Books

Book Review – The Crystal Shore

Thanks to the lovely bookish community on Instagram, I have connected with some pretty amazing people.

One of these, is the lovely Jo De-Lancey, author of The Crystal Shore; a swashbuckling adventure featuring a rogues’ gallery of assorted characters, and their tale of mishaps and mayhem.

I had the privilege of being selected as an ARC reader for the aforementioned title, and in the spirit of supporting an indie author, here is my review!

The Crystal Shore centres on roguishly charming charlatan Killian O’Shea and how he gets involved with a wet behind the ears young man, Ren Thorncliffe to seek out an ancient artefact that will help cure Ren’s ailing father.
Teaming up with pirate queen Lily Rothbone, who Killian has a chequered history with, he and Ren prove their worth by taking on a couple of tests before Lily will provide them passage.
On their travels, they encounter killer statues, an ancient temple, an assortment of fantastically written characters, and Killian has to put himself through the ultimate test when he ventures to a hidden world to seek help.
This is a very well written story, which starts off dropping the reader into the action, setting up an unlikely friendship between the two protagonists. Killian is instantly likeable, whilst Ren’s character grows as the story moves on.
The only character I wasn’t entirely convinced by was Lily herself, there were glimpses of her fierce reputation, but in comparison to characters such as Finn, she came across as being quite gentle.
There’s some lovely world building, especially in the Cornelian realm, and the tasks Killian has to take on have just the right amount of tension and pacing.
I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series to see how this adventure unfolds!

I gave The Crystal Shore 4/5 ⭐️ It’s a well written, assured debut, filled with fully formed characters, and adventure from the first page. If this piques your interest, head over to Jo’s author page on Amazon.

Writing

Read Like A Writer.

To be a good writer requires a lot of reading. Not just in your chosen genre of writing, but widely, across other genres.

What can other genres teach us?

  • Thrillers/Crime – tension, pacing, mystery, plot twists, morally grey characters.
  • Romance – self-explanatory, but relationship dynamics, love triangles, sexual tension, attraction, heartbreak.
  • Horror – as with Thrillers/Crime, but with added supernatural elements, murder mystery, serial killers.
  • Fantasy/Sci-FI – all of the above with added magic, monsters, technological advances, space travel, secondary worlds.

My genre of choice to read and write is fantasy. The worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth shaped my love of all things other worldly when I was very young, and I’ve always been drawn to stories of places and people that only exist in the imagination.

However, the importance of reading other genres is so important and a trawl through my bookshelves reveals titles such as Lord of the Flies, The Hate U Give, Hard Times and the Divine Comedy nestling amongst Brandon Sanderson, Terry Pratchett, and Sarah J Maas titles; to name a few.

Which leads me to the point of this post: Reading as a writer.

This is just as important as reading different genres widely. As a writer, you will learn about characterisation, structure, tone, pace, plot, sub-plots, voice, and point of view. You will also spot things you don’t like, which teaches you about your own writing style and what you are likely to avoid.

For instance, my biggest bugbear is repetition of a phrase. I’ve noticed this in a few books I’ve read, and it comes across to me as if the author thought, “that’s a great phrase!” and they keep on using it. By that time, it’s jumping off the page at me like a flea! When it came to editing my own book, I found I had done exactly the same thing with variations on, looked to be, seemed to be, and appeared to be. I was so annoyed with myself, but at least I was able to find those phrases, rewrite them, and trim the novel down. It’s lazy writing, but I appreciate that during the drafting stages, repetition doesn’t matter as editing provides the chance to weed out superfluous words and phrases.

Another benefit from reading as a writer is coming across words I’m not familiar with. I always quickly jot them down in my notebook, check their meaning, and try them in my own work to see if they fit. Broadening vocabulary as well as my reading material is another way of learning from other works and improving my writing skills.

One obvious disadvantage is not switching off from writer mode, which can detract from the enjoyment of reading. It’s so easy to be in the middle of reading something, and thinking, “I wouldn’t have written it like that,” so it’s important to try and separate the two. Reading for pleasure should not be relegated to second place.

