Thursday, 23 April 2015

April's Update

Don't worry about how slowly you feel you're heading to your dreams, or how many roadblocks you find, or detours you need to take, you're still cruising far ahead of everyone who's too afraid to even try ☼  Karen Salmansohn


Hi readers,

So much for keeping up with my plan! Life has gotten in the way basically and writing stories, going to work, doing things for work, reading books and having a social life has all taken up most of my time. Plus, I've had days were I've just not wanted to write or days when I feeling down or stressed about things. I know everyone has those days, but sometimes I know its my depression still lingering. I know I should be happier and not worrying so much about things, but I can't help it. I've always been quick to worry and known to panic.

So what's been happening? Well, I've now finished my teaching course and will soon get my results back. Which equals one less problem and a new qualification! At the minute, I'm really struggling with my driving lessons. Though I did better today. I'm due to take my test at the end of the month, but right now I'm not sure if I will be taking it or even passing it. I just seem to have a great problem judging the distance of things, parallel parking and unmarked lined roundabouts. I hope it'll come together in the next few weeks. I've been having lessons a year now and though I've made a lot of progress, its this final part that seems to be taken awhile. Of course, I knew it was going to take awhile, but it just seems I've reached a stage where I just can't get pass it. I guess it'll come with more practice, Though learning how to stay calm would also benefit me. 

I'm still working at the youth center, though its only one day a week. I'm not sure if I will get more hours, but I stay hopeful. I do keep thinking that I should look for another part time job, but right now I'm still happy about taking a break from that. Job hunting can still be hard even when you already have one. 

I've been doing lots of writing, but not been achieving much with it, though my blog is still gaining followers and likes. I want to try and put together an anthology of some of the stories to be published on kindle. Not sure if anyone will buy it, but at least I'm still trying. I've also seen a few publishers where I can submit stuff too and I really need to be getting on with doing that. I also need to be getting back into working on a novel either writing or editing it, because I've not done that in a few months. I think I'll have a go at working on my latest one tonight and try to get another chapter sorted. It's the one I've been publishing on my blog, but stopped after I felt that people weren't that interested in it. I need to keep trying though. 

Finally, I do want to write some book reviews about the last few novels I've read. I really want to share my thoughts on The Handmaid's Tale, Sand and The Book Thief. I will set sometime aside to that. I also want to keep doing this 'updates' on this blog because at least I can try to keep it alive and because it does give me a place to reflected on things without having to be too deep or boring. 

That's it for now. Feel free to check out some of the other posts on here or my other blog for my short stories which is linked below.        


You can also follow on me on:

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Blogger: http://hailscrazyblog.blogspot.co.uk/

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Monday, 2 February 2015

Monthly Update January


Hi readers, 

This is my first end of the month update post! And yes, I know its a bit over due now, but for some reason I thought it was the 31st January on Sunday and thus had another day to write, when actually it was on a Saturday! So, I did gather my photos and half start writing and then I just got thrown into doing other tasks and have now only just be able to come back to try and finish/post this up. Anyway, I decided the easiest way to do this would be to divided things up into different sections and just write a paragraph or so about them. So, here it is.
Books


I'm currently reading all the above books; Little Women, Cloud Of Sparrows, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume 22 and The Kick-Ass Writer. Which I know is bad because I'd probably have more chance at finishing at finishing just one then all of them! However, I started reading Little Women on my Kindle and because I read mainly before I go to sleep, having to read off another screen when I've spent all day starting at one or more, is just getting to me. That's why I started on Cloud Of Sparrows, which has surprisingly turned out to be a very interesting book. I started the New Horror book some time last year and having been dipping in and out of the collection of short stories ever since. It's good way to get me in the mood for writing my own, when I need it. The last book was one I got for Christmas and I've been attempting to read it for further inspiration, it sits on my desk along the Horror one. I'll be reviewing all of these in the future, though I'm not stating any dates right now.    

