RSS Feed

Author Archives: Nthato Morakabi

Beneath The Wax – Available Now

It is with great excitement that I present to you my first “solo” published novella, Beneath The Wax. A big thank you to Nicky from Chasing Dreams Publishing who believed in me and pushed me to complete this work. And many thanks to quite a number of people, some of whom may never see this post, but were integral to sustaining me while I was writing. Thank you all.

 

Buy Beneath The Wax on Amazon button

1723: Constantine Bourgeois is a man of many secrets. Artisan by day, killer by night, he turns his victims into wax figures for his shop.

2045: Richard Baines works for the renowned Anthony Garfield Historical Museum. His mundane existence is a stark counterpoint to his fascination with serial killers and science fiction.

Constantine’s nightmares drive him to undertake a journey to uncover a long-forgotten secret. Richard’s research uncovers a company secret and the mystery of Madame Bourgeois.

Two men, two timelines, and truths that will only be revealed when they look Beneath the Wax…

Advertisements

Telempath by Spider Robinson #BookReview #Telempath #SpiderRobinson

Title:
Telempath

Author:
Spider Robinson

Genre:
Science Fiction

Book procurement:
Nicky of Chasing Dreams allowed me to lend this book from her. Thanks Nicky!

Rating:

A charming 3.5(4) out of 5

Synopsis:

The Muskies: spawned in Earth’s long childhood of fire and stone, they flourish in the stinking hell Man calls ‘civilisation’. They ride the wind: gaseous beings perceptible to Man only now that a monstrous experiment has heightened his sense of smell – and destroyed civilisation in the process.

And so a slow, destructive war breaks out between the Muskies and the scattered settlements of human survivors, a war that threatens humanity’s very existence.

Only the Telempath can stop it, but he’s missing one arm – and wanted for the murder of his father.

First Thoughts

I must admit that I really resonate with Spider Robinson on many aspects of his thinking when it comes to the characters, scenario, and plot of this fascinating (and of suitable length) novel. I will admit that from an emotional perspective, I was not fully invested into the story or the characters. Yes they had substance, style, wit, and a host of enjoyable characteristics. However, the only lasting impression I’m experiencing of the book is it’s ingenuity (the Muskies), and how well the story progresses – cleanly.

The Story

The story follows Isham Stone in a post-Exodus mission to kill the man who “ended the world”, and revealed the pollution humanity has been trudging through since the introduction of pollutant fuel. And also the presence of Muskies in our atmosphere. What begins as an assassination mission becomes a journey of self-discovery and personal growth.

In the course of the story, we meet a whole cast of characters, each very well written and believable, who really ground the story. They show us how we, like Isham Stone, tend to be too self-focused and able to justify our apparently necessary actions even if they are wrong – as long as they feel right. How our actions don’t just affect us but those around us, and to continually live in that state of self will invariably lead to more harm than good.

It is a story of reconciliation, healthy compromise, and beyond that – harmony.

Writing

What I enjoyed most about the writing lay in the fact that Isham has a good sense of humour. Cringe-worthy puns, witty comebacks, and an almost nonchalant persona gives Isham a sense of “newness” to characters I often read. Sure I can name a few characters who have the same qualities in books I’ve read, but this read as a different version of those qualities.

As a writer, I always struggle with writing races and Spider Robinson did it brilliantly. There wasn’t any unnecessary addition of skin colour, etc, just to remind the reader of the character. I also enjoyed the fact that there is some diversity not just in race but sexual-orientation and other things, without them being overbearing or placed into stereotypical roles. After all, this is the world after the world “ended”. Robinson handled all of these superbly in my opinion.

There were also a few traits in Isham I resonated to, particularly his thought processes and the ability to ignore glaringly obvious things in our lives and we need a strong hand (or voice) to smack us back to the truth we keep avoiding. My personal experience anyway.

While there were times when dialogue just seemed to go on forever, it felt natural considering the context. I felt that putting the “info dump” into dialogue both progressed the story and slowly revealed to us readers (and whichever characters were present) the unknown facts. The unraveling truth. The world-views and postulations. The untold stories in the bigger stories. Great writing.

