My Top 10 reads of 2017 #greatreads #booklove #amreading

I’m surprised to say I beat my reading challenge target on Goodreads. I read 34 books throughout 2017, my target was 30. I read 33 in 2016, so I think I’ve found a good reading level for me, but I might aim a little higher in 2018. I plan to be more organised in my reading next year, finishing a few trilogies I’ve started etc. But I’ll post about that later. Right now, I’d like to share my Top 10 Reads of 2017…

My kids have recommended a few books this year, which have been really addictive. It’s hard to choose between them, so I’ve selected two…

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver.

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I love wolves, have done since I read Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. This book has emotion, excitement, adventure and friendship. It has been enjoyed by three generations of my family, so don’t let the fact its a children’s book put you off. I haven’t reviewed this book on my blog yet, but it is a 5 star read.

The Iron Trial By Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

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Again I haven’t reviewed this book yet, but it’s an amazing read and my first try of both these authors. I highly recommend this unputdownable 5 star book.

I tried a couple of historical fiction novels this year and I was so impressed with IREX by Carl Rackman, which I read when I was a reviewer on Rosie Amber’s book review team.

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This book really draws you into the Victorian era and the mystery elements keeps you intrigued right to the end. I was sad this book had to end at all. Here’s my review.

I also tried Urban Fantasy for the first time and loved…

Eleonore by Faith Rivens

This was another 5 star read, here’s my review. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed changing my usual fantasy genre. I highly recommend this demon hunting, kick-ass heroine’s story.

Two of my stand out fantasy reads in 2017 were…

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This was my book club choice and I loved it. Here’s the link to my original review. I loved this magical book and I’m jealous of Naomi Novik’s story telling skills.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab

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I was taken by surprise by this novel. I loved the characters and can’t wait to read the rest of this series in 2018. I plan to share my review of the series then. It was another 5 star read.

I have listened to a few audiobooks in 2017 and two that really stand out are;

Therapy by Sebastian Fitzek

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The premise of this book really drew me in and I couldn’t stop listening. I may not have been over the moon with the ending, but it was still a great book and a 5 star read. Here’s my review.

The Breakdown by B A Paris

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This book was another addictive listen, with plenty of twists and shocks. You feel as unsure of whom to trust as the main character, Cass, and I loved the ending. A must read, and I hope to share my review of it early in 2018.

I have read a few writing guides this year. Again it was hard to choose between them, but I’ve selected two favourites…

The Writer’s Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann

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This book is a great editing companion. I found it really helpful in helping me focus on over used and redundant words, with plenty of helpful word alternatives. Here’s my review.

Overwhelmed Writer’s Rescue by Colleen M Story

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A great book to help you re-evaluate your life and focus on what matters. There is so much in this book to help you find more time to write. Here’s my review.

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So looking back at my reading in 2017 I’m impressed that I managed to read so many books considering I’ve published my second novel, The Lost Sentinel, edited a third and wrote 40k of another during NaNoWriMo.

I don’t know what 2018 will hold, but I’m looking forward to immersing myself in more fantasy books and following more review blogs to build up my TBR shelf even more.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

The Lost Sentinel blog tour – How writing has turned me into an obsessive learner #amwriting

As promised, here’s the link to my guest post on Louderthansilver.

I hope you enjoy seeing how writing has influenced my learning. And in case you missed it yesterday, I posted some photos of the birds of prey I visited a few weeks ago in the name of research (and because I love them).

Join me again tomorrow for the last day of the blog tour.

Launch day bargain £1.99 for 13 Steps to Evil by @sacha_Black #amwriting #writingtips

I love villains!

I love reading about them and I especially love creating them in my own fantasy books. When I heard Sacha Black was publishing a book dedicated to creating evil characters, I snapped up a copy of 13 Steps to Evil. I can’t wait to read this how to book and my review of it will follow soon.

In the meantime, here’s some information about the book. Why not pick up a copy yourself while it’s on sale at £1.99?

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Book Blurb

Your hero is not the most important character in your book. Your villain is.

