Love a good book list 🙂 Enjoy!
I often browse what’s in the Amazon freebie sci-fi bestseller lists, and I picked this book up under post-apocalyptic.
There is nothing particularly unusual about the storyline, something bad has happened, we don’t really know what, but society has broken down, and it follows our protagonists travels as they try to keep out of trouble while they scavenge for food.
One of the reasons I find myself drawn to dystopian and post-apocalyptic is the great character studies you often get. So, while the story line is nothing unusual, I loved the main characters and they made this book a standout for me. The two MC’s are both teenagers, and both gloriously unhinged, and while it is classed as YA, the situations / accounts are often gritty and graphic. They do develop obvious feelings toward one another, it doesn’t deviate into romance (at least not in this book).
If you are looking for a joyful read, this definitely isn’t for you.
Nor is it the kind of book that delivers a breadth of emotions. There are the odd moments of almost light-hearted banter…almost…But it does definitely have a gritty, sombre, and at times desperate mood that is pervasive to the book. And in a sea of HEA books this makes a refreshing change.
My rating: 5 stars
I’m with Bugs Bunny every time. Well, maybe not necessarily the swift part, I’m okay with revenge of all kinds in a book.
And so should every writer be
Building conflict is a natural part of writing. Take every opportunity to drive a little more drama for our heroes and heroines. Explore every option to pile on the pressure, take away safety nets, and keep your readers guessing at motives and intent.
It isn’t always easy to provide surprises, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it easy for the reader. As the saying goes the first draft is you telling yourself the book. Once you know the way the story will play out, walk through again and generously sprinkle red-herrings, weave subterfuge, and turn up the heat.
Yes, we need the balance of the good, the empathetic, and the kind, but they will shine so much brighter if you dump a little darkness on the other end of the scale.
Surprise yourself with just how dastardly you can be.
Cultivate a ‘What if’ mentality.
- What if I pull this leaver?
- What if I break that?
- What if he is lying?
- What if she is telling the truth?
- What if I take away this?
- What if this happens?
- What if this doesn’t happen?
You’re a writer, you need to give your inner bastard some air time.
Be mean. Be cruel. Be utterly wicked.
Think of the worst possible thing that could happen. The thing you would dread. The thing that would make you yell ‘NO’ if it happened to you.
And then do it.
And then do it again.
Happy writing conflict 😈
I don’t normally work in the dining area, but it has started to turn chilly in the evenings so I cranked up the log burner. The table just happens to be in comfortable proximity, and I can make the most of the toasty warmth while I write.
I also happen to live in a house with walls that look like a castle (and they are about as thick), which creates a good writerly atmosphere. My office doesn’t have the mighty walls so it feels interesting sitting down here for a change.
I’m doing a little rework on my new book this week. Added about 5k to the start after some feedback, and I’m pleased with the way it is going. I love getting beta feedback and I have plenty to work on at the moment before I move on to my next book in the series.
I’ve been playing about with section breaks. I usually write quite small chapters, but this time I’m going larger, and trying POV swopping where the scenes flow into one another. I never realized this was so complex! If you are looking for some information on chapters and section breaks, here are a couple of great articles I found.
Happy writing 🙂
“I’m a writer. My hobbies include not writing.”
I have a bit of a fixation with writing memes, and the above was my favourite from this week. I’ve been on holiday in Brisbane for the last 10 days, and even though I’m on holiday I’ve found it hard to tear myself away from my story. I was sitting in a coffee shop, doing the final read of book 3 from my trilogy before hitting publish, when this meme popped up. Needless to say, it made me chuckle.
I dabbled in writing for so many years before I published, and the moment I did publish it was like BOOM I’m addicted. I really don’t have any other hobbies now…except walking or maybe gardening, because walking and gardening mean you can still think about writing!
Some pictures from my Brisbane trip…
The end of the Divided World…not quite so divided anymore…more of a…well, you’ll have to read it to find out 😉
It’s taken me nearly 18 months, but I’m finally at the end of the trilogy with the 3rd book out on Amazon in print, and ebook on pre-order!
There will definitely be more adventures for Tanis and perhaps even spin-offs, but for now I’m starting a new series.
