Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Book Review

Before the Fall

by Juliet West

First let me start by saying I do not like what passes for modern romance. That is the uber handsome, chisel chinned, smooth chested stallion drivel. I’ve reviewed a few of those and do not wish to ever read another. Each to their own.

Before the Fall is none of that, not even close. Set in London’s docklands during the First World War it is the last place you’d want to find Mr Tall Dark and Handsome. What we do have is a real world populated by real people. The story is based on true events from the time. Our hero is not a hero he’s a welder. The heroine is mother of two whose husband is at war. Their romance should never have been, but it was and it tore families apart.

This a work of craftsmanship. A first novel to be proud of. Beautifully written and well told. So much so it was the only romance novel I have wanted to sit and read. It has been well researched not just fragments from postcards joined hastily together. There are copies of police statements, witness accounts and letters from the family all of which build upon the reality of a truly desperate love.

I will not speak of the plot as it is so tight any clues would just spoil it. Juliet West wastes no words, there are no needless side stories just the plain facts all woven together in a rich tapestry of old London. This is not a war story, it is about those left behind: the mothers, the children, the unfit and few white feathers. To read this novel is to see how romance should be coloured in anything else is just shades of grey.

A truly brilliant book and a well-deserved 5 stars.

Monday, 29 December 2014


I recently won a 250 story competition with the following effort.

The Lone Ranger is knee deep in dirt digging a shallow grave when a rattler bites his manhood.

“Tonto, quickly! You’ve got to suck the poison from the wound or I’ll die Tonto.” The Ranger falls to his knees.

Tonto blinks the dust from his eyes and staggers back. “Tonto go doctor, get help.” The Indian turns tail and runs like a coyote fleeing the coop all the way to the doctor’s door. He arrives, staggers into the waiting room and confronts the ageing doc. “Rattler bite Que no sabe on pee-pee.” He gasps between breaths.

Shaking Tonto roughly by his shoulders the old doc drives home his urgent instruction. “You’ve got to suck the poison from the wound, or Ranger’s a gonner.”  Tonto blinks the dust from his eyes and staggers back.  He turns tail and flees faster than a priest from a whore’s chamber to his master. Running as fast as his moccasins can carry him, heart pounding like a war drum in his chest Tonto arrives at his stricken friend’s side where he lies recumbent in the shallow grave meant for an outlaw. Staring down through tear filled ears the words of the doctor rang in his ears: suck poison from wound, suck poison from wound.

“What’d he say, Tonto. The doc, what’d he say?” the Ranger coughed.

Tonto knelt beside his beloved friend, cradling the masked man’s head in his hands he said, “Doc he say… you gonna die boss.”

Saturday, 27 December 2014


So, I finally got myself some new writing software, not that my old one wasn't any good it just started to eat chapters and corrupt the save files. So I look around, tried a few and finally settled on Scrivener . Why? Well, the 30 days of work trial was a huge help. Not seen this option before. You actually get to use the software for 30 working days. That is 30 days of actually writing with it, if you only used it once a week you get it for 30 weeks.
So this morning, in my Christmas fatness, I sat down and reconstructed Young Warlock into the software and began to experiment with the synopsis tool on the Cork board, a very clever little feature which allows you to create a synopsis on the fly. I've never been any good at those pesky synopsis so this gizmo is a great help.
Well, that's it for now, I've got work to do. I'll be back with an update real soon.

If you want a free copy of Young Warlock from Smashwords use this coupon at the checkout: BZ68A

Have a good New Year.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Learning the Craft

When I first began writing novels I was driven by story. I just had to keep on writing. Before one story ended my mind was whirring away on the next, and the next. I will be the first to admit that my early work is badly written, I even had a website called (the single ‘t’ was deliberate). I have left them, The Rising, 3 Phaze and Lagoon, in their original state. Why? Because I no longer write like that. To edit them now would require a complete re-write which I am not going to do as I have other things I want to do. I see them as a reference point, the writing swamp where I began the long journey to the writer I am today.

Later books have been lost: A world lies bleeding and a King of Kings have both disappeared into the ether. Characters from King of Kings however have surfaced in Emun of Mor, which was published by Vamplit Publishing until the publisher ceased trading. Emun is another book which I now give away.

Emun of Mor was the first of my works to pass through editorial hands. Later, it was read by a writer friend who made suggestions to help improve the story, some of these I implemented though not all as the story was becoming to linear. This process did lead to do something unthinkable before: I cut the story into pieces. Instead of being 150 000 words I cut it down to 80 000. Then I took a knife to it and began to prune the story further. Then I wrote in all of the story which I had left out to meet the original word count.

Now I had a story which I felt to be what I wanted so I invested in as a pair of digital eyes to help me weed out more errors. I must have gone crazy at some point as I put a sample on in the hope of some feedback. What I got was the most constructive comment that I have ever had on the internet. I have no idea who the person was but their advice was absolutely bang on. After making the required adjustments I ran the text, now sitting at around 95 000 words back through Grammarly and fixed as much as I could.

Then, more madness. I went in search of an editor. A real editor. I scoured the internet, searched site after site, blog after blog until I got a single reply. I have never been any good at blowing my own trumpet, I just do not know how to do it with open honesty. I had sent out simple emails to a number of potential editor who all replied with ‘read my site’. I had, that’s why I sent the email! What I was really looking for was a real down to earth person who understood fantasy and what makes it tick. That and a price I could afford.

Several months went by while I finished getting the text to my best when I got the reply from Stephanie Jane Dagg. She like the sample which she had read and wanted to work with me. I stared at the screen in utter disbelief, somebody liked what I had written (and wanted more). We negotiated a price which the good lady cut to the bone and then let me pay in instalments! Wow! And Wow again!  Three months later it was all done. Edited, tweaked, edited again and then given a last once-over. There may still be the oddity that got through but I know that this time I need not feel ashamed about the final condition of my novel.

