I have just over 2 months left to finish my first draft of The Mayor.
In an attempt to be positive about this, I’ve worked out the following:
According to my current plan, I only have 8 more chapters left to write.
Two of these ‘chapters’ are actually 1-2 page ‘interludes’.
I’m about halfway through one of these 8 chapters already.
I have a 4 day ‘writing retreat’ with K.F. Goodacre booked towards the end of November. The pseudo writing-retreat I took at the beginning of October resulted in 2 and a half chapters in just 4 days, so that bodes well.
So technically, that’s just 5 and a half more chapters I have left to write, plus 2 short interludey, epiloguey thingies… I’m currently aiming to complete at least a chapter a week so… that’s totally doable, right? I CAN DO THIS!
Today I got back from the booziest family/long-weekend holiday ever, and I didn’t get any writing done at all. So consequently I’m feeling pretty low and rubbish at the moment. It could very well be the hangover talking.
PLEASE SEND ME POSITIVE, ENCOURAGING THOUGHTS, YOU GUYS. I NEED THEM ♥
P.S. Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust is now in my possession, I repeat, THE BOOK OF DUST IS NOW IN MY POSSESSION ♥ I picked it up from Waterstones today. Have you got your paws on a copy yet? Have you finished it? Ahhhhh, I’m so excited! I feel like I’ve been waiting my entire life for this.
The ‘Deadline’ comic strip is by the wonderful Sarah Andersen aka. Sarah Scribbles. The other two graphics are sadly sourceless — please let me know if they are yours and would like to be credited, or for the image to be removed.
This July, I won my first ever Camp NaNoWriMo. I feel like I keep participating in these events and failing — which is rather disheartening — so this time I made sure to set myself a realistic goal that I could meet despite having a full-time job, a boyfriend, and a family to placate. The aim was to write for the equivalent of 1 hour for every day of the month of July. It worked! I smashed it, I had fun, and I’m just that little bit closer to meeting my self-imposed 31st December 2017 deadline for completing a first draft of The Mayor. Hazzah!
Something else cool, my writing partner K.F. Goodacre recently attended a medieval festival called the Loxwood Joust. First of all, can I just say how jealous I am. I love all things medieval (I read Medieval History at University) so it is my fervent hope that I am able to go with her next time. It looked like such amazing fun!
Whilst she was there, she very kindly picked up some homemade gingernut biscuits for me, which were made according to a recipe from the 18th century. The true thoughtfulness of this gesture will be lost on you, Dear Reader, so I will endeavour to explain. Melora — the 18th century protagonist of The Mayor — adores gingernut biscuits. They are her absolute favourite, and I use them as a neat little device for helping her to form bonds with other characters. Kim knew this, so she bought them for me from this festival (not very medieval, I know, but still historical I guess!). They’re so awesome, I’m almost reluctant to eat them. Almost.
As if that weren’t enough, she also gifted me with a genuine pirate doubloon from a company she has forgotten the name of (I’m trying to find out) who have helped provide productions like Game of Thrones and Pirates of the Caribbean with their props. Lookie!
OK, it’s not actually a doubloon. Real doubloons were made of gold. This is essentially the pirate equivalent of a penny, but it is still beautiful! I love it. It looks very similar to the necklace that my character Nell Shoar wears, wouldn’t you agree?:
Thank you so much, Kimothy! ♥ I knew you were my writing partner for a reason. Thank you for continuing to inspire and motivate me to write this blasted thing.
Lastly (slightly off-topic) Voltaire’s new album Heart-Shaped Wound dropped on Friday. It. Is. Awesome. Voltaire, for those of you not in the know, is huge news on the Goth scene and his piratey album To The Bottom of the Sea features heavily on the playlist for The Mayor. Decidedly more melancholic and personal than the likes of say, ‘Zombie Prostitute’ and ‘Brains!’, I strongly recommend Heart-Shaped Wound. Please check it out here — it’s on sale and you won’t regret it! It even features the likes of incredible metal vocalist Alissa White-Gluz (now there’s a musical collaboration I definitely didn’t see coming! It’s so good to hear her singing cleans again).
I have a confession to make, Dear Readers. It is this: I am a serial cheat.
I have a boyfriend, it is true. A real-life, living and breathing boyfriend whom I love very deeply. He is all I could ever ask for — and more. He makes me very happy indeed.
But there are Others.
Yes, Mark, my dear, the truth is, I’ve been having it off with ten other people behind your back. Some of them I was even seeing before I started dating you. Unfortunately for me — but very fortunately for you — none of them actually exist. They are not real. They are fictional.
They are my Book Boyfriends.
So, in the spirit of my writing partner K.F. Goodacre’s Top Ten Tuesdays, I have compiled a list of 10 men (mostly) from the world of literature who have captured my heart in various ways. Here they are in no particular order:
Rhysand from A Court Of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
ETA September 2017: For the first time since writing this post, I have actually had to move a Book Boyfriend off the list (see below… way below) in order to make room for a new one…
If you’d have told me back in July/August 2017 when I was still reading A Court Of Thorns and Roses (Book One in the eponymous trilogy by Sarah J. Maas) that Rhysand — feared and reviled High Lord of the Night Court — would feature on my list of Book Boyfriends, I’d have laughed in your face. He who sent severed heads to the Spring Court as a mere taunt. He who plied the protagonist with faerie wine, dressed her in cobwebs and forced her to dance upon his lap. He who forced her lover to kneel before him and beg him to spare her life. Who forced the protagonist into a bargain marked upon her flesh that would require her to spend one week of every month with him for the rest of her life, like some twisted bat-winged Hades.
“I don’t get why everyone loves Rhysand,” I remember texting K.F. Goodacre as I was nearing the end of A Court of Thorns and Roses. “Literally do not get it. He’s not just awful. He’s vile.”
