Techniques Thursday

Each Techniques Thursday I'll discuss a new technique to help you build your Writing Toolbox (and hopefully cut down on the need for a thousand notebooks!)

I was asked the other day how I came up with my characters which is one of those expansive questions that could never have an end. It reminds me of when Stephen King is asked how he gets his ideas and he replies that they come from a used idea factory. Maybe there's a used character factory writers can pick and choose from, just decide what ingredients you want for your character and alley-oop there they are fully formed. 

I'll be honest though, I don't come up with my characters. They just exist in my head fully formed and come out when they feel like it. There's nothing I can do to force them out and they work completley at their own will, a little like the post I shared a while ago about the Bar In My Head. Before it starts sounding all mystical or like I could do with taking a lie down, it's just the way I've always written. I don't use character development sheets when I'm creating a character because I've never needed to actually 'create' one. 

When I started planning ARCHANGEL ONE I wanted to be the most prepared writer ever so I bought character development worksheets and novel planning templates from Etsy. I sat down and tried to pen out how Maeve, Taren, Gabriel, Logan and company were going to be. I'd establish their characters and then the rest would come easy, right?

The worksheets asked me what their internal and external motivators were, what they feared, where they'd grown up and what their five year plan was. It was like having an intrusive conversation with a friend for me. Maeve turned up fully formed, her words already appearing on the page. I knew that she'd already faced the thing that she feared the most, I knew that she'd grown up with a loving family that had now gone in the blink of an eye. I knew she was motivated to find Taren but actually writing those things on the paper was odd. I could see her sitting in my mind, tapping her boot and wondering aloud when I'd be finished interrogating her. She isn't really the kind to talk about her feelings (unless it's to display anger!) The worksheet got completed but I hardly ever refer back to it except to check what height I'd made her. 

I do use - and recommend - character profile sheets though for when you know your character to help you keep track of their characteristics, especially if you're like me and forget who has what eye color. I'm in the process of creating some of these which I hope to have for sale in an Etsy store coming soon!  

If character development sheets work for you, keep at them! They help us create characters that are three dimensional and keep us accountable. If you're like me and these characters turn up fully formed demanding to be written into something, I have a few techniques to help make sure that they're the three dimensional kind you want them to be.

1. Take the free 16 Personality Types test for your character.
Maeve Delta is an easy character for me to write. She tends to react to things similiar to the way I would and she can hold a grudge like no-ones business. She loves the men in her life but she's able to hold her own and I'm very conscious of creating a strong heroine. I took the personality test for her and found out that she's the INTJ Advocate. When I took the test for myself, I got the same result which explains why she's easier for me to write than say Ronnie Hall from my debut book HUMAN NATURE. Ronnie is an out and out sociopath and while she's interesting to write, I'm the first person to admit she's a stone cold son of a gun when she wants to be.

I just took the personality test for Taren Alpha while writing this and the results say he's an Architect, which fits with his backstory and whats to come in the rest of the Black Guardian series. For example, the results say people like this are ambitious but like their privacy. Taren's ambition has led him to be Ministry Commander but no-one knows about Maeve, in fact, no-one knows very much at all about his private life. He has the right attitude to meet his goals, is logical and keeps his principles first and foremost - whether they're right or wrong principles.

Architects remain free from the expectations of others. 

This quote from his personality test results helped me understand him better. Maeve is passionate about the people she loves and cares about their expectations. She cares about being a good advocate for rebelling against Galactic and being a good friend. Taren on the other hand couldn't give a toss about the expectations of others. As a Ministry Commander he has certain expectations placed on him from above and around him. He meets his goals that he sets and could care less what the High Council think of him. The only person he'd accept any expectations from is Maeve and even then he has a strong enough personality to tell her when he doesn't agree with something. The results finish by saying Architects travel alone, which is exactly the way Taren has spent his last five years.

2. Give them a face claim. 
I love messing around with Pinterest, Photowonder and Photogrid to create images of my characters. Pinterest is great for looking up what you want your character to look like. You can go as broad as "Blonde females" or "Muscled, dark haired." If you find one of the latter send them my way, thanks! You can narrow it down further or you can pick a celebrity or similar that might fit the image you have in your head. For me, Maeve has always been a cross between Marina Diamandis and Paige from WWE. Taren is a cross between Bill Skaarsgard and Taron Egerton (although he's named after the Doctor Who character Taren Capel!)

Giving your character a face claim makes it easier to imagine how they might react physically. You can figure out if they'd lean against a wall when someone else is talking or if they'd stand ramrod straight. For example, Logan is the kind of guy who would lean against a wall, preferably in a corner whereas Taren would fall into a military stance automatically. I've found that working out a face claim helps me make them move more authentically.

Don't be afraid starting out either. Maybe you'll try to plan but like me realize that they will tell you what they are and what they want to do rather than the other way around. Maybe you'll discover that worksheets are the most amazing thing since Rocketman. The personality tests might work, face claims might work or neither might. Each of us are different as writers and because of this we each bring something unique to the world of storytelling.

You just have to find what works for you

Read as many techniques as you can and play around with the ones you like the sound of. You'll end up with a toolbox you can open whenever you need to!

Good luck to all my Nanowrimo buddies <3



Does it make you come alive?

I was listening to my best friend S talk about her Army volunteering over the weekend and how much she was loving learning all the new skills that come with that area. When she talks about the Army her face lights up and she smiles. It's obvious and beautiful to see.

What makes you come alive?

I replied, "Sounds like the Army is to you like writing is to me, it makes you come alive," without recognizing what I'd said about myself until much later, when I was lying across my bed updating Instagram (and isn't that a job and a half as an author!) I'm super happy for S that she's found this hobby that makes her come alive and for inadvertently realizing that writing is what does it for me.

I've been writing since I was five but I've had a lot of hobbies in between. Usually they fell by the wayside quicker than you could blink. Like the time I decided I was obviously a budding jewelry designer, stocking up on beads and steampunk supplies at Spotlight. I designed some pretty enough pieces but used the wrong glue or couldn't figure out how you actually made a necklace. My pieces were never sold and I only ever wore one or two myself. Making something was both fun and calming but lets face it, ya girl was never cut out to be the next Swarovski.

Not having learnt at all from the jewelry escapade I thought I'd try my hand at making brooches. I love the Erstwilder acrylic designs and figured I could make my own. I found a company who laser cut for you and sent off a design - the Anti Possession symbol from Supernatural. I figured that fans of the show would leap at them and I'd soon be patting pots of money. Naive, Em, naive. Gluing the backs on brooches takes forever, especially when you're huffing in E6000 at the same time. No-one told me you're meant to wear a mask with that stuff until after! When I finally did get them ready for sale Supernatural fans did buy the majority of them but the brooches pages on Facebook remained resolutely unimpressed with my effort. Brooching is a tougher social crowd than Mean Girls, no word of a lie. Unless you're one of the popular peeps your brooches are going to fall on stony ground. It's also possible to fall from your lofty perch above us mere mortals, I've watched it happen!

Next I assumed I'd become a business owner, opening an Etsy store where I'd sell vintage jewelry and clothes. These were mostly finds from my thrifting and I spent ages finding out how to craft descriptions for my pieces before I learnt that marketing on Etsy is expensive and dependent on their hard-to-understand algorithm. On top of that, they take a larger cut than EBay. My little business lasted a year before I finally let the shop lapse. I was never going to be the next Mary Portas.

