Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Creative Writing 101: The Hook and the Start aka The bouquet of Nuclear Flowers

     Firstly, let me apologise for the delay in service! Been a busy week, but normal ‘viewing’ should resume from today!

     Is the hare really faster than the tortoise? Did the chicken come before the egg? Green means go, red means stop, but yellow means something in the middle – so half a stop, or half a go? What I’m trying to say is that everything starts somewhere. As writers, we have the godly say-so to decide everything about how our stories start.

     The most important thing to consider, in my opinion, is the fact that you need to open with a ‘hook’. The ‘hook’ is something that needs to grab the readers’ attention and will them to read on. There are various ways of doing this, from intrigue to conflict. Take for example, George R R Martin’s ‘A Game of Thrones’ (side note: I’ve yet to actually read the books, but I’ve read the first chapter and seen a bit of the series, so his hook has stayed with me long enough to convince me to read them at first opportunity). The first section the reader is introduced to is (without going into spoilers) the ‘out of the ordinary’ going’s on in the North. This is the opening hook – delivered in a dynamic scene. It’s a full chapter, and most importantly, it raises a question, a conflict, intrigue…the need to read on.

     For a writer, the hook is crucially important to those hoping to pursue the route of traditional publishing. As a general rule, agents request submissions of the first three(?) chapters / 50 pages / 10,000 words. If you’ve managed to land your manuscript on an agent’s desk, the only way to keep it out of the shredder is by instilling the ‘need to read’ (I hear bribes work too – that or a ‘shotgun read-through’ similar to a ‘shotgun wedding’).

     You’re opening has to catch the agent’s eye. An agent is a hunter-killer, not a hunter-gatherer. It’s natural habitat is the wild frontiers of the office, roaming the desks and outback of coffee-cup stains. It feeds on the hopes of freshly printed manuscripts, devouring printer ink, sparing only those worthy of passing through its territory. Prey is many, peers in prose are few to the predator. The only way to placate the agent? Lure it into a placid state, inspired by a story, delivered with a strong right hook! Agents have an acquired taste, they know what they’re looking for, and you have to prove that from the get-go.

     Don’t info dump at the start. Purple prose is not your friend. Info dumping is a tendency (read: DROP IT!) of writers (particularly fantasy and Sci-fi) to fill a character’s / situation’s / world’s backstory in a oner. A huge wall of text that’d send even the Hubble telescope cross-eyed. Without going into this in too much detail (and thus committing info dumping, myself) think of it like this: ‘you need to feed your reader a starter, but hold off on the main course. Don’t overfeed the reader, or they’ll grow bloated and will leave before desert; but don’t let them starve or they’ll bail early and go for a burger at the nearest fast food chain!’

     The opening needs to set the tone and the standard of the novel. Your reader has arrived under the pretence of a genre/story/idea that you have pitched, but if you stray from this oath you’ll likely lose them. For example, if your story is chick-lit, why start with the death of the world in some apocalyptic explosion caused by a power hungry maniac, wielding a bouquet of plutonium grown flowers. Don’t do this! 1) Because it’s my idea and I want to write it now! 2) because your reader is expecting something of a different vein.

     …3) I smell a bestseller! Move over Mr Mercury, or whatever your name was. I’ll even help you pack up your paddle.

     Lastly, let’s go back to firstly (chicken or the egg approach – see what I’m doing here?). The ‘hook’. The sharpest part of any hook is the point, and in this case, the first sentence or the first fifty words or so. No, ‘The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the grass was green, the bunny rabbit hopped through the wood, and the ruddy ice cream van ran me over whilst the puppy dog farted.’ That’s a little odd, and I’ve massively strayed from the point, but it’ll do. As a writer, I favour an opening hook in the form of dialogue, or a character’s inner monologue. Take for example ‘hooks’ from some of my own work:

From Man to Man Part 1: 'I never meant to let you down.'

From Man to Man Part 2: 'So, it's come to this?'

From Man to Man Part 3: 'Any coin's a coin.'

