Review of His Guilty Secret By Helene Fermont Written by Daniel Stubbings

his guilty secretToday is my day on the ‘His Guilty Secret Blog Tour’. Thank you to Helene Fermont and BookPublicistUK for inviting me. It’s been wonderful to be involved.

Book Synopsis

When Jacques’s body is discovered in a hotel room his wife, Patricia, suspects he has been hiding something from her.

Why was he found naked and who is the woman who visited his grave on the day of the funeral? Significantly, who is the unnamed beneficiary Jacques left a large sum of money to in his will and what is the reason her best friend, also Jacques’s sister, Coco, refuses to tell her what he confided to her?

Struggling to find out the truth, Patricia visits Malmö where her twin sister Jasmine lives and is married to her ex boyfriend. But the sisters relationship is toxic and when a family member dies shortly after, an old secret is revealed that shines a light on an event that took place on their tenth birthday.

As one revelation after another is revealed, Patricia is yet to discover her husband’s biggest secret and what ultimately cost him his life.

His Guilty Secret is an unafraid examination of the tangled bonds between siblings, the lengths we go to in protecting our wrongdoings, and the enduring psychological effects this has on the innocent…and the not so innocent.

My Review

This is a book where secrets won’t remain buried, coming out in scandalous tales of betrayal, forbidden love, jealously, manipulation, and death. Making every secret take on its own life.  The chapters seemed to melt away as Helene took me on an emotional journey, through beautifully woven subplots, characters, the roaring metropolis of London, and the Scandinavian jewel of Malmo, adding both urban and cultural dynamics to a story. When it ended I was screaming with despair.

The first chapter hooks you straight away, igniting your inner detective as you begin to put together the clues. Who is Jacques? What are his hidden secrets? Who is the woman he is travelling with? Is she more than just a mistress? And what is the gift they have both been given? Helene’s writing style only helps to heighten these feelings as you can imagine her voice coming through with every word as you begin to take notes connecting the dots. It is an explosive start.

Relationships are critical to the story throughout because all of the characters’ lives entwine with one another. Helping expose flaws that make these characters come to life as they go through the trails of second guesses, paranoia, and deceit. This is shown to us in several interesting chapters. Every time you turned a page it seemed like a new secret was waiting to entice us in, from Coco’s drug and alcohol abuse, to Jasmine’s real reason for the toxicity towards her sister and Isabelle protecting Jacques’ most deceitful secret of all. As well as Patricia’s relationship with Jacques, what did she really know about her husband? What was he hiding? Why is he now dead? You just didn’t know what was coming next.

The relationship which gripped me from the beginning was Patricia and Jasmine. The pure bitterness which Jasmine shows for Patricia is astounding and I loved it. It doesn’t help matters that Jasmine is married to her sister’s ex Patrik, however, as their relationship unravels we see multiple reasons for the sisters’ distrust of one another. From an untold secret within Patricia and Patrik’s relationship, a family secret that has affected Jasmine her entire life. This subplot within the story really explored how even though you are sisters it doesn’t mean you will get along. This is one of Helene strongest points as a writer – she digs deep into the characters emotions and makes them identifiable with her readers.

The character of Jacques haunts every page. His deep manipulative ways are burning in the background. The level of control he has over the three main women in this hollowing tale is mind-blowing and even after his death they can’t seem to escape. These different manipulations are displayed to the reader throughout the book in many different ways giving us a unique insight into how he has been able to deceive and lie to them all. Some of the key ones are Patrica and Isabelle’s deep love for him, Isabelle hiding their gift and Coco’s blind loyalty even though it could permanently damage her and Patricia’s relationship. This shows how Jacques’ shadow still influences their daily lives. As Patricia fights to find out the truth about Jacques mysterious death, Helene exposes us to these abuses of power giving us key information into what motivated Jacques to continue his flawed double life. Jacques is the lynch pin of the book effecting every character in both large and small ways. Some of these are very clear to the reader from the start, where others take time to be understood.

The presentation of Jacques from all three women’s viewpoint allows for both strength and vulnerability to be shown. I feel we see this most as the story unfolds with Patricia, as she begins to question everything she thought she knew about the man she loved. Helene presents this to the reader in several ways, from angry confrontations with Coco who she knows is hiding something behind her booze and drug induced haze and her desperate attempt to repair her relationship with Jasmine after returning to her childhood home of Malmo. Patricia is a character that tests your emotions to the limit and who we are also able to see the most development from throughout the story.

This is a deeply disturbing read at times. Allowing the reader to question and discuss many everyday issues. Plunging you into a world of secrets and lies which could truly destroy a person. That is what I enjoyed most about this read. Helene isn’t afraid to write these taboo subjects from alcohol misuse to infidelity. This book has it all. This is a 4.5 star read perfect for anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.

I received my copy from the Book Publicist for an honest review. This doesn’t affect my views on the book.

His Guilty Secret poster

 

 

 

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Guest Post by Author David Stuart Davies on his new crime thriller Blood Rites Posted By Daniel Stubbings

Today I am part of the Blood Rites blog tour and it is a great honour. Thank you to Abby Fairbrother and Urbane publications for inviting me. Also thank you to David for his amazing book.

About the Author-

DSD

David Stuart Davies is an author, playwright and editor. His fiction includes six novels featuring his wartime detective Johnny Hawke, Victorian puzzle solver artist Luther Darke, and seven Sherlock Holmes novels – the latest being Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Legacy (2016). His non-fiction work includes Starring Sherlock Holmes, detailing the film career of the Baker Street sleuth. David has also penned a Northern Noir trilogy of gritty crime novels set in Yorkshire in the 1980s: Brothers in Blood, Innocent Blood and Blood Rites.

David is regarded as an authority on Sherlock Holmes and is the author of two Holmes plays, Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act and Sherlock Holmes: The Death and Life, which are available on audio CD. He has written the Afterwords for all the Collector’s Library Holmes volumes, as well as those for many of their other titles.

He is a committee member of the Crime Writers’ Association and edits their monthly publication Red Herrings. His collection of ghost and horror stories appeared in 2015, championed by Mark Gatiss who said they were ‘pleasingly nasty.’

