Book Review: RealmShift

RealmShift

RealmShift by Alan Baxter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first ebook I’ve ever read and I’m happy to say that the experience was a good one. I read it on my iPod Touch, which I must admit to having some concerns about as the screen is quite small. However, that didn’t bother me at all. The text was clear and I developed no adverse side-affects such as eye strain. I certainly will be reading more ebooks in the future.

Now, about the book RealmShift. Here’s my review.

RealmShift is a mixture of genres, but it’s mainly horror. It reminded me of some of the Anne Rice books I read years ago – as in theme, not actual storyline. There are vampires, immortals, evil humans and tons of killer instinct, which always means blood and guts are sure to follow. Luckily, that doesn’t bother me.

Of course, there’s lots of swearing too. I’m not one for swearing, but I found I didn’t really have a problem with it in this setting. The characters are mainly male and they swear like troopers, which I find is true in real life so I guess that’s why I didn’t have much trouble accepting it in the story. The female character was much more reserved but when she resorted to more powerful words I accepted it because of the situation she was in at the time.

I was pleased to find characters with depth, characters I could relate to. Strangely, I could even understand why the bad characters were bad, which means they were well written and fully developed.

The story itself is fast paced. Something is always happening, or about to happen. There’s no holding back either. If someone has to die, the reader knows every detail. It certainly gets the imagination going in that regard. In fact, I feel as if I’ve tasted the life of a killer!

RealmShift also had a theme that I found was thought provoking. Yet at the same time, this same theme slowed the story down in sections because of the amount of explaining needed to get a point across. Yet it was important to the overall story and as it was religious based I understood how difficult it was for the author to make sure the reader understood something that is quite complex. The story put a different spin on the whole religion thing which I found quite fascinating. Ultimately, the message was to believe in oneself and stop relying on others and I think that’s a good message to give.

If you want to read a fast paced, action filled story, then you should definitely give RealmShift a read.

Voting Ends in a Week

With only a week of voting to go, it’s important to get your vote in. Don’t put it off until tomorrow because there is always something else to be done and you’ll end up not voting at all.

The authors of the entries should remind their own followers that voting is almost over. We have one entry that is strides in front of the others, so every vote counts.

Vote now! (Please.) 🙂

Some Mad Hope: When Nothing Is Good

I often roam the internet, making my way from one website to another, reading hundreds of words written by other people.  Those words sometimes anger me, at other times they make me cry, but today I found words that inspire.

Some Mad Hope: When Nothing Is Good.

This is a post that reminds us about the small things in writing.  The things that can be tedious and time consuming, but are very important to all writers.  It reminds us that after hours and hours of sitting alone and writing, we then sit for hours and hours alone and edit, before we sit for hours and hours proofreading.

When I read, if I see a single mistake my reaction is, “haha, a mistake!”  When I write, I’m conscious of this but it doesn’t stop the errors getting through.

The author of the post “When Nothing is Good” is correct when she says that nobody notices when everything goes well, but those same people are quick to jump up and down when something turns pear shaped.

I’d like to be remembered for a good story, not for a story full of errors, so I edit and edit and edit some more.  When a story flows nicely, the reader is taken on a lovely journey.  As writers, we have to ensure the reader is so absorbed in the story that nothing can distract them, especially typos, poor formatting and bad grammar.

When the Days are Long and Roads are Chosen

It’s been a bit quiet around here, but that isn’t because I haven’t anything to say, it’s because Christmas is fast approaching and things have suddenly become hectic. As I’m sure everyone is discovering.

I’m still travelling and working. That seems to take most of my days at the moment and will continue to do so well into the future, I foresee. This time of year is extremely busy, so there’s no time for slacking off at work and surfing the net. It’s not all bad though as I’ve been diligently working on planning my trilogy during my travelling time, which is no longer a trilogy, but more on that in a moment. At present, my travel time consists of writing in the morning and reading in the afternoon. I carry a mini-laptop for one and an iPod Touch for the other. I feel quite “up with the time” and it’s brilliant.

