Book Review: The Bleeding Land by Giles Kristian.

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Synopsis (taken from Giles Kristian’s official website at http://gileskristian.com/books/the-bleeding-land/):

England 1642: a nation divided.

England is at war with itself. King Charles and Parliament each gather soldiers to their banners. Across the land, men prepare to fight for their religious and political ideals. Civil war has begun.

A family ripped asunder.

The Rivers are landed gentry, and tradition dictates that their allegiance is to the King. Sir Francis’ loyalty to the crown and his desire to protect his family will test them all. As the men march to war, so the women are left to defend their home against a ruthless enemy. Just as Edmund, the eldest of Sir Francis’ sons, will do his duty, so his brother Tom will turn his back on all he once believed in…

A war that will change everything.

From the raising of the King’s Standard at Nottingham to the butchery and blood of Edgehill, Edmund and Tom Rivers will each learn of honour, sacrifice, hatred and betrayal as they follow their chosen paths through this most savage of wars.

Hello,

I purchased Giles Kristian’s first book, Raven: Blood Eye, in 2011 for no apparent reason. I just walked past the book, had a brief scan of the synopsis, and thought ‘Why not?’ Since then, his books have been and still are a constant source of enjoyment and inspiration for me and my writing. This past Thursday, I finished reading his 4th book, The Bleeding Land and wanted to provide a review. It won’t be too long as I don’t particularly like long winded reviews. If you are considering reading a book like this, I hope that this review can help you to make your decision.

For me, the best things about Giles Kristian’s books are the battles scenes (really well described. Using most if not all the senses to put you right in the heat of the battle) and the dialogue (solid mixture of humour and relevance so that no word is wasted. EVER) and The Bleeding Land continues this trend.

As the synopsis above shows, this book has a lot going on. A country at War and family are torn apart by it. The characters, mainly Edmund ‘Mun’ Rivers and little brother Thomas Rivers, become the main points with their family members and war comrades providing good quality support. Each main and supporting character is allowed to grow and develop well and at no point did I feel that any of the characters were there just to make up the numbers. Each character had a use to move the story along and help another or their own character’s story.

The scene is set very well to allow this to happen early on. You are introduced to the River’s family and the impending conflict of the country around them. This all builds to the Civil War beginning and the brothers taking opposite sides (Mun fighting for the King and Tom fighting for the Parliament. I won’t tell you why). Once this happens, the story moves along and does not allow the Civil War around it to engulf it, keeping the River’s family at its core very neatly. Along with the men of the River’s household, the River’s women are very well represented with the mother and sister of the family, Mary and Bess, shown as strong characters in their own right.

The battle scenes throughout the book are very well described and again using all five senses, helped me to drop into the battle. Sometimes, I smelt the odours of War far too well for my liking. But, that just shows in my opinion how good an author Giles Kristian is. In particular, one of many Battles, where the Rivers women, having been left to defend their household whilst the men are away at War, become part of the War as the parliament ‘rebels’ fight to take their home from them. This spans a few chapters and is not just about a battle. There are many other things going on which made it so compelling.

The only downside I could find was that some of the descriptions went on for too long and I found myself skipping past them. In most cases, it was the descriptions of the clothing that each character was wearing. Though very clear and informative, I felt that these could have been shortened to keep the pace going.

In conclusion, a brilliant read with rich characters and a good story, I would recommend this to anyone looking for an action adventure and historical fiction novel to read. You will not be disappointed.

 

The West has been won! Well, I finished my first western story so close enough.

Hello,

After a long time, I started the story 23rd March 2015 which makes my head spin, and a few distractions (hangovers, restarting this story, writing another story) I’ve finished my first attempt at a western entitled ‘Outlaw Torn’.

My favourite genre of film has always been the Western. The sheer amount of them on TV growing up meant I was never left wanting for something to watch at the weekend. And whenever I found a Western to watch, my Dad had ALWAYS watched all or some of it. I remember liking the dialogue and how effortlessly cool the hero’s, and some cases the villains, appeared to be or were. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is my favourite of all time but I can sit down and watch most. Some of my other favourites include the original and remake of True Grit, The Sons of Katie Elder, The Alamo (Both), Open Range, Rio Bravo. Tombstone. I could go on. And I intend to. Seraphim Falls. Unforgiven. The Salvation. Appaloosa. Stagecoach.

