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Book Review: ‘Cuttin Heads #Blogtour #cuttinheads #dawatson

 

Title:
Cuttin’ Heads

Authors:
D.A. Watson

Genre:
Horror

Book procurement:
Received a copy from Rachel’s Random Resources for a fair and honest review

Rating:

A Musically-Horrifying  5 out of 5

Synopsis:

Aldo Evans is a desperate man. Fired from his job and deeply in debt, he struggles to balance a broken family life with his passion for music.

Luce Figura is a troubled woman. A rhythmic perfectionist, she is haunted by childhood trauma and scorned by her religiously devout mother.

Ross McArthur is a wiseass. Orphaned as an infant and raised by the state, his interests include game shows, home-grown weed, occasional violence and the bass guitar.

They are Public Alibi. A rock n’ roll band going nowhere fast.

When the sharp-suited, smooth talking producer Gappa Bale offers them a once in a lifetime chance to make their dreams come true, they are caught up in a maelstrom of fame, obsession, music and murder.

Soon, Aldo, Luce and Ross must ask themselves: is it really better to burn out than to fade away?

First Thoughts

I genuinely love musicals. Though thinking about it, Tenacious D and The Relentless (American Satan) wouldn’t think themselves musicals even when they technically are. This is also true, despite their deals with the Devil cliched contract that leads to epic music, drugs broken friendships and all underhanded devilish tricks. I genuinely thought of a Scottish version of American Satan while reading this book, with a very distinct difference between the two; D.A. Watson knows what he’s talking about. The musical notation, the combination of story telling and musical knowledge, the character portrayal and depth, with combination of horror and  fear that makes you resonate with the characters, their individuality, thoughts and persona, and watching the constant digression like the best movie you’ve ever seen. I even have music in my head from a written story. That is true talent.

The Story

We follow Aldo, Luce, and Ross on their musical journey from small town nobodies to musical stars of fame and wonder in a very short amount of time, and at no small price. Gappa Bale is more than he seems even when he appears after an amazing gig at a local bar. Gappa, representing Easy Going Records, approaches the trio after the stellar performance with an opportunity to bring their music dreams to life – but then, things begin to spiral out of control.

Writing

I absolutely adore the writing. It’s easy to read yet fluid and real. Each character has a unique voice and character persona which carries well throughout the book. Switching between characters does not throw you off the story.

Aldo has his own voice and thought processes that you can easily fall in to. With a music passion that hinges on obsession but a true love and care for his boy Dylan whom he cannot be a father to as much as he wants, puts him as the perfect front man for Public Alibi.

Luce’s Italian Catholic background and shake in faith from an event in her past combined with her love of music and drumming has hardened her to be an amazing drummer and hardcore band member. Her character comes out strong and infallible regardless of her collision with Gappa Bale.

Rose is strong as an ox and kind as one too, not afraid to show the horns when he has to. His shaky childhood as an orphan and his work at the hospital shape him into an amazing young man. A killer on the bass guitar and true friend, his character is clear and distinct and strong. I loved him.

D.A. Watson is able to delve into the individual characters of Aldo, Ross, Luce, and Gappa without jarring chapter breaks or unnecessary story changes. Brilliant writing.

Final Thoughts

Absolutely adored this book both from a horror perspective (Remember May wow) and from a story and music perspective. A truly inspiring musical journey, intermingled with musical folklore and music knowledge that makes you question the fame of popular rock artists. Like a conspiracy theory and fantastic book all in one. Cuttin’ Heads makes me want to pick up my guitar again, while questioning any person who comes to me with a record label deal.

Oh and that last chapter between Aldo and Gappa Bale? Absolutely epic!


