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Adventures of a Vegan Vamp by Cate Lawley – 3/5 Stars

‘She’s out to find her killer… and maybe a vegan cheese that doesn’t melt her nose hairs.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first, I didn’t get into it. I couldn’t relate to the main character, and I didn’t know where the story was going. I continued reading to see how things changed, and I started to appreciate it. There is subtle humour in this story, in the way the language is used by the author, and I had a light chuckle every few pages. More and more, I became invested in the main character’s frustrations with understanding exactly what vampires are, and the light-hearted take on vampires was refreshing.

The story itself was about Mallory finding the ‘rat’ who bit her and turned her into a vamp, with the help of the attractive and mysterious Society enforcer Alex, and it’s clear that she’s a bit of a strange vamp, not intimidating in the least with her baby fangs, and preferring to eat foods such as carrot juice doesn’t exactly scream ‘predator!’

The lower rating is because I didn’t think the style of the story was what I would usually go for, preferring more serious reads. I chose to read Adventures of a Vegan Vamp based on the humorous title, to see what differences a vegan vamp would exhibit and if there was any humour value based on this – to laugh with, not at – but beyond similarities not much was made of it.

Cate Lawley’s Website

Point of View Slips

From an editor’s perspective

Incorrect use of point of view and tense are commonly picked up by fiction editors. Part of the confusion is that both point of view and tense are in many ways linked: first person with present tense and third person with past/past perfect tense. This link is strong when writers keep their stories consistently in one person and tense, and want their readers to enjoy this consistency. There are circumstances when they’re not linked, to convey more meaning and depth or when we need flexibility to convey an accurate timeline of a character’s perception of events. Sometimes we drop the rules to ensure we don’t bombard the reader with unnecessary words.

However strong the person-and-tense association is, there aren’t always black and white rules on, for example, always keeping first person with present; first person can often be used deliberately with past to tell a certain type of story by a character-narrator who is relating past events. It can often depend on the style of the story, who is narrating, and from what point of view that can guide a writer in their story and how an editor works on it.

The problem with point-of-view slips

When point-of-view slips occur unintentionally, they momentarily confuse readers and can look out of place. These slips do appear more often with inexperienced writers, as you could guess, but while working even experienced writers can occasionally forget who the viewpoint character is supposed to be in a given paragraph or sentence and exactly what he/she should be thinking and experiencing. It’s a lot of information to retain, and not only in a first draft. In other words, the point of view can slip your mind.

In third person past tenses, inconsistent use of tense can make the viewpoint character’s understanding of what happened when unclear, such as how understanding of past events has developed, or is developing, into present circumstances. And in first person present tenses it may be unclear why some sentences, paragraphs, scenes, or chapters are written in past tense because there is no way to translate the meaning, and it can leave the reader with a bizarre sense of displacement, a feeling of inconsistency, or jarring confusion.

How to correct point-of-view confusion

It’s a headache when you feel you need to delve into all the ins and outs of point of view rules to get the answer you want that applies to what you’re trying achieve in your story. All of a sudden you see point of view as a complex alien technical term that you’ll never be an expert in. However, the term is literal, meaning the point of view of the narrator or the character – whoever is telling the story. I find it helpful, bearing this in mind, to decide what the focus of the story should be, as a whole or while looking at individual chapters. Having this prior think can make all the difference when implementing or correcting point of view.

Asking that question ‘why am I writing this story with this point of view style?’ can give you a reasoning that can help guide your decisions on your story, and even aid you in knowing what to research if you want clarification on whether you’re using the right point of view, person, or tense.

2018 – In Books

Non-fiction

It’s an unusual year in books for me. I read six non-fiction, and it’s not often I read one. The non-fiction I read was educational and inspiring: Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham, and Appreciating Asperger Syndrome by Brenda Boyd. Editing-wise, I read humorous Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss and insightful Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne. Near the end of the year I was fortunate to have read Writing Fantasy Heroes, a useful collection of writing-expertise chapters by reputable authors, edited by Jason M Waltz.

Fewer fiction books read

Fewer fiction books were read in 2018, perhaps as a result. I finished eighteen books, ten below my twenty-eight book target on Goodreads. I would have liked to have read more. Nevertheless, I enjoyed them much.

