Bridge of Swords

bridge of swords

Sometimes the name of the leading character in a novel can make all the difference to me –I mean how great is the name Katniss Everdeen? I had one of those ‘name moments’ while reading Bridge of Swords by Duncan Lay. The protagonists name is Sendatsu, his name will not leave my thoughts, I keep saying it over and over again, I try to sleep and his name pops into my mind Sendatsu, Sendatsu! Lay has obviously created a memorable character. Its not just names that makes this fantasy novel memorable, Bridge of Swords is the first in the Empire of Bones trilogy, and it is an epic novel with a tale to tell.

Sendatsu is an elf, who passes through a protective barrier that shields the Elfan world from the human world; he was forced into the unfamiliar world to find the answer to the loss of Elfan magic. Sendatsu becomes involved with two humans named Huw and Rhiannon, these two characters provide the novels subplot. Wars are being fought in the human world and no matter how hard Sandatsu tries to stay uninvolved his warrior skills come to the aid of many and his involvement is set.

The plot and subplot explore the themes of power, greed, family and love. The themes are gently woven between the beautiful, cultural, Japanese like Elfan world to the raw, gritty, rough, medieval human world. Duncan Lay is a talented and skilled writer who manages to bring scenes to life. His action scenes are the breath holding, edge of your seat type, that have you page turning for more.

I have some catching up to do as the third book in the series was recently released, but am looking forward to see how the story unfolds.

Valley of Shields (Book 2 Empire of Bones)

Wall of Spears (Book 3 Empire of Bones)

Five books all writers should own

 

Every writer needs his arsenal of writing weaponry. After the obvious hardware such as pen, paper, computer, (duh!)the most useful purchase is a selection of helpful books. You’ve bought the dictionary and thesaurus (I hope), and if you’re a fantasy writer you may have bought a Lexicon of Myths and Fairytales or a crime writer may have bought a book on criminal investigation procedures, but what other books can help the aspiring writer. I’ve listed my top five and maybe some of you can share books or websites you’ve found helpful.

1.Elements of Style – William Strunk and E.B White

One piece of advice I remember from my studies of journalism at university was never leave home without this book.It is, by far, the best book written on grammar. Every journalist has it in their briefcase/ backpack because it contains wonderful little grammatical reminders that may have slipped our minds. (Unfortunately, the older I get, the more my mind slips)

2. On Writing – Stephen King 

I’m sure most writers have stumbled upon this book. Stephen King’s advice is straight up, no fancy pants talk. He just tells it like it is. I found this book to be practical and inspiring. When I’m feeling out of my depths I like to pick it up and have a flick, I always find something motivational. Here are some of my favourite quotes:

 

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

 “Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

 “Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe.”

 

  1. The Australian Writer’s marketplace

When I graduated from University this was my first purchase. It’s a compendium for writers listing details for submission and contact details for agents, magazines and newspapers, competitions and events, organisations, writers’ services, scripts and courses. My copy was heavily dog-eared, and I purchased many revised editions. This is centred on Australia, but a website that contains a fabulous array of publishing opportunities, for mainly the USA, is: http://www.everywritersresource.com/lists.html

 

  1. The Writing Book –Kate Grenville

This is a practical guide, using exercises, to get the writer started and heading in the right direction. It contains practical advice on character development, plotting, writing dialogue. I found Grenville’s book to be the best in this genre, but I also like Holly Lisle’s online courses “How to Think Sideways”

 

  1. If I Tell you I’ll Have to Kill you – Edited By Ian Robotham

This book is a recent addition to my collection and I’ve just finished reading it, so I thought I’d add it to the list. It is a collection of discussions from some of Australia’s best crime writers. Each writer explains, their writing process and the ins and outs of crime writing and how they came to be a writer. It is interesting (and often humorous) to read the various ways that writers go about their work, some are plotters and some are ‘go with the flow’ writers. This is a good read for all, not just those interested in the crime genre.