David is General Editor of Wordsworth’s Mystery & Supernatural series and a past Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. He has appeared at many literary festivals and the Edinburgh Fringe performing his one man presentation The Game’s Afoot – an evening with Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle. He was recently made a member of The Detection Club.

Authors Links: Web: http://www.davidstuartdavies.co.uk/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/DStuartDavies @DStuartDavies Via Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/david-stuart-davies/

Book Synopsis-

Blood Rites is a Northern thriller set in Huddersfield, Yorkshire in the 1980s featuring Detective Inspector Paul Snow. DI Paul Snow has a personal secret. He is a homosexual but is desperate to keep it secret, knowing it would finish his career in the intolerant police force of the time. As this personal drama unfolds, he is involved in investigating a series of violent murders. All the victims appear to be chosen at random and to have no connection with each other. After the fourth murder, Snow is removed from the case for not finding the killer but continues investigating the matter privately. Gradually, Paul manages to determine a link between the murder victims, but this places his own life in great danger. Can Paul unmask the killer as he wrestles with his own demons?

Release date 9th November 2017

Exclusive extract about his new crime thriller Blood Rites

My Life of Crime

David Stuart Davies

The room is quiet. I take my seat in the semi-circle and give a silent nod to the others in the group and wait for my turn. When it comes, I stand up, holding a copy of Blood Rites, my latest novel in my right hand and in a clear voice, I state, ‘My name is David Stuart Davies – and I am crime writer.’

Well, I have been an aficionado of crime fiction since the age of twelve. It was in my salad days that I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes after encountering him on the school library shelves. The Hound of the Baskervilles was the particular volume in question and I devoured it with glee. Around the same time the local television station was screening the Basil Rathbone films. Those two happenstances sold me into Sherlockian slavery for life.

Eventually I read the whole of the Holmes canon, all 56 short stories and four novels. I wanted more. What could I do? The answer was obvious: write my own Sherlock adventures. Although this juvenilia was corny, creaky and very amateurish it helped to deepen my love of the character and the art of creating characters and mysteries.

When I went to university, I wanted to write my final dissertation on Conan Doyle but I was told in no uncertain terms that he was not an important enough author for such a project. As an antidote to this dismissal of the great man, for my own amusement, I began writing an article on the films of Sherlock Holmes – a particular passion of mine. The piece just grew and before I knew it I had a book length manuscript. I sent it off to a publisher and, glory be, it was accepted. So the year I received my degree I also had my first book published, Holmes of the Movies. Peter Cushing agreed to write the

introduction and I had the thrill of meeting the great man and begin a correspondence with him.

My first published Holmes novel was Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair in which I mixed Conan Doyle’s characters with those of Anthony Hope’s from The Prisoner of Zenda. My second Holmes novel continued this crossover approach by having Holmes tackle Count Dracula in The Tangled Skein.

I continued to write Holmes novels – as I still do – but around 15 years ago I thought that it was about time I invented my own detective. That’s when I came up with Johnny Hawke – Johnny One Eye. He was a private detective working in London during the Second World War. He was a promising young policeman working at Scotland Yard as war broke out in 1939 and so, like every patriotic fellow, he joined up to fight for his country. However, during training a rifle exploded on the firing range blinding him in one eye. He was invalided out of the army and the police could only offer him a desk job because of his disability. This was too tame for adventurous Johnny so with his compensation money he set himself as a private detective, determined to fight for his country on home territory dealing with criminals and all enemies of decency and law and order. The first novel was called Forests of the Night. Five other books followed: Comes the Dark, Without Conscience, Requiem for a Dummy, The Darkness of Death and A Taste for Blood. All are available as eBooks now.

When I felt the Johnny Hawke saga had run its course, I returned to the Victorian era with a hero of my own: Luther Darke. He is a somewhat dissolute and eccentric fellow, a wealthy artist, a lover of alcohol but an ace ‘puzzle solver’ who is often consulted by Inspector Edward Thornton of the Yard to help clear up a little mystery. Darke appeared in 7 short stories in The Darke Chronicles. I was particularly proud of the

first tale in the collection, The Curzon Street Conundrum, which is a cunning locked room mystery.

Then came Detective Inspector Paul Snow. I wanted to have a policeman working in my home town of Huddersfield. Colin Dexter used Oxford for Morse; Ian Rankin used Edinburgh for Rebus; I would use Huddersfield for Snow. I decided to set the novels in the 1980s before DNA and other forensic discoveries made policing less cerebral and more scientific. Today crimes can be solved by a microscope and a computer. I wanted personal interaction.

Snow had to be different from all the other sleuths on the block. I decided to make him gay. This wasn’t a casual or cynical decision. I remembered a colleague and friend when I was teaching who was gay. He was terrified that other members of staff and the pupils would find out and make his life hell. He lived with this danger hanging over him. I saw that this was a situation for many gay people, especially in the 1980s. It was a time when homosexuals were seen as comic characters or sexual threats. With Paul Snow as a high ranking officer in the police force, which at the time had quite a homophobic culture, this terrible situation could be explored with sensitivity and sympathy. Despite the danger of exposure, Snow had to carry on his job dealing with terrible crimes, desperate to catch the real villains in society, while protecting his own back. It was only later that I saw a connection between Paul and Johnny One Eye: two men on the periphery of mainstream society doing their level best to clean up those mean streets of Murdersville.

The first novel, Brothers in Blood concerns a trio of young men, who as teenagers go out to kill someone for fun. It provides them with a high which normal life fails to give them. As they get older and move away from Huddersfield, they still meet up once a year to murder a stranger – for fun! And then something happens which forces them

to kill for a purpose and their brotherhood is now under threat. Snow investigates only to discover threads of his own life entangled with the crime.

The second in the series, Blood Rites, concerns the murders of a group of young children. Snow identifies the link between the victims, but the murderer has gone to ground. During his investigation Paul meets a young woman, Matilda, for whom he has some affection. He likes her and they get on well. Reluctantly he asks her out. On one level he realises that he is using her as his ‘moustache’ – a term used by gay men for women who give them heterosexual ‘respectability’. However, Paul really likes Matilda, a secondary school headmistress, and feels warm towards her – but in essence his affection is platonic rather than sexual. He is aware that in the long term this relationship cannot go anywhere and this preys on his conscience. Certainly, for him, marriage would be the ultimate deceit. He is too decent a person to go down that road. Complications arise when he is propositioned by a fellow officer and he has to deal with this dangerous scenario while carrying out his investigations.

