hi guys! I'm back this month with another link-up. I know, I know, I swear I'll start writing proper blogposts again in December/January. Promise!
This one's kind of a sequel to last month's link-up. It's supposed to see how you're going with NaNoWriMo. So that's what I'm doing now. It was made by Further Up and Further In and Paper Fury. So head over there to grab the questions and so on. 
One thing I should mention is that I ended up changing the novel that I was writing for NaNoWriMo. I might write a second version of the last link-up answering the questions for this novel. Maybe. 
This novel is a sci-fi-ish story about teenagers in space. It's tons of fun. 
Anyways, here we go!

  • Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?: 

I'm not doing too badly. I'm ahead by a bit, so that's good. I like to try to stay at least one day ahead in NaNoWriMo, so I can conceivably skip a day without worrying. I'm up to 7584 words that I can count for NaNoWriMo, hoping to write more before I go to sleep. I actually have over 10000 words on the novel, but I started it before NaNo, so I can't count those yet. 

  • What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

The first sentence of the whole novel is 'The ship was crashing. ' The first that I wrote for NaNoWriMo is 'The shuttle was big, big enough to fill the hanger.'

  • Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?

I don't even know. I love them all. But probably Jeffrey Waldorf, my rich, pun-obsessed pilot. He's so much fun to write. 
Here's an example of him being fun.

“Okay!” said Jeffrey, far too chipper for someone who’d been up since five in the morning (as he’d revealed to them on the journey here, not saying why). “Let’s go find our coordinator.”
Liam frowned at him. “Do you even know where we’re supposed to go?”
“Nope! Let’s go!”
He ran off, dragging Aron with him. Simon and Liam exchanged glances, following after at a more sedate pace. Once they reached the edge of the room, Liam stepped around him, letting Simon go against the wall. 
Jeffrey and Aron were way ahead, Aron scowling and snapping something at Jeffrey and Jeffrey clearly not listening. They made a sharp turn into one of the rooms. Simon and Liam hurried up, coming to a stop outside it as Jeffrey and Aron came back outside. 
“This way,” said Jeffrey. “We asked a guy.”
He headed off again, this time dragging Liam with him. Simon wondered if he’d been aiming for Aron, or if he wanted a change. 
“He asked the janitor,” said Aron dryly as they started after the two. 
“How does the janitor know?” asked Simon, frowning.
Aron just shrugged. “All-knowing janitor, apparently,” he said, clearly not actually caring about the janitor’s knowledge.

He's so much fun. 

  • What do you love about your novel so far?: 

The humour. I haven't really written a genuinely light-hearted and somewhat comedic story before and I'm having so much fun with it. 

  • Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?: 

Not that I can find right now. I tend to edit a bit as I go along, so any typos are normally corrected pretty quickly.

  • What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?: 

I'm not sure. I like writing the end, I guess, because that's where the climax is. So it's very exciting.

  • What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!:

I have a playlist of music on YouTube (unlisted) specifically for this novel that I listen to as I write. I also tend to have a cup of tea, but that's pretty much it. I normally write in the late afternoon/early evening.
  • How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?

Bit of both. With this story, I've shown what I've written so far to my little sister, but that's as far as I've shared it. Except, of course, for the example above.

  • What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?: 

I find word-wars extremely useful. They get me writing and thinking about the story, even when I'm stuck. So yeah, that's helpful.

  • What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?: 

Well first, I like the advice about just sitting down and writing. Don't necessarily worry about all the plot details and stuff like that, just write. Sorting out that stuff is what editing is for. Give yourself permission to suck, as a lot of people like to say. 
Second, I cannot stress enough how helpful I find music when it comes to writing. Seriously. Stick some music on and I immediately find it easier to write. Give it a go. 
Third, don't worry about failing NaNoWriMo. You might not win this year, but even if you manage five thousand words in the month, that's still more words than you would've written otherwise. So don't stress. (She says, even though NaNoWriMo is the most stressful thing on the planet. Kinda.)

Monday, 10 October 2016

Beautiful Books 2016: Children of the Storm


Hey guys! I know there haven't been any posts for the last couple of months and, as I have quite a few busy months ahead, that probably won't change too much. I'll try and post at least something like this each month, but I can't make any promises. I'll start posting regularly again in December, at least that's the plan. 
Anyway, more importantly, today's post. So, as you might know, each month over on Paperfury and Further Up and Further In, they post the Beautiful People linkup. I've been doing it for a few months now (well, before my impromptu hiatus anyway). Because it's NaNoWriMo in November, this month they've done something a bit different. Beautiful Books. 
The idea is to answer the following list of questions about your WIP for November. I decided to go for one of my darker, more emotional stories to write for this, as I really want to just get it at least kickstarted. So I chose Children of the Storm.


