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.

 

 

 

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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 to 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, but 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 somewhere which are both located 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 and is also been pursued by the second member of the deathly Triumvirate who has a thirst for blood which 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.  I guess I just wanted more mystery.

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 which a character that you would easily believe came from fiction if not for the painstaking research which 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.

 

 

 

Review of The Knowing By David Graham Written by Daniel Stubbings

The Synopsis

No witches were burnt in the writing of this tale, although the Queen was a little singed at the edges.’ Ceri Edwards and two school friends lift the lid on an ancient book of recipes belonging to Betty Williams, a volunteer at the local hospital in Pontypridd, South Wales. Two Kansas City cops step off a flight at London Heathrow and one of them falls to the ground with a painful conviction that there’s something evil in the air. United in their destinies, Ceri and the police officers are drawn into a world where prophecies are pitted against invisible forces planning to raze London to the ground and bring down the Royal Family. It all rests with Dai Williams, recently knighted MI5 agent and reluctant hero, to bring some order to the improbable events and to ensure that afternoon tea at The Ritz continues for another hundred years. A great cross between Kim Newman and Ben Aaranovitch and a thrill for any fan of contemporary urban horror.

My Review

This story deals with the aftermath of The Screaming, helping add key dimensions to characters of which we have already been introduced. These include Dale Franklin, Steve Abrams, Dai Williams, and the Queen.

Now at first I struggled with the opening of the book. It just didn’t grab me like the screaming had, I mean I couldn’t put that book down. However as this book progressed I found myself turning each page with ease my mind racing to keep up with the darkness within plot lines. Each character viewpoint adding more mystery and intrigue, from Dale’s Ma Bell which helps him sense danger on the horizon to the Queen’s ability to look into people’s mind like some kind of female Professor Xavier. You cant help but be dragged along at neck break speed through the streets of London into a story line that could strike at the core of the royal family.

Now yes you may think here we go again another conspiracy theory with magic and abilities added just to give a different angle, but this is where I found myself going against what I usually think about these kind of stories. The reason being was because of how David presented his characters, adding both humor and comic value that will have you roaring with laughter. My personal favourite being how Dale senses trouble but I am not going to spoil the fun you will just have to read it.

I also have to mention my fondness of how our beloved queen is portrayed. I just couldn’t stop laughing during verses of her dialogue and scenes as David challenged everything we hold dear about our queen. From her enjoying a cheeky gin by the fire on a night, to her just wanting a normal conversation. David was able to do it with a great playfulness that would amuse any reader.

So the important question why should you read this book? Well if you like witches, telepathy, prophecies and the Queen been simply bad-ass then pick up this book because it had me in fits of laughter and for me you can’t beat a good laugh.

Thank you to Urbane Publications for my review copy. This does not effect my review. Publication of this book is Thursday 30th March so why not pick up a copy and enjoy it as much as I did.

Why not follow David on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidGrahamAuth

If you enjoy this review please share and please follow. Thank you for taking the time to read I really appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Review of The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes Written by Daniel

Why should you read the Gift Maker? What sets it apart from all the other fantasy/fairy-tale stories you have read either as a child or adult. Well that just it. This book isn’t just a fantasy novel it is able to cross a number of genres from romance to mystery to puzzle solving this book has something for everyone.

Making for a very interesting debut. The story is told through the eyes of three main characters Thomas, Liselotte, and Jo. Their journey begins after Thomas and Liselotte receive two mysterious small blue boxes in the dead of night. Catapulting them into a quest where everything is not as it seems, and into a world that brings new meaning to the world of fantasy and folklore. Sometimes a dream, sometimes a nightmare, and at other times you’re not quite sure. Each aspect crafted by the deliciously dark Reynard who I have to say is one of my favourite villains if you can call him that but that would be giving too much away.

