Friday, 21 December 2012

Festive Pick Of The Week . . .Garry Rowe

I'm not guaranteeing that I'll get to blog between now and the New Year - busy days ahead, but who knows I may find time.  If this is the case I couldn't see 2012 through without one last Pic of the Week.  And it's a festive one too.

The artist is Garry Rowe from Glasgow, and the instant I saw this picture I knew it had to be posted.  It's moody yet festive, calming yet charming... 

So to all those out there who are still hanging around after my disappearance, I wish you a very merry Christmas. 

Enjoy!


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

This Hiatus Must Surely Be Over...

It's been a rough few months over here in windy, rainy, snowy England (with a few sunny spells in between) but things are looking on the up now.

It's been...how long since I last posted?  But it hasn't been uneventful, I can tell you that.  Lets see...

1: I lost my job.
2: My husband had an accident at work which resulted in a shattered wrist, 2 operations, endless physio (for which he's still undertaking) and over two months off work, causing him to climb the walls and rip his hair out. 
3: Both of the above resulted in huge financial worries and the pressure to find another job alongside nursing a very sorry-for-himself other half. 

All of these has resulted in a decline in creativity.  Whereas my hubby has been climbing walls in frustration at being at home and unable to do much for himself, I've been going through the same process because my creativity has had no chance to flourish.  I NEED to create.  I NEED to write.  Even though I've done little bits here and there in between times, nothing has been what I call, progressive.

On the other hand, Starfish Publishing held a second book launch on November 24th (25th??). There were numerous books being launched into the big wide world of Amazon, and many took advantage of the new CreateSpace option, which allows authors to publish hardcopies on a print-on-demand service.  For those who have dreamt of seeing their work in actual book format, this service is amazing.  However, it also has its drawbacks which I will go into at a later date (ensuring I come back to post again).

The launch went really well and we raised £230 with 15% going to charity.  Well done everyone! 

I included a book in the launch too.  I'm sure I've blogged about it in the past, but I'll plug it again.  It's a collection of short horror stories and is titled 'A Bribe For The Ferryman'.  So far I've have a few good reviews from readers (not from Amazon though) and managed to prove to people just how sick my mind can be...mwah-ha-ha-ha.

So, now things are beginning to look up.  I have myself another job (a good job), my husband is on the mend and has gone back to work on light-duties.  My financial worries are smoothing over and slowly but surely I'm feeling that creative spark re-ignite.  Thank god for that!!!!

All I need to do now is get myself back into a blogging routine.  I'm working on it, people.  Honest I am :)

Till next time

Ta ta   

Friday, 7 September 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Blue Moon

A couple of reasons why I've made this choice for Pic of the Week.

1st: I'm reading and critiquing a friends WIP at the moment and it's a Sci Fi which put me in the mood for something to do with space and the Apollo missions.

2nd: This month saw a Blue Moon.  What's a Blue Moon? I hear some of you ask...Well, allow me to explain as best as a non-scientific mind can.  Each month sees one full moon, however, depending on the rotation and length of the month ect ect, the odd month may see two full moons.  This happens on rare occasions - much like a leap year where it takes four years to make up an extra day.  This event is called a 'Blue Moon'.  Anyway, you can imagine my disappointment when I looked to the skies, eager to see the beautiful image of a rare blue moon, only to be told the truth and that it's not actually blue.

D'oh!

3rd:  I also, however, discovered the origins of certain phrase.  "Once in a blue moon...".  Hands up who's heard of this phrase?  For me, it's one I hear regularly, so I was delighted to learn that the event of a rare blue moon was what promtped this phrase to come about.  Clever that...

So, here's Nasa's picture of the day dated September 16th 2011, chosen in celebration of that recent Blue Moon that wasn't actually blue....

Enjoy and have a grand weekend...




Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Review: 'The Emperor's Knife' by Mazarkis Williams...

I felt guilty about my little rant a week or so back regarding the cover of this book.  Don't get me wrong, I still agree with every word I wrote.  I still agree that the saggy chin of the guy shows a lack of attention to detail in the design, but the story itself didn't deserve such a rant.  I suffered sleepless nights afterwards, loss of appetite and a decline in health...well, a bit of an exaggeration, but it did prompt me to track down and apologise to the author himself via his blog, 'Sarmin's Corner'.  He said he was okay about it, much to my relief, and then I thought I could go one step further and publish a little review of his book, 'The Emperor's Knife'.

I rarely write reviews so bare with me while I stumble my way through this one...

Review: 'The Emperor's Knife' by Mazarkis Williams


Blurb:

There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike, marking each victim with a fragment of a greater pattern.  Anyone showing the marks is put to death.  That is Emperor Beyon's law...

In a hidden room, a forgotten prince is grown from a child to a man, and as the empire sickens, Sarmin, the emperor's only surviving brother, is remembered.  He awaits the bride his mother has chosen: a chieftain's daughter from the northern plains.

Mesema is a Windreader, used to riding free across the grasslands, not posing and primping in rare silks.  She finds the Imperial Court's protocols stifling, but she doesn't take long to realise the politicking and intrigues are not a game, but deadly serious.

Eyul is burdened both by years and the horrors he has carried out in service to the throne.  At his emperor's command he bears the emperor's Knife to the desert in search of a cure for the pattern-markings.

As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence and rebellion, the enemy moves towards victory.  Now only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes who once saw a path through a pattern, among the waving grasses.


This fantasy story opens with a harrowing scene of a young boy, a prince, being dragged from his bed, still groggy with sleep, and taken to a tower where he witnesses the brutal assassination of his brothers in the courtyard below.  From this point, you know the story is going to be gritty and harsh.  It's going to be hard-hitting and spare no one, not even women and children, to make it a fairytale read.  It's a harsh, hard world which comes to life the instant you open the book.

