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A Raven Bound With Lilies by Storm Constantine – 4/5 Stars

A Raven Bound With Lilies by Storm Constantine - Front Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re given a glimpse of the world of the androgynous beyond-human Wraeththu in this anthology published by Storm Constantine’s Immanion Press. There are stories Storm Constantine wrote from the 1970s, in her first exploration of the Wraeththu, and then much later, covering the full spectrum of Wraeththu struggle: to take their place as custodians of a ruined Earth, coming to terms with their reputation to humans as deadly magicians and evil catchers of young boys, coming across new variations of Wraeththu, and seeing the mistakes made in the glorious epoch of Wraeththu society’s golden age.

Favourite stories

We are given remarkable glimpses into the lives and characters we learn of in the first book The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, even going as far as to cover the creation of the Wraeththu species in the first story Paragenesis: the post-apocalyptic nature of Earth is one of the rich and the poor with the rich working repetitive shifts; and the poor and urban decay characterised by nature’s reclamation of the land, corners of crime and violence, gangs, and secret deeds made in blood. When visualising this post-apocalyptic world I saw focused rooms for interactions of the Wraeththu, showing luxury, war, excitement, and education.

One of my memorable stories was Pro Lucror, detailing the moments where two factions of the same tribe come head-to-head, and we know this will have a future impact on how Wraeththu will thrive as a species. An ‘alternative path’ to this war-like mindset is suggested, with some Wraeththu ‘hara’ wanting to step back from the bloodshed and chaos to seek a life elsewhere. In some of these stories, there was a bit of symbolism, of male versus female and how failure to accommodate both can lead to downfall, and this may be owing to the male Wraeththu wanting to dominate over power, decision-making, sexual encounters, and more. It makes you wonder how the beneficial unity is achieved between both halves of the Wraeththu, through inception, and how it is maintained afterward.

Painted Skin was another memorable favourite, about a fascinating Wraeththu who visits the main character’s performances, and they’re later introduced. We don’t know anything about this individual except it’s not your average Wraeththu ‘har’ and there is excitement, curiosity, and mystery; a suspect ‘wrongness’ of character coupled with sexual attraction. I loved the cultural atmosphere in this story, and how it takes us step-by-step on the road to discovering the identity of the Wraeththu har. The feeling I got from this story was worth every page.

Did I get what I wanted?

Yes, beyond those stories that were exceptional favourites, I did feel I was given a panoramic experience of Wraeththu life and perspectives, and it was what I was looking for. A Raven Bound With Lilies is another creation of Storm Constantine/Immanion Press that was a quality experience, and I recommend this anthology with confidence.

Immanion Press

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle – 5/5 Stars

The Hound of the Baskervilles - Front Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who think you don’t need to read the book because you know of the story or you’ve watched the film, think again! The Hound of the Baskervilles is not just about a vicious horror hound. It’s a Sherlock Holmes story, and that means fast-paced dialogue, criminal mystery, and mental deduction to be resolved through intellectual reasoning from seemingly far-fetched clues.

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, we’re introduced to the myth of the hound, how it has haunted the Baskerville family leading to the death of the late Sir Charles Baskerville in an alley outside the stately home. I confess, parts of the story had a creepy effect on me, which added to the general severe atmosphere: alleys, and paintings, and ponies sinking into bogs. I shudder.

If I have one criticism, it’s that there weren’t enough convincing suspects and in retrospect it was obvious who was culpable. Despite that, before reaching this conclusion the author does take us round the houses, taking our attention away when necessary only to bring it back at the crucial time. And the criminal was sinister and intelligent … almost a match for Sherlock Holmes and Watson.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the book. A tired old title is not necessarily a tired old read. It was a quick read, yet stimulating, and there was never a dull moment. I’d like to read more of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.

The White-Luck Warrior by R Scott Bakker – 5/5 Stars

The White-Luck Warrior by R Scott Bakker - Front Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorcerer-thinker Drusas Achamian hopes to find the home of the mind-reading Dunyain to learn the past of Aspect-Emperor Kellhus Anasurimbor who conquered the Three Seas and … let’s not forget … stole Achamian’s wife! On the trek to Ishual, he’s accompanied by his daughter, who is a spitting image of his wife and a constant reminder of his resolution to undo Kellhus.