Such a great feeling to get to the end. And super excited about the next chapter…pun intended
For those who love sci-fi with a touch of fantasy and a lot of conflict!
I am going to confess something right off—I hate planning. I hate it with a passion. I find it boring. So, if I want to plan a novel I need to make it super easy, and when I say super easy, I mean idiot proof.
My Simple guide to planning a novel will be a series coming out every Wednesday. Today we are looking at the tools needed, pre-work, and Stage 1 – Brainstorming. I will be using Star Wars to provide plot point explanations, and these examples will be obvious even for those who haven’t seen the movie. If you haven’t seen Star Wars (why haven’t you seen it?), I will also be using examples from Toy Story.
My advice in using this guide is not to over-think every stage. For example, if you don’t have a complete character profile you can move forward anyway. You do need some of the character profile, though.
You will find that as you develop each stage you gain insights into previous stages and previous ideas. It’s okay to dive back and add extra details to any stage at any point. The more passes you make, and the more you progress, the greater detail you will see. And it doesn’t have to be perfect before you can start writing, I go for the 80/20 rule. If it’s mostly complete just jump on in and the last few missing pieces will pop up as you write.
Q: What are the planning stages?
A: Pre-work + 5 stages
We will follow the series of steps shown below. The Key plot points will take the most time and effort, but these are also the most important parts so it is worth investing this time. Today we are covering pre-work and brainstorming.
Q: How long does it take?
A: About a day
I have just planned my third book using this technique, which is based on a number of blog posts, articles, pod-casts, books, and planning guides I have read over the years, along with the experience gained in planning my first two books. It took me about a day in total excluding the pre-work and character profiles. Since it was the third book in a series I already had a good idea about what I wanted to achieve, and of course knew most of the characters. However, my original outline was still extremely sketchy, but with about 6 hours effort I had a great set of chapter summaries, was comfortable that I had not backed myself into any plot corners, and had all my key plot points covered.
Q: What tools do I need?
A: This is a generic planning approach and can use anything from a dedicated writing tool such as Scrivener, word, excel or good old pen and paper.
If you are using the manual approach then coloured pens and post-it notes can be a great help, but otherwise plain old paper and pen will do.
Now, without further ado, here is my Simple guide to planning a novel.
As with most things, you need to do a little pre-work before you leap into planning a book. The pre-work involves developing your story concept, along with a rough idea of what the story is about. A summary will do. Then we can move onto brainstorming our plot. Things to identify in the pre-work stage include:
- What sort of dramatic situation is your story about? You may be surprised to discover there are only so many types of plot. Want some ideas, check out this great post with examples. 36 Plots and Mad Max
- Who is your story about? When we get an idea for a story we usually have a character in mind for our protagonist, and we usually have back story ideas about them too.
- Who is your story antagonist, or antagonistic force? Whether it is a person, a force of nature, an animal, a disease or something else doesn’t matter, there just needs to be something or someone who provides the counterbalance to our protagonist and delivers a source of conflict.
- Our characters never live in a vacuum, so you also need an idea for the setting or location, and ideas for supporting characters as well.
Phew, that is quite a lot of pre-work! But, all of this will help you when you come to start the real planning and we begin to explore our character timelines.
Step 1 – Character timelines via brainstorming.
To explore character timelines, you need a book start and the book end…even if you change these as part of the planning and /or writing process. You have to start somewhere, and you have to put a boundary around your story.
This boundary will be used now when we explore our character timelines.
- First, list all the main characters, and all your supporting characters. If something other than a person is acting as an antagonist then list this as well.
2. For each write up a little bio. Here is a great list of questions you can use to explore your characters. How to create a character profile. You don’t necessarily need to fill in everything, especially for minor characters, but everything you do note down will increase your character depth.
3. Naming characters in my humble opinion is a nightmare, and I change the names constantly! Some people use a generic name to start with such as ‘Best friend’, ‘guy in bar’, ‘Mr X’ and then let the name pop up later. Personally I just get on with naming them and change them later if need be. For more help see. Character names – decisions, decisions!
4. For each character now jot down any and all plot points or events that happen to them in between your story start and your story end. The main character(s) are easiest so start with these first. Don’t worry if you think there may be gaps, it will all get filled in later. And you often find that bullet-pointing one character generates ideas against another, which is great!