The story mainly centres around the three main characters: Sarmin, the forgotten prince in the tower: Eyul the assassin, charged with the Emperor's Knife and the only one allowed to kill a Royal; and Mesema, a chieftain's daughter from the north on route to become the conspired bride of the forgotten prince.  Each tale goes about their own way, intertwining with one another, and each fed with the mystery of the strange patterns that mark people, killing them or driving them insane.  What are these patterns?  What magic do they come from?  And who is controlling it?

The one thing I noticed as soon as I stared reading was Mazarkis's use of prose.  I was blown away by his style.  He spares no words, and doesn't confuse with long descriptions that can jar the flow.  His style moves you forward, forcing you to turn page after page, and using up those precious hours when you should be sleeping.  The words carry you through a plot that twists and turns, forcing you to hold that book open just a little longer, and keeping you guessing till the end.  Only one other author out of all the books I've read has ever blown me away like this, and that was Scott Lynch.   

There are certain books that, once read, will remain with you for a long while afterwards, while some can be enjoyed and then quickly forgotten.  This is certainly one that will stay with me for a while yet, and certainly one that I will be recommending to anyone who is a fan of the fantasy genre.

'The Emperor's Knife' is Mazarkis Williams' debut novel and the first in his Tower and Knife Trilogy.  The second instalment from Jo Fletcher Books is titled 'Knifesworn' and is due for release soon.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Book Trailers . . .

It's been a busy week or so.  I've had an interview for what sounds like the perfect job for me (fingers crossed I get it), I've been to Devon for a loooong weekend to see the folks, I've completed another book cover . . . AND . . . I've completed two book trailers for Starfish Publishing's up-coming books.

The first is 'Warrior Heart' by Belle Noire, and the second is for my work, 'A Bribe For The Ferryman'.

Take a glance and see what y'all think :)

Happy watching.






Thursday, 23 August 2012

A Thursday Rant On Book Covers...

We've all done it.  We've all judged a book by its cover.  It's hard not to.  When you're shopping for a book, the cover is the first thing you see.  It's what makes you reach out, take it off the shelf and read the blurb to see if the story is for you.  The cover sells the book.

This is I why think the front cover for any book is important.  It needs to be stunning; it needs to catch the eye, and it needs to capture the essence of the story that lies behind it. 

Since I've been designing front covers, this fact has started screaming at me, and I find myself taking note of other book covers, studying the detail and the message they portray - and there is some stunning cover art out there.   

However, I've also found I'm now rather critical when it comes to this subject too.  I can't help it.  I find myself looking at a mediocre book cover and shaking my head, tutting and thinking 'I wouldn't have done it like that', or 'it would have worked better if...'.  Does this make me a bad person?  No, it's just my opinion, and I know my covers are far from perfect but it nerks me when someone is presented with a huge opportunity to do something great and spectacular, but instead comes away with a 'that'll do' attitude.  What a waste.

I have a little example here that's been bugging me.  Prepare yourselves for a little rant: 

I'm currently reading 'The Emperor's Knife' by Mazarkis Williams.  It's the first book of a new fantasy series and I have to say I'm enjoying every word.  And what made me find this book?  Why, the cover of course.  It's stunning, it really is.  It speaks of mystery, of hidden secrets and dark shadows.  It really does stand out from its genre and was the reason why I picked it up in the first place.

Then I got it home and I studied the cover.  I'm being VERY picky here (that's actually an understatement), but here's a copy of the cover.  See if you can see where I'm coming from.


Do you see it?  I think this little detail may be hidden by the cover's overall magnificence.  So let me point it out to you.


There, now you see it?  A saggy chin.  A god-damn saggy chin!  The hooded figure should resemble a man of mystery, a man who is dangerous and full of adventures.  For any romantic they should be tall, muscular and strong, handsome and rugged - not someone with a double chin.  This isn't how the character is portrayed in the story.  He's someone who's battled their way across desert, forest and city to fulfil his role as an assassin.  These people are lean and fit.  They wouldn't have saggy chins.  

Here's another version of the cliched hooded figure.  This version is from Jon Sprunk's first instalment, Shadow's Son.  Now this is a man of fantasy.  He's handsome, rugged, dangerous - and LEAN!  


So to all you book cover designers out there, come on!!!  You have a chance to create something spectacular.  Why ruin it with a 'make do' attitude and let the whole thing down by a tiny detail that could have easily been remedied (photoshop works wonders lol ).  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with saggy chins, but when the picture on the front inaccurately describes the character from the story, it deserves a rant.

This is just a little thing that has bugged me since picking up this book and thought it needed to be aired.  This is in no way a review of the book itself.  So far, in my opinion, it's making for a fantastic read that I'm finding hard to put down.  This is Williams' debut novel and he's an author who has made it on to my 'look out for' list.  He doesn't mess aorund with his use of writing, which is good and I will be sure to check out his next instalment.  In fact, both the books mentioned here are worth your attention.  Go check them out if you haven't already.

Rant over.

That is all...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Region's Most Wanted . . .

The aim of this 10 minute exercise was to imagine what we would do if we were walking through a park and we saw someone sitting on a bench, someone we recognise, and someone, we suddenly realise, is wanted for murder.  We know the face from TV, from news broadcasts across the region. 

So once we realise, what do we do?  How do we proceed with the knowledge that the county's most wanted man is sitting on a bench not two yards away as we pass by?

This piece was inspired by how I felt in a similar kind of moment a few years ago.  I'll blog about that one day too...

Region's Most Wanted 

His gaze bore through me as I walked passed.  At first he was just a normal man sitting on the park bench, but as I drew closer I knew it was no ordinary man.

I had seen him before.  I even had a name for him, a name I had heard on TV, a name belonging to a killer.

Was it him?  My eyes wanted to study him as I approached but I was too afraid to look.  What if he saw me?  Would he guess that I knew who he was?  If he did, would he come after me to silence me?

Keeping my gaze low, I walked on passed, my legs quickening their pace without any command given.  They wanted to take me away from that bench as soon as possible.

He remained seated as I went by, but the fact didn't stop my heart from pounding in my chest.

What should I do?

