rusticwriter

scribbler extraordinaire

Between Two Thorns

“Learning to be a young lady has never seemed so dangerous.”
– Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo Award winner

Upon opening the beautifully illustrated red cover, I knew I was in for a treat. Emma Newman’s first novel with Angry Robot Books Between Two Thorns. It’s a story of Cathy’s coming of age, and the politics between the Fae and the groups of magicians and arbiters in Bath- and the Fae mirror City Aquae Sulis.

Layered, like every fae promise, with conditions and tangles, until the fates of the main characters are bound up together. So neat, so cunning. Two chapters in, and it was turning out to be exactly my kind of book.

 

The Main Characters

Although we spend most time with Cathy, there is a number of characters, and between chapters we switch between viewpoints. Each time this happens, the plot thickens.

Cathy- the fae who wants to be human. Unfortunately for her, she’s been born to a rich noble family, and is expected to make a good marriage. She’s a rebel. For her coming of age she requested to go to University. After getting her wish, she runs away, in order to stay. She is betrayed (and not for the first or last time) by her boss, a shop keeper. Against her will she is brought back to her home by Lord Poppy. He seems to act simply for his own amusement – especially when it makes Cathy’s life harder.

Sam- just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s an innocent, witness to something beyond his understanding. He likes a beer at the end of the day, and struggles with his marriage. He doesn’t want to ruin what he has… but it hasn’t helped that he took a leak at his wedding day, illuminated on the side of the marquee.

Max- an arbiter (who police the acts of the Fae.) He’s a down-to-earth kind of guy with a strong moral compass… without a soul. All arbiter’s have their souls kept in jars at their headquarters. But when the Bath HQ blows up, he’s the only one left to deal with the current crisis. Max’s life now focuses on Gargoyles, pain-killers and a mad librarian.

 

The Plot- WARNING: spoilers ahead

We begin with Sam the hapless human. Drunk, he stumbles from the pub and goes into an alleyway to relieve himself. He continues walking onto an old estate and witnesses two men, oddly tall, impossibly strange carrying something through the garden. A something large enough to be a body. He waits, trying to be stealthy. They find him, but don’t kill him, deciding instead to place him under a magical contract. He will be unable to talk about what he saw.

Then we meet Cathy. It’s her last day at work, and she is betrayed to Lord Poppy by her boss. Hidden from her family and all Fae, her boss protected her, even cast the simple charm to keep her safe. Despite her wishes she must become the fae lady she was born to be.

True to the crazy-paving nature of the chapters, we jump to another character- Max, the arbiter. The only a arbiter left in Bath after a freak accident, the Fae of Bath take advantage. They let their magic run riot, and there is no one but Max and a few allies to protect humans, fae or arbiters.

A volley of questions are thrown into the reader’s mind, and the plot matches the complexity of a fae’s lying tongue. The ‘uncorruptable’ Arbiters have been corrupted. Who is kidnapping mortal blondes, and what does this have to do with Max?

Meanwhile, Cathy has been ‘gifted’ with 3 wishes, which must impress the fae lord Poppy and be given before the first ball of the season- which, did I mention, is only a few days away? Or she’ll be turned into a walking puppet for eternity. Now that the spell hiding her has been removed, Tom catches up with her. He’s Cathy’s brother, and has been hunting for her for years. She doesn’t run. She’s calm, collected, and makes a cup of tea.

Then at chapter eleven the writing slumps. Another main player in the plot is introduced, a man from the Rosa family. He demands that he be repaid for Cathy’s first misspent wish. Causing him to lose out on a beautiful mortal lady. It seemed a little contrived, and just an attempt to make the first ball of the season a little more interesting. I was not convinced about these character’s motivations. It was farcial, and didn’t keep with the serious magical atmosphere of the rest of the book.

At the ball, Lord Poppy hurries Cathy along with her final wish and is reunited with her parents and her fiancee. (I think they’ll actually be a good for each other.)

Sam ‘the loveable drunk human’ is cornered by Max and the librarian, and asked to talk about what happened – but all his words turn into nonsense fiddle-de-dee. They use Cathy to break the spell on Sam and all converge at the party to solve the mysteries they are faced with.

At this point the worries of Max and Sam weren’t really getting to me. I wanted more reasons to care about them, but as a recently non-teen girl, I must suppose I sympathise with Cathy, who begins to re-learn the tricks of the Fae and kick ass.

What happens then? I’m trying not to spoil the ending, but I can assure you that it was a firework display of plot lines, criss crossing, finishing and beginning anew.

The next book in the series is out now. I must get my hands on a copy.

 

My Rating

I’m going to give this book four out of five. The ending felt a little rushed (perhaps that was just my reading speed), and in places the plot didn’t really seem logical. I like a plot that I don’t expect, but makes me sit up and say ‘Of course, yes, that is exactly how it should go.’