Au contraire! Along comes Book Two: A Court Of Mist and Fury, and it turns out there’s a second-meaning behind literally everything Rhysand does. He: respects women; encourages independent thought; is not controlling or abusive (seriously, I can say this with full sincerity even after the reprehensible actions I describe above); does not withhold information; really cares about his people; campaigns for equality; lives by what he preaches; takes responsibility for his mistakes; doesn’t stick his head in the sand about matters of life threatening importance; utterly self-sacrificing in every respect; super intelligent; really quite sarcastic and funny; good looking; sexy as hell; filthy in bed.
He is literally perfect. He has no flaws. None. And that is why he has catapulted himself to the top of my list of Book Boyfriends and why bat wings are a huge turn-on for me now.
“Rhysand is the most handsome High Lord. Rhysand is the most delightful High Lord. Rhysand is the most cunning High Lord…”
Jamie Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Jamie Fraser’s inclusion on this list will come as a surprise to precisely no one who has read Diana Gabaldon’s time-travelling epic historical romance novel, Outlander (published under its original title of Cross Stitch in the UK and Australia).A Scottish warrior from 1743, Jamie Fraser is the husband of the book’s protagonist, Claire Randall (née Beauchamp) — a combat nurse from 1945. I know it sounds mad, but trust me, it works.
Essentially written to be the perfect man, Jamie is passionate, headstrong and incredibly brave. He will not hesitate to put himself in mortal peril to protect his family and the woman he loves, and can take more punishment than a Nokia 3310. Wickedly funny and hilariously stubborn, reading Jamie bash heads with the comparatively modern sensibilities of his wife is so much fun to read. To top it all off, he swears like a sailor, looks good naked and is extremely generous between the sheets. What’s not to love?
If you cannot be bothered to read the book, I strongly recommend Starz excellent TV adaption of Outlander where Jamie is played to absolute perfection by the very talented Sam Heughan (pictured above).
Captain Kennit from The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb
Oh, Kennit. Ours has been a… rocky relationship to say the least. You are by far the most controversial character to feature on this list, and considering it also includes two skeletons — literally — that is really saying something.
From the very first chapter of Ship of Magic — the first book in Robin Hobb’s stunning The Liveship Traders trilogy — I fell in love with her beloved pirate captain. Charismatic, handsome and impressive to all who meet him, Kennit’s only ambition is to possess a liveship and become King of the Pirate Isles and woe betide anyone who stands in his way. Though Kennit’s actions are outwardly benevolent and his knack for cultivating the affections of others unrivalled, his manner is relentlessly cold and utterly devoid of empathy. With a horrifying past that is only revealed to the reader in gradual snippets, he is driven to commit an act so repulsively abhorrent that anyone ‘in the know’ is likely screaming at me right now, demanding to know why I put him on this list.
The truth is, I cannot help it. I loved being inside Kennit’s head. I loved reading about him, loved wondering what the hell he was going to do next, how he was going to get out of this scrape or that, how he was going to keep up his web of lies. I fell in love with him for the same reasons Etta, Wintrow and the rest of his crew did; I was manipulated to do so. Damn you, Robin Hobb…
As a side-note, Kennit is by far the most compelling and complex villain I have ever, ever read. Not only that, but he remains to this day my favourite ever fictional character.
Kell Maresh from Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Everyone’s favourite Black-Eyed Prince, Kell is the most recent addition to my list of Book Boyfriends. In fact, at the time of writing, I still haven’t read the final book in V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy (A Conjuring Of Light), but nevertheless, Kell still features because he’s just that attractive. I absolutely adore him.
Kell is what is known as an Antari, or Traveller; a two-of-a-kind magician with a rare ability to travel between parallel worlds connected by the city of London. Magic surges so strongly in an Antari that they are marked with one completely black eye devoid of iris or sclera. Disliking the admiring looks he gets from some and the fearful reactions he gets from others, Kell chooses to hide his mark behind a fringe of red hair. Raised as a prince in his home world of Red London, he also serves as an interdimensional messenger between the monarchs and practises a bit of smuggling on the side. It is this latter practise that lands him in trouble with potentially world-breaking consequences.
Kell’s appeal lies in his overwhelming desire to do the Right Thing, regardless of the enormous personal cost. He is fiercely protective of his little brother, the Crown Prince Rhy, as well as highly intelligent, endearingly strong-willed and an exceptionally snappy dresser. He also has a serious knack for triggering ‘Florence Nightingale’ syndrome in me by being unfairly treated by his step-father King Maxim on a regular basis and routinely taking a few life-threatening knocks. Come here, Kell. I’ll turn that perpetual frown of yours upside down…
Aragorn from Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
Confession time: Aragorn probably wouldn’t feature on this list if it wasn’t for Viggo Mortensen’s jaw-dropping (and rather attractive) performance in Peter Jackson’s cinematic adaption of Lord Of The Rings (2001-2003). I have tried to read Tolkein’s book no less than three times and it was only on the third attempt that I finally managed to struggle through to the end. The character of Aragorn — or “Strider” as he is more commonly referred to by the hobbit protagonists — was one of the highlights of my reading.
Aragorn’s appeal comes from the contrast between his outwardly scruffy appearance and his high birth (“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost…”). He is a fearsome warrior who protects the hobbits to the very best of his ability, as Frodo-and-Friends’ mission to cast the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom conveniently coincides with his own mission to a) take his place as the rightful King of Gondor and b) win the hand of his elf love Arwen, whose father has refused permission for him to marry unless he fulfils the latter. Tolkein wrote Aragorn to be a hero in the truest sense. As such, he is essentially flawless.
Here is an extract from my reviewof The Fellowship of the Ring, which tells you all you need to know about my feelings for Aragorn:
But then Strider happened at the Prancing Pony. And there were Ring Wraiths. And daring escapes and near-death experiences. And Rivendell. And Strider. Did I mention Strider? Seriously. Strider. Strider, Strider, Strider.
Fun fact! Aragorn and I share a personality type: INFJ. Clearly we were meant to be…
Skulduggery Pleasant from Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Here he is; the first skeleton on my list. And you thought I was joking…
Skulduggery Pleasant is the “skeleton detective” dual-protagonist of Derek Landy’s nine-book series, Skulduggery Pleasant. Skulduggery became a skeleton when the evil sorcerer Nefarian Serpine killed his wife and child in front of him, tortured then killed him… only he didn’t do it properly. Somehow Skulduggery was able to pull himself back together and has been terrorising bad guys in Ireland ever since.
