Thursday, 22 August 2019

Marvel-ous Endeavours . . .

I don't think I've blogged this before, so forgive me if I have. Thought I'd share some of the creative things I've been up to beside editing.

A while back I felt a little artistic and put together this little Marvel piece. It's done in ink and is A3 size. It took quite a while to do, and I did make a little error (in ink) that put me off it for a while, but I eventually forced myself back and I completed it. I am proud of it, but then I'm biased (and that error still glares are me but I think I hid it well. I'm not telling you where it is).

Anyway, while having a little down time in editing, I decided to put together a DC one too, pictured beneath the first. It's a work in progress, same size and currently in pencil, so any errors can easily be erased. I'll eventually go over it in ink like the first, and when that happens I'll post pictures of the final piece. Hopefully there won't be errors in ink like last time...😠


DC - work in progress

Friday, 26 July 2019

RIP Rutger Hauer . . .

I heard the news yesterday that Rutger Hauer has died. This is very sad.

My first encounter with Rutger Hauer on the screen remains, to this day, one of my favourites. He's starred in many films and shows throughout his acting career, including 'Blade Runner'. I loved that film growing up, and who could forget that brilliant, iconic speech at the end?

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."

But this wasn't my first encounter. I was born in 1980 and Blade Runner first come out in 1982 so I didn't see it until many years later but my first encounter was seeing him in 'Ladyhawke', a medieval fantasy starring him, Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick.

I fell in love with that film back then and it still remains a nostalgic favourite today. Yes, it hasn't dated too well (that synth soundtrack still sounds like some cheesy 80's masterpiece) but the tragic story line of cursed lovers, he a wolf by night and she a hawk by day so they can never meet, stole my young heart. And who couldn't love Navarre! I'm sorry but I still watch him caped in black and sitting upon his impressive steed today, and it still makes me go slightly weak at the knees. 

I was more a film kid than a cartoon kid growing up, and there are a few films I remember falling in love with back then that I attribute to my love of fantasy today (the horror came later), and Ladyhawke sits right there at the top of the list. So I'm deeply saddened by the passing of a childhood hero...

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Blood, Gore, Murder, and Jane Austen

I've just finished reading 'The Death Pit' by Tony Strong, published back in 1999. It centres around Terry Williams, an Academic who travels to Scotland to research a victim of the Scottish Witch Trials back in the late 1700's for her thesis, and finds herself thrown into the world of murder, witchcraft, torture and human sacrifices. It was pretty gory in places, which I don't actually mind being a horror fan.

Anyway, at the weekend I had a cull of my book mountain, deciding to get rid of books I've read and really don't need to keep, and books I've acquired and will probably never read. I only made a small dent in my collection but (more importantly, and to the single raised eyebrow from my husband) I've made room for MORE! And whilst doing this, I decided which book I fancied reading next.

My fictional mountain consists of a wide variety of genres. They say 'to better yourself as a writer, you need to read far and wide outside your genre'. My favourite writer is Stephen King. That's no secret, and the entire bookshelf/shrine overflowing with his work can attest to that. I also read fantasy, with the likes of Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence, to name a few. Then there's the thrillers, the comedies, adventures, and historical. There's a few.

So, what book is next on my list? One that's a far cry from blood, gore, and murder, that's for sure. Jane Austen's 'Persuasion'. I do confess to being an Austen fan. I own a few of her classics
but this one become hidden behind the masses of fictional horror and intrigue and has never been read. The spine isn't even creased! So, I had to change that.

I started reading it today, beginning with the small biography of Austen at the front, and to my surprise, today, 18th July, is the actual day she died back in 1817! Today! She died in Winchester, UK, and her brother, Henry, oversaw the publications of her last pieces, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

I felt a little choked after realising this, and wondered what forces made me pick up this book after owning it for so long and remembering her on the day she died...

So tonight, I'll be raising a glass (or a cup of tea) and sitting back, remembering her, whilst reading one of the last books she ever wrote.

Here's to Jane Austen...