In the final novel in the trilogy, Blood Rites, while Paul is searching for a serial killer at loose in Huddersfield. There is no apparent connection between the victims and so Paul meets a brick wall at every turn. He feels the murderer is taunting him. Meanwhile Matilda is pressing him to take their relationship to the next level. Matters grow more complicated when her estranged gay brother turns up and takes a fancy to Paul. Once again his feelings are in turmoil, but greater shocks are in store when he finally tracks down the killer which leads to a heart stopping climax.

I have to say that I am proud of the Snow novels and genuinely believe I have created a memorable trilogy of crime stories. If you do not gasp out loud as you reach the final pages of Blood Rites, I will be most surprised.

 

BRBT

 

Guest Post by Louise Dean Award Winning Author and Creator of Kritikme.com Posted by Daniel Stubbings

Offering advice on how to write and  information on her 90 day course read on:

The Five ‘fs’ that make great novels

As a writer I am known for my frank and darkly comic novels and have been writing for twenty years, but it’s only in the last few months that I’ve undertaken to examine my own process as part of the ‘apprenticeship’ I offer to novelists in my creative writing course at Kritikme.com. I took a close look at the mechanics of storytelling in classic literary novels and discovered that all longer form stories are tragedies and underpinning them are five elements that date back to Aristotle’s own study of the tragedy in his ‘Poetics.’ I have dubbed these the Five F’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating to would-be writers the pre-fabrication of plot or rigorous and lengthy plotting. When it comes to ‘plot’ I’d rather you did not. Tools for plotting, spreadsheets and charts become an alternative to writing. You think you’re ‘writing’, but you’re not writing.

‘Now listen carefully; except in emergencies, when you are trying to manufacture a quick trick and make some easy money, you don’t really need a plot….’ Katherine Ann Porter.

The story of a novel is propelled by a major moral crisis. The idea for a great novel can best be phrased in a paradox. Try noting one down one today. It’s easy; the rub between two opposing ideas will give you the spark of a novel. Dying man learns to live. That was mine for my first novel Becoming Strangers which won a couple of prizes The Betty Trask and Le Prince Maurice and found itself on the Dublin International Literary and the Man Booker longlist too. So, put the kettle and grab a pen and write your paradox down on the back of an envelope.

As they won’t be happy until they’ve done one, I ask my Kritikme.com writers to prepare a plot and then I suggest they throw it away.

I don’t think I could bring myself to the white page every day if I knew for sure what would happen next. As I explain to my writers at the very outset, and no doubt they find it either rash or reprehensible – prepare yourself for something like a love affair. As you may know, these are finest when brief and intense. Stephen King recommends a season, or ninety days, as the perfect timing for an affair of the heart, which a novel most certainly is. He’s right. You need to change your ways and hunker down.

The structure of a novel is important, but it’s not as important as creating work that’s driven by the main character’s compulsion to avoid facing what he or she must face to grow and become a hero or heroine. So the structure must be relegated to the creation of material, ruthlessly. That’s the gambit, that’s the game changer.

‘The structure of a piece is often something that happens quite late. Normally you can only decide what to do with what you’ve got when you can see what it is that’s there.’ Hanif Kureishi

It’s the secret to novel success, but it’s terribly hard to stop yourself biting the nails of your writing hand, which is where the routine, rigour and group mentality come into their own. You’re being encouraged held to account and a word count.

Once your material has started to take life, the structure can be applied to it, helping you make sense of what you. It is only at the back end that we draw upon the Kritikme Five F’s tragedy which unfold sequentially in a longer story:

  1. Flaw. The situation which accommodates his or her fatal flaw or moral problem shows signs of no longer being tenable….it is shifting.
  2. False hope. Your hero or heroine’s remedy seems to succeed … but fails terribly causing them serious damage or a reversal of fortune.
  3. Flight. He or she runs from the situation and gets insight into their flaw, recognising their failing.
  4. Fury. In deep, he or she rages against the hell around them.
  5. Facing it. They emerge from the fight with deep acceptance of their mortal condition and reconciliation with their true universal nature, either in life or death.

A novel lives and dies on whether your hero or heroine lives or dies. The Five F’s will see them – and you – through and despatch us at the front door of a home truth; that our welcome on this earth is one which begs each us to be able to take leave with decency.

Anyone who would like to write a book can write a novel, so long as they read books. What’s more you can write a novel and hold down a day job. You should write it in ninety days without fussing over plot, and apply the Five F’s when your material is in your hands. Another old chestnut I’d like to roast is that this is a lonely, solo, undertaking requiring a dusty garret with a sulking cat. On the contrary, it’s good to write alone, but it’s better to write alone in great company and we can thank advances in technology for the virtual companionship afforded by a community like Kritikme for making that possible.

‘My novel took up the sweetest part of my mind and the rarest part of my imagination; it was like being in love and better. All day long when I was busy … I had my unfinished novel personified almost as a secret companion and accomplice following me like a shadow wherever I went, whatever I did.’ Muriel Spark.

Louise Dean is an award-winning author published by Penguin and Simon & Schuster and nominated for The Dublin International Literary Award, The Guardian First Book Prize, and the Man Booker Prize. She is the founder of Kritikme.com, an online creative writing course which teaches people how to write a novel in ninety days. You can get a 10% discount on this course by using the code MYNOVEL10 at the check-out.

Thank you to Book Publicist for getting me involved.km

 

 

Review of Deadlands by Lloyd Otis Written by Daniel Stubbings

Book Synoposis

Dead Lands is a thrilling crime story set in the 1970s. When a woman’s body is found a special team is called in to investigate and prime suspect Alex Troy is arrested for the murder. Desperate to remain a free man, Troy protests his innocence, but refuses to use his alibi. Trying to protect the woman he loves becomes a dangerous game – questions are asked and suspicions deepen. When the prime suspect completes a daring escape from custody, DI Breck and DS Kearns begin the hunt. Breck wants out of the force while Kearns has her own agenda and seeks revenge. Breck has his suspicions and she wants to keep it from him, and a right-wing march provides an explosive backdrop to their hunt for Troy.