 

 

The Company Of Liars

Company of Liars

 

How I came to possess this book was one of those surreal moments. I stood in the secondhand bookstore amongst the dusty shelves and tattered books, my eyes were glazing over, inundated with choice, but seeing nothing. I ran my hand along the binds until it stopped at one book jutting out amongst the nondescript tomes. I turned the book over and read the many encouraging reviews from, surprisingly, reputable sources.

“An infectious tale of medieval intrigue” -The Herald

“A ghostly yarn…. A richly evocative page-turner” – Daily Express

Finding this book was pure serendipity. It was published in 2006. How did those eight years pass and I did not hear of this novel? I’m not going to go through the whole story, but I will give you the dust-jacket blurb as it says it best.

Blurb

  • A scarred trader in holy relics  A conjurer. A musician and his apprentice. A one-armed storyteller. A young couple on the run. A midwife. And a rune-reading girl. A group of misfits bands together to escape the plague. But in their midst lurks a curse darker and more malign than the pestilence they flee.

The backdrop is England in the midst of the black-death plague, but it is the minor stimulus that brings our nine main characters together. These characters have so much life they are running off the page sitting in my lounge room having a cuppa and conversation; they are that vivid. The story is richly matted with medieval historical facts and the supernatural. Maitland blends these elements so seamlessly that you start to question the history of medieval superstition and wondering whether magic may have truly been afoot.

If you have not read this book go out and buy it now, NOW!!

Company of Liars By Karen Maitland

Publisher: Penguin

 

Writing Just for Money

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What will you write for money? Are you purist and only write for art sake? Or do you sell your soul and write for Penthouse?

When faced with bills I’ve looked under every crevice and nook for writing possibilities. I once tried to sell an article on Pere Lachaise (a famous cemetery in Paris) to an onboard airline magazine. I should have framed the response letter. It went something like this “we are sorry, but your subject matter isn’t exactly the what people like to read while flying in a tin can thousand of miles in the air” not my finest moment.

I’ve written about castles in Scotland, Monument valley in the USA, pink polka dot dresses, three legged dogs to triumph against adversity. I’ve written about talking pigeons, Interior colours, bell- bottom pants, and manic depression. The problem is making a living, as a writer is hard, it pays diddly squat. Not to undermine visual artists out there, but I’ve seen artists paint a painting in a day, then sell it for thirty thousand US dollars. I’ve seen a writer struggle for two years on a novel and given a five thousand dollar advance. (Side note, I do know plenty of struggling visual artists, I was just using the example for effect, sorry for any offence)

I wish I could say I only write when I feel the artistic tug, but the practicality is most of us have to force our words out, some for a looming deadline others for a daily word limit for their novels. The thing is, we do it regardless.

Why do we do it? Answer- passion.

 

Independent Novels

Today I’m reviewing two independent novels at request from the authors. I think it’s important to encourage and support this industry, but I will only give a fair evaluation and will not promote any writing that I feel is of poor quality. That said I was very happy to read and recommend both of these books, which are available at a very reasonable price on Amazon.

 

Real Heroes Cry by Kieran Gould-Dowen

Amazon Blurb:

How would you react if you had superpowers forced upon you? More importantly, who decides if that reaction is good or evil?

Standing in a deserted field in rural Hereford, Dom watches alongside his brother Elliot and best friend Zara as meteors crash from the sky. Thrown into the destruction and to his death by Elliot, Dom awakens not just alive but reborn. Confused by his new superpowers, in particular the power over all matter, he soon gets labelled a super villain and sent on the run. With both his evil brother playing the role of superhero perfectly and the new mysterious organisation GEU hunting him and Zara down for crimes Dom was framed for, he is forced to make a choice: die an unknown hero or play the monster to protect those he loves.
Leading his new family of “ghosts” and fighting for the girl he loves, this is a story you won’t just fall in love with, but you will become obsessed with. Forget everything you know about superhero stories, it is time to see how a real hero lives.

