Friday, 5 February 2016

The Headaches of Time Travel

Today, I welcome Meaghan McIssac onto the blog. Meaghan is the author of Urgle and her latest,  Movers. Movers is a sci-fi novel where some people are born with powers to move people throughout time, even though doing this is very illegal. 

In this post, Meaghan talks about how she kept everything time-travel straight in her head while writing Movers. Not only in her first draft, but during her edits as well. As always, my thanks goes to Meaghan (@MeaghanMcIsaac on Twitter) for writing this post for us today and to Harriet (@HarrietDunlea) for setting this all up! Now, over to Meaghan!

So, you want to travel through time on a word scribbling endeavor, do you? If jet lag is a problem for you, you wouldn't believe the headaches that come your way when you try to move through the space-time continuum. But never mind, I can see you are determined to make your way to another day, another time, forwards or backwards. So all I can do, fearless traveller, is my best to prepare you for the rough journey ahead. Strap in.
If you're going to travel through time, the first thing you need is a map — a road plan for the whole trip, a timeline. Whether going forwards or backwards, map out the years from NOW, or whatever your now happens to be, to your year of destination. Be it yesterday, the Jurassic era, next week or the year 2383, there's a lot of space between now and then, and a lot that can happen. You have to know what occurred between these two points, because those events affect EVERYTHING that happens in the NOW and happens in the THEN. Believe me, you'll need to reference the timeline A LOT. Unfortunately, you won't have a navigator and you'll be trying to focus on driving, but still, if you can tear your eyes from the wheel long enough to glance at the timeline roadmap, it really helps keep things on track. If I hadn't had a timeline while working on Movers, I'd probably still be floating somewhere between page 160 and 161. The timeline showed me the way. If you don't have one packed, I suggest you do that. Now. RIGHT NOW.
Even with your timeline roadmap, you'll have to go back and retrace your steps...again and again...and again...and probably again. I rewrote Movers — wait, let me count the drafts — six times. That's the same journey, six times. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Just enough to memorize the route so that eventually, you can avoid the wrong turns and detours. And in those first drafts, there will be many, many wrong turns. Fear not, fearless time journey person! Wrong turns are just a part of traveling through time! Embrace them! But then fix them. Over and over and over again.
Time Travel claims a lot of lives. Like a lot a lot. Somewhere between draft 2 and draft 5 of Movers, a great many of Pat and Gabby's friends didn't make it. The body count, last I checked, was at five. I may be forgetting some people. We laughed, we cried, we travelled far together, as a group. But in the end, these darlings had to go. If you find your journey is weighed down by the deadweight of superfluous characters, pitch 'em overboard, shove 'em out the hatch, leave 'em behind and never look back. Time travel demands you pack light — that includes the people you take with you. It's a harsh reality, fearless traveller, so ask yourself: do you have the heart?
The grandfather paradox will eat your brain. What is the grandfather paradox? OK, crash course: the grandfather paradox asks basically (and I mean very basically because this is as far as I understand it), if you travelled back in time to kill your grandfather before he met your grandmother, then your dad would never be born, then you would never be born in the future, and therefore you could never go back in time in the first place to kill him. Take a second, digest that. Dizzy yet? Try to fix it all you want, this sucker is gonna pop up again and again in one form or another. At some point, you just have to say...whatever. If the world explodes, then the world explodes. But for the sake of the journey, you just gotta carry on. So carry on, fearless traveller. Try your best to swerve away from the paradox potholes, but if you plow through a little one every now and then, don't beat yourself up. You may come away battered and bruised, but you'll survive, gosh darnit!
So, worthy adventurer, knowing all that I've just told you, I wish you all the luck in the universe on your time travel journey. It's a hard beast to wrangle, but if you have the guts, it's a journey you'll enjoy from start to finish. 

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Building the World of the Sin Eater

I am thrilled to welcome Melinda Salisbury onto the blog today! Melinda is the author of the books The Sin Eater's Daughter and her most recent novel, The Sleeping Prince, came out a few weeks ago.  After chatting to the lovely Faye asked if I wanted to be involved in a tour to celebrate The Sleeping Prince, I desperately wanted to. But I felt it would be unfair to without reading The Sin Eater's Daughter. But Faye and Melinda chatted and said I could have a tiny post before asking if there was anything I was curious over and wanted to know more about. I love world-building and how author can create worlds. Hence, this wonderful post. 