My Review

This is a gripping and gritty crime thriller, that will have you on the edge of your seat from the first page. The book opens with the brutal murder of a woman told from the perspective of the murderer simply known as the messenger.

As a reader straight away your trying to put together the clues. Who is the messenger, and why does he want this woman dead.  The language used by Lloyd is bone chilling, and puts you as a reader in the mind of both the murderer, and victim in a unique way completely submerging you in this violent act.

Fast forward to the investigation, and this is where we met the dynamic duo of Arlo Breck and Patricia Kearns. Two detectives part of the sensitive case unit (SCU) with a number of their own issues, to add to a plot which already has you wondering what on earth is going to happen next.

Lloyd has been very clever in how he has presented both characters to his audience. Giving us deep insights into both their backgrounds, but his style of writing his enabled to him to do it in a way were you don’t feel bombarded with information. Therefore allowing the reader to gradually form their own feelings on both characters. For example in the case of Breck, Lloyd slowly gives us parts of his life. His guilt over the unsolved attack on his girlfriend, his constant fight with his feelings for his coworker Beatrice, and his suspicions over his partner Kearns, make for an intriguing character who feels more human with every sentence. Helping us explore his motivations as well as make us begin to question whether he will be able to solve the case.

I found Kearns to be my favourite character. I just felt drawn to her in ways I usually don’t in crime thrillers with female characters. I loved her back story how her loyalty was constantly been thrown into question. What was she hiding, what was her involvement with the case as she harbored a deep secret from her past. Could she potentially carry out the ultimate betrayal, and what secret from her past haunts her from this case. These questions are all posed, and I loved how her chapters were written, they gave nothing away making for an ending which you are just not expecting. Therefore allowing for more development of her character in future cases.

When the first murder scene is investigated, it seems like an open and shut case, due to a credit card and a written note with the name Alexander Troy being found at the scene by Breck.  However when two Alexander Troy’s are discovered. The race is on to discover who is the real Alexander Troy, and why would he carry out two brutal murders.

Another element which adds a different dimension to the story is it set in 1970s London. When policing was different, racial tension was at an all time high, and police corruption was front page news. The book is played out against the backdrop of an anti fascist march, and introduces another strand of characters which further heightened a plot with so many subplots, that your adrenaline doesn’t get a moment’s peace. I just loved the old-fashioned ways, no mobile phones, no laptops. Just good old knocking down doors and taking names. This book is perfect for anyone who enjoys Martina Cole, and Mark Billingham. It is both darkness and light, and I cant wait to see what Lloyd comes up with next it is a 5 star read.

Thanks to Urbane Publications for my copy for an honest review. This does not effect my thoughts.

Review of The Old Guard By Greg Rucka written by Daniel Stubbings

Of late I have found myself been drawn back to my childhood love of comics. Everybody loves the classics. Saying that I wanted to move away from the well-known comics and find something new and fresh. That would make me salivate like a dog with rabies until the next issue hit the shelf.

I am pleased to say I found it. Its called The Old Guard by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez. The first page draws you straight in this is a fairy tale of blood and bullets, It is the story of one woman and three men who cannot die. Mostly. Their names are Andy, Nicky, Joe and Booker. It’s a story about time, and age and ages, and about friendship and love, and regret. I mean if that doesn’t grab your attention then I don’t know what will.

As the series opens up we find out that the four are an elite team of combat operatives similar to the SAS.  Which have been sent on a mission by an old friend but it’s not as it seems. This set us up for a ride that will take us from the deepest jungle to the city of love Paris. As they go in search of truth and hopefully revenge as well as encountering an unexpected surprise along the way.

This series of comics is currently only five issues old, and already we have seen some major character developments, as they are being told in installments giving us all four main characters viewpoint.

The first five have been told mainly from the point of Andy. Which I have to say so far is my favourite character, giving you as a reader a sense of mystery throughout. You just never seem to know what is quite going through her head. She is a very complex being having a deep internal struggle with herself, as wrestles with her own immortality. Trying to figure how she fits into this group of immortals who have nobody else but themselves.

Greg Rucka writing of this character just makes you connect on so many levels, as he takes you through a number of memories from her long life. Some barely remembered and others crystal clear without giving away her true age. This is an element which is returned to throughout the series so far helping enforce some of our judgements on Andy, but at the same time cast a dark cloud over other aspects in which Greg has hinted at in previous issues.

The art of Fernandez only helps heighten these aspects. With highly detailed fight scenes, flashbacks, and sequences that just tie the story all together. Making for an adrenaline rush which I have to say I not experienced with many other comics.

My only criticism of the series so far, is the lack of explanation about what made them  immortal. Well mostly we have been told some ways in which they can die, but I would really like to know what made them immortal if it was some act of god or virus. I would also like to know what is the purpose of their immortality. Why are they here, and what gets them selected.  I am sure this will come as the series develops just I would like to see more background to some of the other characters.

This series has everything fight scenes, guns, myths, and a crew of characters that you cant help but love and hate. It does what it says on the first page, it is a story of bullets and blood and lots of it but trust me it worth it.

To Outline or Not to Outline that is the Question? By Daniel Stubbings

Recently I been lucky enough to meet a number of writers at events and festivals, and I can honestly say I have had a different answer off each of them when I have asked about outlining. From it is essential you must plot your scenes or you lose sight of your goal, to just write and see where your pen takes you, to never outline it halts your flexibility and creativity.

As an aspiring writer I found myself torn. Should I listen to the published author who outlines every page, scene, and dialogue to the last inch or just write and see what I come up with like the other writer I respect.

I wrestled with this question for a number of weeks. Continuing to write my stories, character profiles, and story arches, crossing out whole pages or pressing the delete key more times than I could count. I even began to write a brief outline for where I knew I wanted to end up. However in the end I just torn it up and went what is the point my scenes just didn’t have the effect I was looking for.

I watched every videos I could find on outlining. The positives and negatives of each from debut authors, to international bestselling ones. Stephen King is one of my favourite all time authors, and if like me you have watched his writing tip videos, his big thing is never outline, and whatever you do don’t write ideas in a notebook. In his words that is where ideas go to die.