In his own words — for I am sure that is how he would most like to be described — Skulduggery is “sophisticated, suave and debonair” as well as a wise-cracking element-wielding sorcerer and flamboyant egotist. Though he has no body, is borderline insane and y’know… dead… Skulduggery’s dogged determination, strategic brilliance and laugh-out-loud one-liners make my heart soar. Plus if you can’t sleep for fear of being shunted into an alternate dimension where everyone wants to kill you, he’ll stay by your bedside and sing you to sleep with that lovely velvet voice of his. Be still my heart ♥
Mark Blackthorn from The Dark Artifaces by Cassandra Clare
You can keep your Herondales, your Carstairses and your Lightwoods. Me? I favour a Blackthorn; Mark Blackthorn to be precise. “First the flame and then the flood…”
The only non-straight character appearing on my list (unless you count the dangerously-repressed Captain Kennit which I absolutely do), Mark Blackthorn is half faerie, half Shadowhunter — a secret race of humans descended from angels who hunt demons. Following events in City of Heavenly Fire (Book 6 in The Mortal Instruments series), Mark is stolen away from his Shadowhunting family, the Blackthorns, and given over to the Fair Folk to become a prisoner of the Wild Hunt*. In Lady Midnight (Book 1 of The Dark Artifaces) the Fair Folk spit Mark back out again in exchange for the Blackthorns’ help in defeating a common enemy. Although perhaps Mark has been with the Wild Hunt for too long…
Mark is a prime example of a great character in a bad book. Lady Midnight was so poorly written that reading it made my head hurt, but Mark’s presence — in addition to all the Edgar Allan Poe references — was what made me grin and bear it. Pretty and puckish with a sarcasm detector that could rival that of Drax the Destroyer for ineffectiveness, Mark “[speaks] like a poem and [walks] like a dance”. Torn between his love for his family and that of the faerie prince Kieran of the Unseelie Court, Mark’s struggle to find his place in the Shadow world is palpable and just makes me want to give him a cuddle (yep, ‘Florence Nightingale Syndrome’ again, I’m a sucker for it). Plus, the delivery of one particular line of dialogue — the infamous “Why lie?” — made me positively squirm with sordid glee. I am looking forward to seeing how that panned out when the sequel Lord of Shadows is released later this month.
*K.F. Goodacre has a series surrounding the Wild Hunt called The Wild Hunt Chronicles. I’d tell you to check them out but she hasn’t written them yet, so instead I will tell you to watch this space…
Death from Discworld by Terry Pratchett
Here we are then at skeleton no. 2, and not just any skeleton but the Grim Reaper himself. Death is one of the main characters in Terry Pratchett’s fantabulous Discworld series and appears in pretty much every single Discworld book with the exception of The Wee Free Men and Snuff. This is unsurprising given his job, which is of course to usher souls from one world into the next. There is quite a bit of death on the Discworld, so for the most part he’s kept pretty busy.
Death has an irrepressible fascination with humans that often lands him in trouble, usually with the Auditors of Reality — spectral beings that like to mess with The Rules, such as stopping time so that they can catch up with their paperwork. In attempting to understand human behaviour, Death often tries to emulate it — something else the Auditors can’t stand– but almost always misses the mark to endearingly hilarious effect. Despite being largely devoid of any emotion, Death is very passionate about certain things with a deeply ingrained sense of morality and duty. He has had to save the day multiple times just to keep the Discworld ticking along, making do with little to no thanks for the trouble. A true hero.
I’m also a big fan of Death’s aesthetic; as well as tapping into my fondness for morbidness and skulls, he wears a black cowl, carries a scythe, SPEAKS LIKE THIS, enjoys curries and absolutely adores cats. See? We’d get along splendidly.
Valkyrie Cain from Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Look, Top 10 Book Partners doesn’t have the same ring to it as Top 10 Book Boyfriends, all right? And Valkyrie is most definitely in my Top 10, so on the list she goes. Deal.
Valkyrie Cain (real name Stephanie Edgely), like Skulduggery, is the dual-protagonist in Derek Landy’s aforementioned Skulduggery Pleasant series. Although she is just twelve years old in the first book (bear with me), she blossoms across nine books into a 21-year-old fireball throwing, shadow-wielding, lightning-charged badass. With a wit to rival Skulduggery’s and a fiery temper to boot, I fell in love with Valkyrie’s headstrong personality and no-nonsense attitude. Though she doesn’t suffer fools gladly and has a tendency to get bored with her romances very quickly, she is supremely loyal to her friends and family and there’s nothing she won’t do to help them.
You might get a wild, passionate fling with Valkyrie if you can bring yourself to see past the aloof gothic ice-queen she presents herself as. Sadly however it’s Skulduggery who holds her heart in all the ways that matter, so you’ll probably just be left out in the cold.
We can but dream.
Knightshade Valerian from The Seelie Court by K.F. Goodacre
The last Book Boyfriend I have to tell you about is a bit different from the others. He doesn’t exist yet!
His name is Knightshade Valerian and he is a character in my writing partner’s upcoming middle grade fantasy novel, The Elder Throne, the first book in The Equinox Trilogy and The Seelie Court series.
Being born to both a Seelie and an Unseelie parent — the latter of whom betrayed her army by defecting to the other side — Knightshade has suffered prejudice all his life. He has had to work ten times as hard to earn his position as Commander of the Seelie army (what with his mother being a known traitor and all) and despite all the bullying and routine humiliation he suffers even as an adult, he is nothing short of brave, honest, kind and good. Though a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, he never raises his voice or starts a fight. He also has an hilariously misplaced sense of morality when it comes to women, mostly because he doesn’t know how to talk to them. I find his fusty awkwardness incredibly endearing.
