Book Review: The Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca

I’d never read a Steampunk novel until The Night Watchman Express crossed my path and I wasn’t sure if it would be ‘my thing’, but I’d read a few of the 5-star reviews on Amazon and decided to give it a try.

By the end of the first chapter I was hooked! The characters are larger than life: Miriam, Simon and Neil are loveable and you find yourself really caring about them and the twists and turns in their young lives. Mana is enigmatic yet extremely likeable and the Marchpanes are foul creatures that you take an instant dislike to.

The story is fast-paced; the plot and subplots have so many cliffhangers and hooks, you just have to keep reading. The world-building is superior with superb description – you can so easily picture the places in your mind, and that, to me, is the mark of a very skilled writer.

This book would appeal to adults as well as children. It is entertaining, suspenseful and is so well written, it draws you in. Now, I HAVE to buy the sequel, Devil’s Kitchen, just to find out what happens next. That again is the mark of a consummate author if they leave you breathlessly needing to buy the next book in the series!

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book and would give it more than 5/5-stars if I could! Alison DeLuca has an enormous talent and deserves every bit of success that comes her way.

Alison DeLuca

To find out more about Alison DeLuca and her novels, visit her blog http://alisondeluca.blogspot.com

Against The Ropes In The Editing Ring

Having recently finished editing and revising my first novel, I’ve had time to reflect on that part of my writing journey and it’s taught me quite a lot about the way I write first drafts.

Reading through the first two or three chapters, I noticed certain words cropping up much more often than was necessary, so I started making a list and had it open all the time I edited. My list comprised:

That

Felt/Feel/Feeling

Almost

Very

Arose

Just

Every time I came across one of these words I removed or changed it (or the sentence), except for the odd occasion where ‘that’ or ‘just’ actually worked better. The effect this had on the writing was surprisingly marked. The sentences flowed better, I used more appropriate descriptive words and phrases and I ‘showed’ rather than ‘told’.

The other side of this was where I found myself against the ropes. Some of the sentences didn’t make sense when these words were removed and I had to dig deep into my creative wellspring to rework them. This was quite a large learning curve and despite the angst it caused, I’m glad I had to punch my way through it.

The way I see it, this can only make me a better writer in the long run. Now when I write, I have the list of words in my brain and when I see myself typing them I stop, look and correct the text immediately.

Of course, this is on top of all the grammatical checking, the reading aloud, checking timelines were accurate – the list is endless, or that’s how it seems . . . at first. But, perseverance pays off and my novel is now in the hands of my beta reader. I’m nervously awaiting the feedback yet I’m not as daunted by having to revise or edit again, not like I was in the beginning. I’ve learned a great deal from this experience and it’s all good.

Maybe it won’t take me as long to edit my next piece of work. Here’s hoping.

What extraneous words do you find keep cropping up in your writing? How do you feel about the editing and revising process? Does it fill you with dread or do you look forward to it?

 

 

 

Writing at Christmas

Today I’ve invited my wonderful proofreader and editor, Maria, to share her thoughts about writing during the holiday period. Enjoy!

Christmas is a time when people like to relax and take a break. However, for a writer that can be a problem. Whether you are in the middle of a piece or recently finished, you should never stop writing. Try to do a little each day, even if it’s just half an hour in bed before you get up.

My favourite trick is Freewriting. Choose a word the night before, or get someone else to pick one for you and just write. No planning, no thinking; put pen to paper and let your every thought flow out. What comes into your mind when you first think of that word? Let the thoughts flow and enjoy what comes out. Stifle your inner editor too or you will lose the flow. Sometimes it can take you places you didn’t expect and one thought leads to another, taking you down a tangent that you might never have journeyed along.

Never throw these freewritings away – you never know when they might be useful. Sometimes there might be a word or phrase that will work perfectly and be needed for a project, sometimes nothing will be useable. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and though you think it might not work for one project – it could work for another in the future.