My first ebook experience is proving to be quite satisfying. Using the iPod Touch as an e-reader has been a good experience. It’s easy and light to carry. The screen is clear to read. I haven’t experienced any adverse side affects from reading a screen rather than a book. And, of course, the book I’m reading is entertaining which always helps.

The mini-laptop is great for writing. I have loaded all my files onto a flash drive so that I can go between computers without the fear of not being up-to-date (I found I was in a state of confusion prior to adopting this method). It took a while to get used to the smaller keyboard, but I’m finding that I can type with minimal errors now.

And what about that non-existent trilogy, you ask? Well, that’s an easy question to answer.

My idea was to write a trilogy. I had three stories vaguely mapped out in my mind with a thread or two that linked them all together. However, the idea for book 3 wasn’t coming together well. In fact, it fell in a heap and refused to be sorted out, no matter how hard I tried. The plot itself was quite good, but in reality I couldn’t find a way for my character to make it all pan out the way I wanted it to. This put a huge stumbling block in my path that I was finding impossible to find a way around. Then, one morning, I woke up early and lay staring at the ceiling for ages thinking about it and realised that the story wasn’t possible and it had to be dropped. That quickly allowed me to store the second story as a possible future stand alone with other characters in another setting, which meant the trilogy was reduced to a single stand alone book.

Since making that decision, the planning is forging forward nicely. My characters have shifted in their personalities, the plot is changing continuously to fit a stand alone and I’m pleased with what I have so far.

When the days are long and roads are chosen, I’m glad everything is panning out just right for me.

In other news, the number of votes for the competition is steadily rising. There will be no more hints until later next week.

Book Review: Assassin’s Quest

Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy, #3)

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The final book of The Farseer Trilogy was, for me, excellent yet disappointing. It seems strange to put those two words together, as they contradict one another, but not to use both words would not be telling the whole truth. Let me try to explain, without giving anything important away.

At the end of the second book, Fitz was left for dead. Buck Castle was being plundered by the new king. Loyal followers of the real king were doing what they could to preserve life while the Red Ships continued to forge the citizens of the Six Duchies. Life as everyone knew it was no more.

As a whole, this trilogy was rich and complex. The characters were deep and riveting. I sit and ponder how the author planned this story and am filled with awe at the task she completed. I admire the strength of words, the surprising twists and turns and the excellent reasons for why everything happens. I cannot fault any of these things.

My only real complaints are that Assassin’s Quest was over 700 pages long and I felt as if I was being dragged through a number of those pages unwillingly. The story dragged on and on in the middle, when I would have thought a crisp pace would have been the better option. I began to loose the connection I had with the characters as each new round of “beating” presented itself. My second complaint is that the ending left me feeling disappointed. To go through all that and then for that ending to be laid out before me was not what I had wanted or hoped for. As I mentioned before, I cannot fault the reasoning for the ending as it all made perfect sense, but it wasn’t what I wanted for the main character. It just seemed so unfair, almost like a punishment.

Although I have not raved about this last book in the trilogy, I would recommend it to anyone who really enjoys reading fantasy. I am not sorry I read the book or the trilogy and I certainly will include the trilogy as a whole on my favourites list.

I have the Liveship Traders Trilogy on my bookshelf, but I believe The Tawny Man Trilogy takes up Fitz’ story fifteen years later and I would really like to get a copy of those three books, which shows that I am more than willing to read more by this author.

Legacy Family Tree Software

When building a family tree it’s important to chose software that isn’t restricting. I’ve used several family tree programs but most of them always had something missing. Some looked great, but were not user friendly. Others were user friendly, but didn’t give the reports I wanted. Others still had the tag of a family tree maker but left me feeling incredibly stupid as the program was so difficult to navigate and use.

