Thursday, 25 September 2014

Book Review: Heart of Dread: Frozen

Heart of Dread: Frozen by Melissa de la Cruize, Michael Johnston

So my first official book review is here and I have mixed feelings. I loved the sound of this book, but disliked the way it was written... and yet still found myself softening up to it. I reckon it might be the shaky start to a great series.

Release Date: 2nd October

Recommend: If you don’t mind info dumping and love action, fantasy, dystopian fiction and anything in between.

Verdict: 3/5 stars

Nat is a young blackjack dealer working for New Vegas, but she’s also marked: a monster inside her head and magical gifts which she can’t control. The world has frozen over, the waters poisoned, and the marked are killed on sight. Even though Nat can hide her mark, she can’t stay in New Vegas – the voice won’t let her. She hires a cocky and young Wes and his crew of mercenaries to help her reach the warm paradise of Blue, a place that is only rumoured exist.

It’s actually more complicated than that little summary, with maps inside crystals, zombies, dystopian style government, magical creatures, military, pirates - you name it, this book has it whether it fits or is shoved in like a square in a triangle hole.

The Vegas theme felt so fresh and unique for a fantasy novel. It’s what drew me to the book. Another strength is that it’s action packed and full of twists... But there’s not much mystery or curious circumstances to make you want answers. Instead of learning the missing piece of the story, you're introduced to a whole new jigsaw that’s been completed behind your back. It’s still a good reveal, but it’s not particularly clever and doesn’t have that same gasp factor.

I actually had numerous quibbles that made me think maybe this novel was a redraft away from being epic...

Nat isn’t an interesting protagonist - I can’t pin a single personality trait to her - but Nat and Wes work well. Wes is witty and brave, and gladly takes half the narrative. Their relationship starts out a tad superficial, but they’re undeniably attracted to each other and connect to form something deeper. I can ignore Nat’s blandness when the second lead is strong, but I think it’s a bit of a shame. 

That's the problem with this book: some of it is bad but there's a lot to make up for it.

As with a lot of fantasy, the world is complicated. Early chapters are mostly history lesson, and whilst there are a few bits of action to start with, they happen a bit quick – too sudden for the characters show much emotion towards. I had to reread one section just to make sure it actually happened.

The info dumping doesn’t really let up either. Discoveries are made, and these require the history lectures to return. There’s too much detail in the overall world, and not enough time put into developing side characters, spicing up the narrative, or actually developing these concepts. I’m hoping that later books in the series won’t struggle with this as much, because there is a lot of potential.

The actual writing is a bit bland and heavy on the ‘tell’ side of showing and telling. This goes for the plot and character development. One example is, ‘Typical soldiers, they were brash, potty-mouthed, and hot-headed’. This isn’t exactly hard to show... and isn’t shown throughout the novel. It’s just told to us at the start and doesn’t even seem to concur. It feels a bit lazy.

But the book is action packed. While I found some of the action a bit superficial, there’s rarely a dull moment. But I’m going to talk about concepts again, because that’s mostly what this book was...

Some of the concepts were great, but for some reason the authors chose to include naff ones too. The authors must have had so many ideas they panicked and decided to used them all. If only the relevant concepts were used, and developed in more detail, this book could easily be 4 stars.

Not 5 though. I’ll reserve that for books that make me want to slow down while I’m reading and preserve the moment, books that I have to cover up sections when I know something epic is about to happen and I don’t want to ruin it. This book had none of those moments, but I have faith that the next in the series will.

*This was written as an honest review in exchange for a free copy through NetGalley. If you're a blogger too, check them out!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Should You Write In Chronological Order?


Next question? There’s a box to the right where you can ask me anything…

Okay, I’ll elaborate on this one. Getting to the end of a novel can be an impossible task, so why give yourself more hurdles than needed?

If you can write from start to finish and it works for you, then congrates – you’ve found your style! If not, then you are far more likely to get to the end if you write the sections you’re excited about.

Write the best bits first, where ‘best’ means the bits you are passionate about. Follow, kindle, develop your ideas and get into the flow of the scene until that section feels done and you don’t know where to go. These are the sections that come flowing out, right?