Review:

The beginning of the novel is a little disjointed and confusing, but once the main characters of Dom and Zara are introduced it settles into a smooth rhythm that evolves into an engrossing novel. There is strong character arc development as we see the protagonist, Dom develop from a carefree teenager into a leader. I was enthralled by this novel and found its plot gripping; in a X-men meets The Fantastic Four sense. The book sits firmly in it’s YA genre and I look forward to the future novels in this series.

 

Order of Ascalon by Daniel J. Franks

Amazon Blurb:

A magical mystery adventure that takes you around the world…
After a group of drunken yobs mug sixteen-year-old Peter Butler one evening, he discovers that he has ancient magical powers, which will change the course of his life. Powers that will embroil him in the oldest conflict in human history, fought by influential and deadly secret organisations. Embarking on a daring magical adventure around the world, deciphering clues that lead him to long lost and powerful artefacts, hidden in famous landmarks, the Illuminati hunt him. The Arcanium need him. Governments want him!

Review:

Daniel J. Franks delivers a fantasy novel that catapults the reader head on into the world of intrigue, magic and adventure. Even the most reluctant reader would enjoy the fast paced rollercoaster ride that Franks takes to the reader. The writing is succinct and taut and the pace is reminiscent of a Matthew Riley novel. This is a light- hearted adventure that I recommend for the demographic of pre to early teens. This is the first book in the series and I’m sure it will develop a strong fan base.

Answers to Book Titles Game

In the previous post I posted a book title game where I changed some well known novel titles with some truly awful alternatives and readers had to match the titles. Thankyou everyone for your patience in waiting for the answers as I took a little break over Easter.

The much anticipated answers are:

  1.  Did he, or didn’t he do it? – F. Gone Girl
  2.  A Very Unusual Cake – D. The Help
  3.  Here Piggy, Piggy – A. Charlotte’s Web
  4. Colour Coded People – C. Divergent
  5. A Spoilt Girl Learns a Lesson -Almost – B. Gone With the Wind
  6. Nerds Rule –  E. The Rosie Project
  7. Marry My Daughters – H. Pride and Prejudice
  8. The Very Ordinary Nick Carraway -G.  The Great Gatsby

Hope you had fun and maybe this has inspired you to take a look at some books you may not have previously.

 

 

Book titles game, if you’re game.

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Some of the most famous book titles almost never made it to print. Here’s a look at some classic novels and what they were going to be called.

 

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was originally titled The Last Man in Europe.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was originally titled simply Atticus.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was originally titled First Impressions.

Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises was originally titled Fiesta.

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace was originally titled All’s Well That Ends Well.

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was originally titled Strangers From Within.

 

After looking at these I decided to create my own list. (This is what happens when the television networks take my favourite shows off air, without any notice.)  I thought I’d have some fun and create a game with some truly awful alternative names to some famous books. See if you can guess which title belongs to which book. The answers are below just match the number with the letter. I’ll give you the answer to the first one to start .  1 – F

Have fun.

 

  1. Did he, or didn’t he do it?
  2. A Very Unusual Cake
  3. Here Piggy, Piggy
  4. Colour Coded People
  5. A Spoilt Girl Learns a Lesson- Almost
  6. Nerds Rule
  7. Marry My Daughters
  8. The Very Ordinary Nick Carraway

 

A. Charlottes Web, B. Gone With the Wind, C. Divergent, D. The Help, E. The Rosie Project, F. Gone Girl, G. The Great Gatsby, H. Pride And Prejudice

Once

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The book Once by Morris Gleitzman came to me by way of my son. He was given a copy for his 11th birthday and he said I could read it first because it was on my must –read list. The book is set in Nazi occupied Poland in 1942 and we follow the story of a young boy named Felix. We meet Felix at a catholic orphanage, which he had been living at for the past 3years and 8months. He and his parents are Jewish so they sent him there to keep him safe, although Felix believes he is there while his parents sort through a difficult time with their bookshop.