And, as a treat, the opening to It Began With Ashes:
     “Are we being followed, father?”
     “No, Astartes, we are not being followed.”
     “How can you be sure? You didn’t even look!” Astartes whined. Struggling to turn in the saddle behind his father, Astartes craned his neck to look back through the night.  The dirt track meandered this way and that, winding through the Emberfen Forest. The path was hard to make out amongst the muddy browns of the woodland, made all the more difficult by the thick canopy obscuring the glow of the stars and moon overhead.
     Nicolas shook his head, scratching idly at his flame-red moustache. “Don’t let your eyes play tricks on you, son...there’s nothing out there.”

     Now, to the red, the egg, but then again maybe the chicken, the finish line where the hare or the tortoise is waiting. Use your hooks wisely, keep ‘em sharp, but if all else fails resort to nuclear fertilized shrubbery. You’ll have to excuse me now as I’m off to pick me a bouquet of flowers from this glowing patch of dirt, charming little garden mind you. Saw a three eyed dog there the other day.


Monday, 20 August 2012

Review: Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘Is it true that we need to be broken before we can be reborn? No. But bleeding can sure do the trick.

Thorns can bleed you better than a knife. Briar thorns so deep they hook to the bone. Where a knife goes in and out, you go in and out of a thicket. The knife goes in, blood comes out. You go in…who knows what comes out? But, I did.

Before the thorns, before the person that I am now, I was a son and a brother. I’m still a Prince, but I gave that up for the road. Being a son and a brother was taken from me. The thorns gave me a new family. Brothers, though not by blood, but they’ve spilled enough of it for me. Yet there’s more blood to run, and though I lost my old family, I still have a claim to the family fortune.

And that fortune is a throne…’

Prince of Thorns is the stunningly dark debut by Mark Lawrence. In my opinion a noir-fantasy, the novel is the first part of a trilogy known as ‘The Broken Empire’.

The reader is introduced to Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath, a fourteen year old boy-Prince who leads his ‘brothers’, a band of bloodied outlaws, across the land, raiding, raping and razing. Jorg’s dark path has an end in sight, that of winning the game of thrones. His quest for the revenge of his brother and mother’s murders has set him on the path for his father’s throne, and later, the title of Emperor.

I found myself drawn along by this book, fascinated with Jorg’s decisions and insights. Written in a first person point-of-view, the reader is able to see the Prince’s rationale, and though might not commit themselves to similar actions, the philosophy of the sociopath is addictive.

Without saying too much and spoiling it for those of you who do decide to read this book, the story has more than a few surprises in terms of world building and setting. Personally, I think that this is one of the best conceptualised fantasies of the year, despite the mixed reviews that I have seen.

Not only are the characters, the setting, the pace, and the voice masterfully wrought, but the overarching plot and the ‘behind-the-scenes-grand-scheme’ are of equal measure. On one hand, Prince of Thorns works as a marvellous standalone novel, but on the other its already got me itching for the next in the series.

Mark Lawrence…you’ve certainly got me hooked.

View all my reviews

Friday, 17 August 2012

DeviantArtist Feature #4: Terribilus

     It's that time again, and boy do I have a treat for you this week. On my travels this week, whilst looking for an unsung artist on DA, I came across a real gem. A buried treasure that everyone seems to have walked past whilst looking to the sky for answers. But, I'm a bit of a treasure finder, so I'll give you a map and a compass to join me in my search. Don't worry about bringing spare bags to carry it all, as this treasure is one you'll want to visit again and again. Without further ado, I present this week's DeviantArtist Feature:

     Terribilus is a FANTASTIC artist from Bulgaria. He's been a Deviant for 3 years, knocking out 80 deviations in that time, and each of them is AMAZING. Yet, I don't think he's received the recognition he deserves, so...Friends, Roman, lend me yours eyes!

     Beautiful. That's all I can think of when looking at this. It looks like the front cover of a novel if you ask me. And I'd definitely buy the book! The detail on the warrior in the main is amazing, but the attention to the battle in the background is the real awe inspirer here. Rather than skimp on the 'setting' Terribilus has brought the foreground to life by giving it something to exist within.