Like I said, Knightshade technically doesn’t exist because K.F. Goodacre is currently in the final editing stages of her book, but I am very confident you will meet him soon and I sincerely hope you love him as much as I do. He’s very much the type of man you want to take home to meet your mother, although to be honest, you probably don’t want to meet his…
Dumped Book Boyfriends:
No relationship is set in stone. Here are some Book Boyfriends that I’ve mentioned in the past, but have since moved on from to make way for new ones. Alas, alack etc.
Andevai Diarisso Haranwy from Spiritwalker by Kate Elliott
I can barely remember anything that happened in Kate Elliott’s historical-fantasy steampunk mash-up beyond the fact that I loved Mr Dar– sorry, I mean Andevai. From what I remember, the protagonist Cat Barahal is forced to marry Andevai in order to uphold some kind of bargain between her family and his. How romantic…
Except that it is, because what follows is a truly wonderful “hatemance” filled with catty remarks, fierce rebuttals and witty repartees. Initially cold and exceedingly arrogant, Andevai eventually softens as his love for Cat grows, if a little too quickly for my liking. The chemistry he and Cat have when they fight is nothing short of spectacular and my heart skipped a beat every time he appeared on the scene. Plus he built her a bed to take her virginity on. A bed, People. He built her a frikkin’ bed.
My writing partner read the first book in the trilogy, Cold Magic, and absolutely hated it. But she does remember really liking Andevai, so there you go. Such is the level of his sex appeal.
He built her a bed…
And that’s everyone! I hope you enjoyed reading about my Book Boyfriends. Who knows, perhaps we unwittingly share a few? Do please tell. I love a bit of gossip…
Be sure to check out all the authors mentioned above by visiting the following websites:
None of the images contained in this post are mine. Where possible, I have provided a source (click the image to view). If you own any of these images and are not comfortable with me sharing them here, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will endeavour to find a substitute!
Veteran indie author Michelle Lowe gave me a free eBook copy of her seventh book Legacy — the first in a seven-part Steampunk series — in exchange for an honest review. Not wanting to let the author down (and I must apologise to Michelle for taking so long to get around to reading it as well; I generally don’t do well reading books off of computer screens), I was really delighted when Legacy turned out to be a well-written, fast-paced adventure that takes place across both sides of the English Channel. It features a whole host of well-illustrated characters that I couldn’t help but love.
Archie Norwich, son of the nobleman Tarquin Norwich, is sent out by his father to find the notorious Pierce Landcross — a wanted fugitive and a thief. Tarquin wishes to interrogate Landcross on the location of the mysterious toymaker Indigo Peachtree and his even more mysterious journal which contains the key to world domination. Accompanying Archie, Pierce and Tarquin in their race for the journal are Archie’s plucky and resourceful sister Clover, his troubled alcoholic brother Ivor, Pierce’s possessed brother Joaquin, an airship manned by Apache slave-liberators, gypsy travellers, vampires and more.
Without a doubt, Michelle’s beloved anti-hero steals the show. Pierce Landcross is the absolute highlight of this book with his debonair wit, glittering cleverness and inconvenient moral compass that gets him both into and out of scrapes with reckless abandon. He played well off of the staunchly uptight, feckless Archie, whom I wanted to strangle several times, and both he and Archie had a really endearing relationship with Archie’s little sister Clover. Michelle is really good at “show don’t tell” when it comes to her writing, and she isn’t afraid to knock her characters about a bit either. Characterisation is definitely her greatest strength.
For me personally the plot was a little bit all over the place. Whilst being fun and really quite complex with a lot of twists and turns to keep me guessing, we did end up travelling great distances across the country from one place to another without any major inconveniences. Everyone seemed to know straight away where their targets were (this is discounting Mother of Craft’s supernatural hints to Tarquin) and were able to find each other just a little too easily despite being miles apart. There were also a couple of points that threw me out of the story completely, such as the baffling Prologue (we never hear from Jack Pack and Thooranu again) and the mysterious Mother Of Craft, although her role will most likely play out in later books. World-building was also regrettably thin on the ground, the Steampunk elements in particular being quite downplayed; the Apache airship was the only real tell that I was able to pick up on and I think Michelle can definitely afford to up the ante in later books.
Overall I really enjoyed Legacy and feel it sets up the series very well. I really loved all the characters and thought Michelle’s writing was tight and nicely paced, completely devoid of purple prose and overly long sentences that notoriously bog down the fantasy genre. I recommend it for anyone looking for well-written, fast and rollicking adventure. I am really looking forward to Book 2, and I hope to actually buy a copy this time!
For more information on Michelle Lowe and the world of Legacy, please visit the below links:
Today’s been a bit of a write-off (ha) in terms of story progression due to a rare hangover, so if I wasn’t going to be productive, I thought I might perhaps share with you a couple of the tools that I use for my writing instead.
For many years I relied upon good ol’ fashioned Microsoft Word for word processing, which I think is what most children of my generation were taught to use at school for absolutely everything from essays to short stories. Unfortunately, the thing about Microsoft Word is:
You cannot buy it individually and have to buy it as part of Microsoft’s Office suite with a load of superlative software like Excel, Outlook/OneNote and Publisher.
It’s bloody expensive, currently retailing on the official website at $149.99 for a one-time purchase, or alternatively you can shell out $69.99-$99.99 on an annual subscription for more products you won’t use and a household license.
It has far too many functions.
It’s far too distracting to write on.
So, here are a couple of alternatives (besides your bog standard pen and paper of course) that I have discovered work wonders for me and my productivity.
Please note that this post is not being sponsored by anyone and all my views are entirely my own. I’m just wishing to share the love!
I think many writers of today will agree that Literature & Latte Ltd’s Scrivener is a writer’s best friend. Whilst initially quite daunting with an absolutely massive tutorial to read through the first time you open it, you get to grips with it pretty quickly and now I cannot live without it. Scrivener doesn’t just let you store your words, it also:
Stores absolutely everything you can possibly think of about your novel in one place including your research notes, maps and inspirational images so you can quickly jump from one to the other at a click of a button.
Allows you assign labels to your writing e.g. ‘Chapter’, ‘Scene’, ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’, ‘First Draft’ so you can keep track of what you’re doing.