Eventually, I discovered Legacy Family Tree and I honestly haven’t looked at any other genealogy software since. It’s easy to install and use. It allows me to print all different types of reports. I can perform a multitude of searches. There’s a bookmark facility and also a note taking function that I find helpful. I can add photos of all types to individuals and family groups. There are functions that will search from the program directly on a number of websites and display the results (I’ve found new ancestors through this function alone). This software will even generate a complete, functional website for me.

I’ve used the software for several years now – over five years. I have no complaints. And…at the moment Legacy family tree is offering the deluxe version of their software at a 10% discount until the end of this month. If you want to take advantage of this special you must use the word November as the coupon code in the checkout. Remember, this offer expires on 30 November 2009.

Competition Update

I’ve been away for a few days. Unfortunately, it rained most of the time we were away but that didn’t stop us making the most of the change of scenery. We enjoyed ourselves. Yes, we walked in the rain (how romantic; pity we got the sniffles) and our puppy fell in the river (he disappeared completely under the water and when he surfaced he looked terrified; my partner was preparing to jump in to save him, but his dog instincts brought him to the bank). Other than that, we really did enjoy ourselves.

Whilst we’ve been away, the voting for the competition continued and today I’m giving an official update on how it’s going.

One entry has pulled slightly ahead of the three that are coming equal second. And…at the other end of the scale, one entry hasn’t received a vote as yet. That can, of course, change in a heartbeat. Please take the time to read all the entries and vote. It will only take half an hour of your time and you could win a prize!

Another update will follow later in the month.

Author Interview: Pamela Freeman

This month I am pleased to present an interview with Australian author, Pamela Freeman, who has many publications to her credit – some of the titles for children and young adults include The Willow Tree’s Daughter, The Murderer’s Apprentice and the Network Mysteries; and for adult, The Casting Trilogy.

Thank you for your time, Pamela. Please tell us a bit about your writing background.

I started writing professionally as a scriptwriter for children’s television, and began writing stories for kids then. I’d written stories for adults before, but never submitted anything anywhere – I didn’t have any confidence in them (and reading them over, I think I was right!). My first short story was published in 1990 and my first children’s book, The Willow Tree’s Daughter, came out in 1994. Since then, I’ve published twenty books. The Castings Trilogy (Blood Ties, Deep Water and Full Circle) are my first books for adults.

I’ve read several of your books, even the ones for the younger audience, and was impressed. My favourite is The Casting Trilogy. I’m interested to know if there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

No, not really. I first thought about it when I was around 12, but I had a vague idea that I needed to have a really interesting life before I started writing, so around 15 I decided I wanted to work in television, and set my sights on that first. I think that did me no harm, frankly, as TV writing gives you a great apprenticeship in story-telling.

I didn’t know you started out writing for television. That must have been quite different to novel writing. Tell us about your latest publication?

My most recent book is Full Circle, which is the third and final volume of the Castings Trilogy. I hope people who have enjoyed the first two books will feel satisfied by this one!

For kids’ books, my most recent publication is Victor’s Challenge, which is a funny chapter book for younger readers, a sequel to Victor’s Quest, my most popular books for kids. It has great illustrations by Kim Gamble.

full-circle

I must admit that I can’t wait to get my copy of Full Circle. The first two books were excellent! What project are you working on at the moment?

Several! I am working on Ember and Ash, a stand alone novel set in the same universe as the Castings Trilogy. I promise, it’s not the fourth book in the trilogy! It’s set more than 20 years after Full Circle, and involves earlier characters only peripherally. We get to see the Ice King’s realm, and discover more about the old Powers of the Domains.

Sounds interesting. Is your life reflected in the stories you write?

No, fortunately I haven’t encountered too many blood thirsty ghosts out for revenge recently! Seriously, I think an author’s life always influences what they write, but in my case the influence is indirect, more a matter of theme and flavour than content or characters drawn directly from people I know. A couple of my children’s stories have been sparked by incidents in my own life, but they tend to be just the jumping off point for a very different story.