From Etsy I went to EBay and this was more popular. In fact, I still do have my EBay hobby but it'll never develop into a full time business. Again it's mostly thrift finds and sometimes they sell like hotcakes, sometimes the same products sit for weeks with no movement. The piecemeal nature of it left me looking for something else.

I came back to writing after spending ages watching vintage sci-fi shows and reading tons of vintage sci-fi authors like Asimov, Silverberg and Heinlein. A germ of a story started to bop about in my head and I decided I'd try to write it. My first published novel HUMAN NATURE had been written a couple of years ago at university and I'd had a long break from writing. I bought a novel writing workbook from Etsy and settled down.

Things snowballed faster than I ever thought. I read articles on how you should market yourself as an author as early as possible and decided I'd start while writing ARCHANGEL ONE - my work in progress. Instagram welcomed me with open arms and I quickly found the #writingcommunity. Having little conversations about writing and seeing how other people wrote helped me work on my own. ARCHANGEL ONE became a story that is so visible in my head it often plays like a video and I'm just typing furiously to try and catch up with them. Maeve became my girl and I'm half in love with my own hero (shouldn't we all be?)

The thing is, it makes me feel alive. If I'm stuck somewhere I don't like then I think about how good it will be to sit down later at my laptop and peck out a few words, or I start daydreaming about what scene comes next in my novel. Learning how to market my books and build a presence online through Instagram, blogs and Facebook has been so fascinating and I'm loving everything new that I learn that I can add to my skill base here. Just like S, writing makes me feel alive.

I think there's a lot of people in life who don't have something that makes them feel like this or if they do then they ignore it, push it aside. Maybe they think they'd get made fun of or like it isn't a serious hobby.

 I'm here to say to you, if you love it, do it.

If it makes you come alive or you smile while you're thinking about it, do it.

If you don't know much about the hobby you want to pursue then grab a notebook and write down what you want to learn. Then go ahead and learn it! I didn't know a lot about how to market myself or how to create a following for your writing.

Life is far too short to go through it wanting to do something but being scared of other peoples' opinions.



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How to combat Nanowrimo guilt

Face of a Champion Nanowrimo Non Finisher!

Preptober is in full swing and we're eking ever closer to Nanowrimo! How are you holding up?

I love Nano because it gives you that added push to write your novel. You have other people there to support you and everyone has the same goal. It adds a lovely social dimension to writing your book and you can join in a whole host of fun activities like writing springs or live feeds.

But it also comes with Nanowrimo Guilt, a term I've coined for that vague panic that sets in when you miss your first scheduled day writing. Once you have it, the NG is super hard to shake. It can hamper your progress and in some cases make you throw in the towel.

Trust me, I know what I'm talking about here. 

You are looking at a consistent Nanowrimo Non-Finisher!

You spend October planning, world-building, Pinteresting an aesthetic and all those other lovely prep tasks that go with your novel. Then November hits and the pressure is suddenly on. Now you have to sit and make those reams of paper and files into something concrete. No longer can your airily tell people you're going to be a writer, darling. Now it's time to put fingers to keyboards and actually write something.

You have a word counter from Etsy, an app on your phone and your Facebook writers group all with the set target of so many words per day. Nanowrimo is usually 50k for the month but really, you can set any target that you like. You sit down for the first day with your target in mind and the words appear on the page. Easy! Nothing to it. Keep this progress up and you'll have a finished book sitting on your laptop in just over a month! Well done you lovely old thing, you.

This streak might last a couple days, a week or if you're really lucky, until the second week. For me I've never got past the end of the second week. Then all of a sudden life pops up. You get tired, you get an invite, there's a con on, there's a family thing happening, you get sick, the kids are grizzly, work gets tougher and you have technical issues out the wazoo.

 A day goes by without anything appearing on your page. Never mind, you can catch up tomorrow. Only tomorrow goes by and life is still manic. No words appear on your page. Never mind that either, look, we can do a writing binge at the weekend. But you're so tired on the weekend that all you do is sleep, maybe spend time with your family - as long as they don't ask you how your novel is going. Before you know it a week and a half has passed and you've written nothing.

 The goal you set seems impossible now, you're so far behind in your word count. You calculate how many words you'd have to write a day and the figure is so high you squeak and tip a little vodka into your coffee.

But everywhere on Facebook there are successful Nano-ers. They're hitting their writing goals without any issues, somehow easily meeting the life tasks that tripped you up. People are completing Nano early even, with cheeky Insta photos of "THE END" written on manuscripts. You however are still stuck with twenty pages and a vague worry that you've got the crisis point of the book ALL WRONG.

What do you do?

If you're me, you throw the towel in and leave all the Nano/Writer groups so no-one can see your shame. You hide your planning or tell yourself that you will eventually write this novel, you're just really more of a marathon runner than a sprinter. The NG sets in and you tell yourself that you're not even that, heck, you're not even on the athletics track at all! Will you ever finish a novel? Will Nano somehow find out that you never finished and send you out an email telling you to stop calling yourself a writer?

Hush now.

Listen close.

We're making new plans this Nano and we're banishing this Nanowrimo Guilt forever. Get out your Bible, your incense, your sage, whatever you want. Salt the doors and windows. Call a Winchester.

If you fall behind this Nanowrimo with your word count, you don't throw the towel in like you used to (are you listening, Self?) You readjust the goal. 50,000 is unachievable in the time you've got left? Alright, let's make it 30. 20. 10 even. Whatever you think you'll be able to manage. That's your new expectation, your new goal. You're still in Nano, you're still in the running.

What matters is getting the words down on the page, setting a routine and sticking to it. Whether it's 5 or 5000 words on a page in one day, you still wrote something and you know what?

You showed up.

You showed up when it was tough going and life was pounding on the door. You got words down, you kept on creating a world and telling the story in your head. That's what the world needs more of - - more stories, more creativity.

You are much more likely to keep going with Nano if you readjust your goals and realise that yes, life has gotten in the way and kicked your butt. You're going to keep going and show life that yeah, bring it on. Nothings stopping me.

And as for the "guilt and shame" you get when looking at everyone on Facebook happily documenting their progress?

Stop that.

You aren't seeing what's going on behind the Instagram shot.



Ps. What are you working on for Nano? Drop me a line and let me know! I'm working on a new urban fantasy novel - SONS OF EARTH. Angels, Nephilim and forbidden romance - what's not to love? Well, in forbidden romance, I guess, quite a lot but anyway - whoever let the truth get in the way of a good story! 

Book Review: Fractured Flame by Erin Embly

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Fractured Flame by Erin Embly for review, just check out how beautiful this cover is!

Here's the blurb:

I’m not an assassin witch, I swear…

But one bad day at work as a Guardian was all it took to make everyone think I am.

Darcy Pierce—infamous, soulless, lethal. Betrayer.

It’s all good, though. I fit right in at my new job as the magical bartender in a supernatural strip club, where no one cares about a girl’s deadly reputation as long as she has a nice rack.

Only now I’m being stalked by a schoolgirl bully who breathes fire, and her hot dad keeps trying to get me to touch his dusty old book. I’m used to men trying to trick me into touching things, but this is a whole new level of creepy.