Are you fed up of drowning in two-dimensional villains? Frustrated with creating clichés? And failing to get your reader to root for your villain?

In 13 Steps to Evil, you’ll discover:

  • How to develop a villain’s mindset
  • A step-by-step guide to creating your villain from the ground up
  • Why getting to the core of a villain’s personality is essential to make them credible
  • What pitfalls and clichés to avoid as well as the tropes your story needsFinally, there is a comprehensive writing guide to help you create superbad villains.

Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned writer, this book will help power up your bad guy and give them that extra edge.These lessons will help you master and control your villainous minions, navigate and gain the perfect balance of good and evil, as well as strengthening your villain to give your story the tension and punch it needs.

If you like dark humour, learning through examples and want to create the best villains you can, then you’ll love Sacha Black’s guide to crafting superbad villains. Read 13 Steps to Evil today and start creating kick-ass villains.

Purchase from: All good retailers, but universal link to all bookstores is here.

Sacha Black Author Bio

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Sacha Black has five obsessions; words, expensive shoes, conspiracy theories, self-improvement, and breaking the rules. She also has the mind of a perpetual sixteen-year-old, only with slightly less drama and slightly more bills.

Sacha writes books about people with magical powers and other books about the art of writing. She lives in Hertfordshire, England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son.

When she’s not writing, she can be found laughing inappropriately loud, blogging, sniffing musty old books, fangirling film and TV soundtracks, or thinking up new ways to break the rules.

Contact Information

General

Email: sachablack@sachablack.co.uk

Non-fiction Website: www.sachablack.co.uk

Fiction Website: www.sachablackbooks.com

Social Media

Twitter: @sacha_Black

Facebook: Sacha Black author page

Pinterest: Pinterest profile

Instagram: Sacha Black profile

Goodreads non-fiction: Sacha Black profile

Goodreads fiction: Sacha de Black profile

Tumblr: Sacha Black profile

Google+: Sacha black profile

Linkedin: Linkedin Profile

Amazon Sacha Black profile

Guest Post – Dan Alatorre – 6 Steps to Creating Memorable Characters #Tuesdaybookblog

After my exhausting two week blog tour, I’m happy to take a break and hand over to another blogger Dan Alatorre. Today he shares with us a guest post all about creating memorable characters using his newly released book ‘The Navigators’ as a guideline.

Enjoy.

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6 Steps To Creating Memorable Characters – a guest post by Dan Alatorre

As young readers, we probably loved a character that we saw in a book and ended up carrying that character with us the rest of our lives. As adults, we still love big screen movie icons and characters from books, wishing we were that courageous or that suave or that funny.

As authors, we want our readers to feel that way about the characters we create.

Findlay, the bad guy in The Navigators, my fast-paced sci-fi thriller about a group of paleontology students who make an amazing discovery, was accidentally created – by the good guys!

Melissa, the hero in this new release, starts out as almost a secondary player. “Missy” eventually she takes over and saves the day.

Peeky is Ishmael watching Captain Ahab go crazy after the whale, merely a witness to events, until we learn what he’s hiding. Then we realize nothing is what it seems in this story, why he’s the narrator, and that we are in for a fun ride.

So that’s WHAT they are; HOW do we make them memorable?

 

  1. Whether real or larger than life, the reader has to connect with the character.

When you read The Navigators, you have a feeling about most of these characters before the end of chapter one. I make them a person the reader identifies with – and not always in a good way.

As kids, we’ve all known a bully. We’ve all had a crush on somebody we couldn’t talk to. We’ve all had an embarrassing secret get out – maybe at a really bad time. We don’t forget that stuff, and if we’re reminded of it in a story, we are right back in the eighth grade cafeteria, dropping our lunch tray in front of the whole school. We’re with the character right up to our eyeballs.

That’s gold for an author.

I showed Peeky as likable, then much later I revealed his secret and showed him to be less than likable, and by the end of the story he had regained the readers’ sympathy.

But we first made him likable. I did that by having other characters show they like him.

But… we had to like them first.

