series

Crazy Convos and Christie

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Review of “The Christie Curse” by Victoria Abbott

15808728I can start by saying that the book met the two primary objectives of the whodunit genre: one, I didn’t work out whodunit straight away, and two, the narrative kept me hooked till the end.

As for the plot, “The Christie Curse” is a mystery about a supposedly lost Agatha Christie play, which is linked to a possible murder. The protagonist, Jordan Bingham, is relatable enough despite most readers probably weren’t raised by crooks as she was. Her job, to track down the play for her book-collecting, dragon of an employer, quickly looks to be dangerous but she continues stubbornly at it—if only to keep her luscious room and meals at the Van Alst manor house. She is a little too quick to point the finger but that only makes her more human.

The mystery itself is intriguing. Whilst I guessed about the cat quite early on, I only realised whodunit a few sentences before it was actually stated—about the right time, in my view, for the reader to work it out. A few scenes ran tingles up my spine, but there was nothing at all thriller-rish about the book—overall it’s what I think is called a ‘cosy’ mystery. There was definitely a Christie element, though you don’t have to be particularly familiar with her works to read the story.

I enjoyed every moment of the book, and highly recommend it. The best thing is, it’s the first in a series, and I believe the second one is out now.

Insane Facebook Conversation

My friend gave me permission to post this here. I had to save it for posterity. Possibly the most bonkers conversation I ever had, except maybe with the lady in New York who could tell I was English just from my complexion (apparently).

Me: I think my computer’s got Chizpurfles[1].

Friend: Oh dear … This is what happens when you exterminate all the Doxies in your home. Doxies feed primarily on dead skin cells and Chizpurfles.

Me: Hmm. I guess I shouldn’t have bought all that Doxycide from amazon.wiz—what a waste of Galleons. I should have trained them to guard my electrical items instead. Especially my TARDIS[2], it’s been crashing for weeks. Mr Scamander should have informed me. That book of his has some serious gaps.

Friend: Scamander? The Scamander prejudice against Doxies is well known. I’m surprised you hadn’t heard. They all despise Doxies and have advocated the complete extermination of the entire species. There was an article about it in the Prophet the other day, I’ll send it to you by owl when I find it. As for your TARDIS, I find when mine is malfunctioning, a good kick to the console tends to fix it for a while. Alternatively, I’ve heard that some people have luck with blue or green jello.

Me: Scamander? Prejudices? Well I never. Thank you very much for the article. I’m a Quibbler reader myself, hence why I didn’t see it. I would kick my TARDIS, but it was rather delicate before those pests got at it. I could try the jelly, if I had some. My first instinct was a powerful Reparo, but I’m afraid of the whole magic vs electronics clash.

Friend: Just once, I tried an enlargement charm on a computer screen, I was trying to turn it into a TV you see, and nothing happened except that all the actors, characters and animals on the screen seemed to have red eyes. It was a bit unsettling after a while. Since then, I prefer not to mix the two, just in case. I wouldn’t try it on something the size of a TARDIS. I suppose you could hire a Jedi mechanic … I mean, the Force is, after all, as much magic as science … but it could be expensive.

Me: Bro, help, I need Star Wars knowledge for a comeback.

Bro: May the unhelpful quote be with you.

Friend: Victory is mine

Me: [struggles to think of something witty to say about the currency in Star Wars—what IS the currency in Star Wars???] You are no longer my brother.

Bro: [grins inanely—at least, that’s what I reckon he did though I wasn’t actually there]

Footnotes

[1] Chizpurfle: a pest (from Harry Potter, but mentioned only in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) which feeds on magic or, in the absence of such, “has been known to attack electrical objects … explaining the puzzling failure of many relatively new Muggle artifacts” (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, page 7 footnote.)

[2] My phone, which has a TARDIS skin.

Pin of the week

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If anyone can help me properly embed a Pin so it SHOWS UP properly, please get in touch! At the moment I’m having to save the pics and upload them. The guidance on Pinterest is not working.

A Geeky Christmas

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Apologies for the long gap in posting. Hope everyone had a good Christmas and didn’t get indigestion. I hope all those in my area have their power back on now, and didn’t get flooded–weather’s been awful.

A Who-ish Season

I got a book called Doctor Who: The History of the Universe in 100 Objects for Christmas (along with two Doctor Who calendars–my parents know me!). I’ve only flicked through it so far, but I have mixed feelings about these kinds of books. As far as I can predict without reading it cover to cover, anything related to the new show I’ll already know, and anything to do with the classic series will probably spoil me majorly for when I watch the episodes in question. Which I plan to once I own the complete box set that was being advertised at the Anniversary Celebrations at London ExCel (no price or release date I noticed, but it’s obviously being planned, and about time too).

