Book Review – Kiatana’s Journey by Natalie Erin

Kiatana's Journey

This book was a little different to what I expected. It contained everything described on the blurb and a bit more besides.

I loved the character of Kiatana. She was feisty, opinionated, and didn’t like people disagreeing with her or answering back. Maybe it was due to her upbringing and the fact she’s a princess with her own realm. However, she cares passionately about all the creatures in her forest kingdom, and has a softer and more playful side to her.

The characters of Lottie and Lilja were an absolute joy and I loved to see their journey from pups into adulthood. At times they had me laughing out loud and in one place I had a lump in my throat. The book was definitely the richer for their inclusion.

Some of the other characters were well crafted, especially Ionan, but others left me wondering &/or rolling my eyes. I felt Keota was a bit of a wimp with not much common sense at times. Although he could be quite assertive with Ionan, when it came to dealing with Kiatana or anyone else, he seemed to be a hapless twit. At the end, he seemed to grow within himself, but for me it was too little, too late. The other character who didn’t seem quite real was Casiff. When he first entered the story, he was a real nasty piece of work and at that point he was well written, but further in he did a complete 180 degree turn and became Mr Nice and Generous. It could be argued that meeting a certain powerful lady had something to do with it and I’m sure she was influential in his change of heart, but for me it was too abrupt a change to be realistic.

Most of the scenery was well described and I could use my imagination to fill in the gaps the author left, which I really liked.

For me, the one let-down in the book was how little space was given to the plague in the forest which sent Kiatana on her journey in the first place. It could have been drawn out a little more to give a real sense of urgency, with more detail of the sickness and how it affected different species.

Despite some of the things I wasn’t so keen on, I did enjoy this book. There was a twist I didn’t see coming and the ending has been left in such a way as to allow for a second book. I hope Natalie Erin will take the foregoing as constructive criticism as she undoubtedly has talent and I look forward to seeing her next offering.

 

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Exclusive Competition

Sometimes, naming characters is as easy as breathing. Mostly they jump into my head, fully formed, and their names just pop onto the page without a second thought. However, on occasions, minor players are harder to place. Whilst they have their parts to play, and some of them are quite integral to a certain section of the story, their formation isn’t always quite as complete as I’d like.

In Heart Search: Found, I have a character who needs naming so I decided to run an exclusive competition on my Facebook page. To enter, all you have to do is ‘like’ my page and come up with a name to suit the character, whose profile is shown on there. The winner will have the chosen name in my new book. To find out what else you can win, you’ll have to visit the page, but be quick – the competition ends midnight GMT tomorrow! Good luck.

Click this link to take you straight there:

http://www.facebook.com/CarlieMACullen

Oh, and before I forget, watch out for the cover reveal of the second book in the Heart Search trilogy – coming very soon to a blog near you. I’m also going to be looking for reviewers in the next couple of weeks so if you’re interested in showcasing the cover reveal, the book trailer &/or reviewing the book, please leave me a message below. I’m only looking for a certain number of people, so get your name down fast. Heart Search, book two: Found is nearly here!!

Dilemma

Dilemma

Have you ever come across a book that’s so badly written you would rather cut your arm off than turn another page? That’s how I felt last night! Let me explain . . .

I was contacted by an American author who asked me to review her book for Amazon UK. She hadn’t received any reviews on my side of the pond and was keen to change this situation. I agreed and she sent me a free copy in return for a review. I added it to my list and began reading it Thursday night in bed.

Astounded by how immature the writing was (and bearing in mind I was really tired), I put it down telling myself it had to get better. WRONG!  I picked it up again last night and after half an hour I couldn’t stand to turn another page. This is what I found:

>          The book had either been self-edited or edited by someone who wasn’t professional and didn’t really know what they were doing. Whoever did edit it should be pinned against a wall and shot!