Provides a tree-view of your work so you can move bits of your stories around and drill-down into scenes within chapters within parts with ease.
Also provides a ‘corkboard’ view that does exactly the same thing if you prefer, with index cards for synopses or images.
Provides you with templates for designing characters, places and settings.
Lets you store all kinds of media related to your story, including images and music files.
Has an excellent distraction-free writing option called Composition Mode which removes all functions from the screen except for a blank page and your text.
Will compile your novel for you when you are finished.
Syncs with iOS so you can work on your project anywhere (the iOS app is sold separately to the main product; I personally don’t use it)
Now for the bad news: Scrivener is not free, retailing at approximately £36-£41 depending on whether you’re a Mac or Windows user. However, I cannot stress enough what excellent value for money this program is and it comes with a generous household license, meaning you can download it on multiple computers that are using the same platform.
Worth noting: even if you do not take part in NaNoWriMo, you should sign up anyway because Scrivener are one of their sponsors and sometimes do extremely generous promotional deals for NaNoWriMo participants (I ended up paying just £29.61 for the Mac version off the back of one such deal).
If I woke up one day and Scrivener had disappeared from my computer, I think I would go into meltdown. Buy it!
This handy iOS app is essentially the equivalent of carrying an extremely swish notebook around on your phone. I actually use Evernote for so many things other than my writing, including to-do lists, wish-lists, recipe storage, gym programs and reminders to myself. Most importantly though, I do use it for writing on the go. Whether it be jotting down an idea that’s come to me on the train, or writing out a scene that I just can’t get out of my head on my lunch break, Evernote is always there for me! It also has a great sharing function that I use with my writing partner, K.F. Goodacre whereby if we quickly need the other’s opinion on something, we just drop it in our ‘Feedback Wanted’ folder, sync up, and pick up. You never have to save anything either as it constantly syncing to the cloud. No more computer-crashing-before-you-could-save-your-file panic! Plus, because it’s cloud-based, you can view the contents of Evernote on all your devices and it’s cross-platform between Mac and PC. Yay!
Evernote is a partly-free subscription service with 3 tiers you can choose from depending on your needs:
Tier 1 – Basic (free): 2 devices and 60 MB (if you’re using Evernote for writing only this more than enough, so you could install Evernote on your phone and have it sync to your computer at home).
Tier 2 – Plus (£29.99/y): unlimited devices, 1 GB storage, access to customer support (I use this one because like I said, I use Evernote for everything, not just my writing).
Tier 3 – Premium (£49.99/y): unlimited devices, 10GB storage, access to customer support, PDF editing and lots more (not worth getting unless you’re running a business!).
By far my absolute favourite way to write is using the beautiful, completely distraction-free text processor, OmmWriter.
It is essentially a stand-alone, more advanced version of Composition Mode in Scrivener, that fills the whole screen and removes all distractions, including clocks, formatting options and the pesky internet. What you see in the screenshot above is pretty much all there is to it. You get a text box which you can drag around the page and make as small or as large as you want. You then get the option to change a very limited number of things to tailor your writing experience:
Font style (4 options – I use option 1)
Font size (4 options – I use option 3)
Background colour/image (8 options – I use option 5)
Background music/sound (8 options incl. mute – I use option 2)
Keystroke sounds (8 options incl. mute – I use option 1)
Save/load up a .txt or .omm file
And that’s it! The text box disappears and you just let the beautiful colours, music and sounds wash over and clear your mind completely for a distraction-free writing experience. Ah, bliss!
I have never been more productive than when I started writing with OmmWriter; it just makes it so pleasant to write and easy to become completely and utterly engrossed in your work. Like Scrivener and Evernote, I cannot live without it.
The creators of OmmWriter have a ‘pay what you want’ pricing structure, meaning that you can get OmmWriter for free, but you probably should at least pay the minimum price of $5.11 (like I did) because it’s such a gorgeous piece of software; the developers deserve every penny.
That’s all for now! I hope you will check some of these out if you were not aware of them already and that they help you as much as they have helped me. What do you guys use to write on? Do you disagree with some of my choices or have you some of your own to share?
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, on Thursday evening a few friends and I met up for a book-swapping party in honour of World Book Day. In addition to book-swapping, we also dressed up as our favourite literary characters just like hundreds of children across the country were doing for school, because we felt like revisiting our youth.
(I say this like it’s something I used to do as a child, but my school was incredibly boring and never hosted dress-up events on World Book Day. Thus I was super excited to be doing it for the first time!)
My character of choice was Valkyrie Cain from Derek Landy’s excellent Skulduggery Pleasantmiddle-grade series; a kickass young goth-sorceress who hangs around with a skeleton detective. Below is a picture of what she looks like. Being a kickass young goth-sorceress myself, I think it’s pretty easy to see why I chose her!
Here is what I managed to put together:
To create my Valkyrie look I used a fabulous real-feel synthetic black wig by YOPO Cosplay Wigs for Valkyrie’s signature long black locks. Makeup-wise I painted my entire face –including my lips — with Kat Von D’s Lock It Foundation (Light 42 Neutral) and used no blusher or face contour to get a pale, not-quite-human look. I also used Lipcote lipstick sealerfor good measure to make sure the lips stayed pale and weren’t affected by any food or drink I consumed that night. For the eyes, I figured that as a young teenage girl Valkyrie might be more concerned with fighting bad guys than doing her makeup, so I kept it light with contouring shades from Kat Von D’s Shade & Light eye palette in Smoke and just a very sparing application of Buxom Lash Mascaraon my upper eyelashes only. Lastly I used the ‘Define’ shade from the Kat Von D palette to darken my eyebrows to match my hair. Then I whacked on a pair of black jeans, black boots, a blood-red T-shirt and a black leather jacket, used a black hair-tie to make Valkyrie’s necromancer ring, grabbed one of my (many) decorative skulls for Skulduggery’s head and off I went!
Here is my book haul for the evening:
Of the above, I’m most looking forward to reading V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic whichI’ve heard such good things about. I was even more excited after I read the blurb to learn that some of it is set in the 18th century, the same time period that The Mayor is set in. My ‘TBR’ shelf grows ever heavier…
Check out some of the other characters my friends dressed up as below!