Life, Mental Health, Writing

2021 So Far, So…

If 2020 was the annus horribilis, then 2021 is shaping up to be the annus phaulia (courtesy of Google translate, forgive any etymological oversight).

If you’ve kept up with my blog, you’ll remember back in January, I had a breakdown, resulting in me taking almost two months off work, popping the happy pills, and signing up to an online CBT course.

I returned to work full time a few weeks ago, the pills seem to be working their magic, and the CBT course is proving to be very useful. There was, it turned out, light at the end of the tunnel after all. I am in a much happier place, and feeling a lot better. I must mention the fantastic care I’ve received from the NHS’ Mental Health services (severely underfunded and understaffed). If it wasn’t for having access to the service, I’d be in a straitjacket . We in the U.K. have a responsibility to fight tooth and nail for our wonderful NHS.

I digress…

My writing mojo made a reappearance! After months of languishing in the doldrums, my half hearted attempts at editing Horizon Skies almost put paid to me ever getting the damn thing back out there. During the last few weeks of my sick leave, I not only started editing properly again, but came up with some new ideas for the novel. I have worked out more backstory for book two, added in some interludes, put more detail in around the magic system, and tightened up elements of the plot. I’m really happy with the latest progress, and my aim now is to send the second round of queries out in the first week of May.

On a sorrowful note, my boyfriend lost his father to leukaemia on the 18th March. Pete’s dad fought a long, hard battle with the disease, and never truly let on to us the extent to which he was suffering. He was 79 when he died, which is a great age, but there is still a sense that he was robbed of a full life. He was robust, active, and always cheerful; were it not for the illness, I believe he would have had another good 10 years in him.

Grief is a strange emotion, and we all process it in different ways. With the difficulty of the last few weeks behind us, we can now start to move on, and work on healing. I’m enthusiastic about my writing, and have tried to do as much as I can so I can put the final draft of Horizon Skies together.

I’ve also given Instagram a second chance. I could never get on with it before; too many ads, spam messages from profiles I wasn’t interested in, and the inability to share posts a lá Twitter. However Twitter has become incredibly toxic, and I’m tired of seeing so many negative trends and events. I’ve discovered with Instagram, that I can avoid all that as my account is geared purely towards my passion for books. It is quite difficult to gain followers though, and takes a bit more work (hashtag the hell out of every post!), but quality over quantity is more important.

Watch this space!

Books, Writing

Progress on Horizon Skies

The other day, I reached something of a milestone in the progress of my novel Horizon Skies.

Chapter 20.

Ok, I realise some of you will be thinking, “how is that a milestone?”

For anyone who has known me throughout my life, they will know that as I’ve been writing on and off for decades with nothing to show for it this is indeed, a momentous achievement. It means that for the first time in realising one of my ambitions I am actually sticking to the plan and getting it done.

My problem in the past has always been developing the story beyond its initial beginning. The ideas are always there, I can picture it in my mind’s eye but developing it on paper had always been difficult. I would find the story unravelling, like watching a thread pulled loose in a piece of fabric. My characters would meander, I could never work out how to weave elements together and this would always lead to me abandoning the manuscript and forgetting about it until I felt inspiration strike again.

This time, however, I have noticed a definite trend in a lot of books I have read which I believe has really helped me with my writing.

The dedication of a chapter per character is a brilliant writing skill. Not only does that character develop entirely within their own universe but there’s room for their back story and room for them to breathe within the pages. I’ve noticed it with a lot of writers (Morgan Rhodes and Trudi Canavan for example) and I find it provides a definitive line between each character’s story until such time as their destinies bring them together.

This is the approach I’ve taken with my story. I have five central characters, two of whom are thrown together fairly early on but it’s not until I’ve reached this final part of the story that I’m now at the stage of being able to bring them together which will move the story towards its finale and set the scene for the sequel.

I’m very excited about this; I look back through my scribblings and notes, little doodles in my notebook and feel I’ve done myself proud. When the book is finished I can get to editing and fine tuning and then take the next step on my journey as a writer 🙂

Books

Books Books Books

One of the reasons I love writing is because I love reading and I want to be able to get all the fantasy residing in my head down onto paper and share it with the world. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a professional writer, I am not published and so far only have this blog and one short story to show for my efforts but that doesn’t stop me from pursuing this most rewarding of pastimes.

