Put this in your writer’s toolbox.

 

Structuring your novel

 

Structure and creativity can co-exist

There are those writers who balk at the very idea of outlining a work of fiction. They feel that structure and creativity cannot co-exist peacefully.  Then there are those writers who fall on the other end of the spectrum. They believe in formulaic structure and are passionate about the rigidity of these frameworks. I prefer to walk a middle line down these two paths of thought, and Weiland shows how easily this balance between structure and creativity can be achieved.

In simple terms, Weiland provides a framework that has proven success, with easy references to a variety of genres and classics for practical examples. Weiland starts with the bigger picture of dissecting the novel as a complete whole, and then delves deeper into the scene and the sequel, and finally, into the basics of sentence construction. There are checklists and questions to keep writers on track and some wonderful creative suggestions to assist with driving stories forward, while ensuring that they remain on track.

As writers, we need to keep honing and improving our crafts. This is one tool that should be in every writer’s toolbox.     

4 of 5 stars to ‘Timebound’ by Rysa Walker

Time bound

Intricate multiple plotlines

Kate’s father says that the little medallion her grandmother gives her is pink, but to Kate, it is a brilliant blue. When she discovers that the medallion is actually a time travel key, it is hard enough to comprehend, but when her entire time-line gets rewritten – without her grandmother, parents or herself, Kate is devastated. She is the only one who can fix the ripple and that means going back to 1893, risking her life and losing the boy she’s fallen in love with.

It’s no small feat to manage a single time-line in a novel, so juggling multiple timelines requires some God-like skill. No fear, Rysa Walker apparently has some God-like qualities – at least in this Chronos world. The story lines are expertly woven and completely believable, right down to the backstory timeline that does and doesn’t exist.

I particularly enjoyed the political and religious themes. So many time travel stories deal with personal issues of characters who think only as far as their own lives, but this one recognizes the power of religion both past and present (and even future). The beginning of the story was a little slow compared to the action-packed time travelling, but I felt that the author has done a good job setting up a sturdy background for an exciting series.

Kate’s character is easy to fall in love with. She’s human, doesn’t always do the right thing and is completely relatable. The mystery and action is nail-biting and the ending tied up nicely, while leaving me with many reasons to click through to Amazon to order the sequel.

4 of 5 stars to ‘Chaysing dreams’ by Jalpa Williby

Chaysing Dreams

 

Extended timespan

Life is perfect for Tessnia and she breezes through it. Her parents are supportive and school is a showcase for her straight A’s and fantastic athletic ability. The only cloud on her otherwise pin-straight horizon is the strange recurring dream that leaves her quaking in terror, but with her best friends Kylie and Jack at her side, life is a content and orderly adventure. When Tess starts University, she expects no less than the best, but when Chris meets her on the track, she soon learns that there is much more to life than her sheltered past has exposed her to. There is an instant connection between the two, and some conflict too as Chris teaches and challenges Tess to reach her full potential, which is far greater than even she could ever have imagined. But Chris’ life may not be as perfect as Tess’s and she soon finds out that the secrets he harbors may put them both in mortal danger.

Williby has a very short and effective writing style; there are no long sentences or weighty adverbs and adjectives. It lends the story a straight forward, almost diary type of feel that is refreshing. She manages to portray deep emotion without too much introspection and the gradual maturing of her characters over the extended time period is realistic and full-bodied.

It’s hard to put this novel into any one particular genre, because it spans such a long time period in Tess’s life, and there’s so much in it. There’s mystery, love, sex, a touch of paranormal and contemporary, young adult and adult content. There were some really minor grammatical and tense errors, as well as some repetition and some telling instead of showing early on, but once I got deeper into the story, I understood the reason behind this and was swept away in the story. The extended timespan just adds so much more to the perceived perfection of Tess’s life and reinforces the ‘shock’ factor of the ‘not-so-perfect’ happenings.

The premise is an intriguing one, although I feel that more information is necessary, which means that Williby has done her job well and given me a good reason to buy the sequel. The action and the sex scenes were tastefully done, the story was beautifully paced and the characters were endearing. Put this one on your reading list – and while you’re at it, just add the sequels too because this author has such a unique and entertaining writing style.