Friday, 5 July 2019

Writing Update . . .

It's been a wee while since I last gave an update on my creative endeavours, so I thought today is as good as any to bore you all.

I won't lie. Writing my current piece, Blood for Blood, has been hard, much harder than any of the other books in the series (none of which are published). This dark fantasy follows Reagan, a female assassin, who discovers that her current target has a connection to the murder of her father when she was a child, and seizes the opportunity to investigate rather than kill him, regardless of the wrath that falls upon her from her employees.

Whilst devising this story many many moons ago, it was going to be just as above, a bog standard story about a girl hunting her father's murderers, but it's evolved sooo much since those days. Yes, this is the basic premise for the story, but there is a reason this is 'DARK fantasy', and as horror writing scarily comes naturally to me, the dark element soon found its way in. I didn't have a problem with this at all. I really liked the twist it gave the story. It also gave the back story depth and fit in well with the rest of the series.

But suddenly I felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew. I felt out of my depth and a simple story suddenly turned complicated. I think that's when I started to struggle with it. It wasn't my enthusiasm for the story. That was still there, thick and fast. I think more than anything it was my confidence, and I began to question whether I was good enough to carry something this complicated off.

When that wall hits your confidence, it hits hard.

I even got to the stage where I felt I needed a break from it, and started planning my next WIP. But I inevitably went back, persevered, and finished it about two months ago with a word count of 120k. Not bad, all things considered.

I've now started editing it. It needs a lot of work and you can tell the areas I struggled with, and even though I've convinced myself that yes, I am good enough to pull this off, I can't help but sit back, look at the entire thing and think "ugh...can I really do this?"

The answer is yes. I know I can. There's also a sequal that's banking on this story to be completed. So deep breath and here we go...

Friday, 21 June 2019

A Good Omen for Good Omens . . .

I finished watching Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman last week. I have to admit that I've not read much Terry Pratchett but I am familiar with his work, and boy! you can see it come through in this. It is very Pratchett-esque. And that's a good thing. It's light hearted and good fun and the chemistry between Sheen's angel and Tennant's demon is just divine!

However, I had to laugh yesterday when I read in the news that 20,000 Christians have petitioned for NETFLIX to cancel the show, claiming it is normalising Satanism, amoung other things. Now, I'm not against people airing their opinions - everyone has a right to - but I'm shocked that 20,000 people failed to spot their one blinding error. Any guesses what that error might be?

One of Neil Gaiman's responses to this on Twitter, which made me chuckle, was:

"This is so beautiful. Promise you won't tell them."

And even though there have been a few tweets regarding this since then, the tweet from Amazon Prime to Netflix was, I thought, priceless...

Thursday, 30 May 2019

A Salute To Those Who Do Their Research . . .

I've been reading some Historical Fiction recently - Judith Arnopp to be more specific. Next on my reading list is the 'The Kiss of the Concubine' which is an Anne Boleyn story, but the one I've just finished is the 'Intractable Heart', which is the story of Katheryn Parr (you'll be amazed how many different ways you can spell Katheryn/Kathryn/Catherine. Seems Henry VIII was working his way through them all).

I've read other historical fiction authors - Philippa Gregory comes to mind - but out of everything I've read, I've not come across one that tells the story of the 'wife that survived', and I found it really interesting. When people talk about HenryVIII, the mind automatically moves to the tales of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn - occasionally Jane Seymour, the mother of Edward VI - as these have always been the more popular stories, but the other three wives are less mentioned, as if the notion of  'yet another new wife' grew tiresome and their stories less worthy. But they're far from that and I do love a bit of history.

One thing I do have to praise these authors for is their dedication to research. All writers need to do their research, regardless of what their working on. If you delved into my recent Google search history, which I don't recommend, you'll randomly find lots of articles on how to slit someone's throat. No, I'm not secretly planning on changing my career to one more gruesome. This occurs in my recent piece, and even through it sounds like a simple enough thing to write about, believe me, it's not when you have to consider the damage involved. And unless you have experience in this kind of thing - which I DON'T - then research is needed.