I don’t think I wrote anything about the Anniversary Celebrations for my blog, which I will rectify probably in the next post. For the moment, my two cents on the last two episodes. I went to the cinema to see the Anniversary episode, and enjoyed it more than I thought I would actually. Ten(nant) was my Doctor and I never quite got into the new style of writing either since the show changed hands (that’s not to say Moffat hasn’t done some great things, but I find it more confusing and less continuous). I was afraid the ep would be too ambitious and all energy would be put into understanding it rather than enjoying it, but I think it worked in the end. And whilst during the first watch I was dreading the end (what were they going to do with Gallifrey??) I was relieved by the actual finish. I was disappointed that Billie Piper wasn’t actually there to play Rose, and I did spot a few small plot-holes that I now can’t remember, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

I don’t think I’ve had long enough to really build an opinion of the Christmas ep. Maybe I should do a reflective paragraph on it another post.

Re-reading Potter

A recent bout of insomnia, other than spurring a tonne of fanfiction during the first night (I wish it could have been my coursework that got stuck in my head, but at least I wrote something) has made me read more, since I now stop looking at screens an hour before I try to sleep. This has meant a break from my Kindle, since it is Kindle Fire and more like a tablet than an e-reader. But it’s made me finally get around to reading some physical books again, specifically all 7 Harry Potter, which is and always will be my favourite book series.

I haven’t read them through for some time–the last time I read one, it was the seventh, and I finished the day I moved into my first uni digs (back in 2010). So it’s been a great experience re-reading them and reminding myself of all the greatest bits, especially those that never made it into the films, like my favourite quote:

It unscrews the other way”

or small details that I’d forgotten or even not noticed before, such as:

… one [task] that many of my followers would give their right hands to perform …”

(Both quotes by JK Rowling, I claim no ownership.)

Also moving through the series there were more of them, since the later ones I’ve read far fewer times. I can recite passages from the first book or two (I used to be able to do most of the first chapter) but the seventh I’m much less familiar with. Allow me to demonstrate.

Online Graphing
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All right, I’m a geek. And it’s all approximate, I’ve hardly kept track of how many times I read each book. The only one I can be certain of is Deathly Hallows, since I read it once when it came out, once to my dad, and just finished it again two days ago.

In my “calculations” I’m allowing for audio versions and the number of times I’ve read individual passages (for example some of the earlier books I flicked through so often there’s probably at least an extra read total in addition to having read cover to cover).

Joke of the Week

(Told to me at Christmas.)

It was a cold Christmas night. A man was sitting warm by his fire, when there was a knock on the door. When he opened it, there was nobody there.

“Excuse me,” said a tiny voice. He looked around, but still couldn’t see anyone. “Excuse me, I’m down here!”

He looked down, and there on his doorstep was a snail, shivering and dusted in snow. “P-please s-sir, I’m s-so cold, could I c-come in and shelter b-by your fire?”

The man picked up the snail, and hurled it down the garden, slammed the door and returned to his chair by the fire.

The next Christmas, there was a knock on the door. The man left his warm seat by the fire to open it, but again there was nobody there.

Then a tiny voice said, “What did you do that for?”

I’m Back!

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Firstly, apologies for the gap in posting. I’ve been dealing with a lack of internet making life difficult, and then went on holiday. I’ve just come back from the Isle of Wight yesterday.

It was a good trip, though like every year I’ve had the C-word (coursework) hanging over me preventing me from truly being able to relax. Still I enjoyed seeing the countryside, doing some tourist-y stuff, and was even inspired for two stories–neither of which I am going to give a lot of detail on now, but I will say that one was inspired by the Garlic Farm and the other by Carisbrooke Castle*.

I didn’t manage to write any more poetry, but then when I do write poetry it seems to come in batches–I go through a phase of it coming easily to me, and then for ages without anything. That’s writing, I guess. I recently managed to make some headway on Crossfire, totalling my chapters written from one and a half to two and a half-ish (I know–sounds abundant!). I have a long to-do list for that novel (series) of things like names that I haven’t decided on yet. It’s a bit of a hinder, though I suppose the constant coursework doesn’t help either …

Still, I’m hoping to have my current essay (well the essay’s done, it’s the annotated bibliography that’s taking my energy now) done by August, and my second essay done by the time I see my friends from my old church at Westpoint, leaving me free to enjoy the summer … in September.

Now my internet’s sorted I think I’ll hunt down some more poetry competitions/anthologies to submit to, see if I can graduate with an impressive CV–after all, my illness has prevented me from partaking in extra-curricular stuff, so a list of publications can only help my job prospects! I’d love to enter fiction competitions as well, but am rarely inspired by prompts, and for open things I just don’t know what to submit. I just don’t have the energy to invest in writing something suitable; apart from Reasons to Sing, which was written specifically for the anthology, I just enter a poem I’ve already written.

I have a feeling I’ve entered Let Them Eat Cake into a competition somewhere, but I can’t remember if, when or where. Better not send that one anywhere till I know for certain!

Pin of the week:
the-only-12-1-2-writing-rules-you-ll-ever-need

*I say inspired by, it was more that the visit reminded me of one of my childhood daydreams and I realised it would make a good children’s book.

Blog Hop!

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Thank you to MissTiffany for tagging me in the blog hop. I think I’ve figured out what I do now!

What is the (working) title of your book?