Are you guys doing anything fun to commemorate World Book Day? My friends and I are having a book-swapping party round K.F. Goodacre‘s house and dressing up as book characters like we used to do in school (well, like everyone else used to do in school; my school was boring and never did this). I’m going as Valkyrie Cain from Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series. Pictures and book haul to follow, I am sure!
Lucky Beth and I got to go to yet another metal gig for the second Friday in a row! This time we went to see another set of dual headliners: Spanish symphonic act Diabulus In Musica and Finnish symphonic power metal act Amberian Dawn. Both bands were celebrating 10 years of making music together, hence the name “The 10th Anniversary Tour”. They were supported by another Finnish metal band called Crimson Sun, whose performance in London marked their first time ever performing abroad. No pressure…
All in all it was a completely different gig from Epica the previous week. The venue — the Boston Music Room in residential Tuffnell Park — was absolutely minuscule, the crowd threadbare-thin, and the overall attitude amongst the audience and band members was much more laid-back. There were no long drawn-out waits here, no build-up of mystique. Band members set up their own equipment and did all their own soundchecks, and every single one of them came out to say hi afterwards and pose for pictures. It also meant that Beth and I couldn’t go quite so crazy as we did at the Epica gig without feeling a little self-conscious, but those are the pros and cons of big venues vs. small venues I suppose (and I would call a lack of headbanger’s neck in the morning a definite pro).
First up was Crimson Sun, an entirely inoffensive melodic metal act that sounded halfway between power and prog-metal, hailing from the city of Kotka in the very south of Finland. Fronted by singer Sini Seppälä (comparisons to ex-Nightwish singer Anette Olzon would not be too much of a stretch), the band have been going since roughly 2001, sporadically releasing EPs until the release of their debut album Towards The Light in Summer, 2015. As I have already said, their music was entirely inoffensive and very pleasant to listen to with a decidedly rocky vibe. They succeeded in warming up the crowd, which was quite an achievement because we Brits aren’t the most animated lot in such small groups; I hope they were not offended by our stiff-upper-lipped Britishness and polite applause. Also worth noting: one of the dominating impressions Beth and I were left with from this band was how magnificent bassist Jukka Jauhiainen’s hair is. I mean seriously, how on earth does this man keep his hair looking so beautifully sleek, clean and well-conditioned? I have such hair envy to the point that it actually hurts, for mine shall never look so illustrious.
Next up were the first headliners of the evening — and in truth the band I was most looking forward to see — Diabulus In Musica! I had seen Diabulus In Musica perform live once before when they supported Leaves’ Eyes back in November 2015 and it was so, so good to see them perform here in their own right as a headliner.
Diabulus In Musica are operatic-soprano Zuberoa Aznàrez and her partner Gorka Elso, who plays keyboards and grunts. They are usually accompanied by guitarist Alexy Kolygin, bassist Odei Ochoa and drummer, David Carrica, however unfortunately on Friday Odei was missing due to work commitments back in his home country of Spain. Say one thing for Diabulus In Musica, it’s that they do not give up! This is the second time I’ve seen them with a band member missing (last time Alexy apparently had some Visa issues), and you’d never notice the difference.
Diabulus In Musica’s setlist was short but sweet, comprised of five songs from their latest album Dirge For The Archons, including a live debut of the beautiful ballad ‘A Speck In The Universe’. The remainder of the setlist consisted of three songs from third album, Argia, two from The Wanderer, and just one from their debut album Secrets:
Intro: Battle Of Atlantis
Lies In Your Eyes
A Speck In The Universe
Ring Around Dark Fairies’ Carousel
Sceneries Of Hope
So… another case of an unbalanced setlist that I mentioned in my review of Epica last week, but I didn’t mind so much this time, because Dirge For The Archons is simply wonderful — my favourite album released last year — and I could listen to it all day long if I had to.
For a band whose music is so serious and beautifully constructed, the band members of Diabulus In Musica themselves are just so unbelievably cute. Both Gorka and David sported their own band T-shirts throughout the performance (adorable!), whilst Zuberoa seemed deeply embarrassed after accidentally messing up her lyrics during ‘A Speck In The Universe’; one of the night’s highlights. Everyone just looked so happy to be on stage, gushing about how the UK leg of the Leaves’ Eyes European tour had been their favourite (there were no empty platitudes about this, they clearly genuinely meant it), then they revelled in the glorious, carnival-like weirdness that is ‘Ring Around Dark Fairies’ Carousel’. Zuberoa’s voice was on top-notch form — the best of the night in fact — and the sound configuration didn’t drown her out this time like it did at the Leaves’ Eyes gig; I was able to hear every single exquisite note. The band finished up with an excellent rendition of the heavy ‘Spoilt Vampire’ from Argia, topping off what was all in all, an absolutely stunning performance. Hopefully Diabulus In Musica will come back to the UK soon; we would dearly love to have them!
The final act of the night was of course Amberian Dawn, fronted by the exuberant powerhouse-vocalist Capri. Band founder Tuomas Seppälä was on the keyboards, Emil Pohjalainen on guitar, Jukka Hoffren on bass and Joonas Pykälä-Aho was on the drums. On they came to hearty applause launching straight into their most famous track ‘Valkyries’ from their debut album, River of Tuoni. The setlist that followed borrowed from every single album they’ve ever released, but still remained largely dominated by their most recent release, Innuendo:
Fame & Gloria
Chamber Of Dreadful Dreams
Cherish My Memory
The Court Of Mirror Hall
Knock Knock Who’s There?
