Monday, 27 January 2014

Shadow Selves (VisDare)

Photo Source (via the VisDare Challenge)

Shadow Selves

It started as a rumour – that the statue would show you yourself, if you looked hard enough.  It gained momentum slowly; inexorably.  Sam ignored it, at first.  Before half of his mates had had a go.  Even after a woman from down the road made a swift exit from the booth, refusing to go back in.  It was when Paul refused to tell him what he had seen that his interest was truly piqued.  No fool, their Paul.  Still, he had to see for himself, he supposed.

Sam's feet led him there of their own volition the following Tuesday.  He pulled the curtain aside and stepped into the gloom, allowing his eyesight to adjust gradually before he saw.  The truth of it all.  He couldn’t help himself – he had to laugh.  It was spot on.  He had always been a bit of a devil on the quiet, god help him.       

A Brief Explanation:-

Recently I've been looking for a short fiction challenge or two to get me into thinking about prose and how to fit ideas together after a period where I hadn't been writing consistently.  The Visual Dare (Vis Dare) photographic challenge - essentially, to create a story in 150 words or less based on the visual prompt - is one of the ones I've come across during my internet travels.  If this is something which interests you also, you might want to following the posted links and take up the challenge.

Mine is loosely based on the photographic prompt, for reasons which are probably apparent on reading.  Definitely fun to write, which is the point!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Whistlestop Tour of Cainsville (In Brief Series)

"A life shattered in one moment

Olivia Jones has lived a life of privilege and good fortune.  But on the eve of her wedding she discovers two shocking facts.  One – she was adopted.  Two – her biological parents are notorious serial killers.  And now the secret’s out, she’s in immediate danger.

A young woman forced on the run

Running for her life, Liv must face reality in the most brutal and terrifying way.  But then she is confronted with a tantilising hope – is it possible that her parents weren’t guilty of the murders after all?  And if so, who did commit them?

And the mysterious town that gave her sanctuary.  At a price.

Arriving at the remote town of Cainsville, Liv believes she has found the perfect place to hide while she uncovers the truth.  But Cainsville is no ordinary town – and Liv’s arrival was no accident.”

Kelley Armstrong's Omens is, at first glance, a departure from her Women of the Otherworld series – soon to be seen on TV in the form of a serialisation of the novel the series began with, Bitten.  As opposed to the urban fantasy we might expect from the author on the basis of past performance, here the world of Cainsville provides its reader with a melting pot of genres, blended to form a hint of paranormal by way of mystery via thriller.  As someone who is all for an amalgam of elements when given the opportunity to experience something new, this is all to the good – especially given the initial adopted child on a voyage of discovery premise places us on all too familiar ground in terms of premise.  Thankfully, the original set up of the wealthy, beautiful heroine is given a subtle twist before the character arc progresses significantly to introduce the serial killer/crime aspect of the mystery arc.

The author’s note states that “the town of Cainsville has many secrets, and it is loath to part with them a moment sooner than necessary.”  That this is clearly the case becomes apparent as the narrative progresses, given that the build up to Olivia’s discovery that she can see and interpret omens (for as yet unknown reasons) is, like the remainder of the novel, subtle, with considered pacing, as opposed to a ratcheting up of tension.  This holds true for both aspects of Olivia’s sleuthing – that of her “real” identity and who was really responsible for the murders her parents were convicted of.  For some, this will prove problematic, given we receive partial answers to these questions only. 

Whilst the killer aspect receives a necessary “reveal” prior to the conclusion of the novel, allowing it to function partially as a standalone narrative arc, Olivia’s true identity is hinted at only.  Such hints are reasonably few as far as the 486 page page count is concerned, suggesting there is a reasonable amount of ground to be covered by the other novels to follow.  As a result, Omens is arguably only capable of being judged in conjunction with its series companion novels.  It does, however, provide a suitable hook in terms of mystery via which the overarching narrative can continue and demonstrate genuine development.  Ditto in terms of affording room for the world building aspect surrounding the town of Cainsville to gain momentum.

A solid, albeit subtle, start to a new series in different territory, which provides a tantalising glimpse into what – hopefully – will follow.  

