Monthly Archives: May 2016

Book Review – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

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After weeks and weeks of struggling to read because of a bad reaction to a book and an insane amount of stress which has even lead to me taking a break from blogging reviews generally, I am so happy (to the point that I want to scream it from the rooftops, but I’ll settle for a blog post) that I have not only finished a fiction book but I also want to talk about it.

I will hold my hands up and admit I could have maybe gone a bit easier on myself and chosen a slightly easier to read book than ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ by Robert A. Heinlein, because it is not a easy book to read, but it is utterly brilliant.

‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ is very much a science fiction book of its time; it was originally published in the 1960s so it does have the characteristic slower pacing, long conversations and then sudden happenings that 1960s speculative fiction is know for, but unlike others of the era I’ve read, this book hooked me in and kept me hooked.

I am very much a child of epic 1990s high fantasy like the early works of Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind and then the faster paced emergence of YA and NA literature. Reading the sort of complex speculative world-building of earlier eras (bar J.R.R. Tolkien himself) has never really appealed to me until now, and I will admit, I have been missing out.

Once you adapt to the language which has been constructed to show natural evolution and the more abrupt story-telling style, the book is an utter masterpiece in world-building, in showing how a revolution operates and in developing tender relationships between man and AI. It’s a beautiful book to read.

One of the things that I loved the most is the imagination that has gone into the world-building, or perhaps I should say the luna-building. The structure of the society that has evolved on the Moon, originally used as a penal colony before become a settlement without freedom is incredibly well thought out, and a very good example of how a society can work when women are treated equally and with respect.

The very best thing though is the character of Mike; a supercomputer that has developed AI and a questionable sense of humour. Most people might not describe the relationship he has with Mannie, the protagonist, as tender, that was very much how I felt about their story together.

As a computer specialist Mannie already has an invested interest in Mike as a computer, and their blossoming friendship in the early chapters of the book is what hooked me in. Like all friendships the strain of changing circumstances tested their relationship, and I kept reading in order to find out what happens.

If you’re interested in science fiction and speculative fiction then you should definitely add The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to your reading list, and you definitely should if you want to see how a world and society can be built up using existing norms but then evolved in a natural way to create something new.

 

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Liebster Award 4

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Thank you Macabreadore for your Liebster Award Nomination. Here are my answers to your questions.

What is your least favorite movie and why?

Generally I don’t finish films that I’m not keen on, but somehow I did finish Pacific Rim, and to this day I don’t know how I managed it.

In your opinion, which of your blog posts are you most proud of?

I am actually most proud of my blogs on which perspective to write from, because it was the first time I used my own writing to demonstrate a writing technique. (First Person, Third Person Restricted, Third Person Unlimited).

I also really love my Avengers Assemble review, because I had an excuse to use a Tom Hiddleston photo.

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Oh look another excuse. It is also a really great film.

What’s your favorite movie quote of all time?

‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’ – every Star Wars movie ever. It’s a bit cheesy now but it wouldn’t be a Star Wars film without it.

‘The World went and got itself in a big damn hurry’ also gets me every time I watch Shawshank Redemption.

What film do you think has the most beautiful cinematography?

Amelie is always beautiful to watch, and I love Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. This is a hard question as there are so many beautiful moments on screen; High Rise, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Plesantville, and Under the Tuscan Sun are just a few of my favourites.

If you had to watch one movie every day for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Legally Blonde – First thing in the morning before I had work or anything but that film tells me that I can accomplish anything and the only person who holds you back is you especially if you let others also hold you back.

Which horror movie scared you the most?

I don’t watch horror films for the very reason that I don’t like being scared by films; I don’t even like being scared by their trailers.

Why did you decide to start a blog?

A Young Writer’s Notebook was born out of a desire to have an artist’s sketchbook but for writing. A place to practice and express my ideas. Admittedly I mostly blog reviews and the occasional random thought, but I am coming back around to the original ideas I had about what this platform means to me.

What’s your least favorite color?

I hate pink; as a girl was told I should love it (by society not anyone specific) and naturally I rebelled. I will tolerate darker pinks and magenta’s but baby pink and barbie pink are just a no.

What was your favorite film from last year?

Stars Wars The Force Awakens – no contest.

What’s the cheesiest movie you’ve ever seen? (be honest!)

Somehow someone got me to watch Rat Race recently; as a kid I would have loved it but not now.

What’s your favorite type of dinosaur?

Triceratops, because of Cera in The Land Before Time and that scene from Jurassic Park.

Thank you for reading this far. As with Liebster Three, I won’t be nominating again this time; please forgive me but I am taking a bit of a break from blogging at the moment, this post was a break from life generally.