 

If you’d like to know more about the series or find a copy, go to:

Emma Newman

 

Originally published on Heart Of Glass online

Make your Desk Work for You

Desk of a writer, student or freelancer is a sanctuary. Where would you be without it? It’s your port of call in a storm of deadlines. But before I get sentimental, just what makes the perfect workstation?

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.
John le Carre

Science Daily says that the modern person spends and average of 5 hours 41 minutes at their desk every day. As a student and writer, I know I’m chained to my desk for much longer. Believe it or not, you can strain yourself while sitting down. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is often caused by typing too much, using a mouse for long periods, but is also found in the arms, wrists, hands, shoulders and neck. Looking up at a screen, looking down at a screen can also cause discomfort. If you are long-limbed or not of average height, think about a booster cushion for your chair, a computer stand, and wearing a scarf.

Happiness is a very small desk and a very big waste-basket.
Robert Orben

A scarf? One day, they may join the suits and ties in the office. They help keep your muscles warm around your neck, and are a reminder of and discomfort. I often wear a scarf, even in summer, as I suffer from Upper Cross Syndrome, sometimes called ‘Student Syndrome’. It weakens your neck and shoulder muscles while the back of your head and pectorals will be tighter. This will make you slouch and cause pain, spasms, and pinched nerves. Take breaks, stand up and move before this develops (it’s also a great excuse to make a cuppa.) It pays to pay attention to your posture.

Adjustable furniture is rare, so make sure to try before you buy. Are you having to reach for your keyboard, do you have plenty of space for your legs and arms? There’s plenty to think about.

The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him.
-Roald Dahl

Once you have a suitable desk, the next thing think about is where to put it. Think about light. Is there glare on the screen? Is it too bright or too dark to read? Where are the windows? Where does the sunshine fall, and at what moments during the day? Make the most of natural light. If you can, place your desk beside a window. Hopefully the view wont be so distracting, but you won’t have your backlit screen famed in a bright light. After these considerations go for good over head lighting, and a desk lamp which focuses on what you are working on rather than lighting your room.

I have my favourite cat, who is my paperweight, on my desk while I am writing.
-Ray Bradbury

While clutter and chaos is said to be the sign of a creative mind, it can also stop you from creating. If you’ve ever been looking for ‘that’ little bit of paper, then you know what I mean. Unfortunately, there are only two ways to sort this out. One, to throw away all the clutter. Two, to organise it. Both these options involve getting rid of the unnecessary things.

Right now I’m tackling some concentration issues. On my desk right now are several to-do lists, tissues, a few books, my guitar tuner, a necklace, post-it notes, a hairbrush, five pens and a pair of scissors. Every now and then I look away from my screen and let my eyes wander across these items. They are distracting. They remind me of other things I want to read, places to go, and I’m constantly hoping my phone will provide some distraction.

See if you can make your office furniture work for you.

 

Originally published on Heart Of Glass online.

Fictional Women and What They Do For Us

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.’ says Bridget Jones. Bridget’s diary began as a column in the Independent and went on to parody the classic novel Pride and Prejudice, and has since become a book, film and franchise. So, what do these fiction women embody for their readers?

Let’s start with Elizabeth Bennet. Intelligent, pretty but dependent on her family. Despite this, she goes against all social rules and refuses to marry Mr Collins. Perceived as headstrong by her parents, Elizabeth remains a spinster and eventually falls for Mr Darcy – a rich bachelor who proposes despite his family backgrounds.

When she was created and published in 1813, Elizabeth was a modern woman. But what message does she send to readers today? Perhaps ‘Wait for a rich, handsome man to sweep you off your feet’ might be a start. I’d like to hope that women can be more independent today, but Elizabeth’s troubles were partly caused because of her class. The daughter of a poor vicar, there was little money in her family, but it would not have been socially acceptable for any of the Bennet ladies to take in washing or take a position as a ladies’ maid. The women of Austen’s day had no choice but to hope for a good match, so its no surprise that the characters of her novels are obsessed with matchmaking.

In some ways, Bridget would have made Mrs Bennet the perfect daughter. Dutiful, hard-working and pursues the man her parents picked out for her. However, Bridget is a comical character. She is dropped into difficult and humorous situations, but is thoroughly modern. She is no longer dependant on her family. Bridget has a job and is financially stable. But unlike Elizabeth, she seems to need to be in a relationship – which leads her into the clutches of Daniel Clever and Mr Darcy. Is this a weakness in her character? I don’t think so. Poor judgement doesn’t make her any less of a role model. In fact, it makes her more like Elizabeth than ever, and a lesson for her readers.