 

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The Epoch of a Reporter #flashfiction

300 words
News Reporter; Newsroom; Steampunk


There’s a constant clacking from Cindy O’Toole’s typer in the other room, followed by the hiss and clang of the carriage setting back in place. A haze of smoke sits in the newsroom like a cloud of sulphur from the cigs in everyone’s mouth. We all puff endlessly.
It is otherwise silent – even Ben Johnson from the funnies has no quips to the rolling film that plays on the wall behind Editor Ken Dunham. Dunham’s bulky arms, usually crossed, hang by his sides in defeat.
As the film flickers to an end, he swivels to us, skin sicky pale.
“That’s… that’s all we have.” He says, tired eyes falling on each of us with the languidness of a dying ticker. “Who wants to report it?”
We sit silent. Glances are diverted to feet, blank notepads or the wall peppered with past editions of trivial occurrences here in New Melwell. Nothing this big.
“No one?” Dunham asks, before letting out a long sigh that billows smoke from the almost smouldered smoke in his mouth. He pulls it out and stabs it into the tray on the table.
Silence.
“I will.” I finally say, and there’s an almost audible relief across the newsroom.
“Davis. You sure you’re up for it? This… this is some bad shit for a greeny.”
I shrug. “Ain’t nobody signing up so…”
Dunham thinks for a moment, scans the room and sees no one coming to my rescue. He snaps the film from the tripod and slides it across the table.
“Detective John Falon is the guy to talk to.”
I nod. I know.
It had taken a while for my murders to be big enough for the newsroom. Now I could cover my own story while keeping abreast of the city bobby.
I hid my smile.


 

Writing Update: Novella Accepted + GameNationSA

“What is the title of your novel.” Nicky asks me in an excited and almost crazed WhatsApp message. “Do you have an idea for a cover? Is there a blurb? We need cover images for the upcoming blog tour!” The message continues. For a moment my mind goes into immediate panic mode before the excitement of this rather random message begins to sink in; my novella is about to get published!

On top of this exciting new journey, there was the rather sad ending of Gamecca Magazine where I had been writing as a game journalist for more the five years. This too came in a rather random phone call from my editor Walt Pretorius, who sadly told me the digital mag was publishing its final issue that coming week. Thankfully I had met with Boris from GameNationSA through a number of gaming events. After contacting him about writing for the gaming site, he was keen for it and this past weekend I went to GeekFest and wrote an article For The Love of Geek. His reply ended with “Welcome on board.”

So what does this all mean…

Naming the Novella:

Coming up with titles is a struggle I’ve had for… well most of my writing life. The draft I sent to Nicky was simply labeled Novella Draft 1 because I had no idea what it was called. How does one get around to coming up with titles? Well some just come to you “Junk Yard Angel for example, while others need nothing more than a single word that explains the plot like “Innocence”.

Here are a few ways to come up with your title:

  1. It’s in the Story: There could be a line in your story that encapsulates the basic premise of your story. It might be dialogue or the hero/villain saying some awesome speech about what their goal or purpose is. It could also be your main character’s profession – your story might just have a title in there. E.g. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, The Black Swan, The Books of Blood.
  2. It’s in the Plot: Perhaps the overall plot of your story has a main premise or character or time period. You can use these in the title of your book to make it obvious what it’s about. E.g. The Mist, Animal Farm, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
  3. Symbolism for your Story: Nothing speaks to us more than metaphors and symbols. Look at how spiritual leaders and the like always use them to teach us some inherent lesson. Your book title could have the same concept, telling a bit about the book or the plot or the character using symbolism. E.g. A Song of Ice and Fire, Altered Carbon, Chicken Soup for the Soul.
  4. Simple Story Synopsis: I’ve seen a lot of the older horror novels use this premise often, usually prefaced by the word “The” and followed by the most basic, single-word, that says exactly what the story is about. E.g. The Dark Tower, The Haunted, The Legacy. Otherwise its just a simple premise as the title: Population Zero, Dark Harvest, American Gods.

While there are other ways to come up with a title, just make sure at the end of the day, the title is:

  • Memorable
  • Tells you about the book
  • Grabs the readers attention

Novella Cover Art

The name of your story can play a large role in the look and feel of your book cover. However there are many other factors to guide the design, as well as various sources for inspiration if the name is not enough. I personally had nothing in my mind and I did not want some clichéd “Goosebumps” cover either.

Here are ways I was inspired for my cover art:

  1. Main Character or World: My novella revolves around two main characters in two different time periods. For my cover, I decided to feature both characters in their respective eras to both display their personalities and to show the alternating timelines. You can do the same, showing your character, a character in their “natural habitat”, or a vision of where the story takes place.

Brian Smith The Killing Kind book cover C.L. Polk Witchmark book cover H.G. Wells The Time Machine book cover

  1. Title as a Picture: I had initially thought of using the name of the book for the cover, but also had a fear it would be too cliched and felt overdone. At the same time, there were also ideas that worked really well using the novellas name. You too can use the title of your book to inspire the cover.