These and much more have helped to shape my own story. In my head, a wanderer moves from town to town, searching for work, a bed, and to forget his past. One town comes upon him, over a hill, and his past finally catches up with him.

I have enjoyed writing this story but throughout I had the most difficulty writing the gun fights. I have each fight in my head clear as day but getting the words right to convey this proved a challenge. One that I had fun with but at times it was like trying to swim through cement. How many times can I say Shoot, Bullet, Hammer, Fired, Loaded and Gun before the reader and myself get bored? I did eventually find other words but the process of doing so took AGES. On some occasions, I barely wrote anything due to the frustration it caused me. Typing ‘The End’ on this one was amazing and relief all in one.

I also worried about the characters and ensuring that each was given enough time to show themselves and to evolve or devolve through the story. I do this all the time. But then I remembered…

It is the first draft. You can iron out the creases in the edits.

I told myself this throughout writing the story but ignored my own advice a lot. More so than any other story I’ve written. Maybe it’s because it’s a story in my favourite genre and I want to do it justice the best I can. But, if I did end up publishing it, someone is bound to find fault with it. Even after all the combs in all the world going through it. Maybe I don’t need a haircut. I’ll just pull my hair out rewriting the thing.

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Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

They did warn us after all.

(Extract from a story I recently completed. It is about giant Rock Worms from outer space looking for a new home. And Earth might just be what they are looking for…)

“Maria? Are you okay?” Shouted Joseph, inside the mass of rubble and chaos that a rock worm had caused just minutes before. Their former office was slowly crumbling around them he rose to his feet with a shake and a moan. He stood and checked that he had his wallet, phone, and keys without realising they were not of much use anymore. The internet on his phone did not work and he jabbed and pressed until giving up. He heard something rustle not too far away and remembered Maria could be in danger. His fingers caught in the rip at the side of his green hoodie and he cursed under his breath. Numerous small cuts covered both of hands and only now did he notice the dull pain they produced. He took a step forward and what remained of the building swayed underfoot.

“Joseph…I’m here.” Maria said. He turned quickly and felt the floor buckle again. Her pixie cut brown hair was the only thing above the rubble. She struggled and managed to stand up and dust herself off. They both turned to see a huge gap in the wall nearby. They both moved towards it but again the structure moved. Joseph held out his hand and counted slowly down from five. Maria took quick breaths to ready herself.

Sprinting over the broken wood and pieces of rock, they jumped out and onto the pile of debris outside. They managed to run down the pile before jumping as far away from the building as possible. The small quake ran through the floor as the building died in front of them.

“How are you feeling? You know…considering.” Joseph said. Maria jumped into his arms and kissed his neck. She pulled away as he winced in pain.

“Sorry. Force of habit.” She said.

“Don’t be sorry Maria, I can be the man you want me to be. That girl from the bar, I was just talking to her.”

“How can you be thinking about that? Look around you. The world is coming to an end and you’re still fixed upon something I told you I wasn’t bothered about.”

“I was only talking to her about the football that day…”

“Just….stop. Be quiet. We need to figure out what to next. Are you okay?” She said. Touching a few of many small cuts on his neck and hands.

“If they were all one cut, they would match that beauty on your neck.” He replied. Moving her shirt collar down slightly. “It looks worse than it is. Not too deep at all.”

“It doesn’t feel that bad. It will make a cool scar.” She said.

“I bet. Maria, I am not that selfish. And I have looked around me. Look at all the rock worms have done. Bloody government, why not just give them a home? They may have been helpful to us as well. I hear some of them are fiercely intelligent.” He said as he surveyed the piles of concrete, brick, glass, plastic and whatever else that made a building forming small mountains across the landscape. The mid-morning bright and clear sky showed Manchester for what it has become. Many buildings were still intact but more were reduced to rubble. No traffic or trains could be heard, which allowed them to listen to their own heartbeats with clarity.

 

Feedback Request: A story based on public transport and giant alien worms invading earth.

