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Editor Wandering Out – October 2019

Be sure to check in on my recent social media at www.facebook.com/alexjameseditor and www.instagram.com/alexjameseditor or @alexjameseditor ‘handle’ on both. You can find the relevant albums and highlights if you search manually, though I’ve included links to help find them below.

On Facebook – October 2019 album

London trip

I accompanied my brother to London, and I was fortunate enough to explore the British Library St Pancras. I loved it there. It was my home away from home. There were historical treasures aplenty, busts, spacious seating areas to chill out, café/study area, and even bookshops (in a library?). There was this massive bookshelf that climbed … well, you need to see it for yourself. There may have been times I forgot to keep my mouth shut when browsing books, though nobody pointed it out.

There are bookshops on Picadilly. We checked out Hatchards bookstore, which had a spiral staircase leading to many floors. It was the sort of staircase that reminds you of the temperamental one in Harry Potter that changes its mind based on passwords, remember? Hatchards had a nice ‘books aplenty’ feel to it. Waterstones London was nice and spacious. We were tired by this point and I felt it was much similar to the Leeds one, not appearing as new to me.

I was shocked by the sheer volume of people, though thankfully I had time to relax and read in a hotel with one of the best green teas I’ve ever had.

At the end of the day we ate at Itadakizen, a Japanese all-vegan restaurant that had a lovely feel.

We nearly got stranded in London because the trains acted up due to works. I was panicking I’d have to stay and we didn’t have a plan for the next days. We were thankful to get a train to Doncaster, and then a lift to Leeds.

Ilkley Literature Fringe Festival

I returned to Ilkley for the Ilkley Fringe Festival, to listen to spoken word poets Ella Sanderson and Alex Asher about Ella’s life with Asperger’s and unhelpful labels and stereotypes by Alex. I found the talk alleviated my stress and bad feelings about issues related to my condition, and it was nice to experience spoken word for the first time in person.

The Ilkley Manor House I explored afterward is a ‘creative heritage hub’ which is nearby and with artwork and historical artefacts. Its ‘mid 14th century stone manor house and courtyard sits within the footprint of a Roman fort’.

Cafes and doughnuts (or ‘donuts’ as per Temple Donuts)

Temple Donuts is a place for doughnuts and coffee in Kirkstall, though they also sell their own merchandise: mugs, t-shirts, etc. Me and my friend got there just when it was doughnut rush time and we were shocked by the long queue and the cars coming in and out constantly. The place also has a quick-fix counter for those in a hurry, where there is a smaller selection of doughnuts, and I opted for this in October. My favourite was the pumpkin, which had a cinnamon taste, for Halloween. It’s now been discontinued, I believe. There is a colourful and delicious range of flavours: maple, galaxy (?), jam and peanut, caramel (I think), to name a few. I tried in November and the main queue went down quickly. It’s worth the short wait to select your favourites.

It’s a unique experience to be among the doughnut-eating subculture, and we observed them eating doughnuts with sticky fingers. I didn’t feel completely safe holding the camouflaged merchandise doughnut box in the car on the way back, and a few looks over our shoulders reassured us nobody else wanted them, they’re that tasty. I will be sure to salivate over the promise of new doughnuts next time.

Check out the photos, of the cappuccino I had at Fettle Café, the small bookshop the Village in Leeds I visited to have coffee, and my trip to Middleton Railway where Star Wars invaded. There was something nice and quaint about travelling in the wooden confines of a train; it was a treat. There is also a photo of my walk in Harrogate.

New acquisitions
  • I was kindly gifted a copy of Harsh Realities by CG Hatton, third book in her Thieves Guild series, which I will look forward to. Check out my reviews of Residual Belligerence and Blatant Disregard.
  • I purchased autobiographical book Deadweight about borderline personality disorder, written by Nick Crutchley who is a fantasy author who has struggled with mental illness, and has a background in teaching and environmentalism. Check out my review on the blog next month.
  • I bought some books in the sale at HMV: Friends From Frolix 8 by Philip K Dick and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The HMV was apparently closing down. I did wonder why there were only dystopian and political books there.
  • Dreyer’s English has proved useful on at least two occasions, which I picked up at Waterstones when I went with a friend. It’s a style guide and I hadn’t heard of it before.

Editor Wandering Out – September 2019

I’m starting by looking back a few months covering some of my experiences as an editor ‘off the job’, as it were. Be sure to check in on my recent social media at @alexjameseditor on Facebook and @alexjameseditor on Instagram. You can find the relevant albums and highlights if you search manually, though I’ve included links to help find them below.

Facebook – September 2019 album

On milestones, I had my first good pub meal on the 9th September, in Ilkley, which I was pleased about. Check out Bar T’at. I was astounded by the level of choice of eateries in Ilkley.

