Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Stone Road by G.R.Matthews

I was introduced to this book as part of Fantasy Faction's Book Club where we all get together and discuss our favourite books. This time the administrator chose a title that had been self published.

Now I'm going to let you in on a little secret, that yes of course there are a lot of really bad self published books out there, but there are also some really good ones. Since buying a kindle I've bought numerous self published titles for as little as 49p and have enjoyed most of them. Recently I read The Lady of the Helm by T.O.Munro and that was really very good.

I'm going off track a bit here but if you love fantasy fiction and want to read really amazing self published fiction then head over to Mark Lawrence's site where he hosts the annual SPFBO - The Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off in which top bloggers read through the top 273 self published fantasy  novels to determine an overall winner.

So back to  the Stone Road by G.R.Matthews. This is the first installment of a trilogy called The Forbidden List.

"Everyone knows a family who lost a son to the war. It has to end. But on both sides of the conflict, there are those who value revenge more highly than peace. 

Zhou of Wubei is assigned to negotiate the peace. At last, the r
ecognition he so richly deserves will be his. There are obstacles in the way and the offer of an end to thirty years of war may not be as genuine as it first seemed. 

Haung, a soldier of Yaart, is trained to be a Jiin-Wei; a spy, warrior, magician. His orders are clear. Ensure the diplomats of Wubei sign the treaty and, by doing so, seal their own destruction. War presents the chance for honour and glory, but the reality is nothing like the stories he's been told."

This tale is set in a world with a strong oriental flavour which is quite unusual as most fantasy stories tend to have a medieval setting. If I'm being completely honest that did put me off a bit but when I began to read it worked really well. There's no boring info dumping in this book, it's pure story and action.

The premise is that there are two provinces, Yaart and Wubei, who have been at war for thirty long years. Both sides are exhausted and when the Duke of Yaart calls for a peace treaty both sides are eager to achieve peace.

We watch these events unfolding through Zhou a junior diplomat from Wubei  trying to secure peace  and Haung a secretive member of the Jiin-Wei in Yaart. Both these characters face many problems which test their loyalties and strengths to breaking point and what's really intersting is how they both deal with their difficulties.

Initially there is a slow build up as we are introduced to the characters but soon it all kicks off.
The plot was really interested and was impossible to predict what was going to happen next which made it an exciting read.

In this cleverly crafted book you'll come across moments both funny and heart wrenching but beware nothing is what it seems either. There's no obvious good guy/bad guy and you'll find yourself sympathising with ll the characters through their good and bad actions.

All in all this is a very fast paced book where fate keeps the characters spinning wildly out of control.

Yoy can find out more about G R Matthews by heading over to his website here

Friday, 10 June 2016

How to Create Characters

It's your characters that makes your books truly memorable. It is them alone who really bring your tales to life.

Which is why characterisation is so important.

It's the essence of the characters that the readers take away once they've finished reading. Look at J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter series. Why is it so successful and deeply loved by millions worldwide? Because it's jam packed with great characters, even the small secondary characters such as Dobby the house elf, Luna  Lovegood and Professor McGonagall have their fully formed personalities.

So how can you create a great character?

Characterization is often overlooked so don't make that mistake. Take the time to really get to know your characters and they'll end up writing the story for you.

There are many different methods of characterisation. I personally find it quite helpful to form a strong mental image of what the character looks like. You can use it by basing their appearance on someone well known or a friend. For me it really helps by bringing them to life and allowing me to be able to visualise them as the story unfolds.

Everyone is quirky, we're all weird in our own little way. So  give your character a few quirky habits that makes them different from everyone else. Giving your character quirks can also help with plotting. I think if you have great characters they'll help you to make a great plot and story arc.

By far the best way to bring your character to life is to create a character profile where you will discover everything about them. Not all the information from your character profile needs to be incorporated into your story, especially if it's not relevant, but it's very useful information to have.

Creating character profiles are so much fun and allow you to really get to know your characters. If you want to get really creative you can even create your own. I've included a link to an article How to Create a Character Profile written by The Lazy Scholar and featured in The Internet Writing Journal in 1998. This is a great article on characterisation and also includes an amazing character profile you can use to get started.

The Lazy Scholar's character profile covers all aspects of characterisation from your character's physical appearance, their emotional characteristics, their background and their relation to the story and other characters.

By using a character profile you'll learn everything you need to know about your character and it's a process that is thoroughly enjoyable.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Danse Macabre - Pasticcerie

Yippee I'm delighted to announce that my latest short story the knocker is set to appear in the latest issue of Danse Macabre Magazine

Danse Macabre is an online literary magazine that is "committed to expanding the creative landscape of the literary web."  This is a great magazine that  really stands out their website is beautifully designed and I implore to head over and take a look.

"There's a knock at the door. Edward lies awakes in their bed; he's been waiting for it. It is not the first time he's heard it. Every night the knocker comes. But he won't let it in."

You can read it here for free at Danse Macabre Magazine

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

This epic tale is a fictional memoir of Uhtred, son of Uhtred who's destiny was forged in battle between the pagan Viking warriors and the pious Christian Anglo-Saxons in 9th century Britain.

"My name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred and his father was also called Uhtred. My father’s clerk, a priest called Beocca, spelt it Utred. I do not know if that was how my father would have written it, for he could neither read nor write, but I can do both and sometimes I take the old parchments from their wooden chest and I see the name spelled Uhtred or Utred or Ughtred or Ootred, and I look at the deeds which say that Uhtred, son of Uhtred, is the lawful and sole owner of the lands that are carefully marked by stones and by dykes, by oaks and by ash, by marsh and by sea, and I dream of those lands, wave-beaten and wild beneath the wind driven sky. I dream, and know that one day I will take back the land from those who stole it from me."
(Taken from The Last Kingdom, Bernard Cornwell)

I'm a big fan of historical fiction. I love it because I like being transported to different worlds that existed in different times. Though I usually read historical fiction by women such as Phillipa Gregory,Juliet Marillier and Marion Zimmer Bradley. I thought I would try something from a more male perspective such as Bernard Cornwell who is the critically acclaimed author of the Sharpe Stories, of an English soldier in the Napoleonic wars.

The Last Kingdom is the first in a series of books known as The Saxon Stories; The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, The Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, The Empty Throne and Warriors of the Storm.

In this story  I like how the old ancient towns and cities are referred to in their original names. Also many of the characters in this story are real such as Guthrum the Unlucky, Ubba Lothbroksson and King Osbert of Northumbria.

Uhtred is the son of a Ealdorman Uhtred a saxon noble who faces the vikings at a bloody battle at York resulting in a massacre for the saxons. Uhred's father dies in battle and his fate as a viking is decided when enraged with battle lust  at York he tries to take on a most feared and respected viking responsible for killing his father,Earl Ragnar. Rather than kill the boy he sees something in Uhtred. Rather than kill him he takes him first as a slave, then as a son.

Uhtred is raised by vikings but with their vicious and war hungry attitude he feels for the first time in his life that he belongs. He is with his people and lives a life governed by honour and joy rather than laws and strict religion. Despite being a slave he lives a life of pure freedom.

However his fate is subject to many twists and turns and he soon faces hard choices of conflicting loyalty. Above all he needs to survive and take back Bebbanburg, his father's fortress stolen by his uncle.

This is a truly remarkable book that draws you in and keeps you captive. Uhtred as a narrator is incredibly charismatic and many of the characters have a remarkable realness to them. You'll  find yourself laughing with Uhtred, weeping with Uhtred and fighting with Uhtred.