All of Austen’s books contain lessons. If you know about Jane’s life, then you can see how those lessons were learned. At the age of twenty Jane met Thomas Lefroy and planned to elope, but the demands of their families prevented their marriage. She never saw him again, and never married. Jane’s sister, Cassandra was engaged to Thomas Fowle. In order to raise money for their wedding, Thomas went on a military expedition to the Caribbean but never returned. He died of yellow fever. You can see how the wealthy and healthy men of Austen’s novels are the fairy tale princes the sisters hoped for. Far from preaching to her readers, Jane took some of her father’s church teachings and fed morals into her stories. The good prosper, but beware charming men and look after your family.

We only know Austen’s stories thanks to the habit she shared with Bridget Jones and Helen Fielding (her creator.) They write. Their letters, diaries and books let us into the hidden worlds of these women, and warm us with their humour and flair. It is thanks to the form of Bridget’s dairy that we know her inner thoughts and miscalculations.

Both of these women were modern in their time, but society doesn’t seem to have changed much. The ageless theme of family runs through both books. We’re still plagued by the antics of our parents, their headstrong personalities, and strange ideas. Not only that, but the class structure remains, and there will always be people who believe they are worth more than we are. It’s up to independent individuals to take control of their lives. Not just in fiction.

Compared to Bridget, the fiery Elizabeth is much more forward thinking. Rather then Spurning the rules of society, I feel that the parody actually conforms to expectations. Women can seek role models from television, radio or books. They might revere singers or celebrities. But I hope that some readers look towards the Bennet family for a few life lessons. If all else fails, I have a copy of Bridget’s book on my shelf. It always makes me smile when I’m feeling down. Its just one way fictional women help me.

Knowing Yourself, Knowing Your Project

and Lessons learned by taking on too much…

Yesterday I did the unthinkable. I left a project. I was part of a good bunch of people with a vision. Together the writer, artist, colourist and letterer (that’s me) created a comic. No one else has seen it yet, but soon it will be sent to a comic publisher for consideration. And I feel I was slowing the team down.

I had to re-do things three times, I couldn’t get the information I needed, and I made the mistake of trying to learn too much on the job. Sometimes things are too big for a beginner to handle.

The following article is my advise to anyone in creative or business fields. Especially if you don’t want to tear your hair out.

 

Make sure your enthusiasm doesn’t exceed your ability

Congratulations, you can be part of the team! Think about what you need in order to do your part; skills, resources and contacts. Think about how much of a learning curve you need.

 

Find out the business and personal contact details of everyone you can

This will speed everything up, especially when asking for help. Add them on facebook, twitter, get their email addresses, their mobile numbers – what ever they check most. Nothing is more frustrating than precious time creeping away before a deadline, waiting for a reply.

 

Get a second opinion

A mentor can be a wonderful port in the storm, especially if they’re in the same profession. Find someone who is not involved in the project. They wont be biased, and may have resources which can help you.

 

Put yourself in the way of critique

Improving means finding your mistakes, fixing, and learning them. I suggest that artists and writers join deviantart (deviantart.com). It’s a great place to share your creations and gather a following. There will be the usual smattering of ‘trolls’, but also comments or critiques left by the ever-growing online community.

 

Make time for revisions, and for yourself

Constant work is dull. Especially when you’re re-doing something for the third time. Make time for relaxation. Take time away from your computer screen.

 

Do what you love

Without this motivation it will be hard to finish anything. Find the heroes who have gone before you, aspire to surpass them.

 

Don’t worry about being unique

No one can live exactly as you can. Just do your best. But remember- you must deliver the project to the brief.

 

Find out the brief

If you don’t know what you need to deliver, it is going to be very difficult to produce it. Briefs are generally an outline or list of ideas, styles, and the size the final product must be.

 

Think. Who or what are you doing the project for?

Yourself, others or promises? If you aren’t learning, being paid, boosting your portfolio/CV or having fun it’s probably time to re-think.

Do you know when you need to finish? Are they reasonable? Can you finish the brief on time without working yourself to death?

 

How many projects do you have on the go?

If you’re studying, have more hobbies than you have time for, and are taking on extra work, something will be neglected. Usually, sleep. The quality of your work and life will begin to wane. No matter how organised you are. I have a wonderful ‘to do’ spreadsheet, but no matter how I ran the numbers there simply wasn’t the time to do everything.

I hope this helps you. I had to make a hard decision, but its meant that I’ve had more time to focus on other projects I agreed to. I’ve been finishing on time, and my ‘bosses’ like what I created. I feel happier about what I’m doing, and there’s more time for friends. Projects have found a balance, and I’ve been able to say ‘yes’ to projects for the future.

