Thursday, 2 April 2015

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions - B is for Boredom (writing discussion & fiction)

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions

This year for the A to Z Challenge, I'm investigating emotions and reactions and their use to in writing. So, I'll be talking about my first thoughts as a writer when I think about the words we use to describe emotions and my experience of their use in literature and TV/Film.

boredom: the state of feeling weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one's current activity.

Well, this is a reaction that one can create in one’s characters, but never wants to do so in one’s readers ;P. Boredom, as a writer’s device, is actually one of my earlier memories of reading books on my own. If you have read the Mr Men books by Roger Hargreaves, you’ll be familiar with Mr Daydream, who befriends a boy called Jack. And the reason he is able to do so, is because Jack is bored with history class one day and begins to daydream.

In this way, boredom can be a jumping off point, a technique used quite regularly in children’s books. Alice’s interest in the White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventure’s In Wonderland, by Lewis Caroll, may be laid at the foot of her disinterest in sitting with her sister as the opening lines make very plain:
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversations?'
Boredom can also be used as a way of having a character miss an important point that you do not wish them to discover until later in the story. This is used to great effect in Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery, where the Major is such an old bore with his stories that Miss Marple does not pay enough attention to what he is saying about an old murder, meaning that, when he, in his turn, is murdered, the motive is less clear than it might have been, making the investigation all the more interesting for the reader.

If a character is bored, there is a chance the reader could become so as well, so it’s a device that needs to be used with care, but when it is used well, it can be very effective.

QUESTION: What's a worse offence for a story that you are reading: being confusing, or being boring?


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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions - A is for Amusement (writing discussion & fiction)

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & ReactionsAmusement Emoticon

This year for the A to Z Challenge, I'm investigating emotions and reactions and their use in writing. So, I'll be talking about my first thoughts as a writer when I think about the words we use to describe emotions and my experience of their use in literature and film/TV.

Before I start my post, I'd just like to say well done and thank you to everyone who has been working for months to organise the AtoZ, you are all stars!

amusement: the state or experience of finding something funny.

When we say someone is amused, it can cover a wide range of reactions, everything from a slight smile to a huge great guffaw. However, when I think of amusement, I am always drawn to the saying attributed to Queen Victoria, ‘We are not amused.’ That then makes me think of Victorian politeness, and, therefore, amusement to me, in my first instinct, is a polite, gentle thing, a smile, or a light chuckle. 

Still, in the hands of a writer, amusement can be kind, or cruel; reserved, or free-form; solitary, or something for a large group. It entirely depends on the characters. Amusement for the likes of Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice was, in company at least, on the reserved side, even if her wit, like her creator’s, could be biting.  Young, foolish Lydia, on the other hand, wore her emotions on her sleeve, and her amusement, mostly witless, was obvious and demonstrative, a giggle, a shared indiscretion even. 

Of course, the aim of every writer is to keep their readers amused, in the other sense of the word, as in making sure they are ‘entertained’. Outside of just making readers laugh, I think that amusement between characters can be used to build relationships, in, say, the sharing of a joke to find common ground, or the reverse, when humour is not shared, the dynamic can be even more interesting. Such moments can be used as learning experiences for characters, or as a way to contrast the differences between them. Humour may even be the last resort for a situation, the laugh, or cry scenario, something to bring a light moment in the midst of a dark plot, bringing some relief for both readers and characters.

In short, amusement is a very versatile reaction. :)

QUESTION: So, what makes you laugh, or just smile when you're reading?


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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Review: Horns (Daniel Radcliffe)

I just finished watching Horns, and I have to say, I was really impressed. I'm a Dan Radcliffe fan, so I'll give most of his movies a watch, but I was not expecting to like this one as much as I did. It is a great, great movie, a study of character and desperation in the surreal setting of a young man who suddenly finds himself growing horns.

A quick summary of the plot: accused of his girlfriend's murder, Ig Perrish is pursued by the press and hated by everyone in the small town where he lives. When, one morning, he wakes up and sprouts horns.