     Friends, Romans....Walruses? (Is that plural for Walrus? Or is it Walrusi? Hmm, food for thought!)
     Lend me your...tusks? (Sorry, I couldn't resist).
     Honestly, at first glance I thought this was real. My whole belief in evolution was shattered. No, but seriously, this artwork is amazing. Terribilus has adapted the creature to a humanoid stature, perfectly fitting the armour of a Roman Legionnaire.

     Another one that I thought real. 'Izumi' embodies the beautiful yet deadly soul of the samurai. The contrast between silky cloths, elegant tattoos, rugged armour and marred weapon, have been expertly exercised. The character's pose is far from the easiest to align, but Terribilus has wrought it wonderfully.

     This is just a taster of the veritable treasure trove waiting in Terriblus' gallery! Honestly, check it out, you won't be disappointed!

     Muchos love,

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Writing Update 3: From Me To You

     When something is going well, why do people say that something is going ‘swimmingly’? Is it because it’s not going ‘drowningly’? What if that something can’t swim? Or if it’s afraid of water? Ok, best way to fix that would be to tie it to a balloon, that way you could float OVER the water…unless it’s a lead balloon.

     Things are going swimmingly in my writing world right now. I’ve been plugging away at the follow-on to It Began With Ashes whilst the debut itself is going through a round of test reads. I’ve decided that self-publishing will be the way forward from here, starting with From Man to Man.

     Speaking of From Man to Man Part 3 is now up on DA. I have to thank you all for your continued support and kind words, pushing me on to continue with this project. From Man To Man will be posted in its entirety (over time) on DA before migrating to Amazon and other ebook websites where it will be free for everyone to purchase/download.

So far, From Man to Man has three parts on DA, and you can find them here:

     As I get closer to a definite on It Began With Ashes I’ll release further details on the novella, including extracts and a sample chapter.

     I’ve also been tackling the social networking match in an effort to boost my profile before self-publishing. As part of this you can find me around the interwebz, here:
Email DEMEmrys@hotmail.co.uk

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Creative Writing 101: The Plot aka Losing It

     Some people claim to have lost the plot. Others never had it in the first place. Worse, few get so tangled in the weave of their own plots that it becomes a web from which escape is impossible.

     The Plot, arguably, is the story. Traditionally the Plot follows the beginning, the middle and the end. Sure twists can be thrown in here and there, but even these continue to follow the flow of the story, furthering it towards the end state.

     Now, the Plot of a story is open to wider public opinion in its drive, (and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – please comment below) but in my eyes plot is either ‘character’ or ‘world’ driven, for the most part. And from this, the drive is caused by one of two major changes: a) someone/thing arrives, or b) some/one thing leaves.

     Stories are born from events, events are born from change and difference. So, every day of our lives is a plot, but are they interesting enough to make a bestseller? Not likely. (Although, I’ve had a few hair raisers in my day job!).

     Plot can be simple, or a many layered design. The extent in which the writer is willing to delve grows over time, but when crafting your story make sure to keep the plot clear for the readers’ benefit. Suspense is one thing, but be careful of employing a far too cryptic/blind leading the blind approach. On the other hand, don’t give the reader the crib notes that give the story away before you get to the good bits!

     When planning your plot, I don’t think that each and every step needs to be written in stone from the get-go. Personally, as long as I have an idea of ‘The End’, and a vague idea of how I’m going to get there, then I’m otherwise happy. The bits in between fill themselves, and leaving these gaps allow me the freedom to write on the fly. Flexibility is never a bad thing after all!

     Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go find the map and compass to continue my writings!

     Muchos love,


Monday, 13 August 2012

Review: The Warded Man

The Warded Man
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's not just monsters that go bump in the night.

As the sun sets, the world of man does with it. For the night belongs to demons, risen from the core to claim the world of man. Huddled together behind the protection of their ancient wards, men, women and children are but lambs to the slaughter as the demons cull the herd. The world of man is measured by the fight for survival, not the fight to win. Victory is not claimed by the sword.

But it has not always been this way. In the day of the Deliverer, man fought back the tides of demons, driving them back to the core. Lost to time, the fighting wards of old little but myth, as is the man that wielded them.