  • What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?: 
    • It's really been the last few months that I've had this idea for. From what I can remember, I think it came from both watching The Man From Uncle and from reading stuff online about Tatooine from Star Wars. The original idea was far closer to The Man From Uncle than what I ultimately ended up with. 
  • Describe what your novel is about!:
    • I really need to get around to writing an actual summary for this. But here goes.
      • In a post-apocalyptic Britain, where nuclear war and famine have destroyed most of civilisation and vastly altered the climate, near anarchy rules. Warlords control most of the territory, enslaving many of the people around.
        Kianna Grey's brother, Ronan, was taken three years ago by the Controllers, a group of people dedicated to restoring order. When Kianna finally finds their main compound, all she finds is her brother gone once more, taken by the warlords, and his traumatised partner who calls herself Grace.
        The two break out of the compound and go to search for Ronan. But, with the Controllers on their tail, desperate to reclaim their soldier and new enemies all around, Kianna and Grace will have to push themselves to the limit to save him. 
  • What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like! 
    • Broken-down cities, torn-up countrysides, grey, an ever-present sense of loss, winds ripping apart buildings and chains around wrists. 
    • Storm imagery. All the storm imagery. Lots of storm imagery. 
    • Think The Last of Us meets The 100, with aspects of the Winter Soldier.




  • Introduce us to each of your characters!
    • Kianna Grey: A bright and cheerful girl of around fifteen years of age. Kianna has near limitless amounts of energy and is near impossible to keep still. She's also very friendly, once her trust has been gained and fiercely loyal to those she cares about. She loves nothing more than being with others and befriending them, making the three years she spent alone incredibly painful. 
    • Grace: A cybernetic, brainwashed super-soldier with incredible amounts of trauma, a truckload of issues and no brain-to-mouth filter. Incredibly sarcastic and incredibly blunt, Grace has absolutely no idea how to interact with other people outside of killing them and it is very, very obvious. Ferociously protective over the only friends she's ever had, Grace is willing to do anything to save Ronan and protect Kianna. 
    • Ronan Grey: A boy of around seventeen years of age, who barely appears in the book due to imprisonment yet still manages to have a personality. Somehow. Also a cybernetic, brainwashed super-soldier with more of a brain-to-mouth filter. As friendly as his sister, though with slightly less bouncing and hugging, Ronan has no trouble with finding allies. Both a lover of poetry and classical literature and a skilled fighter. Ronan taught Grace how to rebel against the Controllers, even giving her the name Grace rather than the number she was taught. A skilled mechanic, Ronan made a great many modifications to his cybernetic body-parts, as well as to Grace's. Can and will steal your marshmallows.
  • How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
    • Does all of the above count? Admittedly mostly the howling. 
  • What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
    • One of the main themes of the novel is about trauma and recovering from it. I'm really looking forward to that, as I feel it's not something that we talk about enough in books. Particularly not in this sort of book. There's also a lot of characters with various mental illnesses and it does get very rough at points. One character has several moments throughout the story of being acutely suicidal and another is dealing with the aftermath of rape. It's not pleasant to write or research, but I'm looking forward to dealing with it and really trying to tackle it in a way that's respectful. 
  • List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
    • Storms: As I mentioned in the aesthetic, storms are super important. Since the apocalypse happened, the climate went strange and now there are really huge, really dangerous storms that occur relatively frequently. It's not too bad if you're underground or in a completely stable shelter, but it's incredibly dangerous to be out in it. One of the cultural things about this world is the emphasis placed on surviving the storm. If you survive the storm with someone, then you're kind of best friends forever. 
    • Animals: Again, since the apocalypse, a lot of animals have mutated and changed both becoming more dangerous and, in some cases, more beautiful. 
    • Culture: As I briefly mentioned in the storm bit, there's actually a large cultural change that I'm hoping to explore. There are folk-tales and dances and stuff like that.
  • What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
    • Kianna
      • Goal: Is to save her brother from the warlords and from the Controllers. 
      • What gets in the way?: Am I allowed to say everything? Fine. The warlords are a particularly big obstacle, since they're so powerful and so are the Controllers. 
  • How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
    • Well, she's a lot stronger by the end. Grace has a good impact on her. She grows a lot more confident. She also finally forgives herself for losing Ronan, as Ronan was only taken because he was saving her. 
  • What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
    • The biggest themes are about trauma and recovery from trauma and about loss and grief and anger. Essentially it's just a ball of emotion, this one.
    • I think I want them to feel...kind of sad, but hopeful too? I mean, it's not going to have a super-happy ending, rather bittersweet really, but I think there'll be a hopeful aspect to it as well. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Beautiful People: July Edition



Hi guys! So today is yet another Beautiful People Questionaire. Once again, credit goes to Paper Fury. For this one, I’ve returned to the tried and true characters from The Gatekeeper Chronicles. This time around, I’ve chosen my character, Marcello Di Mercurio. He’s my main character’s other best friend. Yay, friendship!
So here we go. 