Hello,

Now, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and usually, they just hit me from out of nowhere. As they always do. One day, an idea for a story came to me on the Tram on my way to work. This involved, for some reason, the Tram, and the Rockworms, which are one of the villains from the seminal Xbox game Gears of War 2. Combining these I found myself formulating an idea involving alien Rockworms invading Earth. Obviously. Not being sure exactly what would happen, I ran with it anyway.

So, the following is the first page of the first draft of the resulting story ‘They did warn us after all.’

If you have the time, I am interested in what your thoughts are on my work in progress. Also, if you want to, I would be happy to provide my thoughts on yours.

They did warn us after all.

“Maria? Are you okay?” Shouted Joseph, inside the mass of rubble and chaos that a rock worm had caused just minutes before. Their former office was slowly crumbling around them he rose to his feet with a shake and a moan. He stood and checked that he had his wallet, phone, and keys without realising they were not of much use anymore. The internet on his phone did not work and he jabbed and pressed until giving up. He heard something rustle not too far away and remembered Maria could be in danger. His fingers caught in the rip at the side of his green hoodie and he cursed under his breath. Numerous small cuts covered both of hands and only now did he notice the dull pain they produced. He took a step forward and what remained of the building swayed underfoot.

“Joseph…I’m here.” Maria said. He turned quickly and felt the floor buckle again. Her pixie cut brown hair was the only thing above the rubble. She struggled and managed to stand up and dust herself off. They both turned see a huge gap in the wall nearby. They both moved towards it but again the structure moved. Joseph held out his hand and counted slowly down from five. Maria took quick breaths to ready herself.

Sprinting over the broken wood and pieces of rock, they jumped out and onto the pile of debris outside. They managed to run down the pile before jumping as far away from the building as possible. The small quake ran through the floor as the building died in front of them.

“How are you feeling? You know…considering.” Joseph said. Maria jumped into his arms and kissed his neck. She pulled away as he winced in pain.

“Sorry. Force of habit.” She said.

“Don’t be sorry Maria, I can be the man you want me to be. That girl from the bar, I was just talking to her.”

“How can you be thinking about that? Look around you. The world is coming to an end and you’re still fixed upon something I told you I wasn’t bothered about.”

“I was only talking to her about the football that day…”

“Just….stop. Be quiet. We need to figure out what to next. Are you okay?” She said. Touching a few of many small cuts on his neck and hands.

“If they were all one cut, they would match that beauty on your neck.” He replied. Moving her shirt collar down slightly. “It looks worse than it is. Not too deep at all.”

“It doesn’t feel that bad. It will make a cool scar.” She said.

“I bet. Maria, I am not that selfish. And I have looked around me. Look at all the rock worms have done. Bloody government, why not just give them a home? They may have been helpful to us as well. I hear some of them are fiercely intelligent.” He said as he surveyed the piles of concrete, brick, glass, plastic and whatever else that made a building forming small mountains across the landscape. The mid-morning bright and clear sky showed Manchester for what it has become. Many buildings were still intact but more were reduced to rubble. No traffic or trains could be heard, which allowed them to listen to their own heartbeats with clarity.

 

 

Close to the end, I have been thinking about you for years.

Hello,

cemetery

The end is near. I’ve wondered when the end would come. Would it be soon? Would it be later? Would it be…ever?

To explain, my current story, a western about a drifter finding his true calling and a new life away from his past, is almost finished. The ending of the story has been doing cartwheels around my head for years. I have played out every second of it and I’m finally close to the point where I can write it.

At times it has been tempting to rush through and skip past the important parts of the build-up to the end. Just write less in-depth chapters to get to the last one. But why do that? That won’t help me at all? I tried to convince myself to rush but I could not and it has definitely been the right thing to do. Even though I’ve wanted to get to this point for a long time, running through it instead of walking and enjoying the surroundings was not an option.

To stop myself from running, I took in my surroundings slowly by ensuring that each character was represented well enough in the beginning and middle so that they would have a part to play in the finale of the story instead of seeming like they just turned up. I hate movies and books that have some characters that don’t really have a place. If they weren’t there, who would care? Leaving the reader wondering why they should care about their fate. Currently, how big of a part each will play is not clear. In total, there will be around fifteen characters taking part in the gunfight/brawl/slugfest/carnage that will be the end of the story. Fifteen? Hmmm…that seems like a lot now I think about it. I have all of their names but they haven’t all come together in one scene yet. This should be fun.