Writing 

As well as writing a daily short story every day for my sister blog The Story Files on Wordpress, I've been working on my novella Church and chapter 3. I had some difficulty writing a fighting scene and have had to ask a number of different people for advice. Which is not like me, but I knew it wasn't right, but I didn't know what to change. They offered me just what I needed and I was able to go back and edit the chapter. It's now ready to be published in a few weeks time. For those of you that don't know about it, Church is the story of Blaze, a warrior angel who has become trapped on Earth, though he doesn't understand why. I've included the link below if you want to check it out. The image is one I used for chapter 2, by the way. I've not been doing anything else right now, though I am currently trying to get ahead in writing short stories to free up some more time for when I'm away and also for writing chapter 4. Feel free to check out my short stories. https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/category/church-novella/



Work

I've a paid job now! I work as an activity supporter at my local youth center, where I've been volunteering for the last two years. I only do one day a week right now, but hopefully that'll increase soon enough. So, I help to run and I run my own arts and crafts sessions and I work with 8-12 year olds. We make things like the pen holders below, felt toys and scent pouches. As well as drawings and other paper things. I'm currently leading a recycling project right now and plan to make other things out of cardboard boxes and tubes. I really am enjoying my job because its something that allows me to have a good level of freedom and to be myself. It also meets my creative needs and allows me time to write as well. I'm also mega happy to have finally found a job!   




Music of the month 


I've been listening to a lot of music this month, though most of it is the normal things I listen to whilst writing such as 12 Stones and Five Finger Death Punch. There's something about their music that just inspires me and helps to to write. I also like listening to a lot of different natural sounds like the fall of rain, burning fire and wind sounds. It helps to relax me and allows me to focus more on what I'm working on because it blocks everything else out and the noise is a constant thing. I've been listening to a lot of Bon Jovi too recently. Not sure why, but it's phrase I'm going though. I'm also branching out into some new music, so i might give this section a more closer look next month.  

General/home

I'm currently doing a teaching course, which is the PTLLS one. It'll mean I can teach choice subjects in anywhere but a school/college. I'm not sure what I'm going to use it for right now, but its a good step on the teaching ladder, plus some of the skills I'm getting are useful in my job right now as some aspects of that does involve teaching. I've got some essays to get writing though and they are proving hard to do. Sure I'll get there soon enough though.

I've been making a teddy bear out of an old pair of denim jeans, but he so didn't turn out like the pattern and I've not finished him yet. I'm not too keen on him actually and I've made better things. Though it seems I'm good with felt but not much else! I guess I'm still a novice at all this sewing and creating though and its going to take more time to learn the skills and remember what I've to do. I'll try and carry on, but finding any spare time at the minute is getting harder.   

Lastly, I've been looking forward to it snowing, but so far we've not had a lot and its not stuck around! I do love the snow, but I don't like going out in it because of all the difficulties. I'm still hoping it'll snow more soon though. Maybe next time I write, it will have snowed some more? Anyway that's the end of this month's update. Here's one of my dogs, Sindy, enjoying the snow in my back garden to end things on.  


Images from: 

January poster, http://www.dreamstime.com/illustration/january.html
Book covers, author's own
Abandoned St Etienne Church, France, http://imgur.com/owSErIU
Tin can pen holders, http://diyandcraftsideas.com/diy-crafts/how-to-design-and-make-diy-pen-holder/
Album covers, author's own
Jean Bear,  author's own 
Sindy dog in the snow, author's own 

Friday, 23 January 2015

Book Review: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

249747

Hi readers, 

Today, I've chosen to look at another book I've read a number of times and really enjoyed. Artemis Fowl is aimed at older children and young teenagers, but I read this book as an adult and feel that adults would enjoy it just as much. It is the first in a series of eight- of which I've read all but the last one- and I did like all of them. It was published in 2001 and is set in Ireland, the home of the author Eoin Colfer, who is known for his children's books. It has won a number of awards and is currently being made into a movie.    

The plot  is that Artemis, a twelve year old genius boy, sets up a trap and kidnaps a fairy called Holly. As it turns out, these fairies are not the average kind and they also work with other creatures like centaurs and dwarfs. Holly is a member of the fairy police force and though she has a caring nature is also very determined and tricky. Whilst her friends try to rescue her, she plots her own escape and Artemis demands a ransom and also questions her about her people. The ending is really good and the whole plot feels really thought out and realistic, even though it has fantasy elements.