Don’t worry about the order of the events. If you have a order that’s a bonus and certainly use it, but otherwise just let the thoughts and ideas pour out.
Don’t allow any subconscious constraints to influence the brainstorming. Don’t worry if it will be an actual plot point or a sub-point. Your ideas here may become chapters, a few sentences or even multiple chapters, the most important part is simply to write them all down.
A simple guide to planning a novel part 6 – Filling in the chapter notes
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Today I have the pleasure of introducing author Paul Cude who will be sharing his thoughts on reading and writing, and details of his Book, Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Threat From The Past (Book 1)
Paul on Writing
Where do you get your ideas?
From my dreams and life experiences more than anything. Oddly the whole thing started with a dream. Sounds a bit crazy really, but one night, when my elder daughter was just a baby (she’s not far off 16 now) I had the single most realistic dream I’ve ever had. I didn’t remember it until the following day, but when I did, I swear it was just like watching a movie in my head…..so graphic, so intense, so…..mesmerising. Anyhow, I told my wife, who was gobsmacked to say the least. And so was what she said to me, “You have to write it, you just have to.” At the time I just laughed off her idea, bearing in mind that at the time I could only type with two fingers. But over a period of I suppose months, I kept getting more dreams, flashbacks into the story…….sometimes little details, sometimes insights into the characters, sometimes twists and turns to do with the plot. In the end I suppose it was inevitable that I would write it. First I taught myself to type properly…..3 months, and then, well………..I began. At first I needed complete silence to be able to write, something there wasn’t a lot of bearing in mind I was taking care of one young child, with another on the way. But over time I’ve learned to filter it all out and can now write with the kids playing around me if I need to, but I still think I do work more efficiently in total silence. It has taken a long time, and I was surprised how hard and crucial the editing process was. But in the end it was most definitely worth it. The life experiences part is more about the human sport mentioned in the book. I’ve played field hockey for well over three decades now, and it’s changed my life beyond recognition. I have a great affection and admiration for the other sports mentioned as well, hence the reason they’re included.
What motivates you to write?
Earning a living wage, being a success, but above all, bringing just a little pleasure to the readers. I know how it feels to be lost in a fictional world, staying up all night to finish a book, or “just one more chapter”. To provide others with a story that will get them hooked and give them the pleasure of getting lost for a few minutes or a few hours certainly keeps me focused.
How many hours a week do you spend writing?
It’s so difficult to say. One of the things I love about doing what I do is the freedom it gives me. That said, I do end up on the computer at all times, sometimes starting at 5.30am and most nights not finishing until closer to 11pm and that’s seven days a week. Of course it’s not constant, and a lot of that is the devil that is social media. But writing goes on in between and anytime when I have more than a few minutes. If I had to guess I’d say closer to 20 hours of writing a week, but as so often happens, life can get in the way and as I’m a house husband and look after both of my kids, regularly I have to ditch the writing to look after either one or both of them. The writing is always the first thing that suffers.
Best thing about writing?
The freedom. Not only in the sense that I can write when I like, perhaps in the evening, thus freeing up some time during the day. But freedom to explore my dreams, other worlds, the crazy fiction that regularly plays out in my head, mainly when I’m asleep, but quite often during the day. I’m sure my family must regularly look at me, see my vacant stare and think….. ‘he’s off amongst the dragons again.’
Your biggest writing distractions?
Without a doubt…..social media. A necessity in this day and age, but one that proves time consuming and a huge distraction from writing. I love helping other authors and sharing their work….who wouldn’t? As a reader I don’t just read one book, or one series of books. I read lots of different books in lots of different genres. So sharing the work of others always seems like the right thing to do, so that people who follow me have the chance to find new authors and brilliant new books. You also hope that those authors that you’re sharing feel exactly the same way. Unfortunately though, it is massively time consuming and on any one day can pull you away from your main goal of writing.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Generally I would say about a year, but it depends what life throws at us as a family. Over the past few years we’ve had more than our fair share of ups and downs with health issues, etc, and as I’ve stated already, the very first thing to suffer for me is the writing. I would say if things go well, a year is a reasonable target to get the writing, editing and everything else in place.