There are mysteries on the trek, and the band is one of unsavoury characters headed by the unflinching murderer that is Captain Kosoter, who seems invincible and who none dare cross. Captain Kosoter has a hold over borderline-insane ancient sorcerer Cleric – who isn’t that bad really when you’re on his good side. Cleric holds a pouch full of black powder the band are addicted to and ritually consume, ‘Qirri’, but they don’t actually know what it is.

Much of TWLW follows Kellhus’ ‘Great Ordeal’, which is an army on a path to prevent a future apocalypse, from the point of view of king-without-a-backbone Sorweel, who never knows if he’s loyal to his dead father or whether he should just fit in and do as he’s told by his conquerors. He’s an intentionally weak character among the god-like Anasurimbor family and their immense army, composed as it is of what R Scott Bakker likes to call ignorant or prideful ‘men’, but who I think of as blabbering fools who aren’t keen on listening. The progression of the army and its encounters were fun, but not when they were from the point of view of the said blabbering fools!

It’s an engrossing book of immersive characters and situations in an endless flow of excellent material. However manipulative, heartless, violent, pathetic, despicable or flawed the characters are you can’t help but enjoy reading their trials and how weak, small, and vulnerable they feel in an overwhelming complex world. Do they put their loyalty or belief in this god or the other one, in this ruler or the other? I’d say TWLW was better than its predecessor The Judging Eye. TWLW puts you straight into the action, and doesn’t let go. There is always something happening. I’m anxious to read the next!

Author’s Website

Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – 4/5 Stars

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir - Front Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Initial impressions*

Some of the initial impressions from EITA were that it was a young-adult dystopian story set in a fantasy world that resembles Roman times, but with the focus on the Martial training academy called Blackcliff, where young promising cadets are trained to one day replace the Emperor, whose dynasty is foreseen to perish. As you can imagine, things can get brutal at such a place and the Commandant is the worst; a sadist who inflicts pain on even the main characters. The Commandant’s own son, Elias, despises her.

*Characters*

I found Elias to be a complex and interesting character, running away from the misdeeds of his past, and his blood, to find freedom from a tyranny he’s part of, in his capacity as a Martial ‘Mask’. He sees his female friend Helene as a companion always forcing him to fit in and obey, but he sees more sides to her as the story goes on and they are tested. It could be that time spent with tribal elders has made Elias sympathetic to the plight of people.

The poverty and slavery class are the Scholars, ruled by the Martials. Daughter of Scholars, Laia, seeks to save her brother Darin from Martial prison and along the way fights doubts about her inadequacy, fear of Martial punishment, and how she feels about the reputation of her courageous parents in order to get information. She doesn’t know that she’ll have to deal with male attention, torture, and a more daring side of her nature. Her point of view was a unique contrast to Elias’, seeing Martial rule from a slave’s perspective. Though consequences could be dire, she was watched less than Elias and had the opportunity to learn more.

*The Story*

Just as the characters are complex and with depth, so the story is. There are events occurring outside the perspective of the characters, such as foretelling Augurs, supernatural demons, an Emperor riding south, and Laia’s older brother’s attempts at defying the Martials. I liked when more of the background to these was given, in conversational exchanges, and the reader develops a connected picture of the world. For me, it meant I got more from the story than what could have been, in another story, a narrow viewpoint.

The emotions among the main characters came off a bit strong about three-quarters through, until the end, and I found the story a touch too tragic for my taste. Perhaps it was inevitable after the suppressed emotional feelings. Elias came across as a rebel and so I would have liked him to have fought more against the Augurs and Trials than succumb amid everything else that happens. Elias didn’t entertain any further thoughts of escape after the beginning and I found the nature and conclusion of the Fourth Trial, about three-quarters through, to be disappointing. I think I understand that author Sabaa Tahir’s intention was to show him to be just as powerless as Laia.