Matt Wallace Greedy Pigs book cover Stieg Larsson The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book cover Brandon Sanderson The Final Empire book cover

  1. Mystery Between Title and Cover: This is, to me, one of the better and most effective cover designs used in the published space. Many books I own have this clever symbolism of title and cover and only once you’ve read through the book does the cover really both come alive and make greater sense. This cover usually grabs the readers attention and makes them question what the story is about.

Sean McGuire Every Heart A Doorway book cover  

  1. It’s Really Cool Okay!: Sometimes you can just have a really cool cover…

Ted Dekker Three book cover Ransom Riggs Tales of the Peculiar book cover Ray Bradbury The Illustrated Man book cover

  1. It’s a series: Occasionally series will have amazing covers that carry through with each book.

Scotland Yard's Murder Squad book coversWriting the Blurb

Writing blurbs is never easy. Once the title and cover of your book has drawn the attention of a potential reader, the blurb is either going to put them off or reel them in, and of course you want to reel them in.

So how does one go about writing a blurb?

  1. A Simpler Version of Your Story: Take the central aspects of your story that make it standout, and write a compelling, compressed version.
  2. Best First and Last Line: The opening line of your blurb should immediately pull readers in with a promise of good things. The last line should have the same effect, perhaps even ending on a cliffhanger for that final reel in.
  3. Set the Mood: Another way to write your blurb is to set the tone and mood of your story, so readers know immediately what they can expect both in terms of genre, but also story.
  4. See What Other Authors Did: Sometimes you just need to look at what you like in other books, or blurbs that you feel work and see what formula its built on. Then you can write it in your own style

Blurb for Stephen King’s new book “The Outsider

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.


No promises but as I continue along this whole “my novella is getting published” new phase of my writing, I will attempt to keep you all updated on the progress. Thank you for taking the time to read. What’s happening in your writing/reading world?

Cutting Heads Blog Tour

It has been a while since I posted any book reviews, and it’s not for want of trying. The last couple of months (how is it almost June already?) have been quite trying on many fronts, but as with many things in life, they pass on. Along with my desire to continue “horrifying” my blog, with the occasional splash of sci-fi and fantasy to cure the nightmares, the next few books up on review will be dedicated to horror.

One of these is an upcoming book from author D.A Watson.

Aldo Evans is a desperate man. Fired from his job and deeply in debt, he struggles to balance a broken family life with his passion for music.

Luce Figura is a troubled woman. A rhythmic perfectionist, she is haunted by childhood trauma and scorned by her religiously devout mother.

Ross McArthur is a wiseass. Orphaned as an infant and raised by the state, his interests include game shows, home-grown weed, occasional violence and the bass guitar.

They are Public Alibi. A rock n’ roll band going nowhere fast.

When the sharp-suited, smooth talking producer Gappa Bale offers them a once in a lifetime chance to make their dreams come true, they are caught up in a maelstrom of fame, obsession, music and murder.

Soon, Aldo, Luce and Ross must ask themselves: is it really better to burn out than to fade away?


Cuttin’ Heads by D.A. Watson

Genre: Horror

Tour Dates: 11th – 20th June 2018

Publication Date: 15th April 2018

Formats available: Mobi, Epub or PDF

Estimated Page Count: 361

Standalone Novel

Purchase from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2K02I4X


I have already started diving into this book and I must admit I’m really enjoying it. I’ll be part of the Cuttin’ Heads blog tour and this is just my shout out to Nicky Stephens, my editor over at Chasing Dreams Publishing, who told me about the book, and to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources, who generously provided a copy.

GW: A Mother’s Grief – Before I Wake

From my experience watching and reading horror novels, grief always leaves an indelible impression on characters, even more so when those characters are parents, and deeper still when the grief is driven by the loss of a child.

In some cases it is not the loss of a child physically but mentally, that old case where rearing children in a particular way leads the child to exhibiting unexpected behaviour. The “christian” parents whose child abandons the faith. The overprotective parents whose child rebels. And so on.

Sadly, in most cases, it does not take a supernatural occurrence to drive the child into that state, but adding the hyperbole that is horror into the mix, we as the audience see the depths that grief can bring out in people.