Missy has achieved status in the group of friends by being smart and hard-working. Missy is also the moral compass of the male-dominated clan. She isn’t afraid to set everybody straight. These are all admirable qualities, so we like her. When she jokes around with Peeky, we like him because she does.

 

  1. Make the character a whole person with three dimensions.

The reader transfers that initial fondness – and gives the benefit of the doubt – to Peeky. Later, he will have to demonstrate his worth, which he does by trying to save his drowning friend’s life – but only after he accidentally sees Missy go for a near-naked swim. He feels bad about seeing her, but he’s human. So now we see he’s flawed, and we appreciate his shame. We feel that shame, too (after all, as we read it we were right there watching with him). He’s complex and three-dimensional, not a cardboard cut out.

 

  1. Have your characters grow during the story.

I kind of explained Missy there, but here’s the rest. She a graduate student but she isn’t in charge of her life yet. She doing what she’s supposed to do and it’s only after she sees how easily everything can be taken away, like she’s seen studying great civilizations in the past, that she steps up and takes charge, ultimately taking charge of the entire group.

 

  1. Solidify our opinion of the character.

Mr. Mills, her dad, is a rich and powerful man who is a big teddy bear when his daughter is around. Readers like Missy a lot, and when she’s in for a big time scolding from dad, they love that he can’t help himself and just gives her a look and then bails her out while giving her a bear hug. We all want a dad like that. We love him, he loves her, and that reaffirms our good feeling about her. We trust her even more. We’ll follow her anywhere. She’s becoming larger than life.

 

  1. An adversary that challenges the hero

Findlay, our bad guy, starts out as a good guy! He gets made into the bad guy only after the gang cuts him out of his contribution to the discovery. So he has a vendetta, but from his perspective, he is in the right.

 

  1. If the bad guy is reeeeally bad = the good guys are even more good.

When Findlay captures Peeky, our meek and mild-mannered narrator, Findlay tortures him (verbally). Readers start to hate Findlay now. He already did things to mess with our heroes, but when he gets Peeky, Findlay dials it up to ten. He says and does things we’ve had said and done to us, and Peeky squirms the whole time. And I drag it out, so you really feel it. Findlay embarrasses Peeky. He then humiliates him. He makes sure every awful rock in Peeky’s past has been turned over and then almost makes Peeky grovel. Nobody wants that to happen to them. And the whole time, Findlay keeps saying Peeky’s name in a taunting manner. “You sat and watched them beat me up, didn’t you Peeky?” and “You didn’t help, did you Peeky?”

We’ve all had some kid on the playground in our face doing that. Nobody likes it, and by relating that commonality readers will feel what the character feels.

Then we have to show (red cheeks, squirming, wiping his sweaty palms) our character feeling what we want the reader to feel, and we have to take it to a new higher dramatic level, but we do it best by drilling down to our own core and taking the embarrassing, humiliating, cheek-reddening, never-forget-no-matter-how-hard-I-try stuff from our own lives, and putting that emotion out there for all to see and saying YOU’VE BEEN THERE, TOO.

That works. The readers connect again.

Bingo.

Memorable scene, memorable character(s).

Everybody who reads The Navigators comes away hating Findlay.

They all love Mr. Mills.

They cheer for Missy at the end and feel positive about where she’s going in her life.

And they are divided about Peeky. Most readers like him; a few don’t. That’s how he was written, so I did it right.

 

But who will they never forget?

The ones they connected with most. That’s why you have to put yourself in there. Your heart. Because it’s different for everybody but when you go there yourself, you make it universal.

 

Dan Alatorre is author several bestsellers. His new novel, The Navigators, is a fast-paced sci fi thriller that breaks new ground in its fascinating characters and truly unique story.

The Navigators (global link)

http://geni.us/navigators

 

Dan’s Amazon author page

http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1432312819&sr=8-1

 

Dan’s blog

www.DanAlatorre.com

 

#AtoZChallenge W – Warwick Castle and re-enactments

Warwick Castle is a wonderful place for a writer to wander, soaking up the atmosphere and reliving history through the re-enactments. I’ve captured many images of Warwick Castle over the years and its been hard to narrow down my selection of photos to a few. I decided to share a few of the castle itself, but to mainly focus on the re-enactments which are lots of fun to watch.