If it was him, the police needed to be told.  If it wasn't then the man on the bench had nothing to worry about if visited by the police.  Surely, if it wasn't him, he must be aware of his striking resemblance to the killer?  He must be expectant of some contact with the police?

I needed to call them regardless.  I needed to get a safe distance away, take my phone from my bag and make the call, but my legs kept going and my arms remained stubborn in their swing.  They weren't going for my phone.

I'll make the call at work, I thought.  Safety in numbers.  I needed to talk to someone about it before I took that step.  Yes, that's what I needed to do.  Maybe then my mind's panic would settle and I'd see sense.  Maybe then I would realise that it wasn't him sitting on that bench at all, that my confused mind had only connected the two.  Yes, that made sense.  I didn't really have to make that phone call.  I didn't really have to get involved, did I?

Friday, 10 August 2012

Pic of the Week . . . A Bribe For The Ferryman

Last week I published the front cover for an up and coming novel, 'Warrior Heart'.  This week I thought I'd go along the same lines and publish the cover for my own work, 'A Bribe For The Ferryman'.  It consists of 5 short tales of the macabre, the blood-thirsty, the terrifying and the down-right wrong.  More details of each individual tale will follow nearer the time. 

'A Bribe For The Ferryman' will be published at the end of November under StarfishPC, along with other titles such as 'Apollo the Thirteenth' by Willaby, 'Book 1 of the Mad Worlds Trilogy' by L Godsave, and not forgeting, 'Warrior Heart' by Belle Noire.  Check out my new 'Book Covers' page to see all the book covers I've done to date.

It's all happening and you heard it here first :)

Enjoy and have a grand weekend...



Friday, 3 August 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Book Covers

Something slightly different today...

For those who were around last year, you may remember that we, as in our Writers' Group, formed a small Publishing Cooperative - Starfish PC - and held a book launch.  We launched three novels out into the great wide yonder they call Amazon.  It's been a learning curve, but since then we've learnt a lot more and are now planning a second launch this coming November (weekend of the 24th).

So far we have three more novels that will be set loose, a possible forth, and a collection of short horror stories (by yours truly :D )  It's all very exciting, and now the ball has just starting to move in regards to preparation.  Some of the preparations include finding a venue to hold the launch - something that is a must - and then the fiddly bits that follow.  These include book marks, fliers, adverts, yada yada, etc etc, but none of these can really be done until we have the all important book covers ready. 

This task is down to me. 

So I've put my thinking cap on.  I have provisional ideas for most of the books that are due to be launched, and these will be finalised in due course.  However, on Wednesday, I completed the first cover.  It's been given the go ahead by the author, and now the marketing for this book can really begin - starting with the book trailer that is also down to yours truly :) .

So here it is, a little teaser to wet the appetite and to feed the hoards that will be waiting for the stampede to buy it.  This weeks Pic of the Week is the book cover for the up and coming novel, 'Warrior Heart', by Belle Noire, a historical romance set around the era of the Knights Templar.

Enjoy and have an awesome weekend.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Rewriting Scenes In Your Own Style . . .

Sounds like plagiarism, rewriting scenes in your own style, and maybe it is but it served for a great writing exercise last night at our writers group. 

A colleague read a scene from a chosen book, a scene that was only half a page long.  The book - I forget what it was called - was told from the POV of a cat on the run from cat catchers, and the scene had them trapped in a ...shed?... and the cat catchers burst in and captured one. 

The point of the exercise was to practice our genre telling.  We had to rewrite the scene in a different genre and in our own style.  Out of the whole scene read, one part gripped me, and that was the magpie that flew in, crying it's warning to lock the door before flying to rafters above.  With this in mind, this was what I churned out:

When Angels Fall

The other angels gathered in the abandoned church whilst one stood on guard outside.  The night was long and dark, and the clear skies had allowed the frost to settle on the ground and forgotten gravestones earlier than usual.  The stars sparkled above them.  There was no moon.

He remained silent, a skill angels were created with, and his black, pupiless eyes roamed the shadows.  He felt uneasy, fearful, but knew this meeting was inevitable.  The three angels meeting inside were discussing their rebellious fall from the heavens and were planning their next move.  There were more like them out there.  At the time of the riots, twenty or so angels had escaped and swept down to the lands below in a bid for freedom after centuries of being cooped up.  Every one of these had gone their own ways, treading their own paths - and all aware of the Black Angel that had been assigned to follow and deal their punishment.  

This was what he was on the look out for.  He trusted that what ever plans his fellow angels would come up with would be wise and would take them to safety but he had to ensure that their choice had its chance to be made.  

His black eyes studied the darkness of the surrounding churchyard.  A light breeze drifted across the back of his neck.  He turned.  The shadows loomed, their thick masses sneering at him, and he gave an uneasy shudder, ruffling the feathers of his wings.  

Nothing moved.  There was only silence.

He turned back, not liking the niggling feeling that ate away at him.  Something was wrong.  By the time he saw the large, black wings swooping down towards him, he knew it was too late to retaliate.  The size of them tripled his own, and there was no chance of defeating such a ferocious being.  Thrashing around, he swung through the opening of the church.

"Lock the door!" he yelled. 

Startled faces peered back at them.  He repeated his command as he opened his wings and lifted himself up to the rafters but there was no time to follow them through.  Instead the other angels scarpered, desperately seeking for a hiding place.  He saw from above as two disappeared in the shadows for protection, but it was too late for the third as the menacing form of the Black Angel stormed through the opening and pinned him to the ground, his large black wings enveloping him and his talons piercing through flesh...   

Friday, 27 July 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Jim Warren

This week, weather wise, has been blinding.  After all those weeks of constant rain, we've finally been graced with some sunshine.  The temperatures have soared, and I swear I have a little colour on my shoulders ;)

Anyway, to celebrate this sudden change in weather, I wanted to go for a colourful, happy pick this week.  And who better than Jim Warren.

Jim Warren is the master of DreamScapes and his work is bright and vibrant yet mellow and soothing - and most of them incorporate a sunny beach and crashing waves in some way.  What better way to dream of spending a lazy sunny afternoon... 