I’m almost grateful when the assassin who framed me comes back for round two…

Except I’m not the only one in danger. My new friends at the club are the ones under fire now, and I can’t fail them like I failed before.

Once a Guardian, always a Guardian, right? That’s what they always told me, even when I ran, and I still don’t know if they were right.

Whatever I am, it’s personal now, and I have a hot-blooded killer to hunt.

Fractured Flame is the first book of Firebird Uncaged, an urban fantasy series containing action, snarky humor, mythical creatures, rogue witches, Aztec gods, swearing, and some slow-burn romance.

With a blurb like that, how can you not snatch it off the shelf? Or virtual shelf, if you're Kindling it. *sneakily taking notes to write own blurb*

I feel like Urban Fantasy is one of those genres that has the potential to be over-saturated and to make a book stand out, it has to have that extra something. Fractured Flame definitely has this and has it in spades. I can see this getting optioned by Netflix somewhere down the line as it reminds me of Supernatural. Not so much the story content as this is definitely a female centric book but the sucks-you-in-what-is-sleep-anyway content. This was definitely a book that I binge read and actually emailed Erin asking when she was going to write another 500 pages. The supernatural worldbuilding is done so well that you can easily see Dean & Sam working away here, though I think they'd meet their match in Darcy Pierce.

One major win for me is the strong female protagonist Darcy. She's not your run of the mill heroine, not the kind who needs saving and not the sometimes overfilled trope of "I have a lot of trauma and I'm a battler." Don't get me wrong, I love that trope, my own protagonist Maeve is a chick with a ton of trauma battling away but again I think you have to have that little pop extra to make sure that your protagonist doesn't get lost. Darcy is this kind of extra. Her trauma is cleverly revealed in chunks, making you thirst to know more of her backstory. Its cagey and close to her chest, which is exactly the way Darcy plays her cards.

Darcy has found a new job and a new life that she's happy with until of course life comes to kick her in the teeth. Her friends are in danger, there's hot alphas everywhere - not all of them are good guys - and she has to come to terms with her own past and the world around her. She's finding out about new areas of  magic she had no clue about and having to do it fast. There's no time to catch her breath and it makes for a rollercoaster of a read, probably explaining why I tore through it!

Every single time she seems to have it worked out the rug is whipped from under her and Darcy's desire to win against all odds is tested. She has this nightmare of failing again as she thinks she failed as a Guardian hanging over her head and it adds a beautiful touch of pathos to all of her interactions. Her internal monologue is beautifully developed and gives you just enough each time to think, "Dammit Darcy!"

Oh the slow burn romance though! Think the best fanfiction you've ever read, you know you have one. The one you save on your phone and read late at night. The kind of slow burn where you're like "Is this evvvvvvver going to happen or what?" This is the same kind of slow burn romance and I have no doubt will have the same kind of followers that those fanfictions have! You are so invested in this romance that at times it can be so frustrating when it just doesn't happen already, but frustrating in the way that you just have to keep on reading to find out.

Fractured Flame is a book that you'll love, race through and then come back to again. If you're like me, you'll sneak read it when you're not supposed to and go to bed thinking about it.

If like me, you're already a fan then you can read the first two chapters of Fractured Flame here

It's also available for pre-order over on Amazon here

Let me know what you think!

Writing routine

I always wanted to be one of those writers who have a perfect writing routine. Someone who writes every day, writes pages of words that don't need editing every day, someone who is consistent and dedicated.

2 out of 4 isn't bad right? (Sounds like one of my high school maths tests!)

Fix your writing space up just the way you want it, you're the one who has to be in it!

It took a long time to create a consistent writing routine for me and an even longer time to stop comparing myself with those perfect routines. Someone elses' routine won't work for you because they're not you and vice versa. Shake off some of that Writer's Guilt, which is like Catholic Guilt but ink-stained, and let's create something that works for you!

Morning or night?

What time of day do you feel most productive? I'm a night owl, something about that deep silence that falls when everyone else is asleep helps me write. I tuck myself up with my laptop, whatever tipple is taking my fancy that week (right now it's salted caramel vodka and lemonade) a playlist and a scented candle. 

But if you're not a night owl then this time of day will feel like hell to you. Maybe you're a morning person who wakes early every day? Maybe mid-morning brings a break in your world and you finally have time to sit and write. 

Schedule days off

When I first started writing ARCHANGEL ONE after a long break in writing books I assumed that I needed to write every day or I'd lose my 'writer badge.' I tried so hard to write every single day but when I eventually fell off the wagon, the guilt slammed in. You don't have to write every day to be a writer. 

Schedule yourself days off to refresh yourself doing whatever you like. I like to schedule days off writing during mid-week. At this point I'm usually dog-tired from work and just want to sleep. I make sure to have days where my evenings consist of binge watching something, reading a book and getting as early a night as I can. Like I said, I'm a night owl so sometimes even those nights end up late! 

Get rid of distractions:

So it's one of your writing days and you've picked your best time of day. You sit down at the laptop and...immediately get distracted if you're me. I have to pick the right playlist obviously and this takes time. When you do pick it, then I have to skip that song...then that one. I have to just check Facebook, upload something to my Author page, check my Instagram - why have my followers gone down again - scroll through my feed, better share a photo. It's so easy to get distracted and before you know it an hour's gone and no words have appeared on the page. 

Make sure you have your playlist picked before you put your butt on your chair. I created a specific playlist for each book and set it going as I sit down. Turn off your data on your phone so you can't be tempted to just check Facebook or Insta. Set specific times of day to share something on your Insta, which will also help with your Insta boosting. Make sure these are not your writing times! Ditto with your Author page. Disconnect your internet from your laptop so it's just you and that blank page. 

These all helped me settle into a regular writing routine and hopefully they help you too! Don't feel guilty if you don't write every day - whether you do or don't, you're still a writer.

The bar in my head

Hi lovelies!

I was reading my friend Manna's blog and came across the most beautiful image of the brain of a writer that I had to share it. Her blog is definitely worth checking out for writing tips and insights into her writing journey. 

She described her mind as being a bar filled with her characters that she could dip into at any time. I loved this image because it gives you this sense that as writers our characters are alive beyond the moments we call on them to appear on the page. When we turn away from the computer they get up for another drink, start a game of pool and live out a life without us watching them. Or in my case right now with Maeve, putting the poor girl through a world of hurt (sorry kiddo.)

It made me think of what my characters would be like if they were in a bar;

The place itself  would be some 1930’s gin dive with hardwood floors stained darker than Santangelo’s soul. Jade green shades hanging low over secluded booths, velvet backed and with a fog of cigar smoke hanging heavy. A long gold edged bar would take up one entire side, crystal glasses chinking against one another and a bartender dressed in a suit with a holster under his shoulder. He’s pouring amber whisky over ice with half an eye on a TV above his head, pointedly trying to ignore the robots and one Dalek cruising around.

There, in the most strategically placed booth of course, is Santangelo. He’s slouched back into the plush velvet booth, whisky in one hand and cigar in the other. There’s his weapon on the table in front of him holding down a map. Saint’s attention is completely on Ronnie, whose tucked in against his side with her fingers wrapped around the stem of a cocktail glass. She’s talking low to Vin across the table, stabbing a finger down at the map. There’s 1930’s jazz playing around them and Vin will occasionally glare around the room at the other patrons. Santangelo's gaze remains on Ronnie but you can bet your bottom dollar he'd know if someone coughed over the other side of the room. 