Arlen faces his demons. Not just those of the night, but his inner torment, too. Little more than a youth, he sets out to take his revenge on the demons for what they have taken from him.

Leesha, beautiful Leesha, is a budding woman. But man is as cruel as demon, fiery and hungry. Turned to the healing ways of the Herb Gatherer, she discovers her cures can do more than just heal.

Rojer, crippled by demons as a babe, raised by an alcoholic jongleur, entertains man by day to banish the fear of the night. His music might shed light on mortal soul, but its light that hurts the demons.

There's always a good reason to be afraid of the dark.

The Painted Man (The Warded Man in the US) by Peter V Brett is easily one of my favourite novels. The concept of the world is fascinating, and the play on fear (and its effects) is not only reasonable but also palpable. However, the lottery win for me comes in the form of the characters.

As a reader, we see Arlen, Rojer and Leesha grow to maturity whilst facing the hardships of a fear plagued world. The characters are believable, each carrying a motive and a backstory powerful enough to empathise with, whilst also powering the story. Every reader will be able to relate in some capacity to the character of their choice (my personal character: Arlen, no surprise there being something of a bloodthirsty soldier myself! Who's yours?).

The plot is character driven. The scene has been set: day and man vs. night and demons. Each only 'wins' on their chosen battlefield. With this status quo established, it's the characters that shake the balance. Their personal quests lead to discoveries which allow man to fight back against the night, against the demons, against their fear. The Painted Man, though a fantastic read as a standalone novel, is the perfect opening act to an operatic fantasy saga.

With fantasy, the label of 'been there, got the t-shirt' can be thrown about without ever getting tired. Here, not so. Brett's world, though not original in itself (segregated medieval-esque cultures) is brought to life by the mechanics of the wards. I won't go into too much detail, but the wards that man cowers behind are concept enough to have me sold.

The pace is choppy and quick. Not too quick to lack in detail, though choppy all the same. Now, in this case I like choppy. Brett jumps from scene to scene, conversation to conversation, character to character, in such a way that the reader gets the highlights without being bogged down in the unnecessary daily lives of the characters (and with 3 major leads, 3 PoV's worth of 'coming of age' would span a few books!).

Brett's style is easy to read. His voice is strong but concise, playing more on feeling than rolling through paragraphs of needless description. The world building is strictly used as a plot device, even the grand history of the book is explored purely in the character's own measure (for example, Arlen discovering ancient ruins, which further his own story arc rather than act as a 'pretty sightsee' that other fantasy novels and authors stumble through). Not a page, not a sentence is wasted by Brett's style. And the scenes themselves are written as if for the big screen, which works fantastically!

Overall, I loved The Painted Man. It was hard to put down, and I've read it twice again since originally picking it up last year. Each time I pour over the book (I've got in on kindle e-book AND paperback) I find myself falling in love with its charm again and again. For a debut effort, Brett has certainly surpassed the bar for entry-level fantasy.

It's getting a little late…I might just have to pop the lights on and lock the windows and doors…I might not be able to see out into the dark, but maybe that's not such a bad thing?

View all my reviews

Thursday, 9 August 2012

DeviantArtist Feature #3: Phillipv745

     So, whilst continuing to struggle against writers block (although managing to continue writing - odd, non?) I've been trawling through deviantART in an attempt to aid other writers in their various quests. With one I discovered a crystal skull, another gave me a beamy-sword, and one even walked into Mordor with me. But, these are stories for another time. Speaking of stories, on to tonight's Artist feature! Philippv745!

     Ok, I admit it, I have a soft spot for writers. Not just because I am one, but because I believe that writers of any kind are unsung heroes on DA. A pictures paint a thousand words, sure, but the writers are the ones who turn a thousand words into a story, poem, song etc. Philippv745 is one of these writers. He's new to DA, having only joined this week (yes I have a soft spot for newbies too!). He's a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy (deep down, aren't we all?) an avid listener of metal music, and an all round nice guy to boot.