Do they want to get married and/or have children? Why or why not?
I think Marcello’s fairly unsure on this matter. He has no particular urge to get married and, in fact, would probably choose not to simply because his grandparents want him to. He generally likes doing whatever they tell him not to do. Because they’re horrible people. 
What is their weapon of choice? (It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical weapon.) 
Marcello uses a rifle a lot of the time. His other weapon of choice is a sword or rapier and his skinchanging ability. 
What’s the nicest thing they’ve done for someone else, and why did they do it? 
He saves people’s lives a lot...but the nicest thing he’s ever done for someone was probably the time he gave his food away to a little girl who was living on the street. He was starving, in fact he hadn’t eaten in days, and he didn’t have any more money. But he thought she needed it more.
Have they ever been physically violent with someone, and what instigated it? 
Oh yes. Marcello tends to be a fairly violent person by nature, so it wouldn’t take much. He has rather a hair-trigger temper. He broke someone’s arm once, but they did make fun of his dead father so he had a reason. Though it might not be a good reason. 
Are they a rule-follower or a rebel? 
Rebel. Definitely.
Are they organized or messy? 
Messy. So messy. All the mess. 
What makes them feel loved, and who was the last person to make them feel that way? 
Physical affection makes Marcello feel loved, he needs a lot of physical contact. The last person to make him feel loved was his brother, before he graduated from the Academy and became an Elite. That was around two years before the story began. He hasn’t seen him in all that time. 
What do they eat for breakfast? 
He normally only gets porridge for breakfast, but his favourite is blueberry muffins. 
Have they ever lost someone close to them? What happened? 
He lost both his parents when he was six, on his mother’s birthday. He came home to find them dead on the floor. 

What’s their treat of choice? (Or, if not food, how else do they reward themselves?) 
Blueberry muffins. Or sharbat. He loves sharbat. 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

On Planning (Or Rather A Lack of Planning)

Hey guys!
So the other day, I got triggered into a rant about this particular topic by my sister's writing course. My mum and sister are probably laughing somewhere because they know exactly what I'm talking about. What got me ranting, I hear you ask?
This course claimed that the only way to write was to carefully plot out everything and that those of us who just write without a plan are somehow awful writers. 
I'm not sure what this is from, but it's very appropriate.

Yeah, I know. 
So some of you may have figured out that I'm a complete pantser. Sort of. If you're unaware, pantsing is a rather American term for writers who write without planning. Writers who write 'by the seat of their pants', if you will. 'Pants', for those of you who are British, meaning trousers.
Technically this is a sled, but still appropriate. 
I tend to have a basic idea of my characters, a basic idea of the plot and where I'm going and I pretty much always make a Pinterest board for my ideas now. But that's it. 
I don't plan. Like, at all. I normally start writing and figure it out as I go. I plan more in later drafts. An example of this would be The Gatekeeper Chronicles. I've only just written a long-overdue timeline for it. In the second draft. It's good, because it helps me keep events straight and helps me interweave actual events from the First World War into my novel. But I didn't need it for my first draft.
And that was okay.
You right now. Hopefully. 
A piece of writing advice that you may have heard floating around is 'Your first draft will suck. Get over it.' And that was one of the best pieces of advice for my personal writing that I've ever heard. 
I'm kind of a ridiculous perfectionist. If I let myself, then I'll spend my first draft obsessing over plot details, sentence structure and hating myself and my writing for being so awful. I compulsively delete what I've written, so that I never move past the first page.
If I made myself plan out my stories that much, then not only would I get completely bored of the idea (which happened the one time that I planned out a story) but I would be basically giving my inner critic free-reign on my writing. I would fall back into that process of writing, then deleting what I've written, then writing, then deleting what I've written and so on. 
It's a pretty tiring cycle and one that basically ends up making me feel awful. I end up being unable to write and feeling really physically sick every time I so much as look at my word-processor, because I know that's all that's waiting for me.
Me all the time. Except I don't throw computers around.
Yeah. I think you're starting to see why I don't plan that much. 
The thing is there isn't a right or wrong way of writing. I mean, yeah, there's basic grammar rules but not even those aren't set in stone. I once read a book where the lack of proper English or grammar was used for characterisation. You can write however you want. You can write a book like Illuminae that uses mostly pictures or blueprints or chat logs to tell your story. Or you can write a book that drops grammar completely.
I'm not sorry. 
And the same is true of how you write. I personally like to write with a cup of tea next to me and music playing, maybe wrapped in a warm duvet when it's cold. But that doesn't mean I think everyone should write like that. You might prefer to write in silence. Or without the beautiful comfort of tea, strangely enough.