PS: I feel like this is what we should all remember as people: our experiences and memories of events are limited to our perception of them. We could all experience the same event and yet all recognize and glean different impressions of it (as well as similarities). Am I then more “right” than you if I come away feeling something you didn’t? Am I “wrong” for seeing it differently? Doesn’t our world-view create a blind spot in that experience because we do not know everything and can be willingly ignorant of things that don’t concern us? *shrugs – rant over*

Final Thoughts

The opening line of the book reads: “I hadn’t meant to shoot the cat.” – and that summarizes early book Isham Stone really well. By the end of the book you still recognized him, but as two main characters in the book say (omitted for spoilers), “He’s grown up.”

I sadly didn’t come away with an exuberant love for the book or Spider Robinson. But I did feel satisfied. I did enjoy the book. It was well written from beginning to end.

PS: You only learn at the end why the book is called telempath and that is fine. The name was not necessary to the story and I love that.


Did you know: Telempath was Spider Robinson’s first novel, and is an expansion of his 1977 Hugo Award-winning novella By Any Other Name.

 

Spider Robinson is an American-born Canadian Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction author. He was born in the USA, but chose to live in Canada, and gained citizenship in his adopted country in 2002.

Robinson’s writing career began in 1972 with a sale to Analog Science Fiction magazine of a story entitled, The Guy With The Eyes. His writing proved popular, and his first novel saw print in 1976, Telempath. Since then he has averaged a novel (or collection) a year. His most well known stories are the Callahan saloon series.

Get To Know Me #WritersTag

Fellow author and low-key my inspiration, J.M Williams nominated me to participate in the Writers Tag, started by Lorraine Ambers  and Ari Meghlen (who have a knack for these things I won’t lie). Click on the names to visit their blogs and let’s work to continue both growing the writing community and expanding our circle of writers.

The Writer Tag has the following prerequisites so other bloggers can link back to each other and we can all see how other authors answer the questions. So here we go:

  • Post the Tag and Image on your blog (see above)
  • Thank whoever nominated you and give a link back to their blog.
  • Mention the creators of the award and link back to their blogs.
  • Nominate 6+ deserving bloggers and notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.

I have been trying to keep my personal life out of my “author” life as these feel like two separate entities encompassed in one body – and yet the same person. Not even close to the Trinity but the analogy works haha. Right, so let’s get into it.


Name one novel that inspired you to write.

It was not a book that inspired me to write, but an old writing program called Storybook Weaver by MECC. I was in Grade 2 or 3 when we were taken to the computer lab to “learn” and I was using it craft my own stories. It was also here that I fell in love with computers and decided to study Information Technology (I.T).

As for books, perhaps R.L Stine’s Goosebumps and K.A Applegate’s Animorphs? It could also be a Stephen King novel (Cujo? Carrie? Firestarter?) or Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood” or James Herbert’s “Once” as I progressed to harder horror at the tender age of twelve? It’s very hard to pin down but Storybook Weaver still stays with me always.

What’s your favourite genre to write and read?

Of course it’s horror. Everyone knows this. Although, over time, I have grown to love writing and reading Fantasy and Sci-Fi.

Do you prefer to write stand-alone or series?

I have no real preference. The story dictates where it will all lead and whether there should be a follow up, or leave it as it is. Initially I was a stand-alone writer, then I discovered I could also write short stories and novellas which could be put together into a series. Interestingly enough, I haven’t published a stand-alone novel yet, though I have tons in my drafts haha.

Use 3 words to describe yourself.

Fluctuating. Creative. Fickle.

Reveal your WIP aesthetics or an image that represents your MC or setting.

GIF of Netflix TV series, Scream.

How long did your first MS take to draft?

Wow. No idea. I don’t think I’ve ever completed a MS… oh wait, in 2015 I actually won NaNoWriMo with my African-based fantasy novel Ngwana Wa Lesedi – The Child of Light. I also managed to knocked out the first draft of my upcoming novella Beneath the Wax in about a month.