So there I was once again thinking what should I do. Should I write down every idea that pops into my head and reflect on them later or just do what Stephen says and let the good stuff stay and just write what comes.

Well after the last event I kind of came to a weird conclusion. I thought to myself both those authors got published. They didn’t use the same method but they got published. I mean lets be honest we all like our eggs done differently, our coffee brewed a certain way. So why cant it be like that when we are writing. I mean don’t get me wrong you need to respect the writing craft, but we all have our own ways of telling stories.

I am not ashamed to say I am nearly two years into writing a novel, and I just finished a second draft. I would say after I came to this conclusion, I have sort of combine the two, from the advice I have been given first hand, and the videos I have watched. I plan my big scenes, where I know this has to happen or my character is just pointless. However I also like to have some freedom, kind of like a road trip you pick a destination and plot your route but there is no harm in stopping off for a walk on the way to explore your own curiosity. As long as you come back to to the road you wanted to go down eventually. Getting lost is part of the fun, and you never know what you might find plus every great story needs interesting subplots.

Outlining  so what is my view?  I guess it is do what feels best for you. If you like to know every scene, and character interaction before you write then go for it grab a piece of A3 paper and get these scenes drawn out. However if your like me and need a combination of both to keep you moving forward then that is fine to. Or if your totally wild like Mr King and discover it as you go then who am I to judge. That is the beauty of storytelling no way is the wrong way, as long as the story means something to you.

So going back to the question at the top of the page. Outlining for me is like everything else in life, do what works for you and if you find you need to make a change then do so. You will hear arguments for and against, but I  finally realised something when I left the last event the authors words still ringing in my ears. Create your own method and stop second guessing yourself.

 

 

 

Short Story- Erased Written by Daniel Stubbings For Storgy Exit Earth Contest

Blood had long been forgotten, all that mattered now was ink.  It was all that mattered ever since he had vanished clutching my arms, begging me not to let him go.  I can still see the fear in his eyes as his body turned to dust like all the others. Blood was just a trace of our old lives, flashes of a world before the erasing had begun. That was five years ago and still, I harboured the scars.  Those scars had lead me to a place I knew all too well, cloaked in darkness, a place where I had truly learnt what it was to be what they called drawers. Bending my knees, I slid down onto the stone floor, pressing my back against the wall as I peered into the darkness. A cold prickle going down the back of my skull as a face emerges from within. Covered in scars, eyes deep emerald, a grin spread across its lips, begging me to remember. Who was it?

A cold sweat ran down my spine. I stood and walked over to a set of old Chester drawers. A dull light shone in from two small windows just above eye level, hidden from the outside world. A grey, steel spiral staircase leads up to other parts of the house. The basement is small and damp, multicoloured geckos running along the walls. A battered grey mattress covered in plain white sheets acted as my bed, positioned tight against the wall. A full-length mirror hung above the headboard reflecting back a self with rows of leather bound journals piled high, covered in dust. Each one numbered and dated, giving me a timeline of when this all started; dreams, nightmares, and keeping track of the erasing.

I pull open the drawers and peer inside two leather bound journals stared back at me reaching down I turn the pages of the first one I come to. It is filled with random sketches, unfinished stories, and details of each event. I push it aside, grabbing the other flicking to its final few pages, tracing my fingertips over the wolf’s head on its spine, its silver eyes whispering within my mind. Stirring my blood, forcing millions of images to flow across my eyes the hairs on the back of my hand stand on end, wind whistling through my ears. I stare down at my hands blackening from heat radiating from the journal, it was coming…… it was here….. what I knew as the ink. I turn, throwing the journal against the wall, my skin tingling as red flames pulse through veins. A shadow crossed my face as I looked into the mirror. My mouth is suddenly dry like a dessert; I lick my lips as the air crackles around me like the atmosphere of an electric storm.

The muscles in my arm tense as I focus on the ink surging through my veins.  taking a deep breath I try to remember every detail of my dream. My eye develops a muscle spam out of my control as the ink spreads underneath my skin, glowing a deep purple as it rises to the surface. I stared at my reflection; my eyes are tired and sore. A voice whispering in my mind. This is what you are, what you have become….. you’re a drawer. Quickly, I placed my fingers over the mark, two silver eyes within a black wolfs head and pressed firmly down. The response was instant, violet ink erupted from my fingertips. Tears ran down my face like acid, eating away at my flesh, and scraping against bone, as my dream began to appear in front of me. A pair of piercing amber eyes framed in a flat ebony face, stared at me as I begin to guide it onto the papers of my journal. My skin tears with every stroke a piercing scream breaks across the air; my legs give way forcing me to the ground. Lifting my head, I peer at the journal.

There it was….. my dream, my nightmare, lording over me as if it were a king.  A smile creeps over my lips, as I inspect my body. Deep purple slashes run along my arms, parts of my flesh have been melted away. Vapours of black smoke rise, pools of dark black ink surround my feet and hands as a thin line of sweat covers my forehead. A shiver gurgles down my spine; I try and stand but my legs collapse from under me. My eyes are haunted with fear as I turn and look into the mirror seeing dark shadows pooled in its corners. A wide grin across their dark, featureless faces, all laughing at me, all saying the same thing….. “More ideas are coming and you’re running out of time. I push myself up and run towards the stairs, taking them two at a time only stopping for breath when I reach the top. Grabbing the door handle I throw it open allowing a blinding white light to escape that pierces my eyes.  I step into a large living area and before I have barely taken two steps, I collide with a tall gentleman.

He dressed in a long grey overcoat interrupted by shabby dark hair and a pair of old biker boots strapped to his feet, all accompanied by deep ruby tattoos covering his neck and legs. Partial drawings of buildings, weapons, and scripture from important speeches throughout history adorned his body. His voice was husky…..“Nice to see you, there’s no need to fall at my feet.” He laughed as he held me up allowing me to catch my breath. He walked me over to an old wooden table, surrounded by two sturdy leather chairs with each of us taking a seat. His long shabby hair covered his eyes. “What are you doing here Reggie, were not supposed to meet until tomorrow?” A fresh cut leaked blood down his left cheek. “I heard some rumours, details that might be of interest to you” he said nervously. Last time you came to me with so called information, it just added more questions to what we already knew. We both know you are just in the same position as me so show me your arms Reggie.” His eyes scanned the room checking all the doors and windows. “Why do you need to see my arms Jin?” growled Reggie as he clenched his hands into fists. “Easy there Reggie, I just need to check something out, you know we are both drawers?” Have you been having any impulses lately?” Reggie just stared into space tapping his bonelike fingers against the wood.  Leaning forwards, she stared into Reggie’s eyes, a deep, piercing look. “Okay Jin, I do have some drawings you need to see.” Thoughts raced through Reggie’s head as to what drawings, he was thinking on his feet?  After an uncomfortable silence Jin responded, “Okay Reggie, let’s see them”.