Enjoy and have a happy, sunny weekend . . .


Friday, 20 July 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Tim Sale

I know I'm like a year - two years - maybe even three years behind, but hey!  I've just finished watching the first series of 'Heroes' and am now working my way through the others.

I saw a couple of random episodes when the show first hit TV, but you see, I don't watch TV as a rule.  Even though I thoroughly enjoyed watching the episodes I did see, and telling myself that it would be a good show to keep up with, I never did.  I don't pencil in my mental diary times that I need to be sitting in front of the TV so I can catch the next instalment of something.  Usually I'm writing, or drawing - or maybe watching a film (I do love films) but I can't make myself sit down at the same time every week to watch a whole series of something.  Maybe I'm missing out on a lot, but it's how I roll. 

Then along came a little thing called Netflix, and BOY am I getting my money's worth, especially when it comes to series like Heroes.  Anyway, for those who remember, there is an artist in the first series who could paint the future.  I was taken by those paintings.  I loved them.  And it turns out that they were all created by the artist, Tim Sale.  He's a comic book artist and I love some of his work. 

Here's a quick reminder of some of those paintings from the first and second series:

Even though I loved these paintings, there was one in particular that captured my heart, a sketch, and one that I thought deserved to be Pic of the Week. I just love this piece.

Enjoy and have an Heroic weekend :)
  

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Walk In The Park . . .

This was a writing exercise that we took part in the other week.  The phrase given was 'A Walk in the Park', and this was I produced within the ten minutes we were given.

Enjoy.

A Walk In The Park

"Once you've done it a couple of times," they said, "it will become easy.  The weapon will become like an extension of your body, of your being.  You will disassociate yourself with any emotional implications that often follow such tasks.  You will feel nothing, you will be numb.  It will be like a walk in the park."

Of course it's easy to say these things, easy to imagine.  People who fantasise about such things fall in love with the power it can give them, the prospect of money, of stealth, mystery and travel - but yet put them in this very spot and I bet they feel as I am now.

I press my finger gently on the trigger, not enough to let the round off, but enough to stop myself from trembling.

The life of an assassin promised me everything I had dreamed of.  I had spent months training with a firm that fails to exist in the eyes of the public, a firm that can track you down within minutes, no matter where in the world you are, and a firm who will quickly and brutally put things right if you mess up.  

Yes, the fantasies of being an assassin are delicious, but in real life it's not so easy, it's not just a walk in the park - as my target is about to realise.  The street he's strolling through at the moment is heaving with people.  I hide at the distance, in the trees, waiting - and it's a wait that is allowing doubt to flood through.

I begin to wonder if my first kill will ever happen . . . 



Friday, 13 July 2012

Pic of the Week . . . HR Giger

A teenage favourite; I remember when HR Giger first came to my knowledge.  Back at school I was verging on the Gothic side.  I was the strange one, the weird one, and a lot of the time I illustrated that with my art.  My Art Teacher often couldn't wait to see what interesting, weird and wonderful things I would produce next.  So when I first discovered HR Giger, I loved him.  I had numerous pieces of his work stuck on my bedroom wall.

Now I look at his work and wonder.  Don't get me wrong, to say he's an absolute fantastic artist is an understatement.  To think of what he's contributed to many films - films that will go down in history as classics, such as Alien and Dune - is mind-boggling.  Then there are all the other things he's produced, such as the microphone stand for Johnathan Davies, the frontman in Korn.  He's a marvel to the world of dark art - but now I can't help but cringe at some of his work.    

Years ago, this wouldn't have bothered me.  In fact, it didn't.  But as I grow older I'm mellowing out, and there are certain things that I just don't like for anymore - such as gore.  I've never been a fan of films such as Saw or Hostel, films where their soal intent is to shock you with how many different ways they can cut up or kill their characters.  It makes me cringe.  Some of Giger's work now does that for me.  He mixes the mechanical and biological.  If ever the human race were invaded and farmed, his work describes exactly how I would picture it. 

But he still has some wonderful pieces that I can comfortably handle, including this piece.  And I do believe I even copied this for an art project back in my school days, although I can't remember if I ever handed it in or kept it...hmmm...

Enjoy and have an awesome weekend...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

2012

They say that the world is to end this year, that Nibiru is already stalking us behind our moon and that it will collide with us on the 21st December (the day before my birthday!  How inconsiderate!); or that we will have used up all our natural resources and the world will retaliate; that a huge climate shift will kill us all; or maybe some man made disaster in the form of WW3 will wipe us out.

For those who believe this, I can only imagine what is going on inside their head, of the panic and the fear.  I'm not a believer, but if I don't reach my 32nd birthday then I'll eat my words and be proven wrong.  In the mean time I'll simply believe that the Mayan society run out of stone when carving their calender and could go no further than 2012.

However, this year does seem to be having a negative effect on me so far, and the biggest change to come about is the fact that I lost my job just over a week ago.  I was made redundant after seven years.  I understand completely, from a business point of view, why this needed to happen, but I can't deny the fact that I'm gutted.  I loved my job.  I'm also the sort of person who likes stability, and when I get settled into something I'm there for good.  The thought of having to look for a new job and then settle in somewhere new isn't really doing me any favours and I have a whirlwind of emotions running through my mind at the moment.  I am at unease.

Still, one good thing to come out of this is the realisation that I should go off and do something that I want as opposed to something that I need to do for the wage.  Obviously any job will be taken if needs must (and becoming a full-time writer just isn't viable at present), but I've also decided to put myself through a course to learn all there is to know about the Adobe Creative Suite.  I'm pretty nifty with photoshop already, but there's still a lot it can do that I don't know about.  Then I'm going to freelance myself in my spare time and do book covers and book trailers for all those wonderful writers out there who have reached the exciting point of publishing their work.  It'll be something that I love doing and something I'll enjoy.