>          The characters were like cardboard cut-outs and one dimensional. There was no emotion SHOWN whatsoever. The reader is TOLD someone is happy/sad/hurting/angry, but there’s no emotional connection so you can’t empathise with the character. You can’t imagine what they’re feeling because there’s nothing to hook into.

>          There was no description used anywhere. When the characters were in a tropical location I wanted to SEE the golden sand, HEAR the waves lap gently on the shore, SMELL the salty air, ADMIRE the lush scenery with its colourful blooms, WONDER at the indigenous people’s customs. I didn’t want to be TOLD the place was ‘beautiful and peaceful’ I wanted to SEE and IMAGINE it for myself through good use of description.

>          The dialogue was stilted and unrealistic, even robotic in places.

>          The plot moved on, but because the writing was so bad, you couldn’t get a sense of where it was heading.

>          Part of the book is set in Eastern Europe yet the characters don’t have names typical of their Iron Curtain home, they have English/American names. The author obviously hasn’t done any research on the country and very little on their customs.

>          If I didn’t know better, I would say the book had been written by a six or seven-year-old as the style is like, “The cat sat on the mat”, and “He was a coward and his name was Fred”. I think you get the gist!

In the right editor’s hands, this book could possibly have been made into something half decent, but it would have meant scrapping it and starting again.

Anyway, here’s where my dilemma comes in. I’m not one to publicly trash another author’s work – I would hate to have it done to me – yet she’s asked me for a review. I won’t normally review a book unless I like it and am therefore reluctant to post a one-star review with nothing positive to say about it. I could email the author and give her a private critique, explaining why I don’t want to publish a review, but my instincts tells me she won’t take it in the right spirit. I think she’ll (A) blow off my critique because she thinks she’s such a good writer and her crap doesn’t smell (I’m sure you know the sort I mean), or (B) bad-mouth me for daring to criticise her work, or (C) run a hate campaign against me and try to smear my good name, or all of the above.

I’ve worked hard to build my reputation, both as a writer and an editor, and the last thing I want is to have my name tarnished.

So what would you do? All opinions very gratefully received coz I’m really stumped!!

 

Book Review: The Infinity Bridge by Ross M Kitson

When I come across a great novel, I love to share it with you and The Infinity Bridge is one of those books. It’s a great cross-over book which will appeal to adults and YA alike. I don’t like to write spoilers when I review, instead I prefer to concentrate on the writing, plot and characters, the elements which make the book come alive for me. So without further ado, here are my thoughts:

Infinity Bridge front coverWhat an adventure! With great characters and an amazingly action-packed plot, this steampunk adventure has all the elements for success. It combines modern day technology with that from the Victorian era with effortless aplomb, tackles issues of mental instability, and even has a modern-day Knights of the Round Table and Merlin.

The quirky characters are relatable and likeable, and you begin to care about their quest to save the Infinity Bridge from falling into the wrong hands and saving our world from destruction at the hands of The Hidden. Sam and Ben’s gifts are believable and well- constructed, and I liked the angst Sam feels at his brother’s so-called mental illness. Both of their characters are incredibly well thought out. I also enjoyed the interaction between Nick and his Mother, who is quite a colourful person.

The action scenes are descriptive and draw you in to the extent you could easily believe you were witnessing them first-hand. The technology is well thought out and expertly applied throughout the story. Kitson makes you believe in all the possibilities contained in the story as he transports you to alternative realities and explores how easy it would be for our world to be infiltrated without our knowledge.

This is a well written and captivating adventure for YA and adult and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

I strongly suggest you check out his Prism Series, book 3 of which has been released today – I have to say I’m hooked!

Ross M Kitson

Ross M Kitson

Ross M Kitson is a published author in the fantasy genre, with an ongoing series (The Prism Series), a number of short stories on Quantum Muse web-zine and several stories in Steampunk and fantasy anthologies. His debut series for Myrddin is due for release in October 2012, and is a sci-fi series set in modern day York. It is written for ages 12+, although its combination of killer androids, steam-powered airships, kick-ass heroines and action packed chases will appeal to all ages.