The world in which Mark has constructed is so vividly written that you cant help but be absorbed into its pages. A great mix of hunters, mythical creatures, and magic that seems to have no end. It does however have elements that seem familiar snow-covered mountains, a mastermind orchestrating a quest for people to complete. At times it could have been mistaken for a mixture of Stardust and Lord of the Rings but I loved it. Mark has been able to breathe new life into old tales, and create characters that you can’t help but care for.

The only criticism I have is the ending. Yes everything is resolved and keeps you on the edge of your seat right until the end, but I wanted to see more of this world, I wanted to know everything about the characters, I wanted to go deeper into the language, and wanted to see more of the dark undertones which lurk in the background.

This however takes nothing away from how well written this book is. It is a stunning debut and I guess me wanting to find out more about this world only furthers my point. It is quite simply a must read for any reader.

If you have read this book tell me what you enjoyed and what you didn’t?

If you have any feedback? Do please comment I really do take your opinions into account.

And also why don’t you follow Mark on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Mark_J_Mayes

You can also follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dan_stubbings

Anne Rice’s Influence on the Vampire genre Where Would we be Without Interview With the Vampire ? Written by Daniel

When Interview with the vampire was first published in May 1976, and later adapted for film in 1994. Were we as an audience really to know what this story would do to the culture of vampires. How it would shape our narratives, and change everything we had come to know about these creatures of myth and legend.

Now some may disagree with this statement, and that is perfectly fine. However my question to you would be? When you next pick up the next so called groundbreaking vampire story. Won’t your first thought be I hope the lead character is as good as Louis or Lestat because I know for a fact it is mine.

Interview with the vampire gave us something fresh. Something we had not seen in the vast catalog that is the house of vampire. I still remember the first time I read it. Those first couple of pages furiously turning as the horror of Louis face was revealed to the lonely reporter whom he decided to tell his life story. Thinking to myself I am not going to bed tonight till I finish this. Interview with the vampire totally changed my perception on what a vampire could and should be.

Up until then I saw vampires as soulless, bloodsucking, remorseless creatures who stalked the night.  What draws you in as a reader and watcher more than anything else is the way in which Anne made you see these two characters Louis and Lestat. You wanted to know who they were, where they came from, how they had become the stuff of nightmares. Each page giving you a new insight into the pairs relationship from how Lestat turned Louis to the present day.

How no matter how hard they fight it they end up been connected to each other. What made them so different from the other vampire novels I had read. Was that they won’t lone wolves giving into the impulses of the beasts within them. They were conflicted between wanting to remain human but knowing that they will forever be different.

Louis encompasses this element throughout trying to cling to his former life, trying to fight the demon within as he struggles to admit who and what he has become. That is what this book makes us think about. Because lets be honest when have we as a human not wondered where we fit in or want to change who we really are but cant.

Anne Rice makes us care for characters that historically have been seen as the villains in stories, and that is what set this book apart from usual vampire books. This book has everything historical venues, darkness and light, conflict and cooperation. Characters and story lines that live long in the memory after you put it back on your shelf or bedside table.

I had never done that with vampires before. I had never found myself fascinated with creatures that primarily are dark within their nature. Wanting to know every aspect that made up this character Lestat. That is the brilliance of Anne’s writing making you question yourself, making you look inside yourself and think why am I drawn to this character. I mean after all he is the prince of darkness but he had me totally gripped.

But returning to the title at the top of this article. Where would we be without Interview with the Vampire. Quite simple really the vampire and fantasy genre just wouldn’t be what it is today without it. You wouldn’t have Blade, Twilight, or the red court in the Dresden files if it won’t for this book. Anne has blazed a trail that has not been extinguished, and the vampire chronicles is testament to that. So I ask you again where would we be without Interview with the Vampire? Nowhere that it. The vampire world would of died with Dracula but instead we have the prince of darkness.