The characters are easy to connect with and likable. Mulch the dwarf has to be my favorite character because he is funny and lovable rouge of a character. All the characters seem to have goals and do develop over the course of the novel. I think young people would find them ease to relate too as well. All their dialogue is well written and each has a distinctive 'voice' created by accents, but this hasn't been over done. Some of the other background characters do appear in the other books too and some even get more development. 

The themes that appear deeply connect with the characters and plot as the main ones are; greed, family/friends, conflict, nature, technology/science. I'm sure that a young audience could connect with these as well as an adult one could. Also, I like that Artemis first appears as the villain, but later is shown to have done things to try and help his family and that he didn't really mean any harm to the fairies. 

Overall, I would recommend everyone giving this book a go. It has a really interesting story, the characters are enjoyable and it doesn't just feel like another children's book, it does reach out to try and include all ages. Even if you're not big on fairies/fantasy, there could be something else you like about it. 


Next week: another random book review and my monthly update! 

  
Image from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/249747.Artemis_Fowl

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Book Review: Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite

Lost Souls

Hi readers,

Today we are going to look at one of my all time favorite books and authors. I'm not sure how I first heard about Brite, but I do know that Exquisite Corpse was the first novel I read by her/him -though I did just look it up and Brite does now prefer to be known as a him, so little confusing there, but anyway- Lost Souls was the second book I read. What drew me were the vampires, because they feel far from the main stream ones, which in my mind are the ones before Twilight, but you get what I mean. Also, the way the story is written, because the writing really had its own 'voice' as it were.

The plot of Lost Souls can kinda be divided into two, as firstly there is the story of five vampires and their friendship/relationship. Secondly is the story of Steve, Ghost and Ann, who become tangled up in the vampires due to a few different events. The main setting is New Orleans, though we get to see some of the humans and vampires travelling about early on in the novel. The narrative spends a good amount of time with both sets of characters, who also have developing time and do really start to feel like real people.

I think the real story focus on the character Nothing, who sets out to find his real parents and discovers himself. He meets the vampires who turn him and they help him to achieve is goal. I won't go into too much detail, but there's no dramatic twist about this plot because it is the prologue of the novel. My favorite character happens to be Ghost. For some reason I can really connect with him, because though like all the other characters he has major problems - he can see ghosts and is haunted by visions, which often come true-he is very loyal and kind. He creates brotherly like relationships with his best friend Steve- they are in a band together called Lost Souls? -and some of the other characters.

It isn't just the vampires that makes me love this book so much, its the fact that it feels really gritty and gives a much darker, Gothic, view to New Orleans and life in America. I like how Brite isn't scared to write about topics that people might see as controversial, like homosexual relationships and incest. There is a great level of detail too and it does have that horror genre feel and not the supernatural as most vampire novels are now falling into.

Overall, I would recommend that anyone give Brite ago, even if you don't like vampires or horror, just to experience the refreshing way he writes and goes about controversial topics. I really do wish he had more books out there, because I do love his work.  
            

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Book Review: Prince Lestat by Anne Rice


Hi readers, 

I'm opening my new book reviewing with probably one of the most anticipated novels for horror, supernatural and vampire fans from last year. Being the massive Anne Rice and Vampire Chronicles fan that I am, I couldn't wait to read this and finally in the small hours of last night I finished it, almost two months after having started it. It be honest, I was a little disappointed. To make matters worse, it wasn't just one thing that I had issues with and right now I'm not going to be able to explain all the whys and hows, so, lets look at the key points. 

The first thing, was the segmentation of the novel. I understand that Rice's writing technique has improved over the many years she has been working and this was her first vampire story after fifteen years. However, unlike the plot and narrative structure of her other novels this one didn't have a linear feel to it, even though it was meant to be and I think this is because of the way the novel is divided up. 

Secondly, there is no real focus on one or a few characters, instead you get a lot of characters telling you different parts of the narrative, which sometimes shows their lives and other times gives you the bigger picture. There is also the switch between first person and third person narrative. For me this didn't actually work and maybe its because I'm a bit of an old fashioned reader, but I like my novels not to switch the narrative voice around and not to focus on such a large number of characters telling the story. The flow of things ends up becoming a bit lost and I felt distracted by this.    

