Book Review: Blood Ties

Blood Ties (Castings Trilogy, Book 1)

Blood Ties by Pamela Freeman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blood Ties is the first book in The Castings Trilogy. It is also the first adult fiction novel the author has published,as she usually writes for children. I have read several of her children’s books and enjoyed them immensely. This book was no exception. In fact, it has qualities that make it stand apart from her previous writings. If you are a fan of the author, then you definitely will not be disappointed with Blood Ties.

The story is well written – smooth and interesting. The characters are not perfect people, which make them realistic, and they are likable and well rounded. And the world is believable yet enchanting.

I was especially impressed with the flow of the story. It is so easy to read, which makes it almost impossible to put down. From what I’ve heard, the second book (Deep Water) is quite the page turner so I’m looking forward to reading it soon. Another unique quality of the book is what I call the mini-stories of the minor characters. They give the story depth and allow the reader to view storylines from different perspectives, which is brilliant.

In all honesty, Blood Ties is the best adult novel I’ve read in a while. I highly recommend it.

Dribbling Words onto the Page

The great flow of recent weeks has suddenly become a little trickle. I only managed to write a grand total of about 800 words over the weekend compared to about 2,500 on other weekends. Why? I’m finding it difficult to write the last hours of the story for Mirror Image. This has nothing to do with not knowing what is supposed to be happening as the scene is perfectly clear in my mind. I just can’t find the right words and I feel like I’m waffling because of it.

I keep telling myself that it doesn’t matter. Just keep writing – waffle or not – and get the story finished. There is time enough later to make changes and get rid of the nonsense. Besides, this is a first draft and the manuscript is nowhere near perfect, so what makes this last scene so different?!

Then I thought that maybe I’m deliberately stalling because I don’t want to finish the manuscript and start the editing phase. But upon further thought I realised that this is a lot of hogwash. I can’t wait to finish the story. I’ve already planned how I’m going to tackle the edit, so what’s the big deal?

So, trickle or not, the words will continue to appear on the page. Even if it means writing 100 words a week until the manuscript is complete, I’ll get this scene done!

Mirrors, Cat’s and Caves

It’s strange when I think back and acknowledge my decision to walk away from writing at the end of last year. It feels like I was a different person then…and I probably was, for many reasons (none of which I’ll go into now). The transformation between then and now is incredible. More importantly, I’m excited by the way my mind is working overtime where writing is concerned.

Having always been a One Manuscript Woman, I’m suddenly having the time of my life with three writing projects at once. I don’t know if this new found method will last for long, it never has in the past, so I’m making the most of it while I can.

Anyway, the three projects are:

1. Mirror Image. You know the one I mean – the one where I keep reporting “I’ve only got 10,000 words to go”. I’m writing about 5,000 words a fortnight since I first said that and I’m still going. I am, however, in the last hours of the story, so I’m making solid progress.

2. Cat’s Eyes. I finished this manuscript a long time ago, but had reservations about its length. Those concerns no longer exist, so I am currently drafting a query letter. Admittedly, I’ve written the letter several times, but so far I’m still not happy with the results. But it’s getting closer and I won’t stop redrafting that letter until I feel it’s perfect!

3. Marlinor. This is an old project revisited. I’ve decided to scrap the entire thing and start again. I love the characters and the story itself, but there are some serious problems that need fixing. I’m currently rebuilding the history and recreating the world…and everything is falling into place extremely well. This project is a trilogy, but I can see a prequel happening too! (I’ve created a new category called “Marlinor Trilogy”; everything mentioned prior to today has been archived in “Marlinor Archives”.)

At the moment, my writing routine consists of me writing for Mirror Image Friday to Sunday, with a bit of query letter writing thrown in now and again. Monday to Thursday sees me doing research when I have time and, again, working on that query letter. What really matters is that this writing routine is working for me. I’m pleased about that.

Honestly, walking away from writing was the best present I’ve given myself. It allowed me to wind down and then, when I was ready, to rebuild my energy levels from the bottom up. It has allowed me to view … everything … from a different angle. And it has given me inspiration and excitement where writing is concerned, which I haven’t felt for a very, very long time.

Prosperity

Prosperity by Deborah Woehr is a ghost story set in USA. It’s about a woman who finds herself stuck in one of those freaky towns in the middle of nowhere. You know the type of place I mean, where all the locals are totally mixed up or just plain crazy. That alone makes it spooky. The one thing I can definitely say about this story is that it would make me think twice about driving (or should I say stopping) at a town like this if I were ever to visit the States. That…is unlikely to happen, so I should have no fears where that’s concerned.

The author has thought out the complicated plot line really well. The characters are well developed. And the setting is true to life (or as true to life as any non-American can tell anyway).

I do, however, have two complaints about the book. First, there is a lot of sexual references and swearing. Both do fit in with the characters and the plot, so neither of these things are in fact wrong and I doubt they could be called gratuitous, but for me it was too much. It all comes down to personal taste. Second, the third chapter (I think) introduced a lot of characters all at once and I became totally confused. My mind isn’t what it used to be, so it might just be me. I really don’t know. It took a while to work out who was doing what after that, which distracted me from the story, but once I got the characters sorted I settled back into the plot and the events took me through to the end.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot was complicated and the author did an awesome job bringing it all together. There was a nice (definitely not the right word for this story, but I don’t want to give anything away in case you are intending to read the book) twist near the end that I didn’t see coming, followed by a moment of uncertainty where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to happen. That moment left me thinking about choices we might make if we were thrown in a similar situation.