It’s not always extreme cases, such as the abuse Carrie White faces from her peers and mother in Carrie, or Alessa Gillespie’s abuse and eventual immolation in Silent Hill or the abusive history of Toshio Saeki in The Grudge.

Sometimes it’s much, much less subtle, such as Cody in Before I Wake:

Still mourning the death of their son, Mark and Jessie Hobson welcome foster child Cody into their lives. Soon they discover he has a strange ability.

The Story

The premise for this dark-fantasy horror film is quite simple. Cody has the ability to make his dreams come to life while he is asleep, and they vanish as soon as he wakes. Sadly he can’t control the ability, and as you can imagine, his nightmares are inevitable.

Writing Style / Atmosphere

Before I Wake carries less of a grisly/dark atmosphere prevalent in horror films. Initially it is much brighter, creating a false sense of security and augmented by Cody’s first dreams coming to life as beautiful blue butterflies, real as they are surreal.

As the story progresses, so does the growing oppressive aura around the whole film, deepened at night when shadows loom around every corner, automatically drawing our eyes to them as we anticipate something lurking in the darkness. This digression is then shown when the butterflies become moths.

Writing: Word choice is as important to creating this gloomy atmosphere as lighting and camera technique is to movies. Not every scene should be foreboding, but there will be elements that coalesce to paint an overarching mood/ambience.

  • Word choice will hint at the unsaid, willing the reader to see more than you’ve told.
  • Foreshadowing gives readers a glimpses of what is to or may come, increasing the sense of apprehension.
  • Sub-plots that seem minor or circumstantial (The Cranker Man) can merge with the bigger picture to tell a much deeper, darker story.
  • A few deaths necessary to the plot will help add to the reality of this horror.

Fear Factor

Before I Wake centers around a child’s known fear they can’t explain, made manifest by parents who downplay that fear.

The character development of both Jessie and Cody, intertwine perfectly to bring this fear alive. Cody is aware that his nightmares coming to life could mean losing his parents both a) physically from the nightmare monster, and b) physically as his ability may scare them off and send him to another foster home. To a child’s mind, these are very real fears.

You see how he attempts to overcome it in the choices he makes, such as reading books about butterflies to keep the nightmares away (among others), and drinking anything to keep himself awake.

Writing: Writing about a fear is never easy. This is why character development plays an important role in creating that sense of unease and dread.

  • Let the fear correlate with the characters. Cody’s main fear is the nightmare creature he calls “The Cranker Man” and later on in the movie we get the full story of where the name comes from and why he is so afraid of him.
  • Ground the fear into the characters until its almost tangible enough that it manifests itself into an almost irrational terror. Cody forced to stay awake leads to an incident that literally haunts him later in the movie, solidifying his fear of both sleeping and The Cranker Man.
  • Not all fears are rational, however, how you inject and show that fear in characters will make it more plausible and relatable. This helps you turn even the most irrational fear into a paranoid-fueled rational fear.

Character Flaw

The true horror is not in the fact that Cody’s nightmares come to life per se, but grief.

Cody’s grief created The Cranker Man.

Jessie Hobson’s indomitable grief drove her to use Cody’s abilities for herself. Her first child accidentally drowned in the bath so, as a recently grieving mother also suffering from deep-seated guilt, you can imagine the appeal of your new foster child bringing your dead child to life at the mere cost of sleeping. This obsession eventually blurs the line between being a good mom and being a grieving mother.

Mark, Jessie’s husband, sees his wife’s digression and gets drawn in too at first. Sadly he does little to help comfort her, even when he realises just how far she’s been willing to go to use Cody’s abilities.

Writing: In my opinion, writing horror shouldn’t only be about scares and gore and ghosts (among other things). Yes there’s a place for it, but looking at Before I Wake, there’s also delving into the human psyche.

  • Put yourself in each character’s shoes and ask yourself how you would react in that situation. More importantly, why.
  • Asking why helps build solid characters. Does the answer slowly grind away at the character’s sanity or belief to the point where logic and realism blur with the illogical and surreal.
  • What are your character’s flaws? Test them severely. Usually in horrors, the characters end up making bad decisions. (Running up the stairs, going into the basement, playing that evil blues record they were told not to).