 

I may not have achieved what I set out to do, but I’ve certainly learnt lessons to take with me for the future.

 

Edit: Perhaps I need to listen to my own advice some times. I do not want to pretend I know all the answers, but nor do what I know I ought to.

 

First published on Heart Of Glass magazine online

Lego: The Best Children’s Toy?

The Building Blocks of Children’s Creativity

Lego comes with a mix of happy and sometimes painful memories. At the height of inspiration, standing on any of the bricks would spoil the moment. My parents brought boxes of these bright plastic bricks for my siblings and I, but why were they such a success?

Lego comes in all shapes and sizes. Bricks, humanoid ‘mini-figures’ and specialist pieces. Rooves, jewels, tools, capes, caps, cars, windows, wheels, swords, sharks, dinosaurs – and lots more. Variety breeds possibility and the chance for imagination. While Lego sell ‘set boxes’ to make individual pieces, realistically they are only ever made once. The instructions become useless once the model is broken up and added to the individual’s Lego ‘collection’. I never managed to find all the pieces again, even though I knew they were in my box.

Lego doesn’t require a certain number of players. This is one children’s toy where sharing can be encouraged easily… as long as there is enough to go around. There is no need for batteries, paint or water. Once all the pieces are gathered up, there’s no mess. (Well, I say no mess… a child’s bedroom is rarely clean and tidy, with or without Lego.)

Lego is for anyone. Or is it? My brother, sister and I played at being architects together, and part of the appeal is that Lego is not a toy marketed at only girls or boys. That is, until Lego decided to market sets for boys or girls. For boys there Bionicles masked alien-looking ‘throwbots’ based on the elements which could fling disks at each other. The ‘girls’ Lego sets had larger figures and fully made furniture, with less opportunity for creation. Among the plastic dolls there were fabric blankets which slipped off of the structures and, well, just looked odd. Is it not acceptable for girls to play with small pieces of Lego? Aren’t they creative enough to build? Or perhaps Lego simply wanted a way for girls to play in a more ‘dolls house’ manner, more interested in the social interaction between the figures? Either way, the larger pieces were not compatible with the collection of mini-figures and bricks, which frustrated me and my sister. The plastic dolls were left in the box.

Educational toys are often hard to sell to children. Lego isn’t. Playing at being an architect, engineer or even ‘God’ is fun. Simple. But it also tricks children into teaching themselves about physics. The structural integrity of their creations, and speed of any vehicles was always put to the test in my household. Lego also produced an electronic programming toy ‘Mindstorm’, which my brother used to set up simple command structures. Turning LEDs on, off, and controlling a webcam. I hear the more modern versions are more advanced.

While I extol the virtues of Lego, I must also remember my peeves. Lego is expensive. None of my houses had bricks of the same colour. I would have loved to own (all) the Harry Potter Hogwarts sets, I couldn’t afford them on my pocket money.

I’m not going to kiss and tell fibs. Lego was a huge part of my childhood. My friends and family could play together, and there was no ‘right’ or wrong way to play. As we got older, our ideas became more regular, the buildings grew. So much so, that there are many adults and children enjoying pushing the limits of what they can create. Is Lego the best children’s toy? It’s certainly one of my favourites, but not something you can cuddle up to.

The Next Big London

Home of culture, red buses and the UK’s publishing industry… or is it?

We’re all feeling the pinch, and aren’t splashing out on our hobbies as much as we’d like. As a country, the English are famous for several things. The tea and bad teeth might be stereotypes, but one thing is true- the British love to read. There is a vibrant literary culture in the UK, with theatres, cinemas and bookshops to suit our entertainment needs.

But with publishing moving online, you don’t have to be in London to be a part of it. How many freelances are holding excited conversations in coffee shops? Hundreds. Maybe even at the next table. My point is, that mobile devices are changing the way we live. We don’t want to go to a specific place to buy a book, not when we can do it from a café (thanks to free wi-fi.)

Bookshops are suffering. Fact. I’ve been hearing whisperings about Waterstones for a while now. They dropped their apostrophe, closed stores and changed tactics. Yet still I heard that dreaded question ‘are they going bust?’ Well, it’s possible.

Waterstones are famous for having plenty of varied stock for their readers, but can they sell it. It looks like the major book retailer is now the website Amazon. I have to wonder if the Kindle e-readers are such a good thing after all.

But I’m not writing to bring you doom and gloom. Far from it. For those small presses who have taken advantage of online opportunities, business is booming. It’s no longer enough to wait for books to be posted to you (and you’re never sure when – and begin to doubt if – the package with arrive.) E-books arrive at the speed of your internet, and don’t take up any physical space- great (or not) for the hoarders. E-books don’t cost anything to share – just a little time to create.