Another little thing I saw that shed some light into my surrounding 2012 darkness was a review on Amazon for my book, 'Son of Jack'.  It came just when I needed it and put a well needed smile on my face:

"This is an excellent psychological thriller about what happens when a town is plagued by a serial killer. We see the different reactions of the four main characters and their various spirals into madness. Although the killer is a constant presence, he is kept "off stage", which in my opinion only made events more chilling and added to the suspense. The pace was not too rushed, which allowed the drama to build nicely. I was gripped by this book and this author is one to watch!"
 
Thank you, Nick Wilford. 
    

Friday, 22 June 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Anne Sudworth - Avebury

Before I continue, I'd just like to thank Ilima for the blogger award that she bestowed me.  It may seem like it but I haven't forgotten, and I will at some point get round to obeying the rules of this award.  Thank you Ilima.

This approaching Monday is going to be extremely interesting.  Our writers' circle is going on a field trip!  Yippee!!!  I'm stacking up on travelling sweets and snacks as we speak :)  One of our members is writing a historical romance that is set mainly around Avebury in Wiltshire (I love Wiltshire with all those hills and beautiful landscapes.  It's one of those place you know you're in as soon as you enter).  One location that Wiltshire is famous for, for those who don't know, is Stonehenge, but this isn't the only henge to grace its grounds.  Not far north is Woodhenge, and a little further north is Avebury, a small town built directly in the middle of yet another ancient stone circle.

We're visiting as not only will it aid our member by giving her a feel of the location for her work but it will also fill us with inspiration.  These ancient places are steeped with history, both fact and myth, giving them an air of magic that connects them with many pagan beliefs.  The whole area is magic in my eyes - and the atmosphere that hovers over Wiltshire in general is tranquil, majestic...and addictive, which is why I jumped at the chance for this field trip.  I'll give more updates on our trip next week.

In the meantime, and to celebrate our trip to Avebury, I'm revisiting an artist who, I think, is absolutely fantastic at capturing the wonder and tranquillity of such places in pastel, and this is the perfect opportunity to show you how inspiring locations such as Avebury can be.  The more I look at this artist's work, the more I fall in love with it.  The artist is Anne Sudworth and this is, indeed, 'Avebury'.

Have an awesome weekend and enjoy!

    

Friday, 15 June 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Anne Stokes

Do you know when you're walking down the street, passing shops you've never seen before, and then suddenly you see something that you just have to have?  I experienced that on my holiday.  I saw something and it spoke to me through the shop window.  It stared me dead in the eye and called my name.  The shop happened to be closed at the time and I had no choice but to go back to my caravan - but it haunted me all night.  It plagued my dreams and I could hear it crying out to me despite the miles that were between us.

Next day I ventured back to that shop during open hours and bought it.  So, what was this item that gripped me so?

It was this picture by Anne Stokes, titled 'The Oak King'.  But it wasn't just a normal picture.  It was a scroll that hangs on your wall.  I glanced it briefly whilst walking passed, done one of those comedic double takes and then spent the next ten minutes with my nose stuck to the window as I peered in.  It wanted to come home with me and I didn't let it down.  It's now sitting on my wall to the right, staring at me with content and I can't help staring back at it.  It captivated me and I hope it captivates you just as much (or at least understand why I was so easily pursuaded to part money for it).

So here it is, 'The Oak King' by Anne Stokes.

Enjoy and have a fab weekend...

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Writing Exercise: A Lunch Break To Remember . . .

Back from holidays. And did we let the recent storms ruin our time? Never. We soldiered on like the proud holiday-makers we were.

Having said that, the weather wasn't too bad where we were. We had two full days of rain out of seven, and the rest was just wind (well, I say just wind; some nights we did believe our caravan was going to be blown over, not to mention the bowing walls). But at least we didn't find ourselves having to stand on a hill, watching as our caravans drift out to sea in flood waters like many suffered in Wales.

And at least we saw some sun. I even managed to get a little tan (or is this wind burn?)

Still, back to reality now, and back to blogging basics. Today I'm going to publish a writing exercise piece from last night's writers' meeting. The task was to write about a lunch break from your school days, and we only had ten minutes to do it.  And before you ask, yes this did happened  :)

Enjoy.

A Lunch Break To Remember . . .

As soon as the bell sounded we were out that side door, running passed the music block to a little secluded area that was almost out of bounds. A yard or so further and it would have been.

So what made this corner so special? The privacy it gave our group was one thing. It was well away from the main playground and the hoards playing football or tag. It was well away from scornful looks from those who flirted and guarded their targets like prey. It gave us the freedom to be who we were with our friends and to enjoy the hour we had outside class.

The second was the wind. It blew in from across the field and caught in the alcove we gathered in, creating a whirlwind that blew us around. Hours of fun was spent on windy days, seeing what could float on these up drafts and what could go the highest or the furthest.

One of these thing was a coat - a lightweight Naff-Naff jacket that seemed to be the in-thing back in those days. Of all the things we tried, from crisp wrappers to food, this was the one item that beat the lot, the champion, and the only thing to cause one girl embarrassment as she had ask the caretaker to retrieve it from the roof...

Friday, 1 June 2012

Pic of the Week . . . unknown artist

Holidays!!!

I'm off for a week tomorrow.  Can't wait.  The only thing I'll miss, however, is writing.  We're going with a group of friends so I have to play a social role which means no writing.  I'll take quill and parchment with me incase I do find time...but it's not looking likely.  Still, it's a holiday.

Yay!!!

This weeks Pic of the Week is from a unknown artist.  I couldn't find a name but I liked the picture. 

So enjoy and I'll see you all in a weeks time.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Are Your Characters Wet?

Wet as in dreary; weak; feeble; namby-pamby; wishy-washy; or just plain pathetic...

I have this problem with one of mine - actually he's my protagonist. He's not a real butch guy. He couldn't stand up for himself if he found himself surrounded by huge, ripped bruisers. I kept him realistic. Let's face it, many characters in fantasy can be big, have the ideal bodybuilder physique, can kill 12 burly orcs with their bare hands, down three bottles of whisky, and still ride a unicycle in a straight line all the way home to a big-breasted, devoted woman that may or may not be their wife.