If you enjoyed this please share on social media I really appreciate it, and please comment on anything I could of improved, and why don’t you tell me what your favourite Anne Rice book is I would love to know. Thank you

In an Ever Changing Digital World How Well Informed Are We? Written by Daniel

In an age of  digital communication. Where everything is yesterday news as soon as it’s printed. With millions of tweets posted every second, YouTube videos uploaded every minute, and websites refreshing quicker than the speed of sound. Is there really a reliable source of information when wanting to make an informed decision.

I think the question we have to ask ourselves is do we really trust what we read in the press? In an era of fake news and death hoaxes, is there really a chance for professional journalism to take place. Where the average reporter must get something out into the world before the next jackal comes along and tears it from their cold dead hands.  Yes that is quite a gruesome picture to paint of the current state of affairs, and I am sure that is not the case in most circles. However I think we must begin to look into what we take for gospel when it comes to information gathering.

I mean I can guarantee you, if I looked onto my Facebook or Twitter feed right now, there would be millions of articles with so called “experts” giving their opinion on topics like the state of the oval office, to something as trivial as to why Jose Mourinho didn’t smile during the EFL Cup presentation. Clouding our judgement, and making us second guess our first impulses which in some cases may be helpful, but what do you have to do to be an expert.

Just take football for example, every so called expert is an ex player, and yes you could argue that they give the best insights, but can they really be unbiased or give us an informed choice if they haven’t been in that situation themselves. I for one know that I scream at the T.V when watching games or Match of the day (MOTD), because commentators and pundits alike, are at times unable to the severe ties of old club alliances, or rivalries when giving an opinion on current club affairs so can we really trust the “experts”.

I guess my argument to this question is, how on earth are we meant to keep on top of the flood of information that is thrown at us every minute of everyday. If even the so called experts cant give us the desired answer.  I mean just take the EU Referendum for example.

We had everything from live T.V debates, Question Time, numerous newspaper articles, and even in some cases all out wars over social media. It caused the whole of Britain to choose a side, and saw more votes cast from the general public than the last two general elections combine. But you ask most people at the time and you would still hear things like I am confused I don’t know what to vote for, and can’t somebody please just give me the facts. So could there be an argument that too much information is instead of giving us a clearer picture, is in actual fact just causing us to feel overwhelmed. I for one at the end of the EU Referendum just wanted the whole thing to disappear. It seemed to dominate every minute of my waking day, everywhere you turned you couldn’t get away. Whether it was someone sticking a leaflet in your hand, or a breaking news feed on my phone by the end I was just fed up.

So your probably wondering what is my point in writing this. Well I personally think yes there is still a place for responsible journalism and creativity. I am not talking about Facebook Live or somebody’s personal YouTube Channel, even tho there are some brilliant ones out there. What I am talking about is real journalism, going out there and talking to the people involved, doing your research, checking every fact, and in some cases following your gut. Not giving up until the story is there within your grasp and every box has been ticked.

Now I am not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy the internet and social media, I mean the average person spends four hours a day cruising through the latest gossip  finding out when their favourite celebrity could be near them next.  There could be an argument there that we all need to get a life. However lets be honest you cant beat the latest angry grandma video, or kitten cuteness to brighten up your day.

But coming back to the title how well informed are we. Well if you believe Mr Trump the press are all liars, and we should follow his lead. But for me we are better informed than ever before. I guess it just our responsible to make sure we gather all the facts from a range of sources so that we can get a range of viewpoints, and move on from there.  In a ever changing digital age what possibility could happen next?

If you like this please leave a comment and please share on any sites you may use so that more people will see it thank you.

 

The Rise Of Fantasy in the Modern Age Written By Daniel

Why Fantasy? What has made us as readers and watchers gravitate towards this vast field of literature and screen. From the streets of Chicago filled with gangsters, werewolves, vampires, fallen angels, and a wizard that is to stupid for his own good in the Harry Dresden Series, to the Harry Potter phenomenon, we as an audience are reading and watching this material in our millions.