Thirdly, the problem with there being so many characters, that you can become lost and start to forget who's who. Normally, I have good mind for that kind of thing, but towards the end of the novel, I was questioning if all the characters had really been necessary. I get part of the plot was to draw all these ancient vampires together to form a council and royal court, but many just seemed to faded into the background. Clearly, they all have their stories to tell and maybe Rice's next books will focus on them, but for me it was a case of character over-saturation.

Fourthly, I felt that parts of the story dragged on or weren't necessary. I know that Rice's writing can often be over descriptive and in the early Vampire Chronicles books I did enjoy this, but this time round, things felt repetitive and for me the last few chapters felt a bit useless. At other points the characters went over things the reader already knew and things the characters should have already known and I felt that maybe this was a bit of bad writing. 

Overall, my first impressions of Prince Lestat are mixed. The characters are well written and they still feel like themselves from the past books. The plot is interesting and does keep your attention, it feels 'new' too and it does tie in nicely with the series. However, it really is let down by the narrative structure and too many characters. If you are an Rice fan and have read the other books, than I'd recommend you give it a try, for anyone else and specially if you are new to Rice's books, you will need to have read some of the others before attempted this one because I don't think some of the characters and themes will be understandable. 

Hopefully, you've found that useful and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this novel. I'm not sure what I'm going to be looking at next week as I've got a few books lined up. Over on my other blog right now I'm looking for short story submissions, so please check that out at; http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/submission-guidelines/  
     

Links and images: 
 http://bookriot.com/2014/11/10/excited-prince-lestat/

Monday, 5 January 2015

Writing Techniques : Writing Prompts


Hi readers, 

Today and to kick off the new ideas I've had for my blog, I'm going to look at writing prompts and how they can be useful to us writers. I'm sure that many people are already aware of them and for me in the last few months they have become something of a reliable source for generating ideas and starting my creative writing pieces for my short story blog. For those that don't know about them, prompts can take many different forms including single words, whole sentences, dialogue and images, (all of which sometimes come with instructions) and you can use them to inspire you to write.

There is no right or wrong way when using prompts and no one is going to judge you for using one! I normally start my opening line or paragraph with the word or sentence or dialogue, then continue the story from there. With image prompts I normally start with introducing the setting or the character, before trying to include as much as the image as possible. One of my favorite examples of this comes from a short story I wrote about a piano in the woods and it can be read on my other blog, here:     http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/the-soldiers-piano/ One of the best things I have also found about using prompts is that you don't have to begin the story with them, you could have them appear at anytime or not at all. For example, removing them in the finally draft or just not including the prompt at all. 

Let's now look at some actual prompts. The first one I chose was a written prompt and these kinds seem very popular. There are so many pages and websites out there that list a whole load of these and they can be so useful for starting off imagination and writing.   

Writing Prompt

The key to these prompts is that it gets your mind asking questions, which hopefully will make you want to write in order to get answers. So, for example this prompt makes you ask: who is he? Why is he knocking on doors? What happened at the other doors? What is going to happen next? This really does kick start your brain into wanting to find out and from there you should be able to write a story all around this prompt. 

My next prompt is an image one. I'm a visual person, it's how I learn and think best, so I love image prompts more because I find I get a really good use out of them and can create much deeper stories. This is one my newest images on my Pinterest board (Pinterest is a great website by the way and it lets you group things together under different sections. I've included the link to mine below). So, if I'm going to use this image I'd start my story by describing a character walking down this road and coming across this gate. The image, like the word writing prompt, helps to raise questions, for example: where is this place? what's beyond the gates? what's going to happen, if anything at all? 

writing prompts - Google Search

The last thing I want to look at is physical writing prompt books, like the 642 Things To Write About one below. I own this book and have found it useful, though I just enjoy looking through it and giggling to myself more then actually using it for writing. There is a number of books and also ebooks available now packed with prompts similar to the ones above and they do work in the same way - get your mind and writing going-. Some of them even have blank spaces or pages which you can write in, so you don't feel stuck to your computer and notebook all the time. Some of the ebooks are even free to download like this one;  
Four Seasons of Creative Writing: 1,000 Prompts to Stop Writer's Block (Story Prompts for Journaling, Blogging and Beating Writer's Block) [Kindle Edition] by Bryan Cohen. (linked below) I recently downloaded this myself and though I've not used any of the prompts, most of them look really interesting and do most of the setting up of the story for you.