Conturbus Chronicles (1): Crossfire

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Good question. It was conceived about a week into NaNoWrimo 2011. I had almost given up participating that year, but then two plot twists came at me suddenly, which gave me a starting point and an end. The rest was pretty much improvised; I took a couple of days to brainstorm some characters, and the rest is history.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA urban fantasy adventure

Which actors and/or actresses would you choose to play your characters in the movie rendition?

I don’t know … I picture Justin as a bit like how Alex Pettyfer was in Stormbreaker, but he’s a bit older now! As for the others, I can’t think of anyone specific. I know I’d want to do as JK Rowling did, and insist on British actors, except the characters who are supposed to have an accent. I could live with Tam being played by an American since she has roots there, though I’d prefer a Brit.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Justin’s quest to find the Conturbus key before the evil Marotte takes him through a world of cape-wearing villains, dragons and vampires*, and magic that’s fully compatible with the latest smartphone.

*Not the sparkly kind!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Too early to say. I read ebooks but I would want my book in print as well, and I can’t see that being financed myself.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

If by first draft that includes the occasional scene in note form and great stretches lacking punctuation or speech tags … about three weeks. However re-reading it, about 60% needs cutting. At present I have a chapter plan, notes for future books in the series, a synopsis and the first chapter in full–so don’t hold your breath.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmm, tricky one. I did tackle this task as part of my writing course–my first chapter and synopsis formed part of my Fiction module–and found it difficult to find something quite in the same vein. The plot’s perhaps closest to the Percy Jackson series, but for older readers and without all the Greek gods.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I have to hand it to JK Rowling, if it weren’t for her I would not be a writer–or to be more precise, I would not be attempting it as a profession. And that’s nothing to do with fame and fortune, I mean her books inspired me, more than I can describe in a few sentences! I’ve been inspired by too many things (more than books) to name–television shows, photographs …

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Psychic scorpions, dragons who don’t look like dragons, a wizard hermit called Hobble, magic carpets and a smartphone app to help you find one … that enough to whet your appetite? And of course it wouldn’t be a London-based fantasy without something wacky happening on the Underground …

Now I pass this Blog Hop along to:

Thank you for reading! I’m sorry to say my novel will be some time in coming, but I’ve heard it said you can’t start talking about it too early …

Write What You Read?

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I’ve heard and read lots of writing advice, and many people say to write what you know. Also, many people say that to be a (good) writer you have to read a lot. I don’t think I’ve heard this as an actual quote, but it’s been implied, that you write what you read (like, ‘you are what you eat’).

To contest that, I’ve met many writers who struggle to find the time to read. I myself struggle to read even the required reading for my course, so when I finish a novel I’ve been reading for pleasure, it’s a pretty big deal. Contrast that to my childhood when I devoured book after book and got into trouble for reading under the desk at school. For me, the telly is an alternative that requires less effort to enjoy since it’s more passive.

Of course to an extend I think how much you get out of reading depends what you’re trying to write. In terms of format, I write prose but it’s been commented that my dialogue is quite script-like, which could be because I ‘read’ (watch) more scripts than I read prose. Since I want to be a scriptwriter, and I’ve got pretty good feedback for prose in this style, I’m not going to worry too much, though I would like to read a lot more than I do–I have so many book samples on my Kindle awaiting reading.

Genre, I think, is a more interesting one. This is all just my opinion, I am by no means saying any writers should take my word as law, but I think it is possible to write in a genre you don’t really read–although it comes with limitations. I should explain.

For a case study, take one of my novels (a work in progress), Shadow Charge. Unlike my other novel WIP, Crossfire, SC is I think pretty difficult to define as a genre. I think the closest possible descriptive would be supernatural whodunit. But on its own that doesn’t sum it up. I would say that SC is part whodunit, part ghost story, part time travel, part psychological thriller, with a touch of romance, and that description is subject to some altering between now and publication (which is not foreseeable for some years). Out of all those genre labels, I don’t read very many. Take psychological thrillers, for example. I don’t make a habit of reading them because many of them freak me out a bit. The same with ghost stories. While I have not read many whodunits, I have watched countless ones on television so I am familiar with tropes and so forth (though I have read two Agatha Christies and one Conan Doyle to date, so I’m not doing too badly).

What’s my point? Well I won’t know for certain till the novel is at a point where I get a lot of feedback on it, but the way the plot has played out I think it works–if I can iron out the wrinkles. Because the novel is such a blend of genres–when I got the initial idea, I would have called it a fantasy, but it has since become apparent that despite its links to my fantasy novel, the actual story is very different–being fluent in its genre(s) is not so vital, because it’s something new. That’s not to say I won’t continue to persue reading more whodunit etc novels. Though I have yet to come across someone who’s had an idea quite like mine. (If you know of something that crosses all those genres, please do tell me, I’d be interested to read it.) On the other hand, I would not dare to try and write a straight romance or straight psychological thriller before becoming fluent in the genre first–I don’t believe I would have the tools to make it a great, stand-out story that way.

So, some food for thought. Do any writers reading this write ‘blended’ genres? How much experience do you reckon you need for each? Please do comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.