Sunday, February 27, 2011

February British Book Challenge 2011: Ravenwood

Title: Ravenwood
Author: Andrew Peters
Published: Chicken House, May, 2011

Synopsis: Art Malikum begins his day as a plumber, the squittiest job possible in Arborium. By the end of the day he's escaped death and is the only one who can save Arborium from the greedy hands of neighbouring country Maw. By delving into the secrets of the Ravenwood and with the help of his friends Mucum, Flo and his little sister Shiv, can Ark, a mere 14 year old succeed? Or will his arch enemy Petronio succeed in his evil plans to stop him?

Star parts: Now, where shall I start? Well, for a start this is a rip-roaring plot, with the kind of pace I love. The story starts off with an amazing chase scene. By the end of chapter one, the reader is already firmly on Ark's side and plunged straight into this slightly strange tree world that is Arborium.Chapter two clears up any of those burning questions the reader might be having, such as: what's going on? and from there on, it's just pure fun, and lots of escaping death.

Arborium is obviously a very different world, but Peters litters in enough references with a little twist that the reader can imagine this world and how it functions. The language of Arborium is also slightly different so although there is no real swearing in the book, the characters do say 'buddy' a lot.

The characters are great and as they embark on their journey to save Arborium, they also all embark on a journey of self discovery. Ark suspects there is something that sets him apart from the other dendrans, but as any hero on a journey knows, first he ignores his difference and then embraces it while staying true to himself. Mucum who is the muscle and comedy character discovers and accepts his weaknesses. And Flo who is ridiculed ends up being the hero of the day. Petronio, Ark's nemesis, also discovers just how bad he can be and totally embraces it.

Black clouds: Mmm... don't think there are any. Well... maybe some of the characters are a little stereotypical, but not cardboard. The reader knows what motivates the character, so while they might start off as a standard good or bad guy, we get to know their nuances along the way. In fact what we really find out by the end of the book is that nothing is black and white.

Do I recommend it: What do you think? YES! I really, really enjoyed this. Please do read it. It's out in May and should do great things.

To read more great reviews check out The Bookette here and the February BBC challenge here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Writing on Wednesday: And the winner is...

If the comments, emails and tweets I've received since Sunday are anything to go by it seems that picking names is a tricky thing for us writerly types. So, this is the way it works for me.

Usually this little voice starts up in my head and introduces him or herself to me. With the others, I try to make sure that the names are regionally accurate, I'll do a meaning search and if I like it I keep it. Or, I just make it up, but in the end the name could be anything, it doesn't really matter. The name isn't inhabited until I start to write it.  It's like the character slips it on like a coat and if it suits, it sticks.

Up until last week I thought this was me being careful about the name choice. In a way I was - not as careful as when choosing my child's name - but there was thought involved. But now I can see where I went wrong. Despite the care and the planning, when this story was still a seed growing roots in my head I saw this: Ella and Morgane were friends. Will, Miranda and Ella were a family. There's no problem there is there? The problem is that I wasn't hearing the story. I wasn't seeing that there were two plots that met and up until that point the characters were Leo and Ella and Morgane and Miranda. OK, I did see this, I even planned it, this is what I wrote:
and I didn't see anything wrong with it. And when I wrote it, I then saw the problem really clearly, but I just wrote through it. Ho hum! A lesson has been learnt.

But oh, the winner. Well, according to your vote the winner is Cari but,uh hum, well, eh... I think I'm going for Assanna. I'll call her Anna for short and when the full name is revealed I may drop a 's' as really I'm a big kid and I'm not sure I can have ass as part of her name.

Mostly, I'd like to say a big thank you to those of you who took the time to vote. Oh yes, of course I could have done it all myself, but seeing your choices did make me think about whether I liked the names or not and whether it worked for my character. I hope you're not disappointed that I didn't go with the majority vote, but you know. Anyway, now that I've worked out how to do this poll thing, I may have to do it again... but this time for something where your vote counts hey!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Miranda's new name

Since Tuesday night I have been wandering around like a mad person muttering under my breath. Morgane and ... Morgane and ... Morgane and ... No, that sounds like a bag. Mmm, no that reminds me of something else. No, no, no, no that won't do!

So I'll backtrack a little and explain. In my wip, I have a character called Miranda. I'm quite attached to the name, but Miranda shares a lot of her scenes (well, all but two) with Morgane. Can you see the problem there? The thing is, I realised this when writing the scenes. Even I mixed up the names, I even changed her name to Rosemary briefly, but she wasn't a Rosemary, she was a Miranda. But my reader's are having difficulty with Morgane and Miranda, so I think Miranda has to go (and yes, it has to be Miranda, there is no question of changing Morgane).

If you are wondering where I got the names from, well... While I was messing about with Scrivener the other day, I noticed that version 1.6 has a new function: name generator. It can either make up some random names, or you can put in a meaning and it comes up with a list. My word! This program just gets better and better.