Who is your author idol?

Have you read my blog? I should rename it to Stephen King Fan Account.wordpress. Haha, although I have idolized Clive Barker, H.G Wells, Frank Herbert, H.P. Lovecraft and a host of other authors.

Share a writing memory that made you determined to carry on.

This is one of my most vivid memories growing up. I was in Grade 9 and instead of using my Biology notebook for, you know, Biology, I used it to write. I remember once in class I was sitting half-way near the back, scribbling furiously away at one of my (sadly now lost) stories and a classmate walked past my desk, saw what I was doing and said,

“You sure love writing huh?”

And just that little acknowledgement pushed me to carry on writing.

It was also the growth of this blog once I started posting my short stories and people actually enjoyed them. That was how I got featured in my first Internationally published anthology Dark Tales, and told me perhaps I’m not such a terrible writer after all.

Tell us something surprising or unique about yourself.

While I was learning the craft of writing, I immensely enjoyed singing and music. I found an old diary from back in the 90’s when I was a tyke, where I re-wrote the classic song La Bamba by Ritchie Valens to be about me. *Cringes with joy

Share the hardest part about being a writer and how you overcame it.

I don’t think I have overcome it, and there are days (sometimes weeks) where it fully and wholly encompasses me. Just the idea of opening my word processor is enough to deter me from writing. And of course it’s the fear and irrational anxiety that I’ve wasted my time as a writer because I am not good enough that is the hardest part of writing for me.

This blog, my friends both locally in South Africa and Internationally, as well as some of my own stories (surprisingly) have been imperative in pulling me out of that funk and getting me to get on with it. I doubt it will ever go away, but I hope it gets better.

What’s your favorite social media and why? Share your link.

I used to be very active on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. They aren’t my favourite but they are useful. I even tried to start a Bookstagram and linked all my blog posts to Tumblr. I just found that at the end of the day it was about statistics rather than about people enjoying my content – which you now know doesn’t help with the question above.

A “Like” doesn’t mean they read what I posted, or any proof that they actually did like it. On occasion, I know I do the same, and I know many who do too. Now I will take the time to go through the content and if something resonates, I will take the time to comment.

Share some uplifting wisdom in six words or less.

Find Yourself. Be Yourself. Live Freely.


Right, now to tag some of my faves.

  1. Carin Marais – Hersenskim
  2. Michael Baker – Thousandscars
  3. AllThingsUncanny
  4. Justin J – JustinJTheWriter
  5. Kelly Griffiths
  6. Adam – Writet
  7. Lionel Ray Green

Looking forward to reading all of your responses, and thank you for taking the time to have visited my blog (as many others have too).

The Gunslinger – Stephen King #BookReview #StephenKing #TheDarkTower


Title:
The Gunslinger – The Dark Tower #1

Author:
Stephen King

Genre:
Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Book procurement:
I bought the original copy ages ago and read through it. In a recent (okay maybe not so recent) Christmas gift exchange, I got The Gunslinger revised version from my cousin – see, I am easy to buy gifts for.

Rating:

An intriguing 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

First Thoughts

I will admit that I’ve been meaning to reread this series for a while, and when The Dark Tower movie was announced, I was motivated further. Unfortunately, my original Tower series is in storage somewhere so I found the revised version in a box of growing “To-Be-Read” collections. This review won’t be a comparison between the different book editions and the movie, though I might make references to the original and the movie compared to this revised version.

Everyone remembers this opening line: The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. It still gives me goosebumps as it says much in so little. It works an introduction to the two main characters of the book. We know one is a gunslinger, giving a Western feel. The “man in black” already sounds like a bad guy or someone who has done something to the gunslinger, hence the pursuit.

The second line is classic king and really sets the standard for the rest of the novel. This line goes “The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts…” and that age old King writing style throws you into the middle of quite an epic quest (when considering all volumes in the series).