After witnessing Nazis’ burning books at the orphanage, Felix decides to leave the orphanage and find his parents to help them save their books. We journey with Felix as his childhood innocence slowly dissolves and his eyes are opened to the atrocity of the holocaust around him. This book grabs your heart and doesn’t let go. It squeezes and tugs at every page. It is relentless and exhaustive. I truly loved this book, but as my son is a sensitive 11year old he may need to wait a little longer to read such painful truths. There are three more books in the series After, Now and Then.
Once by Morris Gleitzmann
Once I escaped from an orphanage to find Mum and Dad.

Once I saved a girl called Zelda from a burning house.

Once I made a Nazi with toothache laugh.

My name is Felix.

This is my story.

Everybody deserves to have something good in their life.

At least once.

What’s in a name?

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I was thinking about pen names the other day, as I about to embark on a new project and wondered whether I should use one of my pen names. I have a little cache of names I use when writing for newspapers, my reason being that I don’t want my fiction work associated with my journalistic work. My choice of names are pretty boring, I’m not doing the star checking into a hotel thing and saying I’m Katniss Everdeen or Mr. Darcy, I’m just initialising, middle name etc. Many famous writers have used Pseudonyms or pen names for many reasons.

The most annoying is for sexist or gender bias reasons.

The Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, were first published as Currier, Ellis and Acton Bell, when the publishers finally met their writers they were shocked to see they were women. Louisa May Alcott, before writing Little Women, published stories under the name A M Barnard. We may excuse this by saying it was Victorian times, but as many are aware Joanne Rowling was asked to asexualize her name as the publishers believed a book about a boy wizard wouldn’t appeal to it’s audience if they knew it was written by a women. J.K Rowling also later went on to write The Cuckoos Calling as Robert Galbraith. Rowling states her reason being to “go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre to work without hype or expectation”

Some writers want to simplify their names.

Joseph Conrad was born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski.

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

Mark Twain born Samuel Longhorne Clemens.

Some writers want to distance themselves from previous works.

Agatha Christie, being a successful suspense writer, used the pseudonym Mary Westcott to write 6 romance novels. In reverse Nora Roberts, the successful romance novelist wrote under the name JD Robb for her suspense novel series. The Booker Prize winners Julian Barnes and John Banville wrote crime /thriller novels under the names Dan Kavanagh and Benjamin Black.

The two, which I find the most amusing, are Benjamin Franklin who wrote for a newspaper under the name of Mrs. Silence Dogood. –He must have had a sense of humour. The second is Theodor Geisel; he was the editor of his universities newspaper until caught with alcohol during prohibition. To continue writing he invented a pseudonym. He took his middle name Seuss and to annoy his father, who wanted him to be a doctor, he added the title, hence the birth of Dr. Seuss.

I’ll leave you with a puzzle, who published early works under the name of Boz?

The Maze Runner

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With the release of the movie and the box set of James Dashner’s series, I thought now was a good time to review The Maze Runner.
This is another novel set in a post apocalyptic world i.e. Hunger games, Divergent, The Forest of Hands and Teeth etc.
So how does it fare with the onslaught? Quite well.
Our Protagonist. Thomas wakes in a boxlike lift with no memory, in a place called the Glade. Living in the Glade are boys who arrived the same way over the past two years. The Glade is surrounded by a maze, which the boys believe holds the answer to getting home.
The atmosphere is reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, where hierarchies among the boys are developed and leaders are established. As the boys enter the ever-changing maze the themes of trust, loyalty and bravery are brought to the forefront.
Thomas shows himself to be a natural leader, but this is thrown into turmoil when a girl Teresa enters the maze and memories start to surface.
What Dashner does well is create tension and suspense. The reader is kept guessing, Where are they? What is this place? What is its purpose? Who controls the maze? Eventually, these questions are answered in the subsequent books. But I did not find the answers satisfying. I enjoyed The Maze Runner, but the other books left me flat and disappointed.