4 of 5 stars to The Forest Bull by Terry Maggert

Ring Hardigan and his companions Wally and Risa aren’t your average nine to fivers. They spend their time tracking down and putting down the immoral immortals that ravage innocents. When they are contacted by a Baron from a forgotten forest to track down his stolen jewellery and the daughter who is the thief, they are sceptical. Their investigation leads them deeper into danger and they soon realise that they may just have just stepped into a timeless war between the minions of hell and Satan himself.

The Forest Bull 

 

Master of words

Terry Maggert is a master of words. The vocabulary at play within this novel is a masterpiece in itself. It is like a rich chocolate dessert that has been perfectly presented for a Masterchef episode! Each word has been painstakingly chosen to create an aura of ageless fantasy, with a dash of James Bond. I’m not ashamed to admit that I learned a few new words reading this novel! The characters are richly developed, with wonderful flaws, pasts and dirty habits. Maggert’s high level of writing skill is clearly evident in the sentence construction, words choices and descriptions, which create an introspective, timeless feel to the story.

There were some things I felt distracted. The constant changes in point of views and time lines for one; I felt that the story moved best during Ring’s point of view scenes. The descriptions (e.g. the forest scene in the beginning) were stunning, but at times, I felt were superfluous, although deliciously entertaining. Some of the tense changes were jarring for me in Ring’s descriptions. The ending was confusing, and I still feel like I’m missing something, but perhaps that is the intention?    

It was refreshing to read a supernatural novel from a male POV, with unusual ‘villains’ who are brutal, sexual and immoral. Overall, I really enjoyed ‘The Forest Bull’ and would recommend it to both genders.  

5 of 5 stars to ‘Crown of Midnight’ by Sarah J Maas

Crown of midnight

Perfectly paced

***Spoiler alert for Book one of ‘Throne of Glass’.

She’s won the fight and now she’s the King’s champion, but for Celaena Sardothien, the true fight has only just begun. Forced to kill for the man who destroyed her world, she must decide between doing what is right and risking everyone she loves, or obeying her instructions and snuffing out the last bit of light left glowing inside her.

Sarah J Maas is a true creator, and she gives and takes away in perfect measure. The plot is perfectly paced, with just the right amount of information being given at any point to keep your breath bated and the pages turning. The relationships between Celaena, Chaol and Dorian were realistically and slowly developed over the series and there is no clear winner. It’s so much more exciting when you’re torn between the two male leads; they’re both great in their own ways and it’s refreshing not to know who she’s going to end up with.

The sub-plots are intricately woven; I’ve only read one other author who is able to achieve this feat so expertly, Jeaniene Frost. The action is nail-biting and the fantasy world is so well rounded and detailed, that it’s impossible not to be drawn into its amazing landscape. Celaena’s character is unique, and some of the best moments were watching her inner turmoil as she struggled with the darker parts of herself.

I haven’t felt this excited about a series since ‘The Hunger games’. It’s one of those series you check Amazon each day to see if the next book is available for pre-order.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Beneath the Willow’ by Gemma Farrow and a chat with the author!

Beneath the willow

‘Thomas,’ Keziah whispered, ‘don’t bury me deep.’

 

Thomas’s life has changed in a few short days, and so has his beloved Keziah. After an attack one night, by a creature that shouldn’t exist, Keziah tries to prepare them both for what is to come, but can Thomas do his part? Can he make the right choice and live or die by the consequences?

I can count on my two hands the number of short stories I’ve read in my life, and most of them were school curriculum selected. In general, they’re not my thing. I always wonder how an author can cram a whole, meaningful story that requires character development into so few words. But Gemma Farrow can – and she does it well.

‘Beneath the Willow’ is a poignant tale of love, grief, moral questioning and fear. With a few well chosen words, Ms Farrow has created an immediate emotional connection to characters that are four-dimensional. Her choice of original similes, metaphors and beautifully descriptive words pull you into the melancholy dilemma that faces Thomas as he decides what to believe, and what to do about his adored Keziah, who is changing into something else – something ‘other’.