Goodreads books

Best book I read in 2018

What stands out most in my mind was the first book I read in the year, Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. I loved it – the clever use of language, the political reality of Britain in those times, chivalry, heroic fights and jousts. It was a story to remember, with surprisingly addictive dialogue, scene description, and conflict.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott - front cover

New fantasy pick

Throughout the year I couldn’t stop reading Mercedes Lackey’s Vows and Honor omnibus – comprising three fantasy stories – based on Tarma and Kethry, a warrior under oath and a sorceress. One of the main differences of first book The Oathbound at the time it was first published in 1988 was that both protagonists were female and with a unique outlook and approach, and I thought this made novel their solving quests, fighting evil, making alliances, and growing as characters. The books took me on imaginative puzzle-oriented quests with intelligent sub-characters. It taught me about the strength and importance of bonds between friends and what was new to me were the practical thinking skills covered to survive in this world. There was humour in these stories, and characters I couldn’t help but like.

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey - back cover

New science fiction pick

Residual Belligerence by CG Hatton has been a fantastic science fiction spy/action thriller, at the time of this writing. It has flair. The quality action scenes and the thinking of organisations with motives in space surrounding the Thieves Guild have been top-notch and enthralling. Sh*t happens, and a lot of it, to Hil.

Residual Belligerence by CG Hatton - front cover

Other tremendous reads

Other amazing reads I stumbled across in 2018 include grounded epic fantasy Rys Rising by Tracy Falbe, terrific horror Bag of Bones by Stephen King, multi-faceted science fiction dystopian Augmented Reality by James Jackson, engaging Victorian and steampunk alternate history A Switch in Time by John Paul Bernett,  and fantasy-with-a-twist The Road to Corlay by Richard Cowper.

How was 2018 in books for you?

Residual Belligerence by CG Hatton – 5/5 Stars

‘It’ll be far better for him that I find him before,’ she paused for effect, ‘certain other practitioners of my profession.’

Residual Belligerence by CG Hatton - front cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First impressions were mixed. For the first two chapters I wasn’t grounded in the world. I didn’t know what was happening, feeling displacement, and chapter introductions only confused me more. Things got better and better, not long after. Basically, what we’re dealing with here is not any Thieves’ Guild urban fantasy. This is sexy spy stuff in space with gadgets, physical training programs, intelligence departments, assassinations, and secret packages. Imagine James Bond mixed with Ender’s Game. The action was non-stop, and every chapter was essential. Before reading Residual Belligerence I wouldn’t have imagined such a novel was possible to write.

Residual Belligerence by CG Hatton - front cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My one criticism is that I wanted to see Hil, main character and top agent, to be in good condition so we could see what he was capable of when he was on top form. How would it have been different? I realise part of the point of the story was that he was left in the dark about what was happening and he was injured, which could explain why he was helpless throughout; it certainly added to my stress reading because I was concerned for his welfare, being so invested in the story. The roof comes down on him a few times, in style, and only other characters’ expertise keeps him in the loop. Maybe CG Hatton will cover this in one of her sequels, which are serious options on my to-read list.

Residual Belligerence’s publisher

CG Hatton on Goodreads

 

Who Will Buy My Book?

I think this may be an unanswerable question. Creating strict rules of knowledge concerning who will and who will not buy your book is something best not done if you’re new to selling books. If you’ve sold enough to develop an understanding of the types of people who are interested in buying, reading, and reviewing books then the characteristics of your readers can be valuable in having a picture of ‘who’ and ‘why’. This picture will never be complete and it can only give you guidelines. Surprise readers wait behind every corner.

As a result, all I have is my experience and case studies of selling my books, which has informed me and given me a basis for understanding my target audience. Still, most of this basis is assumption.

Case study #1 – science fiction

When I sold The Antpod Faction at the Leeds Steampunk Market I was struck by the type of people who were interested in it, having given it no prior thought. I suppose I must have subconsciously assumed my ideal readers would be a similar age and the same gender, with interests firmly in Asperger Syndrome, science fiction, and politics, which had inspired the story. Of course, seeing people’s faces doesn’t always give you all the information about their interests and people choose to divulge what they think is important or what they want to.

I really had no idea, and using myself as the basis for my ideal readers didn’t necessarily work. It turned out that a variety of people were interested in my story: old people who liked books and were looking for something different, fellow authors of either gender, husbands or wives in their thirties or forties or fifties who had families, young people in their mid-twenties interested in science fiction or in getting into writing, and creative stallholders.

Away from the Leeds Steampunk Market, different people were interested in The Antpod Faction: book-loving female reviewers, people who worked with or knew about autism, teachers, people who identified as being wired differently, and people kind enough to just try it because I had spoken to them.

