Monday, 24 August 2015

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Some children's books are too good to be only enjoyed by children, Fablehaven is one such example. It's like reading the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time, when I first read Fablehaven it was like being a kid again and seeing the world with innocent wonder and curiosity.

Had I read this book as a child my life would have been different. I would have been on the first plane, armed with a packed lunch and my trusty cereal box, to Connecticut to look for Fablehaven.
I most definitely would have drank a lot more milk.

Fablehaven, written by Brandon Mull is a remarkable debut. It's the first of a series which includes; Rise of the Evening Star, Grip of the Shadow Plague, Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary and Keys to the Demon Prison. In 2012 Schaffer Studios announced it had bought the rights and Fablehaven the movie is currently in production.

It starts off with siblings Kendra and Seth being forced to stay with their mysterious grandparents whilst their parents embark on a two week cruise in Scandinavia. They think they're in for an incredibly boring stay but unknown to them their grandparents are the caretakers of Fablehaven; a sanctuary for all magical creatures. Fablehaven is a truly delightful story, a treasure to read and discover. In this book you'll meet fairies, nympths, golems, trolls, satyrs, witches, imps and many others.This is one of those books that can be enjoyed by "grown ups," as well as children.

From a parents' point of view this is a book that I can't wait to share with my children as I know they will love it. Not only is it a great story, it teaches children that things are not as they seem, actions have consequences and sometimes rules are there for a reason.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Should I Avoid Adverbs When Writing?

What are adverbs?

Adverbs are words employed to modify a verb, adjective or other adverbs.

The cat walked slowly.

The adverb is slowly, it is describing how the cat was walking. It described further the verb which was walked.

The cat was particularly ruthless. 

Here the adverb particularly is describing the adjective ruthless.

The cat walked very slowly.

The adverb phrase very slowly, describes the verb walked.

Why should adverbs be avoided in your writing?

Because Stephen King said so. Whether or not you rate his books he really knows what he's talking about and is probably one of the most successful writers on the planet. He's written 54 novels, 6 non-fiction books and 200 short stories. So yeah, he's knows what he's talking, or should I say writing, about. 

Using too many adverbs is generally considered lazy writing. Excessive use of adverbs tells your story rather than tell. This is something to be avoided at all costs.

Consider this sentence.

The killer entered the house silently.

Sounds alright, but it could be a lot better. 

The killer. without any betrayal of noise gained access to the house.

It's also important to not use unnecessary adverbs

She quickly raced away from the seriously annoyed elf.

She quickly  raced away from the seriously annoyed elf.

No one races slowly unless they're a tortoise, and no one is ever happily annoyed. The removal of these adverbs have no effect on the meaning of the sentence and so are not really needed.

If we return to the sentences used to define adverbs at the top of this article, you can see they are unnecessary.

The cat was particularly ruthless. 

The cat walked very slowly.

How to avoid adverbs in your writing?

I think we're all guilty of using unnecessary adverbs as illustrated above. When editing your work these should be the first to go. Adverbs can really slow down the pace of your story which is bad news if you want to keep your readers entertained. This should be your prime motivation when writing, if your readers aren't entertained they won't read your work.

Next time you're editing your work, try removing all your adverbs and if the meaning of the sentence is still intact, maybe it's a good thing to leave them out.

However adverbs are there for a reason so do use them. They are useful in telling the reader how a particular action was done and the way in which it was done.

Just don't overuse them.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Sanitarium Magazine - Issue 32

Sanitarium Digital Issue

Sanitarium is a magazine that brings you the best cutting edge horror fiction, dark verse and macabre entertainment. It's a fantastic read and I recommend to anyone who loves horror. It's out on the 20th of every month and is available in print and download from Amazon.

In issue 32 there are eight brilliant short stories, incredible dark verse from William.J.Hugel, H.H.Bond, Colin Browen. There are two interviews with award winning writer Craig Davidson and Benjamin Percy, and if that's not enough there's numerous articles and reviews.

As well as fantastic cover art by the hugely talented Kevin Spencer.

Help support horror's finest and talented authors by buying your copy!

