Friday 17 January 2014

#FridayFlash - Wake Me

I see the man on the subway every morning, always slumped in the same seat, his chin resting on his chest as he snores. A cardboard sign hangs around his neck, the string entangled with his faded tie, with the words 'Wake me at the end of the line' written in a childish but legible hand. It's confusing because the Red Line is circular - unless you count 8th Street West where trains go in or out of service, there is no end of the line. I sometimes wonder if that's why I see him every morning - maybe he never gets off the train. Maybe he lives here.

He's the only reason most of us talk to each other. We exchange theories as to who he is, or what could be at the end of the line that he needs to wake up for. Weirdly, none of us are brave enough to wake him early, though everyone claims to know someone who tried. One of my fellow commuters, a marketing rep named Dan, suspects he's trying to become an urban legend. We nickname him The Snooze.

Months pass and he keeps sleeping on the train, dozing through the rattles and clatter of the morning commute. We keep theorising about him, and the morning commute begins something to savour; for some of us, it's the only kind word we'll have all day. Every evening I hitch a lift with Sally from sales, but I sometimes consider catching the train. Maybe he'll still be there.

Today it all changes. The Snooze still sleeps on the train, dressed in black instead of his usual threadbare tweed. He wears a smart trilby instead of his battered fedora. The sign is still cardboard, but instead of scrawl, elegant calligraphy spells out the words 'Wake me at the end of it all'. I can't stop staring at the sign, and I notice it earns more attention from my fellow passengers. We're all still staring at it when the ominous rumbling starts. It's the last thing we see when darkness swallows our carriage.

I reach out a trembling hand to wake him.

Original image by Keeper182. Edits by me.

Thursday 16 January 2014

#BookReview - Cobweb Empire

Back in October I reviewed Vera Nazarian's Cobweb Bride, the first in a trilogy set in an imaginary pocket of Europe during the Renaissance. I absolutely loved book one, awarding it four blunt pencils, and managed to get my mitts on Cobweb Empire, its follow-up. I've had book two on my Kindle for some time, but I'll admit, the release of the final book, Cobweb Forest, gave me the kick up the bum that I needed to read it.

As with book one, Cobweb Empire tells the story of Percy Ayren, the ordinary village girl from northern Lethe, only now Percy isn't so ordinary. During book one, death stopped entirely while the Reaper searched for his Cobweb Bride, and the dead were forced to keep going in whatever state they were in at the point of 'death'. By book two, things are getting worse, and entire sections of the world are simply disappearing. After an audience with the Reaper, Percy's now been granted the ability to give the dead a final ending, reuniting their broken bodies with their souls. In a world where no one can die, such an ability is obviously highly prized, and many people see the value in having Percy in their custody. Trouble is, Percy needs to be elsewhere, still tasked with finding the Cobweb Bride, so off she goes, accompanied by handsome knight Sir Beltain Chidair, to find her.

While Percy's having adventures throughout both the Realm and the Domain, a host of other characters are also exploring the extensive world created by Nazarian, be they the terrifying Sovereign of the Domain, hell bent on conquering the Realm, or the dandyish duo, Lady Amaryllis and Lord Nathan, held captive in a northern dungeon. There is plenty going on to keep the narrative ticking along at a smart pace, and being book two, Cobweb Empire has the luxury of being able to hit the ground running. Having read the Kindle version, I think I read at least 20% of it in one go.

As ever, the characterisation is spot on (although I'm not sure that eyes need to be constantly described as being 'liquid'), and it's easy to root for Percy. Grial the witch makes more of an appearance in this book, and she's a wonderful character who reminds me a lot of Mrs Weasley from Harry Potter. I was pleased to get to know Lady Amaryllis more - she was a little stereotypical in book one but she shows real wit and ingenuity in book two, as does Nazarian herself. The world she has created is an extraordinary one, packed with inventive details. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

It won't make much sense if you haven't read book one, but I'd highly recommend that you buy both and read them back to back. It also baffles me why Hollywood keeps making remakes when it could be adapting something like this for the big screen. Hopefully HBO might take the hint!

Four blunt pencils!

You can buy Cobweb Empire from Amazon for both Kindle and paperback, or for other e-readers from Smashwords.

Monday 13 January 2014

Post-Christmas Grind: Getting Back into Your Writing Routine

No matter how good your intentions, sticking to a well-honed writing routine over Christmas is virtually impossible. Putting aside all of the time commitments involved in buying and wrapping presents, visiting friends and family, and preparing all that food, even if you do manage to sneak in some writing time, you’ll no doubt be met with cries of “Oh you’re not writing, are you? But it’s Christmas.”

Writers are lucky in that their chosen line of work is not only fun, it also offers a high degree of escapism, but sadly, many non-writers still think we’re chained to our laptops. Of course, the problem you face after any interruption to a routine is finding a way back into it. Christmas offers a particularly large interruption due to the length of time it seems to last, and the fact that you’ll be trying to get back into other routines, not just those involving writing. Still, it must be done, so here are five suggestions of things you can do to get back into the swing of things!

Write ANYTHING for Ten Minutes

Yes, this one is fairly self-explanatory. Choose anything as a prompt, or just simply write about what you got for Christmas. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, just make sure it’s constant for ten minutes. Don’t worry about what you’re writing, just write without pauses. Use a timer, or a website like Write or Die to keep you on track. It’s amazing how much simply writing to get the words out will get you back into the habit of writing.

Use a Current Project As a Prompt

If you’re in the middle of a longer project, try writing a flash or short story about a character other than the protagonist. If you don’t have something on the go, write about a character from a story you’ve already finished.

Use Movies to Inspire You

Chances are, you may have watched some great movies over the Christmas period. Write a missing scene, prologue or ending from a movie of your choice. Prose is fine, though if you want to write it in screenplay format that could keep you on your toes! It’s always beneficial to try writing in a different form to the one you’re used to.

Revisit Old Ideas

If you keep a notebook (and you should), flick through and browse those ideas you’ve jotted down in the past years. If none of them strike you as being good fodder for a flash, short story or even a novel, then choose a sentence at random and those that as a prompt for a story, poem or even a blog post.

Let the World Inspire You

Re-read something you’ve actually finished. Remember why you wrote it, and how much you enjoyed finishing it. Go for a walk and let your brain absorb everything around you – you might even do this just before you go out to check out the sales. Get back to your writing area feeling refreshed and ready to write!

Make sure you make a concerted effort to get back into your writing routine, but don’t push yourself too hard or your brain will rebel against you. Try one (or all, if you’re feeling brave) of these suggestions and see how it goes. We're two weeks into 2014 and it would be a good way to establish a routine for the coming year if you got back into one now!