The Story

In its simplest form, the story follows Roland Deschain of Gilead in pursuit of Walter O’Dim a.k.a The Man in Black (who bares many other names as seen in other King books such as The Stand). Beyond the man in black lies the “apotheosis” of every dimension in existence – The Dark Tower. And yet the tower’s significance must begin with the man in black.

This first book is basically setting precedence for what will occur in future books – the journey. We visit desolate landscapes, a seemingly endless desert, a small town (which reminded me of a scene during The Saint of Killers memories from the comic book Preacher), a way station, and various other interesting places.

The story also shifts between past Roland and current Roland, where we begin where his pursuit for Walter/Man In Black began and why. We meet a cast of characters from his youth and his travels, we explore the beauty of Gilead (and its tragedies) and the desolation that has overrun the world.

We also get to meet the fated Jake Chambers (who is nothing like the Jake in the movie, nor do their meeting of the Gunslinger match except for the presence of a desert). That is all I can say about him…

Writing

I am pretty sure almost everyone knows I am a Stephen King fan. He’s writing is something I strive for in terms of execution – I don’t want to be another King but I sure want to learn from him. What annoys people about King is his seemingly laborious descriptions, but these are what give the characters and the world a greater depth. You begin to imagine the characters as real, the worlds they explore tangible, and the emotions they express relatable. You don’t need to be the character of have a frame of reference to them, because King gives you all of that as you read.

Roland’s character is definitely written well. The stoic-yet-drained, fatigued-but-relentless, kind-but-maligned gunslinger with a past riddled with death, pain, and suffering which are also the dull motivators that drum with each heart beat. We see many facets of this tuckered-out gunslinger, and we are only in the first book.

Final Thoughts

There are not a lot of disparities between the original and the revised except that early King edge in how the original reads. There are too many disparities between the movie and the book to even count that I will view them as two separate universes completely.

Final thoughts on the book itself however are a lot more confused between my memory of the first book and reading it again. Let alone that ending, which shocked me, as the following books clearly require this particular concept to work. I mean! What!?

So now I’m even more enthused to read through the series again and rekindle my favourite Stephen King flame that is The Dark Tower.


Did you know: The Dark Tower was borne from short stories published to The Magazine Of Fantasy and Science Fiction? The inspiration itself comes from a poem by English author Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came“, written in 1855.

“THE GUNSLINGER” OCT. 1978

“THE WAY STATION” APR. 1980

“THE ORACLE AND THE MOUNTAINS” FEB. 1981

“THE SLOW MUTANTS” JUL 1981

“THE GUNSLINGER AND THE DARK MAN” NOV 1981.


On a  side note, I saw the premise (and trailer) for Arrivals on Netflix, and it reminded me of “Try To Remember” which is a short story by Frank Herbert in The Priests of Psi. Here’s the premise for the Herbert short story in my book review of this anthology:

Try to Remember!

A spaceship arrives on Earth. The aliens within send out representatives who speak in weird noises and make weird body movements. The reason: interpret the message or be eradicated. Thus the worlds greatest minds across the planet converge in an effort to make sense of the message.

The story is told from a woman’s perspective, who happens to be the only female in a room full of men. And desert sand. (PS: she’s a linguist) Really well written and a commentary on the different ways men and women think or rather, interpret the world around them. Women are the future!

And here’s the premise on Netflix:

Arrivals

A linguist charged with finding a way to communicate with aliens that have landed on Earth uncovers a connection with meaning for mankind and herself.

A stretch? Perhaps, but I find the similarities quite fascinating nonetheless…

Writing Update: Of Metal and Magic + Beneath The Wax: Cover Reveal

It has been an enduring couple of months, and yet at the end of it all, writing continues to be both a savior and a form of catharsis that pulls me back from the murky depths. Well that, family, and good friends. Nonetheless, and despite my abhorrent absence, the writing cogs continue to go on. Much like life.