My thanks goes to Melinda (@AHintofMystery on Twitter) for having time to write this and to Faye (@FayeRogersUK) for asking if I wanted to do something to celebrate! Now, am going to hand it over to Melinda and we can talk world-building! 

“Lormere is fertile, but the altitude means a lot of the land is best used for livestock. We can grow our own potatoes, turnips, parsnips, rye and beans, but grain doesn’t thrive here. We have to import it from the north of Tregellan, where they have abundant farmland next to the river that separates Tregellan from Tallith. All of the fish and seafood for our table comes from Tregellan too, fished from the river or brought upstream by the fishermen who brave the Tallithi Sea.”

For me, the only way to build a world is from the ground up, quite literally. I start by thinking broadly about the outside setting as I imagine it; are there rivers, mountains, forests, etc. Once I have that picture in my mind of how the landscape looks, I start to get technical. 

This means thinking about the soil, which determines the plants and trees that grow there, and therefore the wildlife that feeds from them. And that affects the daily lives of the people who live there. The kind of produce the people can grow and farm decides what they eat, what they wear, even what they do for a living. You have to know what the seasons are like, what the climate is like, because that influences the kinds of clothes people need to wear, and the kinds of shelters they live in. 

Once you have all of the physical attributes of your world, you should explore the spiritual ones; what do the majority people of believe in, if anything? Have they always believed in it? This has a huge impact on how a country operates. Countries in our world that don’t separate faith and state are often (though not always) considered fundamentalist by the west. Where the governance is secular, the west sees it as more progressive, and usually democratic (state atheist – as opposed to state secularist - countries are often seen as fundamentalist and repressive too). 

Though a subjective perspective, this is a great starting point for figuring out the internal politics and economics of a place; even as far as its attitudes towards education, healthcare, science and citizens’ rights. 

For example, my first novel, The Sin Eater’s Daughter, exists in a place called Lormere, a country I completely made up, by a) cherry-picking bits from history and smashing them together, and b) finally putting my A* in GCSE Geography to good use (see, Mr Dale. I wasn’t just messing about with Rachael Cox at the back. I was learning too). 

In real terms Lormere is a very small country, around the size of Luxembourg. If it were on our planet it would be roughly where Sweden is, high above sea level, in a mountainous region. Winters (though we don’t see them in Sin Eater) are very harsh, summers comparatively mild and warm. The climate and landscape doesn’t lend itself too well to most types of arable farming, and limited pastoral; game, goats and sheep thrive, but cows and pigs don’t. 

Lormere, a country that doesn’t separate church from state, (and also practices the Cult of Personality) is a relatively poor country, with little import and export potential due to a lack of developing industries, and also opportunities. Financially it’s quite dependant on the tithes it receives from Tregellan as part of the peace treaty between them, as well as the taxes earned from citizens.

Tregellan, on the other hand, has thriving industry exporting grain, meat, fish and luxury goods to Lormere. It is a self-sufficient country. Because Tregellan isn’t as high above sea-level as Lormere, it has more arable farmland and pasture for livestock, and also has accessible coastline for fishing. The climate is close to our maritime climate, making it warmer and wetter than Lormere, though still cold in winter. Possibly most importantly, it’s also a democratic country, governed by an elected council, who took over after the dethroning (and executing) of the former monarchy. Power in Tregellan is handled at local level, with each town having a Justice who carries out district judgement in accordance with countrywide law, but with the ability to use their discretion and local knowledge. In just one hundred years it’s gone from being a country very like Lormere, to being progressive, liberal and very concerned with learning and development. In Lormere the Gods’ word is all, in Tregellan the religious are looked upon with scorn, even pity, by most citizens.

It might seem like an awful lot to have to figure out, especially when, as in The Sin Eater’s Daughter, you see very little of the external world, but in terms of writing The Sleeping Prince, and book three, it’s been invaluable to know the terrain of the world I’m working in. The contrasts and differences between the two countries are very important in terms of how they both respond to the threat of the Sleeping Prince, and the ultimate outcome of the trilogy. 




But that’s very much another story, for another time.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Book Review - Rebel in the Sands

This is Faber's YA big hitter for 2016. They have been building up for this debut for over a year now. That is how sure they are that this book is going to be everything we readers want to read.