If you're one of those people who need to have a plan in order to write. Great! Good for you! I'm happy you've found a way to write that works for you. That's a perfectly viable way to write. 
But if you're like me and one of those people who prefers to just write whatever comes into your head and let the story unfold, then that's okay too. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with letting yourself just write. 
So yes. There. Rant over.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Beautiful People: Childhood Edition




Hey guys! Yes, it's time for this again. In case you're new around here, every month or so Further Up and Further In and Paperfury host the Beautiful People blog meme. I've joined in several times so far and I'm hoping to make it a regular thing. Personally, I find it really helpful for character development.
Anyway, I decided to go with a different character this time round. The last few times I've done this blog meme, I've answered using characters from my main series The Gatekeeper Chronicles. But not this time. This time I'm going with Prince Bail Everrest from my space sci-fi (with space battles and death and war and sadness), Our Bloody Fingers (name still uncertain).
This is the nerd in question:
What is their first childhood memory?
The first memory he has is of watching a sparkfly display for his fourth birthday. It fueled a life-long love of sparkflies.
What were their best and worst childhood experiences? 
His best experience was learning how to use cameras. He spent hours with Amal Halo learning it, thus cementing his fascination with photography and his friendship with Amal at the same time. His worst experience was the day his aunt and uncle were murdered in a rebel raid. 
What was their childhood home like?
Bail was raised in one of the floating palaces of Sharal. It's mostly made of metal, but the carpeted floors make it warmer than it would be otherwise. His home was a happy one. His mother was very loving and affectionate, although his father was often cold towards him. His parents instilled in him a firm moral compass and desire for justice.
What’s something that scared them as a child?
Bail's greatest fear was always of cloud-spirits. When he was young he would refuse to go out onto the balconies for fear of seeing them.
Who did they look up to most?
His father. Bail adored his father and respected him not only as a ruler, but as a man.
Favourite and least favourite childhood foods?
He always loved sweet-syrup pastries, which are pastries filled with thick tree-syrup blended with honey and berries. He hated any sort of organ meat, such as hearts or livers or kidneys. Still hates them actually.
If they had their childhood again, would they change anything?
I think he'd be more careful with his father. After finding out some stuff about him in the war, Bail lost a lot of his respect for him. Bail would probably replace his father with his mother in terms of who he looked up to most.
What kind of child were they? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?
Irrepressibly curious and devious. Bail had an absolute desire to understand everything and would go to extreme lengths just to learn stuff. However, he was also fairly wild. He could never sit still despite his love of learning and would often get distracted during classes that he wasn't interested in. He would always either over-focus on one thing or be incapable of focusing at all.
What was their relationship to their parents and siblings like?
He has no siblings, but he has three cousins that he's close with. Their relationship is very like that of siblings, as they grew up together. They tease and bicker, but they love each other really. While Bail loved both his parents equally, he always had a more tense and cold relationship with his father, due to his father being King and thus incapable of showing the level of affection and warmth his wife did. As Bail grew older, he also started to disagree with some of his father's politics, which drew a further wedge between them.
What did they want to be when they grew up, and what did they actually become?
Despite being the heir to the Sharal throne, Bail only ever wanted to be a photographer. He ended up fighting in a war, where he was neither royal nor a photographer.


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Writing Setting and Character

Hey guys!

Last Saturday evening, I attended a writers' group that I've been attending for a few months now, run by Hannah Retallick. While we were there, we talked about setting and character, specifically how to combine the two for good descriptions. 
I thought it'd be a good idea to post what we talked about over here on my blog, along with the writing exercises that I did. So, here goes. This is being written directly from my notes, by the way, so if it feels awkward or strange in bits, it's probably me trying to convert my notes into an article, which is harder than it looks, let me tell you.

The first thing we did was go through a brief overview of what it meant to combine Setting and Character. This bit was all about using details in order to bring the setting to life. Then we did our first exercise. For this exercise, we had to write two or three sentences describing our respective houses, using unique details rather than bland ones in order to bring it to life. The following is what I wrote. 

Exercise 1
My House

The front door opens into a long cream-walled hall, one wall lined with books, a wardrobe and a cabinet. A skylight peaks down the carpeted stairs. Outside a little wooden shed sits at the bottom of the gently sloping garden, with a big tree that's nearly the size of the house looming over it.