Yes you could argue that fantasy has always been there in some form or another. In the shape of Lord of the Rings, Dune,  Alice in Wonderland and even further back Greek mythology, and stories told around camp fires to scare children giving rise to folklore, myths, and legends, but what has caused this surge in people wanting to explore the world of fantasy.

Don’t believe me?Just check the New York Times or Sunday Times bestseller lists, and I will guarantee you there will be at least two fantasy books in the top ten. Whether it be Neil Gaiman, Brandon Sanderson, Cassandra Clare, and Jim Butcher just to name a few, the range of choice never seems to stop flowing, with new voices and ideas coming to the forefront all the time, challenging what we think we know about the world of so called fantasy. I mean you cant even stroll down a couple of channels on which ever platform your using, without seeing some kind of fantasy based drama.

Just to put in perspective the sheer scale of the popularity, Westworld a HBO series which premiered in October 2016, has recently being ranked as the most-watched first season of an HBO original series ever. Grossing an audience on average of twelve million across all of it’s platforms, with a second season already commissioned. This is just one program in a mountain of shows, movies, and books that are planned for release this year. From Game of Thrones, to Stephen Aryan’s new trilogy set in the same world as the Age of Darkness, to the new Logan movie you couldn’t ask for a better time to be a fantasy geek.

But what is causing this shift? Is  it that we wish to be taken back to our childhoods where we become  knights and fight in a deadly duel against the fire-breathing dragon. Because lets be honest, that is how most people that don’t read and watch fantasy view it. It is usually the first thing that comes out of their mouth, when you breach the topic. ” Or I am not reading or watching that, all it will be is a load of dragons burning the place down”. Yes and to be fair in some cases they may have a point, because to be frank there are way to many dragons, but you got to love them. However I am please to say the arena of fantasy is constantly changing. We have vampires falling in love with mortals, Greek demigods roaming the streets of New York City, and the devil running a night club in downtown Los Angeles. I mean what more could you possibly want.

It is no longer good enough just to have good vs evil in fantasy. Readers and watchers want something more. As a reader and watcher of both urban and epic fantasy. I know that I stay more engaged with characters and plot lines, that show a range of different emotions, and not characters that are purely one dimensional. Lets be honest which human or creature in the worlds or environments, that we have been exposed to in both literature and on screen in recent years, would of only shown one personality trait it is simply impossible.

Think of your favourite characters from both literature and on screen, would you really of loved them as much as you do if all they did was saved the girl or kill the heroes family. Of course you wouldn’t you love them because you contact with them on both an emotional and human level.  Take for example Severus Snape in Harry Potter. J.K Rowling had fans in furious debates on forums, blogs,workplaces, and classrooms over whether Snape was bad or good and in the end in my opinion he is neither. For me he is in a word human we all have flaws and demons that we must face, and it the choices that we make that define us.

Some of the most hatred villains in history have shown that they have internal struggles. Torn between wanting to do good, but to entangled within the evil to change. A perfect example being Darth Vader, as shown throughout Star Wars as he fights against his former self but evil is slowly consuming him. This is what draws me back to fantasy and SCI-FI more than any other genre. The complexity of the characters, because in one moment you go from hating someone to feeling sorry for them. This is what has bought on the rise changing our perceptions giving vampires humanity, making the devil care, but also making what we usually perceive as good, a darker side from angels to gods we are seeing them shown in a different light, keeping us as viewers and readers guessing who to trust.

Now don’t get me wrong I love a good crime thriller, romance, and murder mystery as much as the next person. But the reason why I think fantasy, has seen such a resurgence in recent years is because it allows us to escape from the mundane routines of our normal lives. It allows us to become a powerful wizard, fall in love with a mysterious stranger that glows in the sunlight, and feast like kings in castles with the undead.  It helps us look at places where we live in a different way, making us wonder is a vampire around the next corner, or is our next door neighbor a werewolf, but also lets us dream of far away galaxies and worlds that mirror our own. Its is a genre that continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing.

That for me is why we have seen a rise of fantasy in the modern age. What do you guys think?