Book (Re)writing – How to lose the Plot!

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True for life, but not for my story.

In my previous post on Book (Re)Writing, I talked about needed to look at my own advice in order to re-write my book, so I sat and I read through my posts to see what I have written about in the past. It has helped to focus my mind. However, while I have focused my head on writing generally, it doesn’t help me to understand where my book has gone wrong.

I’ve been attending screenwriting classes with Gavin Williams (twitter@gavstatic) recently, after having done a course with him last September and again this spring, and I’ve received loads of great tips from him about how screenwriters approach the breakdown of a story. I’ve been advised to create a beat sheet when writing scripts.

A beat sheet is an outline of a story that comes in the form of bullet points that can be then expanded upon to form sentences and then paragraphs. One of the very best bits of advice Gavin has ever given me is to form this beat sheet on index cards, rather than on a large sheet of paper. In the past I’ve used a very large corkboard that was left over from my student days, and then large sketchpads that then also got dotted with post it notes.

Putting my ideas on index cards has organised my brain in a much better way. I am someone who changes my mind on quite a frequent basis, usually to experiment with different ideas of how something can work. This is so much easier to do with index cards than having to re-write an entire A3 sheet of planning.

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How JK Rowling planned!

However, I didn’t know the index card trick when I planned and wrote my book. In truth I’m not entirely sure I had a solid plan for what I wanted to have happen in my book. I knew where the first book started, and I had an event where I wanted the book to end. However, because of the nature of my books, I never got to that event before I realised I really needed to end book one and instead just start book two.

My book series is called ‘The Phoenix Spell’, and its intention is to be an epic High Fantasy story, that runs more or less continuously from book to book; any jumps in time I have planned would be mid-book not at the start of a new one. The event in question that I was aiming for as the end of book one ‘From the Ashes’, that would have been a cliff-hanger, has now ended up being about a third of the way through book three ‘Into the Flames’.

My cliff-hanger has ended up being a pivotal point changing the course of one book, rather than being the end of a book that was supposed to hook the reader into reading the next book. And I have to admit, at the time of writing the books, I didn’t care that I had made this change, because in the time between making the initial plan and doing the actually writing, I’d had more ideas about what sort of story I wanted to tell, and what other events I wanted to have happen.

The original draft of ‘Into the Flames’ was supposed to be the second book. I’ve added an entire new book ‘To Light an Inferno’ in-between these books. At no point have I done any planning for this, which makes the original intention for ‘Into the Flames’ completely redundant. And one of the ways in which I made it possible for the new book to slot in was by adding hints and laying out foreshadowing into the plot of ‘From the Ashes’.

And that my friends, is how I have completely lost the plot (of my book, though I will accept arguments that I am referring to my sanity as well).

When I admitted the truth that I needed to re-write ‘From the Ashes’, I knew one of the things that I would need to re-consider is all of the ‘additions’ I have made to book one in order to justify things that happen in the new book two, and even as far in the future as book three. Now as the writer, I should know what all of these things are, except because I have been doing this for years I will admit that I’m so close to the work that even I’m not sure about everything that I have added to the story over the years.

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Hello index cards. Using these lovely little beauties I have written a breakdown of my entire book, doing a section by section, and then chapter by chapter breakdown (summarised in one or two sentences) of exactly what happens in ‘From the Ashes’. I have found my plot, and good grief, I’m not surprised some of my beta-readers have got lost trying to follow the story.

If I used an analogy and compared my plot to a pathway, I will admit I would never want a plot that is akin to a straight line on a flat road; a little bit of meandering and some inclines would make a more interesting story. Needless to say I currently have mountains that require specialist equipment to climb and you don’t just go straight up; some of the paths involve climbing down a bit before you start going back towards the summit.

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As much as I love that my book does this, I couldn’t sell it, and if I’m honest I’ve got to the middle of writing book three, and I’ve stopped because even I have no idea how I’m going to carry on. The foundations of my story, while they could be solid, have been built by me pouring the concrete after I’ve already build the walls. It’s a mess.

However, I do have some hope. Having done the breakdown that I’ve created, all of the story elements that are there are solid stories that could work in their own right. They might not work with these books, but they are stories I can use elsewhere. Doing the breakdown has helped me to focus on finding what I had intended to be the main plot.

I can start the re-writing (once I’ve followed a few other steps first) by creating a solid plan of what just the main plot will be, not just for ‘From the Ashes’, but for ‘To Light an Inferno’ and ‘Into the Flames’, and beyond as well.

