Monthly Archives: June 2013

Fantasy is on the rise

Fantasy has always been prevalent in both movies and literature, but at one point it diminished. During the early and mid nineties there was an influx of crime thrillers and fantasy seemed to be pushed aside. The movie Willow is a prime example, dreamed up by George Lucas, it never really took off (though has since garnered a cult status). Then J K Rowling unleashed Potter on the world and fantasy started to make a comeback. The Lord of the Rings movies were released and made billions at the box office, swiftly following were the Potter movies that, too, made billions. Since then fantasy has been on the rise and the crime/thriller/horror movies that cluttered the cinemas and shelves have declined somewhat. 

With Potter and Rings there came Twilight (admittedly i’m not a fan) and Percy Jackson (huge fan). Now more recently fantasy seems to be sweeping the cinema and bookshelves like a voracious tide. In the last couple of years alone we’ve had dozens of fantasy movies and book series. At the forefront of this is the fairy tale phenomenon, headed by ABC’s Once Upon a Time that has spawned countless re-workings of Grimm and Anderson’s famous tales. 

At the cinema we’ve had Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Oz the Great and Powerful, Beautiful Creatures, Snow White and The Huntsman… the list is endless. And now with Peter Jackson taking us back to Middle Earth with the Hobbit Trilogy it seems fantasy is going to be around for the foreseeable future. 

So what is it about fantasy that appeals to so many, whether it be by screen or page? Maybe its the opportunity for us to escape to another world (Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Camp Half Blood) or maybe its the appeal of the fantastical in times when the world seems sometimes bleak and lost? One thing can be said without a mote of uncertainty, fantasy offers us, as readers and cinema audiences, the chance to experience something wholly different from day to day life – to escape from something, even if it’s only for the couple of hours of a movie or the snatched few chapters of a book in a spare hour. Fantasy offers something we can all relate to: the hope of something better. 

Personally, i’m psyched for the remaining two installments in the Hobbit trilogy (and the chance to see Evangeline Lilly as an elf: thanks Peter Jackson) and the epic looking Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. In books, there are simply too many to list, but let’s just say i won’t be short of worlds to explore for the next few months. 

I’ve always loved fantasy- ever since i could remember i’ve had some book or other that offered me the chance to explore a world populated by creatures, beasts and weird characters. In my own writing, fantasy is always the genre i feel most comfortable in and with Prophecy of Three Quartet i wanted to explore that. 

 

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Russell Sanderson on Writing

I met Russell Sanderson through twitter, and read his blog regularly. He is currently hard at work on editing the first book in what promises to be an epic, steam punk fantasy series. From his blog posts and the sneak preview available on his blog, he could very well be the next big thing in children’s fiction. So watch this space. What follows is his thoughts on the craft of writing, what drives him, and how he writes. 

First of all, let me say a big thank you to Sam for asking me to guest-blog for him.  I’ve followed his blog a while and have been very impressed with it. I was quite taken aback when he asked me. My first thought was “what the heck am I going to write about?”  Well, since writing is the reason Sam and I are in touch, it’s probably the best topic to pick.

Who am I? Well I’m a fortysomething public sector professional by day and an aspiring children’s author and father the rest of the time.  This makes for an interesting time-juggling situation where work, family and writing all need space but if any one of them gets too much, the whole complex operation comes crashing down.

I’ve written since I was in my late teens, but it was always sporadic; short stories or articles for gaming magazines. That changed when I had my appendix out in my mid-twenties.  I was incapacitated for six weeks and off work.  Not only that, but I’d recently moved and had no cable TV. Worse still, I came out of hospital the week that Princess Diana died, so I had the choice of reading (my books were still packed in boxes) or watching the endless media coverage of national grief. Or I could write.

 After my operation I’d had a weird dream/hallucination which was so vivid and scary I felt compelled to write it down. That turned into the basis for my first book (a sci-fi thriller focusing on alien abduction,) which I wrote in collaboration with a friend who worked nights. We plotted it out chapter by chapter and then wrote alternate chapters, swapping over and editing each other’s work. At the time I was convinced it was a masterpiece (it wasn’t). I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to get it published before realising it needed more work. Shortly afterwards, my two children arrived on the scene, disrupting my life more than I’d ever thought possible, requiring me to teach on evenings and work during the day, reducing writing opportunities back to short stories and magazine articles.