Not to repeat

I happened to blast open the door of somebody on the toilet in a café in Leeds. I don’t think anything could have stopped my relentless determination to get in, only to find myself in this predicament. It was awkward, and I’m blessed to still have my face intact.

Charity shop invasion

I was fortunate to find The Island of Doctor Moreau by HG Wells – an author I’ve been meaning to return to. Check out my review in the next month (or later, being the Christmas period and all that).

There was also The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M Banks that I just had to pick up.

New acquisitions

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, I purchased on recommendation. I didn’t know there was a series coming out on TV, His Dark Materials. The book I love reading; it’s so much more than a kid’s book, and I suppose it’s a little bit like Harry Potter, but also not. In other words, it has depth and magic.

 

 

Blatant Disregard by CG Hatton – 5/5 Stars

Blatant Disregard by CG Hatton - Front Cover

Format, premise, and first impressions

Each chapter is introduced in a similar format to first book Residual Belligerence, with the Man and NG’s conversations discussing interstellar affairs around their Guild and rival factions, this time not just with the sloshing of wine in goblets but with the moves of a chess game.

Guild agent LC Anderton has a bounty on his head … and I could be forgiven for believing I was reading the same story as in the first book when an agent had a bounty on his head. Indeed, I had a bit of déjà vu/confusion. Wasn’t it ‘Hil’ who was the guild agent with a bounty on his head in Residual Belligerence? And yes, there were two such agents, and we never saw what LC went through.

Main character LC

LC is a little different from Hil. He has these special mind-reading implants, and can see into the thoughts of fellow crew, often making for humorous insights. LC is not a team player, which is something author CG Hatton reminds us of a lot early on until we read further and realise he really isn’t. On board the ship, the Duck, he’s surrounded by crew he begins to care about after the death of his Guild handler, and they humanise him. This makes him vulnerable, having to care about their whereabouts on missions, and he’s getting emotionally closer to female bounty hunter Sean, who is determined to return him to the Guild. Sean was a fascinating character with many sides to her: seductive, bargaining, and dangerous; and able to compartmentalise feelings. She does change a bit. LC has an advantage over her, with mind-reading her thoughts, and his holding off only makes her want him more.

Improvement on book one Residual Belligerence

There is a lot of macho ironic humour, about near-death experiences, unintentionally drinking with drugs, and use of language such as a ‘s**t-eating grin on his face’. We get close to the characters of the crew: drunk DiMarco, weary Gallagher, creepy tech. Also, LC was less useless than Hil was, perhaps because of his implants, gadgets, and fewer serious injuries. You could be forgiven for believing you’re reading about wacky and entertaining space opera misadventures until it hits you there really are bounty hunters all over the galaxy looking for LC, Hil, and ‘the package’. Gallagher puts it succinctly: ‘I’ve been shot down by b*****d aliens, set up by double-dealing b*****d mobsters, attacked by corporate b*****d mercenaries, and hijacked by b*****d pirates. Is there a pattern here, do you reckon?’

Author’s Website

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle – 5/5 Stars

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle - Front Cover
‘Jurassic Park’?

Not the exact same as ‘Jurassic Park’ by any means! There is much adventuring in The Lost World observed by Watson-esque ‘Malone’, who is a journalist waiting to do something heroic for his romantic interest Gladys. As you can expect of a classic written in the early 20th century, there is much description, delivered with the investigative interest you’d see in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle - Back Cover

Who is Professor Challenger?

The Lost World (TLW) is a unique story with imposing, yet culturally outdated, characters you can’t help but be fascinated by, in particular the bombastic overbearing Professor Challenger who is violent to journalists he despises. Why? Challenger claims to have seen prehistoric life in South America and nobody believes him. He’s at the mercy of the press, and the scientific establishment thinks he’s a loon.

There is a more tolerant side to Challenger, though his intelligence and inventiveness don’t redeem him. He sees most people and races as inferior due to their non-European education and upbringing, I suppose, which would not be acceptable now. Challenger is a fascinating character simply because we observe his crude ways and sense of humour, and his expedition to prove his reputation is the reason for the story. He’s admonished by his wife for his violence, who he sits on a high table from which she can’t get off, for punishment, which I found odd and confusing. I only realised after reading there weren’t any important female characters on the expedition itself.

Do we see actual dinosaurs?

Yes, I confirm there are dinosaurs. It’s not the crazy dinosaur extravaganza or the human hunt you’d expect, but we certainly get a vision of what The Lost World is and how wondrous it is. The ending is the best part of the story, and you have to go through the entire adventure to truly appreciate the moment. The whole story was fascinating, and the ending made it sublime. Definitely worth reading!

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