The horns: a sign of a guilty man, or of a desperate one? That is the beauty of this story - to begin with, we don't know. I won't spoil the movie for anyone by saying which it is, but I will say that Ig's journey through the film is heartbreaking at the same time as being compulsive viewing. When we meet him, Ig is already broken, traumatised by the death of his girlfriend, Merrin, played brilliantly in flashback by Juno Temple, but, on the surface, defiant against the people who hate him. He denies his involvement in the murder, but even his own parents think he did it.

Ig is a man destroyed by love, a love that possibly led to murder, and then he grows horns. Hell of a left field thing that, could have destroyed the film played differently, but, although this movie is sometimes listed as a dark comedy, I didn't laugh, in fact, I thought the whole thing was played straight and that meant we stepped from murder mystery into surreal horror without skipping a beat. Brilliantly done, just brilliant.

The horns turn Ig into a strange kind of confessor, where everyone tells him their darkest secrets, even acting many of them out. It's unsettling and dark, but the characters still felt genuine. I recommend the scene where Ig talks to his mother.

I was glued to the film the whole way through, there wasn't actually a boring moment, even the flashbacks, which in some movies I have found tedious, slotted in to the flow of the film perfectly. Horns is an expertly crafted story and a polished film.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Recipe: Dark, White & Milk Chocolate Easter Egg Nests (fun and easy for you and the kids)

This recipe is a little twist on the classic rice crispies cakes, only they are made with Shredded Wheat to make them look more like nests (you can substitute rice cripsies or cornflakes if you want).

It's quick and easy and fun to make with kids, although you can also make them just for yourself too! :)

This recipe makes 25 Easter Egg Nests.

300g dark chocolate
150g white chocolate
9 Shredded Wheat (or enough rice crispies/cornflakes to use up all the dark chocolate)
50 mini eggs of your choice (I used Cadbury's)

You'll also need 25 bun cases to hold the nests.


In a large bowl melt the dark chocolate. You can do this by putting the bowl over boiling water, or by placing it in the microwave on medium power (1 or 2 mins first and then bursts of 10s until the chocolate is smooth and runny).

Crumble in the Shredded Wheat, mixing until it is thoroughly covered in the chocolate.

Put two teaspoons of the mixture into each bun case, forming into a pattie, and make a dent in the middle of the pattie (I used two teaspoons to shape the nests).

Leave the nest to set for ~30 mins.

Melt the white chocolate in a small bowl - again, you can put your bowl over boiling water, or place it in the microwave.

Place a teaspoon of the white chocolate into the centre of each nest and immediately add two mini eggs to each nest.

Leave to set for another 30 mins and they're ready to eat!

Monday, 23 March 2015

A to Z Challenge 2015 Theme Reveal - Writing Emotions and Reactions

The A to Z Blogging Challenge starts soon (April 1st) and there are loads of folks already signed up, so it should be an interesting month! :) As part of the fun, I'm joining in the A to Z Theme Reveal Blog Hop, where we commit to our theme for the month!

And, so here goes!

Since I'm an author, I always pick a writing theme for my blog, and this year, I've chosen to write about emotions and reactions, those important things that hold a plot together. So, I'm going to discuss how I see different emotions and reactions, what they mean to me, and their uses in fiction, both written and TV/Film. 

Emotions & Reactions Schedule

Mon Tues Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

A is for
B is for
C is for
D is for
Desolation & Delight
E is for
Embarra -ssment
F is for
G is for
H is for
I is for
J is for
K is for
L is for
Lust, Love and Loathing
M is for
N is for
O is for
P is for
Q is for
Quarrel -someness
R is for
S is for
T is for
U is for
V is for

W is for
X is for
Y is for
Z is for
All the links will become available to view on the days specified.


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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Review: The Duchess of Malfi (#GlobeOnScreen) Starring Gemma Arterton

Last night I went to see The Duchess of Malfi at the cinema via a Globe On Screen production (it's like NTLive Encore, in that it's a filming of a live production, but not broadcast live) This production has been running at The Globe Theatre, London, in their Sam Wannamaker Playhouse, which, to add to the atmosphere, is lit entirely with candles!

Firstly, I'd never seen a Jacobean revenge tragedy before, so I had no idea what to expect, and I have to say, I wasn't expecting to laugh as much as I did. Considering the amount of death and the foreshadowing of death throughout the production, the cast's comic timing was brilliant and I found myself laughing, even between murders!