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And now for my favourites…

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A bit more re-enactment with horses!

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Another fight…

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Add a little fire…

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Finally, a little horsing around.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip into the past.

Have you been to Warwick Castle, what did you think?

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Tomorrow how about an Xtremely healthy lunch?

Check out other A-Z blog posts here.

#AtoZChallenge N – Notebooks I’ll never use

I have always loved notebooks and stationery. Always!

I collect notebooks and have a shelf full of unused ones. I think I must be the easiest person to buy for. A notebook and pen and I’m happy.

But these three beauties I’ve had on my shelf for at least fourteen years. I can’t bring myself to write in them. Nothing will ever be good enough to mar their beautiful pages. They were not particularly expensive, although at the time it would have been a luxury purchase.

I have to be careful, my daughter has her eye on this shelf. And I’ve seen her eyeing up these books before.

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It’s funny, when she saw them on the table she said, ‘So you’re finally going to write in them then!’

No, not today.

Do you love stationery, and do you have anything you just can’t bear to use?

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Links to other a-z challenge blogs can be found here.

 

#AtoZChallenge M – Mood Music and the Miracle of Life

I’ve had tons of ideas for the M post in the A to Z Blog Challenge. These are a couple of things that have stuck with me.

Mood Music

I had an Q&A session with Book Savvy Reviews this week, here is the link if you missed it (Q&A). One of the questions was did I have any muse music I liked to listen to when writing. I thought I would share a couple of youtube videos of my favourite atmospheric singer/songwriter/musician. He is a totally talented and I love his music – Ben Howard…

Esmerelda – I love this song. It is simply beautiful.

Oats on the water – Hauntingly beautiful and builds to a dramatic conclusion though not over the top. Just perfect and it gives me goosebumps.

Old Pine – This is another beautiful track with lots of nostaliga to it. Lovely bit of acoustic guitar.

Keep your head up – I feel this song has a bit of a life motto ‘Keep your head up, keep your heart strong’. Brilliant song. This link also plays other of Ben Howard’s songs The Wolves, Only Love.

I love every track on his debut album Every Kingdom. It’s worth a listen, maybe you’ll find some mood music to set the tone for your next writing project. Also check out the EP’s Burgh Island and The Old Pine. I cannot recommend them enough.

 

Miracle of life

When I moved into my first house 7 years ago and finally got a garden, I went all out growing my own vegetables. My garden even won a prize for a local competition ‘Best Vegetable Garden.’ Not bad for a first effort!

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This year has not gone so well; the a-z blog, a kitten that climbs the window sills and will no doubt knock over my propagating trays, trying to market Visions of Zarua, and finish the edit on my next book. Something has to give.

I’m sad looking back on these pictures full of life and greenery that I haven’t put much effort into my garden. But it’s only April, plenty of time to set that straight.

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If you want a hobby, gardening is wonderful. Growing from seeds and watching the miracle of life as tiny green shoots appear. Then tending and nurturing the plants as they grow and later enjoying the rewards of your labour, either visually or gathering your crop and eating it.

Time to plant some seeds I think.

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Tomorrow N for notebooks.

Check out other a to z posts here

#AtoZChallenge I – Inspiration

I was lost for Inspiration with ‘I’ and that’s when it dawned on me… Inspiration.

I find getting outside with nature, whether that’s just walking or taking photographs, charges up my creativity. I like beautiful places, but forests have a special place in my heart. These two prints hang in my home, and I love to stare into them and wonder what is waiting beyond the trees.

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Pictures and visual aids really get the ideas flowing. A great place to find these pictures is in magazines. Especially as you can cut the pictures out and keep them with you whenever you need a creativity boost.

I subscribe to some really good magazines that have fascinating articles as well as stunning pictures. Lots of my characters, places and ideas have come from these pages.

