Sunday 27 December 2015

Thoughts after reading 'Nineteen Nuns On The Number 15 Bus - The Southend Zombie Apocalypse'

 Earlier this week I had several adverts on my Facebook page for 'Nineteen Nuns On The Number 15 Bus - The Southend Zombie Apocalypse' by Simon G Gosden. I was in the mood for some ZA fiction so decided to give it a go - it was only 99p so what's to lose. A lot as it turns out.

 This has turned out to be one of the worst produced books it has been my misfortune to read, which is a shame as the story itself has a lot of promise. What lets it down is the fact there is no sign of an editor or proof reader having been anywhere near it (and if it has been edited and proofed those responsible should hang their heads in shame). There are errors on practically every page and even for 99p this is unacceptable.

 Several points to remember when you are writing or have completed your book (or whatever you are producing - even if it is only a leaflet)

     1) Always get someone else to look at it - there is more chance of fresh eyes spotting an error.

     2) If you are going to use big words at least make sure you use the right ones - and yes, that happened in this book.

     3) If you don't know Formatting then get someone else to either do it for you or show you how - your book will be more appealing if it is set out well.

 'Nineteen Nuns...' is a terrible example of how a book should be published (or an excellent example of how to get it so, so wrong!) It reads very much as if the author just wrote the story and pressed 'publish' which is a shame because it could have been a decent little book with the right amount of care and attention.

 I believe 'Nineteen Nuns....' is to be republished in 2016 with a full professional edit so I will look out for it then and give it another go - hopefully it will be readable by then.

 Oh, and I've looked on Amazon - it has 4 reviews, and each one (including one by a Mr Simon Gosden - remember that name from earlier??) is a 5 star review, full of praise and with no mention of the countless errors. So I guess that leads me to point number

      4) If you are going to give your book a 5 star book and glowing reviews at least make sure your work is worth it. A self appointed 5 star review of a mess of a book will do you no favours whatsoever.

 It's your book, you put all that work into it so do what you need to to make it the best damn book you can. It'll be worth it in the long run

Sunday 20 December 2015

Escape From B-Movie Hell by M T McGuire - a review

When Art Restoration student Andi Turbot hears voices in her head you would think the day couldn't get any weirder.........then she finds out her best friend Eric is a 7ft tall lobster shaped alien and the future of our world is at stake.

This book, as hinted at in the title, is very much in the style of B-Movies and, as such, is a whole lot of fun - so much so, in fact, that I got through this in 2 days (which was disappointing, in a good way, as I would have happily spent a lot longer in this universe). The rich cast of characters and non stop dashing about keep the reader engaged (to be fair books like this can lose pace and attenton in the middle ground) all the way through.

I'm certainly glad I decided to pick this up and give it a go, and I'll also be looking out for more from this author

A good, fun comedy space romp, more please

4/5 stars

Thursday 17 December 2015

Across The Terminator by David Tallerman

Two bases on the moon, one American and one Chinese while back on Earth these two countries are locked in a Cold War. Due to the way of things on Earth the two moon bases are not in contact at all. A scientific discovery by the Americans though could be about to change that as they need the help of the Chinese astronauts and scientists.

This is a very short story but, for all that, there is a good bit of story in it. Mr Tallerman does a really good job of bringing the characters to life, making me bothered about how things would work out for them and wanting to know more about events after the story.

One phrase in the book that summed it up for me was 'Science should be bigger than borders'. These people are a long way from home, should they class each other as enemies just because their respective countries tell them to?

Highly Recommended (even though it is short)

The Keeper by Catriona King - A Review

 The Keeper is the latest in Catriona King's series featuring Marc Craig and his Belfast Murder Squad. In my opinion it is one of the best so far (and I've been hooked on this series since book 1).

 The crime this time around is the murder of three people with links back to the bad days of 'The Troubles'. It's not an easy one for the squad to solve as the victims are not all from the same side so it is unclear what, exactly, the motives are and who could be responsible.........and who will be next.