There’s the booth with the robots and Dalek of course, though the Dalek is having a hard time getting into the seat.

Then there’s Gabriel sprawled in a booth, leaning forward with his elbows on slightly sticky wood. His hand’s wrapped around a bottle of whatever’s going and he’s telling an old war story. His other hand runs over his whiskers and his gaze will clock over each one of his crew in turn every few minutes. Gabriel wears a contented smile beneath eyes that carry an ancient fire. 

Dex is similarly sprawled, arms hanging over the back of the booth, telling bad jokes one after the other and drinking everything going, including some that's not. His hair is mussed, his tunic is no better and he doesn't remember the last time he had a soak but his smile lights up the place. An easy charm exudes from him, following a voice like honey. 

Irma's feet are tucked up under her, sitting cross-legged on the seat. Long, delicate fingers curl around the stem of a wine glass. Cascading waves of sun-kissed hair fall down around her, stars and beads wound here and there through it. Her lilac eyes are watching everything with that soft way of hers and wherever she looks, peace reigns for a bit. Irma's gaze stays resolutely away from Santangelo and drifts often towards Maeve. 

Logan is in the same booth, as far away from the others as possible without falling out of the booth. A crystal cut glass is precisely turned to the edge of the table, filled with something clear and crisp. His dark hair is neat, unlike the others. His eyes are sharp, not unlike the others. He has seated himself opposite Santangelo, the better to keep an eye on him. A thin line has taken possession of his mouth. There's a data-pad resting by his left hand, formulations scrawled across it. Logan's eyes refuse to go over to Maeve and Taren, creeping so far their way before he grinds his other hand into the wooden table and brings his gaze back again. 

Maeve is in the booth just across from them, close enough to hear Dex's jokes. She's snorting at a particularly bad one, trying and failing to stop it turning into a full blown belly laugh. She is also sat cross-legged on the deep seat though not as gracefully as Irma. She's leaning forward, chin resting on her hand and the emerald eyes turned upwards towards Taren. An expression of peace and adoration has settled on her face much to Logan's disgust. Maeve could not care less if they were in a bar or on the edge of a mountain at midnight, as long as the ice blue eyes she's staring at are there too. Her free hand cups a creamy mug filled to the brim with rich coffee. She's leaning into Taren as she laughs. 

He's looking down at her while she laughs, the corners of his lips twitching as he tries not to. The deep emerald of his cybernetic implant twinkles as he drops a kiss on the top of her head. She leans into him a little more, into the muscled arm looped low around her back. He is slouched into the seat, curled around Maeve, his boots slung up on the opposite seat. The hand not holding Maeve holds a datapad instead where he's scribbling notes and skidding them across to the robot on his other side. Taren is relaxed in the same way a panther relaxes, all whispered menace and coiled limbs.  He raises a middle finger to Logan, matches it with a crooked grin. 

Over the other side of the bar sits an Archangel and the Devil. They're pretending not to know each other.  Two Archangels sit next to the first and a demon sits next to the Devil. They're fine to admit they know each other, they just don't like each other. Samantha and Sebastian. 

One beyond them sits a woman with hair as crimson as the heart of a fire, her face nothing but a mist of shadows. Beside her sits a man wearing crusader armor, or at least, he used to be a man before he lost the ability to look at himself in the mirror. Magic crackles around them like the spitting beginning of a thunderstorm. 

Five officers from a homicide investigation squad for paranormal creatures are their neighbors. Four of them are male and one of them is an alien. The fifth is a woman with darting eyes who sits like she isn't sure what table she is meant to be at. Her face is also missing. 

I think you don't realize how many ideas are bubbling in your brain until you sit down and try to write something like this. Some are my current books or work in progress and some, like the officers are an idea that has yet to be put to the page. Maybe you only know that they will actually get on a page when they get into the bar. Is there a limbo outside where ideas lie? 

What would the bar in your head look like?

Blog Review - Through Her Eyes

Hi lovelies!

I was offered the chance to read THROUGH HER EYES, the debut novel from Sophie Fahy and honestly, I’d like to make it recommended reading for everyone.  When I first started building an Instagram presence for my book and finding other authors Sophie was someone who was just so welcoming and friendly. On a social media platform that is constantly calling you to compare, her account is one of encouragement and positivity towards everyone. I always smile when I see her posts!

Now, let me tell you why I love this book so much. Here’s the blurb:

Life is not always black and white, sometimes it’s a thousand shades of grey. Seventeen-year-old, beloved Alyssa Darlington has always been a party girl: quick-witted, fierce and very smart; with a strong future ahead of her. But after surviving a brutal attack at her best friend’s end-of-summer house party, the only thing that seems fitting for Alyssa, is revenge. And when this becomes her twisted reality, it’s easy for the shadows to take over. . After something so traumatic, Alyssa struggles to stay at the top of the social ladder – climbing to the top is hard – trying to stay there while, newly, partially blind, is even harder.There’s a weight upon her shoulders. Quietly searching for answers, Alyssa unlocks memories and reveals secrets that should have been buried.


THROUGH HER EYES is like Gossip Girl meets Thirteen Reasons. Thirteen Reasons because of the thought provoking content, the haunting mystery and the emotional gut punch it delivers. Gossip Girl because just like you daydream about Chuck and Blair, I found myself thinking about Alyssa when I was meant to be working! You’ll find yourself doing it too, trying to work out the mystery.

Alyssa starts her story at a party, drunk and out of it. She experiences a horrific assault and barely survives. When she wakes, her vision is so badly impaired that she’s practically blind. As someone whose worked with victims of attacks like this I found her writing absolutely spot on. I think it’s a very difficult area to write and to represent. Yesterday I was reading an article about the “misappropriation of misery” and how easy it was to write something traumatic and have it come off as gory or not deep enough. Sophie has avoided all of this and managed to create a vivid experience through Alyssa’s eyes. I could have been reading patient notes which was both scary and a testament to Sophie’s writing.

The story is literally through Alyssa’s eyes and while she has a lot of the Gossip Girl typical teenager characteristics she also has a lot more depth to her. The trauma happens very early on and she’s thrown into how to cope with that, as well as having to adjust to her changing role. Alyssa adjusts quickly but teenagers do. Teenagers and kids adjust much faster than we think they do and they mask their pain far better than we think too. Have you ever watched one of those hospital trauma shows? I love ‘24 Hours In ED’ and when you watch it you see these kids suddenly crash. It’s because they appear well when they’re very sick until they crash. A kid that looks well can still be very unwell. Alyssa gives off the same vibe – she looks like she’s adjusted very well but underneath it there’s a sense of an impending crash just waiting to happen.

THROUGH HER EYES should be optioned by Netflix because it is an edge-of-your-seat, 2am-but-I-have-to-know story. You might as well read it on a weekend because you won’t be getting any sleep once you’ve started! I thought I had a good handle on the mystery at first, had a suspect and was confident in my choice...until I turned the page.