I say pastime because to do all the things I want to do, I am not yet in the position to be able to give up my 9-5 and live the life of an accomplished writer.

Books to me are like paintings to an art lover. They are objects of abject beauty and deep mystery. It is through the written word that we can explore life through the eyes of another from the comfort of our favourite squishy armchair. Is there anything better than sitting inside on a cold, wet day; cup of coffee in hand, a cat snoozing on the sofa next to you and some old black and white movie on in the background as you read your latest treasured novel? I absolutely love days like that!

I currently have four books on my bedside table. The Shepherd’s Crown by the late great Sir Terry Pratchett, Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas, Game of Thrones by George RR Martin and The Rest of Us Just Live Here by the wonderful Patrick Ness. So many words, all the time in the world.

If I can ever come close to producing anything as good as the books on my bookshelves I will be a happy woman. I have those writers and so many more from childhood who have taught me so much and taken me to places that can only exist courtesy of an imagination so rich that to not go there would be to miss out on an exquisite experience.

Books

Bittersweet Gifts

On the 12th March, 2015, my literary hero, Sir Terry Pratchett succumbed to the Alzheimers which had been slowly leeching his life away since his first diagnosis some years earlier.

I honestly believed; as I’m sure so many others did, that Sir Terry would be around for a lot longer. I dreaded the day he would no longer be able to write. The idea of him actually dying was something I couldn’t really get to grips with and six months on, I’m still mourning his loss.

My first foray into Discworld was around the age of 16. My dad, always a keen supporter of our local library, one day brought home The Colour of Magic. Unable to get on with the writing style, the book was passed to me and so, a new Pratchett fan was born. It was 1989, the year Pyramids and Guards! Guards! were published. I had a lot to catch up on.

I’ve always loved how Sir Terry could take a modern world phenomenon, event or catastrophe and adapt a story to it. Parodying anything and everything from football (Unseen Academicals) to the movies (Moving Pictures) opera music (Maskerade) and even the discovery of a new country (The Last Continent).

His characters represent so many aspects of the human psyche, cleverly disguised as witches, wizards, money men, police, Igors, Golems; even that monstrously clever dictator of Ankh-Morpork Lord Vetinari, but the writing is so sublime that the parallels are subtle.

Sir Terry was able to provide a viewpoint without ramming it down the reader’s throat.

Yesterday, my copy of the Shepherd’s Crown arrived in the post. A new Pratchett always used to be an exciting time for me, I behold his books with such reverence that to finally have the very last book caused tears to spring forth and by the time I read the dedication, I was a mess.

Writing this now brings a lump to my throat.

I’ve never been one for things like conventions and fandom get togethers but now I really do wish I’d gone to at least one to connect with other fans who love Sir Terry as much as I do.

I was very lucky to meet him once, at a book signing in my old hometown Southampton. The bookshop itself no longer exists but after queuing for hours, down the stairs he came. Dressed in a safari suit and minus his now famous hat, Sir Terry was smaller than I imagined but exuded oodles of personality,  was well spoken and articulate. He reminded me of a dotty professor type from some dusty university somewhere and probably would have fit in very well at Unseen University itself.

“Grace, the Turtle moves!” he wrote and signed “Terry Pratchett” with a flourish.

I must admit to being rather shy and speechless at the signing, pausing only to speak my name whereas others were engaging him in conversation and getting him to sign not only books but Discworld mementos, figurines and suchlike.

And so it is now, that with the last ever Discworld offering in my hands that I embark on the final story and say goodbye to so many beloved characters. I cannot name them all but if it weren’t for Rincewind, the Luggage, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Sam Vimes, Death, Captain Carrot, Lord Vetinari, Tiffany Aching as well as non-Discworld characters such as Johnny, Maurice, Dodger and Mau I would have missed out on an incredible journey that has enriched my life and taken me to places I could never otherwise visit.

For that, I only have one thing left to say.

“Crivens!”

xGranny WeatherwaxShepherd's Crown