I’m also not normally a fan of memories and flashbacks but they are so well done here, that they add an additional dimension of surreal grief to the tale. The story itself is unique too, without the sexual and glamorous plotlines most vampire novels have, or the usual expected ending. There is a thriller / horror element, a little romance too, but for me, this story is more about being human. It’s about having to make choices between your head and your heart and paying the consequences for those decisions.

If Ms Farrow can do this in only a few words, I wonder what she can do with a full-length novel. I’ll be keeping my eye out for more work from this talented author!

 

Let’s chat with Gemma Farrow, author of ‘Beneath the Willow’:

 

Q: Tell us a little about Gemma Farrow.

A: I’ve been writing since childhood, and had my first short story published by a small independent magazine when I was nineteen. Since then, thirteen years on, I’ve had over twenty short stories published, and an equal number rejected. I love nothing but to write. I live to create minor worlds that reflect the range of human frailties and strengths, the sorrows and joys. The people I know, think because I write paranormal and psychological horror, that it’s about violence and cheap scares. Horror for me is a genre that demands depth and emotional textures. As a writer, I need to hook my reader, and also like to blind-side them with unexpected reactions. If realism doesn’t exist in my writing, then the horror won’t have the greatest impact.

Q: When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?

A: When I was eleven years old. My English teacher told us to write a short story about anything that interested us. I wrote a ghost story.

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

In May 2014, I finished the first book in my horror trilogy. It took me a year to write. It’s gone through many edits, including a professional one, and now is ready for the final polish. I’m also partway through the first draft of book 2. And planning out book 3. The storyline is about disconnection, loss, madness, and finding the courage to face the unknown. It’s a story about monsters, both human and ‘other’.

Q: Do you have a life’s motto?

A: Yes. ‘No matter what, keep trying.’

Q: Why did you choose paranormal/psychological horror as your genre?

A: That’s down to Stephen King, James Herbert, Graham Masterton, and Ramsay Campbell. From childhood through to now, they have been my favourite authors. My older siblings introduced me to their books. Horror films too, played an informative part in my fascination with this genre.

Q: Thomas has to make a difficult decision between his head and his heart. Have you ever had to do the same?

A: Yes. Fortunately for me, my decision didn’t have such an extreme consequence unlike Thomas’ eventual choice.

Q: The dreams Thomas has are vivid and realistic. Have you ever had such nightmares?

A: I’ve always been fascinated by dreams, and I study those I remember. I have a dream notebook. I guess because of this practice, and mental focus, my dreams are vivid and often lucid. I do tend to have more nightmares than dreams. But this is something I appreciate, because the nightmares seed future stories. Some of the things I’ve dreamed are in my horror trilogy.

Q: Do you read all your reviews? What do you do with the good ones and the bad?

A: I read all my reviews, and especially focus on the bad ones. The good ones boost my confidence, but the bad ones—or critiques—if they come from an unbiased viewpoint help me improve my craft. They may highlight something I haven’t noticed, a bad writing habit or dropped words. Reading reviews help maintain an awareness of how readers interact with a story, because when writing, it is easy to forget you are writing for a readership, and not just for yourself.

Q: Tell us about one childhood/teenage memory that has impacted the person you have become.

A: My mum is a strong believer in the supernatural and attending séances or hosting them was something she liked to do. As a child, I used to sneak downstairs, and spy through the gap in the door, whenever a séance was taking place. This fuelled my fascination, and also spooked me quite a bit. Once I became old enough, I was able to sit in the room when a séance was happening. I was familiar with them, and they no longer scared me. I started to view the séances objectively. I learned a lot about the afterlife, but most of all about people’s need to hang onto loved ones that have crossed-over. I realised I was no longer watching séances, but studying people, and their psychology.

 

Get ‘Beneath the Willow’ by Gemma Farrow on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D09DJQU/

 

Follow Gemma Farrow on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7142872