What on earth are you going on about, Emily? Get to the point! Okay, okay, I will. But with all of that in mind, I just want you to imagine this possibility…

Imagine a place, a place with a legacy of famous authors, universities and its own literary festival. Imagine that there are several small presses and independent book shops, red brick houses, and a free culture magazine. Imagine that this place is alive and kicking with new poets, writing groups, a company supporting writers and promoting events.

Have you guessed where I’m talking about yet? It’s not Avalon, it’s real, and it’s all happening in Nottingham. On the same streets Lord Byron and Alan Sillitoe once roamed, small presses such as Five Leaves and Angry Robot have made their homes. Both sell books and e-books, but as most of their distribution happens online, they are unlikely to fall into the same trap as Waterstones; too many books, few paying customers. They’ve taken the internet by the reigns and are making it work for them.

The people of Nottingham haven’t stopped there. Members of Writing East Midlands and Nottingham Writer’s Studio have banded together to create Nottingham’s first ever literary festival. You don’t need to be in London to know what’s happening in publishing. You don’t even need to be in the same country. However, I’m thrilled that I came to Nottingham for my degree, so that I could be a part of everything that’s going on. And maybe Nottingham won’t be the ‘next London’, but I think it has a pretty big chance.

 

Be a part of the publishing revolution

Read about it, write about it, write for it

Visit me at: rusticwriter.wordpress.com

 

First published on Heart Of Glass online

Where’s Neverwhere?

Find it in TV, Radio and Book form

I believe Neverwhere is an excellent story – how could it be anything less to convince Avon Publishing House, BBC Television and BBC Radio. Have they done the story justice?

Neverwhere began life, in the way these things do, as a television series I was asked to write for the BBC. And while the show that was broadcast was not necessarily a bad television series… With every scene that was cut, every line that vanished, everything that was simply changed, I’d announce ‘Not a problem. I’ll put it back in the novel,’ and thus regain my equilibrium. This went on until the day that the producer came over and said, ‘We’re cutting the scene on page twenty-four, and if you say I’ll put it back in the novel I’ll kill you.’

After that, I only thought it.

Neil Gaiman, in the introduction to his preferred text of Neverwhere

Clearly, in Neil’s opinion there are differences between his book and the television series. Are these versions so different? And why? Here’s a quick synopsis for those who haven’t experienced Neverwhere. If you don’t want to spoil it, look away now.

The story is about Richard Mayhew, a young Scottish businessman living in London. He has a job, a fiancée and a place to call his own, until he saves a young woman named Door as she lies bleeding on the pavement. Then everything changes. Richard’s friends have forgotten him, his desk has been cleared and his fiancée doesn’t even know his name. With nowhere else to go, he slips into the world of the forgotten and ignored – London Below. He rejoins Door and embarks on a journey to find the Angel Islington with the aid of their companions, the flamboyant trickster The Marquis de Carabas and the stoic Hunter, while attempting to stay one step ahead of the cruel Mr Croup and Vandemar.

Can this story be told in different ways? Yes. It all depends on how a story reaches us through our senses, and how successful these mediums are at telling the story. As Marshall McLuhan famously said, ‘The medium is the message’, the form imprints itself on the story.

TV Series

Adaptations should be different. Why else would we buy the book, film and the t-shirt? Films and TV episodes are often criticised for ‘leaving bits out’, but while I will sit for hours reading, I could not do this with a film. My eyes would get tired, I’d get up to go to the loo and miss things. Adaptations should make the most of what that medium can offer.

Television is visual and auditory, and the BBC found some stunning talent for us to watch; such as Tamsin Greig (known for her work with Black Books), Paterson Joseph (Casualty) and Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It). Unfortunately, we watched them blurrily through the lens of poorly suited equipment. Many scenes were short in low light, causing the image to be grainy. The scene with the Angel Islington surrounded by candles should have been amazing. But upping the white balance was just garish. These tricks are difficult, but without them, I felt the effect was ruined.

Being edited is always difficult and as scenes and dialogue were cut from his script, Neil wasn’t happy, but was content saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll put it in the book’. It’s part of the medium. A book is a leisurely thing compared to a TV series of six half-hour episodes. Each episode must have its own beginning, middle and end for the viewers to feel satisfied. You can’t stop and use a bookmark.

Neil was writing the book as it was filmed, and reportedly sat writing in Richard’s kitchen. Imagine having your character’s house created for you, using it to write in.

Novel

Books are purely visual, even with the move into ebooks, sound has remained separate. This was Neil’s chance to tell the story as he wanted. Or was it? Having interned at several publishing houses, I have seen the editing process completely alter a book. A poorly written manuscript can be polished to a magnificent standard, or considered too experimental and is forced to ‘rein in’ its creative spirit.