It would have been easy for this movie to simply be about Jessie and Mark trying to figure out what causes Cody’s dreams coming to life, but before that we see Jessie’s character digression, fueled by the very real and palpable experience of grief. We see innocents suffer for it too. This character flaw not only frustrates (don’t go there!), but shows us that sometimes we’re willing to justify doing the unthinkable for the sake of getting what we think we need. Whether its safety or

Isn’t that true horror?

The Twist

The visible “Cranker Man” is not the villain of this film. He is actually a physical manifestation of Cody’s fear, interlinked with an event in his past and his own coping mechanism for that trauma. He is more Cody’s protector than some nightmare creature like Freddy Kruger would be.

Cody himself is not the villain of this film. Sure it’s his nightmares and physically materialised creature that threatens those around him, but it’s really just how his young mind is trying to cope.

Jessie herself is not the villain either, though her actions are selfish and put her herself, husband and Cody in danger. But as explained, she too is suffering and this is her way of coping, though in her eventual effort to finally solve the mystery of Cody’s dream, she helps bring closure to everyone.

The real villain is actually something more real and not at all supernatural or otherwise. It’s a reality that affects many people in the real world, and this film is about how it affects those around people who fall victim to both its effect and high mortality rate. It was given a personification in Before I Wake, the hyperbole of horror, to show how devastating its effects would be.

Spoiler – highlight to read it.

“The Cranker Man” is Cody mispronouncing the word cancer, which is how his biological mother died, and the Cranker Man is the only way his young mind is able to grasp this unseen monster. This real killer.

Writing: There’s a lot to pull out of this in terms of writing, and how it is the reason why the story, fear factor, character flaw, and final twist work so well together. This is because the horror is not a supernatural being, or some otherworldly creature that one can simply overcome by stabbing or shutting a door leading to the “beyond”. Nor is it a masked killer who is actually just human. It is the real horror of every day life for some people.

  • Not every creature/entity has to be mythological or supernatural. Sometimes its something as simple as a virus e.g. zombie apocalypse.
  • The story itself is not always about the creature/entity, but how those around it are coping with the reality of its existence. The entities add the suspense and action. E.g. The Mist by Stephen King.
  • Not every horror ends in despondency. Sometimes there really is light at the end of the tunnel, and they live on past the darkness.

Fun Fact

Before I Wake was initially called Somnia and was co-written by Director Mike Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard. Flanagan had to say about writing the script for this film:

“I think that for someone like me, monsters and ghosts are very real but only in so much as the ones we create, the ones we are all haunted by. They have everything to do with our past, with regrets, mistakes we’ve made, people and time we’ve lost … Somnia, even more than Oculus, is dealing with intense feelings of loss, and of the worse kind. I don’t know if there’s any real world horror, or a personal level at least, that can compare with losing a child. I think my other movies have been building up to Somnia in a way.”

 

Here’s a trailer for the movie…


Let me know if you’ve seen this film and your thoughts about it. If you’re a writer, horror or otherwise, was this helpful to you? Any way that it could be improved? Let me know in the comments below.

The Shining/Doctor Sleep – Stephen King #BookRecommendation

 

The Shining

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

Doctor Sleep

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.


I loved both these books, and are few of Stephen King’s novels that really hit on the “horror” aspect of his writing. At the same time the character progression is palpable and real, with both Jack and Dan Torrance having to face more than just their own demons. A brilliant series and must read for King fans.

Genre Writing: Story Crafting in Horror Movies

It has been a while since I wrote anything in the horror genre, and as a horror writer I feel as though that is repugnant. Which is why today I announce a rather new endeavour in my genre writing segment which has been on hold since October 2017 (where has the time gone?) You can read those previous iterations here to catch up.

Story Crafting in Movies

The idea for this particular series was borne from two thoughts merging into one. The first is my desire to watch more horror movies as a source of inspiration for future works. The second is the lack of horror content on this blog connected to the sad truth that I haven’t actually written any bone-chilling tales in a while – or rather, haven’t published them to the public.

The idea itself will be simple. Each week I will watch one horror movie and from it, look at the story and how I feel it was crafted, why or why not it worked (in my opinion), look at character and character development, and see what kind of horror trope it falls under if any. I hope to look at as many types of horror movies too, from the old to the new, from slashers to supernatural to psychological and all others in-between. I predict many nightmares in my future.

So Movie Reviews?