Least favourite thing about writing?
It would be hard to choose between social media and editing. I love interacting with all the other people on twitter, facebook and google+ etc, but it’s so time consuming, and I know my writing suffers because of it. And so while I love doing that side of things, I would get so much more done if I just ignored social media all together. As for editing…..I absolutely loathe it. I get to the end of writing a book and the elation on writing that very last sentence is beyond belief. And then it hits you. You’ve still got all the editing to do. Ahhhhh!!! But it is a necessary evil and one that pays off the more time you spend on it. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read each of my books during the editing process.
How do you measure your success as a writer?
Certainly not money, that’s for sure. I think for me it has to be a combination of reviews and messages from people who’ve bought and read your book. Opening your emails up early in the morning to find a positive message from a reader puts the biggest smile of all on your face. And not just for the rest of the day.
What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting the writing journey again?
Spend as much money as you can to get the right covers. For my first book I’ve had three different covers, and it’s only now that I feel I have the right one, the one I should have had in the first place. At the time it was difficult to know exactly what it was I wanted, and where to find the right person to design it. As well, I was restricted by a rather tight budget. But in the long term, it’s worked out much more expensive. There are so many more great places to have your cover designed now, and they are not too expensive either. Lessons learned.
Paul on Reading
What is your favorite genre(s)? Tell us more about why you love them?
When in my late teens, I mistakenly ordered a Tom Clancy book…..Debt of Honour. I was too lazy to return it, so it sat on my bedside table for weeks, until one evening, when I picked it up and started to read it. Many hours later I put it down, only because I needed a few hours’ sleep before I went to work. I was hooked. After finishing that, I went out and bought all the other Tom Clancy books I could find. It was also about that time that the Star Wars expanded universe books started to appear. I caught sight of the first one while working in a book shop in my role of service engineer. I can remember it clearly: Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. It had a striking blue cover with some of the Star Wars characters on it, and I had to buy it there and then, in the middle of doing my job, much to the amusement of the owner of the bookshop. My love of the expanded universe has continued ever since, and as soon as the next book comes out…….I have to have it.
It seems my love of books goes in phases. If I have nothing to read, I wander around a bookshop until I find something I like the look of and then read it. If I get hooked, I go back and find other books by that author. Examples of this for me are Terry Goodkind and Christopher Paolini…..I love all of their books. The detail, the plot……the characters….are just all amazing. I can only dream of writing as well as they do. Other authors I’ve found and loved this way include Robin Hobb, J.V. Jones, David Gemmell and Trudi Canavan, to name but a few. I love the way they use their imaginations and the worlds that they create on the pages of the book. They’re all very easy to visualise.
My favorite author of all though, is the wonderful Terry Pratchett. If you haven’t read one of his books you really should. While I love pretty much all the books he’s written, the ones about the guards of Ankh-Morpork, Captain Carrot, Sam Vimes, Corporal Nobbs, Angua and of course the Lord Vetinari, are easily my favourites. The characters themselves are described in magnificent detail, all with their own funny little ways. The plots twist and turn like a raging river, and the humour…….well, let’s just say that is exactly on my wavelength. I’ve cried with laughter on many occasions reading some of Terry Pratchett’s books, and I can’t recall doing that for any other author I’ve read. If you’re a reading fan, you really must try one of his books.
So my favourite genres would have to be fantasy, science fiction followed by thrillers, in that order.
Have you ever skipped something important to stay at home and read a book? Details please!
Well of course there’s sleep. Definitely skipped a lot of sleep to read a lot of books. Most of the Star Wars expanded universe, not to mention most of the Harry Potter series and a lot of Terry Pratchett’s books. I do recall feigning illness to stay off work and read when I was a service engineer once. I can’t remember what book it was (I think one of the Star Wars expanded universe volumes) but that was a total one off.
Favorite book hero and / or villain and why?
Hero has to be Han Solo. What’s not to like? Serious attitude, courage, selfless despite outwards appearances, better than good with a gun and of course there’s the flying. A scoundrel for sure, but what a scoundrel.