Obviously, not my best work, but still you get the basic idea. 

We then went into more detail about the topic. We were told to use all the senses, sight, touch, smell, taste and sound. Think, how would the character react?
There are several different ways in which character influences description. 
First is general interest. When an architect walks into a beautifully designed church, they would notice the architecture, would ask about the architecture. Show the reader what makes the person tick. Secondly, show what's important to them. Character is important. Just because everyone walks into the same place, does not mean they will see the same thing.
Thirdly, think about their emotional connection to the place. Either they have one, in which case positive or negative it'll influence how they look at it, or they don't, which is important in itself. For example, say a character walks into a school. If they had a good experience when they were in school, they'd have a different reaction to someone who had a bad experience. If they didn't have an experience at all, because they didn't go, then they'd have a different reaction again. 
Finally, the character's state of mind in the present. Right now, at the point you're writing about, how are they feeling? If they don't want to be there, then they'll have a different reaction to a place than someone who does want to be there. What if they're really angry or upset about something? When they walk into somewhere, what they pay attention to will be influenced by their feelings. 

The final exercise was spaced over about fifteen minutes. We had to write a short story/description combining setting and character. We could describe a fictional place or a real one. I, naturally, chose a fictional place. Here it is. 

Exercise 2
I stare up at the grey-stone walls surrounding Mirror-Creek Manor with an icy feeling in my gut. I glance to the side, where Simon stands, grinning at me.
“I'm really not sure about this, Si,” I say, trying my best not to sound as scared as I am.
“Why?” Simon laughs. “You're not scared are you? You don't really believe it's haunted?”
I bite my tongue and straighten my back. “Of course not,” I snap and that's the final push I need. I stalk forward and dig my fingers into the stone-wall. It's cold, sending shivers up my arms. But I can't turn back now. I haul myself up the wall, bit by painful bit. By the time I reach the top of the wall, my hands are torn and my shoulders are on fire.
I take a deep breath, staring into the overgrown garden. The black and grey house looms over the garden, the shadow covering much of it, like dark fingers trying to suck in all light and life.
“Well,” I mutter to myself. “I've come this far.”
I shove myself off the top of the wall, the wind howling in my ears as I fall and land on my hands and knees in a thorn bush. I jump to my feet and clamber out. I look at my arms. Honestly, I look like a pincushion I've got so many thorns stuck in them.
I heave a sigh and look longingly back at the wall.
“I've come this far,” I mutter to myself and start forward. My trainers crunch against the frost-bitten over-grown grass, as I force my way through the undergrowth. I catch brief glimpses of the snow-white sky between trees every so often, but they never last long.
Finally, I reach the end of the garden and stumble onto a patio.
The patio is made of rotting mahogany that might have looked very beautiful in its day, but now looks old and decrepit. An eerie creaking rips its way through my bones, as I spin around, only to see a broken rocking chair, moving back and forth in the wind.
I clench my teeth.
“Nothing to be afraid of,” I mutter to myself. “You're being ridiculous.”
The shadow of the house is even worse here, looming over me as though it wants to eat me.
I walk forward, stepping as lightly as I can. The patio looks like it's about to fall to pieces. I reach the door and easily push it open, staring deep into the black hallway. I can't see anything. Anything at all.
I'm pretty sure it's unnatural for a hallway to be this dark.
The stories of the manor crawl their way back into my consciousness, of the murders that occurred here, the wealthy family who went insane, the screams coming from it at night.
“No, Billy.” I snap at myself. “You're being stupid. There is nothing to be afraid of.”


  I stalk forward and step inside the house.

As I said, this post was more an adaption of my notes than a real blog-post, so it's a bit different to my usual. Still, I thought it might be useful.
Have any of you thought about this sort of thing before? Do you use all the senses in your descriptions, or just sight? Have you tried doing this? Because it really does make your descriptions more lively. 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

On Research (Specifically, How to Stop Researching)