Reaching inside his coat, he pulled out a battered, old leather-bound journal, larger than hers but in the same style, then placed it down on the table. Pulling up his sleeves as he often did, his tattoos moved spontaneously as if they were alive. I reached out and traced my fingers over them and felt a humming energy building that forced my eyes to change to a deep blue. Surges of emerald flames danced up my arms blackening my flesh. I quickly pulled back into my seat; this was an energy I had only felt once before. He was going to a place drawers should not seek.

Grimacing pain slowly etched across his face, his mark had dissolved, his protection was gone. “Reggie! what have you done?” I screamed. His lips curled into a cruel grin, his eyes manic with fury. “You know what I’ve done Jin, you know where I have been.” The colour drained from my face as his eyes turned a milky white, the heat radiating off him in waves pushing me backwards. His skin rippled emerald flames cutting into his bones as the tattoos fought to break free. Listening to his final words as he stared at me with soulless eyes he muttered, “Jin, it can’t be erased otherwise our world has no meaning, all the events we’ve experienced will be erased forever. We embraced it, you know what we did?” he whispered. The flames took him into the shadows blinding me for a moment as I slowly moved to open his journal. “This will only add to your burdens” I thought to myself as I fought to resist the temptation.

I hadn’t even heard her approach as she glided across the floor in front of me. Her hair glistened with silver flashes of time woven into a tight indigo ponytail that swayed down her broad back. Her dark oval face was deformed by two parallel scars that sliced through her full black lips, like a shadow trailing in her wake. She glanced back every so often as she moved towards an ivory seat. Her eyes were strangely hidden offering no insight into what she may be thinking; who was she I wondered?

Grabbing Reggie’s journal, I turned to the last entry; it was of a woman, the description matching her perfectly. It must be her; surely it couldn’t be anyone else?

I didn’t move as she glided back towards me, her eyes still hidden. Staring down at the picture another name began to rise from the page burning in golden fire. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the fierce light before I recognised the outline of a name….Keira! Kiera!

As Kiera moved closer her eyes emerged, they were a piercing deep amber. I recognised her as the girl I had seen in my dream. What was she doing here? “It’s good to see you Jin” she whispered quietly. “How about you listen for once, and forget what you just saw on that last page?” She flicked her wrist, threads of golden ink emerged from a vortex in her outstretched hand, wrapping around the journal and igniting it in a ring of deep orange flames. The intense heat burnt my hands; I was beyond being comfortable so reluctantly, dropped it onto the floor. I edged backwards resting against the table, the ink moving in parallel lines underneath my skin. “Who are you?” I asked uncomfortably. “How do you know me and why were you in my dreams?” The questions stumbled out without me pausing for an answer. My hands were shaking uncontrollably as I tried to disguise my increasing anxiety. Kiera laughed at me and began to run her hands through her hair “I am Kiera, I know you well but you know that already, I am in your dreams but you have seen me before. Think carefully Jin and ask yourself, “What am I?” I know you have heard my name before…….” One question merged into another as I felt myself becoming frustrated at my inability to work it out.

I systematically searched my memories but tiredness began to overcome me. Finally, something clicked……. “You’re an imaginative.” I whispered at first before rising to a piercing scream. “That’s right Jin I am” her eyes instantly going black. Her shadow spread like a wild fire engulfing us both. Quickly I shut my eyes trying to focus on what I could hear but it was too late.

A wave of coldness washed over me that grew with every heartbeat, spreading up my arms and legs. Tentacles emerging from within searching for my eyes as a foul-smelling fluid rose in the air.  I twisted and turned, screaming, trying to break free of its embrace. I dug my nails into my skin trying to force ink to the surface. “Jin, what have I told you? I would only add to your worries”.  Keira’s voice sounded menacing as I fought to keep my eyes shut from her piercing finger nails cutting into my eyelids. My ink slipping away, my energy fading, the dream had been too much; talking with Reggie had been too much. I had felt that energy once before, the energy I felt surging through Reggie was all flooding back entering my head as a distant memory resonating back to that day, back to him. I soon realised that I had been here before, I’d seen this all before. “Glad to see some of it is coming back to you” said Keira.  “Why don’t you open your eyes? We are here now”.

At first, I was hesitant but slowly I opened my eyes. Keira was staring back at me but her shadow had vanished. Her arms cradled around me like a baby, her eyes blurred with tears. As she lowered me to the floor she whispered, “Sorry about that, it was the only way I knew”. “What do you mean it was the only way you knew?” I screamed. “Really Jin what do you think it was?” She replied fixing me with those deep amber eyes as she stood behind me, her image coming in and out of focus as she lifted me to my feet. “I am not sure but I am sure I felt it before in a time away from here” I said nervously. “I can’t answer that for you, why don’t you look all around?” she whispered. Taking a deep breath I turned my head. I was surrounded by mirrors with a dull blue light coming from a source unseen. I stared into one of the mirrors looking past my reflection and focusing on Kiera. One of her eyes had turned black and had sunken into her skull, her hair had changed to charcoal black. Her scars vanished leaving behind full red lips, she smiled squeezing my shoulders “Don’t worry’’, I look worse than I feel” She giggled. “All will be revealed shortly”. She said moving towards a dark corner.

I noticed we had company, their back facing me in the room, a hood concealing their identity. Kiera glided in just behind them and whispered something in their ears. Even before she spoke I heard the words in my head “She is here so what do you want to do?” There was a pause…. “It is time Kiera, she has to know leave us.” Kiera turned giving me a brief smile and wave as she faded back into the shadows.