Those lulls between the action scenes still need to be thrilling, which may seem like an impossible task at first. This is probably because you’re not fussed about these scenes yet. You’re not entirely sure what needs to happen. But you will.

I know many individuals write chronologically so they can get their next chapter up online. Motivation like that can be very useful, but intrinsic motivation is far stronger - and that goes for everything you do in life. If your writing because it makes you happy, you're more likely to keep doing it.

I tend to not know the chronological order of all my events at first. I know lots will happen, and I know the scenes context, but not the exact placement of each moment. And when I’m deciding on order, I know what action happens where so I can avoid long stretches without much going on. Tweaks can be made later to make sure they’re context consistent.

And once you've reached the end, edit chronologically. Start from beginning to end and make sure ideas are built on, characters develop, and style choices that are made in earlier chapters are consistent in later ones. The only way you’ll know if your ideas and concepts make sense to your readers is if you read it like one.

But writing in order? If you’re forcing yourself to go from start to finish, then your writing will read like it. Isn't it more fun to write about what you want?

Friday, 5 September 2014

What Should All Aspiring Authors Read?

Someone recently asked me what aspiring writers should read to help them hone in on their craft. I think they were expecting a ‘how to write’ guide of some sort, but that’s not what I’d recommend at all. There are alternatives which I think are much more helpful, and they all stem around reading lots and doing so with a critical mind.

Get ready for lots of links!

If you haven't already, read both old and new material withing your genre. Real published books too, rather than writing site drafts. Goodreads and LibraryThing are a great place to start, and amazon  can often provide titles for 1p plus packagin (£2.70) from alternate sellers. Alternatively, you can walk to a bookshop or library, unless you’re like me and sorta forgot you had legs there...

The second option is to read books which are highly recommended in general. From these, you’ll learn what’s trendy now as well as how to do it right in general, and possibly what you can add to your genre. If you haven’t read The Book Thief or The Kite Runner then you’re missing out.

Don't worry if you'r reading something terrible. Instead, try to work out why it's so bad. Plus, doesn't it  show you that being published isn’t reserved for the special few? If they can do it, so can you!

When you read, do it critically. If something works, ask yourself why. If it doesn’t, make sure you’re not doing something similar. Unsure how to use a semicolon? See how other books use them. Got to write love scene soon? Then reread your past favourites and work out why they’re good.

Writers and Artists Yearbook is often recommended to authors. I can’t understand why. I did learn copyright laws... but everything else you can pick up as you go, and the massive directory of publishers and agents is an outdated way to search information. In this day and age, google is your friend. Afterwards check out AgentQuery or QueryTracker for more on those agents (don’t forget their twitter accounts). WritersDigest is probably the best site for agent listings, as they’ll tell you about new agents who are currently building their client lists – a fantastic resource.

And now for self-help guilds... I’ve skimmed some and haven’t been too impressed, either because the writer was biased towards a style or full of unspecific, waffling generalities. Nothing beats reading novels and working out what speaks to you, but I will recommend Nathan Bransford’s e-book. I haven’t read all of it, but I have read his blog...

Blogs! Read blogs. There’s tons of free advice out there from editors, agents, publishers, avid readers – you name it. Posting a question to writing communities can lead to a mix of dodgy and good advice, but reading researched articles should skip out all that guessing.

Knew I’d almost forget blogs...

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Prince of Prophecy Giveaway!

Two books seek avid readers. They enjoy warm fires and the scent of a good cuppa. Or anyone who will love them. 

Thanks to N.M. Mac Arthur, my very first blog giveaway is finally here. She has kindly offered two paperback books of her fantasy adventure novel The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined, and I can tell you now that it's a fantastic read for all ages.

If you've already read it and can’t wait to read more, then perhaps take a read of Interview with N.M. Mac Arthur  for her insights into the writing the book and a few hints to what is to come. Book two is set to come out in December for all of you who are waiting for more!

Entries closed. Winners will be announced soon! 

Good luck!