Ah, yes. Research. For some writers, it's the bane of their lives. For others, it's the best thing ever and they want to do nothing but research. 
Personally, I fall into the latter camp most of the time. Sometimes I'm in in the first, but that's not normal. So today, I am going to give you some tips on how to stop researching and how to get on with your writing. 
So let's get started. 
With the help of gifs, of course. This one is particularly fitting.  
1) Plan: 
Now I can hear my fellow pantsers groaning. Yes. Planning. It's important, okay? 
Preferably you'll have more than twelve percent once we're done here.
Why is this important for all you research-lovers out there? Well, because if you have a plan of what you're going to research, you're less likely to get carried away. 
Appropriate gif is appropriate.
So what I do is I make a list of stuff that I need to research. After that, I divide that list into two portions. One that is made up of stuff that I don't need to know for the first draft. So in this list, I might have something like the symptoms of flu, or whatever. While it's helpful and allows you to write more accurately, it isn't necessary for the first draft. That's what editing is for.  
You during editing. Probably.
My second list consists of things that I feel that I need to know before my first draft. For example, as I often write historical stuff, I might need to research the time-period my story is set in. You could argue even that isn't essential, but I prefer to have a good idea of my setting before starting out. Really, this tends to be pretty subjective and differs with what story you're writing. 
It also depends on what sort of writer you are. You might not really care about having a good idea of your setting, preferring to work it out as you go. That's perfectly fine. Honestly, when you come down to it, researching isn't absolutely important for your first draft. It really depends on how much work you want to put in editing it. 
Either way, definitely you during editing. Definitely. Shh, that isn't wishful thinking, what are you talking about?
2) Turn Off Your Internet
Or go somewhere that you don't have internet. I've found that I write best in cafes, personally, so maybe try it out yourself. You can also get any number of internet blockers or distraction-free word processors. I haven't used any of them personally though, so I can't recommend any. Scrivener has a full-screen mode that I've found very useful. 
This means that the ability to research is taken away from you. You can't research anything, so instead you just get on with writing rather than worrying about it. 
This will be you!

3) Have A Notebook To Hand
Why have a notebook? So that you can write down more stuff to research later. I know I said that you should write out a list of what you need to research beforehand, but come on. You're going to discover new things to research and you are going to want to research them. By writing down them down, you're promising yourself that you will research them later. You won't forget about it. And so you can carry on writing without worrying about forgetting to research the year Charles Dickens died. 
Shush, this is necessary. 
4. Bribe Yourself
That sounded weird. What I mean is basically bribe yourself to write a certain amount. This will also work for writer's block. Tell yourself that if you manage to write 2000 words on a particular day, then you can research one of the items on your list. Or you can make yourself a cup of tea, but I feel like the researching thing is more appropriate right now. 
Also, cookies. You can bribe yourself with cookies. 
This is by no means an exhaustive supply of tips. I'm sure you can find more if you look around the internet. But I hope that this has been helpful. I bid you goodbye and leave you with this beautiful thing. 
Very true, good sir. 



Monday, 16 May 2016

Beautiful People: April Edition


This one is kind of late, because the link-up in question was late. But ah well. It doesn't matter, right?
Okay, so this time around I'm going to write about my character Lily Smith from The Gatekeeper Chronicles. She's one of my main character Hubert's best friends. (If you want to know more about Hubert, then I did one of these questionnaires for him in March). She is also my precious sad child who deserves love and affection and hugs. Although she would probably stab someone if they tried to hug her.
Here we go!


How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger? 
Rarely and no. Never. She rarely smiles at her friends, why would she smile at a stranger?

What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?
Do you want the list? Seriously, this one is hard. Lily had a really depressing childhood, so there's an awful lot of these. So, I don't really know. Maybe when she was bullied for her weak wings?

What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?
When Hubert says that he likes her and wants to be her friend. It was pretty much the first time anyone had said that and it was kind of the best moment of her life.

What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
The day that she witnessed her parents' murder. And I should think that would be obvious.

What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?
I don't know, hmmm.... Maybe the Hunger Games Trilogy?

Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?
Yes. She sliced her own wings off with a kitchen knife when she was ten. It was messy. And painful. And it kind of made her depression even worse. (I feel so sorry for this precious child)

Do they like and get along with their neighbours?
No. Lily doesn't like or get along with many people. At all.

On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?
10. Okay, I'll be a bit nicer. 9. She is not easy to get along with. Drawing her into conversation is like trying to squeeze water from a stone.

If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?
Ooh. Interesting. Probably Russia. She loves Russian architecture and literature.

Who was the last person they held hands with?
Her mother, before she died. I can't think of anyone else at all that she would have held hands with. She's kind of touch-deprived.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Beautiful People: March Edition




So this week, I've decided to do another of these things. I should probably do these more often, but I keep forgetting they exist. 
So this is a link-up hosted by Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In in which you answer the questions then put your blog-link into the post in question. Something which, incidentally, I forgot to do last time. 
So this month, I've chosen to answer these questions for one of my characters from The Gatekeeper Chronicles. Specifically the main character, Hubert Herrman. 