This trick is perfect for those who have finished a project and want to take a breather and clear their thoughts, before either starting another or tackling the editing and revising. Alternatively if you have got blocked in the middle of your project, this is the best idea I know of to deal with it. It allows you to keep in the habit of writing, while at the same time leaving your subconscious free to untangle the knot that stopped you.

If you find that your writing is often under par when you try to push yourself through ‘Writer’s Block’ then this technique is for you.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thank you, Maria, for sharing these great tips with us.

Are you going to be writing over the Christmas holidays? Are you doing freewriting yourself? Are you going to try this method? Let us know your thoughts and plans!

Maria Johnson has a B.A. Honours degree in English and Creative Writing. She is a published poet and was nominated for International Young Poet of the Year in 2007. She is a freelance proofreader and editor. In her spare time she’s an avid reader and is writing a novel.

Recipe of the Month – Xmas Special

An Extra Special Zingy Sauce for Christmas Dinner

I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for something to make Christmas dinner extra special.

When I found this easy recipe, I couldn’t wait to try it and it’s now a firm favourite in our house! It only takes a few minutes to make and is a fantastic accompaniment to a special turkey dinner, so I thought I’d share it with you all.

It can be prepared in advance or can be served warm – your choice.

Zingy Cranberry Sauce

Put 80ml of port and the juice and finely grated zest of a medium sized orange in a saucepan.

Boil to reduce the mixture until it resembles a thick syrup.

Add a 200g jar of cranberry sauce to the syrup and mix together well.

Transfer to serving dish and impress your guests! They will never know it’s not home made!!

TIP: Keep the empty jar and lid and return any unused sauce to it. Keep refridgerated. Lasts for approx 2 weeks.

Hope you enjoy this great recipe! Let me know if you liked it!

Book Review : The Sun Zebra by Phantomimic

When I first heard about The Sun Zebra, I was intrigued. By any stretch of the imagination it’s not the sort of book I would normally buy, but there was an endearing quality about the blurb that piqued my interest and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.

The Sun Zebra is a collection of five stories about Nell and events that have happened in her short life. It ably demonstrates the simplistic views that children have about life, how they can hold your hand and lead you into their magical world and how they have a knack of surprising adults.

I won’t spoil your enjoyment by giving a synopsis of the stories, but they are absolutely enchanting! They are well-written with good use of description; you can easily picture the setting which adds to the enjoyment. The narrator, Nell’s father, shows an honesty that is refreshing and a great deal of patience. He’s also not afraid to let loose the child within to entertain and communicate with his daughter.

Reading this book has given me a fresh perspective on life. We all get so bogged down with the adult side of life that we often forget how to have fun, and I’m not referring to adult-type amusements. Being able to access our inner child, to remember the innocence and fun that got lost along the way is not that easy when we worry about paying bills and holding onto jobs etc. This book also teaches us, as parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents, how vital it is to nuture a child’s imagination whilst still trying to instruct them about the harsh realities of life.

That’s what makes this book so special – it reminds us of the magic of childhood, the carefree existence, the innocence and the fun. Everyone needs to access their inner child and what better way to do it than with this book. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it!

Get it here, NOW!!!! http://www.amazon.com/The-Sun-Zebra-ebook/dp/B006AC5FCU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1321762294&sr=1-1

Christmas: Giving Something Back

Christmas – the season of goodwill to all men. But how many of us do something practical to help those less fortunate than ourselves? Sure, some of us drop a few coins in collecting tins when we’re out doing our Christmas shopping and like to think we’ve ‘done our bit’, but isn’t there something more we could do?

My very good friend and fellow author, Alison DeLuca and some of her friends have released an anthology called “Christmas O’Clock” and all the proceeds from sales are going to Oxfam. It’s available from Kindle and Nook now and is only 99 cents (approx. 60p). That is something very practical and is helping a worthwhile cause. Check out www.alisondeluca.blogspot.com for more information.