My character? Rowen Mcgregor? Okay, he may not be all of the above, but he IS a Captain of a galleon ship. He has the authority to command his minions, and it's his rank and his connections that make him revered and respected. I have no problem with this area of his life. He's strong enough and more than capable of commanding his men.

But the one issue I have is, for a man in this position, how in touch can they be with their emotions?

He's a family man, a man who loves his wife and the child they're about to have, but when something happens to her and he has to play hero, he does give in to his grief.

This made me think. There are many many fantasy books out there with male protagonists, and I confess that I'm not overly read in this section of the library. Would having a male protagonist in touch with his emotions like this devalue my novel to the male market? Because he has this little breakdown, I don't want him to appear too wet in the eyes of readers who are expecting the stereotypical hero who laughs in the face of all things dangerous and tragic. I do like the fact that he is realistic and not a bolshy, unbelievable character, so tell me...

...if you read a book and the male character gives off a 'few' tears, would this bother you? Or am I too in-touch with my own emotions and need to take a step back? I confess, I'd cry in his situation, but then it doesn't take much to set me off... :)

Friday, 25 May 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Come Gaze

Sun's out, people! After a month of non-stop rain, Spring has finally graced us with some sun - and it's reminded me how hot it can be...

I was going to go with something a little sunny and cheerful this week for Pic of the Week, but the I come across a piece that just spoke to me. There was something about it, and so I had to share. Not quite sure yet what that something was, so in the mean time if it speaks that something to you, let us know... :)

Introducing ShadowUmbre from deviant art. She's called this piece 'Gaze and Stare'.

So stare away and enjoy!


Friday, 18 May 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Luis Royo

Since doing Pic of the Week, I've come across and have shared some wonderful and talented artists that I never knew existed.  Their stunning works of art has both awed and inspired me.  But after everyone I've ever listed I still hold Luis Royo at the top of my list.  I absolutely love his work - always have - and even though some of his pieces are a little on the 'risque' side, what he creates is beautiful, mysterious, dark and entriguing.

Yay for Royo...

Have a fab weekend and enjoy :)


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

New Marvel Gallery . . .

I haven't done much writing recently.  I'm 54k words into my novel - aiming for around 80k, so I'm well over half way, but words seem to be failing me at the moment. 

So what do I do when the words aren't flowing?  I let the creative pencil have a say for a while instead.

I've been drawing so my creativeness isn't quite dried up yet.  I still have a love of Marvel art and a fascination with marvel characters (yet to see the Avengers, though) and so have been busy putting together my own Marvel Gallery.

Check out my new page.  Whenever I create a new piece I'll add it to the gallery for everyone and anyone who likes Marvel fan art to enjoy.

So . . . enjoy :)

Friday, 11 May 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Matt Wilson

I made a discovery yesterday - completely nothing to do with writing or art, but hey! When I was younger, back in the day when I used to borrow my older sisters' CDs as I was too young to afford my own, I used to be a fan of Shakespear's Sister (everyone remember the song 'Stay' from 1992?). One of my sisters (can't remember which now) used to have their album and I listened to it on a regular basis.

Anyway, I was mooching through YouTube yesterday and discovered that Shakespear's Sister has been revived - although now it only consists of Siobhan Fahey. Okay, their more recent album was released a few years back, but I was under the impression that they've been defunct for the last fourteen years.

So how can I describe their/her new work? It has that retro, synthasised 90's sound which I'm actually quite liking. And as for Siobhan herself? Former member of Bananarama? Well, she still looks fab for a woman in her 50's. Check out the video for one of her tracks, 'It's a Trip'. It's rather catchy in my opinion...

Back on track: Pic of the Week. I also discovered a new artist by the name of Matt Wilson. His portfolio is stunning. Be sure to check out his website for more of his sci-fi/fantasy work.

Enjoy and have a fab weekend!



Friday, 4 May 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Castle and Beckett

Something different.

Who here watches the TV crime show 'Castle'? I'm addicted. It started off with me watching and falling in love with the sci-fi show 'Firefly' and falling in love with Nathan Fillion's humour. After that, and because they only made one season - ONE season - of Firefly, I had to go on the hunt for something else Nathan.

Through the joys of YouTube, I found Castle, a crime series about a NY BestSeller crime novelist who gets to tag along with a homicide detective and help solve crimes. Ok, some of the crimes they come up with and the reasons behind the murders may be somewhat repetitive in a couple of episodes, but the one thing I love about this series is the fact it's character driven.

You know that Castle (the author) and Beckett (the Detective) have feelings for each other that get stronger as the show goes on. The tension between the two builds so much you're left uncaring who dunnit. You just want to know what's going to happen with these two characters.

The other thing I love about this is watching when Castle suddenly gets inspired to write. For me, watching this is so inspiring. I find myself sitting there thinking 'I do that - that's me!' and then I want to jump on my computer and type. Sounds stupid? Maybe it does, but it's prompted me to write so much in the last week...when I'm not watching Castle, that is.

And Nathan Fillion knows how to reach fans out there and build up his audience (either him or his agent...). The books that are written by Castle in the show are actual books that you can buy, written by a Ghost Writer under the same name of Richard Castle. Nathan Fillion plays on this and has set up websites, facebook and twitter as his character.

This, I think, is a great example of what else writers could do as a means of publicising themselves and their work. We have imaginations, we have the characters; combine the two with social media and you're broadening your horizons when it comes to publicity, something most publishers expect from their authors these days.

I just thought it was a great idea.

Still, this week's Pic of the Week is a still-sht from a scene that I quite liked.

Enjoy and have a great weekend...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Getting A Life . . .

A writer's life is often quite dull and recluse.  I say dull in the context that they often shut themselves away rather than going out and being social.  They'd rather have an evening with words than a night on the town.  Or they prefer the company of their characters more than their friends (for the moment anyway).

I'm in a rut.  I work from home therefore see nobody during the day unless my colleague or boss skypes me.  My husband is a long distance lorry driver which means he's away most of the week, and all my friends are too busy with their work life during the week to even contemplate being social (weekends are saved for hubby time).