All around went silent as one word erupted from the figures lips, “Erased.” Suddenly stone began breaking underneath my feet as the energy built. An orb of yellow light surrounded the figure, blinding me for a moment as it stretched out its arms towards the mirrors. I watched in horror as mirrors grinded against the stone floor, cracks forming over their surface sending shards of glass in all directions, cutting my face and hands. Black droplets of ink hit the floor as wind whistled around me pushing me down turning me onto my back I lifted my head and quickly scanned the room. Nothing much was left but for a tunnel lined with bright white candles. In a moment, the figure took me by the arm with a tight grip and dragged me towards it, each candle spontaneously lighting seconds before we approached it.

A hot wind touched my skin blowing grit into my eyes. The air turned humid making it hard to breath but the figure pulled me through the dark tunnel, shimmers of light guiding us to some unknown destination. “Where are we going?” I shouted looking up at the figure but it remained silent, tightening their grip menacingly. As we grew near to the end of the tunnel a large, round stone chamber came into view with a strange red light flowing across it walls. The figure loosened their grip around my arm and took my head into their hands turning it clockwise towards the wall. Despite my fear I couldn’t look away, my eyes widening as I took it all in. The walls were covered in drawings and images of jungles burning to the ground with rivers flowing blood then turning to dust. Statues had been decimated and lay randomly across the ground.

I stared at the figure intensely, “What is all this?” I asked. It took a moment before answering in a hoarse voice, “You remember now don’t you, you know what happened?” I stared again as it pointed to the middle of the room. I turned my head and could see a girl; she was laid down on a black dentist’s chair, strapped securely by brown leather straps. Black orbs of liquid dripped from her lips. The figure released me, its face still concealed by their hood. I rose slowly unsure of how to proceed…..”Why does all this feel so familiar? Why do I know this room?” I began asking myself.  I ran my fingers through my hair and walked forward peering down at a female presence, her skin covered in deep black scars oozing ink from within. Her eyes were now a piercing emerald green and blank of any emotion, her clothes ravaged and torn from her body. Clear tube like structures stemmed from her forehead pumping a solid blue liquid around her brain. As I approached slowly she sat up fixing a stare at me with her eyes. “Welcome home Jin” she whispered reaching her hands out towards me.

I edged back unable to take it all in. “What do you mean welcome home?” I shouted peering into her eyes as something troubled me at the back of my mind. She smiled and replied, “Really Jin, you been gone too long.” I grabbed her by the shoulders shaking her, demanding an explanation.  I turned to my left and peered into the shadows watching intently as another hooded figure began to emerge. Reggie smiled at me with a crooked grin, Kiera turned away as the hooded figure pulled back their hood revealing themselves. His long black hair, thin face and bright blue eyes gave me a friendly smile. I screamed at them repeatedly “What are you? What are you?” expelling air from my lungs as I dropped to the floor exhausted. I looked into the mirror and saw the face I had been dreaming about night after night. Scars shaped like crosses on my cheeks, emerald eyes, misshaped head and ink surging through my veins.  I suddenly realised It was me strapped to the chair talking to myself, crawling at my flesh as screams echoed through my skull.

My dreams finally made sense as the memories flooded back. Screams thundered through the base of my skull causing my eyes to ache….what had I done? Why was I here? Why could I only remember the ink? Sobs rocked my body as James came and hugged me “Don’t worry, it didn’t hurt, were all just broken memories” he whispered as he kissed my forehead. He gave me one last hug before joining Kiera and Reggie as they faded back into the shadows.  I laid back looking up at the images as they merged into one. I stood alone in a sea of bodies, a tidal wave of ink covering their skin; the mark of a drawer branded across their arms glowing in a violet light.  I looked above the images, slowly realising there are some words written in my own hand burning in a pure white light. I read them several times before I understood. Jin Drawer your ideas ended our world, you’re the only person left. I closed my eyes and cried myself to sleep I was never leaving this place. What had I become?

 

 

 

Is Creativity Dead? A question that all writers must ask themselves right? Written by Daniel Stubbings

Recently I attended a creative writing course, and one of the questions which was raised in our weekly debate was is creativity dead? Arguments were thrown back and forth some saying of course not, new and interesting stories and programs are being created everyday. However, on the other hand there were others who said we seen it all. Every possible storyline which could be bought forward had been done in some form or other.

 

I just sat back and listened taking everything in, and it got me thinking what do you think Dan? Is creativity dead? As the conversation ended, I found myself sitting in both camps. As I do think in some regards that us as readers and viewers as well as writers, have seen, read, and written several stories over the years that have had very similar vibes.

I mean just take the release of Lord of the Rings, for example by the godfather of epic fantasy J.R.R Tolkien. Due to its large popularity editors and publishers, began buying and releasing so many stories with the same storyline. I mean I have lost count the number of fantasy books I have read that involve a quest to destroy something evil whether it be a ring or sword.

The market has been flooded with them. Then again is this purely down to a lack of creativity or people simply writing to a trend or phenomena. I mean a perfect example is the Fast and Furious franchise. To be honest I was fed up after number three. There is only so much you can take of fast cars, street races, and going against some government agency, but because people continue to go and watch it we are now onto number 8.

So maybe as an audience we are to blame for the lack of creativity, that could be afforded to writers, directors, publishers, and studios because we demand a certain type of story. Have we become so fixated that writers are saying to themselves well if I want to be successful, I must produce this type of story. I mean yes, you always hear write what you would want to read, or take your own path but is that what people want.

Speaking from my point of view I hope so because to me creativity isn’t dead. Okay you may hear well there only seven plots which a story can go down, and that may be true. However that doesn’t mean that because you’re writing a crime thriller you will end up just rewriting Jack Reacher.

The beauty of storytelling is that everything is personal. Your unique you have your own voice, and ideas that you want to get out into the world. I know that everytime I pick up a pen, or sit at a keyboard I want to get something down. Whether it be a character who has materialise out of the fog which I like to call the writers haze, or simply creating your own world for your story to take place. You are in control. Yes, as a writer and self-confessed bookworm. Of course, I have my influences, writers I look up to, characters I adore, and worlds I quite simply wish I could go and live in. My personal favourite been Harry Potter. I mean who doesn’t want to go to Hogwarts or play Quidditch I so want to be a beater but I digress.