I have always liked writing fight scenes. Like I said, it’s been on my mind for a long time and I know every gunshot, move, and quip that will go into it. This all leads me to a question…

Have you ever had to write a scene with a lot (say fifteen?) characters involved? If you have, how did it go and was it what you hoped it would be?

Right, best get back to it, have a nice week!

 

Renewed Focus. Getting things moving again.

Hello,

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So, 2016 was alright. I suppose. Outside of writing, it was very good. No qualms there at all. My writing, however, moved along okay at the beginning but towards the end it faded and at times stopped completely. I didn’t feel like writing or reading at all. Makes me cringe just thinking about it and even more so when I don’t really know why I didn’t want to write. Although my November and December were good and my Christmas and New Year were both awesome, my writing and reading seemed to slow to a miserable crawl and then stop. That crawl has resulted in my last blog post being at the start of December. That’s just awful. 2017 will not end the same way. With that in mind, I’ve started as I mean to go on.

I’m committing to writing around 500 words a day and on any day I can’t write I will read. I’ve so far stuck to my target and I feel a lot better for it. Since my last post, I have finished editing what I had written so far for my Western story. It has been rolling around in my head for years and it feels good to be continuing to write it as opposed to edit/re-reading it to get myself back up to speed.

When I first sat down to write it back in March 2016, I didn’t use any notes and that turned out to be a disaster. With no path to follow, I ended up making my hero a man who hides away from the villain and nothing really planned for anyone. Lame. That quickly changed when my mighty editing pen…no, wait…fingers changed everything and gave my characters meaning and a road to follow. Now, I’m coming close to writing the twist in the tail I’ve known about for years. It’s weird when I think about it. I know the twist but actually getting up to writing it down is more exciting.

Does anyone else feel like that? When you’re about to write a twist do you get more excited about writing it than you did when you initially thought of it? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Or just tell me I’m crazy and move on.

Hmm…what else? No. I think I’ll leave it there.

Have a nice day.

 

 

November without NaNoWriMo.

Hello,

This year, I decided not to take part in NaNoWriMo 2016 and concentrate on my writing and editing instead.

I was already thinking about a story, a prequel to one I had finished back in March this year, as a way of starting my November. That story concerned giant Rockworms and their adventures after they crash land on Earth.  Actually, that makes it sound like they’re a bunch of happy go lucky scamps looking for their next jaunt. They are a species that has been forced to leave its planet as it collapsed around them. This is all down to their King and his selfish ways. I didn’t consider a prequel to the March Rockworms story until I started to like the Rockworms as much as the humans. I managed to make one to the worms charming. Well, I think I did. Since finishing that tale, I wanted to tell his story and of how they all got to Earth and I wanted to write it quickly. With this in mind, I adopted the ‘Pomodoro’ technique. The idea being that you work for 25 minutes and then rest. I wrote for 25 minutes, keeping my face glued to the screen and barely looking away, each day and managed to finish the story within 2 weeks. It would have been quicker but a few hangovers along the way.

Once that story was finished, I moved onto some editing. Way back in March 2015, I started to write a western. I have always loved watching westerns with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly being my all-time favorite film. I have been forming a western in my mind for some years whilst listening to different metal music on my travels here and there and walks to work. Different scenes would present themselves and then pop up again and again. Initially, I started to write it without much in the way of notes. This turned out to be a bad idea. I ended up starting well but somehow finding myself writing my hero cowering away from a confrontation with the main villain of the piece and letting his friend do all the talking for him. What kind of hero does that? Not my kind. I’m currently in the process of going back over that story and then finishing it. Taking out any parts that don’t seem to make any sense and that move away from the story I wanted to write.

Unlike most of my past writing, I have been pleasantly surprised at how alright most of it is. I’m happy to keep a lot of it but have found some absolutely random rubbish that really didn’t make any sense at all. The edit is going well so far and I’m quietly confident. Though when I finally post some of it on this blog of mine that may disappear. Fingers crossed.

So, November has consisted of one short story and starting the edit of a story I hope will become one of my favorites. See you next year NaNoWriMo.

I finish this post with a question.

What technique(s), if any, do you use when you sit down to write?