Rise Of The Evil
Kokko — Eagle Of Fire
River Of Tuoni
First thing to note is that poor Capri seemed to be really struggling on the stage during the first half of the set. She had to leave the stage several times mid-song to get a drink, saying that she was overheated. In fact during ‘Shallow Waters’ — a song that spends an awful lot of time in the higher register — Beth and I exchanged a really worried look because she literally looked as though she were about to pass out. I say this with no exaggeration; it was extremely uncomfortable to watch and I really wanted them to stop the show to allow her to recover. ‘Shallow Waters’ sung by Amberian Dawn’s original singer Heidi Parviainen is really quite soft and head-voicey, but Capri’s style of singing is all from the chest and requires an awful lot of breath and shouting to reach those higher notes. Capri sang only half of the lyrics during the chorus (those she did manage to get out, she screeched), could barely keep her eyes open and seemed to be clinging to the microphone to stay upright. During the instrumental break she vanished from the set and didn’t come back, later emerging to apologise profusely and tell us that she had had to go and loosen her corset because, in her own words, “Everything went black!” It was very, very scary to see. Fortunately, loosening the corset seemed to do the trick because after this incident, Capri was fine. Corset-wearers, let this be a lesson!
Aside from this, Amberian Dawn were utterly fantastic in every sense. Despite her difficulties, Capri still proved herself to be a marvellous front-woman who positively feeds off the limelight and crowd interaction. The setlist was vibrant and full of old favourites, and the delivery was excellent. Amberian Dawn are such a technically talented bunch with every single band member oozing charisma and stage presence; each and every one of them were given a time to shine. Highlights included the super creepy, slightly sinister ‘Circus Black’, the wonderfully retro and Abba-esque ‘Cherish My Memory’ and lastly ‘Ladyhawk’, my favourite song from the new album. I must confess, at times the sound was super, super loud — much more so than the other sets — to the point that it jarred and set my teeth on edge, but I just had the best time and have been listening to Amberian Dawn’s back catalogue almost exclusively ever since the show. As I said in my review of Delain in November last year:
The absolute best time to see a band live… is when you are at [a] middling stage of appreciation, as you can sing along with all your current favourites and at the same time discover some new ones.
And so it proved with Amberian Dawn. Absolutely fantastic and, despite not being who I came to see, my favourite band of the night.
Thanks once again to Beth for accompanying me! I had a great two weeks of gigging with you, as always.
My next gig? EVANESCENCE. My inner teenager is so, so, so excited for this inevitable nostalgia fest. Hope to see some of you there!
Be sure to check out the bands mentioned above’s official websites:
The Friday before last, I embarked on a pilgrimage to the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire with my good friend Beth to witness a Heavy Metal Mass led by dual-headliners Powerwolf and Epica. There were plenty of euphemisms, lots of laughter, some headbanging-induced whiplash, a huge circle pit and even a Mark Jansen-organised Wall of Death*. I truly believe that there ain’t no crowd like a metal crowd, and this deliriously mad gig proved it.
*A particularly dangerous form of mosh pit that involves splitting a crowd down the middle and encouraging them to go to war by charging headlong into the other with the hope of survival i.e. utter madness.
For the first time in forever, Beth and I actually managed to turn up to a gig on time (praise be!), meaning that we were early enough to see the support. Admittedly when I say ‘see the support’, I mean amidst a scramble to put away bags and coats in the cloakroom, grab a beer and find somewhere decent to stand. Beyond The Black were not on for very long — just five songs in fact — but they were very warmly received. By the time they had left the stage, Beth and I had managed to park ourselves quite close to the front on the right-hand side of the stage next to a traffic route for the band photographers and security. This was a really pleasant place to be standing because we had a great view but weren’t squished. It also meant that we were randomly approached by Jenny Dorn — Powerwolf’s photographer and the wife of lead-singer Atilla Dorn — for a chin-wag between Beyond The Black and Powerwolf’s set. She was unbelievably nice, told us all about the tour and what everybody had been up to, her favourite places, a funny story about Mark Jansen’s ability to eat curry endlessly, talked to us about the different kinds of metal we were into and also gave us her card so that we could stalk her photos on Facebook later. Thanks, Jenny!
As previously mentioned, the first headliner of the evening was Powerwolf; a (surprise surprise) power metal band hailing from Germany who are hot on (you guessed it) wolves, blasphemy and euphemisms sung in Latin. Bursting onto the deserted graveyard set dressed from head to toe in priest’s robes and corpse paint, wielding censers, crosiers and harping on about the ‘Heavy Metal Mass’, it was quite clear from the off that this band don’t take themselves too seriously. This is the complete polar opposite of Epica — a band that takes itself very seriously indeed — which in some ways makes them the perfect dual headliner.
Having never heard Powerwolf before, I had been pre-warned by Beth as to how bonkers they are, and I was not disappointed; they were supremely entertaining. Atilla Dorn actually has a really lovely baritone voice that occasionally slips into the operatic (I’m an absolute sucker for a male operatic voice, they’re so rarely heard in metal) and their songs are damned catchy if nothing else. Essentially, if you know the words “Mater Maria” and can pick up a tune relatively quickly, you already know how to sing along to 50% of Powerwolf’s songs. And what a collection of songs they are!
Intro: Lupus Daemonis
Blessed & Possessed
Army Of The Night
Amen & Attack
In The Name Of God (Deus Vult)
Sacred & Wild
Dead Boys Don’t Cry
Let There Be Night
Resurrection By Erection
Werewolves Of Armenia
Sanctified With Dynamite
We Drink Your Blood
Outro: Wolves Against the World
Something to note here: throughout Powerwolf’s setlist, it gradually became apparent to me that Beth was not just a ‘secret Powerwolf fan’ as she had so reluctantly claimed, but a secret die-hard; she sang along to every single word. Sorry to out you, Beth, deny it all you want but it’s true. I personally am not sure what made me blush more; ‘Coleus Sanctus’ (which translates from Latin into “Holy Balls”), or ‘Resurrection by Erection’. Also, bit of a left-field comparison here, but keyboardist Falk Maria Schlegel strongly reminded me of Bez from the Happy Mondays, in that he seemed to spend more time down at the front of the stage thrashing around and holding up his stole like a football scarf than he did ever did actually playing the keyboard.
At the time I didn’t actually realise that Powerwolf were a dual-headliner so I personally felt that they dragged on a little too long (I was worried they were eating into Epica’s set), however there is just no denying how much fun they were, and the crowd absolutely loved them. I’d say roughly a third at least were there specifically to see Powerwolf (Beth among them, obviously) but by the time they had exited the stage, everyone was screaming for more!