Rise: the Fall 
     I've linked the first part to the fantasy novel 'Rise: The Fall' above. I'm a huge fan of any good ol' fantasy romp, so check this out, I think it's got huge potential! Not only is the name ridiculously catchy, Phil has used one of his poems to introduce the story. It goes like this:

Fire consumes a city.
Bodies lie in the streets.
War is fought.
War is won.
A corrupt king falls.
A crippled emperor rises.
The silver stallion burns.
The golden mare rises.
War is fought.
War is won.
The Hymn of a Dead King is sung.

World of Wings: Holding Back the Rain 
And here is Phil's sci-fi novel. Post apocalypse world + angels = win!

Overall, Phillipv745 writes with a profound awareness of his settings and a fantastic use of tension. He has big potential if you ask me! I'm looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table that is DA, as well as looking forward to helping him reach his goal of writing novels! I hope you'll join me in doing so!

Muchos Love,


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Writer Update 2: It Began With Ashes...

*Hic* Still shaking off the effects of last night. *Hic.* Yet, that's an ominous title for a blog...or is it?

     Wow...this has been a long day. Worse, it's been a long week! AND IT'S ONLY WEDNESDAY! Normally I can shake a hangover in an hour or two, and if not I'll sweat it out in the gym. Not so today. Must be getting old. Twenty-two going on Eighty-two. And in regards to the week being long, well, it's not been an easy one as my prime writing supporter and inspiration is away at the moment. Sap, right? If you're reading this, 'dear girlfriend', yes I miss you. (Please stop laughing at me!).


     I've never let a dull day get me down, and I'm not about to start now (green tea has helped too!).

     I've been toying with the old social networking this week, as you've probably noticed. Pushing for Twitter and Facebook 'success' whilst harping away on my blogs/journals. In regards to writing I'm just about hitting my 2000 words a day target, whilst being careful not to overdo, thus killing the enthusiasm.

     (This is the third paragraph to start with an I've...hmm, not good!) I've promised something more 'concrete' in regards to fires this week and here it is. The work-in-progress blurb for the novella, and the official title. So, here it is:

It Began With Ashes

'Live with a Sword, or die without?'

Some are born to the fires of war. Many are scattered in the ashes. Few rise from the embers.

Wroge has not seen war for twelve years. The conquering Arneut reign over the Keltir clans, having banished the Vikir and the Narz. All claims to Wroge are divided by blood.

Draven Reinhardt survived the war with his share of 'burns' – memories mostly. Settled with wife and child, he has turned his back on life with a sword.

Yet, old claims are not forgotten. When allies return as enemies, Draven finds himself drawn to the flames, and four young men are forced together. Their blood divides them, but they most look past the grudges of their peoples to save a nation.

     If you have any feedback on the above, bearing in mind it's still a work in progress so your opinion REALLY does count, please leave a comment below or feel free to note me!

     Give it a few weeks and I might post an extract or a sample chapter. I've also started gathering concept artwork for characters and scenes, and excitingly, I've put the feelers out for cover-art ready for if I decide to self publish!

     You can find me around the interwebz, here:
Email DEMEmrys@hotmail.co.uk

Creative Writing 101: Setting Goals aka The Drunken Epiphany

Note: the above is not me, but it could have very nearly been!

     What an own goal, seriously. I have to apologise for the lateness of this blog, it’s my own fault. First night off (during the week) in a long while, and I went a tad crazy. I’m a country boy, me, born in Wales, so the big city o’ London is still a zoo and a playground. Hence the eight hours of bar-hopping, shot-downing, dancefloor-tearing action of last night.

     But when I was out last night, I had an epiphany (that or the tequila packed more of a punch that I thought). I was standing at the bar, chatting as you do, doing my usual drunken ‘I love you man! What’s your dream, come on, what’s your goals? You could be anything!’ with one of my guys mates.

     When he asked me the same question I responded with writing.

     He laughed, not meanly, more from surprise I think. ‘How’re you going to do that?’ he asked between what felt like the hundredth shot (I can still feel the two-hundredth rolling about now), ‘and you’re talking of self-publishing – you won’t be able to do it all!’

     Won’t I?

     I likes a challenges does me (as proven by the shot race last night *bleugh*) and I’ve already started cracking away at the whole ‘self-publishing’ fiasco, whilst entertaining the traditional route.