Alyssa has flashbacks of that night which are superbly written but don’t do anything to help me find out who the attacker was! It is really one of those mysteries where you never know until the last page and when you DO know it throws you. At the same time though, the attacker made perfect sense and having come from that world professionally, it was also sadly familiar.

I think that’s what I love most about THROUGH HER EYES (besides the brilliant writing, the great characters and the non-stop mystery that is) Her experience is so vivid and authentic. It reminds me of so many of the stories I’ve heard before and I think it should be recommended not only for young adults but for anyone who works with youth. THROUGH HER EYES is one of those powerful novels and I’m so proud of Sophie for this!

Book love is real love

Do you ever have those books that you just fall in love with?

Somewhere around page four you know this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful love affair. You'll remember that book all your life, join a few fandoms and if you're me, quote lines out of it.

Quoting lines out of your favourite book is fine btw, IF the other people know what you mean. I tend to quote, "Lord, heal this bicycle," out of Good Omens a lot. My family know what it means but when I quote it around other people they kind of scotch their eyes at me, particularly as 9 times out of 10 I'm not holding a bicycle.

I have a few of those books but the earliest I remember are James Herriot and Terry Pratchett's works. Around 5 I found James Herriot's works and while I might not have understood every word at 5, I fell in love with the Yorkshire Dales and his animal stories. I wanted to be a vet and I'd be one now, if I didn't suck so badly at maths and chemistry.

My parents introduced me to Pratchett around the same age with a VHS called "Truckers." I was fascinated by the Thing they walked around with and the concept of an artificial intelligence. Come to think of it, that video and classic Doctor Who are probably responsible for my love of science fiction today. Later I got "Lords and Ladies" to read. I was fascinated with how Terry would write the actual novel but then he'd add in lots of footnotes with all this extra information. He does it in all his books and I've always loved it, it's like he is so into the worldbuilding that he just has to add all of this extra info. Most of this extra info is heavily sarcastic too, which only makes it better.

My brother and I were blessed enough to see Terry Pratchett live and it was one of the most emotional times of my life. Beautiful because this is one of my heroes, because he's hilarious, because he was sharing his knowledge and his time. Devestating because by this time Alzheimers had already taken his ability to read and he moved like a man old before his time. I remember crying because I was so upset and frustrated that a disease was robbing the world of that brain.

Maybe all this explains why I was happy but terrified that Good Omens became a TV show. Happy because while his work lives on, so does he. Terrified because I didn't want it to be spoilt somehow. I'm a big Margaret Atwood fan but I think The Handmaids Tale loses something in the show. Somehow it just becomes a story more about Offred and her sleeping with Nick than it is a story about repression and rebellion (that's my opinion though, loads of people would disagree!) Alias Grace is beautifully done though - understated and quiet, much like the main character. But what Neil Gaiman has done is PERFECTION. It's a fitting memorial to Terry Pratchett and hopefully goes on to introduce thousands more to the Discworld.

How do you find it when your beloved book becomes a TV show? Do you watch it or run? For me, Good Omens and Outlander are the best adaptations out there. The Handmaids Tale left me disappointed and wary of going near the coming adaptation of MADADAM. I've fallen in love with the Dark Days Club and I can see that getting made into a TV show. I already have anxiety about who you'd cast as Lord Carlston!

Moral of the story: Watch Good Omens!

Book Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Full disclosure: I am a long-time Margaret Atwood fan, so this review is not totally unbiased!

Vox is a story about women finding their voice both metaphorically and literally. In a dystopian near future the government have limited women to 100 words per day, with a bracelet that provides an electric shock if this limit is breached. Women are relegated to the "traditional" roles with men taking over every other aspect. Women are booted out of their jobs and returned to the home. Some men, like our MC's husband, are sympathetic but most seem to generally agree with this new way. Children are indoctrinated at school into this new philosophy, called Pure.

Our main character, Jean, is a former professor of linguistics with a wealth of research behind her in helping stroke victims rediscover language. This becomes majorly important towards the back end of the novel although it isn't so much hinted at during the rest of the novel as has neon signs. She's also the mother of 4 kids and so has been relegated to the stay at home mother role. 3 of these children are boys, with one completely swallowing the Pure philosophy taught by schools in an interesting conflict between mother and son. The other child is a daughter, a key motivator in breaking Jean's perceived apathy, as her daughter is also limited to 100 words a day. Rather than frustrating her daughter as it does Jean, her daughter speaks as little as possible, effectively becoming mute.

Jean is a difficult character to love for me. She dislikes her husband for not fighting against the regime however there's a twist to this and one that she doesn't seem all that bothered by. She doesn't like the new regime but is mostly apathetic towards it. When her daughter stops talking she's bothered but again there's a lot of apathy contained in the character. Jean finally does make a move towards rebellion but only when the scales are very clearly tipped. In one way this fits my generation - those who decry everything but do very little action towards it - in another way it makes Jean difficult to understand or love.

She's also undergoing a choice between her husband or the Italian man she had an affair with, now working back at her research lab. Jean is offered the choice to stay or leave and even this choice is decided for her by the events of the novel tied in with her husband *spoilers she says in a River Song voice* It leaves you wondering whether if left to her own devices, she would have continued in this apathetic manner forever. Whereas Offred is openly oppositional, Jean tends to be sneaky about it and only moves when she is almost forced into it.

The world building is excellent however it borrows heavily from The Handmaids Tale and relies upon you have an understanding of the previous book. I feel that the world building would be lacking for someone who didn't have prior knowledge of Atwood's work. I did like the flashbacks explaining how the current system came to be. The speed at which it happens is quite horrifying and the way in which it's done is something that I can easily see replicated in our society.

Vox reads as an updated Handmaids Tale for our current society with a less loveable protagonist for me. Still worth a read but the original remains the best.



You were meant to live forever.

As we watched a classic Who episode a year and a bit ago my Dad poked me in the shoulder and said, "You know what you'd love? Blake's 7!" I believed him, after all, my Dad is the one who got me into Doctor Who and so less than a week later I found myself sitting in front of the TV, waiting for The Way Back to start.

I fell in love with Blake's 7 as soon as I started watching it. It's everything I've always wanted a show to be and I loved Blake as soon as I met him. The first episode had me hooked and demanding to watch more. The whole dystopian beauty of it, the force of the Federation, how different it was and is to any other show out there. The flawless writing by Terry Nation and later Chris Boucher. Just like Doctor Who, I knew I was going to be a lifelong fan.

But come the second episode, I fell in love hard and fast.
And my heart is breaking today.

The second episode features Blake on a prison ship bound for the penal colony planet Cygnus Alpha. As he's barrelled onto the ship they pass a grey figure sitting in a supremely disinterested way. He was sitting in the kind of explosive arrogance that I've only ever seen again in Space Commander Travis. Blake starts plotting a way out and he's introduced to Kerr Avon, selfish computer mastermind who is less interested in fighting for freedom than he is fighting to save his own neck. The minute I saw Avon I sat up because there was something about how he sat that made you take notice.

Then he opened his mouth and I gave away my heart.

Avon is the best anti-hero I've ever seen. He has beautiful character development from an unwilling rebel who is forever looking for a way away from Blake to a rebel leader in his own right, even raising the next generation like Tarrant. He went from contemplating whacking Blake one to saving the man's life by shooting Space Commander Travis point blank (at which point he was obviously wearing a protective vest and escaped. I refuse to accept any other outcome #TRAVISLIVES) He always knew Blake inside out and Blake never had to hide from him. I always used to think that Blake had to keep up this "hero" image to Cally, Gan and Villa but Avon was the one person who knew him for what he was - just a man trying his best and often failing, like we all do.