So, here's the deal: you guys click on one of the choices below and I can't promise that I will choose the most voted for answer, but it will damn well help me make up my mind and I'll tell you on Wednesday... maybe, if I've made up my mind. Meanwhile, I'm going to stop muttering. 

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Writing on Wednesday: Five things I love about critique groups

  1. I love being part of that process that makes the writing better.
  2. I love reading other people's work. 
  3. I love getting that insight into how other writer's minds work. Do you write every day? How about trying twenty minutes a day? None of us are writing that first book any more. We've all learnt a great deal and it's interesting to see that we've all journeyed to the other side where 'planning is good'. 
  4. I love the feedback, especially when I have got to a point in the revision where a chapter is really not working and I'm just too close to see how to fix it. 
  5. I love the tea. 
There are other things I love. I love the fact that one night in the month I don't have to rush home for the crèche run and the bubba's dinner. Getting the metro to somewhere different. But that's not to do with writing, so it's not included in the top five.

Something I realised this month after being accused of writing a chapter worthy of a Brazilian b-series soap-opera is that I always go that sentence too far. Where I can finish a chapter, I beat it to death. Unfortunately I realised this on chapter 15 of  the revision.

I also started reading this great article on balancing action, dialogue and narrative. I haven't finished reading it, but there was certainly an 'aha' moment as I realised why chapter 4 is still not working.

And finally I'm going to go and change the name of the hotel in chapter 1. Now that my critters have reached the twist in the tail I was given a great idea for dropping a hint earlier on. And then I need to change the name of a character. I don't know why, but it seems many of my characters have names beginning with M. What can my obsession with that letter be?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Falling in love

Iain Broome, over at Write for your life (a blog I have ONLY just discovered)  posed the question: How did you fall in love with writing? At first I thought, but I've always written, and then realised that I hadn't actually answered the question.

If anything the affair began in a somewhat one-sided manner. You know when you have that friend who always hangs around, is always there to support you, but you just take them for granted. I was told at school that I was good at writing, and I thought that was enough. It wasn't a job or anything, it was just a hobby. After, a bit of infidelity on my part (pottery, photography and painting) I realised I had downed my pen for many years.

So how did I fall in love? Well, I fell in love with writing around the same moment that I began to have some big revelations about love itself.  Love is hard work. You need to work on love every day. Love can  make you ecstatically happy and downright miserable. Love should never be taken for granted.

I'm not sure that I could read my early blog posts, but if you could, then you would see how between 2006 and 2007 I fell in love. Alternatively, how about your share your own story? Either on your blog, at Write for your life or here in my comments.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Writing on Wednesday: Epiphany

In the last few months I've had a bit of an epiphany. When I sat down in 2007 to write the first draft of The Shaelhan Sensors I did not have an exact idea of what was going to happen. There was a bad guy and a good guy and the good guy succeeded. There! And I wrote 80,000 odd words around that. 

When I sat down to prepare for NaNoWriMo in October, I knew I needed to plan. I needed to plan when and where I was going to write. And I kind of knew that I needed to know what I was going to write. Instead of writing my post-its to summarise a chapter, I wrote post-its to tell me what I was going to write. I filled a whole notebook with notes about what I was going to write. And then I sat down and wrote. And there the angel descended and cast light over my writing desk and sang in a voice of a million choirists: Thou shall plan forever more.

The thing is that while the planning tool I used was useful, now that I have had my epiphany I need something else, something... better.

Randy* Ingermanson's Snowflake method was mentioned on Bubblecow a while back, so I recommended it to someone else. At the time, I was floating on the glow of having finished a first draft of A twist in the tail and wasn't planning on planning again for a while. But it seems that NaNo turned the tap on and I've got three ideas on the go. The person I recommended the snowflake thingy too, said she was using it and it was quite good and I thought I'd give it a go. There's a ten point design system that takes you from a triangle to a ... well you go look at the site yourself if you're interested. So far, I'm finding the 'snowflake thingy' (as it shall now be known) challenging. For a start, I have a really bad time following instructions and I only read them properly when I mess up. Then, I'm impatient. I don't want to spend hours working on one paragraph. And I'm also a bit dubious when I look at the side bar and see yet another piece of software that will revolutionise the writing process. But, I'm also getting excited. For a start, the more I plan, the more I see that actually quite a lot of the first draft of The Shaelhan Sensors can be salvaged. I can also see that where there was a bit of substance and texture missing in the first draft, this can also be added.

The last thing I'm discovering is that planning isn't killing the creative process at all. It's just that I'm doing all those what if's and talking to my characters now, instead of later. If anything, I think it's really enhancing the creative process. I'm on stage 4 of the snowflake thingy at the moment. But a few questions to you the readers now.
  • Are you a plan or just write and see where it goes person? 
  • And if you are a planner, what works for you? 
I'm looking forward to your answers.

* snigger, snigger

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