So back to the original question is creativity dead? Well as I exited the room after the debate I must say I was in doubt. However, I am now pleased to say absolutely not, because if I thought that I wouldn’t have started this blog or started writing my stories. Like it says at the top of this article creativity takes courage. So, if you want to write, paint, or make movies what stopping you. Just remember only you has your voice so get on creating.

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Trails of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy By Rick Riordan Written by Daniel Stubbings

This book catapults us back into the world of the demigod Percy Jackson. With new twists and turns, that will have you laughing out loud, as well as making you hold on tight.

This book is the second in the series and follows on from The Trails of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle. The main narrative within the story centres around Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, music, and prophecy, as he wrestles with the lost of his godly powers, and is forced to live as an acne infested teenager called Lester after he is cast out of Olympus by his father Zeus.

In order to become a god once again, he is tasked with restoring the three oracles from ancient times. The opening character begins where the previous book left off Apollo, Calypso, and Leo, going on a quest to rescue Apollo’s Demigod master Meg. A twelve year old child of the Greek goddess of agriculture Demeter, who is in the clutches of her evil stepdad the Emperor Nero the first member of the Triumvirate.  As the story continues Meg’s character arch really begins to develop in interesting ways from her powers increasing, and her internal struggles against her stepdad.

What I liked most about this book. Is the way in which Rick was able to develop characters from his previous series, and make them feel fresh and new without making them feel out of place. However also maintaining what made us love them in the first place. My favourite being Leo Valdez, a Demigod of the Greek god Hephaestus, along with his trusted sidekick Festus the huge malfunctioning bronze dragon which we meet in the Blood of Olympus series.

This story has a number of subplots but essentially centres around the groups quest to find Meg and the second oracle which are both located somewhere within the American Midwest. If this task wasn’t daunting enough, the oracle is located within a haunted cave which if  it doesn’t kill you. Forces you to go insane. To make matters even worse the oracle  is  been pursued by the second member of the deathly Triumvirate, who’s thirst for blood  hasn’t been seen for over a millennia. To further complicate matters he is a former lover of Apollo, and as the story develops we find Apollo holds a dark secret over his demise.

Now my only criticism of this book is that at times it can seem predictable. As I read on I found that I was finishing sentences, and able to see how the characters were going to proceed. Yes the fight scenes are enjoyable, and Rick is able to weave mythology in a way that doesn’t bore his audience.  However I wanted more an unexpected twist, a character development we didn’t see coming, and just simply more mystery to keep us entertained.

Now your probably wondering well if its predictable why would we read it. Well here my answer. If you like a book that makes you remember the old tales of heroes, gods, and creatures, that does it in a way that will make you laugh out loud  as you ride on the bus then this is the book.

Rick has a marvelous way of taking the modern day and mixing it with the old. Now some of you may argue that so are a lot of authors within urban fantasy, but the reason why I keep coming back to this series, is that the characters stay with you. Adding new dimensions and subplots that just hook you in.  It a delightful read for both adults and children alike.

If you liked this book tell me what you liked?

Also if you have any feedback please let me know?

Follow me on Twitter @dan_stubbings

 

Review of Life Assistance Agency By Tom Hocknell Written by Daniel Stubbings

First of all I must apologise to Tom for the length of time it has taken me to write this review. As I have been promising to do it for months, but due to other writing projects it got delayed however I hope you enjoy it Tom.

Synopsis

Do you want to live forever? is THE question facing anyone pursuing immortality. But what happens when eternal life is disappointing, and everyone around you keeps dying? Ben Ferguson-Cripps, a struggling writer with a surname that gets more attention than his creative endeavours, sets aside his literary ambitions to join the mysterious Life Assistance Agency. Their first case is to trace a missing person with links to the Elizabethan angel-caller Dr John Dee. Pursued by a shadowy organisation – and the ghosts of Ben’s past – the trail leads through Europe into the historic streets of Prague, where the long-buried secrets of Dr Dee’s achievements are finally revealed, and Ben discovers there is far more to life than simply living…

My Review

This book introduces us to two amateur detectives. Ben Ferguson- Cripps a struggling writer who is down on his luck, who is about to be dropped by his publisher after dreadful sales.  He is in need of a job and picks up a business card of the mysterious Life Assistance Agency run by his old friend Scott Wildblood. Who is delighted to see him when he walks into his office.  When Ben asks what they do Scott replies “It a detective agency without the detectives.” From this moment on you know you’re in for a wild ride.

Their first case catapults them on a journey across Europe. From London to the streets of Prague. In search of a missing person known as Mr Foxe, as their investigation unfolds they discover that Mr Foxe was entangled in research carried by the Elizabethan occultist Dr John Dee who believed he could contact angels.

As their quest continues they are pursued by a secret organisation known as The Society. A group of hooligans who wish to uncover Dr Dee’s secrets and contact higher beings, but also wish to protect the world from their otherworldly activities. This allows for some thrilling car chases, night-time flits, and scenes were your just not quite sure what will happen next.

I found this book to be a delicious mix of past and present. Blending old London with new in such detail that you feel you are tasting every breath, feeling every footstep, and picturing the world in which Dr John Dee would have experienced. Allowing for a stunning backdrop of Medieval Europe where ancient secrets lurked, and beliefs within the church were challenged. Dr Dee was a character that you would easily believe came from fiction if not for the painstaking research Tom has undertaken.

I just loved how Jayne Dee diaries entries were embedded into this book. Allowing us as readers to really understand what drove this extraordinary man, and become hooked on what Ben and Scott begin to experience.

My only problem is the interaction with the creatures known as angels. I would have liked to of seen more depth given to these creatures. Allowing us to explore their motivations, why they want to talk to our characters, and just a little bit more magic, as I felt these scenes could have been even stronger than they already are.

Overall this book is a delightful mix of supernatural meets crime thrillers. I think of it as Dan Browns Angels and Demons meets John Constantine. Characters are engaging and keep you guessing right until its end each one not as they seem. I recommend you read this book as it is one bonkers ride and had me laughing throughout. I would give it 4.5 stars.

If you read this book let me know what you enjoyed? and what you are hoping Tom publishes next.