Overall, writing and image prompts can be great tools to help with any writer's writing. They can get your mind and imagination working and your fingers typing. They can be used in a number of ways; as warm up exercises, the opening line of your story or perhaps in a group or teaching situation. There seems to be an endless supply of them too, so you are always sure to find one that you can use. Also genre and themes are always nearly neutral and you can use them how you want to. If you are just starting out using prompts I'd recommend searching around on the internet first and gathering lots of free ones - in fact I'd recommend that to anyone. Having the prompts in a physical book or ebook which you have to pay for can be useful if you aren't near technology, or you like your breaks from it. I'd never tell anyone not to buy a book, but in this case and with so much being free online, I'd recommend going down that route instead. 

I hope this has been a useful post and you can let me know by commenting if you wish. Also, if you have any other writing techniques you'd like me to look at and try out. You can follow me in a number of different places and these were linked in my last post, so feel free to check it out. Up next in a few days is my book review on Prince Lestat, so I'll see you all then.

Links and Images:

http://www.invyn.com/category/writing-is-like-quotes/
http://thesarcasticmuse.tumblr.com/post/82864997733
http://www.pinterest.com/hails9/fantastical-stories/
http://www.amazon.com/Four-Seasons-Creative-Writing-Journaling-ebook/dp/B009GLMF7U/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1420493456&sr=1-3&keywords=writing+prompts
http://poetryismedicine.wordpress.com/

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A New Year, A New Start


Hi readers,

It's been a long time since I last wrote on here. I've been mega busy and this blog just fell to the side. I guess part of the problem was that I didn't seem to be getting much interested and I wasn't having fun any more reviewing books. That in a way is my own fault though, because I'm highly educated and wanted to review books in an essay style way, which just doesn't work that well with a blogging format. So, now I've decided to try and have another go at doing that, but compacting my book reviews to a limit of 500 words. I'll still be looking at the normal things of character, plot, writing style and my evaluation though.

I also want to do a new publishing schedule and for now it looks something like this:

  • A book review, once a week, (though not necessarily the current book I'm reading).
  • A review of writing technique(s) etc, at the start of each month, (how to and examining usefulness).
  • Creative writing piece, once a month, (see below about my sister blog). 
  • A monthly update, at the end of each month, (on what I've been doing and what's coming up).
I'm hoping that this will help and encourage me to write more on this blog and also all my readers will find it useful. You can also connect me if you have an suggestions or other comments. I have a number of ideas for this month already such as looking at writing prompts (probably my next blog post), reviewing Anne Rice's Prince Lestat and things I could write about for my monthly update.

I'm currently still writing and publishing daily my own short stories on my sister blog at: http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/ This is where all my creative writing will now take place and it just makes it easier for me to have two separate blogs instead of trying to mash everything together. Though, I might publish my most read story of the month up on here to try and generate some more interested in my writing. I should add that to the schedule. Please check it out. It's growing fast, but I could still use help to spread the word and gain more followers.  

Also, I have decided to try and do a reading challenge. I've posted the list below and also the link to it. I saw this on Facebook and thought I'd give it ago. It's a good way to expend my reading and book reviews. I believe I have got a lot of books that would qualify, which is great news because once again I'm watching my money this year. Even though, I now have a job! I finally got offered a paid position at the youth center I've been volunteering at for two years now. It's doing the same thing I was doing before - helping and running arts and crafts activities for 8-12 year olds- which is really great. I'm only doing one day/three hours at the minute, but hopefully that'll increase once I've done my trial period and finished my teaching course, which I'm currently doing on Thursday. I'll be writing more about these things in my monthly update post.

For now, I'll leave you reading through the reading challenge list.    


You can also follow on me on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thestoryfiles
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ironmaidenfan9
Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/user?u=327832
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=208056472&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
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Readwave :http://www.readwave.com/hayley.hardman.7/
Wordpress: http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/


Thanks for reading and your support. 
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Images and Links Used:

http://videohive.net/item/new-year-countdown-clock-2015-v2/6417745
http://writerswrite.co.za/50-lyric-titles-as-writing-prompts