Flesh or Fantasy by Gwendolyn Kiste

We all have our wildest fantasies known to no one but ourselves, but what would happen if they came true? Would our lives be changed for the better?  Should our dreams remains in our heads or come out and join reality?

This brilliant short story explores those ideas right to its bitter end. And if you enjoyed this story and I'm sure you will, Gwendolyn Kiste's work has previously been featured in Sanitarium's issue 29 with the rather excellent and creepy Audrey at Night

You can find out more about Gwendolyn Kiste by visiting her website

C.A.M.P by Kent Rosenberger

A gripping tale of betrayal revenge and survival. Four kids and their scout master go camping in the woods, what could possibly go wrong. As I read this I felt really involved with the story. It starts off with three boys picking on a sweet little boy, Baxter. At first I thought this was going to involve Baxter dishing out some cold revenge "Carrie style" but it's much more deliciously sinister, and the ending is just great

Kent Rosenberger is one prolific author and you can find out more by visiting his Goodreads Author Page and Amazon Author Page

Love Eternal by Pedro Iniguez

Mary has a secret crush on a new neighbour. She dreams of a new life, but is she beyond salvation? She only wants to love and be loved. Is it too much to ask for a love eternal? A quirky and dark tale with a truly macabre ending.

Peripheral Vision by Julie McNeely-Kirwan

How can you escape when you're being hunted by something incomprehensible. A short and punchy tale that expertly explores our fear of the unknown.

Grave Prodigies by Quinn Ramsay

An old letter has resurfaced and sheds light on a disturbing piece of our history, that offers an alternative view of what really happened. A original tale , even more frightening as it seems so realistic, loved the foot notes!

Sick Love Potion by Justin Hamelin

It's often said that love sustains us and in this great tale it has terrifying consequences. Extremely creepy and dark this is a must read. 

Avoidance by Michael Shimek

People often say ignorance is bliss but what if you can't avoid knowing things that other people don't want the answers to? Simon's afraid and he's got good reason to be.

Friends of Murder by Steven J.Anzalone

There's something truly alien in the narrative of this character. He sees the world very differently to how we see it. I was blown away by the quality of prose in this short piece. There is no limits to Steven J.Anzalone's imagination. A truly terrifying tale.

Monday, 10 August 2015

What's a Gerund?

In grammar a gerund is the -ing form of a verb that functions as a noun.

Here's an example

There's a ghost that haunts the abandoned building.

In this sentence the verb form building acts as a noun.

The sorcerer had mighty powers but terrible spelling

Here the verb form spelling acts as a noun in the sentence.

What's an Antecedent?

An antecedent is a word, phrase or noun to which a pro- form such as a pronoun refers to. An antecedent serves to give meaning to a pro-form.

A pro-form often follows its antecedent

Here's an example

The Dwarf who dwelled in the mountains, lost his magic axe.

In this sentence the antecedent is Dwarf , it adds meaning to the pro-noun "who".

The witch appeared by magic to let us know she was running late.

In this sentence the antecedent is witch and the pronoun it refers to is she.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

I'm not a gamer but I was intrigued about this book. It is the source of inspiration for The Witcher, an incredibly popular computer game. Written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski it is the first of two books which are a series of short stories linked cleverly together. The Last Wish is the first book in the series.

The Witcher is a fighter, Geralt from Rivia, who earns his crust by ridding the world of monsters. The Last Wish is certainly fast paced and packed full with tales of many wondrous and macabre creatures such as strigas, vampires, evil genies and tempestuous sorcerers.

Inside this delightful book you'll recognise many of the fairy tales but they won't be as you remember them from your childhood. The people and monsters in this book are not what they seem. Sometimes it is the humans that are the worst creatures of all. You'll be surprised at where your sympathies lay.

You would expect Geralt to be a cold blooded killer intent on bloodshed and annihilation, who's only in the killing business for the money, but you'd be wrong. The Witcher is an intelligent thoughtful man, one who's considerate enough to weigh all options and find the best solution for all involved. He's also incredibly witty and at times incredibly funny.