     To be published is my goal – to write for a living, and earn enough to support not only myself, but my girlfriend too, in whatever she decides to do. This is my goal. There are many other goals like it… (ok, ok, I’ll cut the rambling there!). To succeed in this goal, however, there are other milestones (read: GINORMOUS BABYSTEPS!) to tackle. But, because I have a goal, I’m more determined.

     I think writers should have goals, little and large. I mean the overarching goal could be to finish your novel, the smaller being to write a chapter/paragraph/line a day (I was going to put word, but you’d struggle to fill a picture book in a year at that rate – what with title, name, blurb etc.).

     As a writer, I’ve defined my goals, divided into 2: social networking and writing.

     Here’s my example.

*1 day = write 2000 words (to he kept to Monday-Thursday, Friday-Sunday are recharge days).
*1 week = write 8000 words and have a good outline for the following week.
*1 month = write 32000 words.

Social Networking
*1 day = gain 1 twitter follower.
*1 week = gain a facebook friend.
*1 month = find another person who could potentially review/blog/help promote my work.

These goals don’t sound like much, but at the end of the year, potentially, I could be looking at:
*660,000+ words written.
*12 ‘promoters’.
*52 Facebook friends.
*365 Twitter followers.

Ok, so with the editing and time off the word count is ambitious, and we all know how easy it is to meet people on facebook and twitter, so I’ll likely have more connections than that, but it’s a start!
So come on then, what’s your goal?

Help me achieve my social networking goals, connect with me on:

Monday, 6 August 2012

Review: Winter Warriors

Winter Warriors
Winter Warriors by David Gemmell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two kings are dead – two parts of the prophecy have been fulfilled. The final part, the fate of the third king, rests in the hands of men. Men, who in their prime, stood before the tide of countless battles. But no man had ever stood before a demon.

A queen is hunted by the demons. Though men protect her, they are no longer of their prime. They are not silvered with age, but grey, worn and weary. Three men, heroes of their time. Nogusta the Swordsman, Kebra the Bowman, and Bison the brute.
The child will decide the fate for mankind as his existence is the difference between life and death for the race of man. But for him to live, the three old heroes need to see him born first.

Following on from my review of Legend I thought it time to spread my wings over yet another Gemmell book. I've had a case of writer's block recently, and with little time to read between work and sleep, I needed a book that I could plough through (read: keep me up long into the night reading it).

Winter Warriors is yet another fantastic example of Gemmell's fireside myth-mongering. It's a legend, a myth, something written with such realisation that you believe every word. You WANT to believe every word. Gemmell has always written inspiring heroes that rise to the call, but Bison, Kebra and Nogusta really shine for me. Not only should they turn their backs on the cards fate has dealt them, they shouldn't be able to even play a hand in their condition – yet they hedge their bets to win all the same.

And my god is this book onto a winner!

Gemmell's voice is light and easy to read. No info-dumps, no loquacious yet endless paragraphs of scenery description or fathomless lore. Winter Warriors is a good old heroic-fantasy romp with laughs, action, tears and a trademark warmth of hope that Gemmell kindles with every story.

The characters...wow. Need I say more? They're believable, they're human. Life isn't black and white, it's shades of grey (and there's more than 50!!!!) and our heroes have more than enough of that in their hair (except Bison – he's bald).
The plot is rich and entertaining, well thought out and fully realised. Little twists here and there keep it more than interesting, but the need to see the characters succeed is more than enough to keep a reader hooked.

Winter Warriors is a book for those who should not, for those who can not – but for those who will, no matter what. If I take one thing away from this book, it is that little glimmer of hope to be a better man.

View all my reviews

Friday, 3 August 2012

Writer Update: 'Fires' Character Artwork - Gazebi.


From left to right: Damian Heele, Astartes Chivaeur, Kalekht Reinhardt, and Deule Conall.

The very talented Gazebi on Deviantart has produced the first character artwork for my upcoming project Fires. I thought I'd drop on by and share it all with you. If you'd be so kind to head on over to Gazebi's profile and the original image, I'd be very grateful if you helped me in expressing my gratitude to her :D