Ross works as a doctor in the UK specializing in critical care and anaesthesia. He is happily married with three awesome children, who nagged him incessantly to write something that they could read. His love of speculative fiction and comics began at a young age and shows no signs of fading.

Buy Links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

Characterisation

This post was hosted by the lovely Madeline Dyer during the Heart Search Blog Tour. She asked me to write on something I’m quite passionate about – characterisation. Here it is:

There’s no easy way of saying it, so I’ll be as blunt as a spoon. It doesn’t matter if your story is character-driven or plot-driven; if you don’t breathe life into your main cast then your story is like a decapitated chicken – dead from the neck up! So how do we make sure our main characters come alive for the reader?

Okay, so here we have our two main characters. Let’s call them Paula and Fred. At the moment they are like cardboard cut-outs. Sure we could add a bit of colour by saying Paula has black hair and hazel eyes, and Fred has ginger hair and blue eyes, we could say they are tall or short, thin or chubby or variations in between. We could go one stage further and include that Paula has a tiny scar above one eyebrow or Fred has a wart on the tip of his nose; it’s a start – it gives the reader a little something to picture – but is it really breathing life into them? The simple answer is, no.

We need to give them personalities, emotions, hopes and dreams, in short we need to make them realistic and relatable.

You need to spend some time getting to know Paula and Fred; find out what makes them happy or sad, angry or soft and gooey, what their aspirations are, whether they are essentially good or bad and what makes them tick. Once you’ve gone through this process of building a personality profile for them you then need to make that personality come alive.

The most effective ways are through dialogue and through showing their emotions.

So if you were writing a scene where Paula was angry about something Fred had done and she was giving him a serious tongue-lashing, the worst thing you can do is just pen the obvious drivel some writers call dialogue. Put yourself in Paula’s shoes and make the dialogue realistic to fit the scene. It’s okay for Paula to stutter in her anger and call him names. It’s fine for her to get her words a bit mixed up in the heat of the moment. Isn’t that what happens in real life? Now think of how Fred might defend himself (if he does at all – that’s your call. He might be the type of guy who holds his hands up, admits he’s dropped the ball and wants to make things better) and make his dialogue as realistic as hers.

Now we’re getting somewhere. But what is the magic ingredient? Showing!

Think about the expressions on their faces and describe them. No you don’t have to go to the nth degree, but a phrase like ‘her flashing eyes narrowed and her voice was laden with venom’ paints a very strong picture for the reader to get hold of. Now think about body language or gestures they might be using. ‘Fred held his hands up as if to ward off her words, taking a step away from her’- again this allows the reader to form an image of what is occurring in the scene. Using small phrases to show how your character is feeling and reacting to a given situation makes them much stronger, which culminates in a story which is now much more interesting than two-day old dishwater.

The vast majority of readers want to connect with the characters in your story, they want to feel their emotions, be able to picture the scene and see how each person is behaving, some even want to imagine themselves as either Paula or Fred. But they can only achieve this if you bring those cardboard cut-outs to life.

A quick tip to help you with characterisation is to people watch (and no I don’t mean for you to stare at people until you get a punch on the nose or a visit from someone wearing a uniform and carrying a badge). Take snippets from what you see and hear around you. When you’re out shopping or at the movies or wherever, watch how people relate to each other and listen to extracts of their discussions. Make mental notes or even better, carry a notepad around with you and if you see or hear something you think you could use, jot it down.

All your characters need to be given life; they need hearts and minds to make them relatable and speech to make them realistic.

 

A Flash of Inspiration – Or Is It?

The next post to appear for the Heart Search Blog Tour was written for C M Skiera. He gave me the topic of inspiration to write about and I decided I was going to do something a little different for this one. Here is the end result.