*Conclusion*

EITA was immersive, capturing my attention every chapter, and it was what I felt to be an accomplishment in storytelling. I’d go as far to say that it’s the best young adult dystopian story I’ve read in years. This review was long, and there was much to think about.

An Ember in the Ashes on Goodreads

An Ember in the Ashes on Amazon

Human Dystopia Editing Examples – Ch3

Editing examples are now up for Chapter 3 of the story Human Dystopia.

Screenshots of examples

Original – Example 3-1 – Screenshot

Original – Example 3-2 – Screenshot

Original – Example 3-3 – Screenshot

Original – Example 3-4 – Screenshot

Original – Example 3-5 – Screenshot

Changes and Comments – Example 3-1 – Screenshot

Changes and Comments – Example 3-2 – Screenshot

Changes and Comments – Example 3-3 – Screenshot

Changes and Comments – Example 3-4 – Screenshot

Changes and Comments – Example 3-5 – Screenshot

Final Version – Example 3-1 – Screenshot

Final Version – Example 3-2 – Screenshot

Final Version – Example 3-3 – Screenshot

Final Version – Example 3-4 – Screenshot

Final Version – Example 3-5 – Screenshot

For more information see Human Dystopia – Chapter 3 Examples

The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit by Storm Constantine – 5/5 Stars

The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit - front cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book is a really ‘enchanting’ and absorbing story. There is religious mysticism, and it challenges stereotypical views of it. I’ve not read a book like this, having few references to compare with the themes and world, but some parts of TEOFAS really reached out to me.

There is a lot of anticipation and tension leading up to the ceremony and initiation into the beyond-human Wraeththu cult. It’s written from the point of view of the main character Pellaz reflecting on his journey getting acquainted with the Wraeththu and his ascent through the magical caste system. Pellaz feels like the perfect character to familiarise us with the Wraeththu with his inquisitive nature and his penchant for being spoilt with luxury, which allows the reader a sense of cultural discovery.

The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit - back cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The unusual circumstances are exactly what pull you into Pellaz’s thoughts and the Wraeththu. The Wraeththu and the difference they embody, physically and psychologically, are very much the main focus of the story compared to the more violent groups of humans who are retreating from the new countries and lack the unity. Human desires appear base and almost immature next to the advanced system of the Wraeththu and I suspect this is exactly how author Storm Constantine wanted these desires to appear. The momentum is very much with the Wraeththu, who are both secretive and mysterious, and possess differentiation.

Yet despite this, there is the ever-present concern they have that they’re not much better than humans and are susceptible to the same hurtful feelings of love and vengeance that we are … it’s worth reading to see what I mean. There is a lot of thought and background put into TEOFAS and it made reading feel like a rich three-dimensional exotic adventure. There is so much depth to the world that it would be worth reading more by Storm Constantine.

*Oh, and the interior of the book layout was beautiful, with illustrations, so I recommend you at least purchase the paperback.

Storm Constantine’s Immanion Press

Point of View – First Person Present

Tense

In contrast, the first person tense (I, we,) is commonly told in the simple present tense in fiction.

Use

Of course, the reader, as with third person point of view, can only know what the viewpoint character knows – no extraneous background information should be added if the character wouldn’t already be thinking or experiencing it. It can help a writer think in terms of ‘showing’ the reader the story rather than ‘telling’. ‘Showing’ often makes it easier for the reader to invest themselves in the characters and events, while too much ‘telling’ can instead render readers as idle observers or magnets for excess information.

Advantages

It can grant a situation direct immediacy, and can be quite engaging and exciting to read. If the reader can develop a connection with the character or with intriguing events, it can prove to be effortless to absorb. If there are a lot of exciting events that are closely related to a single character or between one or two characters, then first person can deliver the message of the story concisely and directly, focusing only on the perspective of the character/s who matter, where lives come into contact. It’s good for putting the reader into the character’s shoes, and makes them feel as if they are there, watching events unfold.