My top three for inspirations are;

Country file (also love the TV show on a Sunday)

Lonely Planet

Discover Britain.

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I wrote a post about this a few months ago. Original post.

In the post I revealed how I covered my writing area with pictures to inspire my WIP. That would be fine, but my desk is in a corner of the kitchen so everyone has to put up with my mess. I think it looks great though. I can sit back and stare at these pictures and escape into the world I am creating.

my writing space

I told you it was a mess!

Do you have any magazines that inspire you?

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Tomorrow a delicious Jam.

Check here for links to my other a-z challenge posts.

 

#AtoZChallenge A – Amber’s Method: Top 5 #writingtips

Amber’s Method on how to create characters and stories.

(Background – Amber is my 9 year old daughter, but she’s already teaching me a thing or two about writing.)

1. Start with a name.

She uses name books to look up interesting male and female names.

I prefer to make names up, another reason I love the fantasy genre, but I often find the names are not unique and are used in unexpected places. My current W.I.P ‘Garrick’ is actually a London theatre and a nearby road I’d never heard of before. ‘Brogan’ has been an ogre in Sherk. ‘Rike’ has been used in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy.

2. Use pictures off the internet to create an Inspiration File

If she wants a particular type of character like a fairy or mermaid, or maybe a dark haired 10 year old, she’ll put in the search and look through the pictures. She then copies the pictures into a file that she can use to describe the character and refer to when she needs to. This also works for settings and objects.

My method has always been looking for faces and places in magazines and plastering them around my wall. Unfortunately my workspace is in the kitchen so everyone has to put up with my mess. Using a computer file would be a lot tidier and I would have it will me all the time.

(Pinterest – I used this to give me inspiration for the cover of Visions of Zarua. It’s a great resource, and one I want to put to better use for future books.)

3. Write the story – don’t edit until then end!

I’ve often said to her are you going to change that word (I hate seeing a word underlined in red) but she says ‘No, I’ll edit it at the end.’

4. Don’t show it to others too soon.

I have not been allowed to read her work yet.

Sometimes it makes sense to show restraint and get the work ready for others to see. Also talking about the WIP too soon can kill the spark of inspiration.

5. If you’re stuck use picture prompts, or read other books for ideas.

My daughter has shown me a picture prompt site called Pobble365.com that has a picture for each day of the year to use for inspiration. It also give you a starting sentence or words, and asks questions that can spark story ideas. It’s used in school, so is aimed more at children, but it’s still a fun way to spark story ideas.

I’m looking forward to applying these tips to my writing in the future.

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Tomorrow I’ll be discussing Beta Readers, and then onto some more crafty posts. Right now its off to Hampton Court to spent the day steeped in history and beautiful buildings. I hope to have some interesting pictures to share for ‘H’.

(The pic is of a beautiful fountain at Witley Court, Worcestershire. It’s my picture prompt for the day!)

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Please leave comments and I’ll get back to you this evening. I’m looking forward to checking out some new blogs on this challenge.

#BookReview – Wild Ruins by Dave Hamilton

The first thing that drew me to this book was the title, Wild Ruins. I’ve always loved ruins and this book has over 300 of them to discover. Then there is the amazing cover, which drew me in, not least because it’s just like an image I have in my head for my current WIP – Search for the Sentinel.

book review Wild Ruins

This is a very easy to use reference book with chapters focusing on counties i.e. Cornwall, Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

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A nice touch are the pages at the beginning where the author suggests the best ruins for things like foraging (a favourite pastime of mine), picnics, beautiful walks, the weirdest and strangest ruins and the best for children and families.  The book has lots of inspiring pictures, maps, ordnance survey grid references and post codes for sat nav.

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It’s a good size to fit in a ruck sack, and I certainly can’t wait to take it on family holidays and outings to discover these Wild Ruins for myself.

From a writers perspective this is a book of pure inspiration, a must for all our bookshelves.

I’ve rated it 4 out of 5 stars. I suppose my only complaint would be the lack of glossy pictures inside, just to make it more visually pleasing.

Check out Wild Ruins on Amazon.