Across England you will hear the slamming down of a phone and the hushed phrase ‘bloody authors’, because although editors and writers cannot exist without the other, that doesn’t mean that they always agree.

I read the novel before seeing the TV series or hearing the Radio adaptation, and I’m glad I did. The BBC have tight schedules, and the book was not forced to conform to a time limit. Without illustrations my mind was free to wander the streets of London Below and imagine its appearance for myself. No camera man, no lighting techie – just the author directing me through his world.

The difficulty with defining Neverwhere as a book is the multitude of book genres available. Is it a children’s book, young adult, or fantasy? I’d say all three. The dark themes make this a book for older children, but similarly to his book Coraline, Neil Gaiman is not afraid to scare his readers. Book shops need to put books on the right shelves for readers to find them, and I worry that readers may not have picked up Neverwhere, or will have brought it expecting something else. Again, this is a problem of the medium, not the story itself.

Radio Adaptation

Radio is the voice in your ear, telling you the news, a story or the weather report. It is also very personal. Sudden, loud noises make us jump, they affect us, and this medium is so personal that swearing is very rare or banned on certain programmes. Radio is not currently fashionable as most people watch TV rather than tuning in. However, commuting to and from work has kept listener numbers high. That, and putting on adaptations of well-loved stories and dramas.

Again the BBC found an excellent cast, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee and James McAvoy are just a few of the star-studded names gracing the bill of this production. This time their voices were crystal clear, with no need for visuals. There was even a cameo appearance by Neil playing the Fop (with no name) and a security guard.

Radio is cheap to produce and only needs a scheduled slot, with no unit cost. Like the book, I am free to imagine the character’s appearance, but helped by their voices and others’ reactions to imagine them. I was unsure whether certain sections would be possible. For example, the crossing of Knight’s Bridge. Hunter, Richard and a rat speaker Anesthesia have to cross a bridge in complete darkness. To portray the fear and loneliness of the passage, the character’s call out to one another, and Anesthesia screams out as she is snatched away by unseen hands.

The Angel Islington was another challenge for the Radio adaptation. As the villain of the story, his voice needed to be suitably scary, so that the hints are there when Richard and Door first meet him. Yet when they arrive to give him the key, his true colours are revealed. I feel Cumberbatch’s deep, lyrical portrayal of the Angel, coupled with the latin, angelic theme tune, set the atmosphere for the story and the character.

Which is best?

Which medium you prefer is up to you, but I hope I’ve helped you consider that all adaptations are valid and should be considered in their own right. Things may be edited, cut or changed, but these changes are made to fit the viewer’s perceived tastes and the product’s format.

If you’ve seen, read and listened to Neverwhere in all formats – why not tell me what you think? If you haven’t experienced any, go forth and find Neverwhere. It’s by Neil Gaiman, the worst that could happen is you’ll enjoy yourself. And to those who’ve only seen Neverwhere in one or two mediums, search and enjoy – preferably with the ordeal of a cup of tea.

Sfep

It’s been two years since I graduated from Nottingham University’s Creative and Professional Writing course. Since then, I’ve had two jobs. The first was a job with a design agency working as a QA Assistant. I really enjoyed my time there, but as the job focused around editing price strips rather than actual copy, I left to go to an e-learning company, which is where I am now. Now I write content, I edit my writing (and the writing of my fellow Scriptwriters), I communicate with people, and I am constantly learning. And I can say I write for a living, even though its not creative writing (which I think is a good thing.)

In addition to this, I work next to the University of Nottingham’s main campus. I walk through there at least twice a day. And I miss academia. I really do.

So, what are you going to do?

I remember one on my university tutors David Kershaw (who is sadly no longer with us) talking about the Society for Proofreaders and Editors courses. And today, I this learning will begin.

I’m taking the ‘Copy-editing’ online course. This will allow me to work from home, and learn how to really improve my writing, and that of others. I have had some ideas in the past to a small publishing venture, and I haven’t forgotten this, but I would like to brush up my skills in a constructive way before I embark on this.

Er, Emily… I thought you wanted to be a writer. Why are you doing copy-editing?

I am on that road, but I think that creative passion should not be made to work. It should be the thing you do for enjoyment. If you sell your stories, that’s another thing entirely. But it seems that since the course, my writing has been burnt out. I still have a passion for publishing, and want to continue to work in similar roles, so I’ll be taking training which will complement my writing, and help me to improve.

 

I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll update the blog as I go, and with any insights I learn along the way.

Thanks for reading,

 

 

Emily

Life Lactoseless

I’m fortunate to have been published in print, and digitally during the past few years. As I don’t want to lose my work, I’m posting it here too. Below, you’ll find my article on lactose intolerance, published by left lion.