Inspiration – what does that word mean to you? In the dictionary it’s defined as:            1. Stimulation to do creative work; stimulation for the human mind to creative thought or to the making of art [found inspiration in the landscape around her]. 2. Somebody or something that inspires; somebody or something that inspires somebody to creative thought or to the making of art [His book is an inspiration to all would-be travellers]. 3. Creativeness; the quality of being stimulated to create thought or activity, or the manifestation of this [a moment of inspiration].

As writers we all need inspiration to put pen to paper or our fingers on the keyboard. Yet there’s a missing ingredient here – imagination. To me, inspiration and imagination go hand in hand, like eggs and bacon or toast and marmalade. Yes you can have eggs without the bacon or toast without the marmalade, but will it taste as good?

So let’s explore imagination for a minute. As children we had truckloads of it; we would do drawing and paintings, play with dolls or toy soldiers making things up as we went along yet as we grow into adulthood our imagination seems to get stifled by life. Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to let our imagination run riot when we’re worried about paying bills, work, and maybe we’ve got kids and a spouse. But to be a writer we need to allow our imagination out of its box and go wild.

The dictionary defines imagination as: 1. Ability to visualise; the ability to form images and ideas in the mind, especially of things never seen or experienced directly. 2. Creative part of mind; the part of the mind where ideas, thoughts and images are formed.

Do you see the link between the two definitions?

Okay, so let’s put the two together and see what we get. Your scenario is – you’re out for a drive in the countryside and you come across a little church tucked away behind some trees or bushes. You’re intrigued so you stop for a closer look. It’s just a small abandoned church with weeds and overgrown grass in the yard. Or is it? Now let your imagination soar . . .

Why is the church abandoned? Perhaps it was used for pagan or satanic worship and a posse of god-fearing folk drove them out. Maybe there was a small town around the church at one time – what happened to the people and houses? Did a plague wipe out the town and the homes razed to the ground to eradicate the disease? Was there something supernatural which drove the people away, like a poltergeist? Perhaps a serial killer methodically wiped out the town, one family at a time. Did extra-terrestrials have something to do with it?

Going back to the church itself, is something hidden in the crypt, something magical? Is someone or something evil buried beneath the church? Is the crypt now used as a vampire’s resting place? And what about the churchyard – have the grass and weeds been allowed to grow wild to hide something? If so, what could it be? Do some of the gravestones hide clues to a secret treasure or symbols to summon demonic forces.

Now you’ve let your imagination picture all these possibilities for a simple abandoned church, you have created the inspiration to work some magic with it. Now you can grab your keyboard or pad and pen and begin to sketch out a story. Once you’ve decided which scenario you’re going to write about you can then start thinking about characters and building your plot.

Anything you see, no matter how ordinary can be made extraordinary just by using your imagination. This also applies to people. A man walking down the street looking shabby could be a millionaire, a celebrity in disguise, a spy, a witch hunter, a wizard or a homeless ex-soldier.

If you struggle to find inspiration for your writing it’s probably because you’re not allowing your imagination to feed it. So as you travel to work, walk down the shops or out in the countryside, or drive somewhere in your car, really open your eyes, let your imagination take flight and allow yourself to be inspired.

The lesson from this is that inspiration is all around us – we’ve just got to open our eyes and see!

Reading #BlogFlash2012

Hi, today is Day 6 and the prompt for today is Reading. This is one of two subjects I could talk about for hours (writing being the other, of course), but as we’re limited to 100 words, I’ve tried to do something more creative with it. I hope you like it!

 

 

Reading

 

Damn! Another power cut. I’ve enough battery to continue writing on my laptop for an hour, but I really fancy reading.

 

One of my ideas of heaven!

 

I light some candles; positioned around the room they give it a glow, a warm ambience that electric light can’t compete with. I position a large candle by my chair and grab my book.

 

Vividly the scene comes to life by the beautiful descriptions

 

As I delve back into the exciting scene, my mind pictures the images the words create. The beautifully crafted descriptions allow me to wander, to immerse myself in the world on those precious pages, to relate to the characters and I lose myself for a while.

Immersed in the wonderful world created on the pages