Where do you get inspiration for your stories and characters?

So many different places that it’s hard to say. The Castings Trilogy was actually inspired by a lecture Bishop Desmond Tutu gave on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission – a fairly obscure inspiration, which I hope will make sense once people have read Full Circle.

Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

If it’s a short story, not always. If it’s a novel, pretty much, although things do change in the writing and surprises can always trip you up. I prefer to know the end because I like to make plots interesting and fair for the reader, so they don’t end up feeling that the solution to whatever problem the heroes are facing just came out of thin air.

Satisfying the reader isn’t as easy as it sounds, so I understand what you are saying here. Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, I would like to know how do you manage it?

I usually have several stories at different stages – one I’m actually writing, one with the editors, one with an illustrator, and so on. So I concentrate on one book at a time, but I juggle two or three over the course of a year.

I suppose it all comes down to discipline. How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Basically, I write while my son is at school. Towards deadline time, I may also need weekend writing time, but I try to keep that to a minimum. Having juggled a career as a writer and a consultant in organisational communication for quite a few years before he was born, I was already used to fitting my writing in around something else, which was helpful.

What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Three things – just do it. Write, write, and keep writing. Second, find a community of people who can read and critique your work with some understanding. I workshop everything I write and I find it invaluable.

And thirdly, listen to criticism and be prepared to do the redrafts. The main difference between a professional writer and an amateur is the number of drafts they’re prepared to do.

Oh, I wish this was a live interview because I’d go off in another direction here and ask you more about rewrites and drafts. But…it’s not…so I’ll continue on. Who is the person behind the writer? What do you do when you are not writing?

I’m a mum! I do all the mum things – except cleaning. Not really a cleaner. But I manage my son’s soccer team, and take him to a multitude of sports, and cook (I enjoy cooking a lot) and steal time for reading and TV and Facebook. I like computer games (especially logic puzzles), I love the net, I like making music with my family, I garden a bit… just a life, like anyone else’s, except I walk into bookshops and there are my books, which sometimes seems quite strange! I got a fan email from India the other day (I didn’t even know you could buy the books in India) and it was astonishing, knowing my words had reached someone in Mumbai and meant something to them.

It’s unfortunate that many fans don’t see authors as people with real lives so it’s good to see that you do the same things as other people. It makes you more human…if you know what I mean. Who would you chose to play the star role if your book(s) was made into a movie and why?

For Ash, I’d pick Daniel Radcliffe – looks right, acts well, right age… perfect!
For Bramble, I just don’t know… I’d love to hear suggestions.

Maybe readers of this interview will make some suggestions for you. Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

I think sometimes you get to a point in a book where you don’t quite know what to do next. Some people, I think, suffer more from this than others. This is when I love having more than one story on the boil. I switch to the other one and let my unconscious deal with the problem. I know that some other writers have more difficulty with this than I do – talking it out usually unblocks things for me, or going for a walk. On the other hand, I think ‘writer’s block’ is sometimes a code for either laziness or fear – being afraid the book won’t be good enough is a good way to freeze your creativity! All you can do is ignore that and just keep writing, even if what comes out at first is total crap and you have to throw it away later.

What are your writing goals for the future?

More books! Lots more books! Some set in the same universes as the Castings Trilogy and Victor, some not.

Secretly, what I would really like is to have many, many people waiting for the next book in the way I wait for my favourite authors’.

There can never be enough books, so keep writing them and people will keep reading them. Do you have anything else you would like to mention?

My next book for kids will be a non-fiction picture book about Lake Eyre in the centre of Australia – usually a dry salt pan, every ten years or so it floods and creates an extraordinary oasis, full of life. So keep an eye out for The Dreaming Lake.

Thank you for your time, Pamela. It’s been wonderful “chatting” with you and I wish you all the best for the future.

If you would like to learn more about Pamela and her books, please visit her websites – Pamela Freeman and The Castings Trilogy.