Sunday, 5 January 2014

2014 – A Year In Anticipation

The start of a new year means I’m already thinking about the books which are likely to feature on my reading list over the next twelve months.  There are several I’m already aware of with imminent release dates over the next couple of months I thought I’d flag here:-

January/February Release Dates

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (UK release date 16/1/014 – hardcover) – the third volume in Catherynne M Valente's Fairyland series featuring September, a human girl who travels to the Fairyland referred to in the title and meets a number of interesting individuals, some of whom become her friends.  To date, I’ve loved this inventive and original fantasy series with its quirky humour and enjoyed the illustrations which accompany it too.  The opportunity to return to Fairyland is welcome.   

Locke and Key: Volume 6 Alpha and Omega (release date 18/2/014 – hardcover) – I’ve been waiting patiently for the final consolidated volume of Joe Hill's graphic novel series, which I’ve previously mentioned and recommended on the blog.  It will be interesting to see how the narrative arc here plays out. 
The Islands of Chaldea (release date 27/2/014 – hardcover) - I’ve seen mention of a new Diana Wynne Jones book during my travels on the internet – from what I understand, this is a younger read (so so-called MG, Middle Grade), as opposed to YA as such and stems from Wynne Jones’ unfinished manuscript which has been completed by her sister, Ursula Jones.  I’ll definitely be taking a look, given the chance to sample further work from one of my favourite authors.  The brief blurb suggests an initial premise similar to that covered by Wynne Jones’ Witch Week in terms of magical heritage and geographical barriers dictating access (or lack thereof of access) to magic.  I’m guessing, however, the narrative will take us somewhere else entirely by its conclusion.  I’m looking forward to the transportation.

Playing Catch Up

There are still several novels published in 2013 that I haven’t yet had chance to get to – as ever!  Those mentioned below are just a sample:-

Hild by Nicola Griffith – this has been mentioned a number of times on sites/via Twitter as a recommended read, making me curious to check it out. 

To quote from the Publisher’s blurb (full copy available at the author’s website here): 

"Hild is born into a world in transition.  In seventh century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently.  …Hild is the king’s youngest niece.  She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing her surroundings closely and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her.

She establishes a place for herself in court as the king’s seer.  And she is indispensable—unless she should ever lead the king astray.  The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family and loved ones, and for the increasing numbers of those who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.”

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – this is another one which keeps popping up as a recommended read (sample excerpt available on the author’s website here) and seems to be described as a combination of SF adventure by way of space opera.  I want to check this one out, time allowing.

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh – the premise for McIntosh’s sci-fi novel set in a future dystopian New York City (that of “frozen Bridesicle” women revived to participate in on demand dating) intrigues me.  Without having yet had time to track down a copy of the Hugo winning short story it originates from, the novel seems (potentially, at least) to delve into Whedon-esque Dollhouse territory.  Thus, I'm interested to see how the romance angle and agency are dealt with, these being tricky aspects for commentary in light of the subject matter.

In the TBR Pile

Running with a common theme, there are still a number of books already purchased and patiently waiting for me to get to them in amongst everything else:-

Neil Gaiman's Fortunately, The Milk has been sitting at the top of my pile for a little while.  I may even have been saving it consciously for the point where the festive season was over and the Day Job kicked in…

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep is there too.  The chance to read the follow up to The Shining is one couldn't pass up on.  (Also – Stephen King recently joined the realms of Twitter for those who are interested!)

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch – yes, the one everyone’s been talking about for quite a while.  I caught up on The Secret History a while after all of the buzz and need to set aside sufficient time to devote to this one’s 784 pages (hardcover version).

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Neverwhere – Where? (Hear Ye! Series)

I’ve been enjoying the rerun of BBC Radio Four's production of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere over the Christmas period and wanted to mention it here in case anyone wanted to listen before time runs out.  Apparently, the first episode is only available for approximately 12 hours (GMT), having previously been broadcast on 25/12/013, so if you want to check out the audio broadcast, with a cast including James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Bernard Cribbins and Benedict Cumberbatch, amongst others (including brief cameos by Neil Gaiman himself!), you can find Episode One here.  Various links and information concerning the production here.