What first inspired this character? Is there a person/actor you based them off? 
I don't really remember who he was originally inspired by, it was a few years ago that I first had the idea. But I can tell you that his name was originally Ivo and he was a World War Two veteran with a missing leg. Now he's Hubert and he's never been in a war and will probably start crying as soon as I throw him into one. And he has both legs. Yeah, things have changed an awful lot.
I think I took a lot of inspiration originally from the trailer for Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. But I don't remember that well and literally nothing from that has stayed in the story it is now, so I don't really know. 

Describe their daily routine.
It really depends on which point in the story. If you're talking pre-story, then he'd wake up around seven-ish, head to work at the newpaper for about half-eight then come home for tea at six. That's a fairly regular thing. And he'd spend far more of his free time than is actually healthy at the library. 
During the story, basically trying not to die. And that is really a harder task than it sounds.


If they joined your local high school, what clique would they fit into?
Okay, so I'm not in school, so I'm probably not the best person to ask. I'll probably just go with film-stereotypes here. Hubert would be the weird nerd who always hangs out in the library and hides from everyone. But who is actually super-nice and is probably also pretty popular. He'd have an unreasonable amount of friends for someone who never talks to anyone. 

Write a list of things they merely tolerate. Ex: certain people, foods, circumstances in their lives...
His little sister, being the centre of attention (or any attention at all), mashed potato.

How do they react in awkward silences?
He'd get out of the situation as soon as possible. Whether he'd pull out the book he's inevitably been carrying, sneak away or loudly announce that he wants to become a librarian, he'd find someway to escape. 

Can they swim? If so, how did they learn? 
I'm pretty sure that he can, but it's not something he does an awful lot, so he's not very good at it.

What is one major event that helped shape who they are?
The murder of his other little sister was a big thing that changed him. It's impacted a lot of his actions throughout his life and the story. 

What things do they value most in life?
Majorly, his family. Hubert loves his family and would do anything for them. The same is true for the few friends that he starts out with and the friends he later finds. 
Also, he really values historical artefacts and monuments. He gets really annoyed when people hurt them. And books. Books are important in life. 

Do they believe in giving other people second chances? Do they have any trust issues?
Yes, Hubert believes very firmly in second chances. He's always the first to forgive. He does have some major trust issues, but he doesn't let them get in the way of forgiving people. 

Your character is having a rough day...what things do they do to make them happy again? Is there anyone they talk/interact with to get in a better mood?
He'd read. Definitely. But spending time with his alive-sister would rate pretty high on the list. And spending time with his best friends. And also his girlfriend. He just likes people. But not necessarily a lot of people.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Writer's Block

Recently, I've been attempting (keyword: attempting) to continue with the second draft of the first book of The Gatekeeper Chronicles.
And it hasn't been going too well. I was hoping to get a second draft done by June, but that's not happening. I started out the year with about 17000 words and I've now got nearly 19000. 
Sherlock gifs are very appropriate for this post. And this one in particular.
I could come up with any number of reasons for this, I've had assignments to write for my Open University degree, I often didn't feel well and so on. 
But the truth is I've just been having some real trouble. Every time I sat down to write it, I'd end up cringing at every single word I'd written then deleting them. Nothing felt right. I regretted writing historical fantasy, writing a character with a concussion and literally everything. 
Me. Also, more Sherlock gifs. Yay!

So, I started avoiding it. I procrastinated on Pinterest. I started watching Man from UNCLE and Hornblower, as my last post stated. I started about three new stories. I read books. I read writing blogs. 
I did not, however, play the violin. Though I could. I also procrastinate that as well. 
I began to be almost afraid of opening up the document. And I hated it. 
Because I love this story. It's probably my favourite of all the ones I've written. I don't love any of my characters the way I do this bunch. I love writing it. I love the world. I love everything about it. And suddenly, I couldn't write it. 
I too become a murderous sociopath when I can't write.
And it was really starting to get to me. 
But then today, I opened up Scrivener and opened the document on an impulse. I started typing a few words, again groaning as I wrote them. Then I got an idea. 
You see, at the point that I was stuck, I was in the middle of an action scene that just wasn't happening. And there's this character that I was going to introduce later in the series. And I thought, well, try throwing him in. It might just solve the problem. 
And it did. 
This was basically me.
I realised that I'd been going about it all wrong. I was trying to force a fight scene that wasn't working, whilst also insisting to myself that this character shouldn't appear yet even though I had no idea when I was going to introduce him. 
But I put him in and suddenly everything made sense. I won't go into details, but I'm excited about this story for the first time in months. And it's the best. 
Me right now.
But what's the point of this post? What am I getting at here, you ask? 
Well, here's the thing. All us writers know what writing block is like. And we all know what it's like to not have that scene going right. We know what it's like to be lying awake at night desperately trying to puzzle out how to write it correctly. 
We are all Sherlock.