A couple of things remained to be done: the cover blurb, the cover and a synopsis.

For all of my other titles I did my own cover art but not this time. Having put so much effort into the text I was not about to throw it all away on the cover. It was then I discovered a hidden talent in the family. My niece, Sarah, is one talented girl. I sent Sarah a chapter from the novel from which I felt I could make a cover. When Sarah sent me the pencil sketch I was stunned. It was so different to what I had envisioned. So much better than I could have hoped. The next step was the ink over which highlighted some of the details lost in the scan of the pencil sketch. When Sarah sent over the final art I knew I had that ‘something’ different I needed. A cover which screamed ‘Young adult’ more than anything I could have ever scrape together.

The next item on the list was the cover blurb.

This is when you discover just how much knowledge your editor has about your story. Stephanie gave a set of guidelines: bullet points (she got to know my abilities real quick) to help point me in the right direction. It took me a couple of goes to get close before Stephanie stepped in and rejigged it all. I cannot thank the lady enough for all of her help. Now, all that remained was to write the synopsis. And it still remains to be done until this day. So I will not be approaching any traditional publishers just yet.

At the end of it all, what you end up with a better tool set with which to work. I no longer make the same mistakes I used to make (I make others instead). I have slowed down, become more thoughtful in my writing and walk through fights scenes and other events in my mind. I am more aware of what every character is doing in each scene and what impact simple things might have upon their futures. I savour the victories and consider the pain. I share in every success and thrill in the chase of dragons.

To all those who are setting out on the path to writing I cannot emphasise enough the importance of giving it your best. Never settle for ‘that’ll do’ when your best is what the readers deserve. Giving it your best is what is best for you as writer. You will grow faster as a writer the more respect your readers. At the end of the day it’s the readers who matter. We as indie writers will only do harm to our industry if we do not give it our best at all times.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Book Review

The Brotherhood of Dwarves – Book 1
D.A. Adams
I must admit that when I was offered this book to review I was only too glad to accept. You see, I have this thing about dwarves in fantasy. I really don’t care if the races: orcs, goblins elves and all the others are the same as they are in every other fantasy, it’s what the author does with them that matters. It is in this area that D.A. Adams pulls off a great character driven story. There’s no groundbreaking, genre-shattering new ideas just a well-rounded story that leaves you wanting to read more.
The lead character, Roskin, though of noble descent sets out on a gap year to find a fabled statue, so it’s a quest. There are only so many basic story types and this is one of the simplest – so get used to the idea. Too many people are quick to tear new authors apart for their lack of originality, well it was once written ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ and that was over 3000 years ago. With that settled I’ll get back to the story, or will I. You see, I’m not one for giving the story away, after all I’ll see it differently to you as much as you will the next person. So instead, I’ll just say that I found it to be a commendable first novel. The story moves along at a good pace, is filled with background history that adds richness and depth to story, and gives something to set future stories against. It was long enough to enjoy without ever becoming a hard slog. More words do not make a better story.
I’ll round things off by simply saying that I will go on to read the others in the series in the simple hope that they are at least as enjoyable as this one. Most writers improve with practice, I can only hope that D.A Adams does, that way I will have even better stories to look forward to.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Stretch yourself.

As much as I would like to be a full time writer I have to face the grim reality of a full-time job in order to pay the bills and feed the family. Somehow, I’m not really sure how, I ended up doing what I do, I work as a support worker in a day centre for adults with learning disabilities Having had numerous jobs over the years, I get bored easy, and running my own graphic design company I now have one of the most enjoyable jobs I have ever had. No two days are the same, and none go to plan.
Each year the people we support put on a pantomime at the local theatre, this year it is a mash up of A Christmas Carol and Dr. Who – A Christmas Travel. As a writer I have been interested in the development of the play. Sam, the author and drama teacher has done it all by herself, as usual, and is now beating everyone into shape. So why am I writing about it? Well, I went to help out in one of the drama classes and ended up with a role – the lead one. I have been cast as the Doctor. To begin with it was all a bit of fun. I have never done drama, I have tried public speaking but learning lines and how to deliver them, seriously!
I now have a healthy respect for actors. Learning lines is tough, especially when they are not of your choosing. I’m used to shaping the story, creating the dialogue and directing the course of events. But, this time none of it is of my choosing. Most of my fellow actors have learning disabilities, seeing them go through the motions of learning lines whilst dealing with all of their normal frustrations is reward in itself. Nothing is going to make it any easier for me to stand in front of 125 people and give four performances any easier, though I am well supported by all those around me.
There is one huge personal benefit for me from all of this: I’m a people watcher, it is how I build my characters from the ground up. Seeing people trying to become someone else has been incredibly interesting. I admire all of the people I support on a daily basis, they deal with far more than I could ever cope with and here they are willingly adding something more to their mountain of daily issues. If anything could ever inspire you they could.
As for writing, well, I’m still plugging away at the sequel to Yong Warlock. I should have it done by the middle of next year. Fire and Thorn continues to follow the young warlock as he seeks to unite the troll tribes, though he is not allowed to reveal his quest to anyone. Young Warlock is currently free on Amazon with a price match.
As it’s nearly Christmas I have a signed copy of my novel for one (lucky) reader, and 10 copies in any ebook format.

Thanks for listening and have a Merry Christmas. Oh, I almost forgot. This year's panto will be on at The Hawth Theatre in Crawley, West Sussex. UK on the 11th and 12th December 2014, wish us all luck. Ticket info is here

Monday, 1 December 2014

Reviews are hard to come by.