Of Metal and Magic

Facebook cover image of Fiction Vortex's Of Metal and Magic

For the last few months I’ve been working alongside a couple of authors from Fiction Vortex, specifically in the realm of Of Metal and Magic (OMAM). JM Williams, an international author currently enjoying Comic Con Seoul, with much grace allowed me to be part of the team, and as an effort to bring more readers to this amazing universe, created the OMAM Facebook Page.

All things related to OMAM, including the authors, upcoming works, and announcements (photos of JM Williams enjoying Comic Con without us haha) can be found there. Please join us as we embark on a journey through an epic-shared universe of dragons and unicorns and magical stories.

OMAM Facebook Page

JM Williams Author Page

Ashley Rothrock Author Page

Nthato Morakabi Author Page

Beneath the Wax – Cover Reveal

Book cover of Nthato Morakabi's first novella, Beneath the Wax

1723: Constantine Bourgeois is a man of many secrets. Artisan by day, killer by night, he turns his victims into wax figures for his shop.

2045: Richard Baines works for the renowned Anthony Garfield Historical Museum. His mundane existence is a stark counterpoint to his fascination with serial killers and science fiction.

Constantine’s nightmares drive him to undertake a journey to uncover a long-forgotten secret. Richard’s research uncovers a company secret and the mystery of Madame Bourgeois.

Two men, two timelines, and truths that will only be revealed when they look Beneath the Wax

With much thanks to Chasing Dreams Publishing and the amazing Nico Venter whose gorgeous artwork was featured in the Jozi Flash 2017 anthology, I am very proud to present the cover image of my first novella in my Wax trilogy. All details about where you can buy the book will be made available soon.

International Giveaway

Chasing Dreams Publishing is also running an international giveaway, offering a lucky winner-reader free eBook copies of Beneath the Wax, Dim Mirrors and Sketches. Competition runs until the end of August so you got plenty of time to enter!

Enter Here

Book covers for Beneath the Wax, Dim Mirrors, and Sketches for an International Giveaway

Dim Mirrors by Carin Marais

Dim Mirrors is a collection of 39 flash fiction stories that open windows into worlds of fantasy and nightmare. Interwoven with images from mythology and folklore are the themes of love, loss, and memory. The comical “Not According to Plan” leads to more serious and introspective works like “Blue Ribbons” and “The Destroyer of Worlds”, while mythology and folkloric elements come together in stories like “The Souls of Trees” and “Ariadne’s Freedom”.

Sketches by Nicolette Stephens

Like art sketches, flash fiction stories are fleeting moments captured in a few hundred words.

In a world without men, the first boy child is welcomed as the saviour of his race; a cuckoo clock holds death and destruction in its beautifully carved figures; and a snowman holds a silent vigil of peace during war.

In this collection of 50 stories, illustrated with her artwork, the author delves into worlds of imagination and reality inspired by words and drawings.


I apologize for the radio silence these last couple of months. Expect me to be very active and bringing lots of exciting new stories, book reviews, recommendations, and a couple of event articles too.

PS: I’m going to Comic Con Africa too. Expect pictures and geeking out haha.

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!


 

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.

Lorraine Ambers

Writer & Queen of Daydreams

AllthingsUncanny

Goodbye, good night's sleep

SAM's Book Reviews

Books Old & New

xolisilesite

Personal blog

The Parisshian Legacy... And other things

Anything my little heart desires

Chhotewrites

CHHOTE THEE POET

Young Author

With new Ink.

A.A. Frias

Author of fantasy and young adult fiction

Write for the King

The writings of a Christian college student and her publishing journey

Trebles On My Mind

A blog about crochet, knitting, and other stuff

Danger Kit

- Poetry -

Thoughts of a Bored Writer

My writing. Mostly.

lou rasmus

drink and smoke and fuck

Melody Chen

Word-Experimentalist

Life

Literature & LIfestyle

The tears of chained words

The words left unsaid, pouring out as poetry.

The Official Blog of Horror and Fantasy Writer Lionel Ray Green

"Life is horror and fantasy, not necessarily in that order."