Staying with you, Blake, requires a stupidity I no longer feel capable of.

He could go from savage insults and sarcasm to heartbreaking moments with Anna to saving Blake's butt like the hero of the hour. He'd go toe to toe with Servalan any day and alwaaaaays kept a backup plan in his pocket. He was a genius and grew to be an excellent fighter too. The whole episode where Travis and Avon are fighting each other on a wasteland planet had me in convulsions because I didn't know who to support. The greatest anti-hero or the greatest cybernetically enhanced supervillian you ever met? And can we talk about Stephen Greif's butt in leather pants? Can we?

No-one else could be Avon but Paul Darrow. I absorbed and continue to absorb everything I can on Paul Darrow - watching Hammer House of Horror, rewatching Doctor Who eps he was in, buying his books and chasing his audiobooks. I read every article I could and I spent ages trying to figure out the entire Blake's 7 fandom war that happened when I was still a Time Tot. As someone whose grown up in the Supernatural fandom with the acceptance of Destiel the whole battle of shipping Blake/Avon seemed overblown to me but I guess that's the difference in the acceptance of LGBTI culture between now and then.

Sometimes the characters you love belong to people who couldn't care less. Again, I've been spoilt by being a Mark Pellegrino fan, where the man literally introduces himself as Lucifer. But Paul Darrow went above and beyond. He was Avon on and off screen, he wrote books in the Blake's 7 fandom, telling Avon's story as if it were his own - because it was.

And when a 31 year old fangirl wrote to him begging for an autograph, Paul Darrow wrote back and sent me one.

I love him so much.

I quote Avon every day. Kerr Avon is the inspiration for one of the characters in my Archangel One series, Logan Sigma.

Paul Darrow was someone I assumed I'd one day get the chance to meet and tell him how much I had always loved his work. Now that chance is gone. I never thought anything would happen to him, I mean, he survived an aortic aneurysm and the loss of both legs. This was a strong man who'd outlived Gareth Thomas and Jackie Pearce. He was meant to live forever. Waking up this morning to read that he'd passed away hurt like a flare between my ribs. It doesn't seem right that there are moments now where Avon isn't alive. Logically I know that a 78 year old man can't go on forever but I always believed he would.

I half expected that when Death did turn up, knocking on Paul's door that he'd turn from the Liberator's transport pad and growl, "I'm not expendable, I'm not stupid and I'm not going."

I will miss you always and it will have always been too soon for me.

You were meant to live forever.

Standard by Two, Zen

Thank you, Paul.

Flash Sci-Fi Fiction: Deadly Jewellery

What happens when your to-die-for jewellery really is just that?

Take a peek into Ministry Commander Taren's life on board a Galactic ship with this Flash Fiction Friday story:

The glittering ball nestled against Thea’s throat, suspended on a delicate silver chain. It was warm to the touch, a soft weight between her fingers as she toyed with the jewel.   

“It looks good,” Aera commented in a tone that was only mildly considering whether detaching Thea’s head from her neck to get the jewel was worth a try. “Your tunic sets it off, not exactly Galactic issue though is it?”

Galactic had once issued jewellery to every soldier, male or female, only the idea of wearing tracking bracelets hadn’t really appealed to them. People had stuck them to their consoles and wandered off wherever they liked. Five weeks it had taken Command to figure that one out. They were still writing subspace communications about it.

Thea glanced down at her standard issue navy tunic, as shapeless as a circus tent at night viewed by a one eyed man with glaucoma. It’s only redeeming feature was the inclusion of one large pocket directly on the front where you could hide your smokes. The jewel twinkled like a star back up at her. “Eh, who cares if it is? Not like Commander Taren is going to notice it is he? Doesn’t notice anything that one.”

It wasn’t so much a bare faced lie as a completely nude bodied one. Ministry Commander Taren noticed everything, even the things the heavens hadn’t noticed. He’d risen quicker than a missile through the ranks and was now settled comfortably – if you could settle comfortably in that black body armour they wore – as President Gailan’s favourite mercenary. It was unlikely that he’d be bothered about a shiny jewel, but then you never knew with him. He had ice cold blue eyes that never smiled, never shone, never lit up. Thea knew he’d be handsome if he’d just smile once in a while. Trouble was he was only known for smiling during battle and she’d quite enough of that for one journey out from New Earth Starbase thanks.

“If he does, I’ll say it’s a present from a lover or something,” she muttered, rolling the jewel between her fingers. The round little ball seemed to be even warmer against her skin.

“He knows when you’re lying, it’s that implant.”

“It’s a tactical implant, not a My-Crew-Are-Lying-Through-Their-Teeth implant, Aera. Anyway – getting off course. It’s mine, it’s shiny and no-ones taking it off me, alright?”

Aera nodded, shrugged, considered tossing the other soldier out of an airlock. After grabbing the necklace of course. Thea always managed to scavenge the nicest things. All Aera had ever managed was a datapad that went on the blink a lot. She slouched back against the railing encircling the flight deck, staring up at the rest of the crew.

They milled around their consoles, checking this, fixing that. Her job was strictly admin – bring them what they wanted in flight and find a spot somewhere in the middle of a squadron when they went on a recce. You were less likely to get noticed in the middle, less likely to get blown to bits by some Galactic-hating alien idiot. Unless you ran into the rebels, then they seemed to go for the middle didn’t they?
Part of Go For The Middle, It’s Where The Laziest Hang Out strategy that Gabriel Alpha had written, available in all good revolutionary bookshops.

Aera on the other hand was a navigator, destined to stand safely behind a console and read out co-ordinates while someone else did the hard job of following them. She was good at numbers and staying calm. Thea was good at bringing things, sitting quietly and not getting shot at which so far had served her well. Sitting quietly didn’t get you in a lot of trouble, messing up the navigation could get all of them killed, particularly if it was on a ship that Commander…sorry, Ministry Commander Taren navigated. It wasn’t a bad job overall, apart from the chance of getting blown to bits.

Though she was slouching back against the railing facing the wrong way Aera could still pick the moment that Taren stepped onto the flight deck. People’s backs became ramrod straight and everything seemed to take on that frenetic intensity that followed the Black Guardian wherever he went. Even Aera stood up straight and silently cursed, she was stood right where he was likely to walk.

She fancied the air grew darker as Taren’s footsteps came down the ramp towards them, like he was bringing the emptiness of space in with him. The swift clips slowed, paused, came very softly towards them.

“Good morning, Commander Taren,” Thea burbled, trying to look as bright and focused on her job as possible. “I’d like to report…”

“That necklace, soldier,” Taren barked, navy blue eyes storm tossed. 

“Um, yes, Commander. I…er…it was a present.”

“From someone you like?” She looked up sharply at his words but the savagely handsome face was a mask of stone. In anyone else Thea would have said the tone was teasing but there was no such hint of that in Taren.

“Um…um, yes?” Thea tried.

“Cause I find it hard to believe someone you like would hand you a Lazeron destroyer and claim it as a necklace,” Taren continued as if she hadn’t even spoken. His gaze was focused on the charm with a lazy intensity.