But will it live up to the buzz that has slowly been growing since early 2015?

Amani is desperate to escape Dustwalk. The desert is in her bones, more comfortable holding a gun in her hand and shooting straight, that escape is beyond a want. It's a need.

When a stranger with no name turns up at a shooting range and saves her life, she is given the chance to run. Run and not look back. She takes it. But the desert is full of dangers, blood and magic. Soon, Amani is going to find herself in the middle in the rebellion and discover something about herself that might change her from being the gun who taught herself how to fire a gun...

So, this book. My reactions? I really liked it. I think fans of Zoe Marriott, Garth Nix and Laini Taylor will enjoy this mashed-up Arabian Nights Western.

While this world, the dangers and characters were fantastical, they all felt grounded and rooted. There was an element of realness that I hugely liked and made me keep reading. Plus, the world building and character development was subtle and very clever, which is a good sign that these will continue to grow. over the trilogy.

There is a hint of a romance storyline, but this is very subtle and isn't overwhelming, which is refreshing. There are books out there that make the romance quite overpowering.

What was also refreshing about the book was the mythology. I can only think of one book that uses djinn, and that is an adult literary novel. Seeing it here was an interesting twist within in YA fantasy.

Because of everything that happened in my real, non-blog life (work, family, Bagheera, boyfriend, possible holiday planning, the What Makes Us Human tour, etc), I found the first half of reading this book a little tricky as I couldn't sit down long enough to get into the story. Because of this, at times, I was a little overwhelmed with the world and mythology being giving to us, but once I got to the halfway mark, I found my stride and became to speed through.

This might be everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed myself quite a bit and am very eager to read the next book in the series.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Book Review - Pride and Prejudice

Have I ever told you I'm not a fan of classic? Am sure we've had this discussion. But, in case we haven't, I'm not the biggest fan of classics. Not because I hate any book that is over a certain of years old. It's just they worry me. These books are "Classics", which means they are going to be not accessible to me reading them. They are going to be hard work. 

But, here's the thing. I don't want to be. I want to try new things. That's the plan for this year - be braver in my reading habits and if I want to read/audiobook a book that's a little outside of my comfort zone, do it! 

So, when Audible announced they were going to be releasing a new audiobook of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, read by Rosamund Pike, I thought "This is it!". I mean, I have watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, two web series based on Austen's work and I really enjoyed watching them so I wanted to read Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Just wasn't sure when. But this audiobook came out and I thought "Sod it! Am buying this and am going to listen to it!"

Now, we all must know the plot to Pride and Prejudice. If not, I'm not sure I can do the book justice, but am going to try. In the 19th century, Mr and Mrs Bennet have five unmarried daughters. When Mr Bingley and his friend, Mr Darcey, move into neighbourhood, Mrs Bennet thinks they would be perfect for her daughters. While Mr Bingley takes a liking to the eldest, Jane, it is her sister, Elizabeth, who we follow as she and Mr Darcy clash with each other while trying to adapt to society.  

That's the vaguest I think I can write it. I know there is a hell of a lot more - pride, prejudice, first impressions, second impressions, that immortal first sentence ("It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" - I somehow doubt that if Austen was alive today, she wouldn't have used that sentence...).

So, reactions. I am surprised by how much I enjoyed myself while listening to this. My biggest fear with this was going to be hard or near impossible for me to get my head round. Like I said earlier on, I had a huge worry that this was going to be inaccessible and I was going to have to watch Lizzie Bennet so I can get my head round what was happening. But, I didn't. It was so easy to get into the story and to keep up. I didn't have any moments when etiquette from the time period made me go "Wait, what?" - I understood and sniggered a little on how relevant it still is today, even though this book was written how many years ago? 

This book was, also, quite subtle. I found that very surprising. Yes, I know the basic plot with Elizabeth and Mr Darcy - I knew how it ended - but it was still a surprise over how subtlety their story unfolded and how both characters grew because of the events happening around them. 

There were a few things I didn't like about the writing. My main is dialogue. I like dialogue, but there were times we had characters speaking, but we had no idea what they said because it was written in a paragraph (aka "They talked for quite some time about the weather"). While i get why this is the case,  there were one or two times I was "Can we not hear them speak?"