Life, Lactoseless

Fancy a cheeky takeaway after a night of partying? Nope. How about some cheese on toast? Nah. Being a student and suffering with lactose intolerance can be tough.

You’ve just moved to a strange city, eager to start your course and meet new people– then the discomfort starts. You make a terrible discovery–you’re lactose-intolerant.

All the ‘student foods’ are denied to you. No pizza or cheeky takeaway, not unless you want to spend the next day in bed, curled up in pain. While people tend to accept the inevitable Sunday in bed due to a hangover, doubling up on pain because you treated yourself to a portion of chips and cheese seems both unnecessary and unfair.

I arrived at Nottingham University feeling ready to challenge everything; ideas, people and myself. I joined several societies, and despite plenty of late nights, I went to all my lectures.

Late nights and early mornings meant tea, hot chocolate and frequent trips to get milk, but when I started to feel ill throughout the day, I couldn’t work out why.

My symptoms slowly increased. I would be in pain after meals, and I suffered embarrassing symptoms. I prayed my flat mates weren’t around during the bad times and had no idea why they were happening to me.

Finally, I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance. But what was the cause? Why was I suddenly affected? My doctor and I have no idea. The new stresses of university life could have done it. Anxiety can cause IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and lactose intolerance. I only know that when I took lactose out of my diet, these symptoms went away almost immediately.

Apparently, one in five people have lactose intolerance and don’t even know about it. In these cases symptoms are so mild that the sufferer hardly notices their discomfort (lucky them.) The NHS defines lactose intolerance as; “A common digestive problem where the body is unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products.” This can cause nausea, stomach pain or discomfort, flatulence and diarrhoea. Some people are affected more than others and can eat foods with milk as long as it has been processed or cooked, others not so much.

As I said, I am a student and therefore I require some encouragement while I work. For me this means an incentive of a snack for finishing a page, and even as I write this piece, I have sweets at my side- promised to me once I reach a certain number of words. Now I’ve had to cut out the lactose though, I’ve switched my butter and other dairy products to soya based variants, or I avoid things altogether. Before the swap I had no idea why I felt queasy during the day. Biscuits and baked goods contain butter, ergo milk. So my regular elevenses of tea and biscuits have changed. Soy milk and ‘own brand’ biscuits seem to be the safest option for me now– and I’ve learnt from my mistakes to always check the label.

Semi-skimmed milk powder is my nemesis, lurking in the small print, trying to catch me out. Just because it’s powdered does not mean the lactose is gone. It’s in everything! Luckily, supermarkets have a quick and easy ‘allergy’ tag on most of their products. If ‘milk’ is listed there, then I know it’s not okay for me to eat. If the product isn’t something I’ve had before, I check the ingredients list- just to make sure, but to do that with every item you buy on a weekly shop and your eyes will soon get tired.

However, there has never been a better time to be lactose intolerant. There are all sorts of ‘free’ foods. Soy and lactose-free milk and cheeses are available in most supermarkets.and ‘free’ chocolate and ready-meals are here! Bring out your dead recipes and revive them, for the milky revolution is upon us!

Sometimes you can’t check the label, though. I forget to ask for soy milk a lot and have to ask for a swap (and because soy milk lasts longer than regular milk, it’s often less than fresh) I’ve become a much better chef, riddling out exactly what would go into a meal in a restaurant. Sure, I like vegetarian options, but they aren’t always as nice, and sometimes cheese is unavoidable. But there are alternatives to discomfort. If you do find yourself caught short, ask your doctor about Lactase – an enzyme pill which breaks down lactose. If you are in a restaurant and the only tasty option contains milk, throw one down and wait for your meal.

Allergies and intolerances are becoming ‘more common’ as people are more aware of their symptoms and the possible causes of them. Becoming more aware doesn’t mean suffering more though, with a little planning and armed with the right information, you can eat a healthy, well balanced diet, that doesn’t make you feel horrendous. The future of food for those with lactose intolerance is a lot brighter, and tastier, for everyone.

Rachael Caine

I’m fortunate to have been published in print, and digitally during the past few years. As I don’t want to lose my work, I’m posting it here too. Below, you’ll find my interview of Rachael Caine, a favorite author of young adults.

Rachael Caine

The bestselling author of the Morganville Vampire series for young adults was in town to promote her current book, Glass Houses.

What made you start writing?

I had an assignment from a teacher. She gave us a sentence to work into a story and I came up with something completely different. I came up with two wizards duelling in a dusty western town in the cowboy era. She encouraged me to start writing my own stories and keep them in a journal.

For many years I didn’t think of myself as a writer. I just wrote things. It wasn’t until I was 28 that a friend of mine urged me to find out about actually ‘becoming’ a writer. That’s when my path to publication really began.