“IT’S A WHAT?” Thea barked, scrabbling at her neck with both hands.

Aera would have laughed at Thea’s face if she wasn’t busy trying to get as far away from the weapon hanging around her friends’ neck as possible. A wave of people spread out from Thea, getting away from the now too hot orb resting against her throat.

“Uh….I’m…please help me!”

Taren rolled his eyes, the robotic fingers of his right arm cold against her skin as he deftly snapped the necklace. Metal creaked as he toyed with it for a moment, then crushed it between his fingers. The brilliant shine of it dimmed, then ceased.



Three Things Thursday

Writing this while currently puppysitting with a sleepy pup on my lap, it's been a good day so far!

Currently Reading:

I'm currently reading MEN AT ARMS by Terry Pratchett and loving every minute of it. Pratchett is possibly my favourite fantasy author and a master at worldbuilding - I'll be talking about him in my vlog this week!

This book is about the City Watch, Commander Vimes and suspicious murders going on in Ankh Morpork - well, more suspicious than the normal amount of murders anyway.

Currently Listening:

Listening to CATCH THE WIND by Donovan on my writing playlist at the moment. Feeling in that kind of 60's hippie lets-try-and-change-the-world peacefully vibe at the moment and always love a song that tells a story. This song is about wishing things were different but accepting that right now they aren't the way you want them to be.

Currently Watching:

Still on my rerun of Blake's 7, almost at the end of Season 1. Already crying about losing the first Space Commander Travis even though I know it means Brian Croucher is about to turn up.

Also watching Heartbeat Season 3 and loving the more dramatic storylines at the moment. Still can't warm to Kate Rowan but it's a fun, warm and friendly show that makes you wish you were cooped up during a snowdrift at Aidensfield.

That's it for Three Things Thursday this week! Drop me a line and let me know what you're reading, watching or listening to this week below or on any of my socials.



Writing Dialogue

I used to hate writing dialogue with a vengeance, I'd write anything to get out of it. Characters would have long monologues or spend forever staring out of windows while I wrote tons of exposition just for them. Whenever I absolutely had to write dialogue it was short and usually dramatic. Re-reading it highlighted just how abrupt the conversations seemed to be, drifting in a chapter with no real place.

When I wrote for a long time in an rpg I also tried to avoid dialogue because I hated it. My characters would have long periods of internal monologues or in the case of Sebastian, my most used rpg character, he'd growl everything and swore an awful lot. Most likely he went to bed with a sore throat!  Santangelo, one of the protagonists in my debut novel HUMAN NATURE is a taciturn Mafia boss who said very little unless he was talking to Ronnie, so he was easy enough to write dialogue for. Eventually though, I realised you couldn't just have quiet or angry characters if you want to have a believable story.

The best thing I learnt was:

Every piece of dialogue should have a point and move the story on.  

Previously I'd write and think; dang, Seb's been too quiet for a bit, better have him talk. Or he'd explode with a lot of capital letters. This bit of advice has been the best for me in figuring out how to include holistic dialogue in my novels, dialogue that flows as integral to the story rather than a sticking point.

For example, last night I wrote a piece of dialogue between Dex and Maeve. I would have struggled with this previously but working out what the point of the conversation was helped me script it. In this scene the point is that Dex and Maeve's friendship is developing. In the rest of the series he will come to be one of her best friends so it's important the seeds of this are sown early on. With this in mind I found it much easier to script dialogue between them that shows an easy affection developing them. Without this point I might have given them staccato words that didn't really go anywhere.

What point do you want this piece of dialogue to achieve? If it has no point, do you really need to include dialogue?

Don't overuse dialogue tags.

If you could see how red my face is right now writing that. Think back to the first novel I ever wrote at the age of 13 - a thrilling expose about the royal family of Sweden, in which they discovered a secret son and a royal plot. Good thing it never saw the light of day because I never changed any of the names from the actual  Swedish Royal Family and I'd probably be wanted in Sweden! In this novel I wrote a tag for every bit of dialogue I wrote. EVERY single one! e.g.

"You can't do that!" Victoria muttered.

"Yes, I can, Victoria, don't give me the shifty eyes," muttered Sven.

As you can see, every Swedish male is called Sven, even the royal ones. Also, fairly sure no-one in Sweden has ever said shifty eyes. *rolls eyes*

But every single line had a tag, every single line referenced a name. In my teens I thought that's how you wrote dialogue, or how would you know who was speaking? Since then I've learnt that you don't have to use it every single line. Most people can follow a conversation between two characters talking without dialogue tags. If you have to bring in more, they should only be used to reference a change in your internal camera with a different speaker.

In short, Emma said, "Don't overuse dialogue tags," Emma repeated. Emma again!

Don't use your dialogue for long chunks of explanation.

Also guilty of this one once upon a time....alright, I was guilty of a lot! Learn from my mistakes!  I used to assume that if you wanted someone to understand something about your world or a plot point, you'd do it in dialogue. That way the other characters know right? But unless one of your characters is a total newbie to the world, they should already be aware of things in their world. It sounds odd and stilted to start explaining a huge chunk in your dialogue, especially if it would already be common knowledge to your characters.

For me, if I'm using dialogue to explain a lot of the story it asks the question of whether my story is well thought through and whether it's easy enough to understand. Your characters shouldn't really be doing the job of explaining large plot points or storylines to readers or it becomes way too convoluted - unless of course one of your characters is God, then He does know everything!

What do you need to explain? Is there another way?

I hope these 3 little points have been helpful for you. Do you have any tips on how to write better dialogue?



Book Review: Machines Like Me

Having never read an Ian McEwan book before (I know!) I wasn't sure what to expect. I was surprised to see that he'd written a book in the sci-fi genre - alternate history/androids - but intrigued. I'm also obsessed with anything robotic so definitely had to grab this!

Full disclaimer: As a Science-Fiction author I was a little offended to read that Ian McEwan had asked not to be referred to as one and that he didn't like the genre. Mind you, I did also read this on Facebook over a morning coffee. Besides the obvious joys to the Sci-Fi genre I tend to think that it's a great tool for exploring the human condition and testing our own boundaries. Still, the lure of androids was bigger than my offence and soon I had a copy in my hot little hands.

Having read it, I see why he wasn't keen to refer to himself as a Sci-Fi author. Although technically it is in the genre, being an alternative history, it almost doesn't feel like one. Although it contains a new cybernetic discovery in the form of Adam, the android (which happens to be exactly the same name I've chosen for my android in ARCHANGEL ONE!) it doesn't feel like one.  It's an interesting exploration of what would happen if Alan Turing had chosen to do time rather than be chemically castrated and of Charlie Friend, his protagonist, a somewhat feckless dreamer fighting against the shackles of adulthood.

McEwan creates an alternate history in which Turing chose the path of doing time then capturing the world with his inventions. Thatcher is still PM and the Falkands are still a main focus. Like Deighton's novel SS-GB and Dick's Man In The High Castle it is interesting to see whispers of the true history trying to assert itself. Turing's genius has led to the creation of Adams and Eves - androids who are capable of self-awareness with programmable personalities and multiple functions.