Disadvantages

One of its disadvantages, in my opinion, is that it can be quite simple and one-dimensional. Readers can’t penetrate to the depths of a character’s thoughts or to past events with ease without breaking from the main narrative. When the author does break from the main narrative, it can often at first seem as if they are interrupting a perfectly absorbing scene with unnecessary information, which can be distracting. It can express a limited range of meanings, and only in the context of what is happening or what a character is thinking at any given time. It’s my belief that the restrictions of first person make stories linear A–B plots, but I’m sure there are many writers and readers who disagree.

 

Human Dystopia Editing Examples – Ch1 and 2

Editing examples are now up for Chapter 1 and 2 of the story Human Dystopia.

Chapter 1

Original – Example 1-1 Screenshot
Final With Comments Only – Example 1-1 Screenshot
Final Version – Example 1-1 Screenshot

Original – Example 1-2 Screenshot
Final With Comments Only – Example 1-2 Screenshot
Final Version – Example 1-2 Screenshot

Original – Example 1-3 Screenshot
Final With Comments Only – Example 1-3 Screenshot
Final Version – Example 1-3 Screenshot

Chapter 2

Original – Example 2-1 – Screenshot
Changes and Comments – Example 2-1 – Screenshot
Final Version – Example 2-1 – Screenshot

Original – Example 2-2 – Screenshot
Changes and Comments – Example 2-2 – Screenshot
Final Version – Example 2-2 – Screenshot

The pages where you will find the examples, along with more information:

Human Dystopia

Human Dystopia – Chapter 1 Examples

Chapter 1 – Sample Assessment

Human Dystopia – Chapter 2 Examples

Writing and Work Balance

It can be a problem working out how much time to spend on writing, what comes before writing with planning, and what comes after with the tasks related to improving writing for publishing such as reading, self-editing, and rewriting. A lot of thinking may be involved even when you haven’t made any concrete progress. Fitting writing into a busy schedule can feel impossible at times, or undesirable when your work tires you and you want to relax, not think about something that will tax your brain further, even if you do enjoy it.

How do you view your writing?

Do you view your writing as a hobby that you spend a few hours on occasionally, only for the sake of happiness?

Do you have grand writing goals that will require a consistent effort per week?

Is writing a serious vocation that will require a schedule with both writing and author tasks?

Not enough time to write

Many of us can’t get enough time to write and explore parts of our imaginations, but it doesn’t mean we have to forget about writing completely.

Setting a short amount of time, such as ten or twenty minutes, can be enough to get a pen and paper and write down some of your ideas. If you persevere with this, you could end up with a two-hundred page planning fact-file after six months. I did this!

Spending just one hour on your computer or paper can be enough to get at least 500 or 1,000 words jotted down. In another hour you may even reach 2,000 or 3,000 if you’re a fast typer or the ideas are strong. This is tremendous progress. Keep slotting in a period of two hours over two months and you’re looking at the first draft of a novel.

Too much writing

After having experience writing full time, concentrating on writing many hours during the day to the exclusion of many other activities or engaging with people is not healthy because it doesn’t give you that break from yourself, and your creativity and inspiration may dry up, only having your own mind as a resource.

This is more the case if you’re writing for yourself and not anybody else such as an agent, publisher, or client: where you’re expected to produce a story within a deadline because you know you’re obliged to do so, even if you enjoy it at the same time. When you’re writing for yourself, left to your own devices and detached from any external concept of obligation or accountability, you can overdo it.

  • If you have days where you’re writing 6,000-8,000 words a day then that is a lot of writing.
  • If you’re spending your break days worrying about writing then it may start to become unhealthy.
  • If you’re getting tired of concentrating on your writing, you’re overthinking it, or it’s affecting other important tasks, including daily life, then this is a clear sign for you to stop and do something else for a few hours, few days, or few weeks.
  • If your writing is exhausting you and distracting you then you’re spending too much time on it.
  • If you don’t have any other hobbies or vocations, except writing, then this is a sign your life is not balanced.