As for villains…..it would have to be (sorry, spoilers for those who haven’t read the books) Jacen Solo, Han’s son from the Star Wars expanded universe. Reading about his journey, from sweet adolescent to tough but fair, no-nonsense jedi, to Sith lord was just heartbreaking, particularly because of some of the things he did once he’d attained Sith lord status. Good turned bad never felt so despicable.
If you could have a signed copy of a book by an author (dead or living) what book would it be and why?
It would have to be the Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett. My favourite book ever. The story is magnificent and the way he paints the characters with words is just outstanding. I must have read the book about ten times in all and it never gets boring. And there’s one part in there, that even as I’m writing this is making me laugh. I won’t go into details, but it’s when Gaspode the talking dog has to tell Carrot the name of the wolf. Makes me cry with laughter every time. What’s ironic about this is that I used to see the late Terry Pratchett in Salisbury (the city where I live) but never had the courage to go up to him. I’m a very shy person and wouldn’t dream of going up to anyone in the street that I didn’t know, especially a famous author like him. If I could go back in time, I most certainly would pluck up the courage to approach him, but only to tell him just how much pleasure his books have given me.
About your Books…
You are living in your latest novel. Where are you living, and what is it like?
I’m living underground in the dragon domain and it’s…..HOT! Unbelievably so. Rivers of brilliant molten magma roll across the landscape, twisting their way between houses, crisscrossing the different dragon metropolises. Crackling lava waterfalls drop hundreds of metres, throwing off steam and heat in abundance, keeping the secret underground world the kind of temperature its dragon inhabitants like. As well as HOT, it’s absolutely bonkers. Dragons stroll down oversized walkways, live in giant houses, work in monstrous office buildings, all going about their daily business, most of which in some way shape or form is related to the running of the planet, and the guidance and protection of the human population on the surface. Realistically a human being down here would be unlikely. Not only is it forbidden by the ruling dragon council, but they would struggle to survive given the heat, the diet, and in particular the jaw dropping monorail that can almost exceed the speed of sound.
Can you be heroic and naive?
For Peter Bentwhistle, the answer would most certainly have to be YES!
Blissfully unaware of what’s going on around him, for the most part he remains fully focused on blending in and keeping a low profile.
But fate and just plain bad luck have other designs on him.
Not so bad, you might think. Until you discover the TRUTH!
Just like his friends, Tank and Richie, he is a…..DRAGON!
Thrust into a life away from the underground dragon domain, disguised in an awkward human form in an effort to guide and protect humanity, all he has to do is stay out of trouble, learn how to play hockey and piece together all the parts of the puzzle continually playing out around him.
With the help of his two young friends, a master mantra maker and a complete dragon stranger with more than a little history attached to him, will Peter manage to thwart the dark, devious scheme long in the planning?
Ever wondered how dragons travel below ground at almost the speed of sound?
Want to know how they use magical mantras to transform their giant bodies into convincing human shapes?
Learn the true story of George and the Dragon, get a dragon-like perspective on human social issues and gain insight into what to do if you encounter a giant spider grinning at you when you’re wearing nothing but your smile.
Lose yourself in this unputdownable fantasy adventure NOW
About Paul Cude
Paul Cude is a husband, father, field hockey player and aspiring photographer. Lost without his hockey stick, he can often be found in between writing and chauffeuring children, reading anything from comics to sci-fi, fantasy to thrillers. Too often found chained to his computer, it would be little surprise to find him, in his free time, somewhere on the Dorset coastline, chasing over rocks and sand in an effort to capture his wonderful wife and lovely kids with his camera. Paul Cude is also the author of the Bentwhistle the Dragon series of books.
You can also follow Paul on his social media sites!
After a great deal of editing, and more editing, book 3 in my Divided World trilogy is almost ready. Pretty excited to see the cover, and can’t wait to finalize it on Amazon.
When I started this writing journey, I had no idea how much effort would go into turning the original idea into the series…and then publishing it. I’ve been working on this series for, off and on, about 10 years. It’s definitely time to tackle something new!
I would certainly like to come back to these characters, and there is a lot more story to be had. Although I put a line in the sand for certain aspects of the story line, I left a little sliver open, and there are a great number of sub-characters who might be worthy of some air time. Especially Nate, who everyone loves!