When the kids got a bit older, I started to find myself with the odd hour here and there.  I resolved to get back into writing.  I had two problems. Firstly, in the gap since writing the book and re-starting, the X-files came out, making my book idea, relatively original when written, look like a poor copy of the much better TV show. Secondly, my head wasn’t in the same place it was with the first book, so I started another, this one a supernatural thriller. 

I boarded out part of my loft, installed an old PC and got started.  I had the ideas in my head.  I didn’t need a plan.  I was inspired. Within a few months, I’d written 80,000 words.  I was in the zone.  Then I hit a problem.  I’d written myself into a corner. I looked at the story and realised that I would have to delete or significantly re-write about half the story to get it where it needed to go.  I made a start, but my enthusiasm for it waned as my day job took more and more time and I made slow progress.  Then Supernatural hit the TV, covering much the same ground as my book. Suddenly everything was vampires, demons, angels and the occult.  I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a copycat author. Instead of finishing the book, I slipped back into the magazine articles and short stories.

I did have another idea for a novel, about a sort of Victorian Fox Mulder called Prometheus Wolfe. It was a genre that I didn’t know anything about at the time; steampunk. I wrote copious notes and plot ideas, but never actually started writing the story. Instead, I spent a lot more time reading. Specifically reading to my two sons.  It became our nightly ritual. We did The Hobbit, all of the Harry Potters, Percy Jackson; you name it.  What was more; I was enjoying these books more than I enjoyed adult fiction. This was what I wanted to write.

I revisited my Victorian story and realised it wouldn’t work as Middle Grade (MG) or Young Adult (YA).  Kids like reading about other kids, albeit a bit older than themselves.  So it had to be a Victorian child.  Problem was, I didn’t think I could get into a Victorian child’s head.  I did believe I could manage modern child, though.  So Pandora Wolfe was born and it became a time travel novel.

Around this time, I passed my 40th birthday.  I realised that if I was ever going to realise my dream of becoming a published writer, I was going to have to be professional.  No more waiting for the muse to strike and only writing when inspired.  My time was limited. I was going to have to make specific time to write and stick to it. Writing turned from a hobby into an (unpaid) part time job.

I worked for a few weeks converting my garden shed into an office.  It was insulated, had power, heating, even carpets and armchairs.  I moved a PC in and I was off.  Learning from my earlier mistakes, I plotted the skeleton of the novel so I knew where I was going and couldn’t write myself into a corner, then I went for it. Within a year, I’d written The Chronomancer’s Daughter.

I treated my submissions to agents in the same way as my writing. I took it seriously, getting the Children’s Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook and submitting my pitch. So far I’ve had quite a bit of interest from agents, with several asking for the full manuscript.  Obviously my pitch is working but I still need to find the right agent.  Recently I had some very helpful feedback.  My novel, which I saw as YA, was in fact a MG novel.  (Defined by an agent I met as “if it has no kissing or swearing, it’s MG”.)  The problem was, it was 118,500 words.  Long even for a YA fantasy book and way too long for MG (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was only 78,000 words, and that was quite long for MG.) 

So I’ve embarked on a word-count reducing edit.  I’m now at the end of pass 3 and my book has shrunk to 82,000 words.  I still need to lose more but it’s a slow process, like a sculptor trying to make an identical 7 foot statue from an 11 foot one without chopping off anything important.  I think this will take maybe another month, then I’ll get myself back out there. If I succeed, maybe you’ll see the book and remember this blog? I hope so. 

 

You can find out more about The Chronomancer’s Daughter and follow my blog at www.pandorawolfe.co.uk

I wish Russell Sanderson the best of luck in his journey to publication and hope he will guest blog for me in the future. 

Summer reading list

Like most avid readers, i like to have a few books a can be engrossed in when i’m on holiday. And so, each year i look to amazon to provide me with those books. This year there were at least twenty books that i wanted to order. But i didn’t, i selected a dozen that i wanted to read the most and ordered them. When they came i read the blurbs, leafed through the pages etc… I came to Rick Yancey’s 5th Wave and after reading the first few lines found i couldn’t put it down. One thing led to another and before i knew it i’d read half the book, by the following afternoon i’d completed the book. So much for saving it for my holiday. I tried to stop myself after that but i just couldn’t and so far have ended up reading four of the books from my reading list. 100 cupboards by N D Wilson (really cool and funny), The Gates by John Connolly (Hilarious and exciting), and The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens (currently reading, near completing).