There are already a few of what we call ‘demographics’ in the above three paragraphs, but do you see how my picture of my target readers has changed when comparing specific observed readers in Leeds Steampunk Market as opposed to people I found elsewhere; usually at craft events or through online reviews.

The number of times I was asked if I would make it a series made me wonder if series fiction is what readers want …

Case study #2 – fantasy

Young men and older men were interested in my Roc Isle series. Some wanted to read something more fast-paced than The Antpod Faction or were interested in it because they liked fantasy table top gaming, and these were similar genres.

I ‘suspect’ some readers wanted to try it because they wanted to get stuck into a series, and while The Antpod Faction was ‘my science fiction’ book, Roc Isle: The Descent (book 1) became ‘my fantasy book’.

How do you know who will buy your book before publishing a new or different book?

This is where research may come in, if past assumptions about past sales are not giving you a definitive picture. It can be of value to know something about your ideal readers before publishing because then when branding or marketing your book you can target it appropriately.

The question is how to go about this research and I believe this completely depends on the author.

  • Maybe you have friends you can ask in person, or online.
  • You could have specific questions you need answers to or a specific group of people you need answers about; and a survey, group discussion, or interview could benefit your research.
  • You could go to a book event or other event and ask stallholders and any customers you talk to questions about which books they prefer.
  • I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t ask an author in person or online, even ones you don’t know and who you think can give you an interesting point of view.

What is a Creative Individual?

Definition – ‘creativity’

‘The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.’


Oxford Dictionaries


I consider a creative individual to be somebody who spends time regularly in creative pursuits, thinks creatively, or identifies themselves as being creative. There may also be those who consider other people to be creative, as in a well-known creative person.

How to protect the integrity of creativity?

There are some things I associate with a creative mindset, and others I do not.

  1. Creativity always benefits from time, whether this is from making time to pursue creativity or taking a break from non-creative work.
  2. It’s also about balance. Too much non-creative work will exhaust you and stifle your creativity, whereas too much time engaged in creativity may leave you uninspired or lost.
  3. If you’re looking for immediate creative results in a creative project, as opposed to a flash of inspiration, you may be approaching it the wrong way. If creativity doesn’t require perseverance and patience, then it ceases to be a journey and becomes instead a role carried out for another purpose.
  4. There should be an intention to share creativity with others. There is a time when your pride and joy is only yours and there is a time when you should release it, in an acceptable form, for others to appreciate and enjoy. It’s a form of communication of what is most dear to you, and if you stop that communication or withhold it you burden yourself, hiding who you are.

What is a creative lifestyle?

Living a lifestyle conducive to creativity could be said to be a lifestyle free of routine, repetition, and standard practices. It can be an environment where new ideas spin around and the individual thrives from them, moving creative projects forward. It’s where you always feel you’re moving forward, following the feeling, cementing the old, experimenting with the new, and finishing with one part only to begin another. You’re never finished. The old informs the new. In this sense you could say that creativity is timeless.

Should I choose to be creative?

That’s a difficult question to answer, in part because for every person who identifies as being creative there may be as many, if not more, that do not identify in this way. Some of the things that are seen as the antithesis of creativity include routine, repetition, traditional ways, conformity, rules, and black-and-white thinking. These modes of thinking are prevalent in society and perhaps in every individual, to some extent.


It’s possible to enjoy the antithesis of creativity because it can offer reliability and security in an unpredictable world that is changing at a fast pace. It’s also of use to governments, administrations, and large businesses to create a structure for success and the carrying out of important tasks. It’s a way of making sense of the world and getting answers but it’s not what we would call creative.


Some of the advantages of creativity include thinking out of the box, developing new ideas, practising, experimenting, collaborating, embracing difference, appreciating art or objects of value. Many creatives are isolated, though some decide to make an active effort to network or reach out. It seems creative pursuits do not often conform to established systems of working and socialising, and time spent on creativity is time lost on scaling the system of work and social life.


It seems almost banal to choose creativity when there is much to be lost, and yet lots of people, including myself, do choose it. It offers self-fulfilment, individuality, expression, and a particular branch of skill or knowledge that you may not get elsewhere. You have a feeling you’re moving forward and that feeling is sometimes all you need in the absence of physical or visual evidence. Creativity can be synonymous with happiness, in this sense.

How does society view creativity?

Society does not often place high value on creativity unless you’re well-known, or you have an established audience. In this way creativity itself is measured by numbers, of people or money, in determining the value of its contribution.


How society views creativity does not always stop people from engaging in creative pursuits and it shouldn’t. It’s my view that if there were more creative people or what they did was accepted in most of society, people would be rewarded or appreciated by society for offering something different and unique in a world that demands the same, regardless of how far their contribution had travelled.

What is Success?

Definition

‘The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

1.1 The attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.

1.2 A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains fame, wealth, etc.’

Oxford Dictionaries:https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/success

Why is it important to know what success is?

Many of us have wanted fame, wealth, or social status at some point in life, for whatever reason, and if not those things then we have certainly wanted to accomplish one or more aims or purposes.

Success is important, if only to know what it means to us out of the definition. The easiest thing to do is to assume other people’s success either is or should be our own just because it makes other people happy or they want it. You may have seen models of success in mainstream media, successful people, or your own friends; but unless this success means anything to your life and what you may want out of it then it’s irrelevant.

What does success mean to me?

Knowing what success is can be a process of re-thinking. For me discovering success is a journey of experience and it’s about what makes me happy or elicits feelings of joy. There are things I associate with success and there are things I don’t. I gravitate towards the former and stay away from the latter. Sometimes I put myself into a situation where I try to understand why I don’t associate something with success, perhaps because it’s something other people think is success. Success can often be what I’m doing, who I know or who I’m with, or where I’m comfortable.

Do I want more success?

Maybe you don’t want more success or you feel you’re achieving the maximum success you want at this moment in time and would not like to pursue new areas of success and that is absolutely fine because you’re getting what you want out of the moment, at the maximum level you can.

Nobody should be pressured into being successful, to adopt another’s model of success, and it’s at this time it may be wise to look at how comfortable you feel and whether you’re doing enough to achieve what you can. If you’re comfortable then don’t pressure yourself into doing something that will not fit your model of success, in any way that you can see. If you think you can do more or you see no harm in experimenting then take small steps to explore or expand your definition of success.

How do I become more successful?

Some helpful tips:

  1. Look at the definition of success and decide which parts are relevant to you and which are not. This will help you keep a focused understanding of your success while at the same time removing assumptions that do not relate to you.
  2. You must have an understanding of what success means to you. Write a list of activities you associate with success.
  3. Discuss the topic with close friends, in person or online, and ask the same questions posed in this blog post. See what answers you come up with.

Can you plan success or should success come naturally?

1) There are people in life who succeed by having plans and organising, or automating, their tasks and their goals in life, perhaps in a structured way.
2) There are also people who succeed without worrying about complex plans and instead find the most appropriate or enjoyable path to success.

There are times when you may wonder which of these people you are, or which can offer you the greatest success if you can do both.

The first approach requires a critical effort at becoming a better, or more organised and efficient self, for the purpose of improvement. It involves an element of personal change.

The second approach maintains the essence of self and builds on it in order to take advantage of the natural strengths of the individual.

Both approaches can work, but the question is which approach works for you. If you can make time to build on both then you can measure the success of each and see which one you enjoy and/or which one offers you the greatest results, in the hope you’ll find one that offers both. If you’re struggling to decide which approach to tackle then effective time management, and therefore planning (ironically for the second approach), will help you decide which to prioritise and how much time you spend on each.

Can you have too much success?

Yes, if you’re moving forward too fast, putting too much pressure on yourself to perform, becoming overwhelmed with tasks, and forgetting to give yourself proper time for breaks. Too much success can become too much ‘work’ and that’s when the creative spark that drives you can start to desert you or hamper your efficiency. As you can read on some sites, it’s what you do that moves you forward, not necessarily how long you do it. For example, repeating a repetitive strategy involving hard work that produces no results will not likely bring you more results if you work longer and harder at it.

Some people love the buzz that comes with long hours, stress-oriented work, and success for the sake of success; perhaps accompanied by a feeling of exhilaration. All of us may have felt this at some point but the nature of our individual lives can mean some of us don’t favour this lifestyle and we wish for another route to success.

Success is what it means to you!

The Road to Corlay by Richard Cowper – 4/5 Stars

The Road to Corlay by Richard Cowper - front cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a fantasy story set on the British Isles, now the Seven Kingdoms. The Drowning has already ended the Isles we know. The setting is in a time we would categorise as the dark ages, with the Church Militant, soldiers on horseback, peasants in homesteads, inns, and hard times for all.