Hopefully, if you’re new-ish to writing, this post has been a great idea of how a writer can lose and then find their plot again to help you avoid it by using the tips I’ve learn from Gavin Williams. If you’re like me and you’ve already lost the path, try index cards; they are great breadcrumbs to lead you back to where you wanted to go in the first place, and you don’t even need to have used them before you started your journey; they are like magic breadcrumbs they place themselves in the direction you need to go.

 

 

A Break from Blogging Reviews

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So at the beginning of the year I caught an article on films to watch out for this year, and I planned my year of blogging reviews around that excitement.

So far it’s being going great, and I’ve done dozen of blogs this year reviewing films, tv series and books, old and brand new alike. I’ve been talking about fandoms and everything I’ve been watching and reading has gone on a list to blog about.

I now have a list of about 20 odds things I want to review that I’ve seen (note the word seen) in the last month or so, and I had planned for this week to be all about X-men.

Looking at this list has filled me with utter dread. I’ve already been having problems reading this year (See The Effect of a Bad Experience with a Book) I don’t want watching films and tv be added to that, so Young Writer’s Review is going on vacation for a while.

I have a lot going on in my personal life in the new couple of months, so I’m under enough pressure already. Blogging for me has never been about the stats, it has always been about the joy of expressing my opinion. At the minute that joy is gone and planning my reviews around new releases in the cinema makes me feel as if the stats are all I care about.

I also feel as if I have been taking the easy way out when it comes to my blog. Yes, I’ve been watching lots of films recently, but in the back of my mind I was thinking this is a blog post for a day. Ugh!

I started a Young Writer’s Notebook to be about writing and the life of a young writer and what influences me, not just reviewing. I’ve been lazy, and this vacation is my kick up the behind to get be properly thinking about writing again.

So the reviews are going to take a backseat, apart from the odd book review as it will be a part of getting me thinking about reading again, and I will be focusing on my writing blog again.

Look out for my posts on Book (Rewriting), and Young Writer’s Review will be back later in the year.

Ice Scales Scarf

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A scarf of crocodile stitch; looks like the scales of an Ice Dragon to me. 

Normally I do crocodile stitch on a solid colour but I’m loving the way the variegated yarn is working up.

When complete (in photo above about one and third of a ball of yarn used) it will have been made with two balls of Rico Baby So Soft Print (DK) in Navy Mix – 100 yds. It recommends a 4mm hook but I’m using a 5mm hook for a slightly looser finish. 

TV Review: Agent Carter – Season 2

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It took me a while to connect to the second season of Agent Carter, certainly longer than it did with season one, but the show is still utterly brilliant, and the storyline in season two is even better than the first season.

I think the reason it took me a bit longer to connect to what they were doing in season two has to do with the fact that the creators no longer needed to prove to the audience that a woman is able to be multi-dimensional and a capable character, while also being the lead. Throughout all of season one it was all about proving that Peggy Carter is deserving of the job she has earned and being respected as a capable woman.

The creators have toned that down for the second season, because that no longer needs to be proved, it has been established, and it is toning down that makes the second season so brilliant. It doesn’t need to be pointed out that Peggy Carter is a capable, because the show has established that this is perfectly normal. They have made having a ‘strong female’ character normal.

Someone please pat them on the back, and don’t whatever you do ask them why they wrote a ‘strong female character’, because I will throw a Joss Whedon quote at you.

Go on I will anyway but I’ll make it small.

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The second season of Agent Carter is a fab romp through LA, starting with a lake freezing over, and ending with a very satisfying development. It is fun, funny and as fabulous as Agent Carter herself.

Book Review: The Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover

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I really love the Revenge of the Sith film, with the exception that I don’t think Padme’s character was particularly well utilised. I didn’t think that the novelisation of the film could be better than the film. I was so wrong.

Stover gets into the heads of the characters at key moments in the plot to explain their thought processes and their actions. It interrupts the plot a little bit, but it brings a depth to Star Wars characters that I’ve never come across before. It isn’t just the plot being played out, it is a character profile that explains why things happen and why characters end up taking the actions that they do.

Also the frustrations that Anakin feels in this story are a lot more prominent. It just doesn’t come across on the screen the feelings of betrayal, confusion and panic he feels. His fall into the Dark Side in the book is played out better than in the film, and it makes a lot more sense.

The other thing I really love as well, is the explanation found in the novelisation as to why the Jedi were so easily defeated, because unlike the Sith they didn’t evolve. This revelation comes from Yodi, who feels regret for keeping the Jedi static and leaving them unprepared for the Sith who have changed over the centuries into something different.

I highly recommend this book; it wraps up the prequel trilogy of novelisations brilliantly. The style of the writing could irritate some people, but this one shows how someone can fall into the Dark Side so easily and why the Jedi lost.

The trilogy of novelisations are so much better than the films; they convey the story that got lost in the green screen better than the films.