Kindle Cover

For my part, I haven’t got any Christmas stories written yet so I can’t emulate their selfless contribution, but there are things I can do (even with very limited funds)!

There is a hospice near where I live that is very dear to my heart. They were absolutely amazing when first my dad and then my mum were diagnosed with terminal cancer. Not only did my parents receive treatment and day care at the hospice, they were so supportive to me during the long and painful journey we had to travel and after my parents passed away. These days, most people know someone who has suffered from or been affected by cancer – unfortunate, disturbing but true. The staff are so caring in these places and the whole hospice movement is such a valuable resource for families facing this dreadful disease. The one thing that makes my blood boil is that these wonderful places receive no help from the government at all and have to rely purely on donations and corporate sponsors.

Find the Cure

My contribution this Christmas has been to make gift tags and bookmarks using pieces of foil card of different colours, cutting them into seasonal shapes and decorating them with odd bits of lace, ribbon, glitter and small silk flowers that I found in my mum’s sewing box. I’ve also made some table decorations using silk flowers that I had. All these I’ve donated to the hospice to sell so that they can make more money.

There must be lots of people that have practical skills or artistic talents that could spare a little time to create something wonderful and donate it to a worthwhile cause. And if you feel you haven’t got talents you can call on, why not bake some cakes/cookies/pies or make some jams/pickles or sort through your cupboards for unwanted gifts that you could donate. It needn’t cost you much, but it could make the world of difference to others. Another way is to support the charity shops in your local retail centre – not everything they sell is second-hand!

Some people think that charity begins at home, but at this time of year especially, shouldn’t charity begin with helping these worthwhile causes?

I’d like to think that my small but practical donation will help another family through cancer, in the same way as this wonderful hospice helped mine.

What can you do to make a difference? Got any ideas or tips you could pass on? I’d love to read about them!

The Automoton Writes: Tips for Successfully Creating Steampunk

Although I’m quite new to this blogging lark (and hopefully you haven’t got fed up with me yet), I thought it would be a real treat for you to get a completely new perspective on writing.

Enter my good friend and fellow author, Alison De Luca. Alison shares explanations on the sub-genres of Steampunk, Dieselpunk plus a few others and her excellent and practical tips can be adopted by anyone wanting to write in this new and exciting arena. Enjoy!

If there are airships overhead, automotons in the street, Queen Victoria on the throne, or sheriffs chasing down a Difference Engine, then you know you’re in the realm of Steampunk Literature. As this subgenre becomes more important and more mainstream, especially with the recent release of Scorsese’s Hugo, writers and agents turn their fancies to all things that wind up like clockworks with gears and cogs.

Steampunk character

I always enjoy writing steampunk stories. I have two under my belt, and there are two more that I have planned in a series that uses an antique typewriter as a quantum computer. I’d like to offer a few writing tips here for anyone who plans to enter the steampunk world.

Antique typrewriter - or is it?

1. Do your research. Recently Steampunk has taken a much more ethnic approach, with books set in Boxer Rebellion era China, for example. And thank goodness; the addition of international and multiracial sensibilities is a fresh breath of air to a lit form that could otherwise grow dusty and stale.

 If you want to set your story in another country, make certain you’re familiar with the language, the food, the slang, the geography, the houses… you get the idea. Ditto with the Victorian or Edwardian Era. My setting is the latter; one invaluable resource has been http://edwardianpromenade.com/. Evangeline, the author of the site, offers period menus, house plans, hairdos, clothes, and recipes, which I slurp up voraciously.

 2. Personally, I prefer some logic to my technology. Of course as a Steamer you’ll be asking your audience to accept some fantastical ideas, such as automotons that can draw, or typewriters that can move time and space. It’s nice if you can include some sort of science to back up the tech.