The purpose of this genre writing segment isn’t so much to review the movie, as it is to draw out the narrative being told. To see how those elements of story telling were woven together to craft the final work and how it can be applied to your own writing (or mine). It will also include segmenting it into some of the elements I highlighted in Genre Writing: Horror – World Building which looked at the following:

  • Writing style
  • Atmosphere
  • Fear Factor
  • Character Flaws
  • Twists
  • Realism vs Logic
  • Emotional vs Psychological
  • Gore
  • and Cliches

From here I hope to see how they could be applied to writing, and then hopefully craft a story for Friday Fiction to show how I would apply those elements into my own little flash fiction.


On that note, if you know of any horror movies (good or bad) let me know in the comments please, you will definitely get a shout out.

Shrike – Joe Donnelly #BookRecommendation #Horror

Blurb

When old spiritualist Marta Herkik gathers together a group of lost souls, each hopes for a change of luck that will help them. But during the séance, the old woman taps into something dark, something with a hunger.

Policeman Jack Fallon, investigating a series of killings, can find no logical reason behind the violence that has visited his town. The killer seems to like high, dark places, but it leaves no clues. The investigation leads him to Lorna Breck, a young highland woman who is gifted, or cursed, with a kind of second sight. She seems to know what is happening, and often knows before it even happens. Only she can unlock the mystery, and only she can lead Jack Fallon to the Shrike.

But the thing brought into the world in a séance gone wrong, is waiting for them.


Joe Donnelly is the author of eight horror chillers and the Jack Flint trilogy for young readers.  Joe was born in Glasgow, in Scotland, close to the River Clyde, but at a very young age he came to live in Dumbarton, which is some miles from the city and close to Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond and the Scottish Highlands. At the age of 18, he decided to become a journalist and found a job in the Helensburgh Advertiser, a local paper in a neighbouring town where he learned the first essential of writing: how to type. Quickly.

During his career he won several awards for newspaper work including Reporter of the Year, Campaigning Journalist and Consumer Journalist. It was while working in newspapers that he wrote his first novel, Bane, an adult chiller, which was followed by eight other novels, mostly set in and around the West of Scotland and loosely based on Celtic Mythology.

Recently he completed the Jack Flint trilogy for children, although he says his books are aimed at “young people of all ages…those with some adventure in their soul.”

Death of a King: Steampunk Joburg Comes To Life

Yes you read that right. Remember my idea of turning Johannesburg into a city of literal gold, powered by steam engines? Well I’ve finally come up with a concept that will bring this envisioned idea to life. The book(s) will be titled Death of a King and will involve… well, kings, in a less traditional format.

Books and Art

I’m always referring to myself as an “artist” when self-promoting but I have done very little to show this side of myself. Which is one of the reasons why Death of a King will take on a different kind of format. Similar to the Japanese light novel, I will be adding images into the book to enhance the story further. That way there’s the epic story happening and visuals to augment the experience.

The Story

As I stated before, the story will focus on Kings, but with an added twist to the whole element. The story will also be mainly based in South Africa, Johannesburg, but will incorporate a lot of Africa too. It will also be very dark, and fall under the genre of grim dark which Adam Roberts describes as:

“fiction ‘where nobody is honourable and Might is Right’, and as ‘the standard way of referring to fantasies that turn their backs on the more uplifting, Pre-Raphaelite visions of idealized medievaliana, and instead stress how nasty, brutish, short and, dark life back then really was’.  he noted that grimdark has little to do with re-imagining an actual historic reality and more with conveying the sense that our own world is a “cynical, disillusioned, ultraviolent place”. ~ Wiki-Grimdark

Release Date?

Ha, if only I knew. The concept itself requires a lot of world building and character development. Of course there’s the art aspect of it too so drawing images to that fine detail and style will also take some time. Then of course it’s writing the book itself and that whole editing process. It’s going to take a while.

However, I just wanted to let you know of what is coming and you will probably see all of this coming together on this blog. Once the ball is rolling, you’ll be sure to see my other sites bring it all together such as Patreon-only artwork, concept art, short stories from the created world and much more.

So that’s my writing update for May. Apologies for my silence, and hoping to hear from you all as I continue this writing journey.