Charlie is a feckless kind of wanderer who is currently stock trading, though not doing very well at it. He finds himself with an inheritance and promptly spends it on an Adam. He lives in the same apartment building as the woman he loves, with their relationship developing throughout the book. He wants a change but seems at least for the first part to be ambivalent about it. His girlfriend Miranda is intriguing, with secrets that lie deep beneath the surface. Charlie appears to be alternatively annoyed and intrigued himself by these secrets.

Enter Adam, an android whose personality is half keyed in by Charlie and half by Miranda. At first Charlie thinks that Miranda has created the perfect one to love her and it certainly seems so when Adam develops a love for her. It turns into a love triangle between Adam, Miranda and Charlie if you can imagine a lovesick android. It poses some interesting questions about self awareness and whether machines do have the capacity to love. Due to Miranda's hidden secrets Adam's love for her is tested and ultimately brought against his infallible belief in justice and truth. This has some unexpected consequences for Charlie and Miranda which leads to the breakdown of the love triangle.

Adding in meetings with Alan Turing is a nice touch and it's interesting to imagine how the man would have taken on cybernetics and an alternate 80s history. I loved his last speech to Charlie and how Charlie reacts to this - all through the novel people have been indulgent with Charlie but Turing pulls him up straight.

Adam himself is a clever character, demonstrating something more than android awareness right from the beginning and developing a deep sense of himself as we go through. There's a sub-plot regarding the Adam and Eve's sinking into deep dismay and in some cases suiciding. I wish this was further explored throughout the novel rather than it ending with the androids being recalled. It would have been great to delve into what they had imagined human life to be like and why it resulted in so many completing suicide in robotic ways. I feel like this was a missed chance here.

MACHINES LIKE ME introduced me to Ian McEwan's work, which I'll definitely read more of. I can see now why he doesn't want to be included in the sci-fi genre and I wouldn't classify it as one either, though he does include elements. It's an effortless prose that hooks you but if you're looking for a cybernetic exploration, you might be left a little wanting.

What did you think to it?




Author of Science-Fiction and Fantasy books about strong women with a compelling story to tell.

Emma is the author of HUMAN NATURE,  a dystopian fantasy exploring love, redemption and the darker side of humans.

She is currently writing her second book, ARCHANGEL ONE, a space opera exploring rebellion, freedom, love  and finding light in the darkness.

Emma has been writing since she was little, falling in love with making up stories. Her dream has always been to be a published author and at the age of 29 her dream came true with her debut novel HUMAN NATURE. She is inspired by epic fantasies and vintage science-fiction.

Emma would like her words to be escapism for her audience and to help others. Her aim is to create more sprawling stories with Alpha males and strong, intelligent women.

Setting a routine

In Pinteresting as much inspiration as possible for ARCHANGEL ONE I kept coming across a common theme in writing quotes. No matter which author it was coming from the theme was the same - writing is also about setting a routine and disciplining yourself to stick to that routine.

Surely not, I thought, going on to Pinterest vintage sci-fi images from the 70s until my heart was a riot of hypercolor and cylindrical robots. Surely writing is just inspiration and scribbling away whenever it hits? Surely hundreds of pages would fly forth at this moment and your novel would be completed in a week, a blur of laptop and coffee.

I can be so naïve sometimes.

Blanketed with same naivety I started writing ARCHANGEL ONE, envisioning floods of writing pouring forth from my fingers. I very quickly learnt that while your mind might be full of ideas and half composed scenes, your body is less inclined to sit at a laptop. My burning need to write lasted a week before I began to lag. Tiredness begged me to go to bed at a normal time rather than sit up and write for hours. The lazy Sunday I planned writing filled itself up with family time and binge watching the Sopranos. I reasoned it was only a day I'd missed in my schedule, then two days, then an entire weekend had passed and the laptop had stayed closed. Guilt washed over me and I tried to force myself to sit down at the laptop and write. I wrote a page of stilted conversation before I turned the laptop off.

What you don't see is the blank screen on the other side.

Setting and sticking to a routine in writing is one of the most important things you can do to become disciplined in your craft and to ensure you actually finish your projects. The failed Nanowrimo attempts of 2014-2016 I have are proof of this!

I felt guilty about not writing and then slightly rebellious of wanting to shuck a routine. It's different to other aspects in my life, like my work, where I have a routine every day. So why couldn't I stick to a routine in my writing? Why had I suddenly become such an undisciplined little git, causing havoc and guilt for myself by just not sticking to a routine?

I decided to take a couple of days off writing, spending that time binge watching my favourite TV shows and reading instead. Suddenly I wanted to write, scribbling ideas down and thinking of ways to resolve plot bunnies I'd been struggling with. As soon as I took the expectation off myself the desire to write came back. My tiredness vanished and I found myself sitting back at my laptop, headphones in my lap.

I've come to the conclusion that setting a routine and sticking to it is definitely important or we'd never get anything done. Setting time in that routine to take a break and recharge your batteries is just as important! I've rejigged my writing routine now to include time to just relax, sleep, read, whatever I feel like doing. It takes the weight of expectation off me and I've found that when I am on a writing day I write more.

We put so much expectation on ourselves, particularly if you compare yourself to everyone else on Instagram but that's another post! How about scheduling some time to rest in your writing routine?

HUMAN NATURE is available now on Amazon and Goodreads!

I'm currently working on my second novel ARCHANGEL ONE. 

Here's the blurb so far!

How do you Nanowrimo?

Camp Nanowrimo is here!

It was a last minute dash on Sunday to finish the last of my prep and planning before April 1 hit but finally a blank Word document sat in front of me and a stack of notebooks beside me. For me, the first couple of pages are always the hardest. There's so much in your head to get out but you're so aware that the first couple of pages need to grab your reader or you'll lose them forever. Thankfully I'm past those first pages now!

How do you Nanowrimo?

There's two camps as far as I can tell from our writing cabins on Camp Nanowrimo. Those who pants it   (fly by the seat of your pants) & those who meticulously plan.

I'm a reformed pantser. I wrote HUMAN NATURE in university classes or sitting by the duck pond waiting for my ride. I wrote it late at night and I wrote it when I was meant to be writing assignments - to be fair, I'll write anything other than my assignments. I have a uni assignment due for my Masters of Forensic Behavioural Science on 15/4 and do you think I've started yet? You betcha ass I haven't! For this novel I wanted to be super organised, have everything planned and have the entire novel plotted out in my head. I bought fancy leather-bound notebooks and downloaded a Writers Planner from Etsy. I had become a meticulous planner.

Except, as I've been writing ARCHANGEL ONE I've found more and more that I'm still flying by the seat of my pants. Scenes add themselves out of nowhere and plant trails that I can see being vital in the rest of the book but they were never planned for. I'm still referring to my plot notes and the world building I did but then that's it. I'm not sticking to the plot notes I wrote out so neatly and with so many different coloured pens - one for each character!

I'm not complaining because the alternative to sitting and writing for long periods of time is being stuck with writers' block, something no-one wants. I'm really thankful that I'm not sat there staring at the wall, but right now existing in that state where half the time you're in the real world and half the time you're in your own world.

But is it true that no-one really reforms from flying by the seat of their pants when they write?

Are all my promises to myself to be the meticulous planner who knows everything before it happens in my novel a lie?

And if it is, do I just give in and accept this?