It was great to spend the Christmas period writing something completely new with fresh characters for a planned six book series. Book one is with Beta readers at the moment. Book 2 is in the incubation stage…I’ve managed a couple of chapters so far, which is at least a start!
I have no idea yet how it will pan out…which is what I love about writing a book, you’re never sure exactly where it goes until you reach the end.
I was reading a book this week, The power of habit. The second section looks at how business has embraced Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to predict buying behaviors for their customers. This works very effectively due to the way we humans follow habitual buying patterns. In the book they discuss the infamous Target story where they sent promotions for baby related products to a 15 year old girl, initially causing outrage from her father. Essentially the machines knew she was pregnant before her family did. How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did
“AI can, with some reliability, predict whether a song will be a hit or not.”
The content that really piqued my interest was a story of the song ‘Hey ya’ by Outkast released in 2003. I’m sure most of us know the track. It was huge. When it was first heard by music execs, they knew it would be a hit…and so did their AI. The music industry uses artificial intelligence to listen to tracks and evaluate them prior to a human even bothering, using a combination of frequencies, tonality, BPM, etc. The AI can, with some reliably, predict whether a track will be a hit or not. When initially released, however, ‘Hey ya’ wasn’t very successful on the radio. The book explains how machines are now predicting what track should precede a new ‘unfamiliar’ track on radio stations to prepare the human brain for what’s coming. Almost a calming effect. In this case, it was a track by Celine Dion. Go figure! Well, if you read the book, it explains why. Effectively, AI understands humans so well that they can manipulate us (in a positive way) to receive new experiences.
I couldn’t help but think about how this can be applied to fiction. I know little about contemporary publishing practices, but there is definitely potential for AI. Can AI read a new work of fiction and evaluate it for success? Determine the market segments it will appeal to, sales volumes, etc. The benefit is it bypasses the somewhat flawed processes of an author sending a tiny synopsis of their book and some sample writing to an agent hoping the 200 word pitch does justice to their masterpiece. Instead, the book can be submitted online straight to a publisher and the AI can determine whether they should take notice or whether it’s junk.
“Some writers will see AI manuscript evaluations as a blessing since it takes the subjective human out the loop.
…And some may see it as a threat.”
As the technology becomes more advanced and continues to learn, there is a business opportunity for an AI service to help authors directly evaluate their own work before they submit to a publisher or self-publish. For example, the AI could provide an initial rating and feedback. Perhaps on writing style issues, inconsistent use of perspective, inconsistencies in the storyline.
But where can it ultimately go? Maybe the AI service could edit the book for you, so authors could focus more on the original story and characters, and worry less about the grammatical and structural side of things. I wonder if books would start to feel too similar, even though the story and genre are different, if they all went through the same grammar sausage factory.
Talking a step back for a moment, if AI is evaluating books, is there a risk that a daringly ‘different’ story or writing style is rejected by the AI because it’s not following the approved formula?
“Maybe, like the music industry, the publishing industry needs to recommend you read Harry Potter for a warm, familiar feeling before taking on American Psycho!”
Finally, how long before AI writes new and original books. Many newspaper articles today are being written by AI. Typically, for fact based articles. See how Associated Press are using AI (https://automatedinsights.com/case-studies/associated-press). What the AI produces is all factually correct and perfectly written, but it can’t yet provide opinions. We tend to read newspapers to get insights from experienced journalists rather than bland facts.
In Yoval Noah Harari’s excellent book Homo Deus, the author discusses a case of an AI composing classical music. It was scoffed by the aficionados of classical music, so a kind of musical Turing test was proposed by the developers of the AI to see if experts could determine which pieces were composed by an AI and which were from the best human composers. Spoiler alert – They couldn’t. Worse than that. They thought the AI produced work had far more emotion in it!
“So, books WILL be written by AI.
When? I don’t know, but it will happen.”
What then? Will they churn out fascinating new works of fiction? Will they slowly use works of fiction to subliminally influence humanity? Views on AI and its potential tend to be quite polarized. But it won’t be constrained to replacing our mundane jobs. It might be taking over creativity too. Maybe we are destined to just be batteries after all.
What are your thoughts?
So far I have always used third person in my own work, but I have often wondered about giving first person a go…and I read lots of both.
What’s your preference? And why?