 As usual with this series what makes it stand out are the characters. These have grown with each book yet their manners and characteristics have managed to avoid them becoming parodies of themselves. With 'The Keeper' though, upheaval is coming for the squad. Chickens come home to roost as events from previous books come to a head and not everyone will escape unscathed.

 Things may change for the members of  Marc Craig's squad but one thing that doesn't change is the quality of the writing and the storytelling. Catriona King has done it again. Bring on the next one.


Wednesday 9 December 2015

Voices of the Damned by Barbie Wilde - A Review

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Barbie Wilde and being given the chance to review her novel 'The Venus Complex'.  I really enjoyed TVC so when I heard there was going to be a collection of her short horror fiction published I jumped at the chance to read it.

What we have here is a mixed bag of scares, each one a delectable treat. I read in a picky fashion, a story every few days with a break between - as with the best of feasts you don't want to gorge yourself, you take bites and savour them.

Barbie Wilde is well known in Horror circles for her role as 'female cenobite' in the second Hellraiser film and that character, Sister Cilice, is the starting point for these stories (the first of three stories that feature her). Sister Cilice is what amounts to an origin story telling of how she went from being a nun to becoming one of Hell's finest. Her story is told, as I said, over three tales, all are good but this is the strongest. The rest of the collection features such joys as Zulu Zombies, Sexual Vampires, Gods, Demons, Body Horror and the locked door in the corner of the basement (in Botophobia, one of my favourites). Through it all Barbie Wilde keeps you looking over your shoulder, listening for the creak of a floorboard or the tinkle of little bells that may just bring horrors beyond your wildest imaginings.

These tales are not for the faint hearted, the horror and violence is graphic as is the erotic element to the stories (but all relevant, not just for titillation). Each story is also accompanied by some lovely (though gruesome) art which shows well on my Kindle Fire, with its' colour screen.

This collection is heartily recommended so prepare to step into the bizarre, horrific, twisted imagination of one of the nicest ladies you could ever hope to meet

 5/5 Stars

Thursday 3 December 2015

Heir To The North by Steven Poore - a review

The Heir To The North is the first novel by Steven Poore but to read it you'd think he's been doing this for years. HttN is Epic Fantasy of the highest standard.

The general gist of the story is the usual descendant of displaced royalty/evil warlock/prophecy fare that much of the fantasy genre uses but is a whole different level to a lot of what is out there today. Several hundred years ago the Warlock Malessar pulled the castle of Caenthell apart stone by stone, the only survivors being the soldier Baum and the baby son of the High King, his only Descendant.

Move forward to 'now' and we meet the travelling story teller Norrow (a truly horrible specimen of humanity) and his daughter Cassia, who also has hopes of becoming a story teller one day. In the town Keskor they meet up with a grizzled old soldier and a 'princeling' who are planning to restore the North and defeat Malessar's curse (Caenthell will stay buried and The North will not rise again until I freely offer my sword to a true descendant of the High Kings-or one takes it from my dying hands). Norrow and Cassia, as Storytellers, go with Baum and Meredith (the aforementioned Princeling) on their quest to record events and to have a new tale to tell.

Things are not all as they seem though. There is a good bit of twisting and turning as the tale goes on - and the end really pulled the rug out from under my feet. Things are nicely set up for the second (and concluding) volume in the series.

What really stood out for me was the way the world was brought to life as the characters moved through it. The history was mostly revealed through stories told, and a very rich history it is too.
I thought right from the start that this book was a bit special - sometimes you just get that tingle other books don't give you - and I wasn't wrong. It brought to mind the first time I picked up he works of Eddings and Robert Jordan and, in my opinion, is good enough to stand side by side with them.

With exemplary storytelling set in a richly developed world Steven Poore has become one to watch.


Guest Post by Simon Bestwick

Today I'm happy to have a guest on the blog, Mr Simon Bestwick, author of (among other things) the Black Mountain series, The Faceless and  new novel Hell's Ditch.