“I think we need to open a few windows to let out some of the testosterone in here.” ~ Me to Beth after Powerwolf had left.
So. That was Powerwolf. Definitely… An Experience, shall we say? I will not be checking them out any further as their music was not my cup of tea at all, but they were a hell of a lot of fun and got me all pumped for Epica!
As seems to be traditional with Epica shows, the band members emerged onto the stage amidst the introductory track from their latest album (‘Eidola’) followed by the opener (‘Edge of the Blade’). There followed a setlist comprised of exactly 50% songs from their latest album, The Holographic Principle, with an uneven smattering of one or two songs from the previous six.
Edge Of The Blade
The Phantasmic Parade
Universal Death Squad
Storm The Sorrow
The Essence Of Silence
The Obsessive Devotion
Ascension ~ Dream State Armageddon
Dancing In A Hurricane
Once Upon A Nightmare
Beyond The Matrix
Consign To Oblivion ~ A New Age Dawns – Part III
I’m afraid at this point that I must have a gripe about the setlist. Disappointingly, nothing was played from their fifth album Design Your Universe at all; not even former setlist staple ‘Unleashed’ (which features in my top five favourite songs of all time). This, I think, is a downside of bands with increasingly large back catalogues: old favourites and classics are mercilessly dropped in favour of playing as many songs as possible from the new album, to the point that lesser-known gems become increasingly unlikely to ever see the light of day. Whilst I’m sure bands relish the opportunity to play new songs, it can be quite tedious for fans. It probably doesn’t help that I found The Holographic Principle album a bit of a disappointment on the whole (oh how I yearn for the stripped-back gothic sound of Epica’s earlier works), but I still personally prefer it when the setlists are a bit more balanced.
Rant about the setlist over, next up I have to have a small moan about the sound. I’m no sound technician, but something was definitely ‘off’ at the beginning of Epica’s set. Simone sounds completely drowned out by over-production on the newer tracks as it is, but she was barely audible throughout the live performances of ‘Edge Of The Blade’ and ‘The Phantasmic Parade’. Whilst I do not think this was entirely Simone’s fault — the sound did improve so someone must have fiddled with some knobs at some point — her voice was definitely much, much tinnier than when I saw her perform last. A combination of the two just exacerbated the situation and made for frustrating listening. Maybe it was where we were standing? Maybe she was tired on the tail-end of a long tour? The aforementioned Jenny Dorn did say that everyone had only gotten 3 hours of sleep the night before… Whatever the problem was, it was a real shame not to catch Simone at her absolute best because when she is on form, her soaring angelic soprano really is exquisite.
These points aside however, the gig was fantastic. Few bands have as much energy performing live as Epica and though objectively I am not so keen on them, the new songs from The Holographic Principle did translate well to a live audience, particularly the instrumental segments of ‘Universal Death Squad’ and the soaring choir-driven chorus of ‘Beyond The Matrix’. During the latter, audience members were encouraged to jump around as much as possible and I tell you what, singing notes that high and jumping that much is a great workout if you’re looking to increase your lung capacity!
Other personal highlights for me were: ‘The Obsessive Devotion’, during which I may have experienced some kind of spiritual epiphany and most definitely destroyed my neck with all my headbanging; and the finale, ‘Consign To Oblivion’, a truly old-school track from Epica’s second album of the same name. There were just so many moments in ‘Consign To Oblivion’ where the rest of the band could truly shine, especially during the instrumental segment that started just shy of the 5 minute mark. Punctuated by Coen’s screams and organ-like synths that interwove beautifully with Isaac’s wonderfully melodic guitarwork, Mark’s uncharacteristically subterranean growls of “LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW”, evoked apocalyptic visions of earthquakes, fire and brimstone alongside the marching 7-note refrain. The whole segment culminated with a stirring male choir, death blasts from Ariën and Mark’s more typical rapid-fire spitting verse that sent shivers down my spine, before Simone brought us back to the standard song structure and to both the song and the gig’s triumphant end. Superb.
Be sure to check out all the bands mentioned above’s official websites:
Jenny Dorn’s photography can be found on her Facebook page here.
All photos included in this blog taken by me, except for the picture of Epica from the stage which was taken from their Facebook page (photo credit unknown). I’m down in the bottom left somewhere behind a load of arms!
Just a flying visit on my blog today to spread the word of something that’s got me really excited and inspired.
I had a new musical discovery this morning after following a link on Tommy Karevik (lead singer of Kamelot)’s Facebook page. The link led me to Ayreon, a musical project masterminded by Arjen Anthony Lucassen.
I believe that Ayreon is considered ‘old news’ in the world of metal — I’ve definitely heard the name before — but it’s not something I’ve ever really looked into. Wikipedia describes the nature of the project best so I’m just going to lift it straight from there:
Ayreon’s music is described as progressive rock, progressive metal and power metal sometimes combined with genres such as folk, electronica, experimental and classical music. The majority of Ayreon’s albums are dubbed “rock operas” (or “metal operas”) because the albums contain complex storylines featuring a host of characters, usually with each one being represented by a unique vocalist.
The link led me to new single ‘The Day That The World Breaks Down’ from Ayreon’s upcoming album, The Source:
Tommy posted the link because he is playing one of the characters on the album (the Opposition Leader). Other musicians that I love involved in the project are Epica’s Simone Simons (playing the Counselor) and Nightwish’s Floor Jansen (playing the Biologist).
Anyways, intrigued, I listened to the song, watched the video and… whoa. Just… whoa. Check it out for yourself! The video comes complete with text-commentary about the story, characters and instrument-geekery from Arjen too:
For me personally, it’s like all my favourite aspects of symphonic metal, Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds, and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells had a baby. I am completely in love with it, and I’ve already pre-ordered myself the earbook (signed by Arjen!):
Anyways, just wanted to share!
For more information on Arjen Anthony Lucassen, Ayreon and The Source project, follow the below link: