Return of the Writer

Once again, ladies and gents, you have my apologies. I had hoped to get back into the swing of things long before now but the book took a lot more out of me than I first thought. I really needed some time to recover – mentally more than anything – and to be able to look at all three books with a fresh mind.

Now, I feel like I’m finally at that stage. Oh, and I like puns. You should know this by now (and in case you didn’t get it – shame on you – that’s a Star Wars reference at the top. Can’t believe I explained that).

I’ve not been sitting idly by, however. Some things have been going on. So, my friends, join me on what, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a riveting tale. Maybe. Possibly. Okay, probably not but bear with me.

Where have I been?

I’ve been here and there, keeping busy without exhausting myself further. Or trying not to. I tried reading but that was a little too close to home and I found that even gaming wasn’t as appealing as I’d thought it would be. I did keep up with swimming, other than last week where I had other exercise plans (dodgeball – don’t ask but I do have a medal!). Hell, I even tried quitting smoking.

The one thing that is worth noting is that over the last couple of weeks is that it was the fifth Manchester Children’s Book Festival. I’ve volunteered at every single one to date and this year was no exception, although following the pattern of the previous two, I’m not as involved as previously but that doesn’t stop me enjoying it all the same.

It’s fantastic to see so many children getting involved with reading, writing, performances and much more – anything creative and wacky! It’s been a pleasure to see the festival grow since 2010 and I’m looking forward to next year already.

Expect a more detailed post on this in two weeks. I wouldn’t want to break tradition now, would I?

Finding motivation

One thing that I think has been really lacking for me is motivation. Since finishing the first draft of the most recent novel, I’ve been finding it hard to come back – for whatever reason. Life can work for or against us and we subconsciously associate that with actions, activities, emotions and such. I think when I’m not happy with something big in my life, it stops me from wanting to write as I feel that should be fixed first.

It doesn’t apply all the time but it does have an impact.

I also had a conversation with a friend about writer’s block, which I’m still not convinced actually exists as a thing but yet I’ve yet to encounter a writer who hasn’t used this term when they struggle. That seems to be more to do with ease – we all understand it, from varying sources – so it doesn’t need explanation. Despite that, why is it a thing and is it only a thing because we make it so? I don’t think I’ve had writer’s block as I write at work and generally. Hey, I’m writing a blog post right now! It’s an interesting thought, though.

Actually, I think this is a topic for a full blog post next month. Look out for that!

Putting together a plan

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels - not related to each other

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels – not related to each other

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have three projects to edit. The novella is first up, and I’ll be starting that at the weekend. I like it’s length but the ‘professional’ feedback (from agents and publishers) suggest it would work better as a novel. I’ll decide that as I go through the draft but I’m not convinced yet. There are other things that need to be fixed, however.

After that, I’ll start on one of the novels. The sci-fi project is up first, as it’s more recent and I think it needs less work. The story is well rounded, it just needs to be padded out in places, with a few more explanations and sub plots, supported by a little character development. That might sound a lot, but it won’t be as bad as you might think. Of course, after that comes the nit-picking of later drafts.

Finally, I’ll work on the fantasy novel. That needs a fair bit adding to it for me to be happy. The good thing is, I know what to add, the big question is where it should go. I have some ideas but the edit will help identify weaker areas and the plot holes that I know exist.

If I can get all that done over summer, I MIGHT just have one ready to send out by the end of the year.

If I’m lucky.

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Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?

I’m back – again! I lost internet access for a while, making posting the new stuff I let you know about last time a bit harder but I’m back now and kicking off as I mean to go on!

Inspiration is something we all need from time to time to get ourselves motivated. That’s quite a broad and vague statement, as the kind and amount of inspiration we need depends on the project or task at hand. As a writer, one who likes to explore different genres and mediums, I find that the inspiration I want, or need, changes too. It might sound obvious but how often have you thought about it to try and influence where the inspiration comes from?

Now is as good a time as any to think about it.

Inspiration comes from all around us

We take inspiration from everything, even if we don’t realise it at the time. Someone we meet, something we see, things we here and anything we do – literally, it comes from anywhere. It might not surface for a long time but there comes that moment, like a lightbulb being turned on above your head from a cartoon, where something clicks and everything makes sense.

At least, in that moment.

Delain's We Are The Others album

Delain’s We Are The Others album

I take a lot of inspiration from the books I read, games I play, television and films I watch and the music I listen to, like countless other people. I find it hard to work in silence, I like background noise so there’s always something on when I’m writing but over the years I’ve found that if I’m in the mood or trying to write a certain genre or form, it helps if that noise matches that.

I’m not saying I have to watch fantasy to write fantasy, but there has to be something there that encourages me. If I’m reading (or watching) The Lord of the Rings, for example, it makes me want to work on something just as epic, even if it’s not a fantasy piece.

Turn up the music

Nightwish's Highest Hopes: The Best of Nightwish album

Nightwish’s Highest Hopes: The Best of Nightwish album

Music is a big one though, and while I enjoy listening to a lot of different genres and artists (save a couple I’m really not keen on) it’s the lyrics that hit home the most. The music adds to the effect. Much like poetry, there are different meanings you can take from them. You can find out what the artist intended and what was behind it for them but everything like this is open to interpretation.

Recently I’ve been working on two short stories – neither of which is the one I uploaded a few days ago, The (Long Overdue) Journey. One is fantasy and the other is a bit more of a gritty realism piece. Music has helped me focus on both pieces but figuring out what artists and songs was a bit trickier.

Within Temptation's Hydra album

Within Temptation’s Hydra album

For the fantasy piece, I wanted it to start a bit slower and slowly work into something triumphant, epic and uplifting. I’ve always associated the powerful vocals of bands like Nightwish, Delain and Within Temptation with this genre. The voices are powerful and the music adds to that but it’s the voices which I tune into. Watch or read any fantasy and songs are usually sung at some point but there’s no band with them. That makes the words the most powerful thing about them and there are three songs, all a little different, that helped me. These are:

I’ve included links to the best YouTube videos I can find so you can take a look/listen.

Does the genre or form change what inspiration you need?

Quite simply, yes. You may have your favourite go-to songs or films when you need a boost – I know a lot of people who run and work out have a specific playlist they’ll listen to for a good number of their sessions but it never works that way for me. I had so many different playlists it became easier just to change a couple around based on the projects I was working on at the time.

I can quite happily – to the bafflement and annoyance of others at times – listen to the same few songs over and over and over again while I take from them everything I need or want. This can be before I start writing and during it, even after at times. It really depends. I only do this through the initial writing/drafting phase. When it comes to redrafting and editing, I’ll generally avoid anything I used to inspire me while I refine it – unless I feel something is missing.

So, what do you think? Do you think about what inspires you for each project and act accordingly or do you have a go-to? I’d love to hear from you!

Is The New Watch really the End?

The New Watch

The New Watch

So, book five. I had very high hopes for Sergei Lukyanenko’s The New Watch. I love the first four and if this one could keep up with those, it was fairly certain I’d feel the same with this one. As it turns out, it did and I do! One thing I did appreciate was that the spelling for Gesar returned in this book, opposed to Geser as featured in The Last Watch. I’m not sure why it bothered me so much but it did.

So, let’s dive in.

A brand new mystery

We’re back with Anton Gorodetsky. He’s changed a fair bit since we first met in The Night Watch. He’s moved up the ranks in the Watch and gained a lot of power, which has undoubtedly helped his relationship with Sveta – or that’s what we’re led to believe. His daughter is growing up quickly and her power is unmatched.

Although we’ve been introduced to the idea of reading the future with probabilities and such, now we’re really get involved with Clairvoyants and Prophets. Both can spell big trouble for humans and Others and it opens up a whole new mystery about the nature of the Twilight – we’re even asked to question if it’s really alive!

Some more historical figures are revealed to us in this volume, expanding on the theory that most of the mythological and notable figures in our history were actually Others, explaining their talents in whatever field they were in. It’s an interesting idea and certainly gives our writer a lot to work with and plenty of people for Anton to meet. Zabulon doesn’t play a massive part in this story, much like the last, and that’s a shame. I do enjoy his meddling.

Arina also returns once more, even more powerful than before. I’m sensing a pattern here, with her. Ever since their first meeting in The Twilight Watch I had an idea that they were going to get into it and this might be their last chance if there really are only five books in the series (it’s no longer a trilogy with a sequel).

How important is destiny?

Ever hear the question “if a tree falls down but no one hears it does it make a sound” – or a variation of that – then you’ll be familiar with the question posed in The New Watch. It’s been altered a little and is now “if someone doesn’t hear a prophecy then will it still happen the way it is spoken?”

It’s an interesting idea and one Anton must get to grips with and make a decision on at various times through the book. There doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong answer so please tell me your theories on this.

It’s implied that the Twilight itself might be alive in some form and that it is at risk from Anton’s daughter, Nadia, nonetheless. It all comes down to the prophecies spoken and heard, making this a battle for survival. In that case, who is right and can anything be done to change destiny? Small changes have been made before, of course, thanks to the book of Destiny and Chalk from the original trilogy but what about on a grand scale? I’m not about to give away the answer.

So, is this really the end?

Honestly, I’m not sure. The ending could work, it does tie up a fair few things but leaves enough things to keep you thinking – and that is key. Think about all the TV shows, films and books you’ve read that tie everything up together. Do you find that you stop thinking about them until you’re reminded of them? I do but if there are things to think and wonder about, they stay with you longer, you go back to try and find out more and you’re more likely to talk about them. The New Watch does this well but I get the feeling that it’s not over.

The flip side is I haven’t found anything that might indicate a sixth book is coming (whether it’s final or not). Everything I can find suggests it’s just the five books but I’ve been talking to a few friends who are fans of this series and a couple have said they’ve read about a sixth so we’ll have to wait and see.

Either way, The New Watch is not one to miss. If you’re new to the series then get on it so you can enjoy some great books!

Book Review: Andy Gee’s Gid and the Arborinium Prophecy

Wow. Just wow.

I mean, I’m honestly not sure where to start with this one – it’s fantastic! It’s been a long time since I’ve found a book that I enjoy so completely that it’s easily to become lost in. I’m a writer myself (hopefully you know this by now) and when you combine that with my education in writing, it’s very hard to turn that critical mind off and just enjoy something. There are plenty of books that people enjoy that I just can’t now – even if I used to before.

Gid and the Arborinium Prophecy is almost like a reset button – and one well needed! Not only was there very little I could pick on (and anything like that is down to personal preference and not objective criticism) but it flowed so well, which is something I value a lot in a book. So, what captivated me the most?

An immersive world

IGid and the Arborinium Prophecyt can be difficult to find the balance between descriptive text and moving the plot forward. I’m a massive fantasy fan and some of my favourite works are said to be boring and tedious because of this. It’s something I’m aware of but I enjoy being able to close my eyes and know every detail of that scene and location the writer describes.

Both the world we know and the new one Andy Gee introduces us to are clear enough for us to see without any trouble. What’s more impressive is the way that all descriptions add something to the story. Not a word is wasted and while he could easily have gone into more detail that adults may have enjoyed and appreciated, his first audience are younger readers and taking that risk is not worth it. It’s a balancing act and one he has handled well.

Introducing Gid and the gang

Gid, our protagonist, is a normal kid. That’s our introduction and it’s something he refers to himself throughout the story. There are lessons to be learned here – and not just one, no, there are plenty. As Gid grows, the world he sees changes before him and the same for the reader. This development is natural and there is a point to everything that happens.

However, he is not alone and has a wonderfully vibrant range of characters that help him along the way – or not, as the case may be. You won’t come across them all straight away, and you may leave them to re-join them later but they stand out and prove that while Gid is special, while he’s our hero, this is not solely his story.

My favourites are Ash and Gecks. That’s all I’m saying. You’ll meet them later and when you understand their relationship, you’ll see why I like them so much!

It never stops!

As I mentioned before, the pace is great but it does slow down at times. In some stories, that would be a problem but not here. The emotions can be intense, you can’t help rooting and feeling for Gid and you might not even realise how invested you are until things slow down a little and you can recover from it. There are a couple of points in the book that had my heart racing and I didn’t even realise until after. It was crazy – this is for young readers yet it still has pull over older and adult audiences. Tricky to do, so kudos, Mr. Gee.

You don’t have to take my word for it, either. Head over to Amazon where you can buy the paperback and Kindle versions of Gid and the Arborinium Prophecy as well taking a look at the other reviews people have left. They’re all positive so far and it goes to show just how well Andy Gee has captured this world, his characters and audiences of both the young and old. It’s a fantastic start to what promises to be a great writing career!