But tell me this, have you looked at it differently? Is there something that you're saving, either for the end of the novel or later in your book series that you could toss in there? Are your character motivations on point?
Mine weren't. I thought my characters were being chased by bad guys, but it turns out that nope! They were good guys. 
My characters are the 'he' in question.
It was very confusing. And surprising. But also awesome. (On the downside, I now have yet another side in the story's conflict to write about).
So, in summary, don't give up. Try thinking differently, throwing things in that you didn't plan (I'm looking at you, planners). Nothing's set in stone, just because it wasn't what you originally wanted doesn't mean that it won't make your story better as a whole. 
Anyway, that's all I wanted to say to you today. So, I say goodbye now!
And leave you with another Sherlock gif.
What do you mean, this has nothing to do with anything?

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Hey guys!
So I haven't written on here for months and I...don't really have an excuse. Although I have recently been swallowed by the fandom pits that are Hornblower and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. respectively, so I suppose that kind of is. *shrugs*
Anyway, I read this book around Christmas and I adored it so I thought why not do a review on it? So, here you are. Also, I'm going to use Hornblower and Man from Uncle GIFS because I can, so deal with it.

Does this fit? Who knows, but it's an epic moment so I don't even care.
Okay, so onto the actual purpose of this post. A review of Illuminae. Right. First of all, this is the book in question.


First, what's it about, you might ask?
Well, it's about spaceships and corrupt authority and zombies and a really adorable romance that I got really attached to. Also there's an evil computer who's only sort of evil and you'll get attached to him too. And there's other stuff too, like an actual plot. I don't know, I'm not good at describing books. I'm also doing my best to avoid spoilers, so bleh.
What? Did you expect a proper serious review that doesn't involve me fangirling and overusing GIFs? Ha!
But because I am technically reviewing it, let's look at the different stuff that's important in a story and how well (or badly) Illuminae did it.

Plot
Going back to the plot, in all seriousness this plot was amazing. It had so many unexpected twists and turns. I couldn't predict any of it, once I passed a certain point particularly. I was practically on the edge of my seat until the last few pages. And even then to some extent.

Basically how I felt during some of these twists.
And some of them really hurt, but in a good way. Sort of.

World-Building
Oh, boy. The world-building here was incredible. I'll talk more about the way it was written when I talk about style, but there was some stuff in this book that just made it so much more real. But it wasn't just that. The whole way the politics of the thing were arranged and the descriptions of the virus in particular just made the world burst with colour. It was so amazing. Such a thrill.

I am Mr. Bush here and Hornblower is the book. Just so you know.
Style
And now we're on to style. And let me tell you, the way this book was written was so good. And very unusual. You see, there weren't many bits that were written like a standard book. Instead there was a lot of images...




...As you can see in the above photographs. You might think that this would make it harder to read, or that the characters and story might not come across as well, but it doesn't affect it like that at all. In fact, sometimes it made it better than it would've been just as a written book. And it was really emotional at times. I was nearly full-out sobbing at parts in this book (though admittedly it was worse with The Book Thief).

Literally me. 
As someone who's read some of Jay Kristoff's writing (specifically some of Stormdancer), I knew I'd love at least some of it as I really enjoy his style and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I'm more excited to finish Stormdancer than I was before and now I also want to read some of Amie Kaufman's writing. 

Characters
The characters in this were amazing. So beautiful. 
There were two main characters, Kady and Ezra, and both of them were awesome though in their own ways. I found it really impressive how well their different voices came through and made them sound like genuinely different people. Also, their romance is literally the best thing ever. And will make you cry. 
All the characters will probably make you cry at some point, though. Particularly one with a name beginning with J. You'll know when it comes. 
Also so much death and it makes me cry all the tears. Seriously, I would be hard-pressed to name a non-dead character in this book. 

Well. they can't die. but anyway, appropriate GIF is appropriate.
Which one was my favourite, I hear you ask? 

Did I just want to use a Man from Uncle TV show GIF? Maybe. 
I really can't choose. There's so many amazing characters in this book. And they all hurt my heart so much. Even the computer. (Maybe especially the computer).

So, in summary, this is a really good book. Probably my favourite book that I read in 2015. It's well-written, has some amazing and deeply complex characters and some breathtaking world-building. I read it in about three hours. And it is not a thin book, in fact it's nearly six hundred pages long. Admittedly, I'm a fast reader, but that's pretty quick even for me.
You should all read it. Share the pain. 

COME!
Also, am I over-using GIFs in this blogpost? Maybe, but I love GIFs so I really don't care.
So my question for you is have you read Illuminae? If so, what did you think of it?