To be honest, the first thirty pages were bizarre – a wondrous boy with pipes and a special forked tongue trained by a deceased dark wizard is the focus of a family’s attention. Tom, the Piper, goes to York, on the advice of his trusted and yet selfish guardian, the experienced Peter the Tale-Spinner. As Tom plays his special pipes stories of their performances follow them on their journey and the coin they receive from peasants makes them rich. Tom is said to be the harbinger of a prophecy regarding the White Bird of Kinship, foretold to come at the beginning of the third millennium.

This is all to the dismay of the Black Bishop at York, who fears his order and its teachings will be undermined by their presence and performance at York. He wants them dealt with, with subtlety. The contrast between light and dark is seen through tormented soldier Gyre, conflicted between his duty to the Black Bishop and the joy he felt at hearing the pipes play. This same conflict is repeated through other important characters later in the story and is mirrored by a theme that is a wish to either escape into fantasy or return to reality.

My attention waned through new characters, places, and situations and I wasn’t always sure where the author was going and how the story would tie up together. That being said, I’d say it was a novelty read, and I liked thinking about the possibilities of reality it brought up, combined with mysticism, along with the dark ages setting. The last sentence really got me thinking about what really happened, and I do think it concluded the story and removed doubt, but it’s up to interpretation. The Road to Corlay isn’t your typical dark ages fantasy. After all, the entire story is set in the future!

Richard Cowper books on Amazon

A Switch in Time by John Paul Bernett – 4/5 Stars

A Switch in Time - front cover

A Switch in Time (ASIT) is a ‘switch’ in lifestyle for two siblings, who swap with another two. We see through the eyes of 19th century coal barge workers John and Alice, how strange our modern world really is to the average Victorian young person: a world of motorised vehicles, mobile phones, global warming; and of noises, people, and futuristic buildings. It’s a time of great opportunity, but gross inequality and I think inequality is the main message in ASIT.

Much of ASIT is about spoilt, wealthy, and hateful Alicia who treats people ‘beneath her’ like dirt in modern times. She is chosen to leave these times with her brother Jamie, perhaps so she can see the value of a proper day’s work, doing as she is told, getting her fingers dirty, and of being in a loving family. She must live on the coal barge vacated by John and Alice.

Some of the values author John Paul Bernett shares include the benefits of being poor, of having more love for people than possessions, valuing hard work above reward, and respecting other people. These themes fit in nicely with the Victorian setting, where it brings forward the toil, suffering, and hardship. It’s not a Victorian novel that conforms to modern times and attitudes, and I think that’s the point.

If I thought anything could be improved in ASIT, I thought the inclusion of some scenes that related to the author’s Reaper series stuck out and didn’t conform to the general feel of the story, in my opinion. These scenes were very few. I feel the same about how some elements of the story concluded in the last chapter.

One of the things I liked best about A Switch in Time was the level of research and care taken into giving it that Victorian feel, with steam engines, barges, coal, museums, and canals. Note that my words do not do the author justice in the last sentence. Many of the locations were set in Leeds, such as Armley Mills, where I’ve been fortunate to have seen the author at steampunk events and I know and trust that he knows his steampunk as much as his horror. This is why he’s the best person to have written A Switch in Time.

Author’s Amazon Author Page

Writing Fantasy Heroes – Edited by Jason M Waltz – 5/5 Stars

Writing Fantasy Heroes - front cover

There was informative and practical advice in Writing Fantasy Heroes, from masters of the craft. Each chapter is written by a different author, and many of the authors use past heroes as examples or relate heroic deeds to how we feel as heroes and how society perceives heroes.

I found the cinematic action scenes chapter by Brandon Sanderson particularly practical and useful, by taking it in stages and making the scenes more meaningful. The examples here were superb.

Of interest to my writing was a chapter written by Jennifer Brozek on how to involve NPCs, your supporting characters, in helping to construct a story and add ‘character’ to them that can also impact how we view the main character or what it says about the main character’s personality. I found this really helpful in looking at the bigger picture of writing stories as opposed to focusing on a single main character.

Glen Cook wrote a chapter on ‘Sh*t Happens in the Creation of Story, Including Unexpected Deaths, with Ample Digressions and Curious Aside’. I found this chapter one of the most interesting reads because it was about that aspect of writing, and life, that isn’t often acknowledged: sh*t happens. And sometimes you can’t do anything about the fact that sh*t happens, only that you need to respond to it. There were enough ironic examples here to keep me fascinated in the chapter and point of view.

Writing Fantasy Heroes on Amazon

Publisher’s Website