And the audiobook. How did I feel about Rosamund Pike's performance? For the most part, I enjoyed it. There were one or two characters who voices took me out of the story. For example, Rosamund Pike's take on Mr Collins's voice always threw me as it was very breathless. There was one or two times I was worried that he was on the verge of an asthma attack. 

Barring one or two things, I did enjoy myself with this. I'm not hugely in love with this book like I expected, but I enjoyed myself and am planning to read another Austen sometime in the future (am thinking either Emma or Persuasion). Or maybe risk PD James's crime "sequel" to Pride and Prejudice, Death Comes to Pemberley. But I am glad I finally read this and got why everyone either adores or hugely respects this book...

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Book Review - Onyx

I have this thing about reading books on my Kindle. If I start something, I really want to finish it. I know, I shouldn't. Aren't I always the one telling you guys that life's too short to read crap books? ... yeah. I am. But I started this in the height of my reading slump and a few weeks ago, I got out of it so I decided to try again.

The second book in the Lux series, Katy finds herself linked to Daemon Black, thanks to his alien mojo. And now, because of this, Daemon wants to prove his feelings for her are real. But Katy's not so sure.

If only their feelings for each other was the only problems. The Department of Defense is in town and if they find out about their connection, both Katy and Daemon are in trouble. And with a new kid in town who knows too much about Lux and Daemon beginning to wonder what happened to his brother...

The truth could get someone killed and not everyone will survive the lies...

Oh, Onyx. Where did it go wrong?

Ok, let me rephrase that. If I had read this immediately after I had read the first book in the series, Obsidian (which I read 2-ish years ago - review for that is here), I would have devoured it. It would have been addictive reading.

But. reading this now, I have problems. I'm not sure if I would have seen these problems if I read this back in 2013, but I see them now, and that made my reading pleasure less so.

I found the plot slightly predictable. Which isn't a bad thing, folks. But I expected more from this. I thought there would be more twists and a few things I wouldn't see coming. But I guessed them fairly quickly and when I was proven right, I thought "Oh, is that it?". And because of that, Onyx came across like an info-dump book.

Also, there were a few chapters in the middle of the book that annoyed me. It's stupid, I know, but I felt that they were repeating themselves. Repeating why Katy was doing the things she was doing, why she was telling/not telling Daemon about them, repeating information we knew. It felt like the book hadn't hit a certain word/chapter count so padding was needed.

Also, was it me, but were there several moments in this book where we had slut-shaming? Sorry, nope. I get why this topic is reference in YA books - because it happens in real life - but no, I don't want to read about that. Nope. Am going to make a small rule to self over if I see this in future reads from now on...

I feel like I am being really negative on this book. I don't want to be. There are elements of this book I really liked. I liked Katy's and Daemon's relationship and how it evolved throughout the book. I liked the snarky dialogue between Katy and Daemon. It's one of the things I liked the most about this book - their dialogue sizzled. I liked how easy it was the read and how there wasn't a dull moment - there was always something that pushed the story forward.

While I am not giving up with this author - I have Oblivion and Obsession on my kindle and both have connections to this series - I felt a bit let down with this book.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Tale of Kitty in Boots

It was announced yesterday (no warning at all!) that there is going to be a new Beatrix Potter story being released in September of this year! There was a TV programme of More4 in the evening, announcing this but the news broke in the morning. 

And it sent the news (and Twitter) into a frenzy! 

The story was discovered by fluke. One of the publishers from Penguin Random House (which owns Frederick Warne & Co - the publishers who still publish Beatrix Potter's work to this day) found a reference to "Kitty In Boots" in an out-of-print biography a few years ago and discovered a rough manuscript of the story at the Victoria and Albert Museum, along with a rough colour sketch of Kitty in Boots (please see left) and a pencil sketch of the villainous Mr Todd. 

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter's birth, Fredrick Warne & Co will be publishing this story with illustrations done by Quentin Blake sometime in September 2016. 

Is is wrong am quite excited over this? It's been YEARS since I read a Beatrix Potter book (I can still remember the covers that held my attention as a child!) and I think this will be wonderful. I am a little uncertain if Quentin Blake's style is suitable for a Beatrix Potter, but I won't pass judgement to I actually have the book in my hand and I have read the story. 