This means from Tuesday (I make a point of going out on Monday to my Writers' Circle just to get out the house) to Friday, it's just me and the cat.  I don't actually mind this.  I like my cat's company, and it does give me lots of free time to write, draw, watch what I want to watch on TV, but there's a down side.

Without going and being sociable, with nothing interesting or exciting going on in your life, you can lose that creative spark.  It becomes dull.  When I worked in our old office and before I started driving, it used to take me 40 minutes to walk to the bus stop, 20 minutes on the bus to the office, and then repeat the whole process coming home.  And when I did get home, my evenings were spent writing, writing, writing.  I got loads done.  Now I find myself with all this spare time and words fail me.

I'm not a full time writer, but I understand that to be so takes a huge amount of discipline.  If you were home all day with all that spare time to write, would you be as creative as the person who has to squeeze an hour or so in everyday during their busy schedule?  It's tough.  And proves that writers still need a life to be able to work to their full potential.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Pic of the Week . . . The Sky's The Limit . . .

It's been a typical April here this year. April showers galore.

I don't know about you guys but I love watching the sky. When there's a thunderstorm going on you'll usually find me with my face stuck to the window watching. I love a good thunderstorm and I love watching the clouds develop. Yesterday was of no exception.

Yesterday greeted us with our first thunderstorm of the year. It wasn't a major one - in fact, we rarely get good thunderstorms - but I couldn't help but sit here and watch the skies through my window. I haven't seen them turn that black in a long while. I even took a piccy on my phone (unfortunately it doesn't really do it justice, but I'm sure you can imagine).



So, for this week's Pic of the Week, I thought I'd go for something a little different. I'm just in total awe at what mother nature can throw at you.

Enjoy and have a grand weekend. I'm still waiting for the storms... :)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

What's In A Main Title . . .

I've been thinking about my current WIP. It's a fantasy series yet not. It's a collection of stand-alone stories that can be read in no particular order, that rarely share same characters (except for the more legendary ones such as Sorcerers who may wander from novel to novel...) but set in one fantastical, mystery rich kingdom. Each story has it's own title and is independent from the last or the next - however, one thing keeps them joined together. One thing makes it a series.

The main title.

With all the works scattered out there, its the main title that keeps them all under the wing.

I've posted before about 'what makes a series' and even though most people see that a series of books should contain the same characters, this doesn't always have to be the case. Whereas it's great for the likes of Crime Thrillers and detective novels, it doesn't always work with other genres.

Anne Rice is a classic example. Her Vampire Chronicles is a series, yet many of those books are stand-alone with different characters.

Anyway, I'm not liking the main title I have at the moment. I knew it was a working one, but it stuck, and four novels later it still hasn't changed. I'm thinking it's about time I gave it nudge out the door, but I just need some inspiration first so I can replace it.

Some Examples:

1: The Dark Tower, by Stephen King (7 books in total, all with individual titles but same characters)

2: The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice

3: Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (with the Fellowship, the Two Towers and The Return of the King)

4: The Demi-Monde by Rod Rees (With Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall)

Etc Etc...

So, throw some inspiration this way so I can finally give my working title the boot. What other series comes to your mind?

Friday, 13 April 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Anita Shue

Sticking with the Arthurian legend that I spoke about in my last post, I thought I'd go with a piece of artwork based on the Lady of the Lake.

It's unsure what specific role she played in Arthurian legend. Writers and authors have her connected to at least three.

1st role was a woman named Vivian who bewitched Merlin, promising her love after he taught her all his magic, and then sealing him beneath a tree or rock.

2nd is another woman who nurtured the infant Lancelot after the death of his father.

3rd is the Lady who bestowed an enchanted sword to King Arthur - Excalibur.

Other stories have her as a replacement for Merlin; a woman who advised King Arthur and his knights on their quests; as an evil villain or a beautiful heroine. Either way, she's as much part of Arthurian Legend as Arthur is himself.

So this week, we introduce Anita Shue - or Imagothica as she is known on DeviantART. Out of all the pieces I looked at, I liked her depiction the most. The Lady of the Lake here looks neither trustworthy nor innocent. She has that air of mystery that constantly surrounds the legend. Is she the evil seductress who has Merlin trapped, or is she the faithful advisor that helps Arthur on his quests? You decide . . .

Enjoy and have a great weekend.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Dark Ages In Fantasy . . .

When people talk about works of fantasy, for many their minds are drawn to images from history - the Dark Ages and medieval periods. There are exceptions to the fantasy genre, but the majority of work does fall under this category, and because of this fantasy has been stereotyped.

Most settings have a medieval backdrop to it with castles, rolling plains and kingdoms that need defending from dragons and armies of darkness. And who better to protect the kingdom than gallant knights with brilliant steeds, or little elves that believe they're not worthy when in fact they are the 'chosen one'. I'm not saying this is what all fantasy works comprise of. I write fantasy and this is nothing like mine, but it has that classic epic feel to it that has made the genre famous in the past, and a lot of work does tend to lean toward the dark age era.

So why do many fantasy writers like the thought of their tale being set in the Dark Ages? What makes it so appealing?

Well, to begin with lets take a brief look at the time when England was in its Dark Age. Unfortunately for those with elaborate imaginations, this wasn't a time when evil roamed, when villages were constantly on guard of the threat of fire-breathing dragons, or when you found tattered maps with markers stating 'there be beasties 'ere'. It was a time when the country was divided into separate kingdoms, was ruled by separate leaders, and when war often broke out over territories. Some years, however, managed to pass with peace across the entire land. Then came the Roman invasion in the first century with the intention of replacing pagan and Celtic beliefs with Christianity and taming us barbarians, followed by the Saxons, the Vikings and the Normans. All this happened within the space a thousand years, shaping the country that we know today - but it left the country unstable and vulnerable.

There are very few historical records from back then, therefore historians know little about it compared to what we know about more recent monarchs such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Because of this, the era has been dubbed 'the dark ages'.