Next year i’m going to wait until a week before the holiday then i won’t have a chance to read half my books before actually going on holiday. In the meantime, i suppose i’ll just have to order a few more to fill the void.

 

The List:

– Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf
– 100 Cupboards series
– the 5th Wave
– The Dark Hills Divide
– The Sister’s Grimm series
– Gods of Manhattan
– Cronus Chronicles
– Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
– The Fire Chronicle
– Every Dead Thing
– Artemis Fowl series
– Killing Floor

Thoughts on the trailer for Desolation of Smaug

I woke up this morning and before settling down to write, decided to check out the movie news on imdb. And there it was, i almost choked on my cereal. The trailer for the Desolation of Smaug. I immediately clicked on the link and tapped my keyboard impatiently while the video buffered. And then i sat there for two minutes, completely immersed. All i can say is that it’s been quite a while since i have anticipated a movie so much. Perhaps since Deathly Hallows Part 2. Unlike so many, and along with so many, i thought the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was epic, brilliant and couldn’t have been any better.

The sequel promises to be faster, more action packed and if its possible, even more epic than the first. We get to see more of Peter Jackson’s vision of Tolkien’s world. Legolas is back, along with Evangeline Lilly who looks awesome as an elf (not that she didn’t before) and finally we get to see Smaug (Well, his head at least). Whilst i was a little underwhelmed by Smaug the rest of the trailer has me practically itching to see the movie. 

And so now the countdown begins to December. 

Check out the trailer for yourself. 

http://www.sfx.co.uk/2013/06/11/the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-new-trailer/

Got myself a copy of the latest book in the Wardstone Chronicles/Last Apprentice

Ever since i picked up the first book in Joesph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicles (or Last Apprentice in the US) I was completely hooked. Delaney paints a dark and atmospheric world rife with dangerous creatures and malevolent witches. Rarely, since Potter, has a series led me to follow it so voraciously. Each book is as addictive as the last and they truly earn the title of page turners. Following the adventures of Tom, the books detail his life as an apprentice to the Spook (a man who rids the world of evil, dark creatures) John Gregory.  With an intriguing, on-going plot arc involving an enemy non other than the Devil himself, Delaney’s books are truly awesome.

The series will consist of thirteen books, twelve of which are already available, along with three additional books that flesh out Delaney’s world. I received my copy of the twelfth book in the series only today and will no doubt start it immediately after finishing this post. 

If you haven’t already discovered this series then i implore you to do so. A movie, The Seventh Son, based on the first book in the series is due for release in October of this year. 

UK Cover for book 1 of the Wardstone Chronicles

My favourite books of all time (Updated)

This post was almost impossible to write. I imagined it would be the easiest thing in the world to list my top ten favourite books of all time. But when i came to do it i found that there were just so many books that i love, selecting only ten was almost impossible. The truth is that this list could go on forever because there are so many books that i could include in it. But i wanted to do a top ten, mostly to see if i could, but also to learn which books i loved the most. 

Close behind writing, reading is my favourite thing to do. There is no other experience quite like immersing yourself in an awesome book. I remember the first real book i read (when i say real, i mean full length novel), which was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I’ll admit i didn’t read the first two until i’d read the fourth. Though i’d read fantasy voraciously all my life, The Prisoner of Azkaban was the first book i truly remember completing. I was seven and from that point on there has barely been a day that has passed that i have not had a book in my hand. It’s like an addiction. Like writing, i cannot go a day without loosing myself in the pages of a book. 

And so, here goes. What follows is my top ten favourite books of all time. Though it was hard, i managed to do it. I may have cheated a little by counting a series of books as one, but hey, its my list…

Also note that this is in no particular order. If i tried to do that, i would drive myself crazy. 

1 – The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

J K Rowling, in my opinion, is the single greatest writer of my generation. I grew up reading the Potter books and cannot imagine how the world would revolve without them. She created a world that was so realistic, so believable that i still have doubts whether Hogwarts is out there somewhere. It’s impossible to pick my favourite, but if i had to, i think Deathly Hallows or Goblet of Fire would be the most likely candidates. 