Automaton

Airships, for example, cannot carry entire armies and their battle gear. If you want to include dirigibles, research them and discover their limitations. I don’t use them myself, but I can see how they can make transportation more workable in an international plot. So if you want to use them in your story, make sure you understand how they work. Above all, your story should be well written and based on steam tech, not a quickly written manuscript with some airships thrown in so you can claim Steaminess.

Airships

3. Push the envelope. Besides steampunk , there is now Diesel Punk (gas powered tech) and Sandal Punk (ancient technology) which I find very interesting, considering items like the Babylon batteries, clay pots that actually generate an electric charge. They might be spurious archeology, but they make me think of possibilities, which is a wonderful thing. Anyone wanting to create sandal punk has a rather limited technology to work with, but sometimes challenges create wonderful stories.

 I recently finished a Diesel Punk book for NaNoWriMo, set during WWII. I had to do a lot of research, especially on power sources and period details. What luck that my father in law had an engineering book from his stint in the army! Information that we come across like that is like pure gold to us steam / diesel / sandal punkers.

Period information

Recently I saw a book written in “ReeferPunk” style. And yes, it’s just what you think. I’m intrigued, I’ll admit, although I don’t think I’ll go to that length.

 I love the technical possibilities, but above all I love the human element involved. And that is my final, most important tip: don’t forget your characters. They, more than anything, will be needed to drive that airship to those fantastic new lands.

Thank you, Alison, for a fascinating article! Definitely something to ponder over if you are , or thinking of writing in this sub-genre. Have you got any tips to share on writing Steampunk? How will you use these fantastic tips to improve your writing?

* * *

Alison

 

Alison DeLuca is the author of The Night Watchman Express and Devil’s Kitchen, both steampunk fantasies for young adults.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.  As a teacher she taught every grade level in every kind of school district possible.

She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.

 

 

 

 

The Night Watchman Express

Devil's Kitchen

  This is the cover/banner to Alison’s first two fantastic books. The reviews are amazing and I feel incredibly honoured to have her as a friend and as my first guest blogger.

 Here are just a sample of some of her reviews:

“I liked it quite a bit. I’m interested to see what happens next to these kids. The dream sequences and fantasy remind me of Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series a bit (and a little of Sense and Sensibility too). Good set up.”

“It’s very intriguing! I want to know more about Neil and why he’s with these people. And who or what are the Marchpanes? Good set up and hook.”

“I really liked it and it made me want to read the rest. I absolutely dislike Mrs. Marchpane and will be interested to see how the author handles her storyline. Nothing for me is more gripping than a child who is treated as less than but somehow overcomes obstacles created by mean-spriited adults.”

“Love the dialog! Where did you get your characters names? They’re fabulous! This is wonderful!”

“Your characters are well drawn and very vivid. I already like Miriam and you’ve made me curious to see how she gets on with the horrible Marchpanes.”

                                                                                                                                    – Amazon Reviews

“…this is the type of story that will appeal to readers who enjoy immersing themselves in a fictional world. The pacing is slow, but the characters are bold. They almost seem to jump off the page and grasp you by the wrist so that you may live their lives alongside them….

DeLuca writes in an enjoyable faux-Victorian voice, capturing the ‘prim and proper’ spirit of the times while simultaneously subtly critiquing conventions (for example, the Marchpane’s treatment of Mana, a black governess). Mostly, the style gives the novel both a lightness of touch and, when the voice is at its strongest, an authenticity.”

From Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders, Volume One, July 2011. Review by Sophie Playle

Here are some links for The Night Watchman Express; retail and the book trailer

Amazon : http://amzn.to/iqifef

Barnes and Noble Nook : http://bit.ly/njuxpz

Amazon paperback : http://amzn.to/pDG0Al

To watch the book trailer for The Night Watchman Express, follow this link : http://bit.ly/TNWEtrailer

If you want to get to know Alison better, why not check out her website. It’s chock full of goodies! Click the link to take you into a new realm : http://alisondeluca.blogspot.com/