However, the era does hold one story that has gripped the entire world for centuries; that of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. To this day they have found no evidence to prove that he ever existed, and yet no evidence to say that he didn't either. His story about Camelot, Guenevere, Sir Lancelot and, of course, Merlin, the Sword in the Stone, and the Lady of the Lake, is filled to the brim with mystery, magic, bravery and all things fantastical. Maybe he did rule a fine kingdom with his Knights, or maybe this was the very first fantasy story dreamed up. When comparing it to historical facts, Merlin the Sorcerer definitely sounds like a character from a work of fiction. But people love it and have continued to share the tale throughout generations. And, of course, it was set in a time when people didn't inherit the throne, rather they gained it through other means and deeds.

Maybe, with the story of King Arthur so deeply embedded in our minds, the fantasy genre grew and evolved from here; that the dark ages, because so little is known about it, was a haven for all things mystical and unexplained; that there could have been dragons roaming and sorcerers casting evil spells; that anything was possible. And maybe writers subconsciously want to create a fantasy story so big and fantastical that it will be remembered for thousands of years in the future.

You can't deny it, and as stereotypical as it is, the Dark Ages and Fantasy fit so well together...

Friday, 6 April 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Donnie Darko

I can't believe it!! I thought I'd set blogger up to publish automatically on Friday as I was away for the weekend, and did it do it? No, it didn't! So a belated Happy Easter everyone. Here's Good Friday's post...


***


I was trying to find something with an Easter feel to it, so I thought I'd go with the Easter Bunny theme. But how can you find something dark and twisted that revolves around sweet little bunnies?

Then I remembered the film 'Donnie Darko'. How freaky looking is Frank the Bunny from that film? As soon as this thought come to mind, I was hooked on the idea of Donnie Darko, and looked further into it.

I love Donnie Darko - and this isn't just because it stars a young Jake Gyllenhaal (*coughs and composes oneself again...). Despite not actually do that well on its release back in 2001, it soon became a cult movie and worshipped by millions - and with good reason.

I did, however, think that Donnie Darko was a bit dark for a nice happy, bouncy, fluffy Easter Bunny theme, but then I discovered something else. Did you know, according to IMDB, that there is an Easter Egg Hunt on the DVD of the film? I didn't know this. I'm not sure if this is on a limited edition DVD or on every one, but I may just have to get my own copy out and have a nose.

Here's what IMBD says:

*EASTER EGG: The DVD contains several Easter Eggs, or hidden items. Two are visible in the "Philosophy of Time Travel" book in the Special Features. On each of the appendix pages, press the up arrow on your remote and press enter. For Appendix A, the viewer gets a deleted scene about the flooding of the school, and Appendix B, the viewer gets a different trailer for the movie. Another can be found after selecting the "Cunning Visions" menu screen. At the bottom of the screen, highlight the Special Features menu entry, press the right arrow on your remote to highlight the icon, and press enter. This will allow you to enter a Web site gallery.

Because of this, I decided to stick with the Donnie Darko theme. This is by an artist on Deviant Art who deals with a lot of stencil work.

Happy Easter, folks. Have a wonderful weekend...

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

And What A Grimm Season It Will Be Too. . .

The dawn of the Vampire is over. Goodbye Twilight and all the vampires you've inspired in the world of fiction. Now is time to greet the Brothers Grimm and all things Fairytale.

With the movie releases of both 'Mirror Mirror' and 'Snow White and The Huntsmen' so close to each other, and what with the TV series 'Once Upon a Time' having premiered on UK TV screens this weekend, it would seem the world is about to be swept into one big fairytale.

It would be interesting to see how these movies go. Were they intended to be released so close to each other? Are they hoping that each film would play off the other to drum up ratings? Judging from the trailers, Mirror Mirror is intended for the younger audience, and it's humour makes it great for the whole family to enjoy. But Snow White and Huntsmen has a darker side. The same tale of one princess is being told in different ways, and it would be interesting to see which Grimm tale is preferred, the sweet, good-conquers-evil fairytale that we were brought up with, or the darker, twisted take that the Grimm brothers actually intended it to be.

Snow White.

Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm travelled across Europe back the early 1800's, researching different cultures and their folklore. They gathered many stories and in 1812 their book, Kinder-und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), was published. But the original tales they discovered were not so child-friendly.

The story of Snow White, when you look at it, consists of an evil step-mother who practised witchcraft, and who was jealous of the beauty and innocence of her step-daughter. In a bid to be rid of her and become the fairest, she ordered a huntsmen to take her into the forest, kill her and bring back her heart, intending to eat it and consume the beauty that they young girl possessed, but the huntsmen failed her and Snow White went on to seek sanctuary with seven dwarfs. Enraged, the step-mother sought to murder the young girl herself.

So far we have a gory story about envy, greed and murder, and the original version gets better. After surviving numerous murder attempts and finally meeting and marrying her prince charming, Snow White orders a pair of shoes to be made out of red-hot iron and forces the step-mother to wear them and dance until she drops down dead. Now we're adding revenge and torture into the scenario.

Grimm Fairy tales do indeed take after their authors. They are dark, grim and twisted, and many believe they even date back to the medieval ages. They are folklore that was intended to scare children from wandering into the wilderness where they could fall prey to the wilds. They were intended to spread warnings of dangers that inhabited the lands across Europe. But the Grimm Brothers fell in love with them and saw a potential in them that no one else had. They dulled the content, taking out any sexual references and adding Christian elements and turned them into household tales that children all over the world loved.

Then along come Disney.

The Grimm Brothers are responsible for some of the most famous fairy tales out there; The Pied Piper; Little Red Riding Hood; The Princess and the Frog; Sleeping Beauty; Rumpelstiltskin; Rapunzel; Hansel and Gretal - and many more. The instant you read of these titles, you are reminded of children's tales, tales that you may even remember from when you were young - but their origins come from a much darker corner of the earth.

As a fan of all things dark, I wouldn't mind seeing some of the original tales being brought back to life . . .