Writing historical fiction can be a dangerous thing. Everything needs to be spot on and accurate, and you only get a tiny amount of creative licence. Stories told in a modern setting are easier as we already know the mundane stuff needed, but for historical fiction, research is imperative. Having a chambermaid walk into the bathroom to find Henry VIII standing against a porcelain urinal isn't going to work, even if you call it Genuine Tudor Porcelain. It's a nope. Catching a cook stealing some leftover food and heating it in the microwave? Again, nope. I know these are obvious things but you get my point. It's the little details like this that can make or break historical fiction, the details of the Queen's dresses, the specific name for a hat, what they use to ease a headache or treat a wound, and to avoid screaming reviews of inaccuracies from readers, you need to do a copious amount of research.

I write dark fantasy and horror - hence the throat slitting thing. You get a lot more creative leeway with these genres, but you still need to do a lot of research. Many fantasy stories hold a historical element, usually medieval. We get characters riding across the lands on horseback, carrying heavy swords or huge axes that have seen more deaths than the grim reaper. So, travelling characters, what do they eat? How do they cook? What do they use as shelter at night along their way? Their weapons; how were they forged? How do the keep them sharp after slicing numerous heads off? For this we draw on history, and it has to hold some element of realism for the reader to be able to connect, to believe.
I find this historical research interesting, and often do find myself getting carried away, reading much more than is needed. But there is a drawback reading into history, and this is why I say 'History should come with a Spoiler Alert'. You know the end to the book you're reading before you get there. History has told you that. Still, we all enjoy the journey getting there, be it factual or fictional.

So to those who have to do a copious amount of research to keep those annoying inaccuracies away, I salute you. A job well done!

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Lore - Rope & Railing . . .

I've recently started listening to a podcast called 'Lore'. It's a series that covers folklore around the world and unexplainable history. Each episode provides a scary story that shows, as they say, the 'dark side of human nature'. Me being me, I quickly become addicted to listening to it and am slowly working my way through past episodes of the entire podcast.

One episode in particular struck me, episode 23 - Rope and Railing. It's one of those tales that doesn't really show the dark side of human nature as much as it does sheer bad luck. It takes place around Smalls Lighthouse on a rocky island off the shores of Prembrokeshire, Wales, UK. The original lighthouse was built between 1775 - 1776, but one grisly episode in 1801 brought about a revision in the whole lighthouse policy.

Thomas Howell and Thomas Griffth made a two-man team who run the lighthouse, ensuring it was lit every night for months at a time. The pair never really got along, and were often seen arguing when they come home to the mainland. The state of their relationship was common knowledge, so it was understandable that when Griffth died in a tragic accident on the island, Howell was concerned it might look like murder. He considered throwing the body in the sea but knew this wouldn't bode well for him, so kept Griffth in their room until the smell of his decompostion got too much. Howell then went about gathering what wood he could, from floorboards to pieces of furniture, and made his colleague a makeshift coffin. He then placed this outside and strung it up to the railing with rope.

He didn't foresee the storm that hit soon after. The waves battered the island, smashing the coffin to pieces, but the body become entangled in the ropes that was supposed to hold it secure, and as the storm abated, Griffth remained hanging from the railings right outside the window. Howell, unable to retrieve the body, had no choice but to spend the next four months alone on the island, watching his colleague decompose outside. When he was finally retrieved from the island, he was a shadow of his former self. He said the way Griffth was hanging from the railing made it look like he was continuously beckoning to him, with his arm swinging in the wind, driving him crazy.

The coastguard said that numerous times within the span of those four months, they rowed out to the island to check the pair were ok, and always saw the figure of one of them standing against the railing, waving to them to let them know all was good, so, satisfied, they turned around and rowed back home. Poor Howell. Talk about bad luck.

After this, the lighthouse policy was changed so that no fewer than three men should be present at all times.

I'm eagerly listening for more interesting tales to come...