Two Types of Story Crafting I Discovered (Again)

Some time back I submitted an unnamed novel to my editor for a look-see. It’s a horror story set in two different time-zones, intermingled with time-travel and wax sculptures that bleed maggots. It was an idea borne from two prompts and co-joined into one grisly story. It also required a ton of both research and thumb-sucking.

At the same time, or at least close enough to it, I had that mind-blowing concept of a Steampunk version of my city, Johannesburg, which you can read in my last article: New Inspiration – Steampunk Johannesburg.

I came to realise, though it’s nothing new, that there are two main ways I go about writing a story:

Story Built Around A World

When I came up with a steampunk version of Joburg, I didn’t have a story. It was merely a city of literal gold, with gears built into the rising towers, slowly cranking at each turn, controlling various parts of the city. Some of it controlled the mining for gold. Others, the changing of traffic lights, the control of water, the generating of electricity. A great idea in my head. What then did it need?

  1. A Fitting Story: Of course every great world needs a story. A compelling story that fits the time, location, and people of the created world. In my head, as I saw this city unfold in front of my mind’s eye, I spotted a figure running along the roof tops of this fabricated city. Who was he? Why was he running? What was that clutched under his arm? As the world is set in a steampunk era, the story could have a feeling of being old but with an air modern lifestyle. There are plenty of stories that can be created from this amazing golden era!
  2. Compelling Characters: Right so I have the first character sorted – the guy running on roof tops. Maybe he’s being chased by Federation airships and Commander van nie Kerk is hot on his trail. Maybe he’s running to a secret organisation with documents tucked under his arm. Was the character part of political intrigue or perhaps inside the package he carried the still warm heart of his latest victim? Each of these story ideas can be spun around me new world, creating characters varying from inventors, to pilots, alchemists, mad-scientist, and who knows what from the story I hope to tell.
  3. Intriguing Plot: It’s all well and good to have a diverse world coupled with a brewing story and compelling characters, but what it really needs as well is an intriguing plot. Maybe the gears that everyone thinks merely run various aspects of the city, are actually pieces of a bigger cog. A gear slowly winding down to the destruction of the planet like a giant clock at the center of the earth. Maybe they control the opening and closing to the gates of hell? Maybe its alien technology and below ground in the mines, they have enslaved humanity to use them for powering the cogs. Our character on the rooftop may  figured out what’s happening down there and is on a quest to save us all from certain doom. Or they be an advocate for the villains, escaping with plans that will ensure our destruction. Who knows…

A World Built Around The Story

Five years ago I found an image on the internet. A beautiful drawing of a girl with white hair and black vest, grey sweatpants falling down to bare feet. She had white wings. Above her head was a halo… made of barbwire. It’s title: Junk Angel. Once I saw her and the title, a story began to form in my head. The story of a girl who was the Junk Yard Angel.

The first iteration of Junk Yard Angel was about a woman who killed people and turned them into her own mechanical monstrosities.

Later on I began to expand on this story, building the persona of this mysterious woman and trying to find out where exactly she fit in. Thus I had to build a world for herin. I saw junk yards, broken cities, old-school bars and taverns; places where she could find her victims… and they wouldn’t be missed.

What then did it need?

  1. A Kick-ass World: When you have a crazy maybe-half-robot-totally-human-looking girl with a razor wire halo, then her world has to at least reflect that fact. So much so that most of the JYA world has been built around her. When you read the story you will understand just how much.
  2. An Amazing Backstory: Knowing where your character (and sub-characters) come from, help define the places within the world of your story. You consider the environments around the characters and ask how the world would look around them. For instance, I have a character from a country similar to Russia/Serbia where snowfall is a constant. What kind of technology or tools would they use in this environment, and how would it reflect in the story.
  3. Mysterious Magic/Tech System:  On the topic of technology, perhaps your characters have an occupation that requires them to use machinery. Aviator. Solider. Taxi Driver. Doctor. Engineer… and so on. Or perhaps they have a particular ability such as magic or some form of “kinesis”. Perhaps there’s a supernatural element to them.
    Each of these help define the progression and history of the world, affecting how everything looks and works from buildings to locations to attire to religion. The world-building aspect of your story built from both story and characters.

 

What is your writing process when it comes to story-telling. Does your world affect your story or does your story affect your world? Perhaps both? What techniques do you use to define what kind of story you’re going to tell?

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