Of course am going to buy it. This is me we're talking about. 

And this makes me realise that I have only read a handful of her works - maybe it's time I reread some of them and discover the rest. What do you guys think? Any that I must investigate or return to?

I feel so sorry for my library over the next few months... Or the people behind the official Beatrix Potter Twitter feed, where I will annoy them with questions and trying to shamelessly book-flirt information out of them... 

What Makes Us Human - Wrap-Up

WE DID IT! WE ALL SURVIVED THE WHAT MAKES US HUMAN BLOG TOUR!!! 

THIS CALLS FOR HAPPY DANCE TIME!



This was such an interesting and weird tour. Interesting as I found reading/watching everyone's thoughts on this question (and it wasn't an easy question, I grant you) but weird as I have never been in charge of a tour. I usually have an idea and then don't do anything about it. 

Not this one! Not this time. And because this tour was weirdly fun, I might do this again. Maybe. I'm not sure. If I did, I would like to make it a bit bigger and more international... Or maybe something linked to a book series I want to reread...

But let me recover from this one first before I start plotting again, ok? 

Before I give you all the links (in case you missed the tour), I have a few tiny thank yous to say. To you lovely people who followed and read the tour, tweeted it, Facebook it, Instagram it, spread the word, I hope you liked it and it made you think. 

To everyone involved in the tour - Laura, Stevie, Michelle, Rhys, Virginie & Vivienne - thank you so much for taking part. I know it was a weird idea, but to have you guys on board and giving unique opinions and ideas on this question was wonderful. A second thank you goes to Vivienne who I emailed before everyone else, saying "You do blog tours. I need an opinion on if this is a good idea or not...", thank you for telling me to go for it! 

Anyway, now we have that out of the way, if you missed the tour or want to reread the thoughts of everyone who took part, please click on the below links. And thank you again. 

Wednesday 20th January 2016 - Sisterspooky
Thursday 21st January 2016 - SableCaught
Friday 22nd January 2016 - Tales of Yesterday
Saturday 23rd January 2016 - Thirst for Fiction
Sunday 24th January 2016 - The Pewter Wolf (Yours truly...)
Monday 25th January 2016 - Chouett
Tuesday 26th January 2016 - Serendipity Reviews

Sunday, 24 January 2016

What Makes Us Human?

When I came up with this idea last year, I was excited over this. I was so excited to see everyone's reactions on what they thought made us human. All the good reasons why we're human. I wanted this tour to be positive, happy, exciting, uplifting.

I have loads of reasons of what makes us human. Love, empathy, compassion to name but a few. But when I started to think about my post for this tour, I kept circling over one idea. But it went against what I wanted for this tour - it went against everything I want for this tour and what I believe - so I kept pushing it away. But it kept coming back. So, here it is. This is my post in the What Makes Us Human tour.

What makes us human is the acts of cruelty we can inflicted on others and how others enjoy the pain caused.

Yep. This post is going to be dark and is going to look at evil. Sorry about that, but hear me out and stay with me.

The world is a dark place. We can turn on the news and we watch horror after horror. And most of them is humans causing pain and hurt onto other humans. Some people believe its for the greater good. Some people do it accidental and without meaning to. Some people just enjoy causing pain.

Even the stuff we do to each other which doesn't make the news can be seen as cruel. Cheating of your partner. Spreading that piece of gossip. Saying that tiny white lie. We do cruel things without realising it. And sometimes, we enjoy the pain we cause. In most cases, the pain and damage we cause is small, tiny, insignificant. But it's the others, the aftermath can be devastating and heartbreaking.

Which means me onto another reason on what makes us human. Something which is hugely important. More important than the cruelty and the evil that we see in the world.

What makes us human is belief.

We believe.

For every act of evil and cruelty, we believe in the act of kindness and goodness. After the horrid shootings in Paris last year, the city defied the act of terror by donating blood. When there is a natural disaster, people donate their time and money towards helping those in need. When someone we know and love (or hate) is in danger, most of us try and come to the person's aid.

We believe that evil will be defeated. And that, to me, is what truly makes us human: our power to believe in better.

If you wish to continue with What Makes Us Human tour, tomorrow's stop is Chouett so check her post out at http://chouett.com. But before I leave you, I am going to leave you with this quote from JK Rowling:

"We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."