If you like a well written ghost story and you don’t mind swearing, then you should consider reading this book.

Cat’s Eyes: Getting Ready to Submit

Cat’s Eyes is the first book in a fantasy series for children aged 8 to 12 years. It has been 100% completed for some time now. However, something niggled at me about its length. At 30,000 words, I felt it was too short and this made me hold back from submitting it.

A few days ago I decided to ask a published author about this. I emailed Pamela Freeman, Australian author for children who has now also published the first two books in an adult trilogy. I briefly explained my concern and asked her advice. She was quick to get back to me and reassure me that the manuscript is the perfect length for the age group and that her own manuscripts varied between 22,000 and 35,000 words. This shouldn’t have surprised me because I did do my research and plan the stories so that they would be the desired length, but I guess with thick books like Harry Potter on the shelves I lost confidence in my own research. This will not happen again.

Anyway, this quick email exchange has taken all my concerns away and I now plan on writing the query letter and synopsis so that I can get it in the post. Since I don’t have an agent I’ve decided to take the “query approach” and send the covering letter, the synopsis and a sample of my writing. I will have no more than five queries out at any one time.

This is an unexpected turn of events that I hadn’t planned on…and it’s exciting. I will use part of my writing time over the weekend to get the “package” ready.

Note: I’ve added a link to Query Shark to the sidebar. There are some good tips to be found on the site.

The Path Ahead

Some weeks ago, I said I had approximately 10,000 words to write before reaching the end of Mirror Image. Yes, well, that was an understatement! I’ve written over 17,000 words since then and I would feel comfortable saying I still have at least 10,000 words to go.

Anyway, however many words are left to write I can tell you that the next scene is the first for the last day of the story. A lot is happening and the main characters are at breaking point, which is exactly where they should be at this stage of the story. I still have to push them a bit more and then … well, I can’t tell you … but soon after that “moment”, the story will be wound up.

Writing this story has been good for me – for two reasons.

First, it has helped me sort out my own emotions. I’ve always used writing as a form of escape and this story must be the best example of that. This is a story that delved into my personal space and into the inner most fears of my mind. From that came a much needed release that feels so positive and right.

Strangely, I just read the quote on my desk calendar:

For every feared thing there is an opposing hope that encourages us.
– Umberto Eco

The fear that I carry has been pushed into a deeper hole. The opposing hope shines brighter with each day. I can see that now and I want to help other people realise that too. This book can do that. I know it!

Second, the positive feelings I have about the story has been a motivation to write. I want this story to be told and I want people to read it and learn. This is important to me, which means I’m driven to keep writing. Considering I gave up writing at the beginning of this year, that is another positive step.

The writing will not stop when I’ve finished Mirror Image either. I am already thinking of my other unfinished projects in a new light. I recently mentioned somewhere that the first million words are just practice. Well, I’ve done my practice words and have moved into real writing and that feels good.

Writing Routines

I’ve been busy and for once I can say that partying has kept me away from writing. Believe me, it’s been a long time since I could say something like that. *grin*

The Speculative Realms party went well. Many thanks to those of you who dropped in to say hello. Your congratulations were much appreciated.

Now that the party is over … and the mess is (almost) cleaned up, I can return to some kind of normal mode again. I’m finding it a little difficult but, knowing me, it won’t be long before my mind will be slow enough to think rationally again. (Can’t you tell I’m not a party animal!?)

I haven’t written a single word this week, but I intend to fix that tomorrow night. My new writing routine has been established and I’m quite happy with it. I want to write 3,000 words a week. I think that’s a nice figure. Long term, it could amount to 156,000 words a year! The words will usually be written over three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Monday to Thursday nights find me too tired to write and I’ve given myself permission to take it easy on those nights. Of course, if I do write…it’s a bonus, but that hasn’t happened yet so don’t hold your breath there. Last weekend I wrote 2,500 words. I didn’t reach my goal, but I was close and I’m happy about that. Besides, I had a party on my mind so I’m happy to have any words at all.

How many words do you like to write each week and what writing routine works best for you?

Getting Inside Your Character’s Head

This week I’ve been too caught up in promoting the online book launch party for the anthology to do any writing. However, the weekend is here and I refuse to let spare hours in the day not be put to good use.

Let’s talk about writing for a change.

The first draft of Mirror Image is in the last stages of writing. Currently, I’m on the second last day of the story, but a lot has to happen in the coming hours which will take the story to the climax. The events have been fully planned, so I know exactly what has to be written and, generally, I’m having no trouble getting the words down.

However…one character does some research in a library to find out what’s happening to her. I’m having trouble writing the scene because, even though I know the results she’ll find, I can’t find the right words to express those findings. I suppose this comes back to “know what you write”. The subject matter is something I have experienced first hand, but it is something I have never researched. I guess I believe I should include some technical information to make the research results sound more plausible.

I spent some time on the internet tonight doing a spot of research, but couldn’t find a single website that was “believable”. Now I’m wondering what would happen if I went to the library and did the research my character is doing…what would I find? It’s an excellent question, in my opinion, and I suppose I’ll have to go to the library and find out!