2 – The Wardstone Chronicles by Joseph Delaney 

Just like the Harry Potter books, i grew up with Joseph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicles. They follow the adventures of Tom who is apprenticed to a Spook (a man who rids the world of dark creatures). These books, if you haven’t read them, are phenomenal. Just as addictive as the Potter series, they are certainly darker and intended for an older readership, but they are brilliant nonetheless. Spooky and exciting, this series delivers on all fronts and it more than earns its place on this list. I highly recommend you check these books out if you already haven’t.  

3 – Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton 

This one is rather a deviation from the prior two, but there was no way this book was going to miss out on a spot on this list. I watched the movie before i read the book and since the first time i saw that brachiosaurus eating that tree and heard Richard Attenborough utter those words, “Welcome to Jurassic Park” it has been my favourite movie of all time. The book is just as exciting, brilliant and epic. Since reading it i have become a die hard Crichton fan, and though all his books are great, none have come close to being as awesome as Jurassic Park. Just a terrific science fiction read, this is probably the book i’ve read the most times (ten, i think). 

4 – Watership Down by Richard Adams 

Just like Jurassic Park i saw the movie before i read the book. It was several years later that i finally got round to reading Adam’s classic and i still berate myself for not reading it sooner. This novel is brilliant, complex and gripping. For a tale about rabbits, its surprisingly exciting and action packed. 

5 – The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan 

This is another series i grew up with and love almost as much as the Potter books. Blending myth with modern day, Riordan writes with snappy, witty prose and creates a world that it would be really cool to be a part of. Who wouldn’t want to be the son of Poseidon? Consisting of five books and now numerous spin offs, this is an epic journey that i highly recommend you invest in if you already haven’t. 

6 – Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull

I came to this series in the wake of Harry Potter, looking for another world and set of characters that i could immerse myself in. Whilst it will never fill the void left by Potter it makes an awesome attempt. Consisting of five books, each even more entertaining than its predecessor, this series is one that Potter fans should definitely check out. Full of interesting characters, mythology, worlds and creatures, this is an epic set of reads. Though Mull’s audience is more middle grade, there is no reason young adults and even adults cannot enjoy this series. I implore you to look it up, if you already haven’t. 

7 – Department 19 series by Will Hill

This is a relatively new series, following in, but completely reinventing the seemingly endless  tide of vampire books. This series blends action, horror and fantasy and takes it to a whole new exciting level. There are twists and turns, intriguing plot arcs and cool characters at every turn. Will Hill’s prose snaps and sizzles, its gripping from the very first page and unrelenting until the last. I cannot recommend this series more highly. Check it out!

8 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Again this is a series i admit to coming to pretty late. I didn’t believe the hype at first, thinking it was just another Twilight (which i haven’t read). But when i saw that it wasn’t some romance series with whiny characters, that it had a gritty, action packed plot, i bought the first book. I was barely a chapter in when i went back to the store and purchased the other two books. In four days i had read all three. This is an action packed series that never stops. Unbelievably good!

9 – 11/22/63 by Stephen King – This is a recent read and it is one i wished i had read when it first came out. I have long been a fan of King’s short stories, but had yet to check out any of his novels. Having heard rave reviews about this one, i decided to take a chance when i saw it in a secondhand book shop. And am i ever glad i took that chance. This is in my top five books of all time. Though it may not be as action packed as some of the other books on this list, 11/22/63 is as addictive a book as i’ve ever read. In essence its science fiction, but really it’s much more than that. A powerful, funny, exciting, suspenseful, extraordinarily well written book from beginning to end, this is one i urge anyone and everyone to read. 

10 – The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien 

Though i will admit these books took me a while to get into, there is no way i wasn’t going to include them in this list. Tolkien is the master of high fantasy and in Lord of the Rings he conjures a world so rich and fleshed out that you would think it actually existed. In fact, this series, along with Potter, is directly responsible for inspiring me to write. I can but yearn to create a world as vivid and believable as Tolkien has and in my eyes the man is a genius. Epic!

So there it is, my top ten favourite books of all time. Phew! I could go on and on and on. There at least twenty more books that i considered for this list but if i started to list them too, i know i wouldn’t stop. If there are some you haven’t read yet then i urge you to check them out.