Having said that, the opening of the play had me worried, because it all felt a little stilted - far too much enunciation and not enough performance. However, everything settled, including my ear for the Jacobean language, within about five minutes and I began to enjoy the play.

There is no subtlety in this play, the characters are full on all the time, from the love-lost Duchess to her conniving brothers, Duke Ferdinand and The Cardinal. The standout performance for me was in fact David Dawson as Ferdinand. He was scheming and slightly mad, slipping into completely mad as the play proceeds and Dawson was, at times, a stunning performer to watch.  

I'm now going to dip into the plot, so if you don't want to know what happens, don't reader any further!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Guest Post: Interview With Nathaniel Danes Author of The Last Hero

Today, I am happy to welcome Nathaniel Danes, author of Science Fiction book, The Last Hero. He has agreed to answer some questions!

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm a pretty regular guy. I like my beer and football but I also write science fiction novels. The universes I create are an escape for me. I'm losing my sight to a genetic disorder and am almost blind. It's fun to imagine world's where I don't have limitations.

Tell us about your book(s).
Right now I'm knee deep in THE LAST HERO trilogy. Book 1, The Last Hero, is out and book 2, The Last Revenge, will be out in a month or so.
The series starts off with Earth rushing to remobilize their military to defend themselves from a new alien threat. The main character, Trent Maxwell, is the last Medal of Honor recipient in U.S. history and he's tagged to lead the first counter-strike. It's hard for him to leave his daughter behind, but the stakes are too high, he has to fight again.

Writing – why?
I've always had an overactive imagination and, as I've said, I use it as a coping mechanism for my loss of vision. I always wanted to share the stories I wrote in my head but I'm also dyslexic and the idea of me writing a book was a crazy idea for many years. However, college, grad school, and a day job that requires a lot of writing conspired to sharpen my skills. Once I had the ability to share them, they demanded to be set free.

Do you have a favourite character from your book(s)? Why?
Certainly do. Anna, because she's based on my own little girl.

What is your favourite genre and why?
I love writing science fiction for a couple of reasons. One, the future is a blank canvas with limitless possibilities. That kind of freedom to dream is fun. Secondly, I believe the human race, driven by our thrust for knowledge and sense of adventure, will achieve great things in the centuries to come. I like to think about how we'll get there.

Do you have any odd (writing) habits?
I don't think it's odd, but a lot of folks find it interesting my novels are written entirely on an iPad Mini without a keyboard, 90,000-plus words all by thumbs.

If you could invite one character from someone else's books to dinner, who would it be? 
Ender from Ender's Game. Who wouldn't want to talk military history with the greatest military mind in history.

Are you a dog or a cat person, why?
Dog. Never, ever trust a cat. Their just waiting to try and take over. If it weren't for dogs they just might've done it by now.


The Last Hero (The Last Hero #1)

Contact with a race of pacifists convinces mankind to lay down its weapons and keep the peace. The last Medal of Honor recipient, Trent Maxwell, trades glory for the comforts of a family after the U.S. Army disbands. All that ends when an alien menace attacks the New Earth colony, which forces a crash mobilization. Trent finds himself reactivated and traveling through space to distant worlds, in order to stop this new enemy. During the century long journey of death, love, and loss, he also deals with the law of relativity that wreaks havoc with his daughter.

Buy Links:

Trent knelt down where Anna could throw her arms around his neck. She pulled against him tight and started crying again. Tears rolled down his face as he whispered, “I love you more than you can understand. I’m sorry.”

Her cries downed out his soft words.

After a minute, Trent summoned all of his strength to break free of her hold. Standing, he shared a look with Madison. She wrapped him in a loving, warm hug.   

This time she did the whispering, “Remember what I told you. Make them pay.”

He pulled away, nodding as he placed his hand on Anna’s sobbing head. 

“I’ll see you both again someday. I promise.” The words bound him to a promise he wasn’t sure he could keep.

About Nathaniel Danes:

Nathaniel Danes is a self-diagnosed sci-fi junkie and, according to his wife, has an over active imagination. Mostly blind, he writes to create universes where he has no limitations. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Washington, DC area.