How and when did you decide to start sending out your manuscripts?

I didn’t consciously decide, a friend of mine decided for me. He brought me a ticket to a writer’s conference. He didn’t tell me I was going. He just took me there and left me with the ticket, ‘Go find out about this, I’ve paid your way in.’ So I felt I had to make the most of it. I met my first editor there and thanks to the endorsement from my friend I felt brave enough to talk to the editor. He ended up buying my first book.

How did you feel when you learnt that you had become a New York Times best-seller?

It was odd. At that point I had been writing professionally for many years and published about twenty books. It was shocking to me that I was writing something that was popular enough to start getting that kind of success. I was still employed full-time, and that day I was at a conference for work. That was when I got the call. It was the end of the day and everyone had gone except my boss. I was so excited I blurted it out ‘My book just hit the New York Times!’ She played it cool and said ‘That’s great, but let’s talk about tomorrow…’ So I contained myself. Next morning, I was greeted with a champagne breakfast with all the conference attendees.

Why do you have so many pen names?

It wasn’t the plan, I started out with my maiden name Roxanne Longstreet but I wasn’t hitting the right market. People recognise your name, remember your past books and don’t take a chance on the next. Sometimes you want to start out as a new writer with a new book. I took my married name Roxanne Conrad. When the Weather Wardwn series came out my publisher asked me to create a new pen name, so I became Rachael Caine.

You become a new person. Partly it has to do with how sales are tracked – quickly and electronically. It can be very hard to overcome statistics if you haven’t had a great start. When you have a wonderful new book, it can be easier to start over, when no one has any expectations for your sales.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I think any writing is important. Whether you are writing your thoughts or writing stories. You need to practice the process of turning thoughts into words, picking the right ones and learning your voice. I don’t keep a journal any more, but it helped start me out.

The landscape of publishing is very different now…

It’s both great – and scary. The pace of publishing allowed you to refine yourself. I was rejected frequently, but it always taught me something. Today, it’s easy to hit Kindle Direct five minutes after completing your first story, and put it up for sale. Not everyone is ready for the fire storm which can erupt. There will always be people who don’t like your work – and they’re quite direct about telling you this online. They have a right to, they paid money for your book. Make sure you’re ready. You can get to the market faster, but if you’re not ready it can damage your confidence.

Have you ever considered self-publishing?

At this point in my career I wouldn’t do it with my novels. I have a large audience for my traditionally published books. But for smaller, one-off projects or novellas, I’d probably do it.

You’re an ‘online author’. Do you enjoy this and has it helped your career?

I’m naturally a very social person. It’s great when you write several books a year, you can live behind your computer and never leave. With twitter or facebook you know that there are other people out there somewhere, commiserating with the fact that you haven’t left your pyjamas in two days.

It has allowed a lot of writers to connect. It’s become a smaller and more supportive world. It wasn’t that easy for us to find each other before. Now I meet people online years before I actually see them face-to-face. I have friends in countries all over the world. I met Trudi Canavan in Australia earlier this year, but I’d known her for quite a while before that.

My online audience is fantastic. They’ll tell you what they love – and what they don’t. It’s refreshing for readers to tell you what they mean. If you only hear criticism in a formal setting, you’ll only hear the good stuff. But if they can send you a tweet about why they think a character did something stupid, they will. I just saw a review of my work that pointed out that I use the word ‘suddenly’ way too much. I went and counted, and that person was right.

As a novelist of vampire books, are you ever compared to Anne Rice or Stephenie Meyer?

That would be really nice. I think we’re all thought of as a continuum. We will be asked ‘Are your books like X or Y?’ Usually the answer is yes and no, because we share a common root, but our twists on vampires is what makes it interesting. I don’t know if anyone compares us exactly, but I’m honoured if they do.

We heard you write to music?

I have playlists I create for each book. This became a habit when I became Rachael Caine. I started listening to a particular album at first. Then I realised I could use itunes to create my own from varied artists. Now I start writing with about ten songs. This is the core of the book – in music. I add songs in as I go and you can tell how difficult a book was by how many songs are in my playlist. 74 is a bad number. I share these with my readers, so they have a soundtrack for my book.

This week I learnt that one of the musicians’ daughter reads my books. He had no idea he was listed in the back until she told him. I met them at one of my signings and I got to meet him in the flesh.

Anything on the horizon?

I’m going to finish the Morganville series at 15 books. Daylighters will be out in November. My adult series will be finished by the end of this year, and I have a brand new YA novel to do next year called Prince of Shadows and isn’t connected to any of my other books. It’s a take on Romeo and Juliet, set in the period. There’s always stuff on the horizon, but I don’t know what it looks like yet.

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