The setting is perfect and has a real eastern European feel to it, immediately you'll feel right at home in The Last Wish. There's very little tedious details and info dumping, Sapkowski is incredibly creative with his world building.

From an aspiring writer's point of view I really felt like I learnt a lot about writing from reading Sapkowski's The Last Wish. He's a master at telling back story and advancing the plot through dialogue alone whilst keeping the story fast paced and captivating. These are one of those annoying books that you can't put down.

There's already been a television series and film adaptation of these books in Poland which unfortunately did not have great reviews. A great shame, but hopefully due to the massive success of the computer game and also, credit due to the excellent television series Game of Thrones which is opening the door to more great fantasy television and film adaptions, it may get remade. Fingers are crossed!

The great thing is if you read this book and love it as it deserves to be, there are many other novels by Sapkowski. There's a sequel to The Last Wish titled The Sword of Destiny, also a short story collection.

Following on from these short story collections there are three novels featuring Geralt of Rivia these are: Blood Of Elves, Time of Contempt and lastly Baptism of Fire.

Personally I can't wait to read them all.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Thinking About Joining a Writing Group?

 I've been writing on and off for years but recently I've decided to take my writing a lot more seriously. I still write just for the fun of it but I am interested to see how far I could take it if I were to treat it like a career.

A few days ago I took the plunge and joined a writing group. I'd been toying with the idea of joining one for some time. Previously I'd heard mixed reviews about whether they're a good idea and was a bit too shy to join. I wasn't sure if I could handle critisicm at such an early stage of my writing. I also felt it would be hard to criticize other people's work.

It was so nerve wracking posting my first chapter work in the group. Literally I am the only person that has read the first draft of my novel. It's so different to posting a short story. My novel is like my baby, short stories are like one night stands. If people don't like my short stories I'm not too fussed, but to hate my novel would be devastating.

I also got the chance to read others, and was blown away by the quality. Suddenly I felt really happy that these people would critique my work I had a lot to learn from them.

Straight away I was given points to work on which once pointed out to me,seemed so obvious. It's all too easy to get so close to your work that you're not be able to stand back and see the big picture. To see what someone else sees when they read your work is invaluable.

I got good and bad critiques but all were constructive and incredibly helpful.

What I hadn't bargained on was a renewed passion for finishing my book. I don't whether it will be good enough to send off to a publisher but I'm having so much fun writing it. That's all that matters, doing what you love.

Though if I can drastically improve on it  I'd love to take it to the next stage.

I have a feeling this is going to be a very intense process, there's going to be highs and lows. But most importantly it will mean that I'll finish writing my book. I have a strict schedule to stick to which is great as things will definitely get done.

The Last Unicorn, by Peter S.Beagle

The Last Unicorn is one of those books I'd heard so much about and has often been hailed as a classic. Many of my writing heroes, including Patrick Rothfuss, have declared it a masterpiece. He even said it was one of his favourite books, he's probably my favourite writer, so I had to see what it was about. I wasn't sure if it could live up to my expectations.

I was completely wrong.

When you read this book you feel like you are in a dream, its beautifully poetic and resonant. It's easy to see that this mighty classic, originally published in 1968, has inspired authors such as Neil Gaiman. The imagery is luxurious and bewitching. Each sentence is a treasure to read, this book is like a fine wine it should be enjoyed sip by precious sip.

This book takes us on a journey but not your typical cliché journey you so often find in fantasy fiction. It's a delightful children's tale that is intelligent and charming much the amazing 'His Dark Materials'  by Phillip Pullman.

A unicorn all alone in a lilac wood overhears that there are no more unicorns. She refuses to accept this and sets out to find her kin. On her journey she is accompanied by a hapless wizard, embarking on his own quest to discover the true nature of magic. The book is full of interesting and diverse characters. Along the way they meet many lively characters: dark witches, sinister harpies and confused butterflies.

Despite this book being set in a wonderful magical kingdom this book perfectly mirrors life in the real world. This tale is funny, sad, enraging and above all poignant. This is a story of unflinching hope and refusing to give up even when you look like an idiot.

My only regret is not reading this book when I was a child. It's the closest way to be transported into the land of fairies.