Simon's post today is on writing strong characters in fiction.


Casting Couch: Some thoughts on characterisation [Thursday 3rd December]

Caveat: This is what has worked for me: it may, or may not, work for you. Every writer needs to find the methods that works for them.
Having said all that, here are a few pointers picked up by trial and error (mostly error) over the years on the subject of writing characters who come alive on the page.
1) Everyone’s A Star
In the movies, there are lead characters, supporting characters, bit players and spear-carriers. Life, however, isn’t like that.
Everyone’s the star of their own movie: the story is about them. You don’t exist to help or hinder someone else in achieving their goals; you have your own goals and you’re in pursuit of them. Each and every character has his or her own story, their own journey. What that is, and how that intersects with that of other characters, to help or to hinder them, is for you to determine. So how do you do that?
2) Play All The Parts
Every actor asks what their character wants, what they seek to achieve over the course of the story, whether they get it or not. Every action, every line of dialogue, is directed towards achieving that goal. That’s as true of creating characters on the page as it is of playing them on stage. The difference is that you have to play all the parts, not just one.
So when minor Character B helps major Character A to achieve her goal, how does that relate to his own? Does it help him achieve it? Or is there a conflict; does he delay his own progress because he can’t turn away from someone who needs help? Only you can answer that, either by planning or by winging it. I’m in the latter camp, but no one way is right or wrong; it’s a case of finding what suits you.
But if you can answer the question, ‘what do you want?’, for your characters, they’ll be easier to write and your scenes will be more alive.
3) The Casting Couch
I tend to work in a visual way; it’s easier to write a scene if I can picture it. With your characters, that means putting a face to the name.
One way of doing that is actors: the more films, TV or theatre productions you see, the more choices you have.
Another is people you know. That can be dicey, depending on what you write; an erotica writer I know would never do so, as she regards it as unethical and intrusive. If you write horror or crime, on the other hand, people often ask you to kill them off!
Hell’s Ditch, my latest novel, started life as a radio play. Helen was based on the actress who’d have played the part. Gevaudan, on the other hand, was more of a composite of Antonio Banderas in Desperado and the late metal singer Pete Steele; he isn’t quite one or the other, but where the two of them blur together, I can see him.
Another method is people-watching. Two of my short stories, ‘Dermot’ and ‘Night Templar’, were inspired by watching, respectively, a guy on a bus and a taxi driver getting out of his car. In each case, the character came first, then the story.
Know what they want and you have the inner man or woman. Know what they look like and you have the outer one. Put those together and your character starts coming to life.
4) Vital Statistics
List your various characters’ details: name, age, hair and eye colour, who they look like, and any biographical information that comes up as you write – likes and dislikes, favourite foods, what they like to drink. It’s much easier than downing tools to comb through what you’ve already written in search of one detail. You wouldn’t believe how often work’s ground to a halt while I tried to remember if X had blue eyes or green.
5) Tells and Tics
Poker relies on bluffing – not giving away excitement at a good hand, or trepidation at a weak one. Good players learn to spot their opponent’s ‘tell’; a mannerism they employ when they bluff. In the film Casino Royale, Le Chiffre’s is rubbing the corner of his eye.
We all have tells and tics – little things we do when we’re angry, afraid, amused, happy or sad. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeve; some hide their feelings completely. Most are somewhere in between. What does your character do?
We all have mannerisms, gestures, idiosyncracies of speech. Start paying attention to others and you’ll see – and hear – them. Do all this, and you’ll be on your way to creating characters who get off the casting couch – and into your readers’ heads.

Simon Bestwick is the author of Tide Of Souls, The Faceless and Black Mountain. His short fiction has appeared in Black Static and Best Horror Of The Year, and been collected in A Hazy Shade Of Winter, Pictures Of The Dark, Let’s Drink To The Dead and The Condemned. His new novel, Hell’s Ditch, is out now.