Writing shouldn’t be a priority if it’s a hobby; it should be done for enjoyment. When you obsess over your writing, or put it before everything else that you could be doing, it’s when it’s on a path to taking over your life. It’ll damage you and it’ll damage your writing when that happens; you’ll notice when you reread it. I’ve had experience of this myself, and I think you have to be in the right frame of mind to produce writing that you will be happy with. Something to look out for is if you’re tense when you’re writing! You should not be tense when you’re writing and you should not convince yourself that being tense is normal because you’re letting out so many ideas …

How I balance writing and work

I enjoy writing best as a hobby, but I do have goals that require a consistent effort, which means I try to set it off from work-related tasks and make time for it. It has to be different to work, in my mind.
Many writers are comfortable scheduling writing in, and indeed have to in order to get it done among many other commitments. I don’t schedule in writing in my break, though I often do write. If I scheduled writing in it wouldn’t feel pleasurable to me, and I wouldn’t get the full satisfaction. I like writing to be my escape and not something I feel I must do and keeping this in mind keeps the process enjoyable for me. That’s my personal preference.

Motivation is a key barrier against making progress when you spend a lot of time working. When you’re tired you just want to lay back and watch a film or zone out, check messages or become engrossed in something mind-numbing. If you have the time to write, you tell yourself you don’t have the energy.

When I’m determined to complete a project I have to make a conscious effort to get in the right frame of mind before attempting to dive in to the intellectually-demanding yet pleasurable writing process, and to stop myself from resorting to the easier option of doing something else. Writing has to come first if I’m serious about it.

Writing Muse – Therapy

Problems that can affect writing muse

There are a lot of different opinions on the value of writing muse. It’s my view that although relying exclusively on writing muse and when it decides to pop up is a bad thing because it means your writing commitment is sporadic, equally problematic is the reverse: pressuring yourself with targets or sticking to models of writing that are what works best for other authors.

Some of the problems that can affect writing muse:

  • Feeling pressured to write all the time, for the sake of it.
  • Feeling pressured to meet word count targets, deadlines, and publishing schedules.
  • Applying other professional authors’ writing approaches because you believe they will work for you instead of relying on your own instincts and how you write well.
  • Over-planning and overthinking writing instead of getting down to it.
  • Relying on ‘good excuses’ for why you can’t get down to writing instead of doing it.
Writing therapy

There is no compelling reason to write all the time

Beyond enjoyment, if you’re not a career author who earns a living then there is less pressure on you to deliver a number of words by a specific time. It’s probably at this time you need to ask yourself why it is you’re writing: for the deadline, for the income, or for the enjoyment. Perhaps it’s all three, but if it’s only for enjoyment and time is on your side, why pressure yourself to write all the time, no matter what?

Regular breaks from writing can put things in perspective more and you can be more in tune with the feeling rather than the pressure you may be imposing on yourself.

Not every writer is on a publishing schedule

Not all writers are at the stage where they must publish a book. If they believe they should feel forced to churn out maybe 1,000–5,000 words at least three or four days a week, then it’s a big commitment to writing: a toe dip in the deep end of the pool for the writer who is struggling with muse and whose writing is negatively affected by pressure and demands on time. That example was a bit ambitious, yet I’m of the mind that many writers are ambitious in wanting to make regular substantial progress and be published authors, and this system may not be conducive to their growth as writers.

Writers who advise you to write all the time have to write all the time

A lot of writers who are career authors and are on publishing schedules and deadlines will advise you to ditch your writing muse and to stick to a schedule for the completion of your story. It works for them; they can complete stories using this method. They ‘have’ to complete stories using this method to meet deadlines, and many are sick of listening to new authors speaking about how special their writing muse is when they have a job to do.

If it works for you or you want to complete your stories to a deadline, using a schedule like this can help. Its advantage is in making regular progress on the word count, in a first draft, and not relying on any perceived excuses that prevent you from getting down to the business of writing.

The disadvantage of this method is that sometimes you find yourself automating the writing process, as you would a job, to meet a schedule or deadline, and this can detract